NOTES: Happy weekend everyone! Thanks for stopping by to read Chapter 15 of The Cursed King. The sun is shining while I write this, so it could always be worse on a Saturday. I hope everyone is staying safe whilst we head into what it looking more likely to be a second lockdown. I can’t say I’m surprised, but I shall leave my criticisms of the clowns that rule this country at the door and focus on the writing.
Sometimes it is hard to stay motivated whilst writing, and so sometimes you just need to give yourself a rest. I’ve had a few days off recently – more than I would usually take – from writing, but I have found that it has helped me be more careful with my writing when I do write. It is important to find a balance and to make sure that whilst you are still writing even when you are not in the mood, that you also allow yourself a break if you miss a day. Be kind to yourself and make sure that you do not become overwhelmed by your story.
I am currently writing Chapter 29, so whilst I am over half-way in this tale, I still have just over twenty chapters left to write, which can be daunting. I am taking it one chapter at a time, one day at a time and ensuring I meet the small daily targets I set myself. Moreover, I am still around thirteen chapters ahead of this Blog, which means you lovely followers will not miss a chapter. When I say I’m going to post – I damn well mean it!
Anyway, back to the book. Having just left Leona in Aljan, we move back to Duncath where Riechard has just recieved the news of what happened in Chapter Thirteen – King (no spoilers here – go and read it). Riechard is struggling to step into the shoes of his grandfather, and his family, who idolise the legendary King, are all too happy to remind him of how he falls short. Thank you for reading, and Chapter Sixteen will be posted on October 10th.
Riechard pretended that he was still reading the roll of parchment that had been handed to him. He had read it twice already, but wanted to give the impression that he was thinking carefully about how he would handle it, when he had in fact made his decision weeks ago. He read the words again, and they burst out from the letter and struck him in the chest like arrows. Hanged. Hostage. Retreat. The words taunted him. They were words of dominance, of control. The words were boasts, threats and demands. The words told him things that hurt him, that angered him, that injured his pride, and he wondered how many of these his father and grandfather had received.
His father would have received the same letter, at a military camp a few day’s ride from Duncath at the border of The Hartlands. The border mainly took the form of rolling hills and dense forests with the Steurholm mountain range carving their way through the northern cross-border between The Blacklands, The Hartlands and Ismann to the north, but Prince Charles was camped between Ayden and Bankwater, where the forest is easier to manoeuvre through and the hills are softer. Riechard had a minor urge to run to his father with the letter, to join his force and to siege his way into Harthelm to retrieve his grandfather. This urge was overwhelmed by a far greater one. The urge to assemble his own army and to do it himself.
The men and women of the council stared back at him, awaiting a response. He did not know how many of them had already read the letter, or knew of the events from other sources, but Riechard had learned to take his time and to think on the best way to respond before he did so. No matter what was truly in his heart, he had to push it down and react how a King would react, and not a boy. There were not usually this many people at this meeting, but today it was not only Salman, Neville, Arkgodson Aetheld, and Edweard, they were also joined by his Aunt Isabel, and his mother, Princess Amelie, who had been summoned to hear the news.
He had rather them both not be there together. Isabel was Lorne’s sister, and the two were inseparable until Lorne departed to Harthelm for good. Isabel was of age with Riechard, and his cousin had always teased and prodded him growing up, but now they had little in common and did not spend much time with each other at all. His mother Amelie, was King Aron’s older sister, and he feared for her safety in Harthelm as soon as he heard the news about his Aunt Lorne. Now, he feared for her even more. Trapped in a place where hostility to anyone from The Hartlands, let alone a member of the royal family, was at an all-time high. All he wanted was to protect her. Whether Hartlin or not, she was his mother, and she was loyal to him and his father.
Riechard placed the parchment upon the long table, and first looked at Isabel. She sat there patiently, stony-eyed and unflinching, the most like her father as any of Aedvard’s children. She too shared his blonde hair that was platted in a tail that ended at the small of her back, and she too was broad of shoulder as Riechard’s grandfather, and tall. The Byrne’s were not short people, but nor were they particularly tall except for Aedvard and Isabel, but they were all strong and carried their bodies in such a way that they were always noticed when they entered a room.
“I am sorry, Isabel. Lorne is dead.” Riechard could think of no other way to share the news. Although there were murmurs, there seemed to be no shock among his council, which confirmed to Riechard that they had already been informed, or had found out through other means. Isabel said nothing straight away, and her face did not change, though Riechard knew that her heart had broken instantly by the slightest twitches in her eyes. It was a tell that Aedvard and Charles had trained themselves out of, something that Riechard could never quite get the hang of, but Isabel was still young, as young as he, and she was not quite as still as her father and older brother.
“And my father?” Isabel’s voice was controlled and dispassionate, but her eyes still betrayed her as Riechard studied them carefully.
“Taken as a hostage. King Aron demands that we remove all of our men from the border, and will only release Aedvard when a suitable exchange is agreed upon.”
“The demands seem reasonable,” Arkgodson Aetheld said. Riechard remembered his father telling him that the religious shied away from war like beaten dogs from a raised hand.
“The Hartlands do not make demands of us. Has ten years of peace made us so weak? My father will not stand for an exchange, neither will Lord Steelmont. I doubt my grandfather will be sitting in his cell, hoping to be exchanged peacefully either. No…we will take him back by force.”
“And what is your plan to do that, nephew? Tear down the walls of Silver City yourself? Break him out of his cell and rush him back home? Your words are just that. Words. You may stand in my father’s place, but do not try and speak how he would, react as he would. He will find a way to alert us of his will, and we will follow his instruction. We must hold our position and wait for him.”
Riechard realised his mistake straight away. He should not have invited Isabel to the meeting. They were too close in age together, not close enough in familiarity, and she questioned him, and removed his authority by citing that of her father’s. It irked him, but he was determined to regain control. “What your father would not want, is for us to remain idle whilst he rots in a dungeon. The longer we remain still, the longer King Aron is emboldened. He hanged Lorne whilst Aedvard was in his castle, he will already be feeling like the most powerful man on the continent. We need to act and cut him down from the perch he has built for himself.”
“My lord, forgive me, but whilst you are Lord of Duncath in King Aedvard’s absence, we must wait to hear from your father on this matter, he rules The Blacklands in the King’s stead, and I have no doubt there is already a message on its way to us,” Neville pleaded.
“We have two armies lined up along the border. One led by my father between Ayden and Bankwater, one led by Lord Steelmont near Six Castles. They will expect an approach from my father’s army into the lands of Hillhold and down towards Silver City through Hazelfield. It is the most obvious and will result in the largest loss of life whether they meet us in the field or it becomes a siege. My foster father, as astute a war commander he is, will not be able to take Hartlake Castle. There are Six Castles there for a reason. The geography here is flat, temperate and easy to manoeuvre, and so there are more outposts and guard towers at this part of the border than there are in the rest of borderlands combined. It will be an impossible task.”
“And what will a third army accomplish? If your father and the great Lord Steelmont cannot successfully launch an invasion, then what will you do differently?” Edweard asked, his tone so dry that he seemed bored of his sentence before he even finished it.
“We cannot go in through the south into Amenti. They would never assist either Kingdom in a war, even against the other. Emperor Daut may be dead, but his son is even more hostile, so I hear. We cannot take to the seas either. Our fleet has been heavily depleted since Lord Black’s disappearance, and many of our ships are busy protecting the new trade route. These extra shipments will be vital in the coming months when supplies become scarce. No…I believe the only way, will be to go north to go south,” Riechard’s words left his mouth before they had even registered in his brain. It was at once foolish and brilliant. “We will go to Ismann, and we will make an alliance, and bring an army through Dawnmount.”
The council erupted in noise. Every man and woman in the council shouted over the other to Riechard, each a mix of fury and bemusement, but Riechard did not care this time. He had stumbled upon something, and as he looked over to Salman, he realised that his ally agreed. Salman sat with a smile on his face, and his hands locked together, sharing that moment of clarity with Riechard.
“I will not do it,” Isabel growled. His aunt was vocal within the council, but here, in Riechard’s private chambers, she was a trebuchet aimed directly at his plan.
“These negotiations happen during war. We must make alliances with the right people, and marriage is the easiest way to do that.”
“Do not speak to me as if I am a child. I know perfectly well what happens during war, my father has won plenty of them. You have won zero. Father proposed me to the King of the Hartlands, and now you want me to marry a savage with a spear?”
“The warriors of Ismann are not savages. They have the most disciplined armies on the continent, and do not let their dress fool you, they are exceptionally wealthy.”
“They live in snow caves, speak little of the common tongue and eat white bears. If you need an alliance, then why do you not marry a warlord’s daughter?”
“I have already considered the option. Ismann customs are different to our own. They consider all of their own people warriors – men and women. If I were to marry a warlord’s daughter, I would need to abandon my Kingdom and fight only for my father-in-law’s clan.”
“So you would have me abandon The Blacklands and take up a sword?”
“It is different with women. You have not been trained with a sword, and so they make exceptions in exchange for yearly patronage until you produce two sons of fighting age.”
“Wonderful, and so I will be a cannibal’s brood mare until I am able to send my sons away to be slaughtered?”
“They are not cannibals. It is the Skaermen who eat human flesh.”
“And I will be the other side of that border!”
“Enough!” Riechard felt the last thread of his temper tighten. “Please, leave now. I will think on alternatives, but you will do as I say whilst I am Lord of Duncath.”
Isabel rolled her eyes and scoffed. “How did we go from the legendary King Aedvard to you?” His aunt stormed from his chambers, and Riechard was left alone.
He poured himself some light ale and sipped at it whilst peering out of his oriel. He watched the ships come into the port, a far busier port in recent weeks since establishing Salman’s trade route. Edweard had already reported that it had been a financial success in its short tenure. Riechard had yet to be convinced, but even Neville was supportive as his ships did not have to deal with half of the trouble they had predicted when this venture was first proposed. Riechard wished that trade routes and minor politics were all that had had to handle still. Now, with his father away at war officially, he was effectively running the Kingdom. The King, the Prince, and Aedvard’s most senior commander, Lord Steelmontl, were all away with armies of their own, and Riechard was envious that he was not with them. He could hear the boys fighting in the courtyard from his tower, and he wished nothing more than to be trading swipes and clashing steel with them. He had been practicing, but now his practice was in private, and was far scarcer than it had been. Riechard always saw himself as a warrior, and now he had been forced into being a politician.
Riechard was just beginning to relax when another knock came at the door. Lord Salman entered and immediately sat at the table, kicked off his boots and poured himself a cup of ale. “Make yourself at home.”
“Don’t mind if I do. You ended the meeting early.”
“I did. Isabel was becoming…”
“Hostile and belligerent. She has a lot of character. You would do well to keep her on your side, but you were right to speak to her privately. How did she react?”
“I think you know how she reacted.”
Salman laughed. “She has been raised around a certain type of people, and to her, not all men are the same. My grandfather was from Harlidair, a state in the Old World, South and East of Old Antinna. At this time, the state was very powerful and influential. It had a large army, and was exceptionally wealthy. His name was Broglun, and he decided he wanted a wife from The New World. And so, after a few visits and proposals, Broglun married Lady Anise of Westshore, my grandmother. She eventually became used to life in Harlidair. It is different in many ways, but all people live the same way at their core. They are just trying to govern, to eat and feed their families. Everybody plays the same game when it comes down to it. It is all about survival.”
“Your grandfather did not come to Westshore? Then how did you come to be here?”
“I lived in Halidair until I was ten, and then my father sent me here to live with my great aunts and uncles as punishment. I have been here ever since.”
“You have not been home? Why not?”
“As I said. I am being punished.”
“What on earth could you have done at the age of ten that you are still in exile after all of this time?”
Salman laughed. “Some things, my lord, are better left to the imagination.”
The courtyard was littered with yellowy green leaves that had begun to fall from the trees surrounding The Obsidian. Riechard stood in the centre of the yard with a sword gripped tightly between his fingers. A hood and scarf, which covered his entire head besides his eyes concealed his appearance, and he felt like an Amentian warrior who only had their eyes uncovered when fighting in single combat. Arkgodson Aetheld approved of the idea. Unlike many of his other religious teachers, Aetheld understood the importance of allowing Riechard to practice in the courtyard, particularly so now that a war had been declared officially by Prince Charles. Riechard spent as much time in the courtyard as he was able, but he was almost constantly busy now, and these moments were rare. He savoured them. Every swipe of the sword, every thud and fall, every roll and counter strike. Riechard was desperate to make the most of these moments and he lost himself within them. Each boy his age who stepped up, he defeated. Then, lads slightly older than him gave him a greater challenge, but they too eventually surrendered.
Riechard felt a cocky stride take his legs as he walked over towards Duncath’s Master Swordsman, Sir Adriel. Unlike his trainer in Steelmont, Sir Leif, Sir Adriel was not vocal in his training. Sir Adriel seemed to be constantly observing everything, but never said a word about what he absorbed. It was as if the Gods had given him a finite amount of words, and he was afraid he was going to run out. Every word was carefully chosen, and each one made perfect sense once they arrived, but that process often took time. The knight handed Riechard a skin of water, and he turned away from the group to lower his scarf and take a few gulps.
“You need real practice.” Sir Adriel said.
Riechard spat out some of the water over the wooden fence that surrounded the courtyard and wiped his mouth with his forearm. “What would you call this?”
Sir Adriel paused for a moment. “Showing off.”
Sir Adriel sauntered into the middle of the courtyard and dispersed the boys with easy gestures until they were up against the fences and waiting patiently for him to speak. The knight commanded complete silence with just his movements, and waited with his arm outstretched. In a moment, three of the boys ran to him with a sword, but only one was quick enough, and Sir Adriel was armed. He thrust the sword into the dirt in front of him and stared at Riechard. For a moment, Riechard was unsure of what the Swordsman wanted from him, until it clicked and excitement swelled within him. He had always fought with Leif, and had never beaten him, but he always enjoyed their skirmishes far more than he did beating the other young nobles.
Riechard rushed over to Sir Adriel and took his stance, awaiting the knight’s first move. They circled each other for a few moments as Riechard awaited the attack. He had honed his style by starting out defensively, waiting patiently to understand his opponent’s way so that he could counter accordingly. Riechard knew that attacking first was dangerous, because they could figure you out before you know anything about how they fight. Before long, Sir Adriel threw a few swipes, which Riechard easily parried. The knight was dominant in his approach, and confident in his movements, but despite his vast experience, Riechard still found flaws and points of entry. He remained cautious and awaited the next assault. Once more Sir Adriel’s swipes followed a similar pattern, and Riechard already knew how he would counter. As expected, Sir Adriel moved the same way again, and Riechard side-stepped him, and as he swung his sword towards the Swordsman’s stomach, he tripped and landed harshly on his back. It was then that he realised that the knight had tripped him up, but his reactions stopped the sword point from poking him, and he blocked the finishing blow. Riechard rolled away and got to his feet, but was furious at the knight’s shithousery. He went on the attack. Drove his sword with force towards Sir Adriel’s stomach, but once again the knight side-stepped, and tripped Riechard so that he landed face-down in the dirt, dropping his sword. He instinctively reached out to grab it, but Sir Adriel stood on his hand.
“Get off me, you cheat!”
The knight kicked the sword away and removed his weight from Riechard’s hand. He pulled him to his knees and held his head back, and held the blunted blade of the sword to his throat.
“There are two types of people in war. There are no cheats. There are only those who live, and those who die.” Sir Adriel threw his sword to the ground. “Now, back to practice.” He held out a hand to Riechard who batted it away and pulled himself to his feet. Sir Adriel’s stern stare had not faded. “Come with me.”
Riechard’s heart was on fire. “I am Lord of Duncath, I will not -”
“Not here. Here, you are a fool in a veil. I said, come with me.”
Sir Adriel’s armoury seemed half-empty as Riechard looked around. There were sword holders nailed to the walls, but many of them did not have a sword, whilst the stands that held the plate armour had been stripped bare, there were only a few chainmail shirts left upon the counter-tops in disarray. Only the shelves seemed to be stocked with sabatons and a few helms left in the room. In the far corner was a workstation, and a hot stove where Sir Adriel brewed tea. Sir Adriel had not said a word on their walk to the armoury, and neither had Riechard. All he did was observe the knight. He stood an inch or two over six foot, and his tidy brown hair had been cut expertly evenly, his face was constantly still and exacting, always learning and always judging. His uniform was immaculate from collar to cuff, even after their scuffle. When the tea was made, Sir Adriel placed a cup of hot, mint tea on the counter and pulled a stool in front of him and gestured for him to sit.
Sir Adriel’s facial expression did not change. “No. You will sit. There is no one to witness your display of pride and you are in my armoury. Sit.” Riechard suddenly felt embarrassed, but sat reluctantly as he did not have the energy for a battle of the minds. “You are a good fighter, but you’d be slaughtered on a battlefield.”
“You caught me off guard…you…” Riechard trailed off, knowing immediately what was coming. “You treated it like we were on the battlefield.”
This time, Sir Adriel’s face did change. He was satisfied. “I did. There is no shame in losing in the courtyard, but you will not lose to those lads. You are too good for them. You need to learn how not to die on the battlefield. I am going to teach you that.”
Riechard’s anger faded away. Sir Adriel was not trying to humiliate him. He was trying to teach him. He sipped at the minty tea, which had lost its intense heat and warmed him from the inside out. Surveying the armoury, he drank again. “How can the city protect itself when its Royal Armoury is so scarce?”
“This is the way of war. We exhaust resources quickly, and it’s all-hands-on-deck to keep them coming when we need them. It’s an impossible task, disheartening and utterly miserable, but that is war.”
“How long will it take for the armoury to be fully-stocked once more?”
Sir Adriel sighed. “It will not be. It will be replenished to an extent, but as this war develops, as our armies grow smaller, and then larger again, it will fluctuate until there is nothing here except for blacksmiths working from sunrise to sunrise, and there will still not be enough steel to sustain them. I will not even have the swords to train with, so I will use broom handles.”
“You are a prisoner like me. I too have been ordered to stay here. Watching blacksmiths churn out steel can hardly mirror the excitement of battle.”
Sir Adriel looked incredulous. “Battles are not exciting; wars are not ways to prove yourself. They are death. They are sacrifice. They are men shitting their breeches and dying of disease. They are horror for every man, woman and child involved in them. They are lost fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters. They are trampled skulls and human beings gutted like trout. And then, when the final drop of blood spills, and the final soul is carried upon Natos’ weary back, it is still not over. Then there are the years after. The recovery, the memories, the nightmares. Screaming in terror at the sound of cooks sharpening their knives in the kitchens, or a horn in the distance, or the sound of horses cantering. The war stops, but the memories do not. You are young. You are protected within these walls, and you have a duty as a protector to these people. I will not lie to you. You will gain no glory here, but you will be spared the horror.”
It had been a long time since Riechard had visited his mother. Amelie Byrne was seventeen years old when she gave birth to him, just two years older than he was now. In the back of his mind, he knew that when the war was over, he too would be married. He had been betrothed before, but the arrangements never quite worked out for one reason or another, and his father had always told him that marriages were easier to arrange in wartime, when Lords were desperate to forge the right alliances. For royalty, however, the match had to be perfect, both for prestige and for its benefits.
Riechard had known his mother for only half his life. Aedvard had made it clear that he did not want a soft influence on the boy, and so sent Riechard to Lord Steelmont. Since returning, his only contact with his mother had been brief and cordial, and not in any way warm, but Amelie Byrne was the only person in Duncath who had known King Aron since he was a boy. Whatever horrors awaited him outside of his city were eclipsed by his own helplessness and inability to act. The very least he could do, he realised, was to attain as much of an edge in the war as he could from his homely prison.
The guards parted at Lady Bryne’s door as soon as he approached and one tapped the door for him as Sir Croft announced his arrival. The door opened enthusiastically and Amelie Byrne stood there, arms open as Riechard shuffled into them and she squeezed him tight. They were the same height now, he realised. His mother pulled away from him and took in his face in her hands, brushing Riechard’s hair behind his ear.
“Thank you for coming to see me.”
“Of course, it has been a long time since we’ve had a chance to speak.”
“You have grown so tall, and your hair so dark. You get that from my side no doubt.”
Amlelie Byrne, born a Hartlin, had all of the features that made her brothers’ looks so famed. She too had the intense brown hair of the line, and part of the reason all of those who inherited it grew it out to show it off, all except Prince Asher, who kept his cropped no matter what. Riechard certainly took after his mother. He too had the strong jaw and chin of the family, as did his mother, though these strong features did not detract from her beauty, but enhanced it. Despite their lack of contact, Riechard immediately felt calmer and more relaxed in her presence, as if he had just taken a Draught of Docility. Lady Amelie ushered them to her sofa. He had never been in his parents’ chambers before, but they were as lushly decorated as he had expected, and remarkably large. It was the same size as King Aedvard’s, where Riechard was currently staying, but brighter, more comforting and far more colourful. In one corner was a canvas of a half-finished painting of The Obsidian, and in another corner a piano and several other string instruments that Riechard did not know his mother played.
“I did not know you were so musical,” Riechard gestured to the piano.
“Alas, this is not my work. This is your father’s.”
“So you paint instead?”
Amelie laughed. “That is your father as well. He did not get a chance to finish it before he left. I cannot wait to see it completed.”
“This all must be very hard for you.”
Amelie smiled. “I am the oldest of the Hartlin children. My father protected me as much as he could, but the first years of my life were shrouded in death and confusion until they declared the peace. All you can do is hope and pray that it is over quickly. I am just sorry about your Aunt Lorne. We were not close, but she was a joyous soul. Strong and assertive. Sweet and colourful. She will be missed, Natos be with her.”
“In truth, I did not know her well at all. I have some memories of her, but they are the memories of a small boy. I was sent to Lord Steel so young that I do not remember much at all before that.” Amelie stood up and walked purposefully over to a table that was placed by the oriel. On the table were a vase with golden-petal flowers and a decanter filled with dark red wine. Amelie took two goblets from a shelf and filled them both until the decanter was half-empty. She brought the goblets back to her sofa and gave one to Riechard. “Grandfather instructed that I was not to have wine except at dinner.”
“Lord Riechard, I am your mother. In this, I outrank your grandfather.” Riechard laughed and drank the wine. It was some of the best wine he had ever tasted. Rich and delicate, both light and warming. As perfect for an autumn evening as he had ever tasted. He sat back in the sofa and relaxed for the first time since he arrived in Duncath. “I did not ever want to send you away. I hope you know that.” Amelie confessed, her voice still.
Riechard had not expected her to tell him that, and he was suddenly struck by sadness. “I know, mother,” he tried to console her, but the right words would not come to him. In truth, he had been perfectly well cared for at Steelmont, had made close friends as well as important political connections. He missed his foster family dearly, but he feared that telling his mother all of that would only intensify her pain.
“Having your child taken from you, Riechard. It is a pain like no other. It is as if I were to rip the ground from underneath your feet, and you would just fall and fall and fall, but you would never land anywhere. You just keep falling until somebody puts the earth back to support you. Then, no matter how far you have fallen, every day after that you have your child with you makes you feel as though you have never been higher up. You are not a child anymore, but I cannot bear to have you taken from me again. Now, your grandfather has instructed you to stay, to protect your city, to learn how to rule. I want you to promise me. I want you to promise me that you will not seek out your father or Lord Steel on the field. Whatever happens in this war, your duty is to Duncath. Please, I need you to tell me that you won’t leave us all behind.”
Riechard shook his head slowly. “Isabel has told you of my plan, hasn’t she?”
Amelie sipped at her wine. “I was very lucky to marry the only man in The Blacklands who did not have a murderous hatred for my entire bloodline. Not all women are so lucky. Ismann is a tough place. It is a cold, dreary land whose main export is war. The marriage would buy an army, but if the Warlord she marries dies in battle, then his worth, his wealth and his estate are depleted and ripped apart. If she were to marry an Ismann, then she would become part of that estate, available to any man who sought to claim her. Is that what you would have for your aunt? Is that really something you could accept should it happen? Family is the most important thing in the world, not just politically, but for personal contentment. You should do everything in your power to protect your family. My brother Asher would be at Hartlake right now if it were not for his duties in Harthelm, I can assure you. No man in The Twin Kingdoms should leave his family behind.”
Riechard swirled his wine in its goblet. He could not stand to look at his mother. Duncath was no home to him. His memories of it were grand, but the reality was paltry. It was not far larger than Steelmont, and at least there, he had his friends, he had Lord Steel to teach him. Who did he have here? Who could he possibly learn from in Duncath without his father or grandfather present? The thought hurt him. Then he looked up at his mother. Is she Byrne or Hartlin? One of the only two children born of a Hartlin and Byrne marriage was he, and the other had been murdered in his bed by his own mother. Riechard did not even know that Prince Asher had left Hartlake for Silver City, yet somehow his mother was privy to the information. Riechard looked up at his mother. She was staring at him intently, as if waiting for him to say something, to confirm a thought. Then the realisation came over him like a tsunami. He immediately jolted upright and placed his goblet back onto the table.
“Is everything alright, my son?” Amelie smiled innocently.
Riechard returned her gaze. “You have argued your point well. What sort of man would leave his family behind to go off into war?”
Amelie took a sip of wine. “What sort of man, indeed.”