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Stronghold 2 » Forums » The Sword and Buckler Inn » THE SCEPTRE AND THE FALCHION - Story Thread
Topic Subject:THE SCEPTRE AND THE FALCHION - Story Thread
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Civis Romanus
posted 09-13-05 15:20 EST (US)         


A Stronghold Heaven Community written story.

WRITING TEAM: Civis Romanus, Eruco Ellesar, Ibeliamoyes, Jasper Tudor, Johndisp, Lady Arcola, Micah Aragorn, Nimmanu, Wize1 and Yellek.

All members are welcome to join



Sir Roderick Blinn, Duke of York "The Iron Duke" - 6 ft 1 in. mid-thirties, dark hair, brown eyes, muscular, skilled with most hand held weapons except longbow. Unmarried. (Civis Romanus)
Sir Andrew Bruce - simple knight. 6' 2" tall, green eyes, short cropped blond hair, skin darkened by the sun. A simple man of simple means, extraordinary with the sword or fist fights, but not very good at any other forms of combat. Very quiet, very calm, very "pacifistic" unless provoked past reason. Somewhat more than passable horseman, uncanny capabilities in tracking. 25 years old, unmarried. (Nimmanu)
The Monk - a monk. Always wears a gray frock, has taken a vow of silence so he never speaks. He also believes he is unworthy to be looked upon, so with much practice, has learned to skillfully avoid anyone seeing past the dark depths of his gray frock. Very helpful, very quiet, never ever gets on a horse. (Nimmanu)
Flint Aitkin - 5'6", fairly long, unkempt brown hair, fairly thin but toned, tanned slightly, skilled in archery and short weapons, prefers to live the quiet life, pacifist, excellent hunter and capable of surviving harsh conditions. 21 years old and unmarried. Can ride horses well. (Ibeliamoyes)
Harold Hugo (Armsman Hugo) - A large muscular man, with no educational experience. Never set foot in an academy in his life. A very creative man indeed. He uses his logic to do many things, which seems to get him by. Standing 6'1, this brute knows nothing but war. A past blacksmith, since he was a child. Great knowledge of weapons, their structure, range, capabilities, everything. Now at the age of 37, he serves the king in his struggles. (Wize1)
Isabel Harker: Blond & blue-eyed, 5'6, daughter of Viscount Harker, whose lands are the western tip of what is now West Sussex.
Jafo: 32, ill mannered, no holds barred humor. Goes both way's with interaction with others. Loves dirty tricks, sneaking around, stealthy pranks, etc. Likes to be picked on, and have others pull Evil tricks on him. (Yellek)
Nigel Alexander Stewart 24 years old, 6’1” with a lean muscular build, blond hair with hints of auburn, blue green eyes that twinkle with merriment that spills into his facial features. Expert fighter with sword and lance, riding and shooting the English long bow. Travels easily between England and Scotland, to landholdings in both, emissary of Scotland to King Edward III. Rides a dark brown war horse with a black mane. (Lady Arcola)
Elizabeth Stewart, (Nigel’s younger sister) 20 years old, very long auburn blond hair, blue green eyes that twinkle like her brothers with long black eyelashes, slender with a graceful strength, knows how to also fight but is a better rider than fighter. She rides a beautiful horse with a snowy white mane and deep caramel colored coat. She is in Scotland waiting for her brother to return from his trip to see Edward III. (Lady Arcola)

Edward III, King of England - Historical figure - King at 14 years; absolute monarch at 17 years.
Edward Balliol - Historical figure - King's advisor on military matters
Phillipa, Queen of England - Historical figure - Spouse of Edward III


Unless you are part of the writing team, please do not post in this thread. To communicate with writers or post your comments, please go to the Discussion Thread for this story. Here is a direct link to this story's DISCUSSION THREAD

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 02-16-2010 @ 04:00 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 09-14-05 15:48 EST (US)     1 / 108       


Isabella, Queen of England, mother and regent to Edward III, 17-year old King of England, lay back on her bed clutching bedding to her naked body. Roger Mortimer, her lover, made no effort to change position, but lay in the queen's bed staring at the underside of the satin weave canopy. His thoughts were idle as he breathed in the cool air of the high roofed room and listened to the crackling of the fire in the hearth. All was well. The queen lay beside him, and with her in his grasp, so too was all of England, to do with as he saw fit. There was only the matter of the boy...

WHUMP! WHUMP! WHUMP! The old cast iron bolt on the door to the chamber was ripped out of its slot, broken pieces of hardware lying all about on the wood floor. Startled Roger sat up, as did Isabella who desperately clutched fine linen sheets to her body to hide what was obvious. Edward the King strode into the room with six armed soldiers of the palace guard at his side.

"EDWARD! What is the meaning of this! How dare you burst into your mother's... the Queen's room without her permission!" bellowed Mortimer.

Edward's face displayed no emotion other than pure hatred. "Arrest Mortimer," he said matter-of-factly. Three of his soldiers immediately complied. "Take him to the Tower to await a meeting with the axe."

"EDWARD! NO!" cried out his mother. "Do not do this! Fair son, have pity on the gentle Mortimer! The Queen commands it! Your mother commands it!"

Edward III, King of England at seventeen stiffened his back and straightened his shoulders. "Mother, the King has ordered it, and the King's will shall be done. Dress. You have a journey ahead."

"Journey? What journey!?"

"To the land of your banishment."

"But Edward, why?! I'm your mother!" Tears poured down Isabella's face.

"Because you ceased to be my mother when you permitted that... that commoner into your bed. And you ceased to be Queen well before that. As for being my mother... That is all that keeps you from the same axe Mortimer will meet. Now dress and be gone from here this very night. Guards wait for you with a carriage. Your ladies are outside to aid you with your clothing and goods."

"Edward, please..."

"Mother, I never want to see you again." So saying, Edward turned about and walked determinedly out of the Queen's chamber and down to the room where stood the King's throne. Waiting for him there was Phillipa, his wife of three years. He took his seat on the Castle Lord's Chair, Phillipa close by, the young woman looking at Edward admiringly and with some small degree of trepidation.

"You, My Lord, are truly King of England now," she said to him as she noticed the red of his eyes and the moisture accumulating there threatening to roll down both cheeks. "You are no longer the boy who would be King."

"And you, Milady, are my Queen and the only Queen this land shall have so long as I am King." He reached for her hand and once capturing it, he gently pulled her to his lap upon which she sat laying her head on his shoulder. The gentle kiss she placed on his neck just below his ear did more to reassure him that his decision was right than all of the secret advice he received from his closest advisors, including the Iron Duke, in the days before this night. As Phillipa leaned softly against him, Edward began to think things only a King must think.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-09-2010 @ 12:50 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 09-14-05 21:00 EST (US)     2 / 108       


"Lord Roderick, is it done?" queried Edward looking up from his repast at dinnertime in the aftchamber appended to his Throne Room.

"Yes, Your Majesty," confirmed Roderick Blinn, Duke of York, advisor to King Edward III by royal appointment. He stood six foot, one inch, a tall man for the age. His hair was dark brown without even a hint of grey. Perceptive brown eyes unhesitatingly returned Edward's look. Confidence glowed about his broad-shouldered frame. He had just entered the prime of his life, a time when skill, knowledge and maturity combined in the Age of Chivalry to create a formidable ally or foe. Lord Roderick of York pledged himself to serve his young king like an older brother pledging to protect his youngest brother from harm. At least, that was how Roderick viewed the circumstance of his appointment. Yet Roderick was not without doubt in his role, for with the prime of a noble life sometimes comes creeping a level of personal ambition that is contrary to the existing heirarchy of bloodlines. He saw that clearly when he advised Edward to seize control of the government from his mother before the whims and ambition of Roger Mortimer turned Isabella against her son's ascendancy.

"Very fine, Lord Roderick. We shall not be troubled by Mortimer and my mother's discomfort will be relieved somewhat by her return to living among the French."

"We hope, of course Your Majesty, that the French do not take umbrage at you and begin to plan your demise, or perhaps seizure of royal lands, perhaps in Gascony, as compensation?"

"It will cost them dearly."

Roderick liked this boy king, if for anything he liked the boy's combative spirit. "I believe it will." Smiling, Roderick bowed and looked up as he did so to see a smirk on Edward's face. Roderick hoped he would always have such a close relationship with the King of England. Perhaps, who knows, the King might go childless and need a loyal noble to replace him on the throne. Well, all to be seen. Edward nodded to signal it was permitted for Roderick to leave, which the Duke of York promptly obeyed.


Edward sat at the head of the table in his Council Chamber redfaced. "They dare to conspire on my mother's behalf with the Scots?! Is this true?!"

"Yes, Your Highness, replied Edward Baliol recently arrived member of the King's Council, selected to the post for his military prowess. "Indeed, even now David of Scotland amasses an army and among them has gained the service of the French, plus supplies and weapons with which to wage war. My agents tell me that he plans to march in a matter of a few months."

"Can we withstand his forces?"

"No, Your Highness. Not as we are manned today. The King's Army must be expanded and led north into battle well before David moves south."

Edward frowned looking down. "A call to arms is necessary then."

Roderick spoke immediately. "Your Majesty, I shall be honored to lead your forces north."

The King looked at Roderick and pondered the man's request for command. "Contribute your men, Sir Roderick, but you will not lead my army."

"But Your Majesty," the Duke immediately protested. The King raised his hand.

"Your loyalty or service here is not in question, but we all of us know the abilty of the Shire of York to produce quality armaments with rapidity. Your service is needed there. I have already decided that Edward Baliol shall lead my forces with me in the north against the Scot and French invaders. That is my decision on the matter, Lord Roderick."

Roderick could do nothing but sit in silence while suppressing what he actually thought. Finally he answered, "By my King's command, you shall have the most and finest weapons my craftsmen can produce."

"Very fine, Lord Roderick. We all know you to be the Iron Duke and recognize your value to this Realm. We must have men, but our men must have swords, pikes and other fine weapons made of iron. We shall find the men and they shall look to you for weapons."

"Yes, Your Majesty," said Roderick, resignation to his task sounding clearly in his voice. However, the look Roderick sent Edward Baliol's way said other things covertly.

The call to arms went out to all shires in the English country side, to Cornwall and to Wales. The time had come to wage war against the Scots, age-old Celtic enemies of those who held the lands south on the island of Britain, from the ancient tribes of long ago, to the Romans who came from across the Channel, to the Normans who followed in the footsteps of the Romans and now controlled all of what was once the lands of Angles, Saxons and the Norse.

A motley assemblage of noble and commoners, rich and poor, religious and profane, now took to the road to answer the call from their king. For some, their adventure would be short and punctuated by death. For others, their adventure would last long beyond the time they ever expected. For a very few, their adventure would take them into places and circumstances about which they never dreamed. For all of these, with the call to arms sounding throughout all of England, their adventure now had begun.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-15-2005 @ 03:28 PM).]

posted 09-15-05 17:14 EST (US)     3 / 108       
Fog swirled around him. The ever-present English fog. He stumbled on through it, searching, always searching. Until, suddenly, she called to him, "Andrew... come to me, Andrew," it whispered past his ears, softly at first, then louder, her voice- sultry, seductive, compelling beyond belief- "Be with me, find peace with me."

Her green eyes glowed from the forest's edge, all he could see of her. Unnatural eyes, they beckoned to him with a call that he wanted desperately to answer, but he was now rooted to the world, a massive tree held by fearsome power. He tried to tell her he wanted to go with her into the forest, but trees cannot speak.

She began to draw away from him, vanishing between the trees, "Andrew, come to me," she said as she began to fade into nothingness. "Join me..." And then she was gone.

He jerked awake like a plant torn abruptly from the ground. Sweat ran off of him, and he shivered uncontrollably. His heart hammered with the force of a blacksmith tapping on an anvil. He ran his hands through his hair, trying to get his breath back. It was always the same dream, increasing now in frequency. He always awoke unnerved.

Why did his mother want him to join her in death? Why did she come to him at night, what did she expect him to do? She had died so long ago, all he remembered of her were her eyes. But how could one ever forget such eyes? He sighed and pulled his tunic on. He finished dressing and went down to the common room to eat breakfast. Upon arriving, he realized he was too early. No sunlight peeked over the horizon as he left, just cold darkness.

He decided not to bother the stableboy, and saddled his gelding himself. As he carefully secured the sachels of his belongings on the pack horse, the sun slowly crawled out of its bed, sending a white, liguid light seeping across the land like pale mud.

He mounted and moved out of the courtyard, onto the road. He wasn't sure where he was headed, but it was definitely away from here. He turned the gelding north, and hoped for an opportunity to find a new Lord to serve. The old one had died, and he'd left rather than say any oaths to the son, who was a pervert and an abuser. Thinking of it caused his hand to tighten on the reins, and Horse snorted his displeasure. Andrew relaxed and patted Horse in apology.

The day grew comfortably warm, though not overly so. Soon, hunger and the need for new supplies began to take precedence in his mind, and finally he stopped at the next Inn he passed along the road. The small town that housed it was quiet, so he felt reasonably assured that there would be no trouble.

"What'll it be?" the barmaid asked when she finally quit picking her teeth. Her complete disinterest showed in every curve of her body as she leaned against the bar, not even looking at him, just looking at her fingers to see if she'd caught the offending... whatever... that had been lodged in the gap between her teeth.

"Food, ale, I think," he said, trying to quell his disgust.

"Right," she said. Then as she looked at him, the scowl she'd intended for the unfortunate soul who'd interrupted her important duties turned into a speculative look as soon as she got a full look at him. "It'll be right out, darlin," she said. Her hips swayed as enticingly as she could manage as she headed back towards the kitchen.

Andrew sat down at a table near the fire. Not so much for warmth, but because it gave him a focal point in the room of empty tables and bare walls. She brought his food and ale, and set them on the table with a hollow 'plonk!' Then, she sat down across from him, leaning forward to display her goods a bit more aggressively, though it was early morning still. Certain that he couldn't eat with her gap-toothed smile, and her mottled skin so near him, Andrew told her the provisions he needed, and haggled a price with her. She stomped off to get them, and he ate the very plain, yet acceptable fare quickly, before she returned.

"So you goin' to the war, then?" she asked when she returned.

"War? What war?" he responded, a frown knitting his brow.

"The scots be all stirred up agin, I rekin," she said, her accent grating on his nerves.

"Oh, yes, of course. Yes, that was my intention," he said, the plan forming in his mind as he said it. Perhaps the King would welcome a knight's service- it seemed likely. And if he survived, he could perhaps find a Lord to take fealty to. It wasn't that he needed the money, because truth be told, his father had left him so well off that he could retire now and spend the rest of his life in what most commoners would consider avid decadence.

No, it was the restlessness that plagued him. He wanted to do something, to be active. To go, to do, to experience. To escape the dreams. Yes, that too, if he were honest with himself.

He refused her offer to "make a memory to keep him warm" and mounted Horse gratefully. With a new goal in mind, he turned Horse north once again. He left the outskirts of the tiny town at a trot, trailing more than just the pack horse behind him, though he didn't know it. He never saw the silent shadows that flickered through the woods near him, keeping pace but never passing. After all, he had no reason for vigilant concern... did he?

[This message has been edited by Nimmanu (edited 09-15-2005 @ 10:42 PM).]

posted 09-15-05 17:55 EST (US)     4 / 108       
Harold trailed his rugged, calloused, and scarred hands over the rusty and chipped anvil, while memories of his smithing days scrolled through his calm mind. He stared past everything, it seemed, to the furthest reaches of all matter in the existing universe.. after focusing his eyes, he clenched his double-headed hammer and bashed it once against a solid piece of the remaining anvil. Clink! The hammer retracted sending a grin to his mouth, he couldn't have resisted.

He'd just been tidying up his old shop, that he still inhabits, when the call-to-arms sounded. Harold hung his head back, closed his eyes, and let out a heated sigh. Stepping out of his somewhat-home, he glanced left with only the sun to repel his eyes. He began walking.

"The wise speak when they have something to say, the fools speak when they have to say something." -Anonymous
Civis Romanus
posted 09-15-05 21:42 EST (US)     5 / 108       
York thrived on trade and war. Like all towns of the Age of Chivalry its major market areas were grouped in a scattered way. The meat merchants could all be found on one street, the weavers on another, carpenters near the wood yards and the bread bakers somewhere else. All were separate, yet together. One area in particular was of keen interest this day to Duke Roderick of York. Riding his coal black stallion with two mounted men-at-arms at his side (for these were troubled days of spies and assassins) he reined in his horse, Galldren, and dismounted in the heart of his weapons district.

Here a fletcher affixed fine feathers to the end of an arrow with a tip designed to pierce knightly armor. There a craftsman checked the degree of soaking sustained by select pieces of yew destined to be bent into the backbone of a longbow. Rolled cat gut (treated hemp) lay waiting to be cut and strung to bows ready to be bent carefully to form. In the distance the Duke could hear the clanging of smithie hammers on anvils marking the locations where coarse red-hot blades of iron were being formed into broadswords. In other shops, smithies allowed molten iron to flow down narrow races into diggings in the ground serving as molds, there to pool and finally cool into the hint of the working end of a pike. Here too the smithie's hammers would ring out as the thick-armed, well-muscled laborers took the raw casting and beat it into the final shape needed to hook knights and other mounted men-at-arms, pull them from their horses and skewer them with the pointed ends of the weapon.

In the air was the smell of fired wood and burning coal. People scurried to and fro bringing wood here, iron there, partially finished weapons from one expert shop to another. And for every craftsman hard at work there were just as many boys, some doing menial tasks and others, obviously apprentices, being schooled in the art of their masters. Such a high degree of activity! Lord, how he loved times like these. How safe he felt among those who he understood and who understood him. Roderick waived to his men-at-arms to tell them to stay in their saddles or rest, there was no need to follow him through the district.

One blacksmith's shop in particular caught his attention. Resting against the wall were swords of an odd design. Not exceptionally short, but certainly not as long as a broadsword, these odd weapons featured something of a bulge along the upper third of one edge of the blade. He made his way to this smithie's shop to learn more about the weapons he spied being made there. Seeing the Lord of York approaching, the smithie stopped what he was doing and bowed.

"Milord, you honor me with your visit," said William the Swordmaker.

"I shall make it as brief as possible, William, so as not to keep you from your trade." Roderick made it a practice to learn the names of all of his weapons craftsmen. "I came to ask you about these strange weapons." Roderick bent down and picked one up just to gain its feel.

"They are swords, Milord."

"Swords yes, but not a kind I've seen before. What name has it?"

"They are called falchions, Milord. They are a design from the distant east of the land across the channel."

"Falchions," repeated Roderick, letting the word roll off his tongue slowly. "How is it wielded?"

"Like any sword, Milord, but not with two hands as one would a broadsword."

The Duke grunted an acknowledgement to William's explanation then began to swing the sword around lightly, then fiercely and then upwards and downwards, side to side with swift slashing motions. "Much lighter than a broadsword."

"But capable of inflicting great wounds with a single blow for you see, Milord, that broadening at the upper blade can bite deeply into a man's limb, break bones and severe arteries. Broadswords have straight cutting edges and cannot penetrate as deeply with lighter blows, and are useless if fighting is in close such as the Scots prefer. Falchions permit a man to use a shield in one hand and this in another close in where a broadsword becomes too entangled and unwieldy. There is another advantage, Milord."

"It is?"

"More swords can be made with less material at less cost so that more soldiers will carry these weapons who otherwise could not afford other, more expensive weapons or who might have no weapons at all but a wooden spike or sharp rake."


"By two-thirds when compared to a broadsword, Milord." William smiled feeling sure his words were being well accepted by the Duke. "Three soldiers can carry a falchion to every one carrying broadsword."

"Very good, William, see that you make a dozen of these and bring them to the castle. Make as many of these as you can. We shall see if the falchion is indeed a weapon we can use."

"Yes, Milord."

Roderick placed the falchion he was wielding back in its place where it once again rested against the wall. Finishing his tour of the weapons shops he mounted Galldren and with a press of his spurs into his stallion's flanks directed his mount towards the castle. As the horse trotted over the streets of York, the Duke thought long about this new weapon called a falchion. Merit, he concluded. There may be merit in the device he could collect for the King... and for himself. Something Edward
Baliol, the Duke was sure, would not appreciate being achieved by someone other than himself. The Duke smiled as he thought and then imagined the scene of his triumph over Baliol.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-15-2005 @ 09:48 PM).]

posted 09-17-05 03:33 EST (US)     6 / 108       
He carefully crept across the leaves and twigs that littered the floor, careful not to make a noise. The small deer, just beyond reach of his bow, was standing gracefully on a small mound of earth, surveying its hard earned territory. Flint wiped his brow with his spare arm, and slid his hand over one of the wooden arrows in his quiver. He drew it out slowly, and held it to the string of his bow. He waited for his prey to move into direct sight. He pulled back the string. A twig snapped. The deer bucked and ran, darting past the trees. Flint turned around. "Thanks," he snarled, for the reason to the deer's start was standing in front of him. A rather wide man was perched precariously on a grey mare. After he climbed off his horse (if it could be called climbing, for it was more of a struggle leading to a painful landing) he headed towards Flint beaming at him.

Flint tensed, and held his bow ever more tightly to himself, with the string still drawn back. "Good show!" the man exclaimed. He clearly had thought that Flint was actually thanking him sincerely. "I almost thought you'd be annoyed!" The man had then finally reached him. He was a short man, compared to Flint who himself was only 5 foot 6; this man barely reached his chest.

"I am annoyed, you pompous fool. What are you doing here Walther? Didn't I tell you not to disturb me again-"

The man waved his hand, as if wafting away the words. "My dear boy," he chuckled, "I remember full well what you said. The wound has left it's mark." Flint smirked. He reminisced the time he had fired an arrow through Wather's forearm, because he chose the wrong time to wander behind the animal Flint was aiming for. Much like this time, in fact.

"The thing is," the man continued, "is that there is a war. A war that we need great expertise in. We need ranged experts. Ones that can ride too."

Flint stared at the man with his dark green eyes.

"SO?" the man said

"What? Oh. Erm, why not."

"Good show!" he exclaimed again, sending torrents of birds flying out of the tree tops. "Come on then! No time to waste!" the man said joyfully. He did a sort of jig back to his horse and then attempted to climb on. After he fell many times, he said, "Come on my boy, give the old man a hand up. I'm not as flexible as I used to be. Then hop on yourself and we'll be off!"

My deviant art..Add me losers..

[This message has been edited by Ibeliamoyes (edited 09-17-2005 @ 10:36 AM).]

posted 09-17-05 12:04 EST (US)     7 / 108       
Andrew generally liked traveling, but the wet, cold air was starting to make him miserable. Specks of water hung suspended in the air, clinging to him as Horse plodded through them.

Andrew ate in the saddle, preserving what he could of the remaining dry areas. Packy sloughed along behind them, uncomplaining as always. All three of them breathed in small poofs of mist. In the trees some yards behind them, more puffs of mist joined that hanging on the midmorning air. The men there cursed the fact that they hadn't acted the night before, as the man slept after leaving the small inn and traveling a goodly distance. Now, they were forced to draw back and deeper into the woods, fearing those on the heavily traveled caravan route would alert the man ahead to their presence- a setback they could ill afford.

Not soon enough for one, and all too soon for others, a town rolled into view. Andrew was immensely relieved, as he hadn't purchased enough for more than a day or so's travel, and he really didn't want to have to make the attempt to hunt. He could track pretty nearly anything- but he couldn't generally bring himself to kill much of anything if it wasn't trying to kill him first.

He stopped in front of the inn, and dismounted, looking at poor Horse and Packy. "You two look horrible," he said, as much to hear a voice as anything else. "How about we spend the rest of the day and the night here?" He slapped Horse on the shoulder, sending a spray of gray water into the heavy, wet air.

Rather than tie them to the post, he took them around back, finding the stable door closed. He slammed his fist heavily against it, until a small boy opened it for him. Leading Horse and Packy inside, he eyed the boy skeptically.

"Where's the groom, boy?" he asked.

"Me, me. That's the groom, me. Yep," the boy said, bouncing up and down as it doing so would make him grow taller.

Andrew sighed, and followed the boy to a set of stalls. He dried and fed both horses, before tossing the boy a tip to care for them any further should it be needed. Then he headed inside for a well-earned rest and some food. Immediately upon stepping into the tavern area of the inn, he was met by the scents of food, ale, and fireplaces. He purchased a room and took his satchels containing his armor up. And not for the first time, he wished for a squire to help him. But contractless knights didn't have squires, and thus it was a question of honor or squire.

He spent a quiet night in the warmth of the inn. For once, it seemed that he wasn't to be troubled for his looks or his size. No one wanted to be thrown out into the cold, damp evening, he figured.

The next morning dawned cool and clear, and found Andrew outside and ready to go again. He entered the stables, and found Horse saddled, and Packy with his halter on, as if they'd been merely waiting for him to crawl out of bed. Pondering his good fortune, and wondering how the small boy managed it, he began to attach the satchels of armor to Packy's harness. He was surprised when he found hands on the opposite side assisting him.

"Well, hello there," he said, unable to see the boy over the massive height of Packy's back. He circled around behind the horse, and found to his surprise that it wasn't the boy helping him, but a monk in a gray cowl. He didn't know much of anything about monks, and he'd never seen one in gray, but regardless, he recognized the man for what he was. "I thank you for your help," he told the monk. A nod was the response, followed by a bow. Andrew raised an eyebrow at the rather rude response, and went back to securing his gear.

He mounted, thanking the monk again. As he moved out of the stable, he turned north again, only to find the monk trotting beside him and pulling on his foot. He stopped, somewhat announed. The monk pointed adamantly to the east. "No, I am going to join the war, which is to take place in the north." The monk frowned and pointed east again. "I am going north." The monk shook his head vigorously and pointed east. "Can you not talk?" Andrew said, irritated further. The monk shook his head.

Andrew sighed and turned east, not sure why he did so, but so be it. The monk was clearly distressed, and he knew that there was no way that the small man could overpower him. The monk trotted ahead of him, Horse actually having to increase his pace to keep up, finally breaking into a trot himself. Packy protested, but after a few balks decided to come along. They left the outskirts of town at a trot, and moved along a small, rutted road.

The monk led them at the same trot for several hours, until, jarred by the constant trotting, Andrew told him to slow down. The monk shook his head, if anything picking up the pace. The road began to veer north again, and soon they reached a side road that went more directly that direction. The monk took it, and Andrew relaxed, convinced that, while it might not have been wise, it didn't seem so bad now that he had gone east with the monk. But the trotting was making him sore, so he finally told the monk to stop.

"Why the big hurry? Why this way?" he demanded. The monk pointed backwards. "What?" The monk pointed again. "I don't understand what you're trying to say," he said. The monk pointed backwards, then at Andrew, then tugged on Horse's reins and started down the road again. Andrew shook his head, unable to understand the silent man's meaning. He endured the grueling pace for another couple of hours before he told Monk that he was stopping, and that was that. He got down and began to eat lunch, his muscles protesting the rough trotting it had endured for so many hours. Monk sat silently (he seemed to have no other mode, Andrew surmised) eating from the pack he carried on his back. Soon, however, Monk was up again, urging him to mount up and get back on the road. Andrew sighed.

Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.
- James Allen
Success is a matter of a few simple disciplines, practiced every day. Failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.
- Jim Rohn
Civis Romanus
posted 09-17-05 18:42 EST (US)     8 / 108       
The Duke threw the parchment down on the hand-hewn table and rose up from his chair to pace the floor of his work chamber. How could the King think so highly of that commoner Baliol to want him to lead the King's army? That should be the role of a nobleman, one schooled in the skills of knighthood and the leading of men at arms. Childhood friends they might have been, but this is not a matter for children. Back and forth he paced until a light knock on the chamber's door interrupted his thoughts.


The door swung open and two over burdened boys entered nearly staggering under the weight of what they carried.

"Milord, we are from the swordmaker William," said the better dressed of the two, though he was by no means finely dressed. "We bring 12 falchions as you requested."

"Excellent. Place them by the door and bring one here."

The better dressed of the two boys, William's apprentice most likely, quickly looked about and spied a proper place. He motioned to the other boy to unload his arms there. Both did this. The apprentice picked up one of the falchions and brought it to Roderick then stood patiently waiting for a word from the Lord, even so much as a word of dismissal. All the while the second boy looked around at the walls and contents of the chamber, his eyes large with wonder and curiousity, for he had never been inside the castle before, least of all within the lord's work chamber.

Roderick grasped the falchion and once again tested its weight and feel. "Hmmm. We shall see how this fares in a test against men of skill." Without looking at the boys Roderick added, "Tell William he has his lord's gratitude."

Taking this as a sign of dismissal, the apprentice remembered to bow just before turning about to leave the chamber. Roderick's stern voice froze him in place. "Just a moment. You have not been dismissed."

The apprentice swallowed hard and turned around. "Forgive me, Milord, I..."

Roderick interrupted him. "No, apprentice, forgive me for not recognizing your diligence in getting these weapons here quickly. Accept this in appreciation." With a casual toss of his hand, Roderick arched a silver coin into the air towards the apprentice. "Catch it boy!" The boy did. Roderick smiled. "Take it to the baker and both of you enjoy something you'd like. Do not tarry, but if the swordmaker accuses you, say Lord Roderick ordered you both to tarry just a little as a reward. I doubt he will say anything more on this occasion. Be off with now!"

Grinning from ear to ear, both boys excitedly shouted "Yes, Milord. Thank you." Then as quickly as one could say "Robin of Sherwood" they were gone from the chamber. As he listened to their feet slap against the floor of the hall and the music of their boyish laughter, Roderick returned his thoughts to Edward and Baliol and swung the falchion in many directions just to see how long he could do so without tiring.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-18-2005 @ 10:45 AM).]

posted 09-18-05 14:47 EST (US)     9 / 108       
"BAH!" Walther exclaimed, making a passerby leap into a bush, "These blasted signs are getting the better of me again!"

"Do not blame the signs, for they are not the source of your confusion." Flint replied matter-of-factly.

Walther grumbled. "You know old bean, I never liked it when you pointed out the obvious."

"I am neither old, nor a bean Walther." Flint pointed out.

"BAH!" Walther exclaimed for the second time, "Now see here lad. Just tell me where to go on this blasted path. It's a darn long length awa-"


Walther scowled. "-distance away from the King's residence, and we are bladdy well running out of time"

Flint stared at the cold, rough gravel under the horses hooves and jumped down; then turned to face each side. "We go east." he stated, gazing into the distance.

"GOOD SHOW!" Walther yelled. Flint sighed - he hated Walther's dialect. It was too irritating. Flint hoisted himself gracefully back onto the horse and set off again.

My deviant art..Add me losers..
Civis Romanus
posted 09-19-05 20:56 EST (US)     10 / 108       
An Open Field Near York...

Roderick dismounted after quickly surveying to see that all was in readiness. The Captain of the York Guard nodded. "Exactly as you ordered Mi'lord. We brought the twelve falchions and arranged the tests you wanted. You see them there." The Captain pointed to the men standing-by waiting for instructions. "There is the broadswordsman, the pikeman, axeman, maceman, chain-maceman, mounted knight with sword and lance, and the others. And yes, Mi'lord, they understand they are to aggressively play their roles but not hurt their opponents. They are to seek advantage but not conclusion."

The Duke smiled. This Captain was the finest in the position to ever serve in the York Guard. "Well done, Captain. Now, to the tests."

One after the other, in single combat and pairs, men with falchions were confronted by men with other weapons. Aside from a minor scratch here and a scrape there, despite denting of many shields, no man was lost in these tests. The Duke, instead, gained great knowledge of the effectiveness and weaknesses of the falchion.

Being a short sword, the falchion was no match for the initial thrust of a knight's lance or entangling sweep of a chain-mace. Archers with long bows remained the best defense against charging knights and elongated flexible weapons like the chain-mace. However, a dismounted knight with sword drawn could not move fast enough to ward off the lightning quick strikes of the falchion and unless pure luck prevailed would fall from a joint attack by soldiers with these weapons. From this the Duke concluded that his pike men would carry a falchion in addition to their long pikes. The weight of both would hardly compare to the weight of a single broadsword.

Against the other weapons, the falchion held its own. All of the rest were close-in weapons and that played to the sharp-edged strength of the falchion. As to the broadsword-wielding foot soldier, aye, that was a different problem. In the case of the Scots it was an even greater problem, for the Scots favored the long, heavy-bladed Claymore sword and small shields, eventually discarding their shields once concluding their spine-chilling Scottish Charge. No this was not an act of bravado, but well calculated to take maximum effect of their long blades as they swung them to and fro with two hands on the hilt. One Scotsman savagely swinging his Claymore among six English defenders was one Scotsman too many for the English to handle. How would the falchion fare against a Scotsman? The Duke was yet to see.

"Have you your best swordsman here?" the Duke asked the Captain during a rest period.

"Yes, Mi'lord. Two of my best and two more who are rising to challenge."

"Very good. Give this sword I have brought (Roderick motioned to one of the men who rode to the field with him to fetch the Claymore from his stallion) to your best broadswordsman, along with this Scottish shield. Set upon him the other three soldiers bearing large shields and falchions. Caution them against injury, mind you, then let them at each other, three against one."

The contest began with the broadswordsman running quickly a short distance and into a line formed by the three soldiers with falchions. Wisely, the broadswordsman drew up at the last possible moment and began to swing his Claymore. Intimidated by the point of the swinging Claymore, the falchions attempted to step forward and then backed up as the sword returned to threaten each of them in turn. It became very obvious that one of the three falchions would have to sacrifice himself to a blow of the Claymore before the other two could set upon the pseudo-Scotsman and end his assault with his Claymore. In deference to this being a test, Duke Roderick wisely called a halt. "Enough! Enough!" he shouted to them until all four soldiers dropped their arms and backed away from each other breathing heavily from the exertion, especially the broadswordsman. "Well done, men. I have learned what I needed to learn. You may retire with my complements and an extra tankard of ale each day for the next three days. All of you!" He said this with a sweep of his hand to include all of the soldiers on the field and not just the last four who battled. The soldiers began their trek to the barracks with smiles and words of gratitude to the Duke. Roderick nodded and then turned to the Captain. "A good effort. Much to ponder though."

"And if I may ask, Mi'lord, what did you learn from this?"

"That the falchion is a viable weapon, Captain, that lacks only the strategy of combined use to make it decisive. That's what we must learn next." Saying this, the Duke made his way back to his stallion, mounted the beast and rode him back to the castle as armory boys brought to the field by the Captain scurried about picking up weapons discarded by the now departed soldiers.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-19-2005 @ 08:57 PM).]

posted 09-20-05 17:59 EST (US)     11 / 108       
Andrew rode through the afternoon, wondering whatever was wrong with him, that he was following some wild monk around the countryside. "Do you even know where I'm going, then?" he asked the monk, who was insistently trotting down the road in front of him. Monk nodded. Irritably, Andrew said, "Well, I don't see how you can, I don't recall telling you."

However, reason reasserted itself. Where else was a knight with no colors and no other likely prospects going? Expecting the monk to think anything but what was reasonable to think would be silly, particularly given that he'd told the monk he was going north.

Another town drew into view, and this time, though it was quite early, he ordered a room. After he ate, he went back out to the stables, not surprised to find the monk currying Packy, and Horse already done. He shook his head, and picked up one of the custom-made satchels. Going out into the stable yard, he began to clean the leather case. When he was done, he pulled the vambrace out of it, and began to clean that, as well.

Before long, he saw his breastplate staggering out to join him, the legs beneath it stumbling over the robe that covered them. He tried hard not to grin as the monk determinedly made his way to the bench opposite his own and sat down. The casing holding the breastplate was nearly as tall as the monk when he sat down. With care, the monk arranged the casing so that it wouldn't fall over, then returned to the dark confines of the stable. One by one, the satchels made their way out into the open. Once done, the monk set to cleaning greaves. Andrew had to hide another grin as the smaller man wrestled with the large pieces.

The armor was special, he'd spent more than he'd ever imagined possible on it. His father had left him a fortune that could have bought only three such sets before sending him into pennilessness. Instead, he'd bought himself one suit of the specially plated armor, and bought some for Horse. Now, he cared for it with a near religious zeal. And... he kept a close eye on the monk to be sure he was just as careful.

They sat in silence, cleaning leather and steel for a while. At last, the last piece was done, and Andrew set it down with care. He looked up to find the monk gone from his seat, and all the armor pooled around his feet. He chuckled and sighed, preparing to take it all inside by himself.

A clatter sounded in front of the inn, however, distracting him momentarily from his purpose. He hadn't realized how engaged in his task he had become until right then. He watched as soldiers entered the courtyard surrounding a carriage. They gathered protectively around it as a woman disembarked.

Andrew watched the stately woman descend to the ground. Her soft blond hair danced around her face, a silken counterpoint to the beauty of her face. Her graceful movements increased her beauty, and the delicate curve of her neck as the curls of her hair brushed against it distracted him momentarily. Her crystalline blue eyes met his for a moment as she swept past him into the inn, the blue gown that matched her eyes sweeping past his armor with the slightest brush of velvet.

He returned to his armor as the courtyard cleared and the carriage horses were unhooked. He couldn't help but wonder who the lovely woman was. He decided it was no concern of his, and went to find monk. When he failed to locate him, Andrew went inside, curious as to why he felt so disappointed by that fact. Despite his silence, Monk had been a good companion.

Ah, well, off to London tomorrow, Andrew thought. He tried to dismiss women and monks from his mind as he went to his room to rest. He felt a stirring of excitement as he thought about arriving in London to join the King's army.

[This message has been edited by Nimmanu (edited 09-20-2005 @ 08:35 PM).]

posted 09-22-05 07:49 EST (US)     12 / 108       
Isabel turned to Henry, the captain of her guard, when they entered the coolness of the inn's interior. "The man in the courtyard, do you know who he is?"

"No, My Lady, he was unfamiliar to me," responded Henry. "He appears to be a knight, though without a squire. Most likely un-colored, given that fact. But he clearly has been a champion or has significant wealth, a fact obvious from the armor casings he was cleaning- most cannot afford them."

"Really? A champion, you say? Test him in the morning. No more than two of you, and kill him if he fails," Isabel told Henry.

Henry carefully kept his face straight, but groaned internally. He really didn't need another fight, didn't want to kill another knight pointlessly, and hated risking death himself just to 'test' potential soldiers for 'The Lady'. Although he kept his opinion strictly to himself, he really didn't think she deserved the title- even if her birth bequeathed it upon her. Her enjoyment of these 'tests'- nothing more than butchery for her amusement- disgusted him. He saluted her and left to settle the men and get them fed for the evening.

Thus it was that the next morning, he and five of his men awaited Andrew in the courtyard when he left the inn. Andrew immediately sensed trouble, there were five armored men before him, one with sword in hand. He'd seen these situations before, and was unsurprised. He wondered which excuse it would be to test their mettle against "the giant" this time. But usually, his opponents were as unarmored as he, instead of them in plate and he in breeches and tunic. He shrugged philosophically. It would make him more vulnerable by far, but it would also lend him far greater speed, and even with armor on, speed was his great advantage. Most thought his size would be the advantage, and that speed would be unlikely from him. They all learned their lesson in great haste.

He waited for the man to make the challenge. When several minutes passed with all frozen in the courtyard, he called out, "Good morning, Sir. I have much travelling to do today, I simply wish to go on my way."

"You'll go on your way when I say that ye can," the leader responded. There was, surprisingly, no malice in the statement, simply a sentence left to stand between them unadorned.

"Pray tell me, why is that? I see no need for you to detain me," Andrew responded.

"The Lady sees a need," the leader said. "You'll be leaving here dead or not at all until she's spoken with you. I'll be testing ye whether you or I like it or not."

"Well, then," Andrew said, "let's have at it so I can be leaving that much sooner."

"What's your name, then, son," the man asked.

"I'm Sir Andrew Bruce, and yourself?" was Andrew's response.

"I'll be Henry Porter, Sir Bruce," Henry told him. "Let's get this thing done, shall we?"

Henry closed the gap between them with a rush, and the 'shing! of steel meeting steel broke the stillness of the morning air. Bird song ceased, and the silence left behind was broken only by the grunts of exertion and the clang of metal.

Andrew answered Henry's initial thrust with a twist of his own blade, and landed a punishing, though flat bladed blow upon Henry's upper thigh. When Henry pulled back, he felt the keen pain of a well-placed bruise. Luck, he thought to himself, and swung again, this time coming up on the unprotected left side of his obviously right-handed opponent.

Andrew parried the blow easily, and while the force behind it would have caused most men to stagger, he barely noticed it. It was then that Henry realized he was in serious trouble. He was easily out-matched. His opponent's sheer, raw strength overshadowed his like an adult to a child. He signaled the second man to join them. It wasn't going to be a fair fight, after all. He had hoped it would be. He considered stopping there, but realized he'd have to make a show of this attempt, or Isabel would be certain he heard of it.

Andrew easily staved off another of Henry's blows, having made the decsion to merely let the man fight himself to exhaustion- a tactic he employed almost continuously. Very few men had any true stamina against a much faster opponent. He realized that it was likely to work in reverse, however, as he saw the second man join in.

Now, it became a serious difficultly, because he had to keep these two men at his front, and keep them from manuevring him so that he could no longer see the others. Though he knew if all five assaulted him, his chances were pretty slim without his armor. He'd done it in many brawls, even done it in war, but that was against men who'd been fighting already, or men not trained with swords. It wasn't looking good with two already in the mix.

He staved off another attack, this one a combined movement by the two men. Clang! as he halted the blow from Henry that headed for his upper leg, Shinng! as his sword then glanced off the other opponent's sword, sending the blow high and past his head. The man nearly took Henry's head off on the downswing, and Andrew couldn't help but grin at Henry's surprised look as he ducked his "friendly's" sword. The man narrowly missed cutting into Henry's thigh as he brought his sword back in line, earning himself a powerful blow on his shoulder that numbed his arm for a moment- a misery only compounded by Henry's snarled, "Watch it, John!"

John grunted and tried to hold onto his sword. He'd never been hit that hard with a sword before, and he barely kept his feet. It would have been a disaster if he'd fallen, so he congratulated himself for not doing so. A state of affairs which didn't last long, as he found an equal blow knocking him flying off his feet as his legs were abruptly kicked out from under him. With a grinding of steel and a powerful Crash!, John's back met the dirt.

Henry was alone with Andrew again, and none too pleased with it, either. He tried to take advantage of Andrew's low blow with a high one, aimed at Andrew's neck. At this point, he realized the danger he faced, and simply wanted to end it. He couldn't afford to have this man in his forces, the danger was simply too great.

His plan ended in failure, however. His sword was deflected so swiftly he wasnt' even sure how it happened. His sword went flying upwards, given impetus by a powerful blow. Then, for an instant, he lost all feeling in his hand. Which was far better than the agony that shot through it in the next instant as his sword dropped from fingers too sharply protesting to hold a sword. They weren't broken, he judged, but the pain was incredible. He backed away, and simply said, "Kill him."

The remaining three men didn't exactly rush past Henry to finish the man off. They had seen the fight, they knew they were up against a formidable foe. But they would kill him, no man could stand against three. They watched as he picked up Henry's fallen shortsword. He now had a shortsword in each hand. Andrew couldn't resist the urge to twirl them in concert with each other- a lurid, whirling dance of liquid death.

The men rushed him, attempting to stay to his left. Andrew grinned as they fell predictably into his trap. His left hand was his better. He parried one man's blow, forcing the sword to swing in a lightening-fast arc towards the man next to the weilder. A small flurry as the two men righted themselves grimly. During which, Andrew pressed an attack upon the third, causing that man to back away, now showing start fear in his eyes through his helm as numerous blows landed past his defenses quite easily. A punishing blow to the ribs, despite his armor. A hit to the arm so hard he felt the vambrace that covered it rubbing against him, having sustained a heavy dent. Henry's sword sported a burr on the once-pristine edge.

"Stop!" cut through the battle, a feminine voice ricocheting off the stable and the high fencing. "I instructed you to test him, not to kill him, Henry."

Henry was used to the blatant lie, so he simply let it go. "I apologize, My Lady, I was over-zealous." He bowed and she 'graciously' forgave him. Gathering up his disgruntled men, Henry moved them out of ear-shot of the conversation between Isabel and Andrew. He wanted to warn Andrew, but knew it would be utterly impossible with her right there. Now he would be stuck with this dangerous man in his ranks, and the poor man would be fodder for Isabel's idea of sports. He felt it to be a losing situation no matter how it turned out.

posted 09-22-05 07:49 EST (US)     13 / 108       
As soon as Henry was away, Isabel turned and tucked her hand through Andrew's arm. "You proved yourself quite well, Sir Knight," she said, turning her charming smile upon him with full brilliance.

Andrew looked down at her, and felt himself oddly unaffected by her beauty. "Your games are treacherous, Lady, I or your men could have been badly hurt, or worse."

"True," Isabel said, her face taking on a deliciously sad expression, "You're very right, of course, and I knew that was the case. But you see, I desperately need a protector, a champion to keep me from harm. I need someone strong like yourself to escort me to London. While I am surrounded by men, you have seen for yourself that they are only so much protection. The woods around here are dangerous, Sir Knight, and a Lady of my stature must have a true protector, as I certainly cannot have my entire squad follow me about. Don't you agree?" She blinked at him, widening her eyes to display her vulnerability to him. She leaned somewhat against him, letting him get the feel of her softness. These ploys worked on all men, and she knew he would be no exception.

Andrew looked at her, and having known enough tavern wenches who had tried to throw themselves at him, he recognized the signs in her that she was attempting to manipulate him for something. He simply couldn't imagine what.

"I will accompany you to London, Lady," he decided.

"Excellent!" she clapped happily, dimpling at him and hugging his arm. "Now there is just the matter of Fealty, and we can set out."

"No," Andrew said.

"No?" she echoed, a frown creasing her forehead. "What do you mean, no?"

"I will take no vows, Lady. I will accompany you, or ride alone, but I will not take vows," Andrew said firmly.

Pursing her lips, she stared at him for quite some time. Finally, deciding that she could wait, and certain that he would eventually come to serve her, she said, "That will be acceptable for now. Do hurry and get suited up so that we may be off!" Turning to Henry then, she shouted, "Get the carriage ready, we leave as soon as it's hitched!" She then reached up, waiting until Andrew leaned down, and kissed him on the cheek. "What is my new champion's name, then?"

"Sir Andrew Bruce, Lady," Andrew said, and bowed. He didn't take her hand and kiss it in the usual courtly gesture before departing towards the stables.

Once inside, he found, yet again without surprise, that Horse and Packy were ready to go. And to his pleasure, monk was with them. He began to get himself and Horse suited, and was pleased to find monk's willing hands helping him out. "You'd make an excellent squire, Monk, you certain you don't want to change professions?" He chuckled as monk shook his head no. At last, Horse was fully suited, and so was he.

All of the armor was simple, utilitarian. Nothing extra showed anywhere, all the surfaces were smooth, no engraving, no frills. But there was extra plating in a great many places. Compared to most armor, his was heavier, and much more intricate. He had requested the changes himself, and the smith who'd made it had been quite pleased with the ideas. However, the smith had gone well beyond Andrew's requests, and the armor was- in the eyes of a man who prized safety above all else in his armor- magnificent.

But it really didn't stop there, although the armor was unadorned, and although he wore no colors, he and Horse looked magnificent together, as well. Perhaps it was the very absence of the cloth that gave knights distinction from each other that made it look so spectacular, but it was indeed a wonderful sight. The two of them glittered in the sun as Andrew climbed the mounting block to sit astride Horse. As they came out to join the Lady's entourage, the two of them dwarfed the other knights. The typical jokes were made about him riding a plow-horse, but there was no seriousness in the banter, and might even have been some bit of fear. They truly looked formidable. And behind them, like a shadow, came the monk.

[This message has been edited by Nimmanu (edited 09-22-2005 @ 07:50 AM).]

posted 09-22-05 19:53 EST (US)     14 / 108       
"I say, there, I say, are you going to London?" came a voice behind them as Henry and Andrew turned to join the entourage. A somewhat portly fellow and a bowman were trotting towards them, the portly fellow waving his arm wildly. "Oh, do stop, we're quite lost! Which way to London, good man?"

"No, you're lost, Walther," said the bowman.

"Oh, don't need to share the details, my boy, I'm sure they're busy and don't care to know," Walther exclaimed. "You don't mind if we join you, do you?" It appeared he'd decided that they certainly were headed for London.

"What's going on," Isabel demanded as she pulled the curtain back and looked out of the window of her carriage.

Sir Henry moved to her carriage and explained that the two newcomers wished to journey with them. She craned her neck to see them, and shouted back to them, "Can you fight?"

Flint's eyes glinted with humor, "I'm passable, Lady," he said. A definite understatement to any who knew him well.

"Good enough, they can ride with us. You'll be expected to help if bandits threaten!" she said, and snapped her fingers at Henry to come closer to her. "I want that knight wearing my colors by the time we reach London."

"I don't think that will be possible, we'll be there by this evening, My Lady," he responded.

"See to it," she said stubbornly, and snapped the curtain back over the window in dismissal. He heard her voice from inside, "Such a champion riding in beside me would be quite impressive to the court. I would be certain to gain the attention of a duke."

Sir Henry sighed and let Andrew catch up to him. Apparently, introductions had been made in his absence, as the three seemed to be chatting amiably enough.

"I tell you, Flint can pick a fly off of a twig at a thousand paces!" Walther was saying, waving his reins around in the air and spooking his mount.

"Oh, leave off, Walther," Flint said, irritation clear in his voice.

"Well, fine then, have it your way. I'll just go keep the Lady company. I am certain she'll far better appreciate my finer qualities than any of you!" and he was off waddling in the wake of the carriage.

"I would love to be the footman on that carriage, to overhear that particular conversation!" Sir Andrew laughed, and the other two joined in. "Do tell, Flint, how you came to be travelling with such an odd little man?"

Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.
- James Allen
Success is a matter of a few simple disciplines, practiced every day. Failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.
- Jim Rohn
Civis Romanus
posted 09-25-05 20:47 EST (US)     15 / 108       
The stench of horse and dirt, among other distasteful odors emanated from the body of the messenger sent to King Edward by the Duke of York:


I am pleased to tell you that preparations are well underway to equip your army with all manner of weaponry, including weapons not previously distributed. There is a strategy resulting from this that requires your careful consideration. I shall be most honored to describe it to you and your advisors, Baliol as well should he be interested.

Further, I have reason to warn you that London may not be safe for Your Majesty and Parliament. I have reason to believe that assassins populate some of the men at arms who are responding. I offer His Majesty and Parliament the protection of the great walls of York and my soldiers as personal bodyguards and urge that the King's Court be moved here as soon as possible. Accomodations are already being prepared should my advice be heeded.

Please give my offer every reasonable consideration, Your Majesty.

I remain,

Your Humble and Loyal Servant,

Sir Roderick Blinn, Duke of York

Edward neatly folded the parchment, waved the messenger off to pursue other duties, and silently pondered Roderick's words in the solitude of his personal chamber.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-25-2005 @ 08:47 PM).]

posted 09-28-05 20:41 EST (US)     16 / 108       
The men Andrew and the monk had left behind rushed to catch up, riding late into the night. As they drew near their prey, they saw him gathered together with the soldiers in an entourage that was clearly headed for London. They looked at each other in deep concern.

"What shall we do?" asked the first.

"We'll have to send a message back to his Lordship. He's going to be very displeased," responded another.

"How did he know we were here? It isn't possible, he wasn't even paying attention, riding along in a state of complete complacency," said the first.

The surly one in the back muttered, "We should have killed him while we had the chance, and not waited to see where he was headed."

The tall one to his left cuffed him in the back of the head- a strange gesture from a church knight- and snapped, "Hol' yer tongue. We did as da Laird tol' us, an' thas all we hads ta do."

The men drew lots then, to see who would get the "honor" of riding back to pass on the new information to the Lord. Each of them believed that the messenger's life stood a good chance of being forfeit. But how were they to know that their prey would join up with a noble's entourage?

Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.
- James Allen
Success is a matter of a few simple disciplines, practiced every day. Failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.
- Jim Rohn
posted 10-05-05 21:50 EST (US)     17 / 108       
Sir Andrew's conversation with Flint was interrupted by the Lady Isabel as she shouted back from the carriage, "Sir Andrew! Come ride beside me."

Sir Andrew frowned, and exchanged a look with Sir Henry. Tapping Horse with his heels, he trotted up to the carriage, settling down into a walk again as he drew abreast of it.

"Sir Andrew, I spoke earlier with Sir Henry, and he seems to feel that it would be impossible to get you to be wearing my colors when we arrive in London. I do hate to be so forward, but I'm afraid there really isn't much time," she said to him, her fan waving lazily in front of her face as she cocked her head to look up at him. "I really would appreciate it if you would, you see, my father has decided to marry me off. However, he has agreed that if I should find a more suitable husband, he would allow the marriage. I'm certain you can see that I should be far more than simply a Baroness."

Sir Andrew bit back his disgust at her blatant, unapologetic social climbing. He felt like telling her that she was probably getting what she deserved. Instead, he said, "As you say, Lady. I am afraid I am unable to wear colors for anyone, for like all knights, I cannot wear colors without fealty being sworn. Even should I wear colors without swearing, it would be properly assumed that I had taken them, so the result would be the same."

"Oh, but Sir Andrew, surely you can see how such a striking knight as yourself would bring much credit to anyone whose colors you wear. And is it such a difficult task to help out a Lady?" she twinkled sensually at him again, an obvious attempt to sway him with simple enticements. "I would happily release you shortly after we enter the city, Sir Andrew."

He couldn't say what was truly on his mind. He quite simply didn't trust her. He was struggling to find a way to tell her no without incuring her wrath, when they were interrupted by the monk. He felt a tug on his boot and looked down to find the monk trying to get his attention.

"What is it?" he asked, glad to be turned away from the woman in the carriage. The monk pointed backwards and tugged again on Andrew's foot. Andrew stopped, letting the carriage roll away. He didn't see the look of fury that crossed the face of the woman inside.

As soon as Sir Henry and the others caught up to him, he found the monk now tugging on the bridle to lead him forward again. He grinned, realizing exactly what had happened. The fact that the monk had chosen just that moment hadn't been an accident at all.

"Your monk seems to be obsessed with something behind us," Flint remarked.

"Yes, but I can't determine what, he can't speak, so he just points and drags me onwards," Sir Andrew responded.

"Maybe you're being followed?" Flint said.

"No. No one would have reason to follow me," Sir Andrew told him. "Maybe Monk is being followed."

All three of them turned to look at the monk, who was trotting along as if the conversation taking place over his head had nothing at all to do with him. "Makes sense. He sees a wandering knight, figures out I'm going to London and can protect him, so attached himself to me. Though why would anyone be following a monk?" They all shrugged, but before they could ask him, they were interrupted by Walther's strident voice.

"Oh, look, it's London up ahead! We'll be there in a couple hours, so you chaps should quit lagging behind! Come on, hurry up! You're falling behind!" he kept up the excitable clamor, telling them to hurry up for several minutes, until a small patch of flowers ahead on the road caught his attention. "Say Flint, what kind of flowers are those? Can you use them for anything?" and he was off and trotting up the road, not even waiting for a response. The three men exchanged grins at the ebullient man's personality.

Several hours later, the outskirts of London wrapped around their party, drawing them into the noise and the haste of the great city.

Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.
- James Allen
Success is a matter of a few simple disciplines, practiced every day. Failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.
- Jim Rohn
posted 10-06-05 15:19 EST (US)     18 / 108       
"It doesn't look that bad..." Flint sulked peering forward to see the main city growing closer.

"Isn't it splendid?" Walther cried out, taking in the air with big breaths.

Sir Andrew let out a small laugh which he tried to conceal. "What is so funny brave Sir?" Walther asked with a beam on his face, "Do tell!"

Sir Andrew buried his face in his hands, laughing all the more. Flint slapped his right hand to his forehead and the monk smirked. "Oh, it was just something Flint said." Sir Andrew said.

"Oh yes, he is quite the comic!" beamed Walther. "What was it he said?" he added enthusiastically.

" was...Oh look at that nice house over there!"

"What what?" said Walther swishing his head around in all directions.

"Oh you've missed it now."

"Oh well." replied Walther, who then lapsed into indefinite humming, much to the amusement of the three. Sir Andrew and the other two swapped quick glances and turned quickly away with obvious grins on their faces.

My deviant art..Add me losers..
posted 10-08-05 16:28 EST (US)     19 / 108       
Alas War's have come and gone, and may again. Being an Ioculator has many advantages!
Many a town and village have I seen, and Lord's and Lady's aplenty. Kitchens I have visited,
Food's and Ale consumed! I alway's stay attuned to My surroundings, Information sell's well.
It also provides for great Comedy.

My names Jafo, I come from here and there and am going back again!

I have been Invited to entertain in London, a Master of Secrets I met in France needed a small act during seatings.
Theatre was expanding, and so as it grew so had I.
As the theatre moved out of the Church and into the steets so to speak, I had learned Nobility makes for strange Comedy.

I once told a fanciful Tale about a Lad named William, seems one day during his lessons the Scholar noticed
the lad's mind wandering. Whereupon he asked " What troubles you young sir?".
The Lad spoke up, "I have had no breakfast this day sir".
The ScHolar reprimanded William and spoke, "food for the mind is better than that for the body this morn".
Having the Lads full attention the Scholor spoke again " Where lies the English Boarder"?
The young Lad embaressed replied, "He's upstairs with me Mom, thats why I had no breakfast"!

My visits to France always did provide the best materials!

But here I am outside of town, the scent of Mutton boiled in Ale and onions fills the air.
On my approach to town I happen to meet several other travelers, and a few guards escorting a fancy coach.
"Must be money here", say's I. And what else I do not know.
I tag along and listen as they converse, much information passing my ears today.
One strange fellow seems very odd indeed, a Monk in grey robes? He pay's no attention to me, he seems quite
adjitated at something behind this weary group.
There also is a knight?, No colors does he bear, nor squire at his calling.
His armor is plain, and very different from any I have seen. He seems distracted, no annoyed that's it.
I shall keep my eye on this strange band, I have many more things to learn of these travelers!

Civis Romanus
posted 10-08-05 19:37 EST (US)     20 / 108       
The first aspect of London to capture the traveler's attention were the remnants of the ancient wall still existant near the great fortress built by William of Normandy.

"They say the walls were built by the Romans, people from the great peninsula in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea," noted Flint. "That was centuries ago and yet the walls still stand."

"There is a wall north as well," added Sir Andrew. It's stones are still in place. Protection the locals say."

"Against what?" asked Walther, who ceased his incessant humming just then to listen in.

"Blue men north of the wall, so I've been told. Picts."

"But there are no such things as blue men today north of the wall," commented Walther, puzzled over the notion of men being blue. "Just Scots."

"Worked then, didn't it," Sir Andrew said with a grin. The others looked away. It was simply too easy with Walther, but they liked him anyway. Even the Monk, agitated as he was most of the time, found a moment to smile at these exchanges over the river bridge and up to the gate of London.

"Passes!" cried out one of the five guards at the foregate. "Show your passes!"

Sir Andrew looked at the others and they in turn at each other as they drew up to a halt before the city gates. "I have no pass," admitted Sir Andrew. He looked at Monk. Neither did his companion it seemed, nor the others with him. He did not anticipate such a thing. Never had it been demanded before. A woman's voice broke the impasse.

"I have their passes, Guard." The Lady Isabel had pushed aside the cloth shading her from the sun and was leaning outside of the opening to her covered carriage. The Guard gave Sir Andrew a dismissive glance and walked over to Isabel's carriage.

"May I see your pass, Milady?"

"Of course." She handed the guard a folded piece of parchment signed by her father and addressed to the King.

"Milady, this was not issued by the King's secretary or the Lord of London. It is not a pass."

"No, it is a message to the King from a nobleman requesting that his daughter and her entourage be permitted to enter the city and into the King's service."

The Guard's face took on a confused, worried expression. "But Milady, I have orders that..."

Isabel's face changed into a portrait of barely suppressed rage. "Will you deny noble blood access to London and deny the King the service of knights and a holy man for what is to come. And will you deny a messenger on the King's business?!"

Now the Guard lapsed into an intimidated state of stuttering. "Uh no, Milady! I, uh... Maybe I should..."

"Should what? Perhaps let us pass? That would be most reassuring, Guard, and perhaps result in a good word to the King on your behalf."

"Yes, let you pass. Uh. Of course." He turned to the other four men and shouted, "LET THEM PASS!"

Looking at each other and at their leader curiously, they stepped to the side and did as they were told.

"Thank you, Guard," Isabel said as she took back her folded parchment. "A pleasant day to you." She called out to Sir Andrew, "Lead on Sir Knight. We have our pass."

"Yes, Milady." And that is what he did.

"Milady wait!" shouted the Guard. She ordered her carriage to halt again.

"What is it now?" she said irritatedly and impatiently.

"I am asked to advise all knights and those of noble birth of the banquet tomorrow night, and to invite each of you to announce yourselves and then attend."

"Very well. Thank you." She motioned to the driver to start the horses again.

"A good day to you, Milady," said the Guard. Isabel didn't bother to answer.

The Jester stayed close to the party and though the Guards' eyes followed him as he passed not knowing for sure if he was with them or not, his casual, confident behavior and wide grin caused the guards to look to other arrivals and not to the Jester on this occasion. He laughed to himself to think how disarming boldness can sometimes be. Milady knew it as well as he, and he admired her for her expertise.

Now through the city gates, the narrow streets of London amazed them, as did the unbelievable assortment of exotic odors that assaulted their nostrils.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 10-13-2005 @ 03:22 PM).]

posted 10-08-05 21:19 EST (US)     21 / 108       
Quickly drawing up close and following the coach, "passes, show your passes" Hit's my ears.
How was this to play out? I knew not. But M'Lady sure did!

The smirk on my face was to keep me from laughing at the way M'lady was playing
the guard. What a hard Act to follow! She was not just Noble or Bold but Pushy!

Now it was my turn to play as if belonging to this group.
Knowing the Guard would not halt the coach again!
Not if he valued his life.

As we pass many thoughts come to mind........

Strange it seems they all travel together, but are yet so distant to each other?
Much, Much more here than meets the eye!

And a banquet!! Food and Ale enough to sate everyone. Now how to scheme my way
into this feast was the real question!

Rather than follow M'lady my choice is to stick with the big one,"Andrew" she had called him.
Staying close to this one would provide information, and protection should need arise.
Knowing M'lady was going to keep him close at hand, this decision made all the more sense.

Decidedly M'lady has plans for this one! The way she looks at him....
Lust? No, Guardian? No, ah got it "possession". Wonder if He know's!

Andrew, what a sight! Proud, Strong, HUGE even. He was as broad as two men,
and probably as strong as three !

The Monk is not so simple after all, he sticks to this one too!
Still wondering about him though, his adjitation seems to have stopped (for now).

Reading people was fun, although not alway's right. But this time I was sure!

On to the Feast! MESSE IT FORTH!!!

[This message has been edited by Yellek (edited 10-09-2005 @ 07:48 AM).]

posted 10-09-05 11:11 EST (US)     22 / 108       
As they arrived at Isabel's father's townhouse, the monk waited while Sir Andrew and Sir Henry discussed the knight's future. Without even speaking of it to Lady Isabel, Sir Andrew returned to Horse, Packy, and monk, and after finding a mounting block, headed for the The Full Mug Inn.

The monk watched as the press of people moved out of Sir Andrew's way. It was fortunate that the knight drew all of the attention, because the monk wasn't exactly a common thing, since his robes weren't the typical brown, but a simple gray. He also hadn't failed to notice their new shadow, either, but had decided that he was no harm for now.

When they arrived at the inn, the monk helped Sir Andrew with his armor, and with Horse's armor. After they were done, Sir Andrew headed inside, the jester having already gone in, and the monk began to clean the armor. Before long, the monk lost himself to the task.

Thus it was that he didn't see Flint enter leading both his horse and Walther's. In fact, in the first lapse of attention in years, he didn't even notice as Flint put the two horses away. It wasn't until Flint appeared before him that he realized the man was there.

"You don't like the crowds, either, I see?" Flint said.

Startled, the monk looked up. In that instant, Diana knew that her life was over. The look of surprise that passed Flint's face made clear that her full features were on display. His startled eyes met her impossibly brilliant green ones directly. All she could do was wait for the inevitable blow that would take her life.

The surprise cleared from Flint's face. "What's an elve doing among the humans?"

She blinked. "I... it's... I must..." she trailed off, unable to explain, shocked that he accepted her without confusion.

He reached over and pushed the cowl back off of her head. Her deep black hair gleamed in its coil around her head, her strangely pointed ears rose elegantly beside high cheekbones, and her eyes, far too green and far too bright to be human eyes looked at him directly, without flinching.

"Why are you following Sir Andrew?" he asked.

She looked away from his penetrating eyes. "I cannot tell you, but please understand, I mean to watch over and protect him. He is being followed by a group of men, and I believe they mean to kill him."

The door to the stable began to open, and Diana pulled her cowl immediately back. Flint looked at her again, then turned towards the door as it opened to admit Sir Andrew.

"I've managed to get us some rooms, though rooms seem to be scarce," Sir Andrew said.

Diana waited. Would Flint betray her? Flint simply said, "Let me help the monk put this stuff away." Sir Andrew came over to help, and the three of them got the armor into Andrew's room with no incidents.

"I'm off to bed, then," Flint said. "We're all invited," he chuckled, "by the Lady Isabel, to the banquet tomorrow."

"That woman," Sir Andrew said, his voice carrying the disdain he felt. "God help the poor man she manages to lock into her dungeon."

"Lock into her dungeon?" Flint asked.

"Yes, wouldn't you feel like living with her would be akin to being locked into a place of torture?" The two men laughed, and Flint left.

Diana left as well, making her way downstairs and out to the stable, where she curled up at Horse's feet. She at last let go of the fear she felt regarding whether or not Flint would betray her to anyone else. She was almost certain he wouldn't. He had obviously encountered her kind before, and the time had passed when he would have been most likely to state her existance. She wouldn't repeat her lapse, thus the others would remain in ignorance of her identity as she desired it to be.

In time, she would admit herself to Sir Andrew, but not today. No, definitely not today. And in a way, it was good to have someone who knew and could be trusted- even if only to a degree.

[This message has been edited by Nimmanu (edited 10-09-2005 @ 11:13 AM).]

posted 10-13-05 14:37 EST (US)     23 / 108       
Introducing himself to the Innkeeper Hirahm Young,"Jafo's my name, and it's lodging and
excitement that brings me here".

Hirahm quickly responsed with a laugh,"No rooms here, but there's always some form of excitement!"

This Left Jafo with the uneasy feeling that his use of the word 'Excitement' may have
been a poor choice!

"Indeed" Jafo said to himself,"it's still good to be in a city again."

Rooms at the Full Mug Inn were in short supply and his need of accommodation was paramount.

Jafo chose to hire the Innkeepers son to contact the Guild Master. It would most certainly save
his tired feet a good stretch, He thought as he watched the boy run off.

Within the hour the lad was back. He brought a note securing lodging for Jafo and any others in
his party suffering the same plight. The Guild Master had also informed him that he would come
by as soon as his duty's permitted, and fetch him to his room.

Some hours later, after much Ale, and with his jokes growing shorter sleep became a necessity.
A soft bed, and sleep was all that was left on Jafo's mind.

A short time thereafter Hirahm came over and spoke to him, "Jafo a well dressed gentleman
is here for You"

Turning around his eye's fell upon a round little man, his speach went up an octave at the
sight of him. "Jafo at your service sir", he spoke. It came out sounding like laughter.

It was at this momment as he stood that his legs gave leave of him, giving everyone else
another fine laugh!

"Our Ale seems to have had the better of you", He spoke. "my names Tom Perth"

Andrew watched in amusement. This was as funny to see, as to listen to. Andrew knew now Jafo had
chosen the right profession. As he helped pick Jafo off the floor he remarked,"Meet up with Us in
the Morn,it's going to be a great day of feasting!".

Tom Perth having Jafo up on his feet bid the other's leave, and the two headed out the door for
the Guild. What a sight we must make he thought. I should add this to an Act in a play.

Andrew and the other patrons could no longer refrain, laughter erupted throughout the Inn.

The next morning He arose to the sounds of a city waking. The sun was peeking into his room through a
ruddy window pane with a twisted distortion, rivaled only by the way his head felt from to much Ale.
The late hours he'd kept the night before only added to his misery.

Jafo lay wondering What possible adventures lay ahead for him, and for that of his new friends?

Civis Romanus
posted 10-13-05 16:02 EST (US)     24 / 108       
Baliol left the King's chambers with a worried look on his face. He gave no attention to any of the King's servants working here and there in the castle. Instead, Baliol went directly to his own more modest chamber and began to put his thoughts down on parchment to be sure he had them well-ordered.

Meanwhile, back in the King's chamber, Edward's young wife sat in a chair with her hands folded on her recently rounding tummy. She was with child and though prone to morning discomfort, was reasonably comfortable at that moment and had as a matter of fact just finished a bowl of porridge. "Edward, must we journey that far?"

"I see no alternative. If Sir Roderick is concerned there must be good reason. I know him to be a headstrong, ambitious man, but he has shown great loyalty to my family. He thinks me blind to his anger over Baliol's appointment. I am not. When Baliol is gone North, there is no other man I wish by my side other than Roderick. He can't see the value in my wish, only the glory he thinks is stolen by Baliol. That glory is fleeting and the shame of defeat everready to make a claim when glory flies away. If my venture be madness, I am sparing Sir Roderick the shame because I must have Roderick to defend us from the Scots rather than Baliol."

"I think I understand," she said, though her voice did not convey conviction. "When will the announcement be made?"

"At tonight's Grand Banquet."

"The city is filling with new faces I am told, and the camps of soldiers outside its walls are growing daily."

"Ahh, you have not ventured from the castle since your condition was confirmed," observed Edward.

The Queen blushed. "I have not for you know it is not proper for a noblewoman to be in public when in my condition."

"Yes, the proprieties must be observed... though I would be proud to have you, my Queen, on my arm no matter your condition."

Phillipa blushed even more deeply. She knew bringing heirs into the world was her primary duty as Queen, but in her heart she was convinced that this King, unlike stories she heard of other royalty, sought her goodwill not just for duty's sake, but because there was a place in his heart just for her. And she was more than willing to reside there without kingly commmand.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 10-13-2005 @ 04:04 PM).]

posted 10-24-05 14:22 EST (US)     25 / 108       
“What’re the odds, then?” said one of the men gathered closely about the bookie.

“I’m given 10 to 1 in favor of Sir William Pearl,” responded the bookie.

“10 to 1? No one’s going to take a bet like that!” snapped the first man angrily. Several hoots and boos agreed with him from the gathered men.

“I’ll take that bet, I’ve 10 coins here that I’m willing to wager,” a new voice interrupted. “I’m putting all 10 on the big one. His name’s Sir Andrew Bruce, and I’m thinkin’ he’s going to show William Pearl a thing or two this day.”

“Ye be a fool, then, and I kinna make that bet, cain’t be payin’ it today,” grumbled the bookie.

“I tell you what, sir. You take my bet and pay me what you can, I won’t hold you to the 10 to 1 odds, I’ll just take whatever you take in,” Henry said.

The bookie’s eyes lit up with greed. Now that he had the large bet, more would bet on William Pearl, and he’d still make quite a lump off of Henry’s bet. He bit one of the coins, and agreed. The betting increased in frequency, until they all turned to watch the impromptu joust being held before time to prepare for the banquet.

* * * *

Horse stood as placidly as his master, both facing the field. Andrew took a lance as monk offered it, playing the part of squire for the moment. Andrew lowered the lance into place, watching as his opponent worked the crowd. His small horse curvetted and pranced, the man riding shook his fist in the air. He was clearly a favorite. But he was also a bully. Andrew knew well why the small man had challenged him. It happened all the time. He would have to watch his back, these types almost never played fair, even when “playing” as they were doing now.

The flag-man waved his “banner” to begin the joust, and Andrew and Horse stepped forward. Their simple silver armor, uncovered by any colors, glittered in the morning sun. They stood patient and still as the other man, adorned in a sea of black with a white chevron at the center took his place. His small, restless mount continued to paw and prance. The tiny group of spectators to the event cheered as William Pearl took his position.

Sir William Pearl was surprised at the size of his opponent, but dismissed the momentary concern. With a horse that big, the man probably couldn’t even get the thing to trot, much less get into a gallop and thus gain the force necessary to unseat an opponent! He grinned and braced his lance. The banner fluttered down, and he kicked his horse forward. The lightning quick horse responded with an eager lurch.

Much to his surprise, so did his opponent’s horse. The big steed launched from a dead standstill to a full gallop, thundering across the ground towards him, ears plastered back against its mighty skull. The smaller horse covered the gap somewhat faster, being lighter and more agile. But the difference was minor, the bigger horse didn’t notice the weight he carried nearly as much as the more delicate, smaller horse did.

The two met with an incredible crash that ricocheted off the bailey walls. In rapid succession, two more loud CRACKs sounded, as Andrew’s lance hit so hard that it snapped not once, not twice, but three times. So powerful was the hit that William Pearl wasn’t so much thrown off of his mount as lifted, one foot- the one nearest Andrew- tangled in his stirrup. The blow, combined with the tangled stirrup, knocked William’s mount over on top of him. Squealing and flailing, the horse tried to escape.

Andrew dropped with a resounding clang and crash of armor off of Horse, nearly falling over himself. Running despite his armor, he landed heavily beside William and the entangled horse on his knees. He held the horse’s head down, and reached into his boot, withdrawing his knife. He swiftly cut the offending stirrup, then just as rapidly removed the cinch that held the saddle and armor. Thus freed of the weight bearing it down, the horse scrambled to its feet and ran off. William, seeing his only opportunity, and desperate to win no matter his pain, grasped his boot knife as well. His intended target- Andrew’s back.

The effort was lost before it even began. His knife hit home against thick steel. Not even a knick showed for his effort, yet everyone had seen his cowardly action. Andrew pinned William’s arm to the ground, and took the knife, throwing it away in disgust. He wasn’t surprised by the action, though it appeared that the crowd was.

The bookie angrily paid Henry his pool, and vanished into the crowd. Sir Pearl was taken off by an apothecary to have his broken leg tended to. And in one of the towers that overlooked the bailey, a lord in black scowled in rage as he watched his favorite for the coming real joust on the morrow taken away…
* * * *

Later the same day:

“Sir Andrew Bruce!” shouted the mostly-ignored herald, his strident voice carrying out across the merriment.

Andrew felt a sense of relief as no eyes turned to greet him as his attempt to enter the gathering quietly was foiled by the herald. Uncomfortable and unsure what to do, he went the only direction natural for a man of considerable size and musculature to go… he headed for the food.

Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.
- James Allen
Success is a matter of a few simple disciplines, practiced every day. Failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.
- Jim Rohn
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