“Peter!” Cerys chided him, her eyes widening. “That is not a polite way to talk to the baron! Remember, you have to say, ‘your grace.’”
“It is not a problem,” Lexavier interjected as Peter glared at his sister. “I may be a baron, but unlike the other noblemen, I do not see myself as superior to everyone else. A leader should not be above truly helping his denizens.”
“It plays back into why my father was not invited to that meeting,” James added. “They know that he is as humble as he is loyal and would never go along with their plans.”
“Which brings up another question,” Peter said. “Why are you not taking on this quest on your own? It sounds like the king would believe you, so why do we have to do and do your dirty work?”
“Peter!” Cerys ignored her brother’s rolling eyes and told him, “This isn’t dirty work. It’s noble and good.”
“You do not need to fret over him so, dear girl,” the baron told her. “He has good reason to ask such questions. Nobody should take on a quest blindly.”
As Peter gave her an I-told-you-so look, James began to explain the situation. “It starts off with my sister. She was betrothed to Giles, the son of Harold, Earl of Northern Ellynswift.”
“Oh, I didn’t know you had a sister,” Cerys said.
“I have a few,” he replied with a wink.
“Yes, a few of those, too.”
“What is it about this betrothal that is so important?” Himeko asked, less interested in families tress than in the explanation at hand.
“Lord Harold is a vassal of Duke Emerias of Ellyswift,” Baron Lexavier answered. “He is not a bad man, in his own right– it was the reason that I consented to the betrothal– but at times his loyalty to the duke is his downfall. If Lord Emerias knows that I am sending word to the king outright, it could my daughter in danger.”
“What kind of danger?” Cerys asked. “You don’t mean that Lord Harold would harm her, do you?”
“He would do nothing of the sort,” the baron replied. “The duke, however, frequents his his estate, and is well aware of my daughter’s presence. He had wanted her for his own son, but I declined his offer, and I fear that he has not forgotten that.”
“What would Duke Emerias do to her?” Himeko asked.
“I dare not ponder such things,” he told her. “When I learned that Lord Harold knew about Emerias’s plans and said nothing– not for or against it all– I knew at once that I wanted her away from there. Unless he can prove his trustworthiness…” Lexavier shook his head. “I regret allowing this betrothal to come to be.”
“Are you saying that you want us to get her out of there, too?” Bayani asked, as thought this additional so their quest would be exciting.
“It is more delicate than that,” James explained. “We cannot simply venture into Northern Ellynswift and whisk her away. There has to be good reason to see her leave Lord Harold’s manor.”
“Why can’t she choose to leave on her own?” Peter asked.
“She is my younger sister,” James told him, “the closest thing I will ever have to a twin. My mother was taken with her almost as soon as I was born. Since she is only sixteen, Lord Harold is expected to safeguard her, and in turn she cannot leave the manor without his direction or reasonable word from my father.”
“If Lord Harold turns out to be on the side of his duke, the king will surely nullify the betrothal,” Lexavier told the group. “If not, then perhaps it may go on. For now, though, she is not safe so close to Emerias.”
Peter nodded, and thought it over for a few minutes. So far, he was about to be sent across a countryside that he did not know well, hoping to avoid being out past dark because of strange black monsters, plus warn the king about a threat to his life, as well as take James’s sister to safety. He was not completely happy with all of those expectations.
“Let me ask you something else,” Peter sighed after ruminationg long enough. “Do you know how they plan to kill the king?”