Thursday, November 06, 2008

Faith: From Dust, Et Cetera (Part 1)

(Part of a continuing series. Previous post here, first post here.)

Jared and Evelyn, exhausted from their journey, were ushered to separate rooms within the keep. There they slept, watched over by armed guards; the thick walls kept out the sounds of war and the smell of smoke. Their sleep was deep and long.

When they awoke, they were allowed some time for their toiletries, and then ushered through the palace by the guards assigned to them. They met each-other at the ornate doors of their destination; Evelyn necessarily held upright by the guard protecting her. After a smile and nod, the doors swung open, and they entered.

It was the same room as Jared had entered a month ago; the one in which the plans for the Expedition had been made. That time, the occupants had been three; the Prince of Ostek, his commander von Erik, and the Prince's niece Evelyn, who Jared was then meeting for the first time. Now there was but one, and the Prince's throne stood empty.

"...who are you?" Evelyn asked of the man sitting to the throne's right. "I know you're the soldier who greeted us last night, but I don't think I've ever been formally introduced."

At the same time, a look of concentration had come onto Jared's face; now he snapped his fingers and said, "I remember you! You're Robert. You're the man who recruited me into the Prince's service!"

"That I am," Robert agreed, tipping his chair backwards. "I'm sorry that I've not risen, Your Highness - " here meaning Evelyn " - but it's been a very long night, and a very long day before it, and I'm in no shape to stand. Would you care to sit?" he offered.

Jared and Evelyn did so. Evelyn looked at the empty throne with something indecipherable in her eyes; she chose to take a chair opposite it. Jared sat next to her, opposite Robert.

"I have a question," Jared began. "When we first met, you were a sergeant in the Prince's service. And now you're leading everything that's left?"

"You got it," Rob agreed, a bitter smirk twisting one corner of his mouth upwards. "There's a few guys with paper ranks higher than mine, but they're not saying anything. The fact is, when everything went wrong, I wasn't in the right place - that would've been hightailing it out of the damn city - but I wasn't in as wrong a place as everyone else. There's more to it than that, but I've got something of my own to ask, first."

"Which is?" Evelyn asked, politely.

"What happened to the expedition?" Robert asked. "I've got some idea - certainly the fact that only you two came back, and the severed heads the mercenary scum were carrying about -" (Evelyn blanched slightly at this) "- gave me some clue. But I'd like you to tell me the rest - the whole story, everything that happened from the time you left Ostek's gates to the time you came back."

They told him.

Robert was silent for a moment, afterwards. "I'm sorry about your injuries, Your Highness," he said to Evelyn. "You may not have known me before now, but I saw you, now and then. It - seems a cruel irony, for you, of all people, to be crippled thus - but I'm not helping," he interrupted himself, "And the damage is already healing. So enough said of that."

"Nothing more to say on anything we did or saw?" Evelyn asked.

"You went through a lot," Rob said. "You fought and bled and suffered for these last few weeks - but so have I, Your Highness, so have I. And I don't expect to live to see the moon rise in two days - so pardon me if my speculative tendencies are somewhat curbed."

"You still haven't told us your own half of the story," Jared prodded him. "What happened in Ostek while we were gone?"

Rob looked at him for a long moment. "Very well, then," he said. "I'll tell you. Now, I'm going to do this my way. I could just say, 'The enemy came, and a lot of good people died' - but I'm not going to. Because that would be an insult to everything those people were. And that's the last indiginity I'd want to inflict, right now, with how soon I expect to join them."

"Do we have time?" Evelyn asked. "We don't know how long until the invaders finish pillaging the city and move on to try their luck against the keep."

Rob's face was set like stone. "We have time," he told her. "We'll make time."

(To Be Continued)

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