Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Knight of the Five Crosses

It may be said that a knight of the order of the Fifth Cross is a man of impeccable virtue; such was the saying in the rule of Charles the Fifth, at the apex of the Fifth Cross. The saying fell into disuse over the reign of Charles' successors, as the Fifth Cross's reputation became tarnished by the sins of men; it was nearly forgotten by the reign of Eric the Second, one hundred and twenty years after the founding of the Order of the Fifth Cross.

Well that it were not; for though the Knights of the Fifth Cross had long passed their apex, yet there were many men among them truly deserving the title Chevalier. One of them shall feature in our tale to-day.

A gaggle of youths stood in a forest clearing, not far from the village which they called home. Each stood on one side of a tarpaulin strung between two poles, throwing a ball back and forth over the tarp. Their competition was fierce, and tempers ran high; so it came as a surprise to all when the ball flew, wayward, past the net, over one team's head, and into the side of the passing knight's horse.

The knight drew his horse to a stop. He was clad in blue-lacquered steel, and his helmet covered his eyes in shadow. A crest on his breast illustrated a complex geometrical symbol. His head turned toward the children.

They rushed toward him, filled with remorse. "We're sorry!" they cried in an unruly chorus, "So sorry, we didn't know you were there, we meant no harm, we'll repay you, please don't kill us!"

Such was the reputation of knighthood in that land that children - nine to twelve years of age - feared death by any arbitrary knightly whim!

The knight took off his helmet, displaying a tonsure beneath. "Be at peace, children," he told the fearful mob before him. "My name is Ser Antony, and I wish no harm to you." The nobility of his spirit was visible in both his voice and visage; some men are noble but of ill appearance, and equally the opposite, but none such was Ser Antony. For he was of the Order of the Fifth Cross, as you have likely guessed, and though his reputation was ill-known, after his death, the historians would would rightly place him among the greatest of his order.

He let the children lead him to their village, where he met the hetman of that place; there he heard of the troubles of that place, their struggles with bandits and wild animals and near-starvation. He considered for a time, whether the purpose that brought him to the playing children was of greater import than the peasants' need; he slept on the matter, awoke, saw the lavish meal that the peasants set before him, despite their own poverty; and decided upon his priorities.

Ser Antony met the hunters of the village and took them out into the forest; there he taught them the art of snares and traps, more clever than those known to them. They told him of dreadful beasts, boars and wolves that had learned the taste of human flesh, and now hungered for it; Ser Antony hunted each down, over the course of a fortnight, and slew them with sword and lance. Their meat fed the village better than ever it had known.

Next, Ser Antony brought together the farmers of the village. He beheld their tiny, cramped fields, and frowned; then he set to work. In workman's clothes, he led the villagers in clearing more land, removing weeds from the original plots, fencing off the land and preparing it for later use. With the coin of his own purse, Antony arranged purchase of items from the nearest town; a proper iron plough, for use when the harvest came, and various mechanisms and components. With help from the strongest villagers, as well as those skilled in wood-working, Ser Antony built a watermill upon the banks of the nearby brook, and therein set a mill-stone which he carried alone.

Months had now passed since Ser Antony had arrived in the village; word of its increasing prosperity spread, and the bandits of the region descended to plunder. Ser Antony had trained the villagers, however, and armed them with spears and simple armour; he led them against the attacks, and broke each in turn by virtue of superior leadership, courage, and swordsmanship. The village hunters tracked the bandits to their lairs, and Ser Antony led them in finally exterminating the threat.

In just over six months, Ser Antony had transformed the village. When he arrived, it was on the verge of extinction; now it was thriving, attracting traders and refugees alike to share in its new prosperity. The villagers knew well the source of their good fortune, and they showered food and goodwill upon Ser Antony; until he vanished one night, off to another land, there to complete whatever tasks were assigned to him. If there was regret within him that he must leave such a self-made paradise, he never showed it -

For he was a knight of the Five Crosses; and duty was foremost among them.

1 comment:

mr sex said...

Tahdonvoimaa! (Hei!)
Tahdon voittaa!