The story tells of an incident in the early career of Jake Savage, one of the main characters from Hell has its Demons. For Jake War is Hell and not the chivalric adventure that he thought it would be.
Here’s the blurb for the story and a brief extract to whet your appetite:
Chivalry: A Jake Savage Adventure
Published 30 August 2011, 4698 words, Fantasy (historical) short story
A single silent knight armoured in black plate defends a narrow bridge in the hills of Auvergne, blocking the path of a band of desperate English soldiers. On the bank defended by the knight is a pavilion where sits a French noble-woman, who taunts the English. Cold, wet and hungry, Jake and his comrades have seen a tower high in the hills beyond the bridge, which they hope will provide food, drink and shelter and even a little loot. But the knight and the lady prove more difficult opponents than they imagined.
Magic mingles with the harsh realities of war in this medieval fantasy short story set during the Hundred Years War.
Nothing moved on this side of the densely vegetated ravine, but they could see a strange sight on the far side. Not twenty paces away across the narrow wooden bridge was a colourful pavilion of alternating broad blue and red silk stripes, wet with the rain, but still of fine appearance. Under the pavilion’s entrance canopy sat a lady, also dressed in silks, with a conical headpiece and veil of fine gauze covering the dark hair that flowed down her neck to her shoulders. She was preoccupied with some sort of detail work in her hands, embroidery perhaps.
But in front of her, blocking the far exit of the bridge, and dressed in dull black plate armour, stood a tall man-at-arms, in full jousting helm. He stood motionless with arms crossed in front of him. Behind him was a tethered warhorse, also black, and a rack of weapons: lance, swords, pole-arms, maces and axes. Neither the knight nor the lady gave any indication that they had seen the English soldiers.
‘By the Saints!’ said Burnell. ‘Look at all that kit, worth a fair bit.’
‘Whoever beats him gets his equipment,’ hissed the other man-at-arms, Clifford, peeping over his shield, ‘and I know I can have him.’
‘Just leave some of his wench to the rest of us, your highnesses,’ said Edmund, grinning as he knocked an arrow. ‘I think I could get a bodkin through him from here.’
Sir Robert called the archers round him. ‘Let him have it now before he gets his shield. At this range you should be able to stick him like a pig.’
Jake shook his head, but as ordered readied his great longbow. Six feet of straining yew flexed and in a moment his iron tipped arrow shot across the clearing and over the ravine and hit the black armoured knight in the chest.
All six arrows had hit the knight, yet he stood perfectly still.
But, the lady jumped in surprise as if woken from a deep sleep. She stood up and went to stand beside the motionless knight. She addressed them in French, but her dialect was clear enough for them to all understand. ‘Cowards! Are you English of so low honour that you use the weapons of serfs to fight your battles! My lord offers any who will fight him glory one against one.’
Sir Robert ignored her words and ordered his men to fire another volley. And again there was no effect. Arrows seemed to stick in the mail or bounce of the plate, but Jake could have sworn he saw his arrow go straight through a gap and out the other side.
‘That bastard has good armour,’ said Burnell. ‘You’re going to have to fight for it if you want it, Clifford.’
It was like a tale of Arthur’s knights, thought Jake, where both the hero and his opponent should fight for honour. He wondered if hunger was making him dream what was happening, but the cold, and the pain of his knotted stomach felt real enough.