The morning sun beamed into the castle of Shamo from the crystal clear sky. The golden rays lightened up the dark and cold room, where loud snoring was heard. A man slept on his bed; wrapped in silk sheets and covered with white fur. His hair was grey, his face wrinkly and his snoring was heavy but slow. He stopped breathing once in a while, sometimes for so long that some would consider him dead, but he was very alive. As the sun rose, its golden beams found their way onto his face and as the warmth grew, his eyes began to open. He grunted as he slowly rose to sit, after which he rubbed his eyes and stretched, his bones cracking as he did. He sighed and took a look at his table on the other side of the large room. It was filled with letters and documents. He rolled his eyes and got up, leaving the comfort and warmth of his bed. He walked to his window and took a look outside. The sea was singing to him; the mighty waves crashing against the rocky coast. Birds flew over the seas, screaming and singing as they did and at the distance, mighty ships were sailing towards the vast open sea. He knew many of them would never return home, but that was the law of the sea.
He then dressed up, covering his skin with white cloaks and clothes. He had brown leather boots and a silver belt around his waist, and at last, he took his cloak, which covered his right shoulder completely. There was a golden sun on his cloak, the symbol of his order, his brothers. As he finished dressing, he heard a knock on his door.
“Grandmaster,” a voice belonging to a man called, “are you awake,” As he heard the man, he walked to his personal armory, where he took his sword and tied it around his waist.
“I am now. Come in!” he shouted as he puffed. A young man, not more than twenty, walked in, bowing before saying another word.
“Grandmaster Osval,” the boy said, “A visitor from Valnoria will be here in no time!” Osval caught his breath as he finished equipping himself and said:
“Did you get a raven?”
“I did,” Osval nodded and walked to his table, before collapsing on the wooden chair.
“I’ll be down in a moment or two,” he said, “for now, bring me some wine. My throat has been dry as sand the entire night!” The boy bowed and sprinted out of the room. Osval sighed, rubbed his grey beard, and began reading the letters. As he read, his face turned progressively angered and frowned. So those bastards left us here to rot and now they have the audacity to ask for more men? He grunted and threw the letter away from his sight. He then sat back, scratching his chin as his mind wandered to think. But he didn’t think long before another knock was heard and the boy walked in with wine.
“Here, Grandmaster,” he said as he bowed and handed the wooden stein.
“Thank you, boy, ” he replied with the kindest possible tone he could muster, “tell sir Voiros that I’ll be there in a moment or two,”
“As you say, Grandmaster,” the boy sprinted out, once again. Osval took a long gulp of wine, feeling how the bitter, yet sweet drink flushed down his throat, into his still empty belly. It made a smile grow on his face and for a moment, he forgot the letter he just read. For a moment, he just sat and drank, enjoying the sun and the sounds of the sea and before he realized, he fell asleep. But almost immediately after, he woke up to the sound of his stein falling on the ground, making him startle.
“Curses,” he muttered through his teeth, after which he barely managed to stand up, stretching his arms again, before walking out of his room. The castle of Shamo was an old one. The walls were dark, covered in filth and at certain places, the grass was growing like on the fields of the west. He walked into the great hall of the castle, where he found himself atop of the stairs that led to the inner court. He walked down the stairs, puffing, and huffing as he did, while also cursing his painful leg. He got down and was greeted by a few guards, who then joined him. They walked in the halls, where the knights were drinking and eating their breakfast. They all stood up as they saw him and greeted him with the common salute:
“Glory to Osval, Grandmaster of Shamo, champion of the Gods!”
After they had shouted their salutes, Osval humbly nodded and urged them to sit, before continuing his way. He finally got to the inner court, where a man, dressed in a golden and silver cloak, was waiting for him.
“Ah, Grandmaster Osval,” he said as he opened his arms and he hugged him with a smile on his face. Surprisingly, the smile also reached the face of Osval. “It has been a damn long time, old friend,” the man spoke as he tapped his pal’s back.
“Oh, so it has. I thought you were dead!” Osval laughed. “What news from Valnoria?” The man went silent for a while and his face turned more tensed. He brushed his dark brown hair that reached his shoulders and glanced around him as if he was looking for someone.
“I will be honest with you,” he started as he ordered his men to leave them. Osval did the same and now, they were the only ones present. “I have only bad news,” Osval’s eyes widened and he scrubbed his beard. His heart began to rip his chest, but he managed to remain silent, only giving his friend the glance to continue. “The king has been driven into two wars. We’re currently fighting alongside our Mulwutar friends against the rebels, but we’re also being attacked by the eastern warlords!” the man stared deep into Osval’s eyes and pulled a letter from the depths of his cloak. “We need assistance, Osval. Talrossians can’t keep the valley of arma clear forever. They’ve grown weaker from the times of old and without assistance, they’ll be overrun in a few moons… and you know what would happen if those barbarians would cross the valley…” a painful and cold silence came between them. It was cold like the northern wind and it burned their chests at the same time. The sounds of the knights’ feasting broke the silence though, but it didn’t help Osval.
“These men… are my brothers, my sons, my family,” he spoke as he began to walk, urging his friend to come with him, “I have nothing else… I never did. I can’t send them to die.”
“You made an oath when you took your rank, remember?” Osval stopped, closing his eyes in pain as the memory flashed before his eyes. “This order was established to defend the people of Valnoria. What are you, if you hide behind your walls, far from the mainland? What are you, if you don’t fight when you are needed the most?”
“Nothing…” Osval muttered as he raised his head to meet his friend’s eyes. “I know it must be done… but it doesn’t help with the pain.” At first, a single tear fell to the ground from Osval’s pain-filled eyes; then another… and another. The weather responded to his pain, for dark clouds began to cover the sky and thunder shouted to him from the open sea.
“We all know the pain of risking the lives of the ones we care about,” the man said, “but look now: even Amtor cries for you, Osval,” Osval cleaned his eye with a silk tissue and glanced at the sky.
“I just wonder… where was he when I needed him the most,” The man remained silent, glancing away, filled with grief for his friend. Osval fell on his knees and closed his eyes. He began to feel how the cold, yet peaceful rain began to fall on his shoulders, making their way to his spine, where the water made him shiver. He whispered a silent prayer to his maker, asking for help; begging for mercy, not for himself, but for his men. He then stood up and faced his friend again. Now, his face was clear from emotions. It was cold as a stone and without blinking, he said:
“Tell the king we’re coming. Tell him that we will fight as we promised all those years ago,” The man nodded and bowed to him before he walked to him and shook his hand.
“May Shinara bless your path, old friend. May Amtor give you strength,”
“I wish the same for you, my friend,” Osval responded. The man then turned around and walked out of the inner court. The sound of the doors closing made Osval’s feet tremble, for now, it was done. As he walked back inside, there were dozens of young knights waiting for him. Their eyes were shining with interest and wonder, but they quickly walked away as Osval got inside. Everyone remained silent for a while, but before Osval was able to get to the other room, a young man, covered in white armor shouted:
“Grandmaster Osval! What happened?” Osval froze, his hand resting on the cold handle and his eyes wandering for a moment. He then swallowed and turned around, before shouting:
“We’re going to war, boys!”
Silence conquered the room as all the knights stared at him with horror. Some were silent, others cried, others just stared at him with wonder. Osval glanced at all of them, before walking out from the room, without saying a word. Gods, look upon us at this hour of need, he thought.
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