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    The Silver Wolf-Behind The Mask: The Man Of The High Castle
    Posted on Thu, March 09, 2023 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "The Conclave members all knew why the provincial lords had the upper hand over Belvor, even if none of them dared to say it out loud. Belvor was mired in grief ever since his son and heir, Crown Prince Thrommel, was abducted after the Battle of Emridy Meadows. That grief caused the fatigue that Belvor so often showed, replacing the force and drive he’d displayed in his younger days.


     Chapter Thirteen

    The Man Of The High Castle

    His Noble Grace Philandis Highcastle was a prominent earl in the Kingdom of Furyondy. He was a leading member of the Knightly Conclave, an assembly of Furyondy’s lesser nobles that ranked below the Noble Council formed by the leaders of Furyondy’s provinces. The Noble Council leaders and King Belvor IV often sought the Conclave’s support in their political maneuvers with each other, giving it significant influence in Furyond politics.

    It was easy to see why Philandis commanded the respect he did. His high aristocratic brow, piercing brown eyes, close-cropped golden hair and thick moustache left a lasting impression on those who met him, as did his military bearing and the way he always kept his hands near his hips, very close to his sword. He was rarely known to smile or even to scowl, his calm and watchful gaze simply taking in everything around him.

    Philandis kept that same calm expression as he read through his correspondence.

    Your Noble Grace will be pleased to know that Jolene is alive and well and on her way to Highfolk, one letter read in part. She was rescued through the timely aid of a daring group of heroes who came from the Lortmil Mountains as if by Rao’s grace.

    The letter went on to describe these heroes briefly, before confirming that the conference between the Knights of the Hart’s branches would be going ahead as scheduled.

    The letter’s tone was one of joy and relief at Her Highness’s rescue, and of stressing the importance of the Knights’ Highfolk meeting. Philandis had specifically requested that some of his correspondents write that way.

    One could never be too careful.

    Another letter described the failed assassination attempt against the Furyondian Knights in Baranford. The letter noted that the plan might have succeeded if a group of adventurers hadn’t interfered. It then described those adventurers, who just happened to be the same ones that rescued Jolene.

    Philandis’s eyes narrowed at that realization. Setting the letter down, he leaned back in his chair. He was sure he’d seen those adventurers before, but he couldn’t quite place them.

    He needed more information, but that wouldn’t be a problem.

    Members of the Knightly Conclave met on the first Sunday of every month to discuss political matters, write their petitions and messages to the Noble Council or King Belvor and settle disputes between themselves. Each of Furyondy’s seven provincial capitals hosted the Conclave’s meetings on a rotating basis. Grabford, capital of the County of Crystalreach, hosted the gathering of Wealsun 577 CY. Philandis didn’t have to travel far to attend, given his own personal business in Crystalreach.

    Most of the day was spent addressing the various pressing matters the Conclave already had on its agenda. As evening approached, the attending nobles broke off into smaller groups to play games or socialize over drinks. The Conclave’s evenings were less formal than its days, but some of its most important work was done there.

    Philandis was no exception, as he joined some other nobles for a game of cards. As he expected, many of the conversations he’d overheard mentioned the brazen assassination attempt on the Furyondian Knights of the Hart, or the abduction of Lady Jolene in Veluna.

    “These are bad times,” Countess Kelia said, frowning as she looked over her cards. “I don’t know what else the southern provinces expect from King Belvor. You’d think they realize that if they’re helping us fight an invasion up here, they won’t be fighting it down there!”

    “They should’ve seen that from what nearly happened to the Knights of the Hart,” Baron Shawness said, throwing some coins into the pot. “His Majesty needs to show more spine in dealing with the provinces!”

    “That’s easier said than done,” Earl Maynard said.

    The Conclave members all knew why the provincial lords had the upper hand over Belvor, even if none of them dared to say it out loud. Belvor was mired in grief ever since his son and heir, Crown Prince Thrommel, was abducted after the Battle of Emridy Meadows. That grief caused the fatigue that Belvor so often showed, replacing the force and drive he’d displayed in his younger days.

    “We should thank the gods for those heroes who saved the Knights and Her Highness, then,” Philandis said, as he discarded two cards and picked up some more.

    “I could swear I’ve heard of them before,” he said, making his move.

    “That’s no surprise,” Shawness said, as the players set their cards down. “They were the ones who restored the monarchy of Flinthold,” he continued, smiling as he won the pot.

    “You’ve met them?” Philandis asked, as he gathered up the cards and started shuffling them.

    “At King Arthur’s coronation ceremony,” Shawness said, nodding. “I attended as one of the Furyond delegates. The magical crown they gave Arthur was said to be blessed by some gnomish god. I suppose there was something to it, what with the way Flinthold’s started to prosper.”

    “So what brought them to Furyondy, then?” Philandis said as he dealt the cards.

    “Hieroneous only knows,” Shawness said. “They’re adventurers. I’d guess they felt it was time to move on. That always seems to be the way, though-adventurers finding themselves where they’re most needed.”

    Philandis did well to keep a calm expression as the conversation moved on to other things.

    Later in the evening, he took advantage of Shawness’s fondness for fine drink. He bought Shawness round after round of his favorite whiskey, getting Shawness to tell him everything he could remember about these adventurers.

    Philandis was a veteran commander of Furyondy’s military skirmishes with the Horned Society, the Bandit Kingdoms and other threats. He knew that unexpected problems could upset even the best-laid plans, and that commanders needed to adapt.

    He also knew the importance of striking while the iron was hot, before an enemy could bring all their forces to bear.

    When he returned to his manor after the Conclave’s meeting, he shut himself up in his study and started writing several letters. He also directed the servant in charge of his aviary to prepare some of his birds to carry some important messages.

    And did his best to keep his anger under control.  

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