D&S: To Be A Knight - Part Five

  • The sun was behind her by the time she arrived at Fort Istirus itself. Build in the shape of a square, with round towers rising thirty feet tall on each end and a large gatehouse looking down on the field, Istirus was like any of the other forts that dotted Cyrodiil. For true, the fort was prettier than most especially with the banners of the red drake adorning its walls but no matter how many times she walked through these bastions of metal and rock, she couldn’t help but gaze up in awe.

     

                   More so when she saw the yard.

     

                   Two lanes, arrayed north to south had been erected in the centre. They were longer than the ones she practiced on. Facing her was the keep – imposing and strong on the eastern end. This was to be her arena, her battleground to prove her worth and uphold the family honour. While expected to fight on foot, the Imperial Knights pride themselves at being masters all the same on horseback. But what if she failed? What if she didn’t train Certainty enough? Worst yet, what if she lost her balance and just fell? It would bring unending shame to House Martellus. It would-

     

                   ‘Aeda,’ father said, nodding his head at men and women whose names nor faces she did not recognise. ‘Your jaw is hanging.’

     

                   ‘Oh, it is? Sorry father,’ she said, blushing. ‘I’m just a bit overwhelmed, that’s all.’

     

                   ‘Fret not,’ he said, a hand on her shoulder. ‘I was the same when your grandfather took me to my first tourney.’

     

                   Before the keep, father crossed his arms to his back and stood at attention. Aeda followed.

     

                   ‘Albus of House Martellus, Knight of the Empire’ he began. ‘And this is my issue, Aeda Martellus. We’re here to speak to the Armicustos, Cassius.’

     

                   ‘Aye, ser,’ a guard said while saluting. ‘This way ser.’

     

                   Inside the keep was more austere – only a single banner of the red rake hung by the extinguished hearth of the great hall. The rest of the keep was dark, barely lit with candles yet the guard sauntered with the familiarity of a blind man in his own home. The guard held open a door and the Martellus entered.

                  

                   The room was an archive of sorts, filled to the ceiling with bookshelves. In the centre sat a man, scribbling notes on a book. His grey hair was cut in the typical Imperial fashion, short and neat and his scarred face narrow.

     

                   ‘Armiscustos Cassius,’ the guard announced. ‘Ser Albus of House Martellus and his issue, Aeda Martellus.’

     

                   ‘More knights?’ the Armiscustos said, putting his quill down. ‘We were just about to close registration and begin the seeding. Thank you decanus, you have my leave.’

     

                   ‘Sir!’ The guard saluted and left the room.

     

                   ‘Ser knight,’ the Armiscustos said. ‘Do you have any proof of your office?’

     

                   Father removed his signet ring and laid in on the wooden table between them.

                  

                   ‘Very well. Martellus, Albus,’ the Armiscustos said, sifting through stacks of papers. Aeda just noticed that he was missing his right arm. ‘Ah, sign here and here. We were expecting two entries?’

     

                   ‘My daughter, Aeda,’ father said.

     

                   ‘Yes, sir,’ Aeda said, saluting. ‘Uhm, me.’

     

                   The Armiscustos raised an eyebrow. ‘Sign here and here.’

     

                   Aeda did as she was told but she couldn’t take her eyes off the gruesome stump.

     

                   ‘Sword wound,’ the Armiscustos said, voice devoid of emotion. ‘The wound festered not long after and the healers had to saw it off.’

     

                   ‘Sorry,’ Aeda said, bowing her head. ‘I didn’t mean to gawk.’ She bowed her head lower when she felt her cheeks turning redder.

     

                   ‘Cassius,’ father said to Aeda’s relief. ‘Has Knight-Commander Dalton arrived?’

     

                   ‘Ser Dalton?’ the Armiscustos said. ‘In the commandant’s quarters having dinner with what’s-his-name? The Grandmaster of the Knights of High Rock.’

     

                   ‘Sir Gilles Barthélemy,’ father said.

     

                   ‘That’s the one.’ He returned to his ledger. ‘Now, is there anything else that I may assist you with?’

     

                   ‘When will the fight order be announced?’ Aeda said.

     

                   ‘Eager, aren’t you? To answer your question, we’ll nail the lists at your camps and outside the gatehouse before the first light of day – pray for the patience of the Nine. If nothing else then it is best that you be on your way – I have matters that needs attending, seeding the fight order for one.’

     

                   The moon was well up by the time they left the keep and life continued on in the town of sailcloth, canvas, and silk. The peddlers were louder than before and so were the rambunctious songs of the visitors that would’ve made Mrs. Moorsley crossed if she or Artos sang them in front of Little Aran. The merchants of the smith section sang a different song, one of ringing metal and roaring fires but it was the Martellus wagon that throes of laughter and awe rang.

     

                   A crowd had gathered before an orc, unusually tall and skinny clad in gambeson. To his side were two Imperial boys, the smaller armed with a Vrekiel, a light crossbow with a draw much higher than its weight class.

     

                   Aeda and her father watched from the back. She found herself leaning on him.

     

                   ‘Now good people, I do declare and I’m not one to make empty claims,’ the orc said, swinging his hands dramatically in the air. ‘That you’ll find no steel better than Martellus steel in all of Tamriel, even Akavir, Atmora, or Thras too if we were to compare.’

     

                   ‘Bullshit!’ cried a portly man, garbed in a doublet of brown and green. ‘Talk is cheap, orc! Anyone can say their steel is best but proving it is another!’

     

                   ‘Yeah!’ Aeda couldn’t help herself. ‘Prove it!’

     

                   The crowd nodded in agreement and the orc smirked.

     

                   ‘Very well,’ he said with a bow. ‘Look to the field, my fine audience. Do you see that soldier, dutifully standing watch? By my count he is no less than fifty paces from where I stand. Young master, the crossbow if you please.’

     

                   The orc dropped to a knee and took aim.

     

                   Aeda gasped and so did father and the crowd did the same. The orc loosed the crossbow, sending a quarrel flying through the air and hitting the soldier in the chest, knocking him to the ground. The two Imperial boys ran to the guard and dragged him back to the wagon.

     

                   ‘Now good people, be not alarmed and don’t call the guards,’ the orc said. ‘Who I shot was but a scarecrow dressed in munitions armour. Cheap and easy to buy but look at this. See how it pierced the chest; the hardest and strongest point of a breastplate? Yes, if he had worn gambeson it would of have saved him but why trust steel that wouldn’t stop a quarrel? Only a light crossbow and it failed, for shame.’

     

                   ‘And how would Martellus steel fare?’ said the portly man. ‘How is it any better?’

     

                   ‘Yeah!’ Aeda said. ‘Are you willing to put money on that?’

     

                   The orc rested his arms on his hips. ‘I’ll put my life on it!’

     

                   The crowd murmured and cheered.

     

                   ‘This breastplate of Martellus-make is for travellers, a reasonable purchase if you’re not looking to soldier,’ the orc said. ‘Light and easier to maintain and like all good Imperial armour, you need no assistance to put it on. See how easy it is? Just tighten the straps myself and I’m ready. Young master if you please.’

     

                   The older of the two boys cocked the crossbow and gave it to the younger.

     

                   ‘This crossbow pierced munitions plate at fifty paces,’ the orc said putting on a helmet. ‘I shall only walk twenty paces.’

     

                   Aeda tried to hide a smile, badly if she might add but so was father’s; the man was practically laughing at this point.

     

                   ‘Don’t miss, young master!’

     

                   The boy loosed a quarrel and like the strawman soldier, the orc was knocked off his feet. The crowed gasped and screamed but were stunned silent when the orc stood up and took off his helmet and breastplate like he was preparing for a morning stroll.

     

                   ‘Gather round and look!’ the orc said, waving the breastplate. ‘No penetration, barely a dent; good steel dents but it will never break and for that, I live!’

     

                   The crowd applauded and the orc and the boys bowed.

     

                   ‘Return on the morrow’ to get yourself fitted,’ the orc said. ‘We’ve armour for all sizes from maille to helmets to lucius chains at affordable prices! Martellus steel may not be prettied with gold nor silver but it’s good honest steel and remember: you’ll find no steel better than Martellus steel!’

     

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