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Corrandion, Corridane
I am JT, Ringer, nutjob, and archer, in that order. I like animated films, epic films, book films, movie music, folk music, and the occasional random other thing. I make friends by accident and like it that way...

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30 September 2011

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIII

After addressing the army outside and explaining the precise situation to them, Valun returned to his newly emptied chamber and retrieved the heavy crates from beneath his bed. Ringing the bell, he recalled David to his side and ordered him to help him into his armor.

“In this weather?”

“Yes. That is what I was trained for, wasn’t it?”

“But we don’t leave until tomorrow!”

“So you heard?”

“I wasn’t far behind. Richard is rather upset over that punch you landed on him.”

“He called me a coward.”

“Really? That’s not what I heard.”

“That’s of no consequence now. Just do this.”

“You should make it up to him before we leave. You don’t want your commanding general upset with you.”

“I know, and I will offer my apologies before we leave the city.” Valun answered.

“Oh, everything will be all right then. Richard is a real friend, you know.” David replied as he strapped on one of the leg pieces.

When the job of putting on the armor was finished, David strapped on Valun’s sword and remarked “Well, now you look as if you had just walked out of a painting. If you went in front of the elders, I don’t doubt that they would claim that you are really the second coming of one of the earlier kings. You certainly look the part.”

“Historical comparisons are not what I have in mind, though. I must see Richard.” Valun announced, striding out the door.

Upon leaving David, Valun immediately proceeded toward Richard’s room to offer an apology for his action. However, before he reached his destination, he met the man himself in the passageway.

“I hope this is well met, Richard? I hope you realize that I am not angry anymore and I only want to offer an apology for my action in the previous hour. However upset you may be, though, I know you will not fail to accept it, for if you did not, you would be in still deeper trouble for scorning a king who has lowered himself. I may treat you as an equal, but it is only out of our strong friendship that I treat you that well.”

“I understand, my Lord, that no other man would get off as lightly as I have for my speech, and receive the high honor of even a slight recompense from my Lord for his action against myself.”

Their speech concluded, the two men continued down the passage together, back toward Valun’s chamber. Upon reaching this point, they were joined by David. At the sight of the other men’s’ faces, he resolved to remain silent. So they continued; Valun in front, followed by Richard, with David trailing behind. The three continued this way until they reached the front gate of the castle. There, Valun turned and addressed the two who had followed him up to that point.

“I take it that you are both resolved to follow me to the death, for we have reached the point of no return, from which I may not turn back without being disgraced forever. I have declared war. I have commanded the draft. Many thousand loyal and brave men have answered my call. I cannot send them back to their homes. I will not apologize. In short, passing through these gates with me proves that you are true friends who will obey all orders and follow me to the death. Are you willing?”

Aware of the true gravity of the situation, Richard and David answered together “Yes, my Lord, I am ready. I would follow you anywhere you wished to go.”

“Then we shall go.” Valun answered quietly, as he began pushing open the thick oaken doors.

23 September 2011

Chapter XII

Chapter XII

A short time later, Valun again heard loud knocking on the door of his chamber. This time he told the herald on the outside of the door to open it for himself, which the man presently did, opening the door widely to admit the visitors.

To say that Valun lost his composure upon the entrance of the Princess would be an understatement. In fact, he could not find his voice for several seconds after her appearance, so there was complete silence in the room until the princess spoke.

“I was under the impression that you had requested that I come to your country. It would not be good if you embarrassed yourself now by not speaking.”

This statement caused Valun to recover everything which he had lost. “I fully understand what you mean, but-“

“What? That this is a mistake? That I have come all the way over on the request of an emissary who was acting for his own gain?”

Valun, who had been returned to a state of shock by this statement, abruptly replied “That is exactly how it was, my Lady.”

The Princess, who had suddenly begun to laugh for no discernible reason, waved Valun off, answering “I expected as much by the time I reached Miran. Similar incidents have occurred in my homeland. My father.” She concluded, by way of explanation. “But now I am here, so I will stay here.”

“But you must still understand that you have arrived at a very bad time for me. I have pledged myself to hunt for my father in a neighboring country, fighting a war if need be, and that I was going to leave as soon as the force which you arrived with had shown itself.”

“Well! This isn’t much in the way of a welcome! Here I was believing that after my long adventure, I would be allowed to settle down, and as soon as I arrive, I find that the prospective husband was surprised by my appearance and is about to go wage war against his neighbor just to retrieve his old father, who probably shouldn’t have gone there in the first place! Couldn’t you get him back through diplomatic channels?”

“That was the first thing I tried. The response was an insult.”

“I see. So that’s how it became an affair of honor besides the integrity?”


“Then don’t let me keep you! Go do it! Your father could be dying at this moment, - but no, that wouldn’t help you, would it?”

Suddenly Valun was finding himself pushed out of his own chamber and out into the passage. When he had recovered from his shock, he realized where the sense in this action lay, and proceeded to go down through the castle until he reached the front gate.

In front of the gate, he met Richard, who, having been informed by a different messenger, had come for the same purpose.

“What can we say to these men? They are not aware of the true reason for their summons, are they?”

“And why would they not be? A good commander does not send half the population of his country to declare war on his neighbor without giving a valid reason at the drafting.”

“Yes, but what is my reason?”

“Do you mean to tell me that you have forgotten why you ordered me to send the draft order, by way of which several thousand men have just marched for a week across the country out of loyalty, and are now sitting outside your gate waiting for you to issue forth from it?” At this point, Richard began yelling so loudly that the front ranks of the soldiers in the courtyard could hear him without any effort on their part. “You mean to tell me that you’ve forgotten that your purpose is to save your father? It’s your duty to go through with this! As you’ve told me several times already! Especially now that the men that you ordered to leave their own lives and families for your sake have finally arrived! It’s too late for any second thoughts now! Or are you a coward?”

When Richard had finally stopped shouting, Valun wound up, punched him, and shouted in his turn “That is exactly what I needed! You have insulted me, and so I’ll prove to you and the entire world that I’m not!” Pushing open the doors, he shouted to the crowd “We march tomorrow!”

16 September 2011

Chapter XI

Chapter XI

On that same morning in the city of Gaimaron, the people were aroused by the shouts of the sentries on the walls. The soldier who had brought the warning on the previous day was roused out of his cot by shouts of “The enemy approaches! Man the towers!”

Jumping up and donning his armor, the messenger ran out of his quarters, grabbed a spear from a rack standing in the pathway, and mounted the steps to the top of the walls, in a space of five minutes. When he had reached his station on the wall, he looked out and saw that he had not been far off the mark in his estimation of the opposing numbers. The advancing force spread out for one mile in every direction, even without counting the endless trains of supply wagons following the soldiers.

The messenger turned to the sentry standing beside him and said “Could I convince you that an entire country is mobilized against us?”

The other man, who was staring hard at the advancing force, replied “Yes, you could.” in a small voice.

“Well then, have hope, because I do not believe the truth of that statement.”

The wall guards stood in silence for several minutes after that, watching the enemy’s methodical advance. But after ten minutes, the messenger started up and shouted “I must run to the king! I advised him to charge, but I grossly underestimated the force! He will kill himself!” Dropping the spear, he careened down the steps with all possible speed. Pushing his way through the growing crowd of soldiers, he dashed into the castle at top speed, found that it was completely empty, and then continued to run until he reached the front gate. There he saw the king and all of his cavalry, in full armor and advancing toward the gate. Hurrying to the front line, he shouted out “Stop, My Lord, and listen to me! I was mistaken! This is no advance guard! It is the main force! You will die after only a minute!”

“Now hear me!” Torlan thundered in reply “Are you prepared to swear that you saw no archers?


“Then I am resolved to go. But If I fall, continue to fight to the last man so that my line may continue to hold the throne.” Torlan paused for a moment, staring hard at the messenger. “Before I go to my death, though, I would know why a simple man-at-arms takes such a personal interest in his lord’s fate.”

“If you please, Sire, I am your younger brother.”

“Anybody who is bold enough may say that, but can you prove it to me?”

“Yes, I can. Here is the deed which I have carried with me since our father gave it to me when I left.” Reaching into his bag, the soldier extracted a piece of parchment which he had retied carefully after opening.

Torlan took the parchment, opened it, read the contents, and then shouted out for all to hear “It is true! He is the Prince Railon! And as such, he is the next heir to the throne, so long as he survives this battle! All must heed his commands!” Dropping his voice, Torlan added to Railon “You should have told me at an earlier time. I do not back away from my resolutions. I may rest easy now, knowing that so long as you live, there will still be a true king on the throne of the Gairbairns.”

“At the least, permit me to send some spearmen out alongside you, for you must admit that you don’t believe that all of those men walked the whole way.”

“If you can find twenty men willing to come within twenty minutes, I will wait, but you must hurry, for the time is ripe to strike their camp.”

At these words, Railon left the gateway with all speed. As he went, he met several armed men, each of whom he stopped to make his request. Every man heeded his words when they discovered that he was the prince and that they were supposed to protect the king. When Railon reached the wall, he passed the word along, and the required number of men immediately left for the gate. This done, Railon resumed his post in order to watch the ensuing battle, as he was not to risk his life on the ground until Torlan fell.

He did not wait long. Five minutes after he regained his post, the gates swung open wide and the cavalry of Gaimaron thundered across the drawbridge, flanked by the twenty suicidally brave and loyal spearmen. As the banner of their house was unfurled by the wind, Railon heard Torlan, sitting astride his armored charger, and who had yet to lower his visor, shouting “Gairbairns to the flag! Whosoever shall return alive, without having first charged deep, shall be a coward! Whosoever goes that far, and still returns alive, is worthy of the highest honor short of the throne! And now, let us prove what we are made of! Talimarion!” with this final cry, Torlan lowered his visor and set his steed to galloping the final two hundred yards.

The one hundred cavalrymen spread out behind the king, with a spearman running alongside between every five horses.

From the top of the wall, Railon could see that there were some stragglers in the farthest ranks of the enemy, but for the most part the huge force arrayed against them was lined up and ready for battle. Railon could now see what Torlan had meant; a few minutes earlier, the cavalry charge would have been a complete surprise, but the time he had been given to find spearmen had cost them that chance. Only seconds from the time when Torlan had shouted his battle cry, he collided with the front ranks of the vast Naibernese force sent against him.

Sweeping aside two footmen with two swings of his blade, he reared his horse up, and took a strike on the light armor he had ordered to be fit there. Coming down, he gave his horse some slack and charged forward, clearing a path with the iron horn fitted onto the horse’s mask. By this time, the rest of his small force had reached the battle. And there was chaos all the way along the front line.

Railon stood watching grimly as the battle unfolded. When Torlan reached the fifth rank of the opposing force, though, Railon could hold back no longer, and yelled aloud in a futile attempt to make his brother come back. But, as Torlan could not hear him over the clash of battle, he resumed his silence. Ten minutes later, the numbers of the enemy finally gained a firm hold on the overwhelming advantage which they should have had during the entire battle, and the horsemen, who had been well protected thus far by the flanking spearmen along with their own skill, began to fall.

At this Railon decided on the safety of the soldiers, regardless of what Torlan wanted. He turned, and staring down at the mass of people below, yelled out “Pass the word! Blow the gate-horns!”

Soon, he heard the astonishingly loud and deep sounds of the two horns placed near the gate, which were blown to announce the opening and closing of the main gates. Railon began to feel more hopeful at the sight that the sound of the horns had an immediate effect on those Gairbairns who were still alive, a group which included king Torlan. The remaining soldiers turned their horses and charged for the gateway, with a large group of enemies hot on their heels.

The remaining spearmen turned and began to backpedal toward the gates with all possible speed. The slow speed of their movement gave Torlan time to fight his way out and gallop toward the gates of the city. As if that had been the original plan, (though there had not been anything planned) the spearmen turned again and ran hard for the gates as soon as the king had passed by.

The last man squeezed through the gates with barely inches to spare before he would have been crushed between them. As soon as the gates were barred, the portcullis was dropped, an action which rendered the gates nearly invulnerable to ramming.

When the gates were shut, Railon immediately left the wall and ran to the gate to meet Torlan returning. On arrival, he grabbed the horse’s bridle and looked up at the king sitting astride it. “I am very relieved, brother, that you decided not to get yourself killed today, although there will be several other opportunities for that.” The king removed his helmet, shook his long hair out of his eyes, and replied “I may die, but I may not die in battle as I wish to. I have been badly injured.”

“Then why are you so calm! Anybody would be badly injured if they had been surrounded as you had! In fact, most anybody would have died! For your own sake, go find the healers, along with the rest of your force!”

By your request, I will do so. I was still able to hold up long enough to test you to find whether you really cared.” With that, Torlan trotted off through the street, smiling widely.

Railon stood at his position for several minutes before returning to the wall-top. When he reached his position on the wall, he saw that the band of enemy soldiers who had chased the cavalry back to the castle had stopped in front of the main gate, and were sitting in a circle around a patch of ground which held a tall stack of brush, which one man was busy trying to light.

“That can not succeed. Spears away at the gate!” Railon exclaimed, hefting his own weapon and sighting down its length. When he saw that the other sentries were ready, he let fly. Their aims were true, and all of the soldiers in front of the gate were cut down or injured.

Ready once more, Railon shouted “Clear the gates!” Immediately, the portcullis was raised and the gates swung open to allow the clearing crew to remove the debris and bodies to one side, and swiftly reenter the city, closing and locking the gates once more.

Confident that another attack on the city would take some time to organize, Railon left his post to discover how Torlan was faring. He soon found the king lying comfortably in the large building not far from the castle which was commonly called the Hospital. In reply to Railon’s question, Torlan replied loudly

“It is the truth I tell you when I say that the armor I had fitted for Longtrack saved both of our lives several times in that battle; although I am afraid he came off worse, having lost the end of his tail by way of an ill-timed swing from a sword. As for me, I am well enough to survive, but my armor sustained considerable damage. I consider myself lucky to have gotten out of that with nothing but aches and bruises.”

“That is entirely too true, brother, but what shall you do for your horse? Surely you must understand how important a tail is to a horse’s sense of honor?”

“Truly, I did not know that horses had a sense of honor, but if they do, then Longtrack’s is clearly evident.” After a short period of complete silence, Torlan concluded “But that is a small matter, for the other horses’ tails will serve him just as well, though it will look strange.”

A short time later, Railon left the hospital and returned to his post on the wall. Looking out at the opposing force, he saw that there was very little movement going on in the camp. Turning to a sentry standing next to him, he inquired why.

“Only one reason for it, Sir; they thought they would arrive at night and take us by surprise. Seeing as they couldn’t do that, they’ve been overwhelmed by heat that we are accustomed to.”

“That is good. Now we can watch in shifts so as to be alert when they try to attack tonight. Get some sleep.” Railon replied, stepping away from his post. “If I am wanted, I shall be in the castle.”

Going straight to the castle, Railon gave his true name to the gate-wardens and searched all over the castle until he discovered the bedchamber he had used before leaving on his adventures. Removing his armor, he stretched out on the bed and was soon asleep.

09 September 2011

Chapter X

Chapter X

Valun had stood waiting at the window for about ten minutes when he began to hear sounds of a scuffle approaching his chamber. He could hear the fugitive yelling, and then Richard answering.

“Unhand me! I’m equal to you!”

“I doubt that will hold up for long now; the king wants to see you, and he is very upset. You, man! Aren’t you the king’s special man, David?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Well open the door quickly before this excuse for an advisor gets out of my grip.”

At this request, David threw open the door with one hand; his other hand was wrapped in a tight grip around the left wrist of the foreign traveler, Sir John. Sir John was continuing his attempts to wriggle out of the judgment which he knew was coming. “I’m serious! Valun is going to complain about this treatment when I tell him!”

“If you have not realized this already, which is clear by your behavior,” Valun bellowed at the top of his lungs “Who do think it was who told him to bring you up to my chamber straightaway?”

Just noticing at that moment that the door was wide open and Valun was standing in clear view of the doorway, Sir John immediately dropped all pretenses and refused to say another word.

Staring down at the singularly unkempt individual spread out on his floor, Valun continued to shout “I want an answer! What kept you back so long?”

Not daring to look up at his irate sovereign, Sir John mumbled into the floor, which he had his face flat to.

“What did you say?! Has my what arrived?!”

“I said” Sir John repeated, lifting his head and shoulders from the floor “has your foreign Queen arrived here at the capital?”

“Let me explain, John. I never requested that you bring anything home from your journey, much less a person, even less a person already in line to rule their own country!”

“Unfortunately,” Sir John answered “She is already less than two days from here, so you’ll have to make the best of it.”

“And if anything that has been happening has to be altered because of this, you shall be thrown out! I can see what this is!” Valun continued “This is a plan by you to undermine me! You’ve stretched too far along this line! Showing your colors at last, you’re not my friend any more than you are a low-born peasant! Get this creature locked up tight somewhere, carefully watched!”

The scene fell silent as Sir Richard and David lifted John and dragged him out of the chamber. Valun, still wearing his battle armor, strode out to the landing, where he found the helmet in a sack where David had dropped it. The discovery was not very helpful, as he soon found that crouching in full armor was a particularly painful experience, and barely saved himself from an embarrassing crash.

David returned shortly afterwards and retrieved the helmet, taking it into Valun’s room as Valun followed. As David was setting the helmet down upon the desk, Valun asked “Well, is he locked up?”

“Yes, he is. We brought him to Sir Robert, and he assigned four men to watch him to ensure that he stays where he’s been put.”

“That is very helpful; now we can move forward with the original plan without wasting time worrying about anything he may get up to.” Valun replied, continuing “Get this armor off of me, I’m tiring.”

After David had removed the armor and it had been safely stowed in its cases once more, Valun stretched out on the bed and David took the opportunity to set himself down on the desk chair. Resting in silence for the next ten minutes, both eventually drifted off to sleep.

Much later, they were roused out of their dreams by loud knocking on the chamber door. At Valun’s order, David went to open it.

A man dressed in Guardsman’s livery stepped into the room and, after coming to attention, loudly exclaimed “I am ordered to announce the arrival of Her Highness the Princess of Gairbairia, accompanied by her slaves, and followed by the army of Berunthia!”

Valun stared at the herald for several seconds before asking “Where are they? Outside the gates?”

“Yes, my Lord, they are just outside the castle.”

“Then you must return to the gates to convey my welcome, and then escort the royalty up to this room.”

As the herald exited, Valun sighed and said “It is hard to tally and rectify to the best of your abilities everything that wayward minions may do behind your back, and it is possible to make the case even worse than it was. Keep that in mind if you ever hold power over anyone else. But now, we must prepare.” He added, causing David to leap out of the chair.

02 September 2011

Chapter IX

Chapter IX

Although he was still worried by the constant non-appearance of his “advisor”, Valun was capable of putting down his feelings when necessary to make unimpaired decisions. At the moment, however, there were no decisions to make, as everything had been arranged in the preceding days.

Valun’s attendant David entered the King’s room at that moment, hauling two large sacks. He crossed the room and set one down gingerly upon the desk and announced loudly “Kitchens have just finished with these, Sire! They should get us through safely!” Looking up, David noticed that Valun had not moved from where he was standing by the window. In a renewed attempt to obtain Valun’s attention, David opened his own sack, removed a small parcel, and brought it to the king, who was still standing at the window as if he were waiting for someone to appear on the other side of it and tell him the answer to his problems.

He opened the parcel David brought to him, and still staring out of the window with a rather blank expression on his face, bit into the contents. At once, he was back to reality. “What is this? He asked, his blank expression replaced by one of shock.

“My, you have been lost, haven’t you” David replied, laughing. “The cook’s special long-lasting, filling, traveling oat bars. There are nearly fifty of them in each sack. Of course, we don’t survive on them alone. These are only to save the bother of bringing the enormous amount of perishable foodstuffs that we would otherwise have to carry with us, cutting that total by half.”

Valun moved from the window considerably cheered by David’s talk, although he still maintained a serious expression on his face. “That is good, but what of the men who will be eating these provisions? How well is the call to arms received among the men?”

“If you really want to know, I suggest that you ask your head guardsman, as I am really not qualified to tell you that, considering that I don’t look at the military rolls that often, my Lord.” David answered, barely managing to keep a straight face.

“Right, that’s your task, then. Go find him and tell him he’s wanted urgently.” Valun shot back, grinning widely.

Soon, laughing loudly at their own lack of solemnity, the men separated. Valun returned to the window as David left the chamber to search out Sir Robert.

After only a few moments at the window, (enough to perceive that nothing was coming toward the city from outside the walls) Valun turned and began preparing more earnestly for the travel ahead. He first moved to a trunk which he kept all of his articles in, unlocked it, and removed from inside of it a large velvet sack closed with drawstrings. Setting it upon the desk, he removed the cumbersome crown from his head and placed it carefully in the sack, drawing the cords tightly closed. Having done this, he returned to the chest, but before carefully replacing the sack, he drew out from the chest his great broadsword, which he had not worn since his coronation. Buckling it onto his belt, he said “They say that two wrongs have never made a right, but, my strong companion, we will see what those who are left say after we have finished with our work righting the wrongs committed against us.” Having said this, Valun closed the trunk and locked it with a key which he kept by his side at all times. He then pushed the chest until it slid underneath his bed. This being done, he rose and rang the bell

Within two minutes, a new servant had dashed in, asked to know what was wanted, and just as quickly removed himself from the royal presence upon hearing that what was wanted was the king’s armor from out of the deepest treasury vault.

When this man had left, Valun sat down at his desk again, brushing stray hairs out of his face and only just noticing that he needed it shortened. Reaching up, he rang the bell once more, pronounced “Send the barber to my room.” to the attendant who had appeared, and leaned back in his chair again.

It was several minutes before the barber, a short little man of the sort who did not take kindly to listening to other people’s conversation, shuffled in carrying his things and said loudly “So, new king, is it? You’ll be the third Valun, then? Exactly. Valun the third the such-and-such, preceded by Valun the second, the Peacemaker, preceded by Regidon the bald, or what ever his name was.”

“That king’s was Regidare the bold, and I doubt that he was ever bald. Now get on with the job at hand, or I shall depose you from your hereditary barber-ship and place a goat in your position!” Valun snapped. This shut the barber up tightly, and a few minutes later, Valun was much more comfortable, though he had lost nothing more than two inches of hair.

A short time after the barber had left, there was a knock on the door. At Valun’s command, two stewards carrying large crates staggered into the room. Setting them down gingerly on Valun’s enormous bed, the men panted “Your armor, my lord. It was all packed separately to lessen any damage.”

“Very well,” Valun said “you are dismissed. I will unpack these things myself. I have but one question. Is this the war armor of the house of Valun the Great, or is this the armor worn by the despicable usurper Damrod?”

“We can not tell you truly, for only the king, or the man styling himself by that name, may unpack crates without labels, such as these”

“Then how do you know that you have brought me armor?”

“There is a seal carved upon it, but we know not who it means.” The steward replied, handing Valun a small mallet.

“That I will find out by myself. You must go now.”

At these words, the two stewards respectfully bowed themselves out of the room walking backwards and shut the chamber door. As soon as they had gone, Valun searched every inch of the crate for signs of a seal. After careful searching, he finally discovered the seal carved deep into the wood. The seal consisted of a falcon in flight, grasping a large broadsword which was dragging behind the bird, creating a furrow in the ground beneath it. Below this picture were two short phrases written in an old hand which Valun had learned as a boy. Translated, they read “Forward with speed of falcon, valiance of Valuns through ages.” Reading this script assured Valun that he had what he was looking for, so he promptly began rapping the wood until it cracked, then pried it open with a dagger that he kept on his desk as a letter-opener.

When he was done removing the wood, he found a worn velvet cover at the top. Pulling this off slowly, he revealed a pair of shining gauntlets resting upon another soft covering. Lifting the gauntlets from their place, he drew them onto his hands to test the fit. They fit as if they had been made for him. Leaving the gauntlets on his hands, he proceeded to open the second crate. Removing the second covering, he found the great war helm of the house of Valun. On the top of the helm there sat a falcon made of leather and cloth, which had been made well enough to convince anyone that it was real. The helm itself had a leather piece hanging from one side of it. Valun noticed immediately that the piece was meant to be attached to the other side when worn.

As he continued to uncover various pieces of his armor and fit them on, Valun began to question his own plans. He had only recently taken up the kingship, was not firmly established yet. His departure would allow another man a chance to set himself up on the throne. But no, that would not happen. Robert was on guard in the castle, and would be able to turn the guards against a domestic threat just as he could a foreign one.

Perhaps his father had already died in captivity. Perhaps he would be unable to find him and be forced to return, disgraced.

Suddenly, Valun, indignant at his own uncertainty and fear, drew his sword. Looking for a way to release his frustration with himself, He spun about and hurled the sword straight into the door of his room. As he stared at the blade, still quivering from the force of his throw, Valun shouted “It will not be! It can not be! He is there and I will find him, were all Brandia to stand in my way! It is my duty, and from his duty a good man never turns!”

At the moment that Valun reached this decision, there came another knock on his chamber door. This time it was David, bringing Sir Robert the Ram, captain of the guards, along with him. “It took me a while, but I finally found him in a tavern, debating over a tankard of ale.” David explained, laughing.

Ignoring this, Valun looked straight at Sir Robert and said “You do know how many men are enrolled in my forces, don’t you?”

Sir Robert answered slowly; jerking his head forward, he said “Oh, yes, that? Well, seventy-five thousand men ought to be a good number.”

“Are you telling me how many there are, or how many there should be?” Valun exclaimed sharply.

This brought Sir Robert all the way back to reality. “Well, seriously, that’s how many there should be. The capital alone is bringing at least a third of them, though probably more.”

“Have you sent the conscription order to Berunthia?”

“I’m afraid I have not.”

“What kind of a commander are you, then?! Do that straightaway! We will still have to give them another month to form up and arrive, now!” said Valun, who was beginning to shout.

“Wait a moment!” Sir Robert shouted back “Why aren’t you asking Richard? He is the General, isn’t he? He’s the one to go to for conscription rolls! What has he been doing while I’ve been losing sleep over defense of the city?!”

Pulling the bell-rope until Sir Robert quieted down, Valun conceded “You’re right. I have been doing it the wrong way all along. He should be the one telling me this information. No matter. Those rings ought to bring him down.”

The men then sat in silence until Sir Richard appeared in the doorway, asking “You rang for me, my lord?”

“Did you ever notify Berunthia of the call to arms?” Valun demanded sharply.

“Yes. Actually I sent the order about three weeks ago, so I trust that the troops from that city will be arriving within three days. I also sent a copy of the order to Carribeasa, asking that they prepare and then wait on your arrival or command.”

“Three weeks ago! Then they will be here in a matter of days! This changes everything!”

“You seem to be more excitable than a king is wont to appear. Do you take this seriously enough?”

“Wouldn’t you if your father had been held for the previous ten years by insolent braggarts, as mine has?” You need not doubt my solemnity in any case, as my own honor is at stake to go through with this.” Valun answered, noticing that Sir Robert had slipped out quietly while he was conferring with Richard. Calling to David, who had been standing by the door silently through the whole episode, Valun continued “So now is the time to make sure that my armor actually fits on me.”

Without saying a word, David strode over to the bed, grabbed the helmet, and jammed it on to Valun’s head. Stepping back, he commented “It does fit you well, but I don’t think that the piece of leather would do as much good as the last king seemed to believe. It wouldn’t stop anything, except your own breath.” Grabbing the knife off of the bed, he proceeded to slice off the leather piece which was dangling from one side of the helmet.

Before Valun, who had not removed the helmet, and so was quite uncomfortable, could do anything to stop David, Richard had spoken up. “He’s right, you know, it won’t save your life, so why not remove it? You’ll breathe easier.”

By this time, David had finished slicing the leather piece off, so Valun took off the helmet and gave it to David, saying “Take this down to the nearest blacksmith and tell him that I want a visor fitted on to it.”

Covering the helmet with a cloth out of the crates, David left.

Valun turned to Richard and said “Now explain why I have only a helmet and a pair of gauntlets. Surely the kings of Corridane weren’t that reckless?”

Pausing as if Valun had just reminded of something, Richard replied “I saw it down in the vaults when you sent me to supervise the Treasurer. The rest of the pieces must be in that large trunk.” Striding to the bell-rope, Richard pulled it and said to the two stewards who came in “Tell the Chamberlain to take you down to the deepest vault, and bring up the large trunk with the seal carved upon it.”

The servants left immediately, returning several minutes later carrying a large trunk with two locks on it. Setting the trunk down, they handed Valun two keys and exited the room.

Kneeling down, Valun unlocked the trunk. The first thing he saw under the covering on the top was a brightly burnished breastplate. Under this were the rest of the pieces of armor.

When all of the pieces were out, Valun and Richard arranged them on the bed, setting them out in the order that they would be put on. Once this was done, the men began to put them on Valun. When they had strapped on all pieces excepting the helmet, which had not yet returned, Valun commented “I don’t think I can move in this outfit. This is harder than I expected.”

“Then you should probably wear the things for some time, because if you can’t move in the middle of a battle, they’ll have you dead in five minutes.” Richard replied.

Instead of replying, Valun strode stiffly to the window and looked out once more. Then he exclaimed “There he is! John has finally returned! Meet him at the gate and bring him up here immediately! He has some explaining to do!”