I had warned you that I was going to try and write some fiction for a change. Be aware that it’s not good, you can blame David Gemmell for putting me in the mood to write fantasy. More to come.
In the city kingdom of Maddram, Rael had been called before the king. They had known each other for some time and, while they moved in different circles, they were good friends. King Drenden had ruled for nearly 15 years, he had lead his people well and he had forged his kingdom into a happy and wealthy one. Rael made sure he was standing at his full height and puffed his large chest out, cutting an imposing figure, before walking into the throne room.
“Master Rael of Burntwood”, announced a spindly court steward as he entered.
The king immediately looked up from the scroll he was studying, he abandoned it as Rael approached, stood up and descended the steps to the floor. Rael bowed formally and as he stood up the king grabbed him by both arms.
“Rael, my friend, so good to see you.”
Both men grinned.
“Come, sit with me.” The king shepherded him to a large table with several chairs against one wall. They both sat down.
“How long has it been?”
“I believe it was the solstice festival when I last had the pleasure of your company, your majesty.”
“Yes, I remember it well, you made a fool of that Cortaxan, lost his temper, you tripped him up and he submitted when he had a blade to his throat.”
“Good swordsman, sore loser, just lost all control. What can I do for you this day, my lord?”
“Always straight to business eh, Rael?”
“I get the feeling that was why you called for me, your majesty.”
“Very astute, Rael.”
“Stehadan is going to war and, in accordance with the Treaty of Five Cities, they have requested an army from Maddram. I would like you to lead that army.”
“My lord, you flatter me, but you know I am no soldier, I know little of battle or tactics. You also know that I will only fight to defend, never to conquer, as I believe is the case with Stehadan’s war against the Norsk. I’m afraid I cannot lead your army, but why ask me, you have several fine generals?”
“Rael, I asked you because I knew you would go to war with our people’s interests at heart. I too have little stomach for conquest, I have all I need here, with you in charge I knew you would not let our men be killed in vain, sacrificed for the greater good, or let them become greedy. Borvan is a fine general, but he cares little of his men save that they do what he orders them. This is somebody else’s war, not ours.”
“I understand your majesty, but I’m afraid I still must decline.”
“Very well, I expected as much, but I have another mission, one of great importance that I hope you will agree to. My cousin, Princess Bouchet of Argamenen – do you remember her?”
“Vaguely, I believe we met at a tournament.”
“Well, she’s travelling to Edlenser and has stopped off here enroute. I would like you to accompany her. She has a detachment of the royal guard with her, but I would feel much better if you were by her side. With so many men going off to the war I fear the roads will become much more dangerous. I will arrange for a detachment of lancers to escort her back, so you need not stay long and I’ll organise for someone to tend your farm in your absence. Will you do this for me old friend?”
“Just escort her to Edlenser and then I’m free to return?”
“Exactly, two weeks away, three at the most.”
“This means a lot to you doesn’t it, my lord?”
“Then of course I shall do it.”
“Splendid. You’ve made me very happy my friend. Acquire whatever provisions you’ll need, a horse from my stable, any clothes or weapons you want.” He put his hand out and a clerk slipped a scroll into his hand. “Use this and everything will be charged back to me. And here -” he raised his hand again and a purse was put into it. “50 slen to cover any expenses you might have.”
“That’s very generous, my lord, but I don’t need any money, or new clothes, I do this as your friend and servant, not because you’re paying me.”
“I understand, and thank you, but at least take the money to cover any costs, princesses are expensive to keep, I should know, I have two. Mind you, queens are dearer still.”
“I bow to your majesty’s superior knowledge on the subject and will take the money with me, but I shall return any that is unspent.”
“I wouldn’t have expected anything less. Thank you, my friend, I am in your debt.”
As he left, Rael was pondering the request to accompany the princess, the king’s eyes had pleaded with him to go, his concern was obviously far greater than he was letting on and this unnerved Rael somewhat. His didn’t need a seer to tell him there was trouble coming his way.
Part 2 of this story has now been published.