“Come in, son.”
Kendrick glanced about, curiosity registering on his face when he saw that none of the other members of the War Council were present.
“I thought you might like to read this first before I read it to the rest of the Council.” And Rhutgard handed the correspondence from Clemongard to Kendrick.
Kendrick recognized it immediately but accepted it stoically rather than eagerly, when just a few weeks ago, he might have grabbed for it. He and his twin had never been separated for so long before, or at least, not for such a reason. They had squired at Mountain Shield and Martmain Palaces for a few months each, but never had either been in peril of any sort, nor planning a war.
Where Kendrick’s new title of Crown Prince might have been merely a title in peace time, and he might have retained his boyhood laughter and charm, he now was a man grown, circles of worry beneath his blue eyes already, with no trace of the boy, and little laughter or smiles. Rhutgard would miss that boy, but the times of today needed his son the man….
Rhutgard watched him read Kendrick read his twin’s letter.
To: His Royal Majesty, Rhutgard Anghus Firthing, First of His Name,
King of Romeny, Eastern Shield of the Eastern Shield Alliance:
I and Prince Ronan Martel of Ghiverny, having arrived safely in the land of Clemongard, have been welcomed by our Ally, Her Royal Majesty, Selby Cylysse Stevanrhut, First of Her Name at FalconRise Palace. We have been working steadily in her War Council with her advisors to determine the best choice of action for her military, so that we may advise you which of our troops to send where.
I am sending a map of all of Queen Selby’s military strong holds as well as where the Clemongard War Council knows the North to hold passage, with particular respect to the Rockdale Mountain Pass. Clemongard has had reports of growing numbers of Ambsellon soldiers manning the Blood Fort in Southern Ambsellon, that they might use that Mountain Pass as in times past, since across the border is Stormsguard Castle in Clemongard.
Clemongard is armed with sixty-thousand Ericorian, 500 cavalry, 500 archery, 150,000 infantry, and thanks to the late King Harvick of Storden’s gift of Varley’s Navy, 500 warships.
Ten-thousand men are stationed along the southern Clemongard border, though the Queen hopes to use these men elsewhere as no one is aware of Varley’s movements at this time.
We expect to see Ambsell ships in the Northernmost of Clemongard’s naval borders within a day to three days of the writing of this letter. The Queen’s Royal Navy is already in position to engage in combat and attack as necessary.
We expect to see Ambsell troop movement through the pass within a day to three days of the writing of this letter also, as marked on the map I send you. Queen Selby plans to leave FalconRise with her troops and will be protected by Ericorian.
The War Council believes the two best ways for Eastern Alliance troops to enter Clemongard are through the FreeLands along Stone Crossing south of the Mourning Mountains and then north to StormsGuard, to bring in any cavalry, or divided further into Clemongard toward the coast. The Roarnebourke and Trellis Rivers have bridges that are heavily guarded, but any infantry headed toward both East Rockdale and Jernigan City would be welcomed, as seen on the map I’ve provided.
I believe the best way to serve as Eastern Alliance War Ambassador would be to remain here and coordinate our war efforts with Clemongard’s. Please send a prompt reply if you prefer me to take on a different role. May this information be of use to you.
May this find you in the best of health; good will and good fortune to all of the Eastern Alliance.
From: Prince Keldrick Anghus Firthing,
Eastern Alliance War Ambassador to Clemongard
A troubled look crossed Kendrick’s face and was gone. He looked up at Rhutgard and said gravely, “He means to stay over there.”
It wasn’t a bad idea, thought Rhutgard, but he didn’t want his son out of his reach. So very, very far from his reach, during war. Not just one, but two, possibly three countries were trying to bring Clemongard down, and his son Keldrick in the center of it.
Rhutgard the father said, absolutely not, come home immediately!
But Rhutgard the Eastern Shield was intrigued and swallowed down the parental fear, for he knew that it was a good idea. He’d only sent the boys over for a few days’ discussion with the Queen, that they might get a feel for the country and its needs, introduce themselves to the Queen on behalf of the Eastern Alliance to lend her support and then return home.
Not lose them to a lengthy stay in a permanent position.
“What think you?” Rhutgard asked.
A long sigh sounded from his son. Kendrick studied the map his twin had sent. “It’s very detailed. He put a good deal of effort into this. This will be of great help to us.” Then he placed both the letter and the map upon Rhutgard’s desk.
Deflecting the question. “True. But what think you of his staying on there?”
Kendrick scowled. “It has merit. A good deal of merit. But I don’t like it.” He paced away. The back of his neck was red, a tell-tale sign of anger, thought Rhutgard.
“Well, in peacetime, why not,” and Kendrick rubbed the back of his neck as he walked about the study, as if he knew the back of his neck was defying him. “But, Father, he’s our line of succession. If something happens to both of us, and he’s over – there, all the way across the damned Land, because he feels sorry for an orphaned Queen with a pretty smile, well, then what have we got? Mirelle?” Kendrick turned around and raised his eyebrows at Rhutgard. “Another orphaned princess with a pretty smile.”
“You think he’s being selfish?” questioned Rhutgard.
The world selfish seemed to change Kendrick’s outlook. “I don’t know if he’s playing at fairytales or if he really does believe this is the best way to serve.” Then he shrugged. “Maybe both. That’s for you to determine, Father, not me.”
Rhutgard nodded. “True. But if you had to make this decision now, instead of me, what would you do?”
Kendrick’s scowl returned and he sat down before Rhutgard. His blue eyes stared off for a few seconds and then he told Rhutgard, “You know, I can’t decide right now. He’s the only one who can piss me off totally and completely, and until I can calm down about it, I ask to withhold my vote until later.”
Rhutgard chuckled. “A wise decision, son. Use that choice as often as you need to when it’s your time to sit where I have to, and it will serve you well.”
Kendrick smiled a little and relaxed. Then a trace of his old self returned when he said, “Unless it’s the Hound?”
Wryly, Rhutgard held a finger up and told him, “That subject is not up for discussion.”
They both chuckled a little.