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Damian had just finished breakfast and the last of the packing. He took a deep breath of the brisk morning air. He wasn't expecting combat today, so he'd had Wart and Kay leave his armor on the mule while they saddled everything up. All he had on was his shirt, rich green gambeson, blue hosen, and deep brown knee-high boots. He felt like today would be a good day. He adjusted his longsword, tightened his belt and straightened his yellow cape, turning to see his horse, and his squires. He grinned.

"Alright boys, mount up. Today's going to be a good day for adventure," Damian told them. They were dressed similarly to him. Electing not to wear armor, they just wore their grey aketons over blue tunics, their faded green hosen, ankle boots, and their swords. At the word of their master, the apprentice knights hurried to obey. Sir Damian was just about to focus on their path when Wart cried out.

"Master Damian, look!" Sir Damian followed the direction of his finger and saw what had alarmed the boy.

Plumes of smoke.

"Kay, ride south and see if there's a path that runs west toward those fires. Let the wind fail to catch you, boy!" He gave a sharp look to the arming squire. He was off like the arrow from a bow, his horse whinnying at the quick commands to first walk, then trot, then canter, then gallop. Soon, he was out of sight down the path south.

"Wart, unpack my armor. It seems we might need to fight today after all," Sir Damian dismounted, telling the horse to stand. His mood didn't seem the worse for wear as he armored up, sabaton to armet, noting that his uncle's cuirass now fit him excellently. Afterwards, he helped Wart into his own armor, and had Wart unpack Kay's for when he got back. He kept his visor raised as the armored trio rode to the site of the fires.

"It's a village," Kay had reported, having seen a fingerpost sign. "Kopyta."

"Do we know what struck them?"

"No, I just scouted the road towards them," Kay said, mildly confused.

Damian groaned. Another thing Kay was bad at, apparently. He was a poor scout. Perhaps he should have sent Wart instead? Best to do that from now on, probably. Until he'd taught Kay a thing or two.

Kopyta was a half-day's ride away, and was indeed smoking, the villagers having just doused the fire. Damn embers smoked quite a bit. Just what had happened here? He parked his horse in front of what was clearly the entrance to the damaged area. He heard wailing from within. He knew the sound. The cries from the war, especially after the Tower of the Saint fell, still rang in his ears some nights.

The green knight entered the domicile, noting three bodies and five mourners. Blood pooled in the dirt, creating a red muck, and it struck Damian that these men were killed quite recklessly.

"Oh, now a knight of the realm shows up!" one of the young men said, outraged. "Where were you last night? The horses were screaming bloody murder so God, Elimine, and the devil could hear them, and no one showed up, but now that danger's past you suddenly ride out of nowhere?! The gall!"

"Bite your tongue, lout, before you lose your teeth. I respect that you have suffered losses, but I am here to help. I will find who did this, and bring you their heads as justice. Now, our horses are tired, as we have been riding since midmorning. My squires are tending them, at the moment, but if your stable has room, we need space for three. Now, who is in charge here?"

The man scowled at Damian's taking charge of the situation, but pointed at the corpse of a middle-aged man. It was clear he'd had salt-and-pepper hair and a decent beard, but his head was split open. A woman, clearly his wife, of the same age, was wailing atop his chest.

"God dammit," Damian pinched the bridge of his nose in his gauntlet, rubbing just above his eyes. "Who's the manorial lord, then?"

"That'd be Master Dunstan Rolfe. He's a five mile ride west, and we've already sent word."

"Makes my job simpler, I suppose. Can you tell me what happened? Were there any witnesses?"