A Venture begins.
The following morning a blue sky with barely a cloud greeted the residents of Thorngarth, the bone piercing wind and and sleet of the previous days had disappeared as if it had never been. A warming Sun shone down, and even at this early hour water dripped from roofs, trees and battlements, as the snows began to melt.
In the castle courtyard it seemed like a disorganized, noisy chaos, human voices mixed with the calls of animals. Loaded mules, horses and men filled the open space inside the castle walls and towers. Guy de Cobham and Owen Wadham, the eldest sons of the Thrangs of Thorngarth and Egton Low Moor, sat on their mounts wearing full armour, each had a mounted banner man beside him carrying the respective colours of the two dominions.
Owen's father had virtually stripped the granaries and barns of Thorngarth to load upon the now waiting supply train. He had kept barely enough to keep his people fed until this years crops could be harvested and hunters could get out into the fields and woods, to take some of the abundant game that inhabited his land. His good friend Richard needed those supplies desperately and he, Walter de Cobham, would never let an old friend down.
He looked up at the two young men and smiled.
'See, even the weather has changed for your journey, though the melting snow will probably prove as difficult going as was the wind on the journey here.'
Owen grinned back.
'I will take melting snow and the warm Sun on my back every time my lord, your kindness in providing so much as well as troops to escort it, can never be repaid by my father and our people, I understand now why he instructed me to come directly to you.'
Walter nodded and shook the boys hand followed by the hand of his son. He stood back to allow the convoy to move off before giving one final piece of advice.
'The two of you will decide the best route to take, going via Garthdale will add extra days to your journey, but would be safer. Try and give the town of Knapton a wide berth, stay well off the road, head South East until you hit the road into Egton. Godfrey Lovell is a tyrant and hates me dearly and would love nothing better than to take what you carry. He knows you will have to return through his dominion and no doubt has men placed to watch, and possibly even intends to intercept you. That is why the extra men are with you, hopefully you will not need to use them!'
After final farewells, the convoy moved off, spear men, archers and bill men, mixed in with heavily laden mules passed out of the castle gates and down the hill to the town. The people were out in force to cheer and wave as the men and animals passed by. Some wept, as their son, brother or husband, now in the contingent from Thorngarth moved by. At the head of the column rode Guy and Owen, each fully aware of the responsibilities that their respective fathers had placed upon them.
The Sun did indeed warm their backs as they left the town on the road to Burn Howe.
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The prophesy of the Thrang of Thorngarth came to pass. The melting snow, now an ice cold slush that made walking treacherous, was causing man and beast alike to slip and slide on the road. The snakelike column had taken to trudging along beside the road, where although the snow was deeper, it was firm enough still to take their weight. The Sun had continued to shine and its warmth cheered the men, though their feet were cold and wet.
In the late afternoon of the third day, the column entered the town of Burn Howe, much smaller than Thorngarth and nor did it have a mighty castle standing like a sentinel on a hill. However, Richard Pierrot, the Thrang welcomed Guy and Owen into his hall as honoured guests, the men and animals also being found accommodation in houses, barns or simply pitching their simple tents in the grounds of the hall.
The people of Burn Howe had not been spared by the Winter either, their stocks too being very low both in food and fodder. The dominion was a mix of agriculture and sheep farming, the latter being the mainstay, and like Egton, they had lost numerous sheep to the bitter cold and snow, though not on the same scale. Richard was full of admiration for the gesture Walter had shown to Richard, explaining that even though Guy's father was one of the richest and largest landowners in the whole of Yolare, he would help the poorest and smallest of his neighbours. It was a great pity other thrangs did not have the same attitude. After a modest but filling meal in the hall, Richards wife and daughters left the men to talk.
'So do you intend to head south on the Knapton Road?' Richard asked as he gestured to three chairs placed by the fire.
'That is our plan my lord,' Guy replied stretching his long legs out to allow the fire to warm his feet. 'It would be safer, but longer to go by Garthdale and then head south on the road to Egton Low Moor. We do not have the luxury of time.' He went on to explain his father's instructions for bypassing Knapton and staying off the road.
Richard stroked his dark beard between his thumb and forefinger before replying.
'Lovell will know you have entered his dominion the moment you set foot across the division between his lands and mine. He takes little enough notice of the division anyway, his people, spies and troops are continually to be seen within the boundaries of my dominion, though he challenges anyone who crosses into his. I have no doubt, just like your father, that he will attempt to disrupt your journey.'
'But we are simply passing through!' snapped Owen angrily, 'It is the most direct and so the quickest way to my home, why should he interfere in something that does not concern him?'
Richard waited for the young man's anger to subside, placing another log onto the fire, sparks flying up the stack as he did so.
'One day you will become Thrang of Egton Low Moor,' he said quietly. 'Your word will be law, ultimate power lies in your hands, how you choose to administer that power within your dominion will not be challenged or questioned. Both of you have fathers to be proud of, noble men who are both warriors and wards at the same time. It is a lonely and difficult job, trust me I know, and the two of you will learn too in the years ahead.
Lovell is cruel, callous and rules his dominion by fear, he is not alone either, other thrangs are just as bad if not worse. However, it is his dominion and you are passing through it, and not just as a humble traveller but with a small army!
'But my lord, the troops are merely for protection of our supplies, we mean no harm to anyone or anything in his dominion.' Owen answered, 'Surely he must know that?'
'Indeed he does, of that I have no doubt,' Richard continued. 'He probably has no need of what you carry, but will probably demand a portion of it as a right of passage through his land. It is his way of showing your fathers that he is the power in his own dominion and they can do nothing about it, lest of course they declare war on him.
He will cause you trouble simply because he can and will certainly enjoy it at the same time. A way of testing two future thrangs, your strengths and weaknesses are what he will be looking for, a chink in your armour that he can exploit at some future time. How you deal with him when the time comes, will tell him all he needs to know.'
The two young men gazed into the fire, deep in their own thoughts.
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I hope you enjoyed this installment, please call back to read the continuing Saga of Yolare.