Kazimier, Jyslyn, and the patrol fought off a number gnolls from the Cleaven Eye tribe, who should not have been in the area.
The Count's Court, Varinford, County of Varin, Seven Dominions
Leomund lurked along the wall, trying not to draw attention to himself. Thathan, the Count of Varin had all of his barons, his own knights, his barons, and his barons' senior knights summoned to court. Dame Nyssa, the knight Leomund squired to, had the attention of the assemblage. She was the only knight not summoned. Indeed, she was the reason for the meeting. Unlike Leomund and much to his discomfort, Nyssa had no problem with attracting attention. A mix of harsh whispers, angry shouts, and barking laughs filled the room with a din.
The Count pounded on the arm of his throne, the clanging of his ceremonial mace on the metal arm calling the meeting to order. "Enough!" As the murmurs died, the Count got to his feet. "When I asked His Majesty for help, I expected more than one old knight and her squire." He pointed at Dame Nyssa. Leomund's cheeks began burning under the stares directed at him. The young squire remained still, though, as the Count continued, "Varin is facing an invasion. I expected troops."
Nyssa stood. "If I may, my Lord?"
"Oh, please, speak. I cannot wait to hear what you have to say."
Nyssa walked down the aisle between the rows of wooden pews. "My Lord, if His Majesty sent troops every time a vassal claimed there was a threat to the realm, the soldiery would be exhausted." The dame paused as a ripple of laughter passed through the court. "That's why he sent me, a Knight of the Realm. To determine just what the threat is."
Tathan glared at the knight. "I did detail what I received in my missive."
"You did, and the note was well written. His Majesty was able to read every perfectly formed letter." Nyssa allowed herself a smirk. "You didn't send the missive you received. A threat from the dwarves? My Lord, His Majesty needs more than even your word."
The Count snapped his fingers. His Knigh-Martial retrieved a scroll from a side table, then marched it over to Nyssa. "Written proof," Tathan said.
Nyssa unrolled the scroll. She read the note, then looked back up. "Dwarven script, I'll give you that. What were you going to do with the troops you requested?"
"Attack the dwarves before they attacked us."
"Brilliant plan, my Lord. Let us lay seige to the dwarven mountain. Your engines of war wouldn't penetrate deep enough and the dwarves have enough food and water to last years. And let us not forget that we'd have to go through the Sylvan Forest. I think the elves will want a say in having your forces march through, hunting on their lands."
The Count's face reddened. Leomund shrunk back, away from Dame Nyssa. "And just what do you propose, o Knight of the Realm? Giving the dwarves our first born sons?"
"Of course not. They have no used for them." Nyssa shook her head. "No, my Lord, what will happen is that my squire and I will go talk with the dwarves and find out why they want to march this far." She shook the paper in her hand. "I have met ambassadors from below the mountain. They're gruff, plain spoken. If they're going to threaten, they'd tell us exactly what they'll do to us."
"And if the threat is real?"
"Then I return, stopping in elven lands to gain permission for your seige weapons and your levy to pass through. I give you my word as one of His Majesty's knights." Nyssa handed the scroll back to the Knight-Martial, then turned. "Leomund, we have preparations." Without waiting for a dismissal, she walked out of the Count's manor.
Leomund stared at the doorway a moment before realizing he needed to catch up. He bowed deeply towards the Count. "If I may, my Lord?" He heard his voice crack.
Tathan sighed. "Go."
"Thank you, my Lord." Leomund bowed again, then ran after Nyssa.
The old knight waited at the gates to the manor. She resumed walking as her squire caught up. "Took you long enough, Leo."
"I had to--"
"No, you didn't." Nyssa ran a hand through her steel grey hair. "Remember, you answer to me. You are my responsibility."
Nyssa wrapped an arm around her young squire's shoulder. "The Count would have to either speak with me or with His Majesty himself. You're duty is to me."
"Yes, ma'am." Leomund kept his eyes forward. "Where now, ma'am?"
"You're getting our gear ready. We're leaving at morning's first light. I have a letter to send to His Majesty. There is something afoot here."
Leomund looked up at Nyssa. "Ma'am? But, you all but dismissed the Count's concerns."
"He had the wrong concerns. The message mentioned dead bodies found. If that had happened, the Count would have been visited by angry dwarves, not an angry scroll. Tathan, though, is quick to anger himself. Threaten his lands, and he overreacts." Nyssa stopped walking. "We need to have the calmer heads here."
"We're doomed, ma'am."
Nyssa ruffled Leomund's page-boy haircut. "Funny, Leo. Go. Make sure we're ready to leave come morning."
Dame Nyssa and her squire, Leo, head out to investigate the dwarven missive.