The Trial by: Pent Ghelsburg
Disclaimer: All characters and setting in this story are purely fictional. Any resemblance to people either real or fake are purely coincidental. The main character in this work is the rightful property of it's owner. I use it with respect and with the owners consent. Please don't use this without permission.
It is the year of our lady 1500 CE. The Britannic islands were hot with strife among the warring chiefs that were similar to the rest of Europe. Landed Aristocrats ruled the roost. Feudal society dictated that the nobility was the law, and all those who contested their authority were met with harsh and swift so called judgment, The only ones who found themselves fortunate were those lucky enough to be in service of their lord.
One such group were those trusted with defending the virtue of their station. The knights lived on their own little parcel of land to the side of each property. With little barracks for the more wealthy aristocrats and small hostels for the less powerful families. However one thing that they shared is that they all hired Knights to contribute their service in exchange for their own private portion of the land usually separate. They were even given their own serfs to work it.
One family was a descendant of the Lancaster's. Since the resurgence of the family they dominated much of the land. The Earl of Salisbury had just commissioned a group of Knights to take up his mantle. The order was not very well known, not to the extent of the Templars or Teutonics. Yet they were mercenaries who hailed the call nonetheless. Since being called to service they had settled on the land and established a base near Wiltshire.
The small barracks afforded a readied force of 100 men. It was quite sizable number for the day. One task that was given to the more experienced Knights was the employment of squires. Finding them was simple enough endeavor but keeping them was another issue entirely. One fortunate Knight who found a reliable charge flew under the banner of Lazarus. Sir Lazarus had seem many tours of duty and had even discharged after being wounded at the Battle of Bosworth. His name carried great brevity with his order and some fable had been built up around him.
The man had some time ago hired a younger charge to take up his station. The boy had recently turned 11 years of age and had passed most of the basic tasks passed to him. Edward was an anomoly though, he was in the furry minority. Most of the clan was human as racism surrounded the whole issue of mixing the two species. But in recent time the anthro population had begun to grown. Their contribution to the war couldn't have been ignored either. Especially since Sir Lazarus himself was a wolf.
Sir Lazarus took great care in recruitment but he had a soft spot for Edward. He knew the tribulations the child had gone through in training. He had experienced the same difficulties when he was a lad. But Edward himself had taken it in stride. Sir Lazarus even went out of his way to offer extra help to make sure the boy passed his basic service test. Once being released into his care, Sir Lazarus felt much more certain that his lineage could be passed on especially since he didn't have a son of his own.
Edward had been keen on learning the ways of knighthood. Since graduating from training, he'd finally been given a blade. He wanted nothing more than to impress his lord. The boy was a mix of wolf and husky, what most of anthro's considered “Wuskie”. His fur a blend of black and white, the cub would be considered your typical boy by most. Interested in swordplay and combat, the child spent much of his free time perfecting his skills.
However his arrogance had cost him in training. During a sparring match he'd been caught being overzealous in battle. A more experienced boy landed a blow between his eyes leaving a rather deep scar slanted into his skin. For several days the puppy was bedridden and left in the ward. It was only through the diligent work of Lazarus' own personal doctor that the child was able to heal from the wound. Regardless the scar was a stark reminder of his own stubborn nature.
One day Lazarus had received a notice through the carrier service. The letter was even sealed with the orders stamp, making it's importance even more obvious. Once opening it, the older males face took on a more stark and serious look. It seemed the Earl was looking for volunteers for a rather dangerous task. It wasn't something Lazarus was up to as age was getting the best of him and he knew that he had to commit something to the effort.
It seemed he had little choice in the matter. It was either him or the squire and he wasn't about to risk his charges life for the matter. He decided the matter could wait, as the wusky had been busying himself sharpening his new dagger that he'd been given the other day. The elder wolf decided that it could wait til meal time. It wasn't that far off since the sun would be setting soon anyways. Deciding instead he should prepare himself for the journey by readying his pack.
Edward in the meanwhile was whittling away his little dagger. The piece was alright quite sharp and sparks flew off it as he ground it against the stone wheel. Looking it over the weapon shone against the sunlight of the setting sun. It seemed it was getting quite late and the lack of fresh daylight made it obvious enough that it was soon going to be night time. A quick summoning from his master made him stop his task and divert his attention. It seemed it was time to retire for the night.
The inside of the humble abode was seldom well lit. Only candle light served to offer the place any form of illumination. Shadows of various fixtures cast themselves over the floor making it seem darker inside than it actually was. It was as if a shadow was cast from even the outside despite the moon not having fully risen yet. After Edward was inside her looked around for his master who seem to be busying himself with cooking.
The scent inside the chamber was quite strong as Lazarus was quite the adept cook. This particular night he had chosen a rather hearty feast. A rather old pig that had been chosen for slaughter. It had seen better days so the older male had decided it was time it met it's maker. The meat was fixed on a spit which turned over the fire. The skin was sweating with perspiration as it began to dry and cook to the center of the flesh. To the boy the scent seemed rather savory and pork chops were one of his favorite meals.
Something seemed off though. Usually Lazarus only indulged in finer delicacies when the occasion called for it. Even more odd was the fact he was using seasoning. The aroma was far too peculiar to be just plain meat. It made the home smell quite nice and inviting though the warmth of the fire made his fur even more balmy than normal. It didn't do anything to help his already tired body that had worked up a sweat throughout the muggy day.
“My Lord, Can I be of assistance to you?” The cub wanted nothing more than to be of help to his master.
“No child, you've done enough for today.” Lazarus was feeling more fatherly than usual.
“Very well. Can I at least set the table?” Edward could at least offer to do this simple task.
“That would be much appreciated.” The older male continued turning the roast.
“Yes, my Lord.” The wusky began to set the table.
Even though he had a long day the boy wasn't about to complain about his chore. This was far less than he was usually given on a normal basis. Edward began to suspect something was amiss. He decided to let the issue rest for the moment since he wasn't about to disturb his master. His lord's wrath was not something he openly enjoyed especially since vassals were disposable and rather easily replaceable. It was something Edward was very afraid of.
Little did the boy know that Lazarus had a soft spot for him. The older wolf saw in the boy a younger version of himself, even if their species wasn't the same. They had the whole anthro issue going against them so in truth they found solace in each other, even if the elder male would never had admitted it. By the time the wooden table was set, it seemed Lazarus was ready to cut and serve the meat.
“Would you like to slice the meat?” The lupine offered up a large butchers knife.
“Yes, my lord.” The cub wasn't about to deny his masters request.
The wolf sat idly behind the small boy watching him behind as if anticipating the need to guide him. But the cub had become rather adept in the task and managed to make fine slices of the meat. The only part he failed at regularly was separating the skin from the actual consumable part of the animal. Edward looked up at Lazarus for approval who simply smiled back at him. Once the flesh was divvied up the meal was ready and the two joined together at the table.
Lazarus didn't bother to differentiate himself in status from the boy. He lived in just as modest means in order to be on a level playing field with the youngster. It was something that many in the service of the order were not privy to. Edward finished by serving up some drinks for the two, tonights beverage was apple cider that he had freshly squeezed earlier in the day. He was rather proud of the drink and was hoping Lazarus would enjoy it.
The two sat together quietly for a few moments in an a rather awkward exchange of silence. The delicacy of the meal tied their tongues and did not allow them to trade words. Thought he two weren't exactly men of much conversation. Eventually Lazarus broke the silence as the delivery that day weighed heavily on his mind.
“My boy. The Earl has summoned me to service.” The wolf clasped his paws together in sincerity.
“Why? The war is over and you were discharged.” The boy calmly responded in an effort to not sound disrespectful.
“It's not something I'm really allowed to question.” The lupine remained firm in his conviction.
In truth Lazarus was in no shape to return to the field. His sword arm had long since seen the heat of battle and had he entered truthfully into a spar, he might have lost from his own injuries. The wolf knew this but tried to hide the weakness in order to secure his own sense of duty. Despite seeing countless tours of service, he was still expected to contribute something to the effort.
“What are they expecting you to do?” Edward wasn't about to further question his master.
“The Bandersnatch is ravaging the countryside. The order is dispatching a small legion of paladins to dispatch it.” Lazarus didn't sound even the least bit concerned.
“The Bandersnatch? Isn't that thing a myth?” The cub was becoming worried enough for the two of them.
“Tis true my boy. Many have seen it's effigy ravaging the country side and now we must answer to it's evil. It can no longer be left to roam free.” Lazarus' confidence continued to hold strong.
“That sounds dangerous. Aren't you scared?” The boys voice trembled between his words.
“Fear is nothing but a state of mind. You'll learn to live with it soon enough.” The wolf tried to be sure of himself in order instill confidence in his boy.
“My lord perhaps I can be of service?” The boy suggested this not expecting his master to give in.
The older male considered this for a moment. The challenge was a dangerous one but Lazarus knew he was in no shape to be up to the task. It might have been a chance for the boy to prove himself. The one issue that remained was his age and inexperience. It was probable that they could have gone together but the wolf thought himself to be an unnecessary burden. After all the order wouldn't let him go along once he was committed, regardless of his expertise.
“Are you sure that's what you want?” Lazarus wanted to be sure the boy felt safe in this matter.
“Yes, my lord.” Truthfully the boy was deafly afraid of the idea but he wanted to prove himself.
“Well then. I am honored you will take up my mantle. We will get you ready for the morning, then” The wolf soon returned to eating.
The thoughts of the worst case scenario began to whirl around the boys mind. It made him uneasy and unable to take but meager bites of his dinner. He'd never seen the beast but he'd heard enough to be afraid of it's mention. The furry beast of legend that resembled a mix between canine and feline but too large to be either. Many thought it to be extinct but the recent rumors of it's reappearance had been far too many to be sheer coincidence.
It was a challenge regardless, one that Edward knew his master was in no shape to undertake. After all he was to become to bearer of the Lazarus family mantle. This would be a way to prove himself even if the situation proved dire. The cub steeled himself for the trial of his life and could only hope for the best. At least he wouldn't have to be alone for it, or so he hoped. The rest of the meal would be spent in silence.
Once the meal was done, the boy took it upon himself to clean the table. He'd been trained well enough to do simple chores and knew it was his station. After cleaning up, it was time to prepare for tomorrow. He would need a pack to take with him to his trial, and he didn't want to be under prepared. Heading into his room, he looked over his bed. It seemed strangely inviting tonight as if he wanted to pass his concerns in the dead of sleep instead of fretting over them while packing.
But the task needed to be done and he forced himself to carry on. He made sure his pack had enough provisions in it including a whittling stone, some flint, various less perishable food items, spare clothes, and a knife. He looked over his chain mail to assure it was free from damage. He didn't examine it often and wasn't sure exactly what he was looking for. He decided it was an issue that could wait for the morning.
Edward knew he needed sleep as he anticipated the journey to be a long one. Heading back to Lazarus he fetched the parchment to procure the details of his odyssey. Lazarus handed it to him. Examining it, the print seemed fine enough to read. The location didn't seem to be familiar to him, meaning it couldn't have been local. It also showed that his squadron would be picking him the next morning promptly at sunrise.
It seemed he needed to retire soon for the night as by the looks of it from the window, it was already late into the night. Even if his mind still rumbled with concern, the cub figured he would rest easily enough. Heading back into his room, he readied for bed. After some tossing and turning, the wusky eventually fell asleep. It was a long night of distressing dream for the boy, brought about his own anxiety.
Several times throughout he awoke in a pool of his own sweat. He was nervous and was letting his negativity get the better of him. Eventually his mind gave way to fatigue and plagued him no longer with the resemblance of nightmares. It wasn't until early next morning that he roused once again. Met by the rising of the sun in the morning which shone brightly through his window. After finally breaking from the stupor of slumber, Edward made ready for his day.
It was the day of reckoning. Even if he had not over-planned for it and despite it being a rather spur of the moment thing. He tried to let it not bother him anymore and continued to focus on getting ready. The wusky could pick up the faint scent of breakfast. It seemed that Lazarus had awoken before him, which was usually the case. Picking up his pack and sword, he made his way to the dining room.
The wolf had already prepared a rather hearty meal. By the looks of it, sausages lined the plates with a side of fresh eggs and freshly squeezed juice to top it off. It seemed like quite the treat for the send off, it wasn't something Edward was expecting.
“Oh...this looks good. Thank you my lord.” The cub bowed deeply in respect.
“You deserve it my boy. You need a good meal before you leave.” The wolf smiled back at his charge.
Lazarus wasn't sure the boy was ready but wasn't about to deny him the chance. There was a time in every Knights life that they had to pass on their duty. It seemed that this was the day for him. The older male had made sure, to the best of his ability, that he had trained the boy adeptly.
“Today is an important day in your life, my boy.” Lazarus stood up from the table as to the side fetching a rather large bundled item.
The item was long though with the wrapping it was hard to tell what it was. The wrapping was but a simple cloth and the wolf handled it with care as he carried it from the end of the room to the table where the boy was sitting. Edward simply looked on with a rather keen interest. He couldn't help but be curious about it. He only assumed it was a gift of some sort. Lazarus loomed over the young cub before presenting the item to him carefully.
“This is a blade passed on by my master and now it shall be passed on to you.” The wolf paused for a moment before continuing.
“My squire kneel before me.” Lazarus instructed the boy guiding him to his knees.
“On this morning, you are no longer my vassal. From this day forth you carry the mantle of my family name. No longer are we strangers, we are one and the same.” The lupines paw rested over the boys head as if christening him for service.
“Do you accept the challenge set before you? Will you serve this house well and carry on our mantle til your dying breath?” The older male remained calm and composed even if he was secretly concerned for the boys well being.
“I do my lord.” This was a day Edward was not expecting so early in his life.
“Then so it shall be. Rise Edward Chrome.” The wolf eased his paw off the kneeling boy.
So the simple ceremony was done and all though not quite a knight just yet, it was a meaningful transition nonetheless. The cub raised from his knee before returning to the table to finish his breakfast. The rest of the meal was spent in silence. Neither said a word as they were lost in a culmination of their own thoughts. Once the breakfast was over their was a knock at the door. Lazarus knew all to well what it meant. It was time to send the boy off.
“Come my boy, it's time.” Lazarus motioned over to show the boy to his new station.
Once they were at the door, the wolf opened the wooden fixture. The outside air rushed in with a cool breeze and some leaves that were carried inside by the wind. A small entourage of knights waited outside. A banner of a green cross flung across one of the horsemens back. At the door itself a tall woman brandished in a fine iron cuirass stood waiting for one them to join her.
“Go on boy, it is time.” The wolf eased the young boy outdoors following him to see him off.
Edward nodded at his master, knowing better than to deny his birthright. He wasn't about to disobey his lord in front of the very order whom Lazarus had served most of his life. The wolf handed one last parting gift to the boy. A small tunic of pure white with the same cross that was fixated on the banner. It would be his identifying mark even if the garment seemed much to large for a boy of his age. Edward began to try the piece on as it drapped well over his knees.
Lazarus couldn't help but giggle before leaning over to cut some of the extra length from his form. It seemed he was ready to let the boy go on his journey. Coaxing himself over in a hug tightly making Edward rather self conscious about the situation in front of his new compatriots. Eventually he was let go and the cub made his way to the small band of knights out in front.
His pony had already been made ready it seemed. Lazarus had made sure that his satchels were well stored and over packed with supplies. It was overdone and some of the stuff could be seen poking out of the little satchels of leather. Lazarus made his way over to the horse in order to mount it. The pony neighed as he approached, slightly bucking but not enough to induce fear in the youngster.
It's pure white fur shone against the sunlight and it's mane flowed softly with the breeze. Lazarus watched as Edward mounted the pony securing the covered blade on the side of the horse for easy access. Once he was on board, Lazarus guided the boy and his steed to the contingency of knights.
“Good luck, my boy.” Lazarus patted the horse and bid Edward fare well.
“Thank you, my lord.” The cub waved back as the tall woman began to mount her own horse.
Once the group was fully assembled it was time to go. There was no question that Edward was the youngest as he was the only one using the small breed of horse. On top of that it seemed that the majority of humans. So yet again he was in the minority. However this particular band of paladins had grown use to the company of anthros and did not see it fit to make issue of it. Especially considering that Lazarus himself was the elder of the group.
Since his obvious departure was now evident, it became apparent that his leadership would need to be replaced. The female knight seemed to take that position without much discussion about it. Her audacious attitude to take the lead made it clear she wasn't about to leave it up for debate. Once they began to make way, Edward looked back one final time. Lazarus waved as the wusky returned the gesture with a faint smile.
The jostling of the horse setting his sight back straight. He knew it would likely be the last time he would see his lord for some time. Facing back forward the cub figured he should learn as much information as possible about his task. He didn't want to be under-prepared for what he considered to be a rather overwhelming task. Kicking his paw into the side of the horse, he motioned for it to go faster.
Once he was out in front of the pack, he got within distance of the lady whom he'd not yet properly met. The woman's own horse was a black stallion of a rather muscular nature. She seemed to be wealthy as she wore not only a cuirass made of steel but chainmail as well. She looked over at the boy once she heard approach her side. Still maintaining her forward motion. Clearly she knew what was going on.
“My lady, I was wondering if could ask you some questions?” Edward didn't want to seem out of place. He wanted to get off on the right foot and make a good impression on her.
“You may, child.” Her discernment remained firm and calm.
“Just what is our goal?” Edward had never been given a full briefing on their target.
“Our goal is to eliminate the Bandersnatch.” The woman didn't seem the least bit worried.
“Just what exactly is the Bandersnatch? I've only heard of the stories.” Edward tried to sound as confident as he could.
“The Bandersnatch is a foul fiend who fits no description that I can muster. Perhaps hear like to see hear a first hand encounter of it?” Her eyes glistened a soft green color against the horizon.
“Yes, my lady.” The cubs curiosity was surely getting the better of him.
“I encountered the beast but when I was a girl. It had a foul tainted breath that eminated from it's maw. The teeth showed from it's grin and gnashed quite readily on any prey that it saw fit. Many who saw it that day, would not return to tell the tale. I was rather fortunate.” The woman paused for a moment before continuing.
“My father engaged the fiend, but quickly met his end. I only have his blade to remember him by. I've sworn to fell it and now's my chance to live up to that promise. It's pitch black pelt would make a fine rug for my living room. A sense of sadness could be heard in her voice.
“I'm sorry to hear that. I'm glad to be at your side for the battle then.” The cub was rather sad he'd made her re-live the tale.
“It's nice to have you my boy. I'll keep you safe don't worry. I won't let Lazarus down. He's spoken rather highly of you.” The woman smiled warmly at him still keeping her calm confidence.
“What might I call you my lady?” Edward wanted a call-sign for her.
“You may call me Jean.” Her gaze returned forward ever diligent in her plan to carry on.
“Yes, my lady.” The cub thought it best to ask no further questions.
The journey lasted a few days before the it became evident that they were nearing their target. The sound of fierce growling and loud howling could be heard in the distance. Fires could be both seen and heard blazing over the horizon. The nearby town asunder with damage and the sounds of fearful residents crying in fear for their lives. The Order of Lazarus began to hasten once the sound of distress was overheard.
Jean and Edward led the charge. The two with blades unsheathed and ready for battle. In the distance the beast could be made out. An effigy of pure shade and shadow that billowed out the fog of blood and gore as it walked in rather strides. Each paw stride it took taking several homes with it. Several villagers taking up arms only to be struck to the side with ease. As they came closer the emergency became even more apparent.
Jean made her move first, the woman was thirsting for blood and clearly wanted nothing more than vengeance. Her steed larger than Edwards own with the look of vindication on her visage. The large beast turning in stride to meet her, it's large paw swiping as if to clear her from the mount in which she rode. The steed galloping past it but tripping as the paw came back on the recoil. Now on foot she made her move.
Landing a clear blow the woman pierced the Jabberwocky, it bucked it's hind haunches back landing a forceful thrashing strike that resulted in the woman being rocketed back on a nearby building. Edward watched in terror as he tried to act. The beast seeming much more focused on tending to it's wound. The boy knew it was now or never using his own horse to gallop against the fearful evil. The closer he got the more fear gripped his young mind.
But he managed nonetheless. Bringing the blade he had been given by Lazarus over his head before leaping off the horse on top of the Bandersnatch, gripping into the scruff of it's kneck. A deep wound was inflicted as the beast writhed and roared in pain. It's body twisting trying to knock the boy from it's back. With each turn the blade dove further and further into it's flesh. Before long the Bandersnatch bellowed in a deep grunt of pain and it's body caved to the floor.
It's might body laid motionless as Edward stood atop it with a sense of impending triumph. The cub withdrew his mighty weapon from it's target. Blood profusely bleeding from the wound as the beast showed no sign of recovery. It seemed the ordeal was over. The wusky rushed over to help jean who was but dazed on the side. She didn't seem injured and he was happy about that.
“Good job...Told you, you could do it.” The woman softly smiled at him.
The order returned home with very little celebration. Eventually Edward was made a full knight at the behest of Jean herself. He would become a full member of the Knights of Lazarus. Edward would return to his master and see fit that he lived out the rest of his days in rest and relaxation. Everything seemed to have worked out for the boy and he couldn't have been happier with his life now.