A week after the winter solstice, an invitation-only gathering was held in the great hall of the almost-finished keep in Xenodar. The guests were all residents of the beylik. Almost all were young; most that were not were parents. The proportion of males to females was roughly two-to-one. The free feast ensured a full turnout.
Soon after last year’s Eldicor military expedition, Amanda succeeded to the sole rulership of Xenodar. As such, she sat in the center seat upon the dais. At her right hand sat her father and, to his right, her mother. To her left sat her younger brother, Urrograg, while Grimblade stood guard behind him. Now almost 17 years old, Urrograg was maturing into a fine young man. The three children of Xenograg and Amaltea were all easily recognized as such, physically, despite differing mixtures of their parental heritages. Amanda heavily favored their father; her older brother, Torin, just as heavily with their mother. Urrograg was a true mixture: his father’s brown eyes and skin tone combined with his mother’s finer bone structure and red hair.
Urrograg was the reason for this meeting. Once the meal was over, he stood up from the table and stepped down into the center of the hall. Grimblade accompanied him; his sword scabbard, as always, held in his left hand. Urrograg addresses his attentive audience.
“I am Urrograg. My sister is your liege. I am a prince in exile from my father’s homeland, far from here. Several years ago, my eldest brother murdered our cousin to seize the throne. This cannot stand. Now that I am of age, it is my task to execute this usurper and take the throne in the name of justice.”
“So I am building an army. One open to talents regardless of one’s origin, station, or gender. I need bodyguards, soldiers, and leaders of soldiers. I am looking for people to serve me. My sister has agreed to release from vassalage anyone here who volunteers.” Urrograg gestures in Grimblade’s direction. “Grimblade is the commander of my bodyguard and will be the general of the army.”
“Training will be given to the limit of your aptitude and loyalty. My parents are both masters of the martial arts. They will be your teachers as they are mine. We will all train together, and become one.”
“You do not have to decide immediately. Go home and discuss this with your families. Return here the morning after next to join me.”