“AAAAAAAAAAAHHH!” The mailed warrior stood over the battered body of the huge troll he had just slain, pulling his war hammer from the crushed remains of its skull. Pulling the scarf from around his neck, he proceeded to wipe the gore-encrusted head of the hammer. With a sigh, he tossed the now bloody cloth to the dust of the now silent battlefield. Taking off his helm, the man revealed a pair of piercing blue eyes in a tanned face, under a sweaty mop of blond hair.
Turning to the man next to him, handing him the hammer, he rasped out in a dry croak, “How many did we lose, Nimbus?”
The slight, dark man next to him looked down for a moment before speaking. “Two, M'lord. Acrison, son of Amoss, and trooper Narshe.”
Slamming his fist into his metal covered thigh, the blond man’s eyes turned flinty for a moment. “Damn them! Two is two too many. It doesn’t matter if we slaughter dozens of them, we weren’t supposed to get bogged down fighting these inhuman savages out here in the wastelands.” But a crooked smile crept into his dark expression, brightening it almost entirely in moments. “Of course, I suppose we are blooding the men. Not to mention earning the Emperor’s gratitude at the same time.”
“Lord, I’m not sure that the Emperor Itomas’ gratitude is something you should seek. People say that he is a strange man, and will be as likely to see you as a threat as he is to see you as a friend. For that matter, all these Westerners are strange. I do not mean to question your plan, M’lord, only say words of caution. Besides, the local nobility’s attention is bad enough. The House Clynn continues to get in your way. They are the lords of the entire border of the Empire. That does give them some clout within the Imperial court, does it not? I would suggest you be polite when that messenger gets here.” With a point of his arm, he called the blond man’s attention to the rider quickly approaching his small army of soldiers.
Watching the messenger ride towards them, he replied, “House Clynn is nothing, Nimbus. Their blood has been tainted with degeneracy for generations. They are inbred curs compared to my family, and insects compared to the family of the Emperor.” Another crooked half-smile.
“Besides, I’ve heard rumors that the noble members of Regional House Clynn might soon lose their House status, along with their heads. They are as incompetent as they are rude. If there is one thing the Emperor is consistent on, it is punishing incompetence.”
The two men standing silently, waiting for the horseman to ride over to them, shared the remains of a canteen. Towering over the men he rode up to, the rider looked down at the pair, sneering out his words, “Which one of you is Lord Lyle, Prince of the Kingdom of Grelz?”
“I am he,” the blond man replied calmly.
“The great and powerful Lord Clynn has summoned you to his temporary court at Shinkasa. This summons is immediate. His Lordship will take any delay on your part as a personal insult which will incur the wrath of House Clynn.” Without another word, the courier wheeled his horse around, and haughtily trotted off in the direction he came.
Once the rider is out of earshot, Lyle let out a hearty laugh. “Now it seems the little dog wants the pleasure of my company. I’ll let him bark all he wants. The little dog will soon find that he is in fact barking in the company of wolves.” This time, there was nothing brightening about the smile on his face. A nearby soldier searching the bodies of the troll raiders glanced up, and quickly looked away from the expression on his lord’s face.
“Have Doreen round up some of the men, we will see to the proper burial of our dead, Nimbus. But we’ll have to be quick about it. After all, we wouldn’t want to ‘incur the wrath of House Clynn.’ And while you are at it, take a few men with you and drag the bodies of the trolls into a pile and burn them.”
As Lyle and his small army marched northwards across the lonely wasteland back to Imperial-held lands, they left behind them two graves, and a dark pillar of smoke rising up into the evening sky.