A fateful union – part 1

If a passer-by had seen Ferdinand trample through the crop field, he would have thought the young duke was under some kind of spell. He marched onwards frantically, mumbling and shouting profanities. “Stupid, weak, old man!” He cursed through closed teeth. „The other kingdoms exceed us while we sit around and eat grapes! “
The king had just denied Ferdinand’s request to increase the size of their army. Now is not the time of war, he claimed. Ferdinand did not agree. He had shouted at the king and stormed out the royal hall, kicking over several perfectly good bowls of grapes on his way out. At some point, he would have to return and face the consequences of his behaviour. But for now, Ferdinand needed to walk and let his rage flow.

The sun was beginning to set and while it tainted the crop field in pretty red colours, it also blinded Ferdinand. He was starting to feel like he was unjustly hit by misfortune. Little did he know, that this series of unfortunate events was about to come to a finale. And so it happened that Ferdinand, obscured by the thick vegetation, the sunlight, and his own rage, did not notice the river gorge he was heading towards. His feet, expecting hard ground, found only water. His head however, hit solid rock.
When he woke again, it was already dark. He was laying on a wooden bed in a dimly lit room, dry and in somebody else’s clothing. His eyes scanned the table in front of him. It was decorated with fine cloth and shiny crockery. At the other end sat a man who had been knitting but was now staring at Ferdinand. He did not look much older than Ferdinand, if not for his head that was full of grey hair. His eyes were opened wide and his hands were clearly shaking while he put down his tools. “Where am I?” inquired Ferdinand. His tone conveyed confusion but also annoyance, as if this whole situation had been the stranger’s fault.

“You…you are in my house.” stammered the man. “I found you in the river. Most people here take their clothes off before going for a swim, so I thought you must be from somewhere else. Since you don’t know who I am, my suspicions are confirmed. Let me wel…”
Ferdinand jumped forward and flipped over the table. The cups and plates came flying towards the stranger who shielded his face. Ferdinand used the moment to roll over to his sword. He grabbed it, turned around… and threw up.
“Please! Be careful!” pleaded the stranger. “I’m not here to kill you. But your head injury might, if you carry on like this.” The man gesticulated wildly, swinging an imaginary sword around. Ferdinand sighed. He let go of his non-imaginary sword and started examining his head. It felt like bandages and dried blood. Reluctantly, he dropped back on the bed. He would have to wait for the stranger to come close enough for Ferdinand to strike him with his knife.
“What do you want then? Gold? Crop? I don’t think you would get a good deal, right now.” Ferdinand grimaced. The stranger shook his head. “I’m not interested in your wealth. I simply saw you in the river, so I ordered my men to get you out and patch you up. You’re my guest, not my prisoner.”
Ferdinand found himself completely bewildered by this man. He would have killed him at first sight, or better, just left him in the river. “I’m Hugo”, said the stranger, extending his hand to Ferdinand. This was Ferdinand’s chance…
…To be continued

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