If the rolling hills of Winsdell could tell stories, they would have plenty to choose from. They could tell you of young lovers who strolled over their grassy knolls. They could tell you of generations of families who built homes and lived in their valleys. They could weave tells of brave men of old who fought and died to settle the land for the kingdom. The hills could whisper of the many kings and queens buried deep under their lush green grass.
They could tell you all these tales and more, but like the folk who lived along the rolling hills of Winsdell, the hills would probably tell the tale of the Sentinel of Cassendar over and over. No one grew tired of talking of the many adventures and triumphs of the Sentinel. The Sentinel of Cassendar was not a large group. They were too elite and selective for too many to be counted in their number. Their group never boasted more than five hundred members, yet it was said they could fight as well as five thousand other talented soldiers.
There were many tales where the Sentinel was able to overtake vast armies who tried to raid Winsdell and the royal family of the kingdom of Lanoxan who lived there. According to the tales, the Sentinel of Cassendar had never been defeated. It is said when raiding soldiers heard the thundering hooves of the horses of the Sentinel, they quake in fear. When the Sentinel is seen on their black horses, dressed in their black and silver uniforms, veteran soldiers have been known to run.
It was easy to see why the folk of Winsdell took such pride in the Sentinel. Winsdell had long been a stronghold of safety and peace. The High Palace had stood at its center for over two thousand years with the royal family of Cassendar within its walls. Turmoil may threaten the rest of the kingdom, but the town of Winsdell never fell. It never suffered raiders or destructions because of the might of the Sentinel.
The favorite tales of the Sentinel were always about the High Captains who had served. The brave men who had held the position were legendary. Talented fighters and users of the Mystics, these men had been known for amazing deeds. Heroldare was known to have killed over two thousand men by himself before they could breach the palace. Marcus was said to have jumped the great river with his horse to save a princess. Justice was known for climbing the tallest tower of the palace from the outside to save his king. All the men who had held the position of High Captain for the last two thousand years were known to be great.
Now there was a new tale of the Sentinel. One that made folks raise their eyebrows and started their tongues to wagging. A tale that at first was thought to be some falsehood or mistake. It was laughed off and dismissed until the ceremony took place. High Captain Valian was getting old. He was ready to pass on his leadership. It was time for him to choose the next High Captain.
Folk in Winsdell spent weeks discussing who he would pick. Some thought it would be Darron, the Lord of Farrell’s son. Darron was a great favorite in Winsdell, with his good looks and easy-going manners. He was known to be a talented fighter and user of Mystics.
Roderick Ellis was also a good choice. He was a little young, but most new High Captains were. He was not as high born as Darron, but his father had still been a lord. He was known to best Darron in sparring regularly, and almost no one could sit a horse as well as him.
The day of the ceremony came, and Valian handed off his silver sword to the next High Captain. The sword went to neither Darron nor Roderick.
When Valian handed over his silver sword, he handed it to another member of the Sentinel. One that some had dismissed as a rumor. No one could say this member wasn’t skilled or wise. Young perhaps, but there had been younger High Captains. No one could argue that this member wasn’t a great fighter, or user of Mystics, because it wouldn’t be untrue.
In fact, it was rumored that there had not been such a great user of Mystics seen in over one thousand years. This member was very high born, almost royalty. This member’s father was the High Lord of Winsdell. This member grew up in the shadow of the palace, spending days learning and playing with a prince and princess. This member had every qualification except one; she was not a man.
Valian passed the sword to the only daughter of the High Lord of Winsdell, Dracia Yates, a woman. Gasps were heard all around. The members of the Sentinel, usually so still and quiet, made disbelieving noises. It took a stern glare from Valian for the Sentinel to bow before their new High Captain.
With all this, Dracia did not look fearful or unsure. She stared out with her bright brown eyes over the Sentinel. She said her vow with a clear, steady voice. She called for her seconds with no hesitation. She was the epitome of what a High Captain should be, except for her one fault of being a woman.
The king came with the prince and gave his blessing to the new captain. Dracia bowed before them and swore her oath. The king showed no signs of displeasure or surprise, but folk thought the usually pleasant prince seemed unhappy as he held out his hand to Dracia. There was talk that he even dared to glare at his father.
Folks may have talked and shaken their heads, but life for the Sentinel went on. The new High Captain proved her worth, and within the year any doubts within the Sentinel seemed to have been put to rest. The High Captain was known to be much loved amongst the men and few women who made up the elite group of fighters. Their devotion to their leader was evident in their manner and speech.
She had chosen Darron and Rodrick as her seconds, and they seemed to serve with much pride and pleasure. Life went on in Winsdell as the Sentinel of Cassendar stood as strong and firm as it had for the last two thousand years.
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