Walking blindly down the secret passageway of 3moons Castle with only the hand of the Lady of the Castle to guide you, she signals you to stop. You hear a click and light pours into the passageway from a doorway. You look behind you into the passageway, which you are relieved to see is not full of spiders or other frightening things, like your mind tried to trick you into believing.
You have apparently arrived in some sort of a study. There is a writing desk buried in papers and a well worn chair. Over in front of the fireplace you note two very comfortable and soft looking chairs that are pulled up comfortably near the fire.
Solitaire chuckles and invites you to sit down. When you ask why she is chuckling she smiles at you kindly and says, "Well, actually two reasons: the look of terror on your face in the passage for one, and the other one I'm not sure I should explain."
"Oh do explain, please!" you insist, to which she replies, "These chairs we are sitting in are stuffed with some of Irwin's magical chicken feathers!" and then she bursts forth a melodious laugh.
You have to admit that living with a chicken feather "factory" would be interesting, at least until you ran out of uses for them. "Speaking of chicken feathers and Irwin, would you like to hear a story about the first time he ever tried that spell?" the lady asked, still smiling.
"Oh, wonderful!" you reply and settle back in the warmth of the fire in the overstuffed chair to enjoy this tale. "If it's half as funny as what I witnessed earlier in the main hall, it will certainly be worth hearing." The lady waved her hand and a table appeared in front of you laden with hot chocolate and sweets. Before you could ask how she did that, she began telling the story of Irwin and Sir John the Honorable.
"Aganon already told you that he and I first met in 1225 when I rescued him and that he returned the favor by rescuing me in 1250 from the plague. This was shortly after that, but the exact date escapes me. It's no matter to the story though."
"It was just Aganon and me living here in the Castle then and so few neighbors that we were for all intents and purposes alone in the world. Aganon saw that I was well cared for, but I was lonely for human company." She paused as if remembering, but before you could speak she continued.
"One day we heard the sound of hoofbeats outside the Castle and, of course, we both went rushing to windows to see who was outside."
Solitaire sipped her hot chocolate and continued. "It was a knight on a beautiful horse which was laden with silver. The knight's armour was silver and the saddle and even the bridle were so heavy with silver, the horse was doing well just to keep going."
"The horse was obviously spent, and so we went out to bid the visitor enter and rest." She then looked amused and added, "He was a bit taken back by Aganon, that I can assure you! He immediately drew his sword and told me to 'Stand Back!' he would handle this beast."
"Aganon just huffed in the knight's general direction and I assured the visitor that the dragon wouldn't harm him and certainly wasn't about to harm me." "If he was willing to be civil to Aganon, I would be only too happy to have him come in and rest."
"Looking a bit perplexed but tired, the knight nearly fell from his horse with exhaustion and accepted my invitation to enter." You try to get a word in about asking strangers to come into your home, but then realize these were other times and, of course, there was Aganon to protect her, so you decide against giving her a chiding for treating her personal safety so carelessly by today's standards.
"Once inside, the knight removed his helmet and I beheld a handsome and rugged face." "Aganon huffed again when he saw me smile at the knight." "We sat and ate and talked of many things before retiring for the evening."
Unable to control your curiosity any longer, you ask "So how does the knight meet the wizard?" to which the lady replies, "I'm getting to that part. Patience!" and gives your hand a pat. "As we were ascending the stairs to our bedchambers, the knight, who had told us his name was Sir John the Honorable, slipped on a worn stair and began plummeting to the stone floor of the great hall."
"Unknown to me, Aganon had taken pity on a poor old confused wizard and allowed him to stay a few days in the Castle." "There was an ear piercing scream coming from the knight as he fell, and the next thing I knew, the room was full of chicken feathers."
"The knight was unhurt, of course, and when the feathers settled I looked up to the gallery above us and saw Irwin." "He bowed and said in a pleasant and humble voice 'Glad to be of service to you m'lady.'" "I realized I was just standing there struck dumb by what had just happened, and Aganon rushed to assure me that Irwin was indeed harmless but Ag wasn't sure I would have offered a stranger as strange as this a place to sleep and some food. He had apparently shown up in the middle of the night by materializing next to Aganon in one of the keeps."
"At that point I realized that Sir John was buried under a mountain of chicken feathers and turned to descend to assist him, but saw that Irwin had come to his aid by floating down from the gallery. This is where the two meet."
"The knight, totally disoriented, had drawn his sword and donned his helm, apparently thinking the Castle was under some sort of magickal attack from wizards." "No doubt he thought the wizard caused his foot to slip on the stairs." "When Irwin floated down into the feathers, he ended up face to face with an angry knight who attempted to behead the wizard with a stroke of his mighty sword."
"Swinging a broadsword in feathers is about as effective as swinging one under water. Irwin dodged easily and decided to have some fun with the knight and Sir John was anything but amused. His code of honor would not allow him to laugh at the sight of a wizard cavorting and leaping around while flinging chicken feathers at the knight's visor." "I remember Sir John threatening Irwin with fates worse than death if he could but get his hands around the wizard's throat."
"Finally Aganon waded into the feathers to stop the two of them from hurting each other." "I was still standing on the stairs laughing, which no doubt only made the knight that much more determined to catch the poor wizard and punish him."
She pauses in her story and you wait the beat of a heart before asking, "So is that when the wizard came to live here?" "Yes," she replied, "and he was told to never recite that spell again." "Uh oh," you say under your breath, to which she responds, "That's right, uh oh."
"The thing I wanted them both to learn when they calmed down wasn't about not casting spells that caused rooms to fill with chicken feathers, or to learn not to behead every peculiar person you met," she paused and then continued, "but to be tolerant of others long enough to see if they are trying to help you or hurt you."
As the fire settled in the hearth and you sipped your hot chocolate, you heard the lady say under her breath "then you can behead them." She looked up and smiled, no doubt hoping you hadn't heard her say that.
The two of you sit companionably by the fire, and when you are nearly asleep from the warmth of the flames and the hot chocolate you've finished, you hear a sneeze come from another room in the castle. The lady stands up, takes a candle from the table, and goes out through one of those mysterious entrances that seem to appear whenever they are needed.
As you drift toward sleep, while listening to the soft sounds of the fire settling in the hearth, you remember you were going to ask her how she made the tray appear. You hope she will be back soon from checking on the wizard, because otherwise you will surely be asleep before she returns.