So good was the hospitality provided by the Earl of Lints, that it nearly made Baldo uneasy.
Both the savior of his life and a peerless hero of great renown, Baldo was treated as if he were a guest of the highest order.
So too did the members of his house serve the man that saved the head of the family with great devotion.
The most distinguished retainers of the Lints domain came one after the other to shower Baldo with gifts.
They handed him extravagant weapons, clothes, and jewels, and some even gave him items as large as furniture, putting Baldo at a loss for where exactly to put it.
He graciously accepted the more down-to-earth items like armor and a cloak.
The many swords he received, however, were far too garish.
For a journey like this, of an old man to the end of his life, his current old sword was the most appropriate companion.
He told the Earl of Lints that he would leave everything he couldn’t bring with him at the manor, and asked him to take the items to the House Telsia.
The Earl was more than happy to oblige.
Some days later, after Baldo had fully recovered, Simon Epivaris, Earl of Lints, came to Baldo dressed in his best formal attire.
“Lord Baldo Rhowen.
Allow me to express my deepest gratitude for the actions you took in saving my life and this estate.
I had believed my adopted son to be a man of morals, yet he was naught but a treacherous villain.
I must offer my sincerest apologies, for through my ineptitude did I expose Lord Jourlan and your honored self to senseless danger.
It was truly perilous, yet through your unparalleled courage and unyielding determination in the face of injury did we come out alive.
This is my eldest son and heir, Werner.
This is my wife, Helena.
On their behalf do I yet again express our gratefulness.
House Epivaris will never forget our gratitude and friendship for as long we walk the earth.
Forever will our doors be open wide to you.
If there is anything we can ever do to be of use to you, we will go through hell and high water to see it done.
Please accept this small gift, a token of but a mere fraction of our appreciation,”
the Earl said, and as his family all lowered their heads to Baldo, a servant of the family brought a tray to the table next to them, a great deal of large, gold coins atop it, wrapped in a cloth of high quality.
Each of those coins seemed to be worth around ten gold coins of normal size, and in front of Baldo were what seemed to be a hundred of them.
Baldo accepted the gratitude, and so too did he extend his own friendship, but he refused the money.
Although this attack itself was perpetrated by Oswald toward the Earl of Lints, House Coendela had organized this from behind the scenes with Baldo and Jourlan’s lives in mind.
One could almost say that it was through association with Baldo and Jourlan that the Earl was put into harm’s way.
But the Earl insisted,
“That is not the case at all.
After questioning some of the men that we captured, we learned that Oswald had been scheming with House Coendela to seize the family for himself for many years now.
Had you not been here at the moment he decided to attack, I’m afraid I would no longer be among the living today.
It was because you were here and thus they decided to carry out the plan, that I was saved.
The fact that I am here right now is your doing.
Not to mention, I would never dream of taking back a gift I have already given.”
Then I will have to trouble you to give it to House Telsia, replied Baldo.
“Unfettered by greed, and with only thoughts of your lord, indeed.
However, Lord Rhowen, were I to do as you say, the world would think I was not giving that money to you, but to your House Telsia.
Even if I were to keep it a secret, it would surely see the light of day before long.
I am a businessman in the eyes of many, not a knight.
Men of business do not give great sums of money for no purpose.
I do not wish to invite needless trouble to House Telsia’s doorstep.
I promise that I will find some way to make sure House Telsia receives our support.
So for now, Lord Rhowen, please accept this sum.”
Baldo had no other option than to nod and agree to the gift.
He could not physically carry around the gold, however, so Baldo told the Earl that he would accept a million geil for now, and then ask for the rest when necessary down the line.
“That will do perfectly.
That means in the future, someone may come to collect the rest of the sum on your behalf.
That being the case, perhaps we should decide on a means of confirming their identity.”
Baldo asked for some parchment and an inkwell.
The animal parchment they retrieved was of considerably high quality.
It was incredibly white, thin, and covered in a glossy sheen.
A strange smell tended to accompany animal hide parchment, but this one exhibited none of that.
Baldo knew not of the animal from which it was made.
When the inkwell came, Baldo dipped his right index finger into the ink and then pressed it against the tip of his left.
He then pressed both fingers onto the page.
When he removed his fingers were there two prints left atop the paper.
The Earl watched his actions with confusion, so Baldo explained,
The patterns on one’s fingertips are entirely unique to the individual.
In several countries in the midlands do they occasionally press ink-covered fingers onto a page in lieu of a seal, and they call it a fingerseal.
As there are no two fingerseals alike, it proves an effective means of confirming a man’s identity.
If ever an individual comes bearing a fingerseal that is identical to this one, then I ask you to entrust the remainder of the sum to that person.
It’s possible I will some day in battle lose one of these fingers, so I have left both my left and right should that happen.
The Earl was thoroughly taken aback by this knowledge, thus he pressed his own fingerseal onto the parchment and compared it with that of his family.
Each of them are entirely unlike the other.
I never would have imagined Sir Galdegarsh Gwera was as clever as he was strong,”
laughed the man.
This was something Baldo had learned from Eidra in the sunlit courtyard.
In the brief year or so that she had been wed to House Coendela, she had picked up a great deal of peculiar information, fascinating Baldo with it as well.
The thought suddenly occurred to Baldo,
That double spiral Gyenzala was on about, was it perhaps the fingerseal?
Baldo told these thoughts of his to the Earl, and he replied,
“A fascinating idea.
That could mean someone left a fingerseal in the shape of a double spiral.
Perhaps they are searching for that individual.
Or perhaps they are searching for a deed or written vow sealed by that individual.
I suspect that may be the case.”
Gyenzala did not appear to know the spiral was a fingerseal, mentioned Baldo.
The Earl agreed,
“That seems likely.
For he did ask what the double spiral was, if my memory does not fail me.
That must mean they are searching for someone or something, with but the single clue of a fingerseal, left behind by one who was not of their family.
And the Coendelas wish to find the answer before anyone else.”
Baldo had similar thoughts, but he could not deduce anything further.
He was not the kind of man to think this and that of such subtle, complicated matters.
It was a curious thing, that those ruffians were so obsessed with Eidra’s letter, but in the end, she had already passed away.
So too was Baldo very familiar with how Eidra approached these kinds of matters.
If Princess Eidra truly knew of some incredible secret, she would not simply write of it in a letter.
It would be far too roundabout, far too time-consuming, and far too dangerous.
She would had certainly consulted her elder brother first, or perhaps Jourlan or Cedelmont.
If she wrote a letter to me, then its contents should only be for my eyes,
Baldo surmised, and no longer did he concern himself with those matters.
How could they know anything of Eidra, whom they chased from their lands and who never left the castle of Pacra again.
There were many in House Telsia whose sheer intellect dwarfed his.
He could not imagine ever being of use in a situation such as this.
Baldo observed the food stalls for the first time in a good while.
Of course, he did not only look.
He bought many curious dishes here and there and ate them all.
While he stayed in Lints Manor, they of course provided him with no shortage of delicious foods in the evening and healthy, easily-digestible dishes in the morning.
Baldo was entirely satisfied with their reception, but there was something decidedly different about the food from the streets.
Since he was here in Lints, he was planning to make the most of it and eat to his heart’s content.
You’re looking right as rain this fine morning,”
came a familiar voice from behind Baldo.
It was Julchaga, the Gorra Cheyzara.
“Get me something, will you?”
The next stall was selling some grilled, sandwich-like food, so Baldo bought two and handed one to the young man.
It seemed difficult to eat on the move, so Baldo sat down next to a waterway.
Julchaga sat down next to him.
Wow, that’s something else.”
Baldo had never eaten something like this before.
Water was mixed into flour to make a runny batter, grilled in thin circles on a hot slate, then folded in two.
Inside was freshly-caught fish that was briefly seared and then coated in a sauce made from fermented bean paste, sugar, and spices.
The smell of cooked bean paste wafted past Baldo’s nose and thoroughly whetted his appetite.
It was given to him nestled in a large leaf.
The leaf simply appeared to be a cheap alternative to a plate, yet the soft, watery smell that came from it added an almost refined depth to the dish.
Baldo followed Julchaga’s example and took a courageous bite from the side, sighing in satisfaction at the wonderful taste.
He was smiling before he realized it.
“I’ll get us some sweet rice wine.
I need some money,”
said Julchaga, and with the coins from Baldo he gulped down the last of the snack in a single bite and climbed up the side of the embankment, disappearing among the crowd in an instant.
Just as Baldo finished his as well did the young man return with two bamboo containers and a cup’s worth of piping-hot liquid inside each.
“Here you go,”
he said, handing Baldo one of the containers, and then he pulled something out of his breast pocket.
It was something wrapped up in an old rag, traces of steam and a delicious smell escaping from the sides.
“It’s made from some kind of potato and a bunch of vegetables.
They boil them all and mash it together in a paste.
Then they shape them like this, long and thin.
All they do is grill it a little and sprinkle some salt on top.
This stuff is really good; you have to take my word for it,”
he said, placing the bundle between them.
The two snacked on them while slowly sipping the rice wine.
“Betchu never thought I’d jump off the cliff like that, did you.”
I certainly did not, replied Baldo.
“Betchu were amazed at how I jumped down the rocks like that, weren’t you.”
I certainly was, replied Baldo.
“Boy, I’m such a genius.
Putting me in a real bind, ya’know?
Nearly making me blush with all those compliments.
But didja know?
I was scared straight during that jump!
I was prepared to die the entire time.
There’s no way!
This is impossible!
I’ll never survive!
I was thinking this stuff the entire time, but I had to tell myself I could do it.
And I did!
I really am amazing, aren’t I?”
I imagine it was terrifying, just like a knight’s battle, replied Baldo.
Julchaga looked at him with surprise.
I never knew.
The stuff I do and the stuff you do, boss, are just one in the same, I guess.”
The rice wine had a certain bite to it, like there was some secret ingredient added, and it warmed up Baldo’s body.
There were many boats passing by in the waterway.
The rippling of the water never ceased.
And then, all of a sudden—
A scream rang out.
Baldo looked to the source of the noise and saw that a young child had fallen down the banks on the other side of the waterway.
The scream came from a woman who must’ve been the mother.
The child fell with a splash into the water.
He started to sink, flailing madly around.
Baldo quickly stood up and started to run.
Julchaga was even quicker, and with incredible speed did he fly from his seat and leap into the water.
He launched through the waterway with the momentum of his jump and in an instant had he grabbed the child.
For nearly the entire width of the canal, Julchaga had been underwater.
A ship full of cargo was right next to them.
Seeing that a child had fallen into the water, the helmsman quickly changes the course of the ship toward the banks.
In that very change of course was where Julchaga had surfaced with the child in hand.
He desperately tried to move away from the ship.
The child in his arms was squirming in a panic, however, so he was only able to move at a snail’s pace.
The prow was mere moments from colliding into him.
Tightly he held onto the child, and he closed his eyes tight.
Yet the impact never came.
For it was Baldo who with a large piece of wood and herculean strength did he manage to push the boat off course.
There was a sound of creaking wood mixed amongst the splashing of the water.
So too were there screams from the boat, from being pushed so suddenly to the side.
The boat’s course rapidly moved away from the banks.
Baldo pulled the large piece of timber back from the prow and put it down near Julchaga.
Julchaga clung to the piece of wood while holding the child.
The two of them were slowly pulled to the shore, and finally onto the ground.
The woman who appeared to be the mother scooped the child up in her arms and profusely thanked the two, tears in her eyes.
To his savior, Julchaga asked,
“How come you’re on this side of the waterway?”
Baldo left the swimming to Julchaga, who seemed to handle it so easily, and he instead traversed the distance by air, leaping across three boats in succession.
Just as he arrived on the other shore did he spot a large piece of wood sticking out from the water, thus he pulled it out and used it to push the boat away from the two.
Julchaga’s eye were wide with disbelief as he listened to this explanation.
Oh, that’s right!
I can’t forget to return the wood, can I?
said Baldo as he once more pierced the wooden pillar into the water.
It was a mooring post, for ships to be tied and anchored.
They were meant to resist the force of powerful currents, so they were naturally difficult to remove.
“What a monster!
I’m amazed you managed to jump across all of the boats like that too!”
I was unsure the entire time, but I had to tell myself I could do it.
And I did.
I really am amazing, aren’t I?
Julchaga heard this and a brilliant smile formed on his face.
He then sneezed in the next moment and sniffled.
Once more did he smile.
A kindhearted trader collected some old wood for the two and started a fire.
The surrounding crowd also went to look for things that could serve as tinder.
Julchaga stripped down to his bare skin with nary a hint of trepidation, wrung his clothes dry, and then warmed himself up next to the fire.
The woman turned out to be the mother in the end.
She took of the child’s clothes and then took off her coat as well, wrapping it around him.
Only his head poked out, and he too warmed up next to the fire.
He continued to sniffle in his mother’s embrace, but before long, he drifted to sleep.
There were many people around the fire now, rejoicing at the child’s safety and discussing the exploits of Baldo and Julchaga with fervor.
Many of the stall owners with a shrewd eye came by as well, selling their food and drinks to the crowd.
When Baldo decided to return to Lints Manor, Julchaga tagged along.
The guards at the front gate received the two with courteous manners.
Julchaga raised a single hand with a single,
before walking past them with nonchalance.
The steward of the manor announced that distinguished guests had arrived, and Julchaga followed up,
“He’s certainly right about that!”
With the steward’s acceptance was Julchaga thus provided with dinner and a room to stay in as well.
The Earl of Lints was the only other person who attended dinner that day.
He wasn’t in the slightest bit surprised by this guest’s shabby appearance, and when it came time to toast, he asked,
“May I ask for our distinguished guest’s name?”
and so Baldo introduced him as Julchaga the Thief.
Julchaga’s face naturally jolted a bit, but the Earl merely continued,
“Then a toast to my new friend, Julchaga, who I hope will join us tonight,”
and he calmly held up his cup.
The distinguished guest, Baldo, then held up his cup next.
In his toast, he prayed for the continued prosperity of Lints and for the good health of all those connected to it as well.
Julchaga was the third to raise his cup.
“A toast to this mansion’s safety and peace, cheers!”
Once the toasts had finished, the table was set with appetizers.
As he served the two guests himself, divvying up the many delicacies on the table, the Earl asked Julchaga with a serious expression,
“I wonder if you might be that thief of great renown, known as the Gorra Cheyzara.”
This is not your first time meeting him, Simon, mentioned Baldo from the side.
I must say I’ve done everything in my power to not meet him, however,”
replied the Earl in a puzzled tone, to which Baldo responded that this was the man who made off with the letter and leapt down the cliff.
For the first time did surprise color the Earl’s face and he said,
“Oh, that monkey-like one—”
and then continued with boisterous enthusiasm,
You are truly among the finest of thieves!
How blessed am I, to invite not one but two of this generation’s greatest talents.”
Baldo laughed merrily with him.
Though Julchaga didn’t make any noise, there was a giddy smile on his lips.
“It was soon after you caught me.
I was all bound up and on my way to be traded for the bounty.
That was when we crossed paths with that Gyenzara guy and his posse.
One of his attendants knew who I was was, you see.
The guy intimidated the people transporting me and made them hand me over.
Well, if I’d been taken for my bounty, they’d string me up without a doubt.
He told me to work off the debt I owed him for my life.
To dress up as a soldier and nab the letter and seal.
The second he told me my opponent was going to be Baldo Rhowen, boy did I start to feel faint.
But once men lose their resolve to take on the impossible, it’s all over for them, you know?
I had to wait patiently for my chance.”
“You were shivering in your boots, weren’t you?”
“Please don’t do me so dirty, Sir Earl.
That was but an expert performance to lull my opponent into complacency.
Really, you must believe me!
What can you do, though.
All of my allies were almost instantly wiped out, and I only managed to get the letter!
Where was the seal in the end?”
So you came for that too?
What an interesting fellow.
Neither Sir Jourlan nor Sir Baldo have the faintest idea of where that seal may be.”
You don’t know either, boss?”
I do not, replied Baldo.
“Jhan dessa roh!
So there was never any treasure from the beginning!
This is why you can’t trust an amateur.
They simply never do enough research at the start!”
“Why is House Coendela so obsessed with that letter in the first place, Julchaga?
All this talk of spirals and seals—where on earth does it all come from?”
“Yeah, apparently it was a messenger from the Margrave of Gadeucia that mentioned it.
And Gyenzala talked about it to a guy called Balkra.
Gyenzala was saying that the messenger would be able to prove their identity with the double spiral and the seal, and so there would be no issues from then on.”
The Margrave of Gadeucia, you say!
Now that you mention it, I’ve heard House Coendela is on very close terms with the margrave.
I recall that they are relatives, in fact, connected through Cardos’ mother.”
The Gadeucia margravate was located in the eastern lands of the Palzamic Kingdom and included the trade town of Padelia in its jurisdiction.
The lord of this region was Maldos Archeos, a knight of Palzam and a general with great influence.
“And Balkra, you say!
So he has also come.”
Balkra Meganon was one of the most powerful retainers of the Dorba domain.
So then you must have given that letter to Balkra, stated Baldo.
I really am sorry, boss.
That was a letter addressed to you by the princess of Telsia, wasn’t it.
The thing is, you see.
When that old Balkra guy read the letter, his eyes got real wide.
‘The hell is this!’ he said.
‘There’s not a single thing of use written here!’
Boy was he angry.
On the inside, I was fed up with the guy too.
‘You’re the one that got me to steal it!’ I thought, but of course I didn’t say it out loud.”
“That was a wise decision on your part.
Yet why did he desire the letter from Princess Eidra so badly?
Does it perhaps have something to do with the spirals and the seal?”
It looked like that old Balkra guy had no clue either.
I mean, he was complaining to Gyenzala nonstop.
‘Cardos is far too tight-lipped as always!’
‘Enough of this nonsense, and tell me what on earth is the goal of all this!’ he said.
Gyenzala would only say that he’d tell him after they obtained the seal.
That ‘Baldo surely has it!’
That ‘he will certainly be the one who knows about the spiral too!’
That ‘there must be some clues in that letter!’
—and other things of that sort.”
“Humph, a whole assortment of nonsensical things.
That reminds me, Sir Baldo.
Sir Jourlan asked me to not trouble you with any unnecessary worries, but there was a peculiar happening recently.
Shortly after you left Pacra, a messenger from House Coendela came to request that both Lady Eidra and Jourlan be taken into their family.
Such a request after nearly thirty years of abandonment.
Were their attemptt to succeed, they could poach such a talented knight from Telsia, and even if they failed, they might sow seeds of mistrust toward Jourlan among members of the family.
The request was thought to be a such a ploy.
House Telsia spurned the messenger, of course.
Yet House Coendela refused to relent, and after sending multiple requests did they finally send a young maid, asking that she be allowed to serve the Lady.
This too was a suspicious request, but if House Telsia refused even this, it would give the Coendelas an excuse for retaliation.
They reluctantly assented to the maid, and against their expectations did she perform her role admirably.
Lady Eidra was quite fond of the girl too, I heard.
The girl would occasionally send letters back to the Coendelas, but Jourlan would always check their contents before sending them off.
Surely did this girl know how the family saw her.
The letters merely contained details of Lady Eidra’s health and of the chores she performed around the house—nothing out of the ordinary.
After Lady Eidra’s funeral, that maid returned to Dorba.
With this new information, I suppose we can assume the girl was sent as to check Lady Eidra’s belongings.”
After this long story of his, the Earl took a large sip of his alcohol, perhaps to ease his dry throat.
“Speaking of which, Julchaga.
If you have come here looking for the seal, you will find nothing.
Sir Baldo has no idea where it might be.
You will have wasted your time.”
“No, no, that’s not it.
By stealing the letter, my debt to those individuals has been cleared.
I haven’t been in contact with that old Balkra guy since then.
Not to mention, he’s such a drag to talk to.”
“Then why have you returned to this town?
There is currently a warrant out for your arrest, for the attempted assassination of the Earl of Lints and two knights of Telsia.
In fact, there is a wanted poster up for you.
Your life will be forfeit if you are found, you know.”
“Come on, let’s not dampen the mood.
You can’t blame me.
I came all this way to Lints without trying its famous street food.
How could I possibly leave without sampling some?”
So the street food is worth risking your life over?
What an interesting lad.”
I had not a single coin to my name, however.
Just as I was thinking I might get to work, I happened to spot boss over here.”
And what did you do once you spotted him?”
“I said, hey, get me something will you?”
I’m not sure whether I should consider you a fellow of great courage or one of dim wits.
What did Sir Baldo do to you then?”
“He got me something.”
The Earl grew silent and looked at Baldo.
Baldo wordlessly brought the cup to his lips.
Julchaga then regaled the Earl with the tale of what happened after that.
The entire time was the Earl interjecting with many oohs and ahs.
“On that topic, boss.
I still haven’t paid you back for getting me something to eat.
Is there anything you want me to do in return?”
Baldo asked if Balkra had already returned to Dorba.
“I’d say so.
He said he would meet up with a royal envoy, saying something about showing him around a certain lakeside estate.”
Baldo was deep in thought upon hearing that and then further asked if Julchaga was capable of covertly delivering a message to said envoy at that estate.
came the reply and a sly little wink.
The Earl then came over and filled Julchaga’s cup.
Normally would the lord of an estate only fill the first cup, letting his servants take care of all subsequent drinks.
It appeared the Earl was quite taken with the young lad, however.
He would praise him for being a virtuous thief, saying there was nothing wrong with a fellow of extraordinary pride in his well-tempered skills, skewed though his path may be.
It was also possible the Earl was trying to dissuade the young thief from targeting his estate in the future.
The feast lasted joyously late into the night.