Swordplay and pistols. Oh my. What will I think up next?
| For your consideration, a random fragment from a larger, bloated, unfinished project. I've got lots and lots of words; half-formed, unruly characters vying for the lead, and a temperamental plot. The last I looked, Grammar and Punctuation were on fire in the kitchen. Posted here for your amusement and thoughts. When I write a draft, I throw everything in the pot and let it sit for a while. I'm pretty good at taking out the trash, but please let me know if you find something exciting or promising. And thanks for slogging thru the swamp with me.|
William spied a slender, round clock on a nearby desk. Somewhat smaller than his palm, he held it's body up to his ear and heard the pleasant ticking of the mechanism. He noted the indicated time was twelve noon and he closed the silver lid. A long, sturdy chain clasped to the watch surprised William by wrapping itself around William's wrist in snake like fashion; with a slight tug it let go. "Well, it is a wizard's clock after all," thought William. It had been a busy morning, when he left the Inn at sunrise to make for Anari-Anar the village bell was ringing six o'clock .
"Uncle, I could use some time to think things over and maybe lunch."
"Nonsense!" said James, "Now is no time to think things over and we'll have lunch as we travel.. Let these matters digest a bit before you give them any more thought. All will be clearer when you calm your mind. Besides; I have some fine hunting clothes your size and a fabulous horse for you to ride. The women will faint as we pass by. Yo-ho! Let us be off shooting. That's what we both need. Go collect the pistols from the case and find the powder and shot. I'll find your new clothes, they're around here somewhere."
All weariness left William and he sprung in pursuit of his errands.
"William," James called, "bring that pocket watch with you. It is yours now, but be careful, that is more than a timepiece, with that instrument and a few other tools you can map the whole of Andor. I will teach you how to do it, it is a difficult skill but well worth the effort. I call that mechanism a marine chronometer and it can keep a precise measurement of time for months even years. I believe I have all there are of them and that's not many. Some men would kill for one of these machines if they knew what it could do, so keep its secrets to yourself."
William did not know what to say so he put the miniature masterpiece in his pocket without a word. The attached chain wound itself securely through a button hole
Precisely one hour later William found himself out of breath, standing outside in a brick paved courtyard framed by the main hotel and it's wings.Two horses waited, packed and ready to go. The hotel staff had prepared box lunches for the riders and a small group waited to wave them off. William shifted uncomfortably in his new hunting clothes.
Rose, the Drummonds hostess, and four other teenage girls of the staff were all gathered around William, they sent him off with a box of small cakes and an extra lunch for the journey. William appreciated everything; in all his adolescent years this was his first experience with so much female attention, but he did think it somewhat silly for a trip of just a few hours. These young ladies knew better; Sir James' short adventures oft proved quite complicated and at times he did not return for weeks or years.
The wizard and his nephew mounted their horses and trotted off, everyone waved and said," good- bye," and, "have a good afternoon," and other pleasantries. One elderly woman yelled, "and don't get yer-selves hurt!"
They rode through the city, under the three gates and out to the countryside.
William wore a new gambeson. He had worn one often when training with swords but never found the shirt of padded cloth armor entirely comfortable. Gambesons came in a variety of shapes and sizes, from a short vest to the version that William wore, a long black shirt with sleeves down to his wrists. It had a short collar and a scalloped hem, button-and-loop closures lined the front. Made of heavy canvas it provided good protection and gave the wearer excellent mobility and ventilation. A wide red sash was wrapped around William's middle and he wore white riding breeches with tall black boots. The gambeson is the most basic piece of armor and the Wizard knew it would be good for William to become accustomed to wearing it almost all the time. A red hunter's cap covered his head.
"Wonderful weather, Nephew. It's good to be out riding on a day like this." The Wizard said, and he looked over to William for a response.
"My father tells me you are a nomad?"
Clearly, this was not the response the Wizard was looking for. A scowl covered his face. He stopped his horse and gave his companion a long look."Your curiosity is going to wear me out. Still, I guess it's a good thing... If I can stand it"
James urged his horse forward again."I am an explorer! An explorer is a nomad who makes maps. Are you skilled in cartography perhaps?"
"No," a startled William answered. He paused a moment to think this over. "Will I need to make maps?"
"Of course, you will need to make maps! Where we are bound there are no maps. As you have said we may be bound for the ends of the world. How will you find your way back without a map and a diary?"
"Why to go to the ends of the world? I thought there is nothing and no-one there; except a land of endless ice."
"There is much to be found wherever you go if you know where to look. I follow the guidance of old scrolls, legends, and rumors to find great treasures long hidden and forgotten."
"Are you a treasure hunter too?"
"Well, yes I am, but I do not seek gold or silver. I search for knowledge, the greatest treasure of all and the easiest to carry."
"So, no time to lose. Let's see what you can do. I suspect you can you read and write?"
"Ah... why yes. Yes, I do. I mean... Of course, I can read and write. I can read the runes too." William wanted to impress his uncle.
"First lesson; Yes Sir, No Sir, I am Sir and you are William. Understand?"
"Good. Reading is a good start, an excellent skill. Though some of the wisest men I know cannot read. How about mathematics and geometry."
"I have had classes in both those topics at my school. Uncle, uh-- Sir James, tell me about your magic staff?"
"Here take a look at it," James passed the staff to William, careful not to startle the horses as he did so. The staff was unnaturally warm, well balanced and about six feet long. Round in cross-section, it was easy to grip and the ends tapered to sharp points. This staff was not wood but looked to be made of a milky crystal with silver and gold glowing from within. William suddenly felt odd as if the staff had offered a greeting, he ignored the feeling but quickly handed the staff back to his uncle.
"Did it say anything to you?"
"I think it said 'greetings'?"
"It said much more than that! The staff knows you now. It will come to your aid if can.
"Your staff can fight?"
"It is a fine weapon and has a extraordinary power to augment your skills."
After that, they rode on silently enjoying the peace of the summer afternoon. Their path grew narrow and a forest of hardwoods closed in around them. Flocks of birds filled the trees and hawks soared overhead. After an hours time, when William had already eaten both his lunches and snacks, Uncle James called a halt to their journey where the path vanished. They entered a bright clearing surrounded by tall undergrowth. A large blue lake appeared on their left with a narrow meadow before it filled with wildflowers. A life-size statue of a man was at the water's edge. Sculpted as a monk, kneeling, it held a cup in both hands.
"Sir, what is this place?
"It is ancient and unknown to most. Surrounded by marsh lands it is hard to find though there are many trails here for those that are skilled enough to find them.. A perfect place for some target practice. It has no name"
"Aren't you afraid of disturbing the spirits?" William looked all around and something did not feel right. He sensed something at the edge of his hearing.
"Very good William! There is indeed ancient magic at work here. Do not worry about the spirits, after all, you have a mighty wizard with you. I am the master of this place. Go and get the bows and guns."
William spread a thick blanket on a wide fallen tree. He brought the pistols and two long bows from the horses and tied the animals near some grass. He removed the saddle bags which contained the arrows, powder, and shot and placed everything on the blanket.
"William, watch this!" Said James and he loosed an arrow at a narrow tree by the waters edge. He repeated this three times till the arrows sliced completely through the trunk and the tree toppled over.
"Is that a magic bow?" Asked William.
"Why do you ask?"
"Because it always hits where you want it too."
"I see. Yes. It is a magic bow, some of my finest work if I do say so myself. Very tricky magic this. I doubt that there exist more than a dozen wizards who could make one."
"Would you like to try it?" The Wizard handed his long bow to William.
William shot an arrow at another slender tree and missed completely. He tried three more times with the same result.
"I don't think your bow likes me."
"That bow does like you, it would serve you if it could."
"But I can't hit the target with the bow."
"You don't seem to have any magical aptitude for bows or arrows. A shame, that."
"So I can't use magic swords and the like?"
"It depends on the enchantment cast into the thing. A very complicated business is magic. That sword you carry; your father's sword is imbued with the most potent of magics. The sword can aid you in many things both small and great; however, you will not command the full loyalty of that blade until you prove yourself worthy. In time, you will see what a powerful ally it is."
The Wizard instructed his protege in the proper operation and maintenance of the wheel-lock pistol. They fired the six pistols repeatedly in target practice for the next few hours.
"William, let's get back before we miss dinner, hopefully, your parents will meet us at my house."
"Wait, Shhh..." said William, "Something approaches through the brush."
Uncle and nephew went quiet. They listened to the woods. Something was wrong. Something was near. Hiding. William looked to his long bow. James wound the springs on his two loaded pistols and gently put the hammers down.
Abruptly, a crashing sound arose from the tall grass, accompanied by men yelling. It sounded like a bear hunt coming their way. A small man ran out of the forest and into the clearing. He had on rich clothing that was in tatters. Fierce dark eyes peeked out from under matted black hair, he seemed young.
He ran with a limp. Soon six hunters wearing black cloaks burst from the woods. Two wielded hand cannons and all carried swords.
"William, Save the running man! Kill the hunters! Kill them, William!" cried the Wizard and he fired his pistol at the nearest man opening a hole in his chest killing him instantly. He fired the second pistol and hit another man in the face. The man fell to the ground and did not move. The Wizard drew his sword and then fought with both staff and sword, an ancient fighting style rarely seen.
William responded without hesitation to his uncle's order. He let loose an arrow at one man and missed. The man fired his hand cannon and the ball took a piece of William's skin off his right shoulder and knocked the bow from his hand, another ball whizzed past from an opponent unseen. William drew his long sword and charged straight at his man, as his father trained him to do. The assassin knew what he was doing and wielded a short sword with skill. He looked at William with disdain, but he was soon in trouble. Williams ferocity took the man by surprise and he put a deep gash in the man's right leg from hip to knee and the man fell, blood pouring on the ground. William twisted around to survey the field and find his next target.
William's Uncle had the attention of the last three assassins. For one brief moment, William stopped and watched.
The Wizard seemed larger than life... as if painted heroic on canvas, his black cloak, and long red hair flew in the air. The wizard's staff was raised high in the air and his sword swept before him. He stood as a dragon insurmountable. The skill of his enemies proved unworthy to their task. Three veteran killers yet they could not bring down this one man.
William ran up and plunged his sword into one man's back, the blade protruding through the chest. William then heard a sword singing from behind and to his left. He ducked, pulled free his sword and saw a scarred, ugly man slashing at him. He felt a sword tip rip through his armor and cut into the flesh just below his left nipple. William hit his opponent hard with the pommel of his sword, knocking him back; then, widening his stance he launched a mighty swing at the man's middle. The cut would have put his enemy in halves, but the ugly man narrowly avoided the sword and regained his balance, he swung away expertly opening a new wound on William's chest. He caught William again with a glancing swipe which failed to pierce the gambeson. William, his wounds dripping blood, remained on the offensive, his blade a blur in the afternoon sun. He furiously hacked at his enemy with strong precise blows but he was beginning to tire and his foe expertly blocked each swing. The assassin then saw the wizard's staff flashing and his head came away from his shoulders
The running man had stopped at the edge of the clearing, doubled over, completely winded. He looked at his captors on the ground, all dead, and smiled.
James went running over and said, "Are you injured?"
"Yes, but I can travel and fight if need be. Thank you for your help," the dark haired boy said. The wizard lightly touched the rope binding his wrists and it fell away in pieces.
"You and I have met before, Harry. I was with your father at Glendencourt, you were there too."
"I remember, I was not expecting you today, Sir James. We cannot stay, the pirates were waiting for others to join them here."
William walked up cleaning his sword. "They are all dead, I checked. They have no papers but a good sum of gold." He threw six small bags of gold coin on the ground.
"Here, take this." William pushed one of the wheel locks into Harry's hand. "It is ready to fire."
"Harry, this is Lord William of the Widgeon Glen." said the Wizard.
"I watched you fight Sir William and I am glad you are on our side. I was kidnapped from my father's estate in the Capital Province. I have been in the wild with them for a month now."
"I'm glad we found each other. Good luck that," said William. He thought he might have made a new friend.
Despite his ill treatment, Harry seemed in high spirits. William noticed he rarely stood still or made eye contact for long. He was always looking elsewhere and seemed on the verge of going there.
William looked at his Uncle, "Should we notify the city patrol?"
"No, we don't need any help."
"Sir James; Sir William is wounded, ought we bind his wounds before anything else?" Harry was looking at the blood oozing from the tears in Williams gambeson.
"I'm not a knight," said William
Harry answered, "I think, perhaps, you soon will be."
"Those are only flesh wounds; they can wait. The bleeding will stop on its own." James put his hands on William's shoulders and looked him in the eye. "I need you to gallop to the inn at Glenwater and fetch your mother. Bring her to my house. Say as little as possible. If you see your father inform him of everything. Do you remember the way and do you have the map I gave you?"
"Good, take the route we discussed. Hide those pistols beneath this" James handed William a long, forest green cloak. "This will also hide your wounds. You don't want to go about looking like a bandit-- I am wondering, have you ever fought for your life before?"
"That's what I thought. Your father has trained you well. William, you are deadlier than many professionals I know.
In fact, you fought uncommonly well for one in his first fight, most unusual... Even for someone so expertly trained." James scowled, he seemed troubled by something but he put it out of his mind.
Err... Is all this entirely legal?" William could not fathom why he asked such an absurd question.
"Well now. Hmm. Yes, Yes, it's all legal. I am officially charged with keeping the Kings peace."
James showed William how to holster one pistol on the right side of the saddle and hang the other holster from a shoulder strap. A scabbard on his left side held his father's sword. The cloak covered all.
"Should anyone ask, say that the Grand Wizard James sent you. Her is a letter of mark, it is signed by me and should get you by any militia you might encounter"
"Time for us to depart. Gallop for the Inn, bring your mother to my house. Go William!"