In the Council Chamber of Lambert, Duke of Strovek in the Kingdom of Braxis

Mid-afternoon, Onday, the 2nd of Dutinell in the Year 331 since the crowning of King Rheineman and the end of the Brother’s War, Spring – It Rained Overnight

As the month of Dutinell begins, as is the custom in the kingdom of Braxis, bondsmen and free men, peasants and craftsmen, knights and nobles all begin doing their feudal duty to their lords after the winter chill ebbs.

The council chamber of the duke’s castle is usually bustling with activity this time of year. Counts and Barons and their entourages are here reporting on how their lands fared over the winter, what supplies they have in abundance and what things they’re lacking. Days-long strategy sessions are laid out for how the duchy will run as a whole for the spring, summer, and into the fall.

But this afternoon, as Sir Jamie Hardy of Strahlsford-near-Rockham, son of Sir Connor Hardy and one of the Duke’s most prized knights enters the room with his squire, Justin of Hame, at his side, the council chamber is nearly deserted. Sir Jamie takes a moment to assess, seeing the duke on his throne. Around the duke are Sir Richter, the duke’s son and heir and Jamie’s best friend, the Lady Aubren, the duke’s youngest daughter and Jamie’s wife, and a swarthy man with dark-brown, shoulder-length hair, dressed in dark robes who doesn’t look Braxin but carries a staff and looks like a learned man.

“Milord Duke,” Jamie says in greeting as he and Justin bow as custom and courtesy require. The duke raises his hand to silence Sir Jamie. He then looks to the stranger and nods. The stranger looks around the chamber, taking it all in, and taps his dark staff on the floor. The thudding of the staff resounds around the chamber with a chilling power, and all at once, every window and door slam shut, every curtain draws closed, and a deathly silence, an unnatural silence falls across the chamber.

“We are sealed against all manner of prying and scrying, your grace,” the man says in a calm, deliberate tone. He looks at Sir Jamie to gauge something about the knight, and then he looks at Justin with the same glare. “This is definitely the man, your grace,” he starts. “I’m sorry.”

For a moment, Jamie feels accused, looks at his wife, and begins to get defensive, but then Duke Lambert speaks, “Sir Jamie, this man is known as Inthernar. He is a magician and a seer who has come to court from the magicians academy in Soros. He’s come here on a quest of sorts. He’s made me aware of threat to the kingdom, and I have agreed to give him aid in furtherance of his quest.”

“You honor me, milord,” Sir Jamie says.

“I’m endangering you,” the duke answers, “and I know it.”

“It looks as if I’m going to make an orc fighter out of you again,” the duke continues. “There’s a vague indication that the orcs are forming in the north and east of the kingdom near our borders with of Duchess Syrstad’s lands. The wizard seems to think that something is brewing that is larger than ‘just some orc trouble’ and I have cause to believe him.” Duke Lambert pauses long enough to let the gravity of those last words sink in.

“I’m charging you to go with Master Inthernar to look into whatever comes of his prophecies. I trust him, Jamie. I charge you to trust him too. But the affairs and posturing of wizards is a strange thing, so stay true the Code and to your oaths and your fealty to me, the king, and our country.”

The duke reaches down, picks up a small chest that he’d been propping his leg on, and puts it on his lap. “In here are all the resources I’ll provide for now. You have a writ of introduction and my signet ring. I am empowering you to make decisions on my behalf if you have to. Whatever political mess you stir up, I will back your play Sir Jamie. As I understand it, the stakes are that high. But use these tools only when direly necessary as the quieter you are traipsing around in the north country the better this will play out. As far as any are concerned, you are released from my service and are a free lance out looking for work or fortune.”

“I will do as you command, my lord Duke,” Sir Jamie says taking the chest from the duke and handing it to his squire. “Master Inthernar, we’ll be ready to leave on the morning after next. I have certain things to attend to before we go.”

The wizard bows silently in response.

Sir Jamie looks at his wife, then bows to the duke and turns to leave the chamber. To Justin, he says, “Not a word to anyone about any of this. Get Erdo moving, and help Mrs Bramblepatch prepare our tournament wagon for the journey. Draw whatever silver is needed from my rooms. Don’t allow Erdo’s pestering to get you to talk. He will try.”

“I can handle Erdo, Sir Jamie,” Justin says as they leave the duke’s chamber.

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