I am Sir Nicholas Wreth, Knight of the Realm, and proud servant of His Majesty, the King of England. I am thirty-two years old, husband to a loving wife, father to three beautiful children, and veteran of more wars than I can count.
And standing here in a minor audience chamber on a bright Saturday afternoon, I had no idea what was going on.
“…Your Majesty, could you please repeat that?”
My king, lounging on his large chair with a bit more laziness than was probably proper, sighed deeply. “I know how it sounds, Nick. I know.” He indicated the two young men standing before him, clad in dirty hunting leathers and covered in enough grime to make determining fine details frustrating. “But these two have a letter from a trusted priest of the Church, requesting I send a trusted knight to investigate their claims. That’s you.”
I looked the men up and down. Even through the dirt, I could tell that they were both young, almost certainly younger than eighteen, but their eyes had a hard and dangerous strength to them, the kind you rarely saw even among war veterans. One had hair that may have been blond once, and was crudely hacked to just past shoulder length, while the other appeared to have short black hair, though it may have originally been brown.
Something about their clothes also struck me as odd. I was a city boy, so I wasn’t as familiar with leather and fur than I could have been, but something about what they wore was just…off. The color, perhaps?
Mentally brushing the pair aside, I turned my attention back to my king. “But sire, please. You can’t tell me to take these two seriously!” If the villagers took any offense to that, they showed no sign.
“Oh?” my king asked, arching an eyebrow imperiously. “Are you telling me that you don’t believe that their village is under siege, and that they’ve lost over half their able men fighting off assaults over the past year?”
“They claim they’re under siege by monsters!”
The king spread his hands wide. “Does it matter, Nicholas? Perhaps it’s just a clever group of bandits, using disguises and peasant superstition to strike fear into their enemies. But bandits or monsters, the village of Grandsbriar is under attack. It’s my duty to send you to investigate.”
Once again, I noticed that the boys weren’t offended by a key part of their story largely being dismissed as baseless superstition. Something about that disturbed me greatly, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
“I…” I sighed, and bowed. “Of course, my king. Please accept my deepest apologies for doubting you.”
“There is no need for apologies. Simply take three of your best men, scout out this village, and report back. The village is a week’s ride. I shall expect you back in three weeks, at the latest.”
That was perfectly fair, perhaps even overly generous. I bowed again. “You won’t be disappointed.”