Me and my friend walked until the light started to fade fast as the sun vanished beyond the horizon, in the last few moments of light we found a clearing relativly clear of snow and so we picketed our mules and set camp up and relativley quickly he had a fire going. In the flickering firelight i looked at the map and guessed that we were roughly two days walk from my uncles estates. Or the outer fringes at least. Folding the map and putting it back in the bag i looked round at the woods, i`d spent nights in the woods before so i was no stranger to its wild ways but something this night was niggling away at me. Raising my primal fear of the dark. A little voice in my mind told me we were not alone...
Two days later me and my friend arrived at the fringes of the estate as i had estimated. I was instantly recognised by a resident farmer and he immediatly took us into his house and we were plied with all manner of foods whilst his eldest rode into the town to tell a guard of my arrival. Even though it was now daylight, and we were in the safety of the village i was still unnerved about my feelings that i had that night in the woods. However my thoughts were broken by the sound of galloping hooves and as i looked out of the window i saw the farmers son dismount followed by a guard that i recognised instantly.
"Aesc" called as the tall man entered the building and embraced him
"Raven you cheeky urchin. What you doing all the way out here? All my capt`n told me was that i was to pick someone up from a farm house. Never thought it`d be you and your lackey," I felt my friend bristle at the remark, he`d always hated that and i had too but there was nothing i could do about it.
"its a long story Aesc, but i`m sure that my Uncle will let you listen in." Aesc pulled out a purse and gave the farmer several gold coins talking to him in Saxon and the farmer nodded gratefully accepting the coins, "My bounty?" i joked laughingly, "or just payment for being good little peasants and not robbing my noble behind?"
"Peasants aren`t easily kept young Raven, you`ll learn that when you`re master of the estates" he laughed as he mounted his horse. I found that there were two more horses waiting and Aescmontioned us to climb onto them, then i realised that it would be dark soon and the roads would be haven for the people of the night.
We arrived at the main keep just as they were shutting the gates for the night, "Ah ya nearly didn`t make it Aesc ya fool" called a gatekeeper
"Ah shat up you fat oaf" Aesc replied still leading us on to the keep. Looking around the main frontage of the keep where my Uncle resided i noticed a large number of lamps and remembered that he only used them when he was having a large gathering,
"Looks like i came at a bad time" i told Aesc
"Bah, you`re Uncle loves you like a son. More than c`n say bout that bastard brother of yours." I chuckled and i heard my friend chuckle too. We shared a united hatred for my older sibling. He was my fathers pride and joy even though he was down in the parish register as a bastard "borne of a witch". I had to laugh when a village girl showed it to me. But then she had been a girl that i`d liked for some time but knew had no chance of being with her. However, after finding my father`s will it became clear that i had been all but disowned by him, left to the "tender mercy" of my sibling. Ha, a joke. My brothers mercy would have been the creation of false charges of treason and me doing the hangmans jig. No better i escaped quickly while my neck was still the length God had made it.
"Yah dreamin` again m`lord?" Aesc's voice broke my thoughts,
"sorry Aesc. just thinking" i replied as i dismounted. Aescchuckled as he rattled in his armour walking up the steps to the main entrance. The guards allowed him and myself through but barred my friend until Aesc threatend to knock their heads together. Useful guy. We walked through the elaborate building my friend bug-eyed with amazement and myself calmly reminding myself of my happy times here. Suddenly Aesc stopped,
"Well m`lord here i leave you till another time." he smiled and with a smart salute he walked off back down the hallway. After watching him disappear i turned to face the large wooden doors infront of me and the two halbardiers guarding them, straightning my leather jerkin i took a deep breath and walked forward. The doors opened slowly but silently to reveal the large throne room where my Uncle spent a majority of his time. As i entered my nerve immediately failed me as i saw numerous other members of the nobility in the room, i`d walked in on something but my Uncle was not fazed by my entrance, if anything he relished it.
"well lords and ladies i think that is enough misery for today. I shall let you all retire and get changed for tonights festivities" and with a smile he watched them leave. Some of the nobility greeted me but a vast majority just walked past, nothing new as many had been assossiates of my late father. Once the last of them had left the doors shut and my Uncle spread his arms wide smiling, "Raven my dear boy, how are you?"
"I`m well Uncle. I didn`t ruin anything did i?"
"Not at all. I heard you walked all the way from your fathers estates on the otherside of Mercia. God be blessed you made it in one piece. Its been a long time since i last saw my brother, you must tell me your story" then unlike the gentleman his position said he pulled out two chairs and put them on the dais in front of his own and motioned for me and my friend to sit, "There is plenty of time, but not alot to do my boy so tell me all that has happened since my last visit" he asked and as bid i launched into recounting all that had happened in my life and in the keep. Only interupted once by food being brought in to suffice us until tea.