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Adventure Fantasy Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

Content warning: There are a couple of instances of foul language in this story.

***

The roaring fire eased the aching in Gerrod’s old knees as he stretched out in the soft, plump armchair. I could get used to this, he thought as he watched the orange flames dance merrily in the hearth. He removed the leather-bound tome from his lap and deposited it on the table. “The First Age Conquests of Emperor Gordos by Scholar First Class Vayo Chen” had Gerrod’s eyelids drooping. History had become his passion since he’d retired, but this particular volume was somewhat dry.

He looked over to the far side of the room where Jon the carpenter had hung his framed world map on the wall, a nice addition to Gerrod’s drawing room. But that boss eyed fool couldn’t see straight, Gerrod’s keen eye had spotted the imperfection and Jon had incurred his displeasure. He’d promised Gerrod he would set it level once his broken fingers had healed. Gerrod stood and stretched, sitting too long would do him no favours in his advancing years. He walked to his mirror, straightened his ruffled jacket, and brushed some specks of dust from his shoulder.

Finally satisfied, he now headed to the window to inspect his modest garden. Spring had really taken hold; the snows had melted, and green buds began to sprout on the bare hedgerows and bushes. Drops of rain still fell from the roof, splashing onto the sill and joining to form tiny pools. The morning mist was breaking, but a few wisps lingered over the fishpond, hovering a few feet from the surface. Gerrod sighed, creating his own mist on the windowpane. He’d been desperate to retire, but now he had finally achieved it, he was at a loss. What was his purpose in this world now?

His trail of thought was broken by the arrival of his housekeeper, Rosemary.

‘The morning post has arrived sir, will you take it here?’ Her voice was old and frail, just like her body. She should be retired rather than me, Gerrod had thought the first time he met her, but he couldn’t imagine hiring a young housekeeper.

‘No, thank you. I will review it in my study, please light a fire and prepare some tea. I trust you managed to find the green leaves at market yesterday?’

‘I did sir. I’ll see to it right away.’ She inclined her head slightly before retreating out of the door and closing it softly. Her gentle nature was pleasing after the brutes Gerrod had associated himself with in the past.

An idea forming in his mind, he turned to his bookshelf, scanning the titles for his desired tome. Eventually he spied it, discarded to the corner of the bottom shelf “A Detailed History of Stormhaven by Lord Bridger Chatham”. His knees screamed in protest as he squatted to retrieve it, before instant relief as he stood straight again. He tucked the book under his arm before making for the door.

As he exited the drawing room a cool blast of air assaulted him from the hallway. His retirement fund had not stretched to having a hearth in every room, so on occasion he would have to brave the chilly hall. Not wanting to linger, he quickened his step past the stairs and into his private study at the rear of the house, his boots echoing off the tiled floor.

He was silently grateful for Rosemary’s efficiency as a fire already crackled in the hearth, warming every corner of the wood-panelled room. He sat on the chair at his desk, placing his book carefully to one side, making sure it wasn’t too close to the edge. Two letters sat on the leather-covered top of his mahogany desk, he moved them to the centre and turned the top one over. The blue wax seal bore the emblem of the Royal Bank of Teraditha. He retrieved his ivory handled letter opener from the top drawer and sliced the envelope open. The letter was formal and very well written by an expert hand:

Dear Mr Maximsson

I am writing to thank you for your application for a loan of the sum of one thousand gold crowns.

After a period of due consideration, we have decided on this occasion, not to present an offer of the requested amount. This is in part, due to a lack of viable equity in your estate. Also, we regret that your age counts against you…

‘Hmph, fuck off.’ Growled Gerrod, before tossing the paper into the fire where it belonged.

Before he could address the second envelope, Rosemary entered carrying a wooden tea tray laden with Gerrod’s favourite green tea. He watched her pour the pale green liquid into a cup, followed by half a teaspoon of honey, stirring one way half a dozen times, before switching direction for another six turns. He admired her precision greatly; tea wasn’t something that should be rushed.

After she had retreated from the room, Gerrod flipped the second envelope and inspected the seal. This time it was a deep green, but the crest was unfamiliar. He sliced this one open too, before reading the less well-written hand:

Father,

I thought it would be proper to let you know that I have been appointed a Knight of the Order of Stonebrooke by Lord Martyn Luhar. He performed the ceremony on the field of battle west of Pecor. The honour was bestowed due to skill and bravery in combat.

Until next we meet,

Olaf

So, his bastard-born son couldn’t even venture an enquiry into his father’s wellbeing? It amazed Gerrod that he had been raised to a knight. The lowest order of knight, but still a higher station than himself. This wouldn’t do at all. Gerrod burned his son’s letter and the envelopes, pulled his book in front of him and set to work. He would be shunned by society no more.

Lord Archibald Chatham saw the signing of the Treaty of the Three Kingdoms as an opportunity to grow the modest wealth of his ancient and noble house.

As the treaty forbade excessive import duties on goods delivered in bulk, there was to be a sizeable increase in the number of ships docking at the port towns and cities. Stormhaven being the most southerly port of the Kingdom of Teraditha, would be a natural point of interest for foreign merchants, especially with the town lying on the Peccothian border. It also boasts direct routes to the larger settlements of Wharham and Elvia in Peccothia, and Aldena in Teraditha, strengthening its claim as a major trading port.

With this in mind, Lord Archibald built numerous extra docks to welcome the expected arrival of merchant vessels, with the intention of charging modest fees to each for the usage of said docks. Over the next years, the house of Chatham saw a considerable increase in both wealth and influence, in no small part to Lord Archibald’s foresight.

Fantastic, thought Gerrod, his current base of Aldena was a little more than two days travel from Stormhaven, that would do nicely. If the current Lord, Reginald Chatham, still operated under his grandfather’s terms then there would be an opportunity for profit. All he needed was an introduction, some way to propose his plan directly to the man. Gerrod paused for a moment, stroking his chin, before realising his tea had gone cold. Instead, he satisfied himself with a honey drop he retrieved from the tin he kept in his drawer. With the short time he had left on this earth he didn’t think his teeth were in any danger of rotting away.

He pulled a blank piece of parchment to the middle of his desk, tilted ever so slightly to avoid smudging his words. Gerrod spotted a faint mark of something in the middle of his page. That wouldn’t suffice, he was writing to a lord! He scrunched the unsatisfactory paper into a ball and fed it to the fire. No sooner had he retrieved a second piece, then a commotion in his hall brought him back into the moment.

Was that Rosemary screaming? He leapt to his feet and opened the door as quickly as his legs would carry him. He felt for his trusty dagger that he always hid in his sleeve, before remembering that habit had died with his career. He wrenched open the door of his study, a cool blast striking his face again.

‘What is the meaning of this? Who are you to enter my house so armed?’ Gerrod roared at the intruders from the doorway.

Four men stood in his hall, the one who faced him directly was flanked by two others, one at each shoulder. The last restrained Rosemary as she struggled feebly near the entrance to the kitchen. All were garbed in grey, bearing the red tower of house Dayton; swords hung at their hips. The man in front of Gerrod exuded authority, as if he expected to be obeyed at every word.

‘My name is Sir George Dayton. I present to you summons to attend King Joram’s court in Alargoth.’ He held out a tightly bound note, sealed with dark green wax.

Gerrod made no attempt to take the paper from Sir George. ‘The last man who claimed to be Sir George Dayton in my presence didn’t fare so well. How about you stop your men assaulting my staff and then we can talk like civilised people?’

‘Did you just threaten a sworn knight of Teraditha?’ He took a step forward, brown eyes locked with Gerrod’s blue. He was well presented with his black hair tied neatly behind his head, plus Gerrod thought he must have shaved that morning.

Gerrod stood his ground; he was not going to be bullied in his own home by this man, knight or not. ‘Unhand my staff this instant. Only then will I consider reading whatever you have in your hand.’ He spoke as calmly and as firmly as he could. The numbers were against him, even if he weren’t double their ages.

Sir George considered Gerrod for a second before waving his arm to his men. The one holding Rosemary let go, but kept a menacing scowl firmly visible on his face. Rosemary shot a frightened glance at Gerrod before retreating through the door to the kitchen.

‘This will go much better for everyone if we all act like civilised gentlemen.’ Gerrod said before he stepped forward to take the piece of paper from Sir George. Their eyes never left each other in a furious battle of will, Gerrod’s anger threatening to boil over.

After breaking the seal and reading its contents, he folded it and slipped it into a concealed pocket on the inside of his jacket.

‘It looks the part, but how do I know you are who you say you are? Why wouldn’t the King send his own men to run his errands, not a knight of Dalanor?’ Gerrod questioned him further, despite his growing gut feeling that the man was telling the truth.

‘In answer to your first question, if you don’t believe the word of a sworn knight, then you don’t know who we are. Your second, we are stationed in this area, it is much quicker to send us as your escort.’ He replied matter-of-factly. His self-assurance was beginning to win Gerrod over, no matter how sceptical he tried to be. ‘As this is a matter of royal security, we must make haste. We are to escort you straight to the citadel in Alargoth immediately, we must travel light so please only pack what you cannot do without.’

‘And what if I don’t want to travel to Alargoth?’

‘Our orders are to take you there, with or without your consent. Now please prepare yourself. We have many leagues to cover and not nearly enough time.’

‘Very well, I will return shortly.’ Gerrod knew he was defeated. He made for the stairs to pack his travelling things. ‘So much for my fucking retirement’ he added under his breath.

March 18, 2022 08:42

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10 comments

Graham Kinross
12:59 Apr 01, 2022

Another good one. I enjoyed the colourful language in this, sometimes it’s needed to express things fully. Having people go through extreme situations without letting off some cuss words wouldn’t feel realistic. It can also neuter the intensity of the moment.

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James Grasham
15:52 Apr 01, 2022

Thanks Graham - I like that you think the language is a positive. I like to add it in as it makes things feel realistic, but don't want to overdo it. I work in IT, and things can get very stressful at times, so some of the language that I hear day to day can be very interesting!

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Anupam Rajak
09:16 Mar 24, 2022

Vengeance in the head, and little strength in the body. Wonderful depiction.

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James Grasham
14:58 Mar 25, 2022

Thanks Anupam, glad you enjoyed the story!

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Tricia Shulist
01:33 Mar 21, 2022

That was interesting. Gerrod seemed quite authentic — a grumpy old bully. With money problems. Retirement is not being good to him. Thanks for this.

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James Grasham
08:16 Mar 21, 2022

Thanks for reading Tricia, I hope you enjoyed it! That's an excellent way of summing Gerrod up - I've got a novel in progress which will feature Gerrod in some capacity. I can't wait to get him interacting with a wider variety of characters. There are also more stories on my profile featuring him if you'd like to check them out?

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Sharon Hancock
22:33 Mar 20, 2022

Gerrod seems like a grumpy old fella! I related to the part about his knee. Then he seems to be looking for things to complain about. I actually find grouchy old guys like that kind of endearing. I don’t think he really wanted to be retired anyway. Thanks for sharing! I enjoyed it😻

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James Grasham
08:14 Mar 21, 2022

Thanks for reading Sharon, I'm glad you enjoyed it! With me, it's my back I always complain about. I'm glad you find Gerrod quite endearing, I've written a series of stories about him on my profile - would be great if you wanted to check them out?

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Lavonne H.
23:35 Mar 18, 2022

Someone else who has an unsavory protagonist! But in this instance, Gerrold can be excused for being nasty--retirement (and arthritic knees) seems to bring out the worst in old codgers! I enjoyed the side bars: the letter from the bank, the boring history book, the letter from his (bastard) son. I really have to take time to read all your stories from the beginning to put people and places together! Thanks for the read that took me away from those who are losing their homes in Ukraine. It was a break from reality in so many ways. Yours in...

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James Grasham
10:18 Mar 19, 2022

Gerrod has been a fantastic character to write - but unfortunately this will be the last story on here that he appears in. I'm working on a novel in which he will appear (in some capacity or other). I'm glad you're enjoying the stories, there are plenty to go at on my profile. I've spent a long time building my fantasy world and its history so if you read some more you will begin to piece some of it together. It's good to forget the real world from time to time - the situation in Ukraine is absolutely appalling. I'd hoped as a species we we...

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