Men and women in bright server uniforms dashed about, carrying dishes piled high with delicacies from around the world. Shellfish from the great ocean to the west, pies made with exotic berries, and roast beast of all forms sat upon the long dining table, cooling to just the correct temperature prior to the grand banquet. At the head of it all, standing on a raised platform in front of a pair of massive, antique, doors, stood an old bald man in the brightest livery of them all. Deep purple stockings lead into a gold tunic that looked to be woven of the metal itself. His hand and feet were clad in shiny, black leather gloves and shoes no doubt made as a matched set from the same animal.
“Hurry Danton, get the silverware laid out! Our guest will be here any minute, and I will not be seen as some low brow swine on account of you louts!”
“Of course Lord Fandil, it’s all almost done being shined! We’ll have it out in just a moment.”
His voice carried an unspoken threat, if he was at all displeased with any part of their preparations, every single one of them would most likely be homeless and jobless by the end of the night. As demanding and harsh as he was, none of the staff preparing the dinner wanted their families kicked out into the cold nights like those who came before them and the entire room quickly picked up its pace to a near fever pitch after Fandil’s demand. The knives, spoons, and other utensils came out on a massive trolley, gleaming in the light of the chandeliers, and hordes of servers rushed it, picking up utensils two at a time in gloved hands and carefully setting them on the table.
Fandil clapped his hands as the last servant stepped back from the table. With military precision the entire cadre turned on their heels, did a deep bow, and walked out of the room in two long lines, leaving just Fandril and the massive feast. Careful, so as to not ruffle any part of his immaculate outfit that had taken thirty minutes and the help of two servants to properly don, he walked down the small flight of steps to the head of the table. There he sat in a high backed throne made of dark wood with rose engravings, padded with cloth made by monks in the far south. The throne had already been pulled out so he would not have to sully his hands with manual labour and with another clap, a pair of servants came hurrying out to push the throne closer to the table before disappearing through the doors they had entered through. All was ready, now all he had to do was wait for his guest.
It was rare for the king to give such a responsibility to one of his nobles. Normally envoys from other nations were fast tracked to the capital to see the king, so when a letter arrived for Fandril that he was being given the honour of hosting a leader of the mountain men he was more than happy to oblige. Just thinking about the prestige this guest would bring him made his mouth water more than anything on the table ever could, finally after all the years of petitioning the king for more acknowledgment and sway in the kingdom, he was finally being noticed! He, Fandril, would be the one allowed to show the mountain men the wealth and power of the lowlands and convince them to stop their petty border skirmishing.
“A man approaches! He says he is of the mountain men!”
Fandril was taken out of his revelry by the shout, only one figure? It was true the mountain men would only send one envoy, but decorum and prestige warranted a large train of guards, servants, and supply follow him, surely no noble would disgrace themselves and walk all this way on their own. Fandril thought for a moment before responding, perhaps this man was just a scout or a messenger for the envoy, coming to tell him that they were delayed? It was terribly bad form to get the message so close to the intended time of arrival, but maybe the mountain men were slightly more lax in their manners than the more civilized lowlands. The thought irritated him ever so slightly, he would have to send a letter of complaint to the king about the slight later, but for now he knew he had to play the gracious host.
“Let our guest enter!” Fandril called.
A pair of double doors at the other end of the hall swung open, letting in a chill breeze, and a massive man stepped through, easily a head and a half taller than the armoured guard that had just opened the door for him. He wore a thick fur cloak that hung around his shoulders, and was secured around his neck with what looked like a bone clasp. Underneath the cloak he was bare save for a pair of thick rawhide boots and loincloth of similar make to his cloak. Fandril’s mouth slightly opened at the bizarre figure standing before him. All decorum was lost for a moment and he only barely restrained himself from standing up before protocol demanded it.
“I welcome the envoy of the mountain man and all his allies into my home, I welcome you to my home” Fandril said, regaining his composure, and only now, with the greeting done, being able to stand.
The man continued to stand, looking around as if he had never been in a mansion before, and seemed to almost totally ignore Fandril’s welcome. Finally after what seemed like an eternity to the noble, the envoy’s gaze settled on Fandril and for a brief moment, Fandril thought the strange man might finally do things in a civilized manner, instead, the man took a step towards the table.
“You are the leader, yes?” he said, continuing to stare at Fandril.
“Yes, yes of course I am, where is the envoy? What news have you of his travels you beast of a man? When he arrives, I will have words with him over your crude conduct here!”
Fandril could not hold his temper any longer, his hands were planted on the table as he leaned over, all thoughts of his golden tunic crumpling forgotten. He was nearly ready to call his guards on the man, but he knew the envoy, whenever he arrived, would not take kindly to such an act.
“I am champion of mountain man, we meet yes?”
“Oh, of course!”
Fandril immediately straightened up, putting on a large smile. Within he was raging at this fool. It would seem the mountain men saw this as a mad lark if they sent such a buffoon to treat. Even so, he knew he had to treat the beast with respect as a noble to another ‘noble’. He tried fixing his clothes, but the crease was already set, and would take a servant to properly set, failing that, he looked up and flung his arms wide.
“We will meet now! I am lord Fandril of the lowlands, come, let us figure out these grievances between our lands now.”
At that the mountain man smiled “Let the victor feast this night!” and pulled out a barbed mace from underneath his cloak.
The mountain man jumped up on the table and charged down it. Fandril, taken totally by surprise, stood in front of his throne, staring at the charging ‘envoy’.
“What is the meaning of this? You, no, guards!”
The food on the table did not make his steps falter at all, He leaped past or kicked through everything on the table, sending near priceless delicacies and ceramics crashing to the ground. Fandril turned to start to flee, but it was much too late and the mountain man leaped through the air, mace held high, to have it come down on the noble’s skull. The last thing he heard before his skull was shattered was the mountain man screaming “Vain lowlander, you believe you can best me without a weapon? The lands are ours!
Well, this assignment might not fit the theme exactly, as it’s not literally me hosting the mountain man, but I could imagine myself as a slightly less nasty version of Fandril in this generic fantasy setting. I wasn’t certain what I wanted to do at first with this story prompt at first because there’s not many things I’d really want to have dinner with, or for that matter that it’d make sense to have dinner with assuming it was real. I could have gone with something funny I guess and that would’ve opened up more doors for goofy things, but I wanted to do something semi serious. A lord ordering his orderlies around to prepare a feast seemed fun to start, but probably a bit boring after, so I was thinking about what his guest could be. Some sort of barbarian was my first thought since it’d be a kind of funny butting of heads, but then I was thinking about why he would be visiting and it sort of fell into place. A conflict, between the lowlands and the mountain men, an attempt to end that conflict, and a lot of miscommunication between customs and cultures and what ‘conflict resolution’ means.