Michael goes missing.
"Hey, boy! Go get my horse for me, will you?"
"Yes, my lord." Gerard mumbled and shuffled off toward the stables.
"Hurry up!" Lord Bryar snapped. "I've got errands to run for the king and he hasn't got all day."
Gerard rolled his eyes and quickened his steps. Seigneur Bryar was not exactly the kindest man to work for but he payed his servants well. Gerard and his brother, in exchange for tending to the large amount of livestock on the Bryar Manor, each received a horse of their own and a fair amount of land for their family.
"Hello, Ardorian." Gerard said as he entered the horse's stall. Ardorian gave him a soft whinny in response. Gerard smiled and stroked the horse's chestnut mane. He then walked over to the wall where Ardorian's gear hung and carefully saddled the horse. He took hold of the reins and guided him out of the stable.
"Took you long enough." Seigneur Bryar grumbled when he finally saw his servant arrive with the horse.
Gerard handed the reins to his master and watched as he mounted the horse. Seigneur Bryar nudged Ardorian toward the road, but paused suddenly.
"Where is Michael?"
Seigneur Bryar narrowed his eyes. "You aren't telling me you don't know where your own brother is?"
"Haven't seen him all day. Sir." Gerard added hastily. The last time he had forgotten to properly address his lord, he had received ten lashes with a leather strip, and it was not something he wished to experience again anytime soon. He still had markings on his back from the whipping, even though it had been weeks ago.
"I might have to punish him when I return." The tall, well-built man turned and squeezed Ardorian with his heels, urging him toward the road in the direction of the castle.
Gerard exhaled with a puff and headed back toward the stables. Once he entered the shady, slightly musty shed he went to the stall furthest to the left. His spirits were lifted immediately at the sight of his horse. The handsome grey stallion was alike to Gerard in many ways. His personality, for one. He was cheeky and stubborn, much like his owner, and did not like to do as he was told.
Gerard reached into a small pocket in his tunic and pulled out bits of carrot he had saved for Corlith. As he fed his horse the carrots he heard footsteps behind him.
"Good morning, Gerard."
Gerard turned to see Lord Bryar's son walk into the shed. "Hello Robert. Have you seen my brother?"
Robert shook his head, making his blonde hair flop on his forehead. "Why do you ask?"
"I haven't seen him the entire morning."
"Perhaps he is sleeping in one of the stalls again?"
"No, I have checked the stable already." Last week, Michael had gone missing and Gerard had found him asleep in his horse's stall. He had come out with hay poking out of his hair along with the sickening stench of manure. Gerard smiled slightly thinking about the confused look his brother had been wearing when he woke up with his head right under the horse's rump.
Robert frowned. "He isn't home?"
"No. I would have noticed his absence as soon as I woke up and he was not in his bed this morning. It appears his horse is gone too."
"I don't understand. Where else would he be?"
"I'm going to check his stall again."
Gerard stood and watched as Robert walked over to Michael's horse's stall and opened the little door.
Robert stepped in and looked around the empty stall. He could only see hay and a bit of manure Michael might have forgotten to clean up. But upon closer examination, Robert thought he saw something within the piles of dried grass...
"Robert? What's wrong?"
Robert put his hand up to his mouth, eyes wide in horror.
"Robert?" Gerard slowly walked over to where Robert was standing. He followed the other's gaze and saw nothing but a pile of yellow grass. "What-"
And then he saw it.
A leg sticking out of the hay at an awkward angle, freshly stained with blood. The surrounding area was still glistening red.
Gerard choked. "Is that...? It, it can't possibly be..." He hesitantly bent down and gingerly brushed the hay away from the leg, and then the rest of the body, which happened to be lying face down. He glanced up nervously at Robert. Robert got on his knees by Gerard and slowly rolled the body over.
Gerard stood up immediately and barely made it outside the stable before he retched into the dirt. Robert closed his eyes and tried not to listen to the other boy's sobs and coughs.
The mangled body lying in the dirt and dead grass was indeed Michael's body. How he died, neither boy could even imagine. However, it was obvious that whatever happened was quite recent seeing as the blood was not yet dry. There were some small cuts on his arms as if the bearer of the weapon was very clumsy and had trouble finding his mark, but the largest wound was a deep gash in the middle of his back.
Robert looked up at the sound of Gerard stumbling back into the shed.
Robert shook his head sadly. "It seems to me like someone stabbed him with a knife, but there is no way for us to know what truly happened."
"M-Michael..." Gerard sobbed.
Robert stood up and awkwardly wrapped his arms around Gerard in an attempt to comfort him. Gerard let his tears fall onto Robert's shoulder, wetting his tunic.
Suddenly, Gerard straightened up and angrily wiped his eyes. "Whoever did this to my brother - whoever it was, he must be gone. I cannot live knowing my brother's murderer is also alive."
"Gerard, you are being foolish. You do not even know who the murderer is."
"No matter. I will find out who it is."
"No, Gerard. You cannot risk your life for something that might not even have happened. How do you know Michael did not take his own life?"
Gerard glared at Robert. "Michael would never do that."
"How do you plan on going about all this, anyway?"
"I...erm...I don't know."
"You see? You-"
Robert stared at Gerard in bewilderment. "Pardon?"
"I shall ask Frank to help me."
"You don't expect that stupid little dwarf to help you, do you?"
Gerard's cheeks flushed the color of a beetroot. "He is not stupid and he is not a dwarf."
Robert grinned. "You would speak in defense of your little inamorato no matter what I say, eh?"
Gerard shot him a dirty look.
"Anyhow, that is beside the point. You simply cannot go out in search of an unknown man - or woman, for that matter."
"I can ask around."
"Ask what? 'Pardon me, sir. But have you seen a murderer around here?'"
Gerard threw his hands up in frustration. "I don't know!"
"Exactly. Do not put yourself in danger like this, Gerard." Robert smiled slyly. "Imagine how your dear little Frank would feel if you were gone, or perhaps dead."
At this Gerard turned around and left the stable.
"Dead, my lord." Gerard's voice cracked.
"Hmph. I shall have to find another servant, then."
Gerard clenched his fists, furious at his master's indifference to Michael's death.
But after all, they were only lowly peasants. Nobody would care what happened to them or what they did.
All the more reason for me to seek revenge. Nobody would care if I died searching for the killer. Gerard thought to himself.