The prince strode across the top of the castle and gazed out into the darkness. He often did this to clear his thoughts, but on this evening, he would find no peace. Still, he needed some time to absorb the news. The runner was sent to eat and rest, and Commodore Sharpthorn and King Loll would be expecting Andun to join them soon. No doubt, the prince would be sent to Pitmerden.
“Who would indiscriminately wipe out an entire village?” He thought it an unimaginable evil beyond the worst act of piracy or banditry he had encountered in the short time he had been training under Commodore Sharpthorn. He also had heard the stories of a time so long past the monsters of myth were thought to be the workings of imagination. The report of the strange tracks from the village to the mountains left them all a bit shaken. No one in living memory had fought against such a creature, and now no one wanted to believe such existed.
Andun joined his father and the commodore once more as they discussed what to do. As expected, King Loll made the decision to send Andun with a squad of elite soldiers to investigate the attack. “The festival will go ahead tomorrow as planned, and you and your men will leave the next morning.” “Yes, Father, ” Andun replied, much less confident than he intended. “My son, Commodore Sharpthorn assures me you are ready for this. I have watched you train, and have seen the attention and dedication you have given to your training. You have excelled in every combat skill. You are ready to lead.”
As the men left the hall, King Loll stopped Andun, and said to him, “I mean that, Andun. It’s time, and you need more than a few skirmishes with bandits and pirates to prepare you to succeed me. I have been fortunate to have had such peace during my lifetime, as my father before me. My grandfather fought other kings, but my gut tells me this is different from his wars. And not just because of the evidence the outpost reports. Now I need to rest. It has been a long day for us all.”
King Loll went towards his private quarters, while Andun took a moment to gather himself. Perhaps he, too, should get some rest, but before he could take one step, Oda popped out from behind a pillar and block his path. “What was that all about,” she asked? “Was it necessary to jump out in front of me? You’re lucky I didn’t punch you in the face,” Andun replied, clearly annoyed. “You’re not that fast. Now what’s up?”
Andun filled her in on the message and the meeting, and added, “Father said we are still going ahead with the festival tomorrow, and he will make an announcement to the city himself.” Oda said, “Well, I’m going with you to investigate.” Andun replied, “No, you are not. Father would never allow it. I know that won’t stop you, but I want you here for a different reason. I feel very uneasy about leaving, as if the Pitmerden attack might be just a distraction. Despite his discouragement, I know you are a capable fighter and your observation is almost unnerving sometimes. If my instinct is right, you need to be here to aid in defense of the city.”
Oda wanted to protest, but she could not argue that logic. “Fair enough, Andun. You’ve always had good instinct. For a stick in the mud.” She smiled and took his arm as they walked towards their rooms. He smiled back at her and said, “I don’t like to throw caution to the wind. It’s kept me out of trouble, unlike you.” They both laughed as they remembered her penchant for mischief. Arriving at their quarters, they retired though sleep would elude them both.
To be continued