It had been decades since the first time the Village of Fortis had gone to war. Back then, it wasn’t a village at all, but rather a collection of people in the woods who wanted to remain there despite the wishes of the Kingdom of Springborough. And if Fortis wasn’t much of a village, the battle wasn’t much of a war. Not in the typical sense, at least. Once the people of the woods declared to the King (King Daniel’s father at the time, King Thomas, of whom after Prince Thomas is named) that they were no longer going to be under the Kingdom of Springborough’s rule, King Thomas sent in his guards to sort of “rough up” the woodsmen.
The strategy didn’t go absolutely according to plan. The guards went into the trees, found the clearing of Fortis, but couldn’t find one forest squatter. They found remnants of bonfires, sheets that looked like they were hung up for the purpose of being walls to nomadic hovels, bear tracks surrounded what looked like eating areas, but they didn’t find one person that they could return with news about to the King. So, the guards, after searching the woods for a couple of days, walked back to the King to tell him the woods were empty, and nobody in the trees of Fortis was to be of concern. The King, hearing this news, decided that the woodsmen were all talk and probably, upon seeing the guards, had run off.
It wasn’t until a couple days after the guards came back to the castle with news they couldn’t find any woodsmen, that another group of guards returned. What a scene it was in the dining hall. A group of thirty knights, all dressed in leather armor, sitting at the long wooden tables, underneath the royal tapestry (the green and gold eagles) hanging on the walls, lit by long candles made by Springborough residents, and eating until their bellies were full, coming face to face with another group of knights, bound in metal armor, with their bellies empty, and their eyes set on their positions at the table, currently occupied. A scuffle ensued, punches were thrown, a little blood was spilt here-and-there from cuts over the eyes, or teeth that were knocked out. No swords were drawn, as that was against one of the top ten rules of the castle, that all weapons were sheathed or the owners of those weapons would be jailed.
It was madness in the dining hall with guard vs guard, so much so that when the house servants entered to see what was happening, they had to immediately leave or be overtaken with the sheer amount of muscle of the knights combatting each other. One house servant fetched King Thomas to come to the dining hall, which he did, with his green-and-gold robes flowing. Usually soft-spoken, the King’s shout alerted all to his presence, and all of the guards, the leather-bound ones, and the steel-plated armor ones, knelt before the King of Springborough.
“What is the meaning of this?” The King asked.
“Your highness,” A steel plate knight said, “we have just came back from the mission you sent us on to find the people within the woods of Fortis. We found none, only to arrive back and find these men sitting at our tables, and eating our food.”
None of the men in leather spoke up. Most avoided eye contact with anyone in the room. Instead, they stayed kneeling, staring at the ground.
“What say you?” King Thomas asked.
A man lifted his head, taking lead over the leather men. If nobody noticed it before, they noticed it now. This man was not altogether clean. He had dirt behind his ears, and his hair carried the grease of a couple days without washing. The man spoke for them all.
“Your grace, my name is John Parsell the First. I sent to you word a couple weeks ago that me and my people were to start our own village in the lands of Fortis, a village that would not be under the rule of Springborough, but not be enemies of it either. Once we sent the letter, we waited to see what Springborough’s response was going to be. Once we saw the armored knights enter the woods, we set out, with the supplies we had, to infiltrate the castle, to pose as the guards and stay here a couple of days as those knights spent time amongst the trees looking for us. King Thomas, we are the people of the forest who wish to separate from the Kingdom of Springborough.”
The knights, upon hearing that the dining hall was filled with enemies, drew their swords and took each member of the Fortis people hostage. Blades were pressed to sweaty, dirty skin and just as quickly as the truth was revealed almost every woodsman would have lost his head, if not for the King’s shout being even louder and angrier than the first. His voice echoed amongst the sounds of swords being unsheathed.
“Stop!” He ordered, and all movement in the dining hall came to halt. “How dare you men draw swords inside the castle. Have you no shame for rules?”
The knights were baffled thinking they were just doing their due diligence to protect their King. These were traitors in their castle. These were men bent on leaving the kingdom’s rule. Who is more untrustworthy than the person who doesn’t want to be apart of the community anymore? The knights looked amongst each other, hearing the king’s words, but not understanding the order. Should they sheath their blades, giving up their power to these men? These imposters? After a moment of confused silence, the knights just held their swords, but down, no longer against the skin of the woodsmen.
“Why are you here?” The King asked.
Parsell looked up, straight into the king’s eyes. “To show you we mean no harm. We are not a threat. If we were, we had three days within the castle walls, with most of your guards away, to do whatever we wanted; to take this place by force if we wished. We did not-“
“You ate our food!” an armored knight started, looking for an argument, but the King raised his hand to stop it.
“Aye, we did,” the woodsman leader replied. “We were served it. And it was good. But, it wasn’t spiced like how we spice our food in the woods. Your highness, we wish to live in peace, amongst nature, with our rosemary and thyme, not in the cement blocked walls of the kingdom. We don’t wish to walk in other people’s mud tracks. We want to live in the woods.”
“The woods are Springborough’s woods.”
“The trees belong to the lands of Fortis-“
“The lands of Fortis are Springborough’s.”
“We wish for independence. We come in peace. We want to leave as neighbors.”
King Thomas thought on it.
“I must admit you are brave, coming here, waiting for my guards to come back to discover you so we can have this conversation…”
“Bravery, maybe. But, we heard you were a noble King. The legends of King Thomas’ gentle soul are well-talked of from here to the Cherry Valley. We felt you must be, at least, reasonable.”
“I must be a reasonable king or I would have my men cut off your heads here, or place you in the dungeons until you forgot what the sun looked like; how well a breeze could cool. But you are right. You could have won this battle with your cunning entry into the castle. You could have killed me, and Queen Judith, and my children, ending the Lishens rule. How many are there of you? The people of the woods?”
“This is about half of our numbers,” Parsell replied, lying. There were forty of his men in the dining hall. There were, at least, four times that many men, women, and children hiding amongst the trees out in Fortis.
“You keep those numbers down. You remain a tiny, self-sustaining village in the woods, and you can have your independence,” the King declared.
And so it was done.
On this day, the day after the storm, a day when both John Parsell the First, the leader of the woodsmen and King Thomas were both buried in the ground, their leadership over the village and the kingdom at an end, respectively; the Village of Fortis, now with its population well over three hundred men and women, readied their weapons and prepared to take on the Kingdom of Springborough, currently only ruled by three children.