“I understand your concerns but we cannot afford to extend our protection out that far. We will offer what we can within the walls but those who choose to remain out there must simply live with the risk.” Lord Oldar pinched the bridge of his nose, clearly frustrated by this topic. “What if we were to be attacked while half of our men were out?”
“And how are we to survive if we let all our farmers be continuously slaughtered and raided?” Merr Kavesh pressed, equally frustrated but refusing to back down. “We will have no crops instead of the paltry sum that we have now. How do you expect to feed all your citizens in this famine if you have no one tending to the fields? All parts of Kadwar are important, not just what is inside the walls!”
“Enough! I am Lord here, not you. You may be master of my guards but you still answer to me and I say we can not afford to spread ourselves so thin. For the last time, Merr, my answer is no.”
The two men stared each other down before the dark haired man bowed stiffly. “As my lord commands.” He spun on his heel and marched out the door, leaving Oldar slumped in his chair.
Merr Kavesh walked briskly back to the barracks, ignoring the citizens that raised a hand in polite greeting. Once he got to the main door he paused, closing his eyes and reigning in his temper. His men would be inside, waiting to hear news on what their Lord had decided.
He pulled open the door and turned his sharp grey eyes to the men he was charged with leading and looking after. He was by no means the largest or strongest of them, but they all followed him because of his code of honor and the passion he had for protecting the people. Trying his best to ignore the anxious stares of his men, he locked gazes with Belan Hossul, his second in command. “He refused our request.”
The solemn understanding and support he saw in Belan’s eyes made him relax slightly. The curses and dark mutters filling the air went on for a bit, some of the men standing up and pacing in agitation, before Belan slammed his fist into a table. “Settle down and listen to Kavesh before I wallop the lot of you.”
One look at the frown beneath the bristling moustache was enough to quiet most of them down. They turned their attention to Merr and waited while he gathered his thoughts.
“Thank you, Hossul. As you know, I have brought our concerns to Lord Oldar over this matter several times. He has refused time and again to see reason and understand that the people who grow our food are not to be ignored or left to fend for themselves against the bandits and hunger crazed citizens of our neighbors.” He paused and took a breath, a slight pain lancing through him. “Long has Oldar been someone I considered a friend but I cannot condone what he is doing any longer. I am resigning from my position and shall dedicate my life to protecting the innocents out there who cannot defend themselves during this crisis.”
Gray eyes swept over the men once more, seeing the shock and concern there. “I do not ask any of you to follow me. There will be no pay and the risks involved will be numerous, but for those of you who are willing, I shall not turn away your aid. My duty is to shield our citizens from harm and I cannot do so with Oldar holding us behind the front lines.”
Belan stood and crossed to Merr, grasping his shoulder tightly. “I shall champion your cause, as I have always done. You will not be alone in this.” There were some murmurs of agreement behind him, the scraping of chairs against the floor and the relief in his friend’s eyes enough to tell him that others had stood to pledge themselves as well.
One third of the men had stood. The remaining looking apologetic and mournful at the loss of so many comrades in arms. Another quick sweep of the room made him aware that behind some of those politely apologetic looks there was resentment building.
Merr shifted, standing up straight and nodding sharply, “Those of you coming with me, pack up what you have and meet outside the gates. We leave tonight.”
Belan Hossul shifted his weight, keeping an eye on the gate as they waited for Merr to exit the city. He frowned absently, disliking the time it was taking and he was more than ready to be on his way. His attention was so focused on trying to spot his friend that he did not notice the way the sentry guards at the gate squirmed a bit under the weight of such blatant disapproval. If he had, he would have been quite pleased that his former men still held a healthy dose of fear of his discipline.
Finally, he saw the figure he was looking for come striding out at full speed. He briefly considered if ‘storming’ might be the correct term, but Merr Kavesh would never storm out of a place. Belan huffed a bit, he was far too old to be throwing such a tantrum. No, he was just anxious to be on his way.
A tightly controlled, “Hossul.” was his reply. Belan looked over the agitated man and amended his earlier thoughts. Merr Kavesh had most definitely stormed out of Kadwar. A closer look assured him that not a single hair upon Merr’s head had been harmed. A pity, Belan had always thought that tail of hair tied at the nape of his neck made him look silly.
“I take it Oldar did not take your resignation well?” The dark look he received was enough to tell him he was spot on. “Ah well, he is no longer your master.” He followed Merr to the group of men, clearing his throat and barking out a quick order. “Stand at attention for your Commander!”
Merr gave him a startled look at the title but nodded thoughtfully as his men formed ranks. “We march for the eastern wood, there have been many reports of bandits terrorizing the trade routes.”
Merr and Belan took point, leading their group east. Belan looked toward his commander, “I suppose since you are a commander now your company should have a name. What are we to be?”
A slight smile crossed Merr’s face, “You already stated you were Champions of the Shield.”
Belan mulled it over for moment for a two before nodding, “I suppose it doesn’t sound too bad, though it’s borderline prissy. It can’t be helped when it comes from you, though.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Any man who wears his hair that long is going to be persnickety. You might as well tie a bow in it.”
Merr threw his head back and laughed. Belan, satisfied his light hearted gibe had taken the edge off his friend’s black mood, turned and snapped at the rest of his soldiers to stop being lazy and keep in rank.