30th day of Kyregat’s Moon, 1172
“Both of you get dressed, now!” Sir Jendan of Liaswick growled at Aumery and his companion, Carrick, a guard at the keep. Both young men were scrambling to find their clothes, brushing off bits of hay as they pulled on linens, chausses, and surcoats. “You both disgust me.” Jendan said, his left hand caressing the hilt of his sword in impatience. The knight was imposing, being one of the tallest men within the walls of the keep. Jendan wasn’t just tall, he was fit and blessed with hair blacker than raven’s wings.
Carrick’s hands shook with fright as he secured his belt, whispered to his lover, “What do you think your father will do to us?”
Aumery swallowed his fear. “You, he’ll punish and let you stay if he’s in a good mood. I’ll be fortunate to keep my head attached to my body.” Lacing his boots, Aumery stood up. “Let’s get this over with.” The two young men walked out of the stall. Each in his own thoughts, they followed Sir Jendan through the bailey to the castle. Aumery kept his head down, refusing to make eye contact with any of the castle residents.
Sir Jendan led Aumery and Carrick to his father’s solar. With a curt “Wait here.” The knight left them alone.
A bright fire burned in the fireplace sending a slow column of black smoke to the air. A chandelier made of iron held a dozen lit candles which added to the smokiness. Thankfully, the window was cracked open just enough to draw out the cloud hanging in the room.
I wonder if Mother will attend this impromptu meeting, or if it will only be Jendan and Da. I doubt he’ll show me any mercy this time. Poor Carrick, we should have gone to our hideaway, not the stables. Goddess watch over him.
The door swung open with a tremendous bang. Sir Edgur, the Baron of Liaswick, and Aumery’s father, stormed inside his solar followed by his second-in-command, Sir Jendan. Edgur was a solid man, of average height and muscular build with straight brown hair and deep brown eyes which currently stared at his son.
“Zabe curse you, Aumery. Jendan told me how he found you!” Edgar stopped in front of his son and the guard, Carrick. The Baron’s face was unreadable, a marble mask of ice, as he studied the two men watching him in return. Edgar suddenly lashed out, backhanding Aumery viciously in the face. The blow broke Aumery’s nose and sent him to his knees. Edgar didn’t hesitate to kick his son in the ribs.
“Damn you, was I not clear enough in my instructions? Stay away from men. Curb your unnatural desires. I believe I heard you acknowledge me that you would do so.” Edgur said to Aumery. “Jendan! Get two more men and send them in here. Have the stable master saddle a horse and have it stand ready. Return here when you’re done.”
“Aye, my lord.” Jendan left the room.
Aumery stood up to face his father, ignoring the blood dripping from his nose.
Edgur went to sit down in his chair. He waited until a knock at the door announced the presence of two knights. Sir Brent and Sir Rendy walked in. Edgur acted as if the men had been there from the very beginning. Without a look at his wayward son, he instructed his men, “Bare Carrick’s back and hold him steady.” The two knights did as told.
Carrick’s eyes were huge with fright. A whipping administered by the Baron would frighten any resident at Liaswick. “Ten lashes for being led astray.” A slight knock, and Sir Jendan entered the room.
Baron Liaswick greeted his second-in-command.“Jendan, excellent timing as usual. Count ten for me.”
Aumery flinched at each stroke of the whip. In the fourth strike, Carrick’s flesh was opened and streaks of blood began to flow down his spine. By the time Edgur had laid the final stroke, Carrick was being held up by the two men groaning in pain.
“Carrick, I shall give you one more chance. Do not fail me. Next time I won’t be so merciful...take him to the barracks.” After the guard was dragged off by the guards, Edgur turned to face his son.
“Jendan, hold him steady.”
“Aye, Sir.” The knight grabbed Aumery’s arms, pulling them behind back, held in an iron grip.
“What have you to say to me?” his father asked Aumery.
“Does it matter? I can’t be the son you want; only Naren fits the mold you hold dear.” Aumery replied.
“You are throwing away a life of respect and wealth. You are no son of mine.” Edgur lashed out with his fists, punching Aumery multiple times on his face and gut. When Edgur tired of his rampage, He spat in Aumery’s face. “You will be allowed to gather a set of proper outdoor clothing and your weapons. I have a horse waiting for you. From this moment on, I do not know you. Should you ever set foot on any Liaswick lands, it will be as an enemy. Jendan, escort this pathetic piece of slime to get his clothes. If he trips on the way, so be it. When you’re done with him, get him to the stables and make certain he leaves my lands.”
Aumery’s eyes filled with tears,“What of mother? Can I say goodbye to her?”
Edgur cast a steely gaze at Aumery. “You have no mother.” He turned his back and left the room.
Jendan smiled and whispered in Aumery’s ear, “Remember that private celebration your father gave for you? I do. Your sire gave no limits on how long I take to escort your carcass out of here.”
15th day of Kywedyn’s Moon, 1173
Aumery counted the silver coins in his pouch. “Damn, only enough for one more night’s lodging and stabling. I’ll have to go out tonight.” The thought of serving any woman, or man, who had the coin, was repugnant but Aumery had no choice. No one had room for another guard, much less a knight with no name or family to speak of with a questionable means of support. Aumery crept out of the sleazy establishment, sticking to the covers of the shadows on his way the common road. He found his corner and watched for passerby’s.
By the time the King’s Guards were making their rounds, Aumery had only made half of what he needed to pay for a week’s lodging for he and his horse. About ready to give up, Aumery saw a man turn from the main street and walk towards him. The man, dressed in a working knight’s clothes, crossed the muddied path.
Sir Phillip, the Baron of Faucione didn’t normally frequent the lower end of Foxwarre. Today, after buying a house in the city, he went to visit an old friend. On the way back to his lodgings, a feeling came over him. Despite urgings by his men to avoid the area, Phillip went to check the seedier areas in search of his vision. The Baron ignored the beckoning of the prostitutes while he hunted the source of his Goddess-sent feeling. Turning a corner, the urge became stronger.
There...a young man with a hard look to his eye.
“My lord, let me approach with you. That man has a rough edge about him.” Sir Robert warned his liege.
“I’ll be fine, Robert. Stay back with the men. This is the young man I’ve been seeking, I’m certain of it.” The knight reluctantly stepped back. Phillip waved the rest of his men to stand by. He approached the stranger. The man’s clothes were worn but well made. He had a knife hanging from a belt, the sheath was of quality leather.
A resigned look settled on the man. “What do you require, my lord? Oral is 2 pieces of silver, a swive is 5 pieces of silver, you want anything other than that, tell me and we’ll negotiate. Try to skip out afterwards and I’ll take out my fee in your flesh.”
“Easy boy, I’m not here to buy your body.” Phillip said softly. “I have a different offer in mind. I’ll give you ten pieces right now just to talk. Do we have a deal?”
Aumery shrugged his shoulders, “It’s your silver; besides, I’m done for the night. I haven’t seen anyone else walk by in almost two candle marks. What kind of offer are we talking about?”
Phillip dug in his pouch and held out the silver. “I’m a man of my word. Ten pieces of silver. I prefer to leave this unsightly place if you don’t mind.”
“I’m your time, lead away.”
Phillip turned towards the better part of Karivane, his men discreetly following behind. Aumery fell in with the Baron after he pocketed the coins.”How long have you been a knight, lad?”
“I’m not a boy, I earned my spurs over two years ago. My name is Aumery; I don’t have a surname.”
“My name is Sir Phillip, the Baron of Faucione and I’m looking for a knight to serve my household, one who is willing to carry messages between my holdings and in time, serve my son when he becomes Baron in my place. I like the look of you, Aumery. My intuitions have always served me well. Are you interested?”
"You don't know me. I'm a stranger who could be a murderer. Why would you offer me a place in your home?"
The Baron smiled. "Let's just say I collect broken objects and fix them. I believe in giving men a second chance. If any man I've come across in Foxwarre could use a fresh start, it is you, young man."
Aumery’s conscious told him to accept the offer, that the Baron was legitimate. “My lord, I need to tell you of my background before I accept your generous offer. Mayhap we might sit down over a mug of ale? I need a drink to clear out my throat.”
“Very well. Aumery. Lead the way. I could use a good mug of ale.”
Sir Otto finished his evening prayers. He hesitated, eyes glazed over as he listened to a voice in his head. "The players have started to move. The disgraced knight has accepted a place in the hawk's mews. Three will be awarded their spurs soon. Only six years until the lady arrives. So little time to prepare." He blew out the candle and settled under the covers. "I look forward to seeing you, Lady."
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