The Great BattleKentworth had been a blacksmith, so had a sturdy, well-built frame, and muscular arms. On a raid from one of the neighboring barons, the at-the-time youth showed such courage and bravery that the earl gave him permission to become a page, beginning his training for knighthood. Now he was a squire, training with one Squire Brently, the son of a wealthy baron. Brently was, to put it bluntly, a nag. He was always bragging about how good he was with the various weapons, lance, sword, mace, what have you. He was, indeed, fairly skillful at them. And he knew it.
One afternoon during a training session in the inner bailey, the squires were practicing the sword. Some commotion was occurring in the market, Kentworth could see out of the corner of him eye, throwing off his focus, giving Brently the upper hand. He took the opportunity to disarm his opponent, and before Kentworth knew what was happening, he was lying prone in the dust, Brently standing over his, with his blade at his chest, laughing at him. “Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic! Ha ha ha ha! I guess we know who is better at the sword! Ha!” and he walked away, still laughing at himself. But, beyond a little self-scolding, Kentworth didn't mind. He wanted to know what was going on in the market. (This may make you think he wasn't devoted or even interested in his training, but in the petty affairs of the market. Well, to say that would certainly be an un-truth.) So after putting his blade back in the barracks, he went to go see. Evidently the guards had been chasing a thief, for they were still searching for him. Kentworth decided to help them out. After a while of searching apart from the group, he found a beggar boy under a table, ravenously devouring a loaf of bread.
“Are you the one they're searching for? No don't run. I don't you arrested. Stay here.” after some hesitation, the lad remained in his place.
“Guards! Guards! Over here!” he waved his arms.
At last they came, demanded where the “little brat” was. (There was a tablecloth on the booth table, hiding him from view.) “You did find him, didn't you?!”
“Yes, but...” the baker, from whose store the boy had stolen the bread, and who had been in the pursuit as well, cut him off:
“Where is the little brat?! I'll...”
“Calm yourself sir. I know where he is, but, how much did the bread cost?” The man paused, flustered, and said, “Why would you care?!” Kentworth removed his purse from his belt, and opened it.
“Ah... a shilling, young master.” he said greedily.
Now, there wasn't a doubt in Kentworth's mind that that was twice the actual sum, but to avoid further conflict, he placed the shilling in the baker's hand.
“Will you leave the boy alone now?”
The baker sneered, and walked away. The guards grumbled as they walked away. Kentworth lifted the tablecloth once they were out of site and said,
“It's alright. They won't be chasing you any more for that bread. Come, I'll get you some more food.” surprised, the boy followed him. (his loaf had long since been eaten.)
Kentworth was growing in mind, strength, and skill. He was becoming very deft indeed in his swordplay. But so was Brently. So the fellow continued in his boasting and haughtiness.
One afternoon, during practice at the lance on horseback, Kentworth noticed an unusual amount of soldiers and mounted knights walking or riding to the castle. There seemed a strange air or feeling of... well, he couldn't really quite put his finger on it. Fearful anticipation? Worried anxiety? Something strange was definitely occurring. After a long drink at the well, Kentworth heard a herald in the square affirm it.
“Hear, you knights, you squires! His royal majesty summons you to the Great Hall. No hesitation in permitted! Come at once!!”
So then there was a general rush for the keep, by the said men. Some of the squires were excited, some afraid. What is it? A ceremony? Is a battle close at hand? Nobody seemed to know.
Once he reached the Great Hall, Kentworth saw the king very worried, slouched in his throne. Having all nealt before him, the king stood.
“My friends, I... I'm afraid we are soon to be at war.” An understandable gasp was shared by most all. “The forces of the king of Fraudsworth are as I speak on the march. Over five thousand. They... by now they could be within ten miles of here... I... I'm sorry, my friends... all there is to do now is to prepare in amour, and in prayer.”
Following the shocked pause after the king's short speech, came a bustle of preparation. There was no small air of gloom and dread that hung over the lot of them, but they attentively dawned their armor and weapons. Nearly all of the squires had never been in a real battle, and most were scared stiff. Some, though, were indeed excited.
The army, scouts reported, were apparently going to camp a mile or so away. This gave the people of the castle time to prepare sufficiently.
Just before the sun's light had begun melting away the darkness, the neighing and stomping of horses, the creak and squeal of siege machinery, and the footsteps of an iron clad army could be heard. The noise was very dim, at first, gradually grew louder, and louder, and louder, until the actual army came into view. Some of the sentries atop the battlements shivered inwardly and out, in such fear. Such dread. They and their like were about to be destroyed, abolished, and totally blotted out from the face of the earth, they thought. The lips of some moved in prayer, but none closed their eyes, and scarcely blinked. Among them soldiers prepared boiling water and tar, as well as great stones, all of which to douse or cast or drop upon the enemy. Some of the sentries realized their idleness and helped out.
All the soldiers, knights, and squires within the castle, save for those on watch on the battlements, readied themselves for when they would open the gates, lift the portcullis, and lower the drawbridge. Each had his own thoughts. What'll happen? Who'll come out on top? Will I die??
The king sensed the desperation of his men and stood tall on his purebred, black stallion, and addressed them.
“Good people. Fellow knights. I know your feelings. I feel them too. Don't be deceived. We are up against a truly formidable foe. More than twice our own forces. But if we are to die today, we will die with honor. Such honor that even those who cast us into the dirt this day will think upon us with deference.” The crowd gave a cheer and their spirits rallied. “So let us fight!”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The opposing army certainly gave their share of yelling and shouting and then some. Seeing the very nature of and hearing the bloodcurdling cries of these brutes, Kentworth and his compatriots were chilled to their very core. By no means were their adversaries primitive. On the contrary. Their machinery and weapons were quite on top. They had over five towering trebuchets (they had already been assembled), and seven mongonels. Their the knights all wore full body armor. Most of the men-at-arms were clad in breast plates and mail. They held crossbows, short swords, and longbows.
But despite these things (not saying they didn't make them hesitate a little), Kentworth and those with him rode on. Well, the squires and knights did. The rest marched on foot.
About a hundred yards from each other, the armies halted. A herald from the opposing and larger army rode out and proclaimed, “Surrender or be cast into the dust!”
As a reply, the longbowmen let out a shower of their kind, and those on horseback charged at the other army. The herald rushed back to the safety of his own lines. As the armies collided, confusion ensued, with violent slashes and lounges, and shrieks. All one concerned himself with was survival. That seemed most prominent. However, some did make their way back to the siege weapons, cutting their cords and disabling them. Numbers decreased rapidly. About five minutes into the conflict, a crossbow bolt struck the shoulder of the knight that Kentworth had been serving as a squire, and he fell to the trodden earth. But, Kentworth, much contrary to his will, was forced to continue fighting. As he galloped toward some of the opposing soldiers, he caught a glimpse of a face most familiar, belonging to someone young, hiding under a rather large shield. But the face seemed different. He had never seen it so distorted with fear. It was, he discovered, that of Squire Brently. He was staring up at him desperately. It seemed he couldn't move, as a result of his extreme dread.
Caught in his thoughts, Kentworth caught something in the corner of his eye, a blade, swinging at him with such force, just in time to duck away from it. He brought his own sword up and around, pivoting away from his assailant, rearing his steed around clockwise with him, and bringing his blade upon the youngish man with great force. The blow nearly threw the fellow from his horse. They engaged in a battle of such ferocity, bringing out all the skill they had learned in the art of the sword since the day they had each become a page, in their fight. About two minutes into the scrap, they seemed to be in a deadlock. Neither was able to find a weak spot for a time. But finally, out of the corner of his right eye, Kentworth caught a glimpse of a big, burly soldier striding toward the huge shield under which Brently had been hiding. No!! His opponent took the opportunity and knocked him a smart blow on his left shoulder, throwing him to the ground. Barely avoiding the stomping of some warrior's horse, he rolled closer to the shield. He got up, and ran over, just behind the man, and swung his blade around toward him, but with extra room, so as to just use it for momentum and power, and, hooking his foot behind the man's calf, he hit the man's chest with his arm with such force, that, despite the fellow's great size and strength, he flew backward, tripping over Kentworth's foot, and falling to the ground, a stunned look on his face. Even more surprised was he when he saw that his assailant wasn't fully man yet. The squire set the tip of his blade at the knight's throat and said, “Yield!” Still with a shocked expression, the much older knight slowly nodded his head.
Kentworth turned to where Brently out to be, and lifted the shield a little, to reveal that the squire wasn't there. But, he discovered, he didn't have time to ponder this. He heard the knight that had apparently faked submission, yell and rush at him. Kentworth heard the singing of the man's sword blazing at him. He ducked away from the sound. His hearing was accurate. The blade wizzed over him, and he brought his own up to his attacker's torso. But, with the momentum of the man's swing, he twisted out of the way. So, Kentworth's shoulder plunged into the knight's stomach, throwing them both backward, to the ground. After recovering from the tumble, the two gained a footing. They commenced circling, never once breaking the stare at the other, each with their sword at the ready. Once the elder knight thought he saw an opening, a weak spot, and lounged, but miscalculated. Kentworth deftly deflected the blade and the knight stumbled behind him. The squire swung around to face his opponent, bringing his blade with him. The man snarled and brought his own sword up. “Must be more guarded, good sir.” This enraged him even more, and again the man lounged, and again he missed. This time he tripped, and fell on his face. He rose back up in a rage, brandishing his blade, but sank back down with a bruise on his head from the hilt of Kentworth's own sword.
Rising up, and looking around, the squire found that the battle elsewhere was over. The few soldiers and knights still standing around were those from his own army. They were victorious!
Off in the distance, Kentworth saw the last bits of the enemy galloping full speed away, carrying something, or someone with them. He squinted hard to see it. In the permeating dust, he could just make out the form of a young man. Brently!!