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Sir Snottleham of Crashny: Chapter 2

A Journey of Discovery

As the men rode through different towns and villages, they noticed differences between their towns and the ones they saw now. Somehow, they seemed happier; the houses looked better, and overall, the people seemed fresher and cleaner than the ones back home. At first, King Hickle refused to see the difference, even as Burplon stubbornly showed him the evidence through frequent interruptions by his belching. However, as time went on, he could not help but see the difference himself and it wounded him deeply. He knew that somehow his village was falling apart, decaying, and he could do nothing to stop it.

Snot simply rode in silence; in one hand he held his hanky, in the other, the reigns of his faithful steed. He came to full attention a moment later, when a grand procession of knights swept up the road toward them. King Hickle began to draw his sword, but Burplon restrained his hand at a look from Snot.

One official-looking knight broke from the rest and trotted towards him; two squires close on his heels. When he was a few feet from them, he stopped and asked in a commanding tone.

“Who are you, and from where do you hail?”

King Hickle went into a fit of hiccups at the snobby address, so Snot assayed to deal with the knight for him. Leisurely, he drew the hanky across his nose, folded it neatly, and set it in front of him, before deigning a reply.

“We are from the village of Chrashny, a good two-day ride from here. We are on a mission, a quest you might say. Pray, let us pass on in peace.”

“A quest you say? What quest might that be?” the knight asked, frowning.

“We seek the maiden, Arlayna Liseuze Vignola.” Snot answered boldly.

The knight drew himself up sharply.

I seek the maiden Arlayna, I will find her and win her hand, not you sniveling, little good-for-nothings. I am Count Deveron, by my hand, you will die this day!” With that, he drew his sword and charged at the three unprepared men. Surprisingly, it was King Hickle, who recovered quickly from his shock. With the burbling battle cry of his country, he led the charge.

The Count’s two squires attempted to fight, but they fell beneath the mighty blows of Snot’s sword. Burplon backed his horse against a tree and met the next two men who broke from the party head-on. Snot raced to the assistance of King Hickle, locked in mighty combat with the Count, but two more men cut him off. This left four other knights in the group who looked on at the raging swordplay with mild interest, hands on their swords, ready to step in if the need arose.

Snot worked his way around the two men until he was fighting back-to-back with his King. Both men had dismounted and released their horses out of harm’s way. Burplon shouldered his way over to them a moment later, sporting a long gash across his cheek.

The three of them fought back-to-back, their swords swaying in the sunlight, a cut here a stab there, a bind attempt when the opportunity arose. In battle, these men were not disgusting, awkward knights— they were true masters of the sword.

After all was finished, the three knights stood over five dead men, two wounded, and a captured Count. Burplon attended to the wounded, while Snot and King Hickle questioned the sullen, defeated Count.

“Do you know about Maiden Arlayna’s whereabouts, or are you simply on a blind quest as we are?”

“I know much about the maiden’s whereabouts, but I would never even consider telling them to the likes of you.” Snot turned red with rage; did not the man realize he was a prisoner at their mercy?

“Did we not just defeat you in a fair bout of swordplay? Did not the true masters appear? Why then would you consider us below you, you beastly little captive.” Snot challenged. He struck hard at the Count’s pride, and he could tell that the man would give anything to be free so that he might take revenge for his humiliation.

“Yes—hick! Why aren’t you succumbing to your fate?” Hickle grumbled in obvious frustration. “We could easily just stab you through right now—hick! Moreover, we could on pain of torture, get information out of your other men. So, what will it be?”

The Count growled and strained at his bonds, but he made no reply. Grimly, King Hickle unsheathed his sword and brought it back, intending to skewer the man with a single thrust. The Count’s eyes went wide with fear, and he looked pleadingly at the King, begging for mercy. King Hickle lowered his sword reluctantly.

“Are you ready to tell us what you know?”

The Count bit his lip and nodded.

“As far as my knowledge goes, she is penned up in the castle where dwells the dragon Finickle. Finickle is behind bars, awaiting the day when Duke Roslyn will turn him loose on his prey. He has given Arlayna’s father, King Vignola, a month to find her, if no one finds her at the expiration of that time he will set her free in the dragon’s lair and loose the dragon upon her. That is all I will tell, death, torture, or both.”

King Hickle did not press the matter; he realized the Count had told much more than he had originally intended to. Snot would have questioned him more, but Hickle restrained him.

“He has given us much information, to ask more of him would be—hick! Unchivalrous of us, wouldn’t you agree?” Snot nodded then bent to assist Burplon with the wounded men.

Carefully, they loaded the men onto a stretcher made of pine boughs and toted them to the nearest apothecary. Their strange rolling gate brought stares and whispers after them, but they heeded them not a whit. In fact, everything about the men was strange, their disgusting childish habits, their rust unruly armor, to the people they looked like a trio of robbers who had gone out of their minds.

King Hickle bowed courteously to the women and girls that he passed, nearly falling out of his saddle on numerous occasions. They dismounted in front of the apothecary and toted the two wounded men inside. The count who was a familiar sight among the townspeople, sat outside tied to his horse, beet-red with embarrassment. When King Hickle returned, he handed a cup of water up to the count, who drank the water thirstily. He wiped his mouth dry then handed the empty cup back to the King who refilled it and handed it around to his other two men. Last of all, he took a deep drought himself, before returning the cup to the apothecary.

King Hickle paid the apothecary a hefty sum of money to care for the men he left in his charge. The apothecary accepted the bag of gold, which jingled pleasingly in his palm. Then he squinted up at the humiliated knight on horseback.

“What are you going to do with this bloke?” the apothecary asked.

“Taking him back to our city to try him for attacking the king without cause.” Snot quickly answered before he saw the disapproving look on King Hickle’s face. He quickly clamped his mouth shut and pleaded for forgiveness out of the corner of his eye. Hickle nodded slightly and Snot relaxed until he heard the apothecary speak again.

“Which king did he attack? I know of only three kings and none of them ride the roads at this time of year.”

“The king whom I speak of stands before you sir. We travel on a quest, a mission, and this knight tried to keep us from it, wanting the glory for himself.” The apothecary raised his eyebrows in approval.

“Is it the maiden Arlayna you seek?”

“Yes sir, it is.”

“Then here take this vial with you, it will restore a man left unconscious after a battle with a dragon. It is a tried-and-true cure, but use carefully, for too much and the man will go mad and surely die.”

“Is it some type of poison then?” Snot eyed the bottle in his hand as if it would explode at any moment.

“Some would say it is a poison, others not. However, to all, it presents the gift of immediate healing and added strength. Dilute it with water, and you will have the strength to fight ten men.”

"Thank you for your help. Perhaps someday we can return the favor.” Snot bowed as he tucked the vial into his pouch.

“Perhaps you will. Now get moving, for you only have three hours of sun left, and no one should travel these roads after dark.” With this warning echoing in their minds the three men set out on their journey again, the prisoner in tow.

Nightfall found them housed in a hermit’s hut, sleeping on the floor wrapped in the blankets he offered them. Snot gave up his bed to the Count, whom they tied firmly to his resting place. Snot lay on the floor not far from him, a string wrapped around his wrist attached to the Count’s foot. After they rose in the morning, they supped of the simple fare the hermit offered, yet it was sustaining and they went on their way refreshed. Burplon, under the orders of King Hickle, slipped a few coins beneath the pillow of the hermit before turning to go. The hermit blessed them and bade them good speed and safety for the journey before them. The knights felt satisfied, for they knew that their journey of discovery had already begun, where it would end no one knew.

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