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Kentworth had been a blacksmith, so had a sturdy, well-built frame, and muscular arms. On a raid from one of the neighboring barons, the at-the-time youth showed such courage and bravery that the earl gave him permission to become a page, beginning his training for knighthood. Now he was a squire, training with one Squire Brently, the son of a wealthy baron. Brently was, to put it bluntly, a nag. He was always bragging about how good he was with the various weapons, lance, sword, mace, what have you. He was, indeed, fairly skillful at them. And he knew it.
One afternoon during a training session in the inner bailey, the squires were practicing the sword. Some commotion was occurring in the market, Kentworth could see out of the corner of him eye, throwing off his focus, giving Brently the upper hand. He took the opportunity to disarm his opponent, and before Kentworth knew what was happening, he was lying prone in the dust, Brently standing over his, with his blade at his chest, laughing at him. “Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic! Ha ha ha ha! I guess we know who is better at the sword! Ha!” and he walked away, still laughing at himself. But, beyond a little self-scolding, Kentworth didn't mind. He wanted to know what was going on in the market. (This may make you think he wasn't devoted or even interested in his training, but in the petty affairs of the market. Well, to say that would certainly be an un-truth.) So after putting his blade back in the barracks, he went to go see. Evidently the guards had been chasing a thief, for they were still searching for him. Kentworth decided to help them out. After a while of searching apart from the group, he found a beggar boy under a table, ravenously devouring a loaf of bread.
“Are you the one they're searching for? No don't run. I don't you arrested. Stay here.” after some hesitation, the lad remained in his place.
“Guards! Guards! Over here!” he waved his arms.
At last they came, demanded where the “little brat” was. (There was a tablecloth on the booth table, hiding him from view.) “You did find him, didn't you?!”
“Yes, but...” the baker, from whose store the boy had stolen the bread, and who had been in the pursuit as well, cut him off:
“Where is the little brat?! I'll...”
“Calm yourself sir. I know where he is, but, how much did the bread cost?” The man paused, flustered, and said, “Why would you care?!” Kentworth removed his purse from his belt, and opened it.
“Ah... a shilling, young master.” he said greedily.
Now, there wasn't a doubt in Kentworth's mind that that was twice the actual sum, but to avoid further conflict, he placed the shilling in the baker's hand.
“Will you leave the boy alone now?”
The baker sneered, and walked away. The guards grumbled as they walked away. Kentworth lifted the tablecloth once they were out of site and said,
“It's alright. They won't be chasing you any more for that bread. Come, I'll get you some more food.” surprised, the boy followed him. (his loaf had long since been eaten.)
Kentworth was growing in mind, strength, and skill. He was becoming very deft indeed in his swordplay. But so was Brently. So the fellow continued in his boasting and haughtiness.
One afternoon, during practice at the lance on horseback, Kentworth noticed an unusual amount of soldiers and mounted knights walking or riding to the castle. There seemed a strange air or feeling of... well, he couldn't really quite put his finger on it. Fearful anticipation? Worried anxiety? Something strange was definitely occurring. After a long drink at the well, Kentworth heard a herald in the square affirm it.
“Hear, you knights, you squires! His royal majesty summons you to the Great Hall. No hesitation in permitted! Come at once!!”
So then there was a general rush for the keep, by the said men. Some of the squires were excited, some afraid. What is it? A ceremony? Is a battle close at hand? Nobody seemed to know.
Once he reached the Great Hall, Kentworth saw the king very worried, slouched in his throne. Having all nealt before him, the king stood.
“My friends, I... I'm afraid we are soon to be at war.” An understandable gasp was shared by most all. “The forces of the king of Fraudsworth are as I speak on the march. Over five thousand. They... by now they could be within ten miles of here... I... I'm sorry, my friends... all there is to do now is to prepare in amour, and in prayer.”
Following the shocked pause after the king's short speech, came a bustle of preparation. There was no small air of gloom and dread that hung over the lot of them, but they attentively dawned their armor and weapons. Nearly all of the squires had never been in a real battle, and most were scared stiff. Some, though, were indeed excited.
The army, scouts reported, were apparently going to camp a mile or so away. This gave the people of the castle time to prepare sufficiently.
Just before the sun's light had begun melting away the darkness, the neighing and stomping of horses, the creak and squeal of siege machinery, and the footsteps of an iron clad army could be heard. The noise was very dim, at first, gradually grew louder, and louder, and louder, until the actual army came into view. Some of the sentries atop the battlements shivered inwardly and out, in such fear. Such dread. They and their like were about to be destroyed, abolished, and totally blotted out from the face of the earth, they thought. The lips of some moved in prayer, but none closed their eyes, and scarcely blinked. Among them soldiers prepared boiling water and tar, as well as great stones, all of which to douse or cast or drop upon the enemy. Some of the sentries realized their idleness and helped out.
All the soldiers, knights, and squires within the castle, save for those on watch on the battlements, readied themselves for when they would open the gates, lift the portcullis, and lower the drawbridge. Each had his own thoughts. What'll happen? Who'll come out on top? Will I die??
The king sensed the desperation of his men and stood tall on his purebred, black stallion, and addressed them.
“Good people. Fellow knights. I know your feelings. I feel them too. Don't be deceived. We are up against a truly formidable foe. More than twice our own forces. But if we are to die today, we will die with honor. Such honor that even those who cast us into the dirt this day will think upon us with deference.” The crowd gave a cheer and their spirits rallied. “So let us fight!”
The opposing army certainly gave their share of yelling and shouting and then some. Seeing the very nature of and hearing the bloodcurdling cries of these brutes, Kentworth and his compatriots were chilled to their very core. By no means were their adversaries primitive. On the contrary. Their machinery and weapons were quite on top. They had over five towering trebuchets (they had already been assembled), and seven mongonels. Their the knights all wore full body armor. Most of the men-at-arms were clad in breast plates and mail. They held crossbows, short swords, and longbows.
But despite these things (not saying they didn't make them hesitate a little), Kentworth and those with him rode on. Well, the squires and knights did. The rest marched on foot.
About a hundred yards from each other, the armies halted. A herald from the opposing and larger army rode out and proclaimed, “Surrender or be cast into the dust!”
As a reply, the longbowmen let out a shower of their kind, and those on horseback charged at the other army. The herald rushed back to the safety of his own lines. As the armies collided, confusion ensued, with violent slashes and lounges, and shrieks. All one concerned himself with was survival. That seemed most prominent. However, some did make their way back to the siege weapons, cutting their cords and disabling them. Numbers decreased rapidly. About five minutes into the conflict, a crossbow bolt struck the shoulder of the knight that Kentworth had been serving as a squire, and he fell to the trodden earth. But, Kentworth, much contrary to his will, was forced to continue fighting. As he galloped toward some of the opposing soldiers, he caught a glimpse of a face most familiar, belonging to someone young, hiding under a rather large shield. But the face seemed different. He had never seen it so distorted with fear. It was, he discovered, that of Squire Brently. He was staring up at him desperately. It seemed he couldn't move, as a result of his extreme dread.
Caught in his thoughts, Kentworth caught something in the corner of his eye, a blade, swinging at him with such force, just in time to duck away from it. He brought his own sword up and around, pivoting away from his assailant, rearing his steed around clockwise with him, and bringing his blade upon the youngish man with great force. The blow nearly threw the fellow from his horse. They engaged in a battle of such ferocity, bringing out all the skill they had learned in the art of the sword since the day they had each become a page, in their fight. About two minutes into the scrap, they seemed to be in a deadlock. Neither was able to find a weak spot for a time. But finally, out of the corner of his right eye, Kentworth caught a glimpse of a big, burly soldier striding toward the huge shield under which Brently had been hiding. No!! His opponent took the opportunity and knocked him a smart blow on his left shoulder, throwing him to the ground. Barely avoiding the stomping of some warrior's horse, he rolled closer to the shield. He got up, and ran over, just behind the man, and swung his blade around toward him, but with extra room, so as to just use it for momentum and power, and, hooking his foot behind the man's calf, he hit the man's chest with his arm with such force, that, despite the fellow's great size and strength, he flew backward, tripping over Kentworth's foot, and falling to the ground, a stunned look on his face. Even more surprised was he when he saw that his assailant wasn't fully man yet. The squire set the tip of his blade at the knight's throat and said, “Yield!” Still with a shocked expression, the much older knight slowly nodded his head.
Kentworth turned to where Brently out to be, and lifted the shield a little, to reveal that the squire wasn't there. But, he discovered, he didn't have time to ponder this. He heard the knight that had apparently faked submission, yell and rush at him. Kentworth heard the singing of the man's sword blazing at him. He ducked away from the sound. His hearing was accurate. The blade wizzed over him, and he brought his own up to his attacker's torso. But, with the momentum of the man's swing, he twisted out of the way. So, Kentworth's shoulder plunged into the knight's stomach, throwing them both backward, to the ground. After recovering from the tumble, the two gained a footing. They commenced circling, never once breaking the stare at the other, each with their sword at the ready. Once the elder knight thought he saw an opening, a weak spot, and lounged, but miscalculated. Kentworth deftly deflected the blade and the knight stumbled behind him. The squire swung around to face his opponent, bringing his blade with him. The man snarled and brought his own sword up. “Must be more guarded, good sir.” This enraged him even more, and again the man lounged, and again he missed. This time he tripped, and fell on his face. He rose back up in a rage, brandishing his blade, but sank back down with a bruise on his head from the hilt of Kentworth's own sword.
Rising up, and looking around, the squire found that the battle elsewhere was over. The few soldiers and knights still standing around were those from his own army. They were victorious!
Off in the distance, Kentworth saw the last bits of the enemy galloping full speed away, carrying something, or someone with them. He squinted hard to see it. In the permeating dust, he could just make out the form of a young man. Brently!!
At once Kentworth sought out permission from the king to go after the enemy and retrieve his fellow squire. First, however, the king insisted he be knighted, one, for the immense bravery he showed in the battle, and two, to make his quest easier. The squire was indeed underage by about five years to become a knight, but the king ignored that. Some of the other squires who had fought as or nearly as bravely as he where also knighted, and prepared to go with Kentworth, after they had received their new distinction. A unit of about twelve men-at-arms, and six longbowmen prepared to go with the knights as well. So in all, the assembly was around 22, all on horseback.
A good deal of the castle and surrounding villagers gathered to bid them farewell. The king and queen, as well as several of their chief knights were present.
All the men, but Kentworth above all, set out with a mindset of determination. The knights had the night before inspected the maps to the territory people of Fraudsworth, and had brought some of the
parchments along, as well as supplied for a month. (They had brought five pack horses with them.)
After two days of nearly nothing, the men came upon a relatively small city, apparently primarily for traders. They stopped there for a some more supplies, and asked around about whether anybody had seen the riders holding the squire prisoner. But everyone they asked, seemed to shun the topic, and either change the subject, or scuffle away. They didn't really gather the useful information they were seeking.
After these not so large accomplishments, when the sun was low in the sky and the number of people on the streets much decreased, Kentworth and one of his fellow knights, Maniskeel, noticed a rather odd, yet vaguely familiar spectacle. About eight riders were hurrying away, with a young man on an extra horse. The fellow didn't seem to be willing to go with them. And, his hands seemed to be bound. Kentworth caught a glimpse of the side of his face. Brently!
Kentworth sprang forward with is horse, Maniskeel following, and, once the rest finally figured out what was going on, they others came as well. But, much to Kentworth's despair, the gates were being closed. “No!!” The men at the gates seemed slightly even more determined at that, and pushed on the huge doors all the harder. But Kentworth, Maniskeel, and two of the longbowmen did manage to get through in time. An intense chase ensued. The diminishing light didn't help matters. Most of the time the pursued were just dim, dark specks of light. That is, when they were to be seen at all. But finally, the only way to know for certain the location of their foes was by sound. The darkness had totally blotted them out. But, a rather major issue arose. The horses were growing tired. But, Kentworth reasoned, those they were chasing were on horses too. They must surely grow weary as well. Finally, staining with all his might, the only sound that Kentworth could hear was that of his own party's horses. Had they gotten farther ahead of them? Had they hidden alongside the road? Well, one thing was for certain: they couldn't ride all night. The four men were forced to stop and spend the night along the road.
Sometime in the night, Kentworth and Maniskeel alike were awoken by loud, hoarse whispers fairly nearby. Cautiously, swords in hand, the two crept over to where the sounds were coming from. There before them were two men around a fire, talking. They had their backs to the knights. Where are the others? Kentworth thought. Before, however, he could expound upon the subject, he noticed that they were surrounded. The two circled back-to-back, blades pointing outward, but found that it was hopeless. It was three to one. They lowered their weapons, and allowed themselves to be bound. All the while, Kentworth was hoping, somehow, that the two longbowmen would bring aid.
Soon enough, they caught sight of Brently. It was obvious that he was malnourished, and had been mistreated severely, as nothing more than dirt. Oh, did this anger Kentworth. To see a comrade in such a condition! It in itself was torture. But there was nothing to be done for the time-being.
The Fraudsworthians, Kentworth soon discovered, weren't exactly what most would call hospitable, to their prisoners. A couple or, if lucky, three gulps of water a day, with a measly handful of meal from a sack. Hands constantly bound. Restricted talking. They were permitted to ride atop their own steeds, which was a blessing... despite being tied to the saddle.
One day, riding across a fifteen mile or so long stretch of plain, a dusty cloud low to the ground appeared approaching from the east. The king! We're saved!! However, the mob of riders wasn't of Kentworth's own nationality. More Fraudsworthians. Blast! Now we'll never escape! The mob appeared to consist of around twenty men. They were armed, yet some wounded. They appeared to have been riding, perhaps under chase, for several days. But no one was visible behind them.
The leader appeared to be one more than of that group. An officer, of some sort. A general? Anyway, the knights' captives showed the man considerable respect, and lowered there heads when scolded by him.
“Vee don't tek capteefs! Vy deedant you keel zem?!”
“Eh, vel, seer, vee, eh...”
“Oh, neffer mind! Now zat vee haff zem, vee might as vel use zem! Conteenue onvard to Fraudsworth. Ze keeng might haff use for zem as slevz!!” and gave a menacing laugh at the prospect. Maniskeel apparently had had difficulty understanding the dialogue, and gave a questioning glance and Kentworth, but as he hadn't “permission” to speak, he ceased when shrieked at. “Shet opp!” He grumbled inwardly. How would they ever get back home if slaves to the king of Fraudsworth?!
Despite desperate attempts to find a chance to escape before reaching their destination, none arose before entering the huge, towering castle. Kentwroth, Maniskeel, and Brently were now prisoners and slaves to a ruthless, powerful enemy king.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The first few weeks in the Castle of Fraudsworth wasn't so bad. Kentworth somehow got assigned to tend the pigs and chickens. However, his “master”, gaining more slaves, and discerning Kentworth to have the capability of more advanced service, moved him to the stables. This the young man liked immensely. And he was able to see his comrades once in a while. At least them and he were receiving better rations now. But they were still treated like dirt. They were forced to endure week upon week of spitting, and cursing. Their spurs, properly distinguishing them and the knights they were, had of coursed been taken away as soon as they had been captured. However, they did get into the routine, and got used to the new environment. Each day the three worked diligently at their chores, but more and more longing for home, and friendly, familiar faces.
Surprisingly, with the arrival of a tournament one week, a familiar face did come. It was Sir Deavenwood, one of the king's knights! He was apparently searching for them. When their eyes met, their eyes lit and their hearts leaped for joy. The man motioned to not make a seen, and continued riding by in the post-battle parade of the knights and spectator nobles. Hope once again returned to the trio, and they couldn't help but smile.
During the tournament, Sir Deavanwood did quite well. He was a fairly young knight, but his large, tall frame added to his exceeding skill as a knight, made him a most formidable foe. The tournament lasted for two days, and near the end of the second, he was among the top rated combatants. The final test for the prize was decided by a match, every man for himself, of the as of then top knights. It wasn't a very long conflict. But, in the end, the last two knights still engaged in combat were Sir Deavanwood, and a Knight of Fraudsworth. That particular battle lasted longer than the entire rest had. Finally, Sir Deavanwood prevailed, the other knight on his knees, blade several feet away.
“And now, good knight, what shall you choose as prize, for you bravery and skill?” inquired the king's herald. The knight referred to replied,
“Eh, how about a few slaves? I could use a few more...” The herald looked a little perplexed, but said,
“V-very well; your choice. Bring forth our top three slaves!”
“No; I would pick my own, if you please.”
“Uh, very well, then. Belay that!”
So, the slaves of the castle were all herded into the square, for his inspection. Several of them were suggested to the knight, but he waived them all. After making the appearance of great indecision, he gradually and casually picked out Kentworth, Maniskeel, and Brently.
“And supply horses for them! I prefer to move on the swift, yes?”
The three horses were supplied, and the four started toward the outer gate. But when they had nearly reached it, their countenances plummeted. Before them, a wall of around twenty men-at-arms and pikemen formed in front of the portcullis. A knight stood at the front. One that looked very familiar.
“Vee know vy you are here, knight! I myself brought those three slevz here from your keeng's castle.” at that another familiar looking knight stepper from the crowd.
“You did not! I did! I dragged zem here, all za vey from zat dog of a keeng's castle!!”
“Oh deed you now? And how do you plan to proove zat?” And so a quarrel aroused, ensuing in a confused and divided group of men. This provided the opportunity for the four on horseback to slip by unnoticed. Almost unnoticed.
“Zere getteeng avay!!”
Within moments, several mounted soldiers were chasing after Kentworth and his small band. Their horses were small and compact, meant for speed. They were gaining ground quickly.
At the top of the hill before them, Kentworth's group met another, all hooded and armed, some of which quickly handed Kentworth, Maniskeel, and Brently swords. Oh, how wonderful it felt to hold a good blade once again! But the trio hadn't time to relish it. They were forced to wheel around to face their assailants, and spring forward to as to not be caught on the standstill. The two groups collided head-on. A few immediately flew to the ground. Some of the Fraudsworthians didn't really know why they were fighting. So they weren't giving their all, and thus they weren't terribly formidable opponents. Kentworth and his comrades put up an immense fight. Some of their assailants fled sheepishly back to the castle in terror. The rest including the two knights, continued determinedly, but indeed with a slight look of fear in their eyes. Kentworth was engaged in combat with one of the two knights. When given the opportunity, he swung his blade at the man, who in turn ducked away and brandished his own weapon hard upon Kentworth's unprotected right shoulder. He winced and clutched his upper arm, but shifted his blade to his left hand, with which he used it nearly as skillfully, much to the surprise of his opponent. A high swing, a low slice, and a gut-bound thrust were all parried by the younger knight, who distributed his own torrent of weaponry. Finally, the older knight of Fraudsworth, weakened by several cuts and slices, fell to the ground as a result of an inescapable downward blow upon his shield. Kentworth dismounted and held the man against the road with his blade; he surrendered honorably.
Looking around, Kentworth saw that his side of the battle wasn't prevailing. Remounting his steed, he wheeled around to Brently's aid. The unsuspecting man-at-arms on one side toppled off his mount with a blow to the shoulder, and the palace guard on the other panicked with a knight on either side of him, and fled back to the castle. This left the other knight and three other men-at-arms to deal with, which proved relatively easy, with the odds lopsided to their advantage.
The end result of the whole affair was two surrendered knights, and four wounded men-at-arms on the ground. Sir Deavanwood ordered they be brought to their feet and taken to the castle gate. Once this was accomplished, he proclaimed, “People of Fraudsworth! Hear me! Here be two of your chief knights, wounded and bleeding. Take them now, off our hands, and henceforth leave our own people be! Hear me! Further acts of war on your part shall be fatal!!” He and his comrades wheeled about and cantered away, north, on towards home.