A short story, set in the world of one of my longer ones. It is set years after, when everything has been cemented and the Kingdom of New England is doing pretty well. It involves raiders, violence and love.
King Richard Ericsson was displeased. He sat in his study at his stronghold of New Concord reading the reports of the latest raids conducted in the north against his realm. After sighing greatly he scribbles on a couple of pages, then balls up the rest and roughly throws them into the fire. He stands up sharply, grabs his chair, and tosses it across the room. This action upsets almost everything, the only thing he grabs is his flagon of ale, which he immediately empties into his open mouth.
“Three villages burned in the last month. Three! And countless number of livestock slain or stolen! Just as I start to make peace with those….. Idiots in Keystone, my northern border falls apart!” He clutches his head painfully. “It is just one…crisis after another. My grandfather had it easy. All he had to do was kill anyone who dared oppose him. No petulant nobles or persistent raiders. He just killed indiscriminately. H-“ This king is interrupted by a knock on the door. He sighs and collects himself. “Enter!” He commands in a deep, regal voice, much different from the violent and slightly manic one from earlier.
His son William meekly enters and bows. He is his father minus several decades, easily breaking six feet of bone and muscle. “You summoned me sir?”
His father’s face splits into a giant seeing his son and heir, and he lets out a large bellow of laughter. “My son! Just the man I need!” He gives him a hearty slap on the back, and goes over to the pile of reports now on the floor and pulls out a map. Using his chair as a new table, he rolls the map flat and motions for William to examine it with him. “Now, I know you just got back from your great ’21thbirthday tour’, but I have a job for you.”
“Of course father.” He gives a little bow.
“Excellent! That’s the attitude the won my grandfather his Kingdom! Andyourgrandfather the land once known as Mane.” He points to the map, which has the old boundaries as well as the new. “It is that that I wished to speak to you about. You know the story of how my father, King Eric Paulson, united the Northern Clans and brought them into the Kingdom. There were many clans who…did not accept this. They fled north to form a separate Kingdom, those Filthy moose fu-“
“I know the history. I know what grandpa, and then uncle did, and what happened to them.” William looks out the window, in a way that could be either contemplative or boredom.
The King grunts. “Of course you were. We were both part of the party that brought back his body. I try not to think of that day. Only angers me. That was the day I truly knew what being king would mean. But since then, they have been quiet. Well, a raid here and there, some cows stolen. It is part of their, culture, and in some places, even our subject’s culture…..but recently, with the trouble with Keystone, they have stepped it up. Five raids within a fortnight! They need to be stopped!” He snarls and takes a long drink out of his mug, disregarding its emptiness. “I would lead an army myself, but with Keystone trying to get Caer Hudson back….That is where you come in. I am tasking you with stopping these raids. As fast as you can.”
William’s face quirks, but settles on what looks like a smile. “It will be done my Lord Father.”
The king turns to him and grunts. “I hope you are as good in battle as you are arrogant outside of it.” He scribbles something on a piece of paper and hands it to his son. “Here, this appoints you Arch Duke of New Bangor, so you shall have all of the men you need in the north. Take those drinking buddies you can Knights with you as well.” He attempts a hearty laugh, but ends up sighing deeply and sinks back into his chair. “I’m counting on you Will. If these raids are not stopped soon….we will either run out of villages for them to raid, or face a rebellion. These raids need to stop.” With that, the King slowly falls asleep. His son grabs the blanket kept by for this exact situation and covers him. He then proceeds to tidy up the papers and tables his father strewed about. Once everything is moderately organized again, he leaves the room. As he exits, he hears his father mumbling a melody. “What shall the fourth sacrifice be? And thus is the doom of kings. If your vow you do betray, your kingdom of hope will pass away…….”
William pauses for a moment, curious about what his father might be saying. When nothing else comes from him, William shrugs, shakes his head sadly and exits. He nods to the guard posted outside the door, who smiles weakly, well aware of the kings peculiarity.
When he rounds the corner to depart the royal antechamber for the castle proper, he is accosted by a lanky blond man about his age in rough clothing.
“So, how’s the old man?” Says the newcomer lightheartedly, yet with true concern.
Will shakes his head. “Not so good friend Roderik. Guess what he told me to do?” He holds up the piece of paper.
Roderik barely glances at the rough scrawl, knowing already what it, like so many before it, will say. “He ordered you to defend the north again?”
“Yeah. Third time this week. And every time I return to the capitol to resupply. Its…it’s like…I don’t know!” The prince throws up his arms in exasperation. “People say that after his father died, forcing him to take the throne years before he should have, he was a fine king. And for the first time we were at peace. And… he kept us at peace. Through…everything. Even the loss of his first wife, the death of his beloved brother….so much. Things that would break many men. But….he has kept going. These raids….they are the portents of war. And after everything he’s lost… for war to come….I don’t think he wants to handle it, or if he can! He is getting worse… for goodness sakes, it is like his mind is two years in the past sometimes! I’m not 21! I’ve been holding off these raids for more than a year now!” He takes his rage out by turning and punching a wall.
Rod stands next to him and pats him on the shoulder. “What are you going to do man?”
Will sighs, then full of resignation, shakes his head. “I shall do what I must. I will keep doing my best to repel those raiders. I can only hope that the royal advisors can keep up the kingdom. They’ve been doing it more and more as…as my father descended farther into…. insanity.” His lips purse at actually saying the word. “They will just have to keep doing it.”
His companion nods and rubs his beard. “So, when do we leave again?”
William looks at him. “Not long enough for you to have another night of whoreing. This time, Iwillleave you behind.” His face regains a little hint of humor and he starts to walk down the hall.
“You say that every time! And they are only whores if they make you pay! Don’t make me have all the fun for both of us again! Or do! I like that two!” Calls out Roderik, unmoving.
“Fine! Have at the wenchs! The docks at dawn! We must do our duty!” Shouts the Prince as he disappears to do important princely things.