When Brother arrived in La Longi, he was escorted to a meeting room in the palace. A long rectangular table with men who held various offices intently watched Brother as he entered.
As he looked around, he recognized a few faces. Lord Rainport, James Rainport’s father, the king’s alchemist and other of the nobility were present.
Brother was shown a seat and provided water to drink.
Brother was a freedman who had been in a few battles for the king. His interaction with royal households and such were limited to his training of guards which took place near the barracks. He was uncomfortable in the formal setting. Outwardly, Brother’s face could have been a stone for all anyone knew.
The room became quiet. Lord Rainport of the House of Rainport began the meeting.
“Tell us your name, freedman.”
Brother took a deep breath. ” My name is Emerson Berengar, Lord Rainport.”
“Why do you think you have been called to the palace?”
” I would imagine that the king would wish to know what I have learned about the northern frontier and the development of Northwich.”
“That is correct, freedman”. Lord Rainport placed emphasis on the word freedman.
” You are of low status, Emerson, and it behooves you to answer our questions. You will advise us as to the condition of Northwich and the northern frontier.
It was apparent that Lord Rainport was trying to elicit a response.
Lord Rainport was not impressed with Emerson Berengar and it showed.
Brother did not care. He took a sip of water and relaxed. This was going to get interesting.
” the northern frontier is in a chilly condition, the leaves are golden on many trees.”
Several nobles laughed at Brother’s comment.
The muscles in Lord Rainport’s jaw flexed several times.
“Freedman, I have little patience for your foolishness. Tell me your status!”
There was tension in the room. Brother was accustomed to it.
He had resettled a town, destroyed a bandit camp, trained criminals how to farm, and resolved disputes with the Heron during the last year.
Prior to that, life was hard.
Brother’s thoughts trailed off.
Brother thought about when he was a stable boy as a child and working the docks as a teenager. He came to La Longi on a boat and his family did what it took to survive the city.
As a youth, Brother had viewed the tradesmen and those of royal birth as something unattainable. In a way, it was. He had looked on them with awe and could not comprehend the complexities of it all.
Brother looked around the table. All were wearing outlandish clothing and colorful hosen. The headgear he saw entering the palace grounds was preposterous and impractical. He wondered at the silliness and extravagant behavior. A year away had changed things for Brother.
A few battles for the king and living a working man’s life had weeded out the desire for fine, colorful clothing, lavish dwellings, and status.
People were what really mattered.
How were his wife and children faring? They had written, but he wanted to see them. It was time for them to move to their new home in Northwich.
A rare smile imposed itself on Brother’s face as he thought about his family. Shortly he would see them. The pretentious finely clothed men who sat around the table amused him as well.
Lord Rainport did not see the humor.
“do you find something silly, freedman? I will have you whipped. I demand that you tell me the status of your little hamlet and demonstrate respect.”
Brother’s eyes became level and cold. “Lord Rainport, with all due respect, I have orders from the king himself. While I am not of your rank, I do not answer to you.
The land of Northwich has been granted me by decree. All therein is mine provided I pay my taxes. It is none of your concern.
As for having me whipped, do it. Have me whipped.”
The nobles became uncomfortable at this quaint diplomacy and began to fidget where they sat. The alchemist found an immense fascination in a small abacus that he pulled from a satchel he carried.
” Lord Rainport, these guards answer to the king, like me. Tell them to whip me.”
Lord Rainport glared at Brother. ” this meeting is over.” Lord Rainport left the room angrily.
Everyone in the room began to leave.
A noble approached him.
“you made an enemy, freedman.”
Brother became irritated.
I am a king’s thane sir. I serve the king. He and you can pound sand.
Brother left at a brisk pace. His family did not know he was here and there was not a second to waste in seeing them..