I could see the high peaks of the castle in the distance as I approached the Kingdom. There was smoke rising from the area around it and inside. The Kingdom was under siege. The Targen Knights and the King had arrived.
I raced to the Targen Knights as fast as I could on horseback. The siege engines were enormous, The Knights had been busy as I had been away. Trebuchets, catapults, and towers littered the battlefield surrounding the outer wall of the Kingdom. I could see archers and Raiders on top of the wall readying for the next attack. It seems that they had been successful at holding of the Knights of the Realm so far, but that would soon change.
I slowed my pace as I neared the camp, so as not to create a panic. The guards at the perimeter looked up at me, and bowed as I came to a stop.
“Please continue into the camp Sir Patchwork Knight. We have been awaiting your arrival.”
“Thank you. I don’t know you. How long have you been in the King’s service.”
“Uh, you should continue on Sir. The rank and file will want to see you right away.”
“That I will. Thank you again, and it is a pleasure to meet you Sir Knight.”
I traveled onward, but questioned that exchange. It seemed odd that he wouldn’t tell me how long he had been a Knight. As I trotted through the camp, everyone stopped what they were doing and stared as I passed. The King’s tent came into sight and the crowd began to follow behind me, and a chant began to arise.
“THE PATCHWORK KNIGHT, THE PATCHWORK KNIGHT, THE PATCHWORK KNIGHT.”
I saw the tent flap fly open and Rolf came running out. Sir Paljin and Princess Alma were right behind him.
“Pitre” rang out from all three of them as I dismounted my horse. Rolf was in the lead and the first to great me, with an embrace.
“We heard you were still alive and out there, but they were only stories to us. I’m glad you are here my friend.”
“I’m glad to be here. It has been far too long. I hadn’t planned it this way, but a steady stream of Raiders held my progress.”
“Aye, we heard those tales as well. The Mudwood had sent it’s best and brightest at you, only to have them fall to your blades. It is so good to see you my boy, only you aren’t a boy anymore are you. You look as old as I.”
“Sir Paljin, it is an honor to stand before you again. I see you have stayed away from arrows in my absence.”
“That I have. It was no easy task either. We had to actually battle Raiders on our own, but we held true, and now we are here.”
“If it isn’t The Patchwork Knight. It’s about time that you showed your face again. Care for a spar old friend.”
“Princess, it would be my pleasure to spar with you again, but I dare say that the outcome would be no different than before.”
“Uh Pitre, she’s no princess anymore.”
“With the way she fought before, I would say that she never was one, she was a Knight in a frilly dress.”
“That is the Queen boy.”
“The Queen? That would mean that the Kin…..” My words fell off as I realized the truth of why the guard sounded so strange when he wouldn’t say how long he had been in the King’s service.
“Yes, Pitre. My father died not long after you had left. An assassin snuck his way into a caravan of villagers that you had saved. He found his way to the Crystal Palace in that group and poisoned the King during a nightly meal. We found the assassin and executed him, but the damage had already been done. The Mudwood thought it would break our spirit.”
“True, they did, but the didn’t know what that awakened. The Queen is fearless, and a brilliant strategist. She is the reason we are here with these siege engines. She is the one that got us all together. She rallied the villagers and helped turn them into Knights. This is the largest army of Knights that the Realm has ever had.”
“Thank you Sir Paljin, but it wasn’t all me. I drew inspiration from my father. This is what he wanted to do all along, but he put the resources towards protecting his people first. I drew inspiration from you and Sir Rolf here. You encouraged me to fight as I always wanted to. I drew inspiration from you as well Pitre. The stories that would come back to us, of how you were taking on entire war bands on your own, and saving all the people that we have here with us today. Maybe not directly, but indirectly, you have saved every single person in this camp. You saved me, and my father. You saved Rolf and Sir Paljin. You saved all the Knights you remembered in one way or another. You saved all those villagers that made it to the Crystal Palace. Some have passed, but their kin are all here. That wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for you. When these people chant your name, it is a rally cry for all of The Realm. For them to see you, brings us all hope that this war will be over soon. I may have put all this together, but it was you who brought us all here.”
“Thank you Queen. You honor me truly, but I was only doing what I could to help the Realm.”
“First rule Pitre, don’t call me Queen. I will always be Alma to you. Second, your humility is why we honor you so. We knew that you wouldn’t stop doing what you thought was right. Rolf here searched far and wide for you for years. he brought back stories of the villages that had been emptied of everything because you destroyed the Raiders that had been there.”
“Yes, Alma. Rolf I told you to stay with the King and Sir Paljin. Why did you search for me, that was risky, you could have been killed.”
“Pitre, you spared my life when you could have killed yet another Raider, but you saw something in me, and you helped me grow. I became the man I am today, because of you. Also, you are my best friend, and I wanted nothing more than to see you again, and fight by your side. It has been too long my old friend. Seeing you now though, it was worth the wait. I look forward to the fight ahead of us, and I will enjoy seeing you in action once again.”
“That will come soon enough. I say that a meal is in order first. We need to honor our returning Patchwork Knight.”
With the Queen’s final words, the chant began anew.
“THE PATCHWORK KNIGHT, THE PATCHWORK KNIGHT, THE PATCHWORK KNIGHT.”
I looked around at the smiles and joy on everyone’s face. I used my sight to search the walls high above, and could see concern spreading on the faces of the Raiders that were standing there. They were looking back and forth at each other. I saw a disruption in the crowd that had formed on the wall, and a raven haired woman looked over. Anger and acknowledgement crossed her face, and a flare of purplish blue rose from her. She was different from the other Mudwood. She spun in a moment and was gone just as fast as she had appeared.
The meal was extravagant, but I stuck with what I was used to, and only had vegetables and nuts. when we were done, we all took the extra food out to the Knights around the camp and fed them as well.
“I saw a woman on the wall before we went in to eat. She seemed like she might be in charge. Is the Mudwook ruled by a woman?”
“It seems that it is now. We had heard rumors that a woman rose to the top of the generals, and didn’t like the way the leader was ruling, so she took it upon herself to kill him and take control. It happened about a month ago.”
“That’s about the time the flood of Raiders stopped coming to my doorstep.”
“Yes, that is one of the things she was supposedly upset about. She saw that the leader was so focused on one man that he was leaving the Kingdom unguarded, and susceptible to attack. That is why we advanced here when we did. Our reports, were that the Raiders had thinned so much by attacking you, that three weren’t enough to properly defend the Kingdom. We had been readying for an attack, but we moved it up when we heard this news. She pulled back all the troops that had been sent out to fortify her ranks, and we have been here for two weeks now, in this siege.”
“Is there anymore that you know of her?”
“Only that she moved her way up, and that it is rumored that she was in charge of an elite group of fighters. That is what spurred her into action. The Mudwood leader was going to force her and her elite group to go after you. That was apparently the last shovel of dirt on his grave.”
“How elite can this group be. The Raiders that came to me, said they were the best of the Mudwood.”
“We know nothing of her group, only that it exists, and that isn’t even definite. She does seem to be a force to reckon with though. She has held the Kingdom when it should have fallen. It is still going to fall, but it is just going to be a little longer. They will starve soon with no food being transported into the Kingdom. We can wait them out if need, but Queen Alma had a plan for storming the walls soon.”
I haven’t said it yet, but it is good to see you again Rolf. Did you get any of the messages that I sent along with villagers?”
“I did, It was always good to hear that you were still truly alive. When a new villager would come to me with word of how you saved them, it brought a smile to my face. I saw the result of what you did in their eyes and the smiles on their faces. You gave them all hope, you gave all of us hope.”
“I can also see that you kept up with your training. I’m sorry that I never finished teaching you everything that I know, but you have done well.”
“It took me a long time to understand why you left like you did, but I did. When I lost my first friend that was standing next to me in battle. I understood. It was not easy to fight alongside someone after that. I kept my distance from people and stayed alone. It wasn’t until Queen Alma came to me one day, and told me how much the men looked up to me, and how they wanted to fight by my side, that I realized that I would always lose someone close to me as long as this war was going on, so I made a decision to do whatever I could to help see the end of this war, even if that meant fighting and watching a friend die beside me.”
“I’m sorry I left, and that I didn’t have your strength to stay and fight along side of you and everyone else. I had to find my own way.”
“Your way worked for you, but if you are here, you are going to lose friends alongside of you once again. It is inevitable. Just know that we are all here for each other, and we know that you are here for us.”
“I want to see this war end, and the Mudwood go back to where they came from, but most of all, I’m glad to see you. I’ve missed you my old friend.”
“Old friend indeed. It’s been a long time since that day at the fork in the road. We will see this end, and we will see it end together. We should get some rest now. Big day ahead of us tomorrow. We storm the wall.”
“I got a plan for that. I don’t think the Mudwood is going to expect what is coming for them.”
For Chapter 66 follow link below.