The guards of Eastergate were playing dice at the drawbridge. They looked lazily at the approaching rider. Sighing, one of them stood and readied himself, with an air of detachment.
The rider grew closer, and the standing guard recognized him. He gave a glance to the other three, still intent on their game. "Look lively, soldiers. Maxell approaches." The soldiers clambered and clanked to their feet, resuming their posts at the gate.
Maxell eyed them as his horse plodded towards the gate, where the drawbridge stood open, but guarded, as always. The soldiers weren't likely to give him any trouble, since they had been alerted to his meeting with their lord, but Maxell had learned years ago to never grow complacent.
"Greetings to you, Maxell. You've business with Lord Descer?"
Maxell dismounted and passed the reins to a stablehand, who led his horse across the drawbridge. "Aye, I do. Where can I find him today?"
"He's in his study, in the tower. We've been ordered to take you there immediately."
Wonderful, an escort. Not even Descer trusts me anymore. Maxell concealed his growing anger and allowed himself to be led up the tower and into the study by two of the drawbridge guards.
Inside, Lord Descer sat at his desk. He put the finishing touches on the letter he was writing, folded it, and sealed it. The soldiers stood at attention in the doorway, awaiting his convenience. Lord Descer looked up and smiled. "Ah, Maxell, I'm glad you came." He stood and walked to the door with a smile on his face. He handed the letter to one of the soldiers. "Give this to the next page that passes. And make sure we are not interrupted." The soldier nodded, saluted, and he and his partner stepped out of the room and closed the door.
Descer's smile widened. "Sit down, old friend. You have the look of a cornered deer. What ails you?"
Maxell snorted as he took the proferred chair. "Guards, Descer? Have you now joined the ranks of those who mistrust me?"
"Those guards are to keep others out, and to keep up appearances."
"Even so, it worries me. Every time I turn I meet another foe, or find another friend has disappeared on me. Why have you called me? It certainly can't be to improve your image."
"No, that's not the reason," said Descer as he sat down heavily, "but you underestimate your standing with the soldiers. There's not a man in the garrison here that didn't hate Duke Trevor."
"That's not the point! I hated Trevor too, but not enough to kill the man! In truth, he was harmless. New Avalon, and especially Dantimos itself, would not have stood around and let the army disband, no matter how strong Trevor was at court."
"I believe you, friend, but the facts are arrayed against you. You were the last one to see him alive. You had quarreled with him earlier that night. And you left his manor that very night, before anyone discovered he was missing. And before the blood was discovered soaking his bedsheets. It looks bad."
"I don't care what it looks like! Did they find a body, or a weapon, or anything that linked me with the deed? All they have are harsh words and coincidences."
"Calm down, Maxell. You're right, they have nothing on which to convict you on. Which is why you haven't been summoned before the magistrate."
"Yet. Trevor's people are rallying in the streets. That fool Tradarr is urging them on, too. Everywhere I go, they look at me as if I were a demon, come to eat their children! This is what I get for protecting them?"
Descer started to speak again, but Maxell cut him off. "The magistrate can't afford to wait much longer, or they'll riot. He'll have to bring me up on trial soon. And if I'm found innocent, the rioting will be even worse."
"But you can't be found guilty. They've got nothing to go on. The trial will be over quickly, and our soldiers will be more than happy to put down the rioters. They bear as little love for Tradarr as they did for Trevor."
"But the magistrate is not so willing to risk an uprising. He may very well find me guilty and think my life a small price to pay for peace in the streets. And that's why I want your support. Will you stand for me?"
Descer looked taken aback. "I stand with you now as always, Maxell. But what do you expect me to do? I will speak in your defense, of your bravery in the war. But while the people may respect me, I doubt that my words will sway them."
"That's why I don't want your words. I want your support. I won't let them hang me over this. That bastard's life is not worth it. If they convict me, will you send your soldiers to free me?"
"Send soldiers against the magistrate? You know the trial will be held in Riveroak City. This would be tantamount to war!"
"I'm not asking you to march on the city! But if your men freed me in the night, you know that the gaolers would stand aside. And the peasants would have no one to riot against."
Descer looked pensive. "I don't think you'll be tried, much less convicted. But if you are, I won't let them hang you, either. I can do this for you. But if my actions were to be discovered, I would be thrown into a cell, as surely as you. I think you should talk to Reynand, at Stoneguard. He has the ear of Mayor Isham, and could ensure the help of the city. Isham is a good man, and wouldn't want to see you hang either."
"Thank you, old friend. I'll go to Reynand, and I doubt he'll refuse me either."
"Whatever happens, you have my support, Maxell. Always. It's the least I can do for you. It should be you, sitting here, ruling one of these castles."
"Perhaps someday I will, Descer. But only if this blows over. The people will never follow a convicted murderer, innocent or not."
"Enough of this heavy talk, then! Dinner will be ready soon, and I would be honored to have you share my table. No protests; none of Tradarr's lackies will be there. Come, let us fill our bellies and empty our minds of this sore subject."
The two stood and embraced. Descer threw open the door and dismissed the soldiers. Smiling, he led Maxell down to the dining hall.
OOC: I'm almost done the prelude. Soon we'll reach the time where the royal family disappears. If you're going to take part in this story, make a brief post, in character, getting your character in position, and include a little description of the character and his or her background. I'll let you know if there are any problems.
Um... how come Maxell not Descer is a candidate for the throne?
Karn, as of right now there are *zero* candidates for the throne, because the throne is occupied. The people in the posts are intended to give a brief introduction to the major forces at work in New Avalon. You've met a couple of the magi, the High Priest and an assistant of his, and a couple of soldiers from the Black Monolith War, one of which has become the Lord of Eastergate. As the posts continue, you'll get to meet other characters that will play major or minor roles in the upcoming storyline. But I'm not just going to sit here and answer questions about their motivations. Especially not out of character! If you want to find out about someone, you're gonna have to ask them in character!