“The Prince asked for me,” said Lanval Equitan.
The two Stylites posted at the door regarded the Serjeant of the Prince’s Men with an almost naked hostility and suspicion. Lanval was honestly surprised that two men whose faces were hidden could manage to make such emotions clear, but there they were. He waited for a response. The Knights of the Tower continued to simply stare at him, their eyes narrowed. Finally, Lanval raised the small iron key he held in his left hand. “I’m to bring this to him.”
The Stylites continued to stare. “It’s all right,” came Amfortas voice from inside the door. “Let him in.” The pair nodded and opened the door.
Lanval stepped inside as quickly as he could, and shut the door behind him. Amfortas stood there shirtless, tightening his belt. Lanval stared at the long jagged scar that ran across the Prince’s left side.
Amfortas caught his gaze and tapped the old wound lightly. “A memento from my campaign in the Accursed Marsh. I use it to remind me of what needs to be done.” He shook his head. “To think it’s been fifteen years since the Lands of Light moved against the Lands of Night. Such a waste of time…” He picked up a small packet sitting next to him and tied it on his wrist.
“I understand, sir,” said Lanval. “Vengeance is a wonderful thing to fight for.”
“Oh, no,” said Amfortas, with a light, easy smile as he put on a shift. “Not revenge. Simply… duty. A great task has fallen to the Oaken Throne. Blood must be shed, and I am the one who must do it. Shed until the old world drowns in it, and the new one is revealed.”
Lanval glanced back to the door. “Are you sure they can be… trusted?”
“As much as any can be,” said the Prince, picking up a heavy leather jerkin. “They serve their own ends, of course, but then--who does not?” He regarded his Serjeant quizzically. “How does that saying of yours on that matter go? I can never remember it…”
“All men are on their own sides,” stated Lanval. “It is simply that some of those sides happen to be moving in the same direction occasionally.”
“That is it,” said Amfortas with a nod. He looked at Lanval, and raised an eyebrow. “And are our respective sides still moving in the same direction?”
Lanval grinned. “Well, sir, as you said, you’ve blood to shed, and I am a man who’s very good at seeing that done. So--it would appear yes.” He showed Amfortas the key. “Here’s something to help you shed it.”
Amfortas laced up his jerkin. “And the Council gave you no troubles?”
“You were there when they agreed to do this,” said the Serjeant.
“They’ve been known to change their minds,” replied Amfortas casually. “Truth be told they are a most… unsteady bunch. It often makes ruling Leonais difficult.” He shrugged, as he took the key. “The Blade of Day is something they rather often prove sentimental about. It’s been over a century since they let Clarent out of its vault.”
“Not even for Lord Shaddad?” asked Lanval.
“Don’t think my father didn’t try,” said Amfortas. “Though one could argue he didn’t try hard enough.” He sighed. “That was ever father’s weakness. Too pliable a man. Too prone to caring about the opinion of others. Too hesitant in doing what must be done.”
“We are fortunate that his illness has left you in charge while we face this crisis,” said Lanval with a smirk. “Tragic as his poor health may be.”
“The ways of the Seven are mysterious,” said Amfortas, smiling slightly. “How goes it on the docks?”
“The men have settled in,” said Lanval. “Though truth be told, I’d be happier if we were here protecting you.”
“The Eremites will serve,” answered the Prince. “As, alas, they will not on the docks. And I would like to keep you in reserve. For the time being.” Lanval nodded, and turned to the door. “And Serjeant…?” Lanval stopped and looked back at Amfortas. “Please remember that I am counting on you.”
Lanval bowed. “I never forget, Your Highness.”