“Start with when you were captured and woke. Tell ”/campaigns/konstantine/characters/knyaz-aleksei" class=“wiki-content-link”>me again, all that the knights said, every detail of their appearance."
“Truly the beginning is after I left the Knyaz and Vyacheslav in the care of Ranger Riduk.”
“May I start there?”
“I had taken the first of the refugees to the waypoints, the farmer and boy and three girls, and had made way back to the battle site near the bridge. Tracking can be felt, like a scent on the air or a brush of wind across the cheek…and I was being followed. I doubled back and took cover to try to catch my pursuer. It came up on all fours like a beast, but as a man imitating a beast. I knocked an arrow and the ears of his hood, a likeness to a hunting cat, moved for him as though they were of living mien. He wore a cape of many ‘leaves’ of flesh, that I did not realize until much later. He drew his weapon, a knife with an elaborately carved wooden handle inlaid with ivory of people on horses hunting a cat. It was not Vlahiskoi style, and exceedingly intricate. He was confident and quick, unlike the shambling dead that tore limbs or the walking bones. I thought he must be another of the scouts, as Riduk and I had shot down on the roofs at the start of the battle. He asked me what I hoped to accomplish; if so few stranglers were worth it. If living so, desperate, broken, and unmanned, were worth it? I replied every life was of worth. We fought- traded blows. He said I could not kill him. I said to sink back into the earth. At last he jumped back, scoring my arm, and howled. It was shrill, pitched and long like the scream of some unwholesome thing that carries over mist or even storm. Then he ran. “
“My position was desperate, so I threw both mine and the red sword, rather than give him the lead of arming my bow. With the both he was felled. I drew my third as I ran to close the distance and took his head. They have played at ends before. But the cry had been given already, seconds before. I reclaimed the blades and took the head and body. I thought……surely ash could not be made anew. There must be some way to prevent the dead from rising again. I carried the pieces to the burning quarters and threw them in, even as two scouts came on me and watched. They had some memory of horror to their faces, and fear. They fought briefly with me, but I could not kill them before they retreated. I thought no more of it but to get away….to leave no track if more should come to that position looking for me. This …youth, like to a fallen Ranger, I would later learn more about from the Knight Himself.”
“The coming of the charge of the silver disks, and of my leading them to Gregor’s is already known. The return of all to the mines, the gathering of food and supply, the decision to try the castle with their ….specialist. My ill-treatment of the Knyaz’s person. These passed and then we three stood in the last night-shadows of trees with the threat of the knights after us and a nephew prince’s cries loud in our ears. I should have listened to Specialist, by the Prince…it was his son and the man’s manner was gruff and uncaring. I did not want blows to come or harsh words. It was the forest of Severskii, and I am swift. There were no scouts anywhere. I thought the child surely must tire soon and then I could fade into the forests and return in wan morning to the mines. I was wrong. So confident an apprentice could seldom find a better correction or teacher. But the price…..I should not have made the choice when the price was not my own to pay but the Noble Prince. “
:::Vlad handed his son over so willingly. Trusted me in his uncertainty and terror of the strange events. A subject he has seen or overlooked perhaps a dozen times, and a fellow Vlahiskoi over the dangerous and unknown stranger. Over the man that wanted to put the children in a hunting sack. The Knyaz’s Nephew and sister in law. Sevastyn’s. Riduk must have found him in the days of my travel here. I have caused his brothers such pain, yet I would wish he were here to ease mine? Well, should we see each other again I doubt mine will be wounds needing to be tended. He will be thin, run apart and wild, days more then I to a place of Elves. His city and the castle flying black banners on his return. It will be as beneath the pine. If I am allowed to see him, or touch him, it will be mine to comfort him. ::::
“The child did not stop…I ran in the coming dawn the length from the corner of the castle to the dip of the steep over the road as it followed the river. The Snufflers…I have not seen them, but their slavering and shuffling gate was behind me as pack of hounds before the Hunt. And I heard the plate mail and ricket-hooves behind. Laughter and excitement and shouts of wonder at the cry of a baby in the growing light! A baby in the midst of the battle? It had gone from simple diversion to a formal Hunt. It was Hunt. Then the sound of plate and glimpses of Green Lacquer and Gold from the opposing side…down in the forest near the bank. The Green Knight and his closer knights had joined…If I moved forward, they would catch me on the road itself, and behind was the rest of the hunt. I had only up the steep or down the river and face the bridge and any who met me there. I chose up, towards the gorge and the rapids. The ground grows rocky there. The prince finally ceased crying, but already driven so close to the ridge I was visible in the traitor sun, and the Knight spurred faster to keep up and below me on the road until all others had fallen behind us. Only the elevation separated us, and still I could not double back for the Hunt. Others there have been, surely, that have stumbled delirious and wounded from the burning….but he did not pursue them with such persistence. Women have run in the night with their youngest children fleeing from the slaughter. This for the child he did not know? My best judgment is that the draw lies in the distinct unreality of event….the sense of being in the midst of a tale in those moments. He is proud in bearing and seems to style himself the perfect knight of lore.
I looked for anything that would keep the child and I out of reach still and give more path of escape. There was a snow shoot….it went direct to the rapids. I took off my armour and wrapped it about the young prince that the winter river would touch him less if at all so swaddled and doubled….and took the shoot. My strength held to keep him aloft and navigate to the opposing bank on the face of the cliff. The knight followed and watched at a walk as I continued. I think together we both calculated that already dead…the rapids posed him little harm, nor the fall.”
Konstantine would pause, testing in his throat and scowling as he tried to match the tones and inflections correctly, even though his own throat had not the same magic of undeath or command in it:
‘You look cold,’ he called, as I paused in this dread. I had no choice but to try the cliff. To try it and do my best if I fell, to take the fall myself and not the prince. ‘There is more than bodies and carnage in our camp. There are warm fires and food.’
I made no answer. I heard him dismount.
‘Will you not come? The child must be cold. The water and snow…it will not last long.’
Pity for the flayed and gutted dead I have not seen as they walk or ride beside his banners. Pity for the living soon to join the ranks as fuel or slaves. However sweet the offer, it was poison. I shook my head and started to climb, but the ice was too thick there, water frozen that was splashed up by the rapids. I fell below the surface again and climbed out. Tried again. I made it halfway before the grip was wrong. I heard the last of his armor hit the stone as I surfaced. I tried a third time, I was halfway as he made it to the bank and started his own climb. He does not tire…he must have started to gain then as the winds froze the leathers on my limbs. I made it first to the top and started to run again. Up…only up. I must have been so slow, maybe it was not running. There are boulders there. I risked once the gain he would have to throw one down. It didn’t work. The finale of that meeting was already told. “
He would pause there if there were any question.
No cues from Aleksey’s boots, only quiet as he considered what he heard. Before he started again, when he made move to draw breath to speak “He followed you in broad daylight. Did any others? We know the skeletons walk the daylight hours, and the ones who look as though they are living. What of the snufflers?”
“They followed me through the trees and it was day, until my sprint and the terrain separated us. The knights. It was a full Hunt as for sporting, even as the Knyaz might enjoy.”
“Dawn had come as I reached the forest edge and first chose to go up.”
::there is pain in him, not fear, for the loss of the prince. Too young yet even for a name. What other subject would have given so much, without thought for his own skin? When he was free away, but for the crying. I will tell Vlad of your mourning. Of your heroics. He will feel less a fool. He did not give his child over into poor hands. But that mourning must come later. Konstantine pleads with me for understanding. Shall I let him know that he has it? I brought him here to speak of our enemies, to know their weakness, if they have any. Their numbers and names. But he feels he is on trial no doubt.:: “Daylight does not stop them” said tired. “Only the shambling corpses seem to return to earth for it.”
“You are not on trial. That is all past. Though I will tell Vlad of your mourning. The knell rings true in your tone, for a nameless child no blood of yours. You could have set him down and saved yourself, leaving no tracks and bait behind to stay the hounds, but you never did. I will tell him these things.”
“But now I must see with your eyes. Was there no weakness in them? Is it true then, that they cannot be killed? There must be some magical key. Or do I tell tales to myself for comfort and hope for a third son to come to me with a talking bear and a magic tablecloth. Yet there must be some way.”
“He bore the wound your master gave him,” having heard it before in short.
“I do not presume of the Knyaz’s time, I am sorry that I have forced on him the information in form of a tale…..it is how I am best used to giving chronology and full account. I will try at brevity,” he would bow in his kneel.
“No. It is detail I want. We have all these days at our behest.” He would sigh ::he takes it as a reprimand. Well, I have reprimanded him with the life of one of his own, and he has the death of my nephew on his hands, what should he expect but reprimand. Why should he take my words for an attempt at reassurance when the last I reached out my hand it was with scepter and sword to make harsh decree::
“Before our duel, when he had drawn sword he said exactly this,” mimicking, " ‘Do not lay down now! You cannot have come so far and fought so long to finish as a stag. There must be strength still in your arms with only running.’ "
Konstantine would brush his scarred cheek, fingers tracing the broken lines of the split over the bone. “I woke warm. The air was scented with aromatic wood and the charnel battle banished from the atmosphere. I was bare or cloth or device, except for these close irons, and laid on ermine and fine beaver, and spiraling roses wrought of gold as though real hemmed me in. I tried to bend the thorns or flowers, and while they moved they would not break. Enchanted, it is a bird-cage of a size that two people could be…… kept… within.” ::::Or one kept and the other visit to twine into them as the very roses leave one to suspect. :::
He would give exact account from his precise memory of the tent. He can make Aleksey and knights uncomfortable
While he spoke he would have heard Sasha mumble like someone had jostled him in sleep and then “oh, lay back down. There is nothing you can do.”
::::Laurente and the others are awake to hear? no::::
:::Laurente may have woken at the first sounds of my voice.::::
“The Knight came. He watched me from his bed and drank a goblet of something. Just that, then left. Later a man came. The Necromancer. A man of severe, though perhaps once handsome, countenance. He was thin, and his skin too tightly drawn over the bones of his features. From the back he almost appeared a woman. His hands were always red when he came to ruffle the desk. His robes were plain, worn brown and tattered despite their faded embroidery on the edges. Maybe they were nice before they were worn by a corpse for the some passage of years. He ignored me except as one observes and sucks one’s teeth at a friend’s excesses. He is called Gaspar, and is whom the Knight called for in a rage that Anstice and Illya, and the archers that fired on him, were to be taken alive.“
“From their manner with each other, his teeth sucking and his free entry into the others tent, they are both generals. Or would you say this green knight is the lord?”
“The key to that lies in the conversation the following day.”
He would hear a muffled noise like a hand over a mouth and then shushing calming noises
Aleksey makes no comment on any of the extra noises in the other “room”, nor would shift in his throne as if listening to them.
He would go through all the conversations wrote then, leaving out his personal thoughts or feelings, briefly detailing his hamster wheeling escape to get to the conversation and events of that conversation about Bertok.
“It was in learning of bertok……he said the scouts will do nothing then. He was leader of the scouts. The Knight, then, as best I could guess, is their overall marshal, but each seems general of their own camp in his campaign. So they do seem in some ways autonomous. And Barnabas, whom I guess to be the portly friar, was away on some other business to have arrived. So independent in action. But this is only my guess.”
Then the water for touching conversation, and denial.
The Rose Knight leaving it out of reach.
Konstantine hears a sob muffled, more shhing, very soft.
Give short account of getting it and then expand again when he returned and give full of the strange conversation of roses and his own ….mistake in thoughts about what would happen when as the knight stepped through.
How detailed would that accounting be?
Exact, voices and all, since it would flesh out the character of the knight for the Knyaz to better strategize against.
He would hear more sobbing as well muffled as it was, it sounds angry as much as anything, and the cloth moving sounds of a minor struggle. The knyaz ignores all this as far as he can tell, like the other side of the screen is no part of this room. He would get up to pace though, looking at the shelves and out the windows.
Konstantine would stop with, “and I ran. And it was night.”
“Where have they come from? What foul mouth spews this mist and them with it? Hell, a necromancers stronghold in the northwest. We cannot know, only hope that the mist brought them from Rsha, and those camped at Rsha are all the more there are. These three servants and the knight their master. We cannot know whence they came, but I hear some of why in this talk of roses.”
“Cannot a gilded rose, planted in new soil, come to sprout again? Your answer roused him. There is more here than the hunger of the dead, the nature of evil things to destroy. They come to conquor.”
“They will not tolerate the living as their subjects if this gaspar’s reaction is any telling. They wish to make this a land of the dead. But there is hope for them in that wish. Perhaps they are cursed and seek a way to lift it?”
“Sevastyn believes in curses and foretelling. It is bread and butter to the gypsies. Could there be any truth to it? Who could we ask about such things.” ::my mother if she lives.:: “We must find someone who can see beyond what is plain, and answer us about curses, someone who knows more about the workings of the dead. Someone unsavory.”
“Moreover, they can be killed. They can be wounded. You killed the one and burned his body. They said it would take seven days to bring him back, and it seems they needed his body and this priest to do it.”