Thursday, March 31, 2005

I figured it out!

Well, that only took two days. But there it is! A picture. Possibly of My Domain. Possibly of your dreams. And now that I know how, I'll be able to pretty up my posts more often. Ain't that cool!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

And finally Chapter 5

A Knight Without the Shining Armor
Chapter 5

“Well, let’s see,” Jared pondered for a moment before beginning his tale. “I guess I’ll have to tell you a bit to have this all make sense.”

You see, I’m on a quest, of sorts.”


He nodded, shifting her in his arms, looking for a more comfortable arrangement. “Aye. I needed something to pay back my captain for savin’ my skin the last time out. He suggested that The Maryellen would recompense him for the loss of his ship.”

“The Maryellen?” Julia questioned.

Jared sighed. “There’s so much to this tale, it’s hard to decide where to begin.” He looked down at the girl in his arms, “You wanted to know about Socrates. I’ll tell you that. I’ll save the tale of The Maryellen for another day. Bargain?”

Julia craned her neck around. The pirate blinked. She smirked, “As it looks like our travels will take some time, it’s a bargain.”

“Our party had just arrived in Port Orin. Things bein what they were at the moment, I hung back from the captain, waiting for him to head towards his chosen lodging house. I thought it best that I choose a different one, seeing as he was a bit irate over the loss of his ship, the Sarajane. I figured apologies could be made in the morning.”

He paused as Socrates navigated a steep, gravel covered slope. Once the horse was on even footing again, Jared resumed his narrative.

“Well, I wandered up the hill away from the docks looking for a hospitable establishment. I noticed a dray standing on the cobbles. You could say I noticed the beer kegs on the dray,” he chuckled. “Socrates here was hitched to that wagon. His master came out of a shop carrying a keg and tossed it on that old battered cart. I guess it was one times too many for that cart, though. The axle gave way under the extra weight.”

Jared paused.

“Well, go on!” Julia pleaded.

Sure of his audience, Jared continued, “The beer went everywhere! A river of golden ale poured down the hill towards the docks. I guess you could say there was quite a to do then. Sailors and workmen chased after the treat with mugs, cups and anything else they might scoop a bit o’ refreshment up with.” Jared chuckled at the memory.

“Socrates here, clever fella that he is, simply waited for his master to set things back to right. I offered my assistance in rolling the kegs out of the street. I mean, there would probably be a small liquid reward if I ingratiated myself to the poor man.” Jared sucked in a heavy breath. “But that man didn’t know help when he saw it. He cursed his poor luck, declared the end of his business and walked away. Just walked off!”

Jared shook his head. “Can you imagine? There were still ten or so kegs that had not been breeched. As far as I could see, his business was still a good thing. Well, there is that old saying, isn’t there? About gift horses? I sold the good kegs to a nearby tavern, at a fairly reduced rate and took Socrates to the nearest stable. He weren’t nothing more than a dusty, grey animal. But the hostler, he cleaned my boy up nicely and gave him an extra feeding of oats. Damned if this here horse didn’t smile at me the next morning when I asked his if he felt like going on a quest.” Jared slapped Socrates’ neck fondly.

Julia stared at the horse. “So, you stole him.”

“What? Didn’t you listen? His master walked off! What was I to do?” Jared blinked.

“Take him back to his rightful master.”

Jared clucked his tongue. “Can’t you see that that don’t make any sense, Miss? He would be owned by a man with no means to care for him, since the business was a bust. This means that brewer’s burden is lightened. He doesn’t need to feed this fine steed anymore.”

Julia crossed her arms. “He could have sold Socrates and fed himself with the proceeds.”

Unable to stop, Jared bickered back, “Then he shouldn’t have left such a useful asset alone on the street at the docks. Heck, miss, if I didn’t take him somebody else would’ve made glue out of him.”

Julia sat silent. The pirate’s logic nearly made sense. Except that Socrates really did belong to some poor man in Orin. She stewed as the horse continued on its way.

Jared remained silent as well.

Finally Julia could bear it no longer, “Do you steal things often?”

“Stealing is such a negative word.”

“Well?” Julia would not be put off.

“A pirate looks at it as the proper reallocation of assets.”

“Proper? How could it be proper?”

Jared grimaced. Arguing with idealists was not his strong point. “Well, as in things get to where they will be used and appreciated.” He smiled. She surely couldn’t argue that point.

A scowl colored her cheeks, “Have I been ‘properly reallocated’?”

Jared ran his hand through his hair. He seemed to remember his father sayin’ as how arguing with a woman was a good waste of a man’s day. He grumbled, “I’m working on that. Now hush.”

She sat silent for some time. At long last the tension flowed from her shoulders. Jared tried to get a look at her face, to fathom what she was thinking about now. She shrugged to loosen his grip on her. “I’m hungry.”

Jared sighed. The road to Ritrain would be long and tiresome. He only hoped he would be able to “reallocate” the chit when they arrived in the city.

Chapter 4

The Knight Chapter 4

Julia pulled at the dry meat. Meat! She swiped her cheek as she chewed with singular concentration. The porridge had been forgotten. Only after she swallowed the last bite did she look up.

The giant glowered across the table.

“When was the last meat you had?” His voice a near whisper.

Julia gulped, her throat dry she reached for the bowl that held the drinking water. She considered hiding her desperation. She peeked out from her hair. She didn’t think those shrewd pewter eyes would believe her.

“I ate the last of the horse more than a month ago.”

He continued to glare.

“The crops were taken by the armies. I haven’t anything left. Thank you for your generosity.”

He grimaced. In the light of the day Julia watched him carefully. Her initial perception of a knight of the King’s Army bravely deposited by his steed on her doorstep had withered. Now she saw more than she cared to. Fearing that he would sense her trepidation she kept the conversation going, “And you? I’ve never heard of a pirate riding a horse in a landlocked land. What would you be looking to plunder?”

He waved off the query. “What of your family?”

“It was only me and my da. Ma died some while ago, I guess it’s been years now. Da had to go with the Army. That was Spring.”

Both diners looked out at the pristine blanket of snow that covered the flood plain of the Great River Sain.

“What were you to do if I didn’t feed you today?”

She shrugged. “I guess I would have trapped a rabbit or maybe shot a crow. I can get along.”

She stood, collecting the few remains of their meal and carried them to the pantry area in the corner. After wiping the bowls down she neatly stacked them on the shelf. She could feel him continuing to stare at her.

“I have been wondering about the War, though.” She bravely stated. “You clearly met some soldiers. Do you know who is winning?”
His eyes closed. He hung his head over his fists clasped on the table top. “Lay, lass. There was no winner on that field. It seemed to me that I was the only one breathing at the end of the day. I couldn’t begin to say who the victor was.”

Julia looked again into the blinding day. “Was it far?” She shook, thinking perhaps Da had been close. A sheath of steel slid over her spine. “I will go today.”

The pirate only glared some more. He eventually stated, “I will carry you on Socrates.”


It simply wasn’t a sight that Julia ever imagined could be real. Socrates stood on a rise over the battlefield not a mile from her cabin. The snow softened the shapes on the ground. A shadow swept over the observers. Julia looked up to see a large bird circle over the carnage. It glided down, settling on an awkward shape. Far in the recesses of her mind, Julia thought it might be a leg.

The white snow was broken every few feet by black spots, the blood frozen as it puddled. Horseflesh lie strewn about with the human. It stretched beyond the horizon. Julia shuddered. The countless bodies…she shook her head. The only way to know was to see.

As Socrates picked his slow way down into the stinking field, Julia became aware that their trio were not the only living beings looking through the bodies. Her neighbors moved methodically from man to man. Minutes later Julia gasped.

“What is it?” the pirate asked.

“They don’t have any sons in the army.”

The pirate nodded his understanding. Every man did odd things in odd times. The wealth of past battles lay on the bodies of the slain. “Your neighbors will need the pillage to survive until the next harvest. These men will never miss the gold, now.”

Julia turned her head away for only a moment before accepting the evil truth.

The sun rose high into the sky before she found what she feared she would. The sun set as she wept over the beaten and bloodied body of her Da.

The pirate stood over her, his arms crossed and his brow wrinkled. Whether he liked it or not, Jared was now the protector of a young lass. He sighed.


Julia awoke in the small hours of the dawn, as she always did. The fire burned brightly in the fireplace. The pirate rummaged through her wardrobe, placing warm clothes on the table. His saddle bag on the floor lay open.

“What are you doing?” Julia ran across the room, trying to close the wardrobe.

The pirate merely forced the door open again. “I’m packing the things you’ll need.”

“Why do I need anything? This is my home!” she leaned her entire body against the panel as she reached for her shawl in his hands. “You pirate! You can’t take those.”

He stopped for a moment. “But you can’t stay here.”

Julia blinked. “Why not?”

“You’ve no food, no family and no neighbor will take you in. They’re starving, too.”

Julia thought furiously, trying to come up with something. She merely sputtered.

“You will be coming with me.” His huge hands settled on her shoulders and moved her to the side. “I have enough in my pack to feed us until we make Ritrain. Perhaps you can find a job there.”

“I can’t go with you.” Her denial was final.

“Why not?”

She lifted her hands and began counting on her fingers, “One, I don’t know your name. Two, you are a pirate and as such I have no inclination of putting myself under your protection,” the derision in her voice could not be avoided. “Three,” she paused, “Three…”

“Yes?” he asked eagerly.

“I’m thinking!” she crossed her arms.

He continued to empty the wardrobe. “My name is Jared, sometimes known as Jared the Black, depending on the waters I am in. I am a pirate through misadventure, as it was that or die.” He paused his packing and turned back to her. “It seems you have a similar decision before you.”

A mutinous glower was the best she could do.

“Do you want to die, lass?”

She shook her head.
“Then you’re coming with me.”

They closed the door to the cabin at mid-day. Julia sat before Jared on the great horse, Socrates. She thought that though her parents were dead, her life was just getting interesting.

They turned to the south and crossed over the River Sain as the sun dipped below the horizon. The horse continued to plod on tirelessly. Julia fought to remain awake. Desperate for distraction she begged a story, “Where did you get Socrates? Surely a pirate does not keep a horse on his ship?”

Jared merely paused before beginning…

Chapter 3 for the Knight

The dull light of dawn cast the cabin in shades of gray. Julia stretched and listened. The knight was snoring. The last coals of the fire sizzled, smoke hanging heavy in the room. Wind? There was no wind.

“Thanks be for the small things,” she muttered. She rolled over, the boards biting into her back. Now that she was awake, the pervasive cold ate into her flesh. The shawl and horse blanket provided poor protection from the night.

She stood and peered down at him. His large frame overflowed the small cot.

“Pity you had to use it. It doesn’t fit you.”

After tucking her one good quilt around his giant body last night, Julia had tried to ignore him. Her fear of the large warrior fought with the desperate need to talk to someone—anyone! Now in the light of day, she remained torn. She knew it would be best to wake him up and send him on his way with his odd horse. He snuffled and tossed. Even in his sleep he sounded fearsome.
Her stomach growled. “Yes, I know,” she informed it. “I have a little left. It’ll be enough for today.” She set about freshening the fire and setting a kettle to boil. The sack of oats lay limp in the corner. But there was enough for one last meal. She poured the contents into a pot.

A small trap hung over the mantle. “Maybe I can find a rabbit or two,” she wished aloud.

The boards creaked behind her. She turned to meet her unwanted guest. He towered over her, but he no longer weaved on his feet.

“Where’s Socrates?” he demanded.


“The horse. Where’d you put him?” He scratched at his chest.

Julia turned back to the fire, stirring her breakfast. “I sent him out back to the shed.”

“mmmrph,” was the only word he replied with.

Julia stirred the porridge some more. More than it needed. She was nervous. He grunted and there was some stomping as he put on his boots. The door opened and closed.

Julia cast a glance at the cot. His armor and steel were still there. He hadn’t left. He had only went to see to his horse.

As the cabin warmed, she cracked open the shutter of the small window next to the door, letting more light into the room. Brilliant sun poured in. His surcoat sat in a splash of morning light.
Thinking she could now determine the crest on it, she lifted the heavy wool garment.

“Is it a hart? Or a gryphon?” she asked nobody in particular, angling the surcoat in the sunshine.

“It’s a dragon.”

Julia dropped the garment as she spun to meet the stranger’s questioning gaze.

He smiled a very crooked and wicked smile as he pulled a heavy gold chain from beneath his tunic.

Julia swallowed. She closed her eyes, wishing she would not see the pendant that would surely be dangling from it. Knowing the moment of truth was at hand, she opened one eye.
A gold coin swung from the chain. Pressed into the pendant was a golden dragon entwined about a sword. A ruby glittered from the beast’s eye.

He was even worse than an enemy soldier.

“I saved a bloody pirate,” she whispered.

His grin deepened. “Aye, that you did, my dear. Lucky for you, I’m a well-fed pirate.” With his other hand, he held a small sack of dried meat out to his hostess. “Why don’t we sit for a bit and introduce ourselves?”

And Chapter 2

A Knight’s Chapter Two

Julia closed the door on the swirling snow and the curious steed. The gloom of the evening settled once again over the tiny cabin, the only light coming from the fire. She shivered once before turning to the unmoving man on her floor. She nudged him with her shoe. He didn’t even moan.

“What am I to do now?” she wondered at her guest. The cold crept under the door catching at her ankles. “Right,” she complained to the night and set about doing what she was doing before being interrupted by—she looked over her shoulder—a very unnerving thing. She shoved the braided rugs against the bottom of the door and fed pieces of flannel into the larger cracks between the boards of the rough door. Only when she was confident she could detect no further drafts did she worry about the man on the floor.

“Come on then,” she shook him roughly. “I can’t help you up by myself. Your armor weighs more than I do!”

He groaned.

The snow had melted into his surcoat, leaving it a dark blue stained here and there by…Julia closed her eyes on the thought. Of course men bled on the battle field. She knew that! But why did that blood have to be in her cabin?

Forcing her mind back to the matter at hand she tried to remember what colors were associated with what knights in The King’s army. She was sure Father had mentioned it before he left… His voice came back to her, “Remember, my precious Jules, green is for His Majesty’s archers, red for his guard and brown with gold braid for the Royal Cavalry. Any other color, you must be cautious of. The Lady’s men are not known for their chivalry!”

She looked closer. The blood covered the crest on his chest. A knight of the Realm might wear his own colors, but the crest would show where his loyalty lay for certain.

Julia shook the man harder. He groaned louder.

There was nothing for it. She couldn’t go to sleep with an unconscious man on her floor. She walked over to her small pantry and took a dipper of precious water. “You’re wet anyway,” she explained to the man before pouring it on his face.

Jared sputtered, waving away the annoying drips of water. It must be raining, his foggy brain informed him. He turned over and reached for the accustomed warmth of Socrates. However, the flow of water increased and a shod foot prodded his leg. Years of campaigning woke him with a start. He sat up, his dagger in his hand as he tried to focus on his enemy.

Julia jumped back, the heavy sword she took from his side scraping the floor. “Goodness me!” she squeaked.

Jared blinked several times as he attempted to decide which of the seven or eight men in front of him was armed with his sword. He made the decision to move now and question later, settling on the most solid form to his left. The dagger flashed left in a feint designed to make his target move. When it did, he tackled the man.

The man screamed.

The fog cleared immediately from Jared’s mind. “Blessed be, you’re a girl!”

She looked at him, quite scared out of her wits he thought. Only when she turned an alarming shade of blue did he realize that he was squashing the air out of her. However, she was still hanging onto his sword.

“Just give that little toy to me, me dear, and then we’ll talk.” He pressured her fingers to release the weapon. She gave without much of a fight. His mail probably bruised he thought with a grimace.

He stood up. “Where the blazes did that horse leave me now?”

The girl lay on the floor gasping. Looking down at her, Jared felt dizzy. He spied a small cot behind him and sat abruptly. While the girl collected herself, he proceeded to carefully remove his gauntlets, surcoat, boots and mail shirt as he took stock of his injuries. While his ribs ached abominably, the worst pain resided in his head.

Reaching up, Jared found a goose egg behind his ear. His hair was sticky and wet. Fighting back a wave of nausea he asked, “Who got me?”

The girl heaved herself up on her elbows and glared at him. “It looks like I do.”

Jared stared at her for a moment, wondering why she would be so angry about that. Then passed out again.

For lack of anything better to do...

Having decided that I haven't a clue what to do with this blog, I've decided to simply use it as a place to put a story that I'm working on. The title? "A Knight Without the Shining Armor". It's not supposed to be particularly clever, or well edited or earth shattering. It's something to keep my muse motivated until I can focus on my more formal works. So, sit back and enjoy!

A Knight Without the Shining Armor
Chapter 1

The wind howled. The view out the window was no more than a white canvas, a blank piece of paper for Julia’s mind to fill with daydreams and nightmares. With the power out and no school, there was nothing else to occupy her active imagination. She began painting on the snowflakes in the dull afternoon light…

There should be a knight on a horse, she thought. However, he should not be riding atop a white horse. It would get lost in the snow. How about a bay. Bay was a pretty horse color. And the knight…well he should be tall (of course) and strong and maybe hurt. Yes! He’s hurt. Maybe the knight needs rescuing! Oh that would be a good way to pass the afternoon, rescuing a knight.

Julia settled back in the oversized wing chair, smiling, and told herself a story.

Jared sagged in the saddle as his sturdy steed, Socrates, picked his slow way through the blizzard. Jared couldn’t remember when the wind wasn’t howling. It had been screaming for an eternity, it seemed. At least since he fell from his saddle. Why had he fell? His aching skull still chased the memory from recall.

The rhythm of Socrates careful walk stopped. Jared peered into the blizzard. He could discern no difference. He nudged Socrates, “Come on, boy. We gotta keep going.”

Socrates shook his head before dropping it. Jared leaned forward, wincing as his sore ribs pulled. “Tired are you?” he asked his four-footed friend. Socrates whuffled, then pawed at something solid just beyond Jared’s sight. The horse waited a moment longer before repeating the odd action.

Jared thought the white whirling mass of snow darkened. He shook his head, trying to clear his sight. And promptly fell off his horse for the second time in his life.

Julia paused before pulling the door of her small cabin closed again. She thought that the banging was the door rattling in the wind. She opened it to slam it, so that she could pack more rugs around the drafty portal. However, she had not been expecting to open the door and see a horse’s face.

She blew out a short breath. “My!” Was that what one said to a horse that knocked on your door in the storm? She wasn’t sure.

The horse nodded at her.

Julia started to pull the door closed, hoping that if she opened it a second time, the odd apparition would vanish. Horses did not appear on one’s doorstep in the middle of a blizzard or a war.

The horse quickly placed a very large, very solid hoof in the doorway, preventing Julia from closing the door. It then looked behind it.

Julia blinked. Was that? Could it be?

The snow was quickly covering a man lying on the ground. He moaned.

“Oh dear.” Julia muttered. This was the first person she had seen in months and she was reduced to monosyllables. But, then again, she thought, what did he care? His horse was doing the introductions.

“I guess there’s nothing for it,” she complained. Leaving the door open, she went to the wardrobe and pulled out her heavy shawl. Wrapping it around herself twice (mother had been a very large woman) she stepped onto her front porch and studied the man in the snow.

The snow dusted a muscular frame larger than any man Julia had ever seen. She thought maybe his stern jaw and hawk like nose would soften when he was awake. But, the chain mail and long sword belied that thought. All she could hope for was that he was a member of the King’s Army, not a lost soldier from the Lady’s Entourage. His surcoat bore no crest and the color was undetermined in the grey afternoon. The horse nudged her shoulder.

“Yes, yes. Inside. I know.” She muttered to nobody in particular. She was not, she thought, talking to a horse.

She grabbed hold of the mystery man’s booted feet and pulled. For naught.

It must be the mail, she thought. Her fingers were already going numb in the vicious storm. She doubted her cabin would ever warm up tonight. A dangling stirrup caught her eye. After some grunting, complaining and wrapping, Julia managed to attach the stranger’s foot to his horse’s stirrup.

She opened the door wide. “Now, if you would just bring him in, we could all get warm,” she invited the horse in.

Her jaw dropped as the horse promptly trotted inside, dragging his rider behind. Then she grimaced as the poor man’s head bumped several times over the rough wood floor. The horse stopped near the only cot and waited, turning his large brown eyes on the tiny woman.

Julia didn’t wait to think about this. She would give more careful consideration to the idea of a horse that understood people tomorrow, after the wind stopped blowing and she could hunt for some food. For now, she just detached the stranger from the saddle and opened the door one last time, “I’m sorry, my handsome horse, but you cannot stay in here tonight. The shed behind the house is open and is well shielded from the worst of the wind.”

The horse appeared to sigh. But wearily walked back into the storm. Julia noted that the horse turned towards the rear of the house.

One strange thing taken care of. Now, she thought, for the strange man with the gruesome weapons….