In the Name of the King (IC)
In a lonely grey hall, lit only by the dull light of an overcast sky seeping in through slit windows, a weathered old man argued with his son. The great hall, with its high ceiling and thick stone walls, would carry their voices in echos, so they spoke in harsh whispers. Even the guards at the door, their ears hidden away in their metal helms, could not hear their private conversation. The old man never seemed to cease moving. He paced back and forth, swept his great cloak back in passionate motions, substituting the intensity of his actions for the volume of his voice. His restless movement was in stark contrast to his son who stood with him, but hardly moved a muscle. His son, a strong young man, stood opposite his father with his brow furrowed and his lips pursed.
"Father, please! This... this show you put on for the peasants will do no good! What does a simple farmer know of nations and armies? What does a shepherd care for politics? You send away our most loyal men to cast pearls before swine."
"Of course they don't know!" his father replied, brushing away the rejection like a persistent gnat, "What do you know of swinging a hoe? Of herding sheep? You have never sought to learn, and who has thought to teach you? Yet I doubt you would find much difficulty with such tasks. They are angry because they do not understand why we went to war. Teaching them is not difficult."
"The peasantry is angry because they are hungry. We have tried to lower taxes, but local lords raise them. They take more than they should, and they blame the war for needing to. The people blame you for starting the war while barons and viscounts bleed them dry. And you know why they are gathering wealth, wealth that never reaches our coffers. The court thinks we are weak, they hang over us like vultures, and in the midst of this you would have your knights leave you."
"Hah!" the old man laughed and sneered, "Nothing but smoke and noise, that lot. Every one of them is too afraid of Brumland to do anything to me. No, we need to have the people on my side for the coming turmoil. Now is when the heart of the people can be swayed, and now, while the others are still licking their wounds from the war, is when I can act with impunity. Do you not see? It must be now."
"Even if they hesitate to outright take the throne, which is not as fanciful a thought to them as you may think, what stops them from trying to kill our men outright? How would we even know who strikes against us?"
The father advanced on his son with a menacing smile on his lips, "Let them try. They'll soon see that every one of my loyal knights are worth a dozen treasonous cowards."
"For God's sake, father!" his son cried out, twitching when he heard his words echoing throughout the hall.
"Mind your tongue, Dietrich," his father hissed, inches away from his face.
"For God's sake," the crown prince, Dietrich, continued in hushed tones, "Gabi's going with them."
King Reinhard stopped. Then he sighed. "That was Gabi's choice," for a moment, the king's stony face relaxed, and his eyes drifted far to the west, but it was only for a moment, "And this is my choice. My knights go. They tell the people we needed to go to war against Brumland, before they became too strong, and before they could form an alliance with the barbarians to the East. We need to keep them weak enough to be afraid of their neighbors, and weak enough for their neighbors to think Brumland can be toppled. I will not stand for a foreign king coming to take my lands!"
The farming community of Eweald numbered no more than four hundred, including women, children, and the infirm. A paltry number compared to the ranks of soldiers in the army, but a large number for the land they had been allotted. In times past these people had farmed on more land in more spacious houses, built by their own hands, but many had been moved during the war. Some land was taken to allow horses and cattle to graze, other families had simply been unable to farm the land while their men were off at war and local lords had confiscated to make use of it. No matter what the case, many families had been taken off their land and told to share what was left with distant relatives, acquaintances, strangers, and even old family enemies. During the war, they did what they needed to survive. When the men returned, the community found itself beyond its capacity, and the harvest taken for the tax only increased. All these hardships were blamed on the war.
Eweald could not properly be called a town. The people had built it more like a living space for an enormous family. Most people lived in the a sprawling, connected complex. Children were all cared for by a few dedicated women, though their own mothers fed them if they could. The men worked together to raise what grain and potatoes that they could from the ground, and raise the animals that they could. Most of what they produced, they shared. The elders of the various families sorted out disputes, though the men returned from war gave them less respect than the rest of Eweald's inhabitants. There were small houses separated from the main complex for people to take care of the further reaches of the farmland, but few people lived so far away permanently. Many took turns caring for the more isolated areas of the farm, particularly young couples.
In Eweald, despite the chaos of living everyday life with so many other people, life rarely changed from the usual routine. When something unusual happened, the news spread through a blaze in the dense community. So when the flash of metal and the rumble of horses was heard in the distance, the elders knew almost immediately.
"Damn them! Damn those... damned brutes," an elder beat his fist feebly on the ground, "We already paid their damn taxes. We already paid and paid and paid! How much more do they have to steal from us?"
Five elderly men sat in a circle in a room with covered windows.
"Maybe they aren't here for taxes," an old man with one good eye responded.
"They're always here for taxes. Bucketheads don't even show up if it isn't to take something."
"Yeah. Only reason they come out is to steal."
"Or to tell us that there's a war going on."
"Maybe they're here to tell us the king's dead."
Some of the elders laughed, the one with one eye didn't.
"This isn't a time for laughing. What if they came about... the bandits."
The rest of the elders fell silent. A few of them looked nervously to the side, others looked on firm, but had nothing to say. The silence was broken when word came from the hall.
"The men aren't from Lord Albrecht! They're flying the banner of the King!"