The Knights of Elmtree
“The Tia is dead.” Perri said gravely, looking out to where his friends sat around a rickety wooden table in the dark corner of the empty Eastrock inn.
“Oh dear.” Jodun said, biting his incredibly chapped lips as he held the hot water to his fur covered chest.
“Oh dear?” Anchor exploded, leaping onto his sturdy feet. One could hit Anchor all day and he would never falter. He was a giant of a man, his frame only just able to walk through the small doors of Eastrock. “What does this mean?” He demanded, his fist hitting the table in anguish.
“It’s quite simple Anchor, really.” Keller said, continuing reading through the parchment that had just arrived for him. “We’ve lost the war.
There was a deep silence, in which Anchor’s chest continued to rise and fall breathlessly. Jodun just continued to stare at Perri with shocked eyes, pleading with him to say something. Keller continued to read calmly.
“Impossible.” Anchor said quickly. “Let me see.” He hassled, pulling the notice out of Perri’s hand while his dirty brown eyes scanned the page hastily. “Aha!” He said with a giant smile. “Look!” He continued as he pointed at the Adriana seal on the notice, pushing it in Perri’s face.
Perri took the notice from him, only stating those few simple words.
Dear Adriana Citizens, our beloved Tia is dead.
“What?” Perri murmured.
“There.” Anchor said, pointing at the Adriana seal again with his blackened finger. “It’s smudged.” He said proudly. And he was right, on the green stamp the crown was slightly askew.
“So?” Asked Perri.
“When have you ever seen the seal smudged?” He asked. When nobody answered, he roared in laughter. “It’s probably just an enemy rumour.” He continued as he sat down at the table littered with weapons.
“Then how do you explain this letter from my brother?” Keller asked, passing him the parchment. Anchor began to read, and slowly turned white.
“What - What is it?” Jodun asked shakily. Anchor’s eyes turned to Keller as he finished. He looked like he was going to speak, but he abandoned it quickly, laying the parchment down carefully, rubbing his hands on his trousers nervously.
“Anchor.” Perri asked, moving so he could read the letter over his shoulder.
We’ve lost the war. The Tia died in the battle of Grassrose in which over five thousand of our people died. Brother, I write to you to inform you that you cannot come back to Andriana. The city has been lost to flames. I write this from Valfort, but the reinforced gates will fall within a few days, I am certain of it. If i still live in a few days I will meet you at our Elm tree in Morbridge.
Perri saw Jodun’s face and took the parchment, scanning it quickly.
“What do we do?” Jodun asked gravely, his lips beginning to bleed with the pressure of his biting teeth.
“I must go to Morbridge.” Keller said as he got up, shaking his leather cape and fox fur.
“We must go to Morbridge.” Perri corrected.
“Morbridge is a mere hundred miles from Archiana. If the Vertwick’s are being as brutal as my brother described, I don’t want any of you to get hurt.” He shook head before pulling his long black hair into a ponytail.
“Where are you going?” Jodun asked. Keller said nothing, picking up his scabbard. “You can’t go now. It’s almost midnight.”
Anchor reached forward, pulling the scabbard out of Keller’s hands.
“You are not going anywhere. We’ll leave tomorrow morning.” Anchor argued. Keller simply took Anchor’s scabbard instead as he moved swiftly towards the door. Perri took hold of his shoulder, stopping him from moving any further.
“We’re doing this together.” Perri said simply.
“What’s that noise?” Jodun asked quizzically, lifting the ragged piece of cloth that covered the dirty window.
“What noise?” Anchor asked, frowning.
“That, that noise.” Jodun said, peering into the window. Anchor was about to argue, but Perri lifted a hand to stop him. He could hear something, like a crackling sound. Like, fire. “I can’t see… I can’t… Oh dear.” He said seriously, looking gravely at the exit.
Perri quickly turned, seeing the thick smoke bleed through the door. A woman up the stairs screamed, as all four men retreated to the back wall.
“Vertwicks.” Anchor breathed.