Chapter 6: The War Room
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Upon seeing that they had returned long before they were due, the guards opened the gates quickly and called for Rhydian without needing to be asked. Something Braydon appreciated, he wanted a solution and he wanted it now. Abandoning their horses to the stable hand, Braydon and Gerald made their way to the study to await Rhydian’s arrival; Steven soon appeared and followed them to their destination. 

On the way there, Steven informed him that they were short of female servants. Thus he was unable to assign anyone to be Lady Nela’s attendants. Another problem that Braydon did not want to deal with right now, and promptly shoved to the back of his mind. As they made it to the study and Braydon sat down, Rhydian walked in before Steven could shut the door, tailed by Lady Nela. 

“And to what do I owe the pleasure? Taken aback by her presence, Braydon could not help but ask.

“The Lady noticed that you looked troubled and requested that she join us, Sire.” Now this he did not expect.

“It is as Sir Kelly says, I may be under your protection but that does not mean I cannot be useful. After all I should at least do something to repay your kindness.” Taking a moment before realising that Rhydian was ‘Sir Kelly’, a name he had not heard used in a long time. Braydon had nothing to say. Recalling his assessment of the woman, something Rhydian had obviously remembered otherwise he would have turned her request down, Braydon decided to let her take part in the discussion. A bandit problem in a poor corner of the kingdom was not exactly something he needed to keep from her. 

“Why of course, Lady Nela, take a seat.”

“Thank you.”

“Now the reason the tour of the viscounty was cut short was some bad news I received from the elder of Midbury.” Just thinking of it caused him a headache, as he rubbed his scar. Something that he found was happening more frequently than he would have liked.

“Is the food situation that dire?” Knowing that Rhydian was referring to the matter discussed the day before, Braydon shook his head.

“No, if anything that’s better than we surmised. The problem is that the southern village has been overrun by bandits, holdovers from Shuluk’s defeated forces.” Hearing this, Rhydian’s face turned grim.

“Gerald and I could not think of anything that we could do to combat this problem. And I am not sitting on this for longer than I have to, so I hope that you can give me some ideas on how to handle this.”

“I forbid you from taking more than 5 men from the garrison, it should be obvious to you why any more would not be a good idea.” Rhydian’s strong reply did not shock Braydon in the least, the man knew much about the machinations of nobles. Before he trained Braydon, he had often been a part of his father’s entourage so he knew how quickly they would latch on to their adversary’s weakness. Neither of them had any illusions of what the three barons would do if they got the chance, their infighting was infamous across Fiveria.

“I would never think of it, I may be in a bad position but I will never let those three take advantage of the situation. My brother would be laughing in his sleep.”

“First thing we need to do is find out how many of them we are dealing with, and how well armed they are. As we are, we would be going in blind.” He made a good point, Braydon did not wish to see himself up shit creek against more numerous and better armed opponents. 

“Agreed. Gerald, go find Corban, tell him to send a rider to find out information. And make sure it’s someone who knows what the hell he is doing, the last thing I need is another dead guard.”

“Sire.” After seeing Gerald off and waiting til the door was closed, Braydon continued to address Rhydian.

“When we deal with them, I shall be going out personally. I want to stick it to at least one of those bastards, and I will not take no for an answer!” After emphasising that Rhydian did not oppose but laid out his own condition.

“Then I’ll be going with you to keep your sorry arse alive. Don’t forget where that scar came from.” He knew he had to agree, lest Rhydian personally bar the castle gates. Both men remembered clearly where his scar had come from, and they knew Rhydian would not let him be so reckless again.

It had been after Rhydian had given his ‘just passable’ assessment of his sword skills, Braydon was still flying high after that and had gotten himself into a fight with street thugs on a visit to the capital a couple years back. Not knowing the difference between a street brawl and a fight on the battlefield, Braydon had thought he would easily win against opponents with bricks and small knives as weapons, even if it was three against one. Boy was he sorely mistaken. He had been lucky that Rhydian had been looking for him and caught what was going on before the street rat who had taken his sword could plunge it into him. By that point he was already unconscious and on the floor. The thugs had no issues with killing somebody in a back alley. The city guards would never find who did it and they’d be fools to start combing through the underside of the city without preparing for a war.

“If I may, Lord Braydon, whilst I do not have any easy solutions for your current predicament, I do think I may be able to come up with something to deal with the neighbouring barons.” Braydon and Rhydian both looked at her with a start, clearly having forgotten that they had an observer in the meeting, causing her to let out a light giggle.

“And what might you propose, Lady Nela?” He asked, his curiosity overcoming his slight embarrassment at forgetting she was sat there the whole time.

“Whilst I cannot say for sure, I think I may be able to come up with a way to play them off against each other to your benefit. Of course I would need to do some research into their personalities, but I thought you might have more pressing concerns over the coming days. I would like to do something to take at least one problem off your shoulders.” Nela's words impressed Braydon, by the look he got from his knight, Rhydian too. They had not expected her to take such an active role in her ‘being useful’.

“Why that would be excellent, Lady Nela. It would be most appreciated if you could do something about those three headaches. You have my permission to ask Rhydian for available manpower to carry out your ‘research’, should you need it.” Before he could move his mind onto other matters, Braydon was almost blinded by the smile he got in response to his approval.

“Thank you, my lord, I will try not to disappoint you.” Lady Nela got up from her seat and made for the exit.

“I shall not keep you any further, I am sure you and Sir Batterson have not eaten since you returned in such haste.” After she left Braydon turned to Rhydian.

“I thought it was suspicious that Gerald had not come back yet, the little shit must have smelt food in the kitchens.” They both laughed at the thought of Gerald scoffing down his food in secret.

“Though she’s not wrong, I am famished.”