Ser Chrisfer and Lancyn

Fiction by Pen . . . . . not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

It Isn't Part of the Oath

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Stupid, stupid. Going through the world in a daydream, wishing for the stars, instead of paying attention to the humdrum. Never let down your guard in the city, Lancyn, always stay alert when you're bringing home the takings. Don't let your mind wander. This is your life, humble, dull, confined. This is the regular walk to Master Perel's home. This is wood in your hands, not a sword.

Lancyn backed up another inch, and braced the cudgel in his hands. The three feral-eyed youths danced on their toes, feinting towards him, taunting. They had knives. Small blades, true enough, but sharp and deadly. He had his cudgel and his natural stubbornness, but no skill in the wielding and no expectation of rescue.

Breathing carefully, trying to keep himself calm, Lancyn considered his options. His chance of taking on three thieves and winning was... negligible. If he threw the leather pouch away, he might escape without injury, though that depended on whether they wanted the money more than the chance to torment him, but if he didn't get the takings back to Master Perel, he might as well go feral himself. It'd be either that or live out his life indentured, because he'd not pay off the debt before his hair was grey.

On balance, it looked as though fighting was as good an option as any. Shrinking, and emitting a carefully-judged whimper, Lancyn brought the cudgel down as hard as he could on the wrist of the nearest feral, who dropped his knife and howled, clutching the injured arm. Unfortunately, the knife fell beyond Lancyn's reach, but he consoled himself with the thought that his cudgel was a better weapon. Longer.

"Oh, well struck!"

The four of them froze in astonishment at the incongruous exclamation. Lancyn kept his focus on his three attackers, who had drawn back just out of range, but beyond them he could see someone in black—fine black, there was a cloak and a hint of glitter, which meant either gems or costly metal—and was it possible that this was Lancyn's miracle? That he was going to escape unhurt and with a chance to keep his place?

The newcomer strode negligently into the middle of the scene. He was obviously of the knightly class, and carried a sword, but he was an unlikely knight. Slight of stature, pale, with his dark hair braided and twined with ribbons like a maiden's. Not the tall, noble-jawed hero of Lancyn's imagination, but somehow, the unlikeliness of this strange saviour made him more solidly real.

"So..." the strange knight continued, quite casually. "My squire is out of his depth. Lucky I'm here."

"Your squire?" one of the attackers exclaimed.

"That's right," said Lancyn, his chin up. "I am his squire."

The thief with the injured wrist spat noisily. "I don't believe it. You're no squire. Where's your sword?"

"I am!" Lancyn asserted. He didn't understand why the strange knight would make such an absurd claim, but it seemed like rescue and he wasn't going to argue. "I am Lancyn, and I am squire to Ser..."

"Ser Chrisfer doesn't explain himself to street scum," the knight said brightly. "But Lancyn is my squire. You don't want to take him on, trust me. I see he's already neutralised one of you."

Lancyn wasn't sure that whacking someone on the wrist with a big stick actually counted as neutralising. The injured thief didn't seem to think much of it either, he spat and cursed. The other two were giving each other meaningful looks, and their hands tightened on their knives. Lancyn wondered if a knight would be able to deal with three assailants at once. Ser Chrisfer didn't look particularly intimidating.

Then Ser Chrisfer looked him directly in the eyes, and the intensity of that dark gaze left Lancyn breathless.

"I say again, I am Ser Chrisfer and this is Lancyn, my squire. Isn't that right, kid?"

"Uh, yes. I am Lancyn and this is Ser Chrisfer, my knight, uh, master. Oh!" There was something in the shadows. "Behind you, Ser!"

The strange knight smiled, but didn't move until the sneaking feral behind him put a blade to his throat. Lancyn cried out "No!" but before the sound was faded from the air, the knight had done—something—too fast to see, there was a scrape of metal as his sword flew, and the decapitated head of his attacker thumped onto the cobbles.

Suddenly, they were alone in the alley.

Ser Chrisfer knelt and matter-of-factly wiped the blood from his sword onto the tattered garments of the headless body. "Lesson one, always clean the blade," he remarked. "Right. Come on." Lancyn stood, paralysed, and Ser Chrisfer rolled his eyes. "Don't shut down on me now, kid, you were doing so well."

"I—I—yes. Thank you. I was, um.."

"Yeah, I could see that. Still, that's life, eh? One minute you're a kid in trouble with a life expectancy of thirty seconds, next minute you're all set for a golden future as squire and sidekick to the mighty Ser Chrisfer."

"But I'm, um, not really your squire," Lancyn pointed out regretfully. His limbs were probably back under his control again.

"Sure you are. Public contract. I affirmed it three times, you confirmed it three times. There were three witnesses. Not exactly sterling citizens, but the contract exists. So, you're my squire. Unless you want to go back to whatever life path you were on before, the one that led you into a dark alley with three cutthroats? 'Cause if you do—"

"No, no, I mean—public contract? But I'm already, I work for, I'm under contract."

The knight snorted. "What sort of contract?" At Lancyn's blank look, he expanded. "Not a public contract, since you didn't recognise ours. Private handshake? Or, no, don't tell me you signed something?"

"I, uh, yes. Signed."

"Did you read it? Can you even read?"

Lancyn could feel the blush rising in his cheeks. "Not then... but it was a standard contract. Seven years."

"And who's your master?"

"Master Merchant Perel."

The strange knight let out a bark of laughter. "No doubt he's told you all the things you have to do for him, and precious little of what he'll do for you."

"No, no," Lancyn was eager to explain, to show that he wasn't quite the fool Ser Chrisfer seemed to think him. "He is training me, he had me taught my letters and my numbers, I'll be fit to set up business on my own when my years are done. At least, now that I can deliver the takings to him."

"Let's do that, then," said Ser Chrisfer affably, and put a friendly arm around Lancyn's shoulders as they moved out of the alley. "And then you can come with me and travel the world spreading justice and getting into trouble."

Lancyn sighed, because it sounded so appealing, and this strange, wonderful knight was holding out a vision of the life he'd dreamed, and it wasn't, couldn't be, real. "What made you tell those thieves I was your squire?" he asked, and blushed again at the note of wistfulness in his voice.

"Just a crazy impulse," the knight shrugged. "I have those. Plus, I wanted to see what you'd do. Whether you had the wits to match the moves."

"Don't think I had much in the way of moves," Lancyn muttered.

"Oh, you're untrained," Ser Chrisfer went on blithely. "I knew that. But you're smart, which is more interesting to me. Followed my leads without having a clue why I was handing them out. And you were about to leap to my defence, unless I'm very much mistaken, when that fourth one showed up. Bad idea, but good attitude. So. You're my squire. Unless you don't want to be, in which case, no problem, we find three respectable witnesses and void the contract."

Lancyn hesitated. It sounded too tempting for words, and it was unquestionably a chance that would never come his way again. But was it real? Was it possible? "What about my contract with Master Perel?"

"See, that's the thing with paper contracts," Ser Chrisfer said thoughtfully. "All sorts of little details in there that can get forgotten. I've no doubt Master Perel keeps you up to the mark, but you know what? I'll bet my horse he isn't keeping all his promises. Your contract won't be a problem, if you want to break it. Up to you. How d'you want to spend your life?"

Could there be any doubt? "You said, spreading justice and getting into trouble," Lancyn ventured.

His knight shrugged. "The getting into trouble isn't part of the oath. Just works out that way."

"And would I learn... how to fight like you do? With a sword?"

Ser Chrisfer sighed theatrically. "Yes!"

"Because that was incredible, the way you—and he—and you—it was amazing. Would you teach me how to do that?"

"Always the flashy stuff," but there was a grin that belied the reproving tone. "I swear, people think that's all we knights do."

"There's more?"

"Justice isn't always easy. Someone puts a knife to my throat, I know how to call it, but mostly, the world's problems don't get solved with a sword. You want to help me?"

Lancyn took a deep breath. "Yes. Yes, I do."

"That's my boy." He held out his right hand. Lancyn took it, shook it, and began his new life.


On to the next story: Brown


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