Author Topic: Sir Nicholas Archival - Tales and Stories  (Read 359 times)

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Sir Nicholas Archival - Tales and Stories
« Topic Start: December 16, 2017, 08:11:17 PM »
To Giask

The journey to Giask had been taking longer than expected. The roads were not of pristine quality, and though Nicholas was astride his destrier, Stalwart, the retinue that followed in his wake marched by foot. His Sworn Swords, as they had rather bombastically taken to calling themselves, were not what he was used to. He thought back, only days before, to his final hours in the Archival estate. The thundering of galloping hooves was a familiar sound, now confined only to memory... at least for the time being. Mathis Archival had been a fine cavalryman and knight, but had not the money to afford his son such a unit. Instead, it was the mundane reality of the small infantry unit that he had since accustomed himself to.

He would make do. It would not do for him to make any complaints; his position offered him far more than the typical citizen of Luria might expect. Coin enough to support himself, his estate and an armed retinue was a blessing in of itself that Nicholas did not permit himself to forget. "To think yourself above the men you serve is a short road to hubris and betrayal," his father had always said. It was a valuable lesson, and one he strove to remember, even as his circumstances seemed ever more likely to direct him toward grander standing. The surprise of receiving direct correspondence from both his king and emperor had yet to sink in. Though there was a voice gnawing at him, reminding him that he was one of many. Even amidst the wave of knights presenting themselves to the Empire, the glow of pride was not so easily dimmed.

Aldrakar Renodin, though foremost his king, was the Margrave of Poryatown. It was useful, then, that he had chosen Noble Manor Square for his residence and area of administration. He had not placed himself under the direct leadership of Aldrakar with the express intent of seeking greater influence, it seemed possible that it may occur as a side-benefit. No doubt it would prove useful at least to earn of himself the man's ear. In the regard, it was not so great of a surprise that he had received contact. What remained unexpected, however, was the recognition of the Emperor. Though it was less personal, the gift of both acknowledgement and the two-hundred gold bond gave Nicholas enormous satisfaction. It became apparent that the time with which he moved to represent his family more widely throughout Luria was opportune. None of these facts would escape him, lest he miss the chance to grasp the greatness that so teased itself before him.

Nicholas shook his head, dark tresses whipping in the evening breeze. He had been allowing Stalwart to dictate their pace for quite some time now, he realised, with the setting of the sun above. The knight shifted in the saddle and glanced over his shoulder. The Sworn Swords continued to follow behind him without falter, despite being without mounts of their own. Like their leader, the men of the unit were young and eager, keen to find their place in the world. Though youthful exuberance was no substitute for regimented, diligent training, it was an encouraging start. They were amenable and loyal, to both Nicholas himself and to Luria. They were a fine beginning to his military career, but would soon find themselves amidst greater numbers upon reaching Giask. With that in mind, he consulted his map; Askileon and its port could not be far. Already he could smell the sea-breeze on the air. The occasional gull swooped overhead, before wheeling off back towards the coast.

He had never had the honour of visiting Giask before, and this first arrival promised to be far more interesting than could have been predicted. Recalling both the military summons to the Emperor's Will and the impressive procession of King Aldrakar's emissary, Nicholas took a deep breath to steady himself. Frayed nerves would not fit him in the capital. He had ever been a man - or boy - of slight stature, but to stand amongst the greatest of Luria at the coming banquet, he would have to be tall.

Archival

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Re: Sir Nicholas Archival - Tales and Stories
« Reply #1: December 16, 2017, 08:12:12 PM »
To Giask - Part II

It was set to be a short journey across the eastern, smaller stretch of the Euschean Sea. The Myrmidon was a repurposed warship, made obsolete by naval advancement. It provided an efficient - if not comfortable - ride. The waters appeared calm enough, giving the blessing of smooth sailing. Askileon was quickly shrinking in the distance, left behind. The arrival at Giask drew ever closer.

Nicholas explored the ship, driven by a restless nervousness. He had given the Swords leave to entertain themselves during the trip. For their dutiful marching, they deserved the rest. It would not be appropriate for him to lose face before them, though a lump had continued to persist at the back of his throat. Giask represented everything he had been prepared for. Everything he had been trained for. He was acutely aware that any failure to match the lofty heights of Luria’s greatest city would not serve him well.

Deep breaths, he reminded himself. Nicholas gulped in the fresh sea air, pausing as he looked out across the azure waves. His bout of panic began to subside and his good sense once more prevailed. He sighed; this kind of weakness he would have to set aside once he arrived at the capital. The knight shook his head, dark tresses windblown by the gusts. It was ridiculous - he had faced numerous men more skilled and more experienced at arms without flinching, but the idea of a banquet caused him to panic.

Nicholas squared his shoulders and returned indoors to the Swords, who raised their mugs and tankards in salute. Giask awaited.

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Re: Sir Nicholas Archival - Tales and Stories
« Reply #2: December 16, 2017, 08:13:56 PM »
Feast at Giask - Part I

Nicholas inspected himself in the ornate, gold-encrusted mirror. He grimaced at what he saw. Broad-shouldered and chested, but stocky. Long in the face and too solemn by far. Although his attire, crafted of expensive silks, was of fine quality, befitting a nobleman of the realm, it felt a superficial sham. He tugged on his cloak, adjusting the clasp; it was a sweeping thing, black with a gold trim. Though he would have sooner arrived in armour befitting the battlefield, it would have to do.

His first day in the capital had led up to this. Trudging through the aristocratic sections of the city, a grim-faced youth amidst a sea of colour and esteem. Visiting the most vaunted barbers and tailors in Giask, to ensure he would arrive at the feast in a manner befitting a Knight of Poryatown and nobleman of Luria. The noise had felt deafening; a cacophony of voices and sounds, a far cry from the edge of the empire he was comfortable with.

The Swords had been left with their new additions, having finished the day’s training, while Nicholas himself had left for the palace. The guards had let him pass without much fuss, recognising quickly his stature. Guards, the common soldiery, these were people he knew how to deal with. Honest, simple men without lofty ambition. No doubt the guests within the palace were to be of a different species altogether. It did not soothe him to think that.

Eventually, with a deep inhale of air, Nicholas strode away from the mirror and continued down the pristine corridor. As he approached the great hall, a trio of women of the court tittered at the sight of him. Is my cloak unclasped again? Do I look ridiculous? Doubts beset him, but it was too late to turn tail and run. He had seen the undead before; a few border skirmishes in the Archival Estate had given him that. But those creatures did not instil in him such fear as this - with steeled nerves, he entered.

He looked across the huge room, taking in all the majesty the palace revealed, grey eyes too bland by far for such sights. Striding forth with the rigid discipline of a seasoned soldier - and stiff by the standards of a courtier - he approached a nearby servant, while his attention was caught by the sight he had hoped for after but a few goblets of wine. Aldrakar Renodin; his liege. It seemed as though the King of Earth’s Hall was occupied with another, a man he supposed he recognised from the streets of Poryatown, though could not place a name to the face.

Sir Nicholas plucked a goblet, heavy with wine, and took a long gulp. As he considered his options, he caught some words, quietly spoken as though without the intent to be overheard. It was convenient was so closely placed. He glanced sidelong to see another of the court - apparently within the same position as he.

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"First, wine, I will be needing lots of wine", he muttered to himself.

~ Benedict Dupont

That would be you and I both, sir,” Nicholas remarked, a faint smile touching his lips with wine not long to follow. “Sir Nicholas Archival, Knight of Poryatown. And you?” he asked. Confidence amongst cowards was an easy thing to find.

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Re: Sir Nicholas Archival - Tales and Stories
« Reply #3: December 16, 2017, 08:15:02 PM »
Feast at Giask - Part II
“And you, Sir Benedict.”

Nicholas clasped Benedict’s hand, shaking it firmly. At the very least, he did not give a weak handshake. With his smile yet in place, he inclined his head courteously in recognition of his fellow aristocrat. As he moved to respond, the voice of another cut through to claim his attention.

As William introduced himself to the two of them, Nicholas turned to regard the man he had shared correspondance with. He raised his glass in recognition,  taking a second mouthful of the crimson wine he had selected, before reaching forward to shake his hand.

“Ah- Sir William. I was wondering whether I would find you here. It is good, indeed, to make your personal acquaintance--”

With the booming voice of Sir Donald, echoing throughout the hall, Nicholas fell into another silence. The name did, however, ring a bell. The knight took a few moments to place it, before it came to him.

So that would be the man, Sir Donald, who claimed to the Emperor himself to be the most handsome knight in Luria,” he thought.

Nicholas resolved to watch and wait, to see what the loudmouth would do next. At the very least, it might provide a good show.

Archival

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Re: Sir Nicholas Archival - Tales and Stories
« Reply #4: December 16, 2017, 08:15:54 PM »
Feast at Giask - Part III

It took Nicholas a moment to catch his bearings. So many words, gestures and smells all continued to assail him at once, unabated by notions of tact and timing. After the moment passed, his focus found its mark: Aldrakar Renodin was gesturing him - them - forward. Sir Benedict and Sir William no longer held his attention; it would be unwise to turn his focus away from the man seated upon the throne. With his goblet, of which he had only drunk two mouthfuls of, set aside onto the tray of a passing servant, Nicholas moved into a smooth stride toward Aldrakar. Though clad in the luxurious silks of an aristocratic, his gait yet remained in much the fashion of a professional soldier; efficient and forthright. The knight had little movement or thought to spare for flamboyance - though his cloak did much of the job for him.

As he approached, any discomfort began to fade. It had been the build-up causing him nerves, overthinking his expectations for the gathering. Without sparing a glance to the many courtiers and aristocrats arrayed in the Great Hall - many of whom eyed the Knight of Poryatown himself with envy - Nicholas quickly arrived to place himself within the King's presence. It was then he acknowledged the presence of Sir Matthew - the gallant, glory hound who had called for so many of his fellow knights. He was much less than Nicholas pictured; there was no impressive warrior-to-be. In his place was a youth, more courtier than knight. A boy making pretend that he was a man; Nicholas knew the type. Perhaps this was the way of things in capital. He had not the experience to judge for certain.

Regardless, upon approaching Aldrakar, Nicholas took his place after Sir Benedict and fell to one knee. He drew his sword - a decorative heirloom, inlaid with gleaming silver - and held it before him, his gesture of fealty. The knight looked up, directing his blue-grey eyes to make contact with the monarch's. At close inspection for Aldrakar to view, Nicholas appeared to be swiftly on his way to becoming more man than boy; broad-shouldered, strong-jawed and with any softness of boyhood melted away through the trials of sword and steel. His hair, a dark-brown, was kept in the comfortable middle-ground of style and practicality. In the short breath before speech, he took in his liege; now this was an impressive man. Much as he had imagined him to be, opposing the relative disappointment of Sir Matthew. With all the rigid, military discipline he had come to find comfort in, he addressed the King with the utmost respect:

"My king, I am Sir Nicholas Archival, Knight of Poryatown. I am humbly at your service, and thank you for your most generous invitation to this feast. My sword is yours."

Service, respect, fealty. These he had been readied for. These he knew. Courtly etiquette would come in time to follow, no doubt.

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Re: Sir Nicholas Archival - Tales and Stories
« Reply #5: December 16, 2017, 08:17:51 PM »
Feast at Giask - Part IV

As Aldrakar spoke, Nicholas bowed his head to present openly his fealty. As the King continued with the oath, all other sounds - once so overbearing - felt distant, muted. This was what the knight had come for. Not for the pleasantries or fawning or courtship, but for the pledge of his sword and spirit. It was his duty to do so - and, if nought else, he knew duty.

Quote
“Sir Nicholas, you do me proud and make swell my heart with hope as the future just turned to a stark Gold against the black night sky.’’

With the conclusion of the speech, the Great Hall's grandeur and cacophonies returned. Nicholas rose to his feet and sheathed his sword. He bowed his head toward Aldrakar and, with some final words, moved backward in order to better inspect those who had also arrived at the steps to the throne. It remained plainly clear that he was a man not of courtly intrigue, but of action and tenacity.

"In the name of the Emperor and my honour, I swear it shall be so, my king."

 

Thereafter, he took stock of the responses to his peers, particularly Sir William. With a quietly quirked brow, he waved over another servant, upon which he plucked a second goblet from their silver tray. His nerves had been soothed by the purpose he had received, the beverage now a matter of enjoyment. As Sir Matthew spoke, Nicholas lofted his goblet in toast and repeated, "To the health of our king and to the glory of the Empire." They were good words, well-spoken, he decided. It gave him enough pause to reconsider the ostentatious knight; perhaps there was more bite than bark after all. Only time would tell.

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Re: Sir Nicholas Archival - Tales and Stories
« Reply #6: December 16, 2017, 08:18:40 PM »
Feast at Giask - Part V

Nicholas descended the steps and away from the Throne. Although Sir Donald had launched himself towards Aldrakar first, it was he who departed as the - self-proclaimed - handsomest knight in Luria strode up to greet the monarch. Perhaps he had gotten lost along the way? No matter, it would certainly provide something worth watching. If nothing else, Nicholas was warming to the eccentricities of the capital.

He approached the large table, central within the Great Hall. He sat himself comfortably, briefly fidgeting to adjust his position; there were not banquets quite so magnificent at home, and it would take quite some getting used to. But he was nothing if not dedicated to the tasks set to him. He took a sip of his wine, savouring the taste - he was no connoisseur, but he was an able judge of what found his tongue wanting more, and what did not. It was a good wine; perhaps he would start a collection of his own, at Noble Manor Square. If Aldrakar's presence at the feast was anything to go by, he had a refined taste. Nicholas was determined to accommodate this, one day.

To his right someone feminine cleared their throat, to gain his attention. With a brief pause for recollection, the young knight realised it was one of the courtiers who had tittered at him perhaps only an hour before. Nicholas quirked his brow in surprise, before the endless letters of courtly chivalry reminded him that he must be polite. He inclined his head amiably, and introduced himself, all the while taking a few longer moments to subtly appraise her (it would not do to stare overmuch no doubt, and he was capable of maintaining his good manners). She was pretty, he realised, and, without the fog of apprehension before him, interested.

Perhaps the capital had its charms after all.

While they spoke, Nicholas kept some small measure of attention on their surroundings. It would be inappropriate to completely forget his position and where he was. As he did so, he scanned the Great Hall. He watched for the knights he had already met - William, Matthew, Benedict, Donald - and for any other matters of interest. The jeering of some rather more rambunctious members of the landed elite caught his - and his companion's - attention, as a tall, skinny nobleman slipped and fell nearby, just within earshot.

"Hello there, friend," he began, addressing Staedtler, while approaching to offer him a hand in standing, "Are you quite alright?"

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Re: Sir Nicholas Archival - Tales and Stories
« Reply #7: December 16, 2017, 09:02:09 PM »
A Taste of Battle

The dust of the battle had long since settled, as Nicholas and his Sworn Swords picked over the remains. It was unclean work, not fit for noblemen or commoners alike, but it had to be done. Equipment was only a finite supply, and to ensure that both himself and his men did not perish quite so easily at the hands of the enemy, some scavenging - or retrieval, as he had phrased it to the men - was a necessity. The older men, veterans of past battles, put themselves to task without much by way of hesitation - their experience in handling the matter was discomforting about the realities of warfare, but it was a lesson well learned, Nicholas decided. The younger men had appeared taken aback by the order; they had expected glory, as they struck down monstrosities with righteous fervour. The Knight himself had been fortunate to have been spared that delusion during his training, at least. Not that it settled his stomach at all. The stench was already beginning to become revolting and he was hard-pressed not to gag.

As the men rummaged and retrieved whatever bits of slightly less battered armaments they could find, Nicholas set off to attend to his own objective. He strode across the field of battle, weary but uninjured, and still in most of his armour. It paid to be careful; who knew how these undead would act. They were already dead, playing possum was doubtless easy for them. Further, he was well-aware the damage they could cause. Nicholas had watched both Sir Donald and Sir Matthew be carried off during the second battle in Grodno, though had been unable to come to the aid of either. Their conditions were treatable, so he paid it little mind for the moment. Instead he focused on the bludgeoned corpses of man and monster alike. As he continued, he found himself growing numb to it - not from callousness, but likely his mind's inability to properly comprehend the horror of it. It would take time, his father had always said, to become accustomed to the savagery of war. It was better than vomiting, at least.

He scanned across each face he came across. The undead looked typically disturbing, and he tried to give them a wide berth. Instead, he was looking for the minority - the men who had not yet been taken from the battlefield for proper funerary rites, the men who had not been accounted for. Eventually, something caught his eye; the White Chevalier of his family. It was emblazoned on a man's tabard, though his face was hidden under the corpse of a shambling monster. Nicholas steeled himself, before striding forward and firmly planted his boot against the undead, to shove it away. The sight revealed was what he had anticipated. The boy - Alaric, Nicholas remembered - looked peaceful in death. It was a blessing that his features had not been ravaged, despite the cruel axe embedded in his shoulder. The Knight sighed quietly. It was the obvious conclusion, when he had not reported for his usual post, guarding Nicholas within his tent. Of all the eager youths among the Sworn Swords, Alaric had always seemed a step too idealistic, too enamoured with the romanticism of battle and chivalry. He was a reminder of what Nicholas himself might have faced, had he been taught a little differently. His sacrifice would be a lesson to the others; recklessness was an easy road to death.

A short while later, he returned to his men, grim-faced by the experience. He waved over the soldiers, expecting a report.

"We've found some bits and pieces, milord," one older soldier remarked, "Though not enough to fix all our gear. Not by far."

Nicholas nodded simply. "It will do. I passed Alaric's body; collect it if you would."

The soldier paused, before giving a deft salute in response and yelled some commands to the other soldiers. "Still, milord, we lost less men than we might've."

"Fewer," Nicholas corrected absently, before retiring from the field and back to his tent.

Archival

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Re: Sir Nicholas Archival - Tales and Stories
« Reply #8: January 10, 2018, 03:18:23 PM »
Failure

It had been a surprise to catch up with the army in time for the arrival at Grodno. It should have taken a few hours more, after the first engagement with the hostile forces within the region, but here they were. So unexpected was it that the men, Nicholas not withstanding, were shifting uncomfortably on their saddles; they had had little time to become accustomed to their new role as cavalrymen - the men were entirely inexperienced, and the Knight himself was not used to commanding them as such. It had not helped that in their rush to make up for lost time in travelling, the select orders from Lord Cador had been lost by the quartermaster. It was already proving to be a fiasco, but his pride dictated that he keep the matter to himself - surely it could not end that badly. Sir Matthew's forces were astride steeds too, he would follow their lead.

Then, after what was only a few minutes of preparation, the horn sounded for the battle to begin and Nicholas ushered his men to the head of the vanguard; they would need room to charge, no doubt, and the shock of their clash against the undead hordes would give the array of archers ample opportunity to loose their arrows. He looked to both sides of him; the captain to one side, his personal guard to the other. He gave them both firm nods, before raising his voice to address the Swords,

"Men, ride with me. For Luria!"

They roared their enthusiasm; if nothing else, their exuberance could not be dampened. They were good men, and they would prove their valour once again, here and now. Nicholas hold his sword aloft and with a bellowed, "CHARGE!", they hurtled forwards. Hooves beat against the ground, arrows launched overhead and their lances were drawn, ready to smash through the defences of the array of monstrosities before them. But... it was too quiet. Where was Sir Matthew? He looked to his left, and then to his right. He was not there. There was no one else there. Something had gone terribly wrong, and then with a crash of steel, of bone and flesh, their charge met the horde. Steadfast crumpled under spear, sword and claw and his rider was thrown to the floor. Everything went dark.

...

Nicholas staggered from the battlefield. He was drenched in blood, most of it not his own. Sir Matthew and his men, or those left, retreated beside him. But he saw no Archival banners; he saw none of the Swords. Through error and foolhardy idiocy he had led them to their deaths. It was all he could do to stand on his own feet as the healers rushed to his aid.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2018, 03:20:46 PM by Archival »

Archival

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Re: Sir Nicholas Archival - Tales and Stories
« Reply #9: January 10, 2018, 03:19:10 PM »
Home

They had nearly arrived home. The journey to Poryatown, now reaching its end as the small force passed through the pastures and townland of Poryatu, had been almost entirely uneventful. In contrast to the fighting near Shinnen, the waves of monsters and that final charge of the Sworn Swords, all seemed calm - a curious tranquillity given that malign forces had been rampaging through Earth's Hall not long ago. Despite the lack of action and excitement, or perhaps because of it, Nicholas was pleased. It was reassuring to know that upon his return home, there would not be monsters to contend with. He had only spent a short time in his Noble Manor Square estate, but it had been a place of warmth and comfort; though well-acquainted with the martial life, even he could anticipate a soft bed and a warm hearth.

After a quiet hum of thought, the Knight raised a hand and the column paused. Captain Raedfleda, a spindly woman but a few years older than himself, approached with her bow ever in hand. He regarded her for a moment in expectant silence, before she remembered her manners and bowed her head. He had always allowed a small amount of informality with the Swords... but they were gone, and the Archival Arrows were in their place. Nicholas would not make the mistake of over-investment this time. With curt mannerisms, he requested the report.

"All seems as it was yesterday, and the day before that, Sir Nicholas," Raedfleda began. "It looks like we'll be arriving at Poryatu at first light. The men are eager to set up shop in their new headquarters, so they'll keep on marching 'til we get there."

He considered this for a moment, before offering a brisk nod in response. "Very good, captain. Ensure that they are presentable upon our arrival. I would not want to arrive at the estate in which I govern with a poorly-assembled force. The peasantry must know to respect and admire me, and the men in my service. That would be all."

The Captain bowed once again, before striding over towards the men, to whom she shouted instructions. Nicholas took a few moments to observe her work - she was diligent, loyal and expressed his orders with an attitude which brooked no dissent. It was what he needed; with the Swords he had led them personally, with no captain beside him. That was probably his greatest folly. These men were born and trained to serve Luria in their way, just as he was in his. They served to fight and to die for the cause and for the realm, if that is what it took. It was Nicholas' duty to command, to direct them to where the Empire needed them most. It was not his duty to become friends with them. No doubt it was a short path to a nobleman losing his edge, should he fear overtly for their lives.

It would be callous to disregard them and their livelihood, something he intended to never do... but as he had learned in Grodno, to become too close spelled disaster all the more.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2018, 03:21:05 PM by Archival »