It was like nothing we had ever seen before. The road was usually empty at this time of year. For most, the cold this far north was too off putting to consider the journey.
But even the encroaching winter wasn't going to deter this caravan. Some were calling it the King’s Caravan, others the Regal Entourage. The point is, the King of All was here, coming to our city.
It was the first time in generations a proper royal visit had occurred this far north; usually the king of the day would send some proxy, or a minor member of his family to relay whatever information there was. But this king was quite obviously different. It garnered suspicion from one side: why now? Why here? Was something happening? Had something happened?
From the other was a show of respect. The King was coming here! To us! We didn't, for once, have to go to him! This is a good day!
Regardless of which side you were on, though, one question was common: Why?
The caravan moved as fast as it could, but no matter how often a call of ‘hurry up!’ was issued, nothing ever really seemed to change. The weather and the rough terrain kept them on a slow, yet steady, pace.
Towards the middle of the retinue was the largest, most ornate carriage. Several stories high, it glided over the ground attached to at least six of the single man gun-bots which bore the defaced marks of the previous royal family. A rare insult to his opponents the king had been talked into displaying before this journey.
Inside the carriage, which was brand new and only bore the seal of his coronation, sat the Royal Family.
King Anzar sat at the head of the massive control room, at the top of the carriage, where he commanded the best view. On his left, sat his wife, the lovely, yet uniquely stubborn Loren. The marriage that saved a kingdom, or so everyone had said. Her belly spoke of the future of the family, which was the real reason the kingdom was safe.
On the king’s right sat his younger brother, Prince Goel. Sullen and aloof, he was only there because protocol demanded it. He was often heard complaining that the people this far north would surely not care for their king so they should leave before they were accosted.
The rest of the control room was filled with soldiers and a handful of runners, should any of the family require anything.
“I don't see,” Goel started for the millionth time since setting off almost a month ago, “why we had to bring those ugly goddamned things with us.” He was pointing at the gunbots.
The gunbots were a relic of an ancient race that had inhabited this land long ago. They stood as tall as three men and weighed nearly three times that again. It took many years of research and not a few lives to get them working again, and when they were finally ready, they waged a war so fierce and unbalanced, the opposing side had no choice but to lay down arms the moment they saw the walkers cross the horizon.
They required a single man inside to operate and housed two large calibre machine guns atop their heads.
Now, though, they were defeated and of the less than a dozen of them that were left, six marched alongside the royal family, chained to their official carriage. A sign, the king was told, that this new regime was nothing to be trifled with.
“I’m not going to go over that with you again, Goel,” Anzar said calmly. Everything he said was calm. “They establish our line as protected.”
“Your line,” the Prince scoffed under his breath.
“Yes, his line,” Loren snapped at him. “Do you understand what it means for your brother to rule? His house, his family is the true heir to the throne. Both he and you would be nothing, if circumstances had been different.”
“You mean your grandfather selling you off for a trite peace? Please. We all know you only want power.”
“If that means having to serve your brother, then so be it. At least I know my place, Prince,” she managed to cram more scorn than usual into his title this time, but it had the same effect as usual: he shut up.
King Anzar surveyed the land outside the carriage and called over one of his advisers.
“Yes, my liege?” the thin man who bore no name asked.
“How long does this haze last out here?”
“Usually the fog does not make it to the road, your highness. It is a remnant of the moors, off to the west,” the man waved his hand in the appropriate direction. “However, every now and then, the fog rolls all the way in and sometimes smothers the towns around here. Even the castle can be besieged by it.”
“I don't like not being able to see far.”
“My liege, I'm afraid there is not much we can do about it, but if it helps you rest easier, no one else can see well in it either. There is no magic to improve ones sight within the fog.”
“Thank you,” the King said and dismissed the man with a wave of his hand.
The castle came into view a few hours after that exchange and the king finally saw what he had come here for. The flag that stood atop the highest tower was his. He breathed a sigh of relief and ordered the caravan to make camp outside the walls. Only the family was to enter the castle.
The lord of the castle greeted the king in the courtyard beyond the main gate. The king was taken before the retinue of soldiers who called this place home and almost before anyone knew it, both the lord and the king had disappeared.
“Well?” Anzar asked calmly.
“There are pockets of resistance, but nothing more than whispers,” the lord of the castle replied.
“You know what I mean, speak truly or lose your place.”
“We have six of the gunbots. They are here as a message to my enemies, but also so that I can keep an eye on them. Several have gone missing since the coronation and some have said they are in the north.”