A single horseman was making his way through the morning mist.He expected to reach his destination very soon. It was a cold morning but the rider had decided to get an early start,he had to reach his destination on time.He was a good servant and he wouldn’t let his lord down even if it meant less sleep at night and pressing his horse to the limit. He set out on his journey almost two days ago and without that darned mist he would have seen the village by now, he thought to himself.
One house was towering over the rest when he finally reached his destination, entering a small village. He was told the inn was his destination and there was no doubt in his mind that this was his destination. He knew that in these small villages the inn was the biggest building around.
Leading his horse in the direction of the inn he easily spotted the stable standing next to it and led his horse inside looking for a stable boy, jumping off his horse in the process.
He spotted a tall skinny boy and a petite brunette girl brushing one of the horses inside a stall and coughed his throat to get their attention.
“Please take care of my horse and feed him properly” he said when they turned towards him.
“Sir, we aren’t…” Peter started.
“You” he pointed to Gwen, “Please let Arthur know I request to see him” the man interrupted Peter, not even hearing him.
Gwen looked at Peter and smiled.She shrugged and turned towards the inn.
The man turned back to his horse and fished out a small parchment from his saddle bag. Turning towards the inn he left his horse behind.
John greeted the traveler at the door. John was a big friendly man and compared to the small man standing at the door he looked huge. The inn was warm and cozy and many travelers were seated at their tables eating their breakfast before going out on the road again.
“Good morning” John warmly greeted the traveler.
The traveler nodded and followed John to a corner table at the other side of the inn.
“Would you like a breakfast?” John queried.
“Yes, please” he answered, “Could you please direct Arthur to my table once he arrives?” He asked.
“Of course, he will be with you soon” John said and turned towards the kitchen.
“Sir” The traveler stopped John “Could you please bring a meal for him as well?” he asked.
“Well…” John started.
“I will pay for it, no doubt” he said.
“Arthur doesn’t need to pay here” John smiled and headed towards the kitchen.
A plate was placed in front of him. “Did you want to see me?” asked the twelve years old boy who placed his plate.
“No” The traveler said.
Arthur shrugged and spun, holding his tray in his strong hands he turned towards a different table and placed their breakfast in front of them, heading back towards the kitchen when he was through.
“Sir” a tall blond thirteen years old girl had appeared above him carrying another plate and laid it opposite him.
“Thank you” he said “Where is Arthur?” he continued.
“I’ll send him to you” Cathy smiled and turned away.
“Sir, you’ve asked for me?” Arthur asked again, “I’m Arthur” He said and sat down in front of him, looking the traveler confidently in the eyes.
“But…I… you can’t…” he seemed bewildered, raising his hand to call for John.
Cathy was the first to reach their table before John even noticed his hand in the air. “I see Arthur found you” she said and smiled.
“This is Arthur?” he asked his jaw dropping. “I’m looking for HIM?”
Cathy nodded and lingered by behind Arthur.
He let out a sigh “My name is Dale, I’m a personal servant to Lord Grey” he stopped for a second, taking a breath, maybe still not believing this was the one Lord Grey had requested.
“My master is hosting a banquet to celebrate his daughter’s wedding in his castle three days from now. Lord Grey had requested for you and your friends to be his guests in this occasion” Dale paused letting the words sink in.
“Hey, there you are” Peter joined them with Gwen on his side.
“Dale, please meet my friends” Arthur introduced each one of them.
Dale reached to his belt producing a small parchment, handing it over to Arthur who took it cautiously from his hand.
Folded neatly and sealed with a wax stamp,the parchment seemed very official. Arthur looked a little unsure should he open this, until he saw Dale’s look waiting for him to do so. Breaking the seal he opened the parchment slowly, unfolding the parchment, holding it in his hands.
Out of the four, Arthur was the only one who could read well enough to understand what it said.
John booming voice sounded from a nearby table and he now was heading towards them.
“We were invited to Lord Grey’s castle” Arthur told John when he reached them handing him, the parchment although John didn’t know how to read.
“When are you leaving?” John asked.
“Will you be okay here if we go?” Arthur asked.
John smiled like he always did, “We’ll be okay, Alex can help us while you are away.”
“We could be gone a bit” Cathy said.
“Merry will be worried but we’ll do, when should we expect you back?” John asked and all heads turned towards Dale.
Dale scratched his head. “It could take almost a week” he finally said.
“A week?” John’s eyes opened wide but he caught himself. “You should go” he said.
“So…When are we… leaving?” Peter asked with his mouth full of hot potatoes from Arthur’s plate.
“Peter?” Cathy frowned at him.
“What…? No one else… was eating it” Peter answered.
“Will we be leaving soon?” Gwen interrupted the argument.
All heads turned towards Dale again who was already prepared with an answer. “As soon as you are ready, we have a long journey ahead of us”
Arthur nodded and stood up. “We will be ready soon” he said turning towards the kitchen door which held the path to their small cabin.
Although she wasn’t pleased to hear they were leaving, John’s wife Merry had provided them with enough food for their travel.She was hugging tight each one of them in turn when John came in. “They will be fine” John told her.
She continued to hug Gwen while John pulled Arthur who just came through the door aside. “Do you think this is a trap again?” he asked, reminding Arthur of the time when men tried to kill them.
“The parchment seems genuine” Arthur whispered.
John grabbed Arthur and the nearby Peter crashing them together in a bear hug. “We should let them go” he told Merry who was whimpering, “They are able to take care of themselves” he added.
The four left the kitchen, entering the inn’s main hall, each one of them was carrying a short sword on his belt except for Gwen who carried a dagger, while a quiver and bow hung on their backs. Dale stood up. Looking again at the four he realized they were more than what he had thought.
“Do you have horses?” Dale asked when they led him to the stable walking confidently inside.
Peter snorted and one by one brought out two brown mares for the girls, Arthur’s black stead and his own white spotted stead, which in comparison made Dale’s horse look like a simple work horse.
These horses were gifts from the mother queen herself in gratitude of their service to the crown and saving the kingdom during their adventure in London on the previous summer.
Easily mounting their horses, the four were waiting for Dale to join them. He had been looking at the four, slowly realizing they were looking like knights and not like thirteen and twelve years old lads.
Dale took a deep breath and mounted his horse. Maybe his master knew what he was doing, he thought to himself. He kicked with both legs and the group was off, passing by the inn door where Merry was waving them off.
Fortunate enough their travel was without strange occurrences and except for some travelers who passed them by looking at them suspiciously as they were a strange group. A huge turret was the first thing they had seen when they came out of the forest. Into view came a huge castle, not as big as the one they had seen in London but almost as big.
The buildings were pearly white with a single turret in the middle, towering over the rest. Four more turrets were positioned in the four corners of the white strong stone built wall. Surrounding the castle was a village, bigger and as it seemed wealthier than their own village.
Farmers were working their fields surrounding the village and as they came closer they could see women walking and children playing between the houses.
Entering the village they reduced their trot to a slow walk. This gave them enough time to look around the village spotting a busy market and guards walking the streets slowly, keeping the order in the village.
The castle was surrounded with a big moat filled with water which separated the houses from the wall. A big gate was standing at the end of the road and a wooden draw bridge aloud travelers in and out of the castle. Two guards were standing at the sides of the entrance, fully armed and ready for battle. Arthur had seen four more guards armed with bows standing on top of the gate. The four followed Dale through the gate. Dale nodded to the guards and they had let the group pass without even looking at them twice.
Dale slowly headed around the castle, allowing the four to take in their surrounding and admire the castle. The main hall was standing at the center of the courtyard. It was a very large building and the big turret was standing above the main hall with windows at different levels around the round turret.
Two stable boys were already waiting for them at the entrance to the stable. They were not much younger than the four and were very surprised to see the guests Dale was escorting. Dismounting with a jump they handed over the reins to the boys. Dale had requested the boys to take good care of the horses, explaining these were Lord Grey’s special guests. The boys only nodded and ran to the stable. Arthur called one of the boys just before he disappeared into the stable and handed him two copper coins, remembering his friend Glen doing it previously on their journey.
“Follow me, please” Dale requested when they reached the main entrance. He passed between two guards who stood in attention, passing through a maze of corridors going up three flights of stairs and heading into two big rooms at the end of a corridor.
“This will be the girl’s room” he said entering one of the rooms, “and you boys will sleep in the room across the hall” he said to their amazement.
The rooms were huge. Each one held a big double bed, a large chest full of new clothes and a plate filled with fruit standing on a beautiful wooden table, a large window aloud them a view of the courtyard and the village outside the walls. This was one of the best places they have
slept in for a long while.
“These clothes are for you to wear in the ceremony and an additional set for the celebration before that” Dale explained.
“Thank you, but we have our own clothes” Arthur answered.
“No…Not acceptable” said a woman from the entrance of the room that surprised them all, even Peter who was in the midst of grabbing an apple from the fruit plate.
A small chubby short woman with a mole like face stood at the door. “This.. this things you call clothes are not acceptable for my mistress’s wedding” she gave Cathy a paralyzing look, “These were custom made, just put them on. I would start right now” she said and left the room.
Dale shrugged and left the room.
“Well, you heard her” Peter laughed, taking a bite from the apple.
“Lord Grey would like to see you all at dinner” Dale entered the room again and left in a hurry.
It didn’t take the four long to settle in their rooms as they did travel light. “What should we do?” Gwen wondered sitting in the boys room on the ledge of the window, looking down at the village.
“We explore the castle?” Peter suggested.
“Why not” Arthur smiled, “I figure we have some time till dinner.”
“So we should take something to eat” Peter laughed and grabbed another apple from the fruit plate.
Cathy frowned and turned away, leading the four to the hall. They were standing at the top of the flight of stairs looking down and then looking up to another flight of stairs. Gwen was the first to react and headed up the flight of stairs leading the rest of them to another maze of corridors and rooms.
Walking around the corridors they found it very confusing to understand where they were exactly and after running up and down a few flight of stairs they weren’t sure how to get back to their rooms. The corridors were starting to darken slowly as the sun was setting outside and the torches weren’t lit yet.
Peter was leading the group in their search with Arthur closing the pack from behind. “Arthur, there you are” he heard from a room he just passed and stopped short, slowly walking backwards to take a look in the room and figure if he heard right.
“How are you Arthur?” Arthur heard when he popped his head through the doorstep of a big room. Looking inside he saw a big table standing at the end of the room. It was made of fine wood and gave the room a sense of prestige. Four chairs were surrounding the table, two from one side and two from the other. The room was finely decorated with draped windows, carpets, footstools, armchairs and a fireplace. Every piece in the room radiated of wealth.
Both chairs on the far side of the room were occupied. Arthur recognized the man sitting in one of the chairs. Lord Grey was signaling for him to come over and take a sit in front of him. The woman in the second chair didn’t seem familiar to Arthur but he felt a need to comply with his host’s request.
Taking another look towards the corridor he noticed his friends have already left, probably haven’t noticed yet he was missing, so he turned and made his way towards the chair carefully taking in every detail of the room.
“Please sit” Lord Grey requested and Arthur quickly complied.
“Would you like to drink some tea?” Asked the woman, seeing Arthur still silent she got up and produced a cup from a cupboard and poured tea from a cattle into it, placing it in front of Arthur who quickly took a sip and burned his tongue.
“How are you?” Lord Grey asked politely, “have you found your rooms to your liking?”
“”Yes sir, these are better than we are used to” Arthur answered regaining himself.
“Good, I’m very happy you could join us in our celebration” Lord Grey smiled.
“Sir…I’m… I’m a bit confused…” Arthur started but was quickly cut off.
“I had full confidence you would find us here, I even told my wife I’m sure we will meet before dinner” his wife nodded as approval.
“We haven’t yet sat to talk but I believe I can trust you and in days like these this isn’t something I can say easily” Lord Grey continued.
Arthur nodded. “Thank you sir but…” he stopped seeing Lord Grey was continuing either way.
“You are a clever lad, probably you’ve been asking yourself why I’ve invited you to this wedding” Lord Grey took a deep breath. “I believe someone is trying to kill me” he said and Arthur eyes widened while Lord Grey’s wife wept silently, “I had this feeling for some time and the plot you have stopped in the archery competition signaled I was right. I also believe that someone tried to silence you a while ago.”
This had surprised Arthur as he didn’t know Lord Grey knew about the trap they had been led into and he wasn’t even sure he knew exactly who these men were and why did they attack them.
“I believe this wedding is a good opportunity for someone to try again. I would like you and your friends to try and find out who is behind this” Lord Grey looked at Arthur intensively. “I know I’m putting a lot of pressure on you but I believe I can trust you without a doubt.”
“Will you help us?” his wife pleaded.
Arthur nodded, “We will do our best.”
“That is all I ask” Lord Grey said.
“ARTHUR” A shout came from afar, “ARTHUR WHERE ARE YOU” he recognized the voice belonging to his friends.
“You are missed. Thank you, we will see you at the dinner table” he said.
“Sir, can I…?” Arthur pointed to a pastry plate on the table which he was eyeballing since he sat down.
“Of course” said his wife quickly. Arthur grabbed one and started for the door and then remembered Peter and grabbed another one with a sheepish smile and ran outside.
It didn’t take long for the group to reunite and catch up quickly while they were walking down the stairs, eventually running into Dale who was looking for them in order to escort them to dinner. Dale didn’t seem happy they had run around the castle but except for letting them know this wasn’t acceptable, he couldn’t do much.
Practically ushering them into the main dining hall, Dale made sure the four won’t wander off again and disturb his master. Dale sent one of the servants to announce the guests were seated and waiting for him and his wife at the table.
Other than themselves Arthur saw four couples seated at the long table. The center plates were filled with hot steaming food and Gwen was doing her best to stop Peter from bouncing of his chair. At the head of the table were standing two large decorated seats still empty, and beside them stood two chairs which were also empty. At that moment two figures came into the room which the four quickly recognized. They were walking confidently towards the two empty chairs close to the head of the table. The two were Don and his wife to be Dian, Lord Grey’s daughter. The two sat down with a look of dismay at the others, their eyes finally landing on the four clearly recognizing them and remembering where they had previously met.
Dian leaned over towards Don to whisper something in his ear but this is when Lord Grey and his wife entered the room. They were walking lightly towards their seats at the head of the table, smiling politely to everyone who caught their eyes.
Without a second to waste wine glasses were produced in front of all the guests and Lord Grey stood up holding his cup in his hand, raising it up. All of his guests stood up raising their glass, waiting for Don who needed an elbow punch from Dian in order to share the same respect.
“I would like to raise a toast to my daughter and her husband to be, who in time will rule this castle” Lord Grey started, “I thank you all for coming to the celebration and I hope you enjoy your stay with us until the ceremony in two days’ time” he raised his glass higher.
“Cheers” came the call from around the table and they all drank up.
Lord Grey started to sit down slowly, but suddenly he looked to his wife who fell down to the ground dropping and breaking the glass on the floor.
Looking around the room Arthur managed to see the look of shock spreading on everyone’s face. From the corner of his eye he saw Dian looking at Don questioning. Don pointed towards the head of the table and then Arthur’s field of vision was blocked.
“Grab them!” he heard a shout coming from Don’s direction and four healthy guards grabbed him and his friends from behind, kicking them in the stomach, dropping them to the ground.
Arthur managed to spot Lord Grey being ushered outside of the dining hall by Dale and three guards.
“Everywhere they show up there is trouble” shouted Dian at the four who were painfully brought to their legs.
A maid reached the woman on the floor and started crying. Two of her friends pulled her back while they saw Dian’s maid checking if her mistress mother was still alive.
Everything happened fast they couldn’t defend themselves as their weapons were stored carefully in their rooms upstairs. They were now being dragged into a cell after going down a flight of stairs. “Please, we didn’t do anything” Gwen pleaded but the guards pretended they didn’t even hear her.
“It won’t work” Cathy frowned and kicked the wall.
“Why are you smiling?” Peter asked Arthur.
Arthur nodded towards the door where a face appeared in a small window in the door, Dale was looking at them. Quickly opening the door, he entered the small cell and closed the door behind him.
“Can I trust you?” Dale asked.
“Well my master does, so…” Dale produced a key and handed it to Arthur. “Wait a while after I leave.”
“Thank you” Gwen whispered.
“Don’t thank me” Dale said and opened the door, “Find the man who killed my master’s wife” he sighed, “find him before he kills my master.” Dale closed the door and shuffled away.
To be continued….
Copyright © 2013 The Silver Wolf