The festivities were coming to a close as night began to fall on the great city. While the partying in the castle was concluding, the night life of the town had just begun. Much noise could be heard as the taverns filled with men and women looking to enjoy yet another night of pleasure of the most indecent variety. Courtesans walked the streets, but remained indistinguishable from the commoner except by their clients. As many in the great city, pride filled their craft as they remained prestigious offering their services only to those holding the most wealth and social prowess.
Oh, how I hope that Miranda is not out again tonight. It may be that her antics from last night will have diminished her wishes to return to the entertainment of the town. However, her youthful passion does so often get the better of her that I fear she may soon be resigned to a fate that should not be at all her own.
A nudge in my side returned me to the business at hand. “Aye, the lasses shall be especially fine tonight. Nothing warms the heart more after a hot meal than liquor and ladies.” Such a statement could only come from Sir Yoyde and it most certainly did.
Some other knights around the table continued the conversation. “Would it not be of greater pleasure to but first enjoy the maidens and then rum thereafter, for if your mind be full of froth how can love add any fullness.”
“Aye, but the key is balance” chimed another. “Both should be enjoyed of the same amount in order to attain the best drink to maiden ratio.”
“But how better to discover such a ratio than through continuous practise. Trial and error, friends.” Sir Yoyde had the table roaring with laughter with his concluding statement.
“Error indeed.” I mumbled under my breath as I took a final mouthful of wine from the cup in front of me.
“Mert, you old drip! Can you not enjoy life! Why so drear!”
“I would not say that my life in drear: rather sensible.”
“Pay him no mind, my dear fellows. He is but a boy inside waiting for spring. Once manhood introduces itself he will understand with the rest of us the joy of the drink and the pleasure of a strumpet.” Sir Yoyde chided.
I saw the futility of argument and thus excused myself for the evening to retire. Returning to my quarters I found the light low. Getting into my nightly attire I lay in my bed. If only gentlemen would be greater and bastards few. There must be more than wine and women to the people of this city. Sir Reuben’s continual return should signify that something of grave importance is at hand, and yet no word of it has been heard. Why should these political dealings remain so secretive? I am by all measures the lowest in rank of those who should be told, yet none seem to know of the dealings that Lady Calwen and Sir Reuben so oft discuss. Curiosity would have gotten the better of me, but I am an honest man and trust the queen and her associates. I am sure that the proper people know and those who need to will be told in time.
When morning arrived I took up my daily routine of checking in with mother in the kitchen who had more than a word to say about the festivities of the night before. “I pray that it be more than a fortnight before that Sir Reuben returns to disturb us. Does he not have his own business to take care of in Dete Plych!”
“Certainly, ma, there is good reason for his hasty return to us here. As a member of the counsel of Glanderxe it is his business to travel to the capital whence he likes if such intrusions are of a political matter.”
“Intrusions indeed! I do not sweat for days on end for an intruder! They come and go as quickly as they can be chased out. If intrusions they be, I shall no longer treat him as an honoured guest but let him come and go as he pleases, letting the guards chase him out as a mouse on the head of a broom!”
The head matron of the kitchen caught wind of the conversation that I was engaged in and directed a sharp reply to my dearest mother, who although correct was oft too outspoken for her own good. “Cool your tongue! It is not your place to talk of one of the counsel so. It is an honour to have Sir Reuben Duke of Dete Plych oft as our guest.”
Mrs. Whatley gave no reply. She could not rightly agree with her matron thus any words she could have uttered would have simply made things worse. Instead, she turned to the work in front of her while I shared a closing remark with her. “That tongue of yours will get you into great trouble some day. I am not saying that I disagree, but just be careful. We have been fortunate to be noticed by Her Majesty and do not want to stretch our welcome by getting on about politics.” She said nothing to this but the rate at which she worked indicated her annoyance with the whole situation. I left her to her duties making my way to the courtyard overlooking the city below. Urban life remains unchanged day after day. I miss the days when Mr. Haig’s cattle would get loose and the whole village got involved in herding them back to their rightful place, or the nights when the men of the village chased off the wild coyotes. Every day seemed to have a different adventure of its own. Here each day proceeds just as the last. There is something to be said about the comfort of the city, for there is no need to worry about the “little” things of rural life like getting food on the table or saving the crop from the flooding of the river, but where is the sense of purpose or meaning in life amidst such monotony.
I was so deep in thought that I failed to notice two of the castle guard had entered the scene. “Sir Mert! The queen has requested that all of the knights of Glanderxe meet her in the throne room at once.” One of the guards addressed him with some annoyance in his voice. It had now become clear that he had been addressed multiple times but had not responded for lack of conscious knowledge of their presence.
“My apologies. Certainly, I will satisfy the wishes of Lady Calwen.” I accompanied the guards through the winding halls of the castle until I reached the throne room. Stopping, they motioned for me to enter. Such a great party of knights was present that I must have been the last to arrive or nearly such. As the final few stragglers gathered we all awaited the meaning of such a great company to gather together in haste. Lady Calwen, Queen of Glanderxe was seated on her throne accompanied by Sir Reuben on her right and Sir Kherine on her left.
The doors to the room were promptly shut and the room became very still: naught could be heard but the glad tidings of birds outside in the cool of the morning. Such silence was broken by the sweet voice of Lady Calwen. “Loyal knights of Glanderxe! I am pleased that you have all gathered so quickly per my request. I am certain that the frequency of meetings between Duke Reuben and myself has not gone unnoticed by anyone of you. Until now secrecy has been of utmost importance, but it has been decided that the knights of my grand city should be informed as to minimize suspicion. Not only has Glanderxe and Dete Plych been in frequent contact but members of all of the cities of this grand region have been collaborating for this one purpose. It is my privilege to present Duke Reuben to this congregation for the explanation of such meetings.” Motioning to her right, Sir Reuben rose and greeted us.
“Welcome to all. I am privileged to have played such a prominent role thus far in the dealings of Glanderxe region on behalf of Her Majesty. Times are changing and politics is the engine behind change. Glanderxe is not the only province in the land. The swamps and deserts of Coaniarim border us to the south, the icy peaks of Keltone to the north and the lush land of Kho Arian across the river to the west. Age upon age has passed since men have braved the bitter cold of the north or the heat of the south. What treasures lie in these lands of inhabitable waste have yet to be seen. The West river and the land beyond has long been closed to the feet of men. However, today is a new day! No longer will men fear the parched earth of the desert or the frozen lakes of the north, nor will we ignore the land of the Pharosh across the River West. Men will no longer be caught in the middle but expand to the outskirts of the land where untold treasures shall be found. It is such that politics will allow. The Pharosh guard their borders well fearing the men of the Glanderxe region. Today is the start of a change greater than any one of us. It is up to the loyal knights of Glanderxe to carry out this change. Sir Kherine has been employed with the task of leading you all, thus the following decision has been left up to him. A message must be sent to the Pharosh of Kho Arian. The importance of this message cannot be left to a simple messenger thus one of you has been chosen to carry it to the Pharosh. This mission is dangerous and should not be taken lightly. Everyone will get their chance to act but the first phase starts now. I now call on Sir Kherine to announce his choice.”
The Captain stood and we all waited for what he had to say. “A difficult decision was mine. Who should carry this message to the Pharosh. Who shall brave the great River West! Who shall be sent into the camp of our enemy!” After a short pause, Sir Kherine continued. “Sir Mert Whatley of Glanderxe.” Shock was felt through the congregation by all, including myself. I stepped forward. “You are charged to deliver this message to Kho Arian. May all my knights gather in respect of the wishes of Her Majesty.” Everyone gathered around me as Sir Kherine continued. “May your steed be swift and your arm be true. The hearts of your brothers are with you.”
A chorus of voices rang out around me. “The hearts of your brothers are with you.”
“Now, with the blessing of Lady Calwen, queen of Glanderxe, go forth. Make a name for Glanderxe where no name is known.”
Sir Kherine handed a note to me sealed with the seal of Glanderxe. Holding it in my hand I raised it high and shouted, “For Glanderxe and for Calwen!”
The company around me roared their approval. “For Glanderxe and for Calwen!”