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To be a Knight of Renown

Started by Brian Green Knight, October 30, 2009, 08:34:14 AM

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Brian Green Knight

This is a short story I submitted for a writing contest on another forum dedicated to a computer
game called Mount & Blade which is based upon medieval mounted combat.
Many of the referenced characters and places in this story are derived from the game.

"To be a Knight of Renown"

From the Chronicles of Gryphon the Knight Errant

The heavy bay gelding slowed promptly from a canter to a walk after a slight pull of the reins from the young knight. A small smile of satisfaction flickered upon his lips at the gelding's quick response.
"Let us hold here a moment Orillian! I think those curs have given up the chase for our fat purses and all our belongings they meant to relieve us of". The young knight spoke the last part in the mimicked gruff voice of the lice infested leader of the last small band of bandits that had attempted to rob them two days ago and whose corpse was now feeding various carrion eaters in the vicinity of Sargoth. The handful of surviving bandits of that ill fated band had eventually been sold to Ramun the slave trader in the city of Tihr yesterday for fifty denars apiece, which added another 250 denars to his stake for the bets he made on himself at the tournament that he had entered into and won the same day. Those same winnings had enabled him to purchase the very fine steed he now rode.

He turned the bay around to face his squire who reined in his swaybacked warhorse to a stop in front of the young knight while craning his head over one shoulder to verify that his lord's assessment was correct. The sumpter horse he lead coming to a quick stop as well amid the rattle and clanging of spare weapons, armor and cooking utensils. The deserters turned brigands were nearly a half mile distant and appeared to be milling about a small copse of trees they had passed but moments ago. The squire let out a small relieved sigh that quickly ended with a disgusted grunt when he tentatively probed the crossbow bolt protruding from his mount's lower right shoulder a mere hand span from his own knee. Even though the old warhorse was barded in mail, the bolt had been fired at such close range that the thumb thick shaft had easily penetrated the steel rings although fortunately enough not too deeply. The old stalwart stallion whickered softly while Orillian had examined the embedded bolt then stood quietly and still as the man dismounted and rummaged in his saddlebags for the items needed to treat the wound. The young knight reached over and gave the old warhorse's nose a reassuring pat.
"You were to fast and strong for those vermin weren't you Stomper old boy?" the knight smiled as the old warhorse bobbed his head several times as if in agreement. The young knight marveled that even though he was past his prime, the old stallion was still a strong, intelligent and very formidable warhorse. While Orillian busied himself with the preparations of a salve for his mount, the young knight scrutinized the distant group of deserters that had wounded the warhorse and nearly pin cushioned them as well.
They had left Tihr early that morning heading towards Yalen and another tournament. The wide open and gently rolling hills in this region of Calradia held only an occasional stand of trees and offered few places of concealment for bandits to ambush unwary travelers. Yet those deserters managed to conceal themselves cunningly in some hidden dugouts among the tall grasses a mile back and executed an almost perfect ambush upon the knight and squire. If it had not been for the startled cry and loud flapping of an agitated grouse taking to flight they would be dead. It was the bird's raucous and unexpected departure that caused them both to look towards the source of the sudden disturbance and in that one fortuitous reaction had been saved. One moment the air was filled with the sounds of the fleeing indignant grouse and in the next it was filled with the high pitched whiz and zing of crossbow bolts narrowly missing their uncovered heads. It was miraculous that only one bolt out of the nearly half dozen or so fired at them had found a target and hit Stomper who had inadvertently become a living shield for the knight's bay gelding. They had immediately spurred their mounts into a gallop and quickly put as much distance as possible between the ambushers and their deadly crossbow bolts. They only had to dodge a second volley before they had put enough distance between them despite the wounded warhorse's slowed speed. Providence again smiled on them that the ambushers had the much slower firing crossbows and not longbows as was favored by the sea raiders that typically ravaged along the coast of this region. During their desperate flight they had constantly looked backwards for reassurance that they remained out of range of what turned out to be several ambushers vainly trying to keep pace with the horses. The knight had also taken note that the ambushers appeared to be better armed and armored than the typical half-starved and desperate bandits. Orillian had accurately named them deserters, Rhodok by the look of them with those huge board shields and deadly crossbows. The knight had also managed a fair glimpse of the livery on those large shields and recalled it to be the livery of the lord Tellrog of Culmarr castle that apparently did not pay his followers well enough so they had the need to resort to more nefarious means of supplementing their income. The young knight of course couldn't rule out the possibility that those Rhodokian 'deserters' were still actually employed by lord Tellrog, who was rumored to be a bit of a lout himself and not above resorting to murder to limit or outright eliminate any serious competition on the tournament field. The young knight had to put aside any false modesty concerning his prowess on the tournament field and accept that his renown in the region had grown substantially considering he won the last five tournaments in as many weeks, Tihr being the latest and certainly not his last. That is if he managed not to catch a bolt between his eyes before the next tournament!

The knight kept a wary watch on lord Tallrog's deserters while Orillian tended to his wounded mount. They were still a several hundred yards or so away and no longer seemed concerned in pursuing the two men they had just recently attempted to murder. The knight frowned in puzzlement at the deserter's odd meandering within that small copse of trees he and Orillian had passed during their mad gallop to evade them. Their methodical motions and guarded postures made him suddenly realize that they were searching the thicket's undergrowth for something!
Perhaps they had heard another grouse and were simply more interested in filling their empty stomachs instead of their empty purses? They were so intent with the search that only a couple of them turned their heads back towards their direction when Stomper let out a loud neigh after Orillian deftly pulled the bolt from the warhorse's shoulder and quickly packed the wound with salve mixed in softened beeswax to help slow the bleeding and keep the wound clean until they could get to a safe campsite and properly close it with a hot iron. The knight continued observing the deserter's peculiar and intense search as Orillian attempted to sooth and quiet his now highly agitated warhorse. They were now almost to the center of the grove of trees that gave way to a low hill, which abruptly became a huge granite boulder. As the searching men approached the heaviest of the undergrowth at the base of that immense rock, they flushed their quarry out! The knight distinctly heard the screams of two women almost in unison and then a flurry of activity among the thickets. One of the deserters lifted his readied crossbow and let fly a bolt that was answered soon after with another chorus of screams but this time in a more forlorn pitch. The knight stood up in his stirrups for a better view to see the scene unfolding in the distance and then suddenly let out a vehement curse when he watched two peasant women struggle futilely against their captors while four farmers fought the rest of the deserters. Another deserter lifted his crossbow and fired and one of the farmers fell.
Still standing in his stirrups the knight half twisted his body towards Orillian to yell for his helm and lance but his squire was already standing beside him lifting the knight's great helm up to him while two of the knight's long and heavy lances were propped against his shoulder, their butts resting on the ground. Orillian's steady blue gaze looked up to him through the oculars of his thick and battle worn Nordic helm.
"Stomper's wound should only slow him down a little milord. I will still be close by to have your spare lance at the ready should you have need of it."
"I have no doubts of your diligence Orillian for you are the most steadfast of companions!"
Taking the helm from the older man the knight smiled and wondered for the hundredth time at the irony of having a squire older than some knights, including himself. His squire was five years his senior and every bit as much a knight as he was, yet Orillian served him faithfully and humbly even though the knight had offered to bestow knighthood upon him twice during the past five months that Orillian by happenstance had become his squire. Thus far the humble squire refused stating he had not yet proven worthy enough to be considered a knight of renown. As the knight placed the helm on his head and adjusted it slightly for the best fit, he reflected back to how the older man had become his squire.

Orillian had been the sole captive of a small party of steppe bandits on the vast plains near Halmar when they crossed the knight's path and thought to make a quick and easy kill of him. After that short and brutal battle, he had freed Orillian who told him that he had been trained as a squire to a Vaegirean lord named Marmun whose army had been defeated and captured by the Khergits at the siege of Tulgar city six years ago. The lord Marmun had eventually been ransomed at such a high price several months after his capture that he could not afford to ransom any of his knights, let alone a mere squire, so Orillian had been sold and survived for four years as a slave to a Swadian merchant yet had earned his freedom after helping in the defense of the merchant's caravan against a party of Vaegirean raiders lead by of all people, lord Marmun himself. Orillian had become quite embittered towards his previous lord during his years as a slave and took a perverse pleasure in carrying to this day lord Marmun's very own shield, which he had torn from his previous lord's unconscious grasp so he could help shackle him in chains. Besides giving Orillian his freedom, the grateful merchant had lavishly equipped him and gave him a job as a caravan guard, which enabled him to recoup his martial skills and conditioning quickly. Orillian had worked hard and had become content after a fashion as he dutifully served the merchant, yet all too soon his fortunes twisted again amid the constant turmoil of this war torn realm and he had become a captive once more after valiantly fighting to no avail to save the life of his employer and benefactor. After his rescue, Orillian had promptly pledged his life to the knight and asked to be his squire so he could complete his training and become a knight of renown. Orillian was certainly well on his way to becoming well known. He had made a good showing of himself at the tournaments in the cities of Wercheg and Reyvadin and was one of the final four combatants at the tournament in Tihr yesterday.
Taking one of the lances from Orillian with a silent nod indicating he was all set and for Orillian to mount up, the knight hoped they survived the day and without serious wounds so he could spend a little extra time to help Orillian prepare for the tournament. He also decided right then and there, that should they both last until the final round of the tournament in Yalen city then he would narrowly 'lose' to his squire and have him dubbed a knight at the tournament's awards ceremony, provided they survived the impending battle of course!
Another scream reached the knight's ear, more strident despite being muted by the great helm, prompting the knight into action.
Nobody wants him, he just stares at the world. Planning his vengeance, that he will soon unfold. - Iron Man

Brian Green Knight

"To be a Knight of Renown"
........ Part Two ........

"It is time to dance with death once more my friend!" The knight's muffled yet notably excited voice resounded from within the great helm.
"FOR HONOR AND GLORY!" he cried as he spurred the bay gelding into a charge.
Orillian echoed him with his own shout, though a small distance behind, as Stomper had always been a little slow to get started, even more so now that he was wounded.

The stifling heat of the great helm was greatly alleviated by the sudden rush of air into the narrow eye slits and small vent holes brought on by the galloping bay gelding. The thunderous cadence of the gelding's hooves competed with the sharp bellows that was his excited breath for the predominant sound to his ears. The rushing landscaped danced dizzyingly through the limited view available of the narrow eye slits and the pitching and bobbing motion became almost a distraction to him until he focused on the large rock that had become the center of the skirmish.
The adrenaline surged through his veins causing the gallop of his fleet mount seem to slow down until it felt like it was only doing an ambling walk. His rapid but steady breath fell into rhythm with the strong pounding of his heart. The swirling embattled cluster of deserters and peasants suddenly leapt into the crazily wobbling view of the great helm's eye slits and his heavy lance seemed to move of its own discretion. The steel tipped head of the lance dipped down into a parallel line with the ground and he lined it up dead center with the back of the nearest deserter who was in the process of raising a heavy crossbow up to fire at a farmer already hard pressed to fend off five sword wielding attackers with only a pitchfork. A billowing breath out and his visual focal point became even sharper, centered upon the lance head which had become an extension of both him and his charging mount, focused unerringly upon the chosen target. At the next breath he was scarcely a dozen yards away from his target. The deserter fired and the farmer cried out falling in a lifeless heap, the short bolt embedded up to its fletching into his chest. The farmer's former attackers turned towards their companion and their chortles of celebration turned into shouts of warning when they saw the charging knight barreling down upon their comrade. The deserter twisted his body around at the last second trying to face the knight which caused the lance to miss the center mass of his body but it wasn't enough to save his life as the sharp edge of the lance tip slashed his chest wide open with a scarlet splash just as the heavy gelding's shoulder smashed into him and sent the lifeless body flying into the tall grass. The gelding didn't even break stride as he rushed on towards the five now utterly shocked swordsmen. The gelding's headlong charge slowed down to a quick canter as the incline of the terrain increased towards the outcropping of rock. The nearest swordsman managed to dodge the deadly lance and only took a glancing blow from the gelding's shoulder that sent him tumbling to the ground, but not before he managed to bash his large board shield against the gelding's head in passing. The blow was enough to bring the big horse to a complete stand still a few yards past the sprawled swordsman and in the midst of his highly agitated comrades! Four deserters rushed him with upraised swords while the dazed gelding stood shaking his head, totally ignoring the knight's frantic attempts to spur him back into motion. Two of the swordsmen moved in close from the knight's right side as another approached from the front and left while the fourth was somewhere behind him to the left and out of his very limited field of vision.

The knight knew he was dead. The deserter charging him on the left was the closest so the knight thrust his lance down into the center of the deserter's chest with all of his strength, his satisfied and grim smile upon seeing the lance head exit from the area of the right kidney of the corpse was hidden within the confines of his enclosed helm. He released the heavy lance and let the crumbling body of the transfixed deserter take the lance from his hand as he reached for his morning star knowing the two swordsmen on his right would cut him off his motionless mount before freeing it from the belt ring hanging on his right hip. The knight's would be slayers were so intent upon attacking with their war cries mixed in equal parts of anger and fear that they failed to notice Orillian's charge until his lance impaled them both one after the other before bringing Stomper to an abrupt halt next to the knight in order to guard his right flank.
"Well done Orillian and my thanks!" The knight exclaimed with obvious relief and gratitude as he freed the massive morning star from his belt ring. His mount seemed to have recovered from the blow to its head and responded to the knight's commands once more. He wheeled his mount to the left in time to bring his shield in line to block the sword thrust of the fourth attacker who had hesitated far to long from the initial shock of seeing three of his comrades slain in as many seconds. The knight counter attacked with a powerful backhanded swipe that completely pulverized the deserter's head in a crimson shower of gore, his meager leather cap proving to be absolutely no protection from the devastating weapon. The knight spurred his gelding to engage the first swordsman who had shield-bashed his mount and had regained his feet after being bowled over. Taking note that this opponent was better protected with a steel kettle hat and rusted byrnie he lowered his point of attack and aimed for the man's face. The knight felt but a momentary resistance to his low sweeping attack that was accompanied with a sickening and inarticulate gurgle as the man died.
"NO! YOU KILLED MY BROTHER YOU BASTARD!" The anguished and enraged shout came from the vicinity of the rock outcropping. The knight wheeled the gelding around once more with his shield raised just in time to block the crossbow bolt that punctured the thick wooden shield and missed his arm by inches. He heard a horse's loud scream and saw Orillian leap clear as Stomper collapsed dead beneath him, the fletching of a bolt protruding from his head. Only three of the deserters remained and were standing their ground thirty yards away. As one struggled to control the two young peasant women that he had managed to partially bind with rope, the other two bent over to reload their heavy crossbows. The knight spurred the gelding into a headlong gallop towards the three deserters. Orillian was charging them on foot as well, stowing his shield onto his back as he ran so he could run faster and use his bastard sword with both hands, like the charging knight, he was gambling his life on speed in order to close the distance before their attackers could reload their deadly crossbows. Neither the knight's coat of plates or Orillian's lamellar armor would save them from the heavy crossbow bolts fired at such close range.

The one deserter contending with the frantically struggling peasant women was about ten paces behind the two crossbowmen and therefore did not pose an immediate threat. The two crossbowmen were separated far enough apart so the knight had no chance of getting both of them or of even disrupting the reloading of the second one while he attacked the first. He chose the one on the right who appeared to be the quicker one at reloading and trusted to Orillian to reach the other crossbowman in time. The knight muttered a small curse when his target raised his crossbow and fired just as he began his attack. The gelding screamed when the bolt that was fired at point blank range completely disappeared into its broad chest killing him instantly, but not before his momentum caused his heavy body to trample and squash his slayer.
The knight managed to free both of his feet from the stirrups as he tumbled and rolled clear of the tangle made up of his dead mount and crushed opponent. He leapt to his feet and ripped the skewed great helm off his head to get his bearings. Shaking his head to stop the ringing in his ears, he heard the distinct sound of a released crossbow bolt and jerked reflexively at the expected bolt to pierce his body. When nothing struck him he spun around to see Orillian a few paces away with a surprised expression on his face as he slowly sank to his knees with his sword buried into the chest of the crossbowman who had killed him.
"ORILLIAN!" the knight rushed to catch his shoulders before they hit the ground and he cradled his fallen squire gently. The last deserter was completely forgotten in his mind as he inspected the horrendous and mortal wound of his companion. He did spare a quick look in the deserter's direction when he heard a high pitched scream and nodded in satisfaction to see the last deserter fall clutching his groin while one of the peasant women cut the other's bonds with the deserter's own bloody dagger.
"Did we rescue the women milord?" Orillian gasped softly, his strength ebbing away along with the rivulets of his blood pouring from his ghastly wound.
"Yes my friend, thanks to your gallantry" the knight quietly assured him.
"It appears that I will never become a knight of renown like you milord" Orillian sighed through his now ashen and blood speckled lips.
Smiling a little sadly and purposefully the knight shook his head. Then he cleared his throat and spoke in a resounding voice.
"Attend me all and take heed of my voice! I present to you the squire Orillian Graham Salazar. He is a squire of good standing and bold heart that is ready to swear the oaths of a knight having proven his prowess in combat and to be deserving of donning the gilded spurs of knighthood."
Orillian's rapidly fading strength rallied a bit and he managed to give the knight a grateful smile.
"Do you Orillian Graham Salazar swear to be brave before your enemies, uphold the will of your liege lord, to defend the helpless, to always speak the truth, to dispense the king's justice and to safeguard the virtue of the innocent?
"I so swear milord" Orillian whispered with his last breath.
"Then I dub thee Sir Orillian to be a peer of the chivalric code and acknowledge you to be a knight of renown!" The knight concluded the archaic knighting ceremony and gently laid his fallen fellow knight upon the ground and tenderly closed Orillian's unseeing eyes.
Nobody wants him, he just stares at the world. Planning his vengeance, that he will soon unfold. - Iron Man