Passing through the camp of Lord Clynn disgusted Lyle in several ways. The most obvious and striking of these was the incredibly oppressive stench permeating the air. The odor of unwashed bodies, poorly dug latrines, and freshly slaughtered livestock, mixed with the faint taint of sickness emanating from several of the hastily erected tents. Blessedly, pulling the collar of his cloak up over his nose blocked most of the noxious smell, although there was nothing he could do for his poor horse, or the horses of his followers, as they rode down the weaving path to the command tent.
“It’s terrible to see soldiers wasted so, M’lord,” Nimbus remarked, looking around at the men, most in various states of undress, and few looking well fed. He gestured to one such example of a soldier, who was wearing half of a rusted suit of armor and passed out drunk in the muddy pathway, as they edged their horses by. “They should be drilling, or at least building a proper camp. We are only a half days ride from the ‘official’ border of the Empire, and in truth are well into enemy territory.”
“That we are. But it is not our concern at the moment. Our own scouts are patrolling the area well enough for the moment. And besides, I will not be counting on this rabble for much longer. As long as their lax behavior doesn’t infect our troops, we will ignore it. By the way, from the smell of it, plague will soon spread through their ranks. We must make sure that they do not infect us in this way as well. Remind me to have Doreen and Ophelia lead the prayer against sickness for the men when we return to our camp.”
“Yes, Lord,” Nimbus replied as they reach the large, opulent tent, if such a massive structure can be fully encompassed by the word “tent.” Nearly thirty feet in height, and easily three times that in width, it was the largest structure for two days ride in any direction. Its enormous size was only matched by the wildly varying hues of the materials from which it was constructed. From deep blues, to blazing crimsons, every shade of the rainbow seemed to have its place in the patchwork design.
With a practiced eye, Lyle recognized the fabric as the exorbitantly expensive silk that could only come from the Land of the South Winds. Every season when the winds are right, dozens of daring ships tried this dangerous passage along the coast of the Yin Sloth Jungles far to the south of most civilized kingdoms. Riches came to the crews of the few ships that do manage to return with a full load of the silks, having evaded pirates, disease, and the occasional attack by man-eating monsters. For Lord Clynn to have so much of it for such a wasteful purpose as this opulent monstrosity of a tent offended Lyle's sense of military discipline.
Tossing his reins to the waiting pageboy as they dismount, Lyle turned to his company of soldiers. “Wait here for me, men. We shan’t be long. A warning though, any man who shares a drink with the pack of mongrels in this camp will be left here. I will not have our discipline deteriorate to the level of these degenerate House Clynn dogs.”
With that, he turned and opened the entry flap to the tent, stepping inside, and is once again nearly overcome by the smell of the place. A stifling mixture of expensive spices and perfumes flood Lyle’s senses. The arrhythmic twinkling music of chimes and strumming of lyres emanate softly from behind the expensive curtains that serve as walls for the massive chamber, reminding Lyle of the ancient foreignness of the Empire to which he is now tied. The tent, although lit by glowing globes floating overhead, still brought visions of a dark, dank cave to his mind. And across this cave sat someone who fit the role of a particularly offensive cave-troll perfectly, Lord Clynn.
Ensconced in fine silks on his throne, the imbedded jewels of which would pay to mount a brigade of cavalry with fine steeds, sat the petulant lord. Grease ran down his chin from the lamb shank, which he was currently using to extravagantly gesture towards one of his nobles.
“Hwe-ku na gaush,” Lord Clynn proclaimed in the native tongue of the Empire. “Na-ke chqu bosh nada, na seech maga. Kush Clynn gaushee bosh te kalen, nok tuu verash.”
Nimbus’ hand lowers to his sword belt, but a gesture from Lyle stopped him. "Tell me what he said."
Nimbus leaned towards Lyle, angrily whispering a translation in his ear. “He says ‘It was an excellent slaughter, for barbarian mercenaries from the east anyway. Soon we will find an enemy worthy for our own House Clynn soldier’s to fight.’”
Chuckling under his breath, Lyle whispered back to Nimbus, “There is no need to be insulted, Nimbus. This one is not fit to judge his betters. And even my lowliest soldier is his better. Now let us make a good show of this. We will show this rabble why we are the beloved of the goddess of victory.”
With that, Lyle squared his shoulders, and strode forward confidently, almost disdainfully, not waiting for his presence to be announced. “Lord Clynn, you summoned me away from the campaign front. Why have you done this?”
The nobles who understood his eastern tongue bristled dangerously, while most, and Lord Clynn himself, waited for a translation from the half-naked slave standing beside the throne. His face turning red and twisting into a grimace of hate, the now furiously offended lord rose to his feet. “Ya veknu ka chqu noshee! Seech Clynn na poslin kedawa nok su! Ashin tor mak su nawa kegin mak tekal.”
Once again Nimbus quietly translated for Lyle through tightly clenched teeth, “He wishes to remind you that you are a guest soldier in his land by Imperial order, but that House Clynn is under no obligation to make sure you remain a live guest. He also suggests that you beg for your life, Lord.”
The laugh that escaped Lyle this time is no quiet chuckle, but a cold laugh. He bowed deeply to Lord Clynn and his entourage. "Pardon me, lords of House Clynn. Perhaps I have forgotten my place among such prestigious persons."
Lord Clynn's translator whispered into his ear as Lyle continues. "After all, I am merely a prince from a minor kingdom in a backwater part of the Eastern Territories. How could I know the proper etiquette to deal with such illustriousness? I freely admit I am not on the same level as my host here." This brought a smug grin to the face of the man Lyle will always think of as "the troll."
"After all, how could I be compared to one such as you? My family has not degenerated into incestuous, self-serving aristocrats, who allow their people to fall into such despair. My family does not spend its days in a drunken stupor, beating our servants to convince themselves how brave we are while a worthy opponent stands against us. Now, if you will excuse me, I have real business to attend to concerning the frontier. Goodbye, Lord Clynn. I know we will not meet again."
Without waiting for the translation to be complete, Lyle turned and walked back out the entrance of the tent. Nimbus waited a moment longer, bowing mockingly towards the nobles, and then hurries after his lord.
"Was that wise, M’lord?" Nimbus asked, as both men quickly mount their waiting horses.
"No, Nimbus it was not wise. But honestly, I could not help myself. It was worth it though, just to see his smug expression deflate. His kind is anathema to everything lordship should stand for."
Lyle looked back over his shoulder as they reach their escorts. "He will be seething in there for a few more moments before he starts calling for my head on a stake. Take it up to a trot, men. Once we reach the gates, we must run, no matter how much it may damage our pride."