Rough Chivalry

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Chapter 29

Tewer felt bewildered as they rode through the streets of Ascalon in an open carriage. The young lord never stopped talking, pointing out all the beauties of the houses of the wealthy, and naming each family as they passed each mansion. They went very slowly, so that they could see the beauty of the city, and the road then curved around and went through a huge gate, and began climbing toward the second of the two towers that dominated the shoreline of the city.

As they neared that tower, Tewer could see that it was not a single tower, but had seven smaller towers reaching high above the outer walls of the palace. The stone gleamed white in the sun, and it seemed impossible that human beings could've built such a place. They drove through another gate and into the palace proper, as Vamiyar swiftly informed them. They went first through the Court of the Guard, then passed around the majestic Tower of the Seven Lights, then gardens rose all around them, which were called the Gardens of the Well of Stars. They passed close to the well itself, but they did not stop, though Vamiyar promised he would show it to them later. They alighted at last before a huge building, and walked through a gate into a garden with three pools close by, and a tower only a few stories high between them. The Tower of the Seven Pools rose in the Garden of the Seven pools, Vamiyar explained, and then led them to their left, and up a stairway. They passed through a portico and into a large hall, where many people stood and one man sat at the far end. Everyone had very fine clothing, and the man who sat on a huge chair seemed more simply dressed than most, in plain white clothing. He had a silver mace in one hand, but otherwise didn't wear any of the finery Tewer had heard about.

Vamiyar introduced them, and Tewer bowed the best he could. It must've been sufficient, because nobody ran over to lop off his head.

"Princess Nimianne," said the Cid, standing up and bowing slightly, "I am so very pleased you reached us safely. We expected you two weeks ago, and feared you had run afoul of pirates."

"We did indeed, Lord Cid," said Nimianne in a voice loud enough for the whole room to hear, "we were beset by several pirate tolverns out of Whaelhreow. Captain Rudigar put us in a longboat and attempted to lead them away, but we were found and captured by Captain Rask."

That brought a stir of gasps and exclamations all around. Rask had been famous.

"The pirates killed all our guards, and took myself and my lady-in-waiting to Whaelhreow to await arrival of our ransom. Rask told us we would be at least two months in captivity, while the ransom was arranged. But the very first night in our cold prison we were rescued, by Captain Tewer." She actually turned and bowed to Tewer, who bowed in return, hoping it was the right thing to do. "He had stumbled upon our ship, and attempted to save Captain Rudigar, but unfortunately the Captain died and Captain Tewer hid the Martlet along the coast of Whaelhreow. He found our prison and freed us, and we hid with the Martlet for some days, then sailed south to avoid any pirates searching for us. We ran aground during the storm of nine days ago, in a cove of an island three days to the south. There we encountered Captain Rask again, and fortunately only a few of his men. Captain Tewer killed most of them, including Captain Rask, and he had taught us the crossbow, so Darah and I helped him fight them off. I believe they were eleven or twelve in number."

"Lady Darah actually killed Captain Rask," Tewer interjected, "she stabbed him in the liver with her spear, and I knocked him over and thrust him through the heart, but he was already a dead man."

That brought another commotion as lords and ladies both expressed astonishment to their neighbors.

"When the pirates attacked us on a raft, they accidentally knocked us clear of the sandbank and after we defeated them, we sailed north for Ascalon, and have arrived this very day. It turned out to be much more of an adventure than I expected when I decided to come here to study the art of healing, and not one I would wish to repeat, though I could not ask for a better protector and benefactor than Captain Tewer."

To Tewer's shock everyone shouted and clapped and stamped their feet. He wondered what they meant by it, but their faces didn't seem hostile. He swallowed a few times and endured the noise, hoping it would end soon.

"Did any of these pirates survive?" This question came from Vamiyar, who stood nearest the throne of his father.

"None," said Nimianne, "the last of them wounded Captain Tewer, and when he had recovered, he returned ashore to bury one who had repented somewhat and had been murdered by the other pirates. This pirate claimed to have been Asgaladane at one time, by name Gaevan Kravaith of Sorpriam, who fled to Whaelhreow after committing murder."

"No!" A middle-aged lady in a green dress so dark it looked black stumbled a few steps forward. "My brother turned pirate? What of Stenmard? Did you hear anything of him?"

"I cannot guarantee that this man was your brother, my lady," said Nimianne, "he may have known your brother only. However he claimed that another man who lived in Whaelhreow was his brother, and that man, I am happy to say, did not turn pirate or anything else. In Whaelhreow they have three classes; pirates are their nobility, in the middle are slayers and murderers, and everyone else is their lower class; a very few craftsmen, but many hunters and fishermen. According to this man, his brother took the name Krasten, and remained a hunter all the years he lived in Whaelhreow, never rising, as they would say, to the rank of slayer."

"You bring good news as well as bad," said the woman, "and I thank you for both. Is this Krasten still alive?"

"No," said Nimianne, "he died two years ago, but he did more good than you know."

"He was my father," said Tewer, "maybe not by blood, but he took me in and taught me and protected me, and I will call him father until the day I die. I buried him high on a mogote and I took his name, and so I am Tewer MacKrasten."

"So you see, my lady," said Nimianne, "that because of your brother's teaching, Captain Tewer is not a brigand or pirate, but a noble youth who saved myself and my lady-in-waiting and brought us safely here despite fearsome odds. It was nobly done, no matter where he did it."

"Gaevan's last words, my lady," said Tewer, "were these: I was the murderer, he came with me to protect me, and I was not grateful. He didn't deserve this life. It was all my fault. He did something good, which I never did. If you see him in the Fields of Peace, tell him I'm sorry."

Tears rolled down the lady's face, and Tewer felt his own eyes prickle a little at the sight. She seemed so sad, yet somehow satisfied.

"Are we to understand from this," said a man on the left, who wore a gorgeous mail armor inlaid with gold, "that you are from Whaelhreow, Captain Tewer?"

"Yes," said Tewer, "I was born there, or so I believe."

The room erupted into denials and gasps of horror, and Nimianne turned to Tewer with a look of sympathetic fear. Darah took his arm protectively, and he swallowed hard as he saw the anger and outrage all around him. The man in the gold-etched armor strode forward, his face a mask of rage. Several other armed men followed, and Tewer took a step backward, willing himself not to touch his sword.

"Get his sword!"

"Restrain him!"

"Silence!" That last voice rolled out like thunder, magically enhanced, and Tewer turned to see the Cid himself standing up, his mace high in the air.

"Back to your places!" His voice continued to fill the room, and Tewer's ears hurt a little from the sound. "Sir Perceval, call back your men! My court is neither a place for brawls nor lynchings. Captain Tewer has shown good faith and placed his trust in us. We will not show ourselves less faithful than he. Back to your places!"

"Lady Nimianne," said the Cid, as the commotion subsided, his voice returning to a more normal volume, "do you vouch for this young man?"

"I do, Lord Cid," said Nimianne, "he has proven himself to me, been loyal and true. He has neither assaulted our persons, and any insult he may have spoken was borne of ignorance, but never malice. He is noble and good, Lord Cid, wherever he was born."

"That is quite a claim," said the Cid, "and one we will test for certainty. However I believe the evidence of my eyes thus far. I see you, Princess, and your Lady-in-Waiting, in good health, standing free, and delivered to my court not as captives, and no ransom has been demanded. Let us hear the story of Captain Tewer, that we may know better the truth of your claim." He turned to Tewer, and nodded his head. "Please tell us, Captain Tewer, of your life in Whaelhreow, and how you came to rescue the Princess and Lady Darah, and bring them safely to Ascalon.

"Thank you, Cid," said Tewer, "you are kind. From what I heard of Ascalon in Whaelhreow, I expected to be treated to a noose before I could say a word."

"Yet here you stand in my court, daring that fate," said the Cid, "whatever else you may be, Captain, you are courageous."

Tewer didn't know what to say, so he bowed again, and began his story.

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