Irving's stomach lurches as a bit of bile rises into his mouth. He takes a deep breath to try to bring his body back under his control. It was clear the stress of his situation was getting to him. "Sir, he will probably arrive in about five minutes," Mal says from behind. Irving turns his head to look towards the dot on the horizon. The man was far closer now as he was making great haste.
Was the message that urgent, or was it something else? Irving's mind wonders. All the work he has done all these years to become an irrelevant minor landlord, to focus only on wines and leave politics to others. All of his work has been for naught it seems. First, those letters come, and now the force from the king himself. What other events will transpire against his retirement.
"Do you feel that his hurry is a good sign or bad?" Irving asks to focus his mind. The two of them stop above the gates and gaze out towards the rider.
"That is a difficult question to answer," Mal replies as he brings his hand over his eyes to shade from the sun. "He could be rushing because something has happened. Or he could be rushing to let us know all is well. Or it could be something neither of us suspects."
Irving nods at the assessment. It was the uncertainty that was churning his stomach so. Deciding it might be better to move his mind to something else he focuses in on the letters. Those were something he might be able to make a decision on. He just needs to figure out what it is that he wants to know. What are the important questions hiding below the surface?
He knew of some of the signs, but not the order of them. As far as he knew, there was never an order. The Sura was the third sign he learned. It is even questionable what Theodor saw was indeed the Sura. What Irving knew of the Sura, was it was a light like a star that flew into the sky. What Theodor described was a pillar of light that stood in the sky. Nitpicky perhaps, but it could be an important distinction.
Should he ask about any rumors of stars rising into the sky? That might be a mole hole though. It could very well lead him towards a wrong direction. Is there another more pressing question to ask?
"Lord Irving," Bai says snapping Irving's mind back to the situation at hand.
"How can I help you, Master Bai," Irving says turning to face his second in command. His stomach far calmer than before.
"The majority of our Guards are now in position. All of our servants have come into our walls for safety. We are ready should our manor come under attack. Is there anything else you wish from me at this moment?" Bai asks as he turns to take a glance at the coming scout.
"At this moment, all we can really do is wait and see what event has befallen us," Irving says turning from his friend. He was going to give Bai the letter to send but then thought better of it. He should wait until this event unfolds. For should he die, the last thing that the author needs is to have another finding those letters.
Deeper still his gut told him that the riding of the king's guard and the letters were connected somehow. It wasn't just the timing, though that was part of it. He was sure that the king knew nothing of the letters, still. His mind pauses to ponder. No, it has to be that the two sides are moving in response to something. Just like animals scatter before a storm.
For some reason, he has now found himself a central pillar to current events. Irving's mind froze on that word. Pillar, it spoke something to him. A pillar of light, didn't he remember reading something long ago about that? In that instant, Irving's desires shift. He greatly desires to go to his study and pull out a few books. He stops himself of course. Now was not the time to give into scholarly desires. Why did the king's riders have to come now, why couldn't he be left to his studies?
Irving could feel the gate below him opening as the rider was slowing down. Though his desire was to yell out and ask the man about the situation, he held himself back. In front of all his men, he needs to seem calm and collected. Even though he is probably more stressed than all of them.
"Come on Mal, let's go see the news," Irving says heading towards the stairs. Behind him, Mal and Bai both fell into line. The horse and the scout were both sweating and breathing heavy. As Irving took him in, he was desperately trying to remember the man's name.
"What is the report Verid?" Irving says as the three of them stop before the rider. The young man looks towards them as he dismounts. His face was odd, enough so that Irving couldn't get any hint of the situation from it. Maybe a mix of confusion and exhaustion, or nervousness. Irving just didn't know.
"Sir!" The man says as he salutes, his right arm moving to his shoulder. The boy's green and blue eyes doing their best to look into Irving's eyes. "It seems King Jaiy, may he live long in this life and the next, has sent some of his guards to retrieve you." Verid's chest expands as he takes in another deep breath. Though Irving's countenance didn't change, his mind was going crazy. This boy had to stop at that point. He almost yelled at the boy when it happened. Instead, he takes a small breath waiting for the rider to recover enough to speak. "It seems the war on the continent of Hugara is bigger then we have heard. Our allies are requesting our aid. Thus the king wishes for your counsel being a former scholar of Hugara."
Shock washes over everyone at the scout's words. Irving now understood the scout's face. It was one of exhaustion and exhilaration. His lord was going to be a council to the king. To a county youth such as him, the war was a distant unknowable thing. Thus he latches onto what he could understand.
Irving's hand moves up to his face. His fingers rubbing his temples. This was probably one of the worst situations. If the king was coming to attack him, he probably would have surrendered and let them kill him. His goal was to avoid the world. It was why he retired.
"How long do you figure till they arrive?" Irving asks.
"They said they plan to arrive tomorrow at the noon hour." Irving nods as Verid says these words. With a wave of the hand, he dismisses the young scout.
"Mal, Bai with me!" Irving orders walking towards the manor. The rest of the crowd watch as the three of them head off. "Sorry, the rest of you can go back to your normal activities," Irving says turning around nonchalantly dismissing the crowd. He needs to act unaffected by the news so that his staff can relax.
Inside the mansion, Irving leads the three of them to his study. Once there, he lights a few of the candles and closes the door. The other two men look at him as he motions to two other chairs at the back end of the room. Though Irving rarely had guest inside his study, he figured it was important for a nobleman to have these kinds of preparations.
Master Bai and Mal both nod at their lord and turn the chairs around to sit in. Once the two of them have sat, Irving turns his chair and sits down in it as well. "Bai, Mal both of you are the closest things I have to friends here in this place. So it is with the two of you that I have to leave the manor."
The other two listen keeping their bodies silent. "In order for you to run this place you need to at least understand its secrets." Irving's hand moves to the small metal plate at the edge of his desk. Slowly the runic lamps hidden in the room begin to light.
Mal's green eyes dart quickly to each and every one of the lamps. His face showing a moment of inspiration. Irving knew the man was quick, but this was unorthodox. Did Mal have some history with tides? Nikloran was not like Hugara, they strove towards different means than tides. Using more mechanical technologies. Most Nikloran tides had to do with combat, though they had tried to end the use of those as well. The populous shunning the use of tides calling them unholy. Shaking his head slightly, Irving focuses his mind back to the current situation. "This room has a store of Draw, should the manor ever have the need. Not many are capable of its use, but from the looks of it the two of you are not unfamiliar with it." Irving wasn't sure how Mal would take it. He knew what the peasants called it. He would cross the objection should it come.
His eyes turn towards Bai as he begins to speak his next part. "Bai, this year's harvest is looking great. I entrust you with their growth. We can't have a bad year this early in our reputation." Irving's eyes move, locking their gaze onto that of his second in command. Bai nods his head slightly not speaking much.
"Mal, I need you to protect my people. I might be just a minor lord, but I am all they have. So look after them." Irving says as his gaze shifts towards Mal. "Please, while I'm away, keep the manor safe." There was a pleading to Irving's face. Something a noble wasn't supposed to do. Yet to him who had no family, these people are his only relatives. These two needed to see Irving for who he was, not for the act he had to show.
"I am sorry sire." Mal begins. "I cannot let you go to the king unaccompanied. I will be coming with you. This is not a journey I would wish any to take alone." Mal's eyes held something very deep to them. Irving was speechless, this was not a response he was expecting from the man. Never once has he asked to leave the manor. Never once has he shown this kind of concern. Though honestly, never once in all these years has Irving, himself, left the manor.
"I understand your feelings," Irving says pausing. "Yet I can not let you follow me. Not when this manor is in need of your services."
"I'm sorry sire, I have committed that sin once before. I can not let you risk yourself without my accompaniment. The last good man I served, well let's just say he died when he was away from me." Mal's eyes burn with a zealous fire. Irving was having a hard time fighting it. "I can have Faux watch the manor. He is a good leader, the men listen to him."
Irving sighs as he takes in Mal's face. He wasn't sure what to say. He knew he was the lord, but he also respected the zeal in Mal. "Alright," He finally gave into Mal's eyes. "I will take you and your squire with me. Have the servants prepare my trunk for travel. Gather your things as well. Inform Faux that Bai is in command when I am away. Finally get some rest, tomorrow will likely be a long day."
"Sire!" Mal says standing and saluting. With that, he reaches the door and opens it. When the runic lamps around the place cut out, Mal's eyes dart. A simple nod later and he steps out closing the door.
"Do you think that was wise Lord Irving?" Bai asks now that the two of them are alone.
"I don't know Bai, this whole thing has my mind racing. He seems like an earnest man. That alone leads me to trust." Irving says as he turns around and faces his desk.
"Still not sure if I can trust him. Your safety is of my utmost concern. On top of that, I really wish you would reconsider traveling to the king." Bai says as Irving pulls out a new piece of paper and begins to write on it.
"I understand Bai, unfortunately, the king has requested my presence. It would be bad for this manor if I was to refuse. Perhaps in years, if my wine were to continue to sell as well as it currently is. But no, right now we have no power to refuse. Not sure I would be able to then as well. If this nation goes to war." Irving pauses in both his letter and speech. "A serious war like what is coming will be bad for this kingdom and the world."
"Master Irving, aren't these the worries of the young," Bai says as Irving's pen connects with paper once again. "If the burden falls on one of your age," Bai pauses letting only the sound of Irving's pen fill the room. A moment later and Irving turns around.
"Are you calling me old?" Irving asks as he hands the piece of paper to Bai. "If I remember correctly, you are two years my elder." Bai smiles as he takes the piece of paper from his friend. Bai's mouth moves slightly as if he had something more to say. Instead, a simple nod of his head was all that came from the man. "Send it to this device." Irving continues as he hands over a small slip of paper. "Notify me as soon as a reply comes. I will be trying to catch some sleep." Irving says as he goes over to a small couch in the corner. "I doubt they will reply till tomorrow morning anyway."
Irving lays himself upon the couch. His hand dismissing Bai. Irving didn't see Bai nod again as he left the room. Though his mind was tired, though he wishes for sleep over anything else, Irving's mind refuses to calm. He knew what Bai was trying to say. Shouldn't this be left to the young? Irving already served his time. He already fought the battles.
Irving couldn't let it be. He felt responsible. It could be there was nothing, and he was just wearing himself down for no reason. But what if? His mind always responded with that before Irving even finishes his thoughts of doubt.
If the Sons really failed, then isn't it his responsibility anyway. Wasn't it his fault that...Before Irving had time to finish that train of thought a knock was heard at his door. Slowly he steps up from the couch and opens the door. Master Bai is standing on the other side, papers in his hand.
Bai hands over the top sheet as Irving looks at him confused. At the bottom of one page was a small note. 'It is strange that you ask about the next subject I was going to send you. Hopefully, it has the answers you seek.' The note was written in normal, non-coded language. It looked to be rushed as well.
Irving sighs as he grabs the rest of the stack from Bai and bows closing the door. Though his mind still tired, he walks over to his desk and begins the arduous task of decoding these letters.
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