The Court of the King

The messenger threaded his way through the tents and people. Word had reached the capital, and the King's Court but a few hours ago and he had been sent to offer assistance and report back the extent of the damage.

Unable to find the Duke or his retinue, the messenger approached a guardsman with a sergeant's strips and addressed him from horseback; "Afternoon Sergeant. Can you tell me where I can find the Duke?"

The Sergeant nodded at the hills. "He's up there, been there for a while. There's a trail leading up there, you can't miss it."

"My thanks," said the messenger and moved off through the camp.

Having climbed halfway up the trail pointed out to him by the sergeant, the messenger paused when he heard voices and hooves coming down the trail. It was the Duke.

"My lord," said the messenger, dismounting, "I bring an offer of assistance from our King. Two hundred men and fifty wagons of provisions and materials will be here by nightfall."

The Duke paused. The gesture was generous, and would certainly help his people, but their King was the type of man who would see this as a favour to be returned rather than his duty. And the Duke, governer of twice as many people as any other Duke in the land, was almost as powerful as the King himself and did not want to be owing favours. Furthermore he didn't want 200 of the king's soldiers in his camp.

"I thank the King for his generosity, but I could not in good conscience deprive him of that many men. Thirty labourers will be sufficient and I will pay him in full for the materials."

The messenger nodded. "I will take your reply to the King my lord" he replied.

"As if the fire wasn't enough my lord, we now have to deal with our dear leader's oafs," said George as the messenger's cantering horse disappeared back down the trail.

An unnatural fire and some very fast assistance from the King thought the Duke.

"George," said the Duke, "I have a task for you. Get a fresh horse and ride fast to the village of Sturmshelter. Ask at the inn for Kraven and they will direct you. When you speak to Kraven, tell him I sent you and that you suspect the fire here was unnatural. Do what he tells you."

The End

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