Chapter 1 - The Quest of the Traveling White Knight
ALL RIGHTS BELONG TO THIS AUTHOR SKETCH OR ALSO KNOWN AS LORENA C MONROY.
MARCH 17, 2022
In the year 1417 at Caen, France, victory was celebrated in a tavern barely untouched by violence and constant turmoil. The soldiers and knights joyously cheered to King Henry the V of England after just winning a battle. They had successfully captured another village and taken the majority of the population hostage as an attempt to halt any eventual uprising against them. The match had been one of many, part of an inevitable war that had started in 1337, years after the death of King Charles IV of France, who had no sons or brothers. His closest male heir had been his nephew, Edward III of England. Yet the succession has been passed to a patrilineal cousin, Philip VI of France. Humiliated and angry, Edward attacked swiftly to reassert claim over the country prompting a prolonged conflict that had thus far lasted seventy years. A row passed on to the sons and other male family members. Lord Adam Bonel was one among many that felt the war was meaningless. His dolorous attitude had been brewing since his first battle.
The young Lord was more of a lad than a man by his appearance. At one and thirty, he still resembled an unseasoned boy barely entering adulthood and was neither spindly nor portly. He was shorter than the average Englishmen with light brown hair cut to his shoulders and held back by a thread. His hands were proportionate to him, but there was some feminine and childish softness to them. It was astounding and entertaining to see him in practice. He moved with dexterity and proficiency that was equivalent to an old master.
Furthermore, his rationality and intellect were beyond his peers—thus, imparting with him an inability to behave like the rest. He did not approve of whoring, indulging, or inflicting suffering on others. He had a code that the other lords rarely observed. A unique quality among his people who said the words but did not follow.
Since youth, he had been taught by his many tutors the glory of dying and killing for one’s sovereignty. It was an honor to kill for a king. That was not to be confirmed later. When it was his turn to fight, he had given death’s kiss for the first time to another soldier on the field, and he had felt only stupor and paralyzed how easy it had been in the end. He swore he could hear the steady drip of blood as it slipped off his blade to the muddy ground at his feet. Little by little, battle after battle, his soul changed. Every day he killed to survive and soon found death becoming his continuous companion. It was not long that he did not like who he had become as the war raged on and he suffered in silence.
While his men reveled into the night, Adam was sitting in a shadowy corner hiding with a full cup of ale on the table. He knew he was by himself in his turmoil. Unlike him, his men seemed to breathe in the death and the chaos they created. They fed off the blood that was spilled and counted the bodies they had amassed. Though, their true natures did not show on the outside as they danced away.
Adam looked at them with disdain. The candle on his table radiating his features and each pass gave him a haunted look that promised to cause harm to any that dared to come near him. His thoughts dwelled on the events that had happened earlier in the day. He couldn’t help but reminisce on the faces of the tortured souls his countrymen had imprisoned.
At first, the villagers had been rounded together with false promises. Then they had been separated by needs, desire, and personal submission. The few who had a specific look were roped and taken to answer questions on the soldiers who had formerly stayed in the village. A tiny bit of themselves, the little that separated them from animals, was taken and what was left was a formless mass of an unrecognizable shape that withered on the ground after their “questioning” had reached a peak. It was them Adam pitied. They had shrieked and wept. Their eyes that once had life had then stared at him vacantly. They might as well have died.
“Sir,” a soldier called cheerily. Adam jerked back in his seat as a tankard slammed on the table he occupied, portions of its contents spilling out. He glared at the soldier who dared break his solitude. He quickly recognized him as one of the men who had laughed during the interrogations. Just before the soldier could join the empty seat across him, Adam pulled out his dagger and skewered the table. The blade stood upright dangerously. There were seconds of silence of those who had sat nearby, the dagger catching them off guard. The soldier took the hint that he was not welcomed and stumbled away. He stammered out a sort of apology as he tripped on his own feet.
Adam smirked at the clumsy run-away figure. He then turned his eyes on the others, daring them to say anything to his face. When they had turned away, Adam pulled his dagger from the table and sheathed it. His glee of being alone for the rest of the night was short-lived.
“You look like a man who is lost and forlorn in a forest. Nonetheless, there is a fest. Why do you not participate?” a man uttered from his side. Adam spun in surprise. There had been no one leaning on the wall moments ago. Where had the newcomer appeared from?
Adam was curious to know how a peasant managed to enter the inn. He regarded the man who ventured into his space. The man was a poor traveler, evident from the travel-worn cloak, tattered pants, and overused shoes that had seen better days.
The peasant was about height, lanky, almost deathly pale, and a map of wrinkles that showed he had overcome past hardships. There was a sharpness to his cheeks, teeth, and ears that was unworldly. His hair was black, limp, and dirty. The most compelling feature Adam beheld from the man was the amber eyes that glowed like sparkling jewels when hit by the candlelight.
“There is no pleasure in losing in oneself,” Adam answered with a nod to a group of warriors falling on their feet, laughing uproariously at their irrational behavior. The peasant chortled at their antics and clapped his hands together in joy.
“Then what conviction do you have to continue living if there is no joy?”
“I do have conviction. I have the conviction that my King is the rightful ruler of France, chosen by God himself, and I am on the right path to bring his lands back to order,” Adam said, repeating the words he told himself daily as means to convince himself that was the truth.
“Do you really believe that?” the peasant annoyingly inquired.
“He is my King,” Adam snapped back. He stared down at the old stranger and warned him, “And if you are wise as your age, you will be more sensible to keep your mouth shut.”
“It is nice to see a young lad as you worry for me being.”
“What do you want, beggar?”
“Not a beggar,” the man corrected. “To think about it, not of your kind neither.” Adam scoffed at the lunacy. “Name is Robin Goodfellow. I am an admirer of you sir, may I say.”
“You may and good for you. Well, you have seen me and talked to me. Your life goals have been fulfilled as here I am, the knight you admire. Go away.”
“I wish to simply ask questions.”
“For what intent?”
The stranger answered slowly, “Inquisitiveness on the one they call the White Knight. Do you fear the questions I may enquire?”
Adam became fraught with outrage. Him? Afraid? He eyed the lunatic. He could kill him. Send a message to the others how serious he was to be alone. He mentally shook his senses. He couldn’t. He wouldn’t be like the others.
“Speak,” Adam begrudgingly commanded with a light wave of his hand.
“Aye,” Adam said. “Swiftly, I demand—your questions. My bed calls.”
“Hmmm. My words will be arduous to speak in this room. Outside would be an appropriate location. What say you?” Goodfellow proposed with a cheeky grin. “The sky is clear and the moon bright.”
Adam mulled over the move of the locale. He wasn’t pleased with the continuous companionship, but if talking to Goodfellow was the only way for him to continue his brooding, there were no other options but to agree. He preferred to be surrounded by his men. If the stranger pushed his luck, Adam only had to order his dismal, and his men would pull the troublemaker outside to do with what they wished. Though, it was a waste of their skills. He examined the man again. If it came to blows, slaying Goodfellow and throwing him into an unmarked grave would be simply. Adam was a skilled fighter.
Resigned, Adam said, “A fantastic suggestion.” The two men walked out with Adam trailing a step behind. His eyes narrowed on Goodfellow’s back. He observed the elder’s movement, looking for a weakness in the man’s form. He concluded that Goodfellow was sprite for his age.
Outside the tavern’s relative cleanness, the rest of Caen lost its beauty to the savageness from blood and destruction. The majority of the homes and merchant’s quarters had been burned to cinders by the orders of England. The air was pungent with the stench of death and brimstone. The castle, Chateau de Cain, stood with its walls covered in scars. It had been stormed and sacked. Presently, it was a ghost of its former self. Its rooms were now occupied by soldiers of high rank. Due to his recognition, Adam had been invited inside the chateau but had declined. He preferred to sleep on the ground. It was his form of self-punishment—a way to cleanse his soul that blackened with each kiss of death from his blade.
Adam and Goodfellow found a spot not far from the joyous merriment but far enough from prying ears and eyes. They settled in the open with the moon illuminating brightly above them. Impatient, Adam bitterly demanded, “Speak.”
“Straight to the point. No fun. Oh, let’s play a game and put a smile on that face.”
“Do you determinedly seek to vex me?” Adam hotly retorted, not amused. He rethought his position on killing the fellow.
“Temper. Temper,” Goodfellow tutted with that cheeky grin and eyes twinkling with mirth. “A game will make this go faster, is all. Please let us play?”
“No jest for the night,” Adam warned. “My bed calls and awaits. Proceed or begone.”
“Pooper,” Goodfellow mumbled. “Fine. Fine. This man will move forward. Just let me gaze upon the moon for a time. The night is beautiful and I feel it shall not be in the morrow.”
Adam scoffed and watched Goodfellow indeed turn his gaze to the moon. He followed, unconsciously wondering what was terrific about the shining orb. A smile graced his lips when a fable came to mind about a fox lowering himself in a well and getting trapped. The fox, stuck in a bucket, stared down to see the reflection of the moon and convinced himself that he was looking down at a piece of cheese. Imagine! Cheese hanging in the sky held by invisible strings. Or was it part of the mythical orbs that the new fringe philosophers believed?
Subsequently, a melody formed in Adam’s mind. It was accompanied by a striking female voice. Curiously, the words came to him clearly, but he knew not what the words meant. Yet, they brought a familiar ache to his chest. It couldn’t be that of his mother. His father had a sick delight in reminding him he had been at fault for her death as it happened during his birth.
“Ex luna scientia,” Adam mumbled. Could the moon give him the answers he sought? It saw all, did it not? It must know the name of the woman who had cherished him as a babe. Notably, perhaps it knew why he was different from the others.
Goodfellow chuckled knowingly, “Knowledge from the moon. Peculiar choice of phrase.”
“An old foolish and childish saying,” Adam sadly said.
“I don’t believe it to be foolish. Reminds me of magic from the world of the old,” Goodfellow argued.
“Magic isn’t real,” Adam sorrowfully spoke. “It is a wonderful thought.”
“Not even the hope of its existence.”
“I know what ails you.”
“Ah, wit. Brilliant. But no. Your problem is you are blind to the other world that exists.”
“There is no other, you fool!” Adam shouted. He stood and spun in a circle with his arms spread out. “Look at it old man! This is all we have! This and nothing more! So, you better get used to it!”
“I see it. It is only broken to the individual who is also broken. Happens to many with good souls.”
“I am not—”
“You are good. Humble. You have just closed yourself to protect yourself from the cruelty of the world.”
“The world is cruel,” Adam rasped. “Better to be used to it.”
“Yet we have legends. You are a legend. You are the White Knight. You inspire men to fight. They wish to be you. You who were named by the King.”
“Idiots, the lot of them,” Adam mumbled in annoyance. He massaged the bridge of his nose. “Fools. Why would they wish to die?”
“Pardon?” Goodfellow asked in confusion.
“I died,” Adam explained. “I no longer drew breath. I had left to fly with the angels.”
“The angels didn’t want me. Must not have been good enough for them.”
Goodfellow choked on his laughter. Adam followed not far behind. “Probably didn’t know what to do with ya.”
Adam’s laughter died. His eyes glazed as he couldn’t help but revisit the battle that had irrevocably changed his view of the world. “I found myself on the ground, lying face forward in the mud. I had just awoken, breathing the fresh air deeply, and the world somber as bodies were being dragged away to be buried. Their swords and armor were taken to be given to the next of kin. I just stood, startling the few men nearby. They ran towards me to see if I needed aid. I, of course, brushed them away and walked from the battlefield. It was then, during my walk, I saw myself covered in blood. I did not know who it belonged to.
“The King heard the day after. I was brought forth to him. He rattled about men seeing me fall after being speared, stabbed, and skewered multiple times. I calmed his mind and confusion. Told him what was seen had been a misinterpretation of what had occurred. That I had not been killed but only knocked unconscious. The King believed me. But word had still spread of my resurrection, and thus I was named the White Knight. From then on, I was placed in front of the battalion. Many thanks to that confounded moniker, I have had an invisible mark on me. I am constantly attacked when the chance comes.”
“But did you meet death?”
“They say I did,” Adam laughed. He was not foolish to tell the validity of the situation. Why would he say to a stranger that it was his blood that had covered his armor and clothes? He had been killed and that the truth of it would be his execution. Better for it to be a mystery. He wished to speak of it. He wanted to inform the church. Yet, they had lied about what happened after one died. Death wasn’t what he was told it was. It had been cold, dark, and empty. Then he had been pulled from its grasp. What was he to be alive once more?
“You are lying, sir,” Goodfellow told him. Adam went to deny the accusation, but a raised pointed finger halted him. “Everyone has their secrets. I can see it in your eyes; you want to speak of it. But you can’t. Not here. But there is a world you can escape to let your burden go.”
Adam pulled away with disgust on his face, hands clenching at his knees, and body tensed. “What you say is impossible and unattainable.”
“What I say is not,” Goodfellow hotly returned, eyes opened wide in stupefaction.
“How? Tell me then.”
“Feys. They live in the world hidden from this one.”
“Feys?” Adam asked dully.
“You are out of your mind, old man,” Adam said with a dismissive wave.
“They are real. You must have heard of the stories of the great King Oberon and his wife, Queen Titania.”
“Children stories,” Adam snapped.
“They are not stories. Not fables. They are as real as you and I,” Goodfellow tried to convince him again. Adam shook his head. He wanted to believe the fool. He wished for the existence of magic. If there was anything supernatural, there were only the angels and demons. One lived in the sky and the other deep in the ground. Due to his death, Adam had a strong feeling he was of the latter.
“What proof do you have?” Adam taunted with a smirk on his face.
“Me,” Goodfellow answered with a mischievous smile. Adam’s smile waned as the man in front of him transformed. His eyes enlarged and the pupils glowed a warm ember color. The tip of his ears sharpened into points, his face smoothed slightly, and his skin became translucent. Then a shimmer to his form and an aura emerged that warned Adam that Goodfellow had power beyond his capabilities. What was this man—this thing? “I am Puck.”