A lone rider stood on a hill overlooking a field. The wind whirled around him as he pulled the cloak tighter around him.
The man was tall with black hair and carried a dangerous looking longbow. His eyes were sharp as they pierced the misty land. He was a man to be reckoned with, no doubt.
His horse snorted below him, and he reached out and patted the creature on its muzzle. Any sound now could be perilous. The horse settled and the rider sighed in relief.
And then, a horn blew in the distance. He shot up and stared at the distance. Slowly but surely an organized column of men were coming this way. As far as he could tell, the men were dressed in all black armor and carried wicked looking swords.
He noticed a banner in the midst and he squinted at it, trying to decipher it. It was a black background with a golden diamond at the front. Three smaller diamonds crowned the diamond.
“Lord Pierce,” the rider muttered under his breath. He stayed for a few more minutes until he saw the end of the column. By now, the head of the column was in bowshot of him. Fortunately, the mist had solidified and they could not see the rider.
The rider nodded to himself. He had all the information he needed. All that was needed to do now was to return to Willow City and report the information.
He turned the horse around and pressed his foot against the side of it. The horse shot off into the mists, leaving the army behind him.
The rider was a hard day’s ride from Willow City. The army, though, would take several days to reach the city. They would have time to prepare the defenses. If he had not gathered the information, who knows what would’ve happened?
So, he rode through the country fields, leaving the army in his dust. When he passed a village, he stopped briefly and told them to gather what supplies they could and leave for Willow City within the hour. He shuddered to think of what would happen if Lord Pierce’s men got hold of them.
Eventually, he reached a wide river. The only one way to cross it was by way of the bridge. A fortress sat on either side of it. It would take a large army to get past it.
The rider rode straight over the bridge and to the main fortress, where the commander would be. The gates were open.
As he came into the fortress, he dismounted and ran to the nearest guard. “Take me to your commander!”
“And who just might you be?” the guard sneered.
“I’m a member of the Willow Guard,” the rider snapped, “As you can see by the insignia on my chest. Now take me to your commander.”
Immediately, the guard realized his mistake and tried to make up for it. “Yes sir. Right this way. Would you like some hay and water for your horse?”
The rider hesitated. They would be leaving shortly, but it had been a long ride. “Water for him.”
The guard nodded and motioned for a stable boy to take care of the horse. Then he turned to the rider. “Follow me.”
He walked to the central keep and knocked on the thick door. “Open up. I have a Willow Guard with me.”
The door flew open and a harried looking man walked out. “Yes what is it?”
“Commander Black, my apologies sir, I have a man here who requests an audience with you,” the guard said.
“A Willow Guard you said?” Black asked. His eyes looked up and down the rider.
“I am,” the rider said.
“And what is your name, Willow Guard?” Black asked snidely.
“Geoffrey Cooper,” the rider said, “Sir Geoffrey Cooper.”
As a Willow Guard, he outranked the commander. Black nodded slowly. “My apologies sir.”
Geoffrey brushed the matter aside. It had been an innocent mistake and they both knew it. He cleared his throat. “No matter Commander. We have much more important matters to discuss.”
“Of course,” Black said, “Follow me.”
He led him into the keep to a large room with a map inside on a large table. He sat down and motioned for Geoffrey to do as well.
“Pierce is coming,” Geoffrey said right away.
“Pierce? But what about the treaty?” Black asked shocked.
Geoffrey snorted. “Since when did Pierce care about treaties? Lord Martin has known something would happen ever since the last council.”
“How many men?” the commander questioned, his eyebrows furrowed, calculating.
“Thousands at the least,” Geoffrey said grimly.
Black’s eyes bugged out and he deflated slightly. “Thousands? I can muster at the most a thousand.”
“You have to hold, Commander,” Geoffrey reminded him. “If you can hold for at least a week, we can get reinforcements to you. If we can get the entire army here, we can hold for years.”
“What should our strategy be?” Black wondered out loud.
“Send out scouts. Gauge their strength. Prepare to burn the bridge. It might be the only way to stop him,” Geoffrey said thoughtfully.
“Burn the bridge? That took years to build!” the commander said incredulously.
“It’s either that or we might all die,” Geoffrey snapped and stood up. “I have to go warn the capital. And keep a sharp eye out for refugees too.”
“God speed, Sir. God speed,” Black said while saluting.
Geoffrey saluted back and strode from the room. He went back to the courtyard to get his horse. Mounting his horse, he took off at a gallop. He needed to warn Lord Martin immediately.