"Halt! Who are you and why are you traveling on the royal road?" the man asks in Húrnan the language of that realm. "Are you spies of the Pirmë?"
"Nay." I reply. We are travelers we are making for the capital of Triston."
"You would would do better to leave this land altogether and head for the Fell mountains. As for my comrade and I, we are riding north to worn those of the northern fief in Underbrush forest. But it is for you to choose your way."
"We hope to put our staves and swords to good use in addition to those of the castle. We will die to defend this realm and all its free loyal inhabitants. My name is Deadan. This my faithful squire and companion is John. But as for the people of the forest I am afraid that they have already been overrun friend."
"Alas! I feared this might be so. But now I must return to Castle Triston to bear the terrible news. But that means we shall have the joy of your company. I am Fundaris. These my companions are Durfan, Elchon, Ideon, and Hurknel."
"Is it not dangerous to ride about so openly in the open country?" I ask him.
"Not yet. But as soon as the Piremë horse legion arrives all the northern fief will be overrun. Then even armed parties of men will be always hard pressed."
I know of the Pirmë horse legion because an account of their fighting is in the archives of Hermit's cave the Headquarters of the Order. They have three hundred horsemen and seven hundred mounted foot who ride to the battle and dismount when they arrive. The horsemen are split up into three groups. One is made up of archers, one of knights and one of mounted men-at-arms. They are the most feared fighting force in the entire army of the fierce, cruel, Piremë.
"Where is the horse legion right now and why are they not attacking Húrn?"
"It is rumored that they are fighting bedouins in the Barren desert right now as a part of Pirmë's overall expansion though we can't be sure of the rumor."
"I would love to sit here and talk in time of peace but now we must be going."
"He is right Fundaris." Ideon says. "If we linger here we will be captured. The Piremë are less than a days ride from here. We must hasten back to Triston!"
"You're right Ideon." Fundaris says. "We will leave at once. Move out men!"
With that the men who we have just men turn their horses round and start trotting back toward the ridge where they came from. John and I have no other aside options other than to follow the men. I prefer to take my own path and a-void strangers but I must do whatever I can to help the Húrnan. So we ride on.
"What was your occupation before the war?" Fundaris asks turning back.
"It has never changed. I have wandered these lands for years. I get work if I can for a little while before moving on to the next town, city, or village and so on. Generally I stay in the northern fief though occasionally I will go elsewhere."
"But you said this younger fellow here is your squire. That means you must be a knight like I am. How then could you be just a simple wayfarer, Deadan?"
"Squire is just the nickname by which I call him; apprentice is more accurate."
"I see. But how did you meet him? He doesn't look like a relative of yours."
"He was orphaned at age five with no surviving relatives. I raised him."
"Why would you do that? Wouldn't he be an encumbrance to you while you were on the road? And there were surely orphanages nearby or on the road."
"He reminded me of my own son who died of smallpox when he was three. I began my wanderings when he and Lucy passed away. And we've never quit"
"I am sorry! I probably should have kept my mouth shut in the first place."
After this we are quiet. In case you are wondering, part of what I said is true though not all of it. I did lose my wife and son. After that I joined the order. I found John hiding in a barn and found that he was an orphan. I decided to take him on as my squire after I finished training Amnë to become a knight.
Now you may be wondering what the order is and why I am so secretive. So I will try to explain things more clearly. The Knights of Liberty or members of the Order do not fight like other knights. We rarely ware armor and we use all different types of weapons instead of just swords, axes, maces, and lances. But we still use the same moral principles and believe in the same ideals as do other knights. There are alway twenty six knights. Each knight is assigned a squire. To train in the ways of chivalry and war. The knights are often sent on missions. But often the missions require secrecy. We travel in many facades. The mission of every knight of the order is to defend the liberty of all peoples.
Each knight is selected carefully; and though fighting skill is important we do not use that as our sole standard. We also judge on the persons belief system.
The Order itself, was founded not by some great noble or the king of Kore, but by a lowly man-at-arms who would have been knighted if he had accepted. Instead he founded the Order. Its mission is to act as true knights should, not like many who have won their spurs. At first I simply wanted to fight for myself and gain glory, but my heart is now true to the Order like all Knights of Liberty.
But now I will return to the narrative of this story and bore you no longer with the minute details of an idealistic world. I am afraid that such a world can't exist save for perhaps within our abundantly creative, imaginations.
For several hours we ride on skirting round a series of gullies and ravines. If I were leading, I would head through them though I am not so I follow Fundaris's lead. We are blessed on the way with rain. The bad weather hinders the enemy from leaving their encampments and raiding. At last we are forced to take shelter in one of many abandoned houses in a small village. Because the people are forced to flee in haste when raiders approach the left behind much food.
"We might as well eat the food. "Durfan says. "I am sure that the people who used to live here would much rather have us eat it than the pillaging Piremë."
"We have plenty of provisions, Durfan." Fundaris counters. "Leave it alone."
"Yes but all we have is dried meat and fruit and a some crusty, dry, bread."
Fundaris gives his inferior a steely look. Durfan gets the message. No buts!
"How large of a supply do you have at Tristion?" I ask changing the subject.
"I should say we have enough to last for a fortnight at the very least. With meager rations I would guess we could make out for about three weeks or so."
"That is a fair amount and certainly more than I would expect it to hold."
"But hear me out. The townspeople have only a small amount of food. We do not have enough provisions to feed them for a long time. We might hold out for five days at the very most. We are even lower on water. We have enough for two or three days. Nénharma Castle is three days ride away. At the most we could summon a few hundred horsemen from the central fief in about a week."
"Then what is to be done? The Piremë will soon be I Morcren. The only point of defense will be Nénharma Castle. We cannot let Húrn be totally overrun."
"I cannot deny the inevitable. All I can do is fight like the soldier I am. I have sworn my allegiance to king Alfred. Therefore I must stay and fight with him.
I struggle within myself as to whether or not I should tell Fundaris my great secret which can change the world or continue my bluff and risk everything. I decide to wait till the time is right. But when that time will be I do not yet know. But I do need to do one more thing. I must summon Anmë to me at once.