“Welcome back, Eamonn…correct?” The Baron’s chamberlain smiled at Eamonn as he entered into Edric’s anteroom. “That’s correct, Sir Edric” Eamonn replied. Edric’s smile grew even more, he loved being addressed as ‘Sir Edric’, most of the people that returned to see the Baron elected to ignore his title so it was a rare luxury. He was seated behind his desk, his natural position, Eamonn decided. “Baron Maddox is ready to receive you. Knock twice and wait for his call” Edric added that last part a little hesitantly.
There was none of that air of superiority surrounding Edric, or at least, he didn’t make it known to Eamonn as he approached the Baron’s door, knocked twice and waited to enter.
The Baron was standing over his desk. The blinds were closed and there was a single light glowing on his desk. It created an eerie picture for Eamonn, who entered the room warily. Maddox’s chair had been pushed back, the place was nothing like it had been when Eamonn was here last. Books and papers were strewn throughout across the baron’s desk, some in piles others in what used to resemble piles and some had seemingly been thrown across the room Eamonn thought as he stepped over two rolled-out scrolls by the door.
Maddox was tense. Standing straight-backed and with his elbows rigidly set, he slammed his fist down, stepped away toward his bookcase, knocking over his chair in the process. He examined the bookcase, flicking across each book there until seemed to find the one he needed. “Got to know why they were there” he muttered to himself, just loud enough for Eamonn to hear. “No!” he sighed loudly, cursing and throwing another book to the floor. This continued on for another minute or so, Maddox grumbling and uttering obscenities while Eamonn stood by watchfully.
Edric nudged the door open, craning his neck around the doorframe and edged his way into the room, “S-sir?” he tried gaining the attention of the man. Edric tried again, stumbling on his words, “S-sir, E-Eamonn…R-Reeves is hhh…here”.
For the first time, Maddox seemed to notice them in the room, he looked from one to the other, Eamonn could see Edric flinch slightly as the baron looked at him. Hastily, Edric retreated from the room, closing the door quickly as he went.
The light of anger seemed to leave Maddox’s eyes as he considered Eamonn. Guiltily, he knelt to pick up a few of the books and placed them back on the closest shelf. “It’s good to see you, Eamonn” he said in a small voice. Eamonn didn’t reply. Maddox picked up his desk chair, placing it back in its normal position. “Please sit down”
Eamonn’s eyes shifted from the baron to the chairs and back. He reluctantly began to move to the closest chair, which also happened to be the one furthest from Maddox. There were a few sheets of paper on the chair, so he moved them to the baron’s desk and returned to his chair.
Maddox was moving around the room, picking up the scattered pages and books he’d discarded earlier, the piles on the desk were tidied up and stacked to one side of the massive desk again. The light flickered. Eamonn noticed a certain amount of tension in the room as the baron moved around, but didn’t know what had caused it. Maddox licked his thumb and forefinger, stretched across the desk and extinguished the lamp and on the only light source in the room, leaving it in perpetual blackness. Eamonn’s eyes strained to see where the baron was and were then almost blinded as Maddox threw back the blinds, allowing the afternoon sun to streak into the room.
Eamonn averted his eyes, letting his vision adapt to the sudden changes. He felt the warmth return to him, as the sun’s rays of spring radiate through the room. He looked up again to see Maddox tying back the right side of the curtains and returned to his seat. A quick look told Eamonn that he’d already dealt with the other side. The baron’s chair scraped lightly on the timber flooring as Maddox eased himself into it and shuffled a little further forward.
“I wasn’t expecting you so soon, Eamonn” the baron said.
Eamonn shrugged, “Your letter said to come when ready, Lyverild was kind enough to give me the day off”
Maddox nodded at that, “A fair woman she is.”
The previous day, a messenger had unexpectedly turned up at the breeders with instructions for Eamonn to report to the baron’s office. The letter didn’t hint at a time or day or the reasoning for it. Eamonn had shown Lyverild the letter who nodded simply at him, “Work should be manageable tomorrow, you can go up and see them then”. Eamonn couldn’t think of a reason not to agree with her, Lyverild gave him permission to borrow a horse from the stables to meet with the baron in the early afternoon.
“Do you know why you’re here today?”
Eamonn merely shrugged at question. Recently at the breeders, the stables had been almost empty, limiting the work he’d had to do. Spring had brought with it a new sense of energy in the locals and travelers. Whereas in the winter one would be more likely to forgo moving in the evening and night, those out in spring would push on that little more to reach Faraday rather than stopping in at the small breeders village of Millridge that was barely an hour or so from the safety of the keep.
“What if I told you we made a mistake?”
Again, Eamonn merely shrugged.
“What if I told you, this whole thing was just to see how you handled yourself in foreign situations?”
Eamonn looked quizzically at Maddox.
“What do you mean?”
Maddox quickly went on, hoping to reassure the boy, “I’m afraid that I received some undisclosed information regarding your assessments in Wildwood. You see, there is a group, they represent a division that is tasked with handling affairs concerning the kingdom as well as the alliance between Aylesbury and Azarowa.”
Eamonn knew Azarowa and Aylesbury had shared an alliance for more than one-hundred years, dating back to uprising of Caledonia.
“I believe you noticed that there was a man seated behind you, the last time you were here?” Maddox asked.
Eamonn quickly nodded, “I remember that he seemed to be less than pleased with your decision to send me to Millridge to work with Lyverild.”
“He was.” Maddox confirmed, “What he didn’t know however, was that I had the full intentions of carrying through with his recommendation.”
“But why wait this long to do so?” Eamonn was a little peeved that he’d been put through what he been for the past three months.
“I must apologise for that.” Maddox added sincerely. “You see, that man was attached to the group I was talking to you about, the Ayleserowan Royal Commission. Yet, in my experiences with them, they announce themselves first, never have I had one show up on my doorstep making requests the way he was. The reason why I did that to you was to throw him off guard, I’m sorry if that offended you.”
The boy at Maddox, he could see that what the baron was saying was genuine. “I was a little disappointed to be with Lyverild as a stableboy, but I have learnt a lot with her,” Eamonn conceded. Now that the opportunity was presented to him, he wanted to ask the most obvious question, “What position did you set for me?”
Maddox gestured that the question was a good one, excitedly he pushed back his chair and pulled out the top draw in his desk. Leafing through the files there, he came to Eamonn’s folder again, “well it just so happens that I have your record with your results with me right here,” Maddox said as he opened the folder and took out page he wanted.
“Your assessor was impressed with your skills in communication and problem solving, just as I said during our last meeting. I was in no way misleading you with that,” he added in an aside. “Your assessor also noted that you were kind hearted, determined in your efforts to complete everything that was laid before you and particularly admired the fact that, while you didn’t come up with the best solution, you tended to come up with a solution that was out of the ordinary, one that tended to throw others off, which will definitely work in your favour.”
Maddox handed Eamonn the report, to his surprise, most of what was written detailed how different he was as a candidate. “Then,” Maddox continued, gaining Eamonn’s focus again, “The more I thought about it and what skills you have shown before and after that day” he said, referencing the day Eamonn was assigned to work with Lyverild, “You clearly have the skill set required to take on the job.”
“What job?” Eamonn asked, daring to believe what he was about to hear.
“I contacted the man that patrols our area, he was in to see me late last week about some business with a small criminal who’d been pestering some locals about selling his livestock, it seemed as though he was selling them at a fair price, but then going in after dark and stealing them back and moving on to the next village…”
Maddox stopped as he realised Eamonn was frowning at him, he couldn’t figure out how he’d gotten off topic, “Anyway, as I was saying, I contacted him and mentioned your skills set and wondered if he’d be willing to take you on.”
Eamonn’s eyes rose at that, the little he knew of the Commission was more than enough to know that this was going to be an big change in his life, traveling around the countryside and learning about the inners workings of a prestigious group chief among them.
“His name is Aaren Fairweather. Thinking that you’d be in to see me tomorrow, he said that he’d come by to see you, however I’ll send a messenger to go and get him, he’s likely near his home in the forest. Oh and that reminds me…”
Maddox then stood, moving towards a rather large chest by the front wall of the room, he took a small key from his pocket and took off the locket to open it. Maddox scrounged around in the chest for a minute or so before returning to his set, the chest locked once more.
“This is for you.”
Maddox revealed a small package to the boy. Eamonn stared at it for some moments, not sure what to make of it. It was wrapped in a fine cloth, bound by a piece of linen tied in a knot. “Well go on. Open it” Maddox suggested.
Eamonn quickly untied the knot and pulled out a leather case. Gently, he opened it to reveal a long dagger in leather scabbard. The handle was leather bound, wrapped in rounded sections to help with the handling of the weapon. There was little to no pommel to speak of, instead the handle ended rather sharply like a wedge and the crosspiece was simple but well-structured, but barely a centimeter wide on each side. It however retreated slightly and down the handle to offer some protection for the hands. Maddox gestured for him to unsheathe the weapon. Slowly, Eamonn pulled it from the scabbard, letting it come free of the leather. The blade seemed to shimmer as the sun shone, highlighting its features. There was a central piece running down the blade. The sides of the blade tapered off to either side to barely a millimeter or two. It was slightly oiled to keep it clean and sharp, which to Eamonn’s untrained eyes, it most certainly looked.
“Aaren gave it to me to leave for you, he was hoping it would help encourage you to join him.” Maddox said. Judging by the look on Eamonn’s face, he felt that it had unquestionably done exactly that.
Eamonn looked once more at the weapon in his hand. He smiled at it and then at the baron, “When do I start?”