Chivalry by Pent Ghelsburg
Disclaimer: The characters depicted in this work are purely fictional. Any resemblance to people alive or dead is purely a coincidence. They are the original and rightful intellectual property of their creators. They are not meant to resemble anyone else's characters. Some of them are depicted as underage. I use them with permission and respect. You have been warned.
“The motto of chivalry is also the one of wisdom,
to serve all and love only one.”
-Honore de Balzac
The ages of old have come to pass. Banners of azure flow gallantly in the wind. The flor de lis emblazoned across them threaded in glistening gold. A stone chateau sits in the middle of a sprawling medieval town. Peasants and lords alike traversing the village and living among one another with great disdain. Such is the way of feudalism and the disorder that came with the time. But some things work as they should and not everyone lives in such disrepair.
Cameron was an 11-year old boy who was apprenticed to the merchant guild. His father was the Guild Master of the group and was quite well known throughout the Irish countryside. His trade was well known throughout the Islands of the region. His goods were both needed in England as well as Scotland. But word had spread that the great war was finding a restful period in mainland Europe. With that news came the desire to spread.
Cameron and his family were members of the furry estate in society. This meant that they were separated from their human counterparts. They were a hybrid family with the father being a red fox and cheetah mix with his mother being an arctic fox. They had raised their son in a sheltered manner, keeping him only in the family shop where he was exposed to other furs. But with this late change in the war, there were whispers of profit to the East.
Cameron's father had heard it from the guild, who had contracted him to expand into France. Now under Charles the V, the French were experiencing a golden age of prosperity. Word had traveled that many English and Scottish merchants had made the journey and were now importing and exporting goods too and from the country. As a result, most of them were becoming quite wealthy. Of course, there was an inherent risk that came with it since the great war was not yet over.
One day at dinner the family was discussing their options of expansion.
“What if I went?” The cub piped up with a smile.
The boy's mother cocked her head over to him. “You? But you're but a pup.”
“Well, perhaps it's not a bad idea dear. We could hire him an escort.” The woman's husband folded his arms and leaned back in his chair.
His wife stood up, making a screeching sound with her chair. “Are you crazy? There's still a war going on over there.”
“And? Boy's normally become Apprenticed by 12 or 13. There's nothing wrong with apprenticing him now. Right, Cam? You want to try?” The man ruffled his son's hair.
Cameron nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“I guess. I have no say in this then? Well..promise me you'll buy him an escort. It's not like he can defend himself.” The fox turned around as if she were offended.
The cheetah got up from his chair and placed his paw on her shoulder. “I will. You have my word. Cam will be fine.”
The rest of the dinner was spent in awkward silence. Occasionally Cam looked over to his mother who seemed upset. After the meal, he hugged her and she couldn't help but cry.
Over the next few weeks, the man arranged all the travel details for his cub. The idea was to have him caravan across Ireland, through England, and then sail over to France. The guild had already established all of his contacts in each region. Cam wouldn't stop to camp and instead, sleep inside the wagon. The idea was to avoid as much downtime as possible and thus reduce as much potential threat as possible. Still, brigands were often about so the guild hired him two escorts.
The first escort they had arranged was a Squire that was contracted by the house of Lancaster, which was an up and coming noble family among the Plantagenet court. The boy whom they hired wasn't much older than Cam himself. It was arranged that the cheefox would meet him on the following weekend. They would travel across the English roads on route for the Channel. It would be a long and arduous journey, one that would likely take several weeks.
When everything was set up, the boy's father instructed him to pack up. The man knew he needed everything he could get to cover the journey. Already he had set up a wagon outside, where they worked together to store provisions and supplies to the travel. Cam did what he could to help but it was only through his father's guidance that he was able to prepare everything he needed. The father had kept his wife out of it in order to keep her from having an emotional breakdown like she had the other day.
The day finally arrived before long. The family awoke to the sound of the rooster, as they did every morning. Cameron rolled in bed and eventually came around. He was much too excited to let his drowsiness drag him down. The cub got out of bed and got dressed without much thought of taking a quick rise off. He figured a bath would be much too involved, forgetting all about the fact he likely wouldn't have a real one for some time.
Upon going outside, he found his parents waiting for him. His mother had a plate of food ready for him. The cub had a smile on his face and his father had his pack waiting for him. Cam quickly gobbled down the food before hugging the woman. The two shared the somber moment for a few seconds. His father wasn't nearly as emotional as his mother was but shared a quick hug nonetheless. Once he was done eating, he was ready to go.
Looking over to the wagon, the cheefox could see an unfamiliar face. A red fox stood awaiting in some chainmail atop a blue tunic and grey tights. To his side, a sword rested inside his hilt. Cam slowly approached the other boy who didn't look much older than he was.
“I guess you're my escort?” Cameron extended out his paw in a gesture of greeting.
The fox shook his hand by the wrist. “I am. You may call me Robert.”
The cheefox looked him over. He seemed bigger and more athletic than he was, which made sense for a pup trained in combat.
“Very well. Then I guess we should get going?” Cam placed his pack on top of the wagon, wondering where he would sit.
Robbie nodded his head. “Yes, let's. The fox mounted the horse that was resting in front of the caravan.
The smaller cub waved to his parents. His mother ran over to give him one more hug before he was on his way. She made it just in time before the horse carried the two off.
It wasn't long before they were out of the village. It wasn't terribly big or developed especially compared to Dublin, which wasn't that far removed from their location. They began traveling east towards the Irish coast. It wasn't a terribly long distance for the first leg of their journey. The sun was bright and the breeze was nice. As they got closer they began to hear the ocean crashing against the rocky shores of the island.
Cam looked into the distance. He could just make out the long stretch of water before them. Not much had been said between the two of them and already the younger cub was feeling restless.
“So...where are you from?” The cheefox twiddled his fingers.
Robbie looked over his shoulder. “I hail from Kilkenny.”
“What is it like to be an escort?” Cam cocked his head curiously.
The fox shrugged. “I am not sure. This is my first duty alone.”
“Oh...that's alright. This is my first time too. So maybe we can learn together.” The smaller boy smiled warmly even if he was a little nervous.
The bigger boy turned his gaze forward to keep his eyes on the road. After all, he was the one in control of the caravan and he had to make sure it didn't turn to fast or that it didn't travel off the beaten path. It wasn't long before they reached the island shore.
It was through the city of Dublin, which was by far the largest in the entire nation. As they traveled through it, they had to make sure to not run over people as it was quite busy. Some humans eyed them warily as it wasn't every day they saw furs in that part of town. They made their way through the dirt roads and passed through it to the port area where some old wooden ships were waiting in the water. By one of the ships was the banner of the merchants guild.
Robbie guided the horse to the location of where the banner was. A large woman was standing there waiting, holding a ledger, and standing next to a large barrel. It looked to be some sort of tall falcon The two cubs approached and Robbie got off his horse with Cam following shortly after.
“Cameron Selic, right?” The woman's voice was raspy and her tone lowered as if whispering.
The cheefox nodded. “Yes, ma'am.”
“This is your vessel. Please take this barrel with you to Holyhead. A correspondent will be waiting for you there.” She pointed from the little boat over to the barrel she was standing by.
Cam bowed. “Thank you. We will do that.”
The three proceeded to lead the tiny vessel which was nothing more than a hull with a sail. To the contemporary sailor, it may have resembled more of a raft than a ship.
Once, everything was loaded onboard the fox's horse was left behind. The woman joined them as a navigator since neither of them was much of a sailor. She unraveled the rope holding the boat from the boring at the pier before pushing off and setting off to sea. She set herself at the rear and operated the rudder.
“Alright, I need one of you to operate the mast. It has a lever which sets it's heading. Keep it to seventy-five degrees and we will head directly east.” She pointed at the wooden lever at the base of the mast.
Cam decided to take point since he felt useless for being lazy for the first part of the journey. He sat down and took hold of the lever before pushing it over to the desired point. The small boat shifted and continued further into the ocean. It wasn't long before Dublin began to fall into the distance. The day was a calm one and not many waves were visible in the water. Only on a few occasions did the boat rock back and forth.
Robbie meanwhile struggled with his seasickness. Trying to keep his eyes on the floor wasn't really working. He continued battling with his nausea for a good hour before finally giving in to it and hurling over the side. Deciding that he would need to lay down in order to relieve his own distress. Finding that when he did, he was able to feel a little bit better. Cam taking a small jar and pouring it over the cub's forehead to dispel what he thought was heat sickness.
The feeling of cool water did make Robbie feel a little better and eventually, he was able to rest. The other two keeping busy and manning the ship, making sure that it continued on course for Holyhead. After a few hours, they were able to see the shore.
“Land Ahoy!” Cam spouted out giving his best pirate impression.
The cheefox leaned over and roused Robbie who had long since passed out. Soon they arrived at Port Holyhead, where the falcon brought them in to dock again.
Once they were docked, the two cubs helped in disembarking all of the supplies and the wagon from the vessel.
Both of them shook the woman's wrist. “Thanks for your help.”
“No problem. Keep to yerselves landlubbers.” She saluted them and waved them off.
Robbie and Cam kept their stuff with her and went into town to grab a horse. The insignia of the guild was quite visible from where they were so they went there. Sure enough, a wiry looking snake was there waiting with ponies for them to borrow.
“Just makes sure to return them before leaving the island for France.” The serpent handed them two reigns and then saw himself back to whatever he was doing.
The two partners returned to their caravan. Robbie reigned the wagon through both of the equines bridles.
Cameron's stomach growled. “Let's grab a bite to eat before setting off again?”
“Sounds good.” Robbie followed him back into town to the tavern.
Cam and Robbie headed through the town before they located in the tavern. Inside it was dark and without much light. It smelt of alcohol and urine and the two cubs pinched their noses in order to avoid the foul odor. Soon they were served by a tavern made.
The hefty ox handed them a bowl of porridge and a stein of small beer. Alcohol was normal since the purity of the water was often in question. They could see steam rising as the food was obviously hot. Cam couldn't wait and began to pour the brothy liquid into his maw. It was broiling but he was able to force it down. Robbie was much more hesitant and actually blew into it before indulging in it himself since he was much more useful to the tavern scene than the other boy was.
Once he began drinking Cam had to grin and bear through it since it was a much less subtle drink than what his parents gave him. Still, it wasn't hard for his body to put up with it and didn't leave him buzzed.
Cam pulled a single coin out of his pocket and placed it on the bar. “It was pretty good.
“Yep, but we need to get going. So let's get on it with.” Robbie hopped off the stool and led back out of the tavern.
It took a while for their eyes to adjust back to the daylight but they made their way back to the pier and thanked the sailor for watching their wagon.
Robbie helped Cameron upon his horse before bridling the rope through both of the animal's mouths. He figured having two mules would be enough to support the weight of the transport. The fox slapped the reins and the horses began moving line and step with one another. They began their travel out of Holyhead. Upon exiting they found themselves amongst fields of long stretching greens as far as the eye could see.
The environment was lush and full of trees that blew against the wind. It was a beautiful day and without many clouds in the sky. The two began to follow the dirt road that led out of the town and into the countryside. Before long they saw a wooden sign that indicated 6 possible directions. Robbie was well versed in travel and knew they needed to headway for Northwich. Of course, they were nowhere near that place so it wasn't listed.
So instead he made the next most logical choice and chose the path that had the eastern indicator on it. He slapped the reins again and the horse began trotting more quickly. They made ground pretty rapidly since there was no other traffic around. In fact, for the first half-hour of their journey they only encountered one other person. The area was hilly and they kept within eyesight of the sea.
Cam looked around as he had never been this far from home before. Everything was alien to him and he was a bit nervous about the ordeal. He felt a little bit useless as Robbie continued to maintain control of the situation. Eventually, they came onto a guard station with two English bulldogs standing in full honorary guard regalia.
“Halt...who goes there?” The dog held up a pike as if expecting to stop the caravan if it hadn't of followed orders.
The cheefox figured this would be a good time to be of use and dismounted from his horse. He grabbed the letter from his bag and proceeded to show it off to the two guards.
One of them took it from him and laughed. “You think this is good enough to pass?”
“Well, we're on official merchants guild business.” Cam tried to remain calm and collected even in this tense situation.
One of the guards knocked the cub from behind with the butt of his sword, knocking him to the ground. Robbie finally dismounted at this point and quickly came to his wards aid, standing in front of him. The guards looked up and down at him, holding back their laughter.
The fox held out two copper coins. “A pence for the both of you to let us be on our way.”
“Very well. On with you then.” The guards took the coin and moved to the side.
The bigger cub helped the smaller one up. Cam picked up a rock, intending to throw it but the fox gripped his friend's paw before he dropped it. The two companions returning to their steeds before long. They were on their way again. The cheefox sticking his tongue out at the guards as they passed but the bulldogs didn't notice. Still, he felt like he had gotten some form of revenge and felt a little bit better. Eventually, he had to turn his attention back to the road to make sure his horse remained on track.
Soon Robbie looked back and pulled a lute out of the front of the wagon. The wooden guitar was smaller in build for him. He began stringing at it before sounding out a familiar tune. Cam began to chirp about trying to follow along with it but wasn't the best of vocalist. Still, the two seemed to be enjoying themselves and time was moving faster than it would have otherwise. However, he didn't keep it up for long since the fox had yet to develop callouses on his fingers from playing.
Over the next few hours, it grew steadily darker. The sun began to set and Robbie drove the cart off-road in order to establish camp. Cam started by building up some brush to make a fire. He had kindled plenty of hearths back at home so this was something he understood quite well. Meanwhile, Robbie grabbed enough ingredients to make some custarde topped with horseradish. He set up a pot cradled by a stick over the fire to heat it up to a desirable temperature.
It took a while for it to cook. Eventually, the two could smell the meal, and soon Robbie was serving it up to the two of them. Soon the two took off their shoes in an effort to get comfortable. Once they were done eating, Cam helped in setting up burlap mats and cotton blankets to sleep underneath the stars. It wasn't incredibly cold outside so he figured the thinner fabric would do.
“Thanks for helping out today.” Cameron smiled at the squire who was still munching away at some rustic bread.
Robbie nodded and swallowed. “Well, it is my job.”
Cam laid flat on the floor looking up into the sky. It was still clear out with not many stars out. Within moments he was already uncomfortable.
“Here.” The fox handed him some hay to cushion his body.
The cheefox took the bundle and placed it under him. “Thanks again.”
Robbie was much slower to go to sleep as he was used to sleeping later. Cam was the first to fall asleep and his guardian followed a little while later. The two sharing in a dreamless night, waking up to nothing more than the rising sun. The next morning they downed some raw eggs with some fresh juice that had been squeezed by the cheefox. Once they gorged themselves again, they were ready to get on the road and get an early start on the day.
Just like the day before they continued down the dirt road to the east. The fox taking out his lute again and the other cub chanted along to pass the time. It was equally empty on the roads today and
it wasn't until much later that more caravans could be seen when they neared a more civilized area.
They were finally able to reach Northwich upon nightfall, the place was booming with business which was apparent by the people coming in and out of it.
It was significantly bigger than Holyhead and the towel had guards in front of a drop gate. The two cubs didn't even have to announce themselves as they just went in with troughs of other people. Once inside they realized exactly why. There were bright red banners all over the place celebrating the feast of fools. Large wooden tables were arranged all throughout the town with vendors at each of them. The place smelt of fresh bread and meat.
Upon arriving into the town the two cubs went to the stables to station their caravan for the night. After all, why stay on the road when there was an inn around in town somewhere. Cam and Robbie began traveling through the town. Eventually, they were stopped by some other kids who corralled them into a street corner. The cheefox looked at them, they seemed to be urchins and he couldn't help but feel a little nervous out of the public eye.
“Would you two like to play with us? The winner gets a ticket for a pastry.” A disheveled and poorly dressed rodent stood in front of them.
Cam and Robbie shrugged and nodded. The rat took them behind some buildings were more cubs were situated. They all seemed of a similar station to the rodent. There seemed to about eleven of them and one of them was using a rock to draw some lines on the floor.
Cam scratched his head. “So what are we playing?”
“Prisoner's Base. This is a prison and this is freedom.” The rat pointed to two large chalk squares drawn on the cobblestone street.
The two cubs had played the game before and coincidentally enough were placed on opposite teams with Cam on the side of the wardens and Robbie on the side of inmates. The rat remained in the center to serve as the overwatch for the game, whose job was nothing more than officiating who was out and who wasn't.
The rodent boy put his arms up as the two sides separated to their squares. “One...two...three.”
The inmates started by sending the smallest girl of the bunch. She was a weasel with the wardens responding with a raccoon boy. The boy watched as the girl tried to deek him out. He was able to keep up with her for the most part. But at the last minute, she slipped underneath him and made it to the free zone.
“Inmates 1, Wardens 0.” The rat announced the first score.
The kids continued this for a few rounds, the inmates maintaining a solid one point until the last inmate lined up ready for his break.
It was Robbie and he already knew who his adversary would be. The cheefox took his place opposite of the fox and rested his arms to his side. The fox decided a much more aggressive measure was needed to secure victory. Rushing right into the cheefox and stopping just short. Cam was far from the most steady in his stride and fell over himself. The fox stepping over him and shooting him a wink bore making the last score.
“Inmates 6, Wardens 4. Inmates win. Game over!” The rodent handed out loaves of bread to each of the winners.
Robbie looked over at the bread. It was covered in cinnamon and hardly a hearty meal, so he handed it off to the rat, who seemed to be somewhat emaciated. The rodent smiling back at him and patting him on the back.
Cam hugging the taller fox. “That was nice of you.”
“He needed it more than I do. Besides we can just go to the inn and buy whatever.” Robbie put his arm over the cheefox.
They could hear music off in the distance. By this point the urchins had disappeared from sight, leaving the other two boys alone. Cam and his guardian made their way back to the center of the town.
The whole of the community had gathered for the festival. They were all dancing, many of them drinking. Some of them were throwing ribbons and colorful streams of fabric all over the place. Cam decided to avoid it and the two proceeded to the inn where they paid for a room for the night. The place had a sit-in restaurant at its base, owned by the innkeeper. The two boys went over to it and sat down at one of the tables.
“Today was a good day. We made good progress. You are a good guide. Let me treat you to dinner.” Cam waved over the patron who was standing by the bar.
He disappeared for a moment and then returned with a bowl of Pidgeon stew and a side of blackened roots. The beefy bear then came back with some beers in a tankard for each of them. Cam handed over a few coins to the waiter before waving him off again. The two dining on their meal and making quick work of them. Once they were done, Cam reached into his pack and fetched both of them a fruit tart. He figured a special occasion like this called for such a treat.
After they finished, they headed upstairs to where the rooms were located. It didn't seem many people were about, which was obvious enough from the revelry outside. Inside the room, they could still hear the noise from outside. Cam went into his bag again and pulled out some cotton for the two of them to put into their ears to drown out the noise. Even with them inside, it didn't do much but it was better than nothing.
There was only a single bed inside. Neither said much as they filed into soft mattress together. Each of them facing different ways in order to keep it from getting awkward. It took a while for them to go to sleep. The loud noises outside made it difficult to become restful. It was late and the feast of fools was coming to a close. Eventually, the festivals loud music and chatter died out and people went home.
The two cubs remained in a state of restful slumber for the rest of the night, even managing to sleep in a little later than they normally did. In fact had it not been for the local rooster they may have snoozed even later. Cam and Robbie gathered their things eager for another day, the friends patting one another on the back. It seemed the longer they spent together, the closer friends they were becoming. Soon they gathered their things and left the inn to collect their caravan to begin anew.
But they still had a long way to go and many roads to travel. As they looked into the horizon, they began to wonder how their adventure would turn out. Surely the roads would not be as kind as they had been but they could surely hope that wouldn't be the case. After all...
“Nothing ventured...Nothing Gained.” - Geoffrey Chaucer.