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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Turgis pulled the door shut to the room of the inn and turned to Keita who was sitting on the edge of a bed that took up most of the room.  The room was nothing fancy, but it would do.

“So you want my story, you say. Well, for that I need to explain the current war. I don’t suppose you know much of it, do you?” Keita shook her head, fatigue starting to push the suspicion out of her expression. Turgis sat down beside her. “Well, there’s a lot to this story, but properly, it started back nearly 17 years, before Lucien was even born.”

“Back then, I was just the weapon master’s apprentice.  But also a friend to the crown prince of Kalmar, Tibalt Cromwell.  We were about the same age, and I guess he just needed someone who wasn’t his elder to talk to.  Mostly though, we were sparring partners.  His younger brother, Jaximus, worshipped the ground Tibalt walked on so he was forever underfoot.  Tibalt used to try to give him the slip but I couldn’t disrespect a prince like that.”

“One year, there was this ball to be held in the kingdom of Avesta, Lucien’s kingdom. Some fancy event with all the nobles of neighbouring lands, and Tibalt decided he wanted sneak me in as his servant.  This was a once in a lifetime chance, so I jumped on the oppurtunity.  As we travelled, Tibalt confided in me that he was nervous about this ball.  He was supposed to meet the woman he was betrothed to, the Lady Deirdre, from the kingdom of Gaina.  It was the first time they’d be meeting, but the betrothal had been arranged when they were young.  The two met before the ball and they were both tense as could be.  But well, when Tibalt introduced Jaximus to her, I could see that the boy was smitten.  We barely saw him that day as he followed Deirdre about, hoping for the chance to get her a drink or something.”

“The night of the ball, there were lovely ladies swirling all about and a thousand delicacies set out.  Despite that, Jax could barely take his eyes off the Lady Deirdre.  Which is probably why he was the one to notice when she and Saul Suncrown from Avesta snuck away from the ball. When Saul came back… Well, Jax was barely 15 at the time.  But that hardly stopped him from challenging Saul to a duel, right there in front of the whole ball. Accused him of sullying Deirdre honour and humiliating his brother or some such nonsense.” Turgis paused for a moment, taking a swig from a small flask.  Keita snorted.

“Your people have such confusing ways.  Is it not the lady’s choice to talk to a man?”

“Aye well, Jax may have been out of line, but it is not my place to question the prince.  And Saul could hardly ignore that challenge, not after his honour was called into question in front of everyone.  And so a duel was arranged, and swords brought out.  Jaximus was a good fighter, I’d sparred with him myself, but Saul was several years older, bigger, stronger and faster.  Jax barely stood a chance.  Saul quickly overpowered him, and backed him into a wall in his fury. He clearly had it in his head that he was going to kill him, but just as he went for the killing blow… Tibalt jumped in the way, shielding his brother and was run through himself.”

“Everything sort of went downhill from there. When Saul realized he’d killed Tibalt, he ran off and Deirdre followed him. Jaximus for his part was a mess.  The next few days were a blur, and I think Jaximus almost hoped that now that he was the crown prince, he would be the one to marry Lady Deirdre.  However, shortly after the funeral her father announced she would be marrying Saul, and the marriage was arranged for barely a week later.  Lucien was born soon after they were married, so perhaps the prince was onto something.”

“Everything calmed down a bit after that.  Later, Jaximus sent me to be the weaponsmaster in Avesta’s court. ‘A show of good faith,’ He said.  I got to know young Lucien well, he was fascinated with the armoury and the weapons in there.  I trained him to fight myself.  At first, Jaximus would send me regular letters, always asking about the Lady Deirdre, but she seemed happily in love to me.  Eventually, the letters slowed down, and then there came a point when the letters stopped.  I’d started to wonder if Jaximus had forgotten me, but the 4 years ago, I got a letter asking me to resign my position and return to Kalmar.”

“I arrived just in time for his Coronation, but this was not the same man who sent me away years ago.  He seemed like a man haunted.  When I finally got a chance to talk to him, it seemed all he wanted to know about was Queen Deirdre.  When I had told him all I knew, he thanked me and made me Captain of the Guard.  He sent the Iron Hawks and me off to the Spinetail pass, and privately asked me to ‘antagonize’ the border.  It seemed to me that he was hoping to provoke the war and make his own opportunities with Saul’s Queen.”  Turgis stretched the knots out of his back.

“But then, why is not really my job.  All I know is he wanted a war, and it’s my job to help him win.  Which I believe would be helped with the Ora tribes harassing them from within the kingdom itself.”  Turgis glanced Keita, who was laying on her back on the bed. “Does that satisfy your curiosity, or do you have any other questions?”

“Just one.” She replied, pointing at the bed below her, “Is this the bed? I’m sleeping here tonight.” Turgis laughed.

“Aye, that’s the bed. You can have it, I’m drunk enough to sleep on the floor tonight.”

To be continued