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In the days before the tourney people are keeping busy.

Meori decides to help with the organization of the tourney and will most likely be needed during the event as a healer and a confessor or perhaps even to perform the last rites. She also holds mass and gives "guest sermons", one of which is so perfect the congregation is pulled into the story. Several more prominent members approach her to learn more about her and where she usually holds her sermons. She is also invited to hold a sermon at the tourney.

Aran inspects the planned security for the tourney and the implemented security for the compound. There is visible security designed to make people feel safe and invisible security to actually make people safe. He also gets hold of the list of participants to the tourney and Lady Veronica reaveals to him her status as the black knight.

First of Richard's lady-loves, Lady Tyana Justinian, arrives. She is 16 and has an air of mystery about her. Someone has arranged for Richard to meet her "by chance" and they exchange pleasantries. Dame Nönnönnöö Hawkwood is the second to arrive, but she is staying with relatives in the city and thus cannot meet with Richard. Last to arrive is Dame Marianna Hietala, who has finally foregone black in mourning of her late husband. She is a straightforward lady and introduces herself to everyone after the sermon one morning. Richard has Duckwood find out the ladies favourite flowers and plans to gift each with a corsage for the grand ball after the tourney. He is planning to ask for Baroness Phaedra's favour for the tourney to avoid selecting a favourite among the ladies before getting to know them.

Meori also meets with Dame Hietala at the chapel and they get acquainted. The discuss Richard and dame Hietala herself. Meori gets a positive impression of her.

Veronica's suitor, Don Raul Guillermo etc., also arrives surrounded by a largish retinue. In the wee hours of the following night a lone child approaches Veronica in her quarters. He is Pedro, Don Raul's squire, and has come bearing a single rose and a dire message. His master is stricken with such longing for Veronica that he must meet with her immediately or not live to see the dawn*. Veronica sends Lynette to wake up Meori and they meet with Don Raul. He turns out to be a Hazat through and through: all he has ever been is a soldier and as such he has little practise in socialising. He is trying very hard, though. They agree to meet for a mock duel at dawn. On the way back Meori and Veronica discuss marriages, gold-diggers and suitable husbands. Before dawn Veronica sends for Aran and Richard. Aran rushes to the practise hall, while Richard meets with Veronica at her quarters. Don Raul meets Aran at the hall and they discuss the emperor wars. Turns out Pedro has never been to war, which is a sore point for him. Veronica and Don Raul duel very evenly with both words and swords, but in the end Veronica emerges victorious. The whole group continues on to breakfast where everyone gets acquainted until they are interrupted by the arrival of Lord Kopov and Sir Kyrion.

Lord Kopov requests Veronica's presence at breakfast, so Richard, Meori and Veronica head off to meet with him while Aran and Don Raul strike up a match of chess. On the way Richard, Meori and Veronica discuss Don Raul and how war seems to be his one true love and how he seems more interested in it than anything else. He might not be an ideal candidate for Veronica, who wants someone to rule by her side.

AN: Perfectly understandable, I'd die of shame too if I was turned down after such theatrics

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