NOTES: Good morning again everyone, and thank you for coming to read my fortnightly blog post. There is not much to report over the past two weeks because lockdown is still in full force, but I hope everyone is staying safe and well. It has been a productive few weeks, and Chapter 18 is almost finished, and I’ll aim to start Chapter 19 next week. Thank you to all of my new followers, and to those offering their feedback, criticism and support. All of it is very much appreciated, and I encourage you to like, comment and share this series as much as you can! We’re up to 242 followers on the blog now, which I hope keeps rising as more people discover the book.
Chapter Five follows Riechard, the grandson of King Aedvard Byrne of The Blacklands, and second in line to the throne. Riechard is the final POV character we are introduced to in The Cursed King as the story begins to unfold. This chapter was a lot of fun to write, and this characters in particular has already gone through a few drafts, so I am eager to find out what everyone thinks. Thank you once again for reading, and I hope you enjoy Chapter Five:
The blow of the blunted sword struck the boiled leather around Riechard’s wrist. It absorbed most of the impact, and barely hurt at all, but he still winced as he expected what was to come. Riechard threw his own sword to the floor and kicked the handle in frustration before lifting off his helmet. Sir Leif had already removed his own and was leaning arrogantly on the corner stake that helped mark out the battle yard. He was a head taller than Riechard and twice his fifteen years, but he still had a full crop of red hair that touched his shoulders and a thick, wiry beard that did little to disguise his smug smile.
“If I were a crueller man, I’d insist you lost the use of that hand today. Had we been in battle, you certainly would have lost it,” Sir Leif taunted, but there was a sternness under his tone.
“Had we been in battle I would be wearing plate.”
“Don’t be such sore sport, lad. There’s no shame in losing a mock fight. You’re learning.”
“I don’t lose to anyone else.”
“Perhaps I am just that good, no?”
Riechard picked up his sword and thrust it into the grass. “Why can’t I beat you? I need to if I’m ever going to be knighted.”
“You’re barely a month above fifteen, my lord. You’ve only been squiring for Lord Steel a year.”
“My grandfather was knighted at sixteen.”
“And your father not until he was twenty-four. I was not knighted until I was twenty-six, one in a thousand are knighted before their twentieth birthday. Your fears will do nothing but hold you back. Focus on where you are going, not on where your elders have been.”
“I hear enough sermons from Godson Gilbert.”
“Speaking of which, you should be attending your lessons now. Go now, before Lord Steel finds out I’ve been keeping you.”
“How am I ever going to lead my Kingdom into battle if I waste my time reciting scripture when I should be learning to fight?”
“Your arms are strong, lad. Far stronger than all the boys in this castle, but your mind needs far more sharpening than your sword. You will serve your country far better with a sharp mind than a sharp blade. Now go, before I take my sharp axe to you!” Leif pulled his axe from his leg holster and screamed a battle cry before chasing Riechard through the courtyard. Riechard sprinted away and soon realised that Leif’s pursuit was short-lived and eventually slowed to a stroll once he was out of his sight.
As he approached the chapel, he felt a wave of lethargy overcome his body. The sun was shining vertically down atop his head and he felt the sweat dry in his matted hair. The thought of sitting in the stuffy stone church listening to Gilbert recite histories into his ear slowed his walk considerably. Instead of walking straight into the church, he glanced over his shoulder and noticed that he was alone. He turned into the keep and found that he was still alone. It was high noon, and most everybody in the castle would be busy at work outside, not scurrying through the corridors of the keep.
Occasionally Riechard had missed a lesson or two, but recently he had missed far too many to go unnoticed, and had been chastised by Lady Steel on more than one occasion for his truancy. Not this time though. He knew that she was away visiting her father, the Earl of Launton almost a hundred miles away. What was more pleasing for Riechard was that she had left under the protection of Sir Thomas Weston, a stern and arrogant man who had shown little fondness for Riechard since he arrived at Steelmont seven years prior.
The council chamber was empty. Riechard often wished to be a fly on the wall within this grand room where Lord Steel would discuss only the most important of business, plan battles, implement strategy and delegate to his many thousands of subjects. He was too young to remember his grandfather’s council chamber, but he could remember the castle. The thickness of its walls, the height of its towers, the grandiosity of the ornaments that decorated the chambers. It was everything a King’s seat should be. This was the closest he would get to that. For now.
Suddenly, he heard voices reverberate off the walls and Riechard panicked. He recognised the low drumming of Lord Steel’s voice and stood rooted to the spot, swaying from side to side to find a place to hide. He saw a monk’s habit hanging on the back of the door and without thinking ran to it and threw it over his head before kicking off his shoes until he was barefoot. The habit stank of piss and he could only assume that its previous owner had soiled himself before using the chamber to change- either that or it hadn’t been washed in months and was there simply to upset whoever entered the room. The hood covered his face enough for him to make an exit. He stepped into the corridor and was immediately halted.
“You there, monk,” the voice came from behind him. Riechard turned around and saw Lord Steel, though the face of the man who addressed him startled him. It had been almost a year since he had seen his father, and he had aged terribly in that time. Still no more than a year below thirty-five, Charles Byrne looked a decade older. His hair had already begun to grey and his stubble was messy and unkempt – not long enough to be considered a beard, not short enough to be smartly cropped. It looked as though he had no time to shave, and his messy hair told the same story. The Prince’s grey eyes had heavy purple bags beneath them, and they did not look focused.
“Your highness,” Riechard deepened his voice and knelt to cover his face further.
“Such courtesy. As all the servants seem to be here, there and everywhere and we are short on time, you will have the honour of pouring our wine, brother. Would you mind?” Charles smiled expectantly.
Lord Steel met his eyes, and for a moment Riechard felt exposed, but the Earl of Steelmont turned away and followed Charles into the Council Chamber. Riechard trailed behind and almost tripped on the habit before realising he needed to hoist it up around his ankles. The men took their seats whilst Riechard carefully tip-toed up the staircase to the balcony for some respite. He toyed with the idea of sprinting away, however now he was convinced he would not be able to do so with the robe over his head.
It was not the fear of being caught that worried him, but instead the fear that he would not be taken seriously by his father or Lord Steel. He suddenly felt a prang of shame, as if missing his lessons shone a light on his immaturity. He feared little in the courtyard as he always thought he would one day not feel fear on the battlefield, but he’d always worried about being belittled in court or undermined in council. Those were the places that King’s either won or lost their respect. The rank smell of piss that lingered from the habit was now burning his nostrils and reminded him of his own adolescence.
“Are you picking the grapes, brother? What on earth is taking you so long?” Charles shouted.
Riechard made his way back down the stairs with a flagon filled with red wine. The glasses were already upon the table and luckily for him the conversation had already begun, which allowed him to pour the wine silently and slither over into a corner to act as if he was keeping busy.
“We already know this will lead to war. There is no peace to be had here,” Charles said plainly.
“If any man can avoid it, it is your father. King Aedvard will bring the boy to heel one way or another.”
“But boys are erratic, stupid and war-hungry. And he has cause to be angry – wars have been started over much less.”
“And peace has been achieved after far worse. Thought I do admit, King Aron is in an impossible position. Either he executes your sister and plunges us all into war, or he sends her into exile and becomes a target for his own people. He loses no matter what he decides.”
“Let us talk of other things. I do not wish to think of my sister right now. How is my son?”
Riechard flinched and felt their eyes burn into the back of his head. He scuttled further into the room and began fiddling with rolls of parchment in an attempt to remain inconspicuous.
“Well, he certainly has spirit, but I worry about his competence in combat,” Lord Steel told Charles. Riechard seized up immediately. He felt betrayed, embarrassed and irritated that his foster father would criticise his ability to fight. Of all things, he thought. It was his most practiced skill, and every man, woman and child knew that he was the best of his age in the entire castle, perhaps even the entire Earldom.
“Alas, I have been told a similar tale by your master-of-arms, Sir Leif. It appears that the boy is not cut out to be a soldier after all,” Charles exhaled deeply.
Riechard balled his fists and pursed his lips, but did not dare to turn around and confront them.
“For the boy’s own sake, I believe it would be best to pass him to the monastery as an oblate.”
“No!” Riechard span around and threw the hood off his habit. “I will not join the monastery, I am the best fighter in this castle, the best swordsman in this entire Earldom! I’ll prove it to you both, I’ll fight every boy and man in this shitting castle!” Riechard felt his face turn red, but instead of returning his anger, Lord Steel and his father broke into a titter, which soon exploded into a mighty chortle.
“Not join the monastery? But my boy, you are already dressed for it!” Charles pulled at Riechard’s sleeve and continued laughing.
Riechard pulled up his habit and launched it into the floor. “You knew it was me, didn’t you?”
In a moment, Lord Steel’s face straightened and he rose from his seat. “Aye, we knew. Perhaps this will teach you that childish behaviour is met only by mockery. You shame your father by hiding from your lessons and prancing about my halls playing dress-up.” His upper lip curled in disgust. Riechard knew better than to answer him back. He felt the redness in his face dilute into an embarrassed shade of pink. “I shall leave you to your father’s whip.”
Lord Steel gave a respectful nod to Charles and left them alone. Riechard dared not meet his father’s eyes. Disappointing his foster father had caused him embarrassment, and he was certain he would find punishment in the classroom rather than the battle yard, but he had not seen his father in months, and Prince Charles was not known for his harsh punishments. He was insipid and passive, which hurt Riechard far more than if he were angry. Even the man’s hair grew freely over his forehead, never fearing the blade. Riechard has heard stories of his father’s hair growing as far as his shoulders before King Aedvard pinned him down himself and hacked it all off himself.
“I didn’t always enjoy lessons,” Charles told him.
Riechard took Lord Steel’s seat and leaned back. “Did that ever change?”
Charles pondered for a moment as he often did. “I just wasn’t interested in what they were trying to teach me. How to rule, how to fight, how to lead. All I ever wanted to do was write and sing in truth. Eventually though, I did as I was told.”
Riechard often wondered how he was the product of his father. “All I want to do is fight. I don’t want to strategise or negotiate. I want to be in the heart of battle.”
“A King must do more than fight, and it is far easier to learn that now than when you are grown. Some men you will defeat by sword, some by pen, but all by mind.”
“Can’t I just defeat them all by sword?”
“Warrior kings have a notoriously low life expectancy, Riechard. Hone your sword, yes, but I’d much prefer you hone your mind.” Charles got up from his seat and placed a hand on his shoulder. “I will not tell your grandfather of this, but if I discover that you have missed another lesson then I will send you to a monastery for as long as it takes for you to catch up on your letters.” Riechard looked into his father’s eyes and saw how serious he was.
“I will not miss another lesson, father. I swear it.” Riechard promised as he felt his stomach knot.
Prince Charles remained at the castle for a few days. It was strange for him to stay so long, and almost all of his time was spent with Lord Steel and their closest advisors. During that time, the Earl of Bankwater arrived with his men as well as the Lords of Rootshall and Taun. Riechard knew of the political uncertainty surrounding his grandfather’s kingdom in the wake of Prince Edward’s death. He struggled to understand how someone as kind and caring as his Aunt Lorne could have committed such an evil crime. He remembered running to her as a boy when he had scraped his knee or got into trouble. He would always run to Lorne and cry into her shoulder, and she would rock him back and forth until he settled and his tears dried, though it was never long before her younger sister, Isabella, scalded him for being a cry baby. Those days were more than a decade behind him, and before summer was over, he would be sixteen and a man in the eyes of his Kingdom.
Riechard trotted through the forest on his mare with Sir Leif beside him on his destrier, the fog hung low around the tree branches as dawn became day and the dew flicked off the grass with every step their horses took. Soon the fog would clear, and they would have a clear sight of the deer to bring home the prize for their evening feast. Sir Leif was an excellent hunter and taught Riechard all he knew about archery, and how shooting down a deer was as much about patience as it was about accuracy. On their first few hunts, Riechard couldn’t hit a still tree trunk from ten feet away, now though he could pierce a hare through the eye at full speed. He craved the bow almost as much as he craved his sword, and killing for food was satisfying, but he longed to blood his bodkin and his blade on the battlefield instead of the forest. He couldn’t help but think that he would soon get his chance. Even Riechard knew that war was inevitable. It would only be a matter of time before he was in the thick of battle.
“What is going through that head of yours, lad?”
“I was thinking about the war.”
“The next one.”
Sir Lief turned his horse and stopped. “It might not come to that.”
“I am not a child anymore, Sir Lief. I know the truth of it, how could it come to anything else? Besides, I am ready for war, I was raised for it.”
“You claim you are not a child, yet you talk like one. How can a child who has never known war know that he was raised for it? You may be slight with a sword and precise with a bow, but any man can use these tools in the comfort of his courtyard. You have no idea what it takes for a man to fight in the heat of battle, to watch his men die, to slay an enemy. When that day comes, I pray that you are ready, but do not speak as if you are, do you understand me?”
Riechard stared at the ground and then met Sir Lief’s eyes. “Yes, sir.”
The knight grabbed his shoulder and clutched it tightly. “Remember, it is okay to fear war. It is a truly horrific thing, and any man who revels in it is no real man. Any man who revels in war is a monster, and you are no monster.”
By mid-morning, the sun was already beating down on Riechard’s pale skin, and he had removed his surcoat to cool himself down. Beads of sweat would occasionally drip into his eyes throwing off his aim. They had caught nothing yet, but their vantage point overlooking the lake was usually a perfect spot for picking off deer. Every time Riechard’s eyes met Sir Lief’s, he noticed that the knight gave him an odd smile. It was a pitying grin, one full of remorse and bravery, as if he were a dying boy on his death bed.
Riechard thought at first that Sir Lief was concerned that he’d been too harsh with his words, though instead he appreciated them. It was a relief to Riechard that war scared the knight because it frightened him too, but then so did the battle yard when he was a boy, and eventually he felt comfortable there. Perhaps he would never relish war, but should that mean that he couldn’t ever become familiar with it, even dominate it? Riechard thought of war as a wild dog, but even the wildest dogs could be tamed and managed. Why couldn’t he take this wild dog and train it to work for him?
They were questions he had little time to ponder as soon a family of deer approached the lake through the trees – a stag, a doe and a fawn. Deer were fearful creatures, always wary of the huntsman’s bow or the distant howl of wolves. The stag peered from side to side cautiously before dipping its head into the water and lapping it up with his long tongue. Sir Lief nestled in closely against Riechard’s shoulder.
“We need to be patient,” Sir Lief whispered. “We’ll wait until the stag and the doe are drinking, hopefully they’ll stay quite close, then we’ll both fire a bolt at the same time. If we’re lucky then one will hit.”
Riechard nodded in agreement and notched his bow. The knight followed suit and held for a few moments. A summer breeze drifted across Riechard’s face, filling his nostrils with fresh lavender. The stag and the doe then dipped their faces into the water, both consumed by their unrelenting thirst. Riechard drew his bow.
“Wait, wait,” Sir Lief whispered hurriedly. The knight grabbed Riechard’s arm and bow and shifted them a few inched to the right, looked down his nose and closed his left eye to take aim. Riechard felt a ping of irritation that he was fixing up his aim as if he were a child, but he had no time to voice his frustration. “Draw,” the knight whispered and Riechard followed his lead. “On my mark…and…loose!”
With a wisp of wind, the arrows flew from the bows and an instant later the doe splashed into the water. By the time they had realised their triumph, the stag and the faun had darted through the trees and away from danger. Riechard and Sir Lief manoeuvred their way through the shrubberies to the lake and stood over the doe. They needed not to cut her throat as she was already dead. One arrow had landed in her right hind leg, but the other had pierced her straight through the eye. An impeccable shot. Sir Lief approached the doe and pulled out the arrow in her leg. Riechard went to take the arrow, but Sir Lief pulled it back.
“Think again lad,” the knight smiled and gestured towards the arrow sticking out from the doe’s eye. “I believe that belongs to you.”
“I cannot claim this. I was aiming for the stag, it was you that changed my aim,” Riechard lamented.
“There’s no shame in accepting guidance.”
“Why didn’t you let me shoot the stag? You said it yourself, I’m precise with a bow.”
“No doubt you would have hit it, but it was a far harder shot. The doe was in the best position for an instant kill, and I was right.”
“It was the easy option.”
“Look around you, Riechard. It is only you and I for miles around. Do you think it will matter to Lord Steel, your father or the rest of the court how their meat found its way to their plate? Pride can easily allow a man to look past the best option when they believe it to be the easiest.”
Riechard rolled his eyes. “Will I ever be rid of your lessons?”
Sir Lief grinned. “One day, and it will be that day that you wish you had listened closer to them.”
For all its grandeur and prestige, the feast was a solemn and reserved banquet. Out of respect of the tragedy that had befallen The Twin Kingdoms, Lord Steel had ordered no jesters and implored that the bards only play songs that did not disrespect the peace. Wine was served sparingly as Lord Steel did not want drunkards embarrassing themselves in front of Prince Charles. Riechard was sat on the dais overlooking the servings of venison that piled generously upon the plates of the noble men and women of the court.
He had already devoured his portion, but the meat felt tough in his mouth and every chew became less satisfying. The servants offered him more, but he declined, not out of modesty, but out of bitterness. The thought of the stag still stayed with him, despite Sir Lief’s attempts to soothe his bruised ego. Sir Lief had been Riechard’s guide in the battle yard since he came into Lord Steel’s care, but he had become sick of the knight’s constant preaching, as if he had outgrown the childish lessons that was the limit of a man of Sir Lief’s standing.
Despite the length of time Riechard had been entrusted to Lord Steel, he had scarcely been involved in any of his fosterer’s council meetings and had only ever watched him in court, occasionally providing his summary of events. Yet now, in a time where a war was approaching and his Kingdom would need him to contribute to its protection, Riechard yearned for a more seasoned teacher. He looked across the dais and saw Lord Steel speaking cautiously with his father, but Riechard realised that he needed to become more entwined with the major decisions of Lord Steel’s court to prepare him for the day he would have to lead. Riechard rose from his seat and manoeuvred his way towards Lord Steel and his father.
“My lord,” Riechard addressed Lord Steel. “May I speak with you a moment?”
Lord Steel looked up at him. “And what would a monk need from me?” He smirked and his father followed suit, however something on Riechard’s face must have exposed his seriousness. “What is it, Riechard?”
“I want to attend tomorrow’s council meeting.”
Lord Steel looked to Prince Charles briefly and then back at Riechard. “I believe that would be wise, was that all?”
Riechard stood aghast for a moment, and paused for a moment trying to think of something else to say to proclaim his seriousness. “No, it wasn’t,” he said, but stumbled over his next words before blurting out. “I want to shadow you.”
Lord Steel’s forehead furrowed, whilst Prince Charles stared down into his wine cup as if searching for something. Lord Steel took a heavy gulp of his ale and learned forward. “This morning we caught you masquerading as a monk to avoid being seen missing your lessons, and now you wish to shadow me and learn how to be a lord? Why?”
Riechard looked over to Sir Lief briefly and turned back to meet Lord Steel’s glare. “I am not a child anymore. I know what is to happen if Aunt Lorne is executed. My grandfather’s Kingdom will need strong men throughout the war, and though my best use is in battle, the more I learn about ruling, the more battles I can fight.”
“You know it might not come to that,” his father interjected.
“People keep saying that. I’m not sure if it because they believe me a child and wish to protect me, or because they are deluding themselves. You would be foolish not to be preparing for war, and I don’t believe that either of my guardians are fools. The way I see it, you can either teach me or protect me. Either way I may die, but at least if you teach me, I will die competently.”
Riechard refused to release his eye contact with Lord Steel who was equally as stubborn.
“You will attend the council meeting tomorrow. You will also continue your lessons…all of them. You will not only shadow me, but Sir Lief, and the castellan, Sir Reinhold. You will shadow your father if he consents to it, and anyone else I tell you to. In the meantime, there will be no games, no foolishness, no mischief and no childish behaviour. If I catch just a whiff of poor attitude, whining or entitlement, then you will return to your days as they were, but I will not be the one to teach you to rule. Do you understand?”
Lord Steel gave one final courtesy glance to Prince Charles who nodded his approval. “Good. Our meeting will be at dawn, judging by the time, my suggestion would be that you get some rest.”
“Thank you, my lord.” Riechard bowed his head slightly in appreciation.
As Riechard climbed the stone steps to his chambers he heard echoes above him. On the balcony were two men that he recognised as Earl Benedict of Ayden and Earl Addart of Bankwater. Their shadows danced frantically against the stone in the lantern light, and their voices were hushed and worrisome. Riechard backed himself against the wall and listened.
“Calm down, man!”
“You tell me to calm down? The ship was torched, Olon the Vile is dead and none of his crew survived.”
“Someone will take Olon’s place, and the arrangement will be respected.”
“Are you mad? The arrangement was between Lord Black and Olon, the rest of those pirates cannot be reasoned with!”
“We have no choice. We must ensure that Blackport is protected for as long as this war wages.”
There will be war, Riechard thought. He soon realised that eavesdropping and sneaking was the behaviour of a child, and felt a tug of shame that he’d already regressed. He stepped out from the wall and continued walking up the steps towards his chambers. Wonder began to fill his mind, and he dwelled on the Earls’ mentions of Lord Black and the famed pirate everyone in the Kingdom knew as Olon the Vile. He wondered what all of it meant, and most importantly, why they took to the seclusion of the balcony to discuss it.
Dawn was an eerie time at Steelmont. Even in summer a low cloud of fog hung over the forests across the horizon. From the balcony in Lord Steel’s council chamber, Riechard could see little of his fosterer’s broad Earldom that extended far beyond the trees that would one day pass down to his son, Owain. Riechard had spent many summers with Owain until he was of age and married Lord Addart’s daughter, Maria. The day that Owain left for Bankwater was the hardest day that Riechard had endured during his time at Steelmont, and he felt a pang in his chest as he contemplated how long he would remain in Lord Steel’s care.
Riechard was alone on the balcony. He had not slept for fear he would not wake in time for the meeting, and he had hoped that his father would arrive early so he could ask him questions about how to conduct himself. The sky was in a state of ever-lightening blue, though it was still closer to night than day, the stars began to fall from the sky and the moon sank into the distant haze of the far-reaching fog.
“It is a vast world,” a voice came from behind him. Riechard turned around to find Lord Steel standing across the room behind the large round table that would seat the members of the meeting. “You must be itching to see more of it.”
Riechard turned his back on the vast world and re-entered the room. “Wherever my kingdom needs me to go, I will go.”
Lord Steel gave him a polite smile. “Provided the Kingdom needs you to fight for it, of that I have no doubt. This kingdom needs more than a warrior king though.”
“I know. That is why I am here.”
“I did wonder when you would feel that urge. Your mind is an interesting thing, it is constantly changing, reforming and reshaping, yet we never notice it ourselves. It is only noticed by those who have already gone through such change. You wish to know how to conduct yourself in the meeting, I assume?” Riechard had once been unnerved by his fosterer’s ability to read his thoughts, now though, he had become used to such analyses. He nodded eagerly and approached the table. “Sit down, stay silent and leave all of your questions until everyone has left. That way, the other members will respect you for your observation and you will not reveal the extent of your ignorance.”
Lord Steel said things in such a way that could be taken as offence if one did not know the man. He was a brutal ruler, honest and stern, but with a remarkable sense of humour and good nature. In many ways, Riechard saw Lord Steel as more of a father than his own. Once day began to win the battle with night, the other members of the meeting began to enter. His father Prince Charles, followed by Lord Addart, Lord Benedict and Godson Leopald. These were some of the most powerful men in The Blacklands, and even Riechard knew that these meetings could decide whether they would enter the war.
“Please be seated,” Lord Steel began and waited for the remaining members of his court to take their seats. “I have received word from King Aedvard, and he has informed me of his decision to hold peace talks with King Aron…in Silver City.” The revelation caused a few worried looks, but no one dared interrupt Lord Steel. “He will take a modest escort, no more than twenty men, but we must begin making preparations for the worst-case scenario.”
There was a brief pause, before Lord Addart’s mouth turned to a frown of discomfort. “Forgive me, my lord, but what would you consider the worst-case scenario?”
It did not seem like a stupid question to Riechard, however the looks he received upon asking it revealed that it was.
“By Natos, Addart. Would you have him spell it out in front of the boy?” Godson Leopald scoffed.
Boy, Riechard thought, but did not let his resentment linger. “I would ask you not to refer to your Prince as ‘boy’, Godson. And though his Lord Steel need not spell it out, I do appreciate the tact. I believe the worst-case scenario would clearly be the imprisonment or murder of my grandfather, is that right, my lord?”
Lord Steel gave him an indifferent glance. “Aye. We must prepare for the outcome of King Aron doing something monumentally stupid. He is a young lad, and young lads are capable of impressive acts of idiocy. He has good advisors, strong commanders and experienced heads at his court, so it should not come to that, but if the boy’s bravado gets the better of him, then we will need to prepare. I believe we should begin by enforcing the borders, which means Lord Addart and Lord Benedict, you will need to raise your armies as soon as possible.”
“I alerted my lords to this possibility as soon as I heard the news. There was a raid in one of my villages a few weeks’ past, there were some taken prisoner. It was no major incident, just some squires in search of their lord’s favour. I watched those responsible hanged myself, but the village has suffered.” Lord Addart admitted.
“Why was I not told of this?” Lord Steel pushed.
“The matter was resolved. I did not see the need to incite political turmoil over a few up-jumped squires.”
Lord Steel looked indignant, but seemed to accept Lord Addart’s reasoning. “I will prepare an army ready to march east whilst his highness will take an army north through Taun. Should we receive word of anything befalling King Aedvard, we will be prepared to march on The Hartlands through Hazelfield.” Lord Steel explained.
Then Riechard got a strange feeling. He had never seen a time in his life where either King Aedvard or his father were not manning the royal castle at Duncath. It was a stronghold that required a present leader. Riechard looked over to his father who returned a pleased smile. He looked up to Lord Steel, who turned to him immediately after he’d finished his sentence.
“Prince Riechard, you will leave Steelmont at dawn tomorrow. The Blacklands needs you at Duncath.”