The Feather (As my native language is German I do not often write in English. Sometimes I have the urge to do it though. ) I had been more than happy about the fact that the mountains were finally behind us when the rain, cold and hard, began to fall. My Lord who was walking in front of me turned to me. “The Shaper does not smile on us toady Thomas,“ he looked grimly at the sky and added “Remind me to smear some excrement on it’s door when we pass the next temple.” I knew he would not do such a thing, he did not fear the gods, but as any may with half a brain he knew better than to offend the church. But there were not temples to gods on this side of the mountains anyway far as I knew. I nodded and pointed at an overhang I had noticed moments before. “Shelter my Lord.” He smiled, “and they say that the gods do not respond to threats.” After I had taken care of my donkey and the mules I settled down next to the fire my Lord had built. Lorkam, Son of Teros how my Lord was called by his peers, but never by someone as lowly as his squire looked north with a thoughtful look on his face while chewing on a hard piece of bread and a an even harder piece of dried meat. I took some of both and started to do the same. My Lord was most likely thinking about what brought him here, as the Son of Teros he was member of one of the most powerful families in the realm, one of the Kings wives was his sister. His problem was that he was a seventh son, in the service of his brother a castle and the daughter of a minor Lord would have been his, but those things held not interest for him. Certainly he was not interested in becoming a knight of the church like two of his elder brothers and I suspected he would prefer death to priesthood. Thus he had decided to go on a quest for glory, to my misfortune instead of going overseas to fight against the barbarian tribes of Selmandos he had decided to challenge the Lord of the White Castle. After finishing the meagre meal my Lord spread his bedroll out. “First watch Thomas.” Was the only thing he said before going to sleep. I prepared myself mentally for a long watch, he always woke up in the night and told me to get to sleep, the question was when and I knew better than to wake him up unless there was some kind of danger. My donkey was trying to headbut Wolvesbane and Skullcracker again, but the big war-mules my Lord owned were way too large and he was just hitting their chests. To his luck, as their names were well earned, they were fond of him and never responded to his little attacks. The donkey was the reason why I was in this mess, I had trained under my father and had been his squire, however last summer he had lost a hand in battle which had ended his time as an active knight. The following autumn during the harvest feast I had partaken in the games during which squires who were for some reason knightless, the most common cause for this was a dead knight, could prove their worth. I fought well enough and when the squireless knights, the most common cause for being such a knight was a dead squire, not a pattern one should think much about, inspected us quite a few looked at me. However as most of the other squires came from more noble families those knights interested in social advancement, more or less all of them, moved on after looking at my coat of arms. I was already losing faith when a knight unknown to me approached me, I knew his coat of arms of course and held my breath, for some reason the Son of Teros did not look at me but at my donkey. It was customary that the squires who had proven their skill in the games presented their belongings as well as themselves when the knights inspected them, there were my weapons, the things needed for travel and there was Demigoat. Only a few of the squires had animals with them, two were not from knightstock, the sons of minor lords, and each had a horse and there were a few dogs, however I was the only one with a donkey. When the Lord, now my Lord, looked at me he had a strange smile on his face. “Tell me the name of your donkey,” he said. “Demigoat my Lord,” and he started to laugh. “Follow me my squire, he needs to get acquainted with my mules.” Were the words that followed his laughter and following him is what I did. We embarked on our journey northwards the following day and after spending winter in a small boarder town we crossed the grey mountains as soon as the weather allowed it. Now we were in the lands of Lord I did not know much about, the Lords of the White Castle had never bowed to the Kings of Eramor, they few times armies had crossed the grey mountains none of the warriors in had returned, has had none of the camp followers. Not much was know about the Lords, or their possessions and which lands, if any, lay further north. There were only two things known for certain about the Lords, the first that they raided the boarder towns of Eramor from time to time, leaving dead men but no beautiful women behind. The second was that they held the right of hospitality high, while groups of warriors or armies never returned from their land lonely lords or knights with only a squire in company were always allowed to travel until they reached the famous White Castle, and does that did not chose to challenge the Lord were allowed to return back home, telling tales of a castle only rivalled by the one of the King of Eramor, incredible wealth and generous hospitality. However most challenged the Lord of the White Castle as it was said that, unlike the Lords of Eramor, he respected the old rituals of challenge and that any man who had the blood of a Lord or Knights in his veins could fight the Lord in single combat and gain his lands if he defeated him. My Lord believed this tale, even if no-one had ever heard of a Lord of the White Caste being defeated. My Lords voice interrupted my thoughts. “Time to sleep Thomas,” and that was what I did. My Lords hand on my shoulder woke me up. “Horses, approaching fast,” were his words. I grabbed mace and shield as fast as I could and than they were upon us. The moons were high in the sky and it was not much darker than on a cloudy day. Seven riders, lightly armoured, their lances pointed at us. “In the name of Deramot, Lord of the White Castle, Bane of the Icemen, Scourge of the Southlings, identify yourselves.” Said one of the men, a large warrior with red beard and an axe strapped to his back. “I’m Lorkam, Son of Teros, peer of Eramor and this is my squire.” Responded my Lord, his sword and shield lowered in an unthreatening manner. The man how had spoken nodded to his men and they lowered their lances. “My names is Kerlomar, a warden in service of the Lord of the White Castle.” He looked at the side of one of the mountains we had passed earlier, easily in arrow range, and I noticed openings, artificial looking ones, on it’s side which I had not noticed before. He looked directly in the eyes of my Lord. ”Lorkam, Son of Teros, what is your propose in my Lords lands?” My Lord smiled at him. “I seek your Lords hospitality, and to cross swords with him.” Kerlomar nodded. “So be it, take this.” He threw a small bag at my Lord who fished it out of the air with a quick movement. “These tokens will buy you food and shelter at any Inn you might find on your way to the White Castle.” He made a small bow in my Lords direction and the riders turned around. Before they rode off Kerlomar looked over his should. “If you harm any of my Lords subjects, you will be hunted down and killed,” and with that they were away. The journey to the White Castle was uneventful, apart from Skullcrackers usual dog killings, the tokens the warden had given my Lord did indeed buy us food and shelter one the way and after seven days of long marching we reached our destination. The castle was indeed white, not the dirty white of some stones I had seen before but the white of snow or milk, behind it was the biggest river I had ever seen, I giant red bridge connecting the castle to the other side. The moat in front of the castle was bigger than most rivers I had seen in my life and tower from which a bridge span the moat was bigger than most castles I had been ot. I looked at my Lord, he said. “It is indeed nearly as big as the castle of our King, and certainly more beautiful.” As we approached it. I had never seen the castle he spoke of but I had not doubt that he spoke the truth. The gate of the tower was open, ten guardsman, each in full glassteel armour stood at each side. They were big men, each with a strange white scar across their forehead, the thick padding under the nearly unbreakable armour clearly visible. My Lord had otherwood armour, the only kind even stronger than glassteel, which was still incredible rare, there were maybe five hundred full suits in all of Eramor as far is a I knew. Another man, glad in the very same armour came out of a small gate on the side of the tower and waved us over, unlike the others he had no scar. “I greet your Lorkam, Son of Teros.” Was how he welcomed us with a bow. “My Lord is already expecting you, in his name I welcome you to the White Castle, please follow me.” The man looked at me. “One of my men will show your squire the stables while I show you your quarters.” One of the scared men stood suddenly behind me and said with a strange peaceful voice. “Follow me.” Even after crossing the bridge It took us quite some time to reach the stables, my guide ignored my attempts to start a conversation. A stable hand took care of our animals and my guide vanished and was replaced by two boys who helped me with carrying my Lords possessions to his quarters. Said quarters were rather big, there was a small room after the first door with a simple bed in it, most likely my place. My Lord was already waiting for me in the next room, a big bedroom with large windows, he was sitting on a chair and a servant was shaving him. “About time Thomas, I need my best clothes.” The servant helped him dress while I stood around uselessly. “The Lord Deramot has invited me to dine with him Thomas, I do not need you for the rest of the day, there is a hall for wardens, squires and low knights here, you can go there, just don’t get too drunk to get up tomorrow.” He did not need to tell me that twice. I found the hall quickly after asking a very nice looking serving girl for directions. It was only half full, I looked at the tables, unsure where to sit down as I did not know the local etiquette. A man on the far end of the room stood up and waved me over. It was the man who had greeted my Lord at the Tower, I could not believe that someone who wore glassteel was a low knight. He took my hand and shock it. “I’m Normor, second in command of the Tower wardens and these are some of my men.” There were five of them around the table, all older man, they smiled at me with what looked a little bit like pity at me. Normor laughed. “There is no need to worry about etiquette, there are no squires and knights in the wardens, you are by far the most noble man at this table.” A soon as I sat down a trencher full of meat and vegetables was put in front of me and one of the men handed me a large piece of bread. A cup of wine appeared in front of me and a serving girl made certain that it was never empty. I noticed that on the other tables were knights and squires sat the food was not less plenty but certainly less rich. The talk one the table was not different than at a table full of squires back home, although the bed-tales these older men told were far more believable than those I was used to. I had only two bed-tales of my own, but I had told them so often before that the things that had been added over time made them sound more interesting than reality had been. After some time Normor started to talk in an serious tone with me and the other men fell quite. “Listen to me boy, I know Lords like yours, he will challenge my Lord and he will pay for it.” He looked at a table in the corner, a group of the men with the strange scars on the head were eating some kind of soup there, they did not talk to each other. “You can not save your Lord boy, but you can save yourself. He grabbed my shoulder with one hand. “My Lord does never kill, but there are worse things. When the time comes you need to kneel and to beg for mercy. Remember that white parts without cutting, black cuts but binds at the same time.” Suddenly the topic changed again, now it was hunting, I continued drinking, rather confused and the last thing I remember is that two of Normors men carried me to the bed in the small room outside my Lords bedroom. When I woke up my head hurt as if someone had hit it hard with a hammer, I knew that there was something I should remember but I just could not do it. One of the servants had woken me up. “Squire, your Lord needs his gear at midday.” I nodded and got out of bed. My Lord and the Lord of the White Castle fought on a meadow not far from the castle, I kept asking myself how much blood the lush green had already tasted in the past. Apart from the two combats only I and two of the scared men were there. Deramots armour was made out of a black material I had never seen before, it seemed to bend while he moved, there were two sheaths on his back, his shield and his helmet were glassteel. My Lord wore his full set of otherwood armour, apart from the helmet which was for obvious reasons glassteel, lightweight and incredible resilient at the same time. He looked fearsome nearly completely red, he was armed with a mace and his shield was also otherwood. “A last word Lord Lorkam?” Asked the Deramot in a friendly tone. As I had expected my Lord said nothing and moved forward. The Lord of the White Castle drew one of his weapons. It looked like a giant white feather with a hilt and guard like a sword. My Lord stopped for a moment, he seemed confused, at the same time Deramot moved forward with insane speed. My Lord attempted to deflect the first strike with his shield, the feather cut trough it like a hot knife trough butter, both pieces of the shield and the hand holding it fell to the ground. I noticed with a strange detachment that there was no blood at all. Deramot took one step back while my Lord looked dumbfounded at the stump, there was no wound, only unharmed skin as if he had never possessed a hand. My Lord started to scream. On the ground the hand was moving as if it was still connected to a body. He looked, with horror on his face, at the Lord of the White Castle who smiled back at him. “The price for challenging me is not death Lord Lorkam,” said the Lord while he moved forward again and beheaded my Lord with one swift stroke. The Lord, no the Mage-Lord of the White Castle there could be no doubt about that, sheathed his feather than pulled the second weapon from it’s sheath. It was a large talon, black as night. He turned towards me, “now what should I do with you little squire? I did not kneel, not at first, not until the talon was buried in my head.