Humble Beginnings

Humble Beginnings

Status: Finished

Genre: Humor

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Status: Finished

Genre: Humor

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Summary

The first installment of the saga of the cursed Idiot Four.
A hopeless young nobleman and his companions embark on an even more hopeless quest in the most hopeless attempt to impress his father.
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Summary

The first installment of the saga of the cursed Idiot Four.
A hopeless young nobleman and his companions embark on an even more hopeless quest in the most hopeless attempt to impress his father.

Content

Submitted: January 26, 2017

A A A | A A A

Content

Submitted: January 26, 2017

A A A

A A A


Humble Beginnings

 

 

Chapter 1

Disappointment of the Father

 

839 CE- Kent, Anglo-Saxon Briton.

 

“Now son, I know you’re disappointed I wouldn’t let fight against those Mercian wankers,” the nobleman explained to his son, trying mightily to stifle a giggle as he continued. “But I have just learnt of a task only the bravest of souls are worthy of!”

 

“By Jove, father!” exclaimed Charles, clearly oblivious to his father’s mischievous grin. “Let me have this one! I have grown my moustache like you said, I am ready.” Charles was not wrong; his glorious facial fungus was requested by his father, but only in a thinly veiled attempt to take the piss out of his less than stellar son.

 

The Baron blurted out a brief giggle before his hand could make it to his mouth and shove it back in.

 

“Why yes. I can see that you have, Charles. But alas, this quest is sure to be fraught with danger...” he stared at Charles with what only could be described as crazy eyes as he rolled them for dramatic effect.

 

“Never mind all that, I can take the challenge!” The gears in his mind visibly and almost audibly began to grind. “In fact, I am on the way!” declared Charles as he jumped out of his chair, skipping like a schoolgirl towards the door.

 

“Uh lad, you do not even know where you are going?” laughed the Baron heartily. Charles joined him in laughing, albeit a more nervous and confused laugh than a hearty one.

 

“I know I won’t let you down father! Just give me a chance.”

 

“Of that I have no doubt lad, but I just want to make sure you are safe. So I am going to be sending Chester with you.”

 

There was an audible snap as Charles’ jaw dropped in an awestruck stupor. He, like all of those in the Kentish part of Wessex, had heard the stories of the now legendary Chester. They say that his ferocity was second only to his bravery, both of which were in turn eclipsed by his skill on the battlefield; and in the bed chamber if you believe the stories.

 

In fact, Charles distinctly remembers the first ballad his father commissioned was one detailing Chester’s exploits protecting the coast from Norsemen raids, which included but was by no means limited to: smashing down enough ale to kill twenty noblemen and their horses, then drunkenly sweet talking his way into the Jarl and his warrior wife’s tent (and bed, which is always left out of polite conversation), matching the entire Norsemen camp ale for ale and still having the composure when the berserkers and hefty warrior lads passed out to slaughter the heathen scum.

 

Just as the name Chester strikes fear into the hearts of Mercians and Norsemen alike, it equally strikes giddy into the hearts of maidens. The legendary tales of his prowess in battle are nothing compared to the rumours circulating taverns and great halls. Just one look at this rugged beast turns the most fairest of maiden into a giggling child who cannot help but scruffle his ears and rub his fur.

 

For his father to insist that Charles take the family dog with them, then this task must surely be of the utmost importance.

 

*************************************************************************************

 

Several hours before-

 

Chester growled his disapproval.

 

“You have to go, Charles can barely walk in a straight line without hurting himself; he would probably die if allowed to wander through the countryside.” Chester continued growling. “Just do this for me, please boy. I know that I owe you my life five times over, but I need you to do this one last thing for me.”

 

Chester made it known that he thought this was a fool’s errand. “Yes, yes. We both know the Holy Mug does not exist, but I just need Charles out of town for a while. His constant pestering is nigh unbearable. It is all ‘you never let me do anything!’ and ‘look at my moustache!’ I just need a break”.

 

Chester turned his head and shrugged as much as a bulldog can. How could he say no to his best friend? And the best ear scratcher in Briton.

 

“Good boy”, the Baron gave him a strong scratch under the ears much to Chester’s delight. “Now just get him home in one piece and I shall reward you handsomely”.

 

Chester made it known that all he really wanted was bitches and a warm fire. “Then you shall have it, boy!” boomed the Baron as he laughed heartily, as he is oft to do. “One last thing…” Chester turned his head to the side and yelped quizzically.

 

“Make sure you pick up those idiots Edward and Rog as well, it is about time they also did something useful with their time.”

 

Chester growled and raised concerns at the Baron’s use of the word “useful”. “I know, boy. Just get it done.”

 

 

*************************************************************************************

 

 

Chapter 2

Idiots Assemble

 

“Fine morn to you, good chap!” Charles excitedly exclaimed as he burst through the shoddy door of the decrepit mud hut, knowing full well that his friend Edward laid in slumber on the other side.

 

Well, friend is a strong word. Perhaps “individual who acknowledges existence through the infliction of constant physical and emotional discomfort” is a more apt description. Only a few months older than Charles, Ed had grown up alongside the incompetent heir. All throughout childhood they were made to test their mettle against one another but no matter how inept the boy he called Chuck was, Ed would only prove to be slightly more useful. The general opinion around the Barony was that where Charles would prove to be as effective on the battlefield as an armless man might, Ed would prove to be a one armed man. However, this localised superiority had not inflated his ego at all. In fact, he showed an unhealthy level of cynicism where he was aware of his own shortcomings and even more so of the lack of skills of the man who he knew would one day rule the Barony.

 

Oh how unfair life was, especially when you are shaken awake by an over-confident half-wit.

 

“Why, pray tell, are you so chipper, Chuck?” Ed slurred, his eyes still firmly closed.

 

“Today’s the day, lad!” Ed begun snoring. Charles started jumping up and down on the bed just like an overly enthusiastic puppy might. “Today’s the day! Today’s the day!” he chanted, rather unrhythmically.

 

Ed gave up on trying to sleep through this unwelcome awakening and started to sleepily deliver some of his trademark, master crafted insults. Whilst Ed may not have a reputation for wit, strength or even competency, amongst people who lived in a time before soap and toilet paper, he managed to be one of the surliest. Habitually erratic, Ed had three states of being; drunk, about to be drunk or upset that he was not yet drunk. He often found himself in two states at the same time but only once had he been in three concurrently, much to his dismay. He never talks of that peculiar night.

 

“Stop with the vulgarity, man! Orders of the Baron, you are to accompany me on the most exciting of adventures!”

 

Ed slowly sat up, his head firmly in his hands. He took a deep breath, slowly breathed out and uttered a curse that would make a Norseman blush. Ed gingerly and belligerently made his way out of bed whilst Charles was still jumping around excitedly. He chop blocked Charles’ leg from behind and sent him hurtling off the straw bed onto the dirt floor below. Whilst Charles was evacuating dirt from his lungs, Ed threw on his gear.

 

Never one for the brash and brazen style of the other Kentish knights, Ed opted for light and robust leather armour that he claimed allowed him to use his bow unimpeded. Realistically it allowed for him for a prompt retreat in the face of the enemy. Not to be overlooked also was the boon the light and malleable armour proved to be when he decided that rolling up into a ball and playing dead was his most desirable strategic decision, one that he made with regularity.

 

Charles had only just stopped violently expelling dust when Ed came over, placed his boot on the square of his back and shoved him back down onto the floor with force.

 

“Stop that, chap! This is of great importance!” Charles managed to squeeze out whilst coughing.

 

“Oh really?” sneered an increasingly awake Ed, who was well aware of the Baron’s disdain for both disappointing men in the room.

 

“Yes!” cried Charles as he picked himself up and dusted himself off. “Chester is coming with us!”

 

Ed froze midway through opening the door and spotted Chester waiting patiently outside just to the side of a wagon at the same time as he heard Charles’ declaration. Chester looked up and filled Ed with dread. There was nothing in the world that terrified him more than the memories that had been burned into his mind of experiencing Chester’s legendary bloodlust first hand.

 

Chester met Ed’s open-mouthed gaze with a curtly nod. Never one for formalities, Chester promptly defecated without breaking eye contact. Feeling uneasy from this encounter, Ed manually shoved his mouth closed and sheepishly climbed up the back of the wagon. Still on edge, he exhaled a string of obscenities under his breath not directed at anyone, but more just to calm himself down. The intense passion placed into the creation of these obscenities once again solidified Ed as the surliest man in Kent, and perhaps all of Briton. He almost jumped out of his skin when one of the bags in the trunk became animated.

 

“Thank heavens you’re back Charlie! Chester is….” Roger froze when he saw that it was not his chum and reflexively flinched. Not wanting to disappoint, Ed delivered a back hand. This outburst of needless violence did much to help shake the uneasy feeling that came with the deadliest warrior in the land showing one absolute minimal respect.

 

Roger had been Charles’ best friend throughout childhood. The townspeople joked about the irony of the two biggest morons and almost comically inept high-born children happened to be inseparable. The Baron always disapproved of their relationship, but eventually began to accept that it might just be fate that they had found each other. Roger’s father, a nobleman who was ecstatic about the friendship, would always try and justify to the Baron that “at least Roger would make a good meat shield.” Never one to stand up to anything or anyone if he could avoid it, Rog’s intense anxiety complimented Charles’ overwhelming confidence.

 

However, ever the loyal friend, if Rog was to ever get over his crippling fear of confrontation and most other forms of human interaction, it would be in defence of Charles. He would do anything for his life-long friend so he swallowed his fear, sat up and made a rude gesture at Ed. Rog promptly sat back down, feeling a sense of accomplishment and pride in his actions, but also pain at the latest blow he had received in retaliation for the gesture.

 

Chester, having completed his bodily functions, barked approvingly at this display of random aggression as Charles finally emerged from the abode, with dirt still over his face but no longer in his lungs. Hoisting himself up on the wagon, Charles’ did not seem phased at all by the violent events that had just happened and was whistling a cordial tune as he gave a hefty slap of the reigns and a “hey-ya!” to get the horses started. True to form, Ed winced at the burst of sound and entered a trance like state with abuse and curses flowing out of him until he all but passed out. Then he passed out.

 

 

*************************************************************************************

 

 

Chapter 3

Baptism by Banter

 

Charles had heard the rumours of the monastery deep in the mountains, but like almost all others in the Barony had considered it whimsical fantasy. Legend has it that the infamous Cassius Bantabarian had founded the monastery after being exiled from Londonium in the Roman era. Cassius became renowned for his sarcasm, playfulness and downright intolerable enthusiasm all throughout Roman Briton. If being a dick was a crime, then he would be executed as a criminal. So it naturally followed that when the particularly melancholic and irritable Roman Governor outlawed being a dick, a bounty was placed on Cassius who promptly, as he put it, “legged it”. Gathering those select few who could put up with his dickish ways, Cassius founded the Order of the Banterbury in 402 A.D. and began construction on the monastery. Somewhere within a randomly selected mountain in the highlands, the Governor had just assumed that Cassius and his Order would just slowly die off from exposure, starvation, boredom and venereal disease, really anything that was slow and painful. In the beginning, many would try to ascend the mountain and place their claim on the hefty bounty but as few even found the monastery and fewer still returned to tell their story of failure, Cassius and the Order of the Banterbury slowly descended into a legend. That is, of course, until Chester picked up the scent of whiffy banter.

 

Chester ran up to a sheer rock face after blazing a trail through the dense forest, much to the confusion of the others. But the absolute terror that he instilled in them kept their mouths shut. Sniffing up and down the rock face, Chester stopped, clamped his jaws on a jutting out rock and backed up. A sheet of stone peeled away from the cliff to reveal an oak door. Ed now knew why no one had ever found this place before.

 

“Is that you again, little Gally-had no balls? Didn’t we tell you to fuck off last time?” a voice skittered out from behind the door.

 

Initially taken aback by the animated door, Charles yells back “My name is Charles Brimble Montjoy Thomas Willoughby Smith and these three are my companions. Now open up in the name of the Baron!”

 

Charles could hear murmuring behind the door. Something about “that Galahad wanker” but he could not quite make it out. Where had he heard that name before?

 

Chester began growling, letting the voices know that he desired entry.

 

“Oooh a big, scary dog. No pets allowed, buckaroo.”

 

The three companions exchanged confused looks with Charles, as always, looking the most confused. “I demand you let us in, friar!”

 

The door burst out in laughter. “Get a load of this guy! Friar? You peaky cod,” more laughter. “Leave before you get your underoos in a bunch, buddy”.

 

Chester let out a bark to let them know that he was fed up with the petty banter and at the unopened nature of the door. He clamped his jaws around the handle and began tearing at it.

 

“Hey, what the gooseberry is that mutt trying to do?!” screamed the monk. “Good luck with that, flea bag.” One purposeful wrench after another, the door stood no chance against Chester. After only a few seconds, the door had been ripped right out of its hinges. Slobber from the bulldog’s wrinkled face sprayed outwards and the unsuspecting Rog regretted being a mouth breather.

 

Charles rushed in yelling something about not being a child and similar identity questioning improbables. Chester was hot on his heels showing no signs of distress after having ripped apart a solid oak door. They had entered a large, gloomy chapel with the flickering light of several torches up near the pulpit being the only source of illumination. The large stone chamber was practically bare apart from a ten metre full body portrait of Cassius and his unmistakable shit eating grin.

 

The pair of banter monks decided that any canine that could rip apart a solid oak door apart in seconds would probably cause serious and non-humorous things to their earthly bodies and legged it. Charles was surprised and slightly amused at how intimidating his courageous charge must have been, until a blur of stout canine rocketed into the spine of one of the monks. He couldn’t help but stop and stare at this phenomenal display, and in doing so completely neglected the other retreating “holy man”. At the sound of growls, screams and ripping flesh, Ed and Rog cautiously entered the threshold of the monastery swearing and cowering respectively.

 

Continuing on their quest, the three men approached the trap door in the floor of the altar, that would have been well hidden had the fleeing disciple of banter not neglected to close the damn door.

 

Leaving the bulldog to his munching, Charles lowered himself down into the subterranean passage. Ahead Charles could see that the passage led to a set of golden doors that gleamed even in the low light of the flickering torches hung intermittently upon the walls.

 

Now, people said many things about the Order of the Banterbury but never has anyone in Briton, and throughout the entire history of the Roman Empire for that matter, claimed that the “religious” order was generous and charitable. Therefore, a man smarter than Charles may have pieced the puzzle together and concluded that running down a tight corridor towards the shiny prize was not the move that would be most conducive to their health and well-being. But Charles is not a man smarter than Charles. Charles is Charles, and because of this he bounded gleefully towards the opulent set of doors behind which he knew he would finally find the key to his father’s approval.

 

When his foot made contact with the floor, the stone slab sunk into the ground and the sound of gears echoed in the chamber.

 

WHAM!

 

What appeared to be a wooden carving of a fist shot out of the ground and propelled itself straight into his under carriage, sending the rash young man to his knees with a feminine squeak. He toppled face first into the ground in pain, and once again the whirring of gears echoed. A net shot out from the ceiling and enclosed itself around the groaning Kentian. Eventually Charles managed to gingerly unwrap himself. Having learnt nothing from this experience, he continued on his merry way through the corridor. Another step, another pressure plate and more cranking of gears.

 

WHAM!

 

Comically oversized wooden carvings of open palms exploded from each wall and slammed into either side of Charles’ head. His bell well and truly rung, he collapsed into a heap on the floor. No net this time, not that he would have noticed though as all faded into black.

 

He groggily awoke to the timid shaking of Rog. “Charles, wake up Charles!” With an energetic jolt and a somewhat non-witty remark, Charles exploded to his feet once more. Having learnt literally nothing, the simpleton grabbed a hold of the golden door handle and wrenched it open. No gears this time, just the sound of a wire being tripped and air whooshing.

 

WHAM!

 

Through bleary eyes and a prone viewpoint, Charles could just make out the form of a stout pitbull on top of a robed friar and a man in leather exploring the unimpressive “treasure” room. Rog was once again crouched over and shaking his friend awake. “Are you hurt, Chuck?”

 

Once again, the prone nobleman flew to his feet. “Couldn’t be better, brother! Let us on our way.” He practically shouted entering the inner sanctum of the monastery. A large metal chandelier hung down from a roof beam, allowing enough light to see three tables lined up against the wall. On the middle table; a candelabra. Left-most; a clay mug. Right-most; a wooden mug.

 

“Uhh… is this really the treasure room?” Rog asked no one in particular. “What the hell are you smiling about?” Rog asked to Charles in particular.

 

“Can’t you see, my friend? This is what we have been looking for! All the stories are true!” Chuck exclaimed in glee to a room full of quizzical looks. Even the dog huffed in confusion.

 

“You are clearly mistaken, oh great hero” the banter priest pleaded from the floor. “We are but humble religious men. Look, our most prized possession is a wooden goblet”.

 

“That’s obviously a mug.” Chester growled, betraying a surprising level of articulation. The friar urinated himself.

 

“N-n-n-no…” he stuttered back. “It ain’t no mug, ‘tis a goblet”.

 

This threw an anvil into Charles’ quest. He was here to find the Holy Mug, not the Random Goblet. How was he meant to face his father after finding a goblet and not a mug? He had just brought another awful indignation upon himself and his family with this last cock-up. With tears in his eyes, he turned to leave.

 

“You are truly an imbecile, Chuck. This is exactly what the Baron wanted us to get. Now pick it up and we will be on our way,” reasoned Chester through a series of growls and huffs.

 

“It’s still not a mug, chombusses” laughed the friar whose mood had suddenly lifted. Then dropped sharply after a swift nip from the war hero.

 

Even if this friar was just messing around and these drinking vessels really were mugs, how was Charles to know which was the Holy Mug? The other, non-holy mug was obviously there to throw off treasure hunters. Charles thought to himself rather ironically that thinking had never helped him in the past and decided that this time would be no different. Dropping to a knee and closing his eyes, Charles stuck out his sword and swung it in vigorous circles. Ignoring the obscenities that Ed was creatively casting at him and the fed up huffs from the canine, Charles’ arm stopped twirling. After this unexpected and apparently unpopular ritual of selection, Charles again exploded upwards. Striding with purpose, he clasped the clay mug firmly and held it aloft.

 

“This is the one!” he proclaimed to the world whilst Ed managed to audibly roll his eyes. “I shall now sup from the Holy Mug, receive its wisdom into my gullet and present it to my father!”

 

Although he had verbally expressed almost all of his thoughts, perhaps unnecessarily, Charles made no remark about how excited he was to finally prove his worthiness to his father. For his entire life the Kents had always a need for fighting men. Expansionist Mercians, pagan Norse raiders and even those bastard Picts have had to have a bit of sense beaten into them. One would have thought that the only son of the most powerful Baron in all of Worcestershire would be right in the thick of the action.

 

Not Charles though.

 

An unhelpful mixture of paternal concern and embarrassment kept Chuck at home, a fact which only further affected this strange young man. Some thought that perhaps combat would straighten him out, but his father and most other honest observers were convinced he would not survive the encounter long enough to garner experience. All Charles wanted however, was to be prove himself to his father so one can imagine his surprise when the Baron had entrusted him with finding the Holy Mug when generations of heroes had failed. Without any more of this thinking business, Chuck gulped deeply.

 

 

Chester, with his four stump legs holding down the “warrior” priest of the cheek, sniffed the air. Something was off. The air started to flow out of the room, slowly at first but picking up gradually in speed. Eventually most of his human companions noticed as well. He barked a warning to stop drinking; an unnatural presence approaches.

 

 

Charles heard Chester bark and felt the wind whipping about the room, but nothing could deter him from sculling whatever rank liquid had been sitting in the Holy Mug for hundreds of years. He was only faintly aware of the saintly presence that just entered the room.

 

“Ch… Cha… Ch…” stuttered the reliably useless Rog in an attempt to alert his friend.

 

“Turn around, you cabbage sniffer.” jested Ed in one of his less than brilliant moments.

 

“How dare you…” begun Charles until he found that he had lost control over his facial muscles. His jaw involuntarily dropped. There it was right in front of him, the image of Cassius Bantabarian. Or maybe it really was he, Cassius Bantabarian?

“It is I, Cassius Bantabarian” clearing up Charles’ inane internal monologue.

 

“How can that be? You’re not real… and even if you are, you died 400 years ago…?” the strenuous, at best, understanding of the world that Charles possessed was being shattered.

 

“Well you say that, but could a 400 year old dead guy do this?” quizzed Cassius as he sprung forward, left and right with lightning speed to smack all 3 blokes in the nads simultaneously.

 

Doubling up on the ground, the 3 adventurous admitted in between groans that they believed a 400 year old dead guy could not do that. In fact, not even an alive 20 year old guy could do that.

 

“We can argue semantics later, lads. Right now, let me diddle to you a riddle. You have glugged from the Holy Mug and now you really have dug like a mole down into a hole.”

“What?”

“For you see, by completing this quest you have but just started the real test. The test to find the best, of those who will not rest nor nest until they have done their best to find in jest what others find… in death. From now on, none of you will lead a normal life nor take a wife…”

“What?”

 

“Almost over, my dear boy. Now where was I? Oh right… nor take a wife. The only way to lift this curse is to be the worst. The only way you’ll ever be in a hearse is to find the pur-pose of the Banter. No more gander-ing but dander-ing may be helpful in your pursuit of pander-ing to me.”

“That was just awful, awful work. Also, what is a hearse?” critiqued Ed. Cassius flashed his patented shit eating grin. That is not actual a turn of phrase, Cassius actual wrote himself out a patent for his shit eating grin, with specifications on cheek, jaw and eye brow positions. Being a demi-god has its perks.

 

“Ah my little immortal munchkin, if only you knew the plans I have for your merry band. Because you guys are so cute, I’ll give you a little tip; find out what it means to be in the Banterbury, only then can you truly be free.” Putting on quite a theatrical performance, Cassius shoved his face uncomfortably close to Ed. “Well, my job here is done, lads. Go out there and get it done. I’ll pop in from time to time, someone has to keep ya on the right path. And I ain’t talking about the path of the righteous, if you know what I mean.” he declared, winking.

 

The less than merry band did not know what he meant. In fact, they were resoundly confused. Before any of them could mutter anything in the form of a useful question, Cassius nipped off in a burst of bright light.

 

 

Unbeknownst to the four stunned sons of Kent, Cassius actually lacked the ability to teleport, but he could produce light as well as any other demi-god and had found that blinding people was an enjoyable bit of sport.

 

 

 

 


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