They’d only been at their confection for a few minutes when a scream broke the air.
Hiro jolted in his skin, accidentally dropping his piece onto the floor, “by Idinaria! What was that?”
Pine stood and squinted through the crowds of people. They were all staring towards the manor. Suddenly, as the constant babble of the party came to halt, sounds in the distance were finally heard. Dozens of war horns were filling the evening air with their chilling, bitter melody. As quickly as he could, Pine wove through the mumbling crowd to find his father. He caught a glimpse of the man entering the manor. His ears prickled as the war horns sounded again and again, moving back and forth far beyond the estate walls. Guests were beginning to make for the exits, or wherever they had picketed their steeds.
He caught up to his mother and father just as they made their way through the main hallway for the front door.
“What’s it mean, father?”
Anden said nothing but put an arm around Pine’s shoulders. His face was unreadable as he swooped them both through the entrance courtyard towards the main gates. There beyond the bars was a Knight astride a Royal Ardock Destrier. Behind him flowed the red banner of Citadel Bandellear, house of the Audants, of their King. In his hand was a bone-crafted warhorn.
“Sir Anden, house of Demasa?” the Knight asked urgently.
“I am,” he replied.
“You are needed immediately.”
“What’s all this about?” Anden asked, narrowing his eyes.
“King Mederan hath passed this eve. You are needed immediately.”
There was a strange crushing in Pine’s chest. His mother gasped sharply, and then immediately seized his hand.
“Of course. Where am I summoned?”
“To the palace. I understand that you have much of the Watch on your premises, please inform them that they are to take their stations immediately, dispatch all watchmen until further notice. We are to be alert for…” the Knight paused as if considering those who were listening. “The Crest of the Harrower.”
The knight blew a long, mournful note from his horn before putting heels to his steed and making his way back towards the main road. Pine’s mind fumbled as he tried to grip the information just given them.
“Pine, get inside,” Anden spoke sharply, his eyes raking the courtyard, searching for something that wasn’t there. He turned then to his wife, “Kethel, keep them away from all eyes until I return.”
“Yes, love,” she bowed her head as Anden pushed past the both of them, more than a quiver in her voice. “Come, Pine.”
With her arms around him, she walked straight into the manor and closed the doors behind them. She barked a few commands to the servants to empty the house of all guests, and to escort everyone from the premises. They began immediately.
“What has happened?” Tora asked breathlessly as she came into view.
Kethel passed Pine from her hands to Tora’s. There was a bleakness about her, and with her hands now free, she stroked her hair with twitching fingers. Amelia came about just then, visibly worried. Kethel said nothing more to Tora and simply swept Amelia from her feet and walked briskly away.
“My pup, what is wrong?” Tora asked.
“The King…” Pine trailed off.
It was all that Tora needed. She nodded and took his hand, leading him up the stairway towards his room.