A single gold coin, only one single coin from amongst a dozen gold coins had allowed him a large bungalow at the foot of the castle keep, the guard at the gate, Kabir, the Captain of the Gate Alaine later found out had taken him to the place and shown him around, another three silver pieces had fetched him a dozen house-servants and enough silk clothes to last him a year.
Alaine bathed for the first time in two months that day and soaked in every minute of the bath, literally, when the servant had arrived and informed him that he had been in the bath for over an hour, asleep for most of it, he had reluctantly gotten up from the filthy water and dried himself before slipping into a smooth and loose linen pants and a fine silk coat that fell till his knees.
As he walked outside he saw a trio of the young girl servants poke and prod at the black armour that had been arranged on a rack outside the bath, the girls shied and ran away giggling when they saw their erstwhile master walk out from the bath, he approached the rack and took his sheathed sword and belt from it and strapped it around his waist.
Alaine followed them out into the foyer into the living room where he saw Captain Kabir lay reclined in the with his legs propped up on the sumptuous pillowed and carpeted ground as he listened to a ending note of a performance on the lute by a pretty dark haired girl.
“Enjoying my coin, Kabir?” Alaine asked as the girl finished.
Kabir looked up from his comfortable lay and waved his hand, “This girl is on me, and so is all of this,” he said as he waved his hand toward another room, a gaggle of servants suddenly burst out of it with platters of roast meat and sweetmeats and jugs of what Alaine thought was wine.
“A meal worthy of a rich new friend,” Kabir said to the slightly perturbed Alaine, raising a metal goblet and handed it to the Knight, “drink deep and enjoy.”
Alaine took the goblet and saw the reddish liquid, he sipped it first, it was cool, sweet a hint of rose flavour within, there was none of the strong sourness and flavour of wine but this was different, sweet and pleasant. He looked up from the drink at a smiling Kabir.
“I have...never tasted this before...is it from a fruit?” Alaine said as he sipped a more substantial amount and felt it slide down his throat.
“Yes and no, it is made from many sources, it is called a sherbet,” he said as he poured himself a goblet and sipped on it.
Alaine nodded as he seated himself down, a servant rushed over with a small table that reached the sitting knight’s sternum, a platter of roasted meat, gravy and fragrant yellow rice with a jelly like sweet and a sheaf of flat bread.
Kabir sat next to him and began to dig into the plate that was offered to him, he looked up at Alaine and smiled with a mouthful of food, he gulped it down and nodded to his plate, “Eat up, it is good food.”
Alaine dug into the food like a wild animal, he tore the bread apart and shoved the meat into his mouth, he ate the sweets with the spiced rice and gravy without a need for taste, he cleared the plate within a scant few minutes since he began and looked up at the servants and pointed at his platter, they simply took the platter away and bought a jug of sherbet and refilled his drained goblet.
“No, not more of this, more food!” he growled at the serving man, Alaine turned to Kabir, “How do I say more food?”
Kabir chuckled as he asked for more food in his weird tongue and shook his head at Alaine, “Tell me young friend, how old are you exactly?”
“Exactly? I would have to guess; I have lived seventeen winters, though I suspect I have crossed into my eighteenth sometime these past days.”
“Intriguing, you measure your age by seasons, here we measure by the day of birth in relation to the year.”
Alaine shrugged uninterested as he dug into the second platter of food that was offered.
“So tell me young knight, how is it that you are here?”
Alaine paused from attacking the platter and waved his hand, “First, tell me how you speak my tongue, you are yet to answer me that.”
Kabir nodded, “Fair enough, I am what you call a poet and bard; I travelled through the north for a time in my youth and learned many things; especially in Soreil and Erguy in L’Anguille for a few years before going to the Empire, amongst the tongues of the land I also learnt the art of battle, especially when my employers were increasingly violent individuals and adventurers who set out on quests and campaigns that involved a lot of bloodshed.”
“I see, well that seems rather eventful,” Alaine added as he drained his goblet.
Kabir nodded, “Now tell me young knight what is your purpose and story?”
Alaine’s mood became a little darker and defensive, “Well, I was...betrayed by certain members of the nobility I owe my allegiance to, I have to ride to Martek and speak with my Baron and find an answer for all of my travails.”
“I see, is there anything I may do to help you, young Alaine?”
“What can a simple Gate Captain achieve more that let me into this town?” Alaine asked in a joking tone.
“Simple am I?” asked the captain as he broke out laughing, “Your tongue stings me, a friend so generous! Well as for the fact; I am a Mercenary Captain, hired by the Emir of Aligarh to oversee the retraining of his depleted men who had marched to liberate Martek with your masters. I have trained the three companies of warriors according to my contract. At any rate, it expires tomorrow or day after as my dues dictate and they are long done and I can continue somewhere else working for coin.”
“So you have no master?”
Kabir held up a silver coin with a square gap at its middle, “None so sacred, nay but the coin!”
Alaine laughed at that, “That is something I am yet to understand.”
“Does that mean you still owe your allegiance to a lord, the Baron in Martek or the King of Brettonia?”
“I think you know the answer to that question,” Alaine replied bitterly, his mood changing suddenly and left it at that.
“I do young knight, but choosing the life of a sword for hire isn’t such a bad life, your allegiance is to yourself.”
“Then what about honour?”
Now it was Kabir’s voice that became bitter, “Honour deserts people as quick as their friends.”
“They did not desert me! I did not desert them! We had no choice!” Alaine shouted as he flipped the table over in a spurt of rage and stood up his blade in hand, “You don’t know what we faced! We died like ignoble fodder!”
Kabir slowly got up and raised his hand, his palms facing the raging Alaine, all around them the servants whimpered and cowered in fear.
“Please, young friend, please calm yourself,” Kabir implored, Alaine did not relent.
“Damn them for doing this! Damn the King and damn Chatlon and his damned treachery! They abandoned us and drove us into the maw of the enemy! The Lady forsook us, all of us! Even Gerard! We died to terrors in the sand, horrible things from the mountains!”
Kabir stood back patiently listening to the distraught Alaine who swore and cursed, his blade swinging and cutting air and his cheeks reddened even beneath the darkened flesh of his face, tears rolled from his eyes, “Sir Gerard! He was the best of us! But we were forsaken because of our land of birth! Why Kabir? Why?”
“Sir Alaine, please, calm yourself,” Kabir implored again as he stepped closer to the weeping Alaine, “please.”
Alaine dropped his blade and fell to his knees; he looked up at Kabir with tear soaked eyes and asked, “Why?”
Kabir looked Alaine in the eyes and pursed his lips, “Do not fret dear friend, we will find the cause in time, you need to rest for now and gather your strength, we will ride out tomorrow to Martek and solve your riddle.”
Alaine rose up and nodded, “I...apologize and it is not in my nature to be so...emotional.”
“You are young and I can see in your eyes you have been afflicted by some horror. It is good to release such burdens, however...unorthodox.”
“Thank you for all of this, Captain Kabir,” he said as he wiped the tears and collected himself, “I must ask why you are so generous to me?”
Kabir’s eyes darkened, “Because once I was in the same place as you, long ago, I was betrayed and left to fend for myself, I did not have someone to help me in that time, but now I can at least help you.”
“So you do have honour, sir.”
Kabir smirked at that statement, “Honour? No, this is the code of my faith, dear friend. The One will always judge a man by his actions and his influence on his peers.”
“Not entirely, I could use a good sword hand in my company and you seem like you have the spirit of a wanderer.”
“We will find out when I find my answer, till then I am a knight of Mousillon” Alaine said as he sheathed his sword.
Kabir smirked at this, “But not the King and Lady?”
“I pray to your god that I am never so gullible,” Alaine replied darkly.
I have not returned! Be afraid or something.