What Is a Knight?

What is a knight? Most of us picture a man clad in heavy armor, similar to this:

Knights

But, as with many things, our general perception doesn’t encapsulate the entire truth.

I did a bit of research on historical knights so I’d know what they were and could borrow from reality and legend to create the knights in my own work.

In reality, a knight was usually a mounted soldier serving under a feudal lord in Europe. The concept of what a knight was would come to mean men, usually of noble birth (but not required), who would be apprenticed as first a page and then a squire.

During this apprenticeship, they were taught all of the skills necessary to be a skilled fighter, as well as religion, reading and writing, and social decorum. They’d then be given the military rank of knight and be bound to the code of chivalry.

This code of chivalry was enacted partially to control behavior. Because history has taught us how well behaved soldiers can be. See also, Vikings.

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They’d terrorized much of Europe, so yeah, chivalry had its reasons.

Unlike many other titles (duke, baron, etc.), knighthood was not hereditary. It was given to a person by a sovereign because of personal merit or service. This means that it was easier for men who were good at being soldiers to move up in rank. It also meant you never had a six-year-old knight. Unlike some kings. And helped reduce the crazy, unlike in kings.

Knights were an important part of feudal system established by Charlemagne. Under this system, the king owned all of the land, and he granted fiefs to various lords in return for loyalty, protection and service.

In order to provide this protection, the knight class was created. Many knights were professional warriors, and the lord they served paid them for the services, and provided food, lodging, armor, weapons and horses.

Knighthood was a way for a man to advance in a society that offered few other means. As it also wasn’t an inherited position, it was a way for a younger son of a lord to advance himself. Knights could make fortunes from their service, and they could be granted land from the king and become a lord in their own right.

While many of us think of Knights of the Round Table when we think of knights.

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Okay, maybe not this King Arthur.

In reality, knights were experienced mounted soldiers. They were also supposed to have a firm grounding in religion, among other things, but the reality was knights were about as religious as any other general order of soldiers.

Stories of knights have been told for a very long time. I think it somewhat relates to the legends of King Arthur, but I also think seeing men riding in armor on horseback left a strong impression. It was story worthy.

 

How about you? What do you think of when you think of knights? Maybe Sir Lancelot or Sir Galahad from King Arthur’s court? Ser Bronn from Game of Thrones? Sir El Cid of Spain? Or maybe you think of something all together different?

Practice (Part 2)

If you’d like to catch-up with the story, Part 1 is here.

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Skyla caught up to Mara, the mage’s soft grey eyes were bright with excitement. “We did it. Just like you said.”

Mara nodded once.

“You really think this’ll work?”

Mara shrugged. “Where I’m from it would.”

Skyla chewed her lower lip as she avoided Mara’s gaze.

“You’re sure you’re okay with this?”

“Yes.” A beautiful blush reddened the mage’s cheeks. “Only one way I’ll know. And I’m curious.”

“Haven’t met a mage that wasn’t.”

Skyla stared at her for too long. “Are you okay?”

“It’s Keenan you should be worried about.”

The mage’s blush deepened, and she followed Mara the rest of the way to Ndrek’s bar in silence.

Mara nodded to Ndrek than took a table in the back corner. She sprawled into the rearmost chair, keeping her back to the wall as she surveyed the bar. A few regulars were already there, and a steady trickle of customers was filling the rest of the tables.

The floor was tacky from spilled ale, but the tables were clean enough and the chairs comfortable after a day toying with Knights. Mara would’ve had fun messing with them if she didn’t know what the Knights would face in the eastern provinces.

They were kids, most of them who hadn’t seen anything more threatening than a pack of wolves or a petty thief. Nothing compared to the horrors beyond Tamryn’s borders. And it was beyond those traditional boarders that most of those Knights would be stationed. And where they’d die.

She didn’t share that with Skyla.

Instead, Mara leaned back and listened to Skyla’s stories and anecdotes as she waited for Keenan to join them. He was a Knight. He would come. Knights didn’tgo back on their word.

Ndrek stopped over and gave Skyla a grin that showed his perfect white teeth. “To what do I owe the pleasure of having one of the most promising students from the University of Arcane Arts in my humble establishment?”

Skyla blushed and mumbled something.

“Three hellfires,” Mara said. “Knight Keenan will be picking up the tab when he arrives.”

“I will have to charge him double to make up for having a Knight in my bar.”

“Or you could double his drink.”

Ndrek grinned, bowed, and disappeared back behind the bar.

As Ndrek returned with the smoking drinks, Keenan entered the bar. Uncertainty pinched his brow as he walked into the darkened taproom, but he spotted Mara and worked his way toward her.

The Knight eyed the deep red drinks that still emitted a trail of smoke, but Keenan paid Ndrek and took the seat opposite Mara.

“I’ll buy you one of these awful things every day if you’ll help me whip the new Knights into shape.”

Mara took a long drink of her hellfire. “Tell me about their training program.”

She listened as Keenan talked.

When he paused, Mara nodded to Skyla. “If you’re really sending those kids outside of Tamryn, you need to teach them how to fight magic. And you need to put more than Dracor’s light on their side.”

“Work with the University of Arcane Arts?”

“What other mages do you have?”

“They’re not warriors. Can’t wear armor.”

“Skyla wasn’t wearing armor, and she lit up your cadets.”

Keenan glanced at the mage, and Mara could see his discomfort. Skyla had told her the history between her and Keenan, but it looked like there was a lot more interest on the Knight’s part than Skyla had imagined.

Kennan lifted his half-empty glass. “These things are terrible.”

Mara downed the rest of hers. “Didn’t come here for the drinks.”

“But you won the bet.”

Mara leaned across the table and dropped a key in front of him.

Keenan’s eyes saucered as he looked at the key and then up at Mara. “Are you propositioning me?”

Mara smiled. “No. We are.”

Playing in the Sandbox (Practice Part 1)

No, not my children’s sandbox. Too messy. We turned it into a water table for very good reasons.

I mean taking my characters for a spin in the sandbox of my imagination.

I have a character that has been knocking around in my head for sometime. You see her as an ancillary character in a few stories, but she’s never the love interest. I wanted to change that and write a story about her, but she’s very different from other characters I’ve written.

Having been allowed very little free will of her own for most of her existence, her morality is different. Her wants and desires are different. Her worldview is different. Not sure I’ll ever be able to write her as the heroine, but I want to try.

To help me better understand her, I wrote a short story from her point of view. The steamy scenes are very different than any of my other work, but I think it’s because she’s so much different than my other heroines.

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Practice

Mara swept the first young Knight’s feet out from beneath him and shoved him hard with her shield. He crashed to the ground, and before he could roll away, she hit his breastplate with her sword.

A second Knight charged her, but she pivoted, letting his momentum in full armor carry him past her. As he tripped over the first Knight, Mara hit his back with the flat of her sword.

Two kill shots. Both Mara’s. Anything but a training exercise, and the two Knights of Valor would be dead.

There was laughter and teasing from the sidelines, but a quick look from Mara silenced the other Knights. “How long will you survive in the eastern provinces?”

Knight Keenan helped the two younger men back to their feet. “We’re practicing. They’ll get better.”

“But not good enough.”

“Not all of us can be Sir Marcus,” the Knight Mara had tripped said.

Mara pierced the boy with her hard stare. “Sir Marcus spent his life training to fight a lich. You spent yours training to protect the safe streets of Tamryn.”

Knight Keenan cleared his throat. “We’ll practice again tomorrow.”

Mara looked over the assembled Knights, her gaze resting on each man in turn. “Anything you face in the eastern provinces will be alive because it’s survived worse than whatever haunts your nightmares. Do you think your enemies get knocked down during practice then toddled off to say a few prayers?”

The Knights stared back at her, and several of them were clenching their fists at their sides.

“Good. Get angry at me. Better angry than dead. Next lesson.” Mara motioned to a figure dressed in a plain brown cloak.

The woman walked over to Mara and bowed, then turned toward the Knights.

“Skyla,” Keenan said. “What are you doing here?”

“She’s going to help me demonstrate a lesson,” Mara said. “Are your healers out here?”

Keenan nodded toward Knight Matthias, but concern reflected in his pale green eyes. “Is this safe?”

“Less dangerous than sending out half-trained men.”

Knight Keenan glanced at Skyla then stepped back. “Be careful.”

Mara looked at the woman in the robes. Her rich brown hair was tied in a simple ponytail, and her large grey eyes seemed too big for her face. She was easy to underestimate as so many mages were.

“Just like we practiced,” Mara said.

Skyla nodded and moved several sword lengths behind Mara.

“Do you think your Knights can beat Skyla and me?” Mara raised a challenging brow at Keenan. “Or are you going to send them to their prayer vigil and hope Dracor gives them fighting skills?”

“I don’t want her to get hurt.”

“Not what I asked.” Mara smiled at the gathered Knights, a taunting expression meant to rile them. “Pick your best seven. If they can get three points in before I get a killing blow, you win and I will come back and help you train them until the new moon.”

Keenan glanced at the recruits and then back at Mara. “You called for a healer. What do you have in mind?”

“Don’t think seven of your Knights can get in three hits?”

“And if they can’t?”

“You owe Skyla and me a hellfire at Ndrek’s bar.”

“Seven against you and Skyla?”

Mara nodded.

“Until the new moon?”

Mara nodded again.

“They could really use the practice against someone with your skills. You’re sure Skyla won’t be hurt?”

“It’s not her you should be worrying about.”

Mara fell into her battle stance, and she felt Skyla building the first spell as seven young Knights took their positions opposite her.

Keenan signaled the start of combat, and Skyla let loose with the spell.

A wall of flames scorched the ground and rose up between Mara and the Knights. Mara ignored the fire, ducking her head as she charged through them and tapped the chest plate of one of the Knights. Pivoting, she tapped the chest plate of a second before any of them had recovered their wits enough to close their mouths.

The remaining five backed away from the fire and Mara’s blade. Just as she’d anticipated.

Skyla loosed her second spell, and the ground under the remaining Knight’s feet turned to mud.

Mara charged.

Slamming her shield into the first Knight’s sword, she shoved hard and sent him stumbling back then barreled into the second. Surprise widened his eyes, and when he tried to turn, he slipped in the mud.

Mara slammed his chest plate with her sword, and if it hadn’t been a practice blade, she’d have killed the Knight. Instead, she sent him into the mud with the first, who’s chest plate she tapped.

They’d hurt, but the bruises would bring home a lesson they wouldn’t forget.

The remaining three Knights extricated themselves from the mud as Mara circled around them. She smiled as one tried to flank her while the other two came at her. Sprinting towards one, she used her shield as a battering ram and knocked him to the ground as the second scored a glancing blow against her arm.

She pivoted and knocked his feet out from underneath him them hit his chest plate with her sword. Leaping over him, she tapped the Knight she’d steamrolled to the ground.

One Knight remained.

As he stood watching her, black vines shot out of the ground and encased his feet, rooting him there.

Mara circled around him, but he couldn’t turn to face her. She came up behind him and tapped the middle of his back.

There were growing whispers that the battle hadn’t been fair. That they hadn’t been warned.

Mara only smiled. “Combat isn’t about fair. Or justice. Or right and wrong. It’s about winning. In real combat, Skyla would’ve been using fireballs, flame clouds, and ice storms. Never under estimate a mage.”

“Good lesson,” Sir Leopold said. “Well done, both of you.”

Mara felt the High-Knight’s faded blue eyes fix on her. She met his stare, her face impassive even as her stomach clenched. Tall and broad, the only thing that belied his age was the silver in his hair and the rank insignia on his uniform.

She wondered again what he’d feel like beneath her and how hard he’d fight her for top. How much she’d relish that fight. The thought made her belly tighten.

Stabbing the thought and leaving it to bleed to death, Mara handed her practice sword back to Keenan.

She picked up her sword and wiped the soot from her cheeks. “One hit to seven kills. See you at Ndrek’s.”

Keenan only nodded as he checked on his men.

 

To Catch a Dragon (Part 4)

You can catch up on the story at Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.

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To Catch a Dragon (Part 4)

They followed the shoreline not sure what they were looking for. Perhaps another footprint. A scale. Or even a dragon bathing in the lake.

Instead, they found a handful of deer, a couple of moose, and even a flock of sheep. All which should have been tasty morsels for a dragon, but no such creature was tempted from the sky.

“Any people missing?” Ndrek asked as he glanced over his shoulder at the sheep.

“No. Livestock seem to be accounted for as well.”

“What I felt may not have been a dragon, but whatever it was, it was far more powerful than the lich Sir Marcus destroyed.”

Knight Kailis frowned. “Maybe you just drank too much ale.”

“It takes far more than Tamarian ale to make me fall down drunk.”

“Maybe it was spiked with something.”

“Let’s say it wasn’t spiked ale that knocked him out,” Vaiya said. “And, for the sake of argument, let’s assume it wasn’t a long dead dragon or elven arch mage. What does that leave?”

Ndrek thought for several long moments, then ticked each off his fingers. “A supremely powerful but untrained and undiscovered sorcerer. A magical relic of immense power. A dragon. An elven arch mage.”

“An untrained sorcerer would be hard to hide,” Vaiya said. “They tend to set themselves and those they love on fire while still in the cradle.”

“That leaves a relic.” Kailis frowned. “I suppose it’s possible.”

“And if true, very dangerous,” Ndrek said.

“We’ll spend the next couple of days searching for any additional clues and following any leads the locals can give us. If you sense that kind of magic again, I’ll send an urgent request for back-up to the Dragon Church.”

“And if not?” Ndrek said.

“Then I make a full report and let the Dragon Church decide. Not sure how much manpower they want to spend on this when they’ve got undead walking the streets in the eastern provinces.”

“I would not wish to return to the eastern provinces. Hard to believe, but the food is better here. So is the smell,” Ndrek said.

Knight Kailis shook her head and led them back to town.

 

Curiosity burned. Ndrek knew something was out there, something of immense power, but not necessarily hostile. If it were, Kelleran would already be dust.

Church protocol bound Knight Kailis, but it didn’t bind him.

He watched the Knight of Valor conduct the investigation with by-the-book precision, but they knew nothing more when they retired for the day than they had at the beginning.

Ndrek lay in bed and studied the whitewashed ceiling. There was something out there. He could almost feel a whisper of its power. Almost.

Perhaps it was his desire to find the source of the magic that he felt rather than anything else, but he had to know.

His companions were asleep when he slipped out of the inn. He didn’t bother with the invisibility or silence spells. If he did find the presence, such magic would be of no consequence to it.

A sliver of a moon lit his path, and Ndrek augmented it with a faint light spell. No point tripping over a rock, and if this was a dragon, it already knew he was coming.

The familiar patter of his heart fueled him, and Ndrek felt himself come alive. His hearing was sharper, his eyes keener, even his sense of smell heightened.

A dragon. An elven arch mage. Something was out there. Waiting for him.

It would’ve been wiser to wake Kailis or Vaiya, but he didn’t want to endanger them. He had to find the truth, but he wouldn’t let anyone but himself die for it.

Ndrek crested the last hill and saw Lake Meade sparkling in the faint light. A man stood shirtless beside the water. His skin was pale as new fallen snow, and his hair shimmered as it reflected the faint moonlight.

“I knew you would come.”

Ndrek’s magelight spell evaporated as the words rumbled over his flesh. The wizard swallowed back the metallic taste of fear as his entire body trembled.

“You are not the one I seek.” The pale man continued to stare across the lake.

“Who is?”

“I don’t know. I thought I felt her, but I no longer do.”

Ndrek said nothing as the water lapped the shore. He could feel whispers of the same magic pressing against him, but this time, the magic was contained. Wrapped in strong wards that even now were weaving ever tighter and locking away the power.

The man turned to look at him, and Ndrek felt the weight of a thousand mountains in those violet eyes. Millennia of loneliness, isolation, and longing seared Ndrek’s mind in the time it took a firefly to blink. In the same moment, Ndrek’s soul was laid bare, exposing everything he was and all he wasn’t.

The man turned back to the lake, breaking the link.

Managing to stay on his feet, Ndrek forced himself to breathe.

“Go. You will find no dragon here.”

Ndrek nodded and fled to the inn, never looking back.

 

Ndrek accompanied Knight Kailis and Priestess Vaiya as they spent seven more suns following leads and looking for signs of a dragon, mage, or relic. They found none.

When Kailis asked him over and over about what he’d felt the night they’d found him on the road, Ndrek deflected, saying that perhaps the innkeeper had given him a stronger drink. Or perhaps he’d reacted poorly to something in the rocks or soil.

Kailis didn’t believe him, but she eventually stopped asking.

Three days after they returned home, Ndrek swore under his breath as Sir Leopold tromped into his bar and dropped payment onto the counter.

The Knight pinned him with his faded blue stare that always saw more than Ndrek wanted. “Knight Kailis thinks you found something but won’t tell her.”

Ndrek collected his payment and dropped it into the folds of his cloak. “You will not find a dragon in Kelleran.”

“Not what I asked.”

Ndrek closed his eyes as the memories flooded him, and even in the quiet warmth of his bar, he shivered.

“You look like you saw a ghost.”

“Those are easy to deal with.”

“What did you find?” Leopold folded his arms and waited.

“Doesn’t matter. It didn’t find what it’s looking for.”

“And what was it looking for?”

Ndrek paused a moment. “I think its mate.”

“Then it’s gone for good?”

“I hope so.” But the prickle down Ndrek’s back warned it was an empty hope.