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Stronghold 2 » Forums » Story Archive (Read Only) » WEIGHTS AND MEASURES - A Story
Topic Subject:WEIGHTS AND MEASURES - A Story
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Civis Romanus
posted 09-24-03 15:50 EST (US)         




Angie: Blonde, blue eyes, pretty. Cheerleader. Brad's girlfriend.
Betty: Central High senior, friend of Jeff's. Black hair and eyebrows, hazel eyes, oval face.
Comely. Average heighth and physical features. Sincere. Modest.

Billy: Central High freshman, bowl shaped hairstyle. Brown hair, brown eyes. Average heighth for his age, but shorter than all but a few school seniors. Voice still high pitched.
Brad Deberg: Muscled 18 year old from suburban high school. Son of town banker.
Jeff Conroy: 18 years old. Slender build that belies his real strength. Brown hair, blue eyes, average heighth. Shy, withdrawn.
Lancaster: Middle aged, balding owner of the downtown malt shoppe.

All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

Please do not post in this thread. To contact the author please click on the following link taking you to this story's COMMENT THREAD.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-12-2003 @ 09:30 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-04-03 16:01 EST (US)     26 / 40       
"What is it you must know, Sir Jeffrey?" answered Clara.

"I have observed a woman who wears armor or some kind of soldier's metal, maybe chain mail, going to and fro from the Keep late at night. Each time I have not been able to see her face. You work late nights some days and might have seen this woman. Who is she?"

Clara blinked a few times. Then her eyes darted back and forth as if looking to see that nobody else was in the room, at least it seemed so to Jeffrey. "Woman wearing armor?"

"Yes, if not armor, then something metallic as if worn by a soldier."

"But, Sir Jeffrey, I have seen no such woman who wears armor."

"Then who is it who goes about in the night very late when most women would be at home? Think clearly, Clara. I believe this woman to be a leader of the brigands stealing from the Earl and assaulting our village."

"I am afraid to say, Sir Knight," came Clara's hesitant answer. "Will you tell the Earl? Will he become angry at me and send me away? I am very frightened."

"You must not be afraid. I will not tell the Earl anything until I have adequate proof. Whoever it is must be named and evidence of what she is doing revealed. Until then, I shall not make an accusation if there is the least risk of it being found to be false.

Clara seemed to take strength from these words for her posture became more erect and her face took on a more confident expression. "I have seen a lady of the household leave and return at various hours of the night. Sometimes exceedingly late."

"Describe her, please."

"She is about my heighth, my size. Young like me. I only saw her face once; for she usually keeps it covered when she leaves or returns."

Jeffrey frowned. "But that description could be of almost all of the young women in the household."

"Yes, Sir Jeffrey. But only one bears the name I shall tell you."

"And that name?"


Stunned, Jeffrey could not think of another word to say. Just then a knocking at the door caught his ear. He walked to the door and opened it to see the smithie's daughter standing there with a breakfast tray in her hands. Her eyes focussed on him and then turned to see that Clara was still in the room. The pupils of her eyes turned into miniature daggers that were promptly propelled in the galley servant's direction.

"I think I should be going now, Sir Jeffrey," said Clara as she stood up and walked past the knight. He nodded his head, the only thing his distracted thoughts permitted him to do. The young daughter of the smithie entered the room and placed the tray on Jeffrey's austere wooden table. Though she tried her best, Jeffrey turned out to be a very poor conversationalist vastly disappointing the hopeful young woman. So many thoughts were traversing Jeffrey's troubled mind, no woman, not even the loveliest in the land, not even Angela, would have caused him to be particularly talkative in that moment. Breakfast finished, the daughter of the smithie returned the tray and its emptied containers to her mother's kitchen. To her mother's dismay, she told her what had transpired and vowed never to speak to the knight ever again.

Jeffrey could find interest only in lying down on his sleeping cot, his breakfast warming his insides, satiating all of him but his stricken thoughts.

All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-12-2003 @ 02:54 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-05-03 16:10 EST (US)     27 / 40       
There was no help for it. Sir Jeffrey finished dressing and strapped on a sword. He sought out the Captain of the Guard giving him the gist of his information and seeking his help in the unpleasant task he knew would follow. "But Jeffrey," protested the Captain, "if what you say is true, then the Earl must be told."

"The trouble is I don't know if it is true. Only a search of her room will yield what is or isn't true."

"A handmaiden in the Keep. Unthinkable! I must tell the Earl and get his permission to search."

"That will take time, Captain. Time enough for the woman to escape or hide what we seek."

"Jeffrey, I can be discreet. I can speak to the Earl. Frankly, I must speak to the Earl."

Jeffrey's shoulders slumped in defeat. He had no choice. He saw this quite clearly. "As you wish, Captain. I shall accompany you."

Lancaster paced back and forth as he listened to the Captain's request and justification. "In my own household? How can that be? Lizbeth has never given any indication of being unfaithful or treacherous, nor of any plotting against me or this land. It is too hard to believe. Are you sure about this galley servant, Jeffrey?"

"I can only be sure of the very words she used and what she said. Of nothing else can I be sure; but it must be pursued. Milord, I know what I saw that night on the road and what I saw on the woman who entered the Keep."

"Search then. Tell me what you find."

The Captain saluted and turned to Jeffrey. "You will accompany me, Sir Knight, to see for yourself what we find if anything is found at all."

"Do we need others?" asked Jeffrey, not thinking what these words might imply.

"This is a young woman's room. Shall I bring an army just in case?" Obviously the Captain was very cross. He had no liking for this task anymore than did Jeffrey. The newly dubbed knight fell silent.

At the foot of the stairway leading to the rooms of Lady Angela and her handmaiden, Jeffrey and the Captain intercepted the galley servant Clara as she was hurrying down the stairs appearing to be returning to the galley. "Why do you hurry so, Clara?" asked the Captain.

"Oh, Captain. I, uh... I have just been told to bring dinner to Lizbeth and Lady Angela. They are both in Lady Angela's quarters."

The Captain appraised the level of the sun from out an opening in the wall of the Keep. "A little early isn't it?"

"I do what I am told, Captain." Clara did not wait for his response, but hurried towards the hallway leading to the galley. Jeffrey and the Captain looked at each other and then refocused their thoughts on the task at hand.

Thump, thump. Lady Angela put down her needlepoint and waited for Lizbeth to rise and open the door. Inside walked the Captain with Jeffrey. Lizbeth's expression turned cold and indifferent. Her eyes fell on Jeffrey and then were redirected anywhere else but where he stood.

"Lady Angela, with the Earl's permission we are to search your handmaiden's room for objects pertaining to the robberies and to the death of a driver in the last few days.

Lizbeth's face turned a pasty shade of white. "Why my room, Captain?" she asked, glancing back and forth between him and Jeffrey. "What are you seeking?"

"Armor, Lizbeth, worn by the woman who leads the robbers."

Lizbeth's expression and body immediately mirrored relief. "Of course, Captain. Search wherever you'd like. You'll find nothing like that in my room. May I accompany you?"

"Of course. I would have insisted anyway," responded the Captain. Jeffrey remained silent. Given the nature of his welcoming by Lizbeth, he decided nothing he could say would melt her glacial regard for him.

"I will come as well," announced Lady Angela.

"As you wish, Milady," agreed the Captain. All four left Lady Angela's chamber and entered the quarters reserved for her primary handmaiden, Lizbeth.

All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-12-2003 @ 02:54 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-05-03 20:10 EST (US)     28 / 40       
With continuing apologies, the Captain pawed through belongings and opened every door he saw in Lizbeth's adequate but not spacious quarters. Finally he ceased to search and turned to Lizbeth. "Is there any part of your quarters, any area of storage, to be freely pointed out that we have missed?"

Lizbeth laughed and shot Jeffrey a scornful look. "One last area, I think, Captain. A storage box deep in the clothes chamber, in the back and very hard to see." She showed him the place about which she spoke.

The Captain lifted the hinged, wooden lid of the box and found folded in the box on top of some stored clothing a set of chain mail, a helmet and a short sword. Startled, he looked at the items and then at Lizbeth. "How do you explain these items, Lizbeth?" he asked.

"What items, Captain?" She saw the Captain reach into the wooden chest and remove the three metallic items. Lizbeth gasped in apparent surprise. Jeffrey felt as if the world had fallen in on him. "Captain!" cried out Lizbeth. "Those are not mine! I swear by all that is holy I have no knowledge of these items!"

"They are in your chest and in your clothes chamber, Lizbeth," he said sadly. "I cannot see they belong to anyone but you."

Lizbeth turned tear filled eyes to Lady Angela, whose expression remained objective and aloof; and then she turned them pleadingly to Jeffrey. "Lizbeth," said Jeffrey as gently as he could, "I have received testimony that a woman wearing armor enters the Keep late at night, the same woman most likely who guides the robbers stealing the Earl's ale and killing his drivers. I have seen that woman twice. Once with the robbers and once with Sir Bradley of Berg." At the mention of Bradley's name, Lady Angela suddenly became very attentive to the events in the room. "You are the woman who is named," concluded Jeffrey.

"But it's not true! I have never worn armor or seen these items before. I have no idea how they came to be here! And I certainly have not been in the company of Sir Bradley. I cannot stand the man!" protested Lizbeth. Then she added as an afterthought, "Sorry, Milady, but it's true." This was directed to Lady Angela.

The Captain pursed his lips. "It will be for the Earl to decide the truth of the matter, Lizbeth. For now, I must lock you in this room until the Earl decides what to do with you."

"What must the Earl decide, Captain?" This was the voice of Lancaster who had entered the room while the Captain spoke.

"Her fate, Milord, for leading robbers against you. We have found armor and weapons in her room."

"So I now see, Captain. What do you have to say for yourself, Lizbeth?" asked Lancaster.

"Milord! Never have I done such things against you. I do not own this armor or the weapons. I do not know how they came to be in my room or in that chest. Milord! Would I voluntarily single the chest out and show it to the Captain if I knew there was something so condemning in it?"

"It could be considered a diabolically clever ruse, Lizbeth, to fool the Captain with feigned honesty about something you knew all along was there so that you could claim no knowledge when it was discovered."

Her tears flowed again. "No, Milord! I would never lie to you or to the Captain!" She turned tearfully to Jeffrey. "Why are you doing this to me, Jeffrey?! You know how I feel about you! Why are you doing this?! What have I done? I've said nothing about last night, to nobody!"

Lancaster frowned. He did not understand this exchange at all. "Captain, lock Lizbeth in her chambers," ordered Lancaster. "I will attend to this later. Jeffrey, come with me." Jeffrey did as he was ordered.

All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-12-2003 @ 02:55 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-05-03 21:29 EST (US)     29 / 40       
At the foot of the stairs leading from the floor where the lady's chambers were located, Lancaster suddenly turned on his feet, whirled and faced Jeffrey with an intensity that belied the Earl's smaller size. "That girl has never been anything but loyal to me! What is she talking about?! What happened last night?!"

"Nothing, Milord."

"Nothing?! It must have been something of importance to her. Where did you go and what did you do after the ceremony?"

"Outside, Milord, and then to my room. I tired of the excessive attention."

"Anything else?"

"Well, I... Uh..."

"Speak up, man! What is it?"

"I'll tell you!" It was a woman's voice coming from the top of the stairs that interrupted Jeffrey's stuttering reply. Lady Angela descended the stairs, the Captain right behind her. "Milord, I asked Jeffrey to withdraw his challenge to Sir Bradley. I did so under the ruse of a kiss and an embrace. Lizbeth saw this from the steps of the Keep. She asked me if I was transferring my affections from Bradley to Jeffrey. Impertinent of her, indeed."

"I told you I would fulfill my challenge," Jeffrey interjected. Lancaster's head turned to Jeffrey and then back to Angela.

"He tells the truth, Milord. In my anger at his rejection of my plea I struck Sir Jeffrey across the face. You can see the mark the ring on my hand made. There. The purple spot. I am truly sorry, Sir Jeffrey. It was not right."

"Forgiven, Milady," replied Jeffrey. Angela's lips curled slightly into a very subtle smile.

"Thank you, Sir Knight." She looked again at Lancaster. "Milord, Lizbeth did not see me strike him; she only saw my embrace. She has feelings for our newest knight. I doubt he even knows it."

Jeffrey blinked a few times in succession. Feelings? But she's just a friend. How could... Then the odd behaviours he observed and other manifestations flowed like a river through his mind until at last he understood. Lizbeth? All of this time? Lancaster studied his friend's son and the play of emotions across his face. "He knows now," Lancaster observed.

"Let it be understood now," she continued. "I have no intentions of abandoning Sir Bradley for anyone. I have made up my mind on this. You, Sir Knight, had best make up your mind in this other matter. Going about accusing the woman who loves you of being a traitor to her master and household. How could you! Why, the girl has never set foot out of this Keep at night unescorted and alone! I know this very well!"

"How do you know this, Angela?" asked Lancaster.

"Because, Milord, the only woman stepping out late at night to meet with Bradley is ME! And I don't wear armor to do so!"

"Angela!" exclaimed Lancaster, horrified by the thoughts suddenly coursing through his mind.

"Yes, Milord, me! Oh, we don't do anything scandalous. Unless meeting in the dark of night is deemed such. Well, it isn't! Not to my way of thinking."

Jeffrey tried to offer some small defense. "Milord, the woman I saw two nights ago... Well, maybe armored... I believe was not acting at all ladylike with Sir Bradley."

Angela frowned. "Did you say two nights ago, not last night?"

"Yes, Milady," confirmed Jeffrey.

"Milord," said Angela with a troubled, confused look on her face. "I did not see Bradley that night. I never left my room. In fact, Lizbeth attended to me because I was feeling less than well."

"You swear to this, Angela?" asked Lancaster.

"On the Holy Book, Milord."

"I don't understand any of this, Milord," Jeffrey complained. "Clara was rather clear about who she saw that night."

"Who is this Clara?" asked Angela.

"The galley servant whom you asked to bring you and Lizbeth an early dinner this day. The Captain and I met her when she was descending the stairs to your floor and we were ascending them to find Lizbeth for the search," replied Jeffrey.

Angela shook her head. "I have not seen any galley servant or made any such request today."

Jeffrey now shook his head. "She said she came from your room and that Lizbeth was there. Don't you remember?"

"Sir Knight, I would remember such a thing. No, I saw no servant nor addressed anyone by the name of Clara today." Like the light of dawn a realization illuminated all of them at nearly the same moment.

All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-12-2003 @ 02:55 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-06-03 15:59 EST (US)     30 / 40       
Lancaster looked at Angela, the Captain and Jeffrey. "Lady Angela, we will discuss your late night activities at another time. Captain, give your master key to Sir Jeffrey so that he may free Lizbeth, then follow me. We have a liar to attend to."

"Clara?" said Jeffrey.

"Yes, Clara. The Captain and I will take care of her and the rest of this affair," said Lancaster. "You have a duty upstairs. There's a miserable young woman up there who is undeserving of the treatment she received. Get my meaning?"

"Uh, yes Milord. Your meaning is very clear."

"Good, get moving Sir Knight. You have a damsel in distress to deal with." Lancaster followed up this comment with a smile that both reassured and somewhat embarrassed Jeffrey. Then Lancaster motioned to the Captain of the Guard to follow him into the passage to the galley. Jeffrey felt a momentary touch of pity for Clara. Very momentary.

"I still want you to avoid combat with Sir Bradley. I don't want him hurt," said Angela. "I also don't want you hurt... for Lizbeth's sake. I'm rather harsh on her at times, but she is a good woman. Almost like a friend. Maybe the only real friend I have." Angela paused, her eyes staring at the floor of the room. "If only you were as wealthy as Berg," she looked up at him, something different in her eyes. "Lizbeth doesn't entirely believe me when I told her there was no meaning in that kiss last night. She might have some basis for doubt, just a little mind you; but some basis nonetheless." Angela's face turned slightly pinker than usual. Then her brow knitted and an edge returned to her voice. "You heard the Earl, go to her! Now!"

"Yes, Milady!" responded Jeffrey, tightening his hand on the master key. He ran towards the stairs as fast as he could, pausing only momentarily at the foot of the stairs before running up the stone flight. In that moment he turned to glance at Lady Angela. She was looking at him through her ice blue eyes and to Jeffrey it seemed they were oceans gleaming more watery-like than usual. Angela reached up and touched at something under her eyes and her hand came away gleamingly wet like her eyes. Jeffrey ran up the stairs not wanting to see anything more.

All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-12-2003 @ 02:56 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-06-03 20:42 EST (US)     31 / 40       
Clara found her accomodations in the gaol were less than desirable, but she had little she could say about it. The lie was hers, the armor fit her like a glove and she could not account for her whereabouts in those hours she should have been in her quarters. Most annoying of all to Clara, that worthless son of Berg made no attempt on her behalf to set her free despite all of the "favors" she granted him. The former galley servant, who saw most of her comrades felled by the swords, stones and arrows of Lancaster and his guards, felt the world had turned on her and driven her to depths far lower than she had been before she hatched her scheme with the son of Berg. She then and there called upon all of the powers of evil to rise up and guide the upstart knight's sword directly into Bradley's hollow heart. Besides bread, thin stew and water, this was all the comfort she would find for herself in the days and years she was condemned to spend in her dank, dark cell.

It was not an easy reconciliation between them. Tentative at best might describe Lizbeth's level of forgiveness. On the other hand, Jeffrey was determined to find a way to convince her he was not the conspiratorial soul she thought him to be. Therefore, he conspired; but he conspired in the most pleasant of ways: extending small courtesies, seeking her company from time to time, being careful to give no impression to Lizbeth that would make it appear their friendship was anything but strong.

The poor soul. Jeffrey was a study in misunderstanding what a woman wanted. Lizbeth tolerated his antics finding them amusing, occasionally entertaining, but not fulfilling. She knew what she wanted even if Jeffrey did not, and yet she was patient enough and hopeful enough to give him every opportunity to learn it for himself. The question in her mind was simply this: Would he ever understand what she in her silence was trying to say?

There was no moon the night prior to the day of combat. No light. No breeze. No comfort. There was a knock at Jeffrey's door. He opened it to find a hooded man standing there displaying the elevated and open palms of his hands to prove he carried no weapon.

"What do you want?" asked Jeffrey, a hand on a dagger in his belt.

"To speak with you. I have a proposition," answered the hooded man. Jeffrey eyed him from from head to toe. "Oh, you can trust I will not harm you. I am a messenger and unarmed. Place a sword at my chest or belly if you wish. I can do nothing about it as you will see."

"Enter then and keep your hands where I can see them," directed Jeffrey.

"As you wish," the man replied as he stepped inside.

"What is your proposition?" Jeffrey went straight to the point.

"I offer you a very fat pouch filled with coin, gold coin, if tomorrow you withdraw your challenge."

"If I decline?"

"Then you will risk the results of combat, and should you win, you will still be as poor as you are today. If you lose, your mother will have no coin to pay for your burial."

Poor, thought Jeffrey. Indeed he was poor. Nothing to reflect that he was the Knight of Conroy. Not that his father had much. "Let me see the pouch," said Jeffrey. "Slowly and carefully," he added afterwards in warning.

The messenger complied. The pouch was full, nearly bursting with coin. An impressively sized pouch filled with more wealth in gold than he had ever imagined. Jeffrey held his hand out. When the pouch was deposited in his hand he squeezed it. Yes, it was as full as he imagined. The messenger repeated his propositon. "All you need to do is withdraw the challenge. Do what others have done. There is no need for combat with Bradley. You will be far better off this way in the end."

"Others?" Something struck Jeffrey as being odd. "What others?"

"Sir Bradley has never lost a contest of this kind," the messenger continued.

"I said, Messenger, what others?" insisted Jeffrey.

"All before you accepted the coin and either withdrew their challenges or permitted Sir Bradley to prevail upon promise he would spare their lives."

"I see." Quite a bit became clearer to Jeffrey in that moment. "I will retain the coin offered by Sir Bradley through you."

"Then it is understood. In exchange for keeping the coin, you will withdraw the challenge?"

"That is my understanding of the offer," confirmed Jeffrey.

"Good. Then I shall take my leave." The messenger turned and walked to the door. He paused and turned. "You have made a good bargain this day."

"We shall see," said Jeffrey. The messenger looked at him then opened the door and disappeared into the dark of the night.

All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-12-2003 @ 02:56 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-10-03 15:52 EST (US)     32 / 40       
The lists and stands were hastily constructed from scraps of material used years ago when a similar event was staged. If this were a wealthy earldom these structures would be far more permanent in nature and much larger. As Lancaster was not, the stands were adequate for the small crowd that gathered to witness the preliminaries and the event that attracted them most of all: the combat between Sir Bradley of Berg and Sir Jeffrey of Conroy.

The stands began to fill in the late morning, many of the onlookers bringing meals of fowl, bread, cheese and ale to tide them over into the afternoon. The light winds in the afternoon merely toyed with the colorful pennants unfurled above the stands and on poles near the tents of the competitors and combatants.

The competitions went quite well, providing the audience with nerve-tingling thrills, gasps of surprise and animated moments in which to discuss their placement of bets and the outcome of their wagering. Jeffrey's confrontation with Bradley would be the last event of the day.

From time to time Jeffrey would emerge from his tent to observe the competitions. These were jousting matches conducted by the apprentice knights deemed ready for such a contest. They were quite spirited even if a little clumsy. Fortunately, nobody was seriously hurt, although Jeffrey guessed there would be a bruise or two worn for a few weeks to remind the bearer of the contests that day. Bradley's tent was at the other end of the lists. Jeffrey did not care to glance in that direction for a host of reasons. However, he did glance in the direction of the stands just to see who was there.

Sitting in the center in his appropriate place of honor was Lancaster. Next to him, at his right sat Berg, a necessary invitee under the circumstances. On his left sat Lady Angela. Behind her, ready to attend to her mistress, sat Lizbeth. At least she had been sitting there for most of the competitions; but now, just as his appointment with fate drew near, her seat was empty. It would be just like Lady Angela to send her away on some trivial errand, maybe to prevent Lizbeth from seeing him or to prevent her handmaiden from seeing Jeffrey, for perhaps the last time. Jeffrey struggled to banish these thoughts as he reentered his tent.

A minute or so later the flap to his tent opened up and William's head appeared. "Sir Jeffrey, there is someone here to see you. May she enter?"


"Yes, she."

"Angela most likely, to plead with me for her Bradley again," he said, a touch of sarcasm in his voice. "Let her enter." It was Lizbeth. William closed the flap and stood outside to ensure their privacy.

Jeffrey stood up immediately, but his legs were frozen to the ground. "Milady, I meant... Lizbeth, you came here?"

"Of course, Jeffrey."

"But I thought the Lady Angela sent you somewhere, to do something else... away... from me."

"No, Jeffrey. She is an enigma at times, but Lady Angela actually likes you. She told me to leave the stands and go where I most wanted to be until the... the event."

"You chose here?"

"Yes, I chose here; and to be with you."

"Lizbeth, I..."

"It was all a misunderstanding, Jeffrey. I know that. You were simply doing your duty."

"With great reluctance, Lizbeth, all the while praying that I would be proven wrong. Then profoundly glad that I was."

"Is this truly necessary, this combat?"

"What I will do, I must do. There is no other choice. It is my responsibility because I began this sequence of events, and now I must see it to its end."

Lizbeth stepped closer as he said this. "I will not argue the matter with you, Jeffrey. I expect it would be fruitless anyway. I want you to come away from this just as you are now, this instant, no differently. You called me a friend, I feel something more now that I cannot explain, cannot hide, almost cannot express." She stepped as close as she dared and whispered, "I love you, Jeffrey."

Jeffrey stared at her as she spoke. It seemed almost unreal, the conversation they were having. This is the girl who works in the shoppe, a co-worker, a friend. What has happened here? What is happening to her? What is happening to him? He held out his hands to her. She grasped them warmly. He drew her to himself gently, one reason because of his armor, the primary reason because she was Lizbeth. He held her as close as he could and then kissed her in a way that she had never been kissed before, in a way that she hoped to be kissed for evermore.

"Come back to me, Jeffrey," she whispered, her head resting on his chainmailed chest, her hands around him feeling only cold woven metal and iron plates.

"As best I can," answered Jeffrey.

Trumpets sounded from the stands. It was the call to combat for Bradley and Jeffrey. He released Lizbeth. "Return to the stands, Lizbeth and be ready. There is something I shall do before all present and something even more important for which I will need you to be there."

Lizbeth knew not to ask. She turned and hurried out of the tent and made her way as quickly as she could to her place in the stands. The trumpets called once more, insistently, demandingly. William took his place by Jeffrey's side leading his horse and carrying his sword as is the job of a knight's squire. He prayed he would still be squire to a living knight when the day was done.

All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-12-2003 @ 02:57 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-11-03 16:15 EST (US)     33 / 40       
The stands fell silent as the two knights approached, Sir Bradley from the right and Sir Jeffrey from the left. They stopped, not too close and not too far away, and then turned to face the Earl of Lancaster. Bradley's expression was one of smugness, confidence. Jeffrey's was tense, just like all of the muscles in his body.

"Sir Jeffrey of Conroy has issued a challenge to Sir Bradley of Berg concerning Sir Bradley's treatment of Lady Angela," cried out Lancaster in a voice loud enough for all in the stands to hear. "The challenge has been received and accepted. By rule of chivalry, the challenger may withdraw his challenge now; if not, he may seek the favor of the lady he defends. The challenged knight may seek favor as well and shall have the choice of weapons."

"Milord!" called out Jeffrey. "I seek the Earl's permission to change the order of things. May I seek the favor of my lady first?!"

Lancaster looked at Jeffrey, standing there helmet under arm and with his squire nearby. "Irregular, Sir Knight, but not unprecedented. Proceed!" The people in the stands were abuzz with speculation. All eyes turned to Lady Angela. As Jeffrey drew his jousting lance from its holster, she rose from her chair presuming he would bring its point to her. Jeffrey began to walk towards her confirming in everyone's mind that this was indeed his intention. Then he stopped at the wooden bannister separating the stands from the lists.

Jeffrey lowered his lance pointing it in Lady Angela's general direction. Angela motioned as if to tie the scarf she held in her hand to Jeffrey's lance. "Milady!" Jeffrey cried out. "Milady I shall be your champion this day, but the favor I seek is from another! I request it of Lizbeth, Milady, your faithful handmaiden. Then if you choose, I shall be honored to carry your scarf as a mark of your favor; but first it shall be Lizbeth."

Angela stood stunned. Equally stunned behind her was Lizbeth. All eyes turned in her direction. Shakily she arose and removed the scarf she had tied around her wrist. It was blue as the sky and finely woven. She tied it to Jeffrey's lowered lance point and then sat down. A woman next to her handed Lizbeth another scarf, one to use to dab at her eyes should it be necessary.

"And now you, Milady," said Jeffrey as he moved the point of the lance slowly towards Angela. She hesitated before speaking, thinking through the words she wanted to say. "I thank you, Sir Jeffrey, for making yourself my champion. I shall tie this sign of my respect to your lance, but I shall assign my favor to Sir Bradley with this second article if he so requests; and once again, Sir Jeffrey, I call upon you to withdraw your challenge."

Bradley stepped forward immediately, a look of triumph on his face. "I do accept your favor, Milady." In a matter of moments, a small woven article of green was attached to Sir Jeffrey's lance, but Angela's scarf, also green, fluttered from the point of Bradley's lance. Both knights lowered their lances and removed the attached articles placing them in protected areas within their upper armor. They both then reholstered their jousting lances.

Lancaster's voice now sounded above the general chatter in the stands. "There is the matter of the challenge and choice of weapon, Sir Jeffrey. Do you sustain or withdraw your challenge?!"

"Milord, I have made that decision, but it bears explaining. Good people of the land of Lancaster and Berg, I have been paid handsomely by an agent of Sir Bradley's to withdraw my challenge. I show you the fat purse filled with gold coins given to me last night!" Jeffrey pulled out the pouch bulging with coin and held it over his head for all to see and then turned to face Bradley. "The agent of Sir Bradley advised me that all of Sir Bradley's opponents have received similar payment to withdraw their challenges, or to lose their combat to Berg and have their lives spared. I hereby refuse his payment before all of these witnesses!" Jeffrey cast the purse at the feet of Sir Bradley. As it struck the ground the distinctive clink of coin could be heard even in the stands. "Now I offer this to Sir Bradley of Berg. For the sake of Lady Angela and her desire to wed you, I shall withdraw my challenge provided you pledge to treat her kindly and respectfully throughout the remaining time of your betrothal and marriage!"

The stands erupted in a loud chorus of angry words aimed mostly at Bradley. It was so agitated that Lancaster felt enough ill at ease to begin to locate and note where his sentries were posted, just in case. Then Jeffrey said in a voice just loud enough for Bradley and nobody else to hear over the dissonance coming from the stands, "And an end to stealing ale from Lancaster. Move your right hand if you heard this, Bradley."

Bradley moved his right hand, while glaring all the while at Jeffrey. Then Jeffrey raised his voice again so all could hear. "What is your answer, Sir Bradley?!" he shouted. "Do you accept my terms or will you now select your weapon?!"

Bradley motioned to his squire to bring his weapons closer.

All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-12-2003 @ 03:04 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-12-03 16:02 EST (US)     34 / 40       
Sir Bradley's squire presented an array of weaponry, each item fully able to end Jeffrey's day quite miserably. Bradley continued to glare at Jeffrey, then turned around to study the weapons at hand. A decision apparently made, Sir Bradley turned to face Jeffrey while holding his hand out to his squire. "Shield...," Bradley began, "and mace." His face broke into a self-satisfied grin that puzzled Jeffrey.

William's heart clawed its way to his throat. Of all the possible choices! Bradley knew full well Jeffrey's skill with a sword and his marginal skill with a mace. Didn't Sir Jeffrey anticipate this possibility? Why didn't he just withdraw the challenge instead of humiliating Sir Bradley like that. Dutifully, William stepped forward delivering to Sir Jeffrey his shield and mace. Jeffrey placed his helmet on his head, as did Sir Bradley, and accepted his shield and mace from his squire.

Still puzzled, Jeffrey turned to Lancaster to receive the signal to begin the combat, all the while his mind feverishly trying to understand what had occurred. With a sudden rush of insight, disassociated events over the last week came together to give him the answer. If Sir Bradley's money could be used to buy a challenger's compliance, it could be used to buy a teacher's or tester's compliance as well. The maceman! His last obstacle to the test for knighthood! He escaped the test because of the incident at the gate. That had been unplanned for by Bradley, but the rest was as Bradley wanted it to occur. So here he now stood, ready for combat, but in truth unready in the use of the mace. No wonder Bradley appeared so confident. In Bradley's shoes he would feel the same.

Lancaster's face portrayed all of the misery Jeffrey felt, but for a different reason. He did not want this combat to happen between the sons of his friends, one dead and one sitting at his right. Yet, there was no other choice. Chivalry demanded its due, and sometimes its due resulted in needless human maiming and death. With a heavy heart, Lancaster lowered his raised hand to signal that combat should begin. The stands went silent.

Neither knight rushed into combat. Bradley hunched down, his mace lower than his shield, and his shield raised to protect his body. He began to circle Jeffrey. Jeffrey imitated Bradley, not because it was what Bradley was doing, but because it was classic strategy with the mace to strike such a defensive posture. "It's not too late, Sir Bradley," said Jeffrey. "I'm still willing to withdraw the challenge."

"Same conditions, pretender, or without conditions?" Bradley hissed.

Jeffrey swallowed hard. "Same conditions."

"Unacceptable." Bradley stepped in feigning an attack. Jeffrey ducked behind his shield backing up a step or two. William shook his head. No, Jeffrey. Don't retreat. That's what you always do. Confront him. You cannot strike well stepping backwards.

Bradley's confidence increased. Retreating already? Try it again; measure the reaction. He stepped aggressively towards Jeffrey elevating his mace at the same time. Jeffrey ducked again, hiding his mace behind his shield. He stepped back, his balance nearly lost and Jeffrey nearly stumbling.

"Yield, pretender, and I'll spare your life," growled Sir Bradley. "It's not worth losing your life. The woman will marry me regardless, of that you can be sure. It's the money she wants, can't you see that? I can do what I want and very well shall. It's a marriage made in a coin purse, fool! Yield!" Bradley took two fast steps forward. Jeffrey stepped sideways, hiding himself behind his shield, only the shield and his helmet visible, his mace, hands and arms hidden.

"I will not yield," said Jeffrey in a surprisingly even voice. "I have weighed the consequences and taken your measure Sir Bradley of Berg. Everything I've suspected is proving true. You very well may do exactly what you say, but it will not be free of consequences."

"The consequences will be yours!" Bradley began to circle again, this time with purpose. Every feint was countered by a retreat or sideways step from Jeffrey. William saw a consequence coming from Jeffrey's defensiveness. Behind him Jeffrey was approaching the bannister separating the lists from the stands. He could not pass or go under the bannister as it would violate the rules of combat. On the other hand, if he backed up to the bannister, he would be at a serious disadvantage due to loss of escape avenues. He could be severely pummeled and have no way to avoid the blows. A few moments later what William feared occurred. Jeffrey's back was against the bannister and Bradley was stepping towards Jeffrey with murderous intent and a raised mace.

All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-12-2003 @ 04:04 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-12-03 22:17 EST (US)     35 / 40       
Even as William's heart found lodging in his throat, Lizbeth's heart sank to the bottoms of her feet. How could he, that Bradley. How could he take such advantage of Jeffrey. Oh how she wished Jeffrey would yield. Oh how she wished Jeffrey would somehow prevail, but not through the death of Bradley. She liked the tall, muscled knight not at all, but for Angela's sake she hoped there would be no bloodshed and that one or the other would ask for and receive mercy.

Yet as Lizbeth watched the manuevering of the two combatants she had this horrible, cold, pervasive premonition that it would not end well, especially for Jeffrey. Her fears grew as Jeffrey retreated until his back was planted against the barricade and Bradley positioned himself one moderate step from Jeffrey.

"Yield, pretender, or the end will come painfully soon," warned Bradley.

"I have answered already," replied Jeffrey in that even toned, oddly calm voice so surprising under the circumstances. "Do your worst."

Bradley blinked. This new knight must be crazy, he thought. Best he obliges, he decided. In one deliberate move, Bradley elevated his mace and stepped forward bringing the weapon down onto Jeffrey's helmet. To his surprise, shards of wood exploded into the air as his mace found not the metal of Jeffrey's helmet, but the wood of the bannister instead.

Jeffrey saw the blow coming and knew it would be brutally fierce, he stepped in the only direction that made sense, to his right, and saw to his satisfaction that the overconfident Bradley struck the bannister with the full force of his blow, shattering the bannister's upper section and sending pieces of wood in all directions. His turn now.

Just as quickly as Bradley's blow fell on the bannister, Jeffrey swung his mace at Bradley, but not to disable the knight or to strike his body. Instead, Jeffrey swung his mace at the exposed edge of Bradley's shield. Jeffrey's mace caught the backside of the shield, the force of the blow so strong that it ripped the shield away from its strapping, sending the hammered metal plate over the bannister and into the stands. Bradley was left standing without shield and the shredded remains of leather strapping hanging from his left hand and arm. He shook his arm to cause the leather to fall to the ground.

By rule, a weapon or piece of armor falling out of the combat area could not be retrieved. Bradley knew this very well. The shield was lost. He had only the mace now to defend himself. It was Bradley's turn to retreat under the threat of blows from Jeffrey's mace.

Still, Bradley surprised Jeffrey by turning on the advancing knight and raining down blows on his increasingly battered shield. The crash of heavy iron upon hammered metal plate echoed off the village's walls, the very same that kept the bandits at bay.

Jeffrey began to evade Bradley once more, but the knight of Berg persisted in his attack until Jeffrey had no other option than to strike back. He timed his blow carefully despite the distractive ferocity of Bradley's attack. At last he swung his mace... And caught Bradley's weapon on a downward swing. Iron collided with iron. Bradley's mace flew out of his hand and landed on the field behind him. The knight tottered on his feet and fell to one knee as his balance, keyed on the weight of the weapon in his hand, failed him. A great wave of pain coursed up Jeffrey's arm, but he managed to hang onto his weapon. Immediately Jeffrey threw aside his shield to gain speed and raised his mace to bring it down on Bradley's head and shoulders.

Sir Bradley looked up, the iron of his helmet grating on the metal of the armor protecting his shoulders. He knew the battle was lost. He could not defend against this attack. He would be beaten by Jeffrey's mace into submission and maybe death. A collective intake of breath, screams of fear and angry voices calling for his death penetrated Bradley's helmet and hearing.

They were heard by Jeffrey as well. He hesitated. "Sir Bradley, you are defeated. I do not wish your death. Yield and accept my conditions and I shall spare you."

Bradley had no other acceptable choice. He would have to deal with the conditions so offered. "I yield!" he cried out. "I accept the conditions you offered!" He then raised his hand, fingers spread, and lowered his head to show submission.

"By the rules of Chivalry, I grant you your life," said Jeffrey, lowering his mace and then letting it drop to the ground, the muscles in his straining arms now nearly incapable of holding the weight of the iron. A great cheer arose from the stands. He turned to see great relief in Lady Angela's expression, as well as in Lancaster's and even Berg's. He searched for Lizbeth and saw that William had run to the stands to help her onto the field and that even now she was hurrying to him her face shining with joy.

Oddly, her expression began to change from joy to fear and then to horror. William's too. Jeffrey in his fatigue couldn't fathom what could be the matter. As if all occurring in slow motion, he saw William point to something behind him and cry out his name in warning. "Jeffrey!" he heard William shout frantically as he pointed. Lizbeth too shouted his name and pointed as well. From the stands came shouts of warning.

Jeffrey turned to see the thing they were pointing to. Through the slits in his helmet he saw the face of Sir Bradley, murder in his eyes, framed by the late afternoon sun. Frozen in place by surprise and fatigue the next thing Jeffrey saw was the iron head of a descending mace, Jeffrey's own mace, picked up by Sir Bradley for the purpose of insuring his own victory at any cost. Then as a loud metallic clank sounded, the world around Jeffrey exploded in a blinding flash of light making all of his senses flee to the far edges of the universe.

All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-12-2003 @ 10:38 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-13-03 16:23 EST (US)     36 / 40       
Jeffrey's senses did not stay on hiatus for very long. To his dismay, the first to return was his sense of feeling. That accounted for the pain radiating from his upper forehead. The next to return was his sense of hearing. "Jeff! Jeff! Are you okay?" That high pitched voice had to be that of Squire William. "Open your eyes, Jeff! Can you hear me?"

Sir Jeffrey of Conroy opened his eyes to see the familiar face of Squire William not too far from his manifesting a very worried expression on its quite youthful, unwhiskered countenance. "I'm... quite alright," Jeffrey croaked as his body conducted inventory at the subconscious level and hesitated when the inventory check reached Jeffrey's head. "I have a bit of a headache, though, William. What happened? I saw Sir Bradley, then a mace and now I am... like this."

Billy's face screwed up into a weird unreadable expression. "Sir Bradley? Mace? Why are you calling me William? Gads, Jeff, you'd better see a doctor. That mixing arm jumbled something."

"Mixing arm?"

"Yes, the one that ran into your head, the one behind me."

A young woman's voice finally penetrated Jeff's whoozy thinking. "Jeff! What happened? Oh my gosh, what an egg you have on your forehead! What hit you?!" asked Betty. She crouched and turned to Billy. "Hurry Billy, put some ice from the freezer in a handtowel. Bring it here. And tell Mr. Lancaster." Billy ran off to do as he was told.

"Sir Bradley's mace, Lizbeth. I never really was that good with it."

"Lizbeth? I'm Betty! Look at me, Jeff. Betty!"

"Uh, right. Betty. Sorry." Jeff raised his hand to feel his moderately throbbing forehead. Hmm, a lump alright. Bet it's the kind that turns colors like a rainbow for three weeks. Mixing arm. Right. Not a mace. Got it. He looked at Betty, his vision now fully cleared, his pupils dilating normally. Betty, yes; but the look on her face, the concern, the underlying emotion. So akin to Lizbeth. He remembered her last words in the tent before the combat. He remembered what time and circumstances then prevented him from saying. He said it now. "I love you, too, Betty."

The uniformed waitress's lovely hazel eyes opened wide with shock. Like a beach bound ocean wave, something coursed through her body that was indescribable, followed by a second wave of unbridled joy. "Oh Jeff, you don't know how much and for how long I wanted you to say that! I... I... Oh Jeff, you're the one with the bump on your head and I'm the one about to cry!" Her eyes visibly misted over.

Just then Billy returned carrying ice in a clean waiter's handtowel. He stopped to stare first at Betty's tearing eyes and then at Jeff. "What did you say to her, Jeff? She's a nice girl. You shouldn't make her cry."

Betty sniffled a little then started to laugh, quickly trying to wipe away the tears that threatened to roll down her rosy cheeks. "No Billy, you don't need to be my champion. It's okay. He wasn't mean to me. He was... very nice. You'll understand later (she placed her hand on Billy's arm) when you're a senior. Give him the ice, Billy. Where's Mr. Lancaster?"

"Coming," Billy answered as he handed the towel filled with ice to Jeff.

"Oh, and one other thing, Betty," said Jeff as he gently pressed the cold towel to his forehead. "Please be my date to the dance next Saturday. I think we can get the night off, at least this one time."

"I'd love to, Jeff, but we have to talk to Mr. Lancaster first about that night off, don't you think?"

Mr. Lancaster's voice broke into their talk. "What's this about a night off, and what are you doing, Jeff Conroy, sitting on the floor of my mixing room with a towel full of ice on your head?" There was humor and concern mixed in with Lancaster's stern question.

Jeff responded with a quirky smile and a statement of fact. "Looks like I whacked my head with the mixing arm, Mr. Lancaster. Sorry."

"I suspect you're more sorry than I might be, lad. Are you okay? Dizzy? Shall I take you to a doctor? Call your mom?" There was genuine concern in his voice once he dropped the feigned overseer's tone.

"No, Mr. Lancaster. I will be okay. Just hurts some, that's all. About next Saturday, Mr. Lancaster? I would like to take Betty to the school dance. If I find someone to cover our shift for us, will it be okay?"

Lancaster glanced at Jeff and then at Betty, unavoidably seeing the very hopeful look in Betty's eyes. "Hmmm, well," began Lancaster, then he smiled. "Oh, of course you two. Have a good time. But Betty, don't forget your customers today. It's not Saturday yet."

Betty's face broke out into a very pretty smile. "Thanks Mr. Lancaster!" She shot Jeff another smile just for him, then turned and hurried into the restaurant.

"Billy," said Lancaster, "Good thing you happened by when you did trying to find Jeff. If not for you asking his whereabouts, I don't know when we would have noticed his situation. Good work, lad."

"Thanks, Mr. Lancaster. I have to go now."

Jeff gently grasped Billy by the shoulder. "Thanks, Billy, for helping me out."

"Just some ice, Jeff."

"Lots more than that William, I mean Billy."

Billy shuffled his feet not wanting to ask if Jeff was all together once more. "You're welcome, I guess," Billy said. "Oh, I did come by to give this to you. I found it in another stack of comics. Thought you might like it." Billy reached into his back pocket and pulled out a rolled up comic book. Jeff accepted it from him and read the title. CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED - THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING. "It's about King Arthur and his knights."

"Thanks Billy. I'll read it and give it back to you."

"Okay. See you, Jeff."

"Bye, Billy." The freshman with the bowl-shaped hairstyle left throught the rear door of the kitchen.

"Where'd he get that haircut?" Lancaster asked as he watched the boy leave.

"New style, I guess. Some rock and roll groups from Britain wear it. Popular with the young kids." Jeff paused, his expression becoming quite serious. He shifted the ice filled towel a little to bring coldness to a different side of the lump. "Mr. Lancaster, I've made some decisions. I want you to hear them."

"I'm listening, lad; but I have company in the office. Mr. DeBerg is here, Bradley's father. He's making a call right now, so we can talk for awhile. What is it you want to tell me?"

"I've decided to go to college and learn the business of restauranting. You know, that junior college about ten miles from here."

"Wonderful news, Jeff!" exclaimed Lancaster. "I'm so glad to hear you've made that choice. Now don't worry about a job. You'll have one here. We'll fix your hours so they don't interfere with college classes and studies. You'll learn a lot in college, lad. Then you'll learn the practical stuff here. I'm so very pleased. I know your mother will be pleased too. The hardest part was the decision, lad. For you, the rest will be easy!"

"Thanks, Mr. Lancaster. You've been a great help to me."

"And you to me as well, lad. Oh, one more thing... It was about time."


"Betty, I mean. The two of you. I was wondering when you would come to your senses. Guess it took the knock on the head."

As his face turned a little red in embarrasment, Jeff gave a half laugh in response. "I guess so, Mr. Lancaster. I..."

Both mens' heads turned when they heard the loud cry of pain come from the restaurant seating area on the other side of the swinging door. Jeff was already in motion, because the loud cry of pain was unmistakeably Betty's voice.

All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-13-2003 @ 11:50 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-13-03 23:07 EST (US)     37 / 40       
Jeff heard Lancaster's voice trailing after him as he hurried to learn the reason for Betty's painful outcry. "Jeff, see what that's about. I have to go back to Mr. Deberg." That's exactly what Jeff intended to do.

Jeff swung open the door to the restaurant seating area only to stop dead in his tracks amazed at the tableau before him. Here and there in booths or on swivel seats sat students from Central High. In one of the booths near the Wurlitzer sat Brad, Angie and what appeared to be three tall, well muscled newcomers, no doubt football players from Brad's high school. All of them were staring at the floor where Betty sat amidst a tray full of scattered servings of food and broken tulip glasses once filled with sodas, shakes and sundaes. Metal cannisters holding the extra shakes still rolled around as their content emptied onto the floor.

Betty was holding her arm, obviously hurt somehow in the apparent fall she took. Brad's face was screwed up into something of a smirk, while Angie held her hand to her mouth in wide-eyed horror. Here and there, kids from Central High were beginning to pick up the scattered plates, utensils and shards of glass just to help Betty.

"What's happened here?" asked Jeff, walking now to where Betty was beginning to rise to her feet. She had a strange look of fear in her face, glancing first at Brad and his friends and then at Jeff.

"Nothing, Jeff. Go back inside. I fell, that's all." Jeff did not believe it happened quite the way that she said. Brad had something to do with it, of that he was quite sure. A senior he knew only in passing at Central High, sitting across from Brad, confirmed his suspicions.

"She didn't just fall, Jeff. She was tripped, deliberately, by Brad. I saw him stick his foot out on purpose to trip her as she passed by with the tray. His buddies thought it was funny. None of us think so."

"Shut up!" yelled Brad. "You talk too much. Talk again and I'll shut you up myself." The kid went silent, but it was clear he did not like being talked to that way. Oddly, the kid seemed familiar, more so than just being a student at Central High. Jeff couldn't think of the reason right off, but there was a reason and it was busily working its way through his recollections. Jeff looked around the room. The faces seemed to silently say, "Yes, I saw it too."

"Let it go, Jeff, please," pleaded Betty, now on her feet and standing behind Jeff, afraid to be anywhere near Brad. Jeff looked at her and then began to remove the apron he had placed around himself just before his jousting match, poorly fought, with the mixing machine's swinging arm. He carefully constructed the words he would say, all the while measuring the reaction he expected and weighing the odds for and against himself. It didn't look promising, but it had to be done. His calculations said now or never, and so Jeff removed the apron and turned to face Brad once and finally.

All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-13-2003 @ 11:45 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-14-03 15:53 EST (US)     38 / 40       
Lancaster returned to the small office in the back where at a round table with a phone he placed his orders for food and other supplies, and otherwise managed his malt shoppe. Mr. Deberg, Brad's father and the town's bank president, was sitting in the second of two chairs. As Lancaster entered he set the handset down on the cradle of the office phone terminating the call he had just made.

"Everything is set, Lancaster. The money will be available in the increments you need and we have all of the paperwork related to your second site out in the suburbs on file at the bank. I can say I sincerely hope you are successful with this expansion. As a long time resident here, I would much rather see your kind of concept out there than the stores those corporate chain guys think we need."

"Thanks, Mr. Deberg. You were a great help when I first arrived in this town and you are being a great help now."

"My pleasure. When you meet the only other business man, or resident for that matter, with the same first name as yourself, it follows you should do whatever you can to help. Ha! Ha!" The obvious total irrelevance of the comment made Lancaster laugh as well. They shook hands.

"By the way," said Mr. Deberg. "Since our business relationship is this closely tied together, you can drop the 'mister' part of my name. My first name is good enough to get my attention."

"Of course, and thank you... Earl," said Lancaster.

A vigorous but not deafening knock on the door ended their conversation. Lancaster leaned over in his chair and opened the door to the office. "Yes, Greg. What is it?" Greg was one of the cooks.

"Sorry to disturb you Mr. Lancaster," he said nodding to DeBerg, "but there's some trouble in the seating area."

"What trouble, Greg?"

"Well, it's Jeff and Brad Deberg, Mr. Lancaster."

The implications rolled through Lancaster's mind like a tidal wave. He jumped to his feet only to feel a hand on his arm holding him back. It was Deberg's hand. "Hold a moment, Brad doesn't know I'm here. Let's observe this from a place they can't see us. I want to see what the boy is up to."

"The kitchen then. We can see them through the serving window. They're not likely to notice." From the window, both men saw Jeff removing his apron, Betty standing fearfully behind him. Neither could tell if Betty feared for herself or for Jeff. Lancaster surmised it wasn't fear for Brad.

Jeff threw his untied apron on the serving counter and turned to face Brad. "Brad Deberg, since you passed through those doors into this shoppe today, you have jammed the Wurlitzer with a slug and under false pretenses stole two servings of food from Mr. Lancaster. You have treated Angie with very little respect and hurt her physically without any regard for her being a girl and not one of your football buddies. Then, you deliberately tripped Betty causing my girlfriend to spill an entire tray of food onto the floor, greatly inconveniencing our other customers and possibly hurting my girlfriend as well."

Eyes in the restaurant turned from Jeff to Betty and back again, then to Brad, to Betty and back to Jeff in a repeated cycle. Girlfriend? This was news, the boys thought. It's about time, the girls thought. They were always more in the know about these things anyway.

Jeff continued his litany of Brad's actions. "When what you did was reported to me, you accused my classmate of lying, despite the fact most everyone here saw exactly what happened. Brad, you are not welcome here until you apologize to everyone involved, to Angie for your rudeness and mistreatment and to Betty for your cruel behaviour. If you choose not to do this, then Brad, you can leave this shoppe; for I guarantee there is not a person working in this shoppe who will cook, prepare or bring you anything you might order until you do apologize and behave as you should in a public place."

Brad's face grew more and more red as his anger rose. "Are you asking me, Jeff?" he said through clenched teeth.

"No, Brad. I'm telling you," came Jeff's terse reply.

Brad stood up. As he did so, his three football friends rose and stepped out of the booth as well. Only Angie was left sitting there. Motion to both sides of him caught Jeff's attention. He looked left and right and saw the faces of four boys, all seniors, from Central High. The boys had fallen in next to him. It was obvious they intended to support Jeff in whatever way was necessary. In that brief moment Jeff again had the feeling of deja vu. This time he understood the reason why.

Standing right next to him was the boy Brad called a liar. To Jeff his face was familiar all right. His face was a twentieth century copy of the same face belonging to the soldier who fell from the barricades and ran at his side into the fray at the village gate. The other three boys were the three soldiers, who together with Jeff and his comrade, defended the village gate from the brigands' attack. These were the same comrades in arms who all agreed they would stand with Jeffrey, the apprentice knight, whatever the reason, whatever the need.

Jeff turned to face Brad and his buddies. A girl's voice coming from the booth they vacated, the one near the Wurlitzer right behind them, caused them to turn. Brad kept his eyes on Jeff, but his ears were tuned to Angie. "He's right, Brad. You know he's right," pleaded Angie. "Do what he asks. He's not being unkind or unreasonable."

"Shut up!" bellowed Brad. "No girlfriend of mine tells me what to do!"

Angie's face hardened. "Don't tell me to shut up, Brad Deberg. I'm not your slave to be told what to do and what to say! I don't care who you are or what you've done! I don't care what school letters you have or whether you're rich or poor, or what work your daddy does. In fact, Brad Deberg, I don't care about you at all. I'm not your girlfriend! I'm not even your friend. These kids, who don't really know me, are acting more like friends than you and your football buddies. They're the ones I should be sitting with, not you! Goodbye, Brad! Don't ever speak to me again!" Angie, somewhat unladylike, deliberately climbed over the seat back of her booth into the next booth and escaped from behind Brad. She found a place among the other high schoolers in the restaurant and silently waited to see what might happen next.

All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-14-2003 @ 07:51 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-14-03 21:54 EST (US)     39 / 40       
The football players with Brad studied the five seniors from Central High standing in the aisle across from them. Then they shifted their studies to the other shoppe workers and to the guests in their booths and on their chairs all of whom were staring intently right back at them: not a friendly face in the crowd. One of the suburbanites lowered his head and scraped at something that wasn't really on the floor. "You know, Brad. I kinda would like to come to this place once in awhile," he said. "It's not like we did anything but sit down in the same booth with you."

Brad spun around. "What are you saying?!"

One of the others took his cue from the first to talk about it. "He means, we weren't the ones who did any of that stuff he said. My girlfriend likes to come here. The food's good and they always were friendly before. I like this place, Brad. What's your beef with them?"

"They've treated me very poorly. My father is the banker for this town and I deserve better treatment!"

The third football player now felt encouraged to speak up. "Geez, Brad. We know you're rich, but I don't think your old man is going to like what happened today."

"I could care less what he thinks. With the money we've got, we can do what we want here; and there ain't nobody around here who's going to say otherwise."

"I will," said Jeff, his feet firmly planted, his muscles tensed and ready. "I don't think Mr. Deberg would be pleased to hear what you just said. The bank's money helps this town a lot with jobs, businesses and homes and that's the reason it exists; not to justify your arrogance and discourtesy."

Brad spun around again. Now his fists were clenched. He kept his eyes on Jeff, but heard movement and voices behind him. "Jeff's right, Brad. Your father wouldn't behave like this. See ya, Brad," said one of the football players as he turned to leave. "Yeah. See ya," said another. The third left without even saying goodbye.

"You're all alone Brad," said Jeff. "Think about it. Use some reasoning. Remember what your friends said before they left. Give what I've said some weight. Measure what has happened to you today." Jeff's voice took on almost a soothing tone that seemed more calming, pacifying than confrontational. Brad's rigidity began to soften, his resolve to waiver. He lowered his clenched fists, shaking now as the tension began to loosen them, almost.

"Alright, Jeff. I apologize. I'll do it your way."

"Good Brad," said Jeff with a smile. "Now if you'll step aside, we'll start cleaning this mess up." Jeff turned to point out the location of the broom, mop and other cleaning tools to the busboys, much younger than Jeff, who were gathered behind the counter. Lancaster and Deberg quietly began to make their way to the swinging door leading to the sitting area. Two quick steps and they opened it, though nobody paid them any attention as they entered the sitting area because their attention was focused on one thing and one thing alone. Brad!

Jeff had turned his back on Brad and was pointing to the place where he last saw the mop. Betty, standing a few steps away, had for the briefest moment taken her eyes off of Brad to look at Jeff and smile appreciatively at him. When in the next moment she looked back at Brad, she saw to her horror that his demeanor had changed once more. Gone was the conciliatory expression. Gone was the acceptance that appeared in his eyes. Instead, there was nothing but malicious intent radiating, a horrible, ferocious, evil purpose.

Brad balled his right fist. There was no question about what he intended to do. He intended to deliver a sucker punch right to Jeff's back, the back of his head or deviously to some other location in a way Jeff could not possibly see coming. The damage would be serious because there would be no defense. "Jeff!" Betty screamed and once more things seemed to happen in slow motion.

Jeff turned to see what Betty was screaming about, her eyes obviously looking at something terrifying just over his shoulder. Then instinct kicked in from a hard lesson learned in a time many centuries past. Jeff spun on his heels, but instead of staying upright he ducked and spun with an amazing degree of agility nobody expected, least of all himself.

Brad's balled fist flew by just over Jeff's head missing it by inches. Jeff clenched his right fist and with all of his strength drove it straight and true right into the pit of Brad's exposed stomach. Brad staggered backwards struggling for breath. Football player he might be, but the surprise of the blow overcame any physical edge he might have had. Still struggling, his legs buckled under him and Brad fell back onto his posterior, his back colliding with the front panel of the Wurlitzer. The machine gave off a mechanical clunk followed by a series of tinny noises like something just travelled down a metallic chute.

While Brad sat on the ground barely beginning to recover, Jeff sensed though he didn't see two people walk up behind him. He turned quickly to see that it was Mr. Lancaster and Mr. Deberg. He spoke first to Brad's father. "Sir, I'm sorry, Sir. I didn't want to do that. He gave me no choice."

"Jeff, is it?" asked Mr. Deberg. By now, Brad had overcome his loss of breath and was beginning to get to his feet using the Wurlitzer for a crutch. Real fear was evident on his face, and this time it was more than just Jeff.

"Yes, sir," answered Jeff.

"I once, at just about your age, had to do something like that. I didn't want to either. The boy was an embarrassment to the community, himself and his family. I never expected to see the same thing re-enacted with my son Brad taking the place of that boy. You hear me Brad!? Mr. Deberg's voice raised 10 decibels. There was no way Brad could not have heard his father. "Get out of here Brad and don't bother these people again until you learn well the lesson they've taught you! I will see you at home!"

Humiliated, Brad Deberg left the Malt Shoppe. There would be a lot of trouble for him, he knew. He tried desperately to think of what to say. There would be nothing that would come to mind.

"I am sorry for all of this," Lancaster began only to be interrupted by Deberg.

"You owe me no apology any more than does Jeff. It is my family that owes one to you. I shall be more than happy to pay for any damage here."

Lancaster shook his head. "No damage worth noting. I think your son needs the attention, not a few items of glass and crockery. You're helping me well enough as it is."

Deberg nodded gravely, appreciatively. Then he looked at Jeff. "You know, that was a very good summary of what a bank means to a community, Jeff. When you graduate, would you consider a career in banking?"

Jeff smiled. "No, Mr. Deberg, I've already decided. I'm going to be a restaurant manager and someday a restaurant owner."

Deberg frowned sternly studying the 18-year old in front of him. Then he smiled. "No doubt you will be successful in it, young man. Come see me when you need some help with your first restaurant. Deberg extended his hand to Jeff, who accepted it and gave it a firm, proper handshake in return. Deberg did the same with Lancaster, and then the banker left the Malt Shoppe for his office.

All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-14-2003 @ 09:54 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-16-03 18:21 EST (US)     40 / 40       
Lancaster stared after Deberg as he left. "I do not envy him the rest of this day, Jeff. Earl has a very difficult job ahead, far more difficult than banking."


"Oh yes, that's his name. Same as mine."

"Your name is Earl, too? I saw you sign your name 'E. Lancaster,' but I didn't know it stood for Earl."

"Didn't you now," Lancaster said with a strange accent in his voice Jeff swore was in that instant stolen from a time centuries ago. Puzzled, he stood staring at Lancaster, his mind screaming possibilites he could not possibly accept as believable. "You there, lads!" Lancaster said to the busboys. "Get cleaning now, please. We'll give Jeff a break today under the circumstances." The boys laughed quietly among themselves. Sure, then he'll work him hard tomorrow, no doubt. "And you Sir Jeffrey of Conroy, take a break. May I suggest you take it with your fair maiden, the lovely Lizbeth." He said this while motioning to Betty to join them. There was a pleasant twinkle in Lancaster's eyes that defied explanation.

"I shall," said Jeff, imitating the very same accent he heard in that far away place. Jeff opened his hand and accepted Betty's, but as she placed her hand in his, not just their attention, but the attention of everyone else in the Shoppe was drawn to the jukebox at the end of the aisle. Everyone heard the odd noises being made by the Wurlitzer as it started up on its own accord with a little hesitation, a few clunks and clatters, sending its retrieval mechanism to roam the slots filled with 45's.

Finally it stopped. The picker arm extended itself and reached for a record in slot A17, withdrew the record and then carried it to the turntable. Spinning the record in its customary vertical position, the pick up arm placed the phonograph needle on the beginning groove, and from there an invisible electric guitar picked out the four simple notes beginning the song. Tambourines, strings and drums filled out the accompaniment as the Crystals began to sing:

Well he walked up to me
And he asked me if I wanted to dance.
He looked kinda nice
And so I said I might take a chance.

When we danced he held me tight,
And when he walked me home that night,
All the stars were shining bright
And then he kissed me.

Jeff and Betty looked at each other both thinking the same thing-next Saturday night. As the rest of the song played through the Wurlitzer, they walked out of the sitting area, into the mixing room and out the back door so they could be alone for just a little while.

Each time I saw him
I couldn’t wait to see him again.
I wanted to let him know
That he was more than a friend.

I didn’t know just what to do
So I told him “I love you.”
He said that he loved me too
And then he kissed me.

He kissed me in a way
That I’ve never been kissed before.
He kissed me in a way
That I want to be kissed for evermore…

I knew that he was mine
So I gave him all the love that I had,
And one day he took me home
To meet his Mom and his Dad.

Then he asked me to be his bride
And always be right by his side.
I felt so happy I almost cried
And then he kissed me…
And then he kissed me…
And then he kissed me.

Behind the Malt Shoppe, Jeff gently pulled an unprotesting Betty close to him and he kissed her in a way that she wanted to be kissed for evermore.


All text (except song lyrics) is copyright © 2003 by Civis Romanus. All rights reserved.
Posted by permission of HeavenGames LLC.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-16-2003 @ 06:24 PM).]

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