Jordan rode up to Lord Kendrick and his retinue. “Greetings, Lord Kendrick.”
Lord Kendrick merely nodded in response. “My men and I have heard sounds of a ruckus coming from here. What’s going on?”
“Ah…” Jordan shook his head, “I don’t know the full details. Lord Rutten is working on something… but don’t worry, it won’t affect the mission.”
“Is that so? I must speak to him about something.”
“Ah… He asked that we not follow. If you would please wait…”
Lord Kendrick sighed, “Out there all by himself? Seems dangerous. I suppose I can spare a few moments. I hope he will be finished shortly. If he takes too long-” At that moment, the ground started shaking tremendously. All around, soldiers reacted to the sudden movement. Those with spears and quick thinking propped themselves up, and others crouched down low. Those with horses were worse off, as some of them spooked. There were loud cries of horses and men. Inside the pass, rocks and boulders rolled down the edges with great speed. After a dozen or so seconds the ground stopped shaking, but it took several minutes to calm the horses down and for everything to settle. “Damn.” Lord Kendrick shook his head, “Another earthquake? They are far too common here. I hope the fort was not damaged. How are your men?”
Reports had come in quickly, and Jordan nodded. “Only some slight injuries from the horses spooking. We’re far enough away from the pass here that none of the rocks reached us.”
“Very well. I must go check on the keep. Let me know if- ah. There he is.”
Off in the distance, Lord Rutten could be seen. As he approached closer, his clothes appeared quite dusty. “Is everyone alright? Jordan?” Jordan nodded. “Ah! Lord Kendrick… I had not expected to see you here.”
“Indeed. I had not expected you to go galavanting off on your own. I am here because I am concerned about your progress. It is already two weeks and you have barely stepped into the pass…”
Lord Rutten held up a hand. “Ah, there is no need to worry. I have just reached a solution to neutralize the enemy threat.”
“Is that so?” Lord Kendrick stroked his chin. “That is… good news. Perhaps you will come back with me to the keep? We can discuss your plans there in more comfort.”
Lord Rutten smiled. “Of course. Jordan, why don’t you bring along a squad so we can send messages back here if need be.”
As they entered the fort, Lord Kendrick frowned. “Before we check for stability after that earthquake, we should not spend too much time inside. Perhaps we could have our meeting out here in the courtyard. You men! Get us a table and chairs to rest at, and order the servants to fetch some wine for me and Lord Rutten.”
Lord Rutten nodded, “It is a nice day out, for the most part. Do you get earthquakes here often?”
“Quite. Of course, most of them are minor. A big one like that only occurs every few dozen years or so.” In a few moments the soldiers returned with chairs and a small table, though they were somewhat hesitant to place them on the dirt. Shortly after that, a servant arrived with wine goblets, setting them before the pair. Lord Kendrick took a large swig of his wine before continuing. “So, you have a plan for neutralizing the enemy?”
Lord Rutten nodded again, “Yes, I was thinking…” He took a sip of the wine. “My, this is quite good. It must be at least six dozen years old. Is this from the western regions?”
“Haha, your judgement of wine is spot on. It’s not too old yet, but quite a good vintage nonetheless.”
Lord Rutten grinned as he drank some more. “Anyway, as I was saying…” Lord Rutten slumped in his chair, catching himself on the table with one elbow, tightly gripping his staff in the other. “What…” Around him, he could see soldiers stationed at each of the exits from the courtyard, both further into the keep and at the main gate. “Jordan!” Lord Rutten coughed.
Jordan spoke with a loud voice. “Men!” He gestured around the area, “guard the exits! No one in or out!”
Lord Rutten frowned, slipping out of the chair to his knees. “Jordan… how could you…”
Jordan remained silent, but Lord Kendrick smiled. “Everyone has ambitions. Who doesn’t want to move up in the world? Sadly, that means someone on top has to be pulled down.” Lord Kendrick drew his sword from his belt. “Don’t worry. Everyone will know you died bravely in battle.”
Lord Rutten nodded slowly. “I understand.”
Lord Kendrick slowly walked around the table. “You were a decent leader… but your weakness is your inexperience. I’d say to learn from your mistakes, but you won’t get a chance.” Then he raised his sword, swinging it down to decapitate his fellow lord.
There was a loud metallic ringing as Lord Kendrick struck down… only to be repulsed back. With each of William’s hands one third from the end of the staff, the sword directly struck the center. It was the most basic block with a staff, primarily useful against such straightforward attacks. William grinned, and then spit the poison at Lord Kendrick’s face. Lord Kendrick jerked back and to the side. “What’s wrong?” William taunted, “Afraid of a little poison?”
“You… are not quite as inexperienced as I thought. No matter, you will still not be leaving here today.” Lord Kendrick moved into a real stance from which he could thrust, slash, or parry. Meanwhile William kicked aside the chair to make better room to stand himself.
William thrust his staff at Lord Kendrick, probingly, but Lord Kendrick took a small step to the side and brought the flat of his blade up next to the staff, preventing William from swinging toward him. Then, there was a scraping sound, or perhaps it was more correct to say two of them. One was the sound of leather being sliced, and the other was the sound of a sword on a whetstone. Lord Kendrick slid the end of his longsword down the length of the staff, toward’s William’s hand. William shifted his grip, but the longsword kept moving.
As he spun the quarterstaff around, he found he was followed every step of the way by the tip of the longsword, never breaking contact. This made it so every move he tried to make was responded to immediately. Meanwhile, the leather case continued to be shorn off and William had to constantly move his grip to keep his hands safe. Finally, William jumped back. “Afraid? I didn’t think you would lose so easily.”
William sighed. “You know, I really liked this leather case. I’d managed to keep this one without any nicks or scars, and now look at it. Just a bunch of hanging straps of leather.” William slammed Chris into the ground vertically, and the leather burst off in all directions. “I must say, though, it is an interesting way to remove it. Kind of extravagant though.” With that, William thrust Chris out like a spear.