Chapter 12

3430 of the Fifth Age

Continent of Mordurel, Riverland Region

Osswyn

He and his hundred militiamen of the faith had halted their march through the dirt road a mere twenty meters after they passed bridge over one of the thousands of rivers in Riverland. As Osswyn dismounted his right leg pained him and caused him to release a groan, though it was more of annoyance in that it pained in then actually pain. He walked over to the young woman that sat on the grass beside the road. She drank from the waterskin one of the militants clad in padded raven gambeson gave her. He was an old man named Mott, scraggly greying brown beard with a bald spot on his head. Like most poor men that joined the Pious Poor army of the Faith he had lost something dear to him, farm, family, maybe both.

"Greetings my dear," Osswyn said in the most kind and warm voice he could muster. "My name is Osswyn and I am a Justiciar of the Faith. I nor these men mean you any harm. Our duty is to make the roads safer for travel."

He estimated her to be sixteen or seventeen, just a woman grown. More a child then a woman in his eyes but by the laws of the realm that made her a woman. She was a small thing with chestnut hair and a gentle heart shaped face under the scrapes and dirt. What he noticed the most was how her hands trembled as she desperately emptied the content of the waterskin. Her small eyes were filled with fear and, was it shame? Her gown was a tattered rag and it frankly looked worse than that of most peasants. There was a sense of forgotten beauty over her though and he couldn't shake the feeling. Could the girl be a part of the gentry?

"Did anyone else survive the attack from your company?" In his mind there was no question if she had survived an attack of some sort. Highwaymen perhaps, wandering knights down on their luck and without their knightly honor.

The poor girl shook her head, staring at the grass after she finished the waterskin. Her hands trembled as she handed it back to the militiaman.

"Who did you travel with? Merchants? Pilgrims, or peasants traveling with goods for some town market?"

"T-traveling h-ho-home. We w-were just going home," she began to sub loudly.

"What it your name child? Do you want to tell me?"

She swallowed hard and her lips quivered. Then she licked her lips and stuttered out, "J-Jen-Jenna…Je-Jenna St-or-Stor-Stor-da-day-dayce."

He had to muse a moment to realized what she had said. If she had a surname she was a noblewoman. That surprised him a bit.

"Stormdayce?"

She nodded.

"Is your lord father Viscount Stormdayce, my lady?" House Stormdayce was a noble family in the Middenland province. If Osswyn weren't mistaken they were important bannermen of house Marshgrove, viscounts even. Off course he had no idea how to find their castle since he knew little about that province overall.

"C-Crowe's my uncle," she subbed.

"That would be the viscount Crowe Stormdayce?"

"Yes."

Osswyn looked to one of the men.

"Fetch her ladyship a horse and a fur blanket," he commanded. "My lady, who is your attacker? Who violated you?"

He gave himself a mental kick when she started crying. He knew that word had been a terrible mistake immediately. All he did was reminded the poor child of what had happened to her, as if she needed that reinforced.

"O-outlaws. Outlaw king."

There was a grumble from the men around, a few cursed the name. The mention of the famous outlaw swine and his band of filthy murderers and rapists. He clenched his jaw tight. There was a fury that the fact that anyone would hurt an innocent girl like this one. Maybe it was because of her noble status. He mused on how long she had wandered around on her own.

"What were you doing this far from home my lady?"

"I-I was…I was at Palace of Innocence to meet m-my b-be-betrothed. I-I left for h-home with k-knights a-and…"

"We're only a few days from the castle. We'll escort you there. You have nothing to worry about now. I am a Justiciar of the faith and I promise to deliver you there safely. It was very strong of you to escape those whoresons. You're a brave child my lady."

When they began to march again he had her ride beside him in the front. For four days they traveled, for four days and the young teen girl barely spoke a word. She cried herself to sleep every single night. He understood. He had seen it before. When he judged criminals in Steinburgen he learned to see when a woman had been raped. He had ordered twenty men gelded for the short time he held the post, among other punishments for other crimes. The last day we followed the Geilion to the Palace of Innocence, the castle of the main chapter of house Stallion. The palace was built on a small island in the middle of Geilion with a stone bridge to the firm mainland. On their four day journey they had crossed three Stallion bridges and had been forced to pay a significant amount to pass. house Stallion was one of the few nobles of Riverland that dared to demand that even those in service of the faith payed. If he hadn't been a viscount he might have seen retribution from the faith. If anyone less had demanded payment the council of deacons would have decreed it blasphemy and would have sent a parchment Nine-star knights to the young king, demanding the lord stripped of all or most titles or at a minimum pay the faith back a sum ridiculously larger than the sum the lord would have demanded paid to cross his bridge.

A mighty gatehouse with two tall grey brick towers stood before them. Osswyn left his men on the field in front of the bridge's first gatehouse. He and Jenna had been let through and the second gatehouse opened before them on their approach. Inside the walls they unhorsed and waited for the gatehouse high sergeant to send for the nobles of the castle.

After an age of being kept waiting a number of figures came out of the castles. Some household guards and a trio of noblemen. Osswyn presumed that the eldest of them, a man in his late fifties or early sixties, Viscount Cultrad Stallion.

"How many bastards have Lord Stallion, a thousand and one, a thousand for him and one for his wife," Osswyn mumbled under his breath. It was a rhyme made from the number of bastards sired by house Stallion, including the four barony chapters.

"Lady Jenna, while I am always pleased to see you I am surprised, no. Suspicious, to see you arrive with a justiciar of the faith. Not to mention your lack of knights and servants," Lord Stallion said, a suspicious look turned to Osswyn. "I am Viscount Cultrad Stallion and this is my second eldest son, Athelstan, and my fifth, Tymon. Speak now justiciar."

He honestly couldn't blame the lord for his attitude. The Justiciars and the faith militia had a poor reputation across the realms provinces. The Faith Militia was the main military mighty behind the religious body of the Westerland Realm of Men and he had heard disturbing rumors of militiamen doing equal harm to highwaymen. It would not have surprised him if the child had been assaulted by former militiamen.

"My lord, I am Sir Osswyn, Justiciar and simple servant of the faith," he introduced himself humbly.

Before he spoke further Athelstan broke from his lord father's side and took Jenna by the upper arms and looked into her eyes.

"What foulness have befallen you sweet lady?" He asked her in a caring tone.

She began to cry and Athelstan held her and let her cry on his shoulder. He stroked her back and it was as if she cried more for every single gentle stroke. Lord Stallion expression eased for a moment, then he turned a hard face to Osswyn. He took the opportunity to explain the story of encountering the lady and the pieces of the events that she told him. His lordship and Athelstan was shocked, then outraged that the famous outlaw king dared to have his men rape the poor girl. Tymon didn't seem to have nearly as strong a reaction as the others. He barely had one at all.

"Unfortunate," was his only answer and his tone was flat.

"Oh sweet lady," his lordship said with far greater empathy. "On the behalf of my house and hers I thank you Justiciar." Osswyn merely bowed his head in respect and returned to his saddle. "I shall ensure your safe travel home. Athelstan, take your company of five hundred and ride with her to Stormlord Hall."

"I would do that even without your words father," the golden haired man promptly answered. "First she must rest and heal for a few days. We should send a raven to her family."

Osswyn was rattled when he heard his lordship snap at Tymon silently, "See to your betrothed, boy." His voice had turned cold as ice in a second. "Give me reason not to send you to join the Templar Order."