Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 15
It was mid day, the sun had disappeared from the sky, leaving only hints of its existence at the edges of the dark clouds. With dirty fingers, Scarborough shoveled the gray paste that once was potatoes into his mouth. A lone snowflake landed in a smear of mash inside the wooden bowl. The skinny man pulled his arms in close by his sides as he scooted the round of wood closer to the fire.
“And I finally thought spring had come.” Bently remarked, looking up from his lunch towards the sky.
By dinner, a layer of snow had coated the settlement. The frigid weather had driven everyone inside, save Kensley who had donned the suit of armor in order to more comfortably wait guard outside the general’s hut. He could slowly feel the melting clumps of snow congeal and freeze into ice atop the cold metal of the armor, cracking each time he moved a centimeter.
In the still of the falling snow, a faint flapping of wings drew nearer. Kensley tensed, listening closely for the sound. A small animal fluttered in the air around him, before taking a perch on the edge of the tent’s entranceway. The lieutenant turned his head up to get a look at the small white and black speckled owl, who stared down at him and taunted with the clicks of its beak. On its leg was tied a small scroll of wound-up paper.
Kensley offered up his wrist, and the animal jumped down with a wave of its wings. He stared into the unblinking eyes before pushing aside the hanging fur blocking off the entrance and stepping inside. The animal instantly hopped down and drifted to a spot by the fire pit. With a shake to shed the moisture off its feathers, it returned to its relaxed state.
“What do we have here?” General Edrian remarked, sitting up from his bed.
“The thing suddenly came our way.” Kensley remarked. “It’s bearing a message it seems.”
Chin groaned raspily as he sat up from his cushion, pipe in hand. “I can only imagine.”
The lanky man scuttled across the floor and crouched down next to the owl, who had begun picking at its feathers with its beak. Chin pulled at the piece of string holding the note to its leg and retrieved the piece of paper.
“If it says anything other than good news, burn it.” Edrian growled.
“We can’t be so picky.” Chin shot back. His eyes scanned the wrinkly paper intently. “This one was sent by Arkyan. Seems… it is a summons.”
“A summons?” The general confirmed. “Why now, of all times?”
Kensley waited at the door patiently, listening to the conversation.
Chin folded the paper in his hands and shoved in his waistband. “Its from the Arcanus.”
“The who?” Edrian asked with a grunt.
“The head mage of the guild. They’ve received word that one of own has reason to be tried for violating the guild’s code.”
“Violating your code, huh?” Edrian rolled his eyes. “How exactly? Does it have to do with the treaty?”
“You’re mistaken, my lord.” Chin jeered. “The treaty is an agreement between our people and yours. It is the reason why I’m here stuck with you and not out on the battlefield. On the other hand, we of magical blood have our own in-rules. Often regarding things we can not speak of.”
The general ground his teeth and turned away. “What does that mean for you, then?”
“Like I said, it’s a summons. They are requesting my presence in Arkyan.”
“I shall not have you cross over into Tuleforian territory at a time like this.” Edrian stated.
“Allow me to remind you that both your King Halmalch and the Emperor of Tulefore have ratified this treaty. If either side interferes, the guild has a right to intervene.”
“My king you say.” Edrian sneered. “Yet you lend your powers to him.”
“My birthplace is Xiandol. I would hardly want to see it fall into ruin. However, allegiance to a land is one of many choices. Since the creation of the treaty and the formation of the guild, we are expected to act in accordance with the guild’s teachings and rules, or risk exile. Possibly worse.”
“Worse as in how?” Edrian spoke up.
Chin scuffled around the room before collapsing back down on his cushion. “Not in any way you would care to know about. In this current age, you should know by now with whom I keep my loyalties, and why. In any case, Arkyan is a neutral zone. Regardless of who steps foot there, anything concerning the war shall be shed at the gate.”
“Mr. Kensley.” Edrian called out. The lieutenant had been standing at the door, listening silently. “Do you believe any of this?”
“Are ordering me to choose a side?” Kensley jabbed.
“I can’t perturb you, can I?.” The general huffed. “Chin, is there no way you can delay your travel until after the storm?”
“I must leave at once. My powers will allow me and my horse to weather the storm, you may not worry yourself.”
“Worry about you specifically is the last thing I would do.” Edrian shot back. “Just return before the storm lets up and I am forced to make a move without you.”
“It will take at least a day and a half on horseback to go over the pass in all this snow.” He estimated.
“And then you may sit for days waiting for some sort of judgment to be made, no doubt. I request you bring one of Kensley’s men with you. It will keep you honest to Xiandol.”
“As you wish.” Chin endured.
“Why one of us?” Kensley stepped forward. “Why not send one of the men who came with Boughlin?”
“Mr. Kensley!” Edrian shouted. “Allow me to assume you are simply curious and not attempting to question my orders. That unit is a team, and they are training as one. Being one short would be irredeemable.”
“Fine, I understand.” Kensley backed down. “Then allow me to go.”
“Have you lost your head, Kensley?” The general continued loudly. “I need your faultless… expertise, leadership qualities… here. Send Bently.”
Kensley bowed his head and held back his response.
“See to it that two horses and enough supplies are prepared for the first break of morning.” Edrian concluded.