The sun was setting as they entered the keep, calling a greeting to the gate guards and tethering their horses, immediately he noticed the urgency had spread to everyone, feeling out of place Daniel picked up the pace to get to the Hall where the Steward was waiting for him and the other sergeants.
Noticing his colleagues on the far side near the hearth, he almost made the length of the hall before being stopped by trouble incarnate, Kord, a heavy-set lump of a man with a nose that’d seen the last call at the tavern more than once.
“You going somewhere Thatcher? You still owe me 8 coppers from our last game” a wicked grin spread across his blocky jaw, inviting Daniel to make a scene. “And if memory serves, Kord, you still owe me for at least twice that for a bushel in your roof, plus the days labour it took to bring it all the way up to Aspienne” he trailed off trying to end the conversation with the unspoken threat of collecting his debt, much to his relief Kord seemed to be having an unusually aspiring day, picking up on the hint he left as quickly as he arrived.
Taking a seat next to Alfred, nudging him as he did to make the man move and make some room for him, Daniel took a mug of ale from the table that was still full and settled his boots waiting for the Steward to begin his speech.
“Alright arslings listen up, what I’m about to tell you is strictly need to know, so if the Battlemaster didn’t think you needed to know you wouldn’t” The steward rambled, took a deep nervous breath and continued ”Lord Morgorath has been accused of treason by Prince Duncan and we’re mobilising the Fyrd in response, the castle guard is going to be split up amongst our portion of the larger army to keep some sense of cohesion and discipline”. Mutterings of disbelief echoed in the now still hall, no-one could believe that the champion of the realm, the Black Knight of Gorlan, would do something like that, but it wasn’t their job to question Baron Arald.
“Lord?” called a voice from the back, Devon, or as he was more commonly known as, Fish, spoke up garnering the attention of the steward.
“Yes, Mac’Errol what is it?”
“Lord, with respect, it weren’t 3 weeks ago we heard tell of Prince Duncan raiding and terrorising the villages up north, I know our orders come from the Baron, but can we trust the word of the Prince at this stage?”
The hall fell silent at the accusation, everyone was thinking it, but Fish was the only one dumb enough to actually ask such a brazen question officially. If the steward hadn’t shared the same concerns Devon could’ve been put to death for treason.
“Fish” The implied threat dripping from the steward’s tone was apparent, “I urge you to sit down and trust in the Baron’s Judgement, we have reason to believe that the Prince is telling the truth, and that’s all you need to know.”
Feeling the need to interject and steer the conversation back to the matter at hand Daniel spoke up concernedly, “Lord, am I to understand that this is a full-scale deployment of the Fyrd?”
Sensing the line of questions to follow, the steward gratefully accepted the segway away from talks of treason and began explaining the logistics of the deployment.
Once the briefing was done, Daniel, Fish, and Alfred trumped through the courtyard to the inn on the outside of the castle walls.
“That went on forever, can you believe the balls of Fish to ask the steward that in public?” Alfred was never much for subtlety and practically shouted at Daniel over his third mug of ale, lowering it with a satisfied gasp.
“Alf, if you ever feel the need to go into public speaking let me know, I want to see the cabbages hit from the front row” grinning, Fish to a deep draught of his own drink before setting the mug down on the table and continuing, “seriously though, we all heard the stories from the tinkers, Prince Duncan was seen raiding the village of Kirkton-Lea, causing a right stir and at the moment I think we’re more to be concerned with the dress wearing gingers that have a fetish for big sodding swords!”
“what’s the matter mackerel, you feeling scared?”
“That’s enough you two, I’m just as concerned as Devon is, but Alf you need to also think of your son, Horace needs a father to come back to him, and frankly I prefer our chances in a border dispute than fighting Morgarath and his followers. After all, my son should be on his way soon, and I’d rather not be in the middle of a civil war when it happens.”
The two men looked at Daniel with shame on their faces, realising that both options stand to make them widowers or orphans of their son’s. With both men settled and the likelihood of a tavern brawl sated, Daniel finished the last of his ale and made his was back to his horse.
“Cadwyn is going to be mad you missed dinner” a glance from Steren seemed to speak to him on occasion, he never spoke to anyone about his horse talking to him, lest they think him mad. “Don’t you start you old nag, I’m not in the mood tonight, especially when you know you’re right” he spoke in a whisper to the horse so as to not alert the passers-by.
Steren gave an indignant snort before responding to the nudges Daniel gave, and they made their way back to the farm, and to the hide tanner herself.