Of Dragons and Men

Chapter One: Aegis

The valley of Aegis lay in the middle of the great forests. Through the valley, flowed the river Stern, and it led right through the forest into the great oceans that lay beyond. On the northern side of the river, lay a village: Balenford. The people, men of the simplest nature: They made their own weapons for hunting in the forests, they fished in the river, and they were getting the hang of using boats, so that they could trade with other towns. Balenford was by no means a town, but rather: a village, or a burg. The population numbered little over seventy men, women and children, including the small guard garrison sent there by the King. The buildings were basic. They were timber-framed houses, similar to those seen in middle-ages Europe on our own Earth. The walls were simple wattle-and-daub, and they provided little protection against fire, or an arrow. Still: They kept Balenford's people warm and safe from Timber Wolves in the winter. Aegis lay to the North of the central province of Erandon, not far from the border to the northern province of Swordswind. A century ago, the Valley, and a portion of the forest surrounding it, was declared a county of Erandon, separate from the county of Erstwhile, which bordered the provinces. Aegis was ruled by the house of Canis, a minor royal family, with little to no blood ties to the throne. Still, King Brandon saw it his right to protect all of his lands, so he ordered a guard company of ten newly trained men to Balenford. The symbol of Canis was a wolf, and their banners bore the image of a snarling white wolf's head.

The house of Canis had three knights; each one the son of Skorri Canis, the head of the house. The eldest, Erik, left Aegis three years ago, to join the King's Army in battle against the Dragonmen of the Farsuth. The twin brothers: Finmor and Arthur, stayed in Skorri's keep at his side as his advisors and royal bodyguards. Skorri's youngest son, Redir was unique. He was, from birth, destined for great things that were unknown, even to his father. Our story begins with a twelve-year-old Redir, training with his father.

"You need to focus more, son," Said Skorri as he parried a third blow in a row from Redir's wooden sword. Redir hopped back nimbly and dug his left heel into the sand. He used this as a foothold to spring him off the ground and he raised his sword above his head. Skorri raised the red shield he held in his left hand to block Redir's attack, but Redir deftly changed the position of his jump, and he dove right beneath his father's guard. He was now behind his shield, and he had his sword pressed against Skorri's chest. Skorri took his twelve year old son in his arms and hugged him,

"I'm proud of you, son. You've made progress!" He was euphoric. He had never been as proud of his youngest son as he did right now. Redir felt his smooth cheek pressed against his father's rough grey beard,

"Now go. Clean yourself up, boy. Your mother has prepared supper," Skorri released his son and laid his hands on his shoulders. Skorri was a large man, towering well over six feet, and of a very muscular build. He had to bend his back forward to be able to reach down to his son. Redir looked up at his father. He was dressed in plate-mail, his helmet tossed aside somewhere in the training yard. On his back, he wore a tattered and torn red cape, bearing the image of a white wolf, the Canis family symbol. He wore a red velvet tunic over his breastplate, also bearing the image of a wolf. His shield was steel and painted red, with a white cross. He held a wooden longsword, in lei of his usual steel broadsword. Redir was quite the opposite. In his young age, he was barely up to Karl's stomach in height, and he was thin and scrawny. He wore a maroon tunic with a rope tied around the waist, and a pair of coarse tan trousers. He wore sandals on his feet,

"Yes, father," Said Redir, and he put his wooden sword into the leather scabbard on his waist and ran off to the washrooms.

A washroom in Balenford Castle was nothing special. It was a room with some shelves containing soap and towels, a vent leading into the sewer pit and three buckets and a tap. Redir twisted the knob on the copper tap and water rushed freely into the wooden bucket beneath it. When the bucket was full, Redir filled a second bucket, and then a third. When all of the buckets were full, Redir undressed and tossed his clothes into the driest corner in the room. He took a sponge and a bar of soap from the shelves and dipped them into the closest bucket. He rubbed the two together and began to rub the now soapy sponge onto his back and shoulders. His limbs ached from training. He sighted a rather nasty bruise on his stomach. It was from when his father had parried his attacks. He grimaced at the sight and continued to wash.

When Redir had finished, he got dressed again and rushed to the dining hall. The hall was large. The stone walls were almost twenty feet tall, and they arched until they met at the centre. Ten tall windows lined the walls, granting a view of Aegis valley and Balenford. Redir sat in the chair closest to the head of the table, where his father always sat. His mother brought five plates out from the kitchen, each containing a meal of cooked beef, a small loaf of bread, two carrots, an apple and a glass of wine. Only Redir had a slightly different meal, in that instead of wine: he was given a mug of drinking chocolate. Redir's brothers, Arthur and Finmor came to the table next, dressed in ring mail armor. They each wore a plate mail chestpiece. They carried longswords on their waists, and shields on their backs. They sat down side-by-side opposite Redir. Their mother was next to sit down. She sat next to Redir. They were only waiting for Skorri.

They sat at the table for several minutes before Arthur spoke up,

"Mother, shall we go and find father?" He asked. His question was answered by the heavy wooden doors being pushed open,

"No need, Arthur," It was Skorri. He strode to the table and sat down in his chair. There was great distinction between Skorri's chair and the other standard wooden chairs. Skorri's was made of steel, and had a red velvet cushion sitting upon it. Redir's mother looked at Skorri,

"I am sorry for being late, Sivin," He said, "I had matters to attend to," Sivin was a wood elf, and she had wed Skorri, much to the disdain of Lords and Ladies for miles around, but he didn't care. He loved his wife and half-elf sons with all his heart. Without another word, Skorri took the beef in his hand and tore a chunk off and chewed on it. That was enough notice for everyone. Arthur took a carrot in hand and ate it in three obnoxiously large bites. Finmor, following in his brother's footsteps, and determined to beat him at everything, ate a carrot in two bites. This started a noisy and curse-filled eating match between the two. Sivin ate slower, as she was polite, and actually possessed some form of grace, not like the men that sat at the table around her. Only Redir ate at a pace similar to his mother's. That was because he was very liable to get sick if he wolfed down his meal.