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Burden carried PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Old bold knight   
Saturday, 28 January 2012

Dear Knights,

Here is my first submission to the literature section, it takes the form of a Prophetess instructing a Damsel about her duties to the questing knights.


It was originally going to be about the mental and physical illness suffered by the aging knight, but the prophetess eventually made an interesting narrator, switching between coldness, warmness, teaching, devotion and longing. I suspect she might be an interesting role model for the poor damsel, and hope that her dark sense of humour and sly understanding of how the relationships between knights and damsels comes across as she lectures her student. Finally, as it's a prophetess telling the story, I wanted everything that happens to be foretold in some abstract way, even down to the very last line, to reward a second reading.

 

Burden carried

    
The young, the beautiful. The vigour of the Errant, the determination of the Quest. The demands of the duty each of us has to the Realm. The purity of the Grail. These are the stories we tell. Victory and valour, banners and shining weapons raised to the sky or dipped below the waters. Cleansed either way, and all is as it should be. We take to our beds once more, secure in the narrative held within our tapestries.

Come with me, young damsel. That's it. Step through the barrier. You have the ways, keep up the Veil, I would have you observe. Here we are. There. I can always find him. 

He is old now, although I remember him much younger. The illness that clouds his eyes hides us from him, although the years of pursuit tell him that we are near, torturing what is left of his fragile sense of self with visions of what might have been, what could still be. Questions later, child. Always with the questions.

I have a mind to drop the Veil and clip the ear of the two adolescents that torment him, but we are forbidden from directly aiding. Even at this late point in the quest. Even worse than seeing the youth torn limb from limb, facing odds we should hope never to see, this is worse. Don't look away. Don't you dare. Open your eyes and stop crying. This is your task as he has his. Watch as one taps his shoulder, and the other moves his goblet out of reach. They begin again. Spiteful children. 

Ah. Yes, you didn't expect that, did you. The fragment of armour bound to his chest does little to protect him from the kicks to the ribs. Ssh. They will hear. He has endured worse. No, the other denizens aren't interested. Probably more scared of these thugs than my poor charge. 

Well, they have his purse now. He will move on. He always does. 

He could have killed them for that. But he will not. Not the young ones.

Make yourself useful. Kneel here, in front of him. Drip one of those maiden tears in the spilt wine. Good. Ah, look-look-look, we have his attention. Step back now, he is quick as a spider even in his dotage, on his knees and half-blind. The parchment on the wall, the bounty on the beast, tear it down, have it float down into the puddle. Hmm. You are awkward, aren't you? You need to learn a flair for the dramatic, paper doesn't fall like that, it floats like this. Or at least it does in the stories.

Yes, he seems to have the gist of it.

I have no idea what happened to it. His shield was as resilient as his resolve when we first met. Perhaps he left it along the path. No, dear. Revenge does not suit you. They are not our priority, nor will they ever be.

We should leave this place, he will not spend the night here, not again.

Well, I am sure your brothers could indeed teach such men a lesson. Really, dear, I am sure they both are the pinnacles of Errantry and capable of destroying whole armies of the Great Enemy single-handed, let alone a pair of purse-snatchers. However, a knight of the quest, no matter his condition, is bound to fight his own battles. No, I am sure they would not treat a Bretonnian warrior with such disrespect if they thought there was any chance of the old man remembering them. Or if they knew they were being watched. In his prime, Sir Jocelyn was a formidable opponent, you know. A monster-hunter. One of our most prolific agents. A sense of presence about him too. I felt it when no older than you. Everything we could want in our Lady's chosen company. I...

Am sorry, little one. It is just, after all this time, you... Must not get too attached to them. Most fall, and it will be your favourites, too. Hah! You will have favourites. Do I look like a wizened hag? Of course you will have favourites. 

He has reached the stable. Good. his journey's end tonight is not too far from here. Let us take a shortcut, that we may observe.

Here we are. You have selected a mighty beast from the deeper woods? Given it an identifying scar that the bounty may be seen to be completed? You would go back and replace it with an easier challenge now, wouldn't you? Again. Don't you dare. Ever. You must bring the ones you favour most of all to the greatest of tasks, or it is all for nothing. Lead them to the mightiest of opponents, for you would make the survivors stronger and weaken the Great Enemy.

That tree will make a fine place to watch from.

Stop this now. Let go of my sleeve, it is in motion, and cannot be undone. Bring your beast. It will hurt when your powers touch those of the deep woods. That's it, keep concentrating. Keep your wards up. There you go. Leave it be. It must run wild to be convincing.

A fine specimen. Good pair of horns. Sir Jocelyn won't be long. Rest now. Oh, for the Lady's sake. Ssh. Rest now.

Do you know what broke Jocelyn? One decision, decades ago. One poor choice in a horrific night of black options. There was little he could have done, of course. Save the child or save the banner of the Lady. We had sent three of them, expecting at least two to survive, but a worthy battle for the end of their quest. An unliving Lord, polluting his realm had come to our attention. Yes, a little bird told me. Don't giggle, child, it's unbecoming. Where was I? Ah yes. They do so love to challenge the purity of the questing knights. Guilt and self-hatred I suppose. But anyway. dark powers had increased the odds against our heroes, it was no longer a battle to showcase their skills, it became a slaughter. Protecting the innocent and preserving honour became mutually exclusive options. The other two died. The banner-bearer, he was a handsome one. Reynald his name was. The axe-wielder, Bertrand, accounted for fully half of the enemy before succumbing. They took him from us. He still hunts us now. Ssh, another story. He'll keep.

What, love? No, rest your head back down. We have a little time yet.

Jocelyn chose the child. No! Of course not! We did not break him for that. How could we? Choosing the life of a single surviving peasant who already showed signs of infection over the honour of the Lady? Have you learned nothing? All this power inside you and you are as blind as our approaching paladin! Regardless of what you must allow your charges to believe, we are not bound by such an inflexible code of conduct, nor is empathy a weakness for a prospective knight of the Grail. Perhaps a little too much empathy on show there, considering it was the Lady's personal banner, but still, there was time to smooth out the rough edges of my knight yet. No, Jocelyn broke himself after that. Oh, he traipsed after the grail, followed the signs, solved the puzzles, saved the damsels (yes, you may be asked to allow yourself to be in peril at some point) and killed the monsters, but his heart was broken. He saw through the veil that night, saw us watching in horror at the choices before him and put the pieces together.

Ah, enough history. Here he is. The minotaur is off to his right, waiting behind the misshapen tree. Do you understand tactics, girl? Expect Jocelyn to lead the beast to a more advantageous position for battle. No, this will be a good fight. You have chosen well, the beast is strong but you underestimate the Questing Knight. Appearances can be deceiving.

He sees us. 

Don't you dare look away girl, I'll tear off your eyelids if you refuse to bear witness...

No, the greatsword is too heavy for him now. We can allow small mercies for our oldest companions. The longsword will be fine, he seems to be using the Carcassonne defence.

There, the feint. The sidestep. The instincts of a lifetime's quest take over. He... For the last time, open your eyes! Look, the beast is wounded and tires. Jocelyn struggles to keep his blade up. Less than a minute of battle and his strength is already fading. Not again.

Come on, my love, fight for the Grail. Please, Jocelyn, every time now the same, every beast, every challenge, show me you want it, show me that you may step forward in peace, just give me one sign after the hundreds I have given you.

Ssh, that must be the beast's last strength too. Do not let your cries distract him. 

No. Nonono.

Don't look at me. Watch your flank! 

You aren't tired! The strength is there inside you, I can see it, the magic. You are my knight. My

Jocelyn.

...
...
...

Please, just a moment of silence.

I am fine, young one.

Pick up your skirts, the quest is over. Return the beast, we go to find another knight.

Remind me, how old is your youngest brother now?
     
Last Updated ( Saturday, 28 January 2012 )
 
Discuss (9 posts)
Burden Carried Jan 27 2012 01:57
My dear Knights,

I'm currently working up my first tale for the site, it takes the form of a Prophetess instructing a Damsel about her duties to the Questing Knights. It's also a bit of a love story, in the courtly sense, of course! Naturally tales of battle may follow later, but I've had this tale knocking around in my head for a while- the combat is secondary to the other themes.

It was originally going to be about the mental and physical illness suffered by the aging Knight, but the Prophetess eventually made an interesting narrator, switching between coldness, warmness, teaching, devotion and longing. I suspect she might be an interesting role model for the poor damsel, and hope that her dark sense of humour and sly understanding of how the relationships between knights and damsels comes across as she lectures her student. Finally, as it's a prophetess telling the story, I wanted everything that happens to be foretold in some abstract way, even down to the very last line, to reward a second reading.

Have asked for permission to submit as an article, what do you think?



Burden carried

The young, the beautiful. The vigour of the Errant, the determination of the Quest. The demands of the duty each of us has to the Realm. The purity of the Grail. These are the stories we tell. Victory and valour, banners and shining weapons raised to the sky or dipped below the waters. Cleansed either way, and all is as it should be. We take to our beds once more, secure in the narrative held within our tapestries.

Come with me, young damsel. That's it. Step through the barrier. You have the ways, keep up the Veil, I would have you observe. Here we are. There. I can always find him.

He is old now, although I remember him much younger. The illness that clouds his eyes hides us from him, although the years of pursuit tell him that we are near, torturing what is left of his fragile sense of self with visions of what might have been, what could still be. Questions later, child. Always with the questions.

I have a mind to drop the Veil and clip the ear of the two adolescents that torment him, but we are forbidden from directly aiding. Even at this late point in the Quest. Even worse than seeing the youth torn limb from limb, facing odds we should hope never to see, this is worse. Don't look away. Don't you dare. Open your eyes and stop crying. This is your task as he has his. Watch as one taps his shoulder, and the other moves his goblet out of reach. They begin again. Spiteful children.

Aha. Yes, you didn't expect that, did you. The fragment of armour bound to his chest does little to protect him from the kicks to the ribs. Ssh. They will hear. He has endured worse. No, the other denizens aren't interested. Probably more scared of these thugs than my poor charge.

Well, they have his purse now. He will move on. He always does.

He could have killed them for that. But he will not. Not the young ones.

Make yourself useful. Kneel here, in front of him. Drip one of those maiden tears in the spilt wine. Good. Ah, look-look-look, we have his attention. Step back now, he is quick as a spider even in his dotage, on his knees and half-blind. The parchment on the wall, the bounty on the beast, tear it down, have it float down into the puddle. Hmm. You are awkward, aren't you? You need to learn a flair for the dramatic, paper doesn't fall like that, it floats like this. Or at least it does in the stories.

Yes, he seems to have the gist of it.

I have no idea what happened to it. His shield was as resilient as his resolve when we first met. Perhaps he left it along the path. No, dear. Revenge does not suit you. They are not our priority, nor will they ever be.

We should leave this place, he will not spend the night here, not again.

Well, I am sure your brothers could indeed teach such men a lesson. Really, dear, I am sure they both are the pinnacles of Errantry and capable of destroying whole armies of the Great Enemy single-handed, let alone a pair of purse-snatchers. However, a Knight of the Quest, no matter his condition, is bound to fight his own battles. No, I am sure they would not treat a Bretonnian warrior with such disrespect if they thought there was any chance of the old man remembering them. Or if they knew they were being watched. In his prime, Sir Jocelyn was a formidable opponent, you know. A monster-hunter. One of our most prolific agents. A sense of presence about him too. I felt it when no older than you. Everything we could want in our Lady's chosen company. I...

Am sorry, little one. It is just, after all this time, you... Must not get too attached to them. Most fall, and it will be your favourites, too. Hah! You will have favourites. Do I look like a wizened hag? Of course you will have favourites.

He has reached the stable. Good. his journey's end tonight is not too far from here. Let us take a shortcut, that we may observe.

Here we are. You have selected a mighty beast from the deeper woods? Given it an identifying scar that the bounty may be seen to be completed? You would go back and replace it with an easier challenge now, wouldn't you? Again. Don't you dare. Ever. You must bring the ones you favour most of all to the greatest of tasks, or it is all for nothing. Lead them to the mightiest of opponents, for you would make the survivors stronger and weaken the Great Enemy.

That tree will make a fine place to watch from.

Stop this now. Let go of my sleeve, it is in motion, and cannot be undone. Bring your beast. It will hurt when your powers touch those of the deep woods. That's it, keep concentrating. Keep your wards up. There you go. Leave it be. It must run wild to be convincing.

A fine specimen. Good pair of horns. Sir Jocelyn won't be long. Rest now. Oh, for the Lady's sake. Ssh. Rest now.

Do you know what broke Jocelyn? One decision, decades ago. One poor choice in a horrific night of black options. There was little he could have done, of course. Save the child or save the Banner of the Lady. We had sent three of them, expecting at least two to survive, but a worthy battle for the end of their quest. An unliving Lord, polluting his realm had come to our attention. Yes, a little bird told me. Don't giggle, child, it's unbecoming. Where was I? Ah yes. They do so love to challenge the purity of the Questing Knights. Guilt and self-hatred I suppose. But anyway. Dark powers had increased the odds against our heroes, it was no longer a battle to showcase their skills, it became a slaughter. Protecting the innocent and preserving honour became mutually exclusive options. The other two died. The banner-bearer, he was a handsome one. Reynald his name was. The axe-wielder, Bertrand, accounted for fully half of the enemy before succumbing. They took him from us. He still hunts us now. Ssh, another story. He'll keep.

What, love? No, rest your head back down. We have a little time yet.

Jocelyn chose the child. No! Of course not! We did not break him for that. How could we? Choosing the life of a single surviving peasant who already showed signs of infection over the honour of the Lady? Have you learned nothing? All this power inside you and you are as blind as our approaching paladin! Regardless of what you must allow your charges to believe, we are not bound by such an inflexible code of conduct, nor is empathy a weakness for a prospective Knight of the Grail. Perhaps a little too much empathy on show there, considering it was the Lady's personal banner, but still, there was time to smooth out the rough edges of my knight yet. No, Jocelyn broke himself after that. Oh, he traipsed after the grail, followed the signs, solved the puzzles, saved the damsels (yes, you may be asked to allow yourself to be in peril at some point) and killed the monsters, but his heart was broken. He saw through the veil that night, saw us watching in horror at the choices before him and put the pieces together.

Ah, enough history. Here he is. The minotaur is off to his right, waiting behind the misshapen tree. Do you understand tactics, girl? Expect Jocelyn to lead the beast to a more advantageous position for battle. No, this will be a good fight. You have chosen well, the beast is strong but you underestimate the Questing Knight. Appearances can be deceiving.

He sees us.

Don't you dare look away girl, I'll tear off your eyelids if you refuse to bear witness...

No, the greatsword is too heavy for him now. We can allow small mercies for our oldest companions. The longsword will be fine, he seems to be using the Carcassonne defence.

There, the feint. The sidestep. The instincts of a lifetime's quest take over. He... For the last time, open your eyes! Look, the beast is wounded and tires. Jocelyn struggles to keep his blade up. Less than a minute of battle and his strength is already fading. Not again.

Come on, my love, fight for the Grail. Please, Jocelyn, every time now the same, every beast, every challenge, show me you want it, show me that you may step forward in peace, just give me one sign after the hundreds I have given you.

Ssh, that must be the beast's last strength too. Do not let your cries distract him.

No. Nonono.

Don't look at me. Watch your flank!

You aren't tired! The strength is there inside you, I can see it, the magic. You are my knight. My

Jocelyn.

...
...
...

Please, just a moment of silence.

I am fine, young one.

Pick up your skirts, the Quest is over. Return the beast, we go to find another Knight.

Remind me, how old is your youngest brother now?
Re:Burden Carried Mar 05 2012 10:26
There are many good things about this forum, but one of the things I dislike is how loath people are to actually provide feedback. People put a lot of effort into their creative works, and to have it sit there in deafening silence afterwards is demoralizing.

Any way, rant over.

I really liked this piece; it was an interesting concept, and well executed. I can't imagine that writing as an ongoing narrative was easy.
Re:Burden Carried Mar 05 2012 11:09
Thanks, nice to see a comment after a month or so!

It wasn't easy to write, mainly because of the tone- I wanted to make it painful for the Damsel and Prophetess to watch, as the reader watches with them.

It was nice to write about the potential motivations of the Prophetess though, her own unflappable duty to the Lady, and the relationship between her the knight. I may go back to his younger days at some point- this story hints at a past romance between the two, heroic adventures, that kind of thing, and the title refers to them both.

My favourite bit to write was the Prophetess scolding the Damsel who is silent throughout- it's up to the reader to imagine her being horrified, giggling or listening attentively as they think appropriate, but I imagine that she is just a bit shy, and the thought of the Prophetess having a favourite knight when she is clearly, like, an old person was funny to her! I tried to add a bit of genre-savvy to them too, with the 'yes, you may be asked to be in peril at some point' too. Somehow, her casual demeanour makes it all worse.

The conversation between the two women about the heroic young brothers of the Damsel takes on a different meaning with the sad ending, too.
Re:Burden Carried Mar 05 2012 16:32
Sorry, I'm still finding my way around, although I've been here a while.

I have read the post, and quite frankly, It's one of the best short stories I've read. I generally dislike sad endings (I'm a wimp my friends say, I figure if I want to see sad stories, I can turn on the news.)

However, your story shows a personal side to heroes, and those who support them that is sadly lacking in many stories nowadays. You feel a lot of sympathy for the damsels, theeir internal struggles, but you also feel for the Knight himself. His struggles to maintain an impossible expectation. He knows he's getting too old, yet still struggles on. AS well as the Damsels, one who is learning the harshness of her position, and one who, despite her position, still has time to love.

My post may be a bit incoherent, I'm quite sleepy, but all in all, a very good, and interesting read.
Re:Burden Carried Aug 29 2012 13:54
Just read this for the first time. Bravo, my good sir, an excellent piece. You put one of the most unspoken/written events in Bretonnian lore on display and did a good job of it, what about the knights who never find the grail and reach a venerable age still longing for it. I like how the prophetess teaches the Damsel the basics (Allow yourself to be in peril once in a while ) and is losing her grip on her emotions throughout the narrative. Once more, bravo!
Re:Burden Carried Aug 29 2012 20:39
I'm glad you liked it, it was fun to write in that style, a storyteller within a story, with every paragraph revealing as much about the Prophetess and Damsel as the knight.

Especially trying to round out the Prophetess with a cold, aloof side, that of a caring mentor, a lover who has had to watch her knight fall apart over decades and a sense of humour at the same time! Hopefully she comes across as a frighteningly capable (yet still very human) servant of the Lady, but even though she can't intervene, she's begging Jocelyn to reach the Grail on his own merit, while fulfilling her own duties to her charges, both of them.

Most of them don't make it, and it seemed to be a more natural ending, and possibly even a kinder one, that he finally fails and finds peace after years of mental torture, having seen the truth behind it all. Not every knight that fails is impure, too proud or not skilled enough, and I wanted to add in the idea that it's not necessarily an arbitrary pass/fail test- perhaps the Prophetess blames herself for allowing him to see her during the battle mentioned in the story, and that is why she has followed him for so long, fallen in love with him, and is so concerned about teaching the Damsel to observe and guide while remaining hidden, and maybe wants him to succeed to correct her own mistake that took him from the path of the Grail.

All of that seems better off as a subtext once I had the Prophetess character sketched out as everyone's favourite grumpy teacher, but I like the idea that the responsibilties of the Damsels are just as much of a burden, in their own way.

I imagine the Damsel is in her young teens, giggling and crying in equal measure
Re:Burden Carried Aug 30 2012 13:53
very interesting. this was fun to read and gave an in depth perspective
Re:Burden Carried Jan 11 2013 23:57
Great read! I feel a little sad for the Prophetess having lost her favorite, it felt like she was sacrificing him to train her Damsel.
Re:Burden Carried Feb 11 2013 17:04
Just read this again and followed up by reading the campaign so far and only one word comes to mind.

Epic.


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