An Honorable Means

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

The Tale of An Old Knight and his quest to continue his adventures with an aging body.

An Honorable Means

 

Gansol looked intently at the young men lined in ranks in front of him. He paused unaware of his own slight smiled as he remembered when he was in these very ranks nearly fifty years back looking nervously at another old, battle hardened knight preparing to inspect him.

Was it so long ago, he asked himself?

Dressed in his highly polished red and gold ceremonial armor he sat stationed proudly atop his tall battle horse as he rode slowly by the line of new troops. First Knight to the King was his title. The highest ranking and most respected position a knight in the realm of King Furdhest could achieve. An honor to most, but his blood still yearned for the thrill of wielding an ax in battle against any foe that dared challenge the kingdom, or him. He sighed. He despised these inspections, and the hot sun beating down on him this day made it even less enjoyable. The troops, trained and ready for the thrill of blood and battle, were lined up in perfectly arranged rows in front of him as the dead silence of anticipation filled the out-door arena.

Sighing again, he pulled gently on the reins and spun the horse around to the left. A sudden twinge of pain in his battle-injured shoulder reminded him that, yes, it was that long ago and his fighting days were long over.

To him, his current position was the place where fancily dressed, old knights were placed until they died to make room for the next one to step in.

Spinning the horse in the other direction, he approached the Garrison Commander. Glancing at the crowd, he noticed that nearly every eye was on him. He shifted uncomfortably in his saddle as the horse's hoofs clumped in perfect rhythm on the smooth granite floor of the arena.

The commander snapped to attention as he approached and saluted.

"Garrison ready for inspection Sir Gansol," he shouted while still holding his salute.

"Hu-mum," Gansol replied quietly as he dismounted. It was the only response that was necessary. All the garrison commanders hated the inspections as much as he did. Local tradition, however, dictated the transitional and ceremonial event and the family members in the large crowd nearby would have it no other way.

Gansol did not inspect all the troops but randomly picked twenty or so out of the group, directing them to perform brief but well rehearsed sword displays and checking for kinks in their armor or smudges in their highly polished leather boots.

Satisfied, he mounted his horse again and rode towards the center stage where King Furdhest sat. The King, his King, was an honorable man whom he would gladly give his life to defend. Over the years, he had developed a strong friendship with him and advising him in battle was the only part of his current job he still enjoyed.

"My King," he shouted in a deep, booming voice for all to hear, "I have inspected the troops and declare them ready to defend the royal crown."

A cheer from both the men in ranks and the crowd grew as they celebrated the graduation into defenders of the crown.

As the shouts continued Gansol dismounted and took his place on the stage behind the King.

King Furdhest turned. The man, who was only a few years younger than Gansol, winked at the knight.

Gansol looked down and chuckled. The King knew he hated these inspections, but even so, Furdhest always made it a point to personally ensure the knight was here for each one just for the company of an old friend, and to annoy him.

Furdhest stood and the crowd fell silent.

 

"Good people," he shouted. "The addition of these fine men greatly solidifies our hopes of maintaining the peace-"

Gansol looked sadly at his callused hands as Furdhest continued. Peace, he thought. A Knight fights for it all his life and when it finally comes he

suddenly is no use to anyone. He and his armies become a symbol of glorious times past. An emblem to the people representing the gallantry and hard, disciplined life some must live to bring the peace that the kingdom currently enjoyed.

Gansol lifted his head and stared absently at the sky. He had been so busy in battle preparation in his younger days that he had never married and had no family to occupy him during times of peace like most of the other troops and fellow knights.

After the king's speech and the celebration were over, Gansol followed his king's chariot back into the palace. He escorted Furdhest to his throne room and waited for instructions.

Furdhest eyed his old friend as if deep in thought.

Gansol watched the gray bearded man staring at him and wondered what was on his mind as the Knight bit into a large citrus fruit he took from a bowl on a the nearby table.

"How long have we been working together?" the king asked as he sat down on a throne that seemed far too large for him.

Gansol was surprised by the question. Furdhest would know the answer to it as well as him.

"I have fought for the crown for some forty plus years. You received the crown from your father 25 years ago."

"25 years," Furdhest agreed. "How many times have you taken leave of me during that time?"

Gansol shifted uncomfortably. "My place is here Sire, defending the crown."

"Please answer the question, old friend," the king replied quietly after sipping from a glass of wine handed to him by a servant.

Gansol hesitated. "I have never been from my duties."

"That's right," Furdhest replied sitting forward in his throne with a gleam in his eye. "You have never taken leave or missed a day of duty unless you were too sick to stand."

"Yes sire."

"In 25 years?"

"Yes sire."

Furdhest paused again. "I have a task for you."

"What is your bidding sire"?

"I have need of your services in Leawens. It is a task far below you, but I give it to you for a reason. I want you to deliver the signed copy of our proposed treaty with King Grendoe. He will sign it and possibly add to it or make some changes, then give it to you to return to me personally."

"But sire it may take weeks for him to complete his review and revisions" Gansol protested. 'It would be better if I return here after dropping off the message and then proceed back a month later to pick up the revisions."

Furdhest shook his head so hard that the heavy crown slide down to one side. "No my friend. You will take leave until he has finished. Even I take vacations. Do you think your king lazy or negligent in his duties for taking leave of his people?"

Gansol rocked from one foot to the other in embarrassment. "Of course not."

"Then take this time and rest. Find yourself a good woman and spend a few nights with her. Relax for a few weeks."

Gansol thought for a few seconds. This was far worse than he imagined it would be.

"What is it my friend?" Furdhest asked watching Gansol's quiet reaction.

"I'm not sure I know how to relax Sire."

"That is exactly why I ask you to do this. It is my wish. Don't force me to make it an order."

Gansol placed the half-eaten fruit on the table. "It shall be done Sire."

Furdhest smiled questionably. "Will you please at least try and enjoy yourself a little in Leawens?"

Gansol mounted his horse left the palace and rode slowly down the darkening towns streets towards his favorite pub. A few high-ranking knights tried to discourage him from frequenting this commoner establishment, but he did not prefer the snobbish teas and toasts that many people expected him to attend in his present rank. He was a warrior and all good warriors liked their ale. He preferred the common pub and was approaching his favorite, "The Stable-House" a rustic wooden building that smelled of ale and the spices used in mediocre cooking by every-day chefs.

He drew some extra attention as he walked in. Patrons had become accustomed to seeing him there and the few other knights that followed his example by making this their watering hole as well, but this time he had not even changed out of his ceremonial armor. The pub's owner was quick to take care of his prized patron and no sooner had he sat down, he had two somewhat plump waitresses waiting on him.

He grumpily ordered a tankard of wine and ale. As he did, he eyed the other patrons, who all quickly realized that he was not in a talking mood and left him alone.

Gansol sipped on the ale after it arrived, savoring its slightly bitter taste and aroma. As he set the mug down, he noticed through the smoky haze that filled the room a man sitting at a table near the corner. The man was staring back at him through a hood that covered nearly all of his face but his eyes. What Gansol could see of the odd look in the man's eyes behind the shadows of his hood for some reason sent a shiver down his spine.

He ignored the distraction and continued with his ale and his grief. He knew Furdhest thought he was doing him a favor, but defending the crown was all he knew and enjoyed. He stared blankly into the ale in his tankard. What age and his new position had not taken away, the king now stripped from him. At least for a month, he thought. And then what, his conscience argued back. If he was too old and not good enough to defend the crown, then what exactly was the purpose to his life any more? There was peace everywhere. That was certainly not a bad thing, but what good is a knight trained for battle during peace? Moreover, what good is an old knight who is not even good for that anymore?

"May I join you?"

Gansol looked up to see the hooded man looking down at him. His gray clothing was dirty and he had the look of a traveler. Gansol had wanted to be alone but something in the man's eyes continued to draw him in. His curiosity took over and he motioned towards the empty, wooden seat across from him.

The man sat and removed his hood. Gansol could not decide if he was surprised or disappointed to see that it was just a common man with red hair. He chuckled quietly. "Who or what were you expecting?" he asked himself.

"Pardon my directness, but you look like a man who needs something."

Gansol looked at the man and finished off his mug.

"What I need, you can not supply."

"I would not be so sure of that."

Gansol began to wonder if letting the man sit down was a mistake, but as he looked at the man again, something in his face told him to continue with the discussion.

He sighed. "What I need can not be sold or bought from a merchant like

yourself."

"I am no merchant and I have nothing to sell or buy," the man replied simply.

Gansol looked at the man questionably. "What is it you think I need then," he asked not hiding his growing impatience.

"What every warrior wants. What every warrior needs. What every warrior such as you deserves."

"You speak in riddles, but you have not answered my question."

"I offer only an honorable means."

Gansol nearly dropped his freshly refilled tankard of ale. He took a long sip and put the mug down on the worn wooden table. "You know nothing, nothing of what you speak".

"I do my friend."

Gansol paused glaring at the man. "And what would you get in return for this great deed you do?" he asked mockingly.

"I request nothing in return."

"Huh. No man does something, no matter how small a deed for nothing."

"You are correct. But with this act I would be paying off an old debt myself."

Gansol was beginning to feel the effects of the ale and thought that the brew must have been stronger than normal. He rubbed his eyes then peered back at the man.

"How would you carry out this task?"

"To truly be honorable you must not know. However, I assure you it would be honorable."

Gansol waved his hand at the man. "I do not believe you, but if what you say is true-" Gansol paused staring blankly at the table top- "then I would welcome it with open arms."

The man slowly rose. "It is true". He put his hood back on, turned, and left the pub.

Gansol took another drink of ale and chuckled. "He's mad. There will be no honorable means for me."

The dreaded day had come and Gansol picked up the official copy of the treaty and proceeded with the king's best wishes to the dock. He was to take a sailing vessel across the sparkling blue waters of Lake Pernel to the city of Leawens. He slowly walked his horse down the weather worn planks that made up the peer, towards three awaiting sailing vessels. He glanced at the signs

pointing him towards the ship to Leawens. As he stared his vision blurred

forcing him to blink repeatedly to read the writing on the sign.

"God, now my vision is failing me," he said quietly shaking his head.

He rubbed his eyes and looked again. Finding the sign to the correct ship, he walked up the gangway, boarded and handed the well-dressed captain, who seemed surprised to see him, a copy of his orders complete with the king's seal.

The Captain took the orders and read them as Gansol walked towards the

passenger waiting area on the deck.

"Sir Gansol," the captain called.

"Yes," Gansol said looking back at him as he handed his horse to the stable master.

The captain noticed a tinge of irritation in the Knights voice. "Ahh, enjoy your trip Sir."

Gansol nodded and turned to look over the railing at the clear water and began watching three large fish swim near the ship's hull.

The captain carefully reread the orders and closed them with a shake of his head.

"What is it sir?"

The captain turned to see the ship's smiling, 11-year-old cabin boy. "Nothing," he replied folding up the orders. "I guess Sir Gansol wants to take the long way to his destination. Your job lad," he added as he put his hand on the boy's shoulder," is to see that he gets everything and anything he asks for during the journey."

The cabin boy looked at the well-dressed knight and smiled even bigger.

"Aye aye sir. It will be a pleasure."

Later that day after the ship had departed, Gansol sat on the deck telling the cabin boy stories about various battles and victories. He found the boy's fascination with his some-what exaggerated tales appealing and was actually enjoying it when the ships call to lunch went out.

"Oh sir, I forgot, the captain asked me to invite you to his table for the meals."

Oh he did huh.”Did you tell me that the captain promised me anything I wanted"?

"Yes sir. All you have to do is ask."

"Fine. Tell him I accept only if you are at my side."

The boy's eyes lit up like large candles. "At the captains table, really?"

"That's the only way I accept. You tell him that."

The boy charged off without even responding.

A few minutes later Gansol and a grinning cabin boy were eating lunch at the head table in the galley. The boy did not speak but shot an occasional grin towards Gansol.

The captain wiped his mouth with a napkin and began to speak. "Sir Gansol, are you going to ride the three days to Leawens?

Gansol looked strangely at the Captain. "What do you mean?"

"I was just wondering how you were going to get from Sontep to Leawens. I here it is a very nice ride."

"Yes, Yes of course," Gansol stuttered out. He quickly put a fork full of meat in his mouth and ignored the captain's confused glances.

Gansol shook his head in disbelief as he realized that he must have boarded the wrong ship.

Little else was said for the rest of the voyage, as Gansol remained hidden from the rest in his cabin. He cursed himself and his eyes for deceiving him at the pier. The next morning the ship arrived and Gansol thanked the captain and apologized for his strange behavior using his dislike for sea travel as an excuse. The captain accepted the reason with a smile and

watched Gansol get on his horse and ride down the pier on his way towards

Leawens.

The first day passed and Gansol had found himself, to his surprise, enjoying the peaceful ride through the thick woods and occasional small towns that called this road home. He even stopped early in the evening and got falling down drunk with some townsfolk who gladly welcomed the hero into their hamlet. He rode slowly, aware, but not caring, that he was about an hour behind schedule. At midday, he ate handfuls of dried fruit from his pack while riding to make up the time.

About mid afternoon he was ready to get off his horse and stretch his legs when he saw thick black smoke on the horizon about five miles ahead. He prodded his horse in the side and increased his speed to investigate. After a brisk ride, he began to hear the clanking of metal and knew an armed conflict lay ahead. His heart quickened and he felt a flash of adrenaline shoot through his veins as he prodded his horse, driving it as fast as he could.

As he rounded a small hill a few seconds later, he saw a small battle

involving about 25 men. He easily recognized both parties. One was an ally who fought with his own kingdom in many wars and the other was a band from

Judert, a long time enemy of king Furdhest. He charged head-on to engage.

As he rode into the battle he heard a cheer from his allies and was

immediately set upon by two warriors from Judert. He dismounted and began

to battle with one while the other soldier was intercepted by another charging ally. After a short battle with the inexperienced man, Gansol

downed him with a strike to the mid-section and hunted for the Judert commander. He did not have to hunt long as the commander himself was hunting for the cause of the cheering and spotted Gansol.

The two approached each other and touched swords.

"Gansol," the large well-trained man said with surprise, "I certainly would not expect to see you here."

The man slashed twice at Gansol but he easily deflected the two blows.

"I do not know you. What shall I put on your headstone?" Gansol said as he returned the blows that were also knocked aside.

"My name is Cebult."

With that, the man launched a furious attack against Gansol. He defensively blocked the blows and waited for his counter-strike opportunity. Around him, he heard the sounds and groans of wounded and dying men. He battled with the man for a few minutes in a stalemate but soon found himself tiring. He cursed to himself and to all the months of sitting at the advisor’s desk instead of being in the training room.

Suddenly, Cebult raised his sword and launched a high attack towards Gansol's shoulder and chest. Gansol raised his sword in defense. As he did, a sharp pain in his injured shoulder made his muscle freeze for just a split second. It was all that Cebult needed. His sword sliced into Gansol's shoulder and stopped only after it was buried in his chest to the hilt.

Gansol felt the pain but was intensely watching Cebult who took time to smile and admire his handy work. Gansol lunged at him and thrust his sword directly through Cebult's heart, killing him instantly.

Gansol head spun and he fell to the ground.

He looked up and saw a hooded figure of a healer looking him over almost instantly after he fell.

"Do not bother healer," he said in a voice that he barely recognized as his own. "The wound is fatal."

"I am no healer my friend."

Gansol tried desperately to focus his eyes and as he did he gradually

recognized the face of the man from the bar in the hooded face looking down

at him.

"You? But how?"

"It was a simple matter. I only needed to cast one small blur vision spell on you. Thanks to a servant to the King, I knew when you were scheduled to leave to deliver the treaty, and also heard of Judert's plans to attack in this battle. You are a very precise man and I knew if everything went according to plan that you would arrive here while the battle was taking place."

"And you knew I would be defeated?"

The man only stared at Gansol as he took of his own hooded cloak and put it under Gansol’s head as a pillow.

"The blur vision," Gansol said nodding, "that is what happened at the pier and why I got on the wrong ship. That is why I had to make the three day horse ride and stumbled upon this battle and--"

"How," the man interrupted, "you met upon an honorable means."

Gansol coughed and whipped his mouth with his hand. He noticed it was covered in blood.

"Why? Why did you do all this for me?"

The man removed a dagger from his belt and roughly cut Gansol's shirt away reviling his previously injured shoulder and a vicious scar.

"How did you get this?" the man asked.

Gansol thought as his head began to spin again.

"It was in a battle many years back. I don't remember exactly how anymore."

The man smiled back a Gansol as if remembering very happy thoughts.

"It was in the village of Yutlef more than 18 years ago my friend. You got it by literally jumping in front of a sword blow meant for a helpless older man. Do you remember?"

"Yes. I remember now. The dishonorable man behind the sword was attacking unarmed men and women."

"Yes that's right my friend. That old man you saved-," the hooded man paused and looked Gansol right in the eyes, "-was my father. Thanks to you, I had another 18 years of life with him. He died a natural death just last month. I traveled here to thank you for those 18 years you gave to him and me. But when I saw you, I knew it was not thanks you wanted or were looking for."

"You have thanked me ten fold my friend," Gansol said as the last breath escaped him.

On a tombstone, in the garden of heroes under a large oak tree in the safety of the Castle in the Kingdom of Furdhest is this inscription to the newest arrival.

Gansol

First Knight To The King

Died By Honorable Means

In Defense of the Crown

And It's Allies

Written by Steve Morris

An Honorable Means

 

Gansol looked intently at the young men lined in ranks in front of him. He paused unaware of his own slight smiled as he remembered when he was in these very ranks nearly fifty years back looking nervously at another old, battle hardened knight preparing to inspect him.

Was it so long ago, he asked himself?

Dressed in his highly polished red and gold ceremonial armor he sat stationed proudly atop his tall battle horse as he rode slowly by the line of new troops. First Knight to the King was his title. The highest ranking and most respected position a knight in the realm of King Furdhest could achieve. An honor to most, but his blood still yearned for the thrill of wielding an ax in battle against any foe that dared challenge the kingdom, or him. He sighed. He despised these inspections, and the hot sun beating down on him this day made it even less enjoyable. The troops, trained and ready for the thrill of blood and battle, were lined up in perfectly arranged rows in front of him as the dead silence of anticipation filled the out-door arena.

Sighing again, he pulled gently on the reins and spun the horse around to the left. A sudden twinge of pain in his battle-injured shoulder reminded him that, yes, it was that long ago and his fighting days were long over.

To him, his current position was the place where fancily dressed, old knights were placed until they died to make room for the next one to step in.

Spinning the horse in the other direction, he approached the Garrison Commander. Glancing at the crowd, he noticed that nearly every eye was on him. He shifted uncomfortably in his saddle as the horse's hoofs clumped in perfect rhythm on the smooth granite floor of the arena.

The commander snapped to attention as he approached and saluted.

"Garrison ready for inspection Sir Gansol," he shouted while still holding his salute.

"Hu-mum," Gansol replied quietly as he dismounted. It was the only response that was necessary. All the garrison commanders hated the inspections as much as he did. Local tradition, however, dictated the transitional and ceremonial event and the family members in the large crowd nearby would have it no other way.

Gansol did not inspect all the troops but randomly picked twenty or so out of the group, directing them to perform brief but well rehearsed sword displays and checking for kinks in their armor or smudges in their highly polished leather boots.

Satisfied, he mounted his horse again and rode towards the center stage where King Furdhest sat. The King, his King, was an honorable man whom he would gladly give his life to defend. Over the years, he had developed a strong friendship with him and advising him in battle was the only part of his current job he still enjoyed.

"My King," he shouted in a deep, booming voice for all to hear, "I have inspected the troops and declare them ready to defend the royal crown."

A cheer from both the men in ranks and the crowd grew as they celebrated the graduation into defenders of the crown.

As the shouts continued Gansol dismounted and took his place on the stage behind the King.

King Furdhest turned. The man, who was only a few years younger than Gansol, winked at the knight.

Gansol looked down and chuckled. The King knew he hated these inspections, but even so, Furdhest always made it a point to personally ensure the knight was here for each one just for the company of an old friend, and to annoy him.

Furdhest stood and the crowd fell silent.

 

"Good people," he shouted. "The addition of these fine men greatly solidifies our hopes of maintaining the peace-"

Gansol looked sadly at his callused hands as Furdhest continued. Peace, he thought. A Knight fights for it all his life and when it finally comes he

suddenly is no use to anyone. He and his armies become a symbol of glorious times past. An emblem to the people representing the gallantry and hard, disciplined life some must live to bring the peace that the kingdom currently enjoyed.

Gansol lifted his head and stared absently at the sky. He had been so busy in battle preparation in his younger days that he had never married and had no family to occupy him during times of peace like most of the other troops and fellow knights.

After the king's speech and the celebration were over, Gansol followed his king's chariot back into the palace. He escorted Furdhest to his throne room and waited for instructions.

Furdhest eyed his old friend as if deep in thought.

Gansol watched the gray bearded man staring at him and wondered what was on his mind as the Knight bit into a large citrus fruit he took from a bowl on a the nearby table.

"How long have we been working together?" the king asked as he sat down on a throne that seemed far too large for him.

Gansol was surprised by the question. Furdhest would know the answer to it as well as him.

"I have fought for the crown for some forty plus years. You received the crown from your father 25 years ago."

"25 years," Furdhest agreed. "How many times have you taken leave of me during that time?"

Gansol shifted uncomfortably. "My place is here Sire, defending the crown."

"Please answer the question, old friend," the king replied quietly after sipping from a glass of wine handed to him by a servant.

Gansol hesitated. "I have never been from my duties."

"That's right," Furdhest replied sitting forward in his throne with a gleam in his eye. "You have never taken leave or missed a day of duty unless you were too sick to stand."

"Yes sire."

"In 25 years?"

"Yes sire."

Furdhest paused again. "I have a task for you."

"What is your bidding sire"?

"I have need of your services in Leawens. It is a task far below you, but I give it to you for a reason. I want you to deliver the signed copy of our proposed treaty with King Grendoe. He will sign it and possibly add to it or make some changes, then give it to you to return to me personally."

"But sire it may take weeks for him to complete his review and revisions" Gansol protested. 'It would be better if I return here after dropping off the message and then proceed back a month later to pick up the revisions."

Furdhest shook his head so hard that the heavy crown slide down to one side. "No my friend. You will take leave until he has finished. Even I take vacations. Do you think your king lazy or negligent in his duties for taking leave of his people?"

Gansol rocked from one foot to the other in embarrassment. "Of course not."

"Then take this time and rest. Find yourself a good woman and spend a few nights with her. Relax for a few weeks."

Gansol thought for a few seconds. This was far worse than he imagined it would be.

"What is it my friend?" Furdhest asked watching Gansol's quiet reaction.

"I'm not sure I know how to relax Sire."

"That is exactly why I ask you to do this. It is my wish. Don't force me to make it an order."

Gansol placed the half-eaten fruit on the table. "It shall be done Sire."

Furdhest smiled questionably. "Will you please at least try and enjoy yourself a little in Leawens?"

Gansol mounted his horse left the palace and rode slowly down the darkening towns streets towards his favorite pub. A few high-ranking knights tried to discourage him from frequenting this commoner establishment, but he did not prefer the snobbish teas and toasts that many people expected him to attend in his present rank. He was a warrior and all good warriors liked their ale. He preferred the common pub and was approaching his favorite, "The Stable-House" a rustic wooden building that smelled of ale and the spices used in mediocre cooking by every-day chefs.

He drew some extra attention as he walked in. Patrons had become accustomed to seeing him there and the few other knights that followed his example by making this their watering hole as well, but this time he had not even changed out of his ceremonial armor. The pub's owner was quick to take care of his prized patron and no sooner had he sat down, he had two somewhat plump waitresses waiting on him.

He grumpily ordered a tankard of wine and ale. As he did, he eyed the other patrons, who all quickly realized that he was not in a talking mood and left him alone.

Gansol sipped on the ale after it arrived, savoring its slightly bitter taste and aroma. As he set the mug down, he noticed through the smoky haze that filled the room a man sitting at a table near the corner. The man was staring back at him through a hood that covered nearly all of his face but his eyes. What Gansol could see of the odd look in the man's eyes behind the shadows of his hood for some reason sent a shiver down his spine.

He ignored the distraction and continued with his ale and his grief. He knew Furdhest thought he was doing him a favor, but defending the crown was all he knew and enjoyed. He stared blankly into the ale in his tankard. What age and his new position had not taken away, the king now stripped from him. At least for a month, he thought. And then what, his conscience argued back. If he was too old and not good enough to defend the crown, then what exactly was the purpose to his life any more? There was peace everywhere. That was certainly not a bad thing, but what good is a knight trained for battle during peace? Moreover, what good is an old knight who is not even good for that anymore?

"May I join you?"

Gansol looked up to see the hooded man looking down at him. His gray clothing was dirty and he had the look of a traveler. Gansol had wanted to be alone but something in the man's eyes continued to draw him in. His curiosity took over and he motioned towards the empty, wooden seat across from him.

The man sat and removed his hood. Gansol could not decide if he was surprised or disappointed to see that it was just a common man with red hair. He chuckled quietly. "Who or what were you expecting?" he asked himself.

"Pardon my directness, but you look like a man who needs something."

Gansol looked at the man and finished off his mug.

"What I need, you can not supply."

"I would not be so sure of that."

Gansol began to wonder if letting the man sit down was a mistake, but as he looked at the man again, something in his face told him to continue with the discussion.

He sighed. "What I need can not be sold or bought from a merchant like

yourself."

"I am no merchant and I have nothing to sell or buy," the man replied simply.

Gansol looked at the man questionably. "What is it you think I need then," he asked not hiding his growing impatience.

"What every warrior wants. What every warrior needs. What every warrior such as you deserves."

"You speak in riddles, but you have not answered my question."

"I offer only an honorable means."

Gansol nearly dropped his freshly refilled tankard of ale. He took a long sip and put the mug down on the worn wooden table. "You know nothing, nothing of what you speak".

"I do my friend."

Gansol paused glaring at the man. "And what would you get in return for this great deed you do?" he asked mockingly.

"I request nothing in return."

"Huh. No man does something, no matter how small a deed for nothing."

"You are correct. But with this act I would be paying off an old debt myself."

Gansol was beginning to feel the effects of the ale and thought that the brew must have been stronger than normal. He rubbed his eyes then peered back at the man.

"How would you carry out this task?"

"To truly be honorable you must not know. However, I assure you it would be honorable."

Gansol waved his hand at the man. "I do not believe you, but if what you say is true-" Gansol paused staring blankly at the table top- "then I would welcome it with open arms."

The man slowly rose. "It is true". He put his hood back on, turned, and left the pub.

Gansol took another drink of ale and chuckled. "He's mad. There will be no honorable means for me."

The dreaded day had come and Gansol picked up the official copy of the treaty and proceeded with the king's best wishes to the dock. He was to take a sailing vessel across the sparkling blue waters of Lake Pernel to the city of Leawens. He slowly walked his horse down the weather worn planks that made up the peer, towards three awaiting sailing vessels. He glanced at the signs

pointing him towards the ship to Leawens. As he stared his vision blurred

forcing him to blink repeatedly to read the writing on the sign.

"God, now my vision is failing me," he said quietly shaking his head.

He rubbed his eyes and looked again. Finding the sign to the correct ship, he walked up the gangway, boarded and handed the well-dressed captain, who seemed surprised to see him, a copy of his orders complete with the king's seal.

The Captain took the orders and read them as Gansol walked towards the

passenger waiting area on the deck.

"Sir Gansol," the captain called.

"Yes," Gansol said looking back at him as he handed his horse to the stable master.

The captain noticed a tinge of irritation in the Knights voice. "Ahh, enjoy your trip Sir."

Gansol nodded and turned to look over the railing at the clear water and began watching three large fish swim near the ship's hull.

The captain carefully reread the orders and closed them with a shake of his head.

"What is it sir?"

The captain turned to see the ship's smiling, 11-year-old cabin boy. "Nothing," he replied folding up the orders. "I guess Sir Gansol wants to take the long way to his destination. Your job lad," he added as he put his hand on the boy's shoulder," is to see that he gets everything and anything he asks for during the journey."

The cabin boy looked at the well-dressed knight and smiled even bigger.

"Aye aye sir. It will be a pleasure."

Later that day after the ship had departed, Gansol sat on the deck telling the cabin boy stories about various battles and victories. He found the boy's fascination with his some-what exaggerated tales appealing and was actually enjoying it when the ships call to lunch went out.

"Oh sir, I forgot, the captain asked me to invite you to his table for the meals."

Oh he did huh.”Did you tell me that the captain promised me anything I wanted"?

"Yes sir. All you have to do is ask."

"Fine. Tell him I accept only if you are at my side."

The boy's eyes lit up like large candles. "At the captains table, really?"

"That's the only way I accept. You tell him that."

The boy charged off without even responding.

A few minutes later Gansol and a grinning cabin boy were eating lunch at the head table in the galley. The boy did not speak but shot an occasional grin towards Gansol.

The captain wiped his mouth with a napkin and began to speak. "Sir Gansol, are you going to ride the three days to Leawens?

Gansol looked strangely at the Captain. "What do you mean?"

"I was just wondering how you were going to get from Sontep to Leawens. I here it is a very nice ride."

"Yes, Yes of course," Gansol stuttered out. He quickly put a fork full of meat in his mouth and ignored the captain's confused glances.

Gansol shook his head in disbelief as he realized that he must have boarded the wrong ship.

Little else was said for the rest of the voyage, as Gansol remained hidden from the rest in his cabin. He cursed himself and his eyes for deceiving him at the pier. The next morning the ship arrived and Gansol thanked the captain and apologized for his strange behavior using his dislike for sea travel as an excuse. The captain accepted the reason with a smile and

watched Gansol get on his horse and ride down the pier on his way towards

Leawens.

The first day passed and Gansol had found himself, to his surprise, enjoying the peaceful ride through the thick woods and occasional small towns that called this road home. He even stopped early in the evening and got falling down drunk with some townsfolk who gladly welcomed the hero into their hamlet. He rode slowly, aware, but not caring, that he was about an hour behind schedule. At midday, he ate handfuls of dried fruit from his pack while riding to make up the time.

About mid afternoon he was ready to get off his horse and stretch his legs when he saw thick black smoke on the horizon about five miles ahead. He prodded his horse in the side and increased his speed to investigate. After a brisk ride, he began to hear the clanking of metal and knew an armed conflict lay ahead. His heart quickened and he felt a flash of adrenaline shoot through his veins as he prodded his horse, driving it as fast as he could.

As he rounded a small hill a few seconds later, he saw a small battle

involving about 25 men. He easily recognized both parties. One was an ally who fought with his own kingdom in many wars and the other was a band from

Judert, a long time enemy of king Furdhest. He charged head-on to engage.

As he rode into the battle he heard a cheer from his allies and was

immediately set upon by two warriors from Judert. He dismounted and began

to battle with one while the other soldier was intercepted by another charging ally. After a short battle with the inexperienced man, Gansol

downed him with a strike to the mid-section and hunted for the Judert commander. He did not have to hunt long as the commander himself was hunting for the cause of the cheering and spotted Gansol.

The two approached each other and touched swords.

"Gansol," the large well-trained man said with surprise, "I certainly would not expect to see you here."

The man slashed twice at Gansol but he easily deflected the two blows.

"I do not know you. What shall I put on your headstone?" Gansol said as he returned the blows that were also knocked aside.

"My name is Cebult."

With that, the man launched a furious attack against Gansol. He defensively blocked the blows and waited for his counter-strike opportunity. Around him, he heard the sounds and groans of wounded and dying men. He battled with the man for a few minutes in a stalemate but soon found himself tiring. He cursed to himself and to all the months of sitting at the advisor’s desk instead of being in the training room.

Suddenly, Cebult raised his sword and launched a high attack towards Gansol's shoulder and chest. Gansol raised his sword in defense. As he did, a sharp pain in his injured shoulder made his muscle freeze for just a split second. It was all that Cebult needed. His sword sliced into Gansol's shoulder and stopped only after it was buried in his chest to the hilt.

Gansol felt the pain but was intensely watching Cebult who took time to smile and admire his handy work. Gansol lunged at him and thrust his sword directly through Cebult's heart, killing him instantly.

Gansol head spun and he fell to the ground.

He looked up and saw a hooded figure of a healer looking him over almost instantly after he fell.

"Do not bother healer," he said in a voice that he barely recognized as his own. "The wound is fatal."

"I am no healer my friend."

Gansol tried desperately to focus his eyes and as he did he gradually

recognized the face of the man from the bar in the hooded face looking down

at him.

"You? But how?"

"It was a simple matter. I only needed to cast one small blur vision spell on you. Thanks to a servant to the King, I knew when you were scheduled to leave to deliver the treaty, and also heard of Judert's plans to attack in this battle. You are a very precise man and I knew if everything went according to plan that you would arrive here while the battle was taking place."

"And you knew I would be defeated?"

The man only stared at Gansol as he took of his own hooded cloak and put it under Gansol’s head as a pillow.

"The blur vision," Gansol said nodding, "that is what happened at the pier and why I got on the wrong ship. That is why I had to make the three day horse ride and stumbled upon this battle and--"

"How," the man interrupted, "you met upon an honorable means."

Gansol coughed and whipped his mouth with his hand. He noticed it was covered in blood.

"Why? Why did you do all this for me?"

The man removed a dagger from his belt and roughly cut Gansol's shirt away reviling his previously injured shoulder and a vicious scar.

"How did you get this?" the man asked.

Gansol thought as his head began to spin again.

"It was in a battle many years back. I don't remember exactly how anymore."

The man smiled back a Gansol as if remembering very happy thoughts.

"It was in the village of Yutlef more than 18 years ago my friend. You got it by literally jumping in front of a sword blow meant for a helpless older man. Do you remember?"

"Yes. I remember now. The dishonorable man behind the sword was attacking unarmed men and women."

"Yes that's right my friend. That old man you saved-," the hooded man paused and looked Gansol right in the eyes, "-was my father. Thanks to you, I had another 18 years of life with him. He died a natural death just last month. I traveled here to thank you for those 18 years you gave to him and me. But when I saw you, I knew it was not thanks you wanted or were looking for."

"You have thanked me ten fold my friend," Gansol said as the last breath escaped him.

On a tombstone, in the garden of heroes under a large oak tree in the safety of the Castle in the Kingdom of Furdhest is this inscription to the newest arrival.

Gansol

First Knight To The King

Died By Honorable Means

In Defense of the Crown

And It's Allies

Written by Steve Morris


Submitted: July 06, 2013

© Copyright 2022 Elinter. All rights reserved.

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