The Captain

The cobblestone streets of Jonganesh were remarkably clean, considering the incredible foot and horse traffic that they supported on a daily basis. As they wound their way between pristine two storey shops and three storey homes, Rohman couldn’t stop himself from marvelling at the manpower required to sustain such a sterilized city. It said, he thought with a sneer, much about the man who ruled it.

“This place smells more like a bath tub than a city,” he muttered as he eyes scanned the crowds.

It was clear from the manner of dress of the men and women filling the narrow side streets the two men rode through what level of society they occupied. The merchants wore brightly coloured cloaks that fell to their boot tops, often emblazoned with an insignia of their trade – bolts of fabric for the clothiers, herbs and bubbling cauldrons for the medics, and so on. The more successful merchants wore expensive silk shirts which matched their cloaks above deep brown trousers of varying fibre, while the less profitable men and women wore simple white cotton shirts to go with their dark leggings.

The labourers wore matching uniforms of grey tunics with blue pants and permanent scowls. These were the unfortunates - those with not enough mental capacity to sell goods, nor sufficient strength to fight for their king. Their life’s work was to clean, or to carry, or to perform simple tasks for their masters – during the day, at least. At night most seemed to think their only purpose was to drink away their wages in the myriad pubs that crowded the walled city of Jonganesh.

Mixed amongst the merchants and labourers were the city officials, in varying degrees of finery, the holy women of the Lokitz Monastery, bedecked in blood red, ankle length robes, and the patrolling men and women of the royal guard. These latter, covered with gleaming silver armour, golden capes, and sheathed swords of all shapes and sizes, greeted the captain with sharp salutes as he rode past. The gestures they directed toward Rohman were much less refined.

The royal castle occupied the elevated ground in the middle of the oblong city, the wide Darcen Road separating its four walls from the nearest buildings and making unobserved approach nigh impossible. Guard towers occupied each corner of the compound and were manned around the clock by those archers deemed worthy of the responsibility. Only one gate marred its thick, white walls, and it faced east to greet the rising sun. As they had come from the south, the two riders were forced to ride beside the looming walls in order to reach the entrance.

Much to Rohman’s disgust, the captain chose to take the long route by turning west when they reached the castle’s perimeter road.

“You really expected to breach these walls on your own?” he asked Rohman over his shoulder, genuine curiosity plain on his face. “Are you so blinded with rage that you see not the folly of such an attempt?”

“I would have found a way,” Rohman replied with a shrug as his eyes studied the unblemished barrier. “Or I would have waited until the king came out from his pretty hidey hole. The end result would have been the same either way.”

“Then you would have waited a very long time indeed,” the captain said with a laugh as he turned away. “The king has not stepped beyond these walls in many years.”

Rohman was glad the captain’s eyes were elsewhere when he shared that morsel, for he was unable to hide his shock. He had not planned for such behaviour and his revenge would have corrupted his soul long before the king exposed his blubbery neck. Perhaps entering through the gates with his hands bound was not the worst option after all.

The black iron spikes of the Aubade Gate hung menacingly above them as they entered the castle grounds unchallenged. They came to a stop in front of the stables which occupied the majority of the northern wall and the captain dismounted smoothly before approaching Rohman. With a sudden movement, he reached up and grabbed his prisoner by the belt and yanked him sideways onto the stones where he landed with a grunt on his left shoulder.

“My apologies,” he whispered as he leaned down to pull Rohman to his feet. “It is the traditional treatment of all arriving captives.”

Rohman glared at the man but said nothing as two guards, a man and a woman with matching blonde ponytails, approached. They saluted the captain and awaited his orders while Rohman tested out his injured shoulder, a grimace twisting his features.

“Take him to the dungeon,” the captain said as he began to lead the horses toward a stable boy who was currently rubbing down another recently returned mount. “Stand watch until I find time to interview him. Rotate if you must - I could be a while.”

* * *

Two days previous

Rohman heard the captain’s approach behind him and waited until the last possible moment to drop face down onto the ground, causing the man’s heavy blade to sail well over his head. He rose to a crouch to face the two remaining men, ready for anything. Or so he thought.

The captain did not slow his horse as he approached his last soldier, though he did begin to return his sword to the scabbard which sat diagonally across his back. But instead of sheathing the gleaming blade he grasped it in both hands and brought it down towards the unsuspecting soldier with brutal force. The man’s eyes barely had time to cloud with confusion before his head tilted forward, bounced off his saddle, and came to rest in the dirt facing Rohman, spurting blood quickly saturating the earth around it.

Rohman rose to his full height as the captain circled his horse back around to face him. He approached at a stately walk, wiping the blood from his blade, while Rohman eyed him warily.
“What is going on?” he asked after a few moments of silence, his eyes alternating between the blank stare of the beheaded soldier and the unreadable expression of the captain.
“I think it is time you learned my name, Rohman Greywood,” the captain replied as he returned his sword to its home. “I am Marius Dante Fyrestorm, only son of Rickard and Maria, who were slaughtered at Desmond Manor by the order of the man who considers himself my king. I will assist you in your bloody quest, for your revenge is also mine.”

The End

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