| Thorsday, Jelly 20th:
While Sir Victor the Strong travels in North-East Hylbamnog, he meets a short servant in a castle. She tells Sir Victor the story that a dread monstrosity lurks around the farm of West Hylbamnog, 14 days ride away.
Sir Victor the Strong pledges to slay this dangerous fiend.
Dorkus is unsure about the validity of the pledge. We're looking into it.
Off the record, Vicky sure looks ridiculous in that big pink-buntinged armor outfit. I mean, one minute, he's just Victor the Strong, Rita the Strong's son, and now he's SIR Victor the Strong. I know Queen Andena was just trying to be nice by knighting him after he defeated that mad dog last summer--the last summer of my childhood--but it sure has changed his life. All of ours, really.
And now there's this pledge, and he has to go. I sure am glad someone has to write his adventures down. How else could a poor peasant vicar's daughter get to accompany a big Wandering Knight? But, really, Diary, Victor is no more Knight than I am, not at heart.
It seems like only yesterday we were pulling pranks together at Hylbamnog Day School. Or watching the farmers guide the oxen and wondering what tenth grade was going to be like. That's all Victor ever wanted to do, become a farmer. And now here we are... adventuring.
Like I said, Diary, I'm glad I'm going with him. It's a big world out there. I feel like I need to keep an eye on him.
| Friarday, Jelly 21st:
Rambling south, Sir Victor meets a thug in a plain in North-East Hylbamnog.
Sir Victor quickly overwhelms the thug. Sir Victor the Strong has decapitated the thug!
Our very first adventure and it's already off to an exciting start! Victor was so amazing against the thug. Like a real knight!
I should have known he'd be fine out here. He's always been in a class above the other village boys, in terms of strength and intelligence, and if anyone should become a knight out of our little town, it's certainly him.
Still, he seems shaken by the experience. He just stood there, looking at the thug's crumpled body, and at his bloodstained sword. "I killed a man," he said quietly.
"It was a thug," Ian said, as if that was the most obvious thing in the world.
Dorkus was a bit more understanding, "That's what happens out here," she said gently.
He didn't say anything then but after Dorkus and Ian had gone to bed--sleeping contentedly, experienced as they are in knight-helping--and Victor was still sitting up by the fire, watching the flames, I put a blanket over his shoulders, and he looked at me with those big velvetty brown eyes of his, and he said, "All I ever wanted was to have a sheep and a pig and raise horses."
I hugged him. He is really just Vicky from down the road. Sometimes I think even I, a peasant vicar's daughter, am adjusting better to a knight's life than my poor, wonderful Vicky.
I wish I could protect him.
| Satyrday, Jelly 22nd to Sonday, Jelly 23rd:
Sir Victor the Strong voyages to the west peacefully, from a woods in East Hylbamnog to a plain in East Hylbamnog.
The journey today was so serene, and the sights so lovely. It's a welcome change from the whirlwind events of yesterday and, indeed, the past few months.
I feel so glad, now, that we are out walking among the trees and the grass and the fluttering butterflies. I've never travelled much out of our little town, and yes, there are thugs and there is evil, but there is so much good, and so much beauty out in the world, that I for one would not give up anything for this journey.
Victor is not so charmed by the countryside. He frets that it is only a matter of time before we have to fight again. I told him not to worry; he is a natural fighter, and he will overcome any danger, slay any beast. "That's what I'm afraid of," he muttered.
Dorkus thinks the pledge business was all within the law after all, and if Victor does not slay the dread monstrosity, he will be exiled from Hylbamnog. This is unthinkable; after all, we grew up in Hylbamnog--it is our home! I know Victor will overcome his fear and win the day, but he is not so sure. My poor, dear Victor.
| Moonsday, Jelly 24th:
Moving west, Sir Victor the Strong encounters a blonde bumpkin in a plain in East Hylbamnog.
Ian the Squire shows off in front of her. The bumpkin is in awe of Ian.
It is strange to see a girl travelling alone in these dangerous plains. I think Ian was all too pleased to find someone to talk to other than Vicky and me, two barely-adult peasants from North Hylbamnog, and Dorkus, who is so serious and well-read that she is neither attractive nor attracted to Ian. Poor Ian is such a heartthrob that he has been suffering without a girl to wow.
I wonder why I don't go for Ian myself. If he had come to my town just a year ago, I would have fainted. Now, though, it all seems so childish, those schoolgirl crushes I used to develop on outsiders. I suppose it was a product of my living in the town all my life. Outsiders had such a mystique about them!
Now that I am travelling I feel I have matured so much and seen so many things. I wouldn't mind living out here on the road forever, and never falling in love with any-body. I know I will probably have to return to my little town and raise a family and a farm when this is all over, but I am glad to be getting out now; to see something of the world! So many peasants do not get that opportunity. Although Victor is having trouble with his knighthood, I am glad, glad, glad of it.
| Twosday, Jelly 25th to Friarday, Jelly 28th:
Sir Victor the Strong ventures to the west without incident, from a plain in East Hylbamnog to a plain in Central Hylbamnog.
I know Victor is relieved by another peaceful day, but Ian is clearly getting bored. I am still pleased with the mere adventure of being on the road at all, but I suppose I can see how all plains would begin to look alike after awhile, if you were a real adventuring squire like Ian.
It is difficult to tell how Dorkus feels. I think she is pretty pleased to be travelling without incident. When there is danger, though, she is very professional; it's not all emotional for her the way it is for Victor and me. I suppose once we've been adventuring more it'll be like second nature for us, too.
I wonder if we will adventure more. I know Victor just wants to go home after this, and give up knighting. I don't suppose I will be able to adventure after that myself. Still, I wouldn't want to leave the town I've always known, not without Victor. Although this is very exciting for me, I know I could not do it without him.
| Satyrday, Jelly 29th:
Rambling west, Sir Victor encounters a thug in a plain in Central Hylbamnog.
Sir Victor proves far superior to the thug. Sir Victor the Strong has decapitated the thug!
This was a very exciting and frightening day for me, for the thug came right at me! I was not in danger long, though. It was not difficult for Victor to kill the thug; once he saw him coming at me, his vile features contorted into an expression of pure evil as he thought of all the horrible things he wanted to do to me, I'm sure!--it was as if Victor became another person, automatically bearing down on the thug with his sword and dispatching him mercilessly and simply. As soon as it was over his expression changed, melting into horror, and he sank to his knees. "I have taken two lives," he despaired.
"I would have died if you had not," I said. "I owe you my life."
Ian looked away with disgust as tears came to Victor's eyes. "I don't think I can do this anymore."
"Of course you can. You must. You are protecting Hylbamnog from monstrous threats," I said firmly. "You must do it for the town, and for the peaceful people, and so that when you get back you can start your own farm in peace, unmolested by thugs and monsters."
Victor seemed pacified somewhat by this. I was right to remind him about his farm dream, I think. He held me and whispered, "I could not do this without you. I am glad you are here."
I feel so odd.
| Sonday, Jelly 30th:
Sir Victor the Strong moves to the west quickly through a plain in Central Hylbamnog
Victor has quickened our pace. He wants to find the monster and get done with this, so he can return home, I'm sure. He seems grim. Though I do not disagree with his plan, I am unsettled by his attitude. Today he snapped at me, and I felt hot tears come to my eyes. I brushed them off. I know I am nothing more than a simple peasant with a pen, but I don't have to act like it all the time.
I don't need Victor to travel, anyway. I could do it with any knight.
Still, it is good to be with someone from my home, no matter how much he might be peevish. I do miss it, sometimes.
| Moonsday, Augen 1st:
Rambling west, Sir Victor meets a bandit in a plain in West Hylbamnog.
Sir Victor's strength is superior to the bandit's might, however the bandit's skill overwhelms Sir Victor, and the bandit's cunning is too great for Sir Victor. Sir Victor the Strong has been wounded by the bandit!
In the melee, Ian the Squire is injured!
Victor did not seem to even try in this battle. When the bandit appeared, and they began to fight, I saw Victor's eyes, and he never went into his fighting-self that he became when the thug went after me.
Victor does not seem to care that he is injured, but he has not stopped apologizing to Ian. Ian, trying to appear strong despite his injuries, croaked out that it was nothing and he is sure Victor did his best, but we all know that Victor's heart wasn't in it.
"I can never do it right," Victor despaired as I tended to his wounds. "I must either kill, or I must allow my friends and loved ones to be killed. Either way I shall be a monster."
"No!" I cried, "It is noble to protect your loved ones from thugs and bandits. You must not feel bad for killing them."
I could tell he did, though. He just lay back listlessly, staring at the horizon. I frowned and continued to salve his wounds, carefully wrapping gauze around his bare chest.
When we were children we used to play in the lake in the summertime, catching minnows. He never wore his shirt then, and sometimes neither did I; we thought nothing of it.
He has grown up a lot.
| Twosday, Augen 2nd:
Sir Victor the Strong rests in a plain in West Hylbamnog.
Resting is doing Victor and Ian good, but Victor is still plagued mentally, knowing we must continue what he calls our "hateful quest". When I eased his mind after the first killing, I felt so necessary; so wonderful that he would confide in me, and that I could make him feel good again! But now there is nothing I can do or say that has any visible effect on his spirits. It is supremely awful.
Perhaps I do not know him as well as I had convinced myself.
| Wedday, Augen 3rd:
Sir Victor the Strong fully recovers!
Ian the Squire feels better!
I am relieved that both of the boys are better as I had little experience as a nursemaid. Dorkus knew much of medicine, although her training is more through book-learning than any kind of experience. It is wonderful how much she knows, though, on every subject imaginable.
We can now journey forward, beginning tomorrow. Victor cannot sleep.
| Thorsday, Augen 4th to Friarday, Augen 5th:
Sir Victor the Strong rambles to the west confidently through the plains of West Hylbamnog.
'Confidently.' Diary, I say that for posterity, but you and I both know how he really walked; slowly and deliberately, as if each step might be his last.
I honestly don't think he is afraid of death--not his own, anyway; but he does not want to meet any dangers that might involve him killing. I wish I could help him see things the way Ian, and Dorkus, and I and everyone else do: it is unpleasant, yes, but it is necessary, and it is unavoidable. And it does not make you evil, for evil is what you are fighting.
Perhaps I would feel the way he does if it were I who were killing, and not just watching him.
| Satyrday, Augen 6th:
Sir Victor the Strong reaches the farm of West Hylbamnog and finds a dread injured animal. Sir Victor the Strong runs away from it!
Let me explain. I know it seems Victor ran away, cowardly, for little more than an injured animal; but it was not cowardly at all.
I don't know if you will believe me. Either way, this is our goodbye.
The giant vicious wolf was injured, true; he could not move for disturbing his twisted bloody legs, but he was dangerous nonetheless, sharp fangs and claws flying when we got too close. As the four of us regarded the animal, from a safe distance of course, Victor stood with his sowrd drawn and his expression inscrutable. It seemed at once angry and sad and grim and wistful and dark and despairing. Certainly nothing positive.
"Just kill it," Ian said boredly after a few moments.
Gently Dorkus added, "Put it out of its misery, Victor. It will either die here or heal and terrorize the town. Either way, it or Hylbamnog will suffer greatly. This is the best opportunity."
"It is noble," I said. "And honorable. You will be sparing it suffering, as Dorkus said."
"And once it is over, you can return to Hylbamnog."
"And start a farm, and raise your children to go to the Day School and play in the river--just as we did," I said, smiling.
Victor finally spoke: "Is it even worth it?"
He turned to me. "Once I go back to town victorious, they will only make me go back out and fight more. I was hoping I would die on this journey--"
"Victor!" I gasped.
Ignoring my shock, he continued, "But it is clear I will not. I do not wish to do this poor animal any harm, this poor noble creature."
"If you do not," I said, "it may survive to kill innocent children, children like you and I were. Children like--" I had to sum up all of my courage to say this next part, knowing as I did that I was giving up the exhilarating and exciting and beautiful life of the road forever--"children like yours and mine will be."
He looked at me then so strangely, so intensely, that I thought I had changed his mind. "Are you in seriousness? You wish to be with me, forever?"
"I do, Victor."
"Even knowing--how I feel about this life?"
He looked conflicted for a moment, then spoke: "You know that I love you," he said. "I have loved you since we were children, and I want nothing more than to raise children with you on a small farm in our hometown. It is what I have always wished for."
I smiled though I felt regret. It is true, as you may have divined, reader, that I loved Victor, perhaps always had, and my offer to be with him was sincere. But to live a normal peasant's life on a farm, after all I had experienced... it seemed anticlimactic and boring. But it was my destiny. I could not hope to be a bard all my life, especially without Victor. I would give it up for him. I shook off my regret and focused on the idea of being with him forever.
"But I must turn you down."
Those words crushed me completely! Now I could not have Victor, and I would still have to return and be a peasant--without him. Oh, it was too much. "Why!" I cried.
"Because I cannot return to Hylbamnog." He sheathed his sword. "I cannot go back and continue to play the brave knight. I must strike out on my own; and begin a life that I believe in, a life of peace. The people of Hylbamnog will never let me alone as long as I am there; you know that. Now, I will not do their adventures for them, and they will have to find a real knight. Better for all involved."
"Of course. Then you must leave," I murmured. "You will never be happy as a knight."
"I will not. But perhaps I can find a way to eke out a comtent existence as a peaceful wanderer--though I shall always be in a certain amount of despair," he whined. Responding to my questioning glance, he finished, "Because I shall be without you."
"No, you shan't," Dorkus suddenly interrupted, and I realized with a pang of embarrassment that Victor and I had been carrying on like this in front of the others. Luckily, Ian was asleep by this point.
"What do you mean?" Victor and I chorused.
"She shall go with you, of course."
It was so simple, and so perfect--the answer to all of our troubles! "How did you know?" I breathed.
"I have seen how pleased you are with life on the road. You have the eyes of a wanderer," Dorkus told me. "I can think of nothing more romantic than a couple of vagabonds in love, wandering about the countryside in peace and harmony. And I am very well-read."
I smiled, tears streaming unabashedly down my face, and embraced Dorkus. "I shall always be indebted to you."
"For more than just this. I will return to the castle and report that the wolf has sustained these injuries in its battle with you, but that it has killed you both. Your families will be sad, to be sure, but they knew the risks when they allowed you to become travellers. They will send another knight to finish the job, and you will be free to go. You must never return, or they may kill you for your cowardice; though they raised you from children, they will not forgive what they will surely see as a deliberate betrayal. Now go!"
And we did.
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