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Literature - The Tales of Ã?lfinfort
Monday, 06 June 2005
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The Tale of Sir Robert, chapter i. Prologue to Battle
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The messengers arrived at dawn, sparking a flurry of activity in the castle. Sir François cancelled his planned hunting trip and started making arrangements. Messangers had to be sent out, nobles assembled, everything must be in order for the visit of the Duke. However, François suspected that the Duke's visit was not just a courtesy call. This was too sudden, too urgent. Something was happening, and he suspected he could put a name to it - Heinrich Kemmler. Sir François knew that Duke Tancred had sworn a solomn oath to hunt down and destroy Kemmler shortly after completing his Grail Quest. Indeed, this was one of the factors that had led him and other nobles of Quenelles to petition the King, that Tancred might be prevailed upon to leave his hermitage and take up the dukedom. In a lesser man the fires that Kemmler lit would have burnt up his heart with hatred, but this was not the case wit Tancred. For he had drunk from the very same Grail that the Lady of the Lake had first offered to Gilles many centuries previously, and as a Grail Knight he placed his emotions at the service of the Lady. He would not act rashly out of hatred, nor be held back by the terrors the undead held even for stout Bretonnian hearts. He was the man to defend Quenelles, and all Bretonnia, against the evil that had arisen in the Grey Mountains.

And now he was coming to Ælfinfort. He had been up in the north of his dukedom for the last month, reassuring the barons that their continuing fight against the skaven and orcs of the Massif Orcal was not forgotten while he persued his quest against Kemmler. He had meant to stay for another month, before returning to Quenelles via Giselles, yet he had cut short his stay. Fran?ois could only presume that he had had tidings of his arch-enemy and was hastening to respond.

At the hour of sexts, when the sun was highest in the sky, the ducal caravan approached from the east, down the road that led to distant Parravon. The sun caught their shining armour as the crested the hill, passing the Swandle Stones that stood as a reminder against the hubris of one of Sir Fran?ois' ancestors, if the legends were to believed. As Sir Fran?ois surveyed the oncoming chivalry he become even more certain that the Duke rode to war, for there seemed to be many more knights in his entourage than there had been when he had passed through a month back on his way northwards.

Less than an hour later, the Duke was answering the challenge of the gate-guard with a loud bellow, and seeking admission to the town and castle. Five minutes after this he was dismounting in the central courtyard of ?lfinfort Keep. A young squire rushed over to help him dismount and then led his horse away to the stables. The Duke strode over to Sir Fran?ois and, kneeling, addressed him "Your Grace, I seek permission for my retainers to enter thy castle and board here for this coming night. My mission is urgent, and my need pressing, so I ask that thy hospitality be poured out on us, thy humble servants."

Sir Fran?ois smiled inwardly. Tancred had not let urgency overcome proper manners, nor drive from his head the fact that while Sir Fran?ois was a mere baron in the outside world, and a baron of Tancred's own duchy of Quenelles at that, within the walls of ?lfinfort he still bore the ancient title of Duke of ?lfinfort and was not bound to receive anyone save the king. Fran?ois replied, "Your Grace, it is an honour to my humble table that you consider it worthy to favour with thy presence. I bid thee welcome to ?lfinfort, and all those who travel in thy retinue. My fare is put poor, but you are welcome to share in it for as long as it is thy wish to remain."

Duke Tancred stood again, and clapped a hand on Sir Fran?ois' shoulder. "Ah, my friend. It is truely good to see you again, I only wish I could take your offer at its word and stay a good while at the table I know to have by far the least humble fare in the region! Yet I may only stay one night, word of Kemmler has reached my ears. He is raising an army in the Vaults and is planning to invade Bretonnia."

Last Updated ( Sunday, 16 October 2005 )
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