medieval

Where Runs the Warhorse

Where runs the warhorse when his time has come?
When his barding’s gone and his reins retired,
When sounds the beating of a different drum
Than the ones of war, that had once inspired
His gallant service to a noble knight,
With whom he galloped to honor, glory,
In deeds of skill, chivalry and might,
Inspiring many a young man’s story
Of bravery, mastery, battles fought,
And many a lass’s dreams and song
Of ancient days when true knights sought
To prove their mettle with courage strong?
To Elysian fields, where the sweet grass grows,
To await his knight, when the Trumpet blows.

This weekend, the valiant steed of a dear friend, the knight to whom I am squired, passed on to the Elysian fields. I am not a horseman, myself, being massively allergic to those noble beasts, but I know too well how strong the bond between man and his animal friends can be. Fare thee well, Luke, and be ready for your next ride.

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“The Measure of a Man” – Turn-a-trope #4, #WOEGTTT

This one was incredibly tough! Were it not that I refused to be beaten by my own challenge, I would have tossed in the towel. That said, I think the following tale does a decent job of skewering the trope, “A Man is Not a Virgin.”

Enjoy.

Tomas rode with the fury of a man possessed. The gates of the ancient temple of Kalziban lay behind him, and in his wake, the bodies of a legion of slain hellions. Ahead, he could see the door that lead to the inner temple, and the Pool of Tears. He knew that he would find her there. Lillian. His sworn ward.

As the Knight of the cloak, it has been his responsibility to protect her. And he had, through countless dangers, countless attempts on her life. She was the last of the purest bloodline, and her death would profit many an evil man. He had fought dozens to defend her, and bested them all. Sir Tomas of the Cloak was, perhaps, the greatest knight who’d ever served.

She had vanished in the night, despite all precautions. Tomas knew this time would come, had since the moment of her birth. Tonight, the moons above aligned with the Dread star, the Blood Eye of Kalziban. He knew that whoever took her, would take her here. His horse stumbled, fell. Tomas leapt from its back as it went, tumbling to the ground in clash of steel and leather. He cried out as he struck a stony pillar. His horse, ridden far beyond exhaustion, cried out, and expired. He rose to his feet, and ran up the stairs and through the temple’s doors.

“You’re too late,” Alcyon cackled. The dread summoner held up his hands, dripping with blood. “Too late, hero, too late to save her, too late to stop the summoning!”

Tomas fell to his knees with a sob. Before him, splayed across the pentacle carved into the ground, was Lillian. Sweet, innocent Lillian. The last of legal heir to the kingdom of Tancreath. The Virgin Princess. The Keeper of the Barrier. His sworn ward.

Tears fell from Tomas’ cheek. He cast away his shield as he took her hand in his own, felt the cold lifelessness therein. Her body, a ruin of blood and savagery, her thighs, a spectacle of disaster and debauchery.  Tomas’ sword slipped from his free hand, and reached, tenderly, for her cold staring eyes, unfocused and staring into the void. He closed them, softly, and brushed away a lock of coal black hair.

“It would have been enough,” the knight croaked hoarsely, “to have just killed her. ”

“Oh,” the summoner spoke, his voice filled with sarcastic mock pity, “yes, it would have. But then I would not have gotten to see this, would I have? The undefeatable Sir Tomas of the Cloak, brought to his knees? Not by a sword, not by a lance, not by an army of men…but by a man. A single man, with nothing in his hands…but blood.”

Alcyon continued to laugh madly. Tomas felt his head swim. A strange, numbing wave crashed against his nerves, his face, his limbs tingling. He rose, slowly, a final sob given to his fallen ward as he raised her up in his arms. He turned, looked to the Pool of Tears. Slowly, he walked towards it, heedless of the summoner and his madness. Around him, lights began to grow, strange, glowing, otherworldly emanations that rose from the ancient runes and sigils carved and cast throughout the hall.

“Too late!” Alcyon cried, sobbing in mirth, “She is dead!”

Tomas didn’t listen. He continued to the pool, till he stood overlooking its pale, milky waters. A drop of blood fell from Lillian’s outstretched arm, and slipped into the pool, an angry red swirl on a sea of pearl.

“She is dead,” Alcyon repeated, but his laughter cracked, slowing, “It is over, fool! And besides…”

The summoner nodded at the pool.

“It takes the life of a virgin of royal birth to halt the summoning of the Dread Lord Kalziban. She was the last. It is over!”

Tomas, silent still, lowered the girl’s body to the pool, then watched her slip beneath the surface. He stood then, turned to the mad summoner.

“Do you know the measure of a man, summoner? Do you know why I took up the Cloak?” he asked, his voice almost a whisper. Alcyon’s grin faltered.

“The Cloak is not an easy burden to bear. Its wearer must be good and strong. Generous and just. Compassionate and merciful. Swift of blade, swift of defense. Trustworthy and…pure.”

The knight turned and looked at the summoner, his eyes rimmed with red, stained with tears, but cold, so cold.

“Pure. Untouched by the hands, the lips, the body of a lover.”

Tomas ran a hand through hair as black as pitch, the same color as Lillian’s.

“I took the Cloak because I was born a bastard. And now…”

Tomas stepped to the edge of the pool. Alcyon stumbled forward, slipped in blood. He crashed to the ground, then looked up, his eyes wide with something they had never known.

Fear.

“…now I will see my sister safely to the Underworld.”

Tomas dived into the pool. Alcyon shrieked, raged, as the knight’s heavy armour pulled him quickly downward. The summoner scrambled to the pool, plunging his arms in, staining the water pink with blood. But the knight was gone, the pool empty.

Around him the walls began to shake. The sigils began to glow a violent red.  A sharp smell of ozone filled the air, and the crack of the barrier, the gateway between worlds, slammed through the air. Alcyon howled as the dissipating energies tore about the room. The ceiling quaked, and pieces began to collapse.

Then bitterly, he laughed, as the temple collapsed around him.

Duke Lazell’s Missing Finger – A flashback flash fiction!

So, this is a flash fiction I did a couple months back, but I wanted to share it here because it was a fun exercise. The deal behind it was this – my buddy sent me a text with a title and the first sentence of a story, and I had to come up with the rest of the tale, in under an hour. This is my result.

That fucking bird didn’t know it, but it had seen its last sunrise. It wasn’t even properly dawn, for light’s sake, but the bloody thing was there, just outside the window, caw-cawing away at the great threat it perceived rising in the east every morning, a threat that even now was only thinking of creeping over the horizon. And this bird, this loathsome little jackdaw, overly impressed with its size and ability, thought that its mere voice could keep that great fiery bird from infringing on its courting territory. Enough.

The hangover, of course, didn’t help. My head throbbed with the beat of a thousand swords against a thousand shields, a relentless thump-thumping that alone could drive a man to madness. When combined with that shadow-sworn bird and its ceaseless melody of avian chest thumping, it was a cacophony that even I, Galmor the Great, newly appointed wizard supreme of the court of King Phalian the Kind, could not endure. And trust me, normally, I can endure quite a lot. You have to when you’re a wizard.

I stumbled from my bed in a wobble, a half-stumble, half-fall towards the washbasin. Thank the light that the porter had seen the pitcher filled, and a touch at its side confirmed that it was at least still lukewarm. I chanted a brief incantation, and the copper that formed the pitcher glowed. In moments, steam rose, and I poured a bit of the now hot water into the basin, splashed it upon my face, and tried to wash away the remnants from last night’s feastings that still remained in my beard. The bird continued to screech, and my face in the looking glass sneered.

“Bloody bird,” the image spat, “I really wish you’d see to that beast.”

I sighed, irritated that what I had previously wished was now being demanded of me. Like most wizards, I have a deplorable dislike of authority, and it took nothing more than the vocalization of my own desire from someone other than me, no matter how incorporeal, to spark a thought of resistance in me. And then the bird called, and my resolve returned.

“I intend to,” I growled, and the me in the mirror gave a smug little smirk of satisfaction. Shadows take me if I didn’t think seriously then about breaking the glass, but such things bear ill fortunes and clearly my day was full enough of those as it was. Right then, to the bird.

Storming over to the window (literally storming, I might add, for a small cloudburst had formed over my head in my wrath, and even now was growing in size and darkness), I flung back the curtains and immediately closed them. Blast, but the sun was growing bright already, despite the desperate efforts of that damnable bird! A flicker of lightning danced within the cloud over my head, and the air filled with the scent of pending rain. I reached over, grabbed my staff, and pried the curtain back more slowly, letting my eyes adjust to the brightness, wincing through the pain it caused behind my much abused and still slightly inebriated optical nerves.

There it was, my tormentor, my torturer, my morning nemesis. There, perched upon the outstretched hand of a statue of Duke Lazell, father of my king (and current employer) and to my unceasing consternation, a great lover of all things fowl. Indeed, the wretched squawker that so constantly irritated my mornings was no doubt one of the many specimens the late duke had collected in the palace gardens, with the assistance, no doubt, of the former wizard supreme. Much to my displeasure, when the two accidently blew themselves up (and the previous king, to whom the Duke was heir) several years prior to my employment, the explosion didn’t take the damnable birds with them. And doubled to that displeasure was the fact that Phalian the Kind, earning his name, took a soft-hearted liking to all the things his father loved (at least, the things his father loved that suited him), and had declared that all things feathered protected under kingdom law. To kill a fowl was to foul the king’s law, and the punishment, surely, would be far less kind than the king’s sobriquet implied.

But I was wizard supreme, and damned if I was going to suffer one more early awakening. Thunder rumbled over my head as I took aim upon the blighted beast, pointing my staff in its cursed direction, and with a fury equal to any demon of shadow, I muttered my lethal curse at it. Lightning struck from the cloud above my head, coursing down to my staff and then arcing outward towards the bird. There was a sharp snap, the deep, tangy smell of electrical discharge, and shortly, the lovely scent of roasted bird. And then, a crack, a thud, and a gasp.

I rushed to look out the window to see the cause of the latter. There, on the ground at the feet of the statue of Duke Lazell, lay a great stone finger. I glanced to the statue’s hand, and winced when I saw that perhaps my fury had been a bit over exuberant. For in my need to unalive the beast of my disdain, I had added a bit too much umph to my spell, and it had severed from the stone effigy the rocky likeness’s middle finger. As for the gasp, that likely belonged to the manservant who even now scurried off towards the king’s guard. Lovely. Great. Just what my morning needed. I had better think quick.

“Good morrow, and light be praised!” I exclaimed when, very shortly thereafter, the door to my chambers was kicked open by said guard. And who should be there with them, but his Majesty, still in his dressing robe, and his seneschal, his chief royal advisor, and if some were to be believed, his lover.

“GALMOR!” the king bellowed, “What is the meaning of this?”

“The meaning of what, your Majesty?” I asked, my voice the essence of calmness and civility.

“You know damned well what!”

I shrugged noncommittally. The king sighed, and pointed out the window at the statue of the duke, framed perfectly through that portal.

“Ah!” I said, as if it had just occurred to me what he was speaking of, “You’ve noticed my improvement to your father’s statue!”

“IMPROVEMENT?” he roared.

“Yes, your Majesty. You see, I noticed upon taking residence in this tower that the statue of your father was…imperfect. The middle finger on his outstretched hand was clearly too short. And as any learned wizard can tell you, a too short middle finger is a sign of bastardry. It has bothered me since my appointment to this position, and I could bear the insult to your name no longer!”

The guards glanced at each other, clearly confused. The king looked to his seneschal, who shrugged. The great advantage to being a wizard was that no one ever questioned your logic. The king harumphed a bit, as the seneschal shifted nervously from foot to foot, and the guards continued to stare in evident confusion.

“Well then,” the king said, clearly still angry but unable to justify punishing me for removing any doubt to his lineage, “There is still the matter of the bird!”

“The bird?” I asked innocently.

“Yes, the bird, shades curse you! You killed one of my father’s birds!”

My face took on a look of abject horror.

“Light, no!” I cried out, “Alas, the poor beast must have seen what I saw, must have meant to cover the insult with its own presence, and alighted just as my spell was cast upon that wretched finger!”

The seneschal sniffled suspiciously, but I ignored him. The king harumphed again.

“Then you did not intend to kill the fowl?”

“Your majesty, I assure you,” I said extending my middle finger, “I aimed but for this. I never in my life intended to shoot the bird.”

Perhaps I’m Taking the Medieval Reenactment Thing Too Far…

The_gout_james_gillray

Gout. The Disease of Kings. In the Middle Ages, it was considered an affliction of the wealthy, for only the wealthy were able to afford the rich foods that could lead to the demon that is gout.

These days, pretty much any one can get it. Mostly those on a protein heavy diet. And those who like to have a drink once in a while. People like me.

It is almost impossible to describe how bad gout hurts. But let me tell you, it’s really fucking bad. It kind of feels like a pair of long, burning hot needles have been pushed into the joints of my  big toe, and are being slowly spread apart with acid as lubrication. Though they are exceedingly rare, as gout tends to mostly strike men, I have met two women who suffer from gout. One of them has had children, and says the pain of gout is far worse than childbirth ever was. It fucking hurts. It hurts so bad that even a light breeze can make it feel like your foot is being crushed in a two-ton press. Ouch!

So, when I first got gout, I changed a lot things about my diet. Cut out a lot of red meat. Stopped drinking beer (not that I ever did so excessively – maybe a twelve pack a month, at most), cut back on meats in general. But, one of the triggers for gout is weight loss, and I’ve been losing a lot of weight, so I should have known this was going to happen.

But god, does it suck. I do have ways to manage it. I have ibuprofen, which helps. I have a med that is pretty damned good at lessening the length of the attack called indomethacin. Unfortunately, I’m also one of the lucky ones who suffers from that drug’s rare side effect of random loss of consciousness. Yep, I just pass out. At random. I’ve done so twice already, just sitting here at work. Thankfully, I haven’t yet fallen out of my chair.

But there’s not much I can do about it. Grrrrrr.

The disease of Kings. Sometimes, I think I take this medieval thing too far.

An older piece: a sonnet redouble in Shakespearean style…

This poem was written in May of 2007, as an entry into a poetry contest for the medieval re-creation group I’m part of. The form is a sonnet redouble, which is also called a “sonnet of sonnets”. Where a sonnet is a 14 line poem consisting of alternating rhyming lines with a rhyming couplet at the end, a sonnet redouble is fourteen sonnets, each of which begins with the last line of the sonnet before it, and a fifteenth sonnet that is composed of the final lines of all the sonnets that preceded it. Many sonnets start with a question, with the following lines exploring the question posed and the final couplet answering said question. Likewise, the first part of this sonnet redouble asks a question, to be debated and then answered in the final sonnets.

I. THE QUESTION

When asked why I would want to be a knight,
One day while arming up in maille and plate,
I paused, and did my eldest son invite,
To sit and hear my thoughts on that estate.
A knight, I said, is pure and good and true,
And likewise strong in spirit and in arm,
Where he would ride, know justice would ensue,
And innocents, he’d keep from every harm.
And one day, son, I’d like to be that man,
Exemplifying that which I believe,
And though my sword is made of but rattan,
A knight is more than what one’s eyes perceive.
And then he asked, his mind alert, awake,
“If I would be a Knight, what would it take?”

II. PROWESS

If I would be a knight, what would it take?
And then I knew the spark within him burned,
I’d have to tell him all, with no mistake,
And feed the need for chivalry that yearned.
For one, I said, a knight must have great skill,
In deeds of arms, he must a name be made,
For there, where spectators are given thrill,
And fighters meet with spear or mace or blade,
‘Tis there that in the fires of battle fair,
I will, as steel on anvil, take my form,
Where every hammered blow may thus repair,
My faults, and thus in battle may perform,
And show my worthiness upon the field,
To prove my Prowess with a blade and shield.

III. COURAGE

To prove my Prowess with a blade and shield,
However strong, will not a knight create,
‘Tis but one virtue that a man must wield,
If he would deem to reach a Knight’s estate.
For I must be in bravery unmarred,
No questions must exist that I would flee,
No matter what I face, or how I’m scarred,
A solid wall of courage must I be.
For though my mind may tremble at a sight,
My heart must be a calmly sleeping child,
In lulled sleep, when once it would take fright,
I must be solid, when my thoughts run wild,
And when the armies charge, and others quake,
With Courage stand, where lesser men would break.

IV. DEFENSE

With Courage stand, where lesser men would break.
But stand not still, nor shatter ‘neath the blow,
Instead, an active effort must I make,
To shield the innocent from battle’s flow.
For skill and bravery are worthless things,
If not applied to help the poor and meek,
In hollowness, their lack of effort rings,
When not brought forth defending all the weak.
Indeed, some battles fought are not with swords,
But waged instead in words woven of hate,
And I must stand against these wordy hordes,
Engaging them in fiercely held debate,
And with my will alone to be my shield,
Defend my ground, and never think to yield.

V. JUSTICE

Defend my ground, and never think to yield,
But temper that with wisdom, this I must,
For villainy, when finally revealed,
Do not defend, but show it pure disgust.
For there are many whom, with silvered tongue,
Manipulate the hearts of those naive,
Speaking to all they can, both old and young,
Delighting at each soul that they deceive.
To be a knight, a man must seek the truth,
He must be sure of those he would defend,
Investigating all, a stalwart sleuth,
Lest base beguilers do his image rend.
I must, when liar’s words my heart would stain,
For Justice stand, and ever true remain.

VI. HONESTY

For Justice stand, and ever true remain,
But what is justice, if I know not truth?
‘Tis but a mockery, at which to feign,
A stumbling farce, impure, unclean, uncouth.
Thus truthfulness itself must show in me,
Integrity must course within my veins,
No half-truths passed or white lies let there be,
Discarding all, till only truth remains.
Aye, naked truth, as harsh as it is bare,
Must be the lantern, guiding with its light,
That scatters lies that fall beneath its glare,
I’ll bear it well, if I would be a knight.
The path of Chivalry is intertwined,
With Honesty, both in my heart and mind.

VII. FAITH

With honesty, both in my heart and mind,
I realize that I must overcome,
The wavering uncertainty I find,
Within my soul, to which I may succumb.
To beat the doubting demons in my head,
Will take conviction of the strongest sort,
To banish fear and courage keep instead,
I must in credence find my first support.
For confidence can make the nightmares flee;
Belief, a weapon stronger then the sword,
And when frustrations taunt and torture me,
At bay are kept, assurance as my ward.
To be a knight, my spirit must be trained,
To keep the Faith, and from my doubt abstain.

VIII. FRANCHISE

To keep the Faith, and from my doubt abstain,
I must, in others, inspiration seek,
For knightly deeds can be the anchor’s chain,
That holds one fast, when doubts would make one weak.
And as I take from others, I must give,
The same example through each step I take,
And through my actions, I must be the sieve,
That strains out bad impressions others make.
To be the one that others bring to thought,
When chivalrous displays they seek to know,
In outward deeds let chivalry be wrought,
And felt in truth, and not as just a show,
But more, that in me, chivalry’s refined,
Through Franchise, may my deeds others remind.

IX. LOYALTY
Through franchise, may my deeds others remind,
That there are others sharing in their Dream,
That they need not look far before they find,
A friend to hold in chivalry’s esteem.
And when a friend as such is found, embrace,
Yea, bring them close, and never let them part,
Nor let your actions bring to them disgrace,
Instead, to them, fidelity impart.
For without fealty, there are no knights,
But fealty is empty without love,
So love the ones you swear to, and by rights,
Keep to their expectations set thereof.
If e’er the accolade I wish to see,
In Loyalty, let I a stalwart be.

X. GENEROSITY
In loyalty, let I a stalwart be,
Within good faith, be giving to my friends,
And may I show good hospitality,
To strangers, to whom chivalry extends.
For reputations rest upon the lips,
Of those we meet, e’en for a passing glance,
Let not a stingy attitude eclipse,
One’s noble deeds, for therein lies the chance,
That all one’s goodness quickly be forgot,
Because, in greediness, you did impress,
The image of a miserly despot,
Instead of sharing all through good largesse.
I’d rather be the latter sort instead,
In Generosity, my heart to spread.

XI. COURTESY
In generosity, my heart to spread,
But wealth is not the only thing that’s shared,
For though ’tis good to see one’s guest well-fed,
‘Tis not, if without gallantry prepared.
For many are the chivalrous who lack,
The wealth by which to woo the stranger’s heart,
And yet, in reputation do not slack,
Showing a different wealth, ‘fore they depart.
For gracious deeds are worth their weight in gold,
And kindly words, many a soul will heal,
Solicitude, a salve that can’t be sold,
Civility, a trait of great appeal.
A knight should strive for geniality,
To show in deeds and words great Courtesy.

XII. NOBILITY
To show in deeds and words great Courtesy,
And yet, not as a sycophant or slave,
But done in truth, and with good dignity,
For that is how the chivalrous behave.
Uphold the standards of the gentle born,
And dabble not in acts of the depraved,
Keep not the company of those forsworn,
Lest to their reputation, be enslaved.
So hold yourself above the vile and rank,
Assisting others that would do the same,
And guard against the villains at your flank,
Who can, through wicked actions, taint your name.
Decry the fools, and nobly lift your head,
Shirking the base, to Nobly act instead.

XIII. HUMILITY
Shirking the base, to Nobly act instead,
But guard against the overzealous pride,
That can be formed, when holding up your head,
And let not modesty be thus denied.
For chivalry lives not amongst the vain,
Who act for but themselves, and they alone,
Who lust for glory, even should it stain,
What acts of goodness that they may have shown.
Sing not your deeds, but let you be content,
That you have done them, others then will sing,
If so inspired by the deed’s event,
If not, your song in hollowness would ring.
So I must try against my pride to fight,
And Humbly bow when deeds are brought to light.

XIV. SUMMATION
“And humbly bow when deeds are brought to light.”
Thus ended I my thoughts on chivalry,
And what was needed to become a knight,
All spoken to the child on my knee.
And there he sat, in silence, for a spell,
I swear, I heard the whirring of his brain,
I wondered, had I taught this lesson well?
I hoped that some small wisdom he’d obtained.
“So, do you understand these words, my son?”
I asked, and then he turned his little head,
And as I thought on how this had begun,
He looked at me, and smiling, this he said:
“I know the answer I could give as right,
When asked why I would want to be a knight…”

XV. THE ANSWER
If I would be a Knight, what would it take?
To prove my Prowess with a blade and shield;
With Courage stand, when lesser men would break;
Defend my ground, and never think to yield;
For Justice stand, and ever true remain;
With Honesty both in my heart and mind;
To keep the Faith, and from my doubt abstain;
Through Franchise, may my deeds others remind;
In Loyalty, let I a stalwart be;
In Generosity, my heart to spread;
To show in deeds and words great Courtesy;
Shirking the base, to Nobly act instead;
And Humbly bow when deeds are brought to light;
When asked why I would want to be a Knight.