The marble floors of the palace’s hallway clicked and clacked as hard leather riding boots strode briskly across it. Armand Velarois, the Captain of the Guard, was rarely one to break schedule, and the recent events had given him much more reason than usual to keep on pace.
Accompanied by three other guardsmen, the captain’s entourage loudly announced its presence via the hard stone floor. Armand looked to the officer to his left. The officer was one of his close friends, Absolon Beaumont. Absolon and Armand had both been trained together in apprenticeship. However, while Armand was trained as a cavalry officer due to his combat prowess, Absolon had shown a gifted ability in the application of magic with warfare. He even had developed a personal style of fighting that blended magic with conventional close quarters combat. However, these days he rarely saw action: ever since Armand had promoted him to Major and made him his head of the BattleMage Corp, Absolon spent most of his days approving military research particularly in magical fields and developing tactics in the war room.
To his other side was his right hand man, Commander Hayes Strider. Whereas Armand and Absolon were both Mages and members of the aristocracy, Hayes had grown up in an entirely different case. He was a rough and tumble woodsman from the frontier territory in his natural element as an earthborn. Even as a young boy, he spent more time exploring and living off the land than he did in his hometown of Dunwoodton. His career had started when that same town and the territory around it had been threatened in the second Shifter war by the raiders sweeping through the countryside. Knowing it was for his home, Hayes put his skills to use as a marksman and soldier for the army. No man could outshoot him with a crossbow, nor could they do better as a tracker than him. He often chose not to wear the cuirass and flashy uniform officers often were equipped with because he found the uniform was too noticeable and the cuirass weighed him down unnecessarily. Instead, his standard field dress as he wore it now was a long duster coat and a wide brimmed hat tapered to one side over normal utility wear. It made sense; Hayes was a simple sort of person like that. That’s what made him the perfect person for commanding the Infantry Corp of the royal guards.
The third and final officer was by far the one that stood out most among the bunch, and given Strider was with them that said a lot. The third man was Alwyn “Croen Pren”, a title that translated to “Bark Skinned” in Alwyn’s native language. He had been a servant of Armand’s family for quite some time, since long before Armand was born. Apparently he had sworn allegiance to the Velarois house for some reason unknown to Armand decades ago. In spite of his age, however, Alwyn looked very young. While his actual age was almost a century, his status as a Coeden gave him a remarkably long life. At one point he had told Armand that he likely would outlive him just from his blood. Something about the tribes’ genetics made them age much slower, nearly stopping aging altogether at the peak of adulthood.
Regardless, Alwyn was a natural at scouting. He could disappear in the forest before your very eyes and new every trail, plant, animal, and item in Deyras’ wilderness. He was nominally the leader of the Recon Corp, containing all of the scouts and rangers employed by the army, but given the natures of such guardsmen to work independently aside from checking in, Alwyn had little work to his title. That was fine by him of course; Alwyn worked similarly and was best at his job when unfettered by busy work to focus on real issues