There had been three gala events to introduce Lady Vika to the nobility and other esteemed members of Vlaanderen’s high society since she had first arrived with King Carl the Squat when he had returned from his adventures in Maelonbourg. Each event had been more impressive than the last as King Carl pulled out all the stops to impress upon his people how wonderful Lady Vika was and that she was the perfect choice to be Queen. Truthfully there hadn’t been many who harbored reservations about King Carl’s chosen bride, and still fewer that had dared to articulate their concerns. At the third gala one of the barons who governed a fiefdom along the coast had carelessly mentioned how curious it was that the king had gone to another realm looking for a wife instead of selecting from the locally available eligible maidens. This suggestion was rightfully and quickly harumphed by those within earshot and the baron felt the embarrassment of his ill-chosen words for the remainder of the evening.
Elsewhere in the festive gathering could be found the king’s newest friend, and by the king’s own account the only human he fully trusted and could confide in. This man was Prince Bortimer of Slothjemia. While there were other humans present at these gala events the majority of attendees were halflings, and that included King Carl and Lady Vika. Bortimer was a large man at that, being nearly as fond of good cooking as any halfling. But he was surprisingly quick and light in his feet and seemed to delight in dancing with any woman who was bold enough to return his smile. Bortimer spent the bulk of his time though milling about and mixing with the crowd as he chatted happily with the other guests. Never far from the prince was his bodyguard, a hulking jor named Shr Grogdahl who terrified everyone just by being there. Goblinoids were not common in Vlaanderen, and nobody who lived in this bucolic realm had ever seen a swamp orc up close. Even dressed for a high society party Shr Grogdahl was intimidating.
As Bortimer and Grogdahl stood along the edge of the festivities watching the people, Bortimer said to his old friend, “Look how happy Carl and Vika are. Makes you think that there is somebody out there for the likes of us, too.”
Grogdahl looked at Bortimer with a raised eyebrow and asked, “How much have you had to drink?”
Bortimer seemed unfazed by the inquiry and continued, “Of course their meeting was a bit of a ruse, but isn’t that the nature of every courtship? Putting your best foot forward, even if you have to put on an act to make yourself more appealing. But look at Vika now. She is fully at ease with Carl, and he with her. She might have started this off under false pretenses but now she is completely in love and ready to become the Queen of Vlaanderen.”
Grogdahl simply asked in his typically deadpan manner, “What the hell have you been drinking, anyway?”
Bortimer again ignored the question and looked slyly at the swamp orc as he asked, “You ever think about settling down? Getting married and having a family?”
Grogdahl looked back at Bortimer. “No, that’s asinine. And I think you’ve been poisoned and might be having a stroke.”
Looking back at the crowd of jubilant halflings Bortimer said wistfully, “I have been thinking of marriage lately, you know.”
Somewhat impatiently Grogdahl snapped back and growled, “Yeah, I know. That is why we ended up being invited to series of midget parties while you scheme to impress the woman you have taken a fancy to. She isn’t even here, you great boob. Has she even any idea that you have a notion to court her?”
Bortimer took a drink from his wine glass and said quietly, “One doesn’t rush such a fair maiden, my friend. I haven’t figured out a way to get her attention, and I must do so just right.”
“Ok, we’re using the term ‘fair maiden’ with a bit of liberty if it’s the same dame I think it is…” Grogdahl tried to interject before Bortimer talked right over him.
Bortimer held up his wine glass and said, “No, we can’t rush a lady like her. I will have to study upon this issue before coming up with a way to approach her.” He took another sip and then said, “I’ll have to do a better job casting myself in a favorable light if I am to have a chance at winning the heart of the fair maiden.”
Grogdahl took a deep breath and growled, “Look, you idiot. She is as much a thieving, conniving, and treacherous person as you. She has you already figured out because she is probably smarter than you. And she hasn’t any interest in you either, because she has got to be a damn sight wiser than you. And she is halfling, half your height and only a third of your weight. Your kids would turn out looking like vaguely horrifying bouncy balls covered in hair. You haven’t thought this through at all and have just been making it up as you go while she is four or five moves ahead of you and more interested in literally anything else other than marriage.”
Bortimer flagged down a passing servant and exchanged his empty wine glass for a full one. He winked at Grogdahl and said, “She really is something wonderful, isn’t she?”
Grogdahl finished off his own glass of wine and muttered, “God damn it all so much.”