The manor he’d spent the last eight years of his life at burned as Oren Cobbe readied the prized stallion in the stables. The horses stamped and whinnied nervously as the wind blew the scent of smoke from the distant home into the stalls. Taking care to double check the straps, lest the horse trick him into riding a loose saddle, Oren’s rote movements belied the urgency with which he performed them. Before long, the neighboring village would notice the plumes rising over the tree line that ensconced his home away from the rest of the world. Satisfied that the saddle would not slip as he rode it to the nearest seaport, he patted the breast pocket of the robes of office he salvaged from the house before the blaze grew out of control. The King’s Decree remained safely tucked away. He lashed the ancestral sword rescued from above the hearth to the saddle and mounted up. The horses left were his gift to the villagers who would eventually tend to the smoldering wreckage of the main structure and provide the funerary rites for the four dead men inside it.
The twilight dissipated with the oncoming dawn as he spurred the stallion away from the life he had known and onto a new life. The thrill of riding the open road toward an unknown adventure swallowed his perception as fence posts and trees flew by with the stallion’s galloping strides. The joy at such freedom dampened as he remembered his noble companion remained dead among the three strangers that had assaulted them. He’d hoped for the king to reassemble the paladin order for eight years. That his closest friend was the cost of having his dreams realized chafed Oren.
After an hour of hard riding, Oren slowed his steed to a canter. After a good distance of the slower speed and several cautious glances around, Oren dismounted and surveyed the land for a pond to water the stallion at. Just as his feet began to ache from his tread upon the uneven ground he found one. Letting the horse drink, Oren perched on a nearby stump and pulled out the parchment to read once more. The lettering betrayed the fact that the entire document had been written by a court scribe. Even the signature was too neat for a King with only three fingers on his dominant hand. The blob of gilded wax indented with the Royal Seal was the only indication of the King’s actual hand in the matter.
Dark forces align themselves against the Kingdom. The time has once again returned that the Kingdom has need of the services of the paladins. Go forth and eliminate the corruption that threatens the well being of the realm. It may be beneficent to begin your search in the Arathanian Colonies.
May any who read this letter know that Master Oren Cobbe is on service vital to the survival of the Kingdom and acts with the King’s blessing in all matters. By penalty of death, executed at the hands of the bearer of this note, you are charged to provide him with any an all aid required.
By Virtue of the King’s Hand
His Most Gracious and Benevolent
King Arathur Z. Drakebane, First of His Name
The rustle of grass and snapping of a twig alerted Oren to the approach of unwanted visitors. He stashed the note and rose. His hand slid to his belt, where the sword conspicuously did not rest. The two men approached him with menacing grins. The points of their daggers dipped low. Oren resigned himself to dealing with them the hard way.
Apropos of: Arathania
Writer’s Update: Those of you who have been following the blog may have noticed that I have been absent. This has been due to a combination of real life issues. The Day Job™ has thankfully died down enough that I don’t feel as if my mental and emotional health has been wrung through the equivalent of an old school laundry press. Back to the regular updates though! This is the first piece of what is going to be a fairly long ongoing tale. Thank’s for reading.