Day 23: The Day Before the Battle

This is it! I have finally made it to the giant battle scene at the end of my story. It has been a long 23 days of patient waiting but tomorrow I get to finally start it. Yesterday I was able to outline a few more story lines within the battle to make it even more exciting and thrilling. It involves me bringing a character back to life who died earlier in the story. I will need to go back and write him back in most of the story and add a few more subplots to make this climax as good as it can be!

In the mean time, here is the next chapter of my first book in The Hoarding Series, called Junkland. 

This is another one of my favorite chapters. It is also one of the final chapters I added in my story even though it is near the beginning in Act 1. It is the first point of view chapter of the captain of the Poolesguard, Sir Piller Lorne. He is one of my favorite characters because he is kind of like me. He just wants to do the right thing and make everyone happy but every time he tries, he is betrayed and broken but he never gives up; he keeps trying.

I hope you enjoy this chapter!

 

The Graveyard

 

SIR KYLE LARK RAISED his wooden mug from across the small round table with his stocky arms. “Cheers to good friends and peace amongst Astenpoole,” he cheered.

The other five knights joined Kyle’s mug at the center of the table. The mugs collided with a light clunk. Beer spilled over Piller’s mug and onto his left hand. He flicked his hand to the side, getting as much beer off it as he could. He lifted his drink up to his mouth and took a sip. He placed it back down on the table. The others did the same.

“Ah. Now that be refreshing after a long day.” Kyle sat back in his chair with his arms behind his head. His thick brown, greying beard lying peacefully on his chest. Piller has never seen Kyle so relaxed before. But it wasn’t often that they got time off duty.

“This would be a great night for a game of palms and pooles, don’t ya think?” Kyle opened up the question around the table.

“Ha,” Krist laughed, waving his muscular arms into the air. “So you can just cry again when you lose all of your pooles? I don’t think tonight is the night for that. We are here to celebrate the new marriage!”

“I agree,” Arnold Beck, the youngest knight of the Poolesguard, chimed in. “I don’t want a repeat of the other night to be quite honest. I don’t think my ears could handle that much yelling and antagonizing again.”

“Argh. Maybe if you all weren’t a bunch of rotten cheaters. Trying to rob me, you are.” Kyle spat on the lawn and took another sip from his mug. White foam covered his thick beard when he brought the wooden mug down. He wiped it clean with one of his large hands.

Piller turned his head towards Kyle. “We weren’t cheating you, Kyle. And besides we are down a player anyway.” Piller scratched the scar that ran from the left of his forehead down to the right side of his jaw.

“Yea. Where is the princess lover?” Martin said sarcastically as he moved a strand of black hair from his eye. He was sitting on Piller’s right.

Benjamin is guarding the princess’ bedchamber,” answered Piller as he stressed Benjamin’s name.

“That poor girl,” Hollow said to the right of Martin. “Must be a lot of pressure on her with her mother and all.” He took a sip from his mug with his large mouth.

“Yea. I knew she wasn’t taking her mother’s death lightly. Heck I didn’t take my own mother’s death lightly. But I didn’t think it was this bad,” Kyle said, pushing a hand through his thinning hair. “Collapsing at your own father’s wedding…who would have thought.”

Piller looked down. He thought about his own mother. How he felt when she had died. He felt pity for the princess.

“She has been the talk of the party tonight. I don’t think any of us were prepared for that. Who is taking care of her?” Arnold asked. He had to raise his voice over the noise inside their tent.

“Galla went to her tower shortly after the incident. She has been giving her some fresh herbs to calm her down,” Piller said, as he looked around at his brothers. All their eyes were sitting on their drinks, cupped between their hands. “She still does not know what caused the princess’ stomach ache.”

A serving girl approached them at the round table. “Would you good sirs like another round?”

“My good dear. Do I look drunk yet?” said Kyle hotly. “Fill us up again with your finest ale!” He flicked his finger into the air.

The serving girl gave a nervous chuckle, took their mugs, and walked back to the bar underneath the tent to fill up their drinks. Her curves giving them a nice show.

“Will ya look at that,” Kyle was staring at the serving girl as she walked away. “She has curves nicer than the Western Mountains.”

“Cut that out!” Krist yelled from across the table.

Kyle gave Krist a bold look. “So you be telling me you don’t find that,” he pointed to the serving girl who was pouring them drinks, “remotely attractive Krist?”

“I…yes…I mean—”

“Ha! Then shut your trap. She be coming back now.”

When she returned, she handed them all new mugs.

Kyle gave her an innocent look. “What does a knight like myself have to do for a dance from a pretty girl like you?” Kyle asked, drunkenly.

She smiled at Kyle. “I am flattered, sir knight. But I am working until the end of the party. And…” She placed a hand on her hip. “You can start by referring me as a woman and not a girl.” She turned and walked away, giving him a sassy smile over her shoulder.

“Well I’ll be damned.” Kyle laughed to himself.

While the brothers continued to discuss the princess, Piller let his eyes wander around the courtyard. They were seated in one of the five large tents that surrounded the dance floor. There was a stage right up against the fountain.

The water that flowed from Zalus’ palms glowed in the sun that was setting behind the mountains. A beautiful mixture of pink and cream orange swirled peacefully in the sky. As the day was transforming into night, the courtyard was beginning to glow in the candle light.

There was a constant blend of talking that flowed around the yard. Woman flirting with men. Little children running under tables. Dogs chasing and barking at other dogs. And old men telling stories from their time.

“Aye! Zatum!” Piller returned to the conversation. Kyle was yelling out to a young boy who was hurrying out of the tent. “Who invited you to this wedding?”

The young boy was shaking from head to toe. He looked nervous and out of place. “I…I…the king…invited me sir…I am…his messenger…s…s…sir.”

“Har! I be messing with ya,” he slapped the kid on the back. “Now get runnin’ off. Don’t be keepin’ the ladies awaitin’.” He waved Zatum away. The boy hurried out of the tent, giving a nervous glance behind his shoulder.

The dance floor was picking up a bit as the band began to play for their third set that night. The newly wedded couple entered the dance floor. King Leone twirled his new wife around as people gathered around to watch. The band felt the vibe of the crowd and increased the tempo to the song. The dance floor was getting wild. The woman from Piller’s tent were emptying out and adding to the party.

“Well,” Kyle sat up from the table. “I don’t know about you lot, but it isn’t every day I get to be a free man.” He took one large gulp to clean out his mug. He wiped the foam off his beard. “Now if you excuse me, I will be out there looking for a woman to warm me bed tonight. Har!” Kyle stumbled off to the dance floor, mumbling drunken nonsense to himself.

Two lovely ladies approached their table. The left one skipped over to Martin and leaned over to his ear. She whispered something.

Martin laughed. “Woo! Sheila! Let’s start with a dance first.”

The girl Sheila giggled and took Martin’s hand.

“Well boys. Looks like I am being summoned.” He gave a little salute farewell. “Watch my beer!” he yelled back, as Sheila dragged him to the dance floor.

Sheila’s silent friend grabbed Arnold’s hand with a nervous smile. They followed after Sheila and Martin.

Krist chugged his beer and slammed it onto the table. “Damn him! I don’t know how he does it…” He shook his head.

Piller, and Hollow exchanged glances across the table, laughing silently.

The three remaining knights turned their gaze to the dance floor, watching their brothers make fools of themselves. Kyle was talking to a young tall skinny blond on the corner of the squared floor. She was at least a full head taller than him. He would have to get on his tippy toes to kiss her. Piller could only imagine what out dated stories he was telling her.

Martin was twirling Sheila round and round the floor. His footing excessively better than hers. He is so much different than his brother, thought Piller, laughing to himself.

Arnold was wobbling side to side awkwardly while Sheila’s friend looked uncomfortable. Poor lad.

Suddenly, the crowd began to back away from the center as a man stumbled from the tents onto the dance floor. It was Lyle McWillen. He was one of the older knights. He served his entire life as commander of the king’s army but has been relieved of that duty ever since his drinking problem worsened. Now he was a guard at the Western Gate.

Old Lyle spun drunkenly around. His arms swinging above his head. His mug was still half full in his right hand and he showered the crowd around him with beer. The women shrieked and yelled as beer rained down on their pretty dresses. Lyle was trying to sing along with the band but failing profusely. His moment of fame ended quickly when he tripped over someone’s foot. He went down face first and made no sort of effort of rising back up. Two of his friends dragged him off the dance floor.

When the band ended their song, the singer spoke to the crowd. “Alright, alright. It seems things are getting a little rowdy out there. We are going to bring it down a notch. Here’s an old classic.”

The band started their new song. It was slower. A lot slower. Men grabbed their woman on the dance floor and began slowly dancing to the peaceful melody.

 

“Under this mountain and starry sky,

Is where I leave you and say goodbye.

Please do not cry, for I shall be back soon,

And I will meet you here in Astenpoole…”

 

Piller’s heart dropped. He knew this song. It was the song Sir Patrik Yale sung to Princess Melaine the night he left her when he went on his journey beyond the Western Mountains. The last night anyone had ever seen him.

But it was also the song his mother would always sing to him when he was a young boy. It was the song she sang right before she died. He felt the tears coming to his eyes. He rose from the table.

“Please excuse me,” he said to his last two brothers remaining at the table.

“Are you okay cap’?” asked Krist, rising from his seat.

“Yea…Yea I’m fine. Just going to go for a walk. I will catch up with you all later.” He turned and walked away from the celebrations.

He walked out the King’s Gate, down the King’s Road. He passed the magnificent architecture of the throne room on his left and the armory on his right before leaving the castle keep underneath the Poole’s Gate. He wrapped around the inner wall to the eastern side of the castle. The streets were deserted. Everyone was either out celebrating inside the castle keep or out on Poole’s Road at all the bars.

It was silent on the eastern side of the castle. It was as if all the noise was sucked away. It was also dark save the faint candle lights glowing in the graveyard on a hill not too far ahead. Piller followed the path towards the gate of the graveyard.

Not many people came to this side of the castle anymore. Ever since the king shut down the Eastern Gate after the outbreak of the sickness. King Leone had wanted to maintain control on who entered and left the castle so he did that by shutting down the Eastern Gate and monitoring the Western Gate. But what once was a simple entry way for people in the outskirts was now a road block. People had to get their reasons approved for entering the castle by the king himself.

Piller walked up to the gate of the graveyard, opening it with a loud creak. It slammed shut behind him. He followed the path straight up and took a right that wrapped around the hill. He had to step off the grass a bit to get to his destination. Three grave stones laid before him.

The first stone said:

 

“Allen Lorne

633 A.Z. – 675 A.Z.

May he find peace with Zalus

Beyond the Western Mountains.”

 

The stone to the right said:

 

“Malah Lorne

636 A.Z. – 685 A.Z.

Taken by the sickness,

May she rest with her Allen,

Beyond the Western Mountains.”

 

Sir Piller Lorne knelt down between both stones. He wiped the tears from his eyes, feeling the smooth bump from his scar.

“I’m sorry Ma.” His head sank down to his chest. “I’m sorry Pa. I am sorry for not being strong enough to save you and for failing you both. I wish you were here with me tonight.” He took in a deep breath. “I will make you proud…I promise I will make you proud.” He lifted his gaze towards their graves. “Dammit, I will make you proud,” he whispered.

After Piller was finished, he stood up and looked at the third tombstone next to his mother’s. His heart hurt as he thought back to his first night on duty. “I hope you are resting peacefully beyond the Western Mountains little one.” He bent down and kissed the tombstone and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

He turned to leave the graveyard. But as he was leaving, he noticed something sitting on top of the old grave house not too far behind him. It was small and black: a crow. And it was watching him.

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