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First Chapter – The Wardens’ Road

- First chapter -

The Wardens' Road

Deep in the thousand-year-old trees of the Brickenwood forest, the Wardens' Road winds (its way). Forestmen named it that because they are loyal to one thing, and that is the Brickenwood forest itself. They seek to protect it from the power-hungry expansions and wars of the ruling houses. They they see the wilderness as their own free territory, in which they try to leave as little footprint as possible and coexist with the thousands of years forest. The noblemen who passing through are systematically robbed or harassed, sometimes even the less well-off, respectable citizens fall victim.
And now, a Black Falcon team walks in the infamous path. Lord Godwin - leader of the Falcons - leads the march as always. His esteemed knight Sir Cassian at his side, followed by the squires Thomlin and Sam.
Thomlin grumpily asks Sam:
- Do you know why we come by this accursed forest and not by the way that avoid it?
- I think because it's shorter, but, if the Wardens (that's what many call the Forestmen) attack us, we'll be in trouble. - Sam whines.
- We've been marching for days, I even can't see the sky in this jungle. I don't understand Lord Godwin… How could he do anything against Legford like this?
The squires’ concern is understandable. With four men the idea of even scratching Legford's walls is ridiculous. What they don't know is that Lord Godwin has no intention of openly attacking one of the kingdom's strongest castles. He has more sophisticated plans.
Although Cassian is aware of the details, he is no calmer than the the weapon bearers. In fact, it is the details that worry him.
- How do we know we're getting reliable information from Forestmen? If they mislead us on the slightest thing, we'll be dead!
- They're not really Forestmen. They're paid mercenaries, we just put them in the green suit. If they are spotted, they'll be distracted by those forest bastards and at most they'll suspect they're trying to steal. These two thieves are only loyal to money. Since we pay them, they have no interest in making nonsense. If they do, they'll pay with their heads.
- Be right, my lord.
*

After another half an hour of marching, Lord Godwin gave the order to camp. The task of setting up camp was left to the squires, while the two knights continued their way switched from horses to the chariot.

Edmund Obelyn is a simple blacksmith who had had enough of the hustle and bustle of castles and villages, so moved with his wife Edmé deep into the Brickenwood forest. The wilderness provides them with everything they need, and his craftmanship came in handy when they needed to establish good relations with the Forestmen. He makes weapons for them - arrowheads, for example - and Edmé makes various items from leather. Sometimes, of course, the knights and nobles who pass by claim his hammer, as do the soon-to-arrive Lord Godwin and Sir Cassian.

- Good morrow (medieval form of greeting)! Sharpen our weapons, fix their faults and give us some food for the journey ahead!
- I'll do it, for good silver and gold money, my lord" - said the master, smiling under his moustache.
Godwin became angry, but he knew that if he mistreated this man now, the Wardens would know about it, and in the middle of this wilderness, no one wanted to tangle with them. As warlord it hurts to admit, but in this terrain they don't stand a chance against them. So he grumbled and threw a small leather bag to the blacksmith.
Edmund looked inside and grinned with satisfaction when he saw all the silver. Took the weapons and told his wife to fill a chest with all the goods. Also he provided with good care a small cask of ale. According to him it’s a foolish thing to go into battle sober!

When all was ready, the crates were loaded, Cassian cracked his whip and the chariot creaked and rattled as it headed back to the camp. They will continue their journey from here to Legford on the next day.
When the knights had gone far enough, Edmé turned to her husband, worried:
- Edmund, what are two Black Falcon knights doing here?
- I don't know, my dear, but I don't like it. I feel the peace is in danger.

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