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Cry for the Wolf : Prologue by Richard Walker
SUMMARY: In which King and war council debate a suitable course of action in the face of a disturbing scourge of wolves
The sky hung low overhead with dark, surly clouds that vaguely threatened to douse the stubbly fields dotted with campaign pavilions, eventually. The bright heraldic colors of the tents put on a brave show, but they were no match for the wan autumn season and its even more gray weather, nor the dark and stormy mood of the men who occupied them. The scattered trees waved in the fitful, pugnacious gusts that sent the golden, russet, and dirty brown leaves of autumn scurrelling in flights willy-nilly about the camp.
The largest of the pavilions was surmounted by a number of cleverly carven falcons gleaming in silver-gilt, wings spread wide over a gilded crown marking the majestic rank of the one who dwelled within. His majesty was taking counsel. It had ended up being a late and rather unusual military campaign year. While it should have been over after the harvest, here they still were in the field. Tall and still well-made despite his having seen more than fifty years, with auburn locks streaked with winter white and shorn to fall in waves to his shoulders, His Majesty King Owain fretted with the tufts peeking out of the dagged sleeves of his embroidered ultramarine blue velvet cote hardie as he paced the fine carpet. He couldn't wait for the audience to be over. He wanted out of the doublet, sculpturally embroidered in layers of metallic silver threads to the point of stiffness. It was magnificent, to be sure, but he could hardly breathe. The new form-fitting fashions were NOT practical for the field. He longed to be back in the saddle in his jupon, mail and plate. Battle was a necessity he found distasteful at best, but he was good at it and he was past ready to shed some blood.
"Sweet Light above! Why couldn't We just have had a simple band of rebellious barons as in years past?!"
The dozen or so armed men in attendance in similarly rich attire passed a look about the tent amongst themselves, but none was bold enough to make a reply. There really was little left to say. They had been on campaign deep into the autumn, now, at the king's own wages for nigh on two months and winter would be upon them all too soon.
''An hundred, two score and seven dead – that We know of! – mauled by wild beasts too cunning by half to allow my hackles to lie down!"
The gathered nobles added nods of assent with passionate grunts to support them, hoping to keep their royal liege moving towards the solution or final course of action that would carry them through the winter. All they wanted to do was take their leave and return to their fiefs, their own ‘native countries' and family concerns.
One of them then shrugged his broad shoulders and shook his head, coal black locks swinging.
"It beseemeth me the hunt hath gone well, my liege." He was the king's closest friend and confidante since His Majesty's childhood, Sir Stephen du Maurier, Duke of Pur Pale and King's Champion, he with the least to risk in speaking up. His great cloak was held at each shoulder by palm-sized golden brooches in the form of ducal crowns in wreathes of roses and generously painted with glittering rubies.