White Weewoos don't exist. *shifty eyes* Circulation: 197,188,405 Issue: 971 | 21st day of Collecting, Y24
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Castle Planners Journal: The Meridell Day Tragedy

by ferretboy85


"Gaius!? What is the meaning of condemning th- What happened to you?” the chamberlain stopped in his tracks when he saw Gaius being wrapped up with a herbal poultice on his bruises.

     “The balcony almost collapsed under me, and the whole ordeal caused me to fall off the ladder.” the orange Bori explained.

     “Collapse? Now? Of all the times, you come to tell me that the balcony needs repair now?!” Lazlo was starting to panic. If there was no balcony, there was no Merridel Day Ball, and if there was no event, Skarl would be furious! ”How could you let the balcony fall into such disrepair?!”

     Gaius felt a lump of guilt form in his throat as his boss yelled at him. It took him a moment to remember that no, he did in fact do his job! Quite well at that! He cleared his throat a little to try and rebuild his confidence before he spoke up to defend himself.

     “Actually, I did. I - I definitely checked it a few weeks ago.” Gaius tried to think of how he could prove it once Lazlo shot a glare back at him for defying him. “It will be in the logs! And there’s evidence that it's not neglect.”

     “Not neglect? How else could that old balcony fall?” Lazlo’s gestures became dramatic as his frustrations grew.

     Gaius looked around to make sure the nurses were out of earshot, and motioned for Lazlo to come in closer. Lazlo leaned in with suspicion. “Sabotage. All of the ironwork has been weakened in very specific spots.”

     “SABOTAGE?!” Lazlo shouted, causing all of the doctors and nurses in the hospital wing to look at him, wondering what the gossip was about.

     Gaius pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration, but put it past him as quickly as he needed to focus on the issue at hand.

     “Yes... ” Gaius tried to get up from the hospital bench. He was still in pain, but could walk, just needed to take it slow to avoid the tender bruises. “Meet me there, and I can explain. It’s gonna take me a minute though.”

     “Very well. I will grab your logs from my files, and meet you there. We have to get to the bottom of this.” Lazlo was defiant. He wouldn’t let a saboteur stop his plans.

     Gaius found and repurposed a broomstick in one of the closets, using it to help him walk while he healed. Once he finally arrived to the Ballroom where Lazlo the Gelert was waiting for him, he used the broomstick to carefully point out where the ironwork had been attacked by an unknown substance. He also podded the masonry to show how loosened it was in very specific areas. Thankfully, along with the logs, this was enough to convince Lazlo that this was no ordinary damage. Something had happened, and someone wanted the balcony to collapse once it had the weight of a party on it. Gaius had just by chance managed to trigger some of it a little early.

     “This is a disaster.” Lazlo buried his face into the logbook and gently wept.

     “We avoided a worse disaster.” Gaius tried to console him.

     “It’s a disaster either way.” Lazlo’s muffled voice came from the loosely bound book.

     Gaius thought for a moment. Surely there was a way to fix the damage...

     “We still have a day, don't we?” Gaius asked.

     “We only have a day!” This caused Lazlo to break down further.

     “I have a plan!” Gaius reassured him. “But I’m going to need help!”

     Gaius had to call in a few favours from the blacksmiths that usually worked on swords and Unishoes, but they came out to take a look at the damage, and potentially do some quick repairs. A Quiggle covered in scars, who was the Uni stable blacksmith, and a sizable white Blumaroo, who was an experienced swordsmith, reported for duty. Together, all three of them assessed the damages. After taking a few measurements, and carefully removing the damaged braces, they carried them off to start repairing them. A few knights were also temporarily recruited to erect scaffolding under the balcony to support it while they worked. With the braces gone, Gaius spent the time fixing up the damaged masonry, so the new braces would have strong anchor points. All three of them knew they would definitely have to work well into the night.

     Taking a break only to sleep for a few hours, the castle continued to be worked on by those tireless few workers. The Quiggle’s expertise allowed them to forge the metal back into its original shape. The Blumaroo’s skills with a hammer-shaped it into place with speed to get through all ten of the affected braces, and Gaius’s masonry allowed them to be slotted back into place without any problems. They spent nearly the entire next day working, nose to an almost literal grindstone.

     Sir Borodere did manage to break Gaius away for just a moment that day.

     “You doing okay?” the knight asked the mason.

     Through a sleepy long blink, Gaius looked at Jeran and gave a thumbs up. He was covered in dust from replacing the mortar between bricks. He had to use a more caustic version of mortar that would set faster, but Gaius was doing his best to keep the substance off of himself. If he didn't, it could react with his sweat and give chemical burns.

     “Oh yeah. We are nearly done. By the time the sun sets, we should be able to start letting the other party planners in to set up. I’m sure they are anxious.” Gaius wiggled his trowel around as he spoke.

     “Yeah. They are! Even I am hearing them complain about things being pushed back. But Lazlo keeps telling everyone that everything’s going to be fine...” Jeran hoped that Gaius would also have the same confidence as Lazlo.

     “Well, at least he believes in me.” Gaius looked at the void left by the brace currently being worked on, and the pair of braces still left to fix. They were really working against the clock.

     “I believe in you too!” Jeran tried to keep his spirits up.

     “... Thanks!” Gaius gave him a smile, and took it as a sign to not let his work waiver. He got right back to picking and scraping out the old mortar so it could be properly replaced.

     A few hours later, Jeran followed behind the Quiggle and Blumaroo as they carried the final repaired brace to the ballroom. The two blacksmiths were clearly exhausted, and covered in soot and sweat, staining their skin and fur dark. Likewise, Gaius’s fur was coated in a light cement powder that contrasted with the others. Even Wolcott had been brought in on his day off to help out. Given how thin and light he was, it made it easier for him to do inspections and installations on top of the unstable balcony. As they received the final delivery, A couple of knights who were standing and watching stepped in to help out the exhausted smiths hold the bracket in place. Gaius climbed the ladder as Jeran held it steady so the Bori could hammer in the bracket’s final rivets. It had taken a monumental marathon, but finally the balcony was repaired, to the small cheers of the tiny crowd watching the work progress.

     Gaius sat on the floor, and was quickly joined by the blacksmiths as they all laughed at their sheer exhaustion. This revelry in their own accomplishment was nearly cut short when a few administrators walked in to also see the fruits of the labor. Lazlo and Lady Helena were wondering if it was finally safe to start setting up for the party.

     “You’ve finished?” Lazlo inspected the newly reinforced architecture. “Hooray! Quickly, we must set out the materials now. We will let them get some rest while we do the rest.” Lazlo was almost ready to drag Gaius off the middle of the floor and out of the way so work could begin.

     Lady Helena looked around at the undecorated ballroom. Being behind a day in decoration was a disappointment. “I’m a little hesitant to throw a party with no decorations, but if it can't be helped...”

     “Well, it was either the venue, or the decorations. We shall let the space speak for itself this year. Okay everyone, let's get started!” Lazlo backed up the decisions, and Lazlo’s decisions were final.

     “Here” Sir Borodere held out a hand to help Gaius up. “Let’s get out of here so you can rest.”

     Jeran gently shook Gaius awake. The Bori had been sleeping since that afternoon, and as Gaius rubbed his eyes, he could see the fresh morning sun. He was still very sore from the hard work and the fall, but thankfully his bruises had mostly healed. He felt lucky as he rubbed the last remaining pain, a tender elbow.

     “Good morning! Ready for a full day?” Jeran asked Gaius.

     Gaius yawned, stretched, and tried to get the dry feeling out of his mouth before lazily answering. “No, I’ve done enough for 2 days.” Gaius joked.

     “That’s a shame. There's still a big festival today, and there’s a whole lot of delicious food and fun activities to try!” Jeran tried to convince him to come.

     Gaius thought about it. Part of him really did want to just stay in bed for the rest of the day. Getting some rest, while avoiding the crowds sounded like a good deal. But, it was hard to argue with the temptation of festival-exclusive pastries.

     “Besides, I have to be there on stage near the king, and it would be nice to have you there with me. Meeting with all of the fancier folk can get a bit boring.” Jeran admitted.

     “Well, if it means a good time, I suppose I could help with that.” Gaius finally started getting out of bed. “Wait, with you up there?” Gaius did a double-take.

     “Yep! I’m allowed a plus one.”

     “Well then. I have to finally put on my fancy clothes if this is to be a fancy party.” Gaius went over to a linen chest in the edge of his room.

     Gaius pulled out a very old-fashioned suit. It was a plain brown tabard that wrapped around him in a nicely fitting shape, but he accented the outfit with a small shoulder cape that Jeran had seen somewhere else before, but couldn't put his finger on it. As Gaius fiddled with a few straps to keep the canvas cape steady, Jeran adjusted and fixed Gaius’s poofy shirt under his vest’s collar.

     “Well don’t you look handsome when you actually dress nicely.” Jeran said, brushing a bit of lint off Gaius’s shoulder..

     “I look good whether I dress up nicely or not!” Gaius returned the tease with confidence. “Now. Let’s get this over with. I want to get there early and get a good seat. I won’t be able to stand all day.” Gaius took a look at Jeran’s eye patch. He felt a small pang of guilt from seeing the injury, but swallowed it. Besides, it made Jeran look rugged. Gaius gently turned it so that it wasn't on so crooked.

     “Thanks. Still getting used to how to properly wear it.” Jeran laughed it off.

     “I think you look just fine without it.”

     “Yes, but people don't want to stare. This makes it easier. Oh, and you’ll have a guaranteed seat with me and the other notable pets.” Jeran reminded him as they left the room together. “Don’t worry, you can just relax today.”

     As they travelled through the halls of Meridell castle, they got to see the whole castle dressed to its best for its big festival day. It was a nostalgic feeling for a time that came once a year, so Gaius and Jeran were very pleased to finally get to see all the work come together. Everyone in the castle, even the servants, were wearing their best, and taking the day slowly and relaxing. Even the weather was cooperating, with a warm, but not too hot summer day, that offered cool shade in the subtle breeze.

     The two of them took the time to play a few festival games out in the yard together: Corn-hole, arm-wrestle-a-knight, Kass kites, watched a maypole, and the classic axe-throwing contests. They even briefly met up with Wolcot and his mother as they participated in the festivities as well.

     The opening ceremony was due to start soon, so that meant that the crowds were starting to bunch towards the old Great Hall where the ball would be. Jeran would also soon be expected to arrive for the opening, so that all of the ambassadors, nobles, and dignitaries from Darigan and Brightvale could be properly greeted. As he walked through the halls, the occasionally important pet would pass by and exchange traditional formalities with Sir Borodere, so they were slowed down as they made their way through the throngs of people.

     Eventually, they managed to get into the ballroom, and Gaius and Jeran could see that their repairs were holding strong. What also caught their attention was the long tables on every side of the room, covered in various foods for people to snack on.

     After a few moments of mingling, Jeran led Gaius up the stairs to the balcony, where the opening ceremony was to begin. Skarl would soon arrive to make his speech about the benefits of peace and unity among the three kingdoms, but until then, Gaius could see a whole group of important people. Even King Hagan had managed to attend, already seated up on the balcony with them. However, instead of Lord Darigan, standing next to Gaius was a shadow Lenny, clearly dressed in a Dariganian formal style. He turned to greet Jeran.

     “Hello! Sir Borodere, I presume? I’m Bertrand, the new Ambassador.” The Lenny said with a smile.

     “Indeed! And this here is Gaius Gallius, The Castle planner and Architect.” Jeran introduced his partner.

     “Oh my.” Betrand let out an embarrassed laugh. “I do apologize for any extra work you had to do during the war due to the invasion.” He apologized.

     “Oh, no worries. Thankfully the walls held strong so it was mostly roofing repairs.” The Bori held no grudge.

     “Lord Darigan sends his regrets for not being able to attend. When do you think Skarl will be here?” Bertand excitedly asked. He was curious to get his first glance at the king.

     “Might take a while, he likes to stop and talk with folks.” Jeran looked at the thick crowd below.

     Gaius’s stomach growled, and he realized that he hadn’t had a chance to eat since yesterday’s lunch. He turned to whisper in Jeran’s ear. “Think I can sneak off from the balcony while we wait for Skarl to arrive, I need food.” He whispered.

     Jeran could see a few people were grabbing a few of the snacks from the opening course left out on the tables. It would totally be fine, but Jeran was sure Skarl could arrive at any moment. “Be quick about it!”

     Gaius was quick to scurry down the stairs and into the jovial crowd. As orange Bori scurried to grab snacks, the blue Lupe looked to all the dignitaries sitting next to him. Skarl’s words from earlier echoed in his mind. Something was coming, and Jeran might need to rely on these allies to weather that storm. But he also remembered that Skarl specifically wanted this ball to be a time of happiness. Jeran could see why. The new Darigan Ambassador and Hagan were both enjoying themselves, strengthening the bond between them, and Meridell.

     As Gaius overlooked a towering stack of pastries and freshly picked berries, he was unsure of how to pace himself. He would need to eat now to satiate his hunger, but still save room for the rest of the festival’s food. He grabbed a small napkin and stacked a few morsels on it, and a pair of extra ones. “I should bring some to Wolcott later!” He rationalized his growing pile of food.

     As he looked up to see Jeran lost in thought, in the corner of his eye he saw King Skarl ascending the other staircase! He was going to be late. He wouldn't want to be rude and join after the king was starting his speech! With a pastry in his mouth, he tried to weave through the crowd to get back to his seat. Unfortunately, the crowd was all abuzz seeing the king arrive to start the ceremony. Everyone was too busy cheering to move out of the way for the short Bori.

     Jeran and Gaius exchanged facial expressions. Jeran trying to impress the importance of hurrying up, and Gaius trying to show his apologies for being trapped.

     King Skarl stood in front of his grand chair in the middle of the balcony, and stretched his arms out wide to welcome everyone. “Greetings everyone. It has been another fine year of peace and prosperity for us all here living and visiting Meridell. Please join us in celebrating another year of our righteous kingdom. I will spare you the details of our latest trade agreements, but rest assured, we have the highest praises for our allies, now more than ever. Now, please enjoy the feast and festivities.”

     King Skarl plopped down in his throne, self-satisfied at his short speech. The balcony flexed a little when his heavy body came to rest, but the repaired structure was holding strong. Skarl was just as ready as anyone else to start really digging in on the feast. Gaius also took the opportunity to start rushing up the stairs to rejoin everyone, but halfway up, a voice boomed in the crowd.

     “Your false kings should have died! How could this be?” a magically amplified voice reverberated in the stone halls. Everyone went dead silent. “Upon sitting on his throne of likes, justice should have been served!” The loud voice was distorted by unbridled rage.

     Gaius scanned the crowd, and found the source of the voice: a cloaked figure who lifted his hood to reveal himself. A royal Acara revealed himself, eyes red with rage.

     Jeran immediately stood up, and drew his sword to stand at the ready next to Skarl.

     “Who are you?” Skarl asked, facing the interrupter with casual disdain.

     “You once called me Count Durlston. But my name is Eardwald!!!” The Acara continued to scream.

To be continued…

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Other Episodes

» Castle Planners Journal: The Meridell Day Tragedy - Part 1
» Castle Planners Journal: The Meridell Day Tragedy - Part 2

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