Knight Errant; Damsels, monsters... and a crossbow!

This is a dark age, a bloody age, an age of daemons and of sorcery.

Knight Errant; Damsels, monsters... and a crossbow!

Postby LIRR » Wed Apr 20, 2011 5:51 pm

Warning, Im not entirely sure if this version is doublechecked for typos or not, or if paragraphs are making sense. I hope so. In any case, I still hope you can enjoy the story. Oh, and yes, I am aware that there is a title published by BL that is called Knight Errant, but damn it, I posted this story long before that on the old BL site! ;)

Chapter 1: A GIANT OPPORTUNITY

Almost noon. A few clouds dotted the blue summer sky. A gentle breeze stroked the rolling hills, the fields of grass and patches of woodlands. Birds were singing, bees were buzzing, cows mooing.

In a small clump of trees, three men sat on their horses, all in their late twenties and overlooking the fields and the cows upon them, the cows gracing away, oblivious to the world around them. It was a peaceful day, the kind of day you would remember for the rest of your life because you spoiled it by stepping in dog-poo.

Two of the riders where dressed in the common mans outfits, rough clothes of dark brown, grey and green with simple leather vests and worn hoods. The third of the men was dressed quite differently, wearing chain-mail and a tunic of yellow and blue, the colors splitting the tunic in half down the middle, with a large classical shield as a motif on his chest, covering a good deal of the torso. The shield was split in half as well, displaying yellow and blue on opposite sides as those of the tunic itself, one half of the motif displayed a bestial rat of myth skewered by a broadsword, the other half showed a dragon writhing in pain around the lance that had it pierced. The shield on the mans left arm was a real life copy of the motif on his chest, the shield itself showed plenty of signs of having been put to good use. Around his waist the knight carried a broad belt that in turn held a broadsword in a worn scabbard, a dagger as well as a one-handed mace with a simple four-split iron head.

They all were covered in dirt and dried mud, shoulders covered in dirt, their clothes torn and well used, their hair scruffy and their faces showing a few days old beard. Clear signs of men used to the life on the move, a life in the wild.

"Sire", one of the squires said, the squire carrying several lengths of rope over his shoulder. "It’s been five hours and still no sign. Maybe it has moved on milord".

"No Bertrand, not while there is still food around", the young knight said. "Don't worry, he’ll come".

"Well, at least we don't have to wait ’til nightfall, like with that troll last month", the other squire pointed out. "I hate the dark".

"Well, unfortunately most of our foes wander only under the moon", the knight said.

Feeling his stomach moaning, Bertrand made a suggestion. "Should I go hunt for dinner, sire?".

"No". The young sir almost sounded pompous. "We wait until the beast shows itself. Once it is slain we will eat".

Mumbling to himself, Reginald spat at the ground. "Bugger".

A few minutes did pass by of complete calm. Some mile away birds took flight, then more and even more. A rhythmic thumping could be clearly heard and the three men felt tension and their eagerness grow.

All of a sudden, Reginald reached out and pointed, "Milord, look! It comes!".

The young and eager knight said but one word. "Finally".

From behind a wooded hill an enormous creature emerged, looking like a mix of a human and a ogre, only so much bigger; far taller than fifty feet, shoulders as broad as a river, hands as large as houses, the bald head sharing the girth of the most well built turret.

A Giant!

The massive beast was picking up panicking cattle as he went, stuffing his pickings into the large bag he carried by his side, strap over his shoulder. As the giant went along he was whistling a surprisingly cheerful tune.

"Well that's one jolly giant", Reginald remarked.

"Stay here!", and with those words the young knight errant rode out to meet the terrifying monster.

Bertrand spat at the ground. "Well, of he goes".

The knight pulled the reins and halted his mount some hundred feet from the huge beast.

"GIANT!".

The giant finally took notice of the knight and stood to his full height as he put yet another mooing cow into his bag of goodies. The giant first looked at the knight with surprise, blinking a few times with his large eyes.

"Who are you?", the giant finally said with a deep, booming voice. "Besides me lunch", he then added.

The young knight straightened his back and stuck his chin into the air. "I am Jean LeClair, Knight Errant of Brionne and Bretonnia, youngest son of the Baron of Brienne!".

There was a few seconds of total silence as the giant merely looked at the young human. "And?"

"And?". LeClair sounded a bit confused and unsure himself but managed to gather his noble posture once more. "And!", he repeated with conviction, "I am here to kill you before you steal more cattle belonging to poor peasants and villagers".

Again, the giant stood silent. But soon the silence was broken by a cheerful, booming and jovial rumbling laughter, the giant placed his hands over his wobbling belly.

"You’re here to kill me?". The giant shook his head and then waved the tiny man off. "Begone before I decide to swallow you whole".

Chuckling and amused the giant turned his back on the young knight and headed after the cows once more.

The eyes of the young Sir Jean LeClair of Brienne turned dark. "Very well. So be it".

LeClair returned to his two squires.

"Well? Will he leave?", Bertrand wondered.

"No", LeClair said. "Crossbow".

He handed his shield over to Bertrand and then received a crossbow and a quiver of bolts from Reginald.

"Keep my shield and lance ready", LeClair instructed. "I'll be back for them shortly".

"Yes sire", Reginald nodded.

"What about your helmet, milord?", Bertrand held up the barrel-shaped helmet of Bretonnian standards, dented and scratched at numerous places and without any adorning headpiece.

"Maybe some other time", LeClair said and then turned his mount around and rode back out into the fields.

Reginald dismounted and headed back to a mule tied to a tree; the mule carried supplies and clothing and necessary survival gear, as well as an array of assorted weapons, including four lances, two tied on either side.

"Do you think he'll favor the piercing tip or the gashing tip?", Reginald asked as he looked at the different tips of the lances.

Bertrand took a look over the shoulder back at his companion. "How the bloody hell should I know".

As LeClair approached the giant spotted him and abandoned his foraging.

"Oh, so you're back again are you", the giant said with his booming voice.

"Aye!". LeClair was undaunted, reins in one hand and the crossbow in the other. "This is your last chance giant, leave these lands or perish this day on this field!".

"Why you little cocky bug!!".

LeClair spurred his horse and it was in the last of moments that the mount manage to bring its master out of the way from the descending fist that slammed into the ground where they once had stood. The giants massive hand left an imprint in the ground some two feet deep. LeClair took his horse in a wide circle around the giant, the monster grunted and retrieved a cow mooing from panic from the large bag. The cow was hurled through the air, mooing like a mad beast with it's testicles stung by a bee. LeClair pulled hard on the reins, the horse skidding to a halt in the grass, the cow crashing into the ground just in front of them, tumbling along the fields, rolling of into a ditch. LeClair was quick to take aim and launched the bolt. The giant roared so the ground shook, covering his right eye with both hands as he staggered backwards. LeClair distanced himself from the wounded monster before leaving the saddle to ready and reload his crossbow. While he did so, the giant staggered over towards a small patch of woodland.

From their end of the field, Bertrand and Reginald watched the battle unfold.

"Oh, look at that", Bertrand said with two eyebrows raised. "One arrow and he’s already on the run".

"Odd". Reginald watched the giant stumble away from their master. "I thought giants had more spine than that".

As they watched they saw the giant grabbing hold of a tree and pulling if free from the ground, roots and all, gripping it like a massive club and turning to face the pesky human.

"Ah, of course", Reginald slapped his forehead. "Should have seen it coming".

"This could get interesting", with that Bertrand took some water from his leather-pouch.

LeClair was back in the saddle as the giant roared out of uncontained fury. The massive beast came running at the knight, tree held high in order to crush man and horse alike in one blow. LeClair spurred his mount and yelled, riding at full speed away from the enraged giant. Looking over his shoulder Jean LeClair could see the furious giant keeping pace, swinging the tree time and time again, sometimes the branches of the tree missing with mere inches, causing LeClair to flinch involuntarily.

For a brief second, a shadow overtook them; LeClair reacted at once and veered his mount to the left. The second after the tree came crashing down right where they had been, smashing the ground rather than crushing the young knight errant. The giant growled and pulled the tree free and in one motion let it come down against the pesky human once more. LeClair pulled the reins once more, forcing his steed to a halt; mere feet before them the crown of the tree and all its branches hit the ground, churning the grass and dirt. LeClair spurred his horse.

The giant pulled the tree free once more and raised it high, ready to bring it down once more in an attempt to crush the human and his four-legged appetizer. But the giants enraged face turned puzzled and confused; the little human was gone, as was his appetizer. The giant started looking around, but they were nowhere to be found. He rested the tree against his shoulder and started scratching his head.

LeClair gripped the crossbow with both hands and took aim at the sky, right up between the knees of the huge giant, hidden as he was between the legs of the giants broad stance. For a brief moment LeClair wished he could say that aiming at what he saw was the worst sight of his life. Indeed; He had seen worse. Much worse, he regretted.

The giants face turned into an oversized prune; wrinkled, turning pale to red to deep purple. His hands grabbing the groin, then opening his mouth towards the sun he let out a deafening and ground shaking roar of immense pain. LeClair spurred his mount and rode as fast as he could, behind him the giant was toppling over, the massive bulk of the immense monster crashing down towards the ground like a crumbling mountain. The giants head hit the ground mere feet away from LeClair's fleeing horse.

LeClair quickly headed over towards his two squires as fast as he could.

"SHIELD AND LANCE!!", he shouted for all his worth.

Reginald and Bertrand rode out to meet their master, handing him both lance and shield after LeClair had tossed the crossbow into the arms of Reginald. LeClair hurried to adjust his grip on his wargear.

"What about your helmet sire?", Bertrand asked, but before he even had time to reach back and retrieve it he was given an answer.

"To hell with that damned tin cup!".

LeClair turned his steed around and spurred it, urging it to a gallop with a yell, charging down the fields towards the giant. The terrible beast was slowly beginning to push himself up from the ground into a sitting position; one hand held over the aching nether-regions, one eye shut tight, the face distorted and twisted with pain and rage. Hearing the hooves of the charging horse and the warcry of the oncoming knight, the giant turned his one good eye on his enemy, the eye reflecting nothing but hatred and unleashed fury.

LeClair leveled his lance, took aim, screamed out emotions of anger and fear. As the lance struck with full force into the chest of the giant, the brutish impaling device broke off, twisting itself free from LeClair's grip and from his hands. The giant fell back down to the ground, head landing hard. LeClair held in his mount and turned, the giant was still down, half the lance deep in its chest, blood flowing freely from the serious injury. It was clear that the massive monster was breathing with alot of effort.

LeClair climbed down from his steed and freed his broadsword before walking over to the huge giant. He stopped some twenty feet away from the gigantic beast, waiting, the giant did nothing, it simply struggled to breathe. Some confused cows came stumbling out from the giants bag, looking around in total amazement, the cattle were unable to fathom what they had just been through. LeClair dropped the shield to the ground and gripped his sword with both hands as he walked over to the giant, positioning himself by its shoulder. He raised the sharp steel high above his head, the sun reflecting upon the blade. The heavy sword came down with full force.

+++ +++

The villagers cheered and applauded the three men as they rode into the small settlement, the simple people rushed out to great them. The village elder stood with a smile on his face, leaning against a thick cane, their saviors rode up to him, surrounded by the cheering villagers.

"One giant dead", the young knight errant said triumphantly. "As promised. These lands are safe once more".

"How can we ever thank you?", the elder asked, his mouth well hidden in his thick beard. "Please, tell us what ever you want?".

Jean LeClair held up a hand and urged silence, and slowly the villagers stopped to listen. Bertrand hid his face in his palm, as if expecting an embarrassing moment to spring forth at any moment.

"I require no pay", LeClair started. "As a Knight Errant, I am sworn to protect the servants of Bretonnia. Valor and virtue is all I require. I am sworn to risk my life to aid others in need".

The crowd stood in awe for a brief moment and then erupted in cheers once more. LeClair looked around and spotted a fair girl in her late teens; the knight errant smiled and winked, the girl smiled in turn, looking at the ground and then back up at the dashing would-be-knight.

+++ +++

Night had fallen and the three friends, master and serfs, sat around a small fire not far from the side of a country-road.

"I was thinking", Bertrand said as he placed some more wood on the fire that kept a kettle going. "What if we were to accept payment for our deeds just once. You know, to see whats it's like; Going to taverns, have a feast, take part in the celebrations proper".

Something stirred in Reginald's eyes. "Yeah", he voiced loudly. "Think about it, we’ve must have turned down at least a thousand gold-crowns in all these years".

LeClair smiled and simply shook his head, poking a small stick in the growing fire. "Gold-crowns the villagers and peasants require to pay taxes, rebuild farms, shoe their horses, buy new tools and to buy food. No my friends, true valor has no price. We seek honor and glory, not wealth and riches".

"Honor and glory? What about that peasant girl?", Bertrand asked.

The knight tossed an annoyed glare at his servant. "I was fatigued and needed comfort", LeClair said.

"She was the third this week", Reginald pointed out. "In two towns".

"It's been a long week", LeClair answered annoyingly.

Bertrand raised an eyebrow. "And the week before?".

"I never touched that nun!", LeClair snapped as he sat up straight.

"What about the merchants wife?", Reginald inquired.

"Well…", LeClair shrugged his shoulders.

"And her cousin", Reginald continued.

LeClair made a face to shrug the matter off. "Well she doesn't count".

"How so milord?", Bertrand asked.

"She was drunk", LeClair explained.

"But you weren't!", Bertrand quickly pointed out.

LeClair quickly tried to find a way out of it all. "Well, she didn't remember it".

They all fell silent for a short while, looking at the fire, adjusting their seating on the ground.

"Where to on the morrow?", Bertrand finally asked.

"I was thinking about going west".

"Further into the west?", Reginald said.

LeClair simply nodded. "Yes, why not?".

"But those are lawless lands, sire".

"My bread and butter", the knight errant said casually.

Reginald was obviously not as keen to go further into the western provinces of Bretonnia.

LeClair continued. "I'm sure we can find deeds worthy of our attention in those remote fiefdoms of our realm". LeClair pulled his blanket tighter around him and rested his head against his arm. "Now be quiet, Im going to sleep".

"Good night, sire", Bertrand said.

Reginald was not all that happy, "I still don't see what harm a few lousy silver-coins would do".
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Re: Knight Errant; Damsels, monsters... and a crossbow!

Postby dienekes » Mon Apr 25, 2011 8:30 pm

LeClair! I remember this old chestnut!
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Re: Knight Errant; Damsels, monsters... and a crossbow!

Postby LIRR » Tue Apr 26, 2011 12:55 pm

:D
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Re: Knight Errant; Damsels, monsters... and a crossbow!

Postby Shogun_Nate » Thu May 05, 2011 1:30 am

I remember this one as well! I think I posted on it saying how good I thought it was. Well, years later it still is! :D
I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed man.
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Re: Knight Errant; Damsels, monsters... and a crossbow!

Postby Gaius Marius » Mon May 16, 2011 4:38 am

hehe, Jolly giant. Great piece LIRR, really mixed humor and action together well. :lol:
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Re: Knight Errant; Damsels, monsters... and a crossbow!

Postby LIRR » Mon May 16, 2011 2:30 pm

hehe updates might come if I find the motivation for it... lots of other stuff floating around my head at the moment though :roll:
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Re: Knight Errant; Damsels, monsters... and a crossbow!

Postby LIRR » Fri Jun 07, 2013 1:30 pm

Chapter 2: SOUTHEAST!

Five days had passed, five days of travel through rough lands of woods and hills, open fields and deep valleys, enduring sun, wind and rain. The three men, knight and squires, were slowly riding along a wooden road, enjoying the glorious day, Reginald and Bertrand singing a merry tune about drinking at the pub that had given name to the song, a pub full with ale, women, goofy old drunks and a cheap and greedy landlord. Jean couldn’t help but smile as he listened to the yeoman lyrics. Then all of a sudden they all stopped, listening to the winds of the forest, clearly hearing steel upon steel.

A mighty roar.

Reginald knew he had heard the characteristic growl before. “Orcs?”.

“SHIELD!”. LeClair drew his sword and Bertrand quickly retrieved the shield his horse carried by its right hind-leg.

LeClair grabbed the shield displaying his family herald and grabbed the reins once more.

“What about your helmet sire?”, Bertrand asked in a hurry.

“There’s no time!”, LeClair spurred his mount, “Im needed!”.

The knight errant rode off as fast as his horse could carry him.

The caravan was made up of four broad and four-wheeled wagons, the merchants and hired hands fighting for their dear lives against a dozen or so orcs. Even though the men outnumbered the foul greenskins, the orcs where born killers and one after the other the humans fell to the orks crude weapons. LeClair came round the curve of the forest-road like greased lightning on top of his trusted horse, shield in one hand, sword in the other, as soon as he saw the combat proper up ahead he filled his lungs with air and opened his mouth.

“IN THE NAME OF GILES LE BRETON!!!!”.

A few meager seconds later an orc fell as he cleaved its skull as he passed it at full speed. Without thinking he threw himself from the saddle, hitting another orc with the full force of the ride, the orc toppling from the force of impact and tumbling along the ground. Before the confused orc could gather its senses the heavy blade of LeClair’s Bretonnian broadsword had pierced its throat, the steel grinding the vertebrae before LeClair twisted the sword free, ripping the throat wide open, blackish green blood spraying like a fountain as the orc rolled over.

Something in the corner of the young knights eye made him react, holding up the shield and bracing for impact, almost falling to the ground as the mighty blow from the orcs axe was deflected of the flat steel of the shield. The axe struck the shield once more as LeClair moved to distance himself from the orc warrior. The axe came at him again, this time LeClair was prepared and sidestepped as he deflected the incoming strike, the move leaving his enemy open for attack. LeClair lashed out, striking the orc over the head, his sword cutting deep across the orcs face and crushing the bone of the brutish features.

One of the orcs was put to death by hearty struggle and effort by two hired swordsmen, the two men landing on top of their kill. But in return the swift and unrelenting strikes made by a seven foot tall brute of an orc, armed with a vicious pole shafted and heavy bladed axe, cut the two brave men wide open, their blood spraying in wide arches, trailing the swinging motion of the huge axe.

In the last of moment did LeClair duck, the crude sword smashing into the wagon behind him, the oversized machete getting stuck between the wood. LeClair wasted no time as his own sword impaled the orc straight through its gut, the orc screamed with pain and instinctively lashed out with a mighty arm, striking the young knight errant over the chest, sending him flying to the ground. LeClair watched as the orc staggered away, the broadsword still in its belly, halfway out of its back, blood flowing freely. But LeClair had no time to think, battle was underway and the melee required his attention.

As he came back on his feet, he instantly deflected a wooden club swung at his head with his shield and on the clumsy back-step he freed the short-shafted mace from his belt, the head of it the size of a mans fist, made up of several sharp ridges. The weapon was deadly, capable of braking bones and ribs even through chain-mail; a simple yet brutishly effective weapon.

He met the strike from the club with his shield, the force of the impact almost numbing his shield-arm, but adrenaline kept him going as he struck with his own weapon, crushing the orcs left shoulder. The beast groaned from pain and before it had a chance to counter LeClair took aim at the back of its head, the mace crushing skull and smashing brain. The howling warcry of an orc caught the knights attention and he spun around in time to see the orc in question coming charging at him, weapon held high above its head. LeClair acted in a split second, taking a quick step towards the orc, lashing out with his shield, hitting the orc over the jaw.
The hit made the orc stagger, confused and suffering from the hit itself as it blinked with its evil eyes, trying to regain its focus. But LeClair would not allow it to go that far, instead ending the orcs life with a deadly strike across its face, the sickening crunch of the impact as the mace crushed the face and skull left an echo in LeClair’s mind.

One of the merchants was picked up by and orc and thrown to the ground, the orc stood howling in triumph over his mauled victim. The howl of triumph quickly and abruptly turned into a howl of pain as two arrows struck the beasts back. It turned, its eyes alight with rage and hatred. Some hundred feet down the road he saw two humans with a bow each standing next to two horses and a mule. The orc bellowed a mighty roar as he charged towards the back-stabbers, it took only a second before two more arrows hit him, this time in his chest, the orc grunted horribly before toppling over and falling to the ground in a limp heap. Reginald and Bertrand quickly readied another arrow each and sought out their next targets.

The strike broke the thighbone of the orc and it fell screaming to one knee, the return strike struck the orc over its jaw and the monster made a vicious spin before hitting the ground. LeClair quickly scanned for another foe and found an orc coming for him, the beast roaring with foam flowing from its vile mouth. LeClair threw his mace through the air, the heavy mauling device striking the intended target over the head, the orc back-flipping and landing with its head reduced to pulp.

A man screaming made LeClair look over his shoulder to the right, just in time to see the screaming man, down on his knees, getting cloven in half, head to groin, by a massive orc armed with a double-headed axe. The sight made almost LeClair vomit there and then, had it not been for the fear and adrenaline, he probably would have. The orc kicked one of the halves of the bodyguard to the side and charged straight for LeClair, reaching the young man in less than three seconds, the axe coming down to do its work. The shield was dented by the force of the attack and LeClair stumbled backwards, the axe came at again and again and all LeClair could do was to hide behind his shield.

‘It was inevitable‘.

The thought flashed through LeClair’s mind in the blink of an eye as one of the mighty and brutish strikes from the orc finally made LeClair topple and fall. Looking up from behind his shield, he saw the orc standing over him, the axe held high above the head, only a heartbeat away from coming down to cleaving the scalp of LeClair. For some reason, all LeClair could think of was his mothers apple-pie. The orc grunted and took a step back as the two arrows slammed into its torso and dug deep with tip and shaft, the orc looking with confused eyes down on the two missiles sticking out of its chest and belly. LeClair woke up from his frozen state of peril, letting go of the shield, freeing his dagger, climbing as fast as he could back on his feet and thrusting the dagger up the orcs throat. The orc gurgled a nightmarish growl as it fell over, LeClair falling with it, landing on-top of the foul creature as it hit the ground.

Reginald and Bertrand ran up to the caravan, the last of the orcs had been put to death. LeClair pushed himself back on his knees, freed the dagger, the blade making a horrid sucking sound as blood and contracted flesh refused to let go. Once back on his feet, he allowed himself to calm down, breath normally and take a look around in peace. As he did, one of the merchants walked up to him, only a handful of his party remained alive, of those, a third where wounded, some would not make it.

“Thank you good sir!”, the merchant said between regaining his breath, the merchant holding a sword of Imperial design, the blade stained with the blood of orcs. “You came at the last moment. We would not have made it without your efforts”. He smiled and nodded, “We are truly in debt to you; Name what you want and I, Samuel Levie, will give it to you”.

The squires helped the wounded and the fatigued men of the caravan.

LeClair took a deep breath and made a crude wave at the man, “No need to thank me”. He walked over and leaned up against one of the wagons, relieving some of the strain on his tired muscles. “I’m a Knight Errant, it’s my duty to defend the ones in danger and peril”.

“A Knight of the Realm then?”, Merchant Levie said with a broader smile.

LeClair cocked his head. “Well, no. I’m a Knight Errant on a quest to become a Knight of the Realm. Sworn to serve Bretonnia and its people until I die”. As he finished the sentence he waved his hand at the dead orcs to indicate his line of work.

Levie shook his head and tossed his sword up on the drivers seat of the wagon next to them, “Bless the Lady of the Lake. Once again I thank you, you and your squires”.

LeClair raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders as if there was no need for the praise, then he took a look around at the men recovering from the battle. “Where are you bound my good man?”

“Gauronne”, Levie explained. “Near the border to Estalia”.

“With so many wounded you can not possibly risk traveling through woods as dangerous as these”, LeClair pointed out and then stood up straight, abandoning the relief of the wagon. “Will you accept my offer of escorting you and your fellow merchants?”.

The offer did not seem to suit the merchant well. “Well, you see, it’s like this…”.

“Of course I require no pay of any kind for my services”.

Instantly the mood of Levie changed, “Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place! Why don’t we get going”.

+++ +++

It took them three hours to reach the nearest village, a town rather with a simple wooden palisade and a six foot deep and eight foot wide ditch in front to act as moot. The town was simple, with only a handful of stone-made housings, but the people seemed to make good living judging by the standard of clothing, tools and wagons. Indeed, during their travels, all of the men in the caravan had seen alot worse place in the kingdom of Bretonnia, alot worse places. Once by the square of the town, a place full of stands, people, kids playing, merchants shouting, dogs, cats and poultry running loose, the caravan came to a halt.

“Well, sir knight”, Samuel Levie said from where he sat next to the driver of the second wagon. “Once again, I must thank you for your honest and virtuous ways”.

LeClair gave the man a bow where he sat in his saddle, “My pleasure. And good luck with your barter”.

And with those words LeClair and his two squires parted from the caravan, moving off on their own.

Bertrand took a long look around, soaking up the feel of the town, and he found it all quite settling. “Sire, should we try to find accommodations in this village?”

The query made Reginald almost fall out of his own saddle. “Please milord! My back could really use a soft bed after all nights on rocks and roots”.

“Very well”. The response made both Bertrand and Reginald reach over and slap their palms together. “We’ll try to find a room suitable for our needs, although I find it hard to believe we’ll find any lord with a keep this far out in the wilderness”.

And the young Knight Errant was right, after asking around they soon found out that the closest fief was some two days ride away. Although they all agreed to visit the lord of said keep, they all still wanted a proper nights sleep for once, the first in close to four weeks. And with a proper nights sleep all three of them meant one indoors on a proper bed, as proper as it could get, and without any female company; Unless they didn’t have to pay for it and as long as she was not altogether butt-ugly… Unless she was filthy rich but that goes without saying doesn’t it.

The local tavern was a good choice, ground-floor made with stonewalls and the second floor an add-on made of wood with moss-covered roofing. A massive fireplace was alight along the far wall of the establishment, some six long-tables allowed fourteen men apiece room to drink and eat, the bar itself must have been long enough to allow twenty men to stand side by side without touching. The place was only half full and the customers made up of only locals, all of which stopped what they were doing and instead watched the trio that entered. Torn and tattered, scruffy and unshaven, covered in dry, old dirt and mud, the three men did stand out in a crowd. Even more so with LeClair’s attire and his squires bringing along a oversized backpack each.

LeClair walked up to the bar-steward with an urbane shine on his face. “Good day my good man. Would the barkeep be so kind to tell me if he has any rooms available?”.

The man raised an eyebrow as he studied the young noble, “How many?”.

“Two, one for me and one for my squires”.

“No problem”, the barkeep nodded. “That’ll be three silver coins per lot of ya”.

LeClair smiled and let out a short laugh and raised a finger. “You seem to misunderstand. I am no rogue mercenary that seems to be common in these parts of the realm. No, I am Sir Jean LeClair of Brienne, Knight Errant of Brionne and Bretonnia”, He smiled anew as if it alone would clear out the misunderstanding. “By the laws of the land you are to give me quarters if I request it”.

“Ahuh”. The barkeep pulled some snot up through his nose, clearly unimpressed by the young youth. “Why don’t you go across the road and ask the pig-herder if you cant get a room in his pigsty”.

All the guests chuckled at the comment and drank their ale, amused by the way their favorite bar-steward handled the noble whelp.

LeClair took a look around, “I see”. He smiled and nodded, then shook his head in fake amusement.

It was with the speed of the viper that he reached out, grabbed hold of the barkeeps shirt and janked him over the bar, pulling the upstart bar-owner down on the floor. Before anyone had time to react, the cold steel of LeClair’s dagger rested against the barkeeps throat.

“As I was saying”, LeClair pulled the mans collar. “I am a Knight Errant and of noble birth and I require two rooms, free of charge for the night. Understood, you vile excuse of a man?”.

Terrified, the barkeep nodded barely noticeable, afraid that any motion from his part might cause the blade at his throat to do its intended work.

+++ +++

The carriage rocked steadily as it advanced down the winding country-road, bumping along over rocks and roots, escorted by some twelve men-at-arms on horseback.

“You think the Bretonnians will aid us father?”, the young woman said, looking at the old man who joined her in the carriage.

She was beautiful, the kind of girl who men turned to watch as she passed them; Her expensive silk gown doing her young body ample justice, her dark brown hair arranged in beautiful fashion together with silver-threads.

Her father, Galen Di’Marbella, count and holder of vast domains, felt assured. “Yes, the kingdom of Bretonnia is a land of chivalry. Once we address our problem to the High Marshall of Brionne a full two dozen of their knights will follow us home, of that I’m sure”.

“I hope you’re right, father”, Elorna said and then looked out on the passing landscape; vast fields of grass dotted with clumps of trees.

Count Di’Marbella could see the torment in his daughters eyes, and it brought strong emotions to his own as he knew all too well what memories there was that haunted his only child. “Do not worry”, he said in an attempt to comfort her.

He failed.

+++ +++

The town was of average size, the people simple, not poor but not wealthy either. As he took a look around from inside the window of the carriage, Lord Di’Marbella failed to notice a keep or fief nearby.

“Captain Kreushof?”.

One of the guards rode up next to the carriage as they continued towards the town-center, “Yes my liege?”.

“Why do we stop here?”, the count asked his trusted officer, a mercenary with roots as far away as Marienburg.

“Shelter for the night sire”, Captain Kreushof explained, looking down on his lord from the back of the large mount. “It will be dark in a couple of hours. I believe it would be safer if we spend our nights close to settlements from now on milord, considering the orc-tracks we found earlier”.

“Oh ,alright then”. Di’Marbella nodded as he inspected the township, then looked up on his captain once more. “See if you can not find suitable accommodations captain”.

“Yes sire”.

+++ +++

The apple was sweet, bright red and juicy. LeClair took another bite of the tender fruit, exquisite. As he made his way down the simple dirt and mud streets of the town, eating his perfect apple, his squires Reginald and Bertrand tried to keep up, their backs burdened by the supplies newly acquired.

“Where should we travel from here do you think?”, the young noble asked and took a short look back at his serfs, the two men trying hard to keep up with their master.

“I heard speech of a griffon that has been hunting sheep and goat to the southwest of here”, Bertrand said.

“How about north?”, Reginald suggested. “To the sea. It’s been years since I’ve seen the ocean”, Reginald’s mind was filled suddenly with the fond memories of his childhood growing up by the vast expanses of ocean.

Ignoring the idea, Bertrand offered another possibility. “An orc war-band have burned four villages to the ground along the Estalian border”.

“An orc war-band you say?”, LeClair found it intriguing. “How big?”. Another bite of the apple found his mouth.

“I hear around 40 orc strong”, Bertrand said, struggling with the heavy load on his back.

“Interesting”, LeClair spoke with his mouth full of chewed apple pulp. “Sounds promising and like a worthy cause, a challenge even”.

Reginald sighed, “I grew up in a village by the sea, not far from Bordeleaux”.

Bertrand avoided at the last moment to step in a big pile of dog-poo. “I heard a few blokes chatting about some wyvern harassing the lands two days hard ride southeast of here”.

“A wyvern?”. LeClair almost stopped dead in his tracks as he heard the word.

Bertrand simply nodded. “Yes. You know milord; Big lizards with wings, sharp fangs, poisonous tail. Big, green, mean and dumb”.

“Of course, a wyvern!”. LeClair got a strange glint in his eyes, a devious smirk growing across his face. “A most despicable creature indeed”, the promise of a famed battle shaping in his knightly head.

Reginald pondered the notion of a wyvern for a few short seconds, adjusting the heavy load on his back as he did. “Wasn’t it a wyvern that killed your cousin Phillipe, sire?”.

“Indeed it was Reginald”.

“Oh”. They all continued but a mere few feet before Reginald returned to the subject, “And Phillipe LeClair was a seasoned knight, was he not?”.

LeClair glanced annoyingly over his shoulder at his squire, “What are you trying to say Reginald?”.

Had he been able to shrug his shoulders, Reginald would have, but as it was, the weight of the supplies he carried would not allow it; Instead he offered his thoughts to his lord, “That milord has only been a Knight Errant for three years. Your cousin Lord Phillipe LeClair was a renowned and seasoned knight with many years of experience in both quests and wars”.

Young LeClair simply raised an eyebrow, “So?”.

“And he got killed by a wyvern sire!”, Reginald was clearly not all too fond of the idea of going after such a creature well known for its ability to kill and maim.

The Knight Errant merely threw away his finished apple. “All the more reason to slay one”. He turned suddenly and struck a pose as if standing on some actors stage in Brionne, “Avenge my cousins death, save the poor commoners and gain honor, renown and glory! At this rate I’ll be a Knight of Bretonnia in no time”.

Bertrand made a questioning facial expression, looking like some fool who could not grasp the concept of night and day. “I thought the good of the people was the most important thing for a Knight Errant, sire, not personal success”.

“Be quiet, Bertrand”.

“Yes sire”.

Striking another pose, visions of glory was all to clear in LeClair’s mind. “I will slay this beast! We ride south”.

“Southeast milord”, Bertrand corrected.

“Southeast”, LeClair said as if never having heard the correction from his servant. “To the mountains, come hell or high water!”.

As he finished the sentence, LeClair spotted something across the town square; a thing of unimaginable beauty, a woman so perfect in all aspects that the man in him could not take his eyes of her. And better still; the noble in him recognized her importance instantly as she stepped out of the carriage, surrounded by a full dozen of well equipped guards. Beauty and riches, what more could a young noble ask for.

“But first…”. Young Knight Errant Jean LeClair, sworn by ancient and sacred oaths and creeds to uphold righteous chivalry and the good name of honorable Bretonnia, started to slowly head in the direction of the tavern the noble beauty and her guards had entered. “… We stay here a little longer…”.

+++ +++

Two tables had been placed edge to edge to allow Di’Marbella’s company to dine at the same length of table The lord and his daughter and captain sat by the one end, eating a decent meal of roasted stake and potatoes The soldiers were greedily enjoying a stew.

“Excuse me”.

They all looked up, standing slightly behind Kreushof stood a young man, no more than twenty-five years of age, dressed in the tattered garbs of a knight, holding a bottle of wine in one hand and two tin cups in the other. He was an appalling sight. The colors of his tunic faded under thick layers of dry old dirt and mud, his chain-mail rusted at places and patched with leather strings. His face was covered in a week old and unkempt beard, his hair was greasy and a mess, hanging freely and reaching as far as the boys chin, and his boots where covered in mud almost all the way up to his knees. The people at the table eyed the boy, appalled by his appearance.

“Excuse me for interrupting”, the young knight continued. “But I could not help noticing the fair maiden sitting here. Her beauty astounds me and she deserves a better fate than this pit of cow-dung. Please, let me offer the girl a glass of wine to ease her stay here in this rotten and infested excuse of a human settlement”.

“Hold your horses young man”, the lord said, not at all impressed by the appearance of the rugged knight to say the least. “Tell us your name first and your intentions. If you are a mercenary, I already have a loyal guard. And if you are a brigand I’ll have you know that each of my men are worth a hundred of your kind”. There was no hiding the thick accent of the lord, his Bretoný showing clear signs of the Estalian lilt.

“No, no, no”, the young knight replied quickly to ease the tension. Glancing down the table there was no escaping the evil glares from the soldiers, ready to deal him punishment on a moments notice. “You misunderstand, milord. I am Jean LeClair, Knight Errant of…”.

“You’re a Bretonnian Knight??”, the young lady asked in amazement, both in awe as well as confused. The young man looking nothing like the images of the Bretonnian heroes she had been told stories about throughout her life.

“Why yes”, LeClair replied immidietly, tossing a nervous glance down at the troops; as they seemed to ease down LeClair sighed with relief. “Forgive my appearance but as an errant knight I must travel the realm seeking out beasts and monsters and slay them. As you can imagine, there is not much room for trying to look like a nobleman. I fear that mud, dirt and blood is all part of my humble dress-code”.

“You still haven’t told us your name”, Kreushof said.

Judging by his voice he had no second thoughts about dealing severe injury upon the young upstart. It was now that LeClair first noted that the officer was holding his hand on the hilt of his sheathed sword.

“I am Jean LeClair, youngest son of the Baron of Brienne, Knight Errant at your service”.

A nobles name was as such that your fathers title as well as your own rank had to be mentioned.

“And what brings you this far west of Brionne?”, the Estalian lord seemed all the more interested in the youthful knight.

“The needs of this realms subjects”, LeClair answered. “Why, a week ago I had a giant slain with lance and sword over in the hamlet of Laurienne. And tomorrow I am off to slay a wyvern south of here”.

“Southeast!”, a voice was heard correcting from the direction of the bar.

LeClair tossed an evil glance over his shoulder back at his two squires who where enjoying a pint each after having relieved their backs of their burden.

“Please sit with us young man”, the lord offered and held out a hand. As he did, his daughter faced her father in the blink of an eye with eyes wide open in disbelief.

LeClair was not slow to accept the invitation. “Why thank you”. He put the bottle of wine and the two cups down on the table and grabbed an empty chair from a nearby table.

The Estalian lords daughter made a pleading face but her father merely waved it away. LeClair sat himself down between the young lady and the captain of the guard, allowing a charming smile to be thrown the young womans way. She simply sneered and turned her head away from the vile smelling vagabond.

“Forgive my manors”, the lord said as LeClair sat down. “My name is Count Galen Di’Marbella, holder of wealthy domains in the region of Meliarno in the north of the kingdom of Estalia”.

“Estalian you say”, LeClair tried to sound as surprised as he could. “I would never have guessed”.

Both the lords daughter and his captain looked at the young Bretonnian knight with questioning eyes; Indeed, the Estalian lords accent was so thick it would have been picked up by a man both mute, def and blind.

‘Estalians‘, LeClair thought. ‘A dark and beautiful young Estalian lady. And rich at that; What more could a man ask for?‘. He made a silent prayer to the Lady of the Lake for his fortune.

Di’Marbella continued his introduction. “This is my daughter, Lady Elorna, and this is my trusted captain, Heinrich Kreushof”.

“Kreushof, ey?”, LeClair said, trying to sound as interested as he ever could. “I take it you’re from the Sigmar Empire then?”.

“Marienburg”, the officer said, then returning to his meal without even looking at the young knight.

LeClair could feel the officers’ dislike of him like the weight of a trebuchet upon his chest, and all LeClair could really think of to reply the man with was a simple, “Oh, I see”.

“You’re an experienced beast-slayer then?”, Di’Marbella continued, by now obviously well intrigued by the Bretonnian sitting by his table.

“Well”, LeClair opened the bottle of wine and poured the contents into the two cups he had brought as he gave his answer to the Estalian lord. “So far I’ve slain six trolls, a hundred and twenty-eight orcs, two giants, one werewolf, fifty-four skaven, one basilisk and close to two hundred outlaws plus fifty-six beastmen and around two hundred and sixty goblins. And a dozen wolf-packs, beasts as they are; maiming poor peasants cattle as they please”.

As he told about his achievements, LeClair kept glancing at the beautiful young woman, trying to read her reactions, to see if she was properly impressed enough. He might have noticed actually, if he had not been too occupied peeking down her cleavage, and as it was, LeClair had no clue at all if the girl payed any attention to his tales of achievements.

Kreushof mumbled something in Imperial and shook his head. LeClair interpreted it as if the mercenary did not believe that the young boy had succeeded in the kills he claimed. However, Di’Marbella was truly impressed by the exploits of the young man.

“So I gather you’re handy with a blade and the use of a shield and lance?”.

“Handier than most”, LeClair said with conviction; and for once, he spoke from the heart. “You wont find another knight of my caliber south of the river Morceaux”, and he truly believed it as well.

Kreushof chuckled and shook his head as he heard the remarks made by the young Bretonnian noble, the Marienburg mercenary moving his jug of ale to his mouth. He had seen all sorts of brigands, cutthroats and marauders that mankind could ever produce, and this little whelp was not even close to their deadly craftsmanship.

One who was impressed however was Lord Di’Marbella. “Would you mind if we joined you?”.

Kreushof coughed into the jug of ale as he heard the question, the beverage splashing up over his face. Lady Elorna simply sighed heavily.

“I would really like to see you in action, against this wyvern you spoke of”, the Estalian noble went on, almost as eager as a child.

“Why of course”, LeClair was a bit hesitant at first. “You wish to see my valor first hand?”.

LeClair took a look over his shoulder back at the two squires at the bar. The two men simply shrugging their shoulders.

“Splendid”, LeClair finally said as he turned his attention back to the lord and his daughter. “Tonight we eat and drink and tomorrow we journey south to face the beast”.

“Southeast!”.
LIRR
 
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