A blast of cold air hit me in the face as I marched into the stables via the hidden entrance. The scene that spread out before me was total chaos. Men were running back and forth grabbing any item they could find to use as a weapon. The stabled horses whinnied fearfully as the soldiers moved about, eager to be released from their confinement.
My gaze settled upon Kimbar’s father as he stood amidst the pandemonium, calmly issuing orders to the men surrounding him. Many dispersed to do as they were bidden, while others appeared out of nowhere to request his immediate attention. The throng of people coming and going was never-ending, yet not once did Erendir lose his cool.
He caught sight of me as I lounged against the railing of a nearby stall and promptly deposited the sheaf of papers he’d been perusing into his subordinate’s hand. Sending him away to carry out the orders he’d been given, Erendir marched in my direction and clapped me across the shoulder in greeting. “What brings ye here?” he inquired as he reached around me and pulled a well-worn saddle off of one of the shelves it was perched upon.
“Kimbar sent me to assist ya”
He frowned, unbuckling the straps that held the thick leather together and marched into the adjoining stall. “Did he?”
“Aye, sir. What would ya have me do?”
Slapping the howdah across the steed’s back, he snorted loudly with derision. “Absolutely nothin’, laddie,” he replied and pulled the pillion’s straps tight before securing them in place.
“Excuse me, sir?”
Patting the mahogany horse across its rump, he grabbed a bit that lay nearby and shoved it into the animal’s mouth. This, too, he secured into place. Attaching the reins, he nodded with satisfaction and turned to face me once more.
“I think ye heard me quite clearly, boy.”
“But, sir, your son . . .”
He waved a finger in front of my face, shaking his head in the process. “But nothin’, Pendragon. There’s nothin’ here ‘at requires yer attention. Therefore, yer services arenae needed.”
“The enemy grows ever closer, sir. They’re practically at our gates. I was sent here to assist ya in any way possible, surely there’s something I can do?”
Erendir’s black eyes narrowed as he assessed me from head to toe. “If ye insist on helpin’, I suppose there’s somethin’ ye could do.”
“And that would be?”
He shook his head and held a finger against his lips, unwilling to offer me insight as to what he had in store for me. “Nae here,” he said as he rummaged through his pockets. Drawing forth a key, he tossed it to me.
I caught it swiftly, turning the thin metal around between my fingers before dropping it into my left pocket. A knowing smirk played about his lips as I waited for his orders. “What will ya have me do?”
“‘At there is the key tah mah quarters. Enter and stand as sentinel until I’ve arrived back there.”
Frowning, I failed to understand his logic in sending me there when a battle was soon to be underfoot. “Your quarters?”
“How is my waiting there supposed to help us with our current situation?”
Turning on the balls of his heels, he snorted loudly and walked away without another glance in my direction. “Yoo’ll see soon, soldier. Now, off wi’ ye.”
“But . . .”
“Ye have yer orders, Pendragon,” he barked as a sentry stumbled into the stables and deposited a package across the make-shift desk in the upper corner of the chamber.
Sighing with dejection, I hurried to do as he had asked. The thought of sitting out on all the action irked me. I was a man who lived for the moment and the thought of shedding the enemy’s blood pleased me greatly. The call of a warrior had been in my blood from the moment I’d been born and urge to run into battle head-on drew me like a moth to a flame.
So why is he sending me off on a fool’s errand? I wondered. What’s so important that it requires me to stand as sentinel within his chambers?
I pondered that question and more as I walked through the packed corridors. Discarded valuables littered every inch of the floor as servants and subjects alike sought to find safety from the battle looming on the horizon. Part of me couldn’t help but wonder if we’d be able to weather this disaster just as we had all the others in the past. Yet I certainly hoped we would.
Lost within my thoughts, I was startled to find I’d arrived at the Captain’s quarters in no time at all. Pulling the key he’d given me from my pocket, I slid it into the lock. I flicked my wrist to the right, a soft click sounding as the bolt gave way. Pushing the door open, I pocketed the key as I strode inside. A sharp pain erupted from my right temple as something slammed into the side of my head and knocked me out cold.