"My lord, the Sire Brahana, wishes to meet you and determine for himself in your presence if he should risk his lands and very life in an alliance. I am sent to invite you to the castle and lead you there personally."
Librohn counseled with his friends and commanders of his army, which was by now growing to respectable proportions. But they still needed a fortified base to secure their recruiting, so that volunteers would feel more confident. This could be the chance to obtain such a base. And, it so happened, the castle of the Sire Brahana was located in a strategic position. Should his castle be the base from which to attack imperial territory, it would be like a projecting thumb stuck into the imperial pie. It was decided to ride and meet with the Sire Brahana.
The party was not large and was all mounted, both for speed and security in escape, should it become necessary. At the head of the column of men-at-arms and serjants rode Sir Skoluh'r Dehpudzy and Librohn with Snuhrgreve. Librohn's second in command held the camp in his absence, but he took one of his swordsmen along, whose name was Serj. Neither man had any real experience on horseback, but they were learning under the exigencies of being constantly on the move. A young recruit from a ruined village had taken up arms and this was his first opportunity to exercise his new skill at mounted arms. His name was Balen.
Soon enough, less than a full day's ride from the forest encampment, the small company of horsemen and their guide came within sight of the castle and its ravaged village. Many of the buildings were in ruins and the small fields were lying fallow. Other than a distant peasant or two, sidling along at the edges of woods, there was no sign of life in the little village, no animals, no husbandry. The entire surrounding countryside held an air of the deepest melancholy.
The castle gate was open. As they drew near, Snuhrgreve said, "I will ride forward now and announce your arrival." Suiting action to words, he trotted forward and through the gateway. Librohn and his men halted on the track. As soon as the "Functionary" disappeared through the opening the doors swung closed. Librohn and the others looked at each other in puzzled silence and waited.
A puff of smoke arose from one of the towers, followed by another, and another, until it became obvious that the castle was sending a signal to someone unseen.
A group of rough looking men, a few on horseback, had emerged from the houses and were blocking the single street. The horsemen were riding out to their right at a slow trot.
Taking their situation ill, Librohn and Sir Skoluh'r divided their company into two parts and flanked the village, rejoining at the far end of it.
By then, they could see bodies of troops advancing from across the marsh and stream, and between marsh and wood, evidently intent on meeting them.
In their rear they could see more potential enemies moving inexorably to sandwich them between. Some of these were mounted knights of the feudal militia.
Worse yet, a strong body of Knights of Chaos from the Lord Antania now came within view, blocking the track by which they had arrived.