I found this draft recently. I had forgotten that I had even written it, but if the continuity was to remain, this is the style that the Trials would take. Technically this is a rough draft of Trials I from a few years ago. I've pulled the title, it's more of a bridge piece as it does imply a timeline, but never fully reveals when exactly this moment should take place.
“Let me tell you a tale, of the man who would be King.” the bard sang out.
The last of the patrons settled down into their seats. Tankards of ale found their homes on potbellies, tables, and bar tops; their owners’ attention shifting to the man who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.
“I know my friends that these are frightening times. The last of the dead have still to be collected from the streets, the word has not reached many as to whether their loved ones are alive. I assure you that we, you good folks and I, need nothing less then tales of heroes and magic. I am here to regale you with one such tale. Many of you know of whom I speak. A few, may know this person by name and most should know him by reputation. But my tale begins two decades and ten years ago.
He was born to a commoner’s family. His father, an honest merchant was once a feared man-at-arms. Hired by the best and richest, to protect their interests and goods, his father’s only dream was to have a son to pass on his legacy. Soon after a harsh winter, his dream was fulfilled. The babe soon grew into a strong young man. Schooled from an early age in the martial arts, he became a gifted wrestler, besting men much greater in size. To balance his physical training, he spent many summers with his elder cousin, a young mage’s apprentice. These two were, at times, closer then bothers.
Their fellows, a small group of six were destined by fate to become great. These six young men, played as kings, knights, rogues, and wizards. They also adventured into the woods, onto the lakes, and deep into caves; living life to the fullest. Four summers passed and the eldest, the mage’s apprentice left to study and compile his wizard’s book. His younger cousin, our hero, left he next summer for the war college taking the noble’s son with him to study with him at the Weapons School. Two more of the group left that winter to make their way in the world, one as a member of the town watch, the other to study the ways of civil service. The youngest member of the group left years later...and just wandered.” The storyteller paused, took a sip of ale, adjusted his traveling cloak and began again.
“Our young fighter became skilled in many things. He studied the long sword, the great bow, chivalry, horsemanship, combat tactics, and logistics. He excelled in his studies and was prepared to be an excellent lieutenant in the army. On the Day of Blessing, he sat in chapel preparing his weapons to receive words of faith. The Bishop approached, placed his hand upon the sword hilt and whispered ‘A great and noble king you will make, but faith is needed to fill the emptiness within you.’ These words, they could have been a mighty warhammer, with all the power they struck him with. He left the college the next day and began a pilgrimage home. He took nothing with him except a long sword, his field pack, and a holy symbol. Months later, when he made it home, he was a changed man. Anyone who might have known him would not have recognized him. Not knowing what to do for money, he petitioned to become a minor librarian, under an assumed name, at the Unseen Library, a safe harbor in the Black Baron’s realm.”
Ohs and ahs emanated from the crowd at the mention of the mythical stronghold.
“Thar ain’t no such place, just fairy tales for young folk.” barked a drunken roadwarden.
Pulling a whisper thin key from an inner fold the bard responded, “While I for one love a good fairy tale. Especially, when I am the one being paid to spin the yarn; this key does in fact open the door of which I speak. I have, many times, read at the foot of a stack of ancient texts. And I assure you that the Library does exist and is very well hidden from casual observation.” Without moving, the key vanished from his hand.
“The Keeper of the Unseen Library was the youngest ever to be appointed to that post. You’ll remember him from earlier in my tale, it was none other then the young mage’s apprentice, now entitled as the Ar’ D. Jazan. The Ars, as practice, would make rounds among the new librarians. He found it useful to meet them in person; so he could get a sense of them and their ambitions. He was very protective of his charge, the Library, and felt it was his duty to weed out those librarians who were selfish in their designs. It was Midweek, when the Ars brushed past a new librarian. Energy arced, like raw power unleashed. The Ars stepped back and asked the librarian to remove his hood.
‘I’m sorry, mi ‘lord, that’s not possible’ was the reply. Not used to having his requests rebuked the Ars put words of command to use.
‘Remove your hood and show me your face.’ boomed in the corridor.
As the hood fell, the librarian ‘I’m sorry cousin, I’ve taken refuge here, please do not be upset.’ Shocked, D. Jazan took stock of the young man.
‘Dear cousin, I have missed you these past years, stay as long as you need. My house is yours; my discretion is at your disposal. But James what do you plan to do?’
The cosseted warrior replied, ‘Study. One thing I took to heart was to study. My strengths are known to me, but I do not know my own flaws. Nor do I understand all of the consequences of my designs. I must ask that our relationship remain concealed. In my travels I have assume the name of an outrider who was slain saving my life. I carry his name to honor him.’
The Ars paused for a moment pondering then asked, ‘Well then, as I see that you are new here, my name is Ar’ D. Jazan, I am the Keeper here. By what shall I address you?’
‘Tintar the cloistered, mi ‘lord. Pleased to make your acquaintance.’ He said as he raised his hood and took leave of the Ars.”
“Mule piss!” spat a guardsman from the back of the room. “The Supreme Commander twas never a dust rat in a make believe library. He twas born fully grown, dressed for battle, swinging a horseman’s pike at the bitch midwife’s head. I served with him in twenty campaigns and I heresay he never did women’s work.”
“And ten thousand women he has bedded, or so you’ve heard. There is much about the Commander that has been misled. You, my good fellow, before you stumble home tonight, I want you to think on these words. ‘No fight is worthy without honor, no honor is worthy without faith.’”
“You bloody bastard! Anyone who’s done served on the front knows that rally cry. Twas but two winters ago, Sir Augustus done screamed it in me bloody ear. Bitch charge that battle was. Lost me my two elder brothers. Would have lost more twas not for them Cristos’ Machines. Never seen a blooming thing like the fire they spit. Like nasty iron dragons they was. All pissin’ oils and farting smoke, enough to make you sick it was.”
Setting down his pint, the story weaver leaned forward on his stool. “Well fought you are, my good sir. I did not speak to insult you, ney, only to remind to keep the faith. You say you served with the Scorched Iron Brigade? I will get to them later in my tale.” Putting his feet back up on the lowest rung of the stool, the bard continued. “Where was I? But of course. A year or so after his return to Gothex. Tintar, as he was now calling himself, was tasked to discover a rare coronation ceremony. A noble had returned to claim a title. He had a family duchy in Gothex and could trace his lineage back several generations. The duke felt that a public spectacle would not only secure his title as king, but would rebuff Baron Saing’s attempts to assassinate him. During the ceremony, Tintar secreted himself in an alcove and cheered on his long time friend, now King Decker.”
“Sorry sir,” piped up a serving wench from the bar, “do you mean to say that Commander Tintar once knew the King?”
“I do indeed. They were good friends in their youth. King Decker once kept the company of five good friends. As a young Duke, he traveled with Tintar to College. They fenced, jousted, and hunted together. The two of them were a fearsome pair in mock combat, but as time passed their paths diverged. Tintar continued his studies in Martial Law and Decker went on to study some of the fairer arts, such as policy and diplomacy. It was only years later, during his ascension here in Gothex, that the King knew he needed someone that he could trust with his security. How else is it that a “librarian” could be appointed by Royal Decree that post of Royal Guardsman?”
“Amazing. Please go on with your tale.” the wench said understandingly.
“I will, but could you please bring for me a small piece of mutton and a sweet roll?”
“Of course.” was the reply.
“Now, where was I before the history diversion? Oh yes. It was almost a year later, after not one but two assassination attempts, that the King, I did mention that he was a slow learner, commissioned the Royal Guard. This group of warriors was to become the most battle hardened and powerful phalanx of troopers. It is the members of this group that would lead Gothex to Victory in the War between Empires.”
The room erupts in a raucous mixture of roars, battle cries, and cheers. Almost every person in the tavern had fought, bled, or lost someone in the three years of the war.
**I cannot find my notes, so I am not sure where I was planning on taking this story. I will try to fold some of these plot points into the Trials chapters to bring closure to the Bard's story.
Do you recognize who is who? I recall that I was going to formalize the story a bit and codify the relationships. But...as this is a few years later...sadly some of these things have changed for me.**