Rivenfell - Secondary West Gate
The King's party had come through the gates, leaving on a hunting trip. King Acclesius's brother, Leobald, had returned from a years long trip just a few days previous. No one knew where he had been, but he had left with one ship and come back with three. He brought strange, dark-skinned people with him, a delegation from some island country at the far reaches of the world. The people kept to themselves mainly, which made the common-folk wary of them. In fact, no one had even seen them without their cloaks yet. The wary sentiment of the people was one that Erin Colvor, Forrest's partner at the gate, shared.
"I don't like those people one bit. Where's there hospitality? We tried to treat them nice and they turn down everything, keeping to Leobald's estates and their ships. Something is strange about them and I don't much like it Forrest."
"Erin, maybe they don't speak the same language! Besides they are from at least half-way across the world, they're as shocked by how different we are as us to them, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt for now." The two of them were both of common breed, most of the city watch was. Except for the head of the guard, Lazarus Benford, the only man to ever enter the dungeons of Rivenfell and come back out. He had been the aggressor in the most recent conflict in Umbreshian history. The Talcan River met with the Silvei River at a central trade point near the center of Umbresh. The county of Lauzon had control of it two decades ago, and of the three counties that had vied for it over the years, they had owned it the majority of the time. Lazarus knew that control of this region would help him gather more wealth and he initiated a conflict, drawing troops from his county of Epsilon, and went to war with Lauzon. The third county that had sought control over the fork in the past, Patillo, lay in wait to see who would be the victor.
King Acclesius had taken the royal guard with him, and most of the Edinburgh Lords and Knights, as well as the Patillo forces to go to Lauzon's aid. The Epsilon men were the toughest breed of the Umbreshian, they were rugged and tough, like the mountains that made up a majority of their land, and stood their ground well. But the numbers were against them and before they were completely slaughtered a deal was brokered. In the past many King's had stood by and let the counties have their quarrels, but Acclesius wanted an Umbresh united in truth, not just in physical boundaries, something that made the common-folk adore him. For the nobles and soldiers that profited from small warfare . . . they did not like it too much, but who were they to argue with the will of the people? Lazarus had been in the dungeons for 2 years before he re-emerged a new man. He was allowed to live under the treaty, but he renounced all birthright and heritage to Epsilon and gave up the right to have children. In return for being spared his life, Acclesius made him the head of the city guard. If keeping your enemies was close, it was a smart move, as many thought the man hated the king. Forrest knew that the man at least respected him as much as he hated him, for sparing his life. The only man he hated was Lord Cannias, the man who had received the lordship of Epsilon.
This all went through his mind because he had spotted Lazarus coming straight towards them. He had a lean, wiry frame where once he had been large and bulky. The years in the dungeon had thinned him, but he was even tougher than he had been before if it was possible. His face was always a blank slate, showing no emotion, except a hint of anger that always seemed to dwell in his eyes. Forrest had sparred with him shirtless on occasional, his back lined with scars from whippings he took in the dungeon. He also had some saggy, hanging skin on his stomach where he used ot have a large belly. Now it was filled with tight muscle, but most of it did not show on the surface. Lazarus stroked his graying mustache as he approached the men.
"How goes it today boys?"
Erin stood upright to attention and saluted their superior, Forrest didn't bother. The Captain of the guard did not much care for formalities.
"At ease Corvor. I understand the King is out on a hunting trip right now? Kind of risky eh?" He had stopped stroking his mustache.
"How so sir?" Erin asked, his brow furrowing. Forrest turned his attention away from the man and back towards the woodlands beyond the gates, where a lone rider came galloping towards the city. From the looks of the figure it was one of the Kings woodsmen, and he was coming towards the gate at a furious pace. If Forrest weren't a man that was at his most heightened awareness in the mornings, which was why he always chose the morning shift at the gate, perhaps he would have missed the man, as the sun was barely out yet and most of the people of Rivenfell were still sleeping. The shimmer of sunlight off of drawn steel that lay in his hand, waving through the air, made him very noticeable. Otherwise his cloak and black horse blended with the darkness.
"Well, with all the bandit reports lately. I hope he took a sizable guard with him for protection."
"He took his brother, a few of those foreigners, and two of his guard with him sir. And I am privy to all of the current news and I have heard no reports of ban-," Forrest cut him off as he turned back to Lazarus and quickly got both men's attention. "We've got a rider coming to the gate fast, drawn steel, should we sound the alarm sir?" Lazarus looked out across the main road to the side entrance of the city.
"No, no need to alarm people, it's just one man. A ranger by the looks of it."
Erin chimed in, "He has his sword drawn sir, even just being one man, protocol of the guard states-," Once again he was cut off.
"I'm the captain of the guard and I'm right here, I think I decide what protocol we should follow." The man's usual unreadable nature seemed disturbed by the figure coming towards the gate. Most men would not notice the change in his face, but before Forrest came to be a guardsman, he was studying to become a priest for the Church of the One God. He had always wanted to help people, being a priest would give him direct contact with them, specifically those in need who were looking for guidance. As a young boy he had been interested in observing the behaviors of others, reading body language, being able to tell what someone was thinking or doing before they did it. He loved to study the mind.
The three stood in rapt attention as the figured neared closer.
"Open the gate Forrest, we'll go out and meet him on foot." Forrest did as he was told, with the help of Erin. The west gate to the city was the least used and was small in size, no more than two men on horseback could go out at a time. It was mainly a noble's way of passage, when they went on hunting trips or wanted to sneak out of the city with relatively little attention. Due to the low level of traffic, it was a popularly sought out post for the guard. They had the gate open and went out to meet the woodsman as he finally came to the city wall. The land was thick with grass and trees, a plain stretching on to the forest in the west. Most of the city had peasants occupying territories outside of the wall, but no one lived in this area, it was one of the areas preserved for natural reasons by the woodsmen. Mass gravestones lined the land as it was traditionally used to bury the dead warriors of past skirmishes.
The man had a pained look in his face, and dropped his sword to the ground as the horse trotted up to them. It was stained with fresh blood. The sway of his body told Forrest he did not have his balance anymore, and before he fell, the guard was there to catch him in his arms and bring him softly to the ground. A low whistle came from Erin when the man's hand came away from his stomach, swathed in blood. It looked like someone had ran him through with a sword. The hard ride to the gate must have been very painful and if they did not get the man to a doctor fast he would be a goner.
"Woodsman Fell, what happened out there! Did you encounter any bandits?" Lazarus knew the man apparently, and was already assuming his wound was the cause of bandits. That was what Forrest assumed as well.
"Sir my brother is part of the scouts and there were no reports of bandits!" Erin chimed in what he had been wanting to say earlier, then shut his mouth again with a dark look from the Captain. Something did not feel right to Forrest. By the code they should have sent for a doctor or taken the man in, but it looked as if Lazarus had no plan to do that. He had not ordered it and his rigid stance conveyed that he was disturbed. Also, he remembered it was just about an hour too soon for the man to come check this gate. The Captain's hand was on the hilt of the dagger at his waist.
Fell struggled to get the words out, breathing was difficult for him. "Sir I think you should send Erin to get him a doctor."
"This man has been attacked, in the protection of the city and the people of Umbresh, it is important to find out what happened. Doctors can come later." Forrest knew there would be no later for this man. The woodsman found the energy to get his words out, although they were pained and he struggled with each one.
"Uh-I . . . I was on my morning range through the . . . east . . of the Kilhnber woods, where there is good game. I went to hunt some game . . . for the others, got closer to the city than I intended." He coughed up blood, Forrest wiped it off his chin with the sleeve of his shirt. The man tried to bring his next words to his lips as Forrest observed Lazarus slide closer to Erin, as a snake would. "I saw Leo . . . Leobald and his men, they killed," suddenly he was restrengthened and his words had nothing held back, "They killed King Acclesius with the help of his own guard! It was like a ritual sacrifice, they did unspeakable things! One of those foreigners snuck up on me, we fought, he got me," Fell motioned to the gut wound, "And I got that little prick too." The adrenaline of reliving the moment had strengthened him, but he was sapped of his energy once again. "The killed the King . . . " His eyes lulled in his head.
A sharp intake of breath sounded as Lazarus's dagger slammed into Erin's solar plexus. Forrest abruptly dropped Fell to the ground, who gasped in pain and the sight of what was happening before him. Lazarus withdrew the knife as Forrest retreated towards the woodsman's horse that had moved away a few yards, the man aimed to throw it into the guardsman's back but the ranger grabbed him by the ankles and tripped him to the ground. Forrest should have fought the man and helped Erin out, but this was betrayal of the greatest sort. If someone had secretly killed the king and was planning on pinning it on bandits, anyone who knew the truth would be exposed of quickly. The guard turned towards the gate, intending to make his way inside to go and raise up the guard and alert people to what had happened, but he was greeted with a spine-chilling sight. A dozen or so of the island foreigners were sprinting towards the opening of the gate, swords drawn, rushing towards him. He needed to get as far away from the city as possible. Grabbing the horse's reigns, he climbed atop it and spurred it South. Lazarus plunging the dagger into the woodsman multiple times. He rose and stared after Forrest, then spoke to the men around him.
"That man always was the best damn guardsman I had. In a way, he makes me proud."
One of the hooded figures spoke out, his voice barely a whisper. "This complicates things, if that man gets word of this to others, the overtaking of Umbresh will not go as quickly as planned." There was an underlying threat to his words, something Lazarus was familiar with.
"Don't blame me, you should have been here sooner! If you little fucks rode horses then you could be chasing him down right now." Steel quickly pricked his throat.
"No one speaks that way to me. Get to your guard and send a hunting party out after this man, he killed the woodsman and his compatriot here, you barely survived the encounter yourself after all!" The foreigner giggled.
"Barely survived? I don't even have a bruise from my fall." Then a dagger punched into his side and he fell to the ground.
"You will be the first of many Lazarus, I have great plans for you. Aikus, take him to the ship, make sure no one sees you. Kill anyone who does. This man will be our first." He turned to all the figures around him. "The time has come for the Dark Lord to take the reigns of the world again. The last time we almost did it! Our mark is still felt by this world, even if they do not know it, by the absence of such races as the dwarves and elves that used to populate this world. Without the wisdom and might of them, humanity will crumble before us. No one shall stand in our way this time."
During these happenings, Forrest spurned the horse, already almost shot from the ranger running it ragged, as fast as it could go. He felt eyes gazing at him, even when he was miles away.
High up in the Epsilon Mountains, the last guardian of an almost extinct race rose from his meditation on the stony ground. The darkness was back, he could feel it. They were working their evil arts once again. He would be needed in the rough times ahead. Silent tears traced down the figures cheek from memories a century old, but still fresh in the mind, memories of a people slaughtered by dark arts and treachery. Fathers and mothers killed by their long dead ancestors, figures digging themselves out of graves, and worst of all, the men that would not die, even with an arrow through the eye.
Hopefully it could be stopped again.