“Baron Maddox is ready to receive the next candidates.” The Baron’s assistant was seated in the main hallway that adjoined with the Baron’s Office. The scrawny man had an air of pompousness and pretension to him as he sat airily pointing towards the Baron’s door and waving them through.
Most Barons in the kingdom of Aylesbury earned their title through their accomplishments and trials in their earlier years as they rose up the ranks and Maddox was no exception. He had earned his title fighting alongside the armies, scouts and Ayleserowans in the war against the uprising of pirates from Rothnora who were in league with the wretched and infamous ruling family of Caledonia, the blighting independent nation placed to the south east of Azarowa and between its borders with Normlieth.
Aylesbury had placed their own informants who had caught traces of the pirates almost fifteen years ago when they were threatening an outbreak into Normlieth. Maddox had been a key leader in the breakdown of the Rothnoran crews and had even managed to dent most of Caledonia’s plans for their own uprising. Last Maddox knew, the corrupt nation was in the hands of Valon, a local warlord who seemed a little lost at sea with the vast amount of power he’d suddenly managed to come across. Maddox was sure though, that over time the man would come to direct that power and dole out miniscule portions to those who happened to make his purse a little heavier in the process. It was a pitiless and dishonourable way of gaining power, but such was the nature of the quarrelling state. As for the Rothnorans, they were now manageable and often channeled their efforts towards pillaging trade-ships and small coastal towns, many of the trade-ships now had transports accompany them safely across the vast bodies of water around the world while the main trades routes were being closely monitored for disturbances or disruptions.
When he arrived home, Maddox was been rewarded for his loyalty to the crown and his hard work and sacrifice in the form of the several injuries he’d sustained throughout the campaign. One in particular he still feels the effects of was from a crossbow bolt shearing through his chainmail and embedding itself in his left shoulder, though it was his less dominant side, whenever he was required to fight from then on he had to use a single-handed war-sword. Not quite as thick as the heavy two-handed broadsword that he used to favour, it allowed him to maintain control of his strokes and focus more on forcing a mistake than beating down an enemy’s defenses. The war-sword offer was a longer and lighter blade and that translated into less strain on his right arm and allowed him to wear a small shield to deflect attacks giving him a greater base for attacking and defending. Despite the injury, he maintained his prowess in battle and the respect he’d gained throughout his time as a leader throughout the kingdom. A few months lay off to fully recover from his injury and he was back in action rather than being stuck in his seat in his office at Faraday and being able to deal with threats himself instead of sending someone in his stead.
Eamonn and Sam had arrived at the baron’s tower about ten minutes before scheduled time, and met with a small man by the name of Edric who quickly introduced himself as Maddox’s chamberlain. The attendant told the boys to wait in his office and, since the small man would be occupied with helping his superior, they saw no reason to argue with the assistant.
Promptly, at the stroke of the eleventh hour, Edric rose from his seat behind a deck, moved across the room knocking on the door of his master’s office. Eamonn and Sam could hear muffled voices inside the baron’s room cease as Maddox opened the door and whispered a few things to the person on the other side. Nodding, the chamberlain retreated from the baron’s office and closed the door.
The thin man then made a point of straightening his coat before sitting himself down at his desk again, cleared his throat and motioned the boys through, “The Baron will see you now” he said, trying to conjure his most haughty voice and picked up some paperwork on his desk. The boys looked quizzically at each other as they made their way into the baron’s office. Eamonn, holding the door open for Sam, shot the chamberlain a baleful look and followed his friend inside.
The Baron’s office was larger than it first appeared to be, and much larger than the hallway that led into the chamberlain’s office where they had been previously. A small fire crackled away at the mid-point on the left hand side of the room. The baron’s desk, to their eyes, was colossal in size. Made of oak lacquered in a stained-vanish finish that accentuated the reddish-brown hue of the wood, it dominated the room in a way that they had hoped the sight of Faraday would and was placed in the very center of the room as though it knew of its own importance.
The baron himself was positioned behind the desk. It seemed to the boys like the Baron was merely a child sitting at his father’s desk, not his own. He had his back to the opened windows, in full view as they were, Eamonn noticed they were tied off, allow the sun’s rays to come into the room. If the Baron wanted some privacy or to get the glare of the sun out of the room, it would be a simple matter of releasing the restricting ropes on the deep purple curtains at either side of the frame. Certainly would be breezy and comfortable through summer, Sam thought as he saw the tops of the trees above the courtyard outside swaying lightly. There were several chairs scattered throughout the room, two by the fire where the baron would spend his evenings poring over his unending stream of reports. Another was beside the bookcase, a quick glance from where he standing told Eamonn that there were few military documents in the bookcase, many were in fact story books.
There was one placed in the corner opposite the door leading into the Baron’s Office which, at this stage, Eamonn couldn’t put his finger on its importance. Last of all, there were five placed facing towards the Baron’s desk. Eamonn moved into the room properly to meet with the Baron, he turned back to look at the large painting behind him when he noticed a man appear to sit in that same chair he’d been wondering about. Dressed in military uniform, the stranger had removed his belt and sword buckle and placed it by his side, leaning against the chair. Eamonn noticed the three piece embellishment on his shirt front, a design he hadn’t seen before, he turned back to face the Baron as the chamberlain appeared and cleared his throat again, as if to gather everyone’s attention.
Maddox looked up from his papers to view the two new applicants in front of him, he recognized one of them, and found himself searching for his name. No matter, all in due course, he thought. He looked at Edric, the man had slipped in behind as the door had been closing and Maddox gave a slight nod of the head to his chamberlain, the signal to begin proceedings. Edric reciprocated and cleared his voice a third time, ready to present the new candidates to the man. Eamonn grimaced at the sound. That particular habit was already beginning to gnaw at his nerves.
“My lord, there are two candidates wishing to be placed in an academy for further tuition. May I present…” he held his hand up with his head down as he read the names from his sheet of paper and signaled to the two arrivals. “This is ‘ee-a-mon’ Reeves…” presenting the first of the boys, Eamonn sighed heavily, berating his parents for the choosing of his name. “It’s actually ‘Ay-mon’” corrected Sam, smiling at his friend. The chamberlain looked admonishingly at the boy before taking another inspection at his ledger and made a small note on the parchment. “My apologies, Eamonn” he chamberlain said, his apologetic smile going unnoticed as Eamonn continued looking at the Baron, seemingly looking to ignore the secretary.
The Baron considered Eamonn. He saw a boy that was not yet fifteen, not yet six-foot in height, slender in stature apart from the midsection, which was slightly on the thicker side, he also had bright green eyes, along with dark-wavy hair that was well kept. He had a small shapely nose with a full chin and set of cheeks, and a hint of steeliness in the boy’s eyes. Maddox noticed Edric had paused and waited for approval from him with his arm outstretched as if revealing him for the first time. With a hand gesture, Maddox signaled for Edric to continue.
“…And this is Sam Rushdale” Edric said, now pointing towards the taller of the two boys. While Eamonn was average height for his age, Sam was tall, a few months younger than Eamonn, he’d surpassed his friend the previous summer and kept going. He had straight dark-blonde hair that barely went down to the level of his ears. The figure had a lean face that one might consider straight, but it had plenty of the baby fat that would diminish as he developed.
There were corresponding thick and bushy eyebrows that were darker than his hair. Just below them were the boy’s dull grey eyes that over time seemed to shimmer in the current light and then there was his nose. It was more or less a lump, though strangely small and not too wide. Overall, Maddox saw the sort of boy that the girls would see as being rather handsome and once he had found some confidence and the right training, could be a formidable prospect for one to encounter given his already strong build.
With introductions over, Maddox invited the two boys to a seat opposite to him. On formal occasions, such as this, it was protocol for someone in his position to address the people he was presented in the order of introduction. As he went to call on Eamonn, the man in the back of the room lifted his head to look up at Maddox, made eye contact with the Baron and lightly shook his head. Maddox drew his brows together into a frown. Sighing inwardly, he decided it was best that he assign a placing to Sam first. Without looking, he slowly sifted through the documents in front of him, placing the one on top to the bottom of the pile. Out of the corner of his eye, Maddox saw the figure in the corner slowly nod.
Maddox smiled warmly at the two boys, looking from one to the other, picked up the folder of documents from one side of his desk, flicked through it loudly until he found what he wanted, looked at Sam and began his spiel. “Sam Rushdale, I congratulate you on achieving adequate results in your tuition in your hometown of Wildwood and acknowledge your requests for assignment to one of the many clans in this realm…” he quickly leant across the table to shake hands with the boy, “damn this massive table” he muttered as he stood.
Sam, bursting with joy, smiled amusingly at the baron’s informal expression. Nevertheless, he leaned forward to return the sturdy handshake. Unfortunately, his nervousness and the importance of the moment got the better of him and his attempt was a sweaty and overly exuberant one, pumping the baron’s hand eagerly as he went bright red with embarrassment. Absentmindedly, as the baron resumed his seat, he wiped his hand on his pants, an action his wife would certainly disapprove of.
Satisfied with his part in the introductions, he informed the student of his achievements and again shook the hand of the boy, this time Sam’s hand was only slightly damp. “Now, your assessor has noted a list of professions that you can take on” Maddox said as he produced the file from the bundle in front of him, “First, we would like to know what you would like to do” he stated.
Again, despite all of the self-assuredness that Sam had shown the previous night, he stumbled on his words. All he could manage was a few garbled words that even Eamonn had trouble deciphering despite his being with Sam for fifteen years and was pretty well used to Sam’s mumbled jargon. Sam’s cheeks started to turn a deep red, embarrassed and frustrated by his inability again to communicate, he looked up and saw the reassuring smiling from the Baron. It gave him unexpected confidence, he loudly cleared his voice, “I would like to be a part of the Knight’s Academy” he replied.
Maddox rubbed his chin, thinking it over in his mind, the boy looked to be strong enough for the job and judging from the recommendations he had in front of him, he seemed to be a good candidate. He wasn’t overly confident in speaking to people, but Maddox brushed that aside, it was a skill that Sam would develop in time once he gained some confidence.
Maddox smiled at the boy and nodded. “And you will be… although one small predicament with that”. He watched as the smile faded from the boy’s face, grinning to himself, Maddox was quick to reassure Sam, “Nothing major” he added, “the academy is simply not enrolling any new recruits for another week or so when the summer semester starts” he told him. Maddox could tell the boy was less than thrilled to hear that news, knowing that the boy was expecting to get straight into it, now it seemed likely for Sam that he’d be required to return home for a week and come back when they were ready for him, Maddox’s next words settled those thoughts.
“We’ll have you stay within the walls of the castle, there aren’t many military men coming through here at the moment. I’m sure we’ll be able to fit you in one of the barracks for the time being, until we can arrange your placement in the new regiment with the other new applicants.” He said.
With Sam’s hope restored, Maddox looked towards his Chamberlain, “See to it Edric” he said and then shooed him away. Maddox now gestured to Sam, “Go with Edric, he’ll run through some of the preliminary paperwork for you that you can fill out in his office.”
Sam hesitantly stood and excused himself, he really wanted to know what would become of Eamonn, but at the same time knew that his presence wouldn’t help his friend make his decision, he would only be an unwanted distraction. He weren’t to know that Eamonn was in fact meant to go before Sam, and that he had been purposefully put ahead of Eamonn, he turned and bowed awkwardly to the Baron.
“Thank you again, sir” the Baron stood again for the boy as Sam offered his hand. Maddox eagerly took it, gripping the boy’s hand fiercely. Sam grimaced at the pain and hastily withdrew the crushed limb before he was shooed again out of the room.
Once the door was closed, Maddox looked across the table at the figure of Eamonn, still sitting there very calmly. Maddox was however, by his trade, an expert reader of body language and he was that the boy was indeed nervous. “I thought that I’d take the opportunity to take care of Sam’s assignment as soon as possible” he began, “I already had a report from your teachers in Wildwood that he was going to request a placing with the Knight’s Academy. And I didn’t want him having his say into what you should do. Now, let’s get down to business…” he insisted, flicking through the files on the desk until he reached the bottom of pile and picked up what was Eamonn’s report.
Eamonn merely nodded. There was no need for him to say anything. And he feared that if he did say anything it would probably only come out as a croak, he had no wish to embarrass himself in front of the Baron, not like Sam had, he thought with a smirk.
The Baron looked through the boy’s report, he was impressed. The boy certainly had a lot of qualities and Maddox could see the boy fitting in with many of the different disciplines. “Well, having looked at your assessments, you have received extremely good results. You should be proud of your efforts” he said breaking the silence. “I see you excelled in particular in linguistic and communication skills and your problem solving results are remarkable. Those skills alone open up a wide assortment that you will be able to choose from” he said.
Sitting back, the Baron let the boy sit for a minute, he noticed the stranger in the darkened corner tilt his head slightly, as if mulling over something. Judging from the look on Eamonn’s face, what Maddox had just told the boy hadn’t made his decision any easier. The silence stretched between the two, neither wanting to say anything. The Baron was expecting Eamonn to make his request and Eamonn was waiting for Maddox to ask the question he knew was coming.
“I haven’t made a definite decision yet…” Eamonn said, leaning forward. “I haven’t made my mind up between three of them…the Knight’s Academy, the King’s Scouts and the Hunter’s Class” he told Maddox.
Maddox considered the proposal, stroking his chin thoughtfully for a moment. Then, leaning back in his chair, he looked toward the man in the corner, saw the shake of the head from the man and sighed to himself. He smiled grimly at the boy and was forced to tell the young man in front of him what he always hated to say to applicants: “I think that your skills and abilities lie in another area…therefore, I reject your request.”