The Story Of Magus Chapter 12
Darkness Before The Storm
The day dawned much the same way it always did in Guardia Kingdom. The sun lazily crept on tiptoes up the horizon, hesitantly shedding it's first tenative rays of light along the dew-dusted grass, letting tickling fingers seep into the hen house where the rooster slumbered. The light prompted the bird to awake with a start. Had he forgotten his daily chore to wake the farmer? Scrambling from the warm roost, he fluttered to a rooftop and looked about, squinting at the sun in dismay. Hush, the sun seemed to whisper on the soft morning breeze, still tinged with the damp smells of the night. You are not late. I have only just arrived! Will you not welcome me to your home? And so, the rooster opened his beak and issued forth a glad cry to the world, greeting the sun on it's merry way into the sky. With that triumphant note winging it's way through the air, the glorious orb of light burst it's full illumination upon the Kingdom in absolute brilliance.
Suddenly, it seemed as if everything sprang to life. Birds began to whistle and chirp, cats slunk home from catching mice all night. Owls flew sleepily back to their daytime homes in the hollow trees dotting the countryside. Sleepy peasants crawled from their beds to milk the cows and feed the hens while collecting eggs. Mothers stirred up hot porridge as their yawning, eye-rubbing children stumbled out to the kitchen table with dream contented smiles, driven from their beds as the mouth-watering smell wafted to their nostrils.
Everything seemed right with the world. No one in the Kingdom thought that this peacefull morning would be the last any of them would see for a very long time....
King Ruttelard Guardia lifted his heavy eyelids and stretched luxeriously in his bed. He smoothed the silk and velvet coverlet over him more securely and snuggled deeper against his fluffy goose-down pillows. His vallet would show up in a moment with his royal choice of wardrobe for the day. Then all hell would break loose. People would come waltzing in with his bed tray and pull open the curtains to blind him with early morning sunshine. The staff had an uncanny way of knowing what time he was going to wake up.
As if on cue, a knock resounded at the door. "Go away!," the king shouted, rolling onto his stomach and burrying his face into the pillows. A second knock, more demanding then the first, banged on the heavy oak door. "I said, go away! Can't a person get any sleep around here?!"
The door opened. Ruttelard sat up so fast, he got dizzy. Who dared to ignore a royal command?! Cutting words died in his mouth as the skinny, short Lord High Chancellor walked in. "You are hardly a normal person, Majesty, and as such, the day begins much sooner then you'd like."
"My Lord Chancellor, what can I do for you?," the King stumbled. This man always reminded him of some feverish weasle. He didn't really care for the old codger, but the man was powerfull. He'd served the old king faithfully...or at least no one could prove otherwise.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, there is something." Coming up to the edge of the bed, the scrawny old man deposited an arm-load of documents into the monarch's lap. "These all need your signature before I can commense an up-date on the royal accounts. It's imperritive that they be filled out so we can pay the staff this week." He produced a quill pen and a jar of ink out of nowhere and held them out to Ruttelard.
"But, but-" The king stammered. "I havn't even had breakfast yet!"
"Time and money waits for no man, be he king or peasant, sire!," The chancellor reprimanded him. "Your late father would never let a minor thing like a missed meal to interfere with matters of state!" Ruttelard brushed aside the quill and ink irritably.
"I am not my father, needst I remind you? I am the king now and I shouldst be allowed to do things whenst and how I choose to do them!," he snapped, slipping out of the other side of the bed and throwing on a robe. Moving to the heavy velvet drapes, he yanked rather savagely on the golden cord and they slid open, splashing orange sunlight on the floor. The king blinked painfully as the first rays hit his eyes, but after blinking a bit, he was fine.
His eyes wandered to the heavy golden crown resting on a blue satin pillow that sat to the right out of the sun's light, the many gems encrusted on the surface shining even in the dimness of a shadow. The gold itself looked dull, as if it were only gold painted lead, with the black substance beneath leaking through. It made Ruttelard think about just how "loyal" his Chancellor really was to the throne. Beneath the polished exterior, was there a pulsing core of corruption with parts beginning to leak through the facade?
"Forgive me, your Magesty," the Chancellor groveled with a low bow. "I did not mean to give offense. Please, sign these papers when ever you wish." The King raised an eyebrow at this sudden change in tone. The old man sighed and gathered up the scrolls in his arms. "I'll just have to tell the staff that they will have to wait for their money untill when and if you decide to get these done." The whole act was just too much for Ruttelard to deal with.
Heaving a sigh of his own, he called, "Lord Chancellor, wait, please. I will sign the papers now." The old man had almost made it to the door, dragging his feet, his face a mask of abject misery.
"No, your Magesty. I don't want to pressure you into doing something you don't want to do right now. I'll just toddle off and crunch some more numbers..."
"Either you bring those papers to me right this instant or I will not sign them at all!," King Ruttelard gritted through clenched teeth, his eyes rolled skywards as he counted to ten. It was surprising how fast the Chancellor's attitude changed. He almost sprinted to the King's side, the earlier attitude of humility and contriteness vanishing like water on a hot skillet.
"Certainly, sire. Whatever you say," the old man replied, eagerly thrusting the pen and ink into his monarch's hands. Ruttelard quickly signed the papers, not really bothering to read them over. He never could stand all the legal banter his Chancellor had to put up with. As he handed the scrolls back, he reflected that it was for that precise reason he had someone to work the numbers for him.
"There, now leave me." The king purposefully turned his back on the Lord High Chancellor. As he stared out the window over the courtyard below, he never saw the look of sneering disdain that crossed the old man's features.
"Of course, sire. I live to serve you." Holding the partchments close to him, he scooped up the ink and pen and quietly left the room. Ruttelard couldn't hide a smile as the Chancellor was very nearly run over by the vallet and the rest of his personal retainers, bearing his breakfast and wardrobe. Giving one last look out the window, the King of Guardia turned to face another day or ruling.
Why am I here?, Janus asked himself for the hundreth time that morning. I'm not a warrior and I have no intrest in furthering the Mystic's cause. All I want is enough power to leave this place and return to Schala. Left, right. Left, right. His feet kept up the steady march like the rest of the army. Of course, he knew why he was there. It was all Flea's doing. She wanted him dead and would go through any lengths to see it happen. Left, right. Left, right.
To relieve the monotony of the long, covert trek to Truce, he pondererd the preperations that had been taken care of to ensure a good easy win. Magic power would be supplied by Flea and her Sorcerors, while the brute strength would be carried out by large troops of Henches. Roly Bombers ensured manual fire-power and could be tossed like grenades. Owtlaws made terrific archers and Grimalkins had some excelent karate-like kicks. With the type of man-power available, it looked very probable that the humans wouldn't stand a chance. However, Janus had learned long ago not to under-estimate your opponant. He was sure that the Knights of Guradia wouldn't take this little raid lieing down.
"Thinking about the battle to come?," asked a smooth, oily voice at his elbow. Janus looked down and saw a figure he hadn't seen before. "I don't blame you. Flea holds grudges, even if she doesn't have the brains or the guts to carry out her own vengence. She's nasty that way."
"And who are you?," Janus inquired. The person bowed dramaticaly and smoothed his black uniform. Winking with a bright, black eye, the spy chuckled.
"I am called GrabbleDrek. I was sent by Ozzie to keep an eye on you, Janus."
Drek shrugged. "Why not?"
"Forgive me for sounding rude, but I have never put much trust into the good intentions of others. What is it you're really here for?," Janus replied in icy tones. Drek clacked his beak once, but wether it was from irritation, displeasure, humor, or simply a bird-thing, Janus couldn't tell.
"If you really want to know, it's because Ozzie sent me to give you a gift."
Janus smiled bitterly. "Thanks, but no thanks. I seem to be getting alot of so-called 'gifts' lately." His eyes moved to Flea who had assumed position at the head of the long collumn of troops. She hovered off the ground in Slash-like fashion and shouted orders to a couple more reliable Imps who's sole purpose was to run up and down the lines, reporting these commands to the section leaders. His fingers strayed to the coin Flea had given to him and which he'd secreted in a pocket over his heart. It's pressance was a constant reminder of how much he hated her for setting him up like this.
GrabbleDrek wasn't so easily put off, however. "I think you'll find this gift to be more usefull then anything else you may have recieved." Janus turned to issue a scathing retort but his mouth fell open in wonder instead. Drek had pulled a length of cloth from his travelpack. It was a brilliant shade of purple that changed color as the light hit it. Currently, it was almost a marroon color but as Drek handed it over, it changed to a silky lavender hue.
"What is it?," Janus breathed. Drek shrugged.
"Since we Mystics have a hard time finding clothes that compliment our skin tones or body shapes, we generaly stick to darker shades and large, voluminous outfits. Of course, some of us," he looked at Flea and her clothing, "simply have no taste." He nodded to the cloth in the youth's hands. "This type of material is magicaly accented to match whatever you are wearing." He watched as Janus turn it over and over in his hands, admiring the way it flashed and shimmered. "Incedently, it's a cloak," Drek commented dryly.
Janus felt his cheeks grow flushed as he realized he hadn't even noticed what it was. Twirling it over his head with a flourish, he tossed it over his shoulders and fastened the gold clip. The cloak was light-weight and didn't hinder his movement any. It was cool despite the morning sun beating down on his head and shoulders. Reaching behind his head, he noticed it was even hooded! Twining his long blue hair into a managable clump, he held it in place with one hand while drawing the hood up with the other. Once he was certain his hair was concealed, he let go of it. Orange tassles were the only decoration on the cloak along with orange silk ribbing along the edge of the hood. Janus didn't need a mirror to know how sinister and mysterious he must look.
"It's reversable too, by the way. In case you need to make a quick change of clothes, the other side is a differnt color and will blend to match your new clothes as well. Also, it has nifty little pockets sewn into it for concealed weapons or healing potions," Drek supplied helpfully. Janus flashed him a grin from the shadows that flitted over his face.
"This looks wickedly stunning on me! Ozzie has good taste."
"Hey, don't thank me or anything. I only delivered it," Drek hinted sarcasticly. But if he had thought to make Janus feel guilty in any way, he was playing to the wrong audiance.
"Don't worry, I won't." With that, he truned his back on the spy and walked away. GrabbleDrek ground his teeth at this human's arrogance but didn't follow. He'd just have to be content to watch from the sidelines. As Janus approached the head of the line, he could see the outskirts of Truce coming into view. For a brief second, it brought a painfull lump to his throat as he remembered a time, not so long ago, when a lost and frightened little boy had stumbled into that village. It felt like ages ago! He had changed so much.
The army paused on a grassy knoll that over-looked the peacefull town. Janus meandered his way through the grumbling troops to where Flea stood conversing with the section leaders. "Brock, take your team and attack the west side," she commanded. Brock, a Hench with long yellowed tusks hanging out of his mouth, saluted and shuffled off, bellowing for his company to get into formation. "Yattler, I want your bowmen to cut off any attempts to bring in reinforcements from the castle. I don't want any knights to start showing up before we've had a chance to do some major damage." The Owtlaw, Yattler, cackled and saluted.
"I hear and obey, O Oneness!," he croaked. Flea made a grand gesture and he scrambled off in such haste that he very nearly tumbled down the hill. Flea rolled her eyes and turned to the last section leader, a repulsive Grimalkin by the name of FrazzelC'ur.
"Frazzel, take your team and work from the east. The last thing we need is the pesky humans to run up into the mountains. If they get holed up there, it could take us days to smoke them out."
"Gotcha, daddy-o! I'm there! Them humans ain't goin' nowhere! They can try to run, they can try to hide. But ain't none of them gonna come out alive!," he chanted in a gravely bass voice. Flea rubbed her hands together in malicious glee as he wandered off to rejoin his group.
"Excellent!," she chortled. "Finally! Some good, old-fashioned action! Won't Slash be jealous when he hears how well I pulled this one off?" Catching sight of Janus, her smile faded into a disgusted scowl. "What are you trying to be? A refugee from a runaway carnival?" The magician circled him, occasionaly poking at a tassle to see the way it sparkled in the light. Finally, she stopped in front of him and crossed her arms. "Are you trying to help the knights with their target practice or do you just have no concept of what the word inconspicuous means?" The youth ignored her remark and pulled a pair of gloves from his pocket.
"Well, O Oneness," Janus replied, mocking Yattler's tone, "what's the plan?"
"If you hadn't noticed, air-head, we're going to attack Truce with as much force as we can as fast as we can before they realize what hit them. Then, we pull out."
"Why not stay to tangle with the knights a bit, even up the odds, know what I mean?," Janus asked, pulling the supple leather gauntlets on and adjusting them. Flea raised an eyebrow at him.
"Are you that eager to die? Or are you simply very stupid?"
"I just want to know when you plan to end this charade, Flea. I'm tired of stepping lightly around you. One way or another, we'll duke this out here, today."
Flea chuckled darkly and slipped an arm around his waist. "I'll enjoy watching you die, Janus. I've been waiting for this a long time." He looked down into her face which was flushed prettily with an alluring blush, but contrasted oddly with the coldness of her eyes. Smiling, he wrapped a hand around her braid and yanked it, hard. Gasping, the magician stumbled back massaging her stinging scalp. "You bastard!," she spat. "You'll regret that action! I'm going to see you suffer as never before!"
"I have no doubt that you'll try," was all the response she recieved.
"Alright, enough chatter!," the magician growled savagely, turning her back on Janus. Stomping into the center of the largest cluster of Mystics, she raised her voice to encompas the entire army. "Get into your attack groups. We march on Truce!"
"Of all the arrogant, insolent pups! Who does he think he is?" Darwin Rath, Lord High Chancellor of Guardia, fumed at his desk, scribbling numbers onto papers and tossing them onto the ever increasing stack. Sitting to his left behind a slightly smaller desk was his assisstant, Daryl Krantz.
"I guess he thinks he's the King, huh, Gramps?", Daryl laughed, dipping his pen into a fresh jar of ink. Darwin glared at his grandson who only laughed harder, threatening to drip ink onto the ledger he was working on.
"Blot that pen, you fool, before you mess up the figures!," he snapped. Daryl did as he was told and continued writing and laughing. "When I promised your mother I would take you under my wing and teach you the trade, I didn't think I'd be getting a snippity little up-start. You'd better watch your mouth and your place, Daryl, or you'll find yourself back behind a plow."
The threat sobered the young scholar up quickly. Darwin nodded once curtly and added the last few numbers to the paper in front of him. "Um, Grandpa?"
"You, uh, you really wouldn't send me back home...would you?"
The Chancellor let his grandson sweat for a few minutes before replying, "We'll see." Daryl looked visably relieved and attacked the ledger with much more fervor. Darwin hid a covert smile. Back in his youth, when he'd been hot-blooded and reckless, he'd had a bit of an infidelity with one of the castle maids and she'd given him a daughter. The news very nearly became a scandle. However, he'd managed to pay the maid off and had been paying through the nose ever since. When she'd finaly died, he had thought that the secret was dead forever. But as fate would have it, his daughter Lucinda, had married a farmer and had a son, Daryl. Knowing that there was money and power in her background, she saught out the Chancellor and demanded he train Daryl as his sucessor...or else she'd tell the world about his dirty little indescretion. Not having any other options, he had agreed. In public, Daryl was known as his humble assisstant. In private, Daryl drove him up the wall.
"Done with this account," the man in question sighed happily, leaning over and setting it on the edge of his grandfather's desk. "What do you want me to work on now?" Not looking up from his numbers, Darwin waved at a stack of partchment by the door.
"Those are the latest staff ledgers over there, just recently signed by the King." The Chancellor spoke the title mockingly. "Start on those and we might be able to break early for lunch today." The two men, one young, one old, locked eyes and grinned. An "early lunch" was their term for a nice slice of the profits coming out of the royal treasury. They would usualy celebrate by going down to the kitchen and ordering a sumptuous feast. Suddenly, the ground beneath their feet trembled.
"What was that?," Daryl asked curiously. Darwin shrugged.
"The cook probably exploded another meal in the kitchen," he chuckled dryly. Another series of tremors made a large splash of ink to spill onto the partchment Darwin was just finishing up. Muttering some strong explicits, the old man grabbed a blotter and tried to soak up as much of the spilled ink as he could. "What is going on around here?! Heads will roll for this!," he shouted. Daryl was just picking up the stack of papers and turning to come back to his desk when the door flew open, smacking him in the face.
"My nose!," he howled, dropping the papers to clutch at his throbbing sniffer. Darwin was on his feet in a rage.
"You idiot!," he shrieked. "It took me four hours to catagorize those papers and get them into alphabetical order!" Daryl squeezed out from behind the door and weaved over to his grandfather. They both glared daggers at the perpetrator. It was a raggedly panting soldier, his armor blood-stained and dented. He saluted weakly and used the door-frame to support himself. "Just what is the meaning of this?!," the Chancellor demanded.
"It's the Mystics, sir! Truce is under attack!"
"WHAT?!," the two bean-counters gasped simultaneously.
"Do you mind if I sit down?," the knight asked, staggering towards a chair with papers on it. "I'm not feeling too well..." Darwin was there in a second, throwing himself bodily over the documents.
"Bleed all over my prescious scrolls and I'll finish you myself! How dare you even suggest such a thing!," he snarled. "No, you can go sit over there on the floor in the corner like a normal human being where you'll be out of everyone's way."
"Truce? Under attack?!," Daryl mumbled from behind his hand that still held his nose. "Mother and father...." He leapt at his grandfather and grabbed the front of his robes of office. "We have to do something! They may not be much, but they are all I have!"
"I'm sure they are alright!," Darwin snapped, slapping Daryls hands till he let go. He rearanged his clothes and smacked Daryl on the arm. "Stop whimpering, you feeble-minded donkey! I'm sure they are in better condition then we are right now!" To the soldier he demanded, "Why are you running to me? Why didn't you inform the Knight Captain?"
"I did," the weakened man groaned as he slumped against the wall, giving the Chancellor an icy look for denying him a chair. "He sent me to tell you to inform King Guardia of the situation and to remind you that our pay-checks are coming up. Since defending against surprise raids aren't dictated in our contracts as Knights of the Square Table, we demand ten extra pieces of gold in our salary this time around."
"ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!," Darwin raged.
"I guess we must be, if we have to defend the Kingdom and put our lives on the line for as small a wage as you dish out to us!," the knight shot back, forgetting his wounds in an instant of anger. But when it had passed, he moaned and shut his eyes in pain.
"Daryl, take this man down to the infirmary before he dies on us," Darwin comanded.
"But he's all dirty and sweaty, Chancellor Rath! He'll get blood and grime all over me! Why do I have to touch him?," Daryl whined, easily slipping into the role of the humble apprentice.
"Tell me again why I don't send you back to the farm, Daryl," Darwin grated, giving his grandson a murderous look. When the young man started the lip tremble, he shouted, "JUST DO IT!" Muttering about the ill-treatment, he did as he was told, hooking his arms under the wounded knight and supporting him.As they passed by him and out the door, he added, "And get some ice for your nose too because I'm not giving you the day off for headaches!"
Daryl went off in one direction and his grandfather went in the other to inform the king. "How bad is it out there?," the scholar inquired, helping the limping man down the stairs.
"Bad," was the reply. "The attack came as a sudden shock, we never even had time to prepare..." His words broke off as he drew in his breath sharply from pain. Daryl could feel the man's body tremble through the armor.
"You aren't going to die on me are you?," he asked in horror. "I've never seen someone die before. I don't think I want to either."
"Well, your boss didn't seem to want to ensure my continued good health," the knight grumbled. Daryl forced a nervous laugh.
"Oh, uh, Chancellor Rath can seem harsh at times but he was just frazzled. It's not very often that someone dripping blood everywhere comes in spouting tales of war."
"You didn't seem too impressed by my current state either," the man replied pointedly. Daryl laughed again and it trailed off into uncomfortable silence.
"Um, about the attack, though...," he said at last.
"It's a long story, son. Let me tell you what I remember as we walk."
"What you remember?," Daryl repeated, puzzled.
"Yeah. See, I live on the outskirts of the town so my house was one of the first that got hit."
"I thought all the knights lived in the castle," Daryl interrupted. The knight gripped the young man's shoulder hard for a second, the metal gauntlet he wore bruising the flesh beneath the expensive robes, as a wave of dizziness washed over him. "Ouch! Ease up!," he complained. The grip of iron loosened slightly.
"If you think that about us knights, you're sadly mistaken. Only the rookies live here. Most of us have homes and families. Such is the case with me. I have a wife and a four year-old daughter at home who were nearly killed this morning."
"The attack...," Daryl prompted.
"I was barely out of bed, drinking my morning cup of coffee when out of the blue the roof of our house was blown up. Boom! Just like that. One second it was there, the next, were were half burried under so much kindling."
"Wow! What happened then?"
"Well, after I regained my wits and made sure the wife and my daughter were ok, I grabbed up my armor and my sword and went charging into the fray. There were hundreds of them, and I'm not lieing! I have never seen so many Mystics in my whole life!" Here the knight shudderd. "And I hope I never have to again." When Daryl nodded sympatheticaly, the man shook his head. "It wasn't just the size of their army that scares the heck out of me. They had this guy, a really creepy looking person. He must have been some sort of leader because everyone gave him lots of room."
"What did this Mystic leader look like? Was it the reputable swordsman Slash?"
The man gave Daryl a sour look. "I'm no green recruit here, kid. I've seen Slash fight before and this wasn't him at all. This guy couldn't hold pins against any of our boys in a really sticky sword to sword battle. But he threw around some mean magic, I can tell you that."
They arrived at the infimary which was nothing more then a few beds lined up along the walls, taking up part of the Knight's Councill, a large vaulted room under the castle where the knights would come to discuss battle plans and initiate new members and so forth. Rich tapestries depicting fights both historical and fantastical lined the stone walls. A fire sputtered in the hearth constantly because it tended to get rather cold underground and it wasn't good for patients. Daryl helped the wounded knight towards the reception desk where a bored looking blond nurse sat twiddling with medical charts. When she saw them coming to her, however, she burst into life.
"Goodness gracious! What hast transpired here? Do mine eyes decieve me or ist there a war raging above us?," she asked. Daryl rolled his eyes but refrained from commenting that is was obvious that there WAS a war going on above. He thought better of it at the last minute because not only was the nurse rather pretty, she might seriously not have known anything was wrong.
"Yes, there is a battle happening near Truce Village. But don't worry. I told the Knight Captain and he should be calling our forces together to launch a counter-attack," the hurt man replied, groaning. The nurse motioned for them to come to one of the beds. Daryl helped the knight down onto the bed and backed away so she could do her job. Grimacing in disgust at the blood and dirt all over his clothes, Daryl fished around the medical supplies till he found a container bearing ice. He filled up a small, thin leather pouch designed for that very purpose, and placed it on his nose. He paused for a second to look at his reflection in a medicine tray and blinked. His eyes were getting puffy and turning black and a nasty yellowish color. His nose was extremely tender and his head was aching.
"That...that...!," Daryl sputtered, looking away from his reflection. The stupid guard most likely broke his nose with that stupid door! If there was a major weak spot for Daryl, it was his vanity. He saw himself as a gift to womankind and one thing that would ruin his looks completely would be to have a crooked nose.
"Your Magesty! Your Magesty!," Chancellor Rath called, speeding into the throne room as if his tail were on fire. King Ruttelard Guardia looked up and frowned.
"Yes, Lord Chancellor?"
"Mystics! They're...attacking...Mystics! We must send...the ...soldiers...!," the old man gasped. He was surprised when the monarch made a dismissive gesture.
"I've known that for some time," he replied. Darwin gaped. Then he saw the Knight Captain, resplendant in his golden armor, trying to hide a smug grin and not suceeding very well. "You are a bit late with the news. We were just deciding what to do when you came howling in here."
"You heard the Chancellor, sir knight. Send the soldiers to try and quell this menace before putting our good troops out on the field," Ruttelard stated. The grin left the knight's face.
"My liege, I must advise against this. T'would be in our best intrest to send the Knights of the Square table to vanquish the foes quickly. The longer we tarry, the longer the Mystic's have to kill our innocent people," the man pressed.
"But think of the cost!," Darwin wheedled. "We can afford to pay for more soldiers. Good knights are hard to come by, sire!"
"My Lord Rath, I am shocked to my core! This is not an issue of money but an issue of public safety! Can you set a price on the lives of the people you would be sending out there to die?," the golden knight snarled. Rath stood to his full height, which wasn't very much, and nodded curtly.
"Yes, I believe I can! Do YOU want a pay cut?!"
"Gentleman, please! Enough arguing. I hereby decree that the soldiers will be sent first and the knights afterward. Now, clear the court, I shall be awaiting news on the fighting in my private chambers," Ruttelard snapped. He ignored the smug expression he saw Darwin flash the Knight Captain and stepped down from the throne, walking out of the room via a small corridor, closely followed by his retinue of guards. He hated having to agree with the Chancellor, but he didn't have much of a choice. If he had sides with the Knight Captain, Rath would have sulked and made sure that the knights regretted the insult by docking their pay. Sighing,he took off the heavy gold crown with it's dull gold and tossed it onto a chair. It was times like this he wished he had a soft, comforting hand to rub his forhead and to help him relax, some gentle caring woman who could help him with these tough choices. Flopping down on a divan, he closed his eyes and thought about the dream girl he knew was out there, somewhere, waiting for him.
The message had arrived early that morning. Leene read it and re-read it over and over to herself as she wept and held her brother's picture to her heart. He had been called back into duty early because of this sudden attack on Truce. She had begged and pleaded for him not to go but to no avail. Claudane was too proud and loyal to the crown to ignore a royal summons. A tear splattered on the glass covering the picture. Leene looked out the window at the sun in a suddenly darkening sky and whispered, "Take care, my brother...."