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Tuesday, 20 March 2007

This is a short story I wrote a while back. Aiden is a RPG character of mine, most frequently seen on Warhammer Realm and Old World Chronicles. This story essentially ends my RPing with him, as I have become infamous for always using him.

Within the forests of the Old World, dark secrets lurk. Shadowy insubstantial figures flit between the trees, always at the corner of a traveller’s vision. There are many wild beasts that roam among the woods; Orcs and Goblins and Beastmen. But the greatest threat comes not from these creatures of flesh and blood. No, the greatest threat comes from the creatures that are not truly of this world, the spirits given life by the winds of chaos. They descend from their homes among the trees, seeking to destroy those foolish enough to violate their domain.

Aiden knew of the dangers, and as he walked beneath the forest canopy he was unafraid. In the long years of his quest he had vanquished far worse than these. He had travelled all across the Old World and beyond, always guided by the gentle hand of his goddess. She had directed him to wherever evil went unopposed. Still he quested, still he sought her blessing. Many of his fellow knights had journeyed far less than him before receiving their reward, but Aiden did not resent them, as he knew not what was intended for him. It was only know that he had come full circle that he had realised it was by no means his right to find the grail. The Lady had seen fit to return him to Bretonnia, and to the forest of Athel Loren. Aiden had had many dealings with the fey of this forest, and the ancient trees seemed to part before him, as if welcoming an old friend.

He stopped suddenly. Something was not right. Golden dust motes shimmered as they passed through the dappled light that reached the forest floor, and Aiden suddenly realised that everything had gone quiet. The birds in the trees had stopped their singing, the creatures that scurried through the undergrowth had stopped their rustling, and even the wind had stopped whistling through the trees. Aiden’s hand strayed to the sword that hung at his belt, and he continued on his path through the forest. As he turned the corner, the familiar sound of steel as it escaped from its scabbard sent an unexpected shiver down Aiden’s spine. A figure stood in the middle of the path ahead, its features hidden dspite the dappled light of the forest. Its head was bowed, and its arm hung loosely to its side so that the point of its sword rested lightly on the ground.

As Aiden moved closer it raised its head.

“None shall pass.”

“I have no quarrel with you sir knight,” said Aiden, drawing his great sword from its place on his back, “but the Lady decrees that I pass, and as such I must prevail over you.”

“So be it,” replied the figure, emerging from the shadows and raising its sword in a ready position. His brass helmet gleamed where the light struck it, hiding all traces of emotion or humanity that may have shown on his face. Two fierce blue points of light blazed from behind his visor, matched only in their brilliance by the blue flames that erupted from his sword. Much of his armour was hidden by a deep green tabard, but even that could not conceal the ornate engravings that swam across its surface.

It was the Green Knight.

Aiden stood his ground, watching as his foe moved towards him far faster than the heavy armour should allow. His heart was racing; he had heard the tales of this mythical figure through the songs of the Troubadours, and he knew that every Breton that had triumphed over him had gone on to drink from the grail. As these thoughts raced through Aiden’s mind the Green Knight reached him, and their blades met in a shower of sparks. After what seemed like an age Aiden forced the knight’s blade back and bought his sword round to cut deep into his arm. White light poured from the wound, and as Aiden stared it closed up once more; what should have been a grievous wound disappearing in an instant. The Green Knight moved into the attack once more, raining down blow after blow with dazzling speed. Aiden found himself forced back by the ferocious torrent as he desperately parried the onslaught. His foot caught on a root concealed within the undergrowth, and as he fell to the ground Aiden watched the fiery blade cut through the air where his neck had been mere moments before.

‘The Lady is with me,’ Aiden thought, and as he opened his eyes once more he saw the point of his foes blade hovering inches from his face. His own sword had fallen from his hand, and he now lay defenceless.

“YIELD,” came the order. The voice carried with it a supernatural menace that chilled Aiden to the very bone. He knew then that the Green Knight was not of his world, that it was not a foe of flesh and blood like Aiden, but that it was a spirit that belonged in the realm of The Lady. This thought cheered Aiden somewhat, and he knew there was no dishonour to falling in combat to such a powerful foe.

“Yield, and I will allow you to leave this forest with your life.”

“But what life would that be?” replied Aiden, “a life of dishonour, knowing I have failed in the eyes of The Lady? Rest assured Sir Knight, I will not yield, for to do so would be worse than death.”

As he said these words, Aiden knew he would not leave the forest as a mortal being. His spirit would eat and drink at the Lady’s table, and for this reason he was glad. He closed his eyes and waited for the final blow…

But none came.

“You serve the Lady with honour Sir Aiden,” said the Green Knight.

Aiden opened his eyes, and saw that the Green Knight was now standing some distance away, resting its sword once more on the forest ground.

“Rise Sir Aiden. Take up your sword once more and meet me in battle.”

As he stood up, Aiden found a new lightness in his limbs that allowed him to move with greater speed and to strike with greater strength. He battled the Green Knight for what seemed like hours, matching every blow with the strong steel of his blade and following it up with a blow of his own. Neither of them tired of the fight, and neither of them gave ground to the other. In time, Aiden realised that slowly, impossibly, he was gaining the advantage. He swung his blade round in a deadly arc that cut through the Green Knight’s neck. His foe stood still a moment, seemingly swaying unsteadily on his feet. Aiden knew that such a blow would have killed a mortal man, and now stood still as well, his sword point towards the ground and his heart beating loudly in his ears. The blue eyes of the knight focused on him a moment, matching his gaze with unblinking fire.

“Victory is yours, Sir Aiden,” said the knight, before fading and collapsing into a cloud of golden dust that circled round Aiden before disappearing. Aiden found himself drawn away from the path and into the trees. His feet trod on untouched undergrowth, undergrowth that swiftly became waterlogged as a still and silent lake emerged from the trees. Aiden stopped at the water’s edge and looked out over the lake as countless over knights had done before him. This was the end, the end of his quest. There was no turning back from this destiny, the destiny he had forged for himself. He was afraid, but also elated, for he knew he now stood in the presence of his deity.

Out on the lake, a cold mist gathered. It flowed around Aiden and into his nose and mouth, filling his lungs with a cool sense of cleanliness. The mists began to condense, swiftly forming into the shape of a lady. She was more beautiful than any woman that Aiden had ever seen, even than the elven maidens in the halls of Athel Loren. Her pale skin was smooth and appeared to shine with an inner light, a light that was also present in the golden hair that flowed down to her waist. Her long white dress trailed in the water behind her as she moved slowly, regally, towards Aiden. He fell to his knees, overawed by the power that flowed from the goddess. Water lilies blossomed around him, bursting into colour weeks ahead of their time, so eager were they to greet their mistress. The Lady stopped in front of Aiden, a faint smile on her radiant lips. She cupped her hands, and as she did so thin tendrils of water rose from the lake, twisting around her and coming together in a ball above her upturned palms. Faint lines of frost started to appear on the outside edge of the ball, their delicate patterns forming it into the shape of a goblet. A faint light appeared in the pool of water that remained in the icy cup, a light that grew in size and brightness until it was present in every shimmering shard of ice. With a blinding flash, the ice and the light became one, forming an ornate gold chalice.

The Grail.

It appeared so simple, and yet so perfect, that Aiden struggled to believe it was there at all. This was the thing he had been searching for so long, the goal to which he had dedicated his life. The years of hardship, all he had lost along the way, now seemed worth it at last; a noble path for a noble cause.

The Lady raised the grail to Aiden’s lips… and he drank deep.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 20 March 2007 )
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