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.