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Memories of Old
Kendrick leaned back in his self-made hammock, the cool autumn breeze lightly jostling his gray, stringy hair. A contented sigh escaped his lips, the relaxation was appreciated. He had spent the bulk of the day training the village boys in the ways swords and quarterstaves, as well as giving them a basic education. Kendrick considered this his calling and had been faithful to it for many years, more years than he could remember. Despite being old and increasingly frail, Kendrick still had some spunk left in him and would often spar with the boys. However, he usually regretted it later.
Few moments, in the old man’s opinion, were more sacred than a well-deserved bit of silence. Alone with his thoughts, Kendrick drifted off to sleep, left to dream of his younger days...
Kendrick sat erect on his stallion, watching the scene unfold before him. He stroked his ebony bead vigorously, his mind working quickly and shrewdly. A troop of soldiers, dressed in all black, from head to toe, marched directly towards him. The trees around them burned brightly will the hues of autumn, the ground covered with the brown remains of leaves already fallen. A sharp, cold, unrelenting wind blew through the forest, causing the flifé leaves to fall like burning rain. Beside Kendrick sat his right-hand man, Porter. Both men were dressed in tight-fitting garb of cardinal red with nondescript swords hanging from leather belts, quarterstaves gripped tightly in their right hands.
Kendrick and Porter remained silent, watching the other men advancing. No action was taken but to observe, as the soldiers were nearly two furloughs (a quarter of a mile) away. At the head of the procession three men rode horses, one heavy, fleshy man leading the other two. Behind them nearly fifty men trod on foot, all outfitted in the same black uniform. Even from the long distance, Kendrick heard the brown leaves crunching loudly beneath the soldiers’ feet. Finally, when the troops were a stone’s throw from Kendrick’s position, the heavyset man reigned in his horse, his men halting behind him.
The man straightened in his saddle, his horse grunting in the effort to support his weight. “Who do you think you are to stand in the way of our Lord’s forces? Bow to me, Sir Harold Corbinsson, and you will be mercifully forgiven,” the paunchy man introduced himself as he sneered at Kendrick. While the man was speaking, Kendrick stayed erect. He made no movement but to raise his right hand. Unnoticed by Sir Harold or his men, indeed, visible only to the most hawk-eyed of observers, there were men stationed behind nearly every tree near the path as the dark soldiers approached. The men, also clothed in cardinal red, had stirred angrily but silently at the words of Sir Harold. Kendrick’s simple motion stilled them; they remained patient.
“I do not pretend to be anyone of importance, simply an inhabitant of these woods,” Kendrick said evenly, his eyes focused unwaveringly at the man opposite him.Sir Harold and his men, by this time, had come close enough that yelling was no longer necessary. Snickering contemptuously, Sir Harold and his mounted men slowly surrounded Kendrick and Porter. Kendrick remained silent, staying completely still as Sir Harold continued to encircle him. Sir Harold’s men, upon arriving at Kendrick’s position, halted. Frustratingly realizing his attempts at intimidation were fruitless, Sir Harold brought his horse up directly beside Kendrick. Kendrick slowly turned his head; the two men’s eyes locked together in a vehement glare. Sir Harold’s eyes quavered and he leaned forward in his saddle, bringing his face inches from Kendrick’s.
“You filthy peasant,” sputtered a flustered Harold. Kendrick could practically taste the over-seasoned pheasant on the stench of Sir Harold’s breath. “You filthy, filthy peasant. Look at you... standing here defiantly,” SIr Harold faltered, struggling for words, his confidence wilting under Kendrick’s unwavering glare. A slight grin escaped Kendrick’s tightly pursed lips, causing Sir Harold to roar with fury, “Speak to me! I have no time for this silly bantering. What business do you have opposing Sir Harold, His Majesty’s humble servant?” referring to himself in the third-person.
“Do not speak to me so rudely; it is very unbecoming of a man of your, ah, stature,” said Kendrick, eyes twinkling.
“You dog!” Sir Harold bellowed wrathfully, drawing his sword from his side and swinging it at Kendrick’s head. Kendrick, unfazed, whipped his quarterstaff up and parried the blow. A forceful “thwack” echoed back into the trees as steel met wood. Kendrick reared his horse, knocking Sir Harold back several feet. Raising his staff high above his head, Kendrick called, “To arms! To arms!” A roar rose from among the trees as Kendrick’s men streamed into view. Sir Harold’s men froze, their unwarranted confidence wilting like daisies.
Sir Harold, ever bullish, screamed at his soldiers to take action. His brigade more than doubled the number of Kendrick’s band, but intimidation has an interesting effect on men. Seeing the shadows in cardinal red flowing from the trees, blending with the crimson hues of fall, the dark forces melted away like ice before flames from a dragon’s muzzle. Kendrick gave another battle cry and vaulted his horse towards the confused and fleeing men, leaving Sir Harold behind. Kendrick bashed what heads he could but left his sword sheathed. Shocked at the rapid turn of events, Sir Harold watched his forces deteriorate into the woods, their black attire visible in stark contrast to the golden-red leaves.
Seeing Kendrick lifted above the rest by his vaunted horse, Sir Harold’s anger at such humiliation focused on one man alone. Burning with fury, Sir Harold charged directly at Kendrick from behind. Kendrick, amid the chaos, did not hear the approaching gallop until Sir Harold was on top of him. With a great yell, Sir Harold brought his sword whistling down upon Kendrick’s bare head. Instinctively Kendrick swung his staff back to protect himself. The staff arrived just in time to glance the deadly clout away from Kendrick’s head. The sword was redirected and crashed into Kendrick’s exposed knee. An ear-splitting crack resulted; Kendrick’s knee-cap split in two. Kendrick fell from his horse, oblivious to all but the pain pulsating through his body.
Porter, until this point directing Kendrick’s men, saw the scene unfold, and his master fall. Kendrick’s steward raced towards the spot, and as Sir Harold prepared a fatal blow, whipped out his bow and shot Sir Harold through the shoulder. Roaring with pain, Sir Harold’s drew his attention to the rest of the battle. Seeing the dire nature of his situation, Sir Harold came to his senses and galloped away.
Kendrick, still lying on the ground, opened his eyes. The wound, while the pain was immense, was by no means fatal. His vision hazy, Kendrick looked groggily around. Porter rode up and dismounted from his horse. “Sir, you have a visitor,” said Porter calmly. This baffled Kendrick, still trying to clear his head of the cobwebs.
“Sir, please awake, you have a visitor.” Kendrick’s eyes opened to see a much older Porter, now shaking his master awake. Kendrick was again stretched peacefully in his hammock, the pleasant autumn breeze blowing wistfully through the courtyard. Rubbing the sleep out of his heavy eyes, Kendrick sat up. “Sir, a boy, one I vaguely recognize, is here to see you,” said Porter, ever patient. Kendrick smiled. He liked the boys of the village.
“Please fetch some refreshments for us, Porter, I am famished,” said Kendrick, slowing sliding from the hammock. Porter disappeared into the house. Kendrick, eschewing the use of sandals around the house, slowly padded out of the courtyard, the sun-baked stones warm on his calloused feet.
A slight limp and a few scars were all that remained of those fine adventures all the countless years ago. Upon reaching the house Kendrick sauntered along the rough wooden floors towards the front hall, in no visible hurry. Ducking through the low doorway, Kendrick arrived at the front hall. Spotting a boy on the far side, Kendrick slowly walked towards him. The boy could be no older than sixteen, his matted, black hair contrasting with his clear, blue eyes. The boy’s feet were filthy from a long walk, striped from where his sandal straps had been. As Kendrick came closer he was amazed; Kendrick had visions and memories of a boy just like this, coming to his doorstep years ago. They could be twins, that past boy and the one standing before him. Kendrick thought for a moment he was dreaming again. “Torién?” Kendrick wondered distractedly.
The boy smiled, understanding, “Mother always said I looked just like him,” the boy said. “My name is Searn. Torién was my father.” A wave of understanding washed over Kendrick, realization finally settling in. “My, my, I knew your father well.” Taking the boy under his arm, Kendrick led him into the dining room where Porter had placed food and drink. “Elder, I have urgent...” the young Searn began.
“Patience is a virtue, my young friend, I have many tales to tell you first,” Kendrick said, motioning for Searn to be seated. “Let me begin...”