Well there was supposed to be one part. Most of what was meant for part one wasn’t even present. Let’s see how day two goes.
Lord Ariden was dressed in the clothing of a fool. The fool was meaningful in Dantelus, one of the first patrons. He was known for travel and continuing forward without regard to the past or future, but only the present. The present was what mattered, and what might be prepared or learned was useless compared to the awesome might of Fate. Lord Ariden ascribed to the fool in most he did, with only a touch more planning for what was to come. The castle was such a precaution for future hopes and dreams, but the dreams crumbled before the first stone was even put in place.
There was a court, nobles in fine vestments drinking and laughing. Maidens blushed politely at the advances of young men. Lords would throw bones to the floor and watch mastiffs fight over the meat and marrow. Ariden had always wanted a mastiff, but Fiedrick stated he would not take care of the estate if a mastiff bounded through the grounds. Master Tenigren had one in the barracks to both spite Feidrick and keep him away.
Laughter from the head table caught Ariden’s attention. There was a man, not very large but immensely intimidating. He had a close cropped beard, short hair which was gracefully thinning. There were a few gray strands, but mostly it was a shimmering black. The brown eyes were piercing, even in his humor. Lord Emonds had been a firm and unforgiving man when Ariden first met him. It was their only meeting.
When Emonds caught sight of Ariden, the laughter ceased. The gesture was so powerful a silence came over the entire court in moments. A child laughed a little longer than was appropriate, but a mother’s gaze shut his mouth as if she had smacked him. No doubt it was the same training Ariden had received in his youth.
Lord Emonds stood up, the red color which had touched his drunken cheeks moments earlier flushing out. The man’s voice was always quiet, and as he spoke all the people in the room leaned closer. Ariden did no such thing, but stood his ground in the center of the room. “What are you doing in my halls?”
“My lord, I’m unsure.”
“You dress the traveler and come in as if bidden. I don’t recall any summons for your presence.”
Ariden bowed, shaking lightly. His hands started to go numb and his head swam. He uttered a quick prayer for quick wits before speaking. “I do not recall any summons, either, but the traveler has a strange way of putting us where we are to be. Perhaps it was not you who asked for me.” Ariden scanned the crowd, looking over the many tables. Lady Laurin was to be at the table beside her father, yet she was not. The rest of the family was there, the relatives were on the outer tables, and other subjects of the family were nearest the door. Yet Lord Emonds’ daughter was nowhere in sight.
“Do you think it my daughter?”
A knot took hold of Ariden’s gut. It felt as if he would vomit at any time. If he did not vomit, surely he would faint. “I suppose not, my lord. She doesn’t seem to be here.”
“She was sent away.”
“Away? On what account?” The tingling had become a normal sensation. Ariden was able to fake an air of confidence finally. Even his stomach wouldn’t get in the way of good posture and a playful tone of voice.
“You. She must remain from you at all times. You are a poison in my daughter’s heart.”
“Then it’s apt I appeared as the fool and traveler, isn’t it? You send her away on account of a loving man.” Lord Emonds looked suspiciously at Ariden for a moment before Ariden clarified, “She traveled because you fear a man very willing to dedicate his all to her.”
Lord Emonds started to shake, his fists balling up until the knuckles turned white. His wife to the left moved away from him a few inches. The lord’s lips quivered before he slammed the table, the thud echoing throughout the silent hall. A collective gasp was let out by those watching. Finally Lord Emonds’ voice rose, “You call me a fool? Is that what you’re getting at, boy?”
With a grin, Ariden bowed, “I said no such thing, my lord. I may have insinuated, but you said it. Perhaps a reflection of your own inner fears? That you, my good lord, are a fool and making foolish decisions in the moment from a fear of the future.” Confidence now gripped Ariden. He had never gotten the better of the lord. Stories went through courts far and wide of Lord Emonds temper, of how it was rare he would yell, but Ariden had met the man once and that one meeting was as cold as the deepest winter storm.
With confidence, Ariden went to one of the tables and picked up an apple, taking a bite of it. “You should learn of those in her life instead of banishing them from it.”
In moments Lord Emonds had thrown his table, the food flying towards Ariden. Ariden brought up his arm to protect his face from meat, vegetables, wine, and cutlery. Lord Emonds raise his voice to a deafening pitch, “Arrest him.” The guards advanced before Ariden could recover from the table thrown at him. When the guards had bound Ariden, Lord Emonds pronounced, in his quiet intensity, “I changed my mind. No one will miss him. Take his head now.”
Soon Ariden was bent over a table, an executioner appearing as if waiting for the moment. The halberd was raised up, and with a mighty grunt the man brought the weapon down.
Ariden’s eyes opened. He let out a shout and bolted up in his bed, sweat covering him and soaking into his sheets for another night. He put his left hand down to support him, only to find he had rolled far to the left of his bed. Without support, his entire body went over the edge of the bed, and he thudded hard against the floor. It was cold and painful, leaving several marks on his ribs. Ariden grimaced and climbed back up with the help of the bed.
It was still dark out. Ariden walked to the window and opened it, letting in the breeze. It felt good over his body. The moon told him it was very early morning, but after nightmares it was a lesson in futility to try sleeping. “Some day, maybe they would have liked me.” He looked down at the keep below him, three floors between him and the grass down below. It was too dark to make out more than the shimmering of armor and the glow of a few torches. A few guards played cards at a table by the keep’s gate.
A lamp was lit and placed upon an oak desk built long ago for Ariden. He wrote a missive to Lady Laurin asking how she had been, what her plans were, and why she had a need for a good stone mason. He informed her how the castle was going. For several months he had written her until she had called off their engagement, each one noting how he found the land and was able to get the contracts for land and construction. He finished telling her of the castle, how it was almost built in its entirety.
The sun was rising by the time he finished. Melting wax, he stamped his seal upon it and hid it away in a drawer of the desk so Feidrick would not spot it. In the keep, workers started in towards the walls, finishing construction. The few soldiers loyal to Ariden were training. Soldiers and knights sparred to teach and hone abilities. It would be a blessed day, or Ariden would find himself cursing the day he reached out to the woman he still loved.
He uttered a prayer as there was a knock at the door. “Lord Ariden,” Feidrick said. “Are you clothed properly this time?”
Ariden smiled, “Yes, Seneschal. Come in.” So would begin another day.
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