AOH – Chapter 157

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CHAPTER 157: GOOD DREAMS

ARRRANDY

VERMONT CASTLE

The sound of the chopping can be heard from the chopping block.

The aroma wafted around the large kitchen hall, the smell of meat and herbs and fruits and vegetables, all melded into this great smell that made people drool, as everyone can see people scurrying about bringing leeks, cabbage, venison, cow meat, herbs and water all around the kitchen.

It is hectic and almost like an ordered chaos, running and rushing, all have some plates, some bowl or some type of food in their hands.

The cook is a chubby woman around the age of forty and seven as she orders the people in the kitchen with her ladle holding it like the staff of power.

‘Come on.  Rush a little. The duchess wants the dishes ready before dinner tonight. Many great nobles from all Arrandy will come tonight! Do you want me to lose my job! Run, Dirk!’

She ordered with her loud voice, clear and concise while throwing her ladle to the young man called Dirk.

Quickly that Dirk run and went to his station as fast as possible.

‘Do you want me to get humiliated? Faster!’

‘Yes, Head Cook’ the other reply.

Tonight there is some banquet in the castle and like always the one responsible doing all the preparation behind the scene is the kitchen department.

Liselle is observing them with rapt attention. She is the one who relay the orders to the cooking department.

‘Liselle are you doing anything tonight?’ one of the Junior Cook named Alfred asks Liselle. Liselle just chuckle.

‘Unfortunately, I have some business with the Duchess daughter.’

‘Ahh…that is unfortunate. I was about to ask you to a stroll around the park. I speak to the guards and they said they could allow us enter the gardens. Wouldn’t it be heavenly if you could accompany me under the moonlight stars, singing love songs?’ Alfred said his eyes are sparkling with hope

The other cook all smirked and looks at Alfred with contemptuous stare. After all Liselle is one of the most desirous woman in the castle.

Everyone wanted to court her.

Of course Helia is beautiful but who dares design on such a noble lady and the maids and servants all seen the beautiful lady that comes and goes at the castle, cousin and relatives of the duchess who all possesses great beauty.

They know their limit.

How could those noble ladies and noble lords will associate themselves with them, lowly servants and maids?

But Liselle is different. She is like them. Common folk but with the great graces of a lady, unbefitting for a woman of her station.

She is beautiful, her short black hair and her deep brown eyes and her smooth flawless skin made her desirable not only to the common folk in the castle but also to some of the young nobles that came into the famed castle of the Dragon.

But none of the nobles dare to force the young maid, Liselle to entertain them at their bed. Why?

Some of the nobles are perverted and lustful, their minds are filled with lecherous thoughts and they could and would force even an unwilling party to their bed.

Of course such behavior if discovered would be a huge blow to the noble houses but not all nobles are like this.

A rotten apple in a basket full of healthy apples. But yet these perverted nobles dares not forces her.

Because she is not an ordinary maid or servants. What is extraordinary about her?

She is the Duchess favourite maid and that alone give her some authority and some weight to her position in the eyes of the nobles.

Would these young nobles dare offend one of the great potentates of the continent?

They do not dare of course. Such beauty is admired and Liselle herself has received many letters and love song either by noblemen or the other servants of the castle.

Yet, noble or servants, she rejected them all politely and courteously and as such made people only want her more.

People after all, want what they can’t have. Her rejection only made her more alluring and mysterious.

They all made a mental image of her as a pure and a noble woman. She is not a lady but has all the characteristic of a lady, graceful in her steps, careful with her words and polite and courteous in her attitude.

Then one ladle flew from one side of the kitchen.

‘Alfred! What are you doing? Where is the meat! Do you want me to serve only leeks and onion towards the lords!’

The Head cook screams.

‘Sorry Head Cook. I’m going. SEE you later, Liselle.’ Liselle just chuckle and waved the Junior Cook goodbye.

‘How about me?’ one of the other Junior Cook offers.

‘I could persuade the guards too.’ He said his tone hopeful and full of yearning. Liselle is about to reject when another ladle fly again to the Junior Cook.

‘Are you crazy! Flirting with the inner castle maid! Worry about your own job first! Understand! Go bring me some water!’

‘Hish…That old demon. Never let us any rest.’ Sorrowfully the junior said while rushing to get the Head Cook water.

The head cook just continues her job and Liselle look at the Head Cook with apologetic expression.

The Head Cook just smiles and nodded.

The Head cook understand that Liselle is not the reason that this happen. But beauty is sometimes a curse especially for people of the common folk.

At least if you are a noble people would not try to court so blatantly but as a common folk, stories of nobles trying to violate pretty girl from the countryside can be heard.

Liselle nodded and exit herself from the kitchen.

She then walked to the towers greeting the guards, the maids and servants as she passed them, showing them her pleasant smile and demeanor.

And then she reached the tower and she climb until she reaches the highest point of the tower and look at the city below the tower, the sight of men and woman working their hardest and rest as this is her free time.

She looks at the sky and sighed.

‘All this people are nice people. And the Duchess is kind and her child is adorable. Truly life in this castle is almost like a paradise itself.’ And she sighed again.

But a job is a job. And the Hooded Old Man always collects his debt. A contract in blood has been sealed. And as their code dictate, once they take a job they will complete it.

No matter how long it takes.

The Dragon has started to move but the contract is not yet fulfill. If the condition and requirement is fulfilled then only then will Liselle, this fake name and persona that she has cultivated over the years will be shed and she will once again return to the darkness, the belly of the beast and continue her duty.

She hopes that the requirement is not fulfilled. She hopes her time here will never end.

A dream she mused.

A long and beautiful dreams. And someday, like all her other dream, it will end. She thought in her minds looking forlorn. Then she sing in that pleasant voice of hers.

Sing on,

As if in pain

And dreaming through the twilight

That doth not rise nor set,

Haply I may remember,

And haply may forget.”

Then she looks again at the blue sky and feeling the breezy wind she prays to the cold and hard god of hers.

That this time she doesn’t have to offer. That this time she can stay in this dream as long as she can.

And she continue on praying and she closed her eyes, hoping.

*************************************************************************

ARIAL CAMP

On Arial camp the scenes are quite different compared to Harald camp.

The papnoticon priest and bishops that followed the army , spent time in singing the Sacred Songs, reading litanies and prayers, chanting anthems, and in other similar acts of worship, assisted by the soldiers, who gathered, in great congregations, for this wild worship, in the open spaces among the tents and around the camp fires.

It produced a calming effect and tranquility and peace for the soldiers for the great undertaking that is upon them now.

At length as the night grew darker and Dark Things sang their song in the wilds, they all retired to rest, feeling an additional sense of safety in respect to the work of the morrow by having, as they supposed, entitled themselves, by their piety, to the protection of Heaven.

Arial on the other hand that night after leading his horse to the stables take  a little walk onto the grass pasture near their tent.

He found a good spot in one of the hills, a flat rock as he sit down and like always, like the time in Arrandy, Arial gaze upwards and marvel the stars.

Every time since they separated, Arial look at the stars.

And he wondered.

‘Do you watch me, Elvenan?’ he said, a voice that almost sounded like a whisper, muffled by the breezy winds.

‘Do you see me in the stars? My stories? Did you hear my whispers? Did the Night tell you of my ardent desire to see you again? Or does the Moonlight whispers my words to your ears?’

He said, his eyes could not avert from looking at the sparkling stars that fill the night skies.

As the night is dancing on the skies. I wish you were here. I wish you were with me. I wish it was us that is dancing in that sky, like the stars.

Then Arial sense a movement.

‘West is that you?’ He said without even looking back.

‘Yes my lord, it is me.’ The voice replied as he approached Arial, standing in his normal attire since his armour is being repaired after their battle near Borveaux.

‘What are you doing still up? We have a great task tomorrow, West. Sufficient rest is important to the body.’

‘I should ask you the same thing my lord.’

‘What is my lord doing here alone without any guards to accompany you? I worry about my lord safety since our camp is so near the enemy camp. So I followed you’ West retorted

‘Watching the stars.’ Arial said nonchalantly

‘A thousand stories, more and more’ West said as West sit just beside his lord and also looking at the stars, trying to glimpse something.

‘How did you know about that?’ Arial said a slight shock that West said that phrase.

‘Lisa once told me the story about that. That there is this one night, in a forest near the Knight Academy, that when you and Kyle, Helia and her is camping you all look at the stars and you tell her a story about the stars.’

‘And what did she say?’ Arial asked

‘She said, that every stars that rest themselves on the Sky Above, each of them have their own stories, tragedy and love stories, sadness and happiness tales. Every star has a story to tell, she said.’

‘She remembers that.’ Arial said smiling looking at the stars on the clear night skies.

‘She remembers you, my lord. That innocent little boy that gazes at the night sky with eyes that is full with curiosity and sadness.’

‘She said that?’

‘Yes.’ West replied

Then a brief silence between the two men.

‘You should not have come to join the expedition. I could have summoned another knight or lords to participate in the war.’ Arial suddenly said. West shakes his head.

‘I would not have it any other way my lord. I would like my unborned child to be proud of me.’

‘Being alive is better. After all you only have one life. And maybe Lisa would prefer it that way. There is concern in her eyes when you departed with me. I promised your wife that I will bring you back alive. That is not an easy promise to made, Lord West’ Arial said sighing

‘You’re right’ West said chuckling.

‘Call it my own stubbornness if it pleases you my lord. If my lord is allowed to have your stubbornness praised, why shouldn’t I too can’t?’ He said smirking

‘HAHAHA.’ Arial laughed.

‘Indeed , that is true.’ Arial nodded his head

And another brief silence as they both looked at the stars. Then West looks at his lord and finally musters his courage to ask him a question.

‘Will we win tomorrow my lord?’ West asked as his lord is once again looking at the stars; almost seem entranced by the night skies, a face that shows longing and regret.

Then Arial listen West question and his facial expression changes.

Arial look at West and with a confident look he declares two words that dispel any doubt in West mind.

‘We will’

The Arial get up from the flat rock and pat West back.

‘Let us take some rest. We have to get up in the morning.’

West got up and nodded and together they returned to their respective tent, as they sleep with all the anxiety of tomorrow.

***********************************************************************

In the morning, the army is convened for a grand celebration of praying and singing praises to the Lord Above.

The Prince Articon is chosen to lead the ceremony.

In this solemn service of religious ceremony, the Prince Articon, wears a coat of mail under his pontifical attire, and an attendant stood by his side, a Priest, while he is offering his prayers, with a steel-sharp pointed spear in his hand, ready for the martial prelate to assume as soon as the service should be ended.

Near the ceremony lies the Prince Articon horse, a white horse of a great breed, which is all saddled and bridled, ready to charge at the enemy at a moment notice.

Arial himself is mounted on his famous war horse, one that is called the fastest horse in the human continent, Firebringer.

His dragon armour scale he got during his time in the Dark lands can be seen displayed prominently on his body with a few modifications as his family crest is emblazoned on the dragon scale.

Behind his back is the heavy glaive he received from the Orc King, a long and domineering appearance of the weapon which he named Blood Eater.

The standard which the Supreme Papnoticon had blessed was borne by his side by a young standard bearer, a son of minor noble houses who is very proud of the honor.

An older soldier, however, on whom the care of this standard officially devolved, had asked to be excused from carrying it.

The older soldier wanted to do his work using the sword and it is not appropriate for him to stain the Papnoticon banner with blood and murder.

Arial and his commanders stand upon the gentle eminence in the middle of the camp, and in sight of the whole army.

Everyone is struck with admiration at the splendid figure which their commander made—his slender and well-formed limbs covered with dragon scale, and his horse, whose form is as noble as that of his master, prancing restlessly, as if impatient for the battle to begin, neighing sometimes that sometimes sounds like a growling of a beast.

Then when the ceremony is finished, the bishop throw off his surplice, took his spear, and mounting his white charger, which was also all saddled and bridled beside him, he headed a brigade of horse, and rode on to the assault of the enemy.

Arial seeing this follow him from behind as they are going to meet their enemies down the Hill and once for all contend for the throne.

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