Fantasy & Sci-Fi

Albinor Chronicles Chapter 23
"My Kingdom For a Sword"

By Marcus Pan

January 1, 005

Now after returning to Entropia from Ierendi with riches in the form of arms and warriors, the king, Hector Aasgard, looked at the knights of Ierendi as they marched from their ship with their captain, John Skurge, at their head. A hundred-strong arrayed in the finest field plate, shields bearing boldly the livery of Ierendi a blue-sailed wooden ship above a red-hued spear head on a sea-blue field with the same proclaimed on their breasts. Helmets plumed in rainbow colors and girded with longswords whose hilts threw back Helios' radiant beams nearly as brightly as when they first sprung forth from his fiery chariot. Almost celestial they seemed. He turned his gaze upon his own army of knights that once looked great and strong. Now, beside Ierendi's most splendid of forces, they looked pallid and weak. They stood clad in chain mail, helms that looked subordinate to the great-plumed upon the heads of Ierendi's forces. They gripped no shield to bear his livery, that of Entropia a sword hilt along which is written "Entropia Eternus" and they seemed meager compared to those that now stepped off the galley. He himself, though king indeed, walked with naught more than a set of two daggers belted to his sides and a dagger is far from a king's blade. He needed arms for him and his men, but neither Luln nor Death, the two greatest communities of his land, can offer any assistance. He needed a sword. He felt trapped in an epic play "A sword! A sword! My kingdom for a sword!" Nay. He will retrieve one. But how? Specularum of Karameikos obviously offers no assistance. Going there is absurd considering he is currently at war with that country. And Karameikos borders him all-round. Surrounded on all fours by a sea of enemies and without a sword with which to defend himself properly. Ship travel he does not care for. He has not the heart of a sailor. And he is too swelled with pride to shed his kingdom's livery and travel in secret. Pride may feed a man's courage, but combined they may be deadly. He spent a month planning, scheming and plotting all for a sword.

Early he awoke on the first day of the new year and clad himself in his full plate armor over his heavily padded undergarments. He called for his teamsters and instructed them to ready his heavy warhorse in it's chain mail barding, saddle and saddle bags. After their leave he pulled down his backpack from the top shelf in his closet and packed supplies into it. He belted his daggers on either side and then garbed himself in a dark, hooded riding cloak and strapped on his backpack. He locked his chambers and headed to the stables. Standing there, the wind whipping his hair and cloak about him, stood the Ierendi captain who rode in with him months earlier. The teamster led out Hector's barded mount as he saw him approach. Hector addressed the captain. "Morning, John."

"Morning," he rasped.

"What brings you out so early in the morn on a day so crisp?"

"Heard you were planning on a leave, m'lord."

"Aye. I go to Shirville of the Five Shires of the halflings by way of yon river." answered Hector as he mounted his horse and indicated west.

"But Hector, following that waterway will lead you to travel for over a hundred leagues through the duke's territory and to do so with Entropia's livery emblazoned upon thy breast can lead to your death or capture by the Duke's hand."

"Aye, but I shall not forsake my country and remove the emblem before thee. To do so would show hipocricy to my very own knights. I will wear it bravely on my sojourn through Karameikos. And if anything should happen, John, assume seneschalship until the forthcoming year. If at such time I have not yet returned to thee, assume the worst and grant Entropia, if it still stands in defiance, to my own captain." Before John Skurge could utter a retort or answer, Hector nudged his horse into a gallop. Skurge watched as he headed northwest along the shoreline and was out of sight.

Hector reached the mouth of the Entropia river by nightfall of that day. He fed his horse and began a small fire with which he cooked a small, unnourishing meal and ate. He laid down beside the swift-running river. The winter season was not cold enough to freeze this river. This simple travel, eat and sleep pattern Hector would follow for some time.

In the morning he began following the Entropia River north and by mid-morning stepped onto Karameikos' land. Now was the time for silent swiftness. He nudged his mount beneath the low-hanging branches of a bordering forest. The fallen leaves and the whistling of the breeze muffled the hooves as he passed onward north, following the river still. On the eve of the second day, he came upon the part of the river where the tributary known as Running River pointed northeast. And in this grotto he stopped for the night, ate and slept.

He was awoken by footsteps 25 yards away from him. He spied three merchants heading his same way. He mounted his horse and raced upon them, throwing them into a frenzy as his faithful mount stamped the life from the merchants' limbs. He himself slew one with his dagger. He was later to learn the dangers of his near-fatal choice of slaying the merchants.

He traveled onward and came upon the outskirts of a town. A sign proclaimed it as East Riding of Karameikos and the sign also noted that there were ten knights of the duke's forces keeping peace in this community. He pressed on, passing along the outskirts of this town like a shadow in the night and stepped off the beaten trail for the night. This was his third day of travel.

The next number of days went easily. He came upon the end of the Running River and flanked it, now following it downstream back toward the Entropia River from which it sprang. Wary of the village he had passed and the killings he had made only a few nights before, he pressed on deep into the night then pulled beside the river to rest. Before he lay down he heard scrambling hooves stamping towards him. Covering his horse in brushwood and peering from clumps of the same, he spied eight knights clad in chain mail and bearing the Karameikos livery on their shoulders speed past on swift-footed riding horses. "By god," mumbled Hector. "They must have tracked me from East Riding. I am safe for now. Even they must rest soon and I will do so now. They will discover their mistake. When they double back to pick up my trail tomorrow, hopefully I can pass them unheeded and head to the Five Shires where they will not pursue me." He laid himself to rest and verily so did the enemy knights.

He continued on quickly, eating his meager breakfast as his mount carried him further o'er the plains downstream. 'Twasn't long before he reached the main body of Entropia River and he continued north along it's border. He rested that night, now nearly two weeks from Fort Doom of Entropia. He was awakened suddenly by the very near baying of wolves and rushed to mount his horse. As he mounted, a pack of nearly two score wolves rushed in upon him, growling and barking. Many bit at his horse's flanks, some even penetrating the chain mail barding the animal wore to draw blood. Hector loosed a dagger to no avail and was left with only a single one, the last weapon he carried. He directed his horse bravely, bringing it's hooves crashing down on the bodies and brains of the attacking wolves. A human voice blasted from behind and he turned, still bringing his warhorse down on the heads of his attackers, and saw his pursuers, the eight Karameikos knights, dash into the fray brandishing longswords and shouting of victory. Many of the wolves bounded after them, leaving them to fend for their lives against the beasts. That's when Hector broke off, dashing north like a bolt of lightning. Three of the wolves pursued, yipping and biting at the horse's flanks. Another flung itself up and above the back of the great horse and caught, with it's searing jaws, the left shoulder of Aasgard. He plunged his remaining dagger into the bosom of the beast and it fell limply. Still he raced, the shouts of the knights echoing behind him. Blood poured from his gnashed shoulder, but he had to move swiftly and surely from the Karameikos knights. In a few hours he reached the tip of the Entropia River and flanked it, racing back south following the river now downstream on it's opposite bank.

He met no opposition for three days. He traveled continually far into the darkness of the evening, trying to reach the shirelands before the knights reached him. Unbeknownst to him, the knights of his enemy had beaten back the wolf pack and had re-struck his trail heading towards him, also following the Entropia River downstream southward.

Hector reached yet another tributary of the Entropia River, this one leading northwest, called the Shire River. The land of the halflings was now barely a day's travel from where he stood. As he stood atop a small hill, he gazed downward into a small grotto beside the river. A glint of metal reflecting the now-diving sun caught his eye in the bottom of the grotto. He turned his horse and raced down the opposite side of the hill so as not to be seen. Then he traveled as close as he dared to where he saw this and laid in the bushes, peering through them at a single, shining Karameikos knight on foot. He did not recognize this man as one who followed him from the battle with the wolf pack, but nevertheless he hid the way to freedom beyond the shire's borders. Creeping on his stomach, he made it close to the knight as he prepared to build himself a fire for warmth and comfort. He grabbed the knight, wrestling him to the ground. Beating him with his free hand, he then unsheathed his dagger and plunged it into his chest from behind. The man, muffled by the hand of Hector which covered his mouth, let out a low groan and crumpled to the ground. The corpse Hector dragged beyond the bushes. He heard a faint galloping and again he hid his horse, the body and himself on the edge of the grotto. The eight knights came over the rise, still pursuing their enemy ruthlessly and stopped to inspect the unmade camp. On the ground, in it's center, was a pool of blood which had issued from the dead knight's wounded chest at the stroke of his death. The knights sped forth, believing their enemy to be closely ahead of them. Hector passed into the shirelands hugging the bank of the Shire River closely without sighting the pursuing knights thereafter. He reached Shirville alive and well except for his wolf-torn shoulder. There he found his sword a huge and formidable broadsword.

The above item may have been edited by the author since its first appearance in Legends No. 60.