Far to the east of Navaria, perched high in the Mountains of Elinway, lay the kingdom of Ravensedge. Sparrington Fort was the home of conquering King Alfred and his Queen Ellen. King Alfred was a fair ruler but where Roman treated his people with kindness, Alfred was iron willed. His people feared and respected him in equal measure.
Ravensedge was built centuries before by the discarded criminals of Navaria and Elgany who flocked to the mountains. The first king, Lowell, a disgraced knight led them, trained the men to the strongest knights in the land and so the kingdom of Ravensedge was born.
Alfred had taken his seat in the Great Hall. A letter from Navaria had left him unnerved.
“You seem tired, My Lord,” commented Julia. Julia was a vibrant, strong woman who was always by the king’s side. Her astute mind offered the king sage advice. Her broad shoulders and athletic frame was desirable. She was from a family who could trace their routes back to the founders. Alfred had a keen interest in her. Queen Ellen knew this and worried her time in the king’s favour was waning as she was still to produce an heir.
“I am as alert as I always have been,” Alfred stated. He didn’t like people commenting on his bodily weaknesses.
Julia gave a wry smile. “I only mean that you carry too much on your own. Let me help.” She slipped behind his back and gently began to massage his shoulders.
“I heard word from Navaria,” he said. “It seems King Roman is going mad. There is talk of witchcraft.”
“Let them rot,” Julia replied. “Why should we worry?”
She lay her pointed chin on Alfred’s shoulder and wrapped her arms around him. The strands of brown hair that had broken free tickled his face.
He reached up, grabbed her arms and pulled himself free.
“I met a witch once,” he said. “I was just a boy and I had wandered into the woods. He was tall and very thin. He didn’t look quite human. He called himself Benedict and told me he could give me everything I ever wanted.”
Julia raised her eyebrows. “So what happened?” she asked.
I came home that day to find my five brothers had died. My father breathed his last that evening before grief finally took my mother. I became king without contest.”
Julia shrugged her shoulders. “So you think this witch was responsible?”
“The disease came so suddenly and took them all so completely that I was a little suspicious at first.”
“We are not superstitious people, Your Majesty,” Julia reminded him. Superstition is for the weak heart and witches are tales for little children.”
“That isn’t what Navaria believes.”
Alfred returned to the letter. He had placed trusted men in the courts of the two great kingdoms of Navaria and Elgany, enjoying the valuable information they returned with.
“Roman has a weak heart,” Julia stated. She gripped the handle of the sword on the king’s belt. “Perhaps now would be the time to strike. We could extend our power to the west.”
Alfred knew it was what he should do but he couldn’t stop thinking of Benedict. Tall, insect like, with bulbous green eyes. He owed everything to him and had never given anything in return, at least not yet.
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