by Reserved Rodent
co-authored with AJH
Good of You to Join Us
Two horses strolled through the lightly wooded valley, each step kicking up a light dust that lingered briefly, low to the ground, before settling back along the rutted trail.
The first rider, a scarred and powerfully built lynx, wore battered plate armor that shone in the sunlight despite the grime of both recent battle and long travel. Two sigils proudly adorned the feline's armor. Heraldry showing a mailed fist breaking a chain, surrounded by a circle of ivy leaves, with 'LYNX' inscribed underneath identified the rider as the head of House Lynx. Meanwhile, a mailed fist clutching a bolt of lightning on a red stripe showed the Knight's membership in the Brotherhood.
The feline shifted in the saddle regularly, fighting to retain his balance against the broadsword strapped to his back while keeping a wary eye for bowmen or sappers waiting to drag him from his saddle.
The feline's companion, a gray-furred rat, rode easier than the Knight. His lighter, unadorned armor and the short sword belted to his waist gave him much less trouble than his master's heavier equipment.
Both furs ears actively twitched to catch the quiet noises around them. The area around the dirt trail seemed quiet, but they kept alert anyway. The rodent's eyes kept flicking to the front right hoof of his companion's warhorse.
Turning to glance at the armored rat, the feline gave him a grin when their eyes met. “Tough day.”
Giving a quick nod, the rat slowed his mount. “Yes, sir. I believe we should pause so I can check your mount's right front shoe. The wildlife is quiet because of us, but doesn't seem distributed by anything else, so we should be okay.
A deep chuckle rolled from the feline as he pulled to a stop and dismounted heavily. His eyes remained alert and a paw rested on the shorter blade belted to his waist. “As my Squire commands.”
The smaller fur missed the feline's grin while getting off his own horse, pulling shoeing nippers from his saddlebag. “It was advice, sir. We don't want to have come so far only to have your stallion throw a shoe or start favoring one leg.”
The rat carefully approached the big war horse, which snorted but didn't seem worried as the paw touched first his side, then ran down his leg. “Good boy.” The rodent's voice kept a relaxed tone while he lifted the horse's hoof. “You know me. I'm just wanting to make sure you didn't loosen your shoe when were trampling the bandits.”
Using the pick on the nippers, the Squire cleaned a bit of bone from where it had lodged under the edge of the shoe before tapping the metal to tighten the hold.
The lynx stood watching over the area, though his eyes did slide to look at where the Squire bent over to work on his mount's hoof several times.
Setting the right hoof down, the Squire checked the other front hoof, finding everything satisfactory there before looking up to the taller feline. “Should be fine for a while, sir, but I'll make sure the blacksmith at the camp looks things over once we get there.”
Rolling his shoulders with a wince, the lynx offered his Squire a nod. “Only a mile or so to camp, thank the Gods. I need to get this armor off.”
His round ears perking up, showing the flecks of rusty red fur in the light gray of his coat, the rat paused walking back to his mount. “Would sir like me to make some adjustments to his armor so it fits better?”
Shaking his head, the feline swings up into his saddle. “I'd rather get back under the aegis of the watch towers, Squire rodent. Let's go.”
The rat set the shoeing nippers back in his bag and mounts up quickly. “Lead on, sir.”
“You did well in that minor scrap earlier, Squire.” The feline stated before kicking his horse into a canter down the dirt trail.
Ears twitching, the rodent followed with a smile. “Thank you sir.”
The pair quickly passed a watch tower, soldiers waving a greeting at the feline Knight. Shortly thereafter, the trail crested a hill and the feline pushed his mount faster as the pair approached an encampment of brightly colored tents with a few wooden structures, including stables.
Soldiers in chain-mail paused their drills and chores to pound their chests and cheer as the returning heroes passed by. Several shouts of “Lord Chase!” and “House Lynx!” were heard as the smiling feline rode past, back straight, armor gleaming.
The rodent's ears flicked and reddened slightly as a voice from the crowd shouted “Squire Rust!”, but he couldn't locate who called his name.
Laughing, the Knight pulled to a stop at a large red tent bearing his heraldry on the wide tent flap. Dismounting, the big cat's armored boots dug into the soft loam. A grizzly bear soldier in chain-mail wandered up, a grin on his broad muzzle. “Good of you to join us, Lord Chase. I was beginning to think you had decided to finish off the war without the rest of us.”
Slugging the soldier on the shoulder playfully, the Knight chuckled. “I wouldn't dream of denying you the pleasure of cracking some barbarian skulls, Grimm.”
Behind the Knight and soldier, Squire Rust dismounted and took the reins of both mounts, walking them to the stables so they would cool down after the run back. While the ride hadn't been too long or hard, it was best to cool the horses before unsaddling them. He made it less than ten steps before the lynx caught up and took the reins of his stallion, who was starting to get antsy.
“Thank you sir,” Rust said as he released his grip to the feline. “I can handle him if you have other soldiers you need to talk with.”
“No, my Squire. I may be a Knight, but I still remember my time as a Squire.” The feline controlled the unruly stallion while the rat loosened the girths on both mounts' saddles.
After Rust finished, the lynx gestured at a young fox watching nearby, picking idly at the threads of his heraldic jerkin. “You there. You don't look busy, take care of these horses. I need my Squire's assistance back at my tent.”
“Yes, Lord Chase,” The fox said, kneeling quickly in respect before taking the reins and leading the horses towards the stables.
“Please have the blacksmith look at the stallions front hooves,” Rust mentioned as the other Squire walked off.
With a grunt, the feline turned and walked towards his tent.
Following along, the rat held the tent flap open for the tall lynx to enter. “Would you like me to grab food and drink, help you with the armor, or some other task?”
The inside of the tent was cool – a nice reprieve from the midday sun. The eyes of both furs quickly adjusted to the darkness inside as well. The feline moved over to the side of the tent.“My armor, please, Squire.”
“Yes, sir.” The rat moved over to begin unfastening the straps of the heavy metal armor his lord wore, setting each piece removed aside to be maintained and polished later.
A soft groan escaped the feline as he rolled his shoulders when the rat removed the heavy breastplate.
“I will make sure and get the pieces adjusted so they don't cause you so much discomfort. You have my deepest apologies for not having done so sooner, sir.”
Chuckling the lynx undid the clips on his shoulder guards. “It wasn't you, my Squire. It was that big rhino with the club.”
The rat rushed to keep up with the Knight's speed in taking off his own armor. “Yes sir, and the armor needs to have the big dent beat out.” The rodent's nimble fingers were quick to unfasten the hard-to-reach straps.
After pulling off the last of the heavy armor, the feline shucked out of his chain-mail, revealing a muscled body with multiple scars and sores visible through the thick, tan fur. “Oww...” Before the rat could ask what was wrong, the lynx chuckled. “If the men heard me groan...”
“They'd think you were a living being instead of a machine?” Smiling, Rust picked up and sets aside the scattered pieces of armor. “I understand appearances, sir.”
The lynx slipped out of his leg armor, leaving him in just a tightly bound loincloth. As his Squire neatly set the last of the armor aside and walked over to the small chest where the medical supplies were stored, the Knight merely smiled.
Grabbing what he needed to more thoroughly treat the wounds than the field dressings allowed, Rust walked back to the lynx. “Let's get you all patched up, sir. Make sure there's nothing worse than aches and bruises from this morning's encounter.”
With a nod, the lynx pressed his paws to the arming rack and spreads his legs. “Mhmm.” The feline's surprisingly long tail for his species waved back and forth behind him.
Rusty set down the supplies and took out a sponge, wetting it with oil from a dark bottle. The rat's long, tanned tail gripped a brush and began brushing his Lord's fur clean while the Squire gently cleaned the various wounds and abrasions on the lynx's back.
Groaning happily, the Knight's long tail lashed back and forth, gently brushing the rat's armored legs. “You're well trained, Squire rodent.”
“Thank you sir. I have always done my best to learn the ways to make a body feel better.”
The long tail coiled around Rust's ankle. He ignored it. “A service you do well, Squire,” the feline added.
Finishing applying the healing oil to the last scrape, the rat tapped Chase's shoulder to have him turn around. Round ears flicking at the sight of the large welt on his lord's chest, Rust quickly but gently began cleaning and medicating the wound, applying a salve in addition to the oil. “I do my best for you, sir. You took a chance accepting a lowly rodent as a Squire.”
The lynx smiled softly at the shorter rat. “It's true you're low-born, but I believe in giving those a chance who deserve one.”
Ears warming slightly, Rust finished applying the oil to the last wound, the swelling having subsided. “There you go, sir. I'll get to work on repairing your armor immediately.”
The feline padded over a large chair. The old wood creaking as the Knight sat. “You should remove your own armor first, rodent. Shall I help?”
Chase smiled at his suddenly blushing Squire.
“I am here to serve you and your needs before my own, sir. I will remove my armor before working on yours, as you request. While certainly your assistance would be appreciated, your relaxation is also important.”
Standing up again, the lynx strolled over – his loincloth bulging a little – to where his Squire stood. “I'll show you why I was such a prize to my old mentor, Sir Roderick.”
“Thank you, sir.” Rust kept his eyes on his own mentor's scarred chest as the lynx's large paws reached to disengage his Squire's breastplate. “I will be happy to learn how to do my duties better.”
“You do your duties well, my Squire.” Chase eased the breastplate off.
Rust shivered as the feline's paws lightly caressed the curve of the rodent's chest over his mail shirt.
“Are you afraid, Squire?” Lord Chase looked over at Rust as he set the breastplate on a smaller arming rack.
With his ears flicking to try and cool their red blush, the rat shook his head. “I'm not used to someone else taking my armor off. Your touch is... different... new... interesting.”
Chuckling, the larger fur unclasped the shoulder padding with deft fingers. Under the medical oil and lotions, the feline's body smelled strongly of musk and the sweat of the battle.
The rat's nose twitched, breathing in his mentor's scent as his shoulder padding was removed. Large eyes watched the muscles of the larger fur as they set that piece of armor aside, lingering on the many scars.
Chase's paws reached for Rust's belt, fingers carelessly stroking the rat's belly over the mail.
“Seeing all your scars, sir... you have survived so many wounds.”
“I'm a Knight.” Lord Chase knelt and began undoing his Squire's thigh plating, removing the pieces one at a time. “The scars come with the territory,” he chuckled, removing the last piece of leg armor, leaving the rat in just his loincloth and mail shirt.
“True. It's just... when I think of how many furs you fought to earn those... How many battles they represent...”
Standing and stepping back, the lynx stared at the smaller fur. “I'm a warrior, Squire… is that not okay?”
Paws held out in supplication, Rust shook his head. “You misunderstand. I'm... awed by them. They are all proof of times you prevailed against someone who wanted to kill you... to take what you cherish... to destroy your beliefs. You had to survive to earn those scars. Your opponents didn't.”
Smiling softly at the rodent, Chase stepped in again. “Thank you, I think...” The feline slowly lifted the mail off his Squire, revealing several long scar lines from a whip on the rat's back.
Rubbing his tanned hands over his gray – and red – furred arms, Rust watched his mentor set the mail aside. “I meant it as a complement. I'm not sure... I'm not sure I'm strong enough to do the same.”
“Strength grows with practice and experience.” Both of them now wearing only their loincloths, Chase looked his young Squire up and down.
“I've heard that before. Thank you for your help, sir.”
Both furs smiled as the lynx went back to sit in his chair, moaning softly as the weight came off his feet. “We will train a little more, soon. I need to work on your broadsword strokes. For now, see to the armor.”