VIII. The White Bear of Banesbridge

VIII. The White Bear of Banesbridge

A Chapter by D.S. Dirck

VIII. The White Bear of Banesbridge

Year: 643ALD

Reaching for the wolf pelt cloak on the rack, Graham flung it around his shoulders. A bronze brooch fashioned into a bear shape served to keep the pelt cloak fastened around his collar. He straightened the cloak over his leather armor, giving himself a good look in the mirror.

Is this what a lord looks like? Pale skin, silver hair, and red eyes? I suppose I’m lucky they only call me the ‘White Bear,’ and not the ‘Demon Bear’ or worse.

The creak of his chamber doors caught his attention, and he glanced to see a young face poking through.

“It’s okay, William. You can come in,” he motioned to his younger brother.

“Look, Graham,” said William. “The cuirass you got me fits real nice.”

Graham smiled softly, kneeling to eye-level, straightening the collar on the leather cuirass, a gift for the little lord’s eighth birthday. With all the northmen appearing in full war regalia, it seemed only appropriate William dress the part as well. “It looks like a proper fit.”

“Brother? Are you ready for the party?” William asked, “I’m all dressed up! Can I wear a sword too?”

“I suppose,” he replied with a hint of reluctance. “Just make sure it’s a practice sword, so you don’t cut yourself. And keep it in its scabbard. Don’t let me catch you flailing it around. Okay?”

William nodded with a wide smile, dashing out of the room.

Rising to his feet, he was nearly ready, missing only his sword. Against the edge of the bed rested The Maul. The jet black blade measuring five feet in length appeared to drink in the light of the room. Running his fingers over the bear insignia on the pommel brought a wave of memories, most regarding his father. Graham preferred to keep the sword unsheathed in his chambers much of the time. Seeing it served as a constant reminder of the responsibility he bore as Overlord of Tor. The blade was oversized and intimidating, as was the duty placed upon his shoulders.

With great care, he hoisted the blade up. It required two strong hands, and the weight of it left him wondering how his father had wielded it with such ease.

Father may have brought glory to our family with this oversized chunk of steel, but if I carry it into battle, it will only get me killed.

His father, Berrin, had carried the greatsword everywhere he went. It was a sign of power, and commanded more respect than any crown, yet after some deliberation, he rested the blade back against the bed, resolving to leave it behind.   

Being twenty years old and of above-average height, the blacksteel greatsword still dwarfed him in the mirror. For ornamental use, the blade served its purpose, though he yearned for a single-handed weapon.

Having commissioned the smiths to forge him a blacksteel short sword, a month had passed without success.

Bitter winds stirred as evening fell over the castle of Banesbridge. Graham stepped out into the biting cold of the open-air palisade in the northeast courtyard. A large brazier blazed in the center, providing heat for the patrons, as well as a place to roast several large hogs. A dense crowd of rugged Torish men with thick beards, boiled leather, and animal pelts milled around large mead casks, while minstrels toiled on their lutes and lyres, keeping the mood festive despite the sting of the cold.

“Here, take this.” Steward Marshall Benjamin approached, holding a large mug of mead. “They’ll trust you more if they see you drinking.”

Graham glanced at the steward’s crimson leather doublet, unusual attire for a man of his status. Coupled with the sabre hanging from his belt, Benjamin appeared ready for a battle.  

“They must have loved my father, then,” Graham remarked, taking the cup.

“With enough time, they’ll love you as well,” Benjamin replied, producing his own mug of mead and taking a long drink. “Never forget, we are the most powerful of all the holds in the Empire. While our army is the hammer, the men you see before you are the hands that swing it. Their love and loyalty are paramount.”

Though Benjamin’s words were intended as beneficial advice, they served only to weigh on Graham’s heart. He nodded in understanding. “How are the festivities going?”

Taking a deep breath, Benjamin stroked the short hairs on his goatee, which appeared to be turning from black to grey, one hair at a time. “Pray to the gods we don’t run out of Bloodwine. Otherwise, half the handmaidens in the city may get with child on account of our humble guests.”

“Is it that bad?” Graham wondered, wanting to laugh.

Benjamin gave a light-hearted chuckle. “Your sister was wise enough to order her own handmaidens home after she caught Lord Berribark bedding no less than three of them.”

“To which Lord Berribark are you referring?” asked Graham. “There’s at least three I can see.”

Benjamin raised his mug. “Does it matter? By the way, did you see what Lord Stephron Brackin brought you?”

Graham shook his head. “I did not.”

“Well, there’s an entire cask of cocoa butter in the pantry with your name on it.” Benjamin smiled as Graham’s eyes lit up. “I’ve got the kitchens turning out the confections and tarts and things as we speak.”

Graham’s taste for chocolate was well known, it being such a rarity amongst the Torish. “I should thank Lord Brackin for that. Not to mention, his son Roymar has been invaluable in keeping the militia in fine shape.”

Every lord and nearly every half-lord brought a gift of honor to curry favor with Graham, the new Overlord of the Tor. The elder Gron Berribark, Lord of Westwatch, appeared with casks of ale, while Haedric Plumm, Lord of the Plains, presented sacks of various grains, and Milburn Brandenburg of Emmery offered giant salted salmon. In between them, the lesser lords of the smaller keeps trickled in.

The Woodsons, Datsons, and Boleys filed in through the main gate, behind the Stampers, Mottes, Kyles, Morines, Vanders, and Doolers. Graham did his best to keep track of the names, but the effort was in vain, as he shook hands with every lord, lordling, steward, castellan, advisor and everyone in between. Faces blurred together, and it seemed every fourth person was named Thomas or Haedric. By midday, Graham abandoned counting the number of Bjorns and Halders he had met.   

Many of the lords were loud, fat, bearded men, forty years of age and older, dressed in boiled leather and rusted steel plate mail emblazoned with the signs of their houses. Some measured their worth by the loudness of their belches, while others regaled one another with tales of their heroics during the last Great War. Graham heard the name Old Bear mentioned more than a dozen times, referring to his late father. They spoke of the man as if he walked amongst them still.

The sounds of hearty laughter and music echoed through the palisade as the Banesbridge musicians performed off in the corner. Gron Berribark, already drunk, slapped his round belly to the beat of the song with one hand, while spilling ale over himself with the other. “Play faster! Ha! Ha! It’s too slow!” he shouted, scolding the musicians.

“Barry, you drunken b*****d,” exclaimed Haedric Plumm, as he embraced his friend in a great bear hug. “Fancy meeting you here!” The fat lords laughed, knocking their mugs together.

“Aye. I’ll not have those Durish pricks prancing around our lands without first glancing upon this!” Lord Gron Berribark unsheathed his longsword, waving it around with drunken exuberance.

“Father! Put that sword away!” scolded Lord Berribark’s eldest son, his namesake. The younger Gron looked the spitting image of his father, minus the orange beard and swollen belly. “You’re drunk again!”

“Aye! And what of it, boy?” Gron scowled at his son for a flash of a second, lowering the sword and erupting in more laughter.

Navigating the crowd, Graham took care to make himself seen, shaking hands with every lord and commander he passed. Some seemed genuinely pleased to meet him, while others displayed less enthusiasm. He could see it in their eyes as they gawked at his pale skin and red eyes.

They think I’m a wraith. Still. After all these years. Berrin and Marilyn’s b*****d wraith child…

He felt the soft touch of a feminine hand on his own, and glanced to find his sister reaching for him. Three years older, Nitsa was self-admittedly not an attractive girl. Her breasts were large and her figure slim, yet her face seemed overly manish, with a broad chin, wide nose, and thick eyebrows. But what she lacked in beauty, she compensated for in cunning.

“Where is Father’s sword?” she asked, chiding Graham. “You should be wearing it.”

Jerking away from her, he frowned. “I didn’t feel like wearing it. It’s uncomfortable.”

Nitsa shook her head, gesturing to the men surrounding them. “They need to see it. They bled for that sword.”

Graham gave her a flash of a scowl. “Should I go back and get it?” He hated few things more than being admonished by his own sister.

“It’s too late now,” she replied, her voice rife with disappointment. “It’ll look like you’re trying too hard if you go back and get it. We need to win them over. Gron Berribark may preach your praises, but many of these men don’t know you well enough.”

“This party was you and Benjamin’s doing,” Graham remarked.

“The intention was for the lords to meet you,” Nitsa plainly stated, pouring the rest of her mead into Graham’s cup, topping it off. “They need to know you’re as strong as Father.”

She should have been born a man. She’s smarter, more confident, and would probably make a better lord than I. She plays herself off as some innocent maid, but I know better. Deep down she is the embodiment of Father’s cruelty and Mother’s cunning. Two things I sorely lack.

“How does my dress look?” she asked.

Graham examined the white leather dress with long sleeves. The tightness around the waist made her breasts appear larger. “It looks well.”

She replied with a look of wanting to strike him. “I spent two hours getting dressed and I only look well?”

“What do you want me to say? That I’d take you to bed?” Graham scoffed.

She returned a grin, running a finger over his cheek and turning his head towards the crowd of drunken Torish. “Those are the men you need to bed, brother. Lay with them in a bed of blood and glory and they’ll be yours forever.”

Grabbing her wrist, he squeezed tight to the point of nearly hurting her. Her eyes flashed a wince of pain yet she buried it down, though it was too late. He'd already seen it. Slowly, he pried her hand away from his face. “What would you have me do?” He growled. “Start a war solely for their loyalty?”

Nitsa jerked back, yet he refused to let go. “If bedding me would win them over, would you do it?”

The second the words escaped her lips he released her. She seemed to be always testing him, pushing him in ways he was never quite prepared for. “There’s not enough mead here…” he coldly answered. The rebuke was sharp, by intention.

A soft scowl gave way to a bitter smile. “Now you’re thinking like a Torishman,” she said, rubbing her wrist. “All these men want to do is drink, eat, fight, and f**k. Use that to your advantage.”

Battles, buffets and brothels... Why didn’t I think of that?

Nitsa turned to leave, as Milburn Brandenburg, the Lord of Tookin Bay, approached. His smile, surrounded by a thick, braided beard, conveyed a welcoming demeanor.

“How is life in the bridge, lad?” Lord Brandenburg asked with a slap on the back, nearly knocking Graham down.

“Well enough.”

Lord Brandenburg took a long drink from his cup, wiping the froth from his upper lip. “I hadn’t seen the city since we rebuilt her. I see we did good work. The Durs can destroy our cities all they like, but they’ve never crushed our resolve. This city is a testament to that.”

Graham nodded, glancing toward the twin towers of the main keep. “I pray the worst is behind us.”

“It was a hard loss, losing your old man,” Lord Brandenburg sympathized. “The red lung is a cruel gift from the gods.”

“He did not go peacefully either, I’m sad to say,” Graham recalled. “He fought to the end.”

Choking on his own blood.

After a moment of awkward silence, Graham motioned for Lord Brandenburg to follow, as he moved to escape the suffocating atmosphere of the crowd.

The pair climbed the steps of the eastern parapet, with the towers of the bridge to their right, and the vast expanse of the Fall opening before them. Lord Brandenburg peered over the stones to the blackness below, the only definitive landmark between Elytia and Duria. “I can only guess what ill fostered the wrath of the gods so they would seek to scar the world in such a way.”

In the night, the bottom of the gorge appeared a black void of nothingness. A sheer drop of a mile, in daylight one could make out the faint inklings of pines and firs dotting the more sloped sections of the cliff face.

Graham’s attention turned to the five-hundred-foot-long bridge spanning the narrowest section of the Fall. The light of a brazier glowed atop the western bridge tower from the men manning it. Across the bridge rested the eastern tower on the Durish side of the border, sitting empty and in disrepair.

Looking further east over the Fall, the moonlight illuminated the snowcapped silhouette of the Bothea Mountains as they loomed far above the horizon.

“Do you know how many times this city has been burned down?” asked Lord Brandenburg.

“Five.” Graham recalled each sacking; the year, and war in which they occurred. “Five times she’s been torn down, and five times we rebuilt her, each incarnation larger and thicker than before.” Turning back towards the main keep, Graham pointed at a tower whose stones seemed older and more weathered than the rest of the keep. “Crowsbane Tower was the only thing left intact after they sacked it last. The walls were too thick for the Durs to knock down, even with their mastodons.”

“Thirteen years it took to rebuild her,” Lord Brandenburg remarked. “I’m glad your old man lived to see it through.”

Graham nodded. “As do I.” Though deep within, the feeling lingered it would have been wiser to simply knock the bridge down and rebuild the city someplace else. Knowing that pride and tradition had been the key driving factors, he wisely kept his ruminations to himself.

At some point, one would think it unwise to continue rebuilding on such politically shaky ground. Without the bridge, the Durs would be forced to march north around the Crag or try their luck with the Shield.

Lord Brandenburg drank in the cold of the night air, bemoaning his empty mug. Walking down the steps, he stopped and turned around. “You’re a young lad, some could say too young, to rule over a group as old and stubborn as this lot. But your father did right by all of us, and in return it’s our duty to follow you to the gates of hell, if need be.”

Graham smiled as his red eyes glistened in the light from the fire below. “Let’s pray it never comes to that.”

“My lord,” Benjamin called out from the steps below. “Lord Reynard Scarberry has arrived.”

Graham sighed, “I suppose we ought to welcome him, then.”

The pair proceeded to the western inner gate as servants unloaded crates from the wagons of Lord Scarberry’s caravan. The Lord of the Crag brought a personal guard of thirty men, none of which Graham recognized.

“Brother Reynard. Welcome to Castle Banesbridge,” greeted Graham. “I’m pleased you could make it.”

“As am I,” replied Reynard.

Only one year older than Steward Benjamin, Reynard Scarberry was the second- youngest lord in all of Tor. He appeared thinner than most, but still wore the same leather, armor and furs as the other lords. His cheeks were sunken in, and he bore dark circles under his eyes. His hair was long and thinning, running a stark white, whiter  even than Graham’s silvery mane. In a certain light, the pair could easily be mistaken for kinsmen.

“As per tradition, I come bearing a gift.” Snapping a quick finger, Reynard signaled for the servants to bring a crate over to Lord Graham and open it. Flies buzzed around as Graham and Benjamin awaited to view the contents. Upon prying the lid off the crate, Graham eyed what appeared to be a half-frozen blue finger, crusted in black blood.

“Are those severed hands?” he asked awash with confusion and disgust.

A distinct frown sprouted on Benjamin’s face as he blinked several times.

“This is for you, White Bear,” Reynard Scarberry declared. “This is the justice of Tor. Here you can clearly see the debts paid by the thieves and criminals who have plagued our lands for far too long.”  

Graham looked again and noticed a severed head, and what appeared to be a penis, near the bottom of the crate.

“A raper and conspirator were amongst the condemned,” informed Reynard as he realized Graham found a bit more than mere severed hands in the box. “Perhaps you would like to mount these somewhere?”

Is he serious?

“A conspirator?” questioned Benjamin.

Graham found it difficult to look away, noticing some of the hands appearing smaller than the others.

“We caught this man sending information across the border.” Reynard pulled a pile of crumpled papers from inside his fur coat and handed them to Benjamin, “My stewards couldn’t decipher the texts but we believe it contains information about every keep spanning the entire hold. We put him to the block as punishment for high treason.”

“You didn’t interrogate him first?” asked Benjamin.

“Oh, he was questioned. He claimed he knew nothing,” responded Reynard with a crooked smile, “I interrogated him myself, and he held out, much longer than I expected.”

I wonder, how bitter was his end? Yet why would a man spy for the Durs? That is a bad omen, no doubt.

“Thank you for the gift Lord Scarberry,” Graham remarked, swallowing his disgust. “Please make yourself comfortable while you’re here.”

Benjamin glanced at Graham with a look of disapproval.

We all know what Lord Scarberry has been through.

Graham looked back and shook his head.

“Master Scarberry seems to be doing well these days,” Benjamin asserted.

All we got was a box of body parts. For a man held prisoner and tortured for two years, obviously he must be doing well…

Graham shifted his attention to Lord Scarberry’s papers, unsettled by the notion of spies running around his lands. He took the crumpled pages from the steward and looked at them. Two pages contained crudely drawn maps highlighted with ink scratchings.

“This writing is some type of Durish,” Benjamin explained. “The maps seem to correspond to the western shores of Tor and then east beyond the Crag. You can see the coast and Westwatch, here.” The steward pointed to the points on the paper.

“What could this mean?”

“I can’t say for sure. It leaves too many questions,” Benjamin reluctantly admitted. “How could a man know this language? And what are the Durs planning, that they would need information of our cities?”

An uncomfortable silence lingered as they both stewed on the revelation. “We shall speak more of this,” Graham muttered under his breath. “Given the timing, I don’t want the other lords learning of this. They’ll be liable to haul off and start a war of their own accord.”

“Very wise, my lord.” Benjamin nodded in agreement. “In the meantime, you should address our guests before they drink too much.”

There were few things Graham loathed more than speeches. His father seemed adept at cursing profane drivel which served well to rile a crowd. Collecting his thoughts, he stood before the brazier as all the Torishmen in their thick furs and leather turned their eyes to him.

“Brothers! I stand before you as Graham Tosch, your overlord of the mighty Tor. Many of you knew my father quite well. Many of you fought for him against the rebellion and again in the Great War that followed. Some of you marched with him as he razed the city of Thron and left a third of Duria in smoking ruin.” He glanced to see Nitsa nodding in approval. His voice felt unsure and timid in his own head as sweat dripped from his temple. “In a few short days, Rex Brandor Mountainbreaker will cross that bridge and enter into our city, the very city he razed to the ground fifteen years ago. I know none of you need a lesson of the histories. Our losses were great, from the Crag to here and all the way to Westwatch. It should go without saying that I will never allow that to happen again.”

The lords raised their fists and exclaimed, “Hoooah!”

“I summoned you here to stand with me at that bridge, so that we might remind the nation of Duria who they will be facing should they decide to raise a hand against us ever again!”

The great lords beat their chests, “Hoooah!”

“Long live the White Bear!” shouted the familiar voice of Gron Berribark.

“Yeaaaaaa!” the men replied.

“I say we fooking kill them all!” exclaimed one of the lords.

“They killed my wife! Crucify them!” demanded another.  

Another lord stepped forward, his face half-burned. “They raped and murdered me daughters when they razed Morestead. They all deserve to die!”

“Death to Duria!” several men erupted in a boisterous chant. “Death to Duria! Death to Duria!”

Graham glanced to Benjamin and Nitsa as the men became more unruly. It was apparent old wounds remained unhealed across much of the land.

This was a terrible idea. These men are uncontrollable. How did father deal with this? I imagine he would have been the one starting the chanting.  

Gron Berribark stepped forward, standing next to Graham and calling for the crowd’s attention. “Fifteen years ago, those pig fuckers burned our homes and slaughtered our families while the Old Bear hung the traitor, Clathis Broomhowre, at Westwatch. My little boy Tamlin was murdered while we smuggled Lady Tosch and the three little ones out of this very castle. I look at this White Bear, who stands before me, and I see that my son did not die in vain. He gave his life so that Tor could live on!”

The men around the fire cheered again, instead chanting White Bear… White Bear… White Bear…

Lord Berribark turned to Graham, half-rolling his eyes. “You got your hands full, lad,” he muttered under his breath.

Graham’s eyes met those of Reynard, who was standing silent. “If they choose to bring war to our lands again, I swear to you, I will raze Tiburion to the ground myself until not a stone is left standing. And should it come to that, not even Lord Peter Hathaway himself will stop me. But if the peace is broken, it will not be by our hands.”

With looks of disappointment splashed across many of their faces, the chanting and furor subsided, and Graham drew a breath of relief, ordering more casks of ale to be brought out.

“That went well enough,” remarked Nitsa, as she approached to reassure her brother.

“No. This was a mistake,” he replied. “What if something happens when the Rex arrives? What if I can’t keep them in line?”

Nitsa returned a plain gaze. “Then keep them in line.”

“They’re bloodthirsty savages,” Graham declared.

Again, Nitsa poured her cup of mead into Graham’s. “They’re your bloodthirsty savages.”

In protest, he poured the mead on the ground, tossing the wooden mug into the burning brazier.

With one hand on his chest she motioned with a seductive finger for the younger Gron Berribark to approach.

“Can I help you m’lady?” he asked with eagerness.

Nitsa looked him up and down. “Lord Berribark, I am feeling fatigued. Would you be so kind to escort me back to my chambers?”

“Of course, m’lady,” the orange-haired lord grinned.

Before leaving, she turned back towards a visibly irritated Graham. “You worry too much. Look at father. He was drunk most of the time and even then, all of these men risked their lives for him more than once.”

He pulled away, visibly irritated. “I’m not father. You have more in common with him than I ever did.”

Nitsa laughed, handing her empty mug to her brother. “Enough of this talk. It’s time to drink and get to know your men better. Tor has never followed a sober bear before. Let’s not start now.”

Awaking to a knock on the door the following morning, Graham stirred from his bed. “Who is it?” he shouted.

The door swung open as Benjamin charged in, gesturing to Graham’s clothes, which were strewn about the floor. “We’ve got company. You’d better be up.”

“What’s the commotion?” Graham asked, rubbing his eyes.”

“Twenty men flying the banner of the eagle are on approach.”

“The High Steward sent men here?” Graham leapt from his bed, scrambling to get dressed.”

“It would appear so my lord,” Benjamin replied. “You should have them to state the nature of their business.”

Upon reaching the outer-gate of the city, twenty-three mounted men in the golden armor of the Royal Legion stood waiting outside the city entrance as Graham and Benjamin rushed out to greet them.

“I did not expect Lord Hathaway to send an envoy.” Graham eyed the men, trying to determine their leader. “No word was sent of your coming.”

Three of the riders trotted out, as the one in the middle removed his helm. A young man with short brown hair urged his mount forward as the commanding officer of the group. Appearing to be even younger than Graham, the sight of him drew a long pause.

“So, you are the White Bear?” the boy asked in a cynical fashion.


“I am Graham Tosch, yes. Who do I have the pleasure of speaking to?”

“I’m Kevyn Hathaway. We’ve come to see Rex Brandor safely across the border. Say, he hasn’t arrived yet, has he?”

“He has not,” Graham replied.

The young southern lord pulled his cloak tight. It was obvious they were all under-dressed. “That’s too bad. I’d hoped we’d be late and not have to spend the night in this snowy wasteland.”

Graham glared at the young man, entertaining the notion of slaying them all here and now. If the Durs consumed most of the north’s hatred, the Empire came in a close second. “I apologize for any inconvenience on your part.” His voice reeked of sarcasm.

“Anyways, to my left is the always cheerful Sir Derrian Conley and to my right is the ever-talkative Sir Adam Ryker.” Kevyn gestured to the horsemen on either side. “Gentlemen, say hello to Something Tosch. Lord of the snow.”

“My name is Graham.”

“Of course, my lord,” replied the young Hathaway with a feigned sincerity, “Might we get something to eat? The road thus far has been long and boring and most of all, exhausting.”

Graham led the men to the dining hall just as breakfast was being served. Some of the Torish lords were mulling about, looking for coffee. Sir Ryker and Sir Conley took a seat on each side of Lord Hathaway as a servant brought plates of hard bread and warm ale with bowls of pottage.

The young lord scooped the pottage, letting it drip in his bowl, making a sour face. “What is this?”

Graham and Benjamin looked at one another as Nitsa approached the table, appearing wide awake in comparison to everyone else.

“Good morning, brother,” Nitsa cheerfully greeted. “What are you doing up so early?”

“Entertaining our honored guests,” Graham replied, his red eyes appearing redder than usual.

“How rude of you not to introduce us,” Kevyn remarked, reaching out and kissing Nitsa’s hand. “I’m Kevyn, and these two strapping lads are Sir Oink to my left and Sir Doink to my right.”

A fork dropped, clanging on the plate. “I’ve had about enough of your mouth, Hathaway,” announced Sir Conley.

Graham chuckled to himself, seeing he wasn’t the only one not appreciating the young lord’s lack of charm. “Gentlemen, may I introduce my sister, Lady Nitsa.”

“It is so wonderful to meet knights from the capital,” Nitsa exclaimed with awe. “I always wanted to see the capital city.”

“It’s, uh, certainly not as, cold,” Kevyn replied.

“Oh, I see,” she replied. “So what brings you all the way to Banesbridge?”

Sir Conley spoke up, “My lady, were here to escort�"”

“�"We’re here to play wet nurse to your brother and his merry northern folk to ensure he doesn’t make any rash moves when the Durs arrive.”

They think we’re savages up here?

The remark did not go unheard amongst the Torish lords sitting at the other tables. One such lord in particular did not take kindly to the notion of any full-grown northern lord requiring a wet nurse.

The barrel-chested Lord Haedric Plumm pushed off from the adjacent table and rose to his feet. Sir Conley and Sir Ryker stood as well, while the Hathaway boy calmly sat, dipping a piece of bread in the pottage.

“Might be you capital dogs think you can come all the way here and tell us how to do things,” Lord Plumm fumed. “Well, I hate to be the one to disappoint you, but we don’t owe the likes o’ you nothing!”

If Haedric attempts to gut them, should I even try to stop him?

Kevyn motioned for the knights to be seated, “My good lords. I meant no offense.”

Of course you did.

“I don’t give a s**t what you meant. Offense was taken!” Lord Plumm spat through his yellowed teeth. “You fair-weather boy lovers think we have to bow to the likes of you? You can take your palm trees and sunshine and shove them up your arses!”

With a grin, Kevyn glanced up, “I’ll take sunshine and palm trees up my arse any day compared to the snow and mammoth c***s you Torish prefer.”

Lord Plumm seethed, reaching around his large waist for a blade when Graham intervened. “Lord Plumm! Be seated!”

The fat lord stopped and growled as the tension in the room peaked. With a long scowl, the man turned his back and stormed out of the hall with his lieutenant and steward in tow.

With a cross look, Kevyn calmly placed both hands back on the table and resumed to finish his breakfast without a word.

I’m going to pay for that one way or another…

After breakfast, Graham escorted the young Hathaway to the walkway overlooking the bridge. The strong wind pulled upward along the cliff face, bringing with it large amounts of ice and dust. Graham knew the gusts all too well, closing his eyes and looking away as the young Hathaway took the full brunt of it to the face.

“That’s certainly some weather you have here,” said Kevyn. “How warm are your summers?”

Graham laughed. “Winter and spring are but the only seasons we know. We only dream of summer, and few understand the concept of autumn.”

Kevyn leaned far over the stone rampart. Exhaling deeply, his breath took form in the frigid air as he choked out an apology for his behavior earlier. “I�"I’m an a*s. I should have warned you. All of that, earlier. It was a long ride, and cold. God, the cold.”

Graham nodded, feeling a small sense of vindication. “My father would have gutted you for your disrespect. My liege lords know it.”

“I suppose I would have deserved it,” Kevyn grinned. “I’m not stupid. I know your people have suffered. I see I’m not the only one haunted by a father’s shadow.”

“At least yours is alive,” Graham lamented “Mine still overshadows me from the grave.”

“Mine chooses to do it from the bottom of a wine bottle,” Kevyn replied.

Graham relaxed a bit, breathing in the cold. “So Lord Peter thought we’d really butcher the Rex?”

Kevyn looked out over the Fall, pursing his lips. “He thought it a possibility.”

“I won’t lie. The thought crossed our minds,” Graham said with a grin. “I know what the cost would be if any harm comes to them.”

“Not that it wouldn’t be deserved,” Kevyn declared with an air of cynicism. “Maybe a light whipping, at least?”

The two shared a laugh until it was interrupted by a horn from the west tower of the bridge.

“�"The hell is that?” asked a startled Kevyn.

“The watch tower on the bridge,” said Graham. “Someone’s coming…

Rushing down the stairs, the pair intercepted Benjamin, who pointed to the tower. “My lord!”

“What is it, Benjamin? What’s going on?” Graham asked, but in truth he already knew.

“They’re here,” the steward replied anxiously. “The Durish envoy has been spotted exiting the Bothea Pass.”

Graham nervously turned to Kevyn. “Get your men together and meet me at the bridge gate.”

Kevyn nodded. “It would seem we arrived just in time.”

© 2016 D.S. Dirck

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Added on March 27, 2016
Last Updated on April 4, 2016
Tags: fantasy, fiction, novel


D.S. Dirck
D.S. Dirck

Fort Wayne, IN

I am an unpublished author searching for a literary agent and eventually publication. In the mean time, I'm here to network with other like-minded (and even non-like-minded) authors. I'm by no mea.. more..