Spotlight: Chopped Scene from The Last Keeper by J. V. Hilliard

A Chopped Scene from The Last Keeper by J. V. Hilliard (interview link here!)

Lucien Blacwin, the Faxerian of Halifax Military Academy, was standing in the courtyard, watching his students practice their swordsmanship against straw-stuffed dummies. As headmaster of the school, the Faxerian was charged with not only training students in the art of war but training them for future battlefields.

There was a movement by his shoulder, and he whirled around with one hand on the hilt of his sword, an old habit from his own training, one that would never die. He found himself face-to-face with a messenger with flushed cheeks, wearing the livery of Castle Thronehelm. He relaxed his grip slightly but continued to rest his hand on his pommel, more from habit than because of any threat.

“Well, what is it?” he asked, eyeing the man. Messengers were rarely sent to dispatch good news. These days, it was more likely to be about another bandit attack than a royal proclamation about a marriage or a holy day.

“General Blacwin?”

“Aye.”

“I have orders from King Godwin Thorhauer,” the messenger looked to the scroll in his hand and touched a forelock nervously while shifting from one foot to the other as though he was anxious to be back in the saddle.

“What need does King Godwin have with an old general?”

“He has no need of you, sir,” the messenger replied. “Rather, he sends for the two princes and their cousins, the Maeglens. They’re to return to Thronehelm immediately to address the banditry which plagues the trade routes.”

General Blacwin turned from the messenger, his eyes searching the ground as though he was looking for the logic that he was surely missing.

“The king’s sons?” he questioned. “Chasing bandits?”

“Yes, Faxerian,” the man nodded.

“The princes train for the glories of war and are now asked to leave our halls to sweep for brigands instead, eh?” Blacwin had been schooling the Thorhauers and the Maeglens for a little less than a decade, waiting on the chance to send them into a real battle, a chance that he felt was long overdue. They’d completed many similar sweeps for Halifax, rooting out trollborn tribe and various cryptid creatures from the nearby Ravenwood, but he couldn’t grasp the need for such an order. Then again, he wasn’t the king.

“They’ll be ready for such a challenge,” Blacwin said, more to himself than the messenger. “They’ve been training for it ever since they crossed our threshold. This will bring great honor to the Academy.”

The messenger muttered something, but the general didn’t hear it. His words floated away on the wind and disappeared. “As long as they come back alive.”

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