It had only been a day since the last high council meeting but once again Alasdair found himself in the cramped and dreary council chambers. Unlike last time however, the only council member present with him was his military advisor Alice Rallar. Alice had only just entered the room and was currently standing across from Alasdair who was sitting at his usual place; pretending to read a scroll placed in front of him. After a short while of silence Alice spoke
“You sent for me your grace” though she tried to hide it there was clear annoyance in her voice. Despite him asking that she report to the council chamber immediately he didn’t seem to be in any particular hurry. Of course it was a nothing more than a show of power, a way of letting her know that he could keep her waiting for as long as he wanted.
“Indeed” Alasdair said as he continued to look down on the scroll “As I stated yesterday, the war with the Mandarass Alliance is over. As such I thought this would be a good time to establish your resignation”. Alice, quite rightly was taken aback. While she had previously told Alasdair that she planned on stepping down as advisor of war sometime after the war, she didn’t mean immediately after the war had literally just ended. Furthermore when a advisor resigned there was normally a ceremony celebrating their achievements during their time on the council. Not...this
“Your grace…” Alice stammered, still unsure if Alasdair meant what he was saying
“Arrangements have already been made for your departure. Along with your reward of a large sum of coins for all your years of service” While Alasdair’s face remained deadpan as he finally looked up from the scroll. Despite his outward expressions, inside he was enjoying every moment of this. During his entire time on the High Council Alice had looked down on him, even going as far as opposing his appointment to head advisor and openly expressing her distrust of him and his family to King John. Even during his time as king Alice had served him with reluctance. Now that he had no use for her he could finally disgrace her the same way she had attempted to disgrace the De Reimer name for years. Dismissing her so offhandedly with nothing more than a bag of coins for her years of service would damage her reputation greatly.
“Your grace, you cannot just dismiss me like this” she growled through her teeth, trying her best not to let her anger get the better of her. She had known Alasdair for years, and while she knew he disliked her immensely she didn’t think he would dishonour her like this simply due to spite.”A successor hasn’t even been chosen yet”
“And that is where you would be wrong” Alasdair replied cordially, he knew that retaining a calm demeanour would further vex her. Upon this moment there was a knock on the door, Alasdair smilled “Perfect timing, I believe that is him now”.
The first thing visible through the doorway was a sturdy leather glove softened with wear, following was the plate armoured arm of none other than Claus Rotstein, whom entered with zero introduction and closed the door behind him. Still lingering was the unmistakable smell of war and battles, since he had had little time to freshen up. Just the usual oiling of the armour so at least that one was shining. Albeit being violently banged and worse for wear.
Pausing to finally look at those present he saw the high king, he remembered his face from the party. And some person he’d never met. Probably someone who was in a meeting before him. With sort of a boastful pose Claus then introduced himself.
-”Mornin’ liege. I am here now.”
Alice identified him immediately; Claus Rotstein, captain of the steel fist mercenary company
“This is who you will have replace me” erupted Alice as she pointed towards the mercenary, no longer trying to hide her anger “A mercenary, a man who’s only loyalty is to his own purse”.
“I would watch your tone, I am still your king and you no longer hold the authority to speak to me in such a manner” Alasdair replied firmly “Besides Claus has proven his military capabilities at both battles of Telmarion as well as the siege of Clarm. I believe he will be a great asset to the concord”.
-”Name’s Claus, seems someone knows who i am. Pleased to learn that i am recognized, sadly, can’t say the same about you.” Claus said with a grinning smirk while offering his hand to Alice for a handshake. The king didn’t like her so it would probably turn out fine. Before she had time to answer Claus added.
-”Oh, and one thing you got wrong there, i ain’t loyal to my purse, i’m loyal to the purse that pays me. Which is the De’Reimer’s.” Across his face was a broad grinning smile. He liked messing with people, especially if he could get away with it.
“You and your mercenary company are frauds” She said as she swiveled to face Claus, her attention and anger now focused on him “Oh yes I know of your mercenary thugs and despite your self proclaimed elitism, you are no different than the others. You only care about lining your own pockets, why else would you arrive so late to the second battle of Telmarion? Had not been for the potential reward of house Mandarass’s supplies I doubt you would have even of let the safety of Clarm”.
Seeing she went on the offensive and began to insult him he didn’t expect an answer, ignoring her he turned to the king and asked.
-”So m’liege, who is this lovely ‘lady’, friend of yours?”
“This was my advisor of war on the high council, Alice Rallar. She has recently stepped down from her position to be replaced by yourself” Alice turned to face the king to protest, however she stopped herself and fell silent, knowing that Alasdair wanted her to say or do something that could get her forcibly removed from the keep or even imprisoned.
-”Former advisor of war, fancy. Well honestly i guess i expected someone less important to act like that, reminds me of myself. So, m’liege, want help to get her leave, free of charge, see it as a bonus.” Claus smirk was there as ever.
“If you value your life, you wouldn’t dare touch me” Alice hissed “I will not not stand by and watch as everything I have achieved over the past decade be striped away and given to a lowlife such as yourself. I challenge you to a duel, do you accept” Alice was putting her hopes into Claus accepting her duel. If he accepted then Alice would be given the chance to regain her dignity in front of the people of Nyhem. If she won then she could have her revenge on Alasdair by killing his replacement.
Visibly surprised and almost taken aback from the proposition, Claus soon regained his calm demeanour and telltale smirk.
-”A duel? Ever full of surprises, alright, but me being challenged choose the form, it’s customary after all.” Claus was faking pondering with obviously non earnest chin stroking while Alice frown was closing on surreal depth before he settled on what to say.
-”It wouldn’t be much of a match to see who could bed the most in a day, seeing i’m far more handsome than you, so the only proper form would be drinking contest. Orog wine, who can drink the most.” He held out his hand for a handshake with a massive grin on his face even though one who was more perceptive could see a hint of annoyance..
Alice was fuming, visibly reddened face and with a grunt she backhanded away Claus hand with force and yelled.
-”You dare mock me lowlife scum!” She stepped in a step closer and stared him square in the eyes.
-”So you are a coward, not even daring to face me in combat. But what did i expect, i read about you in the archives, about your Beilokias ’campaign’, more like sitting around being scared. Craven fools all of you, how you pretended to get lost for several weeks to avoid a siege, how you snuck out before the final battle and of course how you rats perfected the art of arriving late in the battle of hymns, just so you could take their supplies. Cowardly thieving...”
Before she could finish Claus interrupted, he had gotten much more than annoyed with this little spiel and when she mentioned the battle of hymns, he got angry.
He ended her rant with a spit in the face before speaking.
-”Alright you royal sucker-up whore, that does it, you know NOTHING about the battle of hymns.” Claus was angrily pointing at her face while forcing her back until she almost fell over the kings desk, the one keeping her from falling was Claus holding a firm grip at her collar.
-”But you want your damn duel, FINE. I can see you won’t settle with first blood either. To the death then. Since you can’t live without the possibility to lick his ass.” Claus angrily referred to the king.
Here she had had enough, she aimed a knee-kick at his crotch, the angle and her weird pose made it a bit less forceful than she wished for, plus his armour helped protect which resulted in a noisy rattle and a light thud to which Claus grunted heavily and took a step back.
Alasdair was having none of this. He called out to his guards and within seconds Alenius followed by half a dozen Cawanor soldiers rushed in and restrained the two of them.
“Remove her from the keep at once, Ser Alice is no longer welcome here” with this the guards struggled to drag her from the room, but not before she shouted out
“We will fight tomorrow at the grand arena, so the whole city will know that your ‘skill’ is nothing more than talk” As she was removed from the room she could still be heard from down the hallway “We shall see if you are worth your mettle!”
Shortly after the soldiers let go off Claus after Alasdair waved his hand, the captain was still visibly angry but soon gathered his cool, especially when he noticed Alenius was there.
-”Tsk, tomorrow ey? Not a long time to prepare, but i’ll manage.” He cracked his knuckles and neck and kept on.
-”So, have time for dinner? I know a good place.” Claus smirked and was obviously flirting with Alenius, something she initially met with a sigh before she turned to face Alasdair
“Was there anything else you needed your grace” she asked. In response Alasdair shook his head. She bowed before taking a quick glance at Claus and then exited the room.
“I apologise to you sir” Alasdair said as he turned his attention back to Claus “It would seem you are now in more danger here in Nyhem then you ever were during the war”
-”More dangerous than the war? How so, i’ve been in fights before. With and without onlookers.” Claus followed Alenius with his vision as she left while he spoke to the king.
“It seems you don’t know of Alice’s skill with a blade. She is one of the most skilled fighters in Formaroth, one of the many reasons John elected her as his war advisor. Perhaps it would be for the best that we cover this incident up. I have people who could, ‘deal’ with Alice meaning you won’t have to risk your life over something so trivial” there had been a reason Alice decided the duel take place tomorrow, the longer she waited, the more than Alasdair had to have her assassinated. Afterall he wasn’t about to loose his new war advisor.
Clearly surprised with this, Claus tried to recall her but couldn’t.
-”So one of ‘ol Roddy’s people? Never heard of her, besides. I myself happen to be second best so i think i’ll manage if i keep my head in the game.” He spoke with his usual carefree attitude.
-”As for covering it up, i’m not that kind of guy m’liege. I’m gonna fight her, and i’ll win.” His tone got slightly more serious but he finished off with one of his usual smirks.
Alasdair paused for a moment as he considered “Very well, you can have it your way” it wouldn’t matter, Alasdair already had a plan to ensure the odds were in Claus’s favour.