Though it is the Knights of Bragendol who have had the most conflicts with the Vaadjori (and, you know now, may be going to war against them), Major Storme only nods in understanding. Guardsman Vaughn frowns however at the mention of the Vaadjori and Officer Perry looks the silent Odren over before replying to you."That is very... conscientious of you, T'Ning. But this is the first I have heard of any possible attack. Why has no one informed Captain Stone?"
Before you can reply, Elder Sister Daphne opens the door to the arena floor."It is time. Please proceed out as I call your name and walk to the farthest available end of the stage."
From behind the chain link viewing cage you see more people gathered at one time than you have ever seen in your life. Every seat is filled as the spectators wave small pennants of either white or gold. At just seven hours past noon, there remains a good hour of daylight left before The Eye drops over the horizon.
You make a check for Rachel but do not see her. There are children scattered among the crowd but you cannot identify any of the few children you had seen so briefly days before.
The matronly priestess names Sir Victor Storme who steps into the arena. The crowd immediately bursts into applause for their national hero as he walks to the stage.
One by one, the rest of you are named. You make your way into the arena as you are applauded. Even Umbridge and Odren receive a fair amount of applause, spirits running high on this last eve of the Festival.
Bedlor, as you enter the arena, Chaser now at your side, you take enough time letting the crowd cheer to look over the audience. You spot Heather on the west side of the arena, as usual, sitting with her mother and Matthew. Even better, next to Abby is Samm wearing his Guard uniform and side arm. It is relieving to know Heather has protection so close at hand should something unexpected happen.
With only a small bit of searching, you all see Rachel. Her red hair acting as a beacon for you, she waves from the front row of one corner of the arena. She seems exhuberant for your ceremony but you see she glances frequently over the crowd. She also occasionally catches the eye of different youngsters, who are watching the skies as closely as any of you.
Looking to the director's box, you see Travis Umbridge has returned. Dressed in clothes that are so expensive they were probably provided for him from the city's coffers, he looks over the assembly with casual interest. Harold Arcadie sits next to him, wearing that odd "tie" of his, gold under a dark suit.
Master Landru has found his place in the box. Perched on his elevated chair, he smooths out his long beard and smiles for the crowd. But, behind his eyes, you can sense his concern for the safety of the city.
Pontiff Baptiste is stepping into the box now. Behind him you see Major Thrommel and a man who looks familiar. It takes you a second to realize it is Zeke. Now cleanly shaved, his bushy grey hair has been trimmed as neatly as Sir Carrigan's. He is still wearing studded leather armor but the suit is new and is gold with white trim.
The crowd applauds lightly and respectfully for the Pontiff, who waves back with both hands. He smiles and nods cordially, showing no sign of trepidation. But then, much of his duty in life revolves around maintaining the faith of others.
As Liv, who is the last to enter, takes her place on the stage, you see the eastern door to the arena open. Elder Brother Montford enters the arena. He is attended by a young Acolyte. The teenage boy carries a long steel box, painted gold and embossed with the holy eye of Illumian. They walk to the stage as the crowd rumbles in anticipation.