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Atheling

Middanhal

Eventually, the news spread that the Adalthing would convene for an extraordinary session. For the common people on the street, life continued as usual, and for the most part, they considered the war to be at an end. As for the armies gathered in the capital, the soldiers considered this a pleasant turn of events; until the Adalthing had met and its affairs were resolved, none of them would be marching against Isarn. Thus, rather than be stuck digging trenches and building palisades for a siege camp, they were allowed to remain in the city and spend their silver on the various delights offered. Those primarily affected were the nobility of Adalrik; suddenly, a flurry of activity commenced as they had less than a week to accomplish their manoeuvres before the gathering.

Valerian arrived the day before the meeting, accompanied only by his thanes. He cast a dismayed look at his ruined house and rode to the Citadel to meet with his brother. His father-in-law, Alexander of the House of Jaunis, was being kept in the Hall of the Honoured Dead next to the lady Richilde and her little son; the jarl Ingmond was only delaying until the Adalthing had met before he would bring his family home to Inghold for burial.

One thing concerning this session had captivated the minds of all, however, regardless of standing. The last Adalthing had elected a lord protector because the current heir was not of age to assume the throne. Since then that heir had died; what if no lord protector was to be chosen, but instead they might elect an heir to the realms? Someone who could immediately assume the responsibilities of rule and would render the need for a lord protector superfluous.

In every tavern were spoken the names of the dragonborn, House Arnling and House Hardling. Some looked south towards where the king of Korndale sat, wondering if he knew of this assembly and whether he might wish to make his claim known. Others whispered of illegitimate heirs and sons coming forward to become pretenders as well. Lastly, a few considered the possibility that the age of the dragonborn had ended, and another line would rise to sit upon the Dragon Throne; that maybe the line of Sigvard had truly died with Prince Sigmund, and none of the cadet branches had the strength to assume the name of Adal as their own. All of this was mere guesswork, however; none could know until the Adalthing met.

~~~~

At last, the day came for the Adalthing to convene. In the hall reserved for this event, the noblemen of Adalrik arrived one by one or in small groups shortly after dawn. The balconies overlooking the hall held numerous spectators; all those that the guards would allow entry. Arndis and Theodwyn were among them, and soon Quill came walking up the spiralling stairs, followed by his apprentice, who glanced curiously in every direction. Several representatives of the guilds were there, including the alderman himself. There was also another, elderly man, dressed in plain robes; Egil’s mouth hung open as he spotted the grey-clad man.

“Brother Septimus,” Quill greeted the high priest while bowing his head.

“Master Quill,” Septimus replied with a nod. “And this would be?”

“My apprentice, Egil,” Quill introduced. “I thought it was time he was introduced to his future duties. One day, he will preside over the Adalthing, and this particular session promises to be worthy of remembrance.”

“Indeed,” Septimus spoke with his aged voice. “It even managed to lure me from the Temple. There have been many speculations whether the Thing will choose an heir today.”

“It must,” Quill informed him. “On this, the law is clear. If there is no king and the realms are without even an heir presumptive, the foremost duty of the Adalthing is to choose one at the first opportunity. The succession must never be in doubt.”

“They knew it well when they wrote such laws.” The priest gave a frail smile. “Yet even such foresight could not prevent the war we have found ourselves embroiled in. A war over the very same matter of crowns and thrones.”

“Let us hope it will prevent future wars, at least,” Quill said. “I must take my leave and make ready. Egil, watch everything.”

“Yes, master,” Egil promised.

“He can stay by my side,” Septimus suggested. “My ears and eyes are old. I could use someone young to tell me what I might not hear or see.”

“It would be his honour, Brother Septimus,” Quill assured the Highfather while Egil nodded vigorously.

Below in the hall, the ritual of sanctification had begun. The priestess of Disfara smeared the statue of the goddess with blood; one by one, the noblemen stepped forward and swore to uphold the laws of the realm and the decisions of the Adalthing. The priestess marked each of their foreheads with blood as they finished their oath, and at length the ritual was at an end. It had in fact gone much faster than usual; instead of the full assembly of sixty-nine nobles, only fifty were present. The South was represented by both jarls and their margraves as well as nine of the landgraves; the tenth, Elis, was still in the dungeons until his fate could be decided. From the North, only Theodoric and his margraves had come as well as two landgraves.

It was enough, however. The Adalthing needed a gathering of thirty-five at least to be able to speak with one voice; since fifty exceeded that, all decisions made by the Thing were binding. Quill announced this along with which decision had to be made first.

“The law leaves no room for doubt,” Quill spoke with a loud voice. “With no king and no heir, the foremost duty of the Adalthing is to choose one. Typically, the custom is that the king will present his choice of heir, and the Adalthing may accept or reject this. Given the circumstances,” Quill spoke, clearing his throat, “that is not possible. Instead, we shall follow the old rules of the northern tribes for choosing a leader in war,” he declared, which caused some whispers and murmurs. It was a custom so ancient few in the hall even knew it existed. The King’s Quill was the authority on law and tradition, however, and none disputed his decision.

“By this rule, every man with a voice in the Adalthing may declare their support to whomever they choose. All that matters is that one man must have thirty-five voices behind him to be elected,” Quill explained. “Lord Raymond,” Quill spoke, raising his voice, “to whom do you lend your voice?”

“I lend it to Lord Hardmar of House Hardling,” the jarl of Ingmond spoke before he turned to send a malicious glance towards Brand. The latter ignored the stare sent his way.

“Does any of the margraves in the province of Ingmond lend their voice differently?” Quill asked. There was silence; none did so. “Lord Valerian, to whom do you lend your voice?”

“To Lord Hardmar of House Hardling,” Valerian spoke.

“What name did he say?” Septimus asked up on the balcony while Quill continued to enquire if the margraves of Vale spoke otherwise. The aged priest was leaning over the railing precariously, straining his ears to no avail.

“Lord Hardmar,” Egil spoke softly by his side.

“Then it is all but decided,” Septimus mumbled. “Twenty-nine voices in his favour. The jarl Theodstan alone or the southern landgraves collectively may make it a majority.”

In the hall, Quill had moved on to the third and remaining jarl. “Lord Theodoric, to whom do you lend your voice?”

Theodoric took a step forward. His eyes turned around the hall from the other jarls to Hardmar and Brand. Finally he spoke. “I lend my voice to Lord Hardmar of House Hardling.”

Agitation rippled through the assembly. It was decided. “What?” a voice barked from the back of the gathered noblemen.

“Order, please,” Quill called out. “Does any margrave of Theodstan speak otherwise?”

“I do!” Richard roared as he stepped forward and into the middle of the hall. He was also the source of the outburst a moment ago. “By Hel and all her curse, I speak otherwise! What cowardice is this? Are you spineless children all?”

“Lord Alwood,” Quill tried to speak in a calming voice to little effect.

“In this room stands one man who made this possible,” Richard yelled, shaking his finger at Brand. “If not for this brave lad, you would all be cowering at Isarn’s feet. Or worse, your heads would adorn a pretty spike,” he spat, glaring at Valerian and Konstans. “How dare you! How dare you disrespect all we achieved,” Richard growled. “In impossible circumstances, we won this war, and it was his doing!” As he shouted the last sentence, he once again pointed at Brand.

“Lord Alwood, you may have a chance to speak your mind after the counting, should it not reach a conclusion,” Quill attempted to argue.

“I am not a fool!” Richard exclaimed. “I can count as well as any man here. It has been decided, there will be no chance to speak. You, a bunch of womenfolk disguised like men, have given the realms to a boy,” he uttered with contempt.

“While your defence of your comrade is admirable,” Konstans spoke with a silken voice, “it seems misguided. The Order was under your command, Sir Richard. Do not reduce your own involvement in bringing this war to a swift conclusion.”

As Konstans spoke, Richard glared at him. “You were there, Lord Konstans. You know as well as I that the victor of this war is named Adalbrand.”

“I think you give too much credit to a squire,” Konstans said with a chuckle. “While nobody denies that the Order and all its men, knights, squires, soldiers, are invaluable to the safety of the realm, it does not bear upon our decision today. The banners upon the field at the battle of Cudrican were the banners of House Hardling. It is only sensible that the Adalthing rewards the kingship to the man who brought us the soldiers necessary for victory,” the nobleman argued.

Richard narrowed his eyes and gazed at Konstans with malice. “What a snake you are,” the knight growled. There was silence after this insult was uttered; finally, Richard turned and left the hall at a furious pace. It took a little while for Quill to compose himself and revive from his stupor; finally, he continued with the counting of voices, though it was only a formality.

Soon after to applause, Hardmar stepped forward with a great smile and knelt by the statue of Disfara that stood in the centre of the hall. Quill approached him and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Lord Hardmar of House Hardling, I confirm that the Adalthing has spoken with one voice and declared you heir to the realms. In seven days’ time, go to the Temple,” Quill instructed him. “There, before the altar of the Alfather, you shall kneel and receive the blessing of Sigvard. May you rule with the justice and wisdom that he did. For when the time comes, you shall be crowned upon the steps of the Temple in sight of the entire realm,” Quill continued, almost chanting, “that all may see and know you are the Dragon of Adalrik. When you rise, you rise as High King of Adalmearc, and never again shall you kneel before any man.”

Hardmar bowed his head in acceptance of these words; he rose and turned towards the assembled noblemen, receiving their praise and admiration.

~~~~

The Adalthing continued for a while longer; since Hardmar was not of age, he would have to wait until he turned twenty-one to be crowned. In the meantime, a lord protector would be chosen to rule the realm. There was little surprise when Valerian was chosen; with Isenhart and most of the North absent, there was nobody to challenge the jarl of Vale. As his dragonlord, he named his brother, Konstans. Some remarked on how the jarl of Isarn had started a war to make himself king, and the only result had been that his rival now ruled the realm, at least for the next four years until Hardmar would be crowned king. Others held their tongue and simply applauded.

Brand left the hall as soon as the mantle of lord protector had been given to Valerian. Walking through the corridors, he passed many servants, busy tending to their duties; seeing his clenched jaw, all of them stayed out of his path. At length, he reached the desolate throne room. Brand entered from one of the smaller doors to the side, but he walked down to the main entrance and then approached the throne from that angle as it was intended. The hall itself was huge, the largest in the Citadel. Pillars rose taller than trees, making those entering feel diminutive. At the far end stood the seat of power, the Dragon Throne, raised upon many steps so that one would have to look up to gaze at the king.

The throne was empty, of course, and had been for months. It was an artistic marvel, crafted by the greatest artisans of its age many centuries ago. Not as old as the Dragon Crown, which was claimed to have been worn by Sigvard himself. Like so much else, the throne had been crafted for Arn. His war to unite the realms had brought enormous wealth to Middanhal, and despite his many building projects there had been enough gold to make a throne worthy of a high king.

It was, naturally, shaped in the likeness of a drake, making full use of this theme and giving the seat its popular name. The armrests were the powerful legs and claws of a golden dragon; behind the person seated, the wings of this creature spread upwards. Where the king’s head would rest, the jaws of the beast opened to reveal its teeth. It appeared as if it would devour any who dared to sit upon the throne, a warning to any who would usurp the rightful seat of the king.

Brand approached the throne until he could reach out his hand and touch the gold of the armrest. His finger traced each of the claws with a pensive look while his other hand played with the woven leather string around his neck. Brand’s lips parted as if he desired to speak, to address the inanimate object in front of him, but whatever his thoughts, they were interrupted by a loud voice.

“Brand,” Richard called out.

“How did you know I was here?” the squire asked.

“Some servants saw you enter. I wanted to talk with you,” the knight muttered.

“As always, I listen,” Brand said with a vague smile.

Richard cleared his throat. “Egnil’s balls, what feckless worms they are!” it burst from him. “Every man in that hall, cowards and crows to the last. How dare they demean what you and I did? How can they not see you deserved this honour?”

“It is not a question of justice, but of politics.” Brand gave a slight shrug. “By supporting Lord Hardmar, the jarl of Vale will now have several years as lord protector. It was a cunning move.”

“But the rest of them,” Richard argued. “Gods, man, even Theodoric fell to heel. He above all should know your capabilities.”

“Do not be harsh on him,” Brand told the knight. “It would have been decided this way regardless. In this manner, he at least showed himself a friend to our new masters.”

“I would much rather show myself a friend to you,” Richard said gruffly. “You have deserved my respect.”

“I thank you for it,” Brand gave a smile, “though I fear it may have made our new prince and the lord protector look at us both with ill-favoured eyes.”

“I did not think of that,” Richard muttered, sounding a little regretful after all.

“No matter,” Brand shook his head. “They would have done so regardless, I imagine. The only thought in my mind is that I should desire to take my vows as a knight. I have spoken with the Master of the Citadel, and I may proceed holding my vigil this very night.”

“Of course, I congratulate you,” Richard exclaimed. “It is well earned. Who shall accompany you?”

“Normally it should be Athelstan, but he is occupied,” Brand remarked with dry humour. “I would be pleased if you would, Sir Richard.”

“It would be my honour,” Richard declared.

“Good,” Brand smiled. “Tonight at the eastern shrine.” With that arranged, they parted.

~~~~

Inside their quarters, the siblings of Theodstan reunited after the Adalthing. Theodoric poured himself a goblet of wine without delay while Theodwyn sat down. With his four-fingered hand, Theodoric grasped the cup tightly before he finally drank from it.

“That went as expected,” Theodwyn finally spoke.

“No other way it could have gone,” Theodoric said with a slightly unsteady voice. “I practically handed it to Valerian and his brother on a platter when I convened the Thing.”

“You never told me what Konstans offered if you would support them,” his sister said questioningly.

Theodoric gave a vague smile. “I told him that I wish to be considered as the new jarl of Isarn once this war has been fought to its ultimate end.”

“He agreed?” Theodwyn asked with raised eyebrows.

“He promised to consider it,” Theodoric said, his smile turning sardonic. “Neither he nor Valerian will ever accept that in a hundred years, of course. Once Isenhart has been beheaded and the rest of his family driven into exile, a southerner will be given the jarldom and all its silver and iron mines,” Theodoric reasoned. “Someone loyal to the House of Vale that they might control the Adalthing in perpetuity. But if Konstans thinks that the lure of Isarn will keep me in line, I am free to act behind his back.”

“What of young Adalbrand,” Theodwyn remarked with an inquisitive glance at her brother. “I thought you had plans for him as well.”

“I do,” Theodoric nodded. “If nothing else, a military commander of his capability is worth befriending. But he is also the greatest rival that our new prince has, and thus by extension, he is an enemy to Vale. It would not do to reveal towards Konstans that I seek to be on friendly terms with the atheling of House Arnling.”

“What do you intend?” Theodwyn asked.

“I have devised another way to gain what we want without arousing suspicion,” the jarl contemplated. “Hopefully in a way that ensures Adalbrand is still accessible should I ever have need of an undefeated captain,” he spoke with a listless smile. “Such are hard to come by, after all.”

~~~~

As night fell, Brand was in one of the small shrines consecrated to Rihimil in the Citadel. Outside, sitting on a chair, was Richard. The young squire on his last night bearing that rank was kneeling before the altar. His eyes were fixed on the statue in front of him; endlessly, his lips whispered the Squire’s Pledge.

“When night falls, the squire’s vigil begins.
When dawn rises, so does the Knight.

In peace, a Knight is vigilant.
In war, a Knight is fearless.
In life, a Knight is true.
In death, a Knight is honoured.

I will not rest while battle stirs.
I will not flee where others fight.
My Life and Word are not twain.
My Death and Honour shall be one.

When night falls, my vigil begins.
When dawn rises, so do I.”

~~~~

As the night neared its end, dark circles surrounded Brand’s eyes. He blinked from time to time, but otherwise he did not waver. His voice was hoarse, and he spoke the pledge with slow, crisp sounds. Finally, something touched his cheek. It was sunlight; through the window to the east, it announced the end of his vigil. Smiling, Brand rose to his feet. He walked over and opened the door. Outside, Richard sat in his chair, sleeping with an open mouth. Brand cleared his throat, making the knight blink and awaken.

This made Richard get up and walk over to the door. “Adalbrand of House Arnling, born to Arngrim of that house, have you kept your vigil?” Richard asked.

“I have,” Brand spoke in a tired voice.

“Are you prepared to take the Knight’s Oath?”

“I am,” Brand nodded.

“Good,” Richard grinned. Then his smile faltered. “You deserve an accolade by the king himself, or at the very least the lord marshal…” his voice trailed off.

“No need for concern,” Brand said dismissively. “I would consider it an honour if you would lay your blade upon my shoulder, Sir Richard.”

“Truly, it is me that you honour,” Richard said, his voice a little thick. “When do you wish it done?”

“Now, without delay. While I am tired from kneeling all night, one more time will not hurt,” Brand smiled.

He walked back into the room and knelt by the shrine after giving Richard a pair of golden spurs whom the latter pocketed. One hand was placed upon the feet of the statue, and under Rihimil’s watchful and Richard’s sleepy eyes, Brand took his oath as a knight.

“I am a Knight of Adal.
I am sworn to valour.
Valour I wield as my sword.
This is my vow.

I am a Knight of Adal.
I am sworn to justice.
Justice I raise as my shield.
This is my vow.

I am a Knight of Adal.
I am sworn to truth.
Truth I wear as my armour.
This is my vow.

I am a Knight of Adal.
I am sworn to fealty.
Fealty I honour above all.
This is my vow.

My sword fears not death.
My shield defends the weak.
My armour protects the realm.
My oath is my honour.
I am a Knight of Adal.”

With his vows spoken and oath taken, Brand looked up. Richard drew his sword and touched the squire’s left shoulder, his right, and finally his left again. For each touch, the knight spoke the ritual words.

“In the name of the King, whose command we follow
In the name of the Order, whose codex we follow
In the name of Rihimil, whose example we follow
I name you a knight.”

Richard sheathed his sword. “Arise, Sir Adalbrand,” he commanded. Brand, squire no longer, did so. Digging out the spurs, the old knight gave them to his new peer, one by one. “Now, let us get something to drink,” Richard exclaimed. “I grow thirsty just by listening to your hoarse voice.”

“Very well,” Brand laughed a little. “But later today we must celebrate with my sister, I promised her so.”

“There shall be celebration enough for all,” Richard grinned as he led the way out of the shrine.

~~~~

Later that day, the court was assembled in the throne room. The hall that had been quiet for months was once again filled to the brim with people. All the nobility of Adalrik, including beorns and courtiers, were present to watch the lords of the realm swear fealty to their new prince. Usually, this was a custom only done after a king had been crowned, but the new dragonlord had made the Adalthing agree to perform this on the following day. Thus, every lord with a landed title in the realm was standing in the centre of the hall, which meant jarls, landgraves, and margraves. The rest of the court stood to the side, watching as one by one, the noblemen stepped forward towards the throne. Upon it sat Prince Hardmar, flanked by the brothers of Vale.

Among the spectators were Quill and Septimus. They stood in the back where there were few to disturb them or wonder at seeing the two of them together. Septimus stretched his neck a little to watch the jarl of Ingmond approach the throne, soon after followed by his margraves. “I have not seen this tradition enacted before,” the priest spoke, rubbing his neck.

“Nor me,” Quill admitted. “I was still apprentice to my old master last this took place, attending to my duties.”

“And I a humble priest at the Temple,” Septimus smiled.

“It is a breach of custom, though,” the scribe said. “It is highly irregular for the lords to swear loyalty before the king has been crowned. It does not hold to the word of the law that a prince should demand such.”

“I imagine given the current circumstances, our new rulers are concerned that there may be more like Jarl Isarn among the noblemen,” Septimus spoke with a sly smile. “Better to bind them with an oath now when their loyalty is most in question.”

“I suppose,” Quill frowned. “I simply dislike the departure from tradition.”

Septimus nodded absentmindedly before he lowered his voice. “Have you heard from our mutual friend?” he spoke quietly while glancing around.

Quill shook his head. “Rumours have reached me, however, now that the way through Ingmond is open again. They say that the war goes ill in Hæthiod. I do not expect any of my messages might reach him in that war-torn realm.”

“I suppose he will turn up at his own pace,” Septimus said calmly. “I am more troubled by the thought of the outlanders holding Hæthiod while the noblemen of Adalrik fight each other.”

“I can only agree,” Quill muttered, “but what can we do to make them see the greater threat?”

“That is the question which keeps me awake at night,” Septimus confessed. “Not until the outlanders are at the gates of Middanhal will these drakonians see reason, and by then I fear it will be too late.” He narrowed his eyes a little, straining them. “Do I see your friend, Master Quill? Did you not speak of him to me once,” the priest pondered, gesturing towards where Brand stood in the crowd with his sister and sergeant as company.

“That is he,” Quill nodded.

“You did not tell me how that friendship came to be,” Septimus enquired.

“He often helped me during his time as a page,” the scribe explained. “That was before I had an apprentice. I had the impression he preferred the company of books over that of his peers.”

“He might have good cause for that,” the high priest contemplated. “If I understand right, he has defeated one jarl on the battlefield. Two others have lost family members and blame him. Lastly, to our new prince, he is a rival. His very name declares it. I wonder what thoughts ran through his father’s mind to name his son Adalbrand and thus invoke the House of Adal,” Septimus considered, his gaze turning towards Berimund. “Did you hear about the captain of the kingthanes and the jester?”

“I did,” Quill shuddered. “To think such a small person could possess such great malice.”

“Have you heard more than that? After all, he cannot have acted alone,” the priest argued.

The scribe shook his head. “He leapt to his death and took his secrets with him. I know the kingthanes have looked into the records from the solstice games, but it seems pointless. If anybody else were involved, surely they have fled many miles from here.”

“Another mystery unsolved, which promises to return to haunt us.” With a contemplative expression, Septimus and Quill watched the jarl of Theodstan step towards the throne.

Kneeling, Theodoric spoke loudly that all might hear. “I swear fealty to you, my prince, and Theodstan bows before you.”

“Your fealty is accepted,” Hardmar spoke with a smile. He was wearing the colour of his house mingled with the blue colour of his ancestry; on his head, he wore a golden circlet laid with sapphires, which was custom for the prince of Adalrik to be adorned with. By his sides, Valerian and Konstans gave curt nods. “I am aware that Theodstan is a friend to the Crown.”

“Might I ask permission to approach, my prince?” Theodoric asked in a lower voice. “As a friend to the Crown, I wish to share a concern.”

“Of course,” Hardmar said, frowning.

Theodoric walked forward until his words would only be heard by the youth sitting on the throne and the two noblemen standing next to it. “As my prince hopefully knows, I have fought long and hard to protect the realm against traitors and rebels. With most of the House of Isarn imprisoned in your dungeons, it seems hopeful that our civil war is soon at an end. Yet a threat remains,” the jarl warned.

“What might that be?” Konstans enquired.

“A young commander who has usurped the affections of the soldiers and the people,” Theodoric said in a quiet tone.

“I know of whom you speak,” Hardmar replied, glancing towards Brand in the crowd.

“Certainly his abilities have served the realm well,” Theodoric admitted. “But the war in Adalrik is all but won. There seems to be no further need for him here.”

“What do you suggest?” Hardmar asked with narrowed eyes. “Should he join the others in chains?”

“That might be drastic, my prince,” Theodoric hastened to say, raising his hands.

“You have something in mind,” Konstans declared, “so speak.”

“There is still war in Hæthiod. A troublesome one, according to latest tidings. Why not let what remains of the Order army carry out their initial orders?” Theodoric suggested. “A small army, not enough to win a war, but enough to quiet those who would protest if nothing was done. Let the young Adalbrand lead them into other realms, and let him be forgotten here. Once he no longer drapes himself in victories, people will not remember his name,” the jarl claimed.

“The idea might have merit,” Valerian contemplated, sounding uncertain.

“What of Alwood?” Hardmar sneered. “He has shown himself to be quite the malcontent.”

“Let him be sent against Isarn to share command with another,” Konstans decided. “Best to keep those two separate.”

“I leave the details in your capable hands,” Theodoric declared.

“You have done well,” Hardmar stated, to which Theodoric bowed his head. “You have my gratitude.”

The jarl of Theodstan moved on, allowing his margraves to take his place. Turning his eyes into the crowd, Theodoric gave an almost imperceptible nod at Brand, who glanced back but made no gesture of his own.

“Do you think it worked?” Arndis asked of Brand as she turned to look elsewhere.

“I think so,” Brand said quietly. “The jarl can be persuasive when he wishes to be. Not with me, but then again, few are as stubborn as I,” the newly minted knight jested. “One thing I do regret. If our plans come to fruition, I shall once again leave you alone among the wolves.”

“It was my idea,” Arndis replied. “We each have our battlefields, each our weapons to wield. I will do my part here, you may do yours in Hæthiod. That is our duty to our name and lineage.”

“My sister,” Brand smiled. “You have more courage than most men in armour I have met.”

“Question is,” Arndis said, changing the subject, “what shall we do today?”

“We shall have entertainment and amusement,” Brand declared. “As soon as Sir Richard joins us.”

As if summoned, the margrave appeared moments later, sticking out his tongue as if he had tasted something unpleasant. “It will require ale stronger than bull’s brew to wash the words from my mouth,” Richard claimed, scraping his tongue against his teeth.

“Sir Richard knows of a tavern nearby,” Brand told his sister as they began to walk out of the hall. “Come along, Matthew,” he called to his young sergeant, who woke from his daydreaming and hurried after them.

“A most reputable place, fear not, my lady,” Richard growled. “A playhouse, in fact, and a troupe from Fontaine is performing this afternoon. A play which I know your brother is partial towards.”

“Is that so?” Arndis exclaimed. “Which one?”

“The one called ‘The Brothers Swordsmen’,” Brand told the others. “I saw it more than once as a page. I was indeed quite captivated by it.”

“Truly? How can that be?” his sister asked.

“To be honest, by mistake,” Brand said in a light-hearted voice. “I misheard one of the names, you see. I thought he was called Adalbrand like me, and my imagination was lit on fire to think that the greatest swordsman under the sun bore the same name as me. Imagine the tragedy,” he continued with mock hurt in his voice, “when I realised he was in fact called Alfbrand.” The others laughed as they crossed into the courtyard, and Brand continued to speak, reciting lines from the play and entertaining his companions.

~~~~

Returning from the throne room, Quill ascended the stairs to his library and entered. Inside, he found Egil and Kate, who had either snuck away from her duties or been given leave. They both raised their heads towards the door as it entered, but when they saw it was Quill, they returned to their discussion.

“No, he was really nice, kind,” Egil insisted, nodding his head. “Like you imagine a grandfather to be from the stories,” he explained.

Kate sat with her lips pressed together in a sceptical expression. “You sure it was the Highfather?” she questioned. “Couldn’t it have been another priest?”

“There’s only one wearing a grey robe. I was in the Temple, I know these things,” Egil claimed. “Besides, Master Quill called him Septimus.”

“Maybe there are lots of priests named Septimus,” Kate suggested with a shrug.

“Master Quill knows,” Egil declared. “Master?” he said louder to attract the attention of the red-robed man.

Quill meanwhile had walked over to stand by the window, staring absentmindedly out of it. Out in the courtyard, he saw Brand, Arndis, Richard, and Matthew cross the yard towards the gate, talking merrily with each other. “Adal,” the scribe muttered.

“Master Quill?” Kate asked, but Quill did not seem to hear. He left the library hall to enter the scriptorium, walking over to the Arnling Tome of Names. Opening it near the middle, he found the latest pages where anything had been written. His eyes glanced over the letters until he found the words he sought.

“Adalbrand, born to Arngrim of House Arnling and Deirdre of Clan Lachlann,” the scribe mumbled as he read. “Hair dark and eyes blue. First child born to his father, heir to the house and atheling of Sigvard.” Finally, he reached the birth words as spoken by the norn upon Brand’s birth. “Dragon born of eagle wing, the noble blade revealed, and the ward of victory renewed.” Looking briefly at the first phrase, ‘Dragon born of eagle wing’, Quill’s countenance became wrinkled in thought. His sight came to rest at the words ‘noble blade’ again, his brow furrowed in contemplation. “Adalbrand,” Quill spoke quietly, and the light of realisation slowly became ignited in his eyes. “Sigvard,” he finally spoke as his eyes found the last phrase of Brand’s birth words. He grabbed the end of the great book, and with some effort, he slammed it shut.

 

The Sorrow of Glen Hollow

The dragonborn of great renown
Upon his head, he wore a crown
A sword of steel, his armour gold
The Dragonheart, who was of old.

The heart, the heart of Adalrik
So young and bold, so strong and quick
But he will never see the morrow
For that’s the sorrow of Glen Hollow.

The king had just this only son
And all who saw they said as one
That never lived a prince so bold
The Dragonheart, who was of old.

The heart, the heart of Adalrik
So young and bold, so strong and quick
But he will never see the morrow
For that’s the sorrow of Glen Hollow.

Now some may ask, how was he lost
A prince whose might that none had crossed
Well you shall hear his story told
The Dragonheart, who was of old.

The heart, the heart of Adalrik
So young and bold, so strong and quick
But he will never see the morrow
For that’s the sorrow of Glen Hollow.

The years had seen the reign of peace
But evil men sought this to cease
Fell plans were made that him would hold
The Dragonheart, who was of old.

The heart, the heart of Adalrik
So young and bold, so strong and quick
But he will never see the morrow
For that’s the sorrow of Glen Hollow.

His death they sought, their minds were such
Their hearts all black with treason’s touch
And to his foes, they had him sold
The Dragonheart, who was of old.

The heart, the heart of Adalrik
So young and bold, so strong and quick
But he will never see the morrow
For that’s the sorrow of Glen Hollow.

With mercy none, they him beset
He was by swords and arrows met
From every turn they would enfold
The Dragonheart, who was of old.

The heart, the heart of Adalrik
So young and bold, so strong and quick
But he will never see the morrow
For that’s the sorrow of Glen Hollow.

His men were slain, and it is said
That as the last, his blood was shed
The earth him now forever hold
The Dragonheart, who was of old.

The heart, the heart of Adalrik
So young and bold, so strong and quick
But he will never see the morrow
For that’s the sorrow of Glen Hollow.

Away he rode, with all his men
And never to return again
His eyes are closed, his body cold
The Dragonheart, who was of old.

The heart, the heart of Adalrik
So young and bold, so strong and quick
But he will never see the morrow
For that’s the sorrow of Glen Hollow.

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A note from Quill

This was the last chapter of The Eagle's Flight and its 3 chronicles. If you've read this far, then thank you! RRL and you guys have been among my biggest supporters. Because of that, I have to decided to continue uploading straight away with the next book in the series, The Raven's Cry, compiling the next 4 chronicles of Adalmearc. That means you guys will be first to read my next book. Chapters will be added to this fiction, so you don't have to do anything but stay subscribed, and new chapters will follow.

I will be cutting down to only uploading every second week instead of weekly, however; this is to ensure I don't run out of buffer. I think a steady uploading schedule is preferable to the dangers of hiatus because I can't write the chapters fast enough. I hope you guys won't be disappointed by that.

I also have a few requests from you guys. Firstly, now that you've read the whole of TEF, if you have a goodreads account, I'd ask you to leave a rating or a review. This is because the more ratings/reviews, the more legitimate my books look when I seek support through other avenues. So if you could spare the time and have the means, this would mean a lot to me: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30982712-the-eagle-s-flight

Secondly, I'd ask you to consider my Patreon; not just for donations (you can join for as little as $1 monthly - if you join tiers of $5 and above, you'll receive hardcovers of this series in return), but because having access to a group of dedicated readers will help me further develop Adal. With enough readers on my Patreon, I'll have a place to go to get feedback. If the rewards don't look enticing, join up and let me know, and we'll see what improvements can be made.

That's all for now; see you in two weeks for the 4th chronicle of Adalmearc!


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About the author

Quill

Bio: Indie writer with various projects, though The Chronicles of Adalmearc is the one dearest to me. Because of this, I have decided to make it free to reach as many readers as possible. If you enjoy it, I would ask you to consider joining my Patreon; all tiers from $5 and above will earn towards receiving the full series as hardcovers. Advance chapters are available from $2 and upwards. See also my website for more information on my work and world.

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