Book One, Chapter 4: The Knight of the Bulwark Sword

1

 “We’ll be off then, boss.”
 “Thank ya for everything!”
 “We’ll never forget everything you did for us, chief.”

 To these three men, with appreciation and reluctance to part written all over their faces, Baldo said,

 That’s right, the three of you take care.
 Don’t give up, you hear?
 You’d best not get ahead of yourselves.
 Work hard one step at a time, and good things are sure to come.

 The three men left down the mountain trail, constantly looking back at Baldo over their shoulders as they did.
 Baldo then hoisted his belongings over his shoulder and made his way in the opposite direction.
 After some time did he arrive at the location where he had been attacked only the day before.

 What a bunch of scatterbrains, to ambush me in a place with such visibility.
 Not to mention, I had the higher ground.

 In a battle between two evenly-met individuals, it should go without saying victory would favor  those with a height advantage.
 Those three men were true fools to not consider such an elementary thing.

 Baldo first met them yesterday.
 In the village he stayed at the night before, he heard rumors of bandits that recently appeared in the mountains just outside of the great Podomos domain.
 They would never show their faces to large groups, it appeared.
 I wouldn’t mind going for a little bandit clean-up myself, thought Baldo at the time.
 To think they actually appeared.
 The three men stood before Baldo and said,

 “Hey, gramps.
 Pull all your stuff on the ground, and no one gets hurt.”

 “You’d better listen, or you’ll be in for a beating.”

 “Don’t even think about running.
 You’ll never outrun the three of us.”

 The three men were unfathomably dirty, their eyes bulging, threatening Baldo with deep, brassy voices.
 Their beards were long and scraggly as well—it was as if they were not human but beasts.
 They all carried crudely-made weapons.

 To a skittish traveler might these three have inspired proper terror, but Baldo was unmoved.

 A fight ensued.
 It reached its conclusion in a mere matter of moments.
 The three men were all knocked to the ground by Baldo and wore pathetic expressions.
 Baldo originally meant to take the lives of the three.
 For there was no good to be had in letting bandits roam rampant.

 Yet when he saw these three men trying to protect each other did Baldo have a change of heart.
 Where were you three born, and why have you resorted to banditry? asked Baldo.
 In the end, the four of them shared drinks in the cave the men used as a hideout, and from the bandits did Baldo hear their life story.
 It was the first time in a while they drank alcohol, and it came as quite a shock to their system.

 The three men had been woodcutters in a domain called Tuolim.
 In Tuolim were the taxes exorbitantly high and the tax collection harsh, thus did the poor grow ever poorer.
 The women and children of families that could not pay were taken and sold off.
 Resist the tax collectors and one would meet a terrible end.

 Then there appeared a man named Emba with a chivalrous heart who protected the villagers from the unjust tax collectors.
 Many other men who idolized this Emba came together and created a militia to save those with no means to protect themselves and provide food for the starving.
 These three men as well had been taken by Emba’s strength and manly spirit, thus they pledged their loyalty to him.

 Yet one day, the lord of this domain hired two guards of incredible strength to serve at his side.
 Emba was slain by these guards, and so too were his underlings killed off one by one.
 These three men had been in hiding for many a year since then, finally making their way to this place where they stole items and foodstuff from passersby to barely scrape by.

 Baldo did not know how much of their story was truth, but the eyes of these three men were clear and unwavering.
 Perhaps it was as they said, and “no one gets hurt,” thought Baldo.

 Then perhaps they can redeem themselves yet.

 With this idea, Baldo spent the night drinking with these men.
 Alcohol draws out the true nature of men.
 This was especially true for men of such a wild lifestyle as this.
 After exchanging many words did Baldo find these three men were not yet beyond salvation and were in fact quite likable characters.

 Thus Baldo wrote the three a letter of introduction addressed to the mayor of a village some ways away.
 The contents of which were such:
These three men have fallen into banditry, but there is hope for them yet.
I ask you give these men a chance to work and earn their livelihood, and should they perform without sincerity, I ask you to punish them however you deem appropriate.

 Baldo had saved this mayor and his daughter from the attack of a kaejel several days prior.
 Baldo knew the mayor was acutely aware of the debt he owed him, so he predicted the man would honor this request.

 The three men cried with joy upon hearing this.
 To think they might finally escape this life, one of threatening others for their food, waiting for the day of their reckoning.
 Who wouldn’t be happy to have such a thing?
 The morning dawned, they cut their hair and shaved their beards, and they were at last a bit presentable.
 Baldo saw off the three men and continued on his way.

2

 “Found you at last, bandit scum!
 Where are your friends hiding?”

 Before Baldo stood a knight fully clad in metal armor and wielding a massive sword.
 There were several of his attendants behind him.
 I am not a bandit, replied Baldo, to which the knight scoffed,

 “Humph, what bald-faced deception!
 Who would stroll leisurely about on a path known to be infested with bandits?
 Who other than the very bandits themselves!
 How do you explain the sword at your side, then?
 Surely it is to harm those passing by.”

 Though perhaps not evident from my appearance, I am a knight, said Baldo.

 “What comedy!
 So there are knights without horses, you wish me to believe!
 A lowly bandit such as yourself dares besmirch the name of the honorable knight?
 Scarcely have I ever witnessed such shameless behavior.
 I bet those furs behind you are the ones stolen from the elderly of Uralta village as well.
 The evidence is irrefutable!”

 Baldo did in fact have furs in his possession,
 They were his spoils from defeating a turned dwarva, however.
 This is the pelt of a kaejel—are the stolen possessions you refer to the same? asked Baldo.

 “Kaejel furs!
 To think you stole something of such value.
 You will never get away with this, scoundrel!”

 This fully-armored knight was truly not the kind to listen to others.
 With no other recourse available to him, Baldo told the knight his identity.
 Yet that only served to fan the flames of his anger even more.

 “Y-Y-You cur!
 Y-You dare go so far as to impersonate the great Sir Baldo Rhowen!
 There shall be no mercy for you!
 Fall to my blade!”

 the man shouted, closing the gap between him and Baldo.
 It was a very large man.
 Though he was a touch shorter than Baldo, his girth far eclipsed his.
 After seeing this weapon did Baldo learn the identity of this large man.

 Godon Zarcos

 He was the head of House Zarcos, the lord of the Meyzia domain.
 Baldo remembered the Meyzia domain was in fact located within the greater Podomos region, but he heard it was further north.
 Perhaps the village at the foot of this mountain was under their protection.

 Godon Zarcos was a well-known character, famous for his weapon, dubbed the “bulwark sword.”
 Baldo had assumed the man to be proficient in skills that rendered him an impenetrable fortress, as a castle bulwark might.
 It seems that was not the case.
 It was not that he used his sword like a bulwark.
 Rather, his sword itself was like the bulwark.

 His sword was thick beyond any reasonable extent.
 And that very sword was being held up in front of him.
 The edge of the blade faced directly forward.
 Yet Baldo could not see the face of the man behind it.
 Of such girth was the width of this blade.

 Baldo was quite frankly at a loss for words to be up against a sword of such comical proportions.
 Then came the sword swinging down.
 It was never lifted before the swing—yes, it simply came down from the starting stance.
 It appeared to be not a sword meant to cut, but rather one simply meant to crush through sheer size and weight.
 Baldo would not dare directly receive such terrifying mass.
 He took a step backward.

Whoosh!

 Baldo was struck by a powerful gale, as if next to the flight of a monstrous bird.
 The simple descent of this massive bulwark sword was already enough to label it a destructive weapon.
 The man pulled back the bulwark sword to its original position no slower than it fell.

 What power!

 Even Baldo, with plenty of faith in his own strength, could not but admit his inferiority to Godon Zarcos in this aspect.
 Godon had considerably more strength in his arms.
 Just how much raw iron was used in this sword’s forging?
 For a man to wield it with such dexterity proved him a possessor of incredible power.
 Just how did one develop their muscles to the point where they could change the trajectory of such a weapon mid-swing?
 Baldo came back to his senses after a brief moment of shock and thought about what to do next, giving his opponent a wide berth.

 Well then.
 How do I go about this?
 The man is clearly itching for a fight, so he surely won’t mind if I teach him a lesson or two.
 Rather, I have a feeling he won’t listen to me at all until I smack some sense into him.
 The question, now, is how I might manage this smacking.
 The fellow is covered from head to toe with metal armor.
 A fine set of armor at that.
 I’m uncertain if this billhook sword will be able to rise to the occasion.

 Baldo was originally a master of the greatsword, using such a monstrous weapon to overwhelm his opponents directly through their armor.
 This was not a weapon capable of such feats, however.
 Even if it were would Baldo’s shoulder and hips surely not be able to stand up to the punishment of its use.
 In the midst of such thoughts, the bulwark sword came down a second time.
 With the gusty roar, it completely eclipsed Baldo’s entire field of vision.
 What tremendous pressure.
 A warrior with any less poise would crumble under the force of such a lethal blow.
 Baldo stepped backward yet again.
 The bulwark sword stopped midair and returned to its original position yet again.
 His opponent closed the distance one step.
 Baldo stood upright and composed his thoughts.

 Alright.
 Come the next blow, I will dodge not by stepping back but by moving to the side.
 Then I will strike at his right hand.
 Surely he cannot maneuver away with such a gargantuan weapon.

 His opponent took another step forward and swung the bulwark sword down.
 Baldo jumped to the side and from there rushed toward the man.
 At the moment the flat of the bulwark sword struck the location where Baldo had initially been, its trajectory sharply clanged and shot right with frightening speed.
 The massive tip of the sword threatened to lay waste to the right side of Baldo’s body.
 Baldo hurriedly leapt backward to avoid such a fate.
 Had he stepped any closer would he have surely suffered a fatal blow.

 As he tried to recover his footing, Baldo broke out into a cold sweat.
 He could scarcely believe such a feat was possible, for any man to perform a horizontal strike of that velocity and vigor with a sword of such colossal proportions.

 This fellow is proving a nuisance.
 I haven’t the faintest idea how to attack him.
 Shall I face the sword head on and aim for the fingers to disrupt his grip?
 Nay.
 That would only put me in harm’s way.
 Going for his feet would only have the same disastrous result.
 I have no way of dealing with such an inhuman attack.
 And not being able to see this fellow’s face makes it all the more troublesome.

 Godon Zarcos’ face was entirely hidden behind the bulwark sword.
 This meant that Baldo was similarly hidden from the man’s sight.
 Yet there was nary a trace of hesitation in the man’s actions.
 Just how was he seeing through my movements, thought Baldo with deep suspicion.
 Yet again did his opponent step forward and swing down with his bulwark sword, and yet again did Baldo retreat backward.

 “You cannot defeat me by running away!
 How long will it take before you succumb to the fatigue and misstep?
 Surrender now, else be flattened into the ground!”

 I do not care when I will die, but at the very least, I’d rather not go to such a ridiculous weapon, thought Baldo.
 Although he realized that by surrendering he would likely be able to resolve the misunderstanding, Baldo was very unhappy with the idea of doing so.
 He stared at the billhook sword in his hand.
 Although he had been certain the reserve of mysterious power within it had already dried up, the weapon once more displayed its ferocious sharpness in Baldo’s last fight against a kaejel.
 If even now this blade retained its elgwordra qualities, it must not be allowed to rot in my dying arms, thought Baldo.
 Such a kaejel-slaying weapon needed to be in the possession of House Telsia.
 If this sword yet possessed the power to fight against those monsters, Baldo was resolved to send it back to those who would make better use of it.

 Then was this would-be sword a proper elgwordra?
 How can I find the answer once and for all? he wondered.
 Preoccupied with such matters, Baldo traversed the mountain path.

 The billhook sword displayed its mysterious powers on two occasions prior.
 Yet when dealing with the jelvry was the weapon a simple mass of iron.
 The same when against the mountain bandits the day before.
 Why was it?
 If this weapon still contained a special might within, when exactly would it display it?

 Perhaps it only releases its power when contending against a foe of monstrous, life-threatening strength, the idea struck Baldo.
 Would this not be the perfect chance to confirm that theory, then?
 Heart resolute, Baldo spoke to this elgwordra.

 Ancient sword.
 I call on you, elgwordra.
 You who have been forged with the wisdom of days long past.
 Before me stands a powerful enemy.
 Show your true form and rend this foe asunder!

 Baldo then jumped fearlessly once more toward his opponent and with all the might his body could muster sent a horizontal strike directly into the bulwark sword.
 Yet the billhook sword never activated.
 There was no change in its movement.
 A great clash of steel on steel rang throughout the forest.
 His opponent brought down the bulwark sword once more.

 Baldo jumped back.
 After attempting such a reckless attack could Baldo no longer feel his entire right arm.
 So too did his neck cry with pain.
 He doubted he would be able to swing this sword again.

 Yet Baldo somehow avoided defeat.
 Upon striking the earth did the bulwark sword suddenly snap in two.
 Split right at the point of Baldo’s attack.
 He suspected there was a fine crack at this spot, one that had appeared after many years of abuse.

 “NOOO!
 My sword!
 My sword!
 My dear, faithful sword!!”

 Baldo watched Godon Zarcos wail with a calm, detached expression.

 So nothing happened after all.
 I suppose this sword truly has dried up,

 he inwardly sighed.

3

 “I cannot overstate how remorseful I am for my actions.
 To think I showed such wanton disrespect to the very Sir Baldo Rhowen of all great men.
 This indiscretion has become my life’s crowning failure.
 My heart burns with immense shame.
 I ask the good sir to administer punishment that we might right this wrong.”

 Baldo smiled, as he could not help but feel a lovable warmth from the large man who was currently hunched over before him, spewing apology after apology with no end.

 “I can’t believe you sometimes, Godon!
 What happened to the advice you always give others?
 You must ‘first listen to what the other side has to say,’ right!”

 sternly lectured a young woman standing next to him, his younger sister Eurlica.

 “Eurlica,
 Sir Rhowen has already expressed his forgiveness, so why not leave it at that?
 You as well, brother-in-law.
 Apologizing so profusely to the good sir will surely only serve to make him uncomfortable, no?
 Why, it seems the black shrimp is ready.
 Allow me to pour you another glass of wine, Lord Rhowen.
 I must say, we are quite proud of this shrimp dish of ours,”

 said Kynen, Eurlica’s husband, as he tried to calm everyone down.
 It seemed this was a capable man who had married into House Zarcos.
 That meant he was closely involved in matters of industrial development and financial management  throughout the domain.

 Seeing this Godon Zarcos beset with grief upon breaking his bulwark sword in two, Baldo showed him a certain letter.
 It was the letter of recommendation given to him by the Count of Lints.
 This count was in fact Godon’s uncle.
 Knowing how deeply Godon revered Baldo Rhowen, Galdegarsh Gwera,1 he insisted that Baldo stop by the Meyzia domain should he head north in the future.
 Additionally did he write to Godon in the letter that Sir Rhowen was his savior, and that he should be treated with the utmost generosity and sincerity.

 Upon seeing this letter did Godon realize the old man before him was in fact the genuine Baldo Rhowen, and after a great deal of profuse apology, he invited him to his castle.
 Eurlica received the two when they arrived and, after learning of the events that had transpired between them, had angrily berated her brother for his actions and offered her own apologies to Baldo.
 Additionally, she told him how dearly her older brother yearned to meet Baldo in the flesh and insisted that he stay with the family at their castle for however long he could.
 Baldo was more than happy to comply.

 Kynen kept Godon and Eurlica at bay as they attempted to flood Baldo with conversation, giving him the opportunity to enjoy a bath.
 While Baldo was relaxing in the warm water, an herbalist entered the room to trim his now-overgrown hair and beard.
 After leaving the bath, he was met by an attendant who applied fragrant oil to his body and prepared for him a fresh set of clothes.

 It has been a long while since I have felt so fresh.

 Baldo was thoroughly impressed by the extent of Kynen’s thoughtfulness.

4

 The black shrimp that Kynen had mentioned was a rather large species.
 They were supposedly caught in the domain’s saltwater lake.
 After growing beyond a certain size would their initially red shell start to blacken.
 These blackened shrimps possessed a rich depth of flavor.
 Boiled, grilled, or even used in soups—this shellfish truly excelled in every field.

 Baldo was surprised upon seeing the plate in front of him.
 Never before had he seen a shrimp of such size.
 It wore an exquisite carapace, as if a knight of great repute in a magnificent set of armor.
 This fine specimen had been cut in two and grilled with its shell still intact.

 Although at first glance did it appear the shrimp had been simply grilled as it, this was likely not the case.
 The first telltale sign of such was a yellowish, foaming oil between the meat and shell.
 The next was how the fork was able to pierce through it with consummate ease.
 It looked as though simply grilled, yet that was where the chef’s job lay.
 Baldo sliced off a piece and brought it to his mouth.

 My!
 What an exquisite smell.
 It must be the herbs and this oil.

 The moment the meat touched his tongue did an intense explosion of flavor burst forth.
 He bit into the flesh and found, much to his surprise, an uncharacteristic firmness in the consistency.
 Yet not unpleasantly so.
 He chewed once, twice, thrice.
 With every time came variations in flavor.
 After savoring the texture some more, he finally swallowed.
 How could shrimp be so meaty and rich?
 It was truly a luxurious sensation, to eat such a large shrimp.
 So too was the shellfish cooked to utter perfection.
 Though there were grill marks on the exterior carapace, the flesh was white and delicious like a pearl.

 Baldo was also taken aback at the expert use of salt.
 He originally noticed a distinct saltiness when first tasting the dish.
 Yet with each bite did he notice the salt become increasingly tame as he ventured deeper into the flesh, instead complimenting and drawing out the richness of the natural shrimp flavor.
 Never once did the salt overwhelm any aspect of the dish.
 Baldo was struck with curiosity at such a sensation, thus he posed the question out loud.

 “My, I never knew you were so knowledgeable about matters of food, Sir Baldo.
 Heh-heh.
 In our house, we salt grilled food twice, you see.
 ‘Extracting salt’ and ‘finishing salt,’ we call it.
 I suppose you could think of it as ‘salt meant to taste as such’ and ‘salt meant to support from the shadows’ as well.
 When grilling this black shrimp—‘demon armor grill,’ we call the dish—we cut the freshly-caught shrimp in half and first apply a trace amount of salt to every part.
 We then pour a small amount of fruit extract atop the shellfish and allow the flavors to marinate and seep thoroughly into the flesh.
 After some time, we repeat the process, wrap the halves in fragrant herbs, and again let the myriad flavors get to know each other.
 When the time is right, we grill the shrimp over a fire.
 Once it comes into contact with the heat does the salt draw out the shrimp’s rich, flavorful juices.
 That is when we rub it with parlim oil.
 The shrimp extract, salt and oil come together to create a sauce with truly no equal, and that mixture once more seeps throughout the flesh to give it yet another dimension of flavor.
 Just as the shrimp is about to be fully cooked, we move it to a more intense flame and sprinkle the secondary finishing salt.
 This is our method.”

 Raising her right hand above her head, Eurlica rubbed her fingers together, demonstrating the process.

 “It is important, when sprinkling the finishing salt, to do so from high up.
 By doing so can you ensure the salt is evenly distributed and you won’t accidentally oversalt the dish.
 As I explained, by joining together the salt that extracts the richness of the flesh and the salt at the end that adjusts the overall salinity of the dish, you are left with an utterly spectacular creation.
 Though we use salt at the start, that does not mean we do not need salt at the end.
 That is to say we must exercise caution when making the dish, precisely calculating just how much salt is to be used at each step, ensuring the end result is still palatable.
 Something as large as this black shrimp requires a good deal of salt to fully extract all of its flavor, not to mention once must spend a great deal of time practicing to strike the right balance between using heat to bring out the richness and cooking the meat to perfection.
 The instant the shrimp leaves the flame must the chef with swiftness and dexterity run a knife between the meat and carapace.
 Removing the shell not only makes the shrimp easier to eat but allows the oils to travel along the entire length of the dish, preventing the favors from stagnating in any one area.
 Such is the fruit of our countless trials and error.”

 Baldo listened to this process, nodding as he did, and all the while was he continuing to eat the shrimp.
 Allowing the sauce atop the shell to mix with the flesh added an even bolder element to the taste.
 Every now and then did Baldo take a sip of wine.
 Baldo was not terribly fond of white wine.
 Yet this particular one, produced in these very lands, was another matter altogether.
 It was refreshing and smooth as whites tended to be, yet this one was additionally chilled to perfection.
 Supposedly cooled at the bottom of a well, the sensation of the crisp wine as it trickled over the piping-hot shrimp in his mouth was bliss in its sublimity.

 So too did Eurlica give a wonderful explanation, free of any condescension.
 It even added to the joy of savoring the dish, in fact.
 She performed admirably as the lady of the house.
 Now this is a lady of many talents, thought Baldo.
 Godon too was immeasurably happy to see Baldo at such peace, and he moved the conversation along with joy.

5

 “I admit defeat!”

 shouted Godon with a bellowing voice.
 Opposite him was Baldo, similarly drenched in sweat.
 Understandably so.
 For this was their eighth match today.

 This was currently Baldo’s fifth day at the Zarcos estate.
 Godon on the second day timidly asked Baldo to train him in the sword, yet Baldo declined as his health was in rather meager condition.
 Godon did not press the issue either at first, and instead showed Baldo around the domain.
 Meyzia was located in a valley surrounded on all sides by mountains and was made up of eight separate villages.
 Though neither rich in natural resources nor with any noteworthy industry, these lands were beautiful and tranquil.
 Baldo saw that the people here supported one another and lived happy lives.
 So too was the lord of this land, Godon, loved by all his subjects.
 Upon seeing him would any of the villagers call over with joy.

 Come night, Baldo would be treated to a feast with Godon, Eurlica, and Kynen.
 Every time would he experience an abundance of finely prepared dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients.
 The hosts paid careful attention to Baldo’s appetite and served him portions that would always perfectly satisfy his hunger with no excess.
 Baldo had always been opposed to the custom of bringing out copious amounts of food.
 Thus was he appreciative of House Zarcos’ approach.
 Terribly, terribly appreciative.
 Upon mentioning this to the family, Eurlica replied,

 “The founder of our House once said, ‘For every glutton is there a starving man—ask yourself what the poorest person in these lands is eating tonight.’
 It is the pride of House Zarcos that not one individual has starved to death in this domain in the last two hundred years.
 Of course, that is to say we have prepared ample reserves of food in the event a guest visits our estate.
 You needn’t worry about any shortages, Sir Baldo.”

 It appeared House Zarcos was abundant with resources.
 They have surely stockpiled many things over the years.
 Else they would not be able to forge a weapon as nonsensical as that bulwark sword.
 Such a thing by itself would cost one a fortune.
 So too would a full set of metal armor rack up a high price.
 Even the castle itself spared no expense for many of its items.

 House Zarcos was an illustrious name.
 The progenitor of this House was after all among the earliest settlers of the untamed land to the east of the Orva River countless years ago, a group of people known as the First Ones.
 So too were they one of the few households that had survived the Great Catastrophe of the past, perpetrated by vast hordes of kaejel.
 There was of course no way to definitively verify such a thing, as it concerned matters of a truly distant, almost mythological past, yet many believed it to be true.
 As the conversation started to touch upon this topic, Eurlica suddenly asked,

 “Sir Baldo,
 Where do you believe the First Ones came from?”

 From west of the Orva I would imagine, replied Baldo.

 “That is what everyone says, yes.
 Yet did you know, Sir Baldo?
 The legends passed down in our family tell of the opposite, in fact.
 They say it was the descendants of the First Ones that founded the kingdoms to the west of the Orva.
 So then where could the First Ones have possibly come from?
 A puzzling affair, wouldn’t you say?”

 Ancient families certainly have no shortage of curious legends, thought Baldo.
 Both Eurlica and her husband Kynen were blessed with an abundance of social grace and thoughtfulness.
 Kynen in particular awed Baldo with the depth of his erudition.
 According to the man himself, he had broadened his horizons and expanded the depth of his knowledge through travel in his younger days.

 “What a fine thing travel is!
 That old adage couldn’t be closer to the truth.
To temper a young man, send him on a journey.
 Hah-hah-hah!
 Why, I’m starting to get an itch for travel myself,”

 laughed Godon.
 Without his armor did Godon appear a portly man, thus his powerful muscles were nowhere to be seen.
 He seemed a kindhearted character with an almost childlike temperament.
 Rare was it to come across a person like him, someone with such predilection for earnestness and fun.
 He was a warrior with a good and honest heart, thus Baldo grew terribly fond of the man.

 On the third day of Baldo’s stay, one of Godon’s cousins attended the dinner feast as well.
 There were four knights in House Zarcos.
 Godon, Kynen, one of Godon’s uncles, and that man’s son.
 Though Kynen and Eurlica had two children, their son was currently training to become a knight under a different household, and their daughter was studying etiquette in the Palzamic Kingdom.

 Kynen was a self-proclaimed “scholar-knight,” in that although he underwent a knight’s training and received an official title, he did not excel in matters of combat.
 Without holding the title of knight, he would not be able to officially serve as a retainer of House Zarcos and would thus be limited in his ability to effectively negotiate with other households.
 This was what drove him to earn the title.

 Godon’s uncle and cousin lived in a manor some distance away from the castle.
 His uncle was currently far away from the domain on official business.
 The man’s son, the only other knight in the family, was a very quiet individual, and he simply listened to the festive conversation that night without a word.

 Things began to change on the fourth night.
 Godon had showed Baldo to the castle’s armory that day.
 There were many weapons of splendid quality, some of which even Baldo himself did not know how to use.
 The conversation over the dinner banquet that night was a particularly enthusiastic one, blossoming especially into the topic of weapons and equipment.
 At one point in the evening did Godon say,

 “I recall, now that I think about it, that you carried the pelt of a turned dwarva on your person when we first met, did you not?
 That particular material is supposedly the finest possible for leather armors.
 One rarely comes across such a valuable thing.
 Where exactly did you purchase a treasure like that, Sir Baldo?”

 Though Baldo was never one to enjoy boasting, he naturally was not going to lie about it either, thus he told those at the table the truth of what had happened.
 Seized with excitement, Godon hurriedly begged Baldo to recount the battle against the kaejel in more detail.

 “Goodness!
 How brave!
 How gallant!
 That village truly experienced a perilous threat.
 What disaster, to be attacked by three dwarva and a kaejel.
 Yet such miraculous fortune, that the very Sir Baldo happened to stay in their village that very night.
 Without you, they may have faced naught but ruin!
 Yet not a single person perished.
 Simply incredible!
 You wander the myriad lands, saving the common folk from disaster and leaving just as soon to find the next poor soul in need.
 Yes.
 Yes!
 This is what it means to be a knight!
 A knight, the very picture of a true knight!
 It all comes back to the journey.
 Yes, one must journey!
 And you, Sir Baldo.
 What martial prowess must a man possess to fell three dwarva and a kaejel by his own effort alone!
 I would never dare believe such a tale had I heard it from any other mouth.
 The good sir is a humble man, to insist he was growing weaker with age.
 I cannot believe such a thing!
 Why, you even cleaved the very bulwark sword in two.
 For a sword to tear apart another—I’ve never heard of such a thing.
 I beg for your instruction as soon as the day dawns!”

 Godon deeply wished to fight Baldo in a practice bout.
 Baldo’s condition had improved by this point, and he figured he could exchange blows once or twice with the man out of appreciation for the hospitality.

 In the first match, both men wielded swords.
 As Baldo watched his opponent swing the sword could he tell the two were not a fit, however, thus he asked which weapon he was best at.
 Hammers and axes, responded Godon.
 Yet such weapons could not be considered knightly, thus he endeavored to train with the sword.
 It appeared that since normal swords were far too light and lacking in impact for the man, he had a monstrosity like the bulwark sword created especially for him.

 Baldo had Godon use a battle hammer.
 He himself used a wooden staff.
 With a battle hammer in his hands, Godon unleashed an entirely different kind of intensity than before.
 Such a weapon was meant to tear knights fully clad in armor from atop their horses or to render opponents unconscious with a single blow to the head.
 Yet to swing a battle hammer was incredibly difficult, and doing so left the wielder open to attack.
 As such were those who used this weapon often paired with sword-wielding knights on the battlefield to protect them at these moments.
 Godon Zarcos, however, was an almost mythical figure, one that could fend off multiple knights at the same time.
 With a roaring gale did the colossal battle hammer fly toward Baldo.
 The weapon spun around, creating a whirlwind in its wake, and a single impact from such a thing would spell instant death.

 Baldo dodged this attack from Godon, cold sweat pouring from his forehead.
 Even had he been at his prime, armed with the most durable of shields, Baldo suspected he would have been unable to weather this blow head on.
 Though Baldo with his many years of experience was somewhat confident he could deal with the man now, if Godon grew any stronger, he would find it hard to continue evading his blows.
 However, those many years of combat experience were not for show.
 It was because the staff had longer range than the hammer that Baldo chose it over the sword for this match.
 He maintained a safe distance the entire time, occasionally striking Godon’s wrists, occasionally thrusting the staff into his shoulders and forehead, and finally securing victory by sweeping his legs and sending him tumbling to the ground.

 Though he came away from every match victorious was Baldo astounded by the man before him.
One reason was because of Godon’s limitless endurance and the lightning speed with which he spun the hammer.
 It was surely in part due to inborn potential, yet there was no mistaking the amount of effort and training he put himself through.
 Another reason was because of how resilient the man was to Baldo’s blows.
 It was as if his very body itself was a set of armor.
 With more tempering would he turn into an even more awe-inspiring warrior, thought Baldo, thus he gave many pointers during their spar.
 Godon did his utmost to diligently apply every of Baldo’s advice.
 Soon was it no longer a spar but the instruction of a mentor to his disciple.

6

 Baldo resumed his journey after two weeks at the castle.
 No longer on foot, but on horseback.
 House Zarcos had given Baldo one of the horses in their care.
 They originally intended the horse to be a gift, but Baldo refused to accept such an extravagant thing for free, thus he insisted on paying them a small sum in return.
 It was a rather large horse, with chestnut-colored hair.
 Baldo himself was a large man, and he had with him other belongings, thus only a large horse would be able to bear the burden.

 Eurlica, Kynen, and the most prominent retainers of the household met with Baldo as he was to depart to bid him farewell.
 The head of the House, Godon, was nowhere to be seen.
 Though it was not necessarily a breach of etiquette for the head of a House to stay inside and not see guests off, Baldo thought it was rather strange that Godon would not say farewell, considering their pleasant interactions over the last couple weeks.
 As neither Eurlica nor Kynen seemed keen to discuss the topic, however, Baldo was himself unsure how to approach it.
 Please give Sir Godon my regards then, Baldo finally said, to which Eurlica chuckled with a peculiar expression.

 Baldo left the castle behind, crossed the village border, and entered the mountains when there he found Godon Zarcos.
 There he stood, travel luggage at the ready, with a compact battle hammer in hand.

 “You’ve made it, master.
 You were slower than I expected.
 Shall we be on our way then?”

 The man was bursting at the seams with excitement, ready to join Baldo on his journey.
 Are you not the lord of these lands? asked Baldo, and he replied,

 “Oh, about that.
 I wrote a letter relinquishing the position to Kynen.
 All is well.”

 All was certainly not well.
 The process of transferring lordship was far from a simple matter.
 There were many tasks and duties that needed to be handed over.
 When Baldo said as such, the man replied,

 “You misunderstand.
 My sister and her husband have always taken care of all those pesky matters.
 I’ve had Kynen handle the lord’s seal for a long time too.”

 Baldo inwardly admitted that he had never once seen Godon take care of administrative duties in the two weeks he stayed at the castle.
 Eurlica, Kynen, and the retainers seemed never to have a moment of rest as well.
 Godon apparently only spent his time training with the sword and going around the various villages to slay dangerous beasts and capture wrongdoers.
 The man was so willing to do as such, even for villages not under House Zarcos’ protection, that the Meyzia domain nearly always received trades in their favor when doing business with the surrounding regions, Eurlica had said
 Knowing fully how headstrong the man could be, Baldo resigned himself to Godon’s company for the time being and had his horse start walking.
 After riding for a short time, Baldo was about to drink some of his water when Godon interjected,

 “There is a stream near here with delicious, crisp water.
 Allow me to fetch some for you,”

 before scurrying down the side of a hill with a water satchel in hand.
 Just when Godon was out of sight did a voice come from behind.

 “Sir Baldo Rhowen.”

 Baldo had known he was being followed, but after hearing the voice did he learn their tail was one of House Zarcos’ retainers.
 The man appeared from the dense thicket and said,

 “I bear a message from Lady Eurlica:
It is my brother’s wish to accompany Sir Baldo on his journey.
He can be a rather stubborn person once he sets his mind to something, so I must intrude upon your kindness, Sir Baldo, and ask that you be so tolerant as to allow him to follow you until he has his fill.
Please look after him.
I would be ever thankful.

 He then handed Baldo a pouch filled with coins.

 “Enclosed are his travel expenses.
As these coins may face peril in his hands, I would respectfully like to ask you to hold onto them in his stead.
 The message concludes thus.”

 For Baldo to refuse this sum here would indicate his refusal to allow Godon to follow him.
 Please look after him until he’s had his fill.
 What a crafty way to word it.
 How could Baldo possibly refuse this request, after they had done so much for him over these last two weeks.

 The lady really is a woman of many talents,

 said Baldo with a great sigh.

“Godon Zarcos” by Matajirou

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