They made an interesting pair at the table – if one could call the enormous platform a table at all. The Duke had clearly designed his feasting hall for human guests as well as his own kind. With a creative step system, Eros climbed into his seat, about two feet higher than he was accustomed, but appropriately matched to the furniture. Lord Femerast was yet to be accounted for.
The ogre liege was true to his word and the entire flank of a horse was served to him while a pork roast the size of the knight’s thigh landed at his seat. Both began to ravenously consume their food, though Sir Sacramor resigned early to his inability to eat such a large quantity of meat in a single sitting. Eventually, both man and ogre leaned back in their seats to digest.
“Exertion always makes for the most satisfying meals, don’t you think, Duke?” Breaking the silence was really just a way for Eros to take control of the pending dialogue about Earl Fraywind’s footmen and lance numbers. The knight had decided that the new lord of Femerast castle was indeed worthy of the land and title, even if it was acquired in a more unorthodox manner than inheritance. It seemed clear to Sir Sacramor that the Lady had blessed this land by providing sound, strong leadership and he intended to honor her wishes.
“So it would seem, Sir Sacramor!” The boisterous statement from the mountain of a man that was Alber Femerast turned both diner’s heads towards the door. Fully accounted for in plate armor and sporting his typical wide grin, the warrior was a portent for the encroaching military discourse. Both seated men rose, albeit with some largess-induced difficulty, to acknowledge the new arrival before returning to their chairs.
The Duke interjected once they were all situated, “Sir Sacramor, Lord Femerast – I know the importance of fine food before critical thinking. Gnawing hunger does little for a sharp mind. It is obvious that you both wish to speak of Earl Fraywind’s impending invasion and how we are to stop it without insulting our King. As such, I beg your pardon for a few moments to give me time to relate a tale of the upmost relevance.” The human knights tilted their heads in acknowledgement and left the air open to the Duke’s story.
“While my tribe and I were making our way to this fairest of castles, we happened to come upon a small fiefdom just inside the border of Bretonnia. I took my guide from Lord Femerast,” The Duke nodded to his friend. “As this was my first exposure to your hierarchy and ranks. We approached the manor most openly, our crudely fashioned banners waving and my ironguts marching in the closest thing to a formation we could manage. Needless to say, our arrival was met with girlish screams and not a few arrows from the peasants.
“Eventually, we managed to convince the lord of the house, one Earl De’Lien, that we were not a threat simply because we resisted the urge to crush his village, people, and to strike back for the stinging barbs which periodically dove into our flesh. Alber’s gracious tongue convinced the earl to grant an audience at dinner that evening. This wasn’t the first time I was grateful for my knightly companion, nor would it be the last.
“Smiling from ear to ear, I attended the evening repast prepared to learn. They made me sit on the floor, but, considering the surprise nature of our appearance, I didn’t hold it against them. We spoke of our plans for the lands of the late Lord Femerast for some time, the Earl De’Lien becoming more comfortable as the evening progressed. My etiquette only failed me on our way out the door...
The Duke chuckled to himself and took a deep breath before continuing. It was clear that the ogre was trying to contain himself. His success in the effort was marginal. “As I rose to excuse myself, an emissary from Ulthuan – an elf, I daresay – had the misfortune of walking behind me. Despite her agility, I knocked her over with my hind end and began to laugh. Alber shot me a dark glance and I knew I had done wrong so I helped the elf to her feet. ‘I beg your pardon, my lady! Can you please forgive my clumsiness?’ I pleaded. I looked to Lord Femerast for approval and only saw a look of abject terror.
“You see, it wasn’t a lady elf, but a mageling from the White Tower! He was so offended that he summoned his bodyguard and left the Earl’s manor that very night. I knew we’d be at risk as soon as we departed. I gave my apologies and thanks to the Earl and readied my own soldiers for an expected ambush once we cleared the village.
Alber took a pull from a nearby wineskin and chimed in, “It truly was one of your clearer moments, my lord. The look on everyone’s face when you knocked him over, then proceeded to dub him a lady took the breath from everyone in the room. You were right to understand the wizard’s reaction and I’m glad you took precautions before we started the next leg of our journey!”
“Quite right, and thank you for saying so. Where was I... ah yes, the ambush!
“It came even faster than we anticipated. I had hung back with Alber to gain his counsel on how I could improve my manners when my tribe began to bellow. Silver-clad elves with enormous blades and long spears leapt into my warriors, their weapons whistling death. Wounded, my champion ordered a strategic withdrawal. I rushed forward along with my own knights to meet this threat.
“The elves were not expecting such a thunderous charge and fled themselves before our terrible impact. The wizard was there, as well, weaving protective magics which proved mostly ineffective. In short order, he was frantically waving for the rest of his men to pull back. I let them go, knowing that I was the original cause of damaging his honor and, thus, responsible for provoking his retaliation.” Sighing, the ogre called for some more wine, swallowed half a barrel, and resumed his yarn.
“I had hoped that it was over between us and, that when next we met, I could offer my sincere apologies and desire for peace between our tribes. It was in this reconciliatory state of mind that we were caught in a second battle mere days after the first. The elfling had a brother who was equally affronted by my actions and the disgrace of his kin.
“We were much better prepared when these new elves arrived. The gleaming swords were absent, but thick axes replaced them and hawk-eyed bowmen joined the fray. The sibling was a most puissant wizard and called all sorts of regenerative green energies to his soldiers. Even so, we pushed them back and, after his axemen were finally driven away, quarter was requested – and happily given.
“When this second wizard departed, he offered me a magical feather that I could use to communicate with him as long as he stayed in Bretonnia as thanks for granting him his life. We haven’t spoken much, but in our most recent chat, I discovered that his entourage was visiting the Earl of Fraywind to discuss the transaction of a large quantity of wheat. I offered to clear our respective debts and formalize our alliance if he was willing to speak to the Earl on my behalf and, failing that, discover the size and strength of his occupation force.
“So, as you can see, I am aware that the Earl is still planning on coming, should be here in four days – that’s three ahead of schedule – and that he has nearly 200 men-at-arms, 40 lances, and one of his giant catapults.” The Duke paused and reflected on this new history and the reactions of his companions. They were clearly stunned to the point of silence. “That leaves only one real question, my friends – what do you recommend we do to prepare a castle for a siege and are you both willing to continue supporting my claim to the land?”