Wolves of Highmoor
The gate opened. The men rode in two abreast. Krauser lead them thorough, the first ne in. The servents watched from doors and arrowmen watched from their perches in the corner towers and battlements. The northmen bunched their faces at the company’s arrival, the smallmen stared with deaden, haggard expressions. Krauser didn’t care for them at all. He despised these northmen, with their plan flat faces and dull brown eyes. It was a wonder that he had laid with any of their women.
His horse trotted on mule shit as he entered the courtyard. The smell reached up unpleasantly. He neglected it the best he could but felt it tickling his nose as he turned around to watch his men gather. There were a hundred and seventy in all, mostly back in camp. The fleet he had was fifteen or so, give or take. He was assured that they were the best men but was skeptical. Even the best men at sixty days of march and countless skirmishes could prove to be callow and insubordinate. They all looked tired or bored or both. He knew because he was tired and bored.
“Bring out your king.”
The castle was not a castle in the southern sense. It was not hewed in mason stone and limewood with rising parapets and fortifications. It was similar to those alehouses he had seen plotting alongside the rode northwards. It had a wide domed roof and a set of flat iron doors in the front. The high towers were only about twenty feet and raised up like tent poles, more like chimneys and smoke-vents than proper arrowing positions.
The iron doors swung out slowly, groaning like sleepy children. Two men in leather vestments and fur boots pushed the door from within and Krauser stared down a long hallway lit sparsely by torchlight. Another pair of men walked out, these in heavy leather with mail and studs, on their head sat wool caps with frontispiece hanging over the nose. They each carried in their hands a silver-tipped spear with what appeared to be a whole rabbit on the end of it. Their eyes were dark and hooded and still. Finally came a boy, much unlike the man. He was soft and milk-skinned. He wore a satin robe and doe-skin cloak like a woman. His hands were covered in ringed jewels save for the silver finger-ring of his thumb and forefinger. On his head laid a crown of polished silver.
Krauser regarded the boy with respect and the boy regarded Krauser without expression.
“Morrow and hail, good king of the North.”
“Morrow, conqueror.” Said the king and Krauser smiled. “I, Hermutt Krauser, second in his name, have been charged by the All-King Dalelon, ruler of land and sky whose first name is Bromire, whose tenth name is William of Faragon, to exercise his divine right to reclaim the lands north of the Darthmount, heretofore known as Highmoor, and all pretenses, lands, grains and titles associated with liege thereof. What say you, O’great king?”
Krauser saw nothing in this king of child. Only the plainness of the boy’s round face, the dullness in those dark brown eyes. He saw a plump cheek, full lips and shaggy black hair. He saw nothing of his sister in the boy. He was just another northeron child, one of the legion he had come across in his travel.
He was hoping for cunning or the famed northern fighting spirit. He saw nothing but a lethargic, defeated boy.
The boy said “ I, upon the soil of my ancestors, agree upon the terms of my surrender. I renounce my crown, kingdom, title and name, giving all that I have to the All-King William of Faragon, blessed be his name.” The boy let out a breath, eyes down-casted. Krauser wanted to give the boy applause for remembering that speech. The recitation must have been very hard.
“Lay your crown upon the ground and swear fealty to the king.”
The boy nodded and moved displaced as if in a dream. He sunk to his knee and his hand came to the band of silver that adorned his head. His hair fell before his eyes he untangled the crown from his head and laid it on the ground before the foot of Krauser’s steed. For a moment, the boy sniffed and made a face. Krauser turned his head to stop himself from smiling. He signaled to the men.
“Take him to away.” He said and then “ Open the rest of the gates.”