Tuesday Tales: Guest Series, Part III

Servant of the Liege
[contributed by Jake T.]

A humid summer night slowed the town of Noralia to a crawl. The gentle stirring of coastal breezes lacked the determination to blow this far inland of Gavell, save for during the fiercest storms of the season. Lady Knight Esdeline Chernock broke the stillness with her destrier, racing up the single dirt path that ran through town. Pale and sad green eyes glanced only once out at the abandoned quarters, her attention snapping back to her riding posture. Long dirty blonde strands of sweat-streaked hair clung to her cheeks, matted with the blood of a monster she had ridden down during her nonstop dispatch here.

The buildings thinned out near the top of the incline, and it was the personal holdings of Count Thomas Strader that showed the only obvious signs of habitat. She eased her mare down into a trot, the shouts of soldiers posted to the watch warning of her arrival. Halting her destrier it took less than a moment to swing down out of her saddle. Four silhouettes spread out into two separate pairs from the gateway barring the estate, and though their weapons were not yet drawn, they were taking great care to approach her from an advantageous position. Puffing her chest out she approached the nearest one, who visibly flinched at her first step towards him, then again at her booming voice.

“Hail! Lady Knight Esdeline Chernock, servant and sword of our King Shayne.” There was a silent flash of menace in her eyes to show how literally she meant those words to be taken before she continued, raising her voice to bellow into the gated courtyard. “It is under direct orders from King Shayne that I stand here to–should he be willing–peacefully escort Count Strader back to the capital for trial!”

Three of the soldiers surrounding her looked away towards the fourth–a veteran with graying hair and a spear nestled into the crook of his arm while she spoke. He coughed shortly into a clenched fist to find his voice, hoarse but careful in his reply.

“We know why you’re here, milady. Not even a blind man could ignore what he been doin’ not only behind closed doors, but draggin’ in the townspeople as well.” He took a moment to spit in the dirt at his feet, going on more cautiously now as he eyed Esdeline. “I can’t disobey me Count–an’ he done made clear what oughta happen to people that came a-knockin’, but these are too good of soldiers to have to bear the burden of his disgrace. On the other hand, if we took up arms with you it could bring trouble down the road for us; nothin’ personal, milady, you understand. And ah–ya might want to hurry, he was plannin’ to ride out at the first sign of real trouble, I heard.”

Her only reply was the shortest nod before she took off at a full sprint through the gate. Even with her armor she showed no signs of slowing down, the estate blurring around her as she desperately searched. The first door was kicked open, the second knocked clean off the hinges, and the third she simply ran through, finding it opened out into the courtyard. The yard was spacious under the starry sky and she scanned the outskirts, trying to guess where he could be, when the flash of a flamboyant Gavellese feathered hat appeared and the chase was on. Every breath she tried to take of the heavy air seemed to slow her down, and he had considerable distance even with her speed. He was only a few paces away from reaching his stables, where a servant stood holding the reins of a well-groomed courser. Dropping her sword, she clutched at a magic component tucked into her belt as she struggled on in a final burst of endurance.

“As Shayne wills it, so it shall be–unstoppable bind!” A spell shimmered into existence and continued the chase while she stumbled and fell, clawing at damp soil to regain solid footing. She could not help but to smile at her prey while she approached now at a walk–Thomas Strader cursing her from where he was locked to the ground mid-stride.

It was two weeks before a letter came back from Esos to decide what was in store for a now-hopeful Noralia. Esdeline Chernock had left quite the impression on the soldiers stationed there; one and all seemed enamored with the boldness and beauty that the Lady Knight wielded with such ferocity. They crowded around one of the literate guards at the largest table in the barracks, hanging onto every word she read:

“Thomas Strader stands convicted of his crimes against his people; King Shayne will see to it that neither his name nor his dishonor will never again stain Noralia. While the primary candidate to replace Strader cannot be reached at this moment, I know after my night at your gates that he will take well to such hearty and able men. Know that you carry my respect, and treasure it–a soldier’s life is already too short for carelessness. Servant of our liege, and forever your champion, Lady Knight Esdeline Chernock.”

Tuesday Tales, Part VIII: Sir Ryence Berdwell, the Truthful Knight

Sir Ryence Berdwell, the Truthful Knight.  After King Shayne had secured Blacknall, he sent Sir Ryence Berdwell into the area which now comprises Caxton, but then was a very troubled, conflict-ridden region between Braelin and Seren, with orders to check on rumors of large-scale Serenite activities aimed at his new territory.  Far from civilized lands or help, Sir Ryence was betrayed by a guide who was supposed to have been trustworthy; the guide led him right into the middle of a huge Serenite raiding party.  The pair were seized and dragged before the Serenites’ warlord, and the young guide explained rather gleefully exactly who Sir Ryence was, as well as his importance to “the usurper” King Shayne.

The warlord looked at Ryence and said, “Is this true, that you are Ryence Berdwell, knight of the usurper?”

Ryence could have denied it and called for the guide’s execution; he knew that the warlord would honor the word of a warrior over that of a young scamp.  Instead, he simply nodded and said, “I am he.”

The guide was well-rewarded for his trouble and Sir Ryence was taken as a prisoner of war, for the Serenites meant to ransom him back to King Shayne in exchange for money and land.  He was stripped of his weaponry and armor and, hands bound in front of him, tied to the saddle-horn of the warlord, so that he had to walk behind the horse whenever they traveled.  Usually, prisoners treated in this way quickly sank into despair, begging and pleading to be cut loose or allowed to ride, asking for water and food.  But Sir Ryence did none of these.  He kept up his good cheer, sometimes even making jokes, and never asked for more than what he was given.  When he was brought meals—usually just water and a bit of bread—he would thank the soldier who brought it and then abstain from eating until he had offered up a plea to the White God.  He often challenged people to duels in jest, although many of the Serenite soldiers had a running bet that he would have gone through with it had any of them accepted.

Sir Ryence’s attitude and behavior impressed them in spite of themselves, and before long he had made friends with many of the soldiers.  He was plain-spoken and honest, but gentle about the truth, and they found themselves captivated by his tales of valor and his descriptions of his king and his companions in Braelin—especially because the Serenites knew that he would never lie or exaggerate about them.  They began to confide in him that their warlord was extremely cruel, abusing them and conducting himself without honor.  Sir Ryence listened to their complaints, but stalwartly refused to take action although they begged him to help in a plot to assassinate the warlord.

“You speak to me of the importance you place on honor,” he told them, “but what you propose is neither honorable nor truthful.”

Finally, one of the guards he had been coaching and giving advice to challenged the warlord in one-on-one combat and, narrowly, bested him with the help of Sir Ryence’s training.  As thanks for Sir Ryence’s help and out of respect for this knight the Serenites had come to like so well, the new warlord returned his armor, weapons, and horse, and set him free; and then the raiding party rode away, back toward Seren.  Sir Ryence returned to court at last with the report that all was well in the contested area—at least for the time being.

Folkloric Fridays, Part VII: Sir Brandeles la Hale, “the Merciful Knight”

Sir Brandeles la Hale, “the Merciful Knight.”  A member of the famed Circle of Five, Sir Brandeles traveled around Braelin challenging nobles and knights who were causing trouble for the King; he won nearly every bout he undertook, but spared each of his vanquished foes with the caveat that, one day, he might call upon them to remember the favor.  When a fleet of Serenite pirates seized Revma, then, Sir Brandeles summoned each and every noble or knight who owed him a favor; the resulting host was one of the largest, most impressive, and most varied in Braelinese history.  The ensuing battle was fierce, bringing Sir Brandeles face to face with the Serenite captain, a woman by the name of Mariska Nemes who was renowned for her swordsmanship and wild successes on the sea.  After a long bout, Sir Brandeles finally managed to best her; but instead of taking her prisoner or executing her, he spared Nemes’ life.  Filled with respect for both his skill and his mercy, Captain Nemes agreed to peace negotiations.  Throughout their lives, the two would meet again several times, often on friendly terms.

Tuesday Tales, Part I: The Circle of Five and Lady Knight Victoria Raynsford

The Circle of Five.  Knighted and appointed by King Shayne the Conqueror to maintain order within his newly acquired dominions, the Circle of Five was made up of the five best warriors in Braelin: Lady Knight Victoria Raynsford, Sir Gabriel Maycott, Sir Brandeles la Hale, Lady Knight Esdeline Chernock, and Sir Ryence Berdwell.  Later, after King Shayne’s passing, Queen Abbigale Robbins created the Order of the White Lotus and placed the Circle of Five in charge.  Lady Knight Victoria was promoted to the position of High General Knight, and the White Lotus adopted the long-time adages of the Circle of Five as its official codes:

 To obey and serve the liege lord in valor and faith
To protect the weak and give succor to the needy
To live by honor and for glory
Never to refuse a challenge from an equal, nor turn back upon a foe
To eschew unfairness, meanness, and deceit
At all times to speak the truth
To persevere unto the end of any enterprise begun
To respect the gods and make due offerings
To despise pecuniary reward and boasting
To refrain from the wanton giving of offense
To show mercy to a vanquished enemy

Lady Knight Victoria Raynsford.  One of Lady Knight Victoria Raynsford’s most famous accomplishments occurred when a call for help arrived from the newly-made Duchess of Blacknall’s home.  There had been heavy Serenite raiding along the borders, Lady Roseline explained in her letter, and she needed reinforcements.  Lady Knight Victoria, accompanied by Sir Gabriel Maycott, set out to lend their swords in Blacknall’s defense.  When they arrived, however, the situation had worsened immensely—after several days of quiet along the borders, Lady Roseline had chanced a hunt.  While the hunting party was out, a large contingency of raiders had appeared out of the mountains and beset Pinemont—still, at that time, a small village.  The lady herself had been captured by raiders in the forest, and was now being held for ransom; meanwhile, the members of her hunting party had been imprisoned and executed.

Upon learning of Lady Roseline’s plight, the pair of knights rode to the raiders’ base-camp and demanded her immediate release, but their request was met only with scorn by the raiders’ leader.  Sir Gabriel accepted the leader’s challenge, swearing to avenge himself on the man who had so insulted them, and battle erupted.  While Sir Gabriel held off a party of at least fifty soldiers, Lady Knight Victoria managed to locate Lady Roseline.  The Duchess, much the worse for wear, had been hastily escorted out of the camp and was about to be executed by a panicked contingency of soldiers.  Sensing the urgency of the situation, Lady Knight Victoria waded through the mess to stand guard above the helpless Duchess.  For three days and three nights she remained there, keeping all aggressors at bay, while Sir Gabriel continued to fight the soldiers within the camp.  On the morning of the fourth night, the tide of battle finally shifted in favor of the knights, who emerged victorious.  Lady Roseline was restored to Pinemont, rallying her soldiers and riding with the knights to turn back the raiders threatening the town.

[Merry Christmas from Éras to all those who are celebrating today!]