The Home of King Hesfall
Massive stone doors pivot into the great hall. Our travelers, a young warrior, a mage, and a she-elf appear from behind them.
On the other end of the hall is King Hesfall. He stands at the intrusion. His shock as well as his anger are evident. His maids depart from the room.
“You!” He yells, pointing a finger laced with jam at the group. “You are not welcome here.” At this, the soldiers within the walls of the great hall form a cluster on the blue carpet between the parties.
“Is this how you treat your son?” Rohkie inquires from across the hall. There are a few stairs in the great room which elevate Hesfall and make him visible to the party, despite the Calvary between them.
“Do you think that I have not heard whispers of this day coming?” He hisses back. “Kill them. Now!”
Keatoph looks at the guard. Most of their faces he knows. Still, they have always been told to hate him, and even now, there is no kindness in their eyes. Yet it remains, the young warrior feels differently then they. He would much rather peace.
The guard advances forward cautiously. They observe the wizard intensely as they do so.
“In a moment, all of the captains of the Greanfas guard will be at this door.” Rohkie, gazes at the face of the captain leading the present band of knights. “If you kill us, you will have a civil war on your hands. The alternative, is to let us speak.”
His words do not sway them.
“Very well,” he mutters. He tosses his cloak from his shoulders and pulls a hand in a half sword from his belt. Ophni summons a stave. Keatoph readies his blade.
“Father,” he calls across the hall, “Please cease your men!”
King Hesfall does not answer. He only stares with malice and a grin.
The two parties clash their steel against one another’s. The hall appears as a chessboard, each player making strategic moves, working to advance through the other.
Keatoph alone seems unable to position himself offensively. His blade barely rises enough to parry the blows thrust upon him. He allows himself to be backed into corners. He forces himself to dip and dive. He struggles to process what is being required of him.
The look in the eyes of the grey wizard tells a similar story. It is evident that the person he is most presently at war with is himself. Still, Rohkie has lived in this dilemma for years. He is here with clear and strong intentions, and he moves with all of the valor that comes with being in the old arcane order.
Ophni does not know these men. She is not personally enthralled in this conflict. She has one order: End the mad pillaging of Grifkar, the orc. For her, this is simply a necessary side quest to aid her ally. She dances around the room with agility, searching for an opening to reach King Hesfall and end this squabble.
The force in front of her, however, is a tidal wave of strength, metal, and skill. These men serve in the great hall for good reason. They are the ever ready last defense of the citadel.
The captain of the Greanfas guard finds the she elf in the midst of the chaos. He grips his sword tightly and rails it at her. She ducks beneath it, but the hilt of his blade catches her face. Ophni stumbles to the ground. Her eyes fill with tears. The lead soldier raises his blade high into the light of the room.
Keatoph might not have seen it, if Hesfall’s delight did not fill the room. Just like that, Keatoph snaps together. He advances in a way only achievable through the brewing of skill, vigor, and adrenaline combined. With the blink of an eye, Keatoph has found his way halfway across the room, leaving the knight he was dueling to stare at the wall.
The young warrior hurls his sword like a throwing axe into the chest plate of the Greanfas captain, knocking him back. Keatoph dips mid run to grab an available blade from the ground and steps in front of Ophni. With nearly unrestrained zeal, he swings left, right, up, left, right, down, forcing the captain’s blade from his hand and beating him to the ground.
“Yield,” Keatoph yells at the man below him.
If one of their own were telling this story, I don’t suspect the guard would describe our hero’s command as a yell. Perhaps, they would say it is a scream. Whatever the word, it is frightful. The captain has no need to usher in the end of the fight. Keatoph has done it.
Our protagonist reaquaints himself with his context. Slowly, he looks up at the room around him. All eyes are on him.
If you are not going to help us,” Keatoph adresses them, “then… as the heir to the throne of the westfold of men, I release you of your duties.”
The younger knights gape in wonder. The older look away in shame, or at each other in disgust.
“Your father is gone, boy,” King Hesfall interrupts the room. “I watched his soul depart his body.”
“Then you admit it,” the young warrior answers. “You are not my father.”
“I would never produce a mutt like you.” King Hesfall grabs a cloth from the table beside him and wipes his hands with it. “Now, no matter whose son you were, I am the King. And you,” he locks his glare with the boy, “have just committed treason.”
Hesfall passes down the steps to his audience and paces around Keatoph and Ophni.
“Tell me, how has the orc hunting gone? Is Grifkar dead?”
Keatoph raises the blade in his hand.
“We have handled some of his men. The situation has grown dire, however, and we need aid.”
“Aid,” the King chuckles. “There are many reasons I sent you out there alone. For one, it is not worth the lives of my men. For two, if you die, then I no longer have to worry about you. But best of all,” he steps further around them, “if you succeeded, I’d have the pleasure of explaining to you what you’ve spent all these months hunting.”
“And what is that?” Keatoph questions. He can smell the sweat on his clothes.
“Kalinbind orcs are not birthed naturally, boy. They are made.” The King turns and looks at Rohkie. “I’m sure your wizard friend could have told you that.”
The mage blinks slowly. There is grief all over him. Keatoph looks back to the ruler.
“On the plains of Laonore,” he continues, “where all magic is established through sacrifice. If you die on someone’s behalf there, under the right circumstances, the ground will receive the offering. Light magic will be made. However, you can also make magic by sacrificing others.”
“What are you saying?” Keatoph demands. He points his sword at the jarl.
“Two decades ago, I and some of the mage’s from the arcane order showed your father this field. We traversed there through the Skegmag mountains. When we arrived, we sacrificed some of his men. The rest of them, we turned.” Hesfall smiles and chuckles once more. “I delight greatly in knowing that this will be your dying thought. The beast that has burned down so many of your father’s cities, the one who has been trying to kill you and whom you have been trying to kill, Grifkar the terrible, he is your father.”