Chronicles of Lord Breslin

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    • The battle on Landuire Plains as it was later called was part of the Northern Empire. Equitaine forces had broken through on the flank and then charge the main force of the dark warriors of the north. It was their sheer power that change the course of the battle granting victory to the empire. Breslin felt a sense of pride in William that would only grow with time.

      Breslin had met up with cohort of Imperial Guard and took to their ranks. He was even more impressed on how they functioned as the sum of one mind. Where Equitaine relied on the power of one, the individual skill and prowess, this meant nothing with mass combat as he learned from his peers.

      The cohort had attempted to follow the knights and help turn the flank but they could not keep up. Still, they met opposition and they were dealt with swift death. Eventually they started coming across the remaining foes that crossed the lances of the kingdom, and they found fallen knights. Breslin parted with the Guard when he came across Jean Paul lying on the ground. He was still alive, attempting to push his intestines back into his body, with deep gashes on his arms and legs. He was crying and asking forgiveness when Breslin approached him. It took a moment for the fallen knight to realize who he was. Breslin watched this brave man's life poor from his body with each beat of his heart. More blood spilled from the wounds, and with each beat less spilled out with less force. He was dying. Breslin knelt beside him, placing his own sword on the ground within arms reach in case the minions of the Dark Gods came near them, and placing a hand on Jean Paul's shoulder and the other on a wound to try to slow the loss of blood. The enemy never did approach the two men, but it is always better to be prepared.

      "I want to go home Breslin. I want to regain my honor." Jean Paul's voice was weak and crackly. Death was near.

      "You have your honor. You fought like any true knight. Honor, valor, and skill." Breslin attempted to allow him to pass in emotional peace. He hoped the Lady accepted his soul.

      "I fled. I was about to take our men and leave the field." His breathing was becoming shallow. "I want to see the sea again! I want a chance to regain what I lost." He was sobbing and gasping for air. He moved his hand from his wound and gripped Breslin's tabard.

      Something surreal and peaceful came over Breslin. His words were not his own, "Be at peace Jean Paul. The Lady saw you today. Even though you turned, you turned back. You faced your fear and led those who leaned on you. You have more honor than you know. The Lady will welcome you, and in her peace you will see the sea once again. Bymeen ack selas." Once again he spoke the ancient tongue, 'You be at Peace' was the closest translation into the common tongue. His words had an impact on Jean Paul. A smile crept upon his face as his body leaned back, relaxed, his hand falling from Breslin's shoulder and tabbard, taking his last breath, his heart beating for the last time. Breslin reached up and lowered his eye lids. He stood and spent the rest of the battle at the fallen knight's side. On the shoulder of his tabard was a bloody hand print that would never wash out.

      Two weeks passed since that battle and the enemy remaining was crippled. The war machine of the north was halted and allowed the Empire to regroup and launch its own offensive. There were several battles over that short period of time, but the decisive victory gave the empire the advantage it needed. The warriors of the north were not as numerous as the empire of men, and such a devastating loss depleted their war machine and broke their spirits. The loss of their monsters and Daemon was truly the crushing blow. The grand marshal took back the lost ground and began working on the defenses. When asked why they did not press the advance, a captain whom Breslin had met a few times explained that this was the final defensible position. Beyond this even the trees become sparse and not worthy of what was necessary for a campaign. Breslin doubted his words, but accepted them because he did not know what laid beyond. The imperial army did send out scouts and small battalions to make sure there was no counter offensive planned and if there was to cause disruption. If a sizable force was found they were to report back immediately.

      There had been constant reports that the enemy was pushed back and they did not appear to be approaching, but suddenly all communication stopped. The Marshal began to order more work on the defenses and volley guns, rocketeers and cannons were strategically placed among the lines. Breslin pitied the whomever approached their lines. They would die in a distance without seeing true battle. It was a smart plan. Cavalry was placed in the middle and reiters held the flanks.

      The attack never came.

      Breslin was sitting at the fire sharpening his his sword using a wet pummel stone. He heard the footsteps of heavily armored men behind him, but also the sound of a man lighter. An older voice pierced the night, "So this is the Great Sir Breslin. May I sit with you?" Breslin did not look up, but he knew it was the Grand Marshal Aidis addressing him.

      "Feel free to join me Marshal." He kept sharpening his sword, trying to lose himself in mundane repetitive tasks and get the image of Jean Paul from his resting visions.

      The marshal was in his fiftieth plus seasons, hair was still brown with gray at the temples. His eyes were blue, alert, hard, and when you looked at them you knew he was a tomb of knowledge. He wore a plain breast plate and a sword at his hip. He walked with a slight limp in his right leg, and when he lowered himself to the stump of wood across from Breslin he did it slowly with his leg extended. "It is good to finally meet you Sir Breslin. I heard of your exploits on the battlefield, and they were remarkable to say the least. You nearly turned the tide of the war by yourself."

      Breslin stopped sharpening his blade and looked at the Marshal. "No I didn't. The men of Equitaine did. They rode hard, hit hard, and was able to turn the flank allowing you to crush the forces of the Dark Gods. All I did was lead the initial charge. After that I had very little part of the Battle Landuire Plains and those afterwards. I fought, did my part, but nothing more than the men next to me." Other knights heard his words and stood straighter. They held Breslin in awe from the battles, and he was saying they did the same as him. He did not mean to, but their loyalty, their oath of fealty, was eternally bound within their souls.

      "Your too modest. They did not save his squires honor, save Lady Sel, or slay a Daemon in single combat. The men, Equitaine and Sonnstahl alike, look to you now on the battle field. You are an inspiration to them, and that is why I need you now."

      "Lord Marshal, I am not one of your soldiers to command."

      Shaking his head and raising his arms palms out is a defensive gesture, "No, no, no good sir. I'm here to ask, only ask. I would like you to accompany the next battalion into the north. My men are disappearing and I need to know why. If it was just warriors, or men of any sorts, I would have had word. Something else wicked lays out there. How much danger is to our position here? Reinforcements are 2 days away. This includes a large contigent of electoral cavalry. I would release the irregulars from duty provided you go as I ask." He leaned towards Breslin, dropping his voice so only he could here. " I know you are only here because of your squire. I'm grateful. Grateful beyond words, but I need to give my men hero's from the empire. Not from our allied nation, whom we have had wars with. My men need to look at their own strength, not yours."

      "Sorry Marshal, but I don't wish to go."

      "If you don't go, I will send the Irregulars with William. You go, they stay and regardless if you return, they are released from the military."

      "You really want me to go," Breslin said. "Why?"

      The Lord Marshal's face became stone as he looked at Breslin. His voice was iron. "I fear there is something out there that is just as great a threat. I need to know if I am calling for Prelates and the inquisition. I pray to Sunna daily that my concern is not real. Who better to send other than the only man I know who slew a daemon. Your story rivals those of legends, but I know your story is true. Granted this now has be believing that those stories are as well, but I only have one legendary warrior to call upon. I know that if you go I will get what I need and be able to prepare. You probably are marching to your death, but I need to risk it."

      Breslin looked at the fire. He listened to crackling of the wood, the colors red and blue dancing, feeling the heat of the consumption of wood while he thought and weighed his choices. "For William. He and all the Irregulars stay here. So do the men of Equitaine. I will travel with those of the Empire and try to find the source of your fear. I will need a contingent of heavy cavalry, three units of scouts... reiters you call them, and some infantry. We are a seek and report mission, that is all. My goal is to return as many of us, myself included, to this line. Once I am gone for one full day the Irregulars are granted freedom from enlistment. They can either go home, stay in the army, or join the men of Equitaine. Agreed?"

      The Marshal's eyes sparkled as the flames reflected in them. "Done."

      to be continued...
    • I've spent my weekend reading this and I never realized how much I was missing reading stuff like this. I really enjoyed it - well done!!

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    • They had been traveling for ten days from the front lines. The engagement with the warriors of the dark gods had ceased, reinforcements had arrived and patrols were being sent into the Dark Lands. First series of patrols had come back with nothing to report, but then all patrols that ventured further than 2 days from the lines ceased to return. This was why the Grand Marshal had been willing to make the deal with Breslin, and keeping his men safe was what mattered to him. William had fully become the younger brother relationship he wanted, and family protects family.

      The men of Viennson filled the ranks of this small battalion. There were fifty swordsmen, fifteen men with crossbows, fifteen men with rifles, ten Knights of the Northern Star, and ten reiters. Breslin now rode a new horse, a gift from the Grand Marshal. It was a stallion of ill temperament and it left Breslin wondering if he was given the horse as a jest, a true gift, or as a murder weapon. The Grand Marshal had stated he wanted hero’s from the empire to be admired, not a foriegn ally. Breslin could respect the Grand Marshal for that thinking, but it was something in which he spoke, mannerisms, and gestures. He felt as if he was a sacrificial pawn in the Marshal’s eyes, and he could not blame him. To that man, to a man in that position, the means will always justify the means. It was not how Breslin was taught to think or behave, but the countries had different methods and codes of honor.

      The battalion was led by Captain Hansford, a stout man who was balding and wore a waxed mustache that curved upwards at the ends. To Breslin it was ridiculous, but as he understood it was fashion in the empire. He seemed competent to lead, act in a emergency, and held the respect of his men. Breslin spent most of his time with the captain as he could not relate to the other men. They were not on the lines for the weeks he helped recover from the northern intrusion, and every chance they had they would ridicule him for being a backwards superstitious man from Equitain. It did not bother him much, but rather than try to win them, curb their rudeness, or correct them he simply ignored their jibes. The captain, a career soldier knew better than to poke fun of Breslin for no reason, but did not stop his men. The captain and he had just finished breakfast and were walking to a clearing from the lake to the tree line having a conversation when he began to notice some peculiarities.

      “... really lead the charge than forced the dark warriors to cave the flank?” The captain asked incredulously.

      “How many times do I have to tell the same story? It hasn’t changed.” Breslin replied trying not to sound annoyed, but still trying to put his finger on what bothered him about his surroundings. The had been traveling for ten days north of the lines and there has been no sign of life other than the trees. There was no sounds of wild, bird noices, and small woodland creatures. They had camped near a small mountain lake and so far that is the only sign of life, and it was below the water. The camped had awoken one hour previously and they were starting to strike down the tents. A fog had rolled appeared just after sun rise and Breslin had noticed clouds began to form above blocking out the sun. He had a shiver run up spine. He rested his hand on the pommel of his sword and adjusted his shield.

      “I’ve studied countless battles and participated in several skirmishes. I’ve never heard of any cavalry breaking the enemy, having the stamina and forces to continue the charge over a mile of terrain, and then turn a flank without infantry support and artillery. Especially the way a ‘lance’ of kingdom knights work on the field of battle.” Breslin shot the captain a eye while raising an eye brow. He felt as if he was being called a liar, and the recounting of what truly happened was fabricated.

      Captain,” Breslin responded. The slight irritation relevant in his voice, “You spoke with your own countrymen regarding the battle. I believe they told you what happened in the days after the battle as well. I don’t understand why you are question my own recounts of what occurred that supports what others have said.”

      “It just seems impossible. Ive read and studied how heavy cavalry could change the course of a battle, and flankers are best use, but you were neither and both. You took a frontal assault and turned it into a flank demoralizing the enemy and turning a decisive defeat into a stunning victory. I even heard you defeated a daemon in single combat. That is preposterous.”

      “To be honest, it had already sliced through our men at arms and then flew at me. I was lucky to put things simply.” The captain stopped walking and stared at Breslin with his mouth open. Upon noticing he was walking alone he stopped and glanced back at the captain over his shoulder.

      “It’s true,” the captain said in a whisper. He face held the expression of both stunned and shocked. Breslin’s nodded and then kept walking. He stopped in the clearing and looked out into the light fog. He saw a figure waving at them in the distance. It appeared to be one of the scouts the captain had sent out, but he did not have his mount. The captain regained his voice, “Why is Hans standing out there waiving at us? Oleg, Stephan,” calling to two sentries near by. “Go find out want is wrong with him,”. He ordered.

      The two men jumped at their command and were about to trek across the clearing when Breslin yelled, “Hold your ground!” His tone was something they were not use to. All his interactions with any of the men was mind manner and unathoritative. There was no denying his order stopping them cold. The captain went from stunned to instantly angry with Breslin.

      “How dare you contradict my orders!”

      “Silence. Something is wrong. Look.” Breslin pointed at Hans across the way. “He left mounted. He has not moved from that spot rather than approach us. The fog rolled in but temperature is rising, not falling. Those wisps of clouds there are flowing into the forest there, not into the sky. Those clouds rolling in are moving in the wrong direction. Look at those over the lake!” The three men looked puzzled, not understanding what was fully being described. “You there, Oleg. Use your bow and shoot a warning shot.”

      Oleg looked at Captain Hansford, who nodded his approval. Oleg swung his bow, notched an arrow and shot it in the direction of the other soldier. While the arrow was at its pinnacle a breeze flared from over the lake changing the trajectory of the missile, striking the soldier in the distance squarely in the chest. Oleg instantly cringe and prepped to run to his compatriot, but froze in horror when he didn’t fall. He stood there, waving his arm at them signaling them to approach. The captain, frozen, untrained for this situation. Breslin himself didn’t know how to proceed, but instincts set it. He reached to his hip and grabbed his horn, its familiar shape in his hand giving him comfort as he raised it to his lips and blew three long notes alerting the soldiers of the battalion. The captain snapped out of the confusion and started shouting orders to the men. He was ordering them to prepare to march forward ready for battle. He turned to Breslin, “I’m going to be using your horse Sir Breslin. I will ride with the cavalry. Stay with the infantry.”

      Breslin scowled but nodded. The swordsmen formed the center, to the left was the unit of crossbows and rifle men on the right. Breslin joined the swordsmen in the front line. They locked shields and started their march across the clearing. The reiters rode out ahead of the infantry to scout, as the heavy cavalry consisting of electoral cavalry and the captain. As the reiters approached more men joined the waving soldier. They were dressed as commoners, barbarians, warriors, and more empire soldiers. The reiters, without orders, opened fire on the growing horde. Several shots finding their marks, but only those struck in the head fell. The chill that ran up Breslin’s spine returned once more as he realized what they were to face- Undead! His mind screamed at these creatures of nightmares he thought he was told about simply to scare him. He never once thought they truly existed. He closed his eyes and calmed his mind by taking three deep breaths. When he opened his eyes he turned to the seargant and spoke his orders. “Aim for their heads. Those are zombies.” The seargant heads snapped to looked directly at him, but Breslin was unphased by the reaction. “The vampire or necromancer must be close. Make sure the range support knows where to strike.” The seargant nodded and began shouting orders.

      Breslin turned his attention to the forces in front of them. The zombies kept shambling forward towards the reiters, the reiters backing away from horde. Every creature that was dropped two more shambled from the forest. He didn’t noticed it until it was too late, and unfortunately neither did the brave men on horses. Bats the size of grey hounds flew over the zombies descending on the reiters. Three men fell to the ground dead only to rise again and strike at those they once called friend. “Hold the line” shouted the seargant. The smell of fear stemmed from the men and their courage hung on a thread. The sound of thundering hooves rung in the ears of men, but the dead fear nothing. The cavalry led by the captain into the giant bats and zombies. The seargant cursed under his breath and said, “Fool.”

      Breslin found himself liking this seargant. If they lived past today, he promised himself to buy him a drink. He was about to inform the seargant when hades on earth flew from the trees. Monsters larger than ridden horses charged the flanks of the cavalry. Wings with sharp talons that appeared to used for arms as well flew at the knights. The ping of crossbows and bangs of rifles joined the chorus of men screaming in pain and dying.

      “Seargant!” Breslin yelled. The seargant once again looked at him, this time in total terror. They both knew that if the masses of undead turned their attention to them the remaining imperial forces would die. “Take the men and retreat. That is an order! We were only to report what was happening here. Go,now!” The seargant didn’t need to be told twice and issued the order to fall back. The were defeated before the fight had begun. The empire was out of position, and the enemy had the perfect trap. Like rabbits the men ran from the field, past the lake and its tributaries, back the way they came. Breslin, sword and shield at the ready walked backwards, keeping himself at the ready for the enemies infront of him. The remaining cavalry finally broke and rode towards his position. The massive vampire spawn giving chase to knights. The horses, slowed by their barding, were not fast enough to escape the winged monsters.

      Only ten feet away the last knight was caught, the captain himself. He had fought bravely, but he was ill prepared for this enemy. The horse, the gift given to Breslin by the Grand Marshal, flew through the air towards Breslin. The massive beasts throat was cut by the tallons as the monster grabbed Hansford, sinking its fangs into his throat. With no time respond and dodge the flying horses body, he braced for impact.

      Breslin was knocked off his feet landing on his back on the banks of the lake. The horse landed on top of him weighing him down. He would have been by the weight of the animal but the ground gave way, allowing him to sink into the soil. His left on the soil, holding his shield by a single leather strap. His right hand was in the water itself, sword just out of reach. He stretched but even with his limited vision due to his visor he could see the hilt more than a hands length from his fingers.

      As quickly as the fight started, it was over. The men who remained did so because they were dead, and they did not rest. The dead feasted upon those what did not stand back up. Voices stemmed from the unseen, the gift blocking his view. “Do you think any escaped Wilhelm?”

      “Yes. This will not make the master happy, but it was inevitable.” The voice was smooth as silk, rich and inviting. There was an elegance that was intoxicating, and yet the sheer sounds made him shiver as the sound was pure evil. This was drastically different from the first voice that was cold, harsh, and blood thirsty.

      “If they send more, we will feast well once again.” There were laughs. There were four more creatures, five total.

      The silky voice spoke once again. “You four stay here and feast, I will go tell the master.”

      “Go tell the master you dog.” Again, the other laughed.

      “Is that a challenge you mutt?” The silk had turned aggressive and even uglier. The laughter silenced.

      “No Wilhelm. I dare not. We all know you can rip us apart, but we may too much for you as well.” The challenge was met, and they were it an impass.

      “I would have staked you for the sun to caress your skin and watch you burn, but the master would look poorly at me. So much he would do the same to me. That is the only reason why you are still walking. I will return in 1 fortnight.” The sounds of hoofs were loud, but there was no vibration of the earth as what Breslin could only think was a vampire rode away.

      “Lap dog” the rough voice said, and again was met with laughter. “Do you hear that? That smell too?” It was treated with several responses stating no. “I hear a heart beat. It is muffled as if under something, but a human heart beat. Breslin tried once again to reach his sword, though he knew it was in vain. He did not even attempt to look to see how far away his sword was. However, instead of finding more under water mud he felt the hard shaft of his hilt. A feeling he was more familiar with than anything else in the world. The crunch of leaves snapped him back to reality. He was pinned under a dead horse with walking nightmares waiting to feast upon his blood. He listened, trying to gauge where they stood. One was just to the right by a large tree, rough voice was approaching the horse, and the others were sitting far away from the others.

      The horse was thrown off of Breslin, and he wasted no time. He grabbed his sword, sat up immediately, and swung the blade at the enemy.

      To be continue...
    • The blade struck an unsuspecting creature. He would have called him a man, but his ears were pointed, his canines had extended to look like fangs, his eyes were white with crystal blue pupils, jet black hair that was greased back, and his skin pale as one who had never been touched by the sun. It was a creature of horror and nightmares, a vampire. The vampire wore pull plate armor that was anodized red, similar to the color of blood, a jeweled hilt protruding from its hip.

      The blade bit deep into the neck of the creature nearly decapitating it. It’s eyes held both the hatred and astonishment as the dark light of undeath left its eyes. Breslin glanced quickly around, one mounted figure was riding away, three beings dressed in the same in the same manner of armor stared in disbelief, and one had its back to him alone separated from the others. He rolled to his feet grabbing his shield by its broken strap as he rolled. With every ounce of strength he hurled his shield like a sling towards the creature with its back to him but could not risk to watch if it found its mark, assuming it would miss its mark. Taking his sword in the high guard he waited to be rushed. Instead, turning to face the three monsters he saw smiles. One of vampires held a soldier against a tree by the neck, one foot above the ground. A resounding thump from the thrown shield hitting what Breslin thought was a tree followed by a loud thud and a smaller version.

      “Now that was interesting,” said the vampire holding the soldier against the tree. Two more live soldiers were tied together at their feet, eyes filled with terror. “Too bad Wilhelm left, or he would have missed the show. Should we turn him? We need some replacements now.”

      Another responded, its voice just lower than a man just coming of age, “No. We will feast upon him and enjoy his nourishment.”

      The original spoke again, “Too bad. He looked handy in a fight. Make it quick. Without Wilhelm helping with clouds I can not keep the sun at bay for much longer.” It turned its attention back to the frightened solder, thrusting its hand into the man’s chest. The soldier’s eye buldged and he started convulsing. Even at this distance Breslin could smell the release of usine and crapp from the doomed soldier. With a yank the vampire pulled out the heart of its victim, released the body to fall tot the ground, and proceeding to eat its heart similarly to an apple.

      “Well, go kill him...

      To be continued...
    • With an vicious grin the vampire drew its blade. It was not a sword in the traditional sense, but closer to a scimitar in design. The blade was not as bulky, but was curved like a half moon. The metal itself was black as glass, and when frequently Breslin thought he saw purple glimpses floating in the strange metal. He blinked and the monster had closed more than half the gap before he could respond to the rush.

      Blade met blade with an earth shattering clash. The force of the blow nearly made Breslin drop his sword. The beast was strong, stronger than any man he had met. He never defended a blow from the daemon directly but wondered who was stronger. The two combatants traded blow for blow, but Breslin soon learned that his armor would not offer any protection from that blade. Every time he thought it would glance off his armor due the angle, the blade bit through the armor as if it were nonexistent and cut his skin. With every cut, regardless of how shallow the wound may be, Breslin felt more letharagic and trapped. They were equally skilled, but the vampire was stronger, greater endurance, and armor was stronger. During one of the exchanges the beast grabbed Breslin and hefted up by the chainmail coat and threw him nearly fifty feet. Somehow Breslin had kept his sword, rolled with the impact to the ground, and managed to avoid all the trees. The lake was too his left, and he had to do something drastic. In a flat fight, he knew death was inevitable.

      Breslin was on his feet quickly as the vampire close the distance with impressive speed. He walked into the lake, waiste deep in depth. Taking his sword in a high guard, he waited for his attack ever. He hoped that the water would slow down the vampire and allow Breslin to only defend specific blows, but the blows were deadlier. The beast would not be denied. He walked out into the lake, hatred and hunger raging in his eyes. The vampire showed no signs of slowing, but the water did deter him from striking from striking below the waste. Blow after blow Breslin was fortunate to be alive. Every time the blade touched his armor he felt weaker and more sluggish. The vampire was now smiling joyfully. It was a menacing sight to see, and semblance of fear turned to anger with him. The blade was enchanted, and the vile beast knew he was fighting an unfair fight. Besides simply being a creature of dark magic from dark gods, it had stacked the odds in its favor. Breslin could not blame the beast in a fight to the death, but it hardly seemed necessary.

      Finally the vampire made a mistake. It had swung too forcefully hoping for a killing blow and Breslin was able to deflect the blow and the blade dipped into the water. It was a chance to swing at the vampire itself, but something didn’t feel right. Until now the create had been perfect, could it be a trap? Instead of striking at the vampire, Breslin brought down his sword with all his might at the hilt of the blade. He didn’t know why, but it seemed the right thing to do. The enemy’s blade was still partially submerged in the water as his own sword struck true. There was a blinding flash, and Breslin was knocked off his feet sinking below the water. It took a moment to get his footing and reemerge ten feet from his original position. He felt revived, free of the weariness the battle and the effects of magical life obsorbing blade. He blinked the water from his vision, the vampire was standing in his original position. It’s plate armor had several holes now perforating it, the creature held the hilt of its weapon which no longer had a blade. It appeared to have shattered from the blow. It tore its eyes from the remains of the weapon and its eyes bore down onto Breslin with malice and loathing that Breslin cringe initially from the glare. “HOW?! I WILL RIP YOU TO PIECES SLOWLY WHILE ROASTING YOU OVER A FIRE ON A SPIT!”

      It started to run towards Breslin, but the water slowed it down. As soon as it was within striking range Breslin swung his sword. The monster seemed to have disregarded the weapon as it approached without any regard. The blow cleaved its head from its body, but it didn’t stop coming. Breslin ducked under its outstretched arms, spun and struck at the back of the headless monster. The blow echoed the valley as it cut the threw the armor and broke its back. It fell, sinking to the bottom weighed down by its armor. Not risking the magical monster could somehow heal itself he stood over it and plunged his sword through the beast’s heart. It convulsed twice and then never moved again. Glancing back at the shore he saw the remaining vampire frothing at the mouth. The heart it had been eating like an apple was oozing out in all directions as it made a fist forgetting the organ was in its hand. Breslin sighed, but knew what to do.

      Breslin found the fallen head of the slayed vampire and stabbed it with his sword so it was impaled on the blade. He then walked over and grabbed the foot of the corpse and slowly, deliberately started walking to the shore. The vampire screamed in rage and challenge, shouting profanities, not always in a language Breslin knew, but he continued his slow purposeful walk to the shore. He saw movement behind behind the vampire. He allowed himself an ounce of hope.

      Hope is fleeting, and when he saw the pale dead face of the captain hope fled. He sighed again, as the vampire summoned zombies to rip him apart. One more horror he has now seen, one more horror he will not forget. Breslin knew he should drop the body and try for safety, but that was not his way. It was not how he had been raised or trained. He continued the walk towards the horde walking towards him. They ignored the two surviving men tied on the ground. Just before he reached dry land and met his doom, the unholy clouds dissipated and the sun shined brightly. The body he had been dragging burst into flames. Even as he dropped the leg he had been dragging it burned under water. It’s head turned to ash within mere moments from the kiss of the sun. The last remaining vampire was in the shade of the trees, hidden from deadly rays. The zombies kept shambling towards him, but he was not concerned. Not only had he made peace with life, but he saw a chance for victory.

      The remaining vampire glared at him with glee as his minions shambled to tear him apart limb from limb. “You were impressive flesh bag, very impressive. But all things mortal die, and this is your time.”

      Breslin smiled at death, greeting it as an old friend. He spoke his family motto out loud, and the pale vampire turned white from gaunt. The smile disappeared from its face and recognition that Breslin was not just a meal or a trophy, but an adversary to be feared. Breslin, his sword elevated resting on his shoulder saw the recognition and knew it was his time to strike. He shifted his grip on his sword, allowing the metal to reflect the bright warm sun into the face of his enemy. The vampire screamed in pain falling to his knees. It was burning, the smell of burnt flesh anew in the air. It was desperate to survive and rolled behind a tree for safety from the sun. The monsters concentration was broken and the zombies fell to the ground becoming still corpses once again. “I will kill you for that!” It shouted accross the water.

      “What have you been doing all this time?” Breslin responded. “Helping me take a bath in the lake? Show yourself and let’s finish our dance with death. Lets see who embraces her first.”

      “Not today young knight. We will meet again, and I will bath in your blood.”

      He heard the rustle of plants and saw a hooded figure run off at inhuman speed into the distance. Whatever that creatures name was Breslin knew they would meet again.

      The battle was over, and every muscle ached in his body. He fell to his knees, kneeling in the lake. He sword, tip down stood straight up, his hands on the hilt and pommel of his sword, his resolve. A flash of green light, and the yellow sun light was dimmed and yet brighter. He didn’t know if he was dreaming or awake, but the lake was all around him. There was no shore line in sight, but he was sure he was only a few feet from it a moment ago. A armored knight, whose armor was greener than any emerald or tree leaf Breslin had seen walked towards him. The knight walked on the water sending ripples in the water with each step. The knight stopped just two sword lengths away from him. Then rising from the water was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. It was the images of a woman, with raven black hair, her blue eyes were kind but strong and fierce, her lips as red as an apple or ruby, and her fair skin was soft and strong. If he had not given his heart to Sel, he would have been awe struck by her beauty. Such beauty could not be human.

      He dropped his gaze immediately, for she was not human. This was a deity, his deity. This was the Lady of the Lake!

      To be continued...
    • The Great Lady floated across the water as her champion walked next to her. Breslin kept his eyes downcast, never allowing his view to leave where her shimmering dress caressed the water. Her voice, ringing in his ears, was pure, light, and melodic. Breslin dared a quick glance to her face and saw her lips were not moving. The voice was purely in his head.

      “Brave knight, why do you kneel? You are among friends child, you may stand.”

      His voice trembling, not knowing how to truly respond, “I dare not my lady. I do not know what I have done to be here. I have neglected my duty, my home, my country, and all for my shame. I am the reason my father is dead, and I have no right being with my goddess.” Her laughter at his comments were addictive, every fiber of his soul wished to join, but he had meant every word. His heart had been in despair since the day his father died. It was his first time in true battle.

      His father had assembled his bannermen to his call, and led them into the mountains to fight a mercenary army of men. The Iron Crown’s worked for whomever lined their pockets the most. They never did learn who had paid this army, but only that it was meant to attack the flank of their land and destroy their crops and ability to wait out the winter. It was a scorched earth policy against an unknown enemy. During the battle Breslin led a group of newly knighted Knights of the Realm. He had ordered the charge into the front of the swordsmen with interlocked shields. It resembled an older tactic known as a turtle. They had crashed into the ranks, lance, sword and horse slaying the enemy of the kingdom. The charge had broken their pride, their spirit, and the unit broke and ran. Unfortunately Breslin never predicted that their commander would throw an entire regiment of men away to trap their enemy. It was inconceivable to him because every man of the kingdom’s life, even the peasant, was worth something. As the knights regrouped, the enemy countered with halberdiers running at their flank. Breslin froze, not knowing what to do. His failure to act would have cost him, and thirty men under his command their lives had his father not sacrificed himself. The Baron of Castle Black, which was only not a dukedom due to politics, charge the halberdiers with his personal guard, giving Breslin time enough to catch his wits and order the retreat. The brave baron, fighting for the lives of his men and his son, ordered the retreat of his guard so they could reform. Speed was on the side of the kingdom. Most of the troops were mounted, and those that were not were use to the mountainous terrain. As the noble baron turned his horse, an enemy soldier jumped on the back of the horse and pulled him down. Once unhorsed it took over ten men at once to slay his father. Even then, once the kingdom had reformed ranks and charged again, this time breaking the entire army, the baron had life in him for his son to come to his side. Breslin was there when he drew his last breath and said his last words. “Proud... You...” and then he passed to the Lady’s embrace, to be with their ancestors, to be at peace.

      Breslin never forgave himself because his inability to act had cost his family their father, and he was at fault. Words and actions over time had made him become at ease with what occurred and allowed him to move on with life, but he never forgave.

      “Dear child,” she said, “his death was not your fault. He was a knight. He was MY knight.” The word, MY, had iron and fire behind it, and her tone was not lost on him. “Such is war my child. You, the knights of Equitaine are my shield to the helpless, my sword of justice, my bringers of righteousness. He died because someone, something, wanted to bring war and destruction to the kingdom, to my sacred groves in the mountains. Your father, and those that died with him, before him, and after him are tied to me, to the land. Your family has a deeper tie than most. Remember, Vic nor eridth, iqu darvesor aquain. Your father knew those words. Those words were his soul, as they are yours. He charged into danger, odds against survival, as a shield so others, so his son could live. He died because of invaders, not your actions. He made the choice to place himself in danger from those men of coin. He fought like a lion that day, and so did you. He was, he is proud of what you did and what you have become. You are a leader of men. Your name is renown throughout race of man and elf. The protector of innocents, the mentor of youth, the savior of Ashnock, the terror of Landuire Plains, killer of daemons, and slayer of vampires. You have produced a story similar to no other. Only your faith, your training, and your heart to drive you. I nudged your soul to leave when your father parted from the living realm to set you on your quest. You needed to find yourself, to find faith. Not in me child, but in your fellow man. You needed to be able to fight for them, regardless of the reason. You selflessly took this task of danger, knowing the Grand Master wanted you away from his troops because they were revering you more than their own hero’s. You allowed yourself to be led, but took the lead when fear silenced the hearts of men. You had the opportunity to run from a field of woe, and instead met your fate. You smiled at death, and made those of death fearful.”

      “Now rise child, you are welcome here. Sip from my chalice and ease yourself.”

      Tears now flowed down Breslin’s cheeks. The torrent of emotion was too much not to cry, the pain of his father’s death, the admission of the Great Lady she had given him a quest, his success, but still his fears. He wanted a family of his own, and he had been told that those champion to the Lady had to forswear their family and allegiance. “Still my lady, I dare not.”

      She laughed again, filling his soul with joy. The Green Knight laughed as well. It was a deep resounding noice from the knight that filled Breslin with puzzlement. When they both stopped laughing the lady spoke again. “Why now child? Why do you not stand and be recognized as my champion?”

      “I wished to have a family one day my lady. I have love for another, and my understanding is that if I become one of your champions I cannot have a family. As I said my lady, I am not worthy to look up you and stand.”

      This time the Green Knight spoke. His voice was deep and rich, a well of strength and wisdom. Breslin felt a strong grip grab his arm and pull him to his feet. “Stand boy! What nonsense are you spouting now?”

      The Lady of the Lake spoke once more, “It had become their tradition that they forsake their family, land and belongings to serve me. The is not true, and you child are expected to marry. Are you sure the elf maiden will have you?” Breslin had no choice to stand due to the grip of the knight, and now looked at the great lady with his mouth hanging open like a freshly caught fish. “Of course I knew where your heart lies. Remember, you are mine, as are those you sire and follow your banner. Your family’s words will follow you for eternity. If she will have you, which I believe she will, you have my blessing child.”

      Breslin stood there, confused and dumbfounded, but after a moment of trying to find the words, “Thank you my lady.”

      “Now remember this child. You need to go home. I cannot say more, but you must go home. You have a long path to and from there, but for now heed my words. Drink from my chalice, become my champion, my shield, my sword, my justice.” She held a goblet of pure simplicity but indescribable beauty. He was not sure if it was made from wood, gold, or silver. Every time he looked at the goblet if apppeared to change slightly. He sipped from the cup, its contents flowing over his lips into his thought. It filled his soul with light, strength, and purpose. His heart had been lifted by her words. His father’s actions and dying words now brought him peace rather than discomfort. He closed his eyes while he drank.

      Breslin awoke to being dragged out of the lake. The two imperial soldiers who were tied and left by the tree had managed to cut their bonds and were panting from the strain. He was armored and water logged only added to his dead weight. They tried to gently lay him on the banks of the lake as he coughed water out of his lungs. After gasping for air and finally catching his breath they started to talk to him. Their names were Otto and Kurt. They had fought by his side as swordsmen, and when he gave the order to retreat they were among the first to turn to run. They had similar stories of getting caught by the vampire knights he had slain. The strongest of them had already left, and the four that he fought feared him. His name was Wilhelm, and even he had a master. The kept talking to calm themselves and Breslin found himself listening calmly. They had never seen anything like what they had witnessed. They kept saying his name would be remembered. This made him think that meeting the Lady and her Green Knight, the champion of champions, was a dream, a fallacy. He asked how long had he been in the water until they pulled him out.

      Otto responded that he was shocked Breslin was still alive. Regardless of fighting the monsters of the night, he had been in the water for easily an hour face down. They had to use tree bark to cut their bonds to pull him out. They thought they would be pulling a dead corpse back to lines, but as soon as his head was out of the water he had started breathing and coughing the water from his lungs. How was this possible?

      They heard noice in the distance. Breslin was on his feet before the other two men. He didn’t think that should be possible. He saw silhouettes of beings on foot and on horseback. He thought the spineless vampire had gone to get help to finish the job, but the sun still had not set. Regardless, he wanted to meet death with honor. He reached for his horn and blew a challenge. The two men at his side ready for combat. They had apparently found armorments from the dead who were going to kill him some time before.

      His challenge was met with several blows from several horns. It was an all clear, friend, and peace message. His heart leaped and he told his companions. He still had his sword at the ready until he saw what he assumed was Kingdom forces. He was not supervised to see William leading the forces of his countrymen, but the Lady Sel was close behind him. Lyria, his old trusted mount, marching straight for him. William jumped off his horse and ran to embrace his friend. The lady Sel dismounted, her elvish face looked perturbed and angry.

      “How dare you ride off to get yourse...”. She never finished sentence and Breslin released William, embraced Sel, and kissed the elvish lady.

      To be continued...
    • Breslin rubbed his cheek as they rode. The Lady Sel had backhanded him after their long embrace. First she looked happy, then a realization crossed her face and that was when she struck. He found himself smiling as he rubbed his cheek and found he kept looking for her as they rode. However, every time they made eye contact his elation of their intimate moment faded slightly. She looked vex, and in her eyes was a tinge of mental anguish. He shook his head clearing his thoughts regarding more pressing matters.

      The Lady of Lake had urge that he go home, and home he would go. Breslin had told the men of the Kingdom what had occurred for the past few weeks and what he must now do. He asked why they had left the Grand Marshal’s forces, but more importantly how they had found him the vast territory to the north.

      William responded grinning ear to ear at first, “It was the Lady Sel. We all had a waking dream of death stalking you.” His smile now gone and his face sober. “It had many faces, and each dripping with blood. You were surrounded by death, nowhere to run. We were breaking camp when she came riding in as fast as Lyria could carry her. She started shouting at all of us to hurry. We were needed and there was no time to lose. That was when I saw her escort crest over the hill on their elven steeds. There was no denying, she was going to get what she wanted and we all were going to do her bidding. I swear you never saw a camp break that quickly and efficiently.” Breslin noted how his squire, a mere boy some months ago was talking about military efficiency and was now the leader of men before him. Breslin’s smile returned as he listened to his friend, his brother in arms.

      “The infantry was marching as fast as they could, but we were mounted and the Lady Sel ordered us to march ahead. She was commanding the yeomen to scout ahead and told Sir Henry that we would meet him at the base of tree line. Again, she was in charge. Once everyone understood she dug her heels in Lyria and they bolted again. She knew exactly where you were. The only time we change direction was to find a ford for a river or a chasm blocked our path. She was on a mission to find you. You were gone for 2 weeks Breslin, and we found you in three days from when we separated with the infantry. We then heard your horn, though she was marching towards you. It is a wonder how she knew exactly where you were. I know she uses the mystic path of Druidism, but we never saw her cast a spell. She just... knew.”

      Breslin, still smiling replied, “I will talk to her as soon as I can. For now I think I need to give her space.” Breslin halted the column of knights and called for counsel.Sir Patrick now led the knights of the realm, Lady Sel, William, and Sir Lawrence gathered around him as he led them slightly away from the rest of the soldiers.He then turned his attention to Sir Patrick. “Patrick. You must take the bulk of our army and start the trek home. Do not leave the infantry behind. Be mindful we are in a foreign sovereign land. Do you know where the foot hills of Doree are?”

      “Aye, Lord Breslin. I can find them.” Sir Patrick was had taken leadership for the knights of the realm after the death of JeanPaul. He, as the other knights had pledged their loyalty to Breslin even though Breslin did not want it. He never wanted to be the head of the army and longed for the days he was working on the farm. He knew those days were gone, but still he hoped. All the knights of the realm had changed their tabard. Where they had each before been different to represent their affiliated houses, they were now the colors of his own house. Green and blue. Because they were traveling, and considering what happened to the battalion, his visor was down on his helm covering his face, though his sharp hard brown eye scanned the landscape. His shield, as were the other knights and yeomen, was strapped to his left arm. His own houses heraldry shine strongly of a trident pointing to the sky. In his right hand was his lance. It’s butt wedged in the cradle of the saddle by his foot and a green and blue pendent snapped in the wind.

      “We will meet you there. Where Lady Sel told the men to wait takes us slightly out of the way from the Marshal’s army. I must go report what happened here and what drove away the dark gods followers. I fear he will not be happy with the news, but they must prepare.”

      “Lord Breslin. We…”

      Breslin wasted no time and corrected Patrick, “Sir my friend. It is only Sir Breslin. I am no lord.”

      “Lord Breslin, we should not split our forces. We all traveled to find you.”

      Breslin frowned at the comment. Patrick still called him Lord Breslin, but every other word he spoke was true.Still, he knew this was the best course of action.“Patrick, your logic is sound, but we must do this.I wish I knew why, but we must return home. Now.The infantry are the slowest part of our force and need to start traveling immediately.We need to report to the Imperial Forces what is lurking in this gloomy hell to their north.I have been charged with the reporting.”Breslin took a moment to tap a bloodied bag dangling from pommel that contained the heads of two vampires who had not been incinerated by the sun.“Then I need to make best speed to the Doree Mountains and Castle Black.I need you to inform the infantry and provide them cavalry support.If I travel with a small group mounted I should be able to circumvent any possible force preventing me from reaching you before reach the mountains. “

      Patrick’s voice was stern and forceful.He was easily ten years Breslin’s senior, but he accepted the orders with conditions.“Very well my lord.”Again, Breslin made a face at being called a title he did not possess.“I will take a majority of the force with me.You will have a group of Yeomen Outriders to scout for you and a personal guard.Otherwise I will send riders to tell the infantry where to meet us and we ALL will go with you.”

      Breslin knew he would have to accept Patrick’s stipulation and it was sound planning, but Breslin disliked lessening his forces by a single knight.“Very well.Sir Lawrence, there are nine Knights of the Grail present, correct?”

      Sir Lawrence wore no tabard, but the etching of a lion was on his shield and horse.The grail itself was embroiled all over his armor, shield, sword, and lance.His age could not accurately be guessed.Breslin would have thought early forties, but when talking to him the knight had just celebrated his eighty second naming day. Sipping from the grail he had been told slows death, but it does not keep it away.His grey stallion stood with the same patience as its rider.Lawrence spoke, his deep gravelly voice commanded respect.“Yes my lord.We will accompany you.May I suggest Lady Gwendolyn travel with us and Lady Sel with the main force.”Sel flashed a wicked glare at the knight and his suggestion.

      “I do not command Lady Sel, but I welcome her counsel here.To your point Lawrence, Gwendolyn will travel with the main force and if she would, I would be grateful if the Lady Sel would accompany us.”

      She glared at Breslin, obviously still angry regarding the kiss.Her eyes softened with recognition of his words.He was not commanding or expecting, but asking.Breslin knew that he had no true power over her.She was a Sylvan Elf, not a damsel of the Kingdom.She nodded sharply but never spoke.It hurt Breslin that he had angered her so much, but he would live with his actions.He turned back to Lawrence and spoke, “That is how we will travel Lawrence.Now I need to know WHY are you calling me Lord.I am not a lord, no title, no land.Why?”

      Patrick shifted uncomfortably in his saddle and looked at Lawrence.The older knight stared back at Breslin with compassion in his eyes.That was all he could see through the knight’s visor.Sorrow filled his voice as he spoke.“You are Lord of the Black the Black Keep.Your elder brother has been taken prisoner by the besieging Dreaded Legions.I have been told that he is tortured every night and healed to peak physical health every day.He has been cut, torn, mutilated, left for the birds every night, only to be healed and have the same torture repeated.The forces of the dead police the land between the elves, the keep, and the mountain pass.It is not some vile undead leaching on the living, but the dead of the Kingdom forming ranks and preventing the elves from advancing.I can’t explain it, but it is not evil magic that animates the dead.That is why The Lady wants you to return as soon as possible.We must lift the siege, and that is why we call you Lord Breslin.It is because you are.”

      Breslin was numb from what he just heard.He wanted to say to hell with the Imperial forces and march straight to his home, but that was not how father raised him.He was charged and he must see it through.Worst, Patrick seemed to have known and no one had told him this.This was the most horrid news he had heard.He shook his head from disgust.“You are just telling me this now?!”

      “My Lord, we just found you and have had no time to brief you.I apologize if you feel I wronged you.”

      Breslin’s shoulders slumped and his voice crackled from pain.“No Lawrence.I am reacting and I need to settle my mind.Thank you.”He took 3 deep breaths and spoke to William, “William.Take the irregulars and go to the farm immediately.Collect the Irene.I fear we will never be returning.Inform the other irregulars that if they wish to fetch their belongings and families as well, they must do so now.We will not wait for them if they are not there when we reunite with the infantry.Same goes for you.If they wish to stay in their homes that is acceptable and I give them my love and thanks.”

      William spoke proudly, “Lord Breslin, “the words stung him even though William meant them with pride and respect.“I speak for them and we all follow you.With permission, we leave at once.”

      “Granted.We all know what to do.Lawrence, fetch the nine and inform Gwendolyn of our request.I do not order he either.She must be willing to go with them.Patrick, please inform the yeomen of your choice to meet me here with their gear.We leave once everyone is assembled.May the Lady see us safely home.”

      The knights turned their mounts leaving Breslin alone with Sel.“I’m sorry Sel.I care for you and when you ran to me I… I’m sorry.”He said these words, which held more sway over him than hearing his elder brother is being tortured daily because he thought he hurt the one he loved.The sat in silence until she broke it.

      She finally spoke before the knights of the grail and yeomen reached them.“You have nothing to apologize for.I welcomed it, and that is why I am angry.I have been betrothed to the High-Born Prince Thesloc for the last three years.My father arranged the marriage as a sign of peace and bondage to our racial cousins.These cloths are not of my people but of his.You have never seen me dress traditionally for my people.How would you have me be Lord Breslin.”

      Breslin didn’t think he could take another jolt to his heart.His brother was being tortured, he had to travel out of the way to fulfill an obligation, and the elf he loved was engaged to another of royal blood.Somehow, he had a clarity and wit to respond and keep matters in perspective.“Lady Sel.I do not command you, nor would I ever.It is not the cloths that I admire and love, but what is beneath them.Your strength, compassion, veracity, virtuous, and respect.You must follow your heart, and regardless where that takes you, I will always care for you, count you as friend, and cherish what you are.Not what someone else states you should be.”

      Lawrence, the eight other knights of the grail and five yeomen joined them before she could respond.They all looked at each other and nodded.As the rest of the force continued towards the infantry and the irregulars rode as fast as possible to their homes to collect that which mattered most to them, Breslin led them south to the imperial stronghold.

      He had traveled for weeks with the infantry, but they arrived at the stronghold in three days.Sel and Breslin never spoke as they rode.She was brooding, but when he looked her way he no longer saw anguish.The fortification of the original camp had been proceeding quickly.Cannon’s and Hellfire Blasters were entrenched along the lines. Mortars lined the kill behind.Any army, alive or dead, would pay a great toll before reaching the forces of the empire.Breslin rode directly to Lord Marshal’s tent.It was mid-day and the sun shone brightly giving them warmth and purpose.Breslin dismounted, handing the reigns of his mount, an extra that was brought in case he needed it, to a yeoman and grabbed the bag tied to the pommel.He walk to the tent where a guardsman called into the tent and alerted the dweller of his presence and allowed Breslin, Sel, and two other knights into the tent.Lawrence stayed with the horses for once the briefing was done they would going to ride.

      The lights in the tent were dim making it difficult to see until his eyes adjusted.The smell of death and dying loomed in the room, but all that was there was man dressed in robes and the Lord Marshal standing over his desk looking at a map.

      To be continued…