Thursday 14 – Friday 15 March 2013
Looming grey clouds had fast become looming black clouds and they had unleashed a violent downpour. Rain pelted down upon the landscape, battering everything it touched. The ground, pock marked by raindrops, was rapidly eroding, being washed away as small rivers formed and flowed and eked their way across the plains below the mountains. Where, on any other day, one could see for miles as Osgood’s kingdom stretched out in every direction, this day torrential rain killed visibility beyond the length of one’s arm.
From the shelter of the castle entrance, Ingrid Fredriksson looked out at the courtyard. Barely ten minutes had passed since the king had opened the doors and invited all who had been sheltering in the courtyard into the castle-proper. Had he not, Ingrid and her father would have been amongst the many villagers stuck outside attempting to take refuge from the rain wherever they could find it in and around the courtyard. While the courtyard walls provided some relief from the weather, they did not remove all of the unpleasant elements of the storm. She peered skyward as thunder rolled in from the east and towards the mountains.
‘It is a powerful storm, is it not?’
Engrossed in the weather, Ingrid did not hear the young man approach and was terribly startled when he spoke. Her shock caused him to smile and he stifled a laugh so as to not embarrass her.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘I thought you knew I was here. This armour tends to make quite a noise and sneaking up on people, in battle or otherwise, is not something that I am generally able to do.’
Regaining her composure, Ingrid replied, ‘I was somewhere else entirely. I did not hear you approach, nor did I realise you were here. You frightened me, I must admit.’
‘Then please accept my humblest apologies for frightening you,’ he responded.
Ingrid looked from the young knight back out into the flooding courtyard.
‘Indeed, the storm is dreadful. I’ve not seen anything like it before in my life,’ she said. ‘I am thankful . . . and grateful, that the King has been kind enough to offer refuge to us. I fear many of our people might not have survived this storm had he not been so magnanimous.’
He leaned as casually as was possible whilst attired in armour against the open door, hand firmly resting upon the handle of his sword, and eyes resting on her face.
‘I’m sure that King Osgood would delight in knowing that you feel this way. He is a good man,’ the knight replied. Suddenly feeling heat rising in his face and embarrassment stirring in his stomach, he looked out into the courtyard. It was an unexpected feeling, and not something that he had dealt with before, not even in the midst of battle.
‘And what of the mountain clans?’ Ingrid asked. ‘Are they safe?’
He straightened up, hand still on the handle of his sword. The mountain clans and Osgood were not really on amicable terms. Many scuffles had broken out and Osgood had sent his trusted knights to deal with the oppositional defiance that the clans had directed towards him. Many clansmen and women had been brought back to the castle and imprisoned in the dungeons for treason, and a number had, unfortunately, been killed in the skirmishes. There was no love lost between the mountain clans and Osgood.
‘The clans,’ he chose his words carefully, ‘are skilled at surviving times like these. For generations they have battled the elements and won. I would not concern myself with their welfare. The mountains will provided safe places for them to retire until this inclement weather passes.’ He honestly hoped that the mountains would provide enough safety and shelter for the clans. No one deserved to be stuck out in the open in this storm. Talk of the clans unsettled him and he wanted to steer the conversation away from those people.
‘Forgive my manners, my lady. I have been remiss in not introducing myself.’
Ingrid smiled at his sudden foray into formality.
‘I am Bengt, younger brother to Dagmar. Knight of the realm and member of the King’s personal guard.’ He offered his hand for Ingrid to take, and cautiously she did.
‘Ingrid, only daughter of Anders Fredriksson. My father is an occasional blacksmith to King Osgood. It is entirely possible, Bengt, younger brother to Dagmar, that my father has shoed your horse. Not every girl you meet can say that.’
The knight laughed as he shook her hand.
‘Indeed, not every girl I’ve meet can say that. It is a pleasure, Miss Ingrid, to meet you.’
The ever-present thunder boomed overhead as if proclaiming the introduction of Bengt and Ingrid to the kingdom.
* * * * *
Elsewhere in the castle, a small group of men and women plotted and conspired the downfall of King Osgood and the rise of the mountain clans.
. . . To be continued . . .