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Captain of the Guards: Watching and Waiting

November 19, 2019

They moved forward through the forest, the road was straight and flat, and while the forest encroached in several places, it was level in the way that only well built roads could have been.

Occasionally ancient paving stones could be seen through in places, worn and old. The trees were thick, but the underbrush was light. Cedric could hear the druid chattering on about how that was typical in the older forests, where the trees hoarded all the sunlight.

He was glad of the small mercy of a lack of ground cover which would make it more difficult for an ambush to occur.

Cedric wasn’t sure of any of that, and he was vaguely irritated that the young man was more occupied with talking than paying attention to his surroundings.
He still felt like he was being watched, and the farther they travelled down the road, the more intense that feeling became and the more certain he was of the hostile intent behind the gaze.

Underneath the babbling of the druid, Cedric could hear Alstone mumbling under his breath. He couldn’t make out the words, but the cadence of the words had the angry buzz of a man muttering and cursing to himself, the way he had often heard tradesmen and laborers curse when things weren’t going their way, or a difficult task was at hand.

The farther they travelled through the area, the more concerned he became, despite nothing happening. Through the trees he could occasionally see bits of ancient buildings, weathered pale pink stone worn down and misshapen by centuries of neglect, mother nature and the elements. (the color of the stone offended him on some level, it should be white or grey in his mind, not the color of a sow which when he considered it was a problem in itself, the first thing that came to mind when he saw the bits of ruins peaking here and there was the fleshy color of an animal, and not stone).

Captain of the Guard: Choices

October 29, 2019

Cedric was not a scholar and he was of a more practical bent. If something had a reputation for being dangerous, then he treated whatever it was a such, if and until it was shown to be otherwise.

This left him in a quandary. It would normally be prudent to keep men scouting for possible antagonist in the field and to prevent ambushes, but the area’s reputation placed such a simple decision squarely in the area of putting men at risk.

He thought of sending the hound out as a scout, but it occurred to him that the beast might find itself with a kindred spirit, or creature, out among the ruins and turn on him. It was a consideration that had been playing on his mind when it had agreed to accompany them. While it had shown no indication that it wouldn’t keep its word, quite the contrary, it was a concern.

That left whatever gifts his traveling companions could offer. If Alstone truly had command of all the mystical forces he claimed to have at his command then the answer would be right there, or if the druid was actually capable of having the forest protect them, as the druids claimed, or at least warn them he would place it in the young man’s hands.

None of that seemed reliable in the slightest.

In the end he kept everyone together, with the druid and the hound in front, Alstone and Vul in the back, but everyone within sight of each other. He did not plan on camping anywhere close to the accursed place.

Not that any of his decisions would have changed the outcome in the slightest, but sentient beings, of which humans are arguably a subset, tend (unless they are nihilists or members of a death cult, which may seem redundant but isn’t really druids tend to fall into the former category, although they would argue they don’t, but not the later, with some exceptions) to think their decisions matter in the scheme of things.

When really, as in most things, it depends.

Captain of the Guard: Cursed Places

October 24, 2019

Desestasu was the ruins of an old city state from ancient times, before the kingdoms around it had ever been formed. It was by reputation a cursed place. When travelers in the mountains disappeared, or caravans went missing it was blamed on this place more than any other.

Whether this was accurate was another story. There had never been a story of someone surviving whatever befell them in Desestasu; or being the sole survivor that somehow hid and made it out when no one else did. Not even the type of story about someone that knew someone else, that knew a guy that saw what happens in the place. Which is interesting, considering how much humans like a good yarn, tall tale or outright lie.

Large groups of people could travel through the area, with nothing overt happening, but there were more deserters or people that disappeared in its location, especially scouts and outriders. Those that did disappear where never seen again.

People that travelled through it in large numbers, spoke of feeling watched, if they slept nearby (with at least some of the attendant guards often going missing) spoke of strange dreams, usually of being reunited with missing or dead loved ones. The dreams weren’t nightmarish, but afterwards the feelings of loss were intensified.

There were stories about Desestasu, that even the lowest citizen had been capable of magic feats, that they had become arrogant on their power and the gods brought them low in a variety of strange and bizarre ways that included an undead apocalypse, ten plagues involving maggots, pus filled rivers, droughts, floods, and assorted nastiness and ending in cannibalism.

Among scholars it is generally understood that nothing of the sort happened, and that Destestasu collapsed as a result of agricultural techniques that caused environmental damage (like pus filled rivers, droughts), that led to various disruptions of the ecosphere that resulted in famine (and if pressed maybe cannibalism), disease and death.

It should be noted that none of these learned individuals spent any time in the area of Destestasu looking for proof of their ideas.  They just used events described in the histories and then looked for something similar that had happened recently and what the explanation for that was believed to be and then extrapolated from there.

It just “made more sense” then the intervention of the gods.  Despite being certain that they were right, the theories of how Destestasu fell were continually being adjusted and improved on, with certain facts being added while others removed.

Captain of the Guard: The Difference Between One and Many

October 24, 2019

It had been a long night. There had been some disagreement among the men about where they would be sleeping in proximity to one woman with artificially red hair. In the end Ceric had Whisper designate where the men were going to be sleeping, to much grumbling.

Raven had been particularly distraught when Autumn had made a point of shunning him. The hound had watched all the activity with interest, and Cedric got the distinct impression that Pookie was enjoying himself.

There was a saying among the northerners that many women make nation, but one woman makes a war. He was discovering that the northerners were wiser than they seemed. Outside the earshot of Autumn, he had instructed all of his men that they were not to have any physical contact with her in any way, and that if he caught any of them attempting to do so, let alone actually succeeding he would have them flogged.

He was not one for corporal punishment as a way of maintaining discipline. He preferred punishments that were more group oriented, led to group pressure to enforce discipline, and made the men stronger either physically or mentally or both.
In this matter, he made an exception.

Even so, despite his admonitions, in the middle of the night one of the guards “fell” and sprained his wrist near Autumn. Considering how prone the princess was to take offense at any slight, real or imagined, and her go to response was to attack, either verbally or physically, the man was lucky that she didn’t stab him.

After a cold breakfast, they had headed in the direction of the ones that had killed Ro and toward the cursed place of Desestasu.

Captain of the Guard: Following the Recipe

October 23, 2019

The door to the chamber finally opened. Silas turned as soon as heard the creak of the hinges and the sound of the door sweeping open.

“Finally….” He started to say but then looked in confusion at the two individuals entering the room, “what are you doing here?”  Though he recognized them, he didn’t expect to see them here.

“We’re here to see you, lad.” The first one to enter the room said mournfully.

“You are?” Silas was confused, “I’m supposed to see the general.”

“You already have seen him and told him everything they needed to know.”  The second one said.

“No I haven’t.”  Silas responded.

“Not to bright, is he?” said the second, her voice was matter of fact.

“No reason to mean to the poor kid,” said the first, he gave the boy a small little smile.  Silas wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be reassuring, because it wasn’t.

The second one glared at the first and Silas got the distinct impression that there was going to be a fight between the two later. The second was used to being in charge and she did not like back talk.

“The king placed a special order with us and we’re here to deliver.”

“The king ordered a pie?” Silas was still confused.

The tall sad baker looked at him for a moment, “in a manner of speaking we take care of his baking needs. We make sure to follow the recipe.”

Before Silas knew what was happening, a small blade entered below his ribs and up to pierce his heart. He gasped, but found it had to do much of anything.

“Shush, its all over now, lad.” The thin man lowered him to the floor.

“You’ve gotten blood all over you.” The large women said in disapproval.

The last thing Silas heard was the thin man sighing resignedly.

Captain of the Guard: Waiting

October 21, 2019

The Seneschal introduced Silas and the guard knelt before king, “I bring news of Ro.”

The king eyed him, “Out with it young man.”

Silas reached into his pouch and pulled out the grimy and gruesome medal and stretched out toward the king with it.

Argov looked at the medal and Silas got the distinct impression that the king was not surprised. His daughter though, let out a gasp as soon the medal hit the light of the room. Several ladies in waiting went to her side as the princess Hilenna swooned. “How did you obtain that?”

“We took it of his body, the Captain sent me with it so that you would know what happened, your majesty.”

“Did he?” Argov leaned back on his throne and stroked his beard thoughtfully, “and where is your Captain now?”

“Seeking the culprits, your royal highness.”

“I admire his initiative,” the king looked at Silas intently, “tell me does he know who is responsible?”

“I don’t know, your majesty.”

“Ah, well perhaps there is some detail that might tell us of the parties that are responsible. I will have my general debrief you and see what details might be gleaned. If you would go to the counsel chambers and wait, you will be met shortly.”

Silas bowed and took his leave from the king and headed toward the counsel chambers. While he had never actually been in there, he knew where it was. The fact that he was going to speak directly to the king’s general, was exciting news.

The counsel chamber was a disappointment, all it held was a map of the kingdom, a table and several chairs and that was it. He paced for a while, studied the map, and looked out the window to the battlements below, and the city and horizon as it stretched out before him.

He was getting bored and impatient for this to get over. If he had known these were in fact his last hours among the living, perhaps he would not have been so impatient. But then, had he known what was coming he would have almost certainly would have fled the castle.

Captain of the Guard: Before the King

October 20, 2019

So it was that Silas arrived at the city in the afternoon of the second day. He did not tarry, but headed straight for the castle, he was ushered through the gates by the guards that recognized him, left his horses in the ward and headed into the keep proper.
Briefly, the thought scurried through his mind about messengers bearing bad news and what happened to him, but the king was not known for his violent outbursts. The princess however was another story.

He headed directly to the throne room where the kings was holding court. There was a line of citizens, peasants, artisans, merchants and others lined up outside the large doors that led into the room. Two guards were eyeing the ground, confiscating any weapons that anyone happened to bring with them, and generally keeping the people quiet and waiting their turn.

Silas was ushered past them.

While he had in fact spent considerable amount of time standing guard both outside the hall and within it, this was the first time he was approaching the throne directly. It was a deciding uncomfortable feeling from this perspective.

On one side of the hall where stained glass windows filled with the exploits of hero kings from days long past, on the other where the terraced balconies where nobles often watched the proceedings.

Before him was a crowd of other courtiers, he had never been sure of it was a bigger honor to be on the floor, closer to the king, or in the balconies. Ahead on the dais was the king, flanked by two guards behind him, his daughter in a smaller chair to the kings right, the Chancellor, the Arbiter and a couple other lords of higher office.

Silas avoided looking at the princess and kept his eyes directly on the king. When he was within ten paces of the king, and next to the Seneschal. “I am Silas, I have news of Ro for the king.” He whispered out of the corner of his mouth to the Seneschal, a tall thin aging man that was a distant relative of the king.

Silas knew better than to interrupt the king or to speak more than a whisper. The Seneschal nodded almost imperceptibly.

Before the king were a couple of bakers, presenting the king with a large pie. The woman, a large matronly woman did all of the talking, while a thin, sad faced man looked on, “Its our honor to give his majesty this pie we made of the bounty we have received from you.”

King Argov looked at the pie, to Silas’ eyes it looked like any other pie but the king seemed pleased with it, “It looks like a fine pie.”

“Indeed your majesty, it contains everything you could wish for in a pie, doesn’t it?”
This last was directed at her husband, who bobbled his head nervously, “yes, dear.”

It seemed like such boastfulness would be risky to a king, promising that something could be everything someone of his station was that good, could lead to consequences if it failed to rise to the hype. Several of the people in the room shifted uncomfortably for this very reason, but the king seemed even more pleased. “I thank you, and will enjoy what you have given me and if I need of your baking skills in the future, I will seek you out.”

“We are pleased,” said the female baker. She and her husband bowed and made their leave of the king. The passed Silas and he could smell flour and sweat and something else. The matronly baker eyed him and he got the distinct impression he was being sized up.

Her husband trailed behind her, glancing over a Silas with a mournful look.