Herald Challenge

A very silly story based on a randomly drawn Storyteller card and three picture dice. The image on the card determines the character and some of the setting. The images on the dice are supposed to be incorporated into the story at some point but I got a bit carried away after the crab and forgot, so failed on that front.

Shalala, candidate for the role of Herald of the Rose Warriors paddled her feet in the little rock pool and sulked. Diomada, Leader of the Rose Warriors had set her a stupid, pointless, impossible task.

Well of course he had. The other candidate for Herald was his daughter, Rosatranita, for all that she didn’t play an instrument, couldn’t remember a message, found reading and writing a tedious waste of time and hated leaving the comforts of home. All SHE had to do was pick up the refreshments for his announcement and celebration afternoon tea tomorrow.

Shalala on the other hand, had to unpack the Citadel’s entire collection of genie lamps and summon every genie for their annual update and check-up. By afternoon tea tomorrow.

A pinch on her toe startled her out of her brooding. A small crab was taking exception to her invasion of its home and decided to let her know.

Great, even the wildlife hated her. She pulled her feet out of the pool and dried them on her cloak, before putting her boots back on.

She stood and took a few deep breaths, feeling the breeze stroking against her face like a mother’s comfort.

Her eyes flew open. A breeze, would it be enough? The challenge with the genie update was the sheer number of lamps, having to rub each one, then talk with the genie. What if she could use the breeze, augmented with her horn, to wake all the genies at once, give them all the news in one go? Yes, she’d still need to do individual checks on their well-being, but she wouldn’t spend two thirds of her allocated time repeating herself.

She strode back to the Citadel and down to the lower cellar where the lamps were kept. She’d need to get them out in the open, there wasn’t enough air down her to stir up a decent breeze.

She fetched several high-sided trays and a large handcart.

Two hours later, all the lamps were loaded and she trundled it up the cellar ramp and out of the Citadel. The best breezes were on the beach, so that was where she went.

No one stopped her, the servants were glad she was out from under their feet, the Rose Warriors were all either on assignment or partying at one of the nearby inns and Rosatranita was in her room, probably doing exactly nothing.

Shalala unpacked the lamps by the light of the rising moon, spacing them apart on the high, dry sand.

Once they were all out, she pulled out her horn and started to play, just quietly, she did NOT need an audience. The wind had always liked her playing and soon came to listen and dance, it caught the notes and rippled them over the lamps, blowing away the clouds and bathing them in moonlight.

Smoke began to pour from the spouts of the lamps and soon Shalala was surrounded by stretching, yawning genies.

“Well this is unusual. What are you up to girl?”

Shalala briefly stopped playing to reply. “I have been asked to conduct your annual updates in the space of a single day and wondered whether I could do something that made it possible to speak with all of you at once.”

The genies looked around.

“Looks like you managed it.” Said the one with the golden torque. “Oh hey, is that you Izbaan? I haven’t seen you in millennia! How’s the wife?”

The genie he was speaking to responded with delight and soon, Shalala was able to rest from her playing and simply watch the Citadel’s genies catch up on each other’s news and gossip.

An hour at least had passed before the first genie recalled her presence. “You have done well, Rose Warrior. We would ask that you do this for us each year, rather than the tedious process your forebears enacted. What news from the outside world?”

Shalala shook back her shoulders and recited the news of the five kingdoms, finishing with her Herald test. “And now I need to ask each of you for your concerns and well-being.”

The genies laughed. “Dear girl, bringing us together like this has ensured our happiness and well-being. Any problems a genie has is far better shared with another genie and a great deal of that has happened this night.”

The one with the golden torque finished with. “We will now return to our homes. Keep my lamp separate and bring me before your leader on the morrow so I may verify your completion of the challenge.”

Shalala nodded and bowed as the genies returned to their lamps, smiling and waving to each other.

She tucked the golden lamp of the lead genie into her cloak’s inner pocket and began the long process of packing the rest away.

It was near midnight by the time she trundled the handcart back down into the lower cellar and some time after that when she finally sought her bed.

She was woken by a heavy knocking on her door. She staggered out of her bed and opened it to find Diomada standing there.

“Well girl? Are you going to get on with your task, or are you giving up before you started?”

Shalala shook her head. “I took care of it last night. I have the lead genie’s lamp with me now if you’d like to verify with him.”

Diomada stopped smirking. “What? There’s no lead genie.”

“Yes there is, the one with the golden torque around his neck. Give me a minute, I’ll dress and bring the lamp down to the main hall.”

“That isn’t necessary.”

Shalala gave him a hard stare. “Yes. It. Is.”

She shut the door in his face and went to get dressed.

Fifteen minutes later, she walked into the main hall, lamp in hand. The place was full of warriors, waiting for lunch, and amusement.

“What’s that you’ve got Shalala? Are you planning on bringing your task up here to complete?”

Shalala smiled. “No, I’m planning on proving I completed the task last night.”

The hall quieted as her words rippled across it. She marched up to the head table, with Diomada sitting there and placed the lamp right in front of him, rubbing it as she stepped away.

The smoke poured out and resolved into the giant, gold-torqued genie of the night before.

He looked down and smiled at Shalala before turning his burning gaze on the other occupants of the hall, ending with Diomada.

The genie grunted. “You’re the one in charge now? Standards have slipped.”

Shalala bit the inside of her lip to keep from smiling.

“I believe you gave this young warrior the task of updating the entire genie contingent of the Citadel within the space of twenty-four hours.”

This caused some murmuring from the onlookers, words such as ‘daughter’, ‘unfair’, and ‘rigged’ bubbling up from the general hum.

The genie listened, and raised his brows. “You didn’t mention that young warrior. And what does your competitor have to do in order to win her challenge?”

Shalala responded. “She has to bring her father’s favourite cake back from the city bakery for afternoon tea.”

The murmurs grew louder and expressions grew dark.

Diomada thumped the table. “Enough. The challenges were set, they stand, and I’ve yet to hear proof that this one has been completed.”

The genie laughed, then proceeded to recite key snippets of Shalala’s update. He then rolled on to the state of every other genie in the collection and finished with a stern glare.

“Your would-be Herald is a problem solver and has provided greater care for my people than any of you across the entire three hundred years I’ve been within the walls of this citadel. I decree her challenge met, and conquered beyond your dreams and endorse her for her desired role.”

Diomada scowled through the applause that followed. “Very well, so she managed it. The other candidate still needs to complete her challenge, then the decision will be made.”

Shalala turned to look at the large time-keeper at the end of the hall. It was now just past the official time for afternoon tea. The door leading to the Citadel’s living quarters opened and Rosatranita wandered into the room.

Diomada grinned and waved her over to the table. “Perfect timing daughter, now where is my cake?”

Rosatranita looked at him, puzzled. “Your what? Oh, that’s right. I forgot about the cake thing. I’ll send someone to get it tomorrow.”

The entire hall hooted with laughter as Diomada turned purple. The genie’s laugh boomed across the room, making Rosatranita jump.

“And so we see, only one candidate has proven worthy. Welcome to the Rose Warriors, Herald.”

He spun again to face Diomada. “And you, unworthy leader, will leave, with your so-lazy child. I formed this company to stand against corrupt and underhand behaviour. I refuse to tolerate it in its leader.”

Shalala gasped. “You formed the Rose Warriors?”

“Of course. Now I’ll need you to summon my companions once again, so we may review the current state of the company and return it to its original style and purpose.”

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