#NaNoWriMo 2013 Chapter 3
Dawn broke over the horizon and left the warriors awashed in sunlight in the breakfast room of the castle. They had destroyed most of the doors on the castle, and the doors that were not destroyed were holding people behind them. Like the closet door in the kitchen where three maids who had been found huddling together in fear had been shoved to keep them out of the way.
Halvor had kept them from screaming by threatening to gag them and tie them down. They agreed that simply huddling in the closet as opposed to under a table was better and had kept their mouths shut.
Wyborn lounged back, his feet on the table, a mug of ale in his hands. He had no problem stealing come of their supplies before they left. He drank from the mug and grimaced before looking down at it. “What weak water this is,” he commented. “Much like everyone else in this kingdom.”
Three cheers from the warriors surrounding him, a select group of his finest. At least he called them his finest when in fact they were nothing more than the bedraggled group of friends he had grown up with. They were tough, the lot of them, but they were still no more than fresh faced adults, just having come of age the majority of them.
“This was too easy,” Halvor groaned again. It was not the first time he had bemoaned how easy it was.
“Were you hoping for more of a fight?” Saldis asked, leaning her elbows on the table and gazing over at him with a calculation that he hated seeing.
“I was hoping we would know why it was so easy,” Halvor continued. “After a night of sleep you do plan on us heading back, correct?”
“Of course not,” Wyborn said. “I have warriors out there searching for a lost princess. We can’t just abandon our post and leave them to return with her, tied up in a bow, and then have him be captured. Besides, can we simply leave after this?”
“What do you mean?” Trigg asked. Trigg was identical to his sister, Tove, in nearly every way. They were both slender of build, of face, of structure, and he kept his hair close cropped to his head to differentiate himself while she kept her hair long and pulled back in a ponytail to keep some feminine attributes.
“They will simply retaliate.”
“Way to think of that now,” grumbled Hamar.
“I thought of it,” Wyborn said. “It means we have to stay longer. They will rebel against us. Those who were not at the castle last night and those who are further out in the territory will try to fight against us, but we’ll be prepared for it.”
“You make it sound like you plan on staying,” Saldis commented. Her voice was casual, but her jaw was tense.
“Why not expand our territory?” Wyborn asked with a shrug of his large shoulders. “Too long to them we have been nothing but barbarians. It was time for Chatham to fall. We have the rights to being the kingdom of Schachar. We have the priestess, we have the religious rights, why are we not the ones in power? Why is it that Kendrick and his family are the ones marrying a daughter off to the ruler of the country?”
“This was your plan?” Saldis screamed. Her façade of cool and calm was broken and she was tilting her chair as she stood and slammed both fists against the wood of the table. “Your plan was to take over the kingdom and become, what? A king? A chieftain is not good enough for you? You were voted in, over Vili who was ahead of you for every possible reason, and you are saying we are not good enough.”
“I’m saying nothing of the sort,” Wyborn said, not losing his temper as she did. “I am saying I want our country, our people, to be more powerful. I still believe in our system, I just think we could have more to rule if we had someone here.”
“This is daft,” Halvor huffed. “We don’t have the resources to take over the kingdom, much less house someone here all of the time to rule it. We’d need two chieftains, working together, and you can barely work together with the elders and council.”
“Wyborn has a point,” Hamar stated, ever the voice of reason. He remained calm as everyone’s voice rose and remained silent until they all understood and fell silent as well. “We all agreed to this retaliatory attack. What was the point of it all? We knew that this would become a back and forth revenge plot if we did this. What were the rest of you thinking would happen? We would go home and this would all be over?”
“No, they are going to attack,” Saldis sneered. “First they will try to take back their castle, and when that fails, they will go after our homes.”
“And we have a well trained army back home,” Wyborn brushed off. “They will protect home while we takeover here.”
“It’s not that simple!” Saldis screeched. “You can’t just takeover a kingdom because you wanted to on a whim.”
“This is no whim.”
“Really? Because I heard nothing about it until now. If we are staying, then you should kill the princesses now. You don’t want to leave any connection to the throne.”
“Why does this have to be that hostile?” Wyborn asked. “Besides, a connection to the castle might prove an easier takeover.”
Saldis’ mouth dropped and her ire rose. “You had better not be thinking what I think is going through your mind right now, or so help me, Wyborn, I’m leaving. Right now. Tell me.”
Wyborn simply shrugged his shoulders and was answered for by Hamar. “He’s looking at reason before making a rash decision. The smoother, the more peaceful, you can make this the more of a chance of having less of a fight. There will be a skirmish or two, but even with the princesses simply relinquishing-“
“Since when do high born nobles ever simply relinquish? They can’t get along amongst themselves, why would they want to hand over a kingdom to us? They look at us as if we are savages and not someone on equal grounds, simply because we, what, don’t believe that baubles are worth as much and that religion is more important than duty? That strength of mind is a better attribute than a bloodline?”
“Don’t you see?” Wyborn asked. “That is just it. The nobles can not even get along, if we can win over a few children that are now the heirs to the throne we have made some headway.”
“Can you please make some sense of this?” Saldis demanded.
“Wyborn, we are with you no matter what you decide,” Halvor said calmly, “but you do realize you have no middle ground. If we leave, we prepare for them to retaliate, though it could take years. You’ve left them unprepared for an attack and with children as their leaders. Though there is likely a council to guide them, and a higher king that stands behind one of those children. Though by killing the contract holder you might have destroyed any chance they had of marrying a daughter to that man. They may have lost all defense.
“On the other hand, if you want to claim this kingdom as your own, you are leaving yourself weakened by having the heirs left alive. There are too many stories of banishment where they return and destroy everyone because they are able to gather a stronger rebellion, even if it is decades from now.”
“To that regards,” Hamar said thoughtfully, “we could very well have it take decades before a true attack comes at us from this side. Wars do not always take place within a timely matter as we would prefer.”
“We are not barbarians,” Tove said, speaking up for the first time. “We did not come here to mercilessly kill. We already killed the queen and she had nothing to do with the king’s decision to attack us.”
“Because a dying man told us that?” her brother scoffed. “How can you trust his words. He wanted to save his queen, nothing more.”
“Do you believe the princesses have something on this plot?” Tove asked.
“There are innocent lives lost every day,” Saldis shrugged it off. “Three princesses gone is hardly worth the complaining.”
“It might be worth it if it means more men are lost on our end for it,” Tove whispered. “We might only scare them into planning it out better.”
“There are many what-if scenarios,” Wyborn took control again. “It is why I do not want to make a rash decision.”
Saldis finally threw herself back into her chair, crossing her arms over her chest and planting her feet firmly on the floor, ready to rise again at any moment. “The whole decision to come here was rash. You went from leader to war-maker in a matter of days. You are chieftain, and sometimes decisions must be immediate, especially if you are making them with only your own council to go by. The elders didn’t agree and stayed behind, the council didn’t agree and stayed behind, yet you did this anyway. You made a decision, without thinking it through, and it was the right one.”
Wyborn fingered the piece of metal on the chord hanging from his neck. “I will make a quick decision, but it will not be immediate. A day to think is not a bad thing after a night of battle.”
A throat cleared and everyone looked to Vili in the corner, the dark figure who had stayed silent throughout the debating. “What not one of you has stopped to consider is that we might, if anything, be able to get answers from one of the princesses. And, instead of killing them, or banishing them, we can simply send them back to our home as trophies.”
Saldis let out a growl that had some of the men chuckling. Wyborn did the right thing and kept a straight face before drinking the watered-down alcohol and putting the mug down. “I need sleep. I’ll think more about it when I get sleep. Until then no one is to make a decision about the fate of the princesses. Saldis.” It was a clear warning to her. It was not recognition of her feisty temper. She was being ordered. It was not often Wyborn took his path as leader seriously enough to bring it down on Saldis, and he had been leader of this bunch longer than he had been leader of a nation. Saldis bowed her head in submission and allowed her chieftain to walk away from her.