The Reign Of Three Kings #2
Only three times had Asher ever heard the bells before. First rung to deliver the news of the king’s death, second in celebration for the coronation of the new king and finally in mourning for the death of his aunt Avella. The bells only brought change, and rarely for the better…
Within an instant of hearing the bells he had turned to face Sadon who for a brief moment looked just as confused as he was, before coming up with a plan in his head. He had always been good at thinking under pressure ever since they were young, constantly outsmarting him at games and even coming up with lies on the spot when the pair were caught with crumbs around their mouths loitering around the tarts in the kitchen; what delicious tarts they were. Once his plan was formed he turned to Lord Aster and told him to stay with Laken and Leif before grabbing two live edged swords tossing one over to him, who was still on the floor, quickly catching it before the gilded hilt hit his face.
"Me and Asher will go and see what's happening," he commandingly said nodding to Asher, who nodded back into agreement.
Scurrying of the ground and onto his feet, brushing the sandy dust of the courtyard off his shirt and breeches, he adjusted his belt sliding his sword into its scabbard and followed his cousin. Sadon had already hurried down the long, winding serpent like corridors of their home towards the main gate, commanding yet more men to join him and others to remain at the behind the walls just in case. Reaching his cousin outside of the keeps gate, he watched as Sadon commanded the gate to be closed and barred behind them, a rush of nerves covered him like a net as he rushed down to the city’s main gate.
Disarray was the only thing they found as they moved through the different districts of the city, despite class and wealth everybody they encountered were acting the same. Chaos, fear, and most of all uncertainty were ripe within everyone. Nobody knew whether to run and hide or to let their curiosity get the better of them and to go towards the everlasting, mellow clang of the bells as if they were moths to a flame. Within the wealthier areas, the various gentry were commanding their personal guards to gather in front of their doors and protect them, bare a few who sent their knights, and even some cases themselves, to join the royal party to the gate. It was these women and men who through their decision had earned Asher’s respect.
“If this is true danger,” he thought, “better to die together and united than alone with your wealth"
Further in the city the market streets were just as packed as usual however with panicking people running around as opposed to the regular shoppers. Shop keepers were desperately trying to move their goods somewhere safer, much like the stories he had heard of the raiders in the Savage Lands who would bury their plunders, so when they themselves were raided at least their treasure was safe. Through the gaps in the flood of people he caught glimpses of thieves, some evening being familiar faces from his tavern visits, using the ensuing discord as masks to steal food and jewellery, however all were not he saw a flash of a thief attempt to take a handful of horses only to end up with a blacksmiths hammer to his eye.
“Shit,” he mumbled under his breath as if it were an innate response to seeing the man’s eye squash under the force of the hammer and spew out in a mess of red and black from its socket. Turning away from the now dispersing crowds and back to the rest of his group he saw he had been separated from Sadon and the majority of the guards who had formed a wedge using their shields around him to pierce through the wave. Moving forward with the few men he had with himself to catch up with the others he watched as a younger woman was bashed in the side of the head by the shield wall, knocking her down onto the worn, cracked and cobbled pavement banging the other side of her head, drawing a flow of blood. Telling his men to push forward to the rest of the group he split from them and treaded through towards her, watching as people tripped and trampled over her barely conscious body. Reaching her just as she began to move up off the ground, placing his arm under hers and lifting her up causing a jolt of life to fill her body as she began to wriggling like a weasel and slapping, although very weakly, at Asher causing him to let go as the back side of her hand caught the side of his face, mentally stunning him.
“Don’t you dare lay another hand on…” The woman said as she moved backwards hitting a market stall as she realised who she had just hit, “Asher?”
“Rose?” Asher responded back mimicking the woman’s questioning tone. The woman, Rose, was one of the barmaids at his favourite tavern the Wolf and Thorn inn, the two often flirting with her often convincing him to spend more money on their overpriced ale to which he was “happy to oblige, as long as he is in her radiant company”.
She raised her hands to her mouth covering it in shock before running to him and tightly holding on as the chaos began to die down around them, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry,” she hyperventilated as she put her hand onto his face where she had hit him as if to try and take the pain away, “I didn’t realise it was you. I thought it… well It was anyone else, trying to…” she barley managed to mutter as she moved away from slightly.
As she did he grabbed her arms before wiping the blood away from her head attempting to stop the blood from running into her wavy blonde hair and away from her bountiful green eyes, as he did her lips quivered and tears began to well in her eyes.
“Get inside and bar the door,” he reassuringly said, “I’ll come back, just now stay safe”.
She nodded to him and with that the two parted, her flying through the now almost desolate streets. Drawing his sword, still unclear of the oncoming danger he turned from Rose and ran down the empty street to join his cousin sword in hand, ready for whatever he would face.
Arriving at front gate stood a wall of both soldiers and common folk alike, “not exactly a sign of danger,” he thought to himself lowering his sword yet keeping it tightly in hand. Chiselling his way through the wall he managed to get more glimpses of what was coming through the gates confirming his suspicions there was no danger, just what looked to be peasants.
“Get me food, and find Asher,” he could hear Sadon command with what sounded like anger in his voice.
Finally reaching the other side of the wall he was face to face with a group of peasants, this only confused him. What was so important it needed the bells?
Manoeuvring himself over to Sadon his question was answered as he glimpsed the other side of the gate from out of the corner of his eye. They were not peasants, not all of them at least, these were refugees. A trail, leading all the way back to the mountains and out of sight, comprised of men, women, children, elderly, wagons with supplies and even livestock led down to the city.
“What’s going on?” He asked approaching Sadon.
Sadon looked at him and he could tell that he knew just as little as himself, his face had gone a pale white.
“I only just got here,” he chokingly confessed, “I…”
Before he could finish his sentence, an older lady had come forward, eyes reddened and clearly tired, “Bandits!” She wailed at the top of her voice, like an owl shrieking, “they came from the forest and took everything from us,”
She began to stumble as her legs quaked from all the journey she had undertook, Asher moved to catch her only to be beaten to it by Sadon. Slowly he lowered her to the ground and putting her into a position he thought would be comfortable, then shouting again for food.
“Where are you from,” Asher softly asked, kneeling down beside her whilst placing his hand on her arm. His cousin turned to him, looking almost angry that she had asked her, as if answering him would drain the rest of her life away from her
“Li- Lin- Lindensen,” the woman mumbled under her breath.
“Lindensen,” he repeated, turning to Sadon to make sure he had heard the same as him, “that’s what? Half a day’s ride?”
“Under that” Sadon quickly replied, no doubt having been drilled the distance of every hamlet in the kingdom from the capital.
“How did they get that far into the kingdom without being noticed beforehand?” Asher was bewildered, It was not uncommon to hear of a bandit raid every now and then, but they usually happened close to the kingdoms borders, never this close to the capital and never with enough fury that would cause what seemed like a hundred people to come here for refuge.
“I don’t hold the answer,” Sadon snapped before comprising himself and with anger on his face stood up, “we’ll just have to ask them ourselves”.
Within seconds he ordered his armour be brought to him, the horses be saddled and for twenty good men to join him in avenging the fallen. It was rare to see Sadon like this, riled up and angry. It was almost uncomfortable for Asher.
“Should we not wait for your father’s orders?” he asked, concerned Sadon’s rage was clouding his thoughts like a storm, causing his actions to be irrational and unthought out.
“If I am to be king, I need to make my own decisions and not just rely on my father, else how will I survive without him,” Sadon’s voice raising more with every word, “I know what I’m doing”
“I trust you but I’m coming with you,” he asserted, worried for his cousin with a firm grip on his own sword.
“You need to stay-“ Sadon tried to say before being interrupted.
“I’m coming with you,” he repeated firmly, not allowing his cousin to deny him, be damned if he was the prince and the future of the kingdom.
A look of relief cleared the scowling look on Sadon’s face, perhaps knowing he was not truly alone was reassuring to him, “Very well, go get some armour on we leave as soon as the horses are here”.
“Thank you,” Asher nodded before turning and running back down the street which was now slowly returning to regular normality.
“Where are you going?” Sadon shouted, puzzled about what was going through his cousin’s mind, yet somehow unsurprised.
Asher paused for a moment, “Erm- to get that armour,” before continuing out of Sadon’s view
Sadon opened his mouth, attempting to tell him that they had armour here, but knew his words would not find Asher and instead turned back to the refugees, aiding in directing them to shelter.
The stalls of goods that had previously been torn down had been swiftly placed back, with the commoners returning to buy goods. It was astounding for Asher to see just how quickly they had returned to their everyday lives; unaffected by the very same events that were toying on his mind. Even the body by the blacksmith had been moved, perhaps he had not been killed he concluded in his head, unwilling to believe that bodies could be covered up within sheer moments in the streets of his home. Moving through the streets he searched for the familiar blonde hair of Rose. Seeing her bloodied had caused a layer of underlying concern that was wrapping around his head like a Cadalilin Scarf, despite her extortion of his coin during his various visits to the Wolf and Thorn over the past three years, she was a friend. A friend who did not deserve the injuries she had received.
Looking around it seemed as though she would not be found, until a familiar voice called out to him.
“Looking for me?” Rose’s soft voice asked him from behind.
Facing her she had a bandage placed around the top of her head, a red stain slowly creeping through tarnishing the bandages purity.
“I said I would be back,” he replied, leaning against the dark timber support beam of someone’s house as he gestured towards her head, “I’m glad you’ve been patched up, how are you feeling?”
“Something tells me I’ll live,” she smirked, inspecting where she had previously hit him, “sorry for – well, you know”
“Something tells me I’ll live,” he jokingly responded, mimicking her voice in an attempt to break the tension between them that her vicious attack had caused them.
Rose laughed, hitting him on the arm before joining him in leaning against the house, “And thank you for helping me, being hit by a shield was the last thing I thought would happen in all of that chaos!”
“Just give me extra in my next visit to the wolf,” he negotiated
“I think that can be arranged,” she said confirming the pairs deal and chuckling as she did it and placing her hand on his, “I should go, my father will need me, but come visit soon, this offer wont last to ever”.
“As soon as my knightly duties allow”, he winked before watching her scurry through the market, glimpsing her turn back to see him as she entered the inn.
Asher smiled. A horn blew from down the street.
“Shit”, he suddenly thought before bolting back down to the main gate desperate to not be left behind, “I’m late”.