Thunderbolt

It is often the case that agreeing to a simple request can change dramatically the trajectory of a person’s life. Happily fixated on their own goals and oblivious to the rut that their life has settled into people can forget that it doesn’t take much to shake them free of their complacency and thrust them suddenly into a bewildering new reality in which they begin to ponder anew what their goals might be. As if struck by a thunderbolt they gaze confounded at life as if seeing it for the first time with a clarity previously unknown.

This is how it was for Lersha. Most everyone knew her as Princess Shar Lersha Queliendy von Slothjem and other than her name that is about all that anyone knew about her. Lersha was and continues to be an intensely private woman. She shares almost nothing about herself to even her closest family members. It cannot be said for certain that she has friends. There are people she served with in the navy that she could be considered to be close to although it is doubtful any of them would consider her their friend. Certainly none of them would be termed confidants. Her handmaidens were relieved of their duties years ago as Lersha has no need of servants to help her dress or even to do her shopping. What Lersha cannot do herself simply doesn’t get done and the princess is perfectly ok with that. At the age of 24 she was quite content in her routines and comfortable in her rut.

Then one morning her father, Archibald Speedblade-von Slothjem, the Herzgraf of Slothjemia came to call on his youngest daughter. He knocked on her door and waited for her to invite him into her suite. Like everyone in the royal family Archibald knew full well that everything involving Lersha was done at Lersha’s pleasure and on her schedule. He understood that Lersha wasn’t necessarily arrogant as much as she was intensely disinterested in most everything that happened around her. It was the same trait that had first attracted Archibald to Lersha’s mother, Queen Reichsha. There was no response to his knock, so Archibald knocked again.

“Yes?” came a recognizably weary response from Lersha on the other side of the door.

The Herzgraf smiled to himself and said in his strong fatherly tone, “Lersha, darling. It’s your father. I have something to request of you. Can I come in?”

A few awkward moments of silence passed while Lersha considered this. She hadn’t anything really pressing to do and wasn’t doing anything of any real importance other than stitching up a loose hem on one of her dresses. Lersha set her hands in her lap and stared at the door as though she was deciding whether or not to fake not even being in the room but knowing her father already knew she was inside.

With a sigh Lersha replied, “Come in, father.”

Archibald opened the door and closed it behind him quickly as if to keep a cat from escaping. He smiled at his daughter using all of his skills as a paladin to try and put her at ease. This was how he always approached Lersha. “I have a meeting to attend in Avondace next week. A small gathering for the Council of Schönbrunn. The Fanolanians have recently discovered that one of the Diosian Lodge liches has been active in an area just north of their border in the Wenigzustand.” The Herzgraf stood with his hands at his sides and continued to smile disarmingly. “I was hoping you would accompany me and serve as the helmsman aboard the Shadowborn. You might enjoy the dinner party, as well.”

Lersha looked at her father with a mix of raised eyebrow stifled snort. Her father laughed realizing the absurdity of what he had just suggested. He was still laughing as he said, “Alright, you wouldn’t enjoy the party. But I hope you will attend it anyway as a favor to me. Normally I would take your brother, but he is otherwise engaged. I would appreciate having somebody there with me that I can count on not to make any social missteps.”

Lersha sighed again. Her twin brother, known around the court and empire as Prince Shr Archibald Speedblade-von Slothjem III, was one of the foremost paladins in the realm. He was constantly on one quest or another defeating evil and trouncing about looking for all the world like a superhero. “Alright, I’ll go.” She said with a hint of resignation in her voice.

This was as lengthy an answer as her father was going to get and he grinned with pride as he bowed to kiss his daughter on the forehead. “Thank you, darling. It means a lot to me. We won’t be gone long you shouldn’t need to pack much. Perhaps you can find something nice in Avondace as well.”

Lersha resumed her sewing and nodded her head. “Perhaps.” She said. She smiled slightly as her father opened the door and quickly left her suite, closing the door quickly behind him.

Finishing her work and inspecting it to make sure it met her standards Lersha hung the gown back up in her wardrobe. She took stock of what she might need to take on what would be a short journey. It was still a week away, but Lersha wasn’t one for putting things off. She wasn’t going to be caught off guard.

The week sailed by as quickly as a spelljammer zooms through the skies and before she knew it Lersha was back at the helm of her favorite spelljamming ship, the RSV Shadowborn. Sitting in the ornately carved wooden chair that transformed Lersha’s magical abilities into energy to propel the vessel was like easing into a warm bath. She was still able to communicate freely with those on the bridge of the ship and for this voyage she was not only the helmsman but also the overall captain. Her naval rank was that of Commander and for this duty she wore her navy uniform complete with all of her awards pinned neatly on her chest. The trip from Jaggerholmschloss to Avondace was only a day despite it being a distance of over thirteen hundred miles. Spelljamming through atmospheric conditions was easily Lersha’s all-time favorite activity and opportunities were rare to engage in it. Racing headlong through the clouds and over the alpine mountains, zigging over lakes and rivers and the great cities of Geldenreich and a myriad of smaller states. Attached as she was to the magical energy of the helm Lersha had a bird’s eye view of the world and she found it exhilarating.

The Shadowborn set down at the end of its rapid trip in the great river that flowed through the heart of Avondace, the capital of Fanolania. Guards from the Royal Fanolanian Musketeers were on hand to greet them as was the Slothjemian ambassador to the court of King Carloman. The ambassador was an older human baron of tremendous wisdom and tact named Walther Klarenborne. He waved to the disembarking passengers of the Shadowborn and once the formalities of greeting the Herzgraf and his entourage were complete he took them to a pair of carriages that would carry them to the embassy. The musketeers stayed behind and set about making sure that nobody trespassed upon the Shadowborn. The crew of the spelljammer stayed aboard and the marines kept a wary eye on anyone venturing close by along the river walk.

Lersha enjoyed the carriage ride and once they had arrived at the embassy she locked herself in the room they had allotted her and rested on the bed. Spelljamming was inordinately taxing on a spellcaster. While it wasn’t physically draining it did leave them feeling as though they had been engaged in strenuous mental activity for the entirety of the time they were linked to the helm. Even though she was hungry Lersha fell asleep quickly and didn’t rouse until the next morning.

It would be this day that would transform Lersha’s life and throw her priorities into absolute chaos. She had no notion of this when she awoke. Nor did she have an inkling as she passed the day away in shopping in the boutiques and markets of Avondace. As she prepared for the dinner party of that evening she still had no clue of what was about to happen. It wasn’t until she stood by her father’s side, to all outward appearances the loyal and dutiful daughter of a foreign nobleman greeting guests to his embassy that it hit her.

He arrived with a group of companions and at first glance anyone could have seen that they were uneasy with social niceties and unlearned in social graces. He was handsome, dark in complexion from years in the wilderness and toughened by his life as a ranger. Her paternal grandfather had been an infamous ranger in Slothjemia and Lersha had spent her childhood in awe of his lone-wolf approach to life and the fantastic stories he would tell of his exploits. Here now in the embassy was a man wallowing in awkwardness and yet projecting a quiet calm. She could tell that he wanted desperately to be anywhere other than here, and to that she could commiserate fully. He was introduced by some Fanolanian nobleman as being Sir Xan, recently knighted by the King of Fanolania and charged with reestablishing order in some wretched-sounding place called Maelonbourg where Sir Xan was to be one of three brand-new barons. Xan. Lersha smiled softly as he took her hand in greeting.

Lersha had been struck by a thunderbolt.

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