This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts
Xavier was battle weary. He’d spent most of his 28 years defending his realm. He laughed to himself again at the world ‘realm’ which was too grand a term to apply to the village and the few fields of wheat which surrounded it. But the village was strategically located in the middle of the Novaleau valley; a valley that was the only path to the sea for at least five of the surrounding realms.
It was also the reason the tiny village was constantly under attack by larger forces, each king thinking Xavier’s land was easy pickings. But every opponent underestimated the preparedness and cunning Xavier’s people employed. The land was booby trapped and the villagers practiced drills constantly. It had been this way for as long as Xavier could remember; his father and two older brothers leading the defense before their deaths. Then the responsibility became Xavier’s.
The raids were relentless and the enemies grew more cunning with each attempt. This last one had nearly killed him. He lay on his pallet, wondering how many more raids before they dug a hole in the ground for him, next to his two brothers? He wondered whether his continued survival was a better or worse fate than death when the messenger had arrived. He had to have the message read to him, his face and eyes still swathed in bandages.
It seems King Quirinus had not yet heard about his recent disfiguring injury, or he would not have sent the invitation. Or maybe he had, and didn’t care. Or maybe it was a trap. It mattered little to Xavier. It was a way out.