Lord Gregory, Knight of the Third Realm, Keeper of the Helfain Guard,
Servant to His Majesty, Prince Edwin Time.
I know I only just wrote you of my exploits, but last night’s events are most distressing and I feared that word of a dead Knight, slain at the feast, would reach your ears and trouble your aged heart. Anything you are likely to hear on the subject will no doubt have a grain of truth to it, but I am certain my account is clearest, for I stood nearest the man killed and my countenance is scarred by the encounter. (Nay, do not fear for me, my face is still my own and I am fully recognizable.)
“Before I anguish you further, I should give you a document of the happenings evening last. The Prince was overly generous in the festivities and the evening’s fare was most excellent. Prince Edwin spoke kindly of us, and I would have you hear his words if you could, for then you would be proud of me and the work I have done. There is much to be said on the subject, but I would not give the semblance of vanity and there are more pressing matters for you to comprehend.
“The meal had scarcely begun when the guards in the front of the feasting hall cried out in loud, wailing, voices and were cut down by a figure dreadfully familiar to me. It was the good friar from your lord’s land. It would seem God no longer dwelt in his soul as his sword passed through the throats of those two men with the skill of a lordly Knight. Friar Timothy it was, and he transformed before my eyes into some manner of savage beast. His humble hood and tunic were in tatters and his hands were covered in filth. The weight of a long journey seemed to drag on his shoulders and his words were more demonic than those of a heathen. The entire room recoiled and trembled and I could taste the fear on my own tongue.
“‘Hear me, O Prince!’ he cried and I rose to my feet, reaching for my own sword, though I believed he would have been my better in single combat. ‘I speak for the Great Dragon and he has wrath for you, Edwin, son of a murderer.’ The entire banquet hall seethed with terror and anger. The young squire at my right hand was most pious of us all and I feared for his safety on that count, for the friar did not cease. Indeed I think he could not if he tried. He seemed as one possessed by a demon and his eyes were those of a wild animal. ‘Ere this year is out, the Great Dragon will take vengeance on you and those who bear your sword. Tremble, O Prince, and do not doubt, for one murderer can rely on the word of another.’ As his twisted, black, heart shaped these crude words, he grasped a knife from his belt and hurled it without glancing at his mark. It struck the squire on my right, and grazed my cheek in its path. The squire was dead in an instant and I could not tear my eyes away from the mad friar long enough to consider my own safety or the blood dripping down my face. No one dared to approach him, for he wielded his blade this way and that, unceasingly. He seemed to be filled with an unearthly strength feeding his words and his arm. ‘Here is the sign of the Great Dragon’s oath. As many dragons as have been killed, he will exact two of your human lives for each of their claws.’ Everyone around me held their breaths, but I breathed freely, hoping to awake and find it was the product of too much wine. But awake I did not, and his words poured on like fouled water. ‘When this count has been tallied, the Great Dragon will inflict death on you, O Prince, your son, and all your house. Then, if your death does not appease his anger, your brothers and father will also pay the lofty price.’ After this, Friar Timothy spoke no more, for the Prince in his anger and, (I do believe lest he be some god and not man) fear, hurled his dinner knife at the friar and smote him in his chest.
“Afterward, we hardly dared speak. Prince Edwin seemed to see as though for the first time and he could not tear his eyes from the dead friar. I nearly wept for my heart would not realize what I had witnessed. Timothy was once a noble man in his right and a revered member of your lord’s land. There we sat or stood, spellbound, until Prince Edwin spoke at long last. His words were hollow to me for my thoughts were bent homeward. ‘Knights and lords of this realm, it saddens me to hear and see what has transpired and were this any other case I would not have raised my hand. I am no less grieved at his death than if he had been slain in a noble way.’ Edwin’s voice failed then and others began speaking as the men serving us carried out the squire and the friar.
“‘Sire, is this the truth he spoke?’ asked one of the High Knights. He is a young man and fair as spring. He tried to steel his words but they trembled, and he is no soft hand; more than one dragon has tasted his blade.
“Edwin let his head fall into his hand, he wore no crown and I was sharply reminded that he was quite young himself, younger than I and yet a king in full season and by his right. He pondered for some time as a waiter cleaned my wound for me. I forgot to thank him; sooth, I hardly knew he was there so lost was I in the thoughts of my prince. Each one seemed to crease his face and say plainer than words the truth. ‘Yes, he hath spoken truth. The Great Dragon will seek a blood bounty and mine will not atone. He will take the entire Kingdom and the only ones to survive will live by mere luck and the Dragon’s ignorance. We must be ready, my bold friends, for this attack will be beyond our comprehension. Now go, leave me, and try to find rest for yourselves; I will find no solace. I will assemble you by the first watch of the morrow. Until then, farewell.’ It need not be said that his words smote me to the core and I was shaken in bone and marrow. My life blood froze in my veins and my skin was cold as one dead. My beloved brother, Simon, when I reached my rooms and told him of the doings, revived me with his righteous anger and he now sleeps peacefully, wondering what tales of bravery and valor will reach his ears ere the sun rises. A time of solemn fear has come and I pray the Great Dragon is so ancient he has forgotten his art. But I shall not be so blind as to hope. Hope is barren and unworthy of my trust. The bird of war is fledged; its cry is an evil and dark omen. If you are brought word of my death, know it was unafraid, be it brave or foolish.
Respectfully your son, Lord Gregory, Knight of the Third Realm.”