King Stépan IV's pleasure dome at Kragoneidin, on the shores of Lake Polishov

Friday, September 17, 2010

Eve of departure

At the end of a long day organizing the levy soldiers and the wagons and mule trains to support them, Duke Jiri found himself at his table in the Great Hall accepting a silver cup of wine from his wife and then offering a toast to the officers and knights who were to ride with him in the morning.  A hearty cheer rising from the throats from the men and women in the hall answered the toast.  A second and more jubilant cheer came as a squad of servitors who were sweating from the kitchen’s heat hauled platters of roasted geese in.  With appetites honed by the imminent prospect of adventure, comradeship and of an encounter with unknown dangers, the Duke’s guests were in a high mood and so feasted grandly. 

Jiri and Franka left as soon as it was seemly to do so and retired to their chambers.  There, the two looked out from a window, onto the castle walls, the town and the harbour, which were illuminated by moonlight.  Waves rolled and crashed on the sandy shore, where a string of small fishing boats were lied up in an arc, left high and dry by the dropping tide.  A larger boat bobbed at anchor beyond the surf.  “The wind is changing, perhaps a storm is coming” said Franka.  “What will you do, Jiri, will you seek battle?”  “I will avoid it if I can. Barring a miracle, we haven’t yet the numbers to fight both the rebels and the Bordurians if it comes to that” said Jiri.  “Promise me something, Jiri; if you are offered a chance to parley, will you do it?  “Surely I will.  I do not intend to a useless battle”. 

“And now you must promise me something.  If things go badly wrong, you are to take Konstantin and Uros out of here.  You see that ship in the water there?  Her master is a friend to us, and well paid.  He is to wait here while I am gone and be ready to sail with you at a moment’s notice.  Take the boys and the treasury, pack what you can into a chest to buy what you need, to buy yourself safety, or an army with which Konstantin can come back to Hum. Go where you can, Sicily or Genoa even.  Be careful though, stay away from Venice, we are in enough trouble without having the Venetians holding our family in their hands…  We need to have quite a bit of luck on our side, Franka…”

“You will come back Jiri.  And I know how we can help our own luck along a little…”.   

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