Nisrioch stood at the gate watching the elephants pour in. They were, thankfully, smallish elephants--however, they had howdahs on top, filled with people. Most were playing instruments--trumpets, flutes, mandolins, and the occasional tambourine.
“Three elephants,” he muttered to himself. “No, four….” He turned to Cei. “Does she expect us to take care of these things?”
“Why are you asking me that, Your Excellency?” said Cei. “You know she does.”
“Yes, yes I do.” Nisrioch frowned, and shook his head. “This is going to be a difficult one, isn’t it…?”
Cei coughed. “A fifth one, sir. It has a dancing girl on it,” he muttered.
Nisrioch glanced up at the Dev acrobatically cavorting on top of the elephant, dressed in a flowing gown of purple silk, lined with sparkling cloth-of-silver . “That is not a dancing girl. That is a dancing Dark Lord.” He gave a slight bow. “Alcina.”
Alcina Ashurana, Dark Lord of Albracca unfurled her wings and leapt off the elephant. “Nisrioch. I’m somewhat amazed you recognized me,” she said, as she glided down.
“What can I say,” answered Nisrioch. “I’m well-acquainted with you, my dear.”
“Flattery, Nisrioch, will get you… well, somewhere,” answered Alcina, raising a long-fingered hand to the tall Erl’s lips. A soft jangle accompanied her motion. “Don’t mind the bells. Ettarde swears they complete the ensemble.”
Nisrioch paused from planting kisses on her fingers. “And she is…?”
“My new arbiter,” answered Alcina with a yawn. “Frankly, I have my doubts about the girl.” She clicked her tongue. “Really, I’m so cross with Psyche for going off and getting married, leaving me here dependent on the services of lesser individuals.”
“Well, perhaps, I can soothe the fury that is gathering in your breast, Alse,” said Nisrioch with a slight smile.
“Mmmm, perhaps,” said Alcina, affectionately petting his face. “And what of you, Nisrioch? Have you any fury gathering in your breast, dearest?”
Nisrioch took her hand, and clenched it fiercely. “In my breast, and in every portion of my anatomy, from my head, down to my toes,” he answered.
Alcina pulled away. “I see.” The tip of one of her wings idly tickled his nose as she moved back. “Well, then it seems we must work together to kill this tumult that afflicts us.” She peered at him through the lids of her eyes, just the slightest of red flashes visible. “I suspect it will take many… little deaths to kill it all.”
“And is that what brings you here to Bridge Perilous?” asked Nisrioch. “Small amounts of death and tumult?”
“More or less,” answered Alcina. “Officially, it’s about trade. Unofficially--well, you Cthoniques have just made the Lands of Night so… very interesting. Father is worried.”
Nisrioch peered at her intently. “And you, Alse?”
“As I told you, Nisrioch,” said Alcina, walking away, “I’m in tumult.”
Nisrioch watched her leave. “Excuse me, sir,” coughed Cei. “But… the elephants?”