“I won’t ask about the credibility of this source, Driscoll, but….” Rhutgard trailed off.
“Yes. Absolutely certain. Chose him myself, he’s a scout.” Driscoll’s voice behind him was devoid of expression, tired.
Tired, yes. They had been locked up in this study, this War Room, for three weeks now, and Rhutgard couldn’t bear the sight of it anymore. Nor could they, of course. They took frequent breaks out on the green as often as they could but still. And people were beginning to talk. An Assembly of the Eastern Alliance – the five of them had never been closeted up with each other like this, nor had they visited so long. And no feasting, no entertainment….
Stanyard shrugged and told Rhutgard that he could only circulate so many plausible rumors. People were not stupid. They started gossiping, though he had not heard the words “War Council” yet. A small boon, Rhutgard supposed.
Rhutgard, still leaning on his fists on the table, did not see what happened next.
Gerard yelled, “That is my country, you flea-bitten bastard! If you had half a brain, and had paid attention to those fucking ports, there wouldn’t be five thousand fucking men sitting on my border!”
Rhutgard turned around to see Gerard point a finger at Driscoll. “And you – could you post a few fucking men in your damn mountains so they’d send you a bird or two, let you know, ’Your Majesty, thousands of fucking soldiers are marching north to Ghiverny, you want us just to wave while they pass by?’”
Oh, bloody hell – once Gerard gets started, there’s no calming him down – Rhutgard stepped away from the map table in alarm.
“But you, you fucking Hound, you were too busy up womens’ skirts not to notice –”
“Oh, all right, that’s it –” and Reaghann flew at Gerard.
A mess of parchments went flying up, scattering all about the two Kings as they wrestled each other. Gerard slammed Reaghann into the wall and a small, framed painting fell to the floor. Reaghann shoved Gerard off of him and swung at Gerard, but his fist was caught by… Kendrick?
“OY! That’s enough, from both of you!” Kendrick shouted. His voice bounced off the walls and the room was silent for a second.
Rhutgard’s mouth dropped open. Kendrick had separated both Kings and held them away from each other at the end of each arm, and his face showed pure disgust.
“If you can’t act like men, and the Kings you are, then leave until you can. Gerard, drink less wine, we need your best game in here. Reaghann, this is not a brawling ring, this is a War Council – stop being such a hothead. War is not going to be easy on any of us, so stuff your tempers and pick these parchments up off the floor.”
Kendrick gave them each a small shove backward and stepped away from them.
Rhutgard’s jaw was open. He immediately turned around and acted engrossed in the map on the wall before him.
That signet ring had changed his boy. Rhutgard smiled a bit. What a king he would be….
“And now all we know is that Hewart’s men have mobilized. They are not ready to march, but both the soldiers we have in place gave the same account. ‘Marching on Clemongard, Romeny possible as a side attack. Singular move,’” Stanyard announced.
The room was silent, but the faces of the men in it spoke volumes. They were grave, solemn. Worried now. ’Twas one thing for five thousand Stordish men to be huddling north of Delsynth in the northern EverWinters. But quite another for this coinciding correspondence from two sources in the Ambsellon ranks.
“Singular move?” asked Dougall.
Ah. Rhutgard forgot about the lads. They were new to the some of the terms of war. Well, war was without doubt upon them.
“Advancing, or making a move without notifying the commanding officer, or the units you fight alongside with. In this case, Ormon.”
Driscoll whistled. “I have never known that to happen.”
“Well, there has never been a Queen on the Ormon throne, either. I expect that has a good deal to do with Ambsellon’s choice,” Rickstan said.
Rhutgard nodded. Then he approached another issue, directly related to their troop movements. “We need to send Clemongard troops. She is our ally.”
Immediately, all four Kings shook their heads and scoffed.
In a firm voice, Rhutgard insisted, “Whether we like it or not – she is our ally and we promised her aid.” He let a stern stare rest upon each of them for a few seconds.
Finally, Driscoll said with reluctance, “I can send some Stafford Spears.”
Reaghann let out an impatient sigh but announced, “I can spare some troops as well.”
“Excellent. Now, with my lord of Delsynth’s valued contributions, let us plan some fortifications for all of the Eastern border, and focus on the Ghiverny-Delsynth conflict.
Raegan’s ports will soon be open again, so his coastline will need to be fortified as well.
“Let us begin there. Ronan, Keldrick,” Rhutgard finished by waving the two lads forward.
Both young men approached Rhutgard with curiosity.
“The time has come for us to speak with the Queen of Clemongard.”
Rhutgard watched their faces. No change. They continued to listen to him, waiting. Ah. Well, once they heard what he had to say next, they would certainly have a response, each of them.
“My son and Ronan, we need to speak with Queen Selby. However, given the state of things, between
Varley’s unpredicted actions and Ambsellon now making its move, we cannot arrange a simple visit of state, as we have here our assembled Kings of the Alliance. Aside from sheer distance, both Clemongard and we have militaristic issues that we cannot leave our countries for on extended visits of state. Travel time alone would be far lengthier than either she or we could afford to be away from our nations during wartime.
“Which brings me to why I have called you here before me. The two of you, Ronan, and you, my son, Keldrick, will be serving as Eastern Alliance War Time Ambassadors for me. Keldrick, you will be speaking as my voice on this mission.
“The two of you will traveling alone, just the two of you, and undercover. You will not be using your actual names until you arrive at FalconRise.”
Rhutgard paused and took in their faces. Stunned, as if they’d been told they’d be living underwater from now on. Part of him wanted to laugh. But this assignment would make men of them, that he knew.
Ronan cleared his throat. “And, if you please, Your Majesty, what identities will we be using?”