Thursday, November 5, 2009

Day 05

Now would be a good time to explain the reason for this. Carmela was born with a curse that made her twist and turn her words in such a way that people could not understand her. She would use words that exist, of course, but they were so obscure, or she used them in a way so that they were utterly incomprehensible. The curse also made her speak longer than she should at times. This, combined with her use of language, could often result in listeners falling asleep, into a deep coma, or fall dead if she spoke long enough.

This is what would have happened to the villager that Carmela tried to get directions from, if she did not stop herself from uttering another word and just took off to continue her search for her wife. She tried following hoof prints in the dirt road, but found them to be accompanied by too many other hoof prints and footprints that she did not know which way to go. Soon she found herself lost and unable to speak with any of the villagers.

Isabella herself had been taken to a poor man’s home, the man being the guard who kept his helmet on. He tied the horse to a tree and carried poor Isabella inside the house and threw her in the basement, then paced around his home, contemplating his next move. Then he heard a quiet, ceaseless noise coming from the basement. The guard banged his fist against the door, but the mumbling did not stop. He slammed the door open to find Isabella at the bottom of the stairs, sitting and muttering with her head cast downward, one hand over her still bleeding nose.

“What are you doing? Stop that!”

He thundered down the stairs, but before he could reach the bottom, Isabella told him what she was doing, and also mumbling: “Rain ub bire.”

Fire rained down from the ceiling on top of the guard as Isabella got to her feet and ran deeper into the basement, with only the fire as a source of light. The guard stumbled down the rest of the stairs, almost tripping over his own feet, screaming as the fire rained down inside his helmet. He threw off his helmet and frantically tried to pat the fire out of his hair, but it instead consumed his face. He took out his sword, swinging it around with one arm as he kept trying to put out the fire with the other, while screaming even louder, “I’ll get you, bitch! I’ll get you!”

The only thing he got, however, was a nice fall when Isabella stuck her leg out of the dark and in front of the guard. He took the opportunity to writhe around the floor in pain, screaming, as Isabella kicked the sword away from him and proceeded to pummel his face with her foot until he stopped moving. She patted out a bit of flame from her shoe, took his sword, and removed its belt and scabbard from the guard, taking that, too, then walked back up the basement stairs.

Meanwhile, Carmela was wandering the town, looking for any sign of her wife. She reached the outskirts of the town once more, and started to travel around it. She then saw, tied to a tree, Isabella’s horse outside of one of the houses isolated away from the village. Excited, but also fearing the worse, Carmela sped up to the home of the guard, tied up her own horse by Isabella’s, drew her sword, and kicked the door in.

Inside sat Isabella at the table of the only room in the small house, eating some bread and cheese, wearing a belt and sheathed sword. An extra sat plate at the other end of the table.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 04

When Carmela was stripped of her armor and got into her night clothes, she laid on the side of the side of the mattress away from the opening of the tent. Her wife settled on the other side to block the view of anyone who happened to stray into the tent from Carmela. Exhausted from that day’s work, unaware of how much further from the last their next assignment was really going to take them, the knight and the sorceress slept.

Isabella was the first to leave the tent the next morning. She grabbed a pail of water to bring back to the tent so that she and Carmela could wash themselves in peace. When all was said and done, and Carmela had scrubbed her armor down and put all on once more, they went back to Alberto’s tent to get the directions to the great knight of Valladolid’s new prison. The former prisoners were crowded around the tent, too, ready to be escorted to the nearest village so that they could return home.

Alberto only marked their maps unceremoniously, wished them luck, and sent the two on their way. On their two horses and on their way they did go. When Isabella double checked their map, she noticed that they would be going on the same road where they had encountered the two guards. Carmela expressed hope that they would not have any problems as they did before, which meant that they, of course, would.

In fact, when Carmela and Isabella arrived at those very same crossroads, they saw not only the remaining guard that Isabella had casted her jolting spell on, not only one new guard, but in total four sentries at the intersection, each looking down a different road. The one that Isabella had shocked with her cane was looking down the very same road that the two were approaching on.

When he spotted them, they were still a good distance away, almost mere specks, but while drawing out his sword, he gave a yell. “You, there! Come here this instant so you may pay reparations for what you did yesterday!”

The other three guards in black were quick to run to his side and pull out their own swords as Isabella shouted back, “We’ll just go some other way, then! Unless you would like me to make a pun about lightning striking twice?”

Three yelled, “No!” The other said, “It is two of you against four of us today, and you will not catch us by surprise this time. We will allow you to give yourselves your own deathbed and funeral prayers before we take off your heads in the name of our evil king of Segovia Avila!”

“How did they get reinforcements so quickly?” Isabella asked. “Oh well, what can we do. Let’s just find another way around to get to the prison.”

“Some put a higher value on their medium of exchange than all else, “replied Carmela, “but what does it take to get their almighty coin? Time is of underappreciated importance to everything, and time is something that we, nor any man living or dead, can spare. Let us instead go through our obstacles with high egos, and show them that in time, they will be trumped by that which they desire to fell!”

Carmela lightly kicked the sides of her horse, and it walked on. Isabella followed, taking out her cane. The two travelled on, heads held high, as if they were not about to face four armed men ready to behead them. When they were about ten yards away, Carmela dug her heels into the sides of her horse, and it broke into a run, aiming straight for the four guards. They held their swords at the ready as Carmela reached behind her back not for her own sword, but for her flanged mace. The guards were ready to intercept her, two on each side, but right before Carmela reached them, she swiftly veered her horse to one side and knocked one of the guards over his head with the mace, which flung him to the ground. He struggled to get back on his feet as Carmela’s horse slowed down and turned back around, then stopped.

“That’s unfair, using a mace in a swordfight,” protested a guard.

“Very dishonorable,” agreed another.

“You’re evil. What do you care how we fight?” Isabella, who had caught up with them, asked. “It’s four against two, anyway.”

“Just because we’re evil doesn’t mean that we don’t have rules or standards to abide by,” said a third. “Besides, you’re both attacking us on a horse, so that about evens it out, wouldn’t you agree?”

The other three nodded and made general noises to show that they did indeed agree.

“Alright, how about this,” said Isabella. “Carmelo will take you all on one by one with his sword, and without his horse or mace. If you all win, you can, I don’t know, kill Carmelo and make me an evil servant. Is that good with you, Carmelo?”

Carmela nodded, and the four sentries huddled together to speak with one another. After a few seconds, they split up and also said that they agreed to Isabella’s terms. Carmela put away her mace and jumped off of her horse as the four lined up, with the guard from the previous day third in line. Isabella kissed her wife’s helmet, wishing her good luck.

The first, the one that had been hit over the head with the mace, stepped forward, and he and Carmela engaged in thrilling combat, steel hitting steel, until Carmela sidestepped the guard and hit him once more on the back of his head. Once more, the guard fell to the ground, though this time, blood poured from his helmet, painting the ground red. Carmela moved away from the body to make room for the next challenger.

The second was the one who was beside the guard who had received a blow to the head with the mace, and had skillfully dodged it. When he stepped up, he swung his sword around as if he were ready to bat at something flying his way. Carmela flicked her sword downward, ridding it of the blood from her first opponent. The guard approached, and again, swords clashed.

As the two were engaged, Isabella slipped behind the halved line of guards. She raised her cane to the neck of the one in the back and said a few hushed words. The cane gave him a shock much stronger, and much louder, than the one she had given to the guard that was third in line from the day before, who incidentally heard the spell, spun around, and delivered a punch square in Isabella’s face.

The punch made her fall straight on her back by the guard she had stunned just a few seconds before. She reached for her cane, but it had flown a few feet away. The honorable knight grabbed her by the collar of her dress and hoisted her over his shoulders. This prompted a kick to the stomach from Isabella, but her foot only hit metal, causing her to yell out in pain. Still, she shouted and struggled, pummeling the guard as much as she could without hurting herself again. The armored guard just walked over to Isabella’s horse, got on, and took off down the road to Cuellar with her.

This scene did not go unnoticed by Carmela, who had to watch as she dueled with the second guard. When the Isabella’s captor went for the horse, she tried to break away from the fight, but the guard blocked her from escaping. Carmela fought as hard as she could, knowing that every minute she spent with the remaining guard was a minute advantage the guard on horseback had on her. And several minutes did pass, until Carmela was able to knock the sword from the sentry’s hand. As soon as Carmela clocked him one with her mace, she grabbed Isabella’s cane, hopped on her own horse, and rode off after her wife.

For miles Carmela rode as quickly as she could, the wind screaming in her ears, the helmet’s visor providing almost no protection against its cold sting. Every time she thought she saw the figure of two people riding a horse in the distance, they would disappear.

This went on for at least an hour, until Carmela spotted a village ahead. Heart racing, she pushed her horse further, only slowing down when she saw the first person at a house on the edge of the town. She pulled back on her horse’s reigns until it stopped by the villager, a tall and lanky man sitting on a tree stump, sharpening a knife with a piece of leather.

“Ho, good fellow!” said Carmela to the man. “Have you perchance observed a particularly rancorous being who had absconded through this hamlet with a gentlewoman donned in green?”

The man stared at her with plate-sized eyes. “What?”

“Have you perchance peeked at a particularly pernicious personality who progressed through this parish with a personage primped in green?” Carmela impatiently repeated.

The man responded by further gawking at her.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Day 03

Carmela tied up the entrance to the tent and took off her helmet. Isabella helped her take off the rest of her armor, both in silence except for the occasional remark from Isabella about how unnecessary half of what Carmela wore seemed to be.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day 02

They were in the clearing of woodlands that sat comfortably enough away from any villages in Valladolid, or the border. Carmela and Isabella pulled the prison wagon to a tent near the center, where they hopped off of their horses. Isabella stretched her arms towards the sky, then hunched over slightly and held the cane in her hand as support, while Carmela let the prisoners out. As they exited the wagon, they smiled and nodded, or gave thanks, to the knight, and wandered around the tent, talking amongst themselves.

When all of the prison wagon’s occupants had left it and the two women made sure that they were all well, they closed its doors and entered the tent side by side. In the tent sat a bespectacled man in his night clothes on hay mattress. He greeted them with a yawn. “Sir Blanca, Lady Isabella.”

“Good evening, Alberto,” said Isabella. “I’m sure Carmelo would say the same, if he could, of course.”

“Of course.” Alberto lifted up his glasses to rub his right eye, then directed his attention towards the knight and asked, “You two are earlier than expected. Everything went alright?”

“Getting in the prison didn’t take too long,” answered Isabella. It normally doesn’t when one stabs and electrocutes all of the guards. “We didn’t meet much resistance on our way back, either.” They weren’t given a chance to resist. “We took as many prisoners with us as we could, and no one was harmed.” Well, no one that matters in this story. “Our only problem is this man who seems to be unable to understand us, or speak our language. I think he may be from Italy.”

“Good, good.” Alberto sleepily bobbed his head up and down. “Actually, I’m glad you two came back earlier. As you know, the great knight-”

“Excuse me, I’m sorry,” Isabella interrupted. “If we already know, then why are you going to tell us anyway?”

“It is for your benefit, my dear, incase you may have forgotten anything,” he responded, “and for the benefit of anyone else who has not heard our story.”

“We’re the only three in this tent.”

“As you may know, when the great knight of Valladolid was captured by the evil knights of Segovia Avila, we lost the one person who was supposed to deliver us from whatever future tyranny they may bring our great kingdom. After his capture, the king decided not to do anything about it, even after our own citizens were jailed afterwards for so much as even crossing the border into Segovia Avila. This was probably to avoid an all-out war, so our group has disassociated ourselves with our own country to rescue these people.

“Just today, we have found out that the great knight mentioned before is being taken to a prison closer to our location, which will make it much safer for us to rescue him. Carmelo, since you have done such a fantastic job with your rescue missions, we would like you to be the one to rescue our good knight. Do you accept, Carmelo?”

Isabella looked at Carmela, who just nodded. “Yeah, he does.”

“Fantastic,” said Alberto, clapping his hands. “I will need you both to get as much rest as you can tonight so you can set off first thing tomorrow morning. Now let’s get the rest of this business taken care of, shall we?”

Alberto left the tent to talk with the escapees. Carmela and Isabella followed suit, going to their own tent. It was just how they left it: a hay mattress in the middle, with some bags of clothing here and there, a mirror, the basics for hygiene, and Carmela‘s old surcoat that she had not worn since joining the little group of rebels.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Day 01

Prologue
Once upon a time, there was a great knight in a kingdom in Spain. Because this kingdom had not been at war for over a hundred years, there were only internal needs for the knight’s services, so he went wherever his lord sent him to keep the peace.

A tavern in a small village near the knight’s hometown had been having problems with fights breaking out almost every night. The tavern’s owner requested that someone be sent to stop the fights after his son, one of the bartenders, had been injured. A stray stool had stricken him in the face when he attempted to stop one of the fights, and he lost so much blood that he had to be sent to a monastery’s hospital to be further bled out. When the owner requested that help be sent, the knight was given the quest of finding the source of the tavern brawls and putting an end to them.

After a day of traveling, the knight finally arrived one evening, and decided that this would be the night that the fighting in the tavern would end. He dismounted his horse, tied him up to a nearby tree. With a hand on his sword, he burst through the doorway, and came face-to-finger with the finger of a hag, who shrieked, “And it will be him!”

The entire tavern cheered. A few of its patrons tried to lift the knight, but after one was almost immediately crushed under the weight of the armor, they set him back down. Several drinks were passed to him, and the noise only grew. The knight felt so overwhelmed that he almost forgot to ask why his arrival was met with such joy.

After ten minutes, the knight finally asked the hag about the reason for such celebration. Was is because he would be the one to rid the tavern of the customers that keep trashing it? Were they not customers, but specters? Were ghosts haunting the tavern, and he was to escort them to the afterlife with his sword? The hag replied that this was not so.

“I had a vision!” she proclaimed. “A vision that someone would save our country from the kingdom of Segovia Avila, which has just fallen under the rule of an evil tyrant. It would be the first person that would walk through the tavern doors, and that person is you, good knight!”

The knight replied, “If this is true, we must leave at once. Come with me, back to my lord, so you can tell him what transpired in your dream, so we can take action at once!”

The conversation paused, then the hag replied that she could not possibly leave for so long. She had children to take care of, you see. But she assured him that she told him everything she knew, and she was sure that his lord did not need to hear it from her own mouth. In fact, the hag told the knight, he should set out right away so that her tale would be fresh in his memory when he returned.

The knight agreed, and after bidding a good night to everyone in it, including the bartender, who was on a barstool in the corner as far away from the rest of the noisy crowd as he could manage, the knight left. As he untied his steed from the tree, he heard the cheers grow louder. Reassured, the knight mounted the horse, and swiftly rode off out of the village and back to his hometown.

He arrived at the castle sometime in the morning, and being in too much of a hurry, did not even bother to lead his horse to the stables. When the drawbridge was completely down, he rode right over it, into the castle, and did not stop until he was in the throne room, where he declared that he must see the lord of the town immediately. When he assured the servants of the castle that it was indeed an emergency, the lord, still in his royal pajamas, hustled to the throne room, took his seat, and placed his crown on his head. The knight told him what happened at the tavern, concluding with what the hag had told him. The nobleman on the throne contemplated this for a minute, then decided to send the knight to the king. The knight arrived at the king’s castle that evening, a letter in hand. He told the king his story, and the king read the letter from the knight’s lord. The king agreed that the knight must set out at once, and so the knight did.

And when the knight entered the kingdom of Segovia Avila, he was promptly captured.

Chapter One: The Guard Who Kept His Helmet On
Down a path in some woods in Segovia Avila slowly strolled a prison wagon. In it contained some who were homeless or farmers, and some who were merchants or enjoyed more than a modest home. All of them looked like peasants. On one of the horses rode a knight dressed in black armor, with a crow stitched on the surcoat.

Up ahead at an intersection, the knight could see two men donning the same armor, pacing about. He slowed the wagon to a crawl, glancing behind himself once or twice. Where exactly the knight was looking was hard to tell because of the helmet that completely obscured his face.

When the wagon finally arrived at the intersection, the two men stopped it.

“Where are these prisoners headed?” asked one guard, after he removed his helmet.

The knight on the wagon said nothing, but jerked his head to the left, where a sign indicated that the road led to Cuellar in that direction.

“To the prisoners in Cuellar, huh? Why are they being brought there? They’re crowded enough as it is.”

“My father is a guard there,” said the second guard. “Can barely keep them all fed, he says, so there’ll be more room, soon.”

The two guards laughed, and the knight just nodded with them, looking a few more times behind the wagon.

“So why are they being brought here?” asked the first. “It looks as if you’ve come from Segovia. Surely they have enough prisons there to keep these fine people alive in?”

The knight shrugged. The first guard frowned at his unresponsiveness, and the second, with his helmet still on, just stared. The first stepped closer to the wagon, to the knight‘s side. “Surely you know why they are being brought here? Why would a knight be transporting prisoners, anyway?”

The other guard approached the other side of the wagon, putting a hand on the reins of the second of the two horses, still staring at the knight, who just shrugged at the questions again.

“Have you ever been to Cuellar? Would you like us to escort you to the prison?” the first asked, while putting his hands on the reins of the horse that the knight rode on.

The three stood still, the guards’ eyes on the knight, and the knight’s eyes possibly on the first guard. None of them dared to even show that they were breathing, or that they were even more alive than mere monuments sculpted in honor of this moment that would surely go down as one of the moments in Spanish history most deserving of monuments that depict moments.

“Hey, hold on!” shouted someone from the woods behind them. Their heads snapped in the direction of the voice, where a young woman was quickly hobbling towards them, the two braids in her otherwise free long dark hair bouncing behind her. She was using a cane as support, but it did not take long for her to reach the wagon.

“I’m terribly sorry,” the woman said. “This knight is mute. I‘m his wife, and I have to travel with him to communicate with others. But I got a little left behind when I lost my cane in the woods. I insisted he go on ahead without me, since I thought that it would not take me long to find it.”

“Oh!” The first guard let go of the reins of the knight’s horse. The second still didn’t let go of his. “Why did they let someone who could cause so much trouble, as he just about did, become a knight in the first place?”

“Because his swordsmanship remains unrivaled in all of Segovia Avila!” the wife proudly declared as the knight frantically shook his head. “Don’t mind him; he’s modest.”

“I’ve never heard of such a knight,” said the second guard, tightening his grip on the reins. The other guard followed up on this: “I’ve never heard of him, neither. What’s his name?”

“He is Carmelo Blanca.”

“I’ve definitely never heard of him,” the second guard immediately responded. “Why would a knight of his supposed caliber be transporting prisoners to begin with?”

“Most of these are mere peasants,” agreed the wife. “However, there is one prisoner among these men who was a knight. He was a great knight, too, but he went crazy, and started speaking in tongues. I think he’s from Germany. Isn’t that right, Diens Donners?”

“Jawohl!” yelled someone in the prison wagon.

“See? Crazy. It‘s what makes him dangerous. Very dangerous.”

“I’ve never heard of him, neither,” said the first guard.

“Yes, well. Anyway, we must really be on our way,” the wife said. She walked up to the second horse, and nodded and smiled at the guard still holding its reins. “May I get a lift, sir? I have a bad back, and I‘m dreadfully afraid of tearing my dress.”

Reluctantly, the second guard kneeled and cupped his hands together, hoisting the knight’s wife onto the horse. When she was finally settled on her steed, she smoothed out her green dress and thanked the kindly guard verbally and by touching him with her cane, which electrocuted him. The knight thanked the other guard for checking on the welfare of himself and his wife and that of their prisoners, and also for conveniently taking off his helmet, by drawing his sword and hacking off the guard’s head. Both fell to the ground, one certainly dead, the other in shock, and the knight and his wife quickly rode off with the prison wagon, past the roads that led to Cuellar and another town with a name of so little importance that it did not even get a mention in the previous dialogue.

After the bodies were out of sight, the knight took off his helmet, and she shook her braided hair out of her armor so that it could fly free.

“Indeed, it feels phenomenal to have the capability to lift this heavy weight of mine enemy off of the shoulders that battle for another country and purpose. Why, the beautiful forests with leaves so great and green that they seem as if they had been touched by the goddess of all things natural herself do not deserve to be occupied by the vile fiends that touch the lands of our great home of Spain, the-”

“Carmela.”

“Isabella,” replied the knight. Then, “Right. I am penitent. However, it is not often that I can escape the confines of my mask to speak freely among those who can speak candidly to one another without consequence or ill effect. My vocals are also lost on the wind and the clops of our steeds; they will not damage our sojourners so.”

“You’re right, you’re right,” Isabella sighed.

However, Carmela slowed the horses and the wagon down, and they spent the rest of the trip in silence. When they reached the border of Segovia Avila and Valladolid, Carmela tucked her braid back in her armor and placed the helmet on her head once more. What was a sunny, cloudless early autumn day turned into a cold night, and it was well past midnight by the time the knight and the sorceress arrived at a group of large tents.