End of Peace
The sun greeted Rayward’s Gate like a long lost cousin. Most of the people within the resplendent city could not remember the last day there had been a clear sky overhead. The red rains had been an unforgiving force upon the region. The unending deluge of blood that burst from the clouds above Rayward had nearly broken the moral of all inside the city, save for the most courageous of knights.
Now there was no trace of the peculiar weather that had being plaguing Argaia. The people of Rayward were warmed by the golden kiss of sunlight like they always had been. The skies were clear and blue, and bird song even filled the air. If one did not know of the most recent turn of events then it would be impossible to discern the sense of dread that lurked within the bright shining city. Nobody made mention of the phenomenon but there was a silent unified hope held by the people of Rayward that the last of the red rains had fallen on their home.
Life behind the gate was far from back to normal but the people inside the city were making an admirable attempt at restoring a measure of the status quo. Merchants were doing business from their stalls in the square, shops and taverns were open for commerce once again, the city guard had returned to regular patrols of the street, and people were even smiling at eachother once more. Even if it was all a temporary illusion, it was a fantasy that all were happy to indulge for a time. Nobody spoke of the rain and life in Rayward was good. All eyes inside the gate were carefully watching the castle for any sign from the king. If someone was to know what was going to happen next in Rayward it was, his majesty King Gregory Morningside.
The castle of Rayward was enjoying some of the newfound sunlight. The servants were keeping busy and working on returning the keep to it usually bright and cheery aesthetic. The curtains of the king’s home were all being pulled back to let in as much sunlight as possible. The red rains had given all a new found appreciation for the commodity of sunshine and warmth. It was like the castle was trying to bank as much of the light as it could so when the clouds returned those inside could sustain themselves on some of the lingering rays.
King Gregory sat in his study sipping on a bronze goblet of cool water. Since the arrival of the chimera the man had abstained from indulging in any beverage other than water. He understood that the monsters spawned by the rain were a force that would be foolish to underestimate. Gregory made it a habit to avoid any vices or other temptations when there was a threat to the land afoot. The king turned his focus to the decanter of red wine that sat near his drawing table. Seeing the crystalline vessel reminded him of how pleasantly bitter the spirit tasted but more than that he was reminded of how unfulfilling his current drink was. Imbibing nothing but water was something that King Gregory had not had to tolerate much of during his largely peaceful rein.
As King Gregory continued to watch the sun casting light down upon his domain he felt like a weight was lifted from his chest. His breath was able to come deeper and fuller. He allowed himself to relax his guard for the first time since the storms had begun to pour their crimson anarchy upon Rayward. He finished the rest of the water in his cup and contemplated the empty vessel before looking back outside. The sight of birds taking flight over his kingdom once more was the thing that convinced Gregory that he could treat himself to a moderate libation. The Rayward king made for the wine decanter with the intent to enjoy some of its contents. Gregory gave himself an indulgently long pour of red wine into his cup. As the scarlet flow filled the goblet Gregory detected the sound of footsteps in the hall. As he returned the decanter to the table the Rayward king heard muted voices outside his study door.
“Sire, Master of Arms Sir Eric Greyhand is here to seek an audience with you. Shall you receive him?” came the voice of one of the guards posted outside the study.
“Send him in,” responded the king as he took a deep breath of the delightfully fragrant wine in his goblet.
Sir Eric entered the King’s study and bowed deeply to his liege. He held his bow until King Gregory gestured that it was acceptable to rise and speak. “Sire, news from our garrison in the Evermist Valley territory,” said the knight as he withdrew a rolled up length of parchment and offered it to the king.
Gregory looked at the sealed message with discerning eyes. He took the parchment from his loyal Master of Arms with his free hand and felt his breath catch in his throat when he closer examined the wax seal. The stamp that had been used to seal the dispatch was not the standard crest of Rayward. The wax was imprinted with the symbol of a broken shield, the formal sign of gravest distress and crisis. Gregory had only ever once before read correspondence that bore such a seal. As Gregory read over the message contained within the scroll his face turning into a grim expressionless void.
“Sire, I beg your pardon but is it dire news?” Sir Eric inquired boldly. He normally would not overstep his station and pry into the king’s private correspondence but the rapid change in his lord’s demeanor begged for clarity. The knight also placed some faith in the reality that the message likely contained information of a military nature and as one of King Gregory’s closest tactical advisors it was not wholly outside of the realm of propriety to ask about the message.
King Gregory slowly looked at the other man and gave the slightest of nods but his eyes managed to reflect a vast amount of grief. “Go now and assemble my war council. I need to speak with you and the other generals at once,” Ordered Gregory. The words came hard out of his mouth that had suddenly run dry.
“As you command, sire,” Sir Eric said with a swift bow before departing. There were a few quick and forgettable words exchanged between Sir Erick and the guards at the door. The sound of the Mater of Arms footsteps quickly faded into silence as he set about his duty.
After several moments alone in his study King Gregory looked down at the untouched goblet of red wine in his hand. With a dejected sigh he dumped the contents of the cup onto the fine red velvet carpet underfoot. King Gregory Morningside went to the pitcher that sat upon his map table and proceeded to pour himself a cup of water.