Beginnings (A Non-DAOC Story with my DAOC characters)

Come, brothers and sisters, share with us your tales, from before your joined to today! Tell us of yourself and your travels and travails! (IC Please, OOC labeled!)

Beginnings (A Non-DAOC Story with my DAOC characters)

Postby Crispian » Thu Feb 16, 2006 10:49 am

The morning was typical for the season. A cold wind blustered from the north and the leaves of the trees hung brown and fading on the gray branches of the trees. The long warmth of summer was being chased out as winter began its first intrusions. Even with the air chilled and a bleakness setting in that would lead to the pallor of deep winter, two young boys were ebullient as they awoke.

Their golden hair, shorn short in the current fashion among soldiers, was still sleep tousled as they pulled on leather breeches and padded tunics, readying themselves for another day of drill and practice. Two pairs of feet vanished into boots worn and broken in with work.

“Birthday, Cris,” the leaner one muttered as his head appeared through the neckline of his tunic. Pale gray eyes still gummed with sleep blinked repeatedly as they met their mirror image.

“Happy Birthday, Jash,” the other replied, fingers tugging at the side laces of his own tunic. Compared to his brother, Crispian was a broader lad, his chest filled out more deeply and thicker. “We’re due to finish apprenticeship soon,” he said in a subdued voice.

Unrestrained, Jashen smiled at his ‘older’ brother. “’Bout time to, I think. I’ve been ready for the guard for a while now,” he quipped as his fingers fastened his sword belt almost automatically. He was already heading toward the doorway as Crispian picked up his own sword belt and a shield with a battered and worn rim.

The stairway opened out into a small chamber off of which two other doorways opened. A small hearth already contained a fire that danced merrily in the chill air, as if happily repelling the chill from outside. A small table sat in front of the fire and at it, a burly man was tipping back a pewter tankard. Steam swirled from the mugs mouth as he cupped in one hand, the other idly toying with the edge of his thick goatee.
== = = ==

“Ah, boys,” he said as he looked over at them. His eyes were unreadable nested among the wrinkles of age and exposure. A tight smile played on his lips as he continued to turn the mug in his hand. “I thought I’d let you rest in today some, but good to see you awake just the same.”

He rose from his seat and stretched his back. The twins, paused in the entry to the chamber, were dwarfed by him, though none of them were of extraordinary stature. The two boys each barely cleared five feet and their mentor was himself shy of six. He smiled at the pair.

“Birthdays are good to sleep in on while the world allows you to,” he said in a gruff voice but let his smile relax and show. “And today is no regular birthday, lads.” He bent toward the hearth and poured two mugs of steaming brew, passing them to each of the boys.

Jashen and Crispian exchanged looks as they took the mugs. “Master Orman, are we not to train today?” Crispian ventured tentatively as Jashen tasted the strong brew carefully.

Orman pursed his lips after taking a deep draw of his own cup. “No, lads,” he grumbled, “today we don’t train. Today, you pack and move out.” He set his mug down firmly on the table and swept the shocked faces of the twins with a steady gaze. “Today, by King’s Law, you’re men, and today, you get out, to make your own way.” Orman gazed into the fire a moment before turning to face his two former charges.

“Comes a time in every boy’s life when he becomes a man, either in practice or in law. I think you’re both ready for this.” He turned from the fire and rummaged in a near at hand chest, extracting two long cloth-wrapped objects. It was obvious that they were blades of some sort. “Most masters give their apprentices something of a token when their service is done. Seeing as you’ll be my last two apprentices,” he paused as his voice caught for a moment, “I’ve decided to give a bit more than a token.”

He passed each of them one of the cloth bundles, which looked quite different once he had separated them. To Crispian, he handed the longer bundle, and to Jashen a thicker, though smaller bundle. His eyes shone with pride through a glazing of moisture as he watched them each unfurl the cloth from the bundles.

The scabbard that Crispian revealed was aged, a worn metal that while burnished still showed the marks of time. The long sword he withdrew had a fresh edge to it, but also bored marks of its passage through the world. Crispian examined the crossguard, noting the twin keys that shaped it. He gaped at it as he turned it round and again in his hand.

“Twas of your father’s kit, lad. Sorry it’s not his blade, itself.” Orman took in the look of awe that swept the boy’s face before turning to Jashen, who still cradled his own bundle. “Well, that won’t undo itself.”

Jashen turned the bundle and undid the cord holding it closed. His fingers allowed the cord to drop as he unwound the coverings. Two gleaming sheaths were slowly revealed, also worked with the cross-key symbol that had been his father’s. The curving blades reflected brilliantly even in the dim chamber. “Master Orman…they’re incredible.” His voice was soft, almost reverent.

Orman smiled. “I’ve rare seen a man handle two blades like you do, lad. Don’t be letting anyone force you into that heavy armor that’d make you less a warrior than your skills dictate.”

== == == ===

Jashen looked at the two short, curved blades in awe even as he heard the rasp of Crispian resheathing his own new blade. Orman was looking at them both, his expression now a coached mirror of impassivity. When it seemed they were done indulging their inspections of the blades, he cleared his throat softly. They both turned to face him, expectation written on their faces. He gave them each a measured look. He had known them these past four years as students, boys, and now on the first day of manhood.

He paused, measuring them with his gaze. “Lads,” he started, “nay, men, for today you’re that, it’s time for you to pack and get ready to leave. My training hall isn’t your,” he stopped, swallowing heavily, “it’s not your home anymore.”

The twins exchanged looks, shifting their feet nervously. “Master Orman, it’s been four years that we’ve called here our home, since you took us in to apprentice. This has become home, and more.” As he spoke, Jashen’s hand dipped into a pouch on his sword belt. “We knew sometime today or this week, you’d send us on our way, and well…” his voice trailed off.

“We wanted to express our gratitude,” Jashen concluded as he passed a small velvet pouch to their trainer. The item seemed small in the larger, scarred hand.

== == ==
Orman turned the object a moment in his hand, fingers flipping it easily as he did. In all the years he had been training young men for the King’s service, none had ever presented him with more than a hearty thanks as they left. Cupping the item in his palm, he tugged at the strings holding it shut with his other hand. A glint of shining metal within was caught before he slid the object into his palm.

Against the weathered skin of his palm shone a pair of keys worked in silver. The shanks of the keys were coiled with golden cords whose tassels draped the eyes of the keys. Upon the turning end of each key was the name of each twin standing before him. Orman blinked back tears as he looked upon each key.

“One day,” Jashen said with a grave tone to his voice, “that will have meaning again.”

Orman smiled, blinking back the mist that threatened to become more tears. “Your father would have liked that, lads, truly. And it has meaning, now as ever, in that his sons are alive and going forth as men.” He nodded slightly to each as he spoke. “Now, a traps out back waiting for your gear so get to packing.” He watched as they ascended to their chamber again, hoping that his training was adequate for whatever the future would bring for them, then he turned and abruptly left the building.

== == ==
The pony cart creaked along the narrow lane that wound from Blackmoor Village. Jashen held the reins easy in his hand and let the small horse pick its own pace. Crispian sat brooding next to him, his travel cloak pulled closed around him. The pale autumn sun sent slanting shafts of light through the trees and dust motes danced in the wan light.

“You’re doing it again,” Jashen muttered. It was in Crispian’s nature to become taciturn while thinking. “You always shut out the world and slip into your mind when you want to.”

Crispian gave a half-laugh. “It’s not that I’m brooding, Jash. I’m just not sure where we go from here. Conquer the world, rid the land of evils, rescue the fair maidens. Which do we do first?” He gave his brother a grin.

Jashen laughed as he pulled the reins to turn the cart into a path that departed the lane. The rutted way led to a cottage set back from the road. It’s clean, white walls shone in the fall sun and a wisp of smoke danced atop the chimney. A hen coop gave merry clucking sounds to the yard and a larger outbuilding showed signs of having been readied for the upcoming winter.

Before the trap and pony had come to a stop in the yard, a tall and imposing figure entered the doorframe. A deep blue skirt set her out from the background and a gleamingly white blouse offset her mass of dark hair. Eyes of a deep violet creased into a smile as she threw her arms wide.

“My boys!’ she cried loudly as they both were swept in her embrace. “Well, its happy birthday to you two,” she said in a pleasant tenor. “And Sir Orman tells me he’s made you move along.” She smiled still as she looked both of them over. “Rightly so, too, for your not going to cast about as apprenticed lads forever.”

She ushered them into the cottage where a fire burned at the hearth and the rich smells of cooking food reached their nostrils. The baking niches in the hearth were closed but the smells of breads and cake could easily be picked out from the aroma of a hearty stew simmering.

“Auntie! It smells wonderful!” Crispian said as he returned her hug then moved into the room, sprawling near the fire.

Jashen laughed and smiled. “Of course it does, it’s not mean gruel or a haunch of mutton!” He threw himself in a worn chair in a corner and propped his booted feet on a low table.

The woman, Mirashta, put her hands on her hips as she looked at the two of them in mock anger. “Now, just because you’re men today doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do! Jashen, wood needs restocking from cooking this ‘not haunch of mutton’ and Crispian I believe you’ll find my livestock need feeding and watering.”

When they almost guffawed at her, a hand snatched a broom up and made a wide swipe at them. “OUT!’ she cried loudly, laughing along with them as they scampered to the tasks she had laid before them. Shaking her head, she turned back to tend the cooking, glad to have her adopted boys back.

It had been thirteen years since their parents had been slain in what was little more than an ambush aimed at them. Others thought it a random attack, but Mirashta held her own court on that. A peaceably retired Knight of the realm and his lady wife were not likely targets for a marauding band to strike, and she thought it no coincidence that the attack had come in the early hours of the day. It was sheer luck that she had been near at hand and, along with Orman, had responded to the sight of smoke billowing from where the two had lived. It was also a stroke of good fortune that the babes had survived, unnoticed in the loft above the kitchen.

Mirashta let out a small sigh as she thought of that dark day, then dismissed it from her mind. Today was not a day to dwell on such matters. This was to be a day of merriment and joy, and then of leave taking. The twins’ coming of age also meant that she would be taking up stakes from her cottage and moving along to the city.

For better than a decade her own life and pursuits had been put on hold, though she bore no ill-will to the twins for that. It had been a choice to step in and raise them as their own mother could not. And even though not actively associated with the Schola, her skills had not slipped and it would be rewarding to again be a practicing magus. Also, the city would leave her near to the twins without being constantly in their way while they enlisted in the king’s service.

It was with only a small twinge that she had accepted neither of them were well suited for the disciplines. Few were. It was in their tenth year that she had come to the conclusion that try as she might, they just were not suited to be mages, but were cut from the warrior cloth like their parents. Jasper had been a promising knight and Ilara a novice paladin. Their sons would easily take to that pursuit.

Looking out the window as she pinched the edges of what was to be a minced pie, a small scowl crossed her face. Slipping over the stone fence was a boy as dark of looks as the twins were fair. His brown hair was longer and a bit shaggy, but his eyes were cleared and danced about noticing everything. Mirashta sighed again and shook her head. Asotrem was the boys’ closest friend from the village, even if she hadn’t taken to him as they had.

== == ==
It did not take long after Asotrem had disappeared from view for the laughter of Jashen to reach the kitchen. Mirashta was forced to smile. It had been a long summer with the boys in their final training and laughter had little filled the farmstead as it once had.

== == ==
Jashen looked up just in time to see Asotrem slip past the barn and move toward the wood pile where he was working. Giving not a hint of having seen him, Jashen continued to split the logs into smaller pieces for the fire. Even keeping the work going, he was able to track his nimble friend as he attempted to steal toward the spot Jashen worked at.

At the last moment, as Asotrem hurled himself to tackle, Jashen spun, flipping the axe away, and caught Asotrem about the shoulders. Twisting from both the jump and his grab, the two fell to the ground with an audible thump and took to grappling, both laughing. In short order, Asotrem wound on top, pinning Jashen’s arms to the ground.

“Fat lot of good that warrior training has done you!’ he laughed. His dark eyes danced with mirth. “And here they reckon you to be full-trained!”

Jashen squirmed under the weight pinning him. “But you had to take me from behind, you sneak!” he laughed. It had been long months since Asotrem had set out with local scouts in the royal service for his own training and the absence had been felt by all the boys.

Keeping Jashen pinned, Asotrem laughed again. “And you didn’t even see me coming til the last, dolt!” he quipped just before giving a yelp of surprise as hands grabbed him under his arms, tossing him to the side.

“Nor you, me!” Crispian laughed as the bout of wrestling resumed, three now each trying to get the better of two others. Laughter and grunts filled the air as the rough housing continued, only to be stopped by a call of “Supper!” from the direction of the kitchen.

Brushing dirt from their clothing, they all made their way toward the cottage smiling and laughing as they went. The overwhelming smells of a well laid-on meal greeted them after they had paused to wash at the open stone basin near the doorway. Entering with hair still dripping, they were greeted by a table that fair groaned under the weight of the food upon it.

Though they had been months absent, Mirashta had not forgotten the appetite that young men could bring to bear upon a meal. An ample stew dominated the center of the table, surrounded by cuts of cold meats, bread slices, cheeses, three steaming pies, a pitcher of milk still cold from the larder, and a low-risen sweet cake that smelled of cinnamon and apples.

“Auntie, it looks wonderful!” they cheered before tearing into the repast with ill-suppressed glee. Silence descended as words were replaced with morsels and hands moved quickly to fetch whatever would please the fancy of the eater. Mirashta, eating at a more sedate pace, took the moment to savor seeing her two “boys” and their friend eating what was likely to be a last meal met together in such a fashion.

As the boys moved on the sweet pastries and pies like three spring-hungry bear cubs, Mirashta rose from her seat and seemed to make herself busy in the small sitting area before the fire. The boys, who had fallen into a running dialogue around mouthfuls of food, barely noticed as she placed three large bundles along the edge of the hearth and sat down in her familiar chair. She waited patiently for them to turn from the meal toward her.

Six pairs of eyes bulged slightly as they took in the bundles that stood nearly waist high to each of them, only slightly lower on Asotrem than the two twins.

Mirashta offered a small smile. “It’s not just your masters who realize you’re coming of age was neigh. And I’d not be fool enough to slight Jashen and Crispian by excluding you, dear Asotrem.” Her voice was warm and full. “Now, each is similar but not the same. Inner to outer now, name order.” She clucked her tongue to set them off.

So often at birthdays and feast days of harvest she had done this, but today there was a different feel. Asotrem, then Crispian, then Jashen aligned with the bundle meant for them. In the establish way, they each untied the twine holding each closed and let if fall open.

The outer layer of the bundle was, as always, a new cloak. However, unlike years before, this was a heavy, longer traveling cloak with a full hood, deep pockets, a heavy belt sewn to the waist, and a metal-worked clasp rather than a wood button. The thick wool was lined with plant wool, a soften, smoother fabric.

Beyond the cloak, each bundle yield armors of rough leather, sturdy belts, pouches for coins, boots with heavy soles, and rucksacks. In the middle of that mass, a small hardened cap of leather was settled.

It was the differences that spoke of the care that had gone into each one. Asotrem’s armor bore the knocked bow symbol of the King’s scouts, while Crispian and Jashen both boasted the banded tower of the Realm. A quiver accompanied Asotrem’s gifts, while Jashen’s belt had a frog at each hip. Crispian’s cuiriass had a broad hasp at the shoulder for securing a shield in place.

Clearing her throat to keep her voice even, Mirashta smiled at them. “Those should see you foolish boys through a season or two in the service.” She didn’t try to dissuade them, for she knew that it would be futile.
== == ==
The three faces beaming back at her was reward enough for Mirashta to feel. The watched them turning and touching the gear she had given them, chattering excitedly as they did. The afternoon turned toward evening and the excitement, while present, slowly became banked with the ashes of the day.

The sun had made its departure from the sky when she rose, spreading her arms and shooing the boys toward a rough runged ladder in the corner. “Up now, and quiet down to sleep.” Her gaze swept them over. “At least get some sleep!” she said, shaking her head. “At least get some sleep tonight. I’ll not have you sand-eyed leaving in the morning.”

No sooner had the trap to the living room closed, then they started in. “That armor will look good in the morning,” Jashen quipped. Even with the joy of the day, he was feeling spent. “Tomorrow, we’ll look the men we’re supposed to be now!”

Crispian gave a grin as he smothered a yawn. “It’ll be a hike to the city, so we’d best get some rest.” He leaned back against the wall and glanced at Asotrem, who was already snoring lightly. He laughed, turning on his own side. “So much for the worry of us being up late.”

Sleep came quickly to them all in the small loft that had been the twin’s boyhood room. They slumbered through the last hours of their youth before setting forward into a world that was certain to hold all the adventures and thrills fifteen year old boys dreamed of.

== == ==
The fall dawn held the chill of the season even as the golden hues of morning pierced the mists of night that clung to the ground. There was the feel of decay setting in to the land that was transition from fall toward winter. With a good breakfast down, the trio heaved rucksacks to their shoulders and set foot to the narrow winding path that left Mirashta’s cottage and small stead. She did not stand in the yard waving them out, but peered intently from her window. She had waited years to see her boys become men, but they would not see her crying tears at their departure. Her composure had held thus far, and as it failed her she was glad of being inside.

With their backs to the cottage and their futures before them, the three young men, as the law reckoned, made brisk the start of their journey. Boots clopped the beaten dirt and voices piped through the chill air. Today was their day, as yesterday had been given over to elders reluctant to see them grow. Not a care for the length of the trek entered their minds, nor barely a worry of those left behind. All was golden before them in the wan autumn sun.

== == ==
Three days of hiking, even on the well-maintained royal roads, had taken some of the shine off the thoughts of glory and adventure the boys had been dreaming. The dust of the road and foot-soreness had subdued the level of enthusiasm as they spoke. Weary feet brought them over a rise in the land with a view that served to stop all conversation completely.

Looming in the distance, but visible even from this range, was the capitol city. It’s looming gray granite walls stood against the lush green and plowed browns of the land around it. Even though more than ten miles distant, the sheer magnitude of the city impressed on the mind.

Started over two millennia past, Alyfes never had stopped being added to. The central rise of the valley was dominated by the Royal Residence, a stout rise of granite a deeper, weather worn gray than any other in the city. The line of its wall stood out against the later additions outside the ancient defenses. Built by warlords and their heirs, Alyfes looked the military encampment.

From its ancient heart, along lines plumbed straight, roads ran to the outer defenses, broken only by gatehouses at intervals. Avenues, laid in concentric rings, linked the spokes that connected heart to outer wall, and they too were broken by archways and gatehouses. Towers rose along the visible walls and some structures within the city looked for like small keeps than anything else. The movement of people was only perceptible at the gateways into the vast sprawl of the city, for all else inside was hidden behind walls or shrouded in shadows. Above each rampart and tower flapped the banner of Alya: Gray field with sable throne chief, nombril point an or lance saltier with argent key.

Six eyes grew wide as they stared at the spectacle of the city. Nothing they had seen before in life had prepared for just how expansive it was. More than their minds could embrace in its entirety, they focused on what they could as they walked down the rise into the bowl-like valley.

Getting deeper into the valley, the area outside the city came more into focus. Small collections of cottages, shops, stables and farm-steads dotted the land, and the trio was headed directly into them. Each was its own hive of activity. Many of these villages existed for no other reason than to support the capitol that lay beyond them, and good livings could be had.

Looking every bit the provincial lads they were, eyes darted everywhere to drink in the views and sights. Each new thing, whether a two-storied bakery or a stable as large as all of Mirashta’s buildings, seemed a wonder to them, as they shuffled and walked along.
== == ==
They took in all the sites as they continued their trek toward the capitol, which loomed larger in their eyes as they went. The sheer mass of the city gave lie to its distance, for walking most the day brought it no closer to reaching.

As the gloom of night embraced the valley they were moving down, the trio began to seek lodgings, for there was no place to simply pitch a camp near at hand. The traffic and presence of so many people left few spots not in some sort of use.

“How about that one there?” Asotrem asked as they considered a two-story affair sprawled to one side of the street. It seemed in good repair and the windows were clean. The sign hanging in front of it depicted a maiden offering mugs of ale and read ‘The Foaming Tankard.’ They pushed the door open and entered.

The main room inside was as clean as outside, and the tables had the look of often washed wood. A large hearth dominated one wall with the remains of a calf or goat spitting grease into the flames. A bored lad, Crispian guessed him near their own ages, turned a crank that kept the carcass moving. Adjoining the hearth at one end and running the length of the room was a long bar, at which a variety of men sat in all manner of garb. There were table scattered about the room, most occupied. The threesome found one unoccupied and settled in.

It was obvious from looking around that they were by far the youngest set in the entire room, and when the barmaid came, they placed orders for food and drink quietly. When their beef, for it was a calf on the spit, and ale came, they ate quietly. With watchful glances around, they cleared their plates of the hot beef, rich warm bread, and even sopped up the grease.

As they were finishing, two rougher looking men, both in the cut leathers of the scouts, stumbled toward their table, obviously well into their cups.
== == ==
Though their bearing was of men who had been to the drink, it showed little in their approach. They eyed the trio at the table, and drew equal stares back. One of them snorted in derision. “Well, look at the wee lads come from the farm,” he said to his companion.

The other, who was a bit taller but not as broad as his friend, laughed. “Aye, seeking the king’s service no doubt, dreams of knighthood and such.” His voice fairly dripped sarcasm and his eye took on a malicious cast.

Being the less reserved, Jashen glared up at them from his seat. “And what if we do?” he asked in a tone that warned his companions of trouble to come. Jashen shifted back in his seat, creating space between himself and the table.

The first man drew himself up. “Well, vinegar in the pups,” he growled, one hand closing on a short blade at his side. “Maybe they need to have a bit let out.”

Asotrem looked quickly over their table and at those around them. The quarters were tight if these two went blades on them, but he assessed it none the less for range. He preferred that to close quarters, but noticed Crispian tensing next to him. If blows came, the young bowman decided, he’d go to Crispian’s left.

“And maybe we don’t,” Crispian was saying in a low, calm voice. His gray eyes were cold and steely, not the panicked whiteness one would expect in a youth. A slow rage came up in him at these two, besmirching the willingness of he and his to serve the Crown. “Now, friend,” he continued in a tone that belied friendship, “why don’t you just keep on toward the street.”

Patrons recognized trouble starting and moved themselves cautiously away as room permitted. A hulk man in chainmail shifted himself toward the potential fray, but others moved where they could.

“Friend is it?” spat the first speaker, his eyes shifting from one youth to the next. “A thousand pardons then, good noble!” he bit sarcastically, even as his fist lashed out pommel-end toward Jashen’s jaw, the glint of his blade away from the boy.

Jashen reacted on drilled instinct. Orman had not been one to let the boys assume trouble only came on the battlefield and frequently would try to catch them unawares. His left arm arced up, outside edge of his hand clipping the assailant’s wrist. He was upright and his chair skittering behind him even as he launched a right-handed swing at the man.

The sudden movement released the others into motion. The second man threw a wild left at Asotrem, closest to him, but Crispian was there blocking it with the blunt edge of his sword, the blade naked and gleaming in its newness. Metal slapped leather as he diverted the blow and tried to land a left himself, but his shot was wide.

Asotrem leaned back from the arm and sword meeting before him. With a quick flick of his hand, he up-ended a tankard and introduced to the man’s head. The crockery was not up to the assault and fell in pieces to the table, dousing it in ale.

== == ==
Even as the ale splashed the table, Crispian was following through with a swing of his arm. Throwing his full, and not inconsiderable, weight into the blow, it landed firmly. The second man reeled back from the blow.

Jashen had gotten in the first blow, but it was obvious he was not dealing with a novice at either drink or fight. The older man, taller by more than a head that Jashen, also had the longer reach. His swings were also heavier. The few blows that he had landed pinked up Jashen’s eye and jaw.

Being younger, and decidedly more sober, Jashen was able to avoid a good deal of the blows thrown at him. It wasn’t a fight that would be featured in ballad or tale. The two scrapped, moving in the tight area cleared for them while Crispian and Asotrem restrained the other, Crispian holding him in an arm-lock.

Jashen and the other scrapper were making a row of it in the common room, but it was more a measured spar than a pell-mell assault. At least it was until the guard entered the room.

Three men in the distinctive livery of royal service calmly entered from the thoroughfare outside. Their armor glinted in the light and small targes were strapped to their shield-arms. None reached for blade, as this was hardly an armed affair.

“Albert, Felix!” one guard growled as he stepped between Jashen and his foe. A mailed glove against his chest prevented Jashen from striking again, though he glowered in sullen anger. “And you, pup,” he glared. Jashen deflated only slightly, having weathered the stares of Mirashta and Orman both. The guard was not equal to them in expression.

“They started it,” he sulked, stepping back from the extended hand against his chest.

The guard smirked. “But them we know. You,” his gaze took in all three, “seem to be new, and could learn how things are here.” His smirk dropped as if it had never been. “Bring these three to the keep, and toss those sauce-pots in the hut to dry out til morning.”

The boys gaped in turn at the guards, now turned into jailers. “We’re arrested?” Asotrem protested, his dark features coloring in anger. “All we were doing was supping quietly til they came along!” His voice rose in frustration.

The guard, decades older than they, snapped, “You were inciting riot, if you keep that up, you cur! Now, go quietly else I’ll pull you over my knee.” Brutally, his companions seized Asotrem and Crispian, leaving Jashen squared with their leader. The man measured him with a cool look. “Well?”

Jashen surveyed the situation quickly and shrugged. “If that’s your call,” he said quietly. Crispian narrowed his eyes and gave a slight shake to his head, knowing the dangerous tone his twin was using.

But good as his word, Jashen followed quietly as they were marched up a rise to the nearby keep. Their packs and move personal items were secured by a garrisonman, and they were placed in a small cell with pallets and straw on the floor.

“Arrested!” Asotrem barked as Crispian settled himself on a pallet. “Aren’t we going to do anything about it?” His gaze swept in both twins. Jashen was just setting himself down on a pallet as well.

“Aye,” Crispian said, calmly. “We’re going to get some sleep, without paying for a room.” He pulled his cloak over himself. “Then we’ll see what the morning offers.”
== == ==
By morning, even the thick, clean pallet had become uncomfortable on the stone floor. Crispian groaned and was echoed by Jashen as they rolled off the floor. Asotrem was already awake, having been roused by the noise from the yard beyond the stout door.

“About time,” he groused, a scowl deep on his face. “Suns been up half an hour.”

Crispian smirked as he stretched the knots out of his back. “Must be a sight you don’t know well,” he quipped, for Asotrem was notorious for sleeping later than either twin. “Have they come to open up yet?”

Asotrem shook his head. “No but the guard said something to his mate about the commander coming through and waiting to let the louts out til after. I guess that’s us.”

“Trem, honestly, relax some.” Jashen was relacing his tunic and taking survey of what gear had been allowed in the room with them. “If we were in real troubled, it’d be off to the dungeons with us.”

The tread of boots on the flags of the hall brought conversation to a stop. It wasn’t the sound of heavy leather, but rather the slight jingle of chain mail. That sounded much more serious than a warder to all three. Six youthful eyes watched the small window in the door to get a glimpse of what was happening beyond.
== == ==

The color of enamel on the man’s hauberk marked him a ranking man. The chain had been washed in pale teal and shimmered in the light of the hallway. He lowered his face to the door before turning the lock open. “Well, looks like three cubs brought to heel, aye?” he grumbled as he held the door open. At their hesitation, he barked, “Out of my cell, ya laggards!”

They scurried to obey him, making haste into the hall and out the door that opened beyond. The courtyard of the keep was a buzzing drone of activity. Men were saddling horses, a smith made repairs at his forge, and couriers made their way to important looking destinations. Even though they tried not to, the threesome looked over-awed with all that was before them to see.

“Torem’s light, look at them all!” Asotrem said softly. Within the confines of the courtyard were enough people to populate their village back home and then spare others. The stables held more horses than Blackmoor excepting when merchants came to buy the harvest surplus.

The officer pushed out behind them, taking them in with a measured glance. “What purpose brings ye lads toward the capitol? Some apprenticeship?” His voice indicated what he thought of the last idea, but he ventured no further.

Crispian drew himself up to his full height, still well short of the guardsman. “We’ve journeyed here to enlist in the service of the King.” His young voice was full of gravity and his expression stern, but still the guardsman gave a laugh.

“Well, your honors, I’d not stand in the way of those seeking the King’s service.” He gave a mocking bow before turning and striding off, a laugh carrying back on the breeze.

== == ==

Crispian felt his face color at the man’s laughter, but forced a calm upon himself. “No matter, we’ll walk toward the city today and find out where we can sign on when we get there.”

Without further word, the three shouldered their rucksacks and picked up what other gear they had, making ready for the gate. Many people were moving from the keep toward the collections of buildings nearby and others moved along the great road toward or away from the looming capitol city.

The trio blended into the crowd and chatted as they went along, unnoticed in the new day’s traffic. They commented on temples they passed as well as other wayside establishments. The closer they got to the city, the larger the crowd of moving people got. It seemed there was an endless supply of people about business either their own or the kingdoms.

The splendor of appearance, mixed with the mundane attire of the working class. Grand cloaks streamed behind some riders, while others bore the colors of the royal guards. Branches of knighthood were shown in their own colors.
Crispian Pontiff, Precentor, St. Crispin's League

"For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother" Henry V
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Joined: Wed Oct 09, 2002 3:42 pm

Postby Crispian » Tue Apr 11, 2006 11:28 am

The colors, sounds, and even the smells of the approach to the city were nearly overwhelming and the trio found themselves gawking like schoolboys as they went. So engrossed were they, that some time had passed before they knew there was a fourth figure with them.

He was tall, a powerfully built man, with a smooth bald head and thick beard. His mouth seemed to work as if he were chewing something as he spoke. "Took ya long enough to be wit' the turnin' a'roun', I'd say, pups!" His voice was bordering on gruff, but not yet there. As he towered over them, a hint of humor nipped at the corners of his eyes. "I was tol' look for three young men so forgive me if I didna thin' that'd be you three, more like boys, ya are, then men."

They gaped as him a moment, then recovered there wits. "I'm Jashen, this is Crispian and Asotrem," Jash said as he indicated his friends in turn. "I fear we don't have your name though, sir, if you please to give it." Without realizing it, Jashen, Cris and Asotrem each had shifted slightly, putting this stranger in the middle of arc of themselves.

The man's eyes narrowed as he assessed them, his hands moving slightly toward the blades that hung at each hip. Then, in a tone a bit higher than would be imagined, he laughed. It was a rich laugh that rolled from him, and hinted at a bit of derision as well as a great deal of mirth.

"Ah, that be more of what I'd been sortin' ta see from ya!" He smiled. "Yer auntie be writin' ahead of ya that she'd be sendin' ya on to the city, and I been watchin' fer ye like I said I would ta her. I'm Allonan, Allonan Tarmac." He paused, as if expecting a reaction he didn't get. "Dinna tell ya about me, did she? Course not, course not!" He waved dismissively.

"No matter, but I'll be about taking you to the city now, and makin' ya to be settled in as it were, but first we be stoppin' to the station keep. Need to have ya enroll with the guard before ya can do much else, ya know."

They passed a stunned look between them. In all their time on the farm and in the village, they'd not seen this man, nor any warrior of the realm other than Orman. Where'd he suddenly come from in their aunt's past?

"No disrespect, sir," Crispian started cautiously, guaging from the wear on the hilts that both of this man's blades had seen some service, "but who are you again and how do you know Auntie Mir?" He realized his eyes were owl-wide and strove for a more measured expression.

"Well, yer auntie ain't jis been sittin' aroun' sewin' and darnin' while you've been off learnin' sword play, boy." His voice had turned to a growling near-bark. "An' who I am to her and such it more than you should be askin' right the now. C'mon, off to the station."

Without a further word, he pivoted on heel and marched in the direction of a small keep still in the approach of the city. Situated on a small rise, it had a commanding view of the approach into the city proper. The squat fortress sat on a raised mound of earth, with towers favoring the approaches opposite the city.

Allonan led them without pause into the courtyard of the fortress. “There’s Sir Bertrand, register of new recruits. Sign up with him, then find me at the tap room.” Without further instruction, he turned and proceeded into a slope-roof area near the stables.

Sir Bertand stood near the turret tower of the keep, a large-boned man in half-plate armor. His seasoned face was lined and tanned from being in the weather often, and his sword showed sings of much use. As the boys approached, he neither acknowledged nor put them off. A curt nod was all they got.

“Sir,” Crispian began with a bow, “we’re here to enlist in the King’s service, sir, and we were told to speak with you on this.”
Crispian Pontiff, Precentor, St. Crispin's League

"For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother" Henry V
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Posts: 483
Joined: Wed Oct 09, 2002 3:42 pm

Postby Crispian » Mon Apr 17, 2006 6:31 am

The knight turned his head and surveyed the boys before him. "The king needs warriors not children," he scoffed, his face screwing up in a look of distaste. "Go home to your mommas and grow up before you come here."

Crispian's face turned red as the man spoke. "Sir, we're all of age this week past and seek to serve the King for the war." He was annoyed that in his anger, his voice broke, probably making him sound all the more young to the seasoned man he was addressing.

"That's well and good lad, and I commend you all for that, but soldiers is what I need to be sending the king, not children!" Bertrand's voice was clipped and sharp as he spoke. He was tired of seeing the youth of his homeland marshal up and go off to the war, now dragging into nearly its second decade. Too many young men like those before him had come to petition for service only to receive the pall as a reward. "Be off and come back when you're mature men."

Jashen had heard enough of this dissuasion and shouldered in front of Crispian. "At least give us a show of arms before you try to send us back to harvest the crops you'll need to feed those you deem worthy of serving!" he snapped in a tone far less deferential than Crispian's. "Let us show you our steal before you pack us off as children to assauge your heart, Sir Knight."

Color rose high in Bertrand's face, his eyes narrowing in anger and shame. "You want a battle of arms, is it, boy? I could clear the field of you three myself without winding myself." His cold glare cut into all of them as he swept them over. "So be it, make ready then if you think you're so capable!"

The boys set their packs aside while the knight relieved himself of the heavy cloak he wore over his garrison armor. The light chain was not what he'd wear in battle but that concerned him not against three provincial youths so late come to the keep. Unlimbering his great sword, he took a few practice swipes. Sir Bertrand was known in circle of war for his mastery of the large blade.

"Sargent!" he called in a booming voice as he watched the lads before him make themselves ready, checking their gear thoroughly. Grudgingly, he had to concede a point on that matter. They didn't seem at play in how they looked over their own gear, and checked that of the others, tightening buckles here, or shifting a strap there. "You'll be judge to this contest with these three."

A curt nod was reply enough as the under-officer took up a stance. "This will follow the rules of festival. Blows will score points, winner will be to the man that gains the yield or accumulates the highest count."

The three ranged out in a loose arc facing the knight, who showed no concern as he took each in. The lad who spoke first was center of their line, a small shield on his guard arm and a fair looking blade in hand. The bold one stood left, two blades in hand, seeming to almost dance on the balls of his feet in anticipation. The third, Bertrand calmly noted, stood further back. A longbow already was knocked with blunted arrows.

"Have at you!" he cried as he rushed forward, great sword swinging in a wide arc before him. The mouthy lad danced out of range, letting the other take the blow on his shield. An arrow whizzed past the knight's head as he rounded for another strike, the center lad not giving much ground in the face of the blows. So it was for some minutes, a great sweep to drive them back and dodge a fair aimed arrow. The youths moved about, making Bertrand shift to press his advantage.

It was some minutes before their plan became clear to him. Sweat running down his face, he swung another grand blow toward the center man when the bold one rushed him from the off-side, landing two blows in quick succession as an arrow thunked into his breastplate.

Bertrand's eyes narrowed in arnger. "So you aim to wear me down and strike cheaply, it is?" He wheeled in rage and struck toward the bold one, parrying aside the frantic blades of the boy to land a sound flat to his mid-section.

Crispian saw the turn of anger as Bertand rushed Jashen. In a heart-beat, he surged into the opening, landing his shield against the knigth's flank and barely ducking Asotrem's shot to the shoulder. Jashen was down from the cuffing his shoulder had taken and a pommel turn caught Crispian's jaw hard enough to make a loud crack. Dazed, he stumbled back, turning a follow-up attempt on his shield.

Asotrem watched the twins falter as he plied his arrows, one following the other toward every opening the knight provided. He moved at the edge of the encounter, amazed his friends were able to appear between him and knight each time he could have charge the archer.

Bertand figured the loud-mouth one was down for a bit and took his attention fully on the center lad, whose shield was showing the marks of the great blade. "Pups! Time to send you kenneling!" he roared as he charged, his blade coming flat against the shield bearer's head as he rushed the archer. Asotrem produced his own sword, turning a blow in just time while bringing his buckler around to slap at the Knight's face.

Jashen shook his head to clear it from his latest encounter with the knight and saw Crispian sag to the ground, blood running down his neck. A rage rose up at the sight of his twin dropping. No roar of warning came from the younger one as he ran full toward the knight. Boots threw up clouds of dust as he charged, hitting the knight in back as he brought his blade around on Asotrem again.

“FOUL!” the sergeant called, charging onto the field himself, a hand lifting Jashen by the belt as he landed great round-house blows on the knight’s neck and shoulders. “Tournament rules as that you cannot charge a foe from behind!”
Crispian Pontiff, Precentor, St. Crispin's League

"For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother" Henry V
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Warlord Central Staff
Posts: 483
Joined: Wed Oct 09, 2002 3:42 pm

Postby Crispian » Thu Apr 20, 2006 10:56 am

The tap room lay hard against the stablery and was a frequent stop for those passing through the keep. Low, with a wide beamed ceiling, light seeped through cracks in the wall and around the shutters to give the entire area a diffused sort of look. The mercenary made his way with confidence through the dust-moat clogged shafts of light to his prefered area, in any tavern, near the back.

Joining two others at a table, he brooded a moment over his cup. "He's not much to look at," he finally muttered, quaffing a gulf of his drink. "Nor seems much to follow, in my opinion."

They traded looks inside their cowled cloaks. "That may be as it seems, but recall that others have led who did not put forth the...classic vision of a leader. Even Master Toorc was seen as too aged when he ascended to the high ranks." The voice, feminine, was clipped and sharp, a level of stress carrying through it.

"True as tha' be, he's a lad," the mercenary muttered, "and unproven."

The other figure stiffened. "He has the best training he could and from a young age, all else will have to learned." His scarred fist lifted a tankard as he took a deep drink. "We were all such at one time."
Crispian Pontiff, Precentor, St. Crispin's League

"For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother" Henry V
Warlord Central Staff
Warlord Central Staff
Posts: 483
Joined: Wed Oct 09, 2002 3:42 pm

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