Chapter 17: A Rebel Celebration
It was a dreary day in Falconis City. Due to the god of a snowstorm that blanketed the entire upper half of Dametreos, life had ground to a standstill at the Black Falcon capital. The chilling winds and deep snow made travel nearly impossible, forcing everyone inside their homes. Cellars were scoured and cupboards emptied until some of the less fortunate persons had to slaughter prized horses just to stay alive.
“This is a bunch of bloody megabloks. As soon as this clears, I’m moving back to Bull Isle.”
The Lone Falcon, wrapped in a worn woolen blanket and scribbling in a book, smiled at Barbod’s remark.
“Ah yes...Bull Isle...land of palm trees, roasted boars and saucy Bull wenches…” continued Barbod, grinning through his beard and swigging another pint of beer. After wiping his mouth, the Bull King glanced over to his old Falcon friend.
“What are you writing, Lone Falcon?”
The Lone Falcon dipped his pen into the tiny inkwell and continued writing in a fine, precise script.
“I am chronicling my past comings and goings.”
“Of our meeting, my rise to power and the BloodVaine epic?” pressed Barbod.
The Lone Falcon shook his head.
“No, before that, when I was a young and brash knight. One day I had drunk myself stupor after a night of raucous parting. When I awoke...I found myself in a suffocating prison. Once I was free, I...well...I’ll just let you read it when I’m finished…”
Barbod leaned over and looked at the top of the scroll.
“The Lone Falcon Chronicles by Nathan Wells,” he read aloud, “funny penname, that is, Nathan Wells…” Barbod commented.
The Lone Falcon smiled. “I thought it fit. Perhaps some day someone will find these scraps of parchment when I am long gone and display them to future generations.”
Barbod smiled, then grabbed a sheet of parchment himself and began scribbling. The Lone Falcon glanced up from his own work and looked at the title Barbod had written across the top of the page.
“The Tales Of Barbod by Brian Gibbons…” read the Lone Falcon out loud, “Brian Gibbons?”
Bjarn smiled back. “It seemed to fit.”
On the other side of the room, Dordrot was being pounded into the ground by Vanderdious. The cunning master of masks had eliminated the Bull's duos of knights, bishops and rooks and was now preying upon Dordrot’s five remaining pawns.
“Why don’t ye just take my king and be done with it?” snapped Dordrot as Vanderdious’s queen devoured another puny pawn.
“I just did.” smirked the Falcon, “Check, and checkmate.”
“You bloody Falcon!” harrumphed Dordrot, though he meant it in jest, “I’m no good at mind games...now just give me a good spear and moving target…”
“Will darts do?” quipped Freena, who was whittling away with her curved knife. She tossed Dordrot a sharp stick.
“They’re crude, but they’ll have to do...jus’ toss ‘em into that…” she indicated a round yellow target that obviously had been made by Forestmen.
Eager to doing something physical, Dordrot threw the dart. Freena grunted in approval. “Not bad shot, Dordrot, though it would have been quite amusing if you had landed a ‘Bull’s eye’!”
She snorted with laughter and tossed her own dart. It landed quite near Dordrot’s.
“Nice!” complimented Dordrot.
He threw another, then Freena threw her second. Soon the dart match ended in a draw.
“You’ve something to be proud of, Dordrot,” commented the Lone Falcon from his desk, “No one’s tied Freena at darts, or anything involving a target, let alone beating her.”
“A pity this room ‘tis too small for spear-throwing,” grinned Dordrot, “I’d like to see where my spear-throwing stands next to the champ. Fraun Jerlock said I was the best he had ever seen.”
Freena stretched her taught features into a warm smile and tossed back her long dirty-blonde hair with a flick of her head.
“Once this snow melts, it’s a date.” she said.
“Now that the rough-housers have abandoned me, is there an intellect in this place who would consider a game or two?” queried Vanderdious with mock sadness.
Randolph, who had been read, smiled and heaved himself out of his chair by the fire.
“I’ll give it a try, though I’m a bit rusty…”
“Then you’re in for a treat…” cackled Vanderdious evilly, pushing the pieces back into place.
Three hours later, Vanderdious had beaten Randolph three times, but each time it had been harder. Now, on the forth game, both Black Falcon were gripping the checkered board with white knuckles as they watched each other manipulate the pieces. Once in a while there would be a triumphant whoop from one side and a groan from the other as another rook or pawn or knight was captured. At one point Vanderdious let loose a torrent of exaggerated evil laughter when he captured Randolph’s queen with his own. Randolph soon repeated the laugh when one of his pawns made it to the back row and was upgraded to a queen.
Now both of them were sweating. Carefully, they positioned their remaining pawns and advanced. Both ranks were decimated, and soon Randolph was reduced to his king, queen and one pawn, where Vanderdious had four pawns and his king. Both were uncertain of victory, until Vanderdious gave a suddenly chuckled and moved a single pawn.
Randolph moved his king out of the way. Vanderdious moved another pawn.
Randolph moved his king again. Vanderdious moved his third pawn. Suddenly Randolph knew he was done for. Resignedly, he moved his queen to protect the king. Vanderdious captured the queen with his fourth pawn.
Vanderdious wiped his forehead.
“Tyco, Randolph, ye remember quick! I daren't ask for another game...I might lose this time…”
Vanderdious winked. Randolph laughed and helped put the pieces away. Everyone was quiet for a while, while the Lone Falcon and Barbod wrote and everyone else sat and thought their own private thoughts.
“Anyone for checkers?” asked Dordrot at last. Everyone else chuckled. It would be a long winter. Barbod soon grew bored of scripting, and left his parchment for a glass of ale and some chicken.
“Lads,” he said, “How about heading for a pub?”
“I wouldn’t tempt it…” murmured the Lone Falcon, “I doubt we can even get out the door…”
“Then we’ll head out the chimney!” cried Barbod, “Anything to get out of this place!”
“We can’t just go anywhere…” cautioned Randolph, “We don’t want any Durlass-loyals catching sight of you or Dordrot.”
“There’s a Rebel Resistance pub a few blocks down,” volunteered Freena, “Let’s go there, I’m sick of being cooped up here as well.”
“Be sure to be back by dinner!” called the housewifey Mayriz from the kitchen, “Don’t stay out late!”
“Yes, ma…” grinned Dordrot, as he had begun to call her.
It was soon discovered that they wouldn’t have to go to the extreme of climbing up the chimney, instead one of the second-story side windows were pried open and the Lone Falcon, Barbod, Dordrot, Randolph, Freena and Vanderdious slipped into the snow.
“This way,” Freena gestured. Soon they were in a common-looking inn where Barbod was greeted not with swords but grins and cheers.
“Ah, my friends,” Barbod said to everyone around him, “Drinks on me!”
A cheer followed, and soon after, the Lone Falcon sat next to him at the table.
“What have you been up to, Barbod?” he said with a cheery tone in his voice.
“Are you a betting man, Falkey-boy?” asked Barbod.
“Are you a betting man, Lone Falcon?”
“I suppose so.” he said hesitantly, “Why?”
“I bet you,” Barbod began, “I can hit the barkeeper in the head with my fork.”
“You’ve had too much to drink, haven’t you Barbod?” asked the Lone Falcon, laughing.
“Haha, no, my friend. Not nearly enough.”
“The Lone Falcon laughed again.
“I’ll bet you the most expensive hat in town.” Barbod said.
“You’ll never hit him. He’s over 50 paces away.”
“So take my bet.”
“Alright.” said the Lone Falcon.
Barbod whipped the utensil, and true as the sun rising, it struck the barkeep on the head.
“You owe me a hat.” Barbod laughed.
“I suppose I do." said the Falcon, chuckling at the dumbfounded barkeep, who was looking for where the fork had came from.
“It was me!” Barbod called to the barkeeper, “I threw it. Terribly sorry, though, t’was but a wager between me and my buddy.”
“Look, pal, I’ve had to deal with creeps all night.” the barkeeper said in a low tone, his voice rugged.
“Maybe if you had a better attitude, you'd have less creeps.” Barbod laughed.
The barkeeper looked as if he’d strike Barbod, but instead walked away.
“It’s getting late, Barbod.” said the Lone Falcon, “Perhaps we should head to our rests.”
“Perhaps.” said Barbod, “Or we could have some fun.”
“I don’t like the sound of that.…” said the Lone Falcon.
“No, that is not what I mean. Let’s dance!” Barbod smiled, and hopped onto the bar counter. The Lone Falcon followed, as he too had had too much to drink. They started to stomp, clap, and dance around, and it wasn’t too long before song broke out between the two friends.
“Oh the grass is green,
And the roses are red,
And that bloody Falcon king,
Is better off dead,
And the Folks are friendly,
And they’ll make you smile,
You’re at the best place in the world,
Bull’s Isle!” Barbod laughed, “Take it Falcon!”
“Oh, the People all are happy,
And the lakes are fresh and clean,
And everybody dances,
And no one is mean,
In the summer there’s no mosquitoes,
And the winters are never cold,
Oh this island is a nation,
Carved entirely from gold!”
“YAH!” a cheer came from the crowd, and Barbod took over,
“Oh, Bulls, who’s army is so strong,
And Bulls, who never do anything wrong,
And Bulls, your island is so great,
And Bulls, Winning is your fate!”
“Woooooo-hooooo!!” Came from the crowd as the two jumped off the counter.
“Any particular reason we did that, Barbod?”
Barbod just smiled, and said, “Something makes me feel like partying tonight.”
The Lone Falcon grinned and then heaved himself off the table.
“Oof. I need something in my stomach other than spirits…”
“We should probably head back,” said Freena.
Dordrot agreed, and after one last beer they exited the pub. And not a moment too soon. The skies were growing dark, and a frigid wind was beginning to whip up the loose snow and dash it into houses, walls and anyone brave (or stupid) enough to walk about. With heads bent low and arms up to protect exposed faces, Barbod, Dordrot, Freena, the Lone Falcon, Vanderdious and Randolph headed home to the headquarters of the Rebel Resistance.
“There you are!” clucked Mayriz, “You shouldn’t be out at this hour...I heard some young fools thought they could brave the streets and were found dead the next day, frozen stiff!”
The weary and chilled Bulls and rebel Falcons brushed snow off themselves and crowded near the fire. A few minutes later Mayriz bustled in and shooed them all to the table, where potato soup and dumplings were waiting. Glad that they, unlike some this chilly winter night, had something warm to fill themselves with, the seven friends cuddled around the worn table and enjoyed supper.
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