Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 43

Piers stretched as he walked through the camp.  The pile of branches he'd been sleeping in last night had been most uncomfortable--he still had a crick in his neck, and a slightly sore back, as well as the irritating beginnings of a cold in a nose. 

Still, it beat being dead. That was most assuredly true.

Piers glanced around the camp, noting Prince Amfortas' insignia, showing him that the proper people were finally in command here, something he hadn't quite been sure of when he first heard of the reinforcements that had arrived.  As he walked to the commander's tent, he rehearsed his grand tale of heroism, trying to decide how many enemy soldiers he could claim to kill and be believed.

The guards lowered their pikes as he stepped forward, but he gestured to his badge.  "Prince's Man, you dolts," he declared, walking boldly into the tent, as they lowered their weapons in disbelief.  Once inside, he saw Captain Kessler and Bres standing to the side, while another man looked over a large map, leaning over so acutely, his face was hidden.  "Sirs," he declared, "Piers here to report..."

The head Prince's Man looked up.  Piers felt his stomach turn as he found himself looking into the face of Ryke.  A slight smile came on his old rival's face.  "Ahh.  Piers.  Good to see you."

Piers gulped nervously.  "Ahh.  Hello... Ryke..."

"Commander Ryke now," he replied.  "Came in from Pell himself.  I am in control here."  The slight smile became a broad grin.  "So... what is it you have to report?  Many days after the rebels seized control of Laodegan Town.  While you were supposed to be among those securing it."

"Difficulties, sir," said Piers quietly.

Ryke considered that and nodded.  "Well, that's true for all of us."  He stepped out from behind the map, and then strode forward and put a confident hand on Piers' shoulder.  "In truth, I am glad to see another survivor of this violence.  Especially among the Prince's Men." He looked Piers levelly in the eye. "After all, I need men I can trust among me, men I know to be as hungry for honors and as willing to be of service to the Prince and to Leonais as myself."

"And--and that's me, sir!" said Piers, gulping.

Ryke gave a worried nod.  "Good.  Good.  I have many tasks I need done.  Such as..."  He sighed and shook his head.  "But no.  That's too difficult.  Especially for a man who's just returned."

"Oh, no!  No, sir!" snapped Piers. "I'm ready!  Tell me what it is, and I'll be off."

Ryke chuckled.  "Very well--you've convinced me.  I'll give you a few hours to rest--and then you can go lead the first storming of Laodegan Town." 

Piers stared for a moment.  "Ahh.  I... thank you for... the honor, sir..."

"You're welcome," answered Ryke moving away.

Piers stood there, trying to figure a good way to refuse, even as he realized vaguely that it was much too late for that.

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