Chapter 1: Inside dangerous lands23th of March 1257
I caught the horse from the looters, and set off to the closest town, called Praven, where I decided to rest in the local tavern, also known as "The Golden spur" and quickly fell asleep.
Upon leaving the tavern however, my ears warned me of a sound I had heard a thousand times to many, the raw rasping sound of a cold, merciless steel sliding out of sturdy and dry leather.
I drew my sword, and after deflecting his blow with a shield I made from wreck wood, I planted my sword in his neck after feinting to his left side.
After his body dropped onto the ground, a man with a tired and haunted look appeared.
"I'm Lucas, one of the merchants here in Praven. Let me welcome you into my home for ridding the world of this stealing evildoer."
I left his house some hours later with a filled purse and an assignment to do.
After having travelled around the city after enforcing my oath, and thus having seen the enormous amount of wheat farms and mills,
I decided to buy a load of ale, and travelled to the next town, called Suno, where I sold the ale with a bit of profit.
I entered the arena there, and found out there was a tournament to be held in Praven, which I wanted to join.
After winning the first round quite easily, since I had been teamed with the king himself, I remembered the colourfull jousts in my homeland.
I was undefeated throughout the entire tournament, happily using my skills, thought to me by my father, up the the point where I had to face the king himself in the final round.
After the initial charge, I managed to get him of his horse with a fast julliette, and finished the fight on foot, because the rather fat king was too slow to dodge my counterattack, which landed in his face with a loud DING.
I was invited to the feast inside the lord's hall where the king recognised my honour by entrusting me with a valuable task.
I had to find and kill Ramin of Ehlderag, who was last seen around Tosdhar.
24th of March 1257
After riding the entire night on my horse, without any further incidents, I arrived in the outskirts of Tosdhar.
Even from that distance, I could see that the lands were poorly treated, almost as if the village had been burned to the ground.
While travelling I saw the lands are treated poorly everywhere. I suspected the kingdom was at war with someone. I should ask King Harlaus with whom.
It's best to know what's happening around you.
I met the village elder, who looked more like a emaciated piece of cattle then the leader of a village, and asked him if he had seen a man known by the name of Ramin of Ehlderag.
"Strangers come and go to our village, sir. But if you look around, you might find him." He said, almost shivering.
I think he had a bad experience with nobles. Perhaps this village was raided earlier, which would explain the broken walls around the fields, and the poor look if the village.
After looking and asking myself around the village I found Ramin, hiding behind a corner. He immediately identified himself, by threatening me even before I accused him.
He immediately drew his sword, but I rode away, and shot him in his belly with the hunting crossbow I took from the looters at the beach.
The shot barely penetrated his leather armour, and only enraged him even more. He took his dagger and threw it at me, and hit my leg.
I was surprised by the man's strength and accuracy, and reached for my leg while my horse almost reared from my reaction.
Meanwhile, he tried to charge me with his sword, but before he could reach me, I turned the horse with my legs to him, ignoring the pain, and aimed carefully, and shooting a bolt in his face.
He dropped on his knees in total shock, and tried to say something. I think I saw his lips form the words "forgive me".
Then he fell flat on his face on the ground. I thought the villagers would be happy to see me kill a murderer, but they were angered by it.
I was driven out of the village with insults and curses, and quickly returned to Praven. I supposed King Harlaus would be glad with this news.
25th of March 1257
I arrived in Praven after another long night of riding.
The first thing I did was sleeping through the entire morning, and had a meagre breakfast in the Golden Spur. I met Marnid, an impoverished trader there. I let him join my party.
He must know about the local prices, and would be a great help when trying to buy and sell wares in this new land.
I heard that there was a second round of the tournament to be held, and participated in it, since I expected I wouldn't be allowed in to the lord's hall without an invitation during this feast.
The first 2 rounds were very easy. These participants who called themselves "veteran fighters" didn't put up much of a fight.
In the finals I had to face one of the champion fighters, named Donald, who origins from the fierce Rhodok highlands, and was an experienced warrior, with the sword.
He was a poor challenge, because he despised riding on horses, and jousting even more, showing his natural hate against Swadians all Rhodoks seem to posses.
After I defeated him, I was invited to the court again, and brought the king word of my success.
He offered me 800 denars for my help, but remembering my oath, I refused. I had brought justice to the murderer, and I won't accept blood money for it.
I could see the suprise in the eyes of all the nobles in his Court when I rejected his offer, and some of them looked interested in me. Perhaps the nobles of this land aren't as honourable as where I came from.
A brief moment I was mourning over the loss of my family again, but shook back in to reality by King Harlaus, who asked me to gather his taxes in Thsibtin, a village he owned.
He couldn't be bothered to do that, since he was king. And he thought that a man who refuses blood money, might also be happy with a minor part of the taxes, instead of what any other person in Calradia would ask for the same task.
Before departing to Thsibtin, I bought some weapons that resembled my old ones, now lying on the bottom of the seas.
I bought a good heavy bastard sword, a battered and beaten knightly heater shield,a bent light lance and a local warhorse breed known by the name of "hunter".
When fighting from my new horse, these would surely prove their value in battle.
26th of March 1257:
I departed to Tshibtin, and on my way there, I recruited a total of 14 proud and untrained Swadian recruits, from some villages I can't be bothered to remember the names of.
Later that day, I arrived in Tshibtin, where I started collecting taxes.
27th of March 1257:
With Marnid's help, I was able to collect all taxes within 2 days. My purse was fat by the evening, and I could depart to King Harlaus with the money. I started thinking why he actually gave me such an easy task. Perhaps he doesn't deems me worthy of something bigger yet?
I'll have to find out when I return to Praven.
After travelling for only what could have been one hour, I was alarmed by movements of some bushes ahead of me, while there was no wind at all.
I ordered my company to stop, and prepared for battle, ordering my men to form a defensive line.
"Is there something wrong my lord?" A recruit asked.
"Quiet!" I hissed.
Then all hell broke loose.
Bandits rushed out charging our formation, and I sent my men forward, while I spurred my horse, all the bandits seemed to stop attacking, and aimed with their already loaded bows.
I caught two arrows in my shield, one in my leg, and two in my chest. I don't even remember dropping to the ground with my horse.
When I regained consciousness behind a protective shieldwall, I managed to convince one man to sacrifice himself for the rest, so we could escape.
I prayed God that it would work, and after starting the deception, we fled. I was so relieved that it worked, because I was in no condition to fight anymore.
Several hours later however, I could hear one of my men make a distinctive chocking sound, and when I turned my horse, I saw the same bandits as earlier, aiming their bows at us.
Seeing there was no other way out, I paid them 605 denars to pass through this road.
28th of March 1257:
The next day, being partially healed from my wounds, we were attacked by 9 forest bandits, who came charging out of their bushes from afar, and we quickly dealt with them, but I took a shot in the leg, dismounting me, and leaving myself knocked unconscious on the dirty and cold ground.
Later that day, about halfway to Praven, we were attacked once again by the filthy scum that patrolled these woods. They seem to smell money being transported through the lands, and attack it with a fierce need, I only saw in animals eyes, when they chased their prey.
Since none of us was in a condition to fight, I surrendered. They took 1000 denars, my newly looted boots and some supplies. I could see King Harlaus' money be used and gambled by the bandits, who freely roamed across the land, going in the opposite direction I wanted to go to.29th of March 1257:
After escaping together with Marnid on our horses, I recruited 7 farmers at Nomar, and attacked the remains of the forest bandits.
The battle was swift and easy, since they didn't expect me to come back, and this time I could choose the location in my favour, a large flat and open field.
I took back the money, my boots and supplies, and headed back to Praven, but was ambushed during the night inside the village of Ibiran by 15 forest bandits again. The villagers of Ibiran refused to help me and my weakened men, and we had to pay 442 denars to continue our way.
After leaving Ibiran, I noticed some dark figures following us through the night.
30th of March 1257:
The next morning, we could see our hunters with our own eyes. 10 forest bandits had been chasing us all night long. It seemed that the evildoers hadn't held their word, and sent a smaller group to deal with us.
I headed to Ryebelet, and gathered some brave farmers there, and together with the villagers, we killed all 10 bandits with only minimal losses.
Two recruits had been shot to death, and Marnid had been hit off his horse, again. Now, my small party was filled with strong warriors already. I had two Swadian footmen, ten Swadian militia and six Swadian recruits at my disposal.
Late in the afternoon, I arrived in Praven, forcing my exhausted horse through the mighty city gates. I bought a rusty mail shirt, which I quickly repaired to a better state for only 1128 denars, and returned to King Harlaus.
I informed him about what had happened, and he reacted with a very impolite gesture.
"So you let those bandits take my taxes!" He yelled, infuriated.
"I'm afraid I had no choice, sir." I answered, successfully trying to control my anger.
"Then you must earn all my money back, or I shall have you hung! He almost screamed. I could see his guards smiling in the distance.
"Of course, sir." I answered with an emotionless face.
From that day on, I knew I had to free Swadia of this man, and replace him with myself.
31st of March 1257:
The first week in this new land, Calradia had been glorious as well as disastrous. I rested in Praven to heal, and tried to buy ale in Praven and sell it in Suno again, but I made only meagre profit, about 23 denars.
I realised that if I wanted to retrieve the money, I would have to fight.
I went to the tavern in Suno, named the "Red dancer" where I found a bed for me and my soldiers, and stayed for the night. During that night I realised the name also had something to do with the "services" in the tavern, as I could hear the moans and screams from other rooms through the solid wooden walls.
1st of April 1257:
I rested at Suno, because my men wanted to enjoy every feature the tavern had to offer, some of which I despised but it was needed for the morale.
I returned to Praven to think about my current situation and ask the guildmaster for some economical advice, since the guild master in Suno was accompanying a caravan to Dhirim.
When I arrived in Praven, through the same large city gates as the last time, I bought a cheap but sturdy helmet with a neckguard. After talking to both Lucas, the merchant and the guildmaster, I left Praven with 2 new jobs.
I had to find and kill a band of looters, the same which had kidnapped the merchants brother, and deliver 9 flagons of ale to Uxkhal within one week.
Two very simple and boring tasks, if you ask me, but they were necessary. The bandits didn't put up much of a fight, and after placing my lance in three of them, the last man standing dropped on his knees begging for his life.
"Mercy, my lord! Have mercy! I surrender to you!" He sobbed.
"Where do you hold your prisoners?" I asked, and saw his face clear up, noticing I wasn't going to kill him.
"They are kept in a forested vallay near Gisim, in the Northern mountains!, It's only half a day's travel from here!"
"Thank you, and now remove yourself from here, and build yourself an honourable living!"
"Of course my lord, I'm eternally gratefull to you!" He yelled, as he ran away.
Later, on our way to Uxkhal, I could hear some of my men grumbling about the past events.
"Letting a looter go, and telling him to behave... There is more chance to see a Rhodok highlander to ride a horse then that happens..."
2nd of April 1257:
I recruited 4 soldiers after delivering the ale to the "Singing monkey" tavern in Uxkhal, with a merry lady behind the counter.
I also bought a longbow and a round shield in Uxkhal. Marnid complained about being very vulnerable to forest bandits' arrows, so I gave him the shield, and decided to keep the longbow for later use.
I was surprised to see such a fine and lethal weapon being sold for such a low price. I already saw the sky darkening again from the massive rains of arrows my homelands longbowmen could send to the enemy.
In the afternoon we arrived in Gisim, and they pointed us the valley we were looking for. I could see the bandits gambling and feasting in their shaded hideout.
We attacked swiftly and completely surprised them. They were very inexperienced, and I made good use of the skills taught too me by my father.
A fierce and strangling bandit approached me, and I ducked underneath his sword, pushing him back with my shield, and planting my sword in his throat. I could see in his eyes, the moment before my sword hit him, that he knew I would die soon as well.
I turned around, anticipating an attack and blocking with my shield, and was just in time to make a dagger scratch over my shoulder, instead of having it placed in my neck. I could see the surprise in the man's eyes, as he dropped the dagger and reached for his sword while I recovered from the attack at my left shoulder.
He swung it at me in a rather weak and faint swing, which was halted by my shield, and meanwhile tried to jump around me. I turned with him, and did a clean overhead attack by the book, dismembering his hand from his arm. Soon after that, we found the merchant's brother being tied up in a cave, relatively unharmed.
3th of April 1257:
I returned to Praven, bringing Lucas' brother back to the safety of Praven's proud walls, which weren't as safe as I thought.
Upon getting my reward, Lucas told me about a corrupted guardsman, who lets looters inside for the right price, and that he had gathered a small group of mercenaries to deal with them.
He asked me if I would lead the attack.
"Would you? There are lives at stake you know?"
"tell me when and where, and I'll be there."
The merchant reported his actions to King Harlaus, who left town after that, and returned to me.
"The king is happy that I removed the crooked guardsman, named Falaran, but he didn't like me handling on my own, proving him that he should have done better.
"I think he should've hired you as a caravan master for all the efforts you did for Praven. You have proven to be a thrustworthy merchant."
"I'm planning on leaving this town though, Praven isn't as safe anymore for me, especially if King Harlaus decides to change his mind and hang me after all." he said, a bit depressed
"It has been an honour to know you Lucas."
"Likewise" he said, and left the tavern.
7th of April 1257:
The last four days where filled with travelling aimlessly around Swadia and beyond, until I met Lord Grainwad, who I met yesterday. He looked like fine and honourable leader to me.
He wanted me to deliver a letter to a friend of him, Tonju Noyan, who lived in Eastern Khergit lands, the same lands that were at war with Swadia.
Upon entering the dry and cold steppe lands, we were welcomed by hordes of weak bandits, whom we defeated with relative ease.
But as word spread, and as we advanced deeper into Khergit lands, more and bigger groups of bandits attacked us, forcing us to camp during the nights.
9th of April 1257:
After two days, only 11 of my original 22 soldiers were alive. I had been struggling through raider's attack the last days, and finally found Tonju Noyan, who let me rest in his house for the effort.
On my way back home to Swadian lands, I suffered even more casualties and losses, and when I finally reached Swadian lands again, we were only with 9 man standing. But now, I had a fully equipped knight and 2 men-at-arms at my disposal, the proud elite of Swadian forces.
11th of April 1257:
After selling the countless horses and bows I had looted from the defeated bandits I met on the road home, I had just enough denars to repay the king.
I gave him the money, and he shared one fifth of it with me. I had only 853 denars left. Knowing, that to replace King Harlaus, I have to make a name for myself, and win the trust of Swadia's cities and nobles, I pledged an oath of loyalty to him, remembering that loyalty can never be asked when you aren't loyal to your vassals, making the oath I just swore, spurious.
From that day on, I was the lord of Ehlderah, fighting my way back into nobility in this strange country.
Ehlderah was at the other side of Swadia, burning and cut off from the main forces, because Dhirim was captured by the Khergit Khanate.
I went to the arena for some training, and was given a bow with some arrows, and a wooden dagger.
Upon entering the fights, I was immediately spotted by a man armed with a wooden greatsword, who charged at me. I never used a bow before, and missed two shots and drew the dagger when he came to close to reload again. I dodged his initial swing, stepping forwards, then countered his second one by parrying it next to me, and did a step forwards again.
Now I was standing up close and personal, his sword was useless. I kept stabbing it in his ribs, and one of them even looked like it broke, until the poor man dropped unconscious.
I defeated 3 more arena fighters this way, until a group of them spotted me. It seems the most used tactic is to group on veteran fighters, so the regular ones have a chance to win, and I was beaten badly, since a dagger can be used in a man-to-man fight, but is useless against multiple opponents.
After leaving the arena, I decided to let my bruises heal in the tavern, "The Golden Spur".
Roran Hawkins on the 11th of April 1257.