Lord Talgret was barely eclipsing his forties. His brown, short kept beard and long dark-brown hair was almost picturesque in how it was kept. He stood a little over six feet tall, his chiseled jaw matching how his frame was kept over the years, a few scars adorning his neck. Aside from a missing pinky on his right hand, he was well groomed. He sat in his quarter at a desk, wearing pants, boots and a light linen shirt while he looked over some parchments containing dispatches from the troops under his command. Before long, there was a pounding at his door.

“Enter,” he said in a toned voice. A guardsman entered, wearing armor, his helm kept at his side.

“The visitor is here to see you, my Lord,” the guard said as he saluted Talgret.

“Send him in,” Talgret nodded. He set down his quill, standing up to reveal his frame. He sat at just over six feet tall. Sigi entered, the guard closing the door behind him. Sigi began taking note of the room, seeing a large area-carpet covering the stone floor. Three of the walls had windows, which had the house symbol tailored into tapestries adorning each side of the window frames. On a shelf were various items from around the known world, showcasing some conquests, and others showing trades made in faith when establishing alliances. Finally, in the middle, stood Talgret at his desk, his fingers laced in front of him while he watched Sigi. He saw as Sigi came to a mantle, which had a dented helm.

“That was from House Welfvar,” Lord Talgret said. Sigi looked up at him, still holding the satchels.

“Do you still change the name of who it belonged to from time to time?” Sigi asked, looking back at the helm. Talgret chuckled slightly.

“Yes, I suppose I do,” Talgret smiled. “How have you been, old friend?”

“Myself… fine,” Sigi said after a pause. “However, there are dark days ahead of us.”

Talgret nodded, coming over to shake Sigi’s hand. “So I’ve heard. Your ruse at the capitol was heard among many. It’s created quite the ripple.” He eyed the satchels. “What’s that?”

Sigi sat them down heavily on his table, covering some of the parchments. The coin announced its presence in the bags, and Talgret’s eyebrow perked. He walked over, opening up one of the bags.

“That’s quite a bit, Sigi,” Talgret affirmed. “What are you looking for?”

“An army,” Sigi replied. Talgret peeled his eyes away from the coins to look at Sigi. “There’s more, think of this as a gesture.”

Talgret walked around the table, sitting down in his chair and eying the coins that were trying to trickle out of the bag. He placed his elbows on the table, lacing his fingers in front of his face and placing his chin upon his fingers. The wheels were turning in his mind.

“Is this to fight the Goron?” Talgret asked. Sigi turned around, not expecting Talgret to bring it up so easily. “You know me, Sigi. I keep an ear to the ground.”

“‘With an ear, hear the victory,’ if I remember correctly,” Sigi stated. “It’s a wise saying– one I’ve held onto for quite some time.”

“Well Sigi, while this is a good gesture, it would clearly take more to fund a military strength,” Talgret said. “What do you have to offer?”

“All of Lord Rothgard’s holdings,” Sigi replied. At that, Talgret’s other eyebrow raised to meet his first.

“How did you do that?” Talgret asked. “You know I don’t take any payment that wasn’t earned honorably.”

“It was,” Sigi said, with hesitance. He paced the room a bit. “Lord Rothgard was going to fund the army if we proved to him that the Goron had returned. He passed away shortly after we left to scout for them and prove their existence, but he was smart enough to hide his holdings away from the council. One of his men ensured its safety, but even I do not know where it is.”

Talgret took a deep breath, standing up and pacing as well. “That… that is a dangerous move, Sigi. Very bold to do. The council will have your hands if they found you did this.”

“I did no such thing,” Sigi countered. “It was Lord Rothgard’s wish that his funds be used for it, if it turned to be true. The council knew I had visited him, though they didn’t openly admit it. They were there to seize his assets before I could use them. As this charade continues, I am not convinced of the council simply being ignorant.”

Talgret stopped a moment to hear Sigi’s explanation, and then resumed pacing. He looked down towards the floor, deep in thought.

“There is no doubt that the council will know if I send an army with you, Sigi,” Talgret stated. “They likely know you’ve come here. If you leave with an army, they’ll likely know you’ve funded it.”

Sigi shrugged a bit. “If the entire council and capitol, and its lands are under siege, I would imagine that you would tell them that it is for the good of the council.”

Talgret nodded a bit. “I could. But the lack of exchange from the north has hampered our funds as well. I wouldn’t be able to sustain a campaign for long without more funding. Otherwise, I would be inclined to take what you have here–” he gestured to the table– “and get started.”

Sigi nodded. “So you’ve been affected too. One of Lord Rothgard’s men advised me that their trading by boat had slowly dried up over the course of some months. Something has affected the north as well.”

Sigi stood in silence with Talgret, both of them pacing. Sigi finally stopped after a few moments. He looked at Talgret.

“We can make a route back to Lord Rothgard’s land, where we can get the rest of the coin,” Sigi offered. “That way you can send it back here while the men march north.”

Talgret considered it for a moment, and then nodded. “That’s good. The next question is, how many are you going to need?”

Sigi looked at Talgret for a moment, and then back out the window. He took a breath.

“All of them.”

Behind Sigi, Talgret raised an eyebrow momentarily before settling back down. “If the Goron are truly back in force, I suppose we will want to easily take them out.”

Sigi shook his head. “It’s not just the Goron this time around. They’re different. They’re… organized, in a whole new manner.”

Talgret’s brows furrowed. “What do you mean?”

“They’re taking entire villages, perhaps even small towns, and uprooting them,” Sigi began. “They’re taking them, and from what I could see, using every single piece of wood, rock and straw from them and making new fortresses… they’re amalgamations from what was raided prior, and they’re taking prisoners in large cages, piling them in there until they can barely close the door, and dragging it behind them. I don’t know what is being done with them afterward, but they’re not being killed.”

Talgret grew visibly uneasy.

“The other men that came here with me saw this,” Sigi continued. “There is no doubt in their mind that they’re real. We had to fight a small group of them off. But they retreated after we began whittling down their numbers. They’re different, Talgret. They’re being taught, directed even. This, as it is now, may be an even fight with all the men you have, if they’re in as large a number as I suspect.”

“By the nine,” Talgret said, finally letting it sink in. “If… if this is true, then there is no doubt that we need to act quickly.”

“They were three day’s fast ride from Rothgard’s keep,” Sigi said. “That means they could move forward into our lands within six or seven, with how large we saw one of their outposts.”

Talgret considered the situation a bit further, and then walked to his desk, gathering the coin in the satchels. “We’ll move quickly then.”

Sigi nodded, looking out one of the windows which overlooked the southern part of the city. As he looked out, Talgret sat down at his desk, getting out fresh parchment and writing hastily with his quill. “I will dispatch to call my Warguards from their posts. They’re stationed nearby and should be here in the evening. And Sigi?”

“Yes, Lord Talgret?” Sigi turned around.

“The men that are with you…” Talgret asked, “are they worthwhile fighters?”

“They hold well. There are a few among them which may not last a long battle, but their heart and honor is in it for their home, as I believe it will be for all men when they realize what is at stake.”

Talgret stopped momentarily.

“Sigi?” Talgret asked more quietly. Sigi turned again to look at Talgret over his shoulder.

“I will be able to place 20,000 men towards this campaign. I need to know they’re not being sent to their slaughter.”

Sigi contemplated this momentarily. Talgret spoke this as a commander, and as a leader of men he knew, and had gone through the ranks with. Talgret earned his position in the keep through a trial-by-fire in which he progressed to his position of Lord. He did not want to mindlessly lose his resources, nor the men that he guarded by duty.

“Against the Goron, I can promise nothing,” Sigi stated. “However, in this instance, with this weight coming to our shoulders, and undoubtedly theirs, there would be no slaughter, only death. A slaughter results from something senseless. Your men may be the first, and possibly last defense against what is held up north. That… is an honorable death.”

Talgret nodded, reaffirmed by Sigi’s position. He finished writing on some parchments, sealing them with wax.

“Sentry!” Talgret called out. Within a split second, a man came through the door, saluting Talgret.

“Yes, Lord?”

Talgret stood up, holding three rolls in hand. “Dispatch these to the corresponding Warguards, sentinel. I want them here by the time I am sitting to have my dinner.”

“Yes, my Lord,” the sentinel replied, taking the parchments from his hand and leaving briskly, closing the door behind him. The sentinel could be heard moving down the hall outside the door for a few moments before his steps were out of earshot. The silence overtook the room as Talgret moved to stand alongside Sigi, looking out the window that extended from the floor to arch near the roof. Though well done, a feint breeze could be felt through the cracks of the window as they whipped around the building outside. Talgret breathed in deeply, finally looking over to Sigi’s sword, strapped to his back.

“So, do you still give people the talk about how that’s your woman?” Talgret said, slightly grinning. Sigi looked over, grinning slightly.

“Of course,” Sigi said. “It is still faithful. It cut down a few Goron recently.”

“Mm,” Talgret nodded, looking at Sigi’s black eyes before looking back out the window. “I hope it cuts down many more before its put to rest.”

Another moment of silence passed between them. Below, a man could be seen mounting a horse and leaving quickly, the gate ahead of him being opened in an almost timed fashion before closing again. It was only a few moments before he was lost from sight as he dove around a corner to leave the city.

“Oh, I also needed to ask something of the services here,” Sigi said, turning to Talgret. “Do you have an alchemist here?”

Talgret looked over at Sigi again. “No, he left a while ago. He had been in my service for some time, but was aging. He wanted to live out his days on the countryside, as it were. But his equipment was left here. It’s in a lower part of my keep, here. Do you want access to it?”

“I do,” Sigi replied. “Is it still stocked with supplies, or is it simply equipment?”

“It should be stocked. If it is missing anything, simply let a sentinel know. They’ll supply you with what we have in our reach.”

“I appreciate it,” Sigi said, fully turning to him. “I am glad to see you’re well, Talgret.”

“And I you, Sigi,” he said, extending his arm in an armshake. They braced each other’s forearms briefly before Sigi moved towards the door.

“And Sigi, will I get to meet your men? Perhaps you should get some rest, yourself. As… fit as you are, you do look a bit exhausted. The alchemy can wait.”

Sigi stopped short of the door, thinking on it. “Perhaps, you are right. Would you like to have them out for dinner?”

“That is a good idea. If they have gone through this much with you, I expect they should be present when my Warguards arrive. I’ll see to it that they get fresh clothes for the evening,” Talgret said.

“Your hospitality has not diminished in the slightest, Lord Talgret,” Sigi finished. “I am thankful for it.”

Talgret nodded briefly. Sigi turned to the door, opening and leaving through it. He went back down the hall, taking in time to appreciate the size of this particular inner sanctum within the city. Aside the path they had taken, there were parts that led to other chambers, halls and storage areas. No doubt there was a cellar beneath it as well. After several minutes of walking, he arrived at the hall where the guest chambers were. The first thing to greet his ears was the sound of Thom and Vrilda laughing, and the sloshing of water coming from their room. Hroth opened a door, finding Sigi standing at the entrance.

“Sigi… these are nice,” Hroth said with a smile on his face. As if hearing his name, Solnos the room keep came around a corner in a hurried fashion. Hroth and Sigi turned to him.

“Ah, Sigi,” Solnos stated. “Your room has been prepared, if you’ll follow me.” Sigi looked at Hroth, who still had a grin on his face.

“Enjoy it,” Hroth said, going back into his room before Sigi could catch a glimpse of it. He then turned to follow Solnos, who had hurried ahead around a corner, further down the hall past his companion’s rooms. They turned a few corners, the halls continually lit by sunshine with yellow stained glass that adorned the top bit of the walls before the ceiling, occasionally broken by a stack of stones. They finally arrived at a door at the end of the hall, which Solnos quickly opened. Sigi, for all his stoic nature, let an eyebrow raise.

Immediately opposite the door was a wall with large drapes left open, giving a view north of the city. It afforded a view beyond the wall, which showed more green valley with pockmarked snow. The wall to the left had a wardrobe, and a hook conveniently placed for hanging his sword on the wall, and to the right was a basin filled with water and a tub that had hotter water steaming in it. Linens had been placed aside it with clothes on top of a table with some fruit in it.

“Shed your clothes when you get into the bath and place any that you want washed on the floor beside it, and call for me. They will be washed. If you are in need of anything, simply let me know,” Solnos stated, leaving the room and closing the door behind him. Sigi stood there for a second, his gaze affixed to the north through the window before he began to shed his cloak and clothes, setting his cloak and gloves on the bed, alongside his bracers. He took his sword, still in sheath, and hung it on the hook on the wall. As the clothes shed off, he was reminded of the rest of his markings that had gone down his spine, the sides of his legs and around his chest and heart, each a carefully placed rune. Fully disrobed, he stepped into the bath, letting the hot water envelop him as he took time to finally relax, closing his dark eyes.