All the King's Horses

 

“Tammon’s Field. Not even a mile from the Palisade.”

Garren Cole gave his field commander a hard stare. His chiseled features seemed to glisten in the morning sunlight just as brightly as the pale steel armor with golden bands across his barrel chest. Without flinching the officer continued his report in his hollow shrill voice.

“And there are more this time. It seems as if the raiding parties have banded together for once. Of course it would be of no concern if King Hameril—" His voice faltered at Garren Cole’s piercing glare and before he could recover the senior commander cut him short.

“You would do well to watch your tongue Commander Falsbane. King Hameril does as He sees fit, as is His right to do so. A right no soldier in His army should question.” Garren’s gaze continued to bear down on the officer, but his thoughts wandered elsewhere. Certainly the Shadow had always been a threat, ever present on the outskirts of the kingdom, but it was not the greatest concern. A bramble thorn in the side of the Empire as King Hameril referred.

Garren scoffed at the notion of calling the measly portion of land under Hameril’s control an Empire, but the king’s word is law in Metherindel, at least among the more loyal part. And Garren meant to maintain discipline among the Royal Army and could not tolerate the least bit of dissent against the King. He focused his attention back on Falsbane and spoke firmly.

“Send word along the Palisade to double the watch and ready the signal fires in case there are other war bands forming your scouts haven’t discovered.” Falsbane winced at the implication, but Garren continued ignoring his grimace. “Order the Lion’s Guard to make ready. I mean to arrive at the Palisade before midday.”

Falsbane blinked in surprise. It was not as if the Palisade was left undefended. True, local militia staffed the majority of the wall, but several brigades under strict command from some of the kingdom’s finest junior officers were strategically positioned at command centers every few miles. It had been that way to an extent for decades, ever since the Shadow began encroaching again, but all the more so as of late. But to send the Lion’s Guard against a rabble force of marauders…

“The Lion’s Guard? But Sir there can’t be more than two dozen of the fell creatures out there it’s hardly worth—" Raising his voice to a deadly calm Garren once more cut off the younger man.

“Must I remind you about questioning orders again, Commander Falsbane”

Hesitating only a brief moment Falsbane straightened his back and saluted, fist to heart “No, Lord Captain Cole. They shall be carried out immediately. Heart and Fire, the Good King Hameril Lives.”

“Heart and Fire, Commander.” Garren mimic the salute and dismissed Falsbane who spun on his heels and marched briskly across the training yard towards the barracks.

Garren returned to watching the soldiers mulling about the command center, musing to himself. Of course the Lion’s Guard didn’t need an order to prepare to ride they stood always at the ready, that was their nature. But protocol demands he issue one. He and only he, save for King Hameril himself, had authority to command the Lion’s Guard and while Jerrid Falsbane was probably right about not needing the elite horsemen it would be a good demonstration of Metherindel’s might. Garren meant to drive the Shadow spawned creatures back across the wilderness and force them down into whatever dark caverns they crawled out of.

Perhaps word would even reach Mandalain before the Midyears’ Sun Festival of how great a blow Garren “Ramshead” Cole had dealt the Shadow, beating them back to the northern reaches of the Glittering Peaks and resettling the forsaken land beyond the Palisade. That would make them think twice before infringing upon the Metherindel lowlands again.

A rare smile spilled onto the lips of the harsh face of Garren Cole. A face wrought and etched over forty winters, more than half spent fighting back the Shadow as much he had the Mandalains or worse yet, the dwarfs. Only the thought of strengthening the kingdom, his kingdom, the smile almost wavered, brought him such satisfaction.

Barking out orders, Garren made his way for the stable, ready to ride at the head of the Lion’s Guard, yellow trilled banner, hosting a roaring mythical creature like a giant four legged cat with a great mane, waving in the summer breeze behind him.   

The End

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