- 1 18th July
- 2 21st July
- 3 22nd July
- 4 24th July
- 5 29th July
- 6 31st July
Bennet surveyed his men as they marched. The lock-step was decent. Though the grounds were foreign.
He was comfortable at sea, but he would be lying if he said his boots did not feel firmer on the ground. Even here. There was something about the West - even amidst the tension of battle and battle itself. It reminded him of simpler, less tame times. Before the crown and responsibility. When his hand was all he needed to prove his strength. It now ached from a quill.
How did he get here. Feldric would laugh. If he still corresponded with the coward. Head of house indeed. History had proven that line inadequate. Word of his cousin's heights had reached Bennet's ears long ago, but he had not responded. The man was all bluster and no substance, like his father. Gods rest his soul.
Perhaps he would pen a letter anyway.
The road was trampled from activity. Mixed banners and fetid bones. This was a strange land, and the conflict stranger.
His captain handed him a trampled Westgardian banner. He felt the tattered cloth even through his glove. It was bloodied. Scarred, as these lands themselves seemed.
Bennet mused on the circumstances. Not long ago had he and Rosalind strolled the streets of Giask. Her regal in her official capacity. Him doing his duty as Marshal under better men. Was he the better man now? Or had they all just died? Was his crown by default? Better by default seemed a question left for his sleepless nights, as always. He recalled the jest she made about the garden maid as she scurried away when they approached. Her laughter was sweet. His own was more honest than it had been in an age.
Bennet shook off the memory.
He was excited to see the face of his friend Solomon once again. So long it had been. His only friend, if he was honest with himself. A lofty position he had ascended to. It seemed reluctant men must shape the future. He supposed it has always been so.
The howls of the beasts were the constant companion to life in the West. Sometimes they were close at hand when the creatures made one of their regular assaults on the human lands. Then they were mixed with the shouts of the bold soldiers who met them in battle and drove them back in to the Wilderness. At other times, the howls were carried across the distance on the wind, rolling through mountain passes and over green hills until they reached human ears and were finally carried out to be lost in the wide seas.
That morning, as Rosalind breakfasted on the main balcony of the palace, the howls were in the far distance. The atmosphere in the palace was light as the people knew that many lands would be safe that night. Villagers able to sleep soundly in their beds without the need to fear that scratch of claws against the door or that scream of violent death close at hand.
But, still, the howls were there. Always on the edge of Rosalind's hearing. She closed her eyes and let her mind drift back to a different time. Her memory took her back to the sea. Her one and only voyage in to the East at the invitation of a Luria Novan King. She allowed her mind to drift back until the memory became vivid and colourful.
It was the bird song she remembered now. There as the constant companion of life in Luria Nova. She marvelled at it as she had spent so many days in the private gardens of the Lurian palace. The Lurian people, going about their daily business, never appeared to give it a moment's attention. But, to Rosalind, it was the sweetest of music compared to the howls of the West. The Lurians led such simple and untroubled lives, ignorant of the hardships endured by the people of the West.
Her mind idled on, lifting up this memory and that memory, like an autumn breeze blowing through fallen leaves. The faces of the Lurians she had encountered during that time came and went in a heartbeat, but a few faces and names lingered.
Bennet, the Suzerain King, had been there. She brought his face close in the mind's eye of memory. She wondered now whether that face really was as appealing as it now appeared, or had the passage of time rendered it more than it had truly been? Memory plays tricks, after all.
Then another face swept in to view, forcing Bennet's aside. It was Aldraker, one time ruler of Luria Nova. One of the most powerful men in the East. But his face was dimmer in her memory than Bennet's. Less clearly remembered.
She let the memories play over her mind a little longer. Then her eyes snapped open and she called a scribe to her.
Bennet was here, now, in the West. The scout reports that crossed her desk daily showed her that much. She had the scribe write a pleasant enough letter to him, enquiring after his health and asking whether he missed the birdsong of the Lurian palace gardens now he was surrounded by the harsh beast-music of the West. Did he even notice? As a final thought, she added a postscript in her own hand which simply said, "What became of Aldraker?"
Arriving in Mech Derris, much to the delay of the roads and Solomon's previous wounding in Farrowfield, the Exalted Arbalests finally arrived. Travelling through the Mech Forest, the arrival of Spring was much welcome. One of the most stark differences between the East and West was that the Winter was arguably felt much harder here, especially on travel times. Furthermore, able to travel without his winter furs now, Solomon hoped that in time the Mech Forrest will be far more pleasant to travel through - the nights on the road were not ideal.
It was expected however that the Lurians would of arrived and his old friend Bennet. Yet, as expected, it seemed that they left the night before. Making a mental note to send a courier to the Suzerain King, Solomon anticipated their next meeting was not too far away, yet seemed too far apart.
After receiving the scout report of Farrowfield, Solomon briefly set up camp to go through the letters he had recieved over the last few days. With the weather still murky from the night before, Solomon quietly sighed and offered a small thought to the Tidemother before continuing his work...
It was a few hours after their arrival in Mech Derris that Solomon's thoughts returned to his request to the Rangers at the request of family Renodin those weeks ago. He had not heard much from the adventurers whom sent the request nor news from the Lurian Rulers. While perhaps Solomon did not know the old Emperor of family Renodin well, his early career was arguably directly shaped by him in Giask. To that end and the duty as the patriarch of an Lurian Family, Solomon knew that a answer of Aldrakar's likely demise or welcome survival in the wilderness needed to be found. Yet, until the war was over, he had to trust in others - something he would rather not do.
Bennet was distracted. The campaign was going well but something had been irking him. It felt...different. Perhaps he was getting old. The campaigning always invigorated him - rekindled the old days when he rose up through force and and ambition and the tally of blood on his sword.
He shook it off.
The road was packed. He could see the Goldoran contingent merging with his own. Their banners were bloodied but intact. As warriors should hold.
He felt his field crown on his head. Junk metal, it was made of. But somehow the weight had not lifted. Funny, that.
He saw in the distance a banner he recognized. He galloped his horse, ahead of the calls of his guards. He would recognize Solomon even from a distance.
The man smiled as he rode up next to him. Then he smiled again.
His field crown was equally flimsy and uncomfortable.
"What became of Aldrakar?"
When the letter came across his field desk he had been surprised. The Aeon had not wrote to him directly since before the war. A different time. In many ways.
How to answer that question succinctly? There was much to say, and little time to say it in. He could hear his Captain striking camp outside his tent, under his order. If only he had received this letter twenty minutes ago. An idle thought.
He started his reply. Scribbled out the first line. Started it again.
Another scribble. Another crumpled page. He grabbed another.
Bennet shook his head. Words were never his strength but this seemed ridiculous. He dipped his quill and began, after the pleasantries.
"...and how to candidly say that the Lurian royalty tends to fade or meet untimely ends. I fear that for myself...."
A minute later he finished this paragraph and read it again, shocked. A thought of his sure, but how had it made it to page? It was unprofessional if not embarrassing. He read it again, before walking over to the candle stick his servant had laid out.
He put it down and he continued writing....
The candle was low an hour later when his servant came into change it. Bennet beckoned her over, handed her the letter and bid her leave with all haste.
He caught himself in his camp mirror. When had they put that in here? Why would he need that. The face that stared back seemed older. Sadder. But the scars were still the same.
Then he dismissed his servant to strike his tent himself.
Finding that Bennet had rode beside him, Solomon reached across horseback to clasp his friends hand and shoulder:
"Bennet, it has been too long - I am very glad that you have made it. I apologise for not arriving sooner, I had repairs and recruitment in the capital. I will see to it that every one of your troop leaders is seen to well. I speak on behalf of both myself and Tol Goldora that we shall never forget the aid you have given us."
After spending so many years in the Lurian military with the Suzerain King, Solomon would like to think he knew the man well. Yet, something was not completely settled in his mind as they rode.
"I ask you how Luria is fairing but I seem to ask you that every other day. Perhaps we could go into more detail once we set up camp. Instead, while we are still travelling, I ask you if you have ever come this far north west? The rather untamed lands of the Chrystal River and the Golden Reach would be quiet beautiful if they were not touched by war."
Solomon too was wearing his military regalia, which he inherited mainly from his days in the Lurian Empire, made for the Dantooine Ball all those years ago and celebration of liberating the region. The previous set was lost as part of one of the many woundings he had suffered in the West.
Spring Evening -- Shuberstone
Lord's, and Ladies
I stand here at the statue, and grave site of a great, and Nobil Knight Lord Orion Saxum.
Orion new no fear. Lord Orion was always one of the first to speak for what he thought was correct, and first to admit it if he was wrong.
Lord Orion fought for the empire, Realm, his people, our allies, and for what was Nobil.
Being Nobil, fighting with honour, and correcting wrongs is what Lord Orion Saxum was all about.
Lord Orion Saxum was not being rash when he made a challenge to a duel, it was who he was. Lord Orion seen a wrong done to our kin, and our Empire,and felt compelled to correct it.
Lord Orion Saxum was more than a True Nobil Knight. He was a friend.
Rest in peace
Lord Orion Saxum.
Spring Evening -- Kid's Rock
Bennet supped on this Western swill in his hand. It was not bad all together, but something tasted...foul. Almost tainted. Perhaps it was just his tongue. Wine rarely passed his lips and thus his palette was not so discerning.
Bennet reflected on his conversation with Solomon on the road, before they had parted. It had been good to clash wits once again. Rare that was, in these days of the Empire. Or perhaps he was just getting older and less patient.
They had spoken of many things. He had told Solomon that only once he had been this dar afield. In the days before his house's calamities when he was but a junior son of a junior son. Blaeric's madness had seen to shaking all of that up. And now atop Bennet's head sat a crown. Go figure.
After penning two letters Bennet called to his squire. A stout man. Short actually. But he did not hold that against him. He bid the letters delivered to all haste.
Apologies for the brevity of our last talk. Please find me when we all arrive in [region redacted]. I would continue where we left off and speak of greater and smaller things once again.
The second letter was more securely sealed, with an entirely different destination. And a personal message unlike Bennet had sent since his youth.
Simple words on the envelope:
Lady R. To be delivered discreetly.