Dreichels Takes Up Arms
A young man lazed up on a grassy plain, enjoying a nap in the peaceful setting.
Before long, however, his rest was interrupted by the arrival of a second young man on horseback. The youth wore the trappings of a knight and his expression was deathly serious. His armor bore many rents and scratches and his left arm was bound in a bloody bandage. The first young man had not seen him in several years, but a cheerful reunion did not seem to be his purpose.
'You were right after all,' the second man said gravely. 'At this rate, the Empire's days are numbered.'
At this, the first young man rose from the grass.
He was none other than the third prince of the Erebonian Empire, Prince Dreichels.
As a man with no claim to the throne due to his commoner mother and shunned by other highborn princes, Dreichels had long since left Erebonia behind, wandering from place to place and wiling away his days. Three years prior he had reached the land of Nord, where he had remained ever since.
Though left to his own devices since childhood, his nature was noble and he was quickly accepted by the people of Nord and lived peacefully among them. But while he had left his homeland, he had not truly abandoned it in his heart.
During his wanderings his mother had passed away, but while she lived, she had told him something that would remain with him for the rest of his days.
'The blood flowing through you will not allow you to turn your back on the Empire's suffering.'
Prince Dreichels had turned those words over in his head again and again. What could a powerless vagrant like himself truly hope to do?
The knight's arrival, however, signified two things--that the war continued to worsen, and that Erebonia was on a certain path to ruination.
His mother was probably correct. Hearing the knight's words, he decided that enough was enough. He could ignore the pain of his countrymen no longer.
That knight, incidentally, was called Roland. He was a childhood friend of Dreichels' and was his confidant. He was also the man who Dreichels had left in charge of things in his place before leaving the country.
Prince Dreichels set about preparing to depart, but before he could finish he was met by several of the tall knights of Nord, their cross shaped spears in hand. They, too, were close friends of Dreichels, and they volunteered to accompany him and Roland, fearing that the two men alone would not stand a chance.
The next morning the prince departed the village, a mere seventeen men under his command. They bade farewell to the people of the settlement, and its elder wished them well.
'May the winds and Goddess be with you,' he blessed them. 'Fortune favor you all.'
のどかな草原で昼寝をする青年がいる。 周りでは羊が草を食み、のんびりと悠久の風を満喫する。 そこに険しい表情で、騎士装束の青年が馬を走らせてきた。よく見れば、甲冑には無数の刀傷と矢傷が穿たれ、左腕には痛々しい包帯が巻かれている。 数年ぶりの再会――しかしそこに懐かしむ空気はなかった。 「お前の言っていた通りだ」 「このままでは帝国は滅びる――」
そうかと身を起こす青年。 彼こそが放浪に身をやつした帝国の皇子、第三皇子ドライケルス・ライゼ・アルノールであった。 ――庶出の皇子として生まれたドライケルスは、他の帝位継承者たちから疎まれ、各地を転々としてきた。そして3年前からは異郷の地ノルドに身を寄せていた。
天性の大人物であり、すっかり打ち解け暢気に暮らしている。だが全てを忘れたわけではなかった。 放浪する中で母は死んだ。ドライケルスは母が言い聞かせた言葉をよく覚えている。 「貴方の血は、帝国の不幸を決して見逃さない」 幼くして1人になった皇子は、何年も己に問い続けてきた。放浪の、何の力も持たない自分に出来ることはあるのかと。
報せは内戦の拡大と、帝国が着実に滅亡への道を歩んでいることを示していた。 母の言葉は恐らく正しかったのだろう。これ以上は見過ごせないと、皇子は出立を決意する。 ――ノルドの集落で旅立ちの支度をするドライケルス。 傍らには報せを持ってきた青年騎士ロラン――ドライケルスの幼馴染にして悪友であり、異郷の地に旅立つ前に、後事を託していた腹心の部下でもあった。
そこに十字槍を携えた長身のノルド戦士たちが顔を出す。 彼らもまた、皇子とは親友とも言える間柄であり、お前たちだけでは心配だと、当然のように同行を申し出た。 翌朝、集落の外れで旅装束の男たちが見送られていた。皇子はノルドの民に別れを告げ、長老が祝福の言葉を贈る。 『風と女神の加護を――行ってくるがよい』七耀歴949年秋、ドライケルス軍ノルドの地にて挙兵――手勢はわずか17名であった。
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