The Legend of the Four Companions
Sir Gawain the Green Knight
A wealthy noble who's returned to his family's more chivalrous roots
The Tale of Sir Gawain the Green Knight
A young man sat relaxed in an expensive armchair, watching dully out of a stained glass window. He wore tight fitting black breeches into which an open necked shirt of white laced silk was tucked. The ruffled cuffs shifted noiselessly as the young man brought a hand over his mouth, a finger tapping his lip while he held his chin in thought.
“Towards the end of The Melting… you say?” He asked, still watching the rain quietly tapping the window. He took his hand away from his mouth, revealing a pointed, well trimmed goatee and moustache that matched the colour of his clean, short brown hair.
A man across the room was dressed in a suit of fine violet velvet, decorated with gold. He was well within his years, with hair a distinguished grey and signs of balding. A small pair of spectacles sat perfectly balanced upon his nose while he purposely busied himself over several stacks of paper and small balancing scales.
“Yes,” The older man muttered. “Camora is a fair trip, so I doubt we would be returning until well into the next month.”
The younger man crossed one well muscled leg casually, letting his ankle rest upon his knee.
“The Time of Flowers… What a coincidence,” He muttered. The older man froze, looking back at his son like a man caught stealing.
“What of it?” He asked.
“It just so happens I was on my way to invite you to my coronation ceremony, father. The Green Knights hold it on the first day of The Time of Flowers, before the roses bloom and nature displays only the Knights’ colour.” The younger man said, eyeing his father suspiciously.
“Bah,” The older man snapped, throwing up a dismissive hand. “Fighting is for peasants, and there’s wealth to be made! Why would you throw your nobility away to join common stock soldiers?”
“It may have been a long time ago, but our house was founded upon the honour of brave knights, Father. And there is far more nobility in Knighthood than there is in collecting coins and trading.” He retorted, “Why would you throw such heritage away to juggle ship routes and count coins like a peasant?”
He gauged his fathers reaction, watching the older man stop what he was doing and fix a single, bulging eye upon him.
“The ships wont be leaving untill the ice is broken, father. No new ships will be arriving untill late in The Time of Flowers, and you arranged your exports over a month ago.”
The older man grumbled under his breath, agitation written on his face.
“I suppose you’ve gotten too old to be so easily fooled,” he sighed.
“I will become a Knight of the Green, with or without your blessing, Father.” The son inserted. The older man in velvet stood, brushing off his violet suit with feigned interest.
“Yes, you had made that much clear some time ago…” He retorted sharply. “Come, the rain has let up,” He said, tossing on a coat. “It’s a good time for me to personally inspect some of the shops before the masses return from their hovels… And the air could certainly use clearing in here…”
Gawain smirked as he rose from the armchair.
Small puddles splashed underfoot from various travelers and citizens while Gawain and his father, Galahalt, strode into the city. A pair of armed guards followed closely behind. The young man looked back at the body guards with an evaluating eye.
“We’re a wealthy family, Gawain, it always pays to stay safe.” Galahalt said confidently. His son frowned, however.
“Mercenaries… I’ve never trusted men who fight for money,” he said under his breath to his father. “It’s dishonourable”
“Gold is a powerful ally, my boy. Men will die for it.”
Gawain winced, unsure if his father had caught the irony of his own words.
Galahalt and his small entourage continued from store to store, surprising various shop owners who fell all over themselves to impress and wait upon the noble merchant. This continued for sometime, well into the afternoon until the final store had been visited.
The rich old noble smiled, quite pleased with himself and the rate at which his businesses had been running. The crowds had thickened to their usual swollen masses by this point, although a small bubble formed around Galahalt. People gave room to the two armed guards with the menacing swords strapped to their waists, but the old noble preferred to believe it was because of his status.
Someone entered the small circle.
A man clothed like any other peasant, and yet the two guards stepped back, letting him pass between them. Galahalt gasped as the dagger glinted, his frail hands beginning to raise too slowly.. Movement blurred as the Gawain dove between the two, powerful arms wrapping around his father, taking him to the ground and to the side as the knife flashed.
The two of them hit the mud, skidding. Gawain leapt off from ontop of his father, whirling around to face the assassin. The knife the man was holding dripped with fresh blood, a shocked expression wracked the assassins face, but was quickly replaced by determination.
Gawain gritted his teeth, folding his hands into tightly clenched fists while his feet slid shoulder length apart in the mud.
“Striking an unarmed man, dishonourable!” He breathed through a clenched jaw. “Have at you!”
The two men stepped towards each other, blade striking like the fang of a serpent. It found flesh, cutting into Gawains side, but drawing little blood. At the same time Gawain’s knuckles drove deep into the man’s gut with a thunderous impact. The assassin wretched loudly, his feet lifting slightly off the ground from the blow. His footing loose, the following uppercut into his jaw knocked him down.
Gawain stood overtop of him, kicking away the knife. He was breathing loudly as his heart pounded in his chest despite the lightening speed at which everything had occurred. He took his eyes off the downed assassin for a moment, scanning the crowd for the two body guards. They were nowhere to be seen.
“G-G-Gawain?” Galahalt stammered. “You’re…”
The young man paused, the pain coming to him more substantially. He reached carefully over his shoulder, slowly touching his back. His eyes widened and his breath came out in ragged gasps as he looked at the blood on his fingers. [i]No…[/i]
He dove onto the assassin, grabbing him by the collar and pulling him up from the mud, fury pouring out of his eyes. “What have you done!?” He shouted, tensed muscles shaking in anger, “DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’VE DONE?!”
The room was dark, illuminated only by the few torches that jutted from the stone walls. Gawain was knelt in the middle of the room, shirtless with his sea-green eyes cast to the floor. A heavy wooden door creaked open, and three large men in sweeping brown cloaks slowly walked in. The door creaked shut with a resounding bang. The men stood around him in a circle. A torch lowered, and Gawain could feel the heat of it above his back.
There was a sound of disgust from one of the men.
“Pitiful…” A sharp voice said. “Not even a full fledged knight yet. For the best, I would assume,”
“You are too harsh, Sir Greygore,” An older voice resounded; it had the tone of a cart being pulled over cobblestone. “He came to us, despite his knowledge of the Code.”
“A necessary man to balance your gentle spirit, Sir Drudwyn” A third voice spoke, it was soft as silk, yet still maintained a tone of masculinity. “He has a voice, does he not? Let us hear that which he has to say for himself.”
A silence fell as the three cloaked figures turned and looked down upon Gawain. He resisted the urge to look up at them, and spoke slowly, trying to keep his nerves.
“I was in the marketplace… With my father.” He said. “He was attacked and I… I turned my back to the attacker to shield my father.”
The gruff voice scoffed. “To run, more likely,”
“Witnesses say he bludgeoned the man…” The gravely voice spoke. The third man was silent for a moment.
“Are you aware of the full extension of this, and it’s consequences?” The softer voice asked.
Gawain licked his lips, breathing deeply.
“When do you show your back to a man?” The hard voice snapped.
“When you run from him,” Gawain replied.
“What sort of man runs from battle?” The sharp voice added.
“…A Coward,” Gawain replied.
“And what sort of man is a Knight?”
“That’s enough, Sir Greygore,” Sir Drudwyn said, raising his hand. He looked back to Gawain. “I believe Sir Lyonell asked you a question as to your knowledge of the consequences?”
Gawain’s stare bore into the floor.
“To bear a coward’s scar, is immediate banishment from the Knights…”
“And yet,” Sir Drudwynn said, “Gawain would make a fine Knight… And the mark was earned with honour in mind.” He shook his head slowly.
“The Code is rigid in this, Sir Drudwyn! Do not tell me you are so soft as to not punish this offence with the severity it demands? Sir Lyonell, speak wisdom to this man!”
“We shall discuss, and discern that which shall be done. The Code must be honoured above all.” there was a sense of finality in the silky voice.
Gawain stood, looking out to the vibrant, green, rolling hills that lay outstretched before him. He took a deep breath as a strong gust of wind whipped wildly around him, and adjusted the weight of his pack. The bag shifted more comfortably against his dull green chain mail. His longsword hung in its black scabbard at his waist, while a gold, two headed phoenix spread its fiery wings upon his shield at his back, shimmering against the rising sun.
The words of the elder Knights’ echoed in his mind. A single year’s banishment, to wander the country side and to help those in need, in the name of the Green Knights; just as the original Green Knight had done. After that, he could return to the keep.
Sir Gawain the Green Knight exhaled, and took the first step of his journey.
Some Months Later
Lord Galahalt stood with his hands clasped tightly behind his back as he watched out the window of his estate. A fine, frail thumb cautiously rubbed the knuckle of the other hand. It was sore and worn from age, but its smoothness reflected no sign of manual labour. The carriage he had been waiting for rolled up the stone pathway; lanterns lit upon the forefront cut through the gloomy fog that prevailed the evening dusk.
The old man smiled softly when two armed guards pulled a man clasped in iron from the carriage. He walked over to cabinet and from it withdrew a glass bottle of expensive brandy, setting it carefully upon his writing desk. He sat down at it, placed a pair of spectacles precariously upon the bridge of his nose, and began to examine a few papers.
Some time passed before the knock came on the elegantly carved door of his study.
“You may enter,” Galahalt said, watching over his glasses as a pair of servants opened the door. A man in decorated armour that had certainly seen its years of use strode in, plumed helmet tucked neatly under his arm. He bowed as he entered.
“Ah, Captain,” The old man sniffed, “Please, please come in. I was just going over my accounts and about to pour myself a glass to take off the evening’s chill. To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?”
The man frowned, his grizzled face was dotted with an afternoon shadow as he looked behind him.
“Unpleasant business, I’m afraid. Bring him in, boys.” At the captain’s command two guards dragged in a man with his arms bound by iron. He wore tattered black clothing and reeked from lack of wash.
“Is this the man who attempted to kill you in market, my Lord?” The captain asked, gesturing towards the prisoner. Galahalt blinked repeatedly, taking hold of the arms of his chair and raising himself to get a better look.
“His name is Neil Patrick Adams, a wanted cutthroat and highway man.” The captain added. The man in question starred at the older man who was eyeing him, eyes wide and chest rising and falling in quick succession.
“M-m-my Lord,” He stammered, pleadingly. Lord Galahalt frowned,
“That is most certainly him. He’s the wretch who scarred my son, the flesh of my flesh…” He sat back down, wincing as if sore from age. “You say he is wanted for other crimes? Good. I hope you’ve more than enough evidence of his miserable existence to see him hanged.” He said coldly, upper lip turning into a sneer.
“That we do, my Lord,” The captain said, bowing. “Thank you for your cooperation.” He added before turning around.
“What!” The man roared, surging with newfound strength that belied his form. He tore at his bonds, trying to move forwards. “You pox! Y-you withered old-!” He sputtered. “We had a deal! Get these chains off of me! Give me my gold, damn you! I cut him! I cut him good! Where’s my damn gold?!” he cried, gnashing his teeth.
Galahalt rose from his chair with alarming speed,
“How dare you!” his voice cracked like thunder that silenced the room. Everyone watched the nobleman as his burst of rage gave way to a weakened quivering.
“To accuse me of harming my own son, my flesh and blood…” He whimpered, the frailty of his age evident now more than ever. He slumped into his chair, breathing laboriously as a hand covered his eyes, pushing his glasses away. “After what you’ve done… M-my son, my only son,” He stuttered.
The guards snarled, one striking a furious blow with a rod to the struggling prisoner’s back.
“I’m sorry to have brought this fit upon you, my Lord,” The captain said, with a curt bow.
“Please… please just take him from me…” The nobleman motioned away with his hand, the other groping for his spectacles.
“As you wish, my Lord,”
The man was dragged, kicking and screaming throughout the halls of the great manor. Lord Galahalt walked to his window, standing straight and tall, holding his hands behind his back. He watched the guards drag the man out of his home, stopping only to bludgeon him before throwing him back into the carriage.
He waited till they rode off before returning to his desk and gently removing the glass stopper from the bottle. The only sound in the room was that of brandy pouring into a tumbler.
The old lord had no use for an assassin so easily apprehended.
A fine, frail thumb cautiously rubbed the rim of the glass. It was sore and worn from age, but its smoothness reflected no sign of manual labour.
It was dark. Cold. A slow drip of water could be heard, but not seen. The smell of mold and rot hung in the damp air, stinging the nostril. Dull embers glowed upon the walls, casting eerie shadows and twisted silhouettes of human shapes. A young man, knelt upon the stone floor. He was naked save for a few shreds of cloth. His breaths came out in shuddering gasps, sweat dripping from his matted hair. He shuddered; chains were wrapped tightly around his chest, binding his arms behind his back.
“Honour!” A twisted voice growled. The sharp blow of the rod landed, driving the nails and rusted edges of the chain into the victims flesh.
Gawain cried in pain. He winced tightly and clenched his jaw.
“Servitude!” The voice continued. The blow fell hard, and strong as the first. The chains grew wet with blood.
“Chivalry!” Another blow.
The creature repeated the three words like a mantra, striking with the iron rod each time. A chorus of voices cheered, chittering and snarling, hooting and calling.
Gawain shuddered, his sweat and life blood mingling.
“Look, look!” The deep voice boomed. “See how the chains hold him!” The chorus of chattering voices cheered. “See how they weaken him!”
“N-no!” Gawain sputtered through gritted teeth, staggering to his feet. “They do no such thing!”
“Break them! Break them!” The voices sung. “Be free!”
The young knight stumbled as another blow landed.
“You are bound by the imagination of men! What is law? What is… order? Chains, chains, chains! They do not exist! Break them!”
Another blow landed and the resounding chorus continued.
“Join us! Break them! Be free!”
Gawain stumbled into the middle of the room, a swirling mass of black devilish faces surrounded him.
He stopped, slipping a finger into one of the links in the chain. He pulled for a moment, holding it. The figures around him stopped, waiting with anticipation.
“Law…” He sputtered. “The rules upon which we agree, that we might co-exist peacefully with one another…” The figures watched him. Gawain slipped his finger through another link in the chain.
“Order… that by which rationality governs chaos, and produces productivity and good works from the world around us.” Another link in the chain.
“Justice… Upholding the law by which we establish Order.”
“Honour, Chivalry, Servitude… Higher notions still to rise above the flesh and obtain the noble spirit.”
The chains rattled gently as the knight pulled at them, slipping from around his body. It hung heavily in his hands. The figures around him were silent. He gripped the chain tightly. It swung in a slow loop, rotating, picking up speed with each pass.
“Bonds? No… These form a weapon. A weapon against anarchy and discord!” The chain whistled now as it spun. Suddenly it arced like a whip and lashed out.
“No! No!” The imps hissed, scattering as the chain flew about the room, flaying their backs while they scrambled to escape. They screeched and clambered along the walls, scratching out burrows or passing through stone and melting into shadow.
The black, bulging shape of a fattened ogre with small, glowing, diabolic eyes stumbled into a corner. Alone now with the knight, it gripped the iron rod defensively. It breathed heavily, eyes scanning for an escape.
“See how they flee,” The knight spoke, his chain lashing the ground, creating fiery sparks. “See how they abandon their own!” another eruption of sparks. “It is all it takes to cast one of your kind down… One link in the chain to stand and be strong, to hold fast and inspire the others to do the same. And together-!” The chain whistled, swirling around the leg of the black mass. “You will fall” The ogre yelped, arms flailing as it slammed heavily onto its back.
The links spun, wrapping around the neck of the fallen demon.
“As long as men and women are willing to stand for law, and order,” Gawain spoke through gritted teeth. “You cannot win.”
“W-wait!” The dark shape of the ogre sputtered, choking. He seemed to grow thinner, more human. “I’m innocent! He paid me! HE PAID ME!” It gargled.
“Enough of your stories and lies, begone, demon!” Gawain snapped, and pulled fiercely on the chain.
A bell tolled in the grey city. Neil Patrick Adams, a cut throat found guilty by the crown, was hung until dead.
Gawain bolted upright, wet with sweat and gasping for air. The old cleric, Tharren, sat watching the fire, chewing on a pipe. His form easy to make out in the firelight, while the hills around them were claimed by darkness.
“Nightmares, boy?” He mouthed around the pipe. “I don’t blame you… S’not everyday a man confronts a monster like Kaibold and lives.”
The young knight swallowed and held his head for a moment before looking up at his senior. Shivering, he slipped out of his bedroll and shuffled towards the fire. Gawain threw himself down on a log opposite of the old man. The clear night sky was dotted with shimmering stars, no ceilings or bars insight. Still, the knight shuddered, rubbing his arms despite the warmth of the campfire.
“I, I killed a man,” He muttered.
“Nonsense boy,” Tharren coughed, tossing Gawain a pipe. “Just a few kobolds. Believe me, you can get them by the dozen. Breed like rabbits and cost half as much.” He puffed out a few rings. “Have a smoke, savour the victories you can, lad.”
Gawain took the pipe and stuffed a bit of tobacco in it before lighting it. He coughed hoarsely, his face reddening. Tharren grinned.
“A bit stronger stuff than a rich lad would be used to, I suppose,” He mused. Gawain returned the smile, and controlled his coughing, taking a second puff.
“Just been a while old man, just been a while,” He smirked, clenching the pipe between his teeth. Gawain sat up with Tharren for a while and listened to the wood crackle and watched the flames dance in flickering steps. An unnatural chill had settled deep within his bones.
“It seemed so real…”