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Jonathan Lesdain sat on a thickly cushioned chair of red velvet, his hands stretched out in front of the roaring flames of the Lord’s Hearth. The small study chamber of Rothian Domain was of King Andrew himself. The quaint square room of warmth was inlaid with thick rugs, and an astounding picture hung on every wall. Another chair identical to the one he sat in now sat across from him, with a table in between. Jonathan was still unaware of the intentions of this meeting, but an ideal proposal had run through his mind a countless number of times; a true Rider Knighting. The grandest procession for a knight. One which promoted him to the highest rank of honor.
Jonathan’s appearance took an eerie presence, as the flickering flames cast their haunting shadows across his complacent features. With eyes of blue glass, and hair darker than the deepest depths of hell, he certainly would not look welcoming to a stranger whom had never met him before. But the king knew him well, for Sir Lesdain had been a knight of the Courts of Mondea and Carron for seventeen years. For being of the age, thirty-four, that meant half of his life.
Jonathan stood up as the heavy oak door opened.
“My lord…” Jonathan fell silent when he saw that it was not the king, but simply a maid bringing him a warm cup of Mondian tea. A woman of shimmering blonde hair, and loving brown eyes, much younger than he, and quite attractive.
“I’m sorry to interrupt you silence,” she said with a faint smile about her lips.
“Think nothing of it.”
She returned his smile and bowed.
“Lord Andrew has told me to deliver this message to you,” she said, holding out a small envelope. “That is all.”
“Thank you,” he said.
She bowed again, and then left the room. Jonathan sat back down and took a sip of his tea. He loved this tea more than any other drink. He took from his belt his knife, and opened the letter. Jonathan shook out a very mall piece of parchment. On it was handwriting that made out to look like it had been quickly placed. And it read,
Dear Jonathan, I have never had the pleasure of meeting you, but I know that Iwould like to. I am asking you to please join me at a banquet in the upcoming month. There, I hope we may become friends. I have quite the proposition for you. One which most would not turn down. It involves fighting; lots of it. I cannot tell you much more in case this letter is intercepted and fallen into the wrong hands. But I can tell you this. You can find me in Verdamar. When you arrive ask for Fallyance.
Jonathan didn’t know what to make of the letter. Could this be a trap? Maybe so.
“What better things do I have to do around here?” Jonathan asked himself. “I s’pose I could use a small trip out of Carron.”
He was about to stand up, however, the door opened again and he fell back into the chair with a sigh.
“Am I interrupting anything?”
Jonathan turned the chair to face the door and saw that it was Dimitry Dulm. He was a man of the Counsel. His face was wrinkled with age, yet still took on a very wise appearance. The top of his head was bald, but from the back came shimmering black hair that rested on his shoulders. His eyes matched his hair, and from his chin sprouted a thick gotee with gray finding its way into the tips of it.
“No, nothing at all. Why have you come to this upper part of the Domain?” Jonathan asked.
“Well Sir Lesdain, as you know I’m quite interested in the seven scrolls of life; and there are a few rare books in here that actually mention their existence. I hope to maybe solve the intricate mystery behind their extraordinary legend,” Counselor Dulm replied.
“Fascinating. Do you know if their existence is substantive?” Jonathan asked, intriguingly.
Dimitry made somewhat of a laugh.
“I know just enough to apprehend that their existence is indefinite,” he replied.
Jonathan nodded and decided it best to hinder his questions.
“So how are you, young Jonathan?”
“I truly cannot say, Counselor,” said Jonathan, for he really did not know.
Dimitry laughed heartedly.
“I have found myself feeling the exact same way.”
Jonathan sighed with relief; he wasn’t prepared to explain.
“May you elucidate as to why you feel as you do, Sir Lesdain?”
And out came another sigh; this one was of anguish.
“It’s funny how the patterns of a man’s breathing can tell you just the way he feels,” Dimitry said.
Jonathan forced a smile-although as weak as it was, he was sure that it disguised nothing. Dimitry turned to the west wall, which was one entire bookcase, and began to finger through the labels of the books.
“Jonathan, you’re a man of many words, I’ll give you that. And here we are,” he said as he pulled out a thick book; its brown cover enshrouded with dust. “With this, I will now take my leave, Sir Jonathan Lesdain. May this day go well for you, and may you find out what troubles you so you can correct it.”
He bowed, and walked out of the study. Jonathan placed his elbow on the chair’s armrest and fixed his chin into his palm. What should I do? Life is pretty dull here, and fighting would be nice for a change rather than just training on how to do it. But what If I didn’t like it? Could I resign by simply asking it? Maybe. Or maybe I would be fighting until a sword pierced my heart. ‘What to do’ has become a popular question for myself, and I haven’t liked the paths I’ve chosen because o thought I’d be comfortable with them.
“So I will go to Verdamar!” Jonathan nearly shouted it.
He finished his tea and left the study chambers. Out in the halls he could hardly see. They were dimly lit, and he had been sitting in front of a blinding fire all morning. The halls resembled the study in many ways; the floors were covered in rugs, and paintings could be found in many places. The walls were painted light colors to brighten the halls, to eliminate the dark dreariness common in most.
Jonathan hummed a tune as he made his way through the intricate Rothian Domain. He walked down the staircase he had been looking for. At the bottom, he faced two large doors, with an armored guard on either side, each holding a spear. In front of the doors stood a man in a pure white robe.
“Is King Andrew here?” Jonathan asked the man.
“He is,” the man in the robe, replied.
“May I speak to him?”
“If wish to, I will have to ask of you to remove your weapons.”
Jonathan unfastened the sheath at his waist and handed Scillion, his sword, to the man. The man took it, and opened one of the doors.
“Enter,” he said as he motion his hand inward.
Jonathan bowed his head, and walked through the narrow gap of the open door. Inside the King’s Hall hung banners bearing the moon and six stars; the symbol of Mondea. Great circular columns supported the high arched ceiling, and at the end of the hall was a small set of stairs leading onto a platform, where the throne sat, and on it, its king.
“Sir Jonathan,” King Andrew said with some surprise hinting in his voice. “What may I ask brings you here?”
“My Lord,” Jonathan cleared his throat. How to put this? “I wish to ask permission to be excused from the military for a short while.”
“And why ask this, Sir Lesdain?”
“Reasons I am not permitted to say,” Jonathan replied.
“Bold of you to say to the king. But I won’t push you further to tell me. My answer to your question is yes. You may go, but I must know how long you will be gone.”
“One cannot say, for I am still unsure,” Jonathan replied.
“If you cannot return within four months, send out a messenger. And then, for every four months following, send out another messenger. I am very cautious about you Jonathan. You are very important to the King’s Service,” King Andrew said as he scrunched his eyebrows-bringing a more serious presence to him.
“I realize that my Lord, and I will do as you ask.”
“Now you may take your leave; I have a very important meeting with Counselor Dulm,” King Andrew said.
“Thank you, my King.”
Jonathan turned and walked out of the King’s Hall. He reached for the large brass handle of the tall door, but it opened for him, with the man in the white cloak standing behind it.
“Your sword, sir,” he said in a crisp feminine-like voice, holding out Scillion to him.
Jonathan bowed to him, and was bowed to in return. He reattached the sheath onto his belt and walked away; back in the direction he had come from a short while earlier. Best be getting ready if I want to leave bright and early in the morning. I need to buy some new armor I f I’m going to be fighting. My grandfather’s out-dated suit doesn’t accommodate me anymore.
Jonathan rounded a corner and ran straight into Counselor Dolm.
“Ah, Jonathan. Long time no see,” he said with a chuckle as he shook his hand. “Where did you just come from?”
“The King’s Hall,” Jonathan replied. “Speaking of which, King Andrew says that you and him have an arranged meeting.”
“Did he now? Well, that’s where I was headed in the first place. Nice bumping into you, Sir Lesdain.”
“And you too,” Jonathan replied.
And then as if it never happened, Jonathan continued down the hall until he came upon a tall staircase. Up it he went and to the Domain’s dormitories. Jonathan arrived at his small wooden door and went inside. He grabbed his coin purse and walked back out.
Weaving his way through dozens of halls and stairs, Jonathan made it to the main gate. He walked out into the bustling streets of Carron; the largest city in the land of Lanoth. Carts of merchandise were being wheeled around left and right with their owners yelling out what they had for sale. Food, jewelry and clothes were all being shouted out. Noblemen were riding horses and carriages. Music and laughter and fights between drunkards could be heard coming out of the inns as Jonathan passed them by. There was a blacksmith he had been going to since he had joined the forces of Mondea and he knew he could get a fine price on armor from there.
He found the small building and walked inside. The sound of a hammer pounding steel immediately filled Jonathan’s ear. A large, sweat-covered man with frizzy black hair and a gruff beard worked fixedly over what looked to be a breastplate. Jonathan waited for a pause in the hammering. When he found one, Jonathan approached him. The man looked up.
“Sir Lesdain, what can I do for you?” He asked, completely out of breath.
“I need some top of the line armor, Sarahues,” Jonathan said.
“Alright, I have some nice pieces throughout the place. Not a full suite of armor though.
“I didn’t expect you to have one. But if you can have at least most of a full suite by the end of the night, I can pay you right away,” Jonathan said.
“What’s the big rush?”
“I’m leaving in the morning to go to Verdamar. I’m leaving there to go do a lot of fighting, so I’ve been told. That’s why I need a suite of armor in the first place.”
“I see,” Sarahues said as he stroked his beard. “I’ll see how much I can get done today. I’m not promising the full suite, but as much as I can. And you better be good to your word, because some money would be nice.”
“Thanks a lot,” he said.
Jonathan threw him his coin purse, which summed up to contain quite a lot.
“Try your best to get me that suite,” Jonathan added when Sarahues felt the weight of it.
Sarahues’ smile widened and Jonathan nodded.
“I take my leave,” Jonathan said, and he walked back out into the crowd.
Now to find some business clothes so I can look my best for whomever I’m going to go get a job from. I’m getting a job from a stranger. Could I be any more of a fool?
Jonathan walked around for an hour before finding a good tailor with decent materials. A man with a thick handle bar mustache and small spectacles came running up to Jonathan when he entered.
“What do ya need today, good sir?” He asked.
“Something nice,” Jonathan said, as he looked inward for more. “Something…fancy.”
“Okay,” the man said as he nodded.
“Something suitable for wearing while looking for a nice job,” Jonathan added.
“Hmm. Well, I have about fifty things I can sell to you that match your vague descriptions, but don’t worry, most people don’t know what they’re really looking for. I’ll just show you what I have that’s along the line of fancy.”
Jonathan nodded unsure of what to expect.
“First there’s this,” the man said, holding up a hanger that contained a lot of clothes.
“Is that all one suit?” Jonathan asked, pointing to the hanger.
“It’s a lot, I know. But once in it, you look a lot more decent than if you were in mere peasant clothes.”
“Fifteen silver pieces.”
That’s a pretty fair price. And since I know nothing of clothes such as these, I’d rather not stay very long.
“I’ll take it!” Jonathan said pulling out a handful of silver coins from his pocket.
The man smiled and handed him the hanger of clothes as he counted the coins Jonathan had given him.
“Thank you very much, good sir,” the man said. “Have a good day.”
Jonathan took his clothes back to the Domain. He went back to his room and stayed there for a while to have supper.
* * *
It was getting late and Jonathan decided to go to see how Sarahues was doing on his suite of armor. The streets were a lot less crowded at this time of day. Most were at home enjoying their suppers right now. As Jonathan neared the blacksmith, the sound of a chisel could be heard. He walked inside to see Sarahues in nearly the exact same spot he was when he came earlier that day.
“Sarahues!” Jonathan called.
The chiseling stopped and Sarahues turned around.
“Jonathan! How goes it?” Sarahues asked.
“Good. How is the armor coming?”
“A lot faster than I thought I could get it done.”
“So you’re done?” Jonathan asked.
“Where is it?”
He pointed into the corner where a full suite of polished black armor sat. Jonathan’s heart started pounding with excitement at how dangerous the armor looked. There were even gauntlets-black as a moonless night.
“Wow! Thanks a lot!” Jonathan said.
“On a personal note, that is by far the finest armor I have been able to create.”
“Well, I appreciate this a lot, Sarahues.”
Jonathan put the armor on over his clothes to make it back to the Domain without having trouble carrying anything. The streets were completely empty, aside from the occasional drunk trying to find a tavern that served drinks at the cost of pocket lint.
Back in the Domain and in his room, he packed everything and crawled wearily into his small bed.
* * *
Jonathan was up with the sun that morning, with his black mare waiting for him in the Domain’s stables.
“Hey there, Fiasca,” he said as he stroked the neck of his horse.
A Mondean mare was the strongest and fastest in Lanoth. Jonathan climbed up into the saddle and patted the horse on his head.
“Hey!” He yelled as he kicked the horse into motion. It ran out of the stable and down the dirt road leading away from the Rothian Domain, around the city. On either side of Laven Road between Carron and Verdamar was nothing but rolling hills of green grass. The half day trip had no stops in between; just a straight ride to city.
There was a large tournament going on in Verdamar, and Jonathan was looking forward of being able to see some archery, jousting and close up combat. Jonathan stretched out his arms, and let the breeze cool his face. This trip has been needed ever since I joined the forces of Mondea.
Jonathan sighed. The tranquility of the lush green was
quite refreshing from the packed streets. Although one thing stuck out. A bird that had been flying overhead for sometime. Jonathan examined it closely. It looked to be a raven, but he couldn’t tell. Suddenly Jonathan welled up in fear. A red slash lie on the breast of the bird; it was the markings of Tarahide.
It was a creature rarely seen this far north. A very dangerous morph. Being able to take on any form. Jonathan kicked his horse into a full-fledged gallop to outrun the creature. Suddenly a flash blinded his eyes. A tiger ran alongside his horse now. Jonathan pulled out his sword and slashed at what he could. He managed a slight cut across its face.
Arrows whizzed by Jonathan’s head, filling his ears with a shrill whistling. He turned back to see an elf archer on a horse galloping after him; no cut at all to be seen on his face. Jonathan slowed his horse to let him pull up beside him. Once the Tarahide was next to him, Jonathan took a swing at his neck. Jonathan’s face was dampened in blood as Scillion nearly left it so his head was hanging by a flab of skin.
This time Jonathan’s horse reared and threw him off. Jonathan calmed it and kept him close. Jonathan with his blood soaked blade stood waiting. Suddenly he began sinking. He looked down. The ground was swallowing him up! He drove his sword hard into the earth. And then a final flash, leaving Jonathan half blind.
Jonathan shaking sheathed his blade and unsteadily climbed back on to Fiasca and kicked him back into motion. In the distance, smoke rose from the chimneys in Verdamar. Jonathan set his horse to a gallop, not wanting to linger here any longer than he had to. The main gates opened as Jonathan approached.
The buildings of Verdamar were mostly wooden structures rather than stone such as Carron’s were. Verdamar was a tenth the size of Carron too. The streets didn’t hold much aside from a few people here and there. Most of them wore shirts with the banners of competitors attending the Tournament. That would be tomorrow Jonathan decided. I wonder where everybody is. I know Verdamar isn’t massive, but there certainly should be more people than this.
As if the city read his mind, a loud roar went up from a circular stadium near the center of the city. After that attack, it had seemed to have been hours of fighting the monster, but Jonathan realized it was still just noon. Jonathan decided he would go take a quick peek at the Tournament. Jonathan wondered around the streets, taking random turns and hoping they would get him to the stadium for half an hour. Until he finally turned the corner to see the giant arena. He walked up to the entrance where there were ten armed men with swords and spears.
Jonathan made as to walk by them straight in, but was stopped.
“You there,” said a guard with the symbol of the coyote painted on his white breast of his armor. “It costs two silver pieces to gain entrance to the stadium.”
“Oh,” said Jonathan as he dug around his pockets. “I don’t believe I have any money on me.”
“Than I cannot permit you access beyond this point,” the guard replied.
With nothing else to do, Jonathan took his horse and walked away. It’s probably best I didn’t do that today anyway. I need to find a place for Fiasca, and a place for me. And most importantly, I need to find the man who sent me the letter.
Jonathan walked inside the first decent inn he saw.
“How much is it for a room?” Jonathan asked the plump and balding innkeeper, who happened to be dusting off a table.
Besides him, the inn was empty.
“It costs five silver pieces a night. Seven silver pieces ‘ill give ya a room and free breakfast, lunch and dinner the following day,” the innkeeper added.
Jonathan nodded and then walked back outside to his horse and reached into the saddlebags. He pulled out a very fat coin purse and brought out three gold pieces and four silver pieces.
“This should be enough for three nights and days with food and a room, right?” Jonathan asked, handing the money to the innkeeper.
The innkeeper counted it up and then nodded.
“I am Olaf, the innkeeper here at the Cloven Hoof Inn. You are welcome anytime.”
“Thank you,” Jonathan replied.
Jonathan grabbed his things from his horse and set them at the door. Olaf whistled, and in ran a smaller man who grabbed the bags and took off up the stairs that sat against the far left wall.
“Now, can you tell me where I can find a stable for my horse?” Jonathan asked.
“Well, for another two extra silver pieces, we can put your horse in our stables.”
Jonathan grabbed a gold piece and tossed it to him. Olaf let out another shrill whistle.
“Baone, take this man’s horse to our stables.”
Olaf turned back to Jonathan.
“And I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.”
“Sir Jonathan Lesdain of the forces of Mondea and Carron,” he said as he shook Olaf’s hand.
“A knight of Carron? It is truly an honor to have your presence among us,” Olaf said as he shook his hand even harder.
“Now, have you had anything to eat yet?” Olaf asked.
Jonathan shook his head.
“We need to fix that, do we not?”
Jonathan nodded. Olaf ran off into the back where the kitchen was. Olaf’s voice good faintly be heard, giving off orders and instructions. Within five minutes, two trays of food were being brought out and laid onto a table. Olaf came back out and ushered him into a seat.
“Olaf, all of this food is not necessary,” Jonathan said.
“Nonsense. Now eat. You’re the first knight to visit my inn in ten years, and I mean to show you how we treat those who have volunteered to protect our land!”
Jonathan shrugged, and then grabbed for a chicken leg. And then a grabbed a spoonful of peas, and then reached for an apple. Olaf stood there observantly, a wide grin on his face. Jonathan looked around the common room uncomfortably.
“No offense or anything, Olaf, but can you…um…leave? It’s kind of awkward with you watching my every given move.”
Olaf suddenly snapped back into reality, trying hard to forget he had an actual knight in his inn.
“I’m sorry, I’ll just get back to my cleaning for the tables,” Olaf replied. “Enjoy your meal, and just tell me when you’re ready to be shown to your room.”
“Thank you, I will.”
Jonathan managed to finish most of the food and wine brought out to him. When he was finished, he thought it would be a good idea if he went to find the man that had sent him the letter.
He pulled the letter out from his coat. So I need to ask for Fallyance. I wonder where I should do that. Maybe Olaf would know.
“Olaf?” Jonathan called.
Olaf looked up with a smile.
“Do you by chance know a Fallyance?”
“Of course I know a Fallyance. He’s Vice Chancellor to Chancellor Dominic-ruler of Verdamar.”
“Do you know how could get a hold of him?”
“Go to his quarters in the House of Chancellors’. It’s one road south of the coliseum.”
“Oh. Thank you Olaf. You’ve been a big help!”
Olaf’s smile, if possible got wider. If he kept this up soon enough his face would be gone. Jonathan walked out of Cloven Hoof Inn. Another loud cheer went up from the coliseum. Jonathan made way for that direction. Jonathan took notice that Verdamar had quite a few blacksmiths, all of which were pounding away at damaged armor. Jonathan figured it was armor of those competing.
Jonathan followed Olaf’s directions, turning south on the road from the coliseum. The guard that had told the fee to get in eyed him closely as he passed. The House of Chancellors’ wasn’t too far down from the coliseum. A wooden sign hanging above the door told Jonathan that it was the right building.
Jonathan opened the wooden door and walked in. A man sitting at a desk near the entrance was jotting something down on a piece of parchment.
“Excuse me,” Jonathan said, getting the man’s attention.
“Yes?” The man asked, peering at Jonathan through his spectacles.
“Can you tell me where I may find Vice Chancellor Fallyance’s quarters?”
“Down that hall and to the left, you’ll see a door with his name on it.”
Jonathan walked down the hall. Blast! I forgot to wear my nice clothes! Oh well, that is not so important. He came to the door he had been directed to. He knocked a couple of times and waited. Nobody came to the door.
“If you’re looking for Vice Chancellor Fallyance, he’s not there.”
Jonathan turned around to see a man with shoulder-length fiery red hair, and blue eyes such as his own. He stood a head taller than Jonathan, and looked to be very young.
“My name is Sir Eric Sallaman of Goldenhan and Cloreshank,” he said as he reached out his hand to shake Jonathan’s. “And you?”
“Sir Jonathan Lesdain of the forces of Mondea and Carron.”
“From the land of the elves, eh?” Jonathan asked.
“What brings you to Mondea? Or Verdamar for that reason?”
“The Tournament of course,” Eric replied.
“You’ve come to watch?”
“No. I’m here to attend.”
“In what field?”
“Archery,” Eric replied.
“How are you doing so far?”
“My first competition is tomorrow afternoon.”
“Well, I’m going to be at the tournament all day. I’ll get to watch you that means. But I didn’t know that the Tournament was so popular,” Jonathan remarked.
“Oh yes. Even some trolls from Dylok have been in the jousting. An ugly sight for the man facing him. In fact just yesterday, a man was blown completely out of the coliseum by one of their blows.”
Jonathan raised his eyebrows and Eric laughed.
“I believe you,” Jonathan said. “Well, since Vice Chancellor Fallyance isn’t around, I’d best be getting back to the inn I’m at.”
“Which inn is that?”
Jonathan had to think a minute before remembering.
“The Cloven Hoof Inn,” Jonathan replied.
“I believe I know where that is. I’m not too far away from it. Maybe I’ll stop by tomorrow before my rounds are up. I can get you in for free.”
“How?” Jonathan asked.
“Well if you’re interested, I’ll tell you tomorrow when I stop by.”
“Alright. Good Bye.”
Sir Eric nodded.
Jonathan walked out and back to the inn. Dusk began to dawn on Mondea, and eerie silence followed. Jonathan looked around. Not a single person aside from guards walked about. A sudden pounding had Jonathan turn around. A dozen soldiers of Verdamar bearing spears and the Coyote walked toward Jonathan. He walked over to them.
“Halt,” Jonathan commanded.
One of the men walked forward.
“Who are you to tell my regiment what to do?” The man asked from within his faceplate.
“A knight,” Jonathan replied, displaying the bracelet of Carron’s forces.
The man straightened up.
“I’m terribly sorry, sir knight,” the man said, shakiness edging his voice.
“It’s been overlooked, now can you answer my question as to why your regiment is in full suit and parading around town?”
“Well haven’t you heard of the attacks of recent?” One of the men asked, but was soon silenced by the captain.
“For the past three nights, a Hall of Tarahides has been bashing itself against this town.”
“A hall?” Jonathan asked.
“The term used for addressing a large some of Tarahides.”
“I see. Do you have any idea as to what their motivation to doing this is?”
The captain shook his head.
“None. I’m sure there isn’t either. We took their land six hundred years ago. Seeing how they rebel today, I know they finally took it to their hearts to attack. This is my own personally opinion.”
“Do you need extra men?” Jonathan asked.
“We may. We’re preparing for another attack tonight. We have estimated their Hall remains of one hundred and twenty men.”
“Seems an easy task to send them to a halt,” Jonathan remarked.
“If it were goblins of elves, maybe. But these creatures are quite different. Last night we were attack by a full force of forest trolls. And the night prior to that, it was mountain golems.”
“I can see where you’re going. What do you have planned to hold them up with tonight?”
“We have three ballista cannons. Hopefully that’ll really put a dent in their Hall.”
Jonathan nodded again.
“I’m going to go get suited up. Where can I go to help?”
“To the main gate.”
“Thanks. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Be on your toes.”
Jonathan turned and walked down the road. Inside the inn was very dim; Olaf was leaning against the far back corner wall. He stood up straight however when Jonathan walked in.
“Jonathan, I was getting worried,” he said as if he were his own mother.
Jonathan looked at him curiously.
“Because of the attacks?” Jonathan asked.
“Then worry not, Olaf, because I am fine. Now where are my quarters?”
“Up the stairs, down the hall, up those stairs and third door on the left.”
Jonathan followed the directions and found himself in a plain small cube room. Nothing but a cot in the corner, a bookshelf in the other and a dresser right next to it, with a window on the back wall. Jonathan found his things right next the door. He suited up his armor and charged back down the stairs.
Olaf stared at him. Jonathan smiled.