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Friday, 31 March 2006
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The Tale of Duke Melmon
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Midsummer’s Day, the year 1358 after the founding of our Glorious Realm. Sire, it is my duty to recount this tale and pass on to you these papers. Upon the early morning of the Spring Equinox, two woodsmen, who were subsequently found to have been snaring rabbits and other game (a crime for which they have been flogged) upon the edges of the Bois de Loren, came upon a Knight, who’d staggered across the Ford of the Sentinels, upon the Brionne. He was in a much dishevelled state and commanded their succour. He claimed to be Duke Melmon of Quennelles, a claim they doubted and decided that he’d suffered a fall from his horse and was somewhat concussed. Nonetheless, they did give him aid and assistance, for which their chastisement was reduced in both duration and severity, showing true magnanimity of their Lord.

During my subsequent interview with them, they claimed he had the appearance of a man of some 40 summers, an age that agrees with that of the lost Duke at the time of his disappearance. They supported him to reach their village, some half a mile from the ford, where he was taken to the hut of the village elder to rest. A boy was sent to run to the Castle of Carrard, to fetch horse, clean clothes and a retinue for this knight. The village elder was summoned back to his home. My interviews with him lead me to believe that his assessment of the knight’s age, was greater than that of those who had found him, as he claims that the knight’s hair was greying at the temples. Vitals were brought, which the knight devoured as if he’d fasted for a month. After his repast, the Viscompte de Carrard arrived, with a spare palfrey, to take the knight to his castle, so he might be entertained in a manner more akin to his status. My subsequent report is that related to me by the noble Viscompte.

The knight appeared to be of some 50 years of age, his hair had greyed considerably and skin was showing wrinkles. The peasantry were now showing signs of unease, much muttering was heard and the head man said that they were afraid of a curse having been laid upon the knight and that it might spread to them! (The ignorance of the masses is of some concern to myself, I fear that if we should require them to fight anything more than a Goblin war party, they would quail in their boots whilst soiling their breach clouts!) The Viscompte initially dismissed this as mere superstition and stupidity on behalf of the peasantry. Viscompte de Carrard escorted the knight back to the castle, a journey of some hour’s duration. Upon arrival, the knight professed fatigue and wished to rest before he dined. The Viscount arranged for the knight to be taken to the suite of rooms he’d ordered prepared before he travelled to meet this stranger. He tells me he that the knight was so frail, that he required two Squires to assist him to his chambers.

After he’d rested for an hour, he came to The Great Hall, presenting himself to the Viscompte and his Viscomptess, the Lady Madeleine. She assessed the knight as being some 65 years of age, his hair was sheet white and his skin like ancient parchment. She berated the household for failing to remove the knight’s armour, getting her own servants to assist the knight from  his apparel. This armour I’ve examined and it is of ancient design, the surface is pitted with age, the sword suffering from such corrosion, as to be virtually immovable from its scabbard. The castle armourer taking many hours of labour to free it. (I recommend that he is employed by your great self, his talents are wasted in the quiet provinces.)  The design of his arms and armour was identical to that depicted in our oldest tapestries and paintings, even that of his surcoat matched exactly the ancient heraldry of the House of Quenelles. His fatigue was quite great now, the Lady Madeleine had victuals brought to the knight’s chambers, she herself was summoned to the chambers, finding the knight having great difficulty eating, his limbs trembled and he appeared to have lost teeth. (The peasantry who first met the knight, said that they’d not noticed anything amiss with his teeth.) The Lady said that had she met the knight for the first time, she’d have given his age as 75 years. She laid her hands upon him and felt that his life-force was ebbing rapidly, nothing she’d ever experienced felt like this, bar that emitted by the Damsel Fly, a creature that lives in its flying form for but a day. After his repast, he asked to be allowed to retire to his room, to assuage his fatigue until the morrow.

The Lady Madeleine instructed the most trusted squire, to check upon their guest every hour and to summon her if he decided that her presence was required. She told me that her choice of this man, was because he was trusted both to stay awake and thus comply with her instructions to check and also with sense enough to summon her if needed, not every time the visitor snored! At the first hourly visit, he was concerned, but didn’t summon her, the second hour came and her presence was requested. She found the knight close to death, his breathing irregular and shallow, pulse weak and limbs as atrophied as a crone who’d been bed-ridden for many months. His visage was that of a man of extreme age. The Viscompte was summoned too, but before he could arrive, even attired in his night wear, the knight had breathed his last. The Lady Madeleine recounted his last moments, "He sat bolt upright in his bed, clutched the covers and cried 'The Hunt comes for me!' He fell back upon the mattress stone dead and was as cold and stiff as stone within a matter of minutes."

His remains have been interred with due reverence in the Grail Chapel. The Grail Knight is said to have greeted the funeral cortege with the words, “Welcome François Melmon.” His belongings, other than his heraldry, armour and sword – these were ordered to be interred with his mortal remains by the Grail Knight – were passed to me for inspection upon my arrival. I am unable to send them with this account as they’re fragility is such that they’d reach you as but a powder. His armour and arms I have also inspected, the Grail Knight who is custodian of the Grail Chapel has forbade their removal, he rightly has no truck with the rabble named “Battle Pilgrims”, who’d parade such sacred artefacts and their former owner around in a most unseemly manner. I carefully opened the small book he’d carried, and therein lies this tale. Few others in your employ and fewer still outside of your glorious realm could decipher such an ancient script.

“I, François Melmon, Duke of Quennelles, write this in the hope that my words will be found, even if my living body is not. My story starts upon the early morn of the Spring Equinox, in the year 358 after founding of our glorious realm of Bretonnia. I came to this accursed, bewitched forest whilst hunting for deer. My companions and I sighted a white hart and gave pursuit to this marvellous quarry. It lead us a merry chase, working its way steadily towards the Brionne, finally clearing the river in a single bound, to reach the Loren Shore. When my companions lingered and dallied, I followed it under the boughs, deep into the forest, the thrill of the chase coursing through my veins. The paths we followed steadily narrowed, until I was swept from my saddle by a viciously thorned bough. My noble horse steadied and turned back to me. I took it by its reigns and started to retrace our tracks. The path we followed seemed to differ from that I remembered, being both narrower and more twisted. I tried to cut a more direct path through the undergrowth, but it was hard as steel, resisting my every cut. My horse suddenly shied, pulled free from my grasp and took off as if all the Orcs of mountains were after it. I am thus left afoot with nothing but my attire and my sword in this cursed, bewitched forest. I have tried to follow my horse, but where its hoof prints lead, is somehow through an impenetrable patch of thorn and briar, as if the path it followed has become overgrown in but minutes, thus I am forced to follow another path, one that if I turn to retrace my steps, is no longer there. I feel as if I am being herded like some beast of the field, and my herdsman is not a boy with a stick, but the wood itself.”

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 04 April 2006 )
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