ou are in England in the year 1273. You are Robert, the second son of Lord Landley, a middle level aristocrat with a castle in the west of England. You have never been to London with your father on the rare trips that he makes. You have seen some of the neighboring knights and lords but have not been introduced because of your youth.
     The times you live in are very turbulent. There is a need for armed knights to keep order, both to prevent risings of the peasantry and to keep other lords and knights from raiding the area. All of the aristocracy is part of a grand hierarchy from the lowest knights at the bottom to the King alone at the top. Except for the King, all of the knights and lords are vassals of someone above them and, except for the very lowest, all have their own vassals beneath them.
     This system of loyalty and duty should ensure peace and order, but plots and outright treachery are the order of the day. Almost all kings have had to deal with plots against their rule.
     Lately there has been more tension in the castle and your father has been distant during meals and often absent from the great hall. Letters stamped with red wax have been coming and going -- the warning signs of another plot, or rumor of a plot, or the attempt to create the rumor of a plot to see who would join in.
     Suddenly a servant comes up to you: your father wants to see you, now. You are needed to take part in the urgent business at hand, the first time that you have been old enough to do so. Your older brother has been made squire to a knight to learn his duties and is at a tourney far to the south. You hurry to your father's rooms, passing through the great hall with its walls hung with weapons and banners. At one end, behind where your father sits at the head of the great table are his arms and his shield.

     You remember your lessons with Roger, your father’s herald, who instructs you in the complicated system of blazon, the description in special language of a shield, and emblazon, the colors and pictures on the shield, and who raps you on the knuckles when you do not remember your lessons. You recall the blazon of your fathers arms that has been drilled into your mind for instant recognition:

Or, on a cross azure, five lozenges argent

     After so much study this actually makes sense to you: Or, a gold background; cross azure, a blue cross and five lozenges argent, five silver diamond shapes on the blue cross.
     Some day the shield, and most of the lands, responsibilities, powers and dangers that go with it, will belong to your older brother. Unless, of course, they are lost in the swirlings of politics and violence.
     You hope to inherit a small estate from your mother, and you may gain lands from a marriage your parents arrange, if they can find an heiress with no living brothers. But most of your father's lands will go to your older brother.

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