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Sir Snottleham of Crashny: Chapter 4

Deveron's Chance

The men found lodging in the haystack of an absent farmer. His wife was scared witless when she heard of their quest. Stumbling and fumbling over her words she somehow managed to give the impression that they could use the haystack. In her intense fear, she did not realize that she still held the loaf of bread in her hand that she was going to use for her supper. She flung it at the men, screaming hysterically at them to get out. Burplon belched excitedly and snatched the loaf out of mid-air. King Hickle thanked the woman and they beat a hasty retreat.

Deveron stumbled upon the woman’s garden while trying to reach his horse. He tumbled awkwardly over the squash patch and landed unceremoniously in her tomato bed. Some of the red fruit squirted all over his armor. Angrily he brushed it away, and in doing so, inadvertently knocked a few more tomatoes from the vine. Gathering them into his hand, he rushed after the disappearing steeds of King Hickle and the others. His own steed had followed them, so he pursued them on foot.

At the haystack, King Hickle broke the bread into even portions and gave them to his knights. Sheepishly, Deveron offered them the tomatoes, but they drew back in alarm.

“Where did you get those?” Snot asked with a suspicious look on his face. Deveron colored slightly. Then to his surprise, he let out a deep cough. King Hickle smiled gleefully.

“He is truly one of us now—if he can explain where he found these delicious-looking tomatoes.”

“Well, I stumbled upon them, while trying to find my horse. The tomato patch happened to be where I landed, and I could not waste these fruits after knocking them off the vine.” Deveron looked around hoping to see nods of approval. Only blank stares met his questioning eyes.

Just then, Burplon let out a suppressed belch. Surprised by the sudden noise, King Hickle fell into a fit of hiccups, with Snot and Deveron looking on with hopeless mirth.

Hickle managed to catch his breath while wiping tears of mirth off his face.

“We must pay for our keep. Hack—I mean Deveron, since you have the tomatoes, you will pay for the food. I will pay for the accommodations of-hick- this haystack.” Deveron nodded in agreement, while he remembered the gold stashed away in his saddle. He thought about giving it to King Hickle as a sort of payment for his acceptance into the order of Chrashny, now he was glad that he had saved it. Perhaps he would be able to help them in a time of desperate need.

The knights unclasped their cloaks and lay down in the hay spreading the cloth over them. Soon they dropped off to sleep as one, all of them except Deveron. He lay awake tossing and turning trying to sleep with the strange night noises that surrounded him.

Finally, he realized that the sound came from his own companions. Burplon snored with a high-pitched squeal that never let up. King Hickle added a rich melody, while Snot purred forth a deep bass. Deveron stilled, listening to the strange, haunting sound. After many hours, he managed to drop off to sleep, adding his tenor to the already strong refrain.

The next morning a sleepy, bedraggled farmer walked up to his front gate. His long night on the road had left him in grouchy spirits, which did not become any lighter when he saw the absence of smoke from the chimney of the farmhouse. He slammed the gate shut and stomped up to the cottage, flinging open the door, he saw his wife huddled in a chair, her blanket wrapped firmly around her. Her head was slumped forward, and quiet snores signaled to the farmer he deep slumber. Growling, he stomped over to her and shook her roughly. With a little screech, she bolted out of the chair and stood in the middle of the room with a petrified look on her face.

The farmer looked at her with an expression akin to fear. To all appearances, his wife was mad! Slowly he advanced, hand extended until he stood directly in front of her.

“Jayne, it is I Morded. Are you alright?” She looked up at him, and the fear in her eyes pierced his soul.

“Jayne, what’s wrong?”

“The knights, are they gone?” Jayne asked, her hand trembling as she lifted a finger to point out the door.

“What knights?” Morded turned to look where she pointed and saw four horses in travel harness standing heads down next to his haystack.

“There are four horses but no knights that I can see.” Jayne went rigid again.

“In the haystack, look in the haystack.” She whispered.

Purposefully, Morded strode out the door, stopping just outside to pick up his staff. Whoever dared to scare his wife in such a manner would pay for it with their lives.

King Hickle stretched inside the haystack, planting one fist firmly into Snot’s eye, while his foot smashed into Burplon’s nose. All three were wide awake in an instant. Snot sat up and doubled over holding his eye tightly while Burplon cradled his nose, an appendage that did not lack for size.

King Hickle did not notice them for he was peeking out of the hole he had made in the hay. What he saw made him hiccup in surprise. A determined-faced peasant with a long staff was walking towards them, an angry expression in his eyes.

“We shall soon have unpleasant company!” Hickle observed before placing his elbow in Deveron’s stomach. The knight grunted in pain and woke up.

“What is going on?” he asked groggily.

“We’ll soon find out.” Snot answered grimly as the hay at the far end began falling away. A minute later, a grubby hand reached in and removed the last of the hay. He whirled the club over his head and brought it down with a crash, next to Burplon’s head. He belched in fear while scooting backward onto Hickle’s lap. Deveron wiggled out of the hole and stood straight squinting while his eyes adjusted to the sunlight. He saw just enough to avoid the staff that would have knocked him off his feet.

“Let me wake up a moment alright?” Deveron growled irritably. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and then stood to face the man in front of him.

“Who are you?” The peasant challenged, “And what are you doing in my haystack?”

“Your wife permitted us to sleep here tonight. She also provided us with a loaf of bread, and I am going to pay for the tomatoes.”

Snot stepped out and wiped his nose with his sleeve.

“We are nights on a quest. King Hickle is our leader. I am Snot, second in command.”

Burplon stepped out and drew himself up but a belch at just that moment ruined his dignity.

“I am Burplon, the mighty!” He belched again, while the peasant wrinkled his nose in disgust.

“What about you?” He turned his hard gaze on Deveron.

“I am Count Dev—er, I mean, I am Count Hack, Knight of the order of Chrashny.” He looked over at King Hickle for approval. King Hickle nodded and hiccupped.

“What are you four disgusting knights doing on my property in my haystack? I gave you no permission! Get out before I lay my staff across your backs!” He whirled his staff over his head and let it crash to the earth.

King Hickle bowed, gathered his cloak around him, and mounted his steed. Burplon giggled nervously and then called for his horse. Snot whistled calmly and Chagrin appeared beside him. Deveron swung up into his saddle while replacing his cape.

“Here is the money I promised for the delicious tomatoes.” He rummaged in his pouch and drew forth a handful of gold coins. The farmer knocked them angrily on the ground.

“I said get out!” He screamed. King Hickle put spurs to his steed, and the other followed his example.

Burplon frowned as they rode down the road.

“What was wrong with him? We were just in need of a place to stay.”

Deveron nodded in agreement. King Hickle looked at them a bit sadly.

“For many years, —hick, evil kings ruled the land where these people now dwell. To him, — we are just the same as the rest, even if we tried to be polite. I can understand his disgust with harboring a band of unknown knights on an unknown quest.”

Hack looked embarrassed. Hearing King Hickle speak of the mistreatment of the peasants reminded him of his own not-so-polite dealings with them. He bowed his head and rode in silence.

Snot saw the deep sadness of the King and sought to comfort him but could think of no polite way of doing it, so he just pressed his steed close to the king’s and offered his silent companionship.

The knights rode until noontime when they stopped to eat and let their horses rest. Burplon leaned up against a huge oak tree and was soon lost in the land of slumber. Hack pulled out his long knife and began honing its edge to a razor-sharp point. Hickle pulled out his map and studied it, while Snot saw to their packs. Finally, the King stood up and gently nudged Burplon with this boot.

Burplon snorted and let out a surprised belch. He stumbled to his feet and blundered over to his steed. Flinging himself on the poor beast’s back, he squirmed into a sitting position.

Laughing under his breath, Hack mounted his steed. With a quick leap the animal moved beneath him, and he was forced to grab hold of the pommel of the saddle. Suddenly, he was grasped with a fit of coughing, the first he’d ever had. Snot and King Hickle looked on approvingly, as the strangling knight gasped for breath. Finally, he stopped coughing and looked up at the King in bewilderment.

“What happened to me?” he asked in a quavering voice.

“We accepted you into the order a while back, but only when you had your first bout with your name’s sake are you truly a member of our band. Welcome to our group.” Deveron was relieved, to say the least. He was afraid some horrible sickness had taken hold of him.

Their journey was almost over, just one more obstacle stood in their way, duke Rosalyn.

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