((I'm back. Sorry, I was in Wales, they don't have electricity, just lots of Castles
Hal remained bowed as the warriors on the dais each removed their helmets. Last to remove his helm was the king, he was around fifty years of age with dark blond hair and clear blue eyes, his features aquiline. Finally, after what seemed an age, the man spoke, "Rise, nethew, you are among friends."
Hal rose and removed his own helm, he took a deep breath and realised his uncle Jammes was smiling. Hal bowed his head again, "Am I to be judged, Uncle?" he asked.
Jammes' smile faded, "Yes you are. Halren Taklinsson, you stand accussed of selling your people into slavery, through your Marshal, Tarnac Dralsson, otherwise known as the Drago, the Dragon. How do you plead?"
The King's expression remained blank but his eyes flickered. "You understand the penalty for such a crime as this?"
Hal stood, back straight, and nodded once, "I do."
Jammes managed to keep his face blank as he pronounced sentence, "The penalty for the betraying of one's people under the old law is death by flogging," he paused. "However, I am now the King and I make the law. I understand the difficulties of the whole bloody buisness. First, the Drago had no choice, as he saw it. Second, that he acted on his own initiative, with no instructions from you. As such we here have decided that law or no, you can not be found responsible."
Hal let out a breath he had not realised he had been holding. He inclined his head, "I am in your dept, my King. How may I serve?"
"The Agori hold the woods to our south. They have been attacking our convoys from Tavara. Our efforts here are being hampered by the disruption. You will take a Cavalry detachment, one Ala of Houseguards, one of Landsmen and one of Merchantmen, then you will root out the Hell Riders and destroy them." When he had finished Jammes leaned back and turned to the huge Callidonian to his left.
The warrior leaned foward as he spoke and fixed Hal with his ice blue gaze, "If the Agori are not removed then the enemy will be in a position to siege the Tol in four six weeks. At that point Tavara and Seconia will be cut off from the main garrison. You have twelve hours to prepare, do not fail, Fire Blade."
Hal bowed to the assembled lords, "It shall be as you say, and when I return?"
"Then you shall be accorded your place among us, Lord of the Aduni. You are dismissed." So saying Jammes Windrider replaced his helm, then, one by one the lords of the Wise Council did the same. Jammes watched his nethew replace his own helm then turn on his heel and stride from the hall. Only then did Jammes relax. He loved the young man but he was still too willful, he had his mother's temper and his father's conviction; it might still prove to be a combination fatal for Halren and anyone caught up with him. Jammes had half expected Hal to call for trial by combat. Jammes still remebered the frightening spectical of Hal surounded by Beserkers, cutting and slashing with a speed and ferocity that outmatched his battlemad opponents. He had been eighteen then, now he was twenty three and would nearly have matched his father for skill. Even Jammes' best Paladin would have been hard pressed to defeat him. No, Trial by combat could only have ended with at least one warrior mortally wounded, if not both.
Jammes had no doubt of his nethew's abilities as a warrior, but he needed Hal to be more, he needed him to be a warlord.