I’m here to share myself on the web. To communicate with my family, friends and hopefully readers. I have stories from my life and stories from my imagination.  I believe I have some good stories to tell. Bear with me while I remember and conjure them.

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Strangers in town

A cold mist was falling. The wind blew just enough to give a body a chill. It had been like this the entire day. The tavern was filled with locals, each nursing a mug of mulled wine. The farmers had been out preparing the fields for planting. A group of them were sitting near the fireplace complaining about a late spring. Other groups of friends were discussing one bit of gossip or another. The room was full of the comforting buzz of their conversations until the door opened letting a bit of the cold and mist blow in.

At first glance, the stranger appeared to be a waif of a boy. But to one watchful set of eyes, she was recognized as a young woman of about 16 years. The rest of the patrons didn’t bother to look that closely and returned to their own concerns as soon as the door was once more firmly closed.

The man sitting alone at a table in the corner farthest from the door and to the right of the fireplace raised his mug to his lips and watched as the girl disguised as a boy walked across the tavern to the bar. Jacob was serving today.  His wife Mathilda was in the kitchen preparing a stew, probably rabbit.

“Boy, you’re soaked through,” Jacob observed. “Get by the fire and warm yourself. Henry, move out of the way of the lad. Let him warm himself. I’ll fetch thee a mug of hot tea. Just stand as close to the fire as you can.” He finished as he turned to enter the kitchen area and fetch that promised mug of tea.

She stood close to the fire warming herself unaware that she was being watched. The man in the corner had spent years learning to notice and not be noticed. She turned her back to the fire and steam began to rise from the soaked fabric when Jacob reappeared carrying the promised mug of tea and a bowl of stew.

“Come, lad,” He called. “eat.” He told her as he set the mug and bowl on the bar counter. She would have to eat standing all the tables being occupied.

“I have no coin.” She told him in a voice that convincedly cracked like a boy at that age.

“Never mind that,” Jacob told him. “There are dishes to wash or wood to chop. Eat.”

“I need to find the Gray Knight.” The boy told him.

“I’ve been told,” Jacob replied. “That the Gray Knight finds who he wants.”

Albert was sitting on the stairs to the upper level, just out of his father’s sight. He should be out on the floor helping with the guests, but he had a book of Arthurian tales. It fueled his dream of adventuring. He sat quietly and watched as his father attended to the boy.

His father’s first rule was to welcome a new guest as soon as possible. Quicker if they appeared in need.  The boy probably had no money, or very little. Albert had seen situations like this before. His parents would make sure the child was dry and fed before any worry for the needs of the tavern would be thought of.

He was drifting back to his daydream of adventure when he noticed a movement. The Count was looking at him. The Count’s left hand was below the tabletop and moved in a gesture that meant come here. As kind as the Count appeared Alfred knew better than to ignore this request, subtle as it might be. Reluctantly he stood. He placed his book in a space in the wall. He had hidden books there before. Then he descended the stairs. He bent over to hear the Count. He was speaking softer than usual.

“Tell your father that his guest needs to be warmed in the kitchen.” He almost whispered. “When you’ve done that. Walk back here with a pitcher of mulled wine. When strangers walk in set the pitcher down and volunteer to tend their horses. When you return from that if they allow it. Come get the pitcher and tell me what you saw.”

What a strange request Alfred thought. Strange it might be, but you never refused the Count’s request. No matter how quirky it might be.

“Father,” Alfred said as he drew near the bar.

“Where have you been boy? There’s work to do. Pick up the broom and sweep up that pile of dirt Henry walked in.” His father told him.

“Father,” Alfred interrupted. “The Count told me that your guest needs to dry in the kitchen. And to bring him a pitcher of mulled wine.”

“What?” Alfred’s father glanced up toward the Count. Alfred didn’t see what his father saw but whatever it was. He turned to the boy. “It will be warmer in the kitchen. Let me show you the way. Closer to the dishes that will need a washing when you’ve had your fill.” He scooped up the half-filled mug of mulled wine and walked toward the kitchen door. Leaving the boy to pick up the bowl of stew and follow him.

Soon Alfred’s father appeared with a full pitcher of mulled wine. No sooner had he handed it to Alfred than the door slammed open and the wind howled through. Two rough-looking men in hunters garb stood in the open doorway their eyes scanned the room. One was turning back to the outside when the other said “We best ask about a bit. They might have seen something.”

Alfred stared. How had the Count known these men were coming? “Alfred,” his father scolded. “Take that to the Count.” Remembering himself Alfred walked over to the Count filled his mug before sitting the pitcher down on his table. Then he walked over to the men standing in front of the now closed doors.

“Want me to tend your horses? ‘tis only a silver pfennig for two horses in the stable overnight. We give them a bit of grain as well.”

The men looked at each other. The taller one raised his eyebrow. In a gruff voice, the shorter man said, “Very well, Tend them.”

As Alfred started to open the door the taller man grabbed him by the arm and asked. “Has a young woman passed through here?”

“I’ve not seen any young women except villagers,” Alfred answered truthfully.

As he exited the door Alfred overheard the tall one say. “Suppose we stay the night here dry, Grego?” He didn’t hear the answer as he shut the door tight before running through the mist to the two horses tied to the rail in front of the tavern. He was in the stables then taking care of the horses. Saddles and tack off, hay and grain provided. He even rubbed them down with an old blanket.

The Count was at his table when Alfred returned. As he passed by the Count’s table on the way to his room to get dry clothing. He paused a moment. “Just two horses. I didn’t see any other man about.” The Count nodded his head at this. He and the lad in the kitchen were gone out the back door when Alfred returned to the tavern’s main room.

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Greyson and the bothersome little knight

It was a gray morning the sun was overcast. The clouds were rolling in. Grey thought the wind would blow him away on days it was like this. Grey was rather small for his age. 105 to be exact. He didn’t remember the date of his birth it was so long ago, and he was quite small at the time. Now he was larger and grown-up. His father had been larger. But Grey liked his size. Except on days like this. It was so windy that he hesitated to just fly away. His great longtail switched back and forth barely missing the trees that were behind.

The knight who was in front of him scowled at him. He expected a flame to explode from Grey’s mouth. But Grey preferred not to use his magic in that way. It always gave him indigestion.

Grey pondered the problem. What was he to do with this silly little man? He preferred not to eat him. Humans were disgusting in their taste and smell. What in the world would have brought this silly little man to bother him in such a rude way? He liked the sound, so he said it again to himself. “Silly little man.”

While Grey watched him, Andy wondered why he ever came to this forest. He supposed it was the substantial reward the King of Perry had offered. Andy had been in a neighboring principality chasing goblins when he heard about the reward.  

The sum of money was substantial. Ten times what he received for ridding the principality of the goblins. The hand of the king’s daughter was also a possibility. Andy thought she was somewhat pretty. Being the king’s son in law would have certain advantages.

She hadn’t seemed interested in him. She had been polite while they talked. No more than that. The reason for killing the dragon seemed a stretch. Something about sheep and the king’s deer.  Andy was troubled that the dragon lived across the river. Across the river was outside the domain of the King of Perry.

Looking at the size of this dragon now made Andy hesitate. The sword and lance he carried would require him to get close to it. Its tail was twitching back and forth. All the trees behind the dragon were knocked down. It appeared to Andy that if the dragon wanted to, he could send him sailing with one strike from that tail.

His crossbow would be his weapon of choice if he had a choice. He didn’t. It was tied to his horse. His horse had bolted the first time the dragon roared.

“What do you want silly little man?” The dragon spoke to Andy.

“I’m not silly. I am Sir Anderson of Benton.” Andy announced. He didn’t argue the ‘little’ compared to the dragon he was little.

“Humph,” Came from the dragon. “Well, I am Grey, son of Grey, Lord of this mountain. I hold the deed. This gravel pile is mine.”

“The king of Perry has sent me to dispatch you.” Andy declared. “He is tired of you eating his sheep and chasing his deer.”

“I don’t eat sheep! They smell and taste almost as bad as humans. And their wool catches between my teeth. Took me a month to clean my teeth last time I ate one. That has been over fifty years ago. That was before the kingdom of Perry existed Sir Andy.” With that, the dragon glared at Andy.

Even with the wind blowing across the top of the trees the sunny spot Andy stood in was hot. He needed to complete his task before long. Else he would die of thirst. If he ran up to the dragon, he might get a lucky blow and slay it quickly. The problem was that the dragon was halfway up the hill. With the weight of his armor and how steep the hill was, he could not run fast enough to surprise the beast. Andy wished that his canteen of water had not been tied to his horse.

Grey was getting thirsty. He had a fresh batch of root beer in the cave. The problem was that the cave was down the hill and to the left of that silly knight. A thought occurred to him.

The dragon spoke. “I make my own root beer.”

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Author, Whos is this guy?

As I prepare to publish my first novel on Amazon the question, “who is the Author comes into play.” This is one version.

Stories have been a part of my life forever. I have heard them, read them, and told them as long as I can remember. I’ve written hundreds of stories. Bits and pieces of stories. This is my first novel. It is the result of a story that refused to die. It kept unreeling in my mind. After a year of this haunting, I had no choice but to write it. What started as a simple damsel in distress story changed once I met the damsel. As I wrote this set of stories the world I imagined grew. After rewrites, revisions, and letting it bake. I’ve discovered more. More of the politics of the region. More relationships between people. Now as I begin a sequel to this first book, I’m finding more complexity than I ever imagined and more loose strings that need to be explored.

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Virkiflyot.

Coming over a small rise in the road Catherine and Ceri caught their first sight of Virkiflyot. Before them was a hodgepodge of buildings. The varying styles reflecting how long the ancient fortress had stood. If you looked closely as you approached it from the west, you could make out portions of the original fortress peeking through.

The entry into the college grounds proper was through the original gates. The narrow archer slits on both sides and a murder hole above still guarded the way in, despite the fact that the complex of buildings making up the college had not been used as a fortress for over a hundred years.

Along the road leading to the college a small village of merchants had grown. Food stalls and farmer stands with their produce were scattered about. The more substantial buildings were a constable’s office, two inns and three pubs. The pubs were placed as close to the college as was allowed. Most days you could see students traveling between their favorite pub and the college. The traffic was enough that foot paths had been worn between the various entries and exits of the college and the pubs.

I don’t know if this will find it’s way into the next book in the series. But I thought I would share it.

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It has been a long time since I posted. Try this

She woke out of a drug-induced haze. How many days, weeks, had disappeared?

At first, during the few hours, her mind approached clarity she had hoped for rescue. But now that her healing gifts had cleared her mind, she knew. She knew no rescue was coming. No one in her home village of Boar Akarn would have been foolish enough to attempt a rescue from the giant beasts who had dragged her from her home. In the backwoods of Alfheim, they were known as yetann.

These were not the reclusive mountain yetann. No, they were the lyion yetann that populated the horror stories from the past. Now she saw just how terrible they were. They stood almost 10 feet tall. Their paws held wicked claws that were as large as daggers. Would even the king’s scouts, if they had known of her plight, attempt a rescue?

How would she battle for her freedom? She had no hope for help. How would she fight with only her healing gifts and the training she had received? She began to plot how best to die battling enemies she never knew she had.

Then an impossible mix of mythical creatures and scouts in training appeared. Hope once more blossomed in her heart.

And in a world long abandoned by its gods the legendary Dryad and Greenman help introduce the world once more to powers lost long ago.

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Biruce the pockmarked

A naked corpse slowly shuffled into view. In the dim light cast by the slit window above them it was hideous. Pockmarks covered its entire body. The little unmarked skin it had was gray. Pieces of skin and flesh hung scattered across its body.  Once it might have been a man. Alfred couldn’t be sure. The creature paused at the edge of the light. Its eyes slowly drifted up and down examining him then its gaze moved to Edel. What might have been a smile, exposed sharpened canines.

“Innocents” came the whisper.

Focused on Edel it took a step toward her. She shuddered, there was nowhere to flee.

“We will have such fun. You and I” It spoke to Edel. “Been ages since I’ve had an innocent. And now there are two.” With a turn of its head in looked at Alfred.

“I am Biruce, who did not die.” He paused and green saliva drooled through a tear in his lower lip. “Let me turn you, girl. Share your body with me. Stay fair forever. I know the secret.”

The creature leered at Edel and took a step closer to her. Alfred swung the torch between them. It stepped back.

He glared at Alfred. Then spoke to Edel. “Help me take his innocence. The pleasure is unimaginable.” Alfred poked at it with his torch. Biruce’ s right hand reached through the flame. The smell of his burning flesh made Alfred almost retch. With a jerk the monster pulled the torch from Alfred and threw it behind him. When it hit the damp floor it went out.

A blow from its left hand sent Alfred flying across the small room. He hit the wall and slumped to the floor.

Edel had her sword drawn when the creature’s attention once more turned to her.  As he approached, she stabbed at him.

“I was damaged when I took the cure. The cure does not remove damage.” It whispered. “You will be a young pretty forever. Pity your hair won’t grow out. I always liked long blond hair.”

Edel stabbed at him. Its hand closed over hers. A smirk played across its face. “The sword appears to have a silver coating. I’ve proof against such” Then slowly it pulled Edel and her sword closer. The sword pierced its chest. Edel struggled to free her hand from it. Panic crossed Edel’s face as the creature’s free hand played up her chest. It tugged at the top of her blouse. Trying to loosen it. The first button pulled free and then the second and third exposing a hint of her bosom. It towered over her. A string of saliva hung from its mouth.  She struck it then with her left hand. It released her hand and as she fell back her blouse tore open. She landed on her rump with only her chemise covering her.

“It would be easier if you cooperate” came the whisper. “I’ll have my way regardless.”

Alfred’s head hurt. His eyes didn’t want to focus. When they did there was Edel on the floor her blouse open exposing her to the creature. He roused himself. His blade lay next to him, so he picked it up.  He touched the back of his head where it ached. Blood covered his hand when he looked at it. He stood slowly afraid he would faint. He took a stance. Where the knowledge of its form came from, he didn’t know but he knew this was the one to use. Three quick steps and a thrust which he leaned into. His blade slid between the creature’s ribs and though where its heart should be. If it had one.

Edel watched as a sword came out the front of the creature’s chest. A confused look passed over its face. Then rage lit its eyes and it turned on Alfred.

His sword was torn from his hand. The thing turned on him. He back stepped until his back was against the wall.

“You spoil my pleasure, child. I was going to let you watch our tryst. I’ll take your innocence first then.” What passed for the creature’s face was just inches from Alfred’s face. The stench of death was carried by its breath. “And only your dead eyes will watch what I do with the girl.”

The blade of the sword was still lodged in its chest. As the creature leaned on Alfred it cut through the fabric of his shirt and drew Alfred’s blood. The creature’s slimy tongue licked his neck, ran up his chin, over his mouth and nose. A hand pinched his buttock.

Edel watched horrified as the thing assaulted Alfred. She could see Alfred’s blood drip to the floor. their swords hadn’t harmed the thing. What could she do? She had to do something. Alfred’s and her life depended on her doing something. Then she remembered they each carried a wooden stake that had been soaked in holy water. Her hand found it still in its sheath.  She pulled it out.  Such a short piece of wood. Not a very sharp point.

She ran and plunged the foot-long stake into the creatures back.

Suddenly the creature moved closer pushing the sword point deeper into Alfred’s chest. The creature pulled away from him and quickly turned. The blade point cut across Alfred’s chest. He screamed and once more slid to the floor. As he watched the creature reach for Edel. It turned and looked at him. Its head cocked. It judged Alfred’s bleeding form no threat because it turned to advanced up on Edel.   

Alfred saw that a wooden stake now protruded from its back. The handle of his sword was there as well. It hurt to move. But what the creature planned for them was too much.

Alfred with a grimace stood. Reached for his blade and with a jerk pulled. The creature screeched and went to its knees.

“Cursed innocent blood” wheezed from it.

His blood caused it pain! Alfred rubbed his blade across where he was bleeding. Gasping at the pain. He plunged his blade in again. The creature once more screeched. Alfred pulled the blade free once more. Then he stepped around and swung his blade down toward the neck of the thing. If he cut its head off maybe that would stop it.

As Alfred’s blade began to cut the creature’s neck his left foot was grabbed and pulled out from under him. The blade clattered to the floor. It had cut its neck but not severed it.

“You’re too much trouble,” it wheezed. Its hand closed on Alfred’s neck. Alfred grabbed with both hands and tried to pull it away from his throat. But its grip tightened.  Alfred couldn’t breathe.

He saw Edel standing behind it a sword raised above her head. Then its fingers loosened a bit as its head bounced off his chest and onto the floor. Edel kicked the headless body away from Alfred. Its fingers left marks on his neck as the hand pulled free. The head lying beside him blinked its eyes and its mouth moved. With another kick, Edel sent the head down into the dark hall.

Four hours later the Count and his remaining men found them huddled together still weeping.

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Gerhart watches

Alfred noticed that they were being watched as he and Edel practiced with their wastes and bucklers. This was Monday of the third week. Most of the time that Colin wasn’t yelling at them he was just shaking his head.

A few times he had matched them with some of the guard. Alfred was sure he was showing improvement. He was sure that with the sword he was much better than Edel. It was true that Edel was better at archery than he was. Edel had picked up archery much faster than Alfred had expected. Neither of them could hit the center of the target consistently. Most of their arrows were at least hitting the target. Edel had hit the bull’s eye once. Alfred had wanted to bust Edel’s lip just to wipe away that grin.

Edel was so irritating. He ate like a girl. Even used a napkin without being told too. They had lessons in the evening that Gertie gave on table manners. What a bore.

Well, he supposed he should know how to behave in front of nobles if he was traveling with the count. Now that would be exciting. Sitting at the table in some grand castle. Edel fell into it like it had been second nature to the waif. Alfred still had to watch Gertie so he could choose the right fork.

Well, he figured combat would be the key decider of who would become the Count’s page. And Gerhart would be the one to impress.

While Alfred was distracted with those thoughts, Edel pressed him and landed a hit. Alfred’s anger flared. He was tired of the gentle back and forth that Colin insisted on. “Well, I bet this will impress Gerhart.” Alfred thought when he began to rapidly beat against Edel’s buckler. He flailed on him. Beating away his waste. Edel retreated under the wild assault. One score, two, three. And a blow to the side of Edel’s head brought him down.

“Hold! Alfred hold!” Colin shouted. He grabbed Alfred’s arm and kicked his leg out from under him. Alfred landed on his rear as Colin towered over him. “What kind of fool are you?” He heard Colin shout as his blazing eyes on him. “This is your companion in arms!” He said as he turned to Edel to assess the damage done.

Colin offered Edel his hand to help him rise. He brushed Colin’s hand aside, grabbed his waste. He wobbled as he stood. Then he threw off his helm. “I stumbled. He barely touched me.” Gerhart touched Colin’s arm before he could intervene between the two. “Let us watch a bit. Most intent I’ve seen from Edel.”

Edel advanced toward Alfred. His voice intense he said. “Defend yourself boy!” He slashed at Alfred so violently that Alfred stepped back and avoided the blow. “You ill-mannered lout. You self-absorbed idiot.” Edel attacked him with his words and waste.

Alfred rallied and began to advance. But stopped as Edel’s waste pounded against his buckler. Waste met waste. They cracked as if they might break.

“you stupid boy!” Edel shouted. I try to talk, and you turn your ugly nose up. We share lessons and you act like I’m not there.”

Edel’s’ waste once more slammed into Alfred’s sliding down and slamming into the guard which wretched it out of Alfred’s hand. It flew behind him. He raised his buckler in defense. The blows stopped. Glaring at him, Edel said. “Well, pick that blasted thing up and defend yourself, boy!”

Alfred wasn’t sure he wanted too. But Edel looked far from finished. So, he turned and bent to pick up his waste. Only to receive a kick in his rear, that sent him tumbling.

“How dare you turn your back to me! Boy” Roared behind him. Edel threw down his waste as stormed off to the manor. Alfred was too stunned to notice the tears streaming down his opponent’s face.

Henry had a smirk on his face until Colin Said. “Henry, show Alfred how to defend against such attacks.

So, Alfred, feeling mistreated, spent another hour in combat practice. While Edel disappeared.

Edel was absent from lunch. Alfred spent the early afternoon in siege class. Which meant arithmetic lessons. Being the only student, he was expected to figure all the answers. He had never expected to miss all the interruptions that Edel’s questions caused. Before this, he had resented how those questions extended the class time. Now he realized just how much they kept them from more problems to solve.

Being Monday Alfred expected accounting class next. Another hour of torture by numbers. His mother did the accounting, such as it was, for the tavern. The lessons on managing the counts traveling purse appeared much more complex.

He was surprised when he walked into old Simon the Count’s steward’s office to find Colin and Gerhart inside. Not a sign of old Simon. They stood so he stood. Gerhart whispered something to Colin, Colin only looked at Alfred. Alfred shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He wasn’t sure what to expect. Was he going to be dismissed?

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Strangers in town

A cold mist was falling. The wind blew just enough to give a body a chill. It had been like this the entire day. The tavern was filled with locals, each nursing a mug of mulled wine. The farmers had been out preparing the fields for planting. A group of them were sitting near the fireplace complaining about a late spring. Other groups of friends were discussing one bit of gossip or another. The room was full of the comforting buzz of their conversations until the door opened letting a bit of the cold and mist blow in.

At first glance, the stranger appeared to be a waif of a boy. But to one watchful set of eyes, she was recognized as a young woman of about 16 years. The rest of the patrons didn’t bother to look that closely and returned to their own concerns as soon as the door was once more firmly closed.

The man sitting alone at a table in the corner farthest from the door and to the right of the fireplace raised his mug to his lips and watched as the girl disguised as a boy walked across the tavern to the bar. Jacob was serving today.  His wife Mathilda was in the kitchen preparing a stew, probably rabbit.

“Boy, you’re soaked through,” Jacob observed. “Get by the fire and warm yourself. Henry, move out of the way of the lad. Let him warm himself. I’ll fetch thee a mug of hot tea. Just stand as close to the fire as you can.” He finished as he turned to enter the kitchen area and fetch that promised mug of tea.

She stood close to the fire warming herself unaware that she was being watched. The man in the corner had spent years learning to notice and not be noticed. She turned her back to the fire and steam began to rise from the soaked fabric when Jacob reappeared carrying the promised mug of tea and a bowl of stew.

“Come, lad,” He called. “eat.” He told her as he set the mug and bowl on the bar counter. She would have to eat standing all the tables being occupied.

“I have no coin.” She told him in a voice that convincedly cracked like a boy at that age.

“Never mind that,” Jacob told him. “There are dishes to wash or wood to chop. Eat.”

“I need to find the Gray Knight.” The boy told him.

“I’ve been told,” Jacob replied. “That the Gray Knight finds who he wants.”

Albert was sitting on the stairs to the upper level, just out of his father’s sight. He should be out on the floor helping with the guests, but he had a book of Arthurian tales. It fueled his dream of adventuring. He sat quietly and watched as his father attended to the boy.

His father’s first rule was to welcome a new guest as soon as possible. Quicker if they appeared in need.  The boy probably had no money, or very little. Albert had seen situations like this before. His parents would make sure the child was dry and fed before any worry for the needs of the tavern would be thought of.

He was drifting back to his daydream of adventure when he noticed a movement. The Count was looking at him. The Count’s left hand was below the tabletop and moved in a gesture that meant come here. As kind as the Count appeared Alfred knew better than to ignore this request, subtle as it might be. Reluctantly he stood. He placed his book in a space in the wall. He had hidden books there before. Then he descended the stairs. He bent over to hear the Count. He was speaking softer than usual.

“Tell your father that his guest needs to be warmed in the kitchen.” He almost whispered. “When you’ve done that. Walk back here with a pitcher of mulled wine. When strangers walk in set the pitcher down and volunteer to tend their horses. When you return from that if they allow it. Come get the pitcher and tell me what you saw.”

What a strange request Alfred thought. Strange it might be, but you never refused the Count’s request. No matter how quirky it might be.

“Father,” Alfred said as he drew near the bar.

“Where have you been boy? There’s work to do. Pick up the broom and sweep up that pile of dirt Henry walked in.” His father told him.

“Father,” Alfred interrupted. “The Count told me that your guest needs to dry in the kitchen. And to bring him a pitcher of mulled wine.”

“What?” Alfred’s father glanced up toward the Count. Alfred didn’t see what his father saw but whatever it was. He turned to the boy. “It will be warmer in the kitchen. Let me show you the way. Closer to the dishes that will need a washing when you’ve had your fill.” He scooped up the half-filled mug of mulled wine and walked toward the kitchen door. Leaving the boy to pick up the bowl of stew and follow him.

Soon Alfred’s father appeared with a full pitcher of mulled wine. No sooner had he handed it to Alfred than the door slammed open and the wind howled through. Two rough-looking men in hunters garb stood in the open doorway their eyes scanned the room. One was turning back to the outside when the other said “We best ask about a bit. They might have seen something.”

Alfred stared. How had the Count known these men were coming? “Alfred,” his father scolded. “Take that to the Count.” Remembering himself Alfred walked over to the Count filled his mug before sitting the pitcher down on his table. Then he walked over to the men standing in front of the now closed doors.

“Want me to tend your horses? ‘tis only a silver pfennig for two horses in the stable overnight. We give them a bit of grain as well.”

The men looked at each other. The taller one raised his eyebrow. In a gruff voice, the shorter man said, “Very well, Tend them.”

As Alfred started to open the door the taller man grabbed him by the arm and asked. “Has a young woman passed through here?”

“I’ve not seen any young women except villagers,” Alfred answered truthfully.

As he exited the door Alfred overheard the tall one say. “Suppose we stay the night here dry, Grego?” He didn’t hear the answer as he shut the door tight before running through the mist to the two horses tied to the rail in front of the tavern. He was in the stables then taking care of the horses. Saddles and tack off, hay and grain provided. He even rubbed them down with an old blanket.

The Count was at his table when Alfred returned. As he passed by the Count’s table on the way to his room to get dry clothing. He paused a moment. “Just two horses. I didn’t see any other man about.” The Count nodded his head at this. He and the lad in the kitchen were gone out the back door when Alfred returned to the tavern’s main room.

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Sparring partner

Alfred was in a miserable mood. No sooner than he had finished his chores and was ready to begin the new book he had found in the church. Apparently, the priest, Father Fitzpatrick also enjoyed adventure tales. The thick volume Alfred had borrowed from the bookshelves of the church was a collection of Arthurian tales. His plans to disappear into a hidden space in the hay above the stables reading and dreaming of adventure was spoiled.

The count had requested him for a sparring partner with the boy that had appeared a few days ago. Why one of the older boys wasn’t selected Alfred couldn’t fathom. Samuel, Fritz, Duncan, Harold, and Clyde were well along in their training. The Count insisted that everyone over sixteen be trained in arms. They trained until they met the standards that he expected for the local guard. Alfred had at least two more years before he had to begin the task. It was so unfair. He heard his mother’s voice in the back of his mind, “Alfred take off that pouty face. It makes people think we spoil you.”

He put on his bland bored face as he approached the gates of the castle. The portcullis was down. This didn’t surprise him. he had never seen it open. He wondered if perhaps it couldn’t be opened. Simeon was at the iron gate the provided entry into the castle. Why was he behind the gate? Alfred didn’t remember ever seeing that gate closed. Most times he had been sent on an errand to the castle there wasn’t even a guard. He tried not to let a spark of interest show on his face. Though now he was a bit curious about what was going on here.

“Bout time you got here,” Simeon growled at him. “I’ve had to stand here for the last hour. My feet are tired.” He swung the gate out. “Get in and go to the house. I can lock this here, then sit in the warmth then”

Alfred walked thought the long tunnel through the wall of the castle. By the light of the scattered torches, he could make out the kill slots above his head. He was told in times of war invaders could be assaulted with arrows and boiling oil. As far as Alfred knew there hadn’t been a battle near here since his grandfather’s time. When he mentioned adventure and battles to this father, all he got was a gruff reply about wishing that peace would reign in the village till Alfred was a grandfather or more.  

Visions of noble knights and damsels in distress danced thorough his head. He could picture himself defeating the wicked wizard who held the damsel captive.  What he would do with her afterward he wasn’t quite sure. A kiss perhaps? The older boys hinted that there might be more. But they were as embarrassed as he when the subject came up. Which it never did when an adult was near. And they were almost always an adult nearby.

There had been two weddings the last year and the bawdy songs that had been sung that night…

“Alfred, what are you doing wandering about?” Gertie interrupted his thoughts. The count is waiting in the manor. “Best be on your way. He’s growing impatient. He’s got things to do.” She glared at him as only she could

He managed to get out “yes, um.” Then he rushed across the courtyard to what they called the manor. It had once been the castle’s chapel. Now it was where the Count lived. The area around the courtyard was the only area used now. The grand keep was a shamble of ruins. The only part of its walls in repair was what faced the courtyard. The guards were housed in what once had been the stables.  The moat had been filled in long ago. The kitchen and servant’s quarters now sat against part of the wall it had protected. The sables had been moved out to a walled yard the riders practiced on. The horses inside the walls the riders and their families lived in a scattering of houses nearby.  Of course, none of this crossed Alfred’s mind as the Count himself opened the manor door. Waving him in as it began once more to rain.

Alfred mumbled an apology for being late. “Nonsense,” the Count’s voice boomed. “You are just in time for the instruction to begin.  You know Gerhart, don’t you?”

He nodded his head in assent. He knew the wizen old man. He seldom came into the tavern. He wasn’t sociable at all when he was there. But he did know who he was.

Gerhart was standing next to Colin the man who was responsible for training the local guard.

“I’ve arranged with your father for you to stay here at the manor until I return from some errands I need to run.” The count told him.

“This is Edel.” He said as he walked Alfred over to where a lad about Alfred’s age stood. “You’ll be training with him. I expect you both to become proficient in the bow and sword. That’s Colin’s assignment. Then when Gerhart deems you ready, he’ll give you some lessons in close combat. He’s rather surprising in that you’ll see.”

Edel was a bit effeminate Alfred thought. He would have to be careful not to hurt the child. Why he didn’t even have a hint of a beard. Alfred would have had a nice start on one if his mother had allowed it.

 “I may need a page soon. That would mean some travel, Alfred.”  The Count drew Alfred’s attention back to the matter at hand. “Do well in the training and you may be the one.”

Alfred’s mind attached to the promise of travel. Yes, this was it his chance to leave this boring village and see the world. Oh, he would do well. Edel didn’t have a chance at becoming the count’s page. Not a chance.

“I’ve off early tomorrow morning.” The Count finished. “Catherine show Alfred where he will sleep. Your training begins in the morning.” The count dismissed them and walked away toward his quarters without another glance toward them.

Catherine directed him up the stairs and the second door on the left.  That’s where Alfred read of Arthur until the candle was burnt nearly out. He fell asleep and dreamed of knights, dragons and damsels.

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Roast Boar

Outside the tavern, it was a chill drippy night. It wasn’t much this tavern. Situated as it was in a backwater village overshadowed by a castle that may have once been important. Whatever trade route it had been built to protect had long ago shifted leaving it to sit alone.

A fire burned in the central fireplace. The guest on one side, the kitchen on the other. A young man in an apron was carrying tankards of mulled wine or platers of food between the tables. He was the inn keeper’s son. He preferred this to mucking out the stables a job assigned to Tom the son of the widow Hazel. Albert had once desired to adventure. He had once journeyed away from the village. He had traveled with the squire on an errand. It had been a relief to return to the quiet village. It was soon after that he had decided to court Rebecca. What he made working for his father wasn’t much, but it was steady. In time he would inherit the old place and raise his children in it as he had been by his parents. His mother was baking bread today. The whole place was filled with the aroma.

Bread baking day was one reason so many were gathered here today. That and the boar roasting on the split. Haskell the forester had brought it in yesterday. It had been raiding the village gardens, such as they were. They had lost half the potato harvest to him and his clan. Well no more. Potato fattened he would be the feast. Two other dismembered hogs hung in the various smoke houses in the village.

Rebecca was sitting with her family. When he glanced her way. She blushed and turned her eyes down. Albert forgot the pig then. He had made plans to meet her later, after the feast. Hopefully, they could sneak up to his room afterward.

Four of the castle’s guardsmen occupied a table. The fat one, Henry, was waving his mug trying to catch Albert’s eye. They needed more drink. Albert thought they had had more than their share. But who was he to deny them another round of mulled wine? They were off duty and paying customers. After he had eaten his fill and drank another few rounds of wine Henry would probably fall asleep where he sat.

It would be another half hour before they began to serve the boar. It would be another hour before the first of the fresh bread would begin to appear. For now, last week’s bread and some of farmer Brown’s cheese would have to do. Albert hardly had time to contemplate his rendezvous with Rebecca he was so busy.

Albert was pouring Henry another drink when the front door opened letting a chill spread across the room. A lad, about twelve, maybe a little older, pulled the door shut behind him. His hair plastered to his skull and his clothing was soaked through. He shivered from the cold.

A shudder ran through Albert as he finished filling Henry’s mug. He sat the pitcher down in the middle of the guard’s table, He knew it would be empty by the time he sought to retrieve it. Five years ago rattled through Albert. Albert knew that this boy was Tom coming in to warm himself after attending to the stables. Yet this brought back memories of what occurred five years ago and the start of the adventure that now haunted his memories.

Albert walked over to him. “Give me your cloak. I’ll find a place for it to dry.” He held out his hand and waited. Tom hesitated then shrugged his shoulders and slipped out of his cloak handing it to Albert. What was under the cloak was soaked as well. “Come by the fire. I’ll find a warm drink for you.”

He grabbed the empty pitcher off the guard’s table and headed for the kettle of mulled wine intending to grab a mug for Tom.  He saw the squire sitting at his table just like he had been five years ago. He almost dropped what he held the images were so clear.

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