Frantic footsteps paced down the halls as a knight passed door after door, looking for the dining hall. Streams of sunlight shone through the tall stained glass windows, and the late morning sunlight caused the his shadow to stretch across the hallway. He had an urgent message, and the raven message couldn’t be depended upon, this had to reach the king’s ears now. As he made his way down the hall, the sounds of merrymaking and the glint of firelight became apparent. He turned a corner and was greeted by the ongoing feast. A multitude of people from the town were present.
Drinks were being passed around, mounds of meat, bread, and casserole lay heaping on the table. People were enjoying themselves. No one payed any heed as the soldier marched his way into the room, passing the guards at the door, after having stated his business. His stomach growled as he tried not to be distracted by the delicious smelling food. He made his way straight to the high table. King Hendry sat at the table, having finished his food, and was pouring his daughter a cup of watered down wine. Today was Princess Wynneria’s birthday, and she deserved a little something extra than the cow milk or juice she was usually served. Seeing the soldier approaching however, he stopped what he was doing and furrowed his brow. His wife, Queen Marjorie was too busy talking with the ladies to take notice. The soldier approached the table and spoke softly. “Your Grace, there’s a situation down South that needs your attention.”
“Can it wait, Willham?”
“There are lives at stake, milord”
Hendry rose to leave the banquet, ready to take whatever action was necessary, but a tiny hand pulled on his belt, “Papa, where are you going?”
It was Wynneria. She had just turned 8, and had gold wavy locks and blue eyes. Her mother had dressed her in a white dress with green and red embroidery of roses. She had a crown of roses on her head, with which her father had crowned her “Queen of the Day”.
Hendry held her hand, “Wynn, I have some small business to attend to.”
She frowned, making a pouting face,“But the hunt today, you promised!”
“I didn’t forget.” He reassured her. “The deer only come out when the sun sets, remember?”
Her father smiled and patted her on the shoulder,“I’ll be back long before then, don’t you fret over it.”
Wynneria smiled. Hendry handed her the cup of watered wine, “It’s your special day, I wouldn’t forget a single thing.” He then motioned to his commander Sir Willham Quagmire, “Come with me.”
As Hendry and the knight walked out of the banquet hall, many of the guests rose to attention, out of respect to their king, but he simply waved for them to be seated and enjoy the rest of the meal.
As soon as they were out of earshot Hendry berated the Willham, “This had better not be elf-rubbish again.
You can handle that kind of thing without me.”
Sir Willham gave the king a grave look, his old weary eyes told a story of ages of battle experience and a honorable pride. “No, it is much more grievous than that. It seems our ‘cousins’ are roaming the Southern farmlands again.”
“The very same.”
“Well what have they done?”
The knight drew a small scroll, a message send by raven or pigeon. “So far,” He said, reading the paper. “It appears that some of the farmers around the Lochshore area have been taken hostage by a group of religious fanatics, three fields have been lit on fire, two barns, and 4 houses. This report is only 2 hours old.” He put the scroll away. “I’ve already have a dispatch of cavalry ready to leave at any moment.”
“Hold it.” Hendry looked perplexed. “If they are Southerners than this situation is more delicate than some elf raid.” He looked at Willham. “I don’t want to start a war with the Chromarosi. We need to capture these trouble-makers, and question them. If they are acting of their volition, I would rather send them back home to be judged by Phylakos Andreas himself than risk ‘martyring’ them here.”
Willham though for a moment, twisting his preposterously long mustache. “That does make sense. Wise decision, Your Majesty.”
“Give your men strict orders NOT to kill. We can’t risk a political scandal.”
“At once, your Grace.” Sir Willham gave a firm salute, and left in a hurry to the barracks.
Sir Willham returned to his barracks. There he was greeted by a glorious sight. Heavy cavalry clad in full armor waited for him, sitting atop of their festriers, who were mawing the earth with their hooves and snorting, ready for some action. Beside them however were a ragtag group of mercenary horsemen, hired recently for the border patrol effort that Willham had been organizing. A squire approached Sir Wilham with his breastplate and helmet, which the knight put on, with the help of the squire. Mounting his horse, he lifted his visor and shouted to the troops. “Direct orders from the king! We are to NOT use lethal force. Corral the bandits into smaller groups and capture them. I repeat, we are not risking a war. No Chromarosi is to be harmed!”
A rugged looking mercenary retorted from atop his horse, “If one of those bastards is about to kill me or any of my comrades, I ain’t gonna just stand there and tell him to surrender. I’ll gut him.”
The commander looked his way, his face wrinkled in annoyance. Mercenaries were a pain, but the Crown needed more troops, and this is how it was done. “Yes…In self-defence I will allow it, but any other way, strike to maim, not to kill.”
Sir Willham looked around at his men. "Have I made myself completely clear?
“YES SIR!” The horsemen all shouted in near perfect unison.
As the commander reined his horse forward, the rest followed, and they exited the city of Fordham on the West side and then galloped South, leaving a huge cloud of dust in their wake.