A battle weary knight answers a royal summons and visits the town to barter.
Elaborate sconces burnt out and at the end of their wicks bore over filled wax saucers, no doubt from the long ended nights the king spent directing his future plans to sustain his rule and acceptances of the peoples.
Numerous oil paintings lined the darkened cedar walls of rulers passed, all adorned in the finest robes and priceless jewels, the current King Valeses himself in the middle.
Balding on top yet a magnificent beard finely trimmed and slightly greying with his hand gently stroking the tip, his ruby ring featured so prominently as to acknowledge his rightful place as King in a long line of royals.
The king sat at his cherrywood desk beside a lengthy 3rd story courtyard window with a pearl fountain décor at its center, its stream glistening under the rays of the rising sun.
The tops of sack hooded scholars could be seen passing each other at the base of the cascade, devoted to their studies of incantations and other foolish nonsense they believed held the secrets to etherworldly knowledge that, if such majicks were still put to use, would be disastrious for us all.
Turning a weary eye as he heard my approaching steps I kneeled in utmost respect awaiting his command.
"Commander, Thank you for coming, I have some urgent matters that beg addressing."
Rising from his seat he turns to me, the apparent worry in his eyes making me all the more eager to hear him as he removes the ivory cloak from his shoulders, hooking it over a red oak rack as his hands smoothly fell from its tapered seams.
"You may rise, as you know our kingdom has been embroiled in constant controversy and war with the adjacent colonies."
Pressing I spoke out of turn, "Sir are we in danger, have the Diralites broken the Eulorian line?"
Sighing distraughtly, "Always to the point I see and no I'm afraid the news is far worse. The Diralatian colony has effectively destroyed the bridge leading to our main supply line-the village of Jeet as well as ransacking the town itself.
"The survivors of the settlement are crying out for military aid and we are stretched thin as it is."
"Despite your victory over the Northern Bandits, it appears it was no more than a clever diversion by the Diralites to draw our military forces away so the bridge would be left with minimal defenses and open to attack from the real invaders."
"It is my fault for not forseeing this setback, the water rapids and deep uneven terrain are far too treacherous to maneuver on horse back or any animal for that matter".
The king brushed a finger down the length of his nose, "Yes quite, 500 meters across such unforgiving swamp rapids would be a dubious proposition without extensive allocation of recourses for surveying and carriage".
Turning away for a moment his majesty reached out, resting his hand upon a casing of numerous diplomatic volumes in red/brown hardback, his fingertips gliding across sending a gentle thud with each passing spine.
"This at least explains the surprising force the northerners possessed, giving up such a prized asset to a sizable group of common raiders, quite the strategic compromise I must say...", Giving pause as his majesty looks to me.
"Hah, a worthy trade for such a crippling blow to our stores." The kings voice bled a flurry of disappointment as well as a strange hint of admiration.
Moving gracefully into his study through the double sliding doors I followed, "I need your men to move to the front lines and repel any and all opposition...sigh...there will be many casualties but I have no doubt we will be successful."
"What of myself and the people of Jeet?"
"Jeet cannot be helped im afraid, as for you I have a special assignment lined up that only your expertise will see completed."
Speech breaking I spoke in urgency, "My lord we can't abandon them, their assistance and constant supply over the years has kept us afloat for many a year."
"What of my men also, they are ill trained and not prepared to face such a debilitating force, you cant just leave your loyal subjects to be slaughtered by the heignous brigands..."
Valeses' eyes widened as he slammed his fist into a nearby glass frame, "You've clearly lost your place speaking to me in such a manner, your king commands and you would do well to obey as my wisdom is unwavering."
Do not forget commander it was I who pulled you from the smoldering rubble of that siege all those years ago and raised to be of such high standing this day."
Feigning acceptance my tone expressed indulgence, "Forgive me my king, I have not forgotten your sacrifice."
"Captain you are one of my finest, your unwavering loyalty and combat prowess has caused your reputation to reach even the most obtuse of nobility, you are the only one in which I may depend", his hand bled profusely as it dripped steadily onto the floor.
The maid enters the room, rushing past in proper etiquette to bandage the wound, her hands steady she carefully examines the cut and neverminds the conversation at hand.
"What do you ask of me King Valeses?", Breathing deeply he coughed to regain his composure.
"There is a mountain pass three days ride from outside the kingdom's boundaries leading to the peak of what was once a community of star worshippers that foreseen their own demise and fled leaving their prized possessions/temples and godly architecture centuries ago".
"This place holds an ancient relic that may be the only hope our kingdom has of winning this war."
"This artifact is known a..."
"As the King's Boon, yes ive heard the stories, my adoptive mother used to speak of it long ago and that whosoever shall possess and harness it shall gain the power to lead humanity to salvation or see it crumble."
"Aah, but this is more than just a fairy tale knight." he says, parting his indigo robes with silver trim as he paces across the room.
"No more than three months ago a wounded messenger from one of the distant colonies' reached our walls and spoke of Kali mountain and that it was riddled with elaborate traps, sculptures of marble, and hidden paths leading to its center."
Reaching into his study drawer he handed me a weathered arrow. "This was one of the arrows that struck his leg, you will find it is highly unordinary."
"The feathers are that of a phoenix and unlike any I have seen, the tip itself was of high quality polished steel, the shaft made of redwood with a emerald tinge at the tip, definitely not in the arsenal of a common bandit or even our enemies to the west"
The king smirked at my astonishment, "This arrow belonged to a group of assassins using a very old poison not seen in nearly 400 years."
"You need not tell me of the danger these individuals pose my king, they will be dealt with", pondering on his claims I felt a faint uncertainty.
Valeses leaned forward in reassurance, "and the artifact?"
"It shall be yours my king, anything for the safety of our people."
Looking back now many things had seemed to be astray in his reasoning, I remember the streets were quite lively that day, many were on the way to and from their daily duties.
Numerous fruit and vegetable stalls were freshly supplied from the royal garden in that sector of the city, there were children with caps and woolen shirts/sack cloth pants playing in the street as a woman in brightly colored robes watched over the shop while her husband was away.
Lustful sellers were quite skilled in their retrieval of business, a man in formal dress attire, top hat and cane stood prominently at the 2nd story of his home veranda, advertising his worthwhile elixirs and potions for ailments of all types physical and magical. Although many of his wares were fairly priced, many of them were not the genuine article.
Farm hands sat on the edge of a delivery wagon, loaded with hay bales that stretched nearly to the roof of the adjacent supply shop. Warm blooded steeds nickering as they await their owner, strapping the last of the wheat barrels to the rope corral as the owner routinely counts out his coin.
Cloth vendors, pottery makers, not to mention the town blacksmith and armorer all had their place among the hustle and bustle of the varied cultures that shared a home in the kingdom.
No one was unwelcome as long as they werent of any affiliation to opposing colonies and were willing to live by royal decree. Never would a man, woman, nor child come home to an empty pot or cold dwelling as keeping the kings peoples fed and warm was of the utmost priority.
Brushing aside the wind tarp a fresh breeze of worked metal and coal drifted out and fell heavy on the air, cutting into the nostrils for those whom werent accustomed.
The armors on display to the far left were of decent quality, well shined and oiled to perfection, the vast array of detail only served to further validate why I had normally chosen to have mine own protection properly repaired and fastened here.
The old mans shadow could be seen shifting around his work table through the window in the stone wall, right beside the counter where numerous knives of sorted shapes and sizes lined up to advertise the fine craftsmanship of the metal worker.
Ferrin leaned back, his silver incisor showcasing a friendly glint, catching me standing at the counter he called out with a cheery timbre, "Klad, my boy hahaaa."
Looking to him you could tell he had been hard art work, his coveralls were a darkish blue and smothered in coal dust as well as his grey beard that eccentuated his mustache, his fingernails solid black as well as a fresh layering of soot across his face.
He wore a blackened bandana, stained through the original chestnut tint, beads of sweat precipitated along the rim like the mark of a long days labor.
I knew no other better on a hammer and anvil than Ferrin, his skillful hands tuned to the warring nature of his dwarven kind from the far east. Freezing cold climates of nomads dwelling in cobblestone huts, making their living either supplying artillery, scavenging for ore, or hunting gargantuant fowls for profit.
Placing my shredded helm on the counter he picked it up and examined it inside and out, yet without even an astonished look about him, he simply said "Hah, knowing you this is not a surprise at all... only question is will my work be in vain".
"No, I dont intend on testing my mettle on any further chimeras. Their a tricky lot but we got lucky it werent starving, fully feral and foaming."
Bellowing out laughter, "Been ages since ive caught even a short ass ended sight of such a creature."
Striking a weathered stick match with the tip of his thumbnail, he inhales taking a long drag off of an acorn tint corncob pipe. Its ember crackling to the hushed chatter outside. Puffing out the intial take with a curve of the lip, he spoke as if he had become more stern in his reasoning."
"Dont figure you've anything to show for it, your not looking any a worse for wear and such a prized sighting surely yields some worthwhile materials?"
Unwrapping the leather side back at my waste I removed several sharply curved lion claws, carefully before placing them into his eager callused hands.
"Very good sir, ive no doubt these will do nicely to fashion a worthy weapon to showcase some more of those talents you were conditioned for at the academy as ive heard tell."
"Im sure with your level of skill I'll hardly need but a smooth hand, take this for your payment", straightening 12 gold coins in between my thumb and three fingers they glisten brilliantly to the brightly coiled steel furnace eminating in the back room.
"Thank ye mate, dont bother with that piece, you be goin with only the finest of my faculties doins."
Tossing the helm into a wooden crate full of scrap he scoffs, "take your pick of any the helms you see on my shelves in back and be on your way, youve been quite a loyal customer and call me crazy but I got a feeling you may be needin it afor long."
His words ruminated in my mind while I felt my left eye which was no longer there, blood had streamed down my clothes from numerous cuts and an arrow wound to the shoulder that shouldve long been properly tended.
A yellowish pus from the archers bolts dipped in lethal toxins built up over the hardened texture of the wound.
I knew I wouldnt last long in my present state, the kings last remaining bit of patience is bound to run out afore long and with it my hopes of freedom.
I pressed my fingertips against my temples to help to alleviate the pain but to no avail, waiting for a telltale clink or bang down the corridor to determine my release or my death in the seemingly endless void of my condemnation.
The clanging of the shackle was the only sound on the air in near pitch blackness apart from a barred window overlooking a green pasture streaming just a bit of light through to cast on the iron gated bars.
A constant reminder of being imprisoned to a fate worse than death...