AOH – Chapter 29

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CHAPTER 29: ALLEGIANCE

SER WEST OF HOUSE PALAIS

1014 AF SEEDMONTH 74

The lively flames lick the wood prepared by the attendants.

I was burning letters into the fireplace.

Letters which if found would make me a traitor. Letters that could send me to the gallows and the executioner block.

There are letters from my father, my mother, my uncles and aunts, all which I fed to the flames.

Written words turn to ash

Then I try to remember what has happen in this past year and what lead me to buy letters in the middle of the spring night.

After hearing my family exile I wanted to get out of the academy but the Knight Academy rules is strict.

Unless you area Knight Brother or higher rank then you can’t.

I try to take quest but the other Knight Lords forbid me calling it a special consideration fearing that I would rush to my father.

So, I stayed beyond the walls of the Academy while getting the letter from my family.

My mother Liana Stallford from House Stallford a house in the North, says our family are taking refuge in Vern.

Harald on the other hand tries to keep me closer by his side.

Arago and Avil treats me like usual since they hail from Renasia. The matter of Alan is not their concern, they came to learn.

Months and moths I stayed until I heard the news of the Duke of Arouen death.

By special permission Harald leave the Academy. A week after that, the Bloody Feast happens.

My father joins Alderam and his cause.

The Knight Master fearing that they will involve the Academy in their war quickly sent the other nobility back home, shut their gate and stay in the Academy. I was allowed to return home.

So I ride from the Academy to the North to find my family.

I found my father in a war tent around Pontder, while they are still fighting against the Woodrath

The wood crackle. There is some darkening around the sandy brick work.

I looked at the fireplace again and it’s design. The shield beside it also shows the same design.

It has the coat arms of the Vermonts.

A dragon

Then looking at the fire I once again remembered what my father says to me

I entered the war tent

“Son” he said joy in his face

“Father, what happen?”

He looked embarrassed and looking left and right

“Let us speak in a place more private” my father urged

We then walk to my father tent and I sit down in one of the chairs.

My father once again looked left and right before closing his tent.

Then my father told all that happens.

“I have no other choice but to follow Lord Alderam, my son” he said shaking his head

“But why?”

“He is the Duke son and we are sworn to the House of Alan, even though it is their family that exile us”

“But from what I gather Duke Hadrian Alan chose his second son to succeed him?”

“Yes, yet it is not the second son that hold our family relatives in prison. He threatened me son. What do you expect me to do? Let him kill our family?”

“I will fight for you father” I said readying my sword

“NO!” he said his voice tone rose

“No, you must not.”

“But—“

“Here listen to me. West, you go and swear fealty to the King.”

“King?”

“Yes. King Adrian. Swear you fealty towards him”

I am puzzled

“Father, I’m no turncloak. If I swear my oath, I will keep my oath”

“And that is why I expect of you. Go and swear your fealty to the King. Keep your oaths. There is a reason why I ask you to do this.”

Then he sighed a deep sigh

“If somehow Lord  Alderam loses than you can persuade the King to spare our family in light that you serve for him. He will not reject you, not when our family has many influences here, in the North”

“Then what about you father?”

“If Lord Alderam wins, then I would ask him to spare you, citing that I helped him gain power. Either way, our House will prevail”

I finally understand what my father is thinking.

I thought my father is asking me to be a traitor, an oathbreaker, a turncloak, yet he did not ask me for such thing.

All for the House. This way I will not break any of my oaths.

“I will listen to you Lord Father”

“Here” he gave me some gold.

“Ride to the South tomorrow, and offer your fealty to the King”

He sighed. I was walking out of the tent. Then he called me, already in front of the tent entrance.

“Son, in this time of war, from the very beginning, so many noble Houses has fallen, while new House sprouts like Nalira mushroom after rain. The Bloody Feast” he muttered.

“The Bloody Feast” I reply

“We also have relatives that died in the Feast, you know. The young Duke is truly a barbarian” he said while shaking his head

I have nothing to say to that

“Who do you think would win this war, son?”

“Honestly I don’t know.” I said honestly

“Lord Alderam has a strong army, a lot of experience and with some secret backing from some faction in other Kingdoms that do not want to see our Kingdom or Dukedom, whichever term you prefer, be united under one rule. He also has the backing of the House of Ancona, an illustrious family in Dostov who wanted their son in Law, to be the sole authority in Alan. And they are not shy to give Lord Alderam troops.’

And then my father sighs again…longer this time…and heavier. Then he continues.

‘But Lord Adrian has a dragon behind him. A family so powerful that they exiled us without using one single soldier, their family is loved by the common folk, wealth beyond that even of our House and some say they have so much gold, that if we combine all the gold in the North it will still not rivaled the gold that the Vermont had. With traders all coming there, we have stop their trade to the North which also stop their trade to Vern but they still generate a lot of income from their trade with other continent, Vorthy, Ariundus,Asteros, and the other Kingdom of the South and West, notably Zettel and Renasia.”

He sighed again, this time deep and hard.

“Father?”

“It’s nothing. Go”

And now here I am, in one of the guest room of the Vermont, burning letters.

Written words turn to ash

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

WAR TENT

ARIAL VERMONT

1014 AF SEEDMONTH 75

I entered the castle gate of the Whitetree, after defeating their troops, their vassal bend their knee, their Knight swear their fealty and the castle gate were opened for me and my troops.

The mood was festive for my troops after winning the battle. Their trust towards my leadership is also silence.

Before the war started some of the Knights and the vassal of my families was unconvinced that I can lead the army but by now they all have change their opinion.

I have proven that I can fight in battle. The common folk greet us and fear that we will raid them or stole their belongings.

I have given strict orders to my men. They will be no pillaging, no killing, and no raping. If anyone disobeys, I will kill them my selves no matter their rank.

After seeing me killing that many soldier in the battle at Whorleath, I doubt they dare. The dragon banner replace the banner of the black tree behind a white background.

Then I enter the castle. First I visit their dining room.

The dining room is magnificent.

The Whitetree’s really did care for their castle.

I walked again. I’m heading to the grand hall and after that I will assemble the House Council.

The House Council is the one office I created for my own House. Other Houses have no such council.

They help me in determining policies, plan a war, my finances and supervise and tell me about the law in the Kingdom.

There are laws in the Kingdom, and as a son of my father, a Duke of Arrandy, they are many who will use the law to bring down my family.

Henry comes to mind.Who would think that a son of a farmer would be the son of a Duke, of a Great House?

I certainly don’t.

My quest to save humanity somehow leads here.I first just wanted my father to have more money.

I never realize that my family would change. My father become very good with people, while my mother is crafty and dare I say it?

Manipulative.

Yet I sense my mother love my family fiercely.I trace my hand across the dining table, the long dining table.

The table was long and has carved solid wood with the design showing a tree blooming with some colors mostly white and in the wall the white wallpapers is still intact.

On the walls were gilded mirrors.

I keep walking.Torches were used to light the interiors of Great Hall.

There are fireplaces with chimneys. I cleaned myself using the lavers (stone basins used for washing) before entering the Great Hall

In the Great hall, there is a carpet, probably from Renasia.

I could smell sweet smelling herbs, lavenders, chamomile and rose petals, daisies and fennel.

Probably they were added were added to disguise the bad smells of the castles which were prevalent due to the inadequate plumbing systems

I finally entered the great hall. Tapestries and shields and banners displaying coats of arms decorated the walls.

Different colored paints were used in considerable quantities – most of it was a white paint

A white tree. In my House castle, the paint is red and black. In Dragon Fort, which used to be one of Henry Palais castle, the color is golden.

I head my way to the Lord Whitetree chair, now deceased, his family in prison, while all the other have died, perished in his stupid battle, his stubborn battle

And I sit high on the dais. The cushioned chair was comfy. The Whitetreess are stubborn. If they only bend the knee than it would be easier and I don’t have to kill them.

Now there is only Blackton left.

By now Helia and Helve must have reached Sea Worth.

Helve would surely call upon his banner and bring his troops to meet us later.

For now me and my troops rest here in Whitetree castle.

 I also have sent some letters to Blackton for surrender.

Surrender and they will be spared.

Refuse…and the same thing that happens to the Whitetrees will happen to them. I don’t like threatening but I need to end this war in a swift manner.

Most of the Southron lords have sworn fealty.

Letters visit me here in the Whiteree castle by the bulk, letters announcing their fealty to my family and the throne.

As the Lord Protector of both south and east, it is only right they swear fealty to my family.

The East has always been my family territory, but the South belongs to the Althea family.

Maybe after I marry Helia,I will give the title back to the Althea which also still means our family is the Lord Protector of both region.

Tonight I assembled my council to discuss about the matters of the war and our next move.

There is my Counselor, who chairs my House Council, my Spymaster, who is my House chief intelligence, supervising covert activities under our family name, the Chief Treasurer who I reinstated some lords who live here in Whitetree for his fealty, and my Lawkeeeper, who is my legal advisor.

Then there is Ser Massey, my Knight Commander of the House, the leader of all the Knight Lords under my family employ,

He has proven himself to be a capable knight and have acute sense of strategies, and also lead my men to victorious battle.

And then there is the bishop and priest who make up the Ecclesiastics.

After I defeat the Blacktons I believe there will be no threats from the South.

Then I can march back to the East, rest and then began planning my next move.

First, I need to forge relations with the people in Vern Empire, considering in my timeline it is their Emperor who is blame in killing the King of the Demon Lords bride.

Then I also need to send some diplomatic mission with the Dark Lands, probably the first time of its kind since Emperor George the Wise, a peace talk.

Even though there is no war against us and the Dark Lands for so many years, hundreds of years, I know what will happen.

The Bleeding Wall will not always protect us. I first need to create the bond of peace. War is not always the answer.

Of course if a war broke out, I will fight. But wouldn’t it be good for war not to break out at all.

After I return to East I will strengthen the defense in the Bleeding Wall, and let the King fight his own battle.

Now that history in our side, then it is very likely Adrian can win this by himself. Even the condition for Adrian has changed.

Before he has no strong allies, and he was decimated in the span of 2 weeks. But now?

Now he is a King, approved by the other nobles and other Kingdoms, control the South, East and West.

The only place we have no foothold yet is the North. But the Invasion takes priority. 3 more years.

I need to concentrate my force if the Dark Lands really wanted to invade. Maybe a pilgrimage to the Blessed Lands and then I would go to Arakath myself.

I already heard that the young prince Azrael will be crown next year.

He is the one I need to meet.

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