shared from https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2018/02/17/the-luck-of-bedag-keep-guest-post-by-jim-webster/
Because I taught at least once a week at her Conservatory I feel I got to know Madam Jeen Snellflort reasonably well. I also got to know her ‘gentleman adventurers.’ I confess that out of all the adventurers who served Madam Jeen, I think Rizal Qualan was the best. It was he who took upon himself the ‘recovery’ of the Luck of Bedag Keep. Between ourselves I’m not sure how or why this artefact was even on the list.
The Luck of Bedag Keep was a not entirely prepossessing statuette of a kneeling cherub, in silver gilt. Initially, for reasons nobody now remembers, it was the finial of the war-standard of the lords of Bedag Keep. After a long string of victories, or at least battles that weren’t obvious defeats, the standard was considered lucky. Finally a wandering madman, watching the host of Bedag Keep march past him, announced that the Keep wouldn’t fall until the cherub flew away and abandoned it.
That immediately changed things. In a less superstitious age the madman would doubtless have been mocked or even beaten, but his words were regarded as coming directly from the court of the fates. From that day on the standard remained hanging high up in the great hall of the keep. The warbands of the Bedag house would ride out under other, lesser banners, to win or lose as their destiny directed. Yet even after the Bedag had suffered catastrophic defeat, no enemy force ever managed to scale the walls of the keep. Hence when Rizal took upon himself to acquire the Luck of Bedag Keep, it was not merely some minor artefact, it represented the legitimacy of the Bedag house and their right to rule over whatever area they currently claimed.
Initially Rizal allowed his imagination to run away with him. It has been mentioned elsewhere that he was a distant kinsman of Cavalier Qualan, the condottieri captain. Indeed he had received training in arms, wore a sword about town, and regarded his schooling in accountancy and commercial law as mere steps along the road toward becoming a condottieri captain in his own right. Thus and so he first contemplated raising a small mercenary company. This would entail recruiting only men of known excellence whom he would lead south to take the keep by coup de main. His innate honesty came to his rescue. Partann had seen many of mercenary companies, often large and competent. None of them had succeeded in taking Bedag Keep.
Then he contemplated disguising himself as a wandering Partannese sell-sword. As an itinerant mercenary he would make his way south, gain entry to the keep by nefarious means, and make off with the Luck. Here again, after a day or twos’ daydreaming his natural candour got the better of him. He wasn’t yet competent enough nor experienced enough to pass himself off in that manner.
Finally he had what was probably his best idea. He would travel to Bedag Keep in the guise of a clerk representing an avarice of usurers. He would travel with the ostensible aim of having the Bedag clan deposit their ill-gotten gains safely with the consortium in Port Naain, at a low rate of interest. Apparently this sort of commercial traveller is not uncommon, being found even in those areas where piracy and brigandage are at their most rampant. On mature consideration perhaps they should be found especially in the areas with rampant piracy and brigandage?
Still, a methodical young man, Rizal decided that if he was going to represent a usurer, he ought to have a usurer to represent. He was too wise to pass himself off as the representative of a well known establishment. What if he were to meet a supposed colleague when in the south? That could cause embarrassment all round. Similarly he didn’t want to create an imaginary employer, in case somebody thought to check. Instead he suggested to Madam Jeen that she register as a usurer in her own name. A brief discussion with her gentlemen of business indicated that this could be a wise move anyway, and so it was done. When he rode south, Rizal was the accredited representative of Snellflort’s.
His journey was remarkably uneventful. Dressed soberly as a clerk but wearing a sword, he seemed too much trouble to rob. If questioned by patrols on the road or guards at toll gates he remained courteous and entirely open about his purpose, although never mentioning the Bedag Keep. Indeed he got three or four interviews with various minor families, and all seemed impressed by the deal Snellflort’s offered.
Finally he arrived at Bedag Keep. He announced himself to the gatekeeper and was admitted. Lord Bedag granted him a brief audience in the great hall, the mighty war-standard with the Luck of the keep hanging high above his head. Rizal laid out in general terms the sorts of services Snellflort’s could offer the enterprising robber baron. Lord Bedag heard him out and announced that he would sleep on it. Rizal was given a small room to spend the night in. It was at the top of a tower overlooking the moat. It had two doors; or rather places where, had it been considered convenient, doors could be hung. One led out onto the tower’s parapet. The other opened upon a spiral staircase which went down and led through various doors into the great hall and the minstrels’ gallery that overlooked it.
It has to be said that with regard to comfort, the tower room offered none whatsoever. Still, Rizal unrolled his bedroll and made himself as comfortable as he was able. He waited until the keep gradually became quiet. Then he got out of the bedroll and placed a length of log in it, arranging the blankets so that in the gloom it looked as if there was still somebody sleeping. This subterfuge completed, he tiptoed down the stairway until he got to the door of the minstrels’ gallery which he opened carefully. It was in deep shadow, the only light came from the ashes of the fire in the hearth in the centre of the great hall. He approached the balcony rail and looked over. There were two guards seated on stools near the fire. They were engaged in huddled conversation. Around them were at least two-score of fighting men who obviously slept in the hall. From where he stood he could hear the gentle snoring.
Plucking up his courage he climbed up onto the pole of the great standard and sat astride it. Then he carefully moved along it until he could reach the Luck. When he glanced down he realised he had left the Minstrels’ gallery behind him. If the shaft was to break, he would fall all the way to the hall floor and might even roll into the fire. He leaned forward and could touch the Luck. From out of his pocket he pulled a short wire saw. He slung it round the standard pole just below the Luck, and then hung a cloth below it to catch any sawdust. Slowly he started to cut, trying to time his strokes to the loudest of the snores. Every so often he would stop and try to move the Luck. He didn’t want it to just come off and plummet to the floor.
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