There was the echo of swords drumming, its sound drifting throughout the confines of the courtyard providing background noise to those nearby. Standing above, in his private suite of rooms, was the commander, watching as his troops practiced the different sequences and flourishes of their swords, connecting with the mock targets set up for training. With his attuned eye, the commander could see when a stroke was out of unison with the rest of the group, or when it struck against a worn segment of the target, hitting the raw beams underneath the rounded and hardened timber. Such material helped hold the target in place, as well as allowing the older damaged limbs to be dissected and for new ones to be put in place.
The constant battering had an odd sort of calming effect on the man. The commander likened it to the rising sun signaling the break of dawn leading into the new day. For now he could sense that things were developing. That was the reason for his meeting today. The man was dressed in his simple clothing, he’d forsaken his expensive jewel encrusted leathers, complete with the obligatory varnished boots and signet rings, and instead the commander wore his woolen trousers, long sleeved tunic and comfortably soft leather boots, it was the sort of standard attire he wore for informal occasions such as today. His intelligence officers had given word to him, bringing forth this conference. He’d sent a message to his two foremost subjects, directing their most accomplished and capable men to his province today.
It had recently passed noon, the constant meeting of weapons and timber had been replaced with the infrequent dull thuds of practice swords striking wood, followed by the higher pitched clapping of the practice swords hitting one another. Obviously, the man assumed, they had moved on to a different set of drills for the recruits. The man sighed. He breathed in the winter breeze, the commander noted the air had lost that edge to it, it no longer bit at the back of his throat and he could breathe more deeply now, a smile spread across his face at the thought.
Winter was a dark time throughout the region. The cold stifled all sound and prevented even the most determined of heart from journeying further than the local inns once night had fallen. The change in weather would see more of his people emerge from their slumber and venture out into the world again. There would also be more game on the trails to hunt, replenishing stocks after the harsher months.
He heard muffled voices coming from the anteroom now. Knowing that the doors were mere seconds from being opened, he moved smoothly towards a tall cabinet situated up against the opposing wall. Opening one of the glass windows in the cabinet, he was drawn to the well-aged brandy. He brought with him three small glasses, and as he sat in his chair there was a knock on his chamber’s doors.
“Come!” he called, his voice was silky, but had a distinct rural accent that belied his position of rank. He pulled the stopper out of the bottle, inhaled the rich scent of the liquor, sighed and poured a generous amount into his own glass and half that much into the other two. The commander also realized his excitement in anticipation of what was to follow.
Through the doors came three men, two in military uniforms and the other daubed with intricate necklaces and other fine things that were typical of his secretary’s clothing. “Your guests have arrived, my lord.” the secretary announced. The daubed man gestured for the arrivals to move into the room and take a seat and then retreated from the room, quietly closing the doors behind him, disappearing from the other’s view.
The newcomers were dressed in well-made tunics, one with the embellishment of a four part pin in place on his left breast; the sign of a Captain, his companion wore a similar pin, with three parts rather than the four of his companion, proof of his Lieutenancy. The commander took another sip of his brandy before standing and giving each man his own glass. The captain merely shook his head, passing on the offer; the Lieutenant reluctantly took the glass before setting it down in front of himself on the Commander’s large and ornate desk. Briefly, they took the time to exchange pleasantries, each highlighting their various hunting feats and amusement at brawls in the local inn before coming to the crux of their meeting. “It’s time.” the castle lord began, “The matter has developed far enough that it is time that we do something about this.”
Nods of agreement came from both men as the Commander pushed on, “Both our men are in place, ready to get things started. Three weeks from today, we’ll send word for Watton to move the men into position so we can progress with the plan. Timing is essential, maintaining anonymity is fundamental to this venture succeeding. If things should fail, the country could fall into disarray. Should anyone be informed of this matter, they need to be silenced before they have the chance to intervene. When the time comes for it, you two may step in.” he told them.
The Commander drank the last of his brandy, reaching out for the bottle, gesturing towards the others in an unspoken question. The Captain and Lieutenant shook their head, the Commander shrugged to himself and poured himself some more. “It should be a simple task where you slip in, do as instructed and move out again. I’ll let Soren know to commence the next phase; he’ll set his men to work on the outliers while we go for the throat. Bear in mind, we can afford no mistakes from any quarter, I’ll need you at your best, make sure that you set your foundations early and to ensure that nothing has the chance to slip by us.” he told the men.
Again, each man nodded in confirmation. They were pinning their hopes on this plan, for they each knew the importance of what they were about to embark on. They knew their strengths and weaknesses and more importantly their promise.
Each man smiled at one another, “Do you think they’ll suspect anything, my lord?” The Lieutenant’s question received a smile from the commander. It seemed cruel, as if he were a hunter sharply pulling the noose sharply on his prey. “I doubt it.” he responded.
Together the three stood, shook hands and the Captain led the way out of the room, leaving the Commander to his work. The Commander moved back by the overlook, watching as the newest members of his military learnt the basics of combat. He stroked his chin, knowing that the time for peace was close to an end, and that the coming months could define the country’s future.
He turned the side of his desk, shaking the small bell, the ring echoed to his anteroom. The form of his assistant appeared by the door, a question in his eyes. “Bring my son to me. We have work to do.”