Knight Commander, Sir Mathew Fletcher, put his fork and knife on the edge of his plate. The Rayward fighting man chewed the delectably creamy assembly of butter, cheese and roasted vegetables. Sir Mathew tried to fathom how it was possible that a meal containing no trace of meat could be as remarkably flavorful and satisfying as his present fair. He had been less than enthusiastic to take a meal at the Grand Abby. The Knight Commander was well accustomed to the food provided by the stewards at the garrison and his palette was ill suited to food from elsewhere. Sir Mathew enjoyed the rich and hearty cuts of beef and pork that he feasted on daily back at his assigned duty station. When Brother Haltac had placed the modest plate in front of the Knight Commander, Sir Mathew had done his best not to scoff at the simple looking culinary offering.
“I say, this is remarkable. I have taken meals with some of the greatest families in the Rayward court that do not compare to the quality here,” Sir Mathew said after dabbing away a trail of warm butter that leaked out of the corner of his mouth.
“Thank you for the high praise sir. I am sure that you are accustomed too much finer accommodations that what we can offer here at the Grand Abby. I am very thankful that the food is at least too your liking,” responded Brother Haltac as he began to clear away the Knight Commander’s table setting.
“Not at all, despite my station I am a solider after all. I was born and breed on a sparse and essential aesthetic. Since my time in command of the garrison I will confess that I often find myself being taken with excessive comfort. It is refreshing to be around men who are utilitarian in their purpose,” affirmed Sir Mathew while he handed his wooden cup to the Vermillion Councilman. The knight took a moment to reflect on the meal he had just enjoyed and it’s juxtaposition with his last statement. “I will say I am curious to know how you leaned to prepare food in such a masterful fashion.”
“Masterful…I think you are being generous,” said the Councilman with a bashful smile. “In my time before staring my service on the council I served another man. I was the personal chef to Laurence Guideman.”
“You attended the Marquee of Lighthouse Bay?” exclaimed the Knight Commander with a measure of admiration.
“Might I ask why you left the employ of such a man of renown? Surely your life must have been the envy of many of your contemporaries.”
“I will not deny that, even as a humble servant, my time in service to the Marquee was quite lavish. Soft beds, I remember most of all. Well other than the quality of the man’s kitchens and food stores of course.”
“Of course,” responded Sir Mathew with a sympathetic grin. “Still I wonder, why leave service only to return to it?”
“It was the rampant excess that drove me away. Nobody would accuse Laurence Guideman of understanding the notion of moderation. You know he once had me prepare a full banquet table of delicacies, strictly as a decoration while his guests dined at a separate table. In the morning every last scrap of food was thrown away. Not to say that he was cruel to his lessors…but…I simply could not abide such…careless abundance. I left the Marquee’s employ and now I feed many instead of one,” Brother Haltac said with a nostalgic melancholy tone.
“I mean no offence but I never would have figured a chef for such magnificent chivalry,” said Sir Mathew with a deferential glance downward and a nod of his head.
“No offence at all. I may be a chef but I am a sworn brother of the Vermillion Council before anything else,” said the man clad in red. The sound of dirty plates and servingware clattering together as they were removed from the dining table filled the moment before Brother Haltac spoke again. “Now, may I ask a question of you, sir?”
“Yes by all means, please ask what you will of me.”
“Shall you and your retinue be staying at the Grand Abby for long? Is there anything special that I might be able to prepare for you and your men?”
“I would not mind feasting on whatever you chose to put in front of me until I am stuffed full but I will be departing before first light. I have delivered the latest account of…the state of things in Evermist to your Father Abbot. I need to return to the rest of my regiment as soon as possible.”
“I understand. I think that I have some freshly baked bread that will travel nicely if you care to take some. I could fix a few baskets before you and your men leave.”
Before Sir Mathew could say anything the sound of commotion and frantic yelling resounded in the corridor outside the small dining room. The Knight Commander stood as three of his Rayward knights entered the room in an alarmed state.
“Beg your pardon Commander but you are needed in the Abby’s infirmary, presently,” said the first knight who had entered the room.
“What has happened?” quarried Sir Mathew with a sense of equal concern and curiosity.
“It is Sir Jonathan’s squire, Fredrick, he arrived in the Grand Abby moments ago. He is…he is quite poorly…he begs to speak with you,” responded the knight with a mournful voice.
“Best you stay here, if you please,” Sir Mathew said to Brother Haltac as he followed his knights out of the room.
“In his beloved name,” said the Councilman with hushed words as the group of knights left for the infirmary.
Sir Mathew and his men rapidly traversed the corridors of the Grand Abbey. The sudden arrival of the squire had set the halls of the place abuzz with men rushing about in alarm. The Knight Commander questioned his men in the rapid trek to the infirmary but it was clear that they knew roughly as much as he did about the situation. The only substantive information that Sir Mathew’s subordinates were able to offer was a commentary on the young squire’s physical condition.
Sir Mathew heard the boys screaming well before entered the Grand Abbey’s medical quarters. When the Knight Commander stepped inside the infirmary he was unable to see Fredirck directly. All that Sir Mathew saw were a handful of his knights and a few brothers of the Vermillion Council surrounding the bed where the squire lay. As Sir Mathew approached the chaos he notice the floor of the room was drenched with blood.
When Sir Mathew finally stood at Frederick’s bedside and saw the boy with his own eyes he had to stop himself from being sick. The Knight Commander was grateful for the preparation that he had been given from his men on the trip down the infirmary. Still the words of his knights failed to properly illustrate the dire situation that the boy was in. Fredrick was suffering from two broken arms and at least as many broken and cracked ribs. He was covered in more red than any one of the Vermillion Councilman within the Grand Abbey. It was nothing short of a miracle that the squire had been able to make the ride from the forward Rayward encampment in the condition that he was in. The boy’s cries of agony seemed to lessen when, with his one remaining eye, he saw the Sir Mathew stand at his side.
“What happened?” Sir Mathew said in a shocked and empty fashion.
“Chimera…just…just one…” sputtered Fredrick.
“A lone chimera did this to you? Why did not the rest of the regiment stop it?” asked the Knight Commander in wonderment.
“Can not…it…it killed them all…everyone is…dead,” Fredrick struggled to say.
“One of those beasts wiped out an entire regiment of my men!” exclaimed Sir Mathew in a voice that was more panicked than he intended. The Knight Commander turned his attention from the dying boy to the nearest one of his men. “Send word to the Garrison as well as Rayward proper that we need reinforcements in the Evermist Valley at once.”
“No…no…no time…” screamed Fredrick as he writhed about in the bed while several Councilmen tied in vain to treat his wounds. “It…it is close…it followed me here.”
As the boy’s last words hung in the dank air of the infirmary warning bells started to sound from the towers of the Grand Abbey.