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(Academy RP) The First Knight


Vikarbyn

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In 1744 the Kingdom of Vikarbyn ceased to exist, it's people fearful of its King throwing away its ancient and beloved traditions rose up against him, in retribution tens of thousands of his subjects were strung up beneath the trees that formed their sacred groves while many more were turned into slaves and forced into the King's mines and starved the death. The fear of being torn apart from their deeply held religious connection to the spirits of the world and the injustices their countryman recieved spurred tens of thousands of ordinary men to take up arms and seek to free themselves from evil King Margh IV's rule. This is the story of one such individual, the story of a young man who became a national hero who even today inspires his people. 

 

Quoit, Vikarbyn  16th of May 1742

Jory Hugus was 13 years of age and had two loves in his life, the first was his river. It wasn't actually his, it belonged to the spirits who danced and played on its glistening blue surface and clearly blessed him by filling his eel traps and fishing lines with their bounty. Jory was always careful everyday when he went down to the waters to ask the permission of the watching spirits and creatures to allow him to take what the village needed and to ensure they wouldn't hurt him he took them a gift. Somedays he left them some bread, other days he brought with him beautiful wildflowers his younger sister had woven into "fairy crowns" small rings of interlinked flowers of all colours. He would set about his work baiting lines, checking traps and always remembered to ask the creatures he caught for their forgiveness. He always ensured too that before he left for the day he thanked the spirits for their gifts and he would leave a small portion of the days catch as a meal for them, perhaps a pixie would enjoy a few slices of eel flesh, or perhaps a sprite would be grateful for the fillet of salmon he left on a rock in the middle of the river. As he left he would hoist his second love, a small lute that he would merrily play and sing along to as he made his way back towards the village, a basket of freshly caught fish on his back. He would sing songs of ancient heroes, of deeds of the spirits, of beautiful young women falling in love with handsome knights from a time gone past. Vikarbyn was a nation obsessed with keeping its heroes alive in memory and round fires at night over a stone mug of ale it was common to hear tale of how armies of evil demons had been turned back by the bravery of men alongside Pixies and Wolves. Jory had gone one further, he had no intention of being a fisherboy all his life, he wanted to be a minstrel, one of the respected class who gathered the stories of old and told them through song, two more years and he could ask his father and mother if he could begin an apprenticeship with one of the many local Minstrels who wandered between the villages and towns plying their trade and writing more and more songs. 

Today when Jory reached Quoit things were different, it wasn't the usual quiet little town but a large crowd had gathered and there in the centre was Duke Kenver, a young nobleman in his late 20's. He was well respected, mainly as his father had left him a huge sum of money, but mainly because he was a man as often seen with a wood chopping axe in his hand as a nobleman's walking stick. Today he was different though, he was dressed in a fine red jacket not the usual woody colours of nature favoured by the Vikarbyn's. At his hip hung a huge sword and a blue sash ran across his chest. "Please! Please!" he was yelling while stood on the top of a series of steps that lead to one of the towns many water pumps. "Those in the mines we can do little for. Margh isn't going to just hand them over and forget that we demanded it. We have two choices ahead of us, the first is to remain his playthings as he drags us towards the Darkness." The crowd grumbled about whether it was better to have the Darkness or to be swinging from a tree by your neck. "They are the same fate" Kenver pointed at a fat ruddy faced man stood close by who had voiced exactly that concern too loudly. "If we leave them to their fate then we are no better than the dark spirits and as such will have the Darkness when our time to make the choice comes. At least if we do something and end up swinging the chances of us finding the Light will be better. We will be people who tried to help our fellow man and the Spirits of Light will guide us to the afterlife with them." A few men nodded their agreement while others still mused the point. "I am here today" Kenver lept to the top step of the water pump and surveyed the scene in the square, around 500 people had gathered round ranging from the haggered old woman selling pegs to the little boy still clinging to his mother's apron. "to gather the first of an army together. I have spoken with some of the other Dukes and we believe the only way Vikarbyn can survive is if we remove Margh, I can't tell you what will happen when we do but it can't be as bad as what happened in Madervale" That name sent shivers through every person present, the town had been marched at sword point out into the nearby wood and there tied to the trees, all 800 of them before every 10th person had their throat cut, then from the survivors 100 were picked at random and hanged before finally all the children had been blinded in one eye. Margh believed that it would strike fear into those opposing his rule and as his army marched away those who had not been executed were left tied to their trees. Some had freed themselves and then others while some had been left for days before those wandering the woods found them. "If we don't do something Madervale will be Quoit one day, you know it. Join with us, let us free ourselves from evil." A group of men that Jory recognised as some of the local hunters cheered, they were clearly in and their enthusiasm soon spread and before long a table had been set up and a man dressed in the Green jacket of a Yeoman of Quoit, the local militia of Duke Kenver sat enrolling people into the Duke's army. It was then Jory knew he had to do something, this was his chance to not sing about history but to witness it. He would be there as the Dukes fought to gain the freedom of the peasants, he would be there to sing of the moment Kenver laid out the choice of Darkness or Light for his people. He joined the line and waited patiently as it edged forward towards the table the Yeoman was sat at. 

"Jory" a familiar voice called through the crowd and he turned as his heart sank, it was his mother. "Where you going to march away without a word?" she scolded him bringing a few chuckles from those around him in the line. 

"No, Mother" he said looking down at his muddy shoes, he hadn't thought about this part only the adventure. 

"Hmmm" his mother responded, "You're only a young lad" she said as though hoping suddenly reminding Jory about his age would make him leave the line. Jory though stood firm wondering what he could say to make his mother change her mind but she spoke before he could find the words. "I suppose I can't be stopping you. It's the right thing to do." she said as a tear began to roll down her cheek. "Your father said I was to bring you this." Jory's father was largely confined to home these days, he had lost a leg as a Yeoman fighting bandits in the woods not far from Quoit and now he was riddled with infections that everyone knew would eventually end his life but the spirit guide of Clíodhna had determined that his journey to meet the two spirits was not yet at hand. Jory's mother handed over a sword, it was smaller than that on the hip of Duke Kenver but to Jory it was still heavy. It was a brightly polished blade and he could tell it had been recently polished, no doubt his mother had anticipated his desire to join up and had gone and fetched the sword. Jory looked at the blade thin and slightly curved, an old cavalry sabre, and looked at his own reflection in the polished metal. He felt a hand take the weight of the blade from him and at first he resisted until he saw it was Gorron, a huge mountain of a man and the local Constable responsible for maintaining the peace of Quoit. He watched as Gorron gave the blade a few practice swings before holding it steady peering down its length with one eye closed. 

"It's been well looked after" Gorron proclaimed, he had served with Jory's father and the broken nose he had was recieved in the same fight Jory's father had lost his leg. "It's OK Mother." Gorron could see tears down Jory's mother's face now. "I'll keep an eye on the lad." he sheethed the sword, handed it back to Jory and placed a huge bear like paw on the boys shoulder. 

"Thank you" Jory's mother gave Gorron a hug before kissing Jory on the cheek and then moving off to join several other tearful mothers and wives watching the men sign up. 

"Go on....bugger off" Gorron waved good naturedly at Jory's mother ushering her away, "Men have business to be about now don't we Jory" he pushed the boy gently forward as the line moved and soon it was Jory's turn. 

"How old are you boy?" The Yeoman at the table asked.

"13 sir" Jory said nervously. 

"Hmmm.....not sure we can take lads your age" The Yeoman mused as he began looking around for the Duke. 

"Listen here" Gorron interjected from behind. "There are 40 odd more of us behind me and this lad is our good luck charm. He comes with us or we all go home." Jory wasn't sure if Gorron was being serious but watched as the Yeoman got up from his chair and headed over to speak to the Duke who was chatting with the local horse trader about finding some kind of beneficial agreement to help the Duke put his army together. The Duke glanced over clearly informed about the situation and Duke Kenver shook hands with the horse trader before appearing before Jory and then looking suitably impressed by the mountain that wa Gorron. 

"I'll tell you what" the Duke began, "I'll sign the boy up on two conditions. The first is that he'll serve as a drummer boy, the second is that he brings that lute of his and I expect him to be able to sing the Story of Clíodhna by the time we get to camp this evening." It was one of the first songs any musician learned to sing and Jory knew it well.

"It's a deal Your Grace." Gorron replied for Jory having heard the boy singing many times as he wandered into town. 

"Welcome to the Yeomanry gentleman" unexpectedly the Duke offered Jory and Gorron a handshake and a mark made on a ledger moments later saw them both signed up. An hour later the pair were part of a group heading down the road towards where Duke Kenver would meet recruiting Sergeants who had visited other towns and there form his army. "Drummer boy" Kenver yelled from his saddle as he rode at the head of the column. Jory scurried up to the front of the column, no drum as yet, but the lute clanging on his back as he ran, his father's sword banging against his leg and nearly falling over the brown woollen uniform trousers that were at least two sizes too big form him. 

"Yes Your Grace." Jory panted. 

"Give us a song as we march." The Duke never even looked down as Jory gave an awkward salute, removed the lute from his back and began to raise his voice happy to be soldier rather than a fisher-boy. 

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Quoit, Vikarbyn  19th of June 1743

What people had grown to call the Duke's Rebellion had been going on for just over a year now and Jory had changed. The small 13 year old boy had filled out, the endless days of marching through woodland paths his lute on his back and a drum strapped to his waist had seen the scrawny boy develop a blossoming muscular frame. When he wasn't beating out a rhythm for the foot-soldiers as they marched he was singing a marching song playing his lute much to the enjoyment of Duke Kenver who seemed to enjoy joining in the sing songs. He'd also seen his fair share of terror, four battles he'd been in by now. In each he'd been stationed close to the Duke and along with a group of ten other drummer boys was expected to beat various patterns on the creamy stretched drum skin each tap or flurry telling the men armed with flintlocks and swords what to do. The Quoit Yeomanry had earned quiet a reputation too, each battle they'd stood in the centre of the rebels line and their Green and Black battleflag was now battle wounded with holes, powder burns and even a missing corner from where an enemy lancer had pierced it and a Corporal by the name of Jordey had dragged it back to safety. When they could during the battle the drummer boys tried to help the injured and during his first battle Jory had seen sights that had curdled his stomach, he still woke up some nights the face of a Yeoman, his stomach cut open, staring at him begging for his wife before sliding into the darkness of death. Gorron was still there with him and on the days when they didn't have to march or fight he'd been teaching Jory how to use the sword his father had given him. Despite having become stronger he still wasn't comfortable wielding it and the heavy blade felt awkward in his hand however it was the best cared for blade in the Regiment, even Duke Kenver had commented on how it always had a wicked edge and shone brightly. 

Today they were marching, Duke Kenver had heard reports that the Kings army had been sighted near the River Carnon's mouth and was no doubt intending to cross. If he reached the bridge at Gwithian and somehow managed to cross he would be able to drive a wedge between the forces of Duke Kenver and Duke Cadwur who commanded a good section of the rebels artillery. As such Kenver had roused his men as soon as the sun's first rays of light had appeared and had his drummers tap out a swift rhythm. As they crested a small ridge Jory looked back down the road and could see a mass of the Green jacketed Yeoman stretched along the road. "No time to stop Jory" Duke Kenver said from his saddle, "Keep tapping them along" he urged and Jory dutifully raised a drum stick to his forehead in salute before resuming the flurry on his drum that worked its way into the mind of the marching soldiers and almost forced them to keep placing one muddy boot before the other. Gorron passed by and winked cheerfully at Jory, the mountain of a man always seemed happiest when either fighting or on the way to a fight, he always looked bored just sat around the camp fire on an evening waiting for something to happen. A pair of Yellow coated horseman appeared hurtling down the road towards them and the leading platoon of soldiers tensed momentarily expecting some kind of attack before easing as the pair raised a Dragon pennent on their lancers, men of Duke Cadwur. "What news?" Kenver asked them as they drew close. 

"Your Grace" The men nodded respectfully, "The KIng is a days march from the bridge at Gwithian, Duke Cadwur will be there by the time we've reached you and requests that you not assemble at the bridge, he wants you to wait here." While they had been speaking one of the men produced a map and pointed to an area of woodland close to the bridge. "My Lord hopes to draw the King's Army across the bridge as they'll believe they outnumber us, at that point you and you men should take them in the flank and with luck we can cut off a retreat." Kenver liked the idea, it would naturally count on the Yeoman reaching the woodland before nightfall and then waiting through the night with no campfires as to alert any scouts. 

"Tell Duke Cadwur my Yeoman will be there." Kenver said confidently and watched as the two men turned their horses and spurred away. "Jory, a nice up tempo marching song is needed." 

"Yes sir" Jory unslung his lute, gave it a quick test strum and then launched into a song usually used at weddings for dancing. It brought smiles to many of the passing men's faces no doubt reminding them of their happy day when they tied the knot with their true love. A few began to join in and soon the column was full of singing men their aching feet forgotten about as their pace matched the up tempo melody. Jory fell in alongside one of the Battalions and followed the men towards their rendezvous. 

They marched for around six hours, none stop a pace relentless. At one point Duke Kenver had slid from his saddle and put two of the younger drummer boys on his horse, Lowen was just ten years old and had been found in the aftermath of a raid on one of the villages in the area by the King. The boy had been huddled inside a cupboard in a cottage his mother hacked to pieces next to it, He was joined in the saddle by Kensa a boy of around 12 years of age but who was unsure exactly how old he was having been orphaned as a baby. He'd found his way into the Yeomanry having followed his adopted brother into the Regiment. The pair's feet were red raw inside their boots and despite their gritted teeth and best efforts they'd been slowly falling behind some of the men. Kenver lead the horse, his usually beautifully polished boots now splattered with mud as he hiked alongside his men. As they rounded the edge of an orchard the Duke could make out the bridge and there grouped around a rough looking camp were the men of Duke Cadwur, the small village of Gwithian about a kilometer behind them. With a river in front, a wood on one flank and open space on the other it was perhaps not a good idea to have a village behind you but Duke Cadwur was putting all his eggs into one basket that when push came to shove in the battle tomorrow Kenver and his men would be everybit as good as they'd been in other battles. 

The Quoit Yeomanry made their way round the back of the village and into the woods, "Not a single fire, not a pipe, not even a match is to be lit." Kenver instructed his men as they filed in to find positions in cover. "Rusnal you scoundrel if I catch that pipe in your toothless mouth I'll flog you raw." Kenver teased one of the men, a bearded farmer with only six teeth left but constantly a pipe clamped between them. Rusnal removed it and placed it under his cloth cap. "Good man" Kenver encouraged him knowing very well the man wouldn't have ignored the order even if the Duke hadn't had picked him out. "No lights" Kenver began repeating his orders as the next group passed by, "If I can hear any of you breathing your making too much sound" One of the men made a play of taking a deep breath and holding it so as to not gain the ire of his Duke. Kenver smiled back at him proud that even when being put through some hardship his men kept their sense of humour. 

All through the night the Yeoman hid themselves in the edge of the woods, no fire's were lit, men ate hard bread, cheese and a few slivers of salted beef. A few flasks of whiskey or ale were passed around but no one spoke, Jory didn't sing and the men shivered as the sun set and the fear of the Dark Spirits that wandered the woods crept into a few who twitched at the sounds of the night. At first light it was clear the King's Army were gathering ready to cross the bridge, they had spotted the yellow jackets of Duke Cadwur's men and many of the Quoit Yeomanry had their wake up call courtsey of a canon being let off by Cadwur's men. The canon ball bounced harmlessly wide of the King's men hurrying down the road as Cadwur's men made a play of hastily coming out of their tents. "Steady lads, check your guns but stay hidden" Kenver urged his men and saw many begin to pray sensing battle was coming soon. Kenver began trying to count the men but something seemed off, Cadwur was under strength and it would seem the King would easily out number him and while they wanted to have the King be over confident this was perhaps asking for trouble. Kenver considered sending someone on a looping run behind the village to find out what was going on but then he realised his mistake, Cadwur had clearly ordered some of his men to stay in the tents they'd camped in last night and only knowing how many men he'd had the night before did Kenver realise the rouse. A sound of a returning canon ball turned his attention back towards the bridge and just as the opening salvo had missed so did this one. There were exchanges of canon fire for a good 15 minutes until the King's army, their bright blue and white jackets,reached the bridge and with two groups either side its width a further unit began to cross, a hail of bullets plucking at some. "Hold your position." Kenver urged his men and watched as the groups of King's soldiers fired across the river felling several of Cadwur's men. As the blue jackets crossed the bridge they began to fan out from column to a line pinning their flanks on the river incase the handful of Cadwur's cavalry made the decision to try and flank them. The tell tale drifting smoke of battle was beginning to develop and stil Cadwur held his men in the exchange. As the second group of blue coats crossed they simply slotted in among the first joining their gun fire as they edged forward. 

"NOW!" Cadwur yelled and his men sprinted away from the river towards their camps, with perfect timing the men who had stayed in their tents rushed out and formed a firing line of their own. The King was now committed to battle, his army split by the river and facing an army bigger than initially thought. Clearly this didn't seem to phase the King who continued funnelling men across the bridge and once he had several units across he urged them forward to engage Cadwur's slowly forming defensive line. Kenver watched waiting for the right moment. He spotted the familiar grey horse of the King and the bright red plume of his brother Hedrek's hat. Hedrek was five years younger than the King and believed a Prince should not only be seen to be a soldier but should be seen as to be fashionable and his red plumed hat was something of a trademark. As the Prince spurred his horse forward to join the leading group Kenver knew now was the time. He didn't call on his men with a yell, he simply drew his sword and charged. 

"Oh Hell" Gonnor muttered watching Kenver break cover and charge in silence having caught his men by surprise his men where a few feet behind him, the sight of the Green coated duke, sword in hand being backed by his mass of men emerging from the woods was a pretty sight to Cadwur whose men seemed to stiffen with confidence that a moment ago was not there. Hedrek spotted the charging Yeoman too late and Kenver had hit the Prince's horse square in the mouth before he could withdraw his sword. The horse naturally buckled throwing the Prince from the saddle and with not a single hearbeat of hesitation Kenver cut the fallen Prince's throat before looking for the oncoming Blue Jackets of the King's Army. He braced to tackle a pair of men who had leveled their unloaded guns at him but a tidal wave of green jackets thundered past him. "For Quoit" they yelled as the battle become a close range one. While the King's men had superior equipment and training nothing could make up for the fierce mayhem the woodland folk of Quoit could unleash, Soon the Green and Blue jackets intermingled as each sought to end the others. "FOR CADWUR" a second yell thundered across the battle field as the yellow jackets joined the mass to cut down anything moving with a blue jacket. Jory and the other drummer boys had emerged from the woods moments after the initial charge and were already pulling injured Yeoman and their yellow jacketed comrades towards the woods where a barber surgeon and his apprentices waited to be about their own bloody work. Jory was struggling to drag a Sergeant whose chest and face had been slashed when a Blue jacketed man rushed towards him. Jory dropped the sergeant and for a moment considered just running like they'd been told to do by Duke Kenver but the man in blue didn't look that imposing. Jory began backing away and noticed the man hesitate and so Jory drew his father's sword. 

"Piss off" Jory hissed at the Blue Coat and watched him mutter some curse under his breath. He lunged with his bayonet tipped gun at Jory who found his arm seemed to act on its own and bring his sword up and deflect the blow. A second lunge and Jory this time just jumped back, he had made a mistake however and the Blue coat was now stood beside the injured sergeant whom he speared in the neck sending a thick red gush of blood across the green grass. The Blue coat thought he had enough time to finish off the Sergeant and then deal with the drummer boy but he hadn't counted on the cheap bayonet bending and catching in his victims neck. As he tugged trying to free the weapon Jory struck with a bellow that would have woken the sprites of the woods. He swung the curved sabre in a wide arc that bit into the skull of the Blue coat spliting it wide open, the man slumped onto the floor as Jory drew the sword back and watched as the man landed on his left side and then began to thrash about for a moment before going still. Jory stood motionless only realising now what he had done, had he committed an evil, would the Dark Spirits now come for him when he died, these thoughts raced through his mind and he stood unaware that the Rebels had ended the battle swiftly as the King had withdrawn across the bridge before having his men roll barrels of gunpowder onto its span and blowing them up. It didn't matter to the people of the Rebellion, they'd stopped the immediate threat to themselves and had time now to form their army into a larger number to face the King at some point in the future. Cadwur and Kenver shook bloody hands in the centre of the field over the corpse of the dead Prince.

"Where is Jory? Jory!" Duke Kenver began calling, as usual after a victory he expected a song and Jory was usually gleefully obliging but this time Jory just stood his eyes glazed over the blood of the dead Blue coat dripping off the tip of the sword. Kenver spotted him and headed over, "Not like you Jory to not be with a tune." He exclaimed loudly bringing laughter from the men before he spotted the boys demenaour. The Duke came to stand next to the boy, "First kill?" Kenver whispered to him and Jory silently nodded. Kenver looked at the man lifeless at Jory's feet, "It was well done and quick. You did what had to be done" The Duke took the sword from Jory's hand wiped the blood from it using his sash before placing it back in the drummer boys scabbard. "I remember my first. You always will. It never becomes easier and it never becomes normal. I suppose it shouldn't ever feel normal, what a horrid world that would be. Just remember this Jory. We fight on the side of Light, he fought for the side of Darkness, a sprite guided your arm and they guided it well. Give thanks for that. Today Jory you've become a man." The Duke shook his hand. "Yeoman of Quoit" The Duke raised his voice, "Today Drummer-boy Jory Hugus has killed his first enemy. He is now my Drum-Major, he is a man and he is a soldier. Now lets find some ale and the boys lute." There was a cheer, Jory was popular among the Yeoman and several came up and shook his hand or patted him on the back, the comradeship eased the queasy feeling that had been building up in his stomach a feeling that he suspected men didn't get. 

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Trulaw ,Vikarbyn  12th of December 1743

The winters of Vikarbyn could be harsh as bitter winds whipped in from the sea and the hills that were full of bracken and grass in summer were now white capped with the deep winter snow. It was not a time of year to fight a war and both sides knew it. Simply trying to march along the roads saw soldiers soon wading through a quagmire of mud and the carts carrying supplies became bogged down every few hundred meters and needed pulling out or pushing along. The Yeoman of Quoit had seen their Green jackets turned to a dark brown through their efforts to move to the frontier town of Trulaw, a small walled town that was hoped to be able to provide a nice winter quarters close to where the fighting would take place in the thaw of the spring. Duke Kenver had been keen to keep his men active believing that boredom was just as big an enemy as the King's men. The first week he'd been in Trulaw he'd had to hang two young Privates for forcing themselves on a young woman working in one of the towns less reputable drinking houses. It had set an example of what the Duke expected and since then he'd ensured that everyday the men found themselves busy with some patrolling the walls, others building extra defences around the town by digging trenches or some repaving the roads of the town. The locals had welcomed them, they'd no love for the King who had ridden into town last year and allowed his men to do as they wished meaning a lot of new born babies born to raped young girls now could be seen around town. The Mayor of the town at first had been cautious but the willingness of the Duke's men to muck in with his citizens and the financial boost they'd brought was enough to convince him this wouldn't be that bad. 

Jory Hugus was rather liking being in Trulaw, he had time to play his lute sat a top the walls watching the countryside and he found it rather relaxing. Today he had just finished his stint on watch, he was permitted to carry out some duties of the fighting men now and was beginning to take part in drills and thought come the new year he'd maybe make the jump from drummer boy to soldier but that would be for warmer times. Gonnor was on watch now but Jory sat on the steps leading to the top of the wall where the giant man was casting an eye out across the landscape below. A group of around 10 Yeoman were busy beneath digging a new defensive ditch and Jory could hear the occasional joke pass between Gonnor on the wall and those below. He was content though to sit by the stone chimenea they had to help those on the walls keep warm. Jory was happily playing away, some cheery folk songs of a young man going to ask the Pixies to help him get a young maiden to fall in love with him. It was a cheerful song and the lyrics contained a few jokes that he could hear Gonnor laugh along with a few of the others at. It was a rather long song as many of the Vikarbyn traditional songs tended to be and by the time he'd finished he'd slipped into his usual trance focusing on the music his eyes closed, a mental picture of the story playing out in his head as he sang. As he played the last note he was surprised to hear a chorus of applause and upon opening his eyes he discovered a group of towns folk had gathered at the foot of the steps to listen to his song. The young drummer boy nodded a thanks to them as he felt himself blush. The group who had been listening began to melt away, no doubt each had things they should have been doing but were happy of the distraction of the talented Jory and his song. One small part of the group though didn't leave, a group of four girls in their mid-teens, a similar age to Jory and now they grouped together chatting quietly in a tight knot before bursting into laughter together. Jory could see them look up at him and felt himself fidget awkwardly not sure whether he should say something or think of another song to sing. Before he could reach a decision three of the girls nudged one of their number forward. She was a fair haired girl with a white head scarf only showing a few strands of her golden hair. She was wearing a rather plain blue wool dress with a apron of sorts tied around her waist. She seemed about to turn away and run but instead her friends forced her forward as though at spear point while giggling. Soon she was at the foot of the steps but before she could take a step the voice of Gonnor came from over Jory's shoulder. "Sorry young Miss, you can't come up here. Not a safe place for a lass, walls are wet and last thing we want is you skidding over." He said rather gently for a man of his size. 

"Oh." The Girl and her friends seemed deflated. Gonnor had seen enough to know what was going on though and used his boot to nudge Jory. 

"Don't be a peasant all your life boy" He teased Jory, "Lass clearly has some manner of business on this wall, go and find out." Jory was completly oblivious to who women worked and so had no idea what Gonnor was up to. "Jump to lad, girls have better things to be doing than freezing to death out here." Jory did as he was ordered and placed his lute down carefully before carefully making his way down the steps which were rather treacherous underfoot thanks to the recent rain and now plummiting temperatures, as he reached the bottom one he felt his foot slide and had to catch the stone wall to keep from falling and immediately he felt the warmth of his cheeks turning red with embarassment. The girls giggled again, it seemed that was how they communicated as it was all they seemed to do. 

"Can I be of service Miss." Jory said awkwardly as he spoke to the girl who had been about to climb the steps. He saw her clearly now, a pair of bright blue eyes that seemed as deep as a woodland pool, her face was slim but pretty and she seemed to nervously look at the floor as Jory spoke to her. 

"I...we...." the girl stammered and looked to her friends for moral support but they had formed themselves into a tight knot and pretended to be talking but the constant glances betrayed the fact they were not. "We liked your singing very much."

"Thank you Miss." Jory said politely remembering how Duke Kenver had told them to be respectful to the townfolk. "I'm glad you enjoyed it. I like that song the best" Silence hung between the pair for a while before Jory could see Gonnor now paying more attention to the conversation below than keeping a watch out for an impending yet impossible attack, the King's men were well away from the town and beside the riding scouts the Duke had sent out would give warning long before those on the wall even had a sniff of the enemy. "What's your favourite song, perhaps I could play it for you?" He must have said something right as he saw Gonnor nod approvingly. 

"Erm...No." The girl stammered, "I didn't mean that." She wasn't exactly sure what she meant. "Maybe some other time." she added not wanting to sound rude. "The town is having a celebration tomorrow night for Elmok, she's a local Pixie that watches over us here. I wondered if you'd like to come." She looked back at her friends. 

"I...I...I'm on guard sorry Miss." He saw Gonnor roll his eyes, the lad hadn't at all. Several of the Yeoman were going as the Duke had press ganged them to going along to the ceremony and then permitted others to attend the party afterwards, on condition that any man attending be on parade at 8am the next morning and anyone smelling of booze or what the Duke had called "the odour of a town floozy"  would be docked a weeks wages, get ten lashes and guard duty for a month. Without Jory noticing the Duke had in fact been mid doing his rounds and had watched everything from the door to the guardroom near the foot of the steps and now intervened. 

"Ah, Jory, just the man I was looking for" he acted as though he hadn't heard anything of the exchange. "Some local celebration tomorrow. I said we'd bring some entertainment so you voulenteered. Perhaps when you've done singing you could escort the young lady here, although I suspect a young lady such as yourself will be paired already?" Jory simply glanced back and forth between his commander and Duke then to the girl. 

"Your Grace" the girl bowed, "I have no one to take me to the party Sir."

"That amazes me. Jory here will be delighted to ensure you get there and home safely. Miss?" he phrased the last part as though asking her name realising that it hadn't been mentioned at all during the exchange.  

 

"My name is Emblyn Your Grace, my father's the local blacksmith." she introduced herself. "I...I should be going, I'm meant to be bringing him some water." she pointed to the bucket resting beside her and went to pick it up but the Duke intercepted her. 

"Nonsense." he instead lifted it and handed it to Jory. "Jory here has finished for the time being and will need to know where to pick you up from tomorrow. I expect you back in ten minutes though Jory. I have a task for you." Jory took the bucket and turned as Emblyn and her friends began to walk away back on their errands. He followed her as she walked arm in arm with two of her friends who kept glancing back at him clearly talking about him. He wondered if he should try talking to her but thought it was ungentlemanly to interrupt the young girl. The blacksmiths wasn't too far and they soon reached it's large workshop door. 

"Thank you Jory" the girl said, her hand touching his momentarily on the buckets handle as she took it from him. "I'll meet you here tomorrow then." Jory agreed and waited for her to have a firm grip of the bucket before taking his own hand of it. "Bye then." she said as she entered her father's workshop, Jory stood for a moment or two not sure what he should do, go and speak to her, wait there or go home, but then remembered Kenver's orders and so shot off at a sprint. It didn't take him long to reach the point at the wall he'd meet Emblyn and the Duke's voice could still be heard in the guardroom. As he jogged up to the door he heard a cheer from above and saw Gonnor and three others above him. 

"Right you lot back to watching the fields." The Duke appeared from the guardroom and motioned for Jory to follow him. "This here is Mavis" he pointed to an old woman in the corner with a bucket and scrubbing board. "She's going to make sure your uniform is green and doesn't smell of shite." He explained, "Take it off and put this on" he threw a white tunic and trousers at Jory, "Meanwhile you are going to go to the river and make sure you take this" He tossed a bar of soap at the boy who struggled to keep it from falling to the stone floor. "There you will make sure you are not gree and don't smell of shite." The toothless old washer woman laughed heartily as Jory began to unbutton his jacket. "Just as I post a man to a position on the battlefield and I expect him to do his duty smartly, with dedication and skill I have now assigned you the mission of looking after lovely young Emblyn. I can't have you embrassing the Yeomanry so go and bathe, you smell like a goat." The Duke left and Jory as always did as he was ordered. 

 

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