I. Meeting with Ammon sent to investigate forest and villages between Kronnborg and Visby
Krita Rodsvard was just finishing fastening the shoulder plates in the shape of wolves heads as she prepared for more drills with her troops. She had been studying here and there about what to do. Had taken a few pointers from Idril La Seine before having to leave the Festival of the Red Zenith, but that was over half a year ago, and Krita wasn’t quite sure if she was doing it right. All of her current men were once soldiers in Arandil’s army, but not a one of them was an officer and they were the ones left behind when Lord Mardil’s son Beren took the best of the best off to war for the King. Krita was alone in her quest to make them the Elite of the Rodsvard army, and not terribly sure how to do it. If they weren’t the best however, she was going to make them the most prepared.
Krita looked to the mirror and inspected her armor. A glistening breastplate of polished brass cut off just below her ribs showing off her trim midriff. There was a bit of skin showing on her upper arm between silver wolf head shoulder plates and black steel gauntlets. Polished brass made up her scale skirt that went to just above her knee. Just below the knee started her boots, leather for the most part with a couple of black steel plates. Blonde hair flowed from beneath a silver wolf head helm. It didn’t cover her face at all just the top of her head and her ears. The Commander of the Rodsvard reserves smiled. Idril was right, flashy was a good thing.
She reached down to grab her buckler shield and the two handed sword she would strap to her back when there was a knock at the door. With curious narrowed eyes she wondered who would be calling on her this early, none of her troops were given access to the castle and almost no one else bothered with her, knowing if she wasn’t hung over she would be in the fields. “What is it?” she snapped.
The door opened and Krita’s father and Uncle strode in. “There will be no drilling for the Wolf’s Bunnies today my dear,” her father said with a degree of a chuckle, but less so than usual. Uncle Agard had nothing to add to the usual teasing that came with this. Women were warriors in their eyes that much was true. They didn’t make fun of Krita’s will to fight, just her desire to lead.
“You want your warriors to save their energy for the battles. You don’t think there is any point in practice or drills,” Krita spat back with a bit of anger. “We agreed that I could handle my bunnies in whatever way I choose. I choose to drill.”
It was not Lord Ammon who responded, at first with only a shake of his head. “Something is wrong?” Krita asked her tone softening. “Why can’t my troops drill?”
Agard gave his niece a knowing smile and waved her from the room. “We must meet in the map room. There you will get the full explanation. For now you can tell your bunnies that they are to prepare to move out. They aren’t to drill today, because they are needed for a mission.”
Krita’s metal hand reached up to her jaw to make sure it had not fallen to the ground in shock. They laughed at her men. Said they weren’t good for anything but turning cloak. Now they were going to send them on a mission? What had possibly changed? To Krita it didn’t matter. Whether it was her men or her, a mission was finally being given to them, and she would prove all the drills and practice were worthwhile. Krita told her father and uncle she would meet them in the map room. When they nodded their agreements and made off, Krita went in search of her squire of sorts.
The girl Krita soon found, was taller than her thirteen years, built more like a boy than a girl, but beneath the smudges of dirt she had a pretty, if not plain, face. She was dressed in practice leathers a wolf, not Rodsvard Marlin, carved into them artistically. She carried a live sword on the grounds, but in the castle she was unarmed. Most Rodsvards thought of her as Krita’s servant, they didn’t know or seem to care Krita was teaching the girl the art of war, and the skill of blade.
“Megwan,” Krita called. A wave of ratted brown hair turned eagerly toward the call. Shoulders lowered in a bow of recognition and green eyes looked up awaiting orders. “Find Walril, Horeak, Leomorn, Fruorin, and Trakas. Tell them to outfit the men for war, not practice. I don’t have the particulars yet, but they are to be ready to march by noon.”
“Yes my Lady,” Megwan answered without thinking curtseying deeply and rushing off. Four steps later she turned back to Krita, “My Lady, what about me? Should I outfit for war?”
Krita gave the girl a knowing smile, “Get some proper leathers and a helmet. If you ride well enough you will bare my standard, if one is needed. If not you will be by my side taking down instructions and being messenger between me and the other leaders.” Megwan nodded bowed again and continued on her errand.
With her troops being informed of the impending mission, Krita was quick to join her father and uncle in his map room. When she arrived Agard was quick to close the door behind her and wave her towards Ammon’s favorite sitting spot. She was amazed the table was in as good shape as it was, despite good craftsmanship, Krita had expected the amount of travel it had seen would catch up to is. She looked on the table and saw a large map of the lands that Mardil Arandil had ruled, not the lands of Ammon Rodsvard answering to the voice of Kronnborg.
Krita strained her eyes to see if she could tell where her father was concentrating. It seemed to be near the city that housed their supposed vassal, House Hubor. “Trouble with the neighbors?” Krita asked almost gloating.
Ammon looked up with a steely glare. “We aren’t exactly sure,” he answered sternly waving her to sit down. “Your Uncle was dispatched to try and work things out with Lord Hubor...They pay their taxes, but they keep their distance and secretly send as much to the capital and South Port as they send to Kronnborg, they also have pulled all of their troops back to Visby.”
Krita gave her father an appraising look, “You don’t think they are planning something though, you just think they are being stubborn. So why do you need my troops?”
“As I was saying, your Uncle was sent there to work on the relationship we have with the House that should follow our lead, and instead seems to hide within their meager walls,” Ammon’s strong hand pounded down on Visby in anger, “Agard didn’t make it to Visby however,” Ammon’s hand started back towards Kronnborg. When he reached half way he started to speak again, “Someone is attacking anything that travels through this forest. It might be the real reason for the Hubor retreat into Visby, though I doubt it. Your men know these woods better than our own. We lost enough with Agard leading. You will take care of yourself, but honestly Krita, your bunnies are expendable, as long as we find out what is the reason for these attacks I would give up every last one of them, there are always more warriors.”
Krita gritted her teeth, “There are always more warriors for you. I have put time and effort into these troops. Made them a unit. A unit that respects me, doesn’t just follow me because they know you will hold them back in your plans. Not the weaklings who want to raise a sword against the civilians during mop ups. This group is much more than that. You know it, that’s why you are going to send us out there and hope that few come back. So you can refill my reserves with more weaklings.”
Agard sighed and stepped closer to the map, “Don’t be so hasty, niece.” Gray eyes glared down at the map as he tried to remember the areas of the assaults upon his warriors. “Your bunnies are not being thrown out there because you’ve made them something of a threat to your father. Your troops are loyal to you, or distracted enough by that armor you wear not to question your orders. You are not your brother, you will not be deserting your father, and even Nils in his betrayal does not bring arms against Kronnborg.”
Krita snorted, “Papa hasn’t struck my chosen mate yet. Give it time.”
Ammon was the next to snort in humor, “I was not aware that you had chosen a mate my dear. I believe our deal was that I had to approve of one before things were to move forward.”
Krita waved a gloved hand putting the subject off, “I am aware of our deal Papa, and I did not say that a mate has been chosen. Nor have I said one has not...No one need stand before you for approve just yet however, that much you can be sure of. I am dedicated to my men and the defense of Kronnborg for the time being.” Her eyes narrowed and bounced between father and uncle, “Let me get this straight, I do not support Nils’ actions, I think them foolish and destructive, but Nils did not betray Papa, Papa betrayed him.”
Agard held Krita’s glare and waited until she dropped her head in readiness to hear the rest of the briefing. “Kronnborg and Visby are the only cities of the Northern coast. There are many villages however,” he paused as Krita looked to interrupt, “Jord’s Pyre is on it’s way, but right now is just a tower and a marketplace with a collection of wagons and carts making up it’s houses. When the Varless settle their gift better I’ll call it a city.” There was a brief pause as he got his head back to the original explanation, “There are many villages, some have militia or constables that keep the peace. Some of your men come from these towns: Horeak Milner, Leomorn Trannyth, Trakas Thorne, and your little errand girl Megwan. I believe one or some of these villages supplies and shelters the force that hunted down my scouts. You will start there. Find out what you can. With luck you will get information that will allow us to bring a big and better force than your bunnies at these outlaws.”
Krita laughed, “So you finally found a use for your turncloaks huh Papa? Well sorry to disappoint you Uncle, but I will get your information, but I won’t stop there. As Papa said, my bunnies know these forests better than Rodsvard warriors...better than any of us. We’ll weed out your attackers and when we do, I want a better standing in your battles. Nils is gone, he won’t answer your calls of war. You need a real commander and I am it.”
“You bring home this brigand’s head Krita and I’ll assign you two hundred more men, and command of the foot should the Rodsvards go to battle again,” her father announce proudly. “Should you bring back word of the threat for someone more capable of dispatching it I will make sure that you have half those men, and I will unleash your reserves early in the next battle so you can prove your mettle. Come home telling tales of the threat being dealt with bearing no proof, and I shall send your Uncle to Visby once more on your word. If he makes it safely you will get your men and your place, and I shall pass Kronnborg to you when I pass. If one warrior dies because you lie to me you and your bunnies should start running for your brother’s city and hope he will take you in. Because you will never be welcomed here again.”
“Quite glorious prizes Papa,” Krita said with a smirk on her face. “I shall definitely be earning any but the last. I’m afraid that you will have to deal with me for the rest of your life. I don’t brag about something I haven’t done, and of course I wouldn’t want Uncle Agard rushing off into danger unprepared. The rode to Visby will be cleared.”
Ammon stared at Krita with a bit of a smile on his face. The Lord of Kronnborg didn’t have a lot of faith in the talents of his daughter’s soldiers, but he knew she would try her hardest to succeed in her mission. The men he didn’t care about, his daughter he would be sure to send eyes to keep her safe from a distance, and make sure she returned home to Kronnborg.
It appeared obvious to Krita that the briefing was over so she bowed to her father, then turned and nodded to Uncle Agard before making for the door. Closing the door behind her, Krita made short work of the distance she had to walk to exit the castle. She was not surprised to find Megwan on a horse just outside the gates, holding the reins of Oblekt, Krita’s horse. “We head towards Visby, there’s trouble in the woods according to my Uncle. We’re to stop in all the towns on the way to seek information. What is the first town?”
“The first town my Lady?” Megwan questioned with a blank expression on her face. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“From here we head out towards Visby. What is the first village that we will reach...” still the young girl looked at her in confusion, “which village is closest to Kronnborg?”
“Oh!” Megwan answered with a crooked smile, “My home of Faydell will be the closest once we leave the city of Kronnborg and it’s outlying farms. Not much to it really, just a collection of farms and Faye’s Manor. The Fayes run the town so to speak, they operate the cart that brings goods from the farms to market here in Kronnborg, Papa always said they were stealing from the farmers, like us, but if the Faye Cart didn’t run then we would have to buy a cart of our own, stop tending the fields and come to market ourselves. I think it is a good arrangement, but I much prefer our arrangement my Lady, where I don’t have to worry about no farm anymore, just get stronger and learn how to fight.”
Krita gave a proud smile, “And speaking of fighting, my uncle says some of the villages have Constables or militia. What is there in Faydell?”