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Sir Snottleham of Crashny: Chapter 3

The men continued on their journey unaware of the rumors and warnings flying before them. Peasants refusing to take them in first alerted these men to the possibility of danger, which they now felt lurking around them. Hiding behind bushes and rustling in the trees it seemed to bespeak of their defeat and death, but they pursued the quest diligently.

Count Deveron acted as if he knew something they did not. Soon after they saw and felt the signs of danger for themselves. King Hickle had grown to like the Count, so he assayed to find out all the Count knew. At first, Deveron would not speak, but after a while, he warmed to Hickle’s friendly manner, and he exposed some of the goings on to King Hickle. Snot watched Hickle’s eyes widen in fear and consternation as he listened to the man. Unwittingly his hand fell to the hilt of his sword, but Hickle caught the movement with his eye and stopped Snot with a look. In that look, Snot had seen the face of a haunted and hunted prey; he sucked in a breath of air and tried to calm his quaking limbs but could not. Burplon noticed this strange behavior and moved his horse up beside Chagrin.

“What’s up?” he asked after letting out a comfortable belch.

“I am not sure, but by the look on the King’s face, it isn’t good. I would not be surprised if we are riding into an ambush. I bet they are going to take revenge for our capturing Count Deveron.” Burplon attempted to whistle, but another belch squelched the attempt.

“What are we going to do?”

“I’m not sure yet but Hickle probably has a plan.” Snot wiped his nose again which was dripping overkill as the excitement and adrenaline coursed through his veins.

Finally, Hickle detached himself from Deveron and fell back to talk with Snot. Burplon rode forward to watch over the Count and to keep him company. They had long since freed his hands, but they had taken the precautionary measures of tying his feet to the saddle and attaching his horse to a lead rope which one knight always had a hand on.

“Deveron says-hick, that Duke Rosalyn has shortened the time on the-hick maiden’s rescue. Rosalyn also established-hick, headhunters on every road leading to his castle. According to the Count, it is nearly impossible to get by these men-hick.” Snot blew his nose loudly to calm his quaking nerves.

King Hickle began speaking again.“Our only chance with these headhunters is to ambush them at night. They sleep like bears in hibernation-hick. Of course-hick, we could always travel around them-hick, but then the Wool-bytes guard the roads at night, in packs of fifteen-hick. They do not hesitate to bring down grown men and their steeds-hick.”

Snot shook his head worriedly accidentally slinging a bit of snot onto Hickle’s armor. Blushing, he reached across and with his hankie and wiped the slime off the King’s armor.

King Hickle’s steed, Fumble, shuffled sideways and snorted uneasily. Chagrin became antsy at the same time and refused to move toward the trees ahead on the road.

“Maybe they saw a dragon.” Snot attempted a quip.

“Maybe.” King Hickle shrugged and attempted to smile, but then his look changed dramatically to one of anxiety.

King Hickle could not ignore the feeling of fear in the pit of his stomach. He looked over at Snot who nodded silently. Both men moved up on Burplon and the Count.

Burplon rode unconcernedly while the Count looked repeatedly at the trees, a look of fear on his face.

“What is happening, Count?” Hickle moved up beside Deveron and laid his hand on the man’s shoulder. Deveron jumped a bit and then settled back into his saddle.

“I think we are riding into an ambush. I smell the distinct musk smell of the Wool-bytes, and I have the feeling we are being watched.” King Hickle nodded to affirm the feeling of the Count.

“What would you recommend we-hick, do?” The Count shrugged,

“That depends on whether or not you want to engage them.”

“Attack them-hick, by all means.” King Hickle slapped the pommel of his sword with a confident gesture.

Deveron opened his mouth to say something but a deep rumble, which turned into an ear-splitting shriek, blasted through the forest.

The Count went wild with fear. “It’s the Wool-bytes, their coming for me!”He shrieked while pulling on his horse’s reins.

King Hickle grabbed hold of the bridle and waited for the hysterical man to discontinue his girlish squeaking. In desperation, Deveron began clawing at Fumble’s rump. The good old horse looked back at the man with mild surprise.

Finally, the Count slumped forward in his saddle and blubbered quietly, while his hands wandered around his waist and the side of the saddle. Burplon rode up and offered Snot Deveron’s sword. Snot raised an eyebrow and looked at the King. Hickle nodded slowly, and Snot carefully attached the sword to Deveron’s saddle. The Count’s hands stopped as they met the familiar handle. He straightened quickly while a look of determination came into his eyes.

“I am ready to fight for you!” Deveron raised his sword and bowed in reverence to King Hickle. A moment later, three Wool-bytes burst through the canopy of trees and made straight for the circle of nights.

The Wool-bytes are furry creatures looking much like normal sheep except only much bigger, and they had large canine teeth, which were the size of a lion’s. Their low grumble and piercing shriek struck fear into the hearts of the villagers who heard it, for the Wool-bytes were known to take away whole flocks of sheep, or herds of goats.

King Hickle looked incredulously as the four-foot animals lumbered towards them. This was what had reduced Deveron to a blob of quivering jelly? Snot shook his head uncertainly trying to clear his vision, while Burplon giggled nervously.

The Count gasped quietly, snapping the King back into focus. He drew his sword, looked back at Burplon and Snot then threw himself forward in the saddle.

“Charge!” He shouted. The horses reared up and then shambled towards the seeming sheep. Their unassuming figure kept the horses from shying away or fighting for the reigns.

The Wool-bytes reared up on their hind legs and flung their forefeet in front of them, flailing about wildly seeking a target.

Snot sucked in a deep breath, licked the tip of his nose, took aim with his dagger, and flung it towards the chest of the nearest animal. The animal weaved from side to side, as if attempting to avoid the blade, but it sank deep into the animal’s neck, bringing an enraged screech from the wounded animal. Opening its mouth, it charged on, vexed and the petrified Burplon.

Deveron shook himself and flew to Burplon’s rescue. With one powerful slice, he severed the head of the beast. Burplon sagged forward as he took a deep breath.

“Thanks,” he managed before retreating to the protective circle Snot and Hickle were creating. Deveron joined him a moment later and they all awaited the attack of the Wool-bytes. Five more of the beasts circled their fallen comrades letting out deep rumbles as they did so. Then with one accord, they fell on the carcasses and began devouring their own.

The knights looked on in disgust for a moment, before turning their horses and galloping for safety. Once clear of the horrible animals, King Hickle reigned in his steed and congratulated each of the knights for their good conduct. He offered to knight Deveron, thereby admitting him into their knighthood. The Count balked for a moment and then decided that it would be a clever idea. He dismounted and knelt before King Hickle.

“I dub thee, Count Hack, knight of King Hickle, and the order of Chrashny.” King Hickle stretched from his saddle and placed his sword on the man’s shoulders.

Deveron rose and made a petition to Hickle.

“May I still be called by the name Deveron, your honor? I am afraid, that I am not used to such a name as Hack.”

“Of course, I have no objections, but you must announce yourself under that name to strangers, thereby identifying yourself with our order.”

Deveron nodded and remounted his steed. Together, the party of knights continued down the road and into the sunset.

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