Beautiful Lady’s Tales -- Part the First
Asullus Anguli XXVI ... (Asullus’ Corner)
Beautiful Lady’s Tales -- Part the First
Good day to all Gentle Readers ! ‘Tis Asullus, yer old an’ trusty gray Mule, an’ the steadfast Spritae, Morphia the Scribe, bringin’ to yer another two-parter – but this one from the lovely Lady, Mistress Geanninia.
An’ this arrangement will be followin’ along like that o’ Master Silverstrus, that is, a tale first told to all the young recruits that evenin’ in the field on Mid-Summer’s Night, all those years ago.
The Tragic Love Among the Virgin, the knight’s Squire and the Nymph
Part the First…
’Twas once in the merry month of Maius, when out from the stately castle of Sang Froid, rode Sir Ecklande of the Bright Armor, upon his trusted steed, Aequo Animo, in search of high adventure.
Wending his way down from the impregnable fortress perched on the cliffs above, the gentle Knight reached the village of the Four Corners. It was here, he stopped to consider which direction to pursue.
Reports told him by his squire, Geoffrey of Forthwrite, indicated that, to the north, skirmishes with barbarian hordes were increasing in intensity signaling, it was feared, a major invasion of Northmen to come next spring. To the east, wandering tribes of Scythians, accompanied by elements of the Sur, were said to be causing havoc to the fine wool and silk trade, threatening commerce, thereby, altogether. While to the south, Sine Litteris Verterunt Exterorum, composed of clans of border crossers, were overwhelming the troops manning the Great Wall. And, finally, to the west, vile brigands, made bold by the warming weather, had begun to plague travelers in and around the Olde Forest Woode, with pilfering, thievery and assault, such that neither road nor traveler was safe.
Now, Sir Ecklunde was no newly minted Knight, but one of great experience and strategy. And, while the strength of his youth — it is said he could lift seventy-five stone in each hand at one time — had, verily, diminished with the passage of time, the combination of his skill, guile and cunning led him to a parade of serial victories against enemies in campaign after campaign, unmatched throughout the land.
He also proved a disappointment for those who seek clay in the feet of every hero. And while there linger rumors and gossip that, in his younger days, he had occasion to make use of the grape, dance on tables when necessity called and carve a path of broken hearts through the young maidens of the county, his later years saw to his sober-ment, contrition and penitence, such that none could find fault with the character of this sturdy Knight, in his maturity.
At this juncture, Sir Ecklunde would have spoken over his shoulder to his daunty squire, young Geoffrey, and chosen the direction for the pair of them to assay. However, said squire was, at this moment, abed back in the castle, suffering, as the Knight understood it, from divers fevers accompanied by loosening of the entrails, apparently co-incident with a series of recent over-nights in the southwest swamps where he claimed to have been standing vigil called upon by certain visions he is said to have witnessed. Sir Ecklunde, however, harbored suspicions that these ‘vigils’ were more often to have included the company of one Darcea, a waitress at the local Lord of Prattle pub and grille, to whom the young squire seemed to have taken a fancy.
So, alas, the senior Knight was, for this expedition, to be alone in his need and, perforce, finding it necessary to attend to his various requirements, himself. Reflecting on this state of affairs for a moment, he sighed.
Considering, then, the choices open to him, he straightened and decided to leave all to his massive mount, in whom he had exceeding trust.
“Faithful Aequo Animo,” he petitioned, “pray select you our path that we may reduce yet the world’s level of villainry, while bringing honor and utility to our house.”
The great gray Percheron bucked his head, snorted and set out westward, his master’s accoutrements clattering at the trot.
The sun had reached the three-quarter’s point in the day’s passage by the time the Knight achieved the Brackish Mill, that out-building which marked the boundary of the Olde Forest Woode. Halting his steed, he surveyed his surround, nodded and then, with purpose, urged Aequo Animo forward to begin their journey underneath the canopy of the darkening trees.
Sir Ecklunde had traveled into the forest but an hour or so, when he first heard sounds of conflict — notably a young woman’s cry for succor and the louder voices of several men, shouting in gruff tones.
Urging his mount into a cantor — a gallop, in its haste, would have assured his riding directly into a low-hanging branch with the result that he would be of no assistance, whatsoever, to anyone.
Shortly, he came upon a clearing where he beheld a dreadful scene. To wit, a beautiful young girl, perhaps two decades on this Earth he judged, with clothing partially torn and in disarray, was standing with her back to a large oak, surrounded in a semi-circle by six roughly-dressed wayfarers.
A dagger was held in her right hand waving back and forth in the faces of those confronting her, while her other hand held a large stick facing her assailants bravely. She showed a bleeding cut on her cheek.
Off to her left a middle-sized roan stood, reins trailing on the ground. To that animal’s right was a Baise, slightly larger than its companion. From a bush at its feet projected two legs which Sir Ecklunde supposed to be the lady’s riding companion. Judging by the style of the pantaloons, the fallen rider was a young man, perhaps a courtier. To the woman’s right, were seven horses, all loosely tied to a nearby tree.
The six men — villains by their look — were cursing, but did not have their knives drawn. Rather, each held a nondescript wooden cudgel. The men’s attention was focused entirely on the girl, excepting the seventh man of the group, who, however, lay face down in a pool of blood and moved not.
Sir Ecklunde surmised the dead miscreant had met his end at the lady’s hand and he silently congratulated her.
The six remaining brigands were closing their circle around their victim. They, obviously, had no thought to kill her but, perhaps, intended her for the slave or other trade. Well, this day, they would be disappointed.
The Knight of Bright Armor reached down to his saddle bag lifting the holding flap and, reaching in, withdrew his cocked crossbow and a bolt. He would have only the one shot, he knew. Reloading the light arbalest while mounted would, of course, cause him to fall off the horse and even if he did, somehow, succeed in maintaining his balance, his prey would be long gone from the field by the time he had rewound the weapon.
Satisfying himself with his plan, Sir Ecklunde took aim at the man he believed the leader and loosed the charge. The shot was fair and the bolt took the ruffian midway in his back launching him a short distance before falling on the ground to join his companion, already in repose.
The other men exclaimed and looked back over their shoulders to see the Knight of the Bright Armor astride his horse, with sword raised above his head. Had they looked more closely, they would have seen the crossbow lying on the moss at the horse’s feet where he had but lately discarded it.
Sir Ecklunde nudged Aequo Animo forward in a walk. Had he begun galloping, the villains, he believed, would simply have scattered into the wood in all directions and he would have been a week in chasing them all down.
As it was, with a threat moving slowly enough, the thieves’ instinct would be to run for their horses. This was excellent in that this would cause them to stay on the forest path, and they would stay together, and they would keep a-horse, all of which suited the Knight as, even bearing his armored weight, Aequo Animo would chase down the fleetest of their nags with little effort.
Once they had all mounted and selected a direction in which to flee, Sir Ecklunde allowed himself a vocal challenge of, “Ho, scoundrels! Turn and face your death!” This, he felt, would insure their continued group flight and he could catch up to their flock, dispatching them from behind one by one until done.
A glance at the maiden as he rode past, assured him that she was able to stand and was alert, with her eyes fixed on him as he rode by. Good. She should be well until such time as he could return to this glen and see as to what her needs might be…
Well, we’ll be stoppin’ here today, an’ as they say, to be continued.
The Great North Tower, Northfast