“My liege, Prince Filmor, we hate to bear bad news, but we have just received word that the Lady Arabella has been abducted in route to the city.”
Brom straightened up on his seat, situated by his father’s throne, empty as usual. This was the first tiding in days that had interested him. In fact, he had been caught up in a daydream about his future wife. He had only met her once, but that had been enough to leave him smitten. Declared one of the beauties of the land, Arabella’s smile, so timid but so knowing at the same time, enchanted him. His thoughts had wandered to the wedding night when the unfortunate news came.
“Arabella!” he said, rising from his seat and whisking his cape in back of him. “Something must be done. Who kidnapped her? Where were they heading?”
“To the west,” one of the quivering messengers said, kneeling at his feet. The man was scrawny, unlike Brom’s own physique.
What lay to the west? “Jadek,” he said, that one name taking on power.
“It would seem the logical conclusion,” one of his advisors, Hadrian, said. “What course of action would you suggest in the absence of your father? Diplomacy? Espionage?”
“Heroics,” Brom said, ignoring the messengers kneeling uncomfortably on the hard floor. “There will be no tolerance for such an audacious act. Prepare the military.”
“My prince, I would advise against such drastic terms. We have a trade agreement with the Thromwells, and marching an army into their territory would be an egregious break of trust.” Hadrian, with his balding head, furrowed his brows, making him look more ancient than his forty years.
Brom remembered the messengers, waiting to be addressed, and waved them away. Most of them left, but one stayed near, half bowing, looking hesitant. Brom waved him away more energetically; annoyed he had to waste so much energy on the man. The messenger smiled and left, running after his coworkers. Hadrian and Brom were alone now.
“Any treaty Jadek Thromwell had with us is null in light of this kidnapping.”
“But Brom, you have no idea it was Jadek in the first place.”
“I saw how he was looking at her in the feast. Father Morander would be ashamed to have someone so full of lust attending the event in his memory.”
“Perhaps, but I know your father was ashamed to have his son drooling after the same girl.”
“I was not drooling. Anyway, I saw how much he wanted to have her for his own, and how jealous he was of me when my father announced our betrothal.”
Hadrian sighed. “You are the regent while your father is gone, and you have every right to be concerned about the welfare of your future wife, but remember that I recommended against it. Only you will answer to your father when this is over.”
“And receive all the praise,” Brom said. “Really, this won’t even be an issue. Don’t fret, I will cast you in the best light possible.”
“As you will, my prince. I desire the best for your journey. I will notify the general of your decision. But please, do not make enemies lightly.”
“There is nothing to fear,” Brom said, fearing he would be the same when he was older. “The princess will return safely and we will soon be wed.”
“Assemble the men,” Brom ordered from his horse. The flag bearer raised the horn and blew. Brom felt the vibrations pulsing as they reverberated through the valley. His men offered up a cheer as the march began. He smiled down on them as a loving father would. He yelled out as loud as he could, hoping his thousand men could hear him. “Your future queen, Arabella, has been kidnapped. We must rescue her. We believe she is held captive in Melfor with the Thromwells. Once we arrive, leave no house, no store, no alley unsearched.” Thinking about Hadrian, he said, “Avoid violence, but use it as necessary. And do whatever is required to save the princess’s life.”
The city of Melfor stretched before them, vast as the clouds in the sky. In the distance stood Thromwell castle, where Brom was sure he would find Arabella. In case Jadek, the elder son who recently inherited the throne after his father died of the yellow fever, saw Brom coming and sent Arabella away into the city, he would have his men enter in and search every house. Luckily, most of Jadek’s men were with Brom’s father, fighting in the alliance against the usurpation of the Kingdom of Grim by the Mithics.
They made it to the gates of the town before getting any response. One of Jadek’s guards came out to meet them, dressed in violet finery, but looking annoyed. “What is the meaning of this, Prince Brom? Just because your father didn’t bring as many troops with him to war as we did doesn’t give you the right to trample into our fair city.”
“You know why we’re here. And do not insult my father, who is actually fighting, unlike Jadek.”
“As well as you,” the guard replied, sneering.
“Someone needs to run the kingdom!” Brom said, losing patience.
“What is your name?”
“I am called Firion, son of-”
“Firion, if you can’t give me Arabella right now, I am going to take over this city and burn down every house until I find her.”
“Arabella? Who is she?” There was a look of such confusion on the man’s face that for a moment Brom thought he might not know. Only for a moment, though.
“Put up your guard, because I am going to rescue her!” Brom charged Firion with his sword raised. Firion barely had time to take out his sword and block the strike which left him trembling.
One of the men escorting Firion backed away and pulled out a horn. It took him a few tries, but it sounded throughout the city, while Firion and Brom fought. Brom’s army marched forward, ready to take on the opposing host.
Brom had to admit, the guard was a good swordsman, but that was no surprise, given his position. Still, Brom was bigger and used his brute force to his advantage. His troops marched past him.
Swords clashed, ringing nearly as loud as the horn. Thrust, side slash, feint, parry, thrust again. Brom pressed down, hoping to break Firion’s stance. When that didn’t work, he slid down and slid his foot in an arc, trying to trip him, but only managing to unbalance him.
So he jumped on him.
Firion fell down, Brom on top. Not about to take any chances, Brom plunged the sword into Firion’s chest, pushing through the armor. Firion just gurgled in surprise, eyes already going blank.
Taking his sword out, blood dripping, he stood up and shook it before wiping it on Firion’s clothes. Red specks covered the ground.
Inside the city, people were running out of their houses, screaming. This only encouraged Brom’s army to chase after, pillaging and plundering. Brom hadn’t meant for this to happen, but getting control of them now would be nearly impossible, and he had to get to Castle Thromwell. Taking a unit of disciplined soldiers, he left orders with the general to round up the army and he took off.
A few peasants tried to stand up to him, yelling, calling him names, but he just cut them down. The castle stood like a white beacon, and everything else in sight was just a distraction. Arabella was waiting for him.