Bearing A Resemblance
As our odd circus troop forward along the forest road, we learn that ‘Crone’ is a title, and our newest companion is fact called Meroe. Chatting away, suddenly feeling like this quest is far less hopeless than it originally seemed, the men at arms ride along and miles fly by.
Eventually the trail forces them to a ford, and at the ford is an odd site indeed. A black cloaked figure sits his mount in the ford. Somewhat non-plussed, the men at arms confer amongst themselves as to the right course of action. The man is not a knight, that is clear from his lack of armour or retinue, and his chosen weapon is a humble quarter staff. But the horse is very fine, and the quality of his gear is unmistakable.
Preferring to err on the side of caution, rather than brush the discourteous traveler out of the way, they wait for Meroe or Sir Brychan to speak. As the Crone is nowhere to be seen, Sir Brychan rides to the head of the group; though the rest of the men are watchful in case it is some kind of a trap.
As he approaches the ford, the black clad figure speaks… “I will fight any man who seeks to pass this ford” booms his rich and sonorous voice.
Somewhat taken aback by this odd behaviour sir Brychan tries to persuade the man to avoid such foolishness, but to no avail. Unwilling to waste any more time on the fool, the prime Eurion takes a spear from Daffyd, levels it, and thunders towards the arrogant wretch. Obviously ready to die, the stranger couches his quarter staff and rides out against the knight. The first pass is an obvious victory for Sir Brychan, but still the cad will not yield the path, and on the second pass there is a sickening sound of blade parting flesh as sir Brychan breaks his spear off in the heart his enemy.
The stranger slumps from his horse and drops to one knee. “Well struck Sir Knight” his voice whispers out, then he begins the stand, his voice becoming stronger: “you have fought me and you may pass” as he speaks he PUSHES the broken spear through his body and out the other side! “Which of your men will fight me next?” he asks, his voice betraying nothing of the fatal wound he has just received…
Unsurprisingly none of the men at arms are keen to face this uncanny foe. And Sir Brychan begs leave to press on and not waste time for a dozen separate duels as his quest is urgent; “very well” the eerie stranger concedes, “but every man who passes this ford will have to fight me sooner or later”. And with that he turns his horse and rides off the ford and out across the deeply flowing river, as though it were the king’s highway! It seems we have not seen the last of this ‘Guardian of the Ford’.
After the days adventure the men bed down, and set guard for the night. The hunting and foraging is good, but feeding some dozen men, Crone, Sir Brychan, the lady Jenna and a fully grown bear pushes the limits of even the most wood skilled of the troop. Bain gingerly feeds a rabbit to the bear, which crunched it down in one swift bite, and hardly looks satisfied. It is a lean camp for everyone tonight.
As he wonders the camp in the second watch of the night, Pump hears the sickening sound of wood splintering. His hair standing on end, the young man turns towards the cart, praying that it is simply the sound of a branch falling in the woods… but of course he is not that lucky: The bear has decided to exit the cart, and it is very obvious that the cage is only putting up token resistance!
Somewhat confused, the bear starts clambering out of the back of the cart, and Pump screams shrilly to wake the camp at the top of his lungs! As men hurriedly gather arms and armour, Pump uses the edge of his shield to scoop the embers of the camp fire at the bear. It ponders the embers, and ponders also the camp that is in such an uproar! The lady Jenna emerges from her husband’s tent to see what the commotion is and, for whatever reasons, attracts the undivided attention of the creature… with most of the camp still unready, Pump once again flings hot ashes at the bear to distract it, but this time his aim is too sure and the burning cinders strike it full in the face. Gladly the bear is no longer trundling towards the noble lady Jenna. The less happy fact is that it is now charging directly at Pump!
Issa has wasted no time donning armour, and both he and Pump face down the bear. As they ready their spears, the voice of Bain shouts out “Don’t kill the bear, no time to explain, its lord Ursal!”
Confused, but drilled to trust the troop implicitly in the heat of battle, the two men nervously reverse their spears and attempt to subdue the beast with the staves. Its enraged attack largely focused on the hapless Pump, a few frenzied minutes see the poor animal beaten to a state of unconsciousness, with only minor scratches delivered to pump, thanks in no small part to his adrenaline fueled shield skills.
Bain, and by the looks passing between them, Sir Brychan and his Wife have some explaining to do. The men mutter amongst themselves at the bizarre turn of events as Seamond repairs the cage as best he can and the bear, or perhaps that should be Sir Ursal, is returned to it. Crone Meroe meanwhile is sat on a stump to one side, her toothless face wreathed in a wide grin.our story continues ….