Time of the Knight (Part Two)

Time of the Knight (Part Two)

A Story by Wez Hardyn
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A quest for redemption

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Chapter 5
  The Comte de Sancerre was wrestling with a particularly reticent piece of meat while his son looked expectantly at him. 
‘Can’t the cook find me some venison that doesn't still fight back on the plate! I’ve been chewing on this beast long enough’
With that he flung his plate and its contents against the wall. A flurry of servants attended to his mess. 
‘What are we to do Father?’ asked his son again.
‘What are WE to do? You go down to the village to pester that woman again and someone objects, what is that to me? You have a sword and a troop of my men and you run back here for help?’
‘But he was a Templar, with that fanatical look they all have’
‘He is a man like any other - or do you believe all those myths about the Order. Anyway, how do you know he was a Templar?’
‘There was a cross on the hilt of his sword, I’ve seen those before - only Templars have such swords’
‘He must be a straggler who survived the massacres of Hattin and Jerusalem - or even a deserter trying to sneak back to his home. Either way he should not be a threat to us. Go back and chase this ‘knight’ out of the county’
‘I will father, but can I have Armand and Hugh just to make certain?’
‘My best knights? This Templar certainly made an impression on you - very well but don’t return if you’re unsuccessful. It would seem your lust has embarrassed the family honour and you have put me in a difficult position; just once could you try and act like a son of the House of Sancerre?’
                                                 *******************************************
  Yolande was deep in thought as she washed the bedding in the river. Although Fulk had not enjoyed a bath for many weeks his smell was not entirely objectionable. There hadn’t been a man in her bed for many long years and she pounded the bedding on a rock furiously, in part, to exorcise such thoughts.  The story he had told of the terrible place called ‘The Horns of Hattin’ where the whole army of Jerusalem had perished was almost unbelievable to her. But she new deep in her heart it was true - Fulk could not lie. She had asked of her husband but the Templar had no news for her. All he could say was if he was garrisoned at Jerusalem then the chance was high that he was dead. She had seen the tears forming in his eyes when he told of the loss of the True Cross (which was always taken into battle at the head of the Christian army). Fulk believed that God had turned his back on the crusaders and that this was just the beginning of their punishment. He would not say why he thought so but she sensed the shame he felt personally and on behalf of the Kingdom - something had gone terribly wrong with the Christian rule of the Holy Land. Now he was here, but why? Jeanne was insisting that he had come to save them from the depredations of the Comte de Sancerre. The little girl looked upon him as she might have done on her father. Coincidence or not Fulk had confronted Thibaud and she knew that he would not rest until the ‘insult’ had been exorcised. He would bring a small army and how could any one man withstand such an assault?
‘You hit that bedding any harder and you’ll have nothing but shreds left’
She looked up to see Fulk standing above her. Now that he had bathed and shaved he looked like a God to her. This would not do, she was thinking like a teenage girl with a crush on a local prince.
‘I’ll thank you not to creep up on me sir’ she said testily.
Fulk’s smile withered: ‘Forgive me, my Lady’
‘Why did you have to come here? You insult a prince and now he’ll come back and kill you and burn our village to the ground: and then Jeanne will…’
Her voice trailed off as she saw the hurt in his face.
‘Jeanne will what?’ he said with concern.
‘I, I don’t know but you must have seen the way she looks at you - if she is to lose you too!’
Tears began to role down her beautiful cheeks.
‘Do not bury me so quickly, Yolande. I have survived the wrath of many a great Saracen warrior and I do not fear the usurper Count and his cowardly son’
‘But will you fear the monster?’ said Jeanne who had approached them unseen.
Fulk turned to her:
‘A monster you say, little one, tell me of it’
Fulk’s smile had returned and there was a steely glint in his eye.
Chapter 6
  The sound of wooden staves clashing echoed around the forest. Fulk had conceded finally to Pierre’s requests for lessons in sword play. Pierre had made the point that owning a magnificent sword was useless if didn’t know how to wield it. 
‘Start with a high guard so you can use the weight of the blade when making a downward thrust’
Pierre did so and successfully parried Fulk’s swipe at his chest.
‘Remember to move to one side when you’ve parried the initial strike to keep your opponent off balance - sword fights are like dances of death’
They had been practicing an hour or so and Fulk was genuinely surprised at Pierre’s power. 
‘I think I need a rest Pierre, you’ve done well - did your father teach you to fight?’
‘Yes, but with shorter staves - my father never had a sword and always used a mace’
‘A ferocious weapon if used correctly’ said Fulk
They relaxed against a tree stump.
‘This monster Jeanne tells me of - have you ever seen it?’
‘No but I have heard the stories of others including my father’
‘Perhaps he was just trying to frighten his children for fun?’
‘Perhaps, but that would not be like him. He said the old Comte de Sancerre had captured it and kept it in a dungeon’
‘I would like to see this creature - perhaps I’ll visit the castle one night’
‘Rather you than me. Will you show me some moves with the real sword?’
‘Very well - what will serve as my opponent?’
Pierre pointed to a tree of about fifteen feet in height with a substantial trunk.
Fulk lifted the sword above his head and approached the offending tree. With two lightning strikes he defoliated it and then after a complete turn he smote the trunk with one tremendous blow. The tree came crashing down, forcing Pierre to leap for his life. Fulk was laughing as Pierre recovered staring at the knight with disbelief.
‘That was an impossible strike - it would take an axe at least a dozen strokes to bring down a tree of that size’
‘This blade was forged by the master blacksmith of the Temple. He used secret alchemies to make it practically invulnerable. Use its power to smite the wicked and protect the weak my friend. I used it in the service of those I found to be perfidious, so I loose the right to be its master and must ask your permission to use it against the Count’
‘Of course, Lord Fulk, when ever the need is yours’
‘Your heart is pure my young friend, I pray you can keep it so’
At that moment they heard the shouts of Jeanne:
‘They have come, they have come, Thibaud is come for his revenge’
‘Has he a mighty army?’ enquired Fulk calmly.
‘Just him with two knights - but they look very fierce’ said the little girl.
‘Do not worry little one, the vulture looks fierce but is a coward and will take flight at the merest sound. Their cause is unjust and so they will perish’
‘Do not treat them carelessly my Lord, they live to kill and know no mercy’
‘Again you speak the wisdom of one beyond your years Jeanne, never have I known a child such as you. I will be wary of them as if they be snakes. Now take your brother and find Yolande; then go to your secret place where we first met. I will come for you when this business is done’
Chapter 7
  ‘Where is this Templar of yours?’ asked Hugh impatiently.
‘He’ll be here, he’s not the type to run’  responded Thibaud.
Then they heard the heavy hoof beats of Fulk’s mighty warhorse. He emerged from the forest in full armour with a lance couched before him. His helm glinted as his head turned toward them. The horses backed up with nervous energy making the riders work their spurs to stand their ground. The Templar stopped about ten yards in front of them.
‘I have no wish to kill you this day so return from whence you came’
He saw fear in the eyes of two of them but the third wore a grim countenance that could freeze the blood - he is the danger thought Fulk. They confronted each other in silence as a falcon perched high above on a barn roof - it’s black eye watching the scene below.
‘Very well, I suggest we dismount so as not to destroy too much of the village’ suggested Fulk.
The knights bowed in agreement. As the Templar dismounted Hugh spurred his horse and charged at him. With one movement Fulk drew his sword as he dismounted and swung around arcing the blade downwards. It decapitated the charging horse, its body sliding to a halt trapping Hugh beneath it. The knight looked wide eyed with terror as the Templar approached him. 
‘Please no, have mercy my lord’
Fulk raised his sword with both hands and plunged it down into the coward’s heart. Looking up he saw Thibaud attempt to flee. But the other knight caught his reins with his gaunlet:
‘No running away this time my lord, this is your fight and we will finish it or die in the attempt’
They dismounted, swords raised. Fulk held his sword as if in prayer, its blade perfectly vertical between the eyes of his helm. Thibaud launched an attack out of desperate fear but his blade was parried easily and Fulk delivered a stunning blow to his chest that floored him with a wretched groan.
‘It was always going to be between you and I Templar’ said Armand advancing.
‘I too knew it would be so, what is your name?’ replied Fulk.
‘I am Armand de Blanchfort’
‘Fulk d’Outremont at your service’
Fulk aimed a blow which was met by one of equal force, the metal of both blades squealing with anguish as they met. The clashes continued as both circled to find the advantage. Suddenly Fulk stumbled on a rock and in a flash Armand’s blade found its mark. The Templar crashed to the ground, stunned by the blow to his leg. As Armand raised his sword for a killer blow, Fulk rolled and swept the knight’s feet from under him. They were both scrabbling in the dust to find their footing. Both limping slightly now they faced each other again.
‘We could have used a warrior like you to defend the Kingdom of Jerusalem, did you never take the cross?’ asked Fulk as he gasped for air.
‘I was not old enough to go with the old Count, so I went into the service of his brother who never had any intention of serving the Pope or any man’
‘T’was a black day for you and the kingdom. I suppose you wouldn’t care to yield?’
Armand laughed grimly and launched another attack. Parrying, Fulk spun and dealt a blow to his opponent’s back. Armand fell to his knees and Fulk kicked him to the floor.
‘Now will you yield?’ said Fulk standing over him.
‘You know I cannot, tell them I die with regret for my allegiances but not with fear’ he said raising himself, once more, to his knees.
‘I will’ said Fulk, decapitating the knight swiftly.
Suddenly a woman’s scream rang out. Fulk turned to see Thibaud plunging at him with a dagger. Just as suddenly a loud clang rang out and the Count’s son collapsed into the dust. Standing over him was Pierre holding a large black war mace.
‘Is he dead?’ asked Pierre.
‘I think his helmet protected his life but he will have the mother of headaches when he wakes  - I thought I told you to wait in the forest’
‘It’s just as well I didn’t, don’t you think? Besides Jeanne and I will never leave your side’
‘A man could wish for no better comrades’ said Fulk putting his hand on Pierre’s shoulder. 
He turned to see Yolande gazing upon the scene and then promptly collapsing in a feint. The falcon had seen enough and launched itself heavenwards. 
Chapter 8
  Carrying Yolande back to her house Fulk dispatched Jeanne for some water from the well and Pierre he told to bind Thibaud securely and put him in the barn. Reaching her bedroom he laid Yolande gently down. Her emerald eyes opened with a flutter. She leant up and kissed him passionately. Fulk, surprised, backed away a little. Yolande looked down in shame:
‘I, I thought you were to die out there, forgive me Lord Fulk’
‘There’s nothing to forgive my Lady, I died at Hattin and if I am to live again it will be because of you and the children, but…’
‘But what, my Lord?’ she whispered.
‘There’s something deep in my memory that  I can’t recall, something about this place or your husband? That black mace that Pierre just used so effectively, I swear I’ve seen it before, and the Falcon, did you see it?’
‘I saw no falcon my love, perhaps with the battle and your long trip home your mind can find no peace. I cannot imagine a more terrible scene than the one I have just witnessed, but you have seen much worse!’
‘I am sorrowed that you saw me kill, that’s no sight for a woman to see. We write romances and ballads about war but the truth is it’s brutal and sickens the soul. I was born to it but feel nothing but shame in having to kill’
Jeanne entered with the water:
‘Is mother alright?’
‘Yes, my darling, I’m fine’
‘Wasn’t Lord Fulk magnificent today mother?’
‘Where on earth do you learn such words child, and yes you were magnificent’  said Yolande looking into his eyes. 
‘What will the Count do now?’ asked Jeanne thoughtfully.
‘It’s time I met this troublesome nobleman - I will go and speak with him’ announced Fulk.
‘He’ll kill you on sight’ said Yolande, horrified.
‘Not if we have his son to bargain with. Perhaps I can get him to leave us alone if we return Thibaud’
‘I wouldn’t want him back’ said Jeanne to the laughter of the others.
‘What if Jeanne is right Fulk?’ said Yolande.
‘Then this little war will continue until either the Comte de Sancerre is dead or I am’
‘And the monster?’
‘And the monster’ smiled Fulk d’Outremont.
Concluded in Part Three...

© 2017 Wez Hardyn


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as a falcon perched high above on a barn roof - it’s black eye watching the scene below. I would drop this part and the last mention of the Falcon unless the Falcon plays a part further along. As I thought the story picks up its pace from here. Much better than the first part. Your knight is JUST now developing a personality so we can identify with him and bond.

Posted 10 Years Ago



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Added on October 3, 2013
Last Updated on July 4, 2017
Tags: Historical Drama, Crusades, Quest Romance

Author

Wez Hardyn
Wez Hardyn

Cambridge, United Kingdom



About
I've had some success publishing my essays on politics and I want to try my hand at fiction. Having already started my first novel I am very interested in what others are writing - especially novices .. more..

Writing