This time I’m sharing a deleted scene from Joe’s newest work in The Warminster Series, The Trillias Gambit.
“Don’t bite your thumb at the vermilion,
for to survive would be one in a million.”
– The Ballad of Eldwal
IT WAS MIDDAY, and King Godwin had been summoned to the walls by his guards amidst a great fanfare and ringing of bells, as was customary to greet a notable arrival to the city. Godwin saw them first from the battlements of the great castle, approaching at speed across the plains. For a brief instant, he worried that it was a military unit, but the numbers were too small and they flew the white flag of peace, as well as their own colors.
He recognized them immediately. They were flying the crimson banner of the Vermilion elves, a recluse race whose eyes and hair matched the hue of their standards. They were riding their signature horses, powder white stallions that had well-earned reputations as the finest mounts in the whole of Warminster.
Godwin was already in a sour, gruff mood from court the day before, and the sight of the Vermilion banners flying high in the wind threatened to push him over the edge. He paced the battlements for several minutes, his brow furrowed and his footsteps heavy as he retraced the same path backwards and forwards while the horsemen grew ever closer. And then, as though he’d arrived at an important and irreversible decision, he leaned over the battlements and spat on the grass far below. He hustled back inside and rang the bell for his servants before examining his surly visage in a looking glass. His face bore the telltale signs of fatigue, but it still projected the calm, regal authority for which he was known.
There was a sound and some movement from the hallway, and Godwin noted the arrival of Meeks Crowley, his personal butler. Crowley was a skinny human, standing over six feet with brown hair, brown eyes and a closely managed moustache. His bony frame was hidden by his servant’s tunic, thick boots and gloves.
“Sire?” Crowley said.
“Ah, Crowley,” Godwin replied, offhandedly. “Please arrange for a welcoming party to receive the Vermilion contingent at the gates.”
“Of course, sire.”
“Damned Vermilion.” Godwin shook his head, anticipating ill omen from them. “A visit from them is never good.”
“Quite, sire,” Crowley simpered. His eyes were watery, as though he’d just received devastating news, and he seemed to hang on to every word that the king spoke as though it was some sort of holy decree that had to be taken down for the benefit of future generations. “They rarely bother with any race, let alone humans.”
“Remind me,” King Godwin asked, “when was the last time that we had dealings with the Vermilion?”
“It’s been a generation, sire” Meeks replied. “Back when your father was on the throne. “The last time they were seen in this part of the realm, it was to help Sir Hertzog Valkeneer to prepare to defend the Bridge against a great alliance of trollborn tribes.”
“Ah, the Battle of the Bridge,” King Godwin remembered. “You’re correct, of course. The attack was repelled through an alliance between the Valkeneer and the Raven elves. We must make the Vermilion feel welcome. Go, send the welcoming party. And have my wife and the nobles summoned to court.”
“Of course, sire.”