The autumn leaves and branches cracked and crunched underfoot. The horses galloped after the thief in hot pursuit. Atop them sat the Commander's Knights whom he placed under the control of Ackley, Lord of Branrick. Of course Ackley was still only a substitute while the real lord fought for Balefstine alongside the King.
The man had been caught stealing money to pay for his rent. He couldn't afford the bills and to buy food to support his heavily pregnant wife and he didn't want to be without a home for the baby to be raised. The new Commander was a cruel tyrant. He raised the taxes and enforced the law relentlessly without any morality or compassion for the people.
The man crashed through the forest, leaping over branches like tripwires underfoot and avoiding the low branches of trees that close line the unaware. He glanced behind him for an instant to check for the Knights. He crashed against something solid but warm and was thrown on his backside. He looked up to the mounted man looming over him and then back to the Knights whom at this point had long since caught up to him. The Knights dismounted and seized the man holding him down with has hand pinned against a fallen trunk. One of the Knights who seemed to be the leader stepped in front of the thief.
'You know your crimes and the punishment for them.' he said. 'You stole from a Knight's purse and so must lose a hand to compensate for the inconvenience.' The man struggled against the Knights.
'Please!' he pleaded. 'I need the money to pay for my rent. I need a home to raise my family in. My wife is carrying my child and I can't provide for her with such high rent and taxes. Please show some compassion!' The man on the horse listened from afar. He was about ten metres away from the scene at this point. The Knight brandished his sword.
'Pleading is futile.' smirked the Knight. He carefully eyed the edge of his sword for any nicks. 'Your lack of income is your own fault. You really should have thought about this before having to lose a hand.'
'Excuse me!' said the mounted man. The Knights looked to him. 'Do you even know the laws of your own country?' The Knight's face contorted violently.
'How dare you insult me!' he said. 'Of course I know the law and the law states that any man who steals shall have to lose a hand!' The man dismounted and paced towards the Knight. His cloak flicked for a moment and the Knights eyed the curved blades slung over his hips - They became uneasy and tensed up. The air become so dense it could have been cut with a knife.
'Under whose jurisdiction?' he asked. The Knight relaxed and grinned.
'Under the jurisdiction of Commander Dixon and under the orders of Ackley of Branrick.' he said.
'Ackley, you say?' said the man. 'Funny that. I remember when that land was owned by Alder Barrenstone. Has he passed away recently?'
'Lord Alder's business is none of your concern.' said the Knight. 'You are wasting my time now pass on through or turn back before you force my hand.' The man burst into violent laughter; so much so that he hunched over as if to vomit.
'You insolent fool,' he sniggered. 'I am Alder Barrenstone and I order you to stand down or you will force my hand!' The Knight was puzzled for a moment. He tightened his grip on his blade and thrust it in Alder's face.