The King was a trained and confident orator. As a leader, he had the ability to bring the country under his ruling, only his inner circle of followers held their own opinions and discussed the dealings of the kingdom. All others were quickly stamped out by his ability to deliver a stirring address to his people.
What also made him a brilliant leader was his ability to listen his trusted followers in the country’s time of need. Despite his pervasive ideals, he saw the value in foregoing a rule of dictatorship, looking to his fellow council for guidance. Chief among them were the members of the Royal Commission. They carried out his most important requests. Quashing uprising forces in and around his and their allies’ countries. He had been seated quietly alongside his most trusted acolytes as well as his chamberlain, those two and one other were the three he discussed his greatest desires and problems in life. For now they were sharing a quiet meal between them, knowing what was about to be discussed.
Jarvis came to his feet, slid his seat back and waited for all people to come to silence. The King watched as his subjects were hushed for their leader to speak. “Friends, high members of the Knight’s academy, the Scout Force and of the Ayleserowan Royal Commission.” His voice dominated the hall in the deep smooth voice he commanded.
“You have all been summoned here for the purpose of recovering the steps of a lost regiment lead by Lord Dunstan.” Mutterings began in some of the corners of the room, a further look from the King and they were muted. “They were sent several weeks ago to escort one of the diplomats required for the signing of the Caledonian treaty. Two weeks ago, we received word that they’d come across a party of soldiers on the plains of Azarowa. We have not received word from them since then.” The announcement rang out to the awaiting crowd. Jarvis looked at his chamberlain and after a brief glance resumed his seating position to allow his assistant to detail the audience.
The chamberlain cleared his throat before revealing the details for the assignment. “The task is rather straightforward.” he remarked. Several eyebrows were raised at that. It was well known that the King’s chamberlain had little to no skill at arms. “We desire the services of a number of members from each of the faculties to come forth and aid in bringing them back alive. It is preferable that we have as many people offer their aid to this effort, however, as we prefer this to be an anonymous decision, we respect your wishes if you declined to accept this mission. The ambiguity of what you’ll face underlines the risks that could lie ahead. We shall finish here for the evening, and, for those of you who put your name forward, his majesty and I thank you in advance for your support.” The chamberlain concluded.
There was a confused muttering amongst the hall. Many were unsure of whether there was more to be said. It seemed like everyone was waiting for someone else to make the first move. From the back of the room, Eamonn could hear the echoes of scraping of chairs along the floor as people began to make their ways back to their beds, some would depart that evening to return home, others would enjoy a decent night sleep before heading back to their place of permanent residence. Already, half of the hall had cleared out. Eamonn looked around the meeting hall, he assumed that those remaining were looking to offer their services to the need of the king.
He had initially made a move towards the door however, after a brief word between Marlow and Aaren and a dismissing head shake from Aaren, they remained in their seats to watch as Marlow moved towards to the chamberlain, whispered into his ear and retreated out of the hall. The man had fare-welled some of the other Commissioners as he went.
Some members of the Commission remained. Less than Aaren had expected. He resented the fact that hardly any servants of the crown were willing to take this on. “We’d better move towards the front.” he suggested to his pupil.
Aaren found a chair by the form of Damian, the man ended his conversation with his companion standing and leaving. “Looks like you won’t be around to look after Faraday for me. I suppose this business in the north can wait.” Damian said quietly as he leaned over to Aaren. Without looking, Aaren shook his head, “This is something we need to do.”
Damian rose, stopped and rested his hand lightly on Aaren’s shoulder, “Look after the boy.” He said simply, “Do what’s best for him.” Aaren didn’t move as he felt the release of pressure on his arm and the diminishing sounds of Damian’s footsteps as he left the room.
Eamonn looked curiously at Aaren. Aaren turned to him, nodded and smiled.
The King’s second man from his inner circled was still seated by the royal benching. He cleared his throat loudly, gaining the attention of those still in the room. Without a sound, he eased his seat back and walked down the flight of stairs to become level with the men and women before him.
His eyes wonder over those in room as he silently counted numbers to himself. He filed the information away as mental notes as to force allocation. He nodded quietly and addressed the remnants of the King’s audience.
“Thank you for being here. We are in dire need of assistance, as stated, we need to send reinforcements to find and aid Dunstan in his assignment. We are not sure where they would be at this stage, our last point of reference is roughly sixty kilometers north-west of Azarowa’s capital where the negotiations of the treaty are to take place. Unfortunately, that is all we know. At this stage I am unable to reveal what else you could be expected to do in your travels. Know this, your success in this mission is paramount, without the additional member to sign the treaty, control over Caledonia could slip through our fingers and they could regain some of their former strength. This is something we must prevent at all costs”. He could see the grim faces and the steely resolve of those around him. he knew he could depend on the people here to carry out this task.
“Now, from what I see here, we have enough to create two separate groups, a reconnaissance group and a following relay team. The recon team will move on ahead of the others, relaying messages to the other for them to pick up their tracks, standard drill as you all know. You will need to move quickly to find any leads in this matter. If you are successful in your mission, send word within three weeks’ time, if not, we shall see you in person in four weeks. Feel free to allocate yourselves to a specific team, Marlow Canterbury has elected to lead the second group. He will oversee the final preparations for their departure in the morning, those of you part of the recon team will move out tonight. Decide now, we recommend as many as possible in the recon team, those from the academy should predominantly be with Marlow.”
It was at this moment that the volume of the room increased. Occupants began moving around the room organising themselves into groups and making a point of pairing themselves with friends. Eamonn followed as Aaren moved past the many tables, he knew that his mentor would want to take part in the reconnaissance for this mission. His tracking skills were extraordinary and he assumed that as a member of the Royal Commission, he would be granted a senior position or maybe leader in this situation.
There were no other members of the Commission in this group, they had been shepherded towards Marlow’s group. Around them were a dozen men-at-arms and four scouts. Hardly a rescue team, Aaren thought.
Many turned to see the two men approach, saw the coat of arms and waited. “Looks like I’m leader.” Aaren said quietly to Eamonn.
They returned to their room an hour later to retrieve their belongings, with Aaren as leader of the recon team. There would be no time to rest that evening, Eamonn realised dismally, he had been looking forward to a night cozied up in the soft and welcoming bed. For his first visit to the King’s palace, he’d been dreaming of a good night sleep. Being told that he’d be required to ride and ride hard for the next few hours made him groan.
He retrieved his pack. He picked up his crossbow and shrugged to himself as he remembered there were still some adjustments he had to make to the weapon. “They can wait.” He said to himself.
They met the rest of the group at the stables, most were still securing their gear to their saddle bags. Aaren was standing by Storm as he saw Eamonn descend the stairs, a worm of doubt was creeping into his mind as Damian’s words stirred. He called Eamonn to him, “If things get out of hand, trust your training, you know more than you realise. Don’t come for me if I’m in trouble, do you understand? I’ll get out.” He instructed the boy. He clapped the boy on the shoulder and moved to mount Storm. In the light of the trail, Aaren could see Marlow. He saw the slight bob of the man’s head in a nod. Aaren reciprocated the action, pulled the reins tight on Storm and led the recon team across the drawbridge at a trot.
The drumming hoof beats on the timber turned to pattering on the cobbles as they broke into a canter, they reached the far side of the fields, Aaren hit the trees first where each rider was quickly swallowed whole by the dark night of the open world.