The palace was all aflutter with whispers and gossip about the recent kidnapping of one Lady Arabella of Spyn. No one dared say anything about it loud enough for a royal to hear, of course. Lady Arabella had been a close personal friend of the princess, and none of them had any desire to offend their employers. Joan, being of a commoner class, still managed to get an earful as she strode through the halls, making her way to the king's private study. She had the unique honor of being deep in His Majesty's trust, as well as maintaining respect among the servants and workers in the castle. Many wished to know what was to be done about the whole issue, if the kidnapping were true or just a rumor, and how the princess was handling herself.
Joan could not answer any of those questions, as she was not on close personal terms with anyone in the royal family but the king, and even then, they had a strictly business relationship. However, she was quite sure she knew what the king wished to meet with her for. When she reached the large wooden doors, she gave them a rough knock before being allowed entrance. The room was exquisitely decorated, with colorful tapestries, old dusty books, and chairs of the highest quality lining the walls. It was a small room, and dark. Against the back wall was a large stained window, depicting the image of a man slaying a dragon. Joan stepped into the room, closing the heavy door behind her before bowing to the king, who looked terribly like the man in the window.
"My liege," she greeted, before stepping closer to the desk. She did not sit, instead standing at attention and waiting for further instruction.
"Captain, it's good to see you. We are sure that you know why We've called you here today." She nodded her head a bit, but held her silence. "We need your help. Apparently, a mercenary group under the banner of the Gilded Serpents has taken one of the ladies of Our court and is currently holding her for ransom." He pushed a wrinkled piece of parchment across the desk towards her. Joan approached, frowning slightly, and picked it up. She was surprised that anyone with the mercs had known how to read, let alone write. The spelling was poor, but understandable. "They included this with the note." He lifted up a small, silver ring, with the Spyn family crest under a lovely green jewel. Joan made a show of inspecting the ring, though it was highly unnecessary.
"You wish me to perform a rescue mission, Majesty?"
The king pulled something from a small box on his desk that gave an ominous clinking noise. He tossed it across to her, and she caught it deftly. It was heavy, and she had a nasty feeling that she knew what it was. "I don't care what you do, Captain. Just bring her back." As the king dropped his Royal We, Joan felt all of the seriousness of the situation fall on her at once. Her loyalty as a soldier hit her all at once, and she bowed again.
"As you wish, Majesty." She pocketed the ransom money.
The Gilded Serpents? Joan had never encountered them personally, but she was familiar with the name. The king had given her permission to take as many men with her as she deemed necessary, and assured her that she would have limitless access to goods and supplies. However, she was certain that, for this, she wouldn't need more than one other person's company.
She found him in the barracks. "Milsec, we've got a new assignment." She briefed him on it as thoroughly as she could, showing him the note and the ring, as well as assuring him that they had money to pay the brigands if it came to it. Afterward, they spent a couple of hours preparing for their trip. Had it been up to her, they would have headed out immediately, but the rest of the servants were in far too much of a tizzy to be efficient in providing them with rations. When they were finally capable of leaving, Joan was stressed and out of sorts.
"Tell me about the Gilded Serpents again. Do you know where they might have taken Arabella?" Because the two of them were not in courtly company, Joan felt no reason to show the respect of titles to those who were not present to hear it. For some reason, that information was left out of the note. She assumed that if they were to follow the main road, they would find some sort of hint. The Serpents were most likely unwilling to risk the king sending an army after them to take the lady back. It was understandable, but it made delivering ransom money difficult.