Godfrey's Tale

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Godfrey, Duke of Greycliff and Lord of the Dales fights to escape a his king and return home to his family.

Submitted: October 27, 2013

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 27, 2013



In another time and in another place…

The entire town gathered around the square for the marriage.  Every man and woman, elder and child, rich and poor, well or ill, none wanted to miss the chance to witness the union of not just the Lord of the Dales and Guardian of the North, Duke Godfrey and his betrothed, Anna, but also of his friend and Captain of the Guard, Roland and his betrothed, Maria.  One doesn’t often get to attend a double wedding after all.  Within the temple of their god, The Maker, the two couples stood at the head of the altar.  All four were dressed in gowns of white.  Godfrey and Roland had swords fastened onto their hips. 

Godfrey turned his head to Anna and said, “Darling, you don’t understand how I longed for you while I was gone.  There were times when all I cared for was to hold you again.” “You always speak too boldly,” Anna replied, “every day you were away I loathed walking the castle grounds and town without seeing you drill with the men-at-arms or with no one to escort me.” Godfrey responded while wrinkling his brow, “surely another escorted you around in my absence.” Anna looked into Godfrey’s eyes, “Of course there was.” Then grasping his hand she said, “but none of them are kneeling with me before The Maker in wedding gowns.”

They both smiled and turned their attention to John, the high priest.  His voice bellowed within the temple.  “Here before this assembly of men,” he said, “these two couples shall be joined in union to honor the command which our lord, The Maker, gave the first men to join themselves to a wife and live in faith.  I shall bind these cords which each of you have brought, as a representation of your union between your new spouse. Rise, embrace your spouse, and exit the temple, proclaiming to all the people of your union!”

Both couples stood, Godfrey embraced Anna and likewise with Roland and Maria.  As they walked down the aisle the crowd gathered ‘round. At the door Godfrey and Roland each kicked open a door and all exited the temple to the applause and cheers to all of the townspeople.  Flowers were thrown into the air and the petals floated on the faint breeze.  Trumpets blared and drums were beaten all in joyful celebration in the return of Greycliff’s new liege lord and his marriage. 

The sun set and darkness fell but the festival had only begun.  Whole cows and hogs were stuck to spits roasting over roaring fires caching og freshly chopped wood.  The beer and mead flowed in rivers from the kegs while all ate and drank their fill.  Above the sounds of flames, swishing of beer in mugs, clatter of bones on plates and laughter of the people from jugglers and jesters performing, the notes from bard’s lutes hung lightly in the air.  Upon a platform sat Godfrey and Anna with Roland and Maria sitting just below them on their left.  Roland leaned to Godfrey saying, “Godfrey, these are our people, surely they desire to know the tale of our return.  Why not start tonight while their mood is festive?” A serious air came about Godfrey when he said that.  “No my blood-brother,” he replied, “tonight is not the right occasion for such things.  Let us enjoy the merriment of our marriages and worry about such things on the morrow.” Roland then stood up.  “Nonsense!” he shouted, “we’ve returned triumphantly!  Let’s give the people what they want!”  Before Godfrey could protest his best friend and blood brother quieted all the people who were eager to hear the tale. 

Roland told about how they went to Lord Atli’s tournament celebrating his twentieth wedding anniversary.  He also spoke of bandits fought, animal attacks, and various drunken misadventures.  A comical air was in the crowd that night.  Even Godfrey was enjoying himself when his embarrassing moments were revealed.  “I’m afraid I’ve spoken my share for the evening,” Roland said as he tried to regain his breath.  “Godfrey!” he said, “tell the part starting the last day of games!”  Roland then staggered off to fill his mug with ale, muttering nonsense and laugh as Godfrey stood from his chair.  All the people leaned in to listen as he spoke.  He walked to the edge of the platform and began, “We all sat at the table of Lord Atli in his grand hall.  Every lord was there with his retainers sitting around them waiting for the food to arrive.  We all traded stories of battles fought and tournaments both won and lost.  The cackle of laughter bellowed off of the thick stone walls and arches.  Finally the feast was brought out.  A dozen whole roasted pigs, several scores of chickens, and barrel after barrel of ale were prepared and brought out for the meal. Before we all started Lord Atli of the Great Steppe rose to give a toast to the bravery, honor, and upright character of all gathered there.  We all shouted and placed our mugs to our lips to take a drink, soon after Lord Atli began to choke.  Someone shouted about poison and that a murderer was in our midst while we fled the hall.

Godfrey paused and bowed his head for a moment in silence.  Not a soul stirred or even whispered.  Only the crickets could be heard through the silence.  After what seemed like hours a voice rose from the crowd, “What happened next my lord!?”

The voice startled Godfrey who jumped at the sound of the man’s voice.  “We, and I mean Roland, John, Alain, and I” he said, “as well as bout a dozen of our men-at-arms raced our way back to our quarters in a barracks on the edge of the castle.  The word of Atli being poisoned spread through the city like fire.  Not an hour passed before the peasants stormed the castle in anger demanding to exact justice on their lord’s murderer.  The whole night we fought off the mob shooting arrows out of windows and using our shields to protect ourselves from the flaming debris after our barracks was set aflame by the mob.  Finally at dawn after we gathered all that we could carry we donned our armor, mounted our horses and busted down the stables gate.  As we rode through the mob slashed at them with swords, ran over them, and jumps over sever roadblocks being built in the streets.  Eventually we made our way to the city gates narrowly escaping with our lives.”

A great roar arose from the people.  Godfrey knew they loved the tale and would sing songs of the events.  The celebration resumed with notes from lutes and the laughter of revelers rising to heaven.  Roland went out to join the merriment as Godfrey turned to Anna.  Just sensing her new husband’s weariness she rose and whispered into his ear, “I think it’s time to retired for the night.  They both went back to their chambers holding hands without saying a word.

Back in their bedchamber Godfrey stood at the window looking up at the moon wearing only his lounge trousers.  Anna, who was across the chamber asked, “Godfrey, while I have many questions please answer two for me this evening.” Without turning he answered, “Of course my dear, you need only to ask.” “When you told the part about running out of Lord Atli’s hall, you paused and bowed your head. Why?” He bowed his head again but for only a second, “That is something which I am afraid I will now answer now.  I must think on it,” he said.  Anna was a little annoyed. “Why?” she thought, “why won’t he tell me? I’m his wife now.  We should be able to speak about anything.” She went to her changing room and emerged a few minutes later to find that Godfrey hadn’t moved an inch.  “Alright,” she said, “What do you think of this?” Godfrey turned to look and saw her dress only in her white lace undergarments.  His heart skipped a few beats at the sight.  After gazing speechlessly at her he said, “Tradition says that a marriage isn’t official until consummated.  I didn’t know that you would put on something special for this.” Anna could only grin and replied, “You’ve never been the best with words.  Why don’t you show me how much you love me?”

They both moved toward each other and embraced.  They moved slowly to the foot of the bed.  Staring into each other’s eyes they stood entranced until Godfrey kissed Anna, picked her up and gently laid her down on their bed.

Chapter Two

As the sun began to shine through the window it’s rays woke Godfrey from his slumber.  His eyes didn’t open nor did he move a muscle, only the warmth of the sun on his skin and it’s light gleaming through his eyelids made him consciousness. That and the touch of Anna’s skin to his own.  While he laid on his back Anna was laying on her left side with her arms across Godfrey’s chest, her feet tangled with his, and her head resting on his right shoulder snuggled tightly in with her light brown hair resting on top of a pillow.

After enjoying the peace of the moment Godfrey turned onto his right side placing his forhead to Anna’s.  He gently stroked a finger from behind her ear to the tip of her chin and whispered, “This feeling I have right now, just the two of us laying here and holding each other,  I wish it would never end, that it would just go on forever.” Anna smiled even though both had their eyes closed and said, “I wish you would have told me that before you left. I was concerned for a while you lost interest in me.” “We both know,” he replied, “that I’ve always fancied you.  It’s been like that ever since we first met.”  Anna took a big breath and said, “That’s true.  I’m just glad you’re home.  Having you gone left something missing from my life.” As soon as she finished Godfrey kissed Anna on her lips and got out of the bed.  Before he could take a step Anna tried to grasp his arm with both hands but to no avail.  “No Godfrey!” she whined, “Stay just a little bit longer!” While putting on his breeches he said, “I’m sorry honey, but the people need to see their liege and his men riding around.  There are things I must look after which will ensure our future.  We should return just after midday.”

Anna watched as her husband got dressed and suddenly forgot all of her frustrations.  She stared at her new husbands wide shoulders and chest with his flat stomach and sun scorched arms.  She knew that she married well.  As Godfrey exited their bedchamber bully cloth to Anna’s dismay she let herself fall into the mattress and could still feel Godfrey’s arms wrapped around her.  “If he ever has to go away again,” she thought, “I do not know how I shall deal with the sorrow.” Not long after hat she got herself dressed and went down to the grand halls of Greycliff Castle to break her fast.

Once there she saw a bard and juggler entertaining a small crowd of onlookers.  On the far end of the table sat Lady Elanor, Godfrey’s aunt, and on of Anna’s friends, Olivia.  Anna took her seat at the head of the table and chatted with Elanor and Olivia until the food was served.  When the cooks brought it out it consisted of some roast sausage, fresh eggs, freshly baked bread and smallbeer.  They each took a few nibbles and bits in silence while exchanging quick glances which lasted no more than half o a second.  This went on for several minutes until the crowd, as well as the bard and juggler exited the hall leaving only Anna, Elanor, and Olivia sitting there all alone in the deafening silence.  Finally Anna alternately placed her gaze on them and said, “If you two have something to say then speak!  Otherwise there’s no point in just sitting here in this horrid silence.” Elanor quickly glanced at Olivia who looked to be filled with very jumpy nerves.  “Alright then,” Elanor began, “this subject is rather unpleasant for me to think of but I’m afraid it cannot be avoided.  Do you think that I can expect children from you and my nephew in the foreseeable future?” This inquiry shocked Anna. “Well…we…I…uhh,” she said.  Elanor again broke the silence by saying, “I assume correctly that you now know Godfrey completely?” The pressure boiled over and became too much for Olivia and she finally said, “Yes Anna!  What was it like?  Please do tell! Was it like how they sing in the songs, filled with passion, and desire, and craving?”

Being hit from both sides about her carnal relations scattered Anna’s thought.  She shook her head back and forth a few times to clear her mind.  Once she gathered her thoughts she replied, “I will have you know, Lady Elanor, that the union between Godfrey and I is full and completely performed.” Lady Elanor raised her tone in reply, “Well that’s good!  I was hoping that my nephew wouldn’t be repulsed by his bride on his wedding night.  This house needs and heir after all.” Anna stood putting her hands on the table and forced her chair to slide backward before she said “Rest assured, my Lady Elanor, that Godfrey and I will do our best to produce an heir.  We are more than aware on the matters importance.” Elanor also rose to say, “That is comforting to know, though I would have liked to have been told in less of a bold manner.” She then saw herself out of the hall.

“How dare she ask such a thing!  We’ve only been married for less than a day after all!”  Anna though while she sat back down in anger.  A few moments of silence passed before Olivia said, “Forgive m persistence milady, but I must ask you again.  What was it like?”  Anna had to think about that one for a while.  How could she explain the feeling to Olivia?  She looked up to a window near the ceiling as the sun shined on her face while she thought with her eyes closed. 

With a smile on her face she opened her eyes as she looked at Olivia to say, “It felt, joyous.  At first it hurt as Godfrey took my maidenhood, but as we continued I began to feel more alive than I ever have before.  The two of us became one flesh bound together.  I felt whole, complete you might say.  The two of us were no longer individuals, but now partners understanding each other in a way which words cannot do justice.” While she said this a glow seemed to eminate from her face.  A smile grew on Olivia’s face as she let out a giggle.  “Oh my,” she said, “that sounds magical!  I hope one day that I can find a husband who makes me feel the same way!” Anna replied, “I wish the same for you as well, Olivia.  But rest assured, I plan to bring as many children into this world for Godfrey as I can I think he’ll like that idea rather well.” They both giggled when she said that.

Chapter Three

Godfrey walked out of his bedchamber through the halls of his keep and down to the courtyard where his men-at-arms were milling around, eating breakfast, and nursing the sudden plague of hangovers. Sitting around a small were John and Alain roasting a duck on a spit.  Godfrey made his way over to them and placed his sheathed sword across his knes as he sat down on a stool.  The sound of fat burning as it fell from the goose to the embers made a hiss.  Each of them cut off a leg, wing, or piece of breast to eat.  One of them asked Godfrey what it was like to be with a woman.  He just looked them both in the eyes and said, “That’s none of your business.” They both looked back at their meal to continue eating.  After a few moments Godfrey said, “You know...they say that the only ones who talk about it are the ones who aren’t having it.” All three of them laughed at that one.  Just then Roland strolled up.  They offered him part of the goose but he refused. 

Soon after the foursome strapped on their swords and dirks and gathered up their personal guards.  They numbered about twelve in total.  They then stepped by the town brewer, an old war veteran named Hadubrand who always seemed to be in a state of mourning.  When Godfrey asked for the water skins to be filled and Hadubrand offered the ration pro bono.  Godfrey paid him anyway.  Everyone took a but drink Roland’s was especially large and only he felt the effects.  “That’s why I didn’t eat this morning!” he said, “the alcohol works faster on an empty stomach.”

The group rode out of Greycliff.  Godfrey saluted all of the common folk when they halted their work as he rode by.  About half of a mile from the town they stopped for a quick rest after a morning of riding through the country and meeting with the elders of the billages just outside of Greycliff.  While everyone caught their breath Godfrey stood looking at his town, specifically the walls.  While the walls were by no means crumbling or unable to withstand attack, they still had areas which needed to be tended.  While Godfrey pondered the strength of his walls Alain played a song on his lute to amuse the others.  Always quick for a witty remark he sang a couplet at the end of the tune, “Fancy army darling, I loves you all to bits, I’ll climb up to your chamber, and under your mountainous tits!” They all cheered and applauded with accompanying laughter.

Godfrey was oblivious to the performance.  Alain walked to Godfrey’s side while strumming a few notes.  Godfrey looked to his left to see who stood next to him.  Godfrey took another look at the town and said, “You see that Alain?  The spot between the south-east twoer and the gate house, it’s beginning to loosen.  When we are besieged that will be our weakest point.” “Do you really think that it will come to that Godfrey?” Alain said.  “I would not speak in such certainty if I were not sure.  Keep your sword sharp, your shield solid, and your armor oiled.  A storm is brewing and Greycliff will need every edge it can muster.” he said, “Let’s go, I told Anna that I’d be back just after midday.” As they mounted their horses Alain rode next to Godfrey and said to him, “Missing your wife’s embrace already are you?  You’ve only been married a day and she’s already telling you when to be home?” Godfrey chuckled and said, “When you get married my friend, you’ll understand.  Like I’ve always said, lovers are lunatics.”

Off they rode back to Greycliff in a double column.  The people were in full force with their work.  The blacksmiths hammering away creating everything from horseshoes to farm implements to nails and swords.  The weavers and cobblers worked away making gowns, tunics, shoes and boots.  The butchers were slicing up portions of beef, pork and poultry as well as wild game from the hunters who also sold the hides to the tanners.

When the troop of men entered the keeps walls and dismounted their horses they saw the women playing games and sewing in the shade.  They went over to join them and called the cooks to bring out some lunch for them.  Several of them, Godfrey and John included, stood several paces away.  They each took out a pipe and placed some finely ground pipeweed into them and used a match to light them.  After several minutes of puffing smoke they went back to join the group for lunch.

While dining on various cheeses, sausages and small beer someone came up with the idea of an impromptu tournament melee.  With full bellies and alcohol flowing through them, a sixteen man bracket was arranged.  The squires fetched the practice shields and weapons, all blunted and padded, as well as the armor of the combatants.  Each flight proceeded in the fashion of a duel, the only rule to halt all action when a combatant yielded or the herald called a stop to the action.  Some of the flights were very fast paced with wild swinging of weapons and bashing with shields.  Yet others were much tactical, with careful planning and execution of attacks carried out in a more deliberate fashion, as much a battle of minds as might.  After about an hour of near-mortal combat only two contestants remained, Duke Godfrey and his Captain of the Guard, Roland.

A quick period of rest was taken to ensure an energetic match.  Roland elected to chug down a mug of beer to help nurse a knot on his left leg which was caused by blow from an earlier match.  Godfrey chose to remove his helmet and doused himself with a pitcher of water to cool himself and took a small drink to reresh his spirit.  Both men stood back up and returned to opposite ends of a small clearing in the courtyard,  fastened their helmets, grasped their shields, drew their swords, and at the signal of the herald, each man entered his stance and closed the distance to engage the other.

Each of them slowly maneuvered, wary of the others attacks and speed.  There were quick bursts of action, strike, parry, counterstrike, dodge, trip, and then the two would pace in a circle searching for a weakness or mistake to be exploited.  For several moments this happened, neither man able to subdue the other.  Then one of Roland’s swings ricocheted off of Godfrey’s shield and stuck his helmet with a glancing blow.  The strike drew blood from a cut it made on Godfrey’s cheek while the concussion knocked him from his feet.  Some gasps came from the crowd at the sight of their lord falling from his feet.  Neither the herald nor Godfrey called an end to the match so Roland threw down his shield to grasp his sword with both hands and ran toward Godfrey as he regained his footing to deliver a final flurry of blows. 

When he was knocked down Godfrey lost control of his sword leaving him weaponless.  As he ose to his feet he grasped a handful of soil in his free hand.  When Roland entered range Godfrey threw the soil in Roland’s eyes, blinding him.  He then tossed his shield at the knot in Roland’s leg unbalancing him further.  Unable to see and off balance Roland was thrown to the ground and disarmed in a grapple by Godfrey.  When his vision cleared Roland saw his lord standing aboce him with his sword held to Roland’s neck and blood running down his cheek.  The sounds he heard were the call of the herald ending the bout, the cheers and clapping of the crod and Godfrey saying, “You almost had me there old friend.  I must say the The Maker was on my side this day.”

Godfrey then threw down the sword and grabbed Roland’s hand to pull him back up to his feet. Roland nearly fell back down when he tried to put weight on his leg but Godfrey caught him.  Godfrey called for some physicians to assist Roland back to his quarters.  He made special attempts to tell them and Maria to take good care of him because he would be needed soon as healthy as can be.  When he turned around he saw Anna walking up to him.  “Oh my!” she said trying to catch her breath,  : That certainly was an exciting display! I didn’t know that you could do something like !” Godfrey moved a piece of hair from Anna’s cheek to behind her ear and replied, “We’ve only been married a day my love,  There are plenty of things we have yet to show each other that we can do.  When Godfrey moved her hair and spoe as they gazed into each other’s eyes a quiver went up her leg.  Anna finally remembered her husbands injury and called for a physician to treat it because it was beginning to swell around his eye.  The two of them plus the doctor and a few attendants then went to Godfrey and Anna’s bedchamber to nurse the wound.

Chapter Four

Godfrey and Anna as well as the physician and a few of his attendants walked quickly to the bedchamber.  Once there two of the attendants prepped medical supplies while the other attendant and Anna assisted Godfrey in removing his armor and garb down to his smallclothes. 

“Quite a blow you took milord.  I must say that I was surprised that the match wasn’t ended when you fell from your feet,” the physician said.  He then began to closely examine the wound.  As he did this Godfrey winced and said, “I’ve come to worse ends in battle and tournament.. What do you recommend for treatment?”  The physician got up to retrieve a couple bottles from his kit and handed them to Godfrey.  “A rivet from your helmet has left a cut just above your left ear,” he said, “apply the ointment whenever the previous application has dried.  Put a drop of this potion into your drink a few times a day to combat infection.  As for the muscle aches, take a hot bath as needed to loosen them up.  If you have any question just send for me.” His three attendants gathered their supplies and closed the door behind them.  Godfrey and Anna’s eyes met with a smile from each of them.  “So how do you feel about that hot bath?” Anna said. Godfrey immediately replied, “Go get the tub ready, I’ll be there soon.” Anna went to a joining room to ready the water while Godfrey retrieved his pipe and puffed at the window to pass the time.

About half of an hour later Anna reentered the bedchamber.  When she did Godfrey was still standing there puffing away at his pipe.  She briefly admired him for several moments before saying, “Darling, the water is ready.” “Alright dear,” Godfrey said as he took one last puff.  Anna went to a different room.  Godfrey went to the bathing chamber, removed his smallclothes, and slowly lowered himself into the steaming hot water.  He laid his head on one end and closed his eyes.

Enough time passed for Godfrey to nearly drift into sleep.  Slumber’s hands were nearly upon him when a small splash broke the calm.  Godfrey opened his eyes with lightning speed and drew a dagger which he placed beside the tub within arm’s reach.  The intruder let out a gasp when Godfrey grabbed a wrist and yanked it downwards.  What Godfrey saw when he regained his vision gave him both relief and utter self-disgust.  Standing before him was Anna.  The terrified expression of her face made Godfrey’s arm go limp dropping the dagger onto the floor and push himself back toward one end of the tub.

“Anna, you know that I don’t like being snuck upon like that,” Godfrey said.  “Yes I know,” she replied, “I was trying not to wake you so that I could wake you up once I was in the tub with you.” 

Anna stood still in the deafening silence looking down at her feet when Godfrey said, “We’ll come on now, I can’t keep the water warm forever.  Get in!”  She smiled at him, threw off her nightgown and entered the tub. 

Several days later the preparations were finished for Godfrey and his company to once again set off for a gathering of the lords. Godfrey and Anna said their goodbyes to one another without ceremony or fanfare.  Life returned to normal in Greycliff by then.  The people went about their daily labor as they always did as the Arl rode over the horizon with his personal guard behind him.

It had been nearly three weeks since Godfrey and company departed from Greycliff for the gathering.  The camp in which it took place sat in a valley near a grove of three older than the race of men.  As they rode to the top of the hill overlooking the valley they could see a storm brewing over the horizon.  Lords from all of the provinces attended with a great multitude of banners and standards flying over where they camped.  Their numbers stood at near forty-thousand in all.  Godfrey and his host were one of the last to arrive and with almost no fanfare compared to others before him.

The storm over the horizon already brewed for several days but had not yet moved.  One day as the sun was setting the storm began to movie in toward the camp.  At first the rain merely trickled down in a dainty shower.  Distant lightning and faint thunder rolled over the valley.  Most of the men in the camp huddled around fires within the large tents and drifted off to sleep for the night. 

It was around midnight when a shadowy figure began skulking throughout the encampment.  It wore all black garments with a black hood and cloak which covered it’s face under a veil of shadow.  From shadow to shadow it crept while dodging guard and moonlight.  He came to the tent of Duke Godfrey and silently sliced a hole through the wall of the tent.  He then waddled through the gap making silent entry into the tent.

Once inside the shadowy figure peered all around the tent’s interior.  What he saw surprised him.  He did not stand within a richly decorated space filled wih intricately designed rugs, ornaments, furniture, and chests holding trophies of gold, silver, and precious gems.  Instead he saw only several men lying on top of mats and covered by wool blankets.  None of which had a distinctive mark.  The figure skulked around looking for his mark.  He identified Godfrey by the armor and sword placed upright on a rack by which he slumbered.  It silently drew a dagger and crept toward the sleeping lord.

Just as the figure raised its arm to deliver a death blow into Godfrey’s throat it let out a cry as someone yanked out a tuft of its hair.  The both of them grappled one attempting escape and the other detainment.  The other occupants awoke into a groggy daze.  Confusion reigned over them long enough for the shadowy figure to breaks loose of Roland’s grip and dart out of the tent.

By this time Godfrey was fault conscious and made chase after his would be killer with his sword in hand.  As the figure moved throughout the camp he pushed over chairs and tables behind him to delay Godfrey.  Despite his best efforts Godfrey leaped, bounded, and hopped over or around the obstacles placed in his way.

Godfrey came to an intersection and scanned for his target in every direction.  To his left he saw the corner of the Kind’s tent ruffle.  “Bastard!” Godfrey said under his breath.  “I must ensure the king’s safety.

He rushed to the entrance as quietly as possible with his sword at the ready to strike.  As he got closer he could hear muffled voices from within the tent.  Once he stood about a pace away from the tent he peered through the slit and saw King Peter in conversation.

“What do you mean you failed,” said the kind, “he’s only one man! All you had to do was slit his throat in the night and get away!” Out of Godfrey’s view came a raspy response, “My deepest apologies milord, his companions were more cunning than I planned.”  King Peter hammered his fist onto a table and said, “You foolish pile of shit!  His are among the finest soldiers in the land, how could you not plan for that?!”  The king paced around several times so Godfrey silently sidestepped to keep his view on the king. Once he repositioned he saw not only the king but also the shadowy figure.  “What would you have your humble servant do milord?” the figure said.  Without pause the king replied, “Duke Godfrey must be killed.  His knowledge of my relationship with Nicholas cannot be made public!” Just then the two of them sensed that someone was watching them and turned toward the entrance.  The king turned a snow like pale as he locked eyes with Godfrey.  Both the figure and king lunged after him but were knocked unconscious by the pummel of Godfrey’s sword.  Godfrey then sprinted back to his tent.

By the time that he returned to his tent, John, Alain, and Roland were in a circle conversing between each other.  “It doesn’t matter who sent the assassin, “Roland said, “We need to hunt down and kill whoever sent it.”  All of them turned to Godfrey as he entered the tent.  Alain sprang up and ran toward him and said, “Oh thank the Maker that you are still alive milord!  Please tell me that you bear good news!”

“I do bring good news my friends,” Godfrey said, “I know who went the assassin to murder me in my sleep.” Immediately Roland drew his sword while saying, “Tell me so that I can send that soul to hell!”  Godfrey looked each of the in the eye for a moment.  After a long sigh he finally said, “King Peter sent him.” The room fell silent once he said that.

After a few seconds of silence John said, “What’s the plan milord?”  “The company needs to split up and meet back together in several days,” was Godfrey’s reply, “We’ll split into groups and meet at the base of Icecrown Peak.” Then he summoned his lieutenants and executed his plan. Each band went its own way riding off into the night.

Chapter Five

For several days they rode nearly non-stop through a torrential downpour.  All of the men as well as their equipment and mounts were covered in mud, water, and well-worn out.  One evening as they sat up camp Roland said this to his lord, “Milord, the men are exhausted and hungry.  The past few days of little sleep and sparse food are causing doubts about how you lead.”  “Tell them to remember the campaigns that I have served with them.  I did not fail them then and I will not fail them now.”

That night he dreamed that he was in a forest as dark as pitch.  He was crawling around on all four limbs at the edge of a dark wood.  A stone’s throw away he saw a village blanketed in darkness.  He crept slowly into the village and began searching.  From shadow to shadow he dashed and darted searching for a lone wanderer.  Finally he saw a woman walking on a patch with a lantern in her hand.  Without thinking he leaped from his position and sprinted toward her.  Once she was several steps away he sprang into the air.  Just then the woman turned around, let out a blood curdling screech when her eyes met his, and then Godfrey’s vision went black. As he awoke from his slumber in a cold sweat and out of breath he said to himself, “Only hardship lies for us in these hills.”

They broke camp and began to silently march through the forest and up the mountain.  The men marched in columns of four keeping watch for signs of ambush. Several times they came upon dismembered bodies and human heads nailed to trees.  The men reeled at the sight of crows perched upon the nails and eating away at the eyes of the heads.

Near a narrow gap in the trees where an old stone tower stood the vanguard saw smoke exiting through a small window from within.  Just a few seconds later a voice sounded from with the tower saying, “Halt! Who goes there?”  Roland rode a few paces ahead of the column.  “It is a company of men near fifty score!” Roland said.  “What business do you have here with such a large host?” the voice from the tower immediately replied.  Again Roland answered, “We are fleeing those who accuse us of treachery and wish to return to our own land.  Several minutes passed before the voice in the tower said,  “You have yet to answer my first question.  Who leads your company and from where do you hail?”  “Godfrey, the Duke of Greycliff, Lord of the Greydales is our leader,” Roland replied.  Immediately the tower said, “We have heard of him.  If he is indeed your lord, then let him come forth and present himself so that we know we shall not be fooled.”

Then Godfrey strode to the head of the column and said,  “I am Godfrey, the Duke of Greycliff.  I assure you that we mean no harm, we merely wish to travel through these lands in order to return to our own home.”  A few moments passed before a short stocky man exited from the base of the tower.  He then took a few steps toward the columns and said, “Very well Godfrey, Duke of Greycliff, we will escort you to our leader so that the both of you may speak. I am Farmund and will be your guide.” He then placed two fingers at his teeth and whistled.  Then a multitude greater than Godried’s company appeared out of the wood line with slings, bows, spears and small shields in hand appeared.  Godfrey motioned for his column to march forward immediately before Farmund whistled once more and his host marched along the edge of the columns, constantly keeping their eyes on the foreigner in their land.

Further and further in the forest them went.  At times the trail would only be wide enough for one rider or two men standing shoulder to shoulder.  As such the column sometimes stretched for miles.  Both groups constantly scanned the other; always wary of what the other might do but also carefully studying each other.

The men of the hills looked always at the weapons and armor of the Dalemen.  The castle wrought long swords, maces, war hammers, chainmail, and helmets of the Dalemen shone in stark contrast to the hill men who were clad in fur and carried spears, clubs, slings and short bows.  The Dalement on their horses stumbled slowly through the forest on the trails and paths while their counterparts gracefully glided between and around trees and other assorted obstacles.

After several hours they came to a settlement inside a clearing within the forest.  The gate to it opened for the column when they were about a stone’s throw away.  In a column of twos the Dalemen filed into the settlement and formed up outside a large hall in four ranks.  Godfrey stood in front of the formation facing a platform on which sat a large throne with a smaller copy to its left.  After several minutes a group number about half score exited the hall.

On the throne sat an aged man who was grey of hair, wrinkly cheeked and had bent posture.  To his left sat a young woman with blonde hair.  Bother were clad in soft leather jerkins and trousers with fur boots or slippers and cloaks made from the fur of the bear.  They each also wore a dagger on their hip.  Farmund went onto the platform and stood to the old man’s right.  HE wore the same garb as those standing around them.  That consisted of thick leather trousers and boots, leather breastplates with metal plates sewn into them, and short swords with daggers hanging from their belts.

The murmur continued until the old man stood up from his throne. The entire village went silent at that single motion.  He then took steps forward and stopped at the edge of the platform.  He took a look at Godfrey for several moments as if pondering what to say. 

Once ready he raised both arms to shoulder level with palms facing inward and said, “Hail travelers!  Who is the leader of your company?”  Godfrey moved forward several paces and replied with, “I am the leader of this company good sir!” “Ah, I can tell by your voice that you hail from the lowlands, the Dales if I am not mistaken,” the old man said.  Without pause Godfrey answered with, “Aye! That is correct.  Every man formed up here before you is a man of the Dales.  I am Godfrey, the liege lord of that land and Steward of Greycliff.” “Please remove your helmet so that I may know your face,” the old man said.  Godfrey did so and moved closer to the platform.  “You are very young for a lord.  I am Osric, chieftain of the Bear Brother clan.  You are welcome here for as long as your intentions remain peaceful.” Osric then looked up and announced to all in attendance, “Tap the kegs!”

Chapter Six

The day after Godfrey reached the village Osric sent messengers to the other tribes in order to call a meeting.  Several days later elders from all eleven tribes arrived at the Bear Brother settlement with of score of men in their entourage.  Each representative sat in the hall around a large horseshoe shaped table.  In the center of the hall a fire cackled illuminating the inside.  On the walls hung shields and spears not richly adorned, but instead left plain.  A slight smell of alcohol hung in the air from the mead they drank.

Once all sat down Osric called out, “Hail brothers!  Greetings from the Bear brother clan!  I welcome you to our home.  Let us raise our cups to each other and toast to peace among the clans and victory against our enemies!”  All at once the chieftains raised their cups, chugged their mead, and slammed them onto the table.  Everyone focused on Osric who was seated at the apex of the table.

“We all know,” began, “that a plague has ravaged our people these past few months.  Every night we live in fear that another of us will not see the next dawn.” The whole room was silent.  After pondering his words he continued, “After months of searching, I believe I have found someone to deliver us from our blight.”

“Please continue,” their lack of response answered.  Osric pointed at Godfrey and said, “To my left sit Godfrey, Duke of Greycliff, Lord of the Dalelands. He is the answer to our prayers.  Everyone began whispering between themselves.  Each gazed at Godfrey several times then moved to whisper into someone’s ear.  After several minutes Osric called for silence.  Once he said their attention he said, “What say you all?”

No one answered.  “I shall speak,” a dark corner said.  Everyone turned to see who answered.  “Come from the darkness so that we may know who is speaking,” Osric said.  Without response a dark figure moved out of the shadow and removed his hood.  “Who is that?” Godfrey asked Osric. “Vloki, say your piece,” Osric told the once hooded man. 

Vloki switch his gaze between Osric and Godfrey while he said, “What makes you think that we should allow a lowlander to march his forces through our lands and involve himself in our affairs? We are a free people and require no assistance from outsider.” “You know as well as we all do,” Osric replied, that our best efforts have failed us.  For month we’ve not been able to deal with this curse.”

Vloki slowly paced around the hall.  Let’s not forget, Osric, that when all of this first began, the council never called upon the Serpent Caller clan, let alone our men to give aid.  Mayhaps before you enlist the aid of these foreigner in clan affairs you sould seek help from among our peoples. Godfrey and Vloki’s eyes met as Vloki said, “Besides, how do we even know that this band of outlanders can even handle this?  Their kind live in luxury and are posh.  I bet that not even a score of them could fight one of my clansmen and win.”

At that Godfrey leaped to his feet, drew his sword, and darted toward Vloki placed the blade at his throat.  None the council had time to draw their weapons before Godfrey was in position to slice Vloki’s throat.  “I can assure, you piece of pig shit,” Godfrey began.  “that my company nad I would annihilate you and your pathetic clan were we given combat.” Immediately after Hrowulf replied, “Hehehe, so the lowlander pup has some spark in him!  Well well well, why don’t we make this a little more interesting?” Godfrey squinted his eyes and asked, “What have you got in mind?”

He took a moment to think before answering.  “I will return to my clan to gather my fighting men to hunt these monsters and you shall do the same with your posh pony riding jokes of men you call warriors.  If you beat me, then my people will pledge allegiance to your family till your blood no longer walks this earth.” “And what if I win?” Godfrey asked.  Without pause he answered, “If I win, then you must grant my clan immunity in your lands to do as we wish until the end of time.” “Deal!” Godfrey replied.  “Then it decided!” Vloki said, “Let the hunt begin!”

Godfrey lowered his blade from Vloki’s throat and let him walk out of the hall smirking all the way.  Once he exited Osric approached Godfrey telling him, “Master Godfrey, you are young but I did not know you were this brash!  Vloki and his clan are not of high repute.” “Bah!” Godfrey barked, “Have faith Elder Osric!  I assure you that I will win this wager.  I can also assure you that I will assist you all in combatting his ilk if they give you any trouble.  Osric sighed and said, “Very well.Please tell us what assistance we can give before you depart.” “Several guides is what I require,” Godfrey said as he walked out of the hall.  Once back at his companion’s quarters Roland asked him what the plan was.  “We depart at dawn,” Godfrey answered.  After their lord passed them John uttered, “Oh great.  Now we’re really getting into it” “Hopefully that bastard Vloki honors his end of the deal,” Alain replied.

The next day’s sky was a dome of grey and the scent of rain hung in the air. Like clockwork all the people awoke near dawn.  Men shivered and parted through the mist while the rays of sun glimmered off of the morning dew.  Workers shuffled through lines for quick meals before the day’s labor began while the Dalemen secured rations from a storehouse.  During breakfast Farmund came to Godfrey with several men.

“Good morrow Farmund,” Godfrey said, “Are these the scouts I requested?”  “Aye,” he replied, “these men are my personal guard and finest trackers in the clans.  They will journey us today.” After everyone finished their meal they gathered their gear and headed for the gate.

Once assembled the gate open and they filed out in twos.  About fifty mounted men in total left.  They did not wear their full battle gear fearful of the noise it made. At most each man wore a tunic, an oxhide jerkin and bracers, and a cloak.  They displayed no banners or heraldry.  There was no clinking of chain mail or coats of plates for these warriors.

The lowlanders were as silent as they could be but they often blundered through the forest.  Their scouts however glided between and around trees with minimal effort.  Every suspicious movement or sound sent back whispers to scan a certain area when passed.

Godfrey and Farmund rode beside each other.  Several hours into their search Godfrey turned to the hillman to ask, “What exactly are these beings you fear so much?”  Farmund waited several seconds before answering.  “The forest holds many secrets,” he started, “some not even forest dwellers know.”  “So you don’t know exactly then?” Godfrey replied.  Farmund took several breaths before saying, “Of them we know little, but why we hunt them is simple.  These demons kidnap our people in the night to feast on their flesh.  I myself have seen it.”  Godfrey turned pale and nearly vomited at the thought.

Once Godfrey regained his focus he asked Farmund to describe the creatures to him.  “Imagine if you can beings like men both in shape and size but with skin of pale blue,” Farmund said,  “Their hair is filthily unkempt and their nails are both cracked and jagged.  Their teeth resemble rotten and decaying daggers of a yellow hue.  All of their veins bulge outward and their eyes are orbs of the deepest darkness.”  He then asked Farmund when they appeared.  “They move with the mist.  Day or night, rain or shine, wherever and whenever there is fog they will come often in packs of several dozen or so.”  Silence prevailed over the dialogue until Farmund told Godfrey that, “They’ve taken none from where we departed but reports come in nearly every day from villages and hamlets about attacks during which children are taken from homes and eaten right before their parents eyes.”  Godfrey leaned over to his side to vomit several times. 

John and Alain rode several paces behind and overheard everything they said.  “How are we supposed to make it through an ordeal with monsters such as these?”  John said.  Also very frightened Alain replied, “There’s nothing we can do now except wait and see.”  

They patrolled through the forest for three days in search of their prey but didn’t succeed.  On the fourth day just after breakfast John and Alain asked Godfrey when they would be leaving.  “Keep patient lads,” he said, “we’re right on their heels.” As they walked back to their horses Godfrey heard one say, “See I told you that he knew what he was doing!”

The party packed and soon began patrols.The sound of rain muffled the clumsy movements of the Dalemen.  About midday a scout picked up a trail and the party ate in their saddles.  After several more hours the ground leaked water and gave way under the pressure of man and beast.  A scout called the party to halt at the base of a hill.  They all blended perfectly into the bush when hiding.

Godfrey, Farmund, Roland and the scout crawled to the hill’s apex and saw a camp beneath them.  “That’s them!” Farmund said, “the whole lot of them in one spot.”  Constructed of sticks and mud and covered in the layered skins of their quarry they almost always fell down whenever one of the creatures bumped the frame of the entrance hole.  The dwellings we not placed in any order or pattern but there appeared to be a path leading into the hill at its base opposite where the party hid.  “I bet the whole pack is down in that pit right underneath where we lay,” Roland said, “we should just rush in hacking and slashing…”  “Silence you fool!” Farmund interrupted, “do you want to give us away to be their next meal?”  Roland looked at Godfrey turning red.  Godfrey just looked back at the camp puzzled how to eliminate the monsters.

They crawled back to the base of the hill where Farmund gathered them all for a quick meeting.  Once he had everyone’s attention he told them, “This is an old mining complex that I used to explore as a child.  About a league east there is an air shaft we can descend to catch them off guard once the main force storms the surface entrance.  Godfrey, tell your men to dismount and stay hidden until sundown then attack.  That’s when we’ll come out of hiding and pinch those demons in the middle.” Godfrey gathered about a dozen of his most capable men and they descended down the shaft while the rest waited above ground while they quietly crept through the cave’s utter darkness with a hand on the man to his front to not be lost.

They followed a faint light as their guide.  It got brighter with every step and the closer they got the clearer they could hear voices speaking a guttural tongue.  They could also hear the sounds of metal scraping wood, slurping of liquid, and water splattering on the ground.  Both Godfrey and Farmund peeked around the corner and saw a row of tables placed end to end in the center of what looked like a kitchen.  At one end a prisoner was held down by several of the monsters and his head was cut off. 

Then the carcass was pulled onto a table where a butcher disemboweled it separating the organs into buckets. A table down the line another butcher skinned the carcass by slicing circles at the ankles and peeling off the skin.  They withdrew themselves from the view before the processing continued.  Godfrey asked what kind of men could do such things to other men.  “That matters not,” Farmund answered, “only that we destroy those demons does.”

They whispered down the line for the men to draw weapons in order to be ready for ambush at any moment.  The was complete silence except for the preparation of meat in the neighboring chamber.  Godfrey could see the dim glint of light in his men’s eyes from the little light there was.  Finally, after what seemed like forever they could hear the voices grow louder and excited like something urgent happened.  At that signal Godfrey burst into the chamber.

The screams and moans of wounded or dying men gave a background hum throughout the room while the screams, snarls, and war cries of warriors echoed throughout the room.  Red mist filled the air while lifeless bodies littered the floor.  They could hear and feel the breaking and snapping of bones while combatants grappled and rammed each other into tables and walls.  Leaving nothing alive behind they fought their way upward as quickly as possible until they could smell the untainted air and see the light of the surface.

Once out of the cavern Godfrey saw flesh eater corpses strewn all about the ground.  Some had their innards spilling out, some died of severed limbs, and yet others heads were jellified by a well struck blow.  The stench of blood offended the nose and made eyes water.  But what Godfrey and his small band noticed most of all was that the rest of the party was not engaging flesh eaters, but were instead locked against other men.

The combat was swift and brutal.  The Dalemen easily fended off the  jerky and sluggish attacks of their assailants.  Unskilled and wild assaults were no match for smooth and rehearsed parries, deflections, and slashes of a second nature but of the highest quality.  They fought for what seemed hours against these ambushers until a group of them broke away in an attempt to escape.  A bowman hit one of the fleeing men with an arrow and captured him.  Before any information could be gathered he succumbed to death.

“Search the dead!” Godfrey commanded, “Mayhaps we can find a clue to these men’s identities.  After several moments Godfrey was presented a medallion picturing a man surrounded by snakes.  Unfamiliar with the image he showed it to Farmund who said, “Those bastards, that’s the emblem of the serpent caller clan!  If they tried to assassinate me here then that means they’ll try to attack…home.”  At that he mounted his horse and rode off with the whole company on his trail.

The whole village was burned by the time they arrived.  They looked all around for survivors and found none, yet neither did many lay dead.  While investigating Godfrey pulled a note from a dead messengers grasp.  Blood smudged the ink which made squinting and deliberate pronunciation the only means to decipher.  “Serpent-men attacked, overrun, fled for the Dales,” he said.  Hearing Godfrey recite the message Farmund said to him, “No doubt they mean to find refuge within your lands.  They believe that you are a man to be trusted and will give them aid. Will you help us?  We would owe you beyond measurement for your assistance.”  Once he gave it several moments thought Godfrey replied, “Show us the quickest way past the mountains and I will do all that I can.” All the men mounted up and rode off after their guides.

Chapter Six

They rode all through the night and stopped for nothing, not food, not water, not rest, not even to relieve themselves.  It was not long however until things deteriorated.  Their pace was very quick at first but the wide trails grew ever smaller slowing their speed until they merely paced behind each other in a single file. Many men fell asleep in their saddles and only awoke when a particularly strong bump in the ride joggled them.  As the hill got steadily steeper it became hard to know when exactly they climbed the mountain.  “Where do the hills end and the mountain begin?” Godfrey asked himself.

The pass was barely narrow enough fit two horses through while on its flanks stood two cliffs about fifty paces high.  At their bases lay several large boulders about three men wide and several feet taller than an ass.  The sky was so clear one could see the moon in the snow while the pass whistled to the pitch of the winds.

Godfrey and Farmund halted once they saw the pass so they could see everyone get through the gap.  “Set up some fires once you reach the base on the other side,” Godfrey told Roland.  Alain and John overheard him as they rode by and one said to the other, “It’s about time we got some rest.”  Everyone began to relax once about half of them were through.  “Surely no one can reach us here,” many of them said to one another. 

Then as faint as the slightest whisper, a javelin pierced straight through one of the men.  When he fell dead from his horse it bolted dragging him along by his foot which was still caught in a stirrup.  It rained stones and javelins upon the company so they galloped toward the gap on a path barely wide enough to fit them.  By the time Godfrey and Roland got through almost all of the missiles flew for them.  Each broke through and were nearly out of range when a stone hit the base of Godfrey’s helmet.

When he awoke he lay face down in a snow covered field.  After pushing himself to his knees he gazed out to survey the scene.  Before him lay rolling hills capped by enormous rock piercing through the blinding snow. 

Off in the distance he saw a figure just standing still and gazing at him.  He squinted and could make out the figure of a woman clad in a single red tunic.  Separate from his will he rose to his feet and moved toward the woman.  Once within shouting distance she turned around and walked away from him.  Without thought he just continued after her and with no control over his actions he began to run after her, but no matter how quickly he ran she always walked faster.  Eventually she entered into a cave.  “Aha!” he though, “Now I’ve got her!”

He entered the cave alone with his weapon in his and followed a lamp light path.  The deeper he delved the air became increasingly heavy and humid.  He could feel his lugs compressing and sweat dripping oozing from every inch of his body.

He came to a single large cavern in which sat a throne carved from ice on which sat the woman.  They gazed at one another while Godfrey contemplated what to do next. Once he crossed the caverns threshold something from behind knock him off of his feet and across the cavern and into a wall.  He faded into unconsciousness as he thought he felt himself being dragged across the floor. 

His head pounded as he awoke to find himself handing by his feet from the cavern ceiling.  A few feet away he saw his sword lying in the snow but no matter how hard he stretched he couldn’t reach it.  He then tried to yank his feet from the ice but made barely a crack in it so he just hung there with his eyes closed for several moments to gather his thoughts.

While trying again to reach his sword the troll entered the cavern holding a mangled piece of meat barely hanging onto a bone.  Their eyes met as the troll roared and threw down the hunk of flesh and bone onto the floor.  Godfrey immediately grasped one leg with both hands and with all his might yanked it from the ice.  The troll was almost at him so he grabbed a fit sized piece of ice and chucked it at his jailor striking him in the eye.  He grabbed his other leg and yanked while pushing against the ceiling with his other leg and fell to the ground.  By the time he scrambled to his sword the troll was at his heels so he swung at its leg which made it stumble.  It grabbed at him so he dodged and chopped off its hand.  Without pause Godfrey raised the sword over his head and just as steel met skull Godfrey opened his eyes.

He saw Alain and John looking down on him.  “Lord Godfrey,” Al

© Copyright 2018 Collin Jonson. All rights reserved.

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