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.

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