Lyorta: The Saga Of Retribution: Chapter 6: The Queen’s Errant


868 CE “2nd Season, 5th Moon, 3rd Week, 4th Day”
~Far West Iest Kingdom, In The City Of Taber At Nightfall

The constant clanking and banging of cups and iron fill the dimly lit hall as small talk abounds.  Good music and cheer saturate the air along with the chatter of a small fire crackling at its heart.  The aroma of sizzling meat, fresh herbs and vegetables waft from the kitchenette.  A buxom young lady dressed in a cobalt commoner’s dress stirred a charcoal skillet, swaying as she cooks.  A joke causes a thick bartender’s hearty laughter to cover the local palaver.

Most everyone is in typical local attire.  The women in simple dresses with brooch aprons of another color while the men in kyrtill tunics and belted trousers. That was except for a group of rather dirty looking foreign men.  Not that people with soiled clothing did not come in, but the style they wore is of a reputable brand. Dressed in imperial coats, shirts made of delicate fabrics and studded leather armor.  Blades forged by the best craftsmen hung on their sides carelessly without the proper honorifics. Yet, the condition of these things showed no respect for them.  Altogether they were unkempt, with old stains of blood which set everyone who noticed with uneasiness.

“No place better than the east.” a rather gruff man garbles with a mouth full of chicken and rice.  His voice loud and of the Azurian mainlander’s accent, not like a Marionian’s.  That alone is not the odd part, but it is the thickness of it. He grabs a large mead cup and taking a full swig washing down his half-chewed food. “This is the life,” he declares slapping the back of the man next to him.  His crow eyes are the most distinguishing feature about him.  A dark mask so piercing it is unsettling.

“I agree. Finally, we made it to paradise,” says the other man grinning with a patchy smile.  Just about every other tooth is missing and what is there is at least chipped.  Three other men sat around the table.  Each of them with plates of various foods and several tall glasses of ale.  “I dare say this is the best times since leaving the mainland.”

One man has a missing eye.  It was not a pleasant patch covering it either. More like an old piece of torn leather he had just slumped over it to keep the dust-out.  One could tell behind that patch was nothing but a sunken hole.  Part of it got sucked in by the pressure as he breaths if you paid any attention, you might see it bellow.  “I am just glad King Grandor kept his word. I thought once we landed in port we’d be done for.”

“We are now the Blue Hammers lad. We own this region of Marion. Might as well be Kings.” the elder of the men laughs.  The thing about their captain is that his gruffness could almost be excused.  Perhaps with a good wash, he may have been a handsome old man.  The grime though became layers built upon dirt painting over his features making him look a lot older than he is.

The people in the bar carry on trying not to pay attention to the obnoxious hollering.  No one dares bother these men.  Everyone knew about the Blue Hammers.  That is now they are well feared in this region.  It is perhaps only several moons earlier that the Blue Hammers were a no named band of thugs. These days they are a band of mercenaries known for their cruelty above all else.

The group of marauders chuckle as a curvy young waitress caught their eye.  “That girl, she is a real cutie,” says the crow eyed man as a smile crept across his face.  The other guys glance and nod their heads in agreement.  Her milk chocolate colored hair is tied up in red ribbons forming two small rabbit-like ears.  The rest is long curls streaming down to her mid back, short bangs just above her forest brown eyes.  Her smile, sweet as she picks up the plates moving from table to table.

Growing up working with her father she had become a rather skillful tavern maid.  Her grace given by years of practice.  It is almost an art form how she bobs and weaves around everything as the lively hall stars.  She sails the channels that are the wooden floorboards knowing every knot and imperfection.  The waitress escaping miscellaneous stubs.  Her feet dashing just next to them and all around them.  Though she never trips, not once.  Her control over her footwork is perfect.  The maid’s crimson, white trimmed dress sways as she weaves around the room.  Her frilly apron flows along with the lead of her steps.

“Would not mind tasting something like that.” the eye-patched man stuck out his tongue licking the corner of his mouth.

The crow eyed man then replies, “Bet she’s a clean one too. Not like those dirty clams whoring at the ports.”

The rude jest provoking a smirk from the man with the gap filled smile. “Hey, waiter girl! Over here,” he yells.  She turns, once she saw the men in the blue cloaks, she felt a terror creep over her.  He smiles showing his messed up face.  What could they want with her?  She thought to herself.  She walks over perceiving the room to grow longer, and her body becoming petrified. “Com’mon we won’t bite,” he jokes.

As she approaches the table, she put on a fake smile. “How may I help you tonight?  Done with your meals already?” she says in a cutesy tone.

The captain grumbles a little as he is much older than the other men. “You guys have your fun. Don’t mind me, I’ll be stepping out for a few.” Seeing the older man leave the table fills the girl with a new uneasiness she has never felt before.  As if she knew what is coming next.  She looks over to her father tending to the drunks at the bar.  Then over toward the band but they shook their head at her.

The crow eyed man scoots his chair out.  “Come on baby has a seat,” he laughs patting his lap.  The other men peer at her as if they were dogs looking at a piece of meat.  She could tell if she gets in these men’s grasp she will be with them for the night at the least.

She knew if she sat down most likely this man will grope her in front of everyone.  As she looks over the man’s tattered muddy blue jacket, she notices the sword by his waist.  She did not want to be in the arms of a violent man.  Unable to control the situation she decides it would be best to evade this gesture.  “I could not, I have other tables to tend to.”  She musters the best smile she could given this situation.  It is the smile her mother gave her.

“You been working hard all night. Honey, it’s all right, kick back a little, we want to talk,” says the man with the eyepatch.  He takes a drink from his cup after wiping his mustache with a reflexive action.

“My father would be mighty upset if I slacked off.”

“Who’s your dad. We will shut em up,” says the crow eyed man sitting out on his chair.  He licks his lips.  She could not help but become repulsed by his actions.  Spreading his legs, he motioned for her to sit.  That is when she notices his palm on his sword handle tilting it as if to say “I’ll kill him if you don’t.”  At least, that is how she took it.

Seeing they won’t take no for an answer she sits on the dangerous man’s lap.  He shudders as her shapely rear presses against his leg.  He steals a sniff from her hair.  It is fresh.  She shivers feeling his hand around her waist.  Her skin twitches as his breath rolling across the back of her neck.  To her it smells like the sludge they poured out of ships.  His fingers press onto her hips as he whispers “See not so bad.”

She could feel his leg pressing against her crotch.  He thrusts his leg again harder this time.  Her face became painted flush with embarrassment.  Something hard is press into her rear.  Her eyes grew wide as she looks over towards her father who is just watching as he shines a glass.

Two men sitting at the bar glance over towards the men.  Raising his jug, one man downs the rest of his ail. Long elf ears poke out from his faded white kinky hair.  His face is handsome.  His silver eyes glare towards the man as he rises to his feet.  Placing a hand on the other man’s.

He looks down into his friend’s charcoal brown hair that hung against his stubble covered jawline.  His skin is tan suggesting he was a foreigner from another land. It gave his brown eyes a dirty, muddy face.  His build is thin but muscular.  He turns his head to see the girl getting touched on the shoulders by the crow eyed man.  There were scars on his face a sign of his many battles.  The elf presses his fingers into his back before turning away from him.

“Elward… must you?” he asks in a tired tone.  Elward looks even more piercingly at his companion.

“We’re looking for these. Rhomund come,” he turns to walk towards the men at the table.

“Sure,” Rhomund moans under his breath.  Placing his thump on the leather holster of his dagger he unbuttons a small leather strap.  He rolls his eyes before saying “I wasn’t planning on finishing my drink anyway.” with a long drawn out sigh as he stood up looking at the ail he had barely even touched.

Before he got away from the bar, the owner grabs his shoulder.  His face is rosy, and his eyes filled with concern.  “Wait, that is my daughter.” Rhomund nods his head as he takes several steps just behind Elward.

There is a moment of silence before the man with the wrong teeth says, “Pointer you got somewhere to be.”  Elward narrows his eyes at the slur before Rhomund walks up resting his arm on Elward’s shoulder.

“Care if we join you,” Rhomund asks with a most charming look.

The man with the eye patch points his eating knife at Rhomund and rolls his wrist in a circle a few times.  His index finger resting on the tang of the blade.  “Who are you?” His face utterly unamused, his mouth hung agape.  The waitress’s feverish eyes dart toward the two men.  The girl’s fingers twitching as she grabs her knees working her nails into her tender skin.

She mouthed the word “No.” to the pair, but Elward just continues to lock eyes with the men.  The man with the messed up teeth stood up from his chair placing his dirty hand on his sword.  The surrounding people walked away with bent necks and hunched over shoulders.

“We are just two errands. Now now,” Rhomund stutters. “My friend here… he is rather concerned about that girl on your lap.”

This only causes the man to lick the girl’s ear putting his hand on her breast cupping it as he squeezes. “We are friends isn’t that right baby.”

“Yes!” she says not wanting to upset him.

“See she likes me.  So go get yourselves lost,” the crow eyed man snarles at Rhomund.  The man with the eye patch now grins, snickering as he looks over at his buddies.

Elward stood with his arms to his side clenching his fists.  “Hey look at the pointer,” says the guy with the missing teeth.  “Well, are ya gonna do something?”

“Ah, I see, you are not familiar with the customs here.  She is a waiter.  She must be more than generous to you.” the girl’s face etches in fear  “You see this girl has signed her father several times.  That bartender over there.” the man pointed to the brambly older gentleman. “And who I presume is her brother.” then points to a man over with a guitar on his lap.

The maid rasped her breathing as her lips quiver.  “What’s it to you? You might be wise to know who you’re dealing with.”  His crow looking face got even worse if it were possible as he scrunched it up in anger.

Rhomund gestures using both his hands with fingers splayed.  “Ah, you see my friend here has a particular set of talents you may not know of.”  his fingers close holding up only his two index fingers as he continued “I suggest you not upset him.  Granted I understand you perfectly.  She is cute.” he waves his hand open wagging it with each word before finish himself “Though my friend here.  He thinks you’re not respecting her.”

“Yeah, your friend. The bloody pointer should know his place,” says the one-eyed man pointing his knife out at Elward.

Rhomund nodded his head.  “I was saying the same thing. Men must be men. Though my friend… he does not see things our way.  While I am fine with you, he is not.”

“You threatening me.” pushing the girl off his lap the crow eyed man rips out a sword from his side.  He points the tip of the blade at Rhomund’s neck. Baring his teeth, he grunts.  “I will put my sword clear through you.”

“You see,” Rhomund says placing his fingertip on the point of the sword.  “That my friend was a mistake.” no sooner does Rhomund finishes his sentence he retches the blade out of the man’s hand.  The man had no chance to even gasp before Rhomund drew himself in close.  He folds his arm to have his elbow and the edge of the blade to the crow eyed man’s collar.  Rhomund narrows his rocky eyes.  “I suggest you and your friends leave.  Live to fight another day.  Am I understood, gentleman?”

The man backs up a step.  Rhomund with graceful handling whirles the crow eyed man’s blade in a fanciful fashion.  He then presents its handle to the crow eyed man.  He reachs for it with a jerky and utterly unfluid motion.  “You wait. We will burn down this place once my lords hear about this.”

“Is that so?” says Elward drawing a dagger from his side slitting the crow eyed man’s throat with inhuman speed.  The man with the messed up teeth backs up, but Rhomund had already moved behind him.  He bumps into Rhomund turning and reaching for his sword only to not feel it.  His face is covered in surprise as Rhomund reveals its location to him as he inserts the blade through his throat.  The one-eyed man tries to run only to find Elward’s dagger plant itself in the back of his head.  He stops for a moment, felt the back of his head and tumble to the floor with a bang.

The girl looks at the bloody mess gasping for air.   She backs up screaming as Rhomund wipes the blood off his coat with a stray tablecloth.  “I apologize for the mess mam. I will clean it up myself.”

“Who are you two?” the girl asks looking at them both.  “Do you realize what you have done?” Anyone inside the pub is now running out with great commotion.

“This is my friend Elward… and my name is Rhomund, we are the Queen’s personal errands.”

~

868 CE “1st Season, 5th Moon, 1st Week, 2nd Day”
~Iest Kingdom, Afternoon On A Merchant Road To Port Branderfel  

“Damn it. The axle is broken. We ain’t goin’ nowhere for a while.” says an older man with a straw hat.  The sun is beating down upon the caravan of travelers in the breezy canyon.  “I don’t like being stuck in these parts.  This canyon is known for having unsavory things lurkin’ about.  I once saw a pack of wolves out here.  They had already found their picking, though.”  He is standing beside a wagon carriage.  Its front wheel lays on the ground with a snapped wooden rod sticking out the bottom.  The two brown horses pulling the carriage stand at ease.

A raven-haired youth looks over at the wagon master.  “So does that mean we are stuck out here?”

“That’s how it’s looking girly. I said I’d bring ya to Port Branderfel and that’s what I attend to do.  You have my word.  It will just take a little to fix this.  In the meantime, I suggest you wait in the back.”  He bends down looking under the carriage.  A man with tattered and dirty clothing got out of the back.

“If we will be here for a while, then I guess I’ll go take a leak.” he jokes as he walks over to some bushes.

The man under the cart shouts, “I warned ya already ‘bout the things out here.  If ya get bitten, I won’t be able to get ya to help.  I may haf’ta heft off your leg.”

The girl looks out over the canyon, sighs then walks to the back of the carriage.  From above on the steep of the canyon several men holding sabers and pole arms watch the caravan below.  Jumping down off the cliff to the ground they make themselves known to the stranded group.  “Bandits. Diyano, you have cursed us.” the wagon master says looking up from under the cart his eyes wide with horror.

The raven-haired girl turns around to see the group of men approaching.  “Looks like you need a little help. We might be able to help. It will cost you. After all, this highway has a tax to travel it.” says a man with a strip of torn cloth wrapped around his mouth and nose.  He has long brown hair and a somewhat intimidating sword.  His uncharacteristic armor is covered in ratty and torn rags.  The other men are equipped similarly.

A man with a shrill looking sackcloth bag with eye holes cut out over his head grabs the girl’s arm with his brown leather gloved hand.  “Aren’t you a cutie? Heh, old man, you want to live right. The girl is your tax.”

The girl wrenches her arm out of the man’s firm grip.  She takes two steps back screaming “Get your hand’s off of me.”

A short guy with an ax in hand laughs.  “She told you.”

“Yeah, but that’s all right. I like em feisty,” he laughs.  “So what do you say, old man?”

The wagon master looks over at the girl with big eyes.  “I am sorry.” He whispers closing them tightly.

“What!” she says in a terrified voice.  The bandits grab hold of her as she twists and screams to get away.  Instead, they pin her in their grip dragging her.

The other man dives in separating the group from the girl shielding her with his arms spread. “You can’t let them take her.” no sooner did he finish when the sac clothed man jabs his saber into his stomach.  His eyes bulge as he drops to his knees holding his belly as it spills out onto the ground.

~

“I swear on my honor my queen.  All up and down the merchant roads, there are bodies everywhere.  I-I saw nothing like it.  I thought it be wildlings.  I was heading to Taber but after seen all the bodies, I grew too frightened.” says a man bowing down before the young Queen Gazalia.  Achiles her advisor raises an eyebrow from the story.  He looks over to Queen Gazalia and nods his head to her.

Gazalia stands up and puts her hand on his shoulder.  “You have done well to return my precious servant.  A wise man knows to avoid what he cannot prevail against.  Be at ease for within these walls no harm will come upon you or your family.”  She turns standing next to the man on his knees with her hand on his head still.  “What do you say of this Lord Achiles?”

“Wildlings do not act in this fashion.  They are ruthless in battle and in wartimes are a terror to the land.  You said you came upon a family that was hung from a tree?”

“Yes my lord.” said the man whose head bowed.

“Wildlings skin their victims and tie the skins to trees to show intimidation. They do not hang people.  It would only be wasted meat to them.”  Lord Achiles says in a hoarse voice.

Gazalia removes her hand from the man’s head.  “If not wildlings who else would dare do such a thing in my lands?”

“Humans.  Bandits, not petty bandits, though.  This group of bandits is sending a message my queen.  They are claiming the merchant roads as their territory.  Which suggests they have the backing of a much more powerful group, perhaps even one of the larger empires.  Old tribal differences still exist in Iest.  I have sure there are still factions of the old empire who have not declared themselves to us.  We should pay attention and we put an end to this before the people see this as weakness.”

“Have my knights patrol the roads from the Kingdom to Port Branerfel.  Have another group head west to Matrick.  Give them the order to kill any bandit found without mercy or trial.  Tell them to dress as commoners and hide their weapons and armor.  We will show these crooks whose kingdom they are trying to rob.”

“At once my queen.” says Lord Achiles bowing before her throne.

“No one will threaten my people.  Every traveler in my land must be protected by the shield of my kingdom.  Achiles bring me my Lord Knights.  I have an errand for those two.”

~

868 CE “2nd Season, 5th Moon, 3rd Week, 4th Day”
~Far West Iest Kingdom, In The City Of Taber At Nightfall

The night is lit by a dull violet light that glows over the horizon.  From atop of the tavern reveals a city of ruins and decaying streets masks itself in the dark.  Elward stands pointedly watching the outside for signs of any of the gangsters approaching.  The sound of the balcony door opening with a creak diverts his attention to the side of him making his ears twitch.  His silver eyes look seeing the young girl with a large horn mug and a pitcher of water.  The scent of the water is clean and clear.  “You should sleep,” he says to the young girl.

“I know, I thought you might be thirsty,” she says to him shyly as she pours water for him.  She holds out the horn.  Elward grasps it gently taking it from her.  She blushes a little. “It was very you to protect me. Thank you. Sorry, I screamed.”

He smirks a little, “That is quite alright.”

She blushes more adopting a sheepish look before saying “Is it true… that you’re an elf.”

Elward shakes his head. “My father was human.”

“What about your mother?”

Elward looks up “My mother, people say she was an elf, but I do not know.”

“Really?” she questions.

He nods his head. “I do not remember her.”

“That is sad. If all elves are like you, then I don’t think they are so bad,” the barmaid says with a warmth in her voice that rubs Elward the wrong way.

Elward looks at her his eyes shining white.  “Is that so?” he says with a smug grin revealing his true eyes to her. She raises her hands to her face.  His eyes dim returning to normal. “I would be afraid of them, and that is my advice to you.”

“So who is that man you travel with?”

“That is the man who killed my mother.” He says coldly. “And I intend to return the favor as does he.” The girl’s face looks at him in shock. “We are under oath to work together however if truth be known we are enemies. Alas, child enough stories it is late, and you should be sleeping.”

“Aren’t you going to sleep?” the girl asks Elward.

He shakes his head before saying “I don’t sleep.

~The Next Morning~

“Thank you for saving my daughter,” says the bartender.  Now the tavern hall is quiet, and everyone had left.  There were no more fires, but the lingering smells of the nights dining are still wafting in the air.  Rhomund and Elward sat at a large table with the father of the young girl.  The morning light streaming through the pub’s windows.  “Do you believe we are safe now? Do you think they will return?”

“We hope they do,” Elward says as he polished his blade.

The bartender scratches his head.  “These Blue Hammers you called them they have become troublesome.”  Rhomund gestured with his fingers in circles “To everyone.”  On the table, the weapons the bandits carried lay spread out.  A few articles of armor.  The ornate designs and skilled craftsmanship suggest military armaments.  “As you may have noticed these weapons are valuable. I doubt a group of bandits would have supplies like this.”

Elward nods his head.  “I believe these are Azurian made weapons.  From Flaggard.”

The middle-aged man looks at the two men.  “Flaggard. Isn’t that on the other side of the world?”

“Never been there,” says Rhomund.  “I can tell you though it is not close.  Got a whole sky to travel to get to it.  So why are they in the hands of these Blue Hammers?  This is a port town, isn’t it?  Travels to and imports from the Southern Kingdom as I understand it.”

The gruff man nods his head stroking his chin.  “Yes. Though recently we have seen fewer merchants and more of these bandits.  They are everywhere I am afraid.”

“Interesting.  I am not familiar with the leadership of Taber.  Tell me, where is the city guards?” Rhomund asks.

“That’s the shameful part.  King Kerchov has himself hid up in his manor.  The city guards for some time have only guarded the royals the northern province.  The coward was the heir.  His uncle died ‘bout two years ago.  That’s when things fell apart here.  When he claimed his place as the “lawful” Baron, he proved to be little more than a greedy man.  Taxes and taxes and the loyal guards refused to follow his orders.  He disbanded the old guard and hired marauders from the surrounding lands.  Calls em’ common guards.  So while he has real guards, he allows the common guards to do what they will.  As long as it is not causing him any trouble that is.  I am not even sure if he is the one who raises the taxes anymore.”

“Interesting, Taber does not have a King, it has a baron.” Elward comments

“Well, no offense to the two of ya but the Iest Kingdom has been long forgotten.  Until now I believed the Iest Kingdom had forgotten us.  If I speak with honor I do not trust the two of you.”

Elward grins “We are not to be trusted. Until some time ago Rhomund and I were traveling sellswords.  More or less men who killed for the highest bidder.  Yet we now are under the service of a different ruler.  She has another vision of Iest Kingdom.  One that lives up to the old glory it used to be or perhaps something more.  Yet, she is but a child.”

“Elward enough, it appears we have business with this “King” of Taber,” Rhomund says before getting to his feet.

~

The main streets of Taber are ornate with stone pillars and baroque statues. Behind the mask of elegance was a maze of buildings.  They appeared to have been brought forth from wood scraps.  It is a web of streets that grew out of the ground.  Elward could not help but be reminded of garbage.  Anything like this in the Fae world would burn to the ground for being such an eyesore.  The thick mud of waste lines the sides of the streets and the smell is far from pleasant.

Rhomund yet felt rather at home as the two weaved through the crowded passageways.  It is almost as if he is perpetually about to collide with someone but never did.  Elward, while more elegant with his steps had to focus on his maneuvering.  It is a great deal of work for him to just not collide with another person.  After several minutes through the tangles of streets, they arrive at their destination.  They came upon a massive gateway with several somewhat gruff looking men in armor guarding it.

It did not take, but a moment for one the guards to call out stopping them pointing a spear at Elward.  Rhomund raises his hand to explain, but the guard did not lower his spear.  Elward gave the most unamused look of boredom he could muster.  An older guard with his back against the wall of the gate takes several steps over and talks to the younger guard.  Putting down his spear and then stepping aside the two to walk past him.  The pair found themselves in what appeared to be another city.  After crossing the threshold, the streets are full enough to fit several chariots.  The buildings are well kept like the main streets.

The long white stone road leads to a palace with many domes.  Surrounding the castle are spires that look like spikes reaching into the skies.  They appear to be sharp against the heavens.  To the south, you can see the open blue skies and the ports on the lower levels.  Rhomund and Elward are mere silhouettes on a large bridge.  After crossing, they enter into the midst of the palace’s courtyard.

It is a massive building with a large dome at its core.  Around the sides of the building are towers and walls and spires.  It could house an army Rhomund thought.  While Elward is still intrigued by the structure.  It appears as though it is not of Marionian architecture. Instead, it is of Azurian design with its paintings and appreciation for art.  This is something those in Marion did not seem to care for.  A part of it is a difference of values another is time.

~

“He likes to keep his guests waiting.” Elward nods.  The two stood in a hall with many ornately carved pillars of ivory stone.  The carvings are of local history.  The three tribes, the first men arriving in Marion on gliders, the old queen who conquered the lands and the history of a man’s conquest over the dragons.  A view of the city is between the pillars behind towering glass.  The city is a reminder of the present and its history becoming one.  Elward appeared to be rather entertained as he looks at the pillars.  Rhomund slowly walking behind him pointing to a carved dragon.  “Dragons,” he says in a sharp tone getting a small chuckle from Elward who then rolls his eyes as he looks away.

The two large doors to the court open as a meaty looking guard says, “His highness is ready to see you.”

Both Rhomund and Elward could not believe the extravagance of the throne room.  The floor is made of polished stone that reflects like a mirror.  Two decorative pillars of gold stood on each side of the throne holding up a balcony above.  The throne itself is on a platform above the rest of the room with a staircase leading up to the top.  Around the sides of the platforms paintings of the gods fighting against the primal forces.  Even the walls were adorned with gold and painted imagery.  “This is a shrine to history.” Elward blurted out.

“I see you noticed,” says a man standing by the throne.  He walked down the stairs with open arms.  His purple robes printed with golden dragons.  His chest covered by a black toga tied off with a white and purple striped rope. “If I could do one thing for this world I would preserve its history.”  He had the smile of a Howl movie star.  “What brings the two of you here?”

Rhomund not as impressed as Elward is stood up straight before speaking.  “I have orders from the Queen to ensure the safety of her territories. Baron Kerchov I presume.”

“Ah, yes.” Kerchov’s face becoming puzzled. “You are?”

“Queen Gazalia’s errands,” Elward replies in a tone that drips with pride.

“So, you are the two wandering knights.  I have heard stories about you.  Mighty fine warriors, duel to the death ended by a Queen’s orders.  I must pay a visit to our Queen.  She sounds most magnificent.  And here you two are, legends in the flesh.  So, what can I do for the two of you?”

“You can start by guarding your people.  The two of us had the pleasure of meeting bandits within the city borders.  They seemed to have no fear of city guards either.  In fact, we killed em, and still, no guards showed up to even question us.  This is a severe problem.”

“I see… that does sound like a trifling affair.  I must get my guards to be more prominent in the lives of common folk.” he says.  “Allow them some freedom and they become savage as wildlings.”

Elward looks over to Rhomund.  “Well, we can assist you in this.  There is already a patrol of guards from the Iest Kingdom establishing road checks.  We can have them establish a city watch.”

Kerchov bit his lip as he turns away to face his throne. He takes a few steps before he turning back to look at Rhomund.  “I could not bear to burden you with the problems of my city,” he paced the floor.  Rhomund attempts to speak, but Kerchov raises his hand for silence as he appears to be in deep thought.  He paces several more times over the polished floors.  “I have a better plan of approach I believe.  I must assist in setting up these road checks.  This will give my guardsmen the proper training they need.”

“They will learn more from being within these walls with Iest Kingdom’s finest soldiers,” Rhomund says immediately after asserting his authority.

Kerchov shook his head.  “There is a cultural aesthetic you are failing to appreciate, my dear Rhomund.  I am sure such a nobleman as Elward would agree with me, seeing as how he appreciates… what I have done here.  Taber is not merely a city.  It is a sanctuary of culture!  We may be a mere port but isn’t a port a grand cauldron to cultivate the ideals and ideas of the people.  We are kindred spirits can’t you see.”

Rhomund’s eyes grew wide from the strange remark. “You’re joking? This city is falling apart.”

Kerchov grunts “Falling apart.  It is steeping.  You will see what will grow out of my kingdom.”

“Your kingdom.  About that, I see you have a crown?” Elward says pointing to Kerchov’s head.

Kerchov nods his head blinking several times.  Elward notices his strained effort to avoid all forms of eye contact.  “That is punishable and considered treason you know,” Rhomund adds.

There was a short silence before Kerchov spoke “I am King of Taber, a crown is suitable for a king.” he rubbed the back of his neck.

“Really?” Elward says.  “Last I knew Taber was under the rule of a baron and not a king.  Queen Gazalia will be displeased when we return with news of a descent.  Perhaps we should return you to her to explain yourself in person.”

“Really there is no need for this.  It’s semantics anyway.  So I won’t use the name King any longer.” Kerchov raises his hand rolling his head slightly.  “I am Baron Kerchov, fine by me.”

Rhomund walks up backhanding him in the face knocking the crown off his head. “Put it on again, and you will wear it to the grave. Understood?”

“Of course. You clearly appreciate mercy.”

“Watch it. I could do worse still.”

Kerchov took a step back and cowers. “You would not dare.  Remember whose halls you are in.”

“Rhomund, let him go.  He is from Javel.” Rhomund get’s a look of disgust for a moment.  Then steps back.  Kerchov rubs his nose as a stream of blood flows out of his nostril.

“Javel, that explains things but how did you know that?”

“His appreciation of art and history. Yet he has no leadership skills, and he is a coward.” Kerchov looks on with an angry glare that folds into absolute terror.  “Isn’t this true Kerchov?”

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