Gallandric Tales: The Knight Errant

Sparks few, and the brutal clash of steel echoed through the forest. The heavily armoured knight pulled himself to his feet with movements made awkward by his insistence that he maintain a grip on a strangely shaped mace. Once upon his feet he listened carefully for the sounds of combat. He set out in the direction he thought they were in, then stopped thinking he must be heading in the wrong direction, but another direction proved just as fruitless. His steel helmet was making it difficult to locate the origin of the sounds.

After his third failed attempt at finding the right direction to move in he looked at his mace, which differed from most in that instead of a large metal weight at the end it had a dark coloured glass sphere. This was no ordinary glass sphere though, it was enchanted to detect magical energy and guide the beholder of the mace to the source. The knight examined the mace and realised it was indicating through blue sparks emitting from the sphere that someone or something magical was nearby.

The knight instantly surmised that the magic was most likely in the same direction as the sounds of combat and hurried off in the direction indicated. Despite being so heavily armoured in steel plate the knight was able to move at a remarkable pace on foot. This was because he was no ordinary knight, nor was he an ordinary man. Barry Smith had been born with a remarkable atunement to an elemental power known in Gallandria as Ether. Where the ether came from and how it worked was beyond the comprehension of any sages Barry had spoken too. It was just one of four known elements and it was often considered the least impressive.

Yet, the energies available to people who were attuned with any element were coveted by anyone who lacked them. In the case of Barry Smith, he had discovered that he had an ability to energise and manipulate any metal he touched to make it light, heavy, flexible, or hard at will. As a young man in his blacksmith apprenticeship he had used his talents to craft superb tools, armour, and weapons. Earning him a fine amount of silver coins for his work. However, despite his natural talents he was and always would be a peasant and unable to buy land and take on the rank of aristocrat.

Barry, however, had an ambitious plan. He secretly crafted a set of armour for himself in the highest quality steel and quietly slipped out of his native village in the southlands and headed into the westlands where no one would recognise him. He would don his armour, and introduce himself as a knight from a distant land and place himself into the service of a local banner lord until he could afford to buy some land and establish his position as an aristocrat. It was this very plan that had brought him into this unexplored forest on a quest, and would thrust him into a series of unfathomable adventures. One of which was just about to begin as he pushed himself through one last thicket.

Crashing through the thicket he tumbled into a clearing where two young women, one armed with a long sword, and the other with a shield and mace, were battling it out together. The two young women had been sparring for some time and had relieved themselves of some items of their clothing exposing the bloom of their youthful and healthy bodies. Barry, although a fully grown man, had not yet once in his life seen an unclothed woman, much less kissed a girl. The sight of these exposed women caused in him such anxiety and embarrassment that he staggered back and collapsed to the ground with a jarring crunch.

The two young women took a few seconds to grasp what had just happened, but concluded that the knight’s fall was due to a battle wound rather than a self-inflicted wound. So instead of running to put on their clothes they instead rushed over to the aid of the flaying knight. The taller of the two young women, an ivory blonde named Deuli, managed to pull off Barry’s helmet before he realised what was happening. Barry blushed bright pink trying to look away from the pretty face leaning in to examine him.

“Valery!” cried Deuli, “look at his face! He’s so red! He must have a terrible wound somewhere! Can you heal him?”

The other young woman, a brunette with crystal blue eyes, was gaping with confusion, “Deuli! I can’t see any bleeding nor sense a wound on him.”

Deuli frowned, “he must have some kind of hex or magical injury, can you use your magic to heal him?”

“I don’t know, but I am going to try,” she turned to Barry who was still speechless with embarrassment, “Don’t be afraid, I have magical powers of healing, and I am going to try to help you.”

Barry stared blankly at her face, trying to maintain eye contact and not look farther down. However, in a instant of weakness his gaze had darted down and caught the unmistakable impression of a solitary nipple boldly protruding through the thin ban of fabric Valery had wrapped around her chest. The words of the chivalric code echoed in his head at that moment: “I swear to never look at a woman with lust in my heart.” Barry fearing he might breach his oath startled and started choking on his own saliva.

Deuli squealed, “convulsions! Quickly! Valery! Do your magic!”

Barry desperately gasped for breath to tell her to stop but he couldn’t get enough air in between the coughing spasms. Barry watched in horror as blue lightning leaped from Valery’s finger tips and struck his shiny ethereal armour. The elements of magic and ether should never mix. If they do it will be the ether that suffers as ether is nullified by magic. At once the nibble light armour turned into stiff heavy armour and a pain like being poked with a thousand pins at once closed in around Barry like a vice. The knight wannabe gritted his teeth and howled until the flow of blue lightning from Valery’s fingertips eventually stopped.

“He’s not better yet,” announced Deuli, “give him another dose.”

Valery nodded and prepared herself to deliver another jolt to the fallen knight. She was halted by Barry who held up a hand in a gesture for her to stop as he was catching his breath.

“Thank you! Thank you! That’s enough! I’m good! I’m well!” He panted looking away from the women. Deuli congratulated Valery for her “healing” and the two young women put all their clothing back on while Barry caught his breath.

“Sir,” started Valery, “are you certain you are alright? Your face is still dreadfully red.”

Barry quickly slipped his helmet back on to cover his face. He put his helmet on so hastily that he caught his ear in a strap pulling on it painfully. He gritted his teeth though and brought himself to his feet and feeling sufficiently protected by the helmet to finally managed to speak.

“Good day to you young ladies, my apologies for disturbing you. I heard the sounds of combat and feared there was trouble here. May I ask what you were doing?”

The two women looked at each other to check that they were equally confused.

“Good day to you sir, I am Deuli Lakesider, and this is Valery Morris we were just practicing for the upcoming tournament. We often come out here to train because it’s so secluded,” answered Deuli, “and may we ask what your purpose was in being here?”

Barry puffed out his chest proudly with his wrists resting on his hips, “I am on an errand from Lord Beaucastle. Thank you for your assistance, but I must dash. Important work to be done!”

With those words Barry dashed passed the two women and disappeared back into the thicket. Barry had been in such a hurry that he had not only forgotten to introduce himself, but had left his mace behind. A mace Valery scooped up and was examining intently. She reached out to touch the glass sphere when a nasty blast of static shocked her.

“This mace that knight was carrying is strange. Yes, look here: it’s magical. Why would he leave something so valuable behind?”

“He must have forgotten it. Quickly, let’s hurry after him before he gets too far away!”

With that the two women followed the mysterious knight errant deeper into the forest.

Journal: Having a Cold in the age of Corona

I went back to work last week and straight into full time. It was quite a shock to my system as I had gotten used to sleeping in and staying up late. I had also gotten used to exercising limited to my apartment. By the weekend I felt run down enough appreciate that full time work does require a degree of physical conditioning before it’s routine. Unfortunately, I am now back home lying on my couch grumpy with what is most likely just an ordinary cold: aches, sore throat, lethargy, and slight fever.

I hope.

Journal: Life in the Age of Pestilence

I can’t believe it is May already, and I am only now sitting down to write about what has turned into one of the most historic years in global history. Considering how significant these events are, I should write something down for posterity’s sake so that those who live in another part of the great cycle of civilisation and get some insight into the fall that happens when a civilisation becomes too prideful. Like most people on the planet, I have spent the last 6 weeks indoors hiding from the visible death machine known as the CCP coronavirus by those who believe in freedom, as Covid-19 by those who believe in statism and communism, and simply as “the coronavirus” by those who don’t think deeply about politics. However, I live in Australia, and Australia is coming out of lockdown sooner that 98% of countries in the world, and with a lot more optimism that we can go back to living our lives as “normal” again. However, I don’t share this optimism. We got into this situation by being too optimistic, I don’t think more optimism is the solution. But I will no doubt get to that topic later on. For now I need to lay some of the groundwork for the story so far. Continue reading “Journal: Life in the Age of Pestilence”

The Bacillus – Chapter One (Keane)

The whole affair started on January 3rd.

I was off duty that day, but my therapist, Dr. Sandra Helena, had asked me to accompany her on an errand of mercy. Dr. Helena informed me that the Hawthorn Lunatic Asylum had been ordered by the state government to close by December 31st, having released all of the inmates into community care. I was informed that all the inmates of the facility had in fact been relocated, except for one. A young woman who was kept by herself in the isolation wing. This young woman was a mystery, Dr. Helena informed me that no one knew exactly why she had been placed there. So far as she could tell this mystery woman had no criminal record nor a diagnosis. Yet the director of the asylum, Dr. Silverman, was continuing to keep her there even after all the other staff had left and the facility was officially closed down.

Dr. Helena was worried that Dr. Silverman was somehow abusing this woman, however, she had no proof of this. Rather than file a formal complaint against the venerable Dr. Silverman she thought she should confront him herself. However, she asked me to come along, in my police uniform, even though I was off duty. She said it was partly for moral support, but partly to intimidate Dr. Silverman into releasing this young woman whom Dr. Helena was certain was being held illegally.
Continue reading “The Bacillus – Chapter One (Keane)”

The Enchanted Singing Stone

Once upon a time in a land far away there lived a little girl called Rachel. Rachel was out walking by herself in the woods when she heard someone singing. The songs were so joyful and beautiful her ears drank them down and begged her to seek out this delicious singer in the wood. She crept up to a small clearing and peeked through the undergrowth expecting to see a woman singing. However, the clearing was empty, empty but for the biggest fairy toadstool she had ever seen. At first she thought the toadstool was singing, but as she looked more carefully she noticed a stone perched right at the apex of the toadstool.

Rachel watched and listened to the song until at last she could not contain her curiosity anymore, she stepped out from the undergrowth and asked politely who was the one singing such beautiful songs?

But at once there was silence in the grove. Rachel was undeterred and walked up to the stone perched on top of the toadstool. She gazed down upon the stone, which looked so common to her eye, and considered if indeed the wonderful singing came from such a humble stone? Continue reading “The Enchanted Singing Stone”

The Paximani – Part 5

Allaynah’s eyes eased open slowly. It took her a few moments to remember where she was and why so much of her body was stiff from pain and the cold; but at last the realisation drifted into her awareness that she must have fallen asleep during the night and what little reserve of adrenaline she had left was released into her blood stream. She threw her arms out frantically as though anticipating an imminent attack. However, she ended up getting tangled with Rosha who had been sitting beside her attempting to coax a feeble spark into a flame against from kindling. Rosha explained that she had woken up and found Allaynah fast asleep and didn’t want to wake her as she needed some sleep too.

Allaynah untangled herself, and sat cross legged looking around her dumbfounded. It was a regular cool late Spring morning, the birds and animals were silent, and there was little activity in the camp around her beyond Rosha and about a dozen other women trying to start fires without enough kindling to keep one going. Obviously, none of the women were confident enough to ask the Bellamani women for an ember from one of their fires, nor for some proper firewood.

There were a hundred or so Paximani women huddling together after enduring the cold night out in the open and were obviously similarly cold and stiff as she was. There was no sign of her sister Printara anywhere. She looked at Rosha who was gently uncovering something from underneath from her meagre pile of kindling. With delight she realised Rosha had a bark plate with two fistfuls of berries and a mushroom on it. Before she even thought to ask where the berries had come from Allaynah devoured the mushroom whole without washing it and gorged on the berries devouring even the empty skins of the berries that had burst during their picking. The meal was small but it lessened her intense hunger pains enough for her to think clearly again. Continue reading “The Paximani – Part 5”

The Paximani – Part 4

The forest is never more deadly than at night. Even an experienced and well armed hunter fears being alone in the prehistoric wilderness after sunset. The painted woman was not only alone in the forest, she was naked, unarmed, tired, and hungry. Although she had leapt at the opportunity to escape from the Bellamani she had also realised that the Matriarch had probably given her a death sentence; and perhaps also a death sentence to poor young Rosha. It occurred to the painted woman that this may have been the Matriarch’s intention: kill off the strongest Paximani woman. In truth, there was a voice inside the huntress that beg for death. After watching all her friends, the men of the tribe, slaughtered and mutilated by the Bellamani, and the subsequent easy capitulation of the remaining women of her tribe, had filled her heart with so much woe and despair that death seemed like a welcome avenue of escape from her current situation. The ultimate way to destroy your enemy is to trick or convince them into destroying themselves. Despair and misery are just another two weapons of war no less important than a spear or a bow.

But another voice also spoke inside her head. A voice of an old warrior, Tannas, she had known him as a little child. She could hear his deep cavernous voice echoing inside her head, “The most dangerous foe is not the one who strikes you down with his spear, and not even the foe who can convince you to lower your guard foolishly, but the one who can convince you throw yourself on the point of your own spear. For this reason you must learn to conquer the despair in your own heart before you attempt to conquer enemy.” Continue reading “The Paximani – Part 4”

Writer’s Diary: Anxiety Based Decisions

Anxiety and I are on first name basis. See, I have trouble sleeping, or I used to until I discovered that working lots of hours helps me sleep. So last year I started working 50+ hours a week every week, often working on Sundays too. The result was that I was earning a lot more money, falling to sleep far easier than I had ever been before, and just being productive. However, the anxiety hasn’t gone away as much as I hoped it would. Instead, I’ve been anxious in new ways. Ways I’m only just wrapping me head around now that I can understand how they’ve been altering my thought process. Another problem with working so many hours is that I often feel run down, and writing is an intense intellectual task. It might not put much pressure on the limbs, but the brain consumes a lot of energy writing and the level and quality of prose I’ve been producing has suffered with my increased working hours. So something in my life needs to change. Continue reading “Writer’s Diary: Anxiety Based Decisions”

The Paximani – Part 3

Printara managed to push Allaynah down underneath her, she placed both her legs across her stomach pinning her down. Allaynah tried to push her off but Printara managed to pin one of Allaynah’s arms between her legs while holding her other arm down by the wrist. With her free hand she raised a fist to pound it into her defenceless sister’s face. Her fist landed with a dull thud and Allaynah tried to cry out but was half choked by the weight on her chest. All around them dozens of pairs of eyes watched passively, none of the women were willing to intervene in this violent dispute. None except the painted one. Printara’s fist rose up in the air ready to strike again but was captured in mid air by the painted woman who then yanked the confused Pintara up onto her feet and pushed her away. Allaynah was dazed and struggling to catch her breath from the beating she had received, but Printara bared her teeth furiously at the strange woman, “she stopped me from going with the other women. I am teaching her a lesson!” Printara cocked her head down and prepared to throw herself onto Allaynah again.

The painted woman drew back her right arm and proceeded to land a punch so hard it caused Printara to flip over and hit the ground flat on her back with a thud. Printara was now too breathless herself to get back up. The painted woman leaned over her threateningly.

“Your sister saved your life, and if you ever try to hurt another one of our tribe again I will beat you so hard you won’t ever get back up again, do you hear?”

Printara nodded in stunned submission. The painted woman turned around to face the other women of her tribe, “that goes for all of you. If any of you attack another woman of this tribe, I will deal with you swiftly. Attacking a fellow Paximani is treason, and traitors beg to suffer and die!”
Continue reading “The Paximani – Part 3”

The Paximani – Part 2

The Matriarch’s camp was situated in a field not far from a river. It was surrounded by a wall made by binding hundreds of thorn bushes together and dragging the assembled chain of brambles into a perimeter line. The wall wasn’t straight at all and so the camp was shaped more like a splatter mark than a well organised military base. There were only two entries to the camp and each was guarded by at least six of the Matriarch’s warrioresses armed with spears, clubs, and bows. There were no towers overlooking the perimeter, nor any huts. There were several open fires burning throughout the camp interior, around them were clusters of tents made from saplings and animal skins stretched over them. There was something that troubled Allaynah about the things the Bellamani built. Weaving brambles and nettles together to create a wall was something the Paximani never did. On the few occasions they had built walls they had used wood, dirt, and stone; that much she knew. But the foreignness of this wall troubled her. It was like a long thorn studded snake weaving its way into her home. While looking at the wall she vaguely recalled the men of her tribe talking about the challenges regarding the building of walls. She wished she’d paid more attention to what the men had said.

When Allaynah’s group first arrived they were made to wait on the grass just inside one of the camp entrances. Small groups of Paximani women were then escorted down to the river allowed to drink for the first time that day. Allaynah was careful to wash Rosha’s wounds. She found some leaves from a herb that helped wounds to heal faster, but lacking a mortar and pestle she crushed the leaves up in her hands as best she could before applying them to Rosha’s injuries. She would have used her teeth but the same herb if ingested would make one sick. Allaynah was aware that the painted woman was staring intensely at Rosha while the teenager’s wounds were being treated.

“Are you a medicine woman?” asked the painted one.

Allaynah shook her head while quietly making eye contact with the painted woman. The painted woman rose up onto her toes and crept closer to Rosha to peer down at her curiously. Rosha’s face had several gashes on it and one of her eyes was almost completely squeezed shut by the swelling. A large purple lump dominated the right side of her face. She looked up at the painted woman and shivered.

Continue reading “The Paximani – Part 2”