The sun shined high in the sky that day. Spring time had arrived, and with it the planting season had started. Already the vast fields of Midland, many left fallow the previous year, were dotted with green orderly rows of plants. The cypress hedges around each field were as green as ever, their boughs no longer weighed down with the snow of the past winter.
The plains were alive with the hissing of cicadas, birds singing their songs among the tall grasses, and the smell was intoxicatingly wonderful. The previous night’s rain had soaked into all the crops and seedlings and smelled like life itself.
A lone horseman crested the southern hills overlooking the outskirts of Fordham. He took in the view and paused for a moment, awed by the sight and filled with nostalgia. His white stallion stamped and snorted impatiently, tossing its feathery white mane side to side. The silver armored fellow atop the horse spoke soothingly to it, patting it affectionately on the neck.
“There there, Falcon. Look, we’re home now.”
The knight drew an old yellowed horn that hung on his saddle and put it to his lips. The tone of the horn was low and mellow, like a morning dove, only grander. A distant rumble answered the knight’s call, causing the hills to tremble. Several horns answered the call and the rumble grew louder and closer. The thundering of hundreds of hooves upon the earth. A brilliant company of cavalry surfaced at the top of the hill. The sun glinted off their metal visors and tall pointed lances, and many lances carried fluttering crimson banners, bearing the stark symbol of a golden skull.
Three riders rode up next to the first knight, each from a different sector of the army of horsemen.
“Mon capitaine! What are your orders?”
The yellow knight spoke as he reined his horse in to stop right next to his leader.
The captain still had his helmet on and his voice sounded hollow and strangely high under the visor. “We will construct an encampment here, at the foot of this hill. The town residents should be able to see us from here, that’s what matters.”
The yellow knight nodded, and turned back to relay the order to the others. The other two knights approached the captain, waiting silently until he made a decision.
The captain turned to look at his companions. “I think we’ve already caused quite a scandal, so I plan to go straight to the gates to explain, will you accompany me?”
“Would be proper.”
“Should we bring anyone as backup, captain?” The red knight asked.
“That won’t be necessary. But do call Sir Passpartout to join us again, he should be there too.”
“At once, sir.” The red knight rode off to find the knight in question.
When the red knight was a far enough distance away, the remaining rider drew closer to the captain. “Not bad.” The captain could sense a bitterness in his voice even though they both had their faces obscured by their helmets. “Not bloody bad at all. I’m surprised they listen to ye despite yer voice sounding like a broken bag pipe half the time”
The captain winced. “It’s not my fault my voice is changing…father.”