Lantern Keep, Port of Valsina, Vintara
The hard stone floor of the chapel sent a dull ache through Sir Lawrence’s knees as the voice of the priest droned on. The humid air was made all the closer by the nearly two hundred knights crammed into the chapel’s rather small floorspace. “If only someone could open the door and let in the cool sea breeze,” Lawrence thought to himself.
He attempted instead to focus on the service but despite his pious wishes his thoughts continued to wander. Unbidden memories of a woman’s face kept passing through his mind. Her name was Leora and the last time that Lawrence had seen her she was sixteen and newly married to a foul tempered, cruel man nearly twenty years her senior. He was Count Samos Drethor of Ibyliss and he controlled the vital fortress of Ar Rastan in southern Cyonia. It was crucial to King Darius that he cement Count Samos’ loyalty to the throne so it was he, and not Lawrence, the lowly son of a court physician, who would marry the lovely Princess Leora.
She had risked much to see Lawrence one last time before she left for her new home in the cruel, uncivilized fringes of the kingdom. Her husband was not known for his kindness and it was unlikely that he would overlook his bride’s transgression, even if she was daughter to the king.
That night she had begged Lawrence to forget her. To put behind him the bond that had developed between them from a childhood spent playing together in the vast halls and courtyards of the White Palace. She wiped tears from his blue eyes and tried to convince him that her new life in Ar Rastan would not be as lonely as he feared. She had comforted him, showing him the passion and tenderness that the cold Count of Ibyliss would surely never appreciate.
The next morning King Darius had summoned Lawrence to a private audience. With Lawrence’s father looking on he informed the boy that an opportunity lay for him with the Knights of the Holy Order of the Lantern of Saint Clevoy. A squire with the Lantern Knights, the King promised, would travel the lands of man, fighting to defend the innocent and the faithful. It was, he assured, an honourable calling.
Lawrence did not care. With Leora gone and a sea of anguish stirring within him he only wanted to be away from his old life. A month later he left Cyonia and the palace behind and began a self imposed exile that had stretched on now for more than fourteen years.
The knights kneeling around Lawrence began to rise to their feet. Realizing that mass was over, he stood and offered an apologetic prayer to Pelor and Saint Clevoy for his inattentiveness throughout the service.
As he walked into the courtyard of the castle the large and powerfully built Lord Castellan, Sir Olthren Blakeburn, caught up to Lawrence. “Sir Lawrence,” he growled in his deep baratone, “may I have a word with you?”
“Sure,” Lawrence responded, forgetting to add, ‘sir’.
“I have been approached by a pair of Lucidian monks who have pressing business in Cyonia,” the Lord Castellan began, “They are in need of a guide and possibly a protector while there. I had hoped that as a native of Cyonia you may be able to travel with them.”
The question hung in the air for only a moment. “Yes, of course,” he said.
Sir Olthren had known Lawrence for many years. He now studied the younger knight’s face. “I had thought that I might have to persuade you,” he said slowly.
Lawrence said nothing, masking any emotion that might threaten to appear on his visage. “Good then,” Olthren said, smiling. “Meet the two Lucidians at the docks tomorrow at sunrise. They are booked on a ship called The Osprey.”