Trouble at the Gates

For days the warrior rode, stopping only to purchase food and small supplies from very surprised farmers and village folk.  All the while he looked for signs of orcs or other troublemakers, but as he headed further south and inland he noticed nothing.  He also collected little information from the farmers along the way, only the prices of grain at various city markets and the like. 

The capital city of Kennaret lay several leagues from where the warriors ship put him ashore, but he arrived in a miraculously short amount of time.  His trusted mount never seemed to tire, even though as horses go even the owner knew that the white stallion should be past his prime in years.  The warrior dreaded the day that he would have put his faithful horse to rest, if it ever came. But now he had reached his destination, and its sight was still breathtaking after all those years.

Sprawling out before him was Terri’thas, a great city nestled against the foot of the Eothor mountain range.  A great wall protected the sides that the mountains did not, and the River Leonin ran a crooked course inside the cities boundaries, twinkling with the clearest waters one could find on the entire earth. 

“Time to put on the armor and head home, boy,” he said aloud.  Shadowbane snorted, surely signaling his remembrance and approval of returning to the homeland. The warrior caught his breath, donned his armor, and began his descent into the huge valley and the city gates.   

“Greetings, my good knights,” the warrior shouted, waving at the two armed guards at the gates.  “A pleasant day, is it not?”

“Name and business here, sir.”  The soldier that spoke was of senior rank to his partner, and a bit tougher in appearance.  The warrior scrutinized each one of them, wondering how the standards of the army were being held up in these recent years.  These two looked passable enough.  Their red city guard uniforms were neat, and their chain mail polished fair enough.  He noticed a small bit of unruly hair protruding from underneath the helmet of the second guard, and he scowled in distaste.

“Name and business sir, or we cannot allow you through the city gates.”  The first soldier spoke again, an edge of impatience appearing in his voice.  They were both armed swords and light shields, with staves at arms length.  As a passing thought he considered whipping them both soundly for fun and as a nice lesson for the both of them.  They hadn’t done anything wrong of course, it was just his own way of keeping soldiers walking the line and keeping himself occupied.  However, he hadn’t quite been back long enough to start teaching lessons.

The warrior chuckled a bit to himself and then drew himself up in his saddle.

“I am Jarron Mirdraeg, and I have returned from Yathramar and seek an audience with the king.”

The two guards were dumbfounded for a moment, the name obviously stirring some sort recollection in the brains.  Once again, the higher ranked man found his voice first.

“I was told that Jarron Steelspine had passed away several years ago from his wounds in the War.  I cannot allow an imposter and cheat into this city.”  He drew his sword and assumed a cockeyed fighting position, prompting his associate to do the same.

Jarron sighed.  He drew his greatsword and pointed it directly at the man.  “I am neither an imposter nor a cheat, and I did not die of wounds in the War.”

Both men eyed the sword brandished in their direction with awe.  Neither moved nor spoke for a moment, as if entranced.  Jarron sighed.

“I wish to pass, and I do not wish to harm either or you when I do so.  Also, I have some advice from one soldier to another.  That little pigsticker would do little more than anger me if you were to actually swing it at me.  Try something a little more substantial, like that stave over there.”

“Hold!” The guard shouted.  Then, lowering his voice, he added; “I will summon our senior officer.  We may avoid confrontation a little longer if it pleases you.”  He was very nervous, but still keeping his head about him Jarron noticed.

“Certainly.  Far be it from me to interfere with standard procedure.” Jarron smiled at the man and even hung his sword back at his side.  He stroked Shadowbanes neck as he watched the guards step back to their posts and ring a large bell three times successively.

Three times.  Jarron laughed out loud and pointed at the guards.  “I remember the signal for trouble at the gates, you know.  I suppose I should kill you now before the other twenty five soldiers appear to subdue me.”

Both soldiers’ faces blanched considerably.  They looked at each other and again assumed their ridiculous combat stance.  Jaeron spoke again, however.  “Calm yourselves.  I will wait until your squad arrives, perhaps there will be someone with a little sense among them.”  With a little smile, he added, “Of course, if there isn’t, I may decide to end the both of you first.”

Jarron dismounted, drawing his sword once again.  He had not really considered the difficulties of getting back into his own city. Why do they think I died in that last battle? I did not exactly make it public knowledge that I had pledged my services to Yathramar in exchange for their aid, but still, dead?

Within minutes the gates opened from within and twenty five soldiers burst through, armed and ready.  Jarron spotted a captain at their front, an older soldier sporting three braided gold marks upon his breast.

“Hail and well met, Captain of the Guard.  I am Jarron Steelspine, here to return to my city and speak to the king.”

His words were met again with silence, as the dumbfounded captain looked at him quizzically.  The man’s eyes locked onto the sword in the warrior’s hand, and then studied his face for a long moment.

“Cauthin, Althorn! Front!”  He snapped.  The two soldiers who had first encountered Jarron whipped to attention in front of the captain.  He whispered something harshly and dismissed both of the men.

“My apologies, Sir Steelspine.  My young cadets were only doing what they thought was right, although misinformed it may have been.  I was young when you left us, but I will remember that sword until the day I die.”  He bowed in apology, and then beckoned at his soldiers to re-open the gates.  “Of course you may proceed into the city, would you like an escort to the castle?”

“I am flattered, Captain-?”

“Hanson, sir.”

“Captain Hanson.  I am sure that I can find my own way, and I may decide to make a few other stops on my way.”

“As you wish,” Hanson replied.  As a remounted Jarron began to ride past him and into the city, he asked in a pained voice, “If you do not mind my asking, why were you gone from us so long?”

“I had to hold up my end of a deal, Janson.”  Jarron saluted the man and rode on past, a bit puzzled.  The captain seemed relieved to see him, not just happy.  The warrior decided he would make a few rounds of the city before heading to the castle to see his old friend Aramathras, the king of Kennaret.

The End

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