The lord and his pawn


Part one

The besieged fortress's stockade bristled with sharp wooden stakes like an angry porcupine, the red lights in the upper windows glowing like embers and twinking like a myriad of evil eyes. It had an angry, desperate look.

"Her fortress is well equipped for the siege, my lord," said Askryll the elder advisor, pressing his hand next to his heart in a humble and respectful gesture. "I know," the lord replied with a tired sigh. He was very young, a mere boy who hadn't yet grown out of his childhood name - Vynn. In a few years it was to turn into the proudly sounding Vincenar, if the boy had survived long enough of course.

Lord Vynn scratched his beardless chin thoughtfully and muttered, "How do we persuade her that we are not her enemies? How do we make her see we are fighting the same evil she fights?"

After a sleepless night he had to speak his thoughts out loud. He could barely concentrate otherwise.

"Send her a gift and a letter," Askryll advised. "That woman has a talent of reading people's true thoughts and intentions by the things they touched. So I heard."
"Very well, Askryll. I will send a messenger to her tomorrow."

Askryll bowed politely and left the tent. The young lord had another sleepless night ahead of him with only a flickering oil lamp to keep him company. Vynn had to choose the gift for the lady of the fortress and write her a letter. Oh, heavens! He had never written such letters before, in all the sixteen years of his life, and now everything depended on this! He had to choose the right words to persuade the ruler much more experienced than him that his intentions were pure. Even worse: he had to write a letter to a lady and manage not to screw up…

In the morning he met the person chosen by Askryll to be the messenger, one of the volunteers. It was a blond, grey-eyed boy not older than lord Vynn himself. Only his father's heavy armor made Vynn look bigger than Askryll's chosen one clothed in leather and linen, an archer's attire.

The boys exchanged glances. One had been immensely proud of being there and could barely stop himself from smiling. The other seemed sad, cold, and wise beyond his years.

"Take this bag," lord Vynn addressed the messenger. "Give it to the lady of the fortress, no one else. Bear a white flag with you and no weapons. Go."

The messenger bowed, his hand pressed next to his wildly racing heart. Askryll had instructed the boy briefly on the basic rules of courtesy before leading him to meet the lord, but the kid forgot everything when his emotions took over.

"What is your name?" asked the young lord in a condescending tone.
"Vynn!" said the boy with such genuine fervor that the cold lord smiled and would have laughed if the rules of courtesy had allowed that.
"Godspeed to you, namesake!" he said. "And good luck."

"I have a bad feeling, Askryll," the young lord said as he watched the little figure of the messenger grow smaller in the distance.
"Why, my lord?"
"I feel like I've done something wrong, but what? I wish I knew…"

The messenger returned the next morning, barely conscious, leaning against his horse's neck for support as he rode. A black-feathered arrow stuck out of his side.

"She... didn't... believe me... my lord," the boy said gasping for air with each word. "She… thought… that I… served the evil…"

He died as soon as he had delivered his last message.

For a long time lord Vynn stood silent over the messenger's body seeing nothing and nobody but his namesake, his peer who lay motionless on the ground.

“Should we prepare to attack, my lord?” asked Askryll, his tone even, cool, anticipating.
“No!” denied Vynn. “She was right to be suspicious. These are dark times. We’ve suffered from the evil Deceivers as well. We… I understand what I did wrong. I should’ve come to her myself!”

Nobody dared to stop lord Vynn when he got onto a horse and rode toward the castle without even his father’s armor to protect him.

“I could’ve stopped the boy,” thought the elder advisor, watching the young lord ride to his fate. “But should I? The first Vynn had to die. That was his mission and the lady’s message to which my lord’s current action is the answer. An enemy would have attacked immediately after the deceit had been discovered, but a friend would give her another chance. Too bad lord Vynn is too young to understand such things yet. But he will grow. Oh, yes he will grow. Then he will learn the wisdom of sacrificing the pawns.”

(November 27, 2003)

Part two

“The lady of the fortress is waiting for you, my lord,” said Askryll. His voice faltered when he met Vynn’s eyes, the eyes of a child who had to grow up too fast.

Father’s armor was a heavy burden for the young lord and not just in a metaphorical way. This boy was a green sprout that rose from under the root of a mighty dead tree. Lithe, young, vulnerable, he had a long way ahead of him before becoming an equal to his late father.

Askryll embraced the boy. It was the last time when the elder advisor could allow himself such a gesture. By the end of that day little Vynn was to cease to exist, replaced by the adult named Vincenar.

The lady was waiting…

She saw firsthand the Age of Darkness begin, saw the dead rise and the living turn into madmen, saw the heroic old lords die in battle one by one, saw their fallen swords picked up by their young daughters and sons. Children. Children like this boy who walks slowly not out of pride but because his giant father’s armor is too heavy for him yet.

He came to her to receive his adult name. The name she knew he had deserved years ago. There was a flicker of hidden flame in his eyes, a distant reminder of his father and of the fact that he is not a mere mortal, but a lord. The lords are made of a different matter. Otherwise, the armies would not have followed these children to the very hell.

“I name you Vincenar, my lord!” the lady announced, her voice solemnly repeated by the echo thrice. The boy kneeled and bowed his head before her. She put her pale hand onto his dishevelled, boyish hair and whispered, “Your name means “courageous”. I see the flame in your eyes. I feel the flame in your heart. You are worthy of your name, Vincenar!”

He left the hall and his childhood name behind. The name his mother gave him. The name that sounded so funny when mixed with the title of a lord.

Askryll helped his lord to get out of the armor. Vincenar spread his hands in a genuine gesture of freedom and even jumped up and down for a while happy to feel so light again.

“It’s time to go, my lord,” Askryll reminded him.
“Yes,” the former Vynn answered with a nod and added, “I can not stop thinking about that young archer, my namesake.”
“What namesake?” Askryll raised his brows, slightly surprised.
“The one who had died in my place,” Vincenar reminded him in a reproachful tone. “He would have received his adult name this year as well.”
“Ah, that boy…” Askryll regarded the dead kid’s memory with a polite smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “I doubt that, my lord. He was just a simple archer. No one would give him a noble name.”
“I’d name him Vincent,” the young lord continued, unruffled by the advisor’s remark. “A simple archer, a pawn on a chessboard, that’s how you see him, right? What if I told you he had been a great man? Look at me: my father’s armies followed my command when I was just a child. Now look at my late namesake: I followed him. He gave his life to stop the war. He deserves at least to be remembered under a noble name. I name him Vincent. May he live forever in our hearts.”
“It is time, my lord…” Askryll interrupted him softly.

All the way to the camp the old man kept silent wrestling with the dark thoughts that were on his mind.

(December 28, 2003)

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English is not my native language.
If you see an error or a typo, please, tell me. I will fix it.