"Squire" fantasy beginning

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Despondent

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The following is the rather interesting result of an evanescent collaboration with my friend. I wanted us to take turns writing a few paragraphs untill we had a complete story. So I wrote a brief intro and emailed it, expecting him to introduce the main characters' friends, which I named. Instead I was horrified to find he had those said friends plotting to kill their master! "What the hell was he thinking?!" I yelled at the screen. "It's the first bloody page, we don't know anything about the characters and he's got them plotting to assassinate a Duke!" Well, the only thing I could think of was to make their 'plot' a joke that they're playing on the main character...and I think it might make a rather nice beginning to a novel...

Nathan let out yet another sigh as he surveyed the meagre trappings of his unkempt bedchamber. Taunton wasn’t exactly the centre of the Kingdom to begin with, and this room, in this secluded section of the castle made him feel even more isolated; today it bothered him more than usual. He was certain it was because in precisely a week he would turn seventeen year of age. Seventeen. He spat the word, deliberately making it sound like some ghastly incurable ailment. Seventeen and still in this ducal backwater, when many of the boys he had grown up with had already left the previous year to join the King’s armies, or to begin learning a trade under a willing master. Nathan wasn’t drawn to any trade, and he didn’t fancy becoming a common soldier with only a half-shield to protect his heart from an opponent’s sword. And so he had stayed here, entering the duke’s castle as a squire-minor. A servant of a servant.
Presently Nathan’s eyes focused on the narrow window, the only one, and he moved toward it, looked down towards the outer bailey. He smiled as he saw the familiar frames of Malcolm and Reginald, both squires like he, duelling enthusiastically with their battered wooden swords. The position of the sun told him it was still a while before supper, and since he was free from any duties of his station for the day, he decided to descend from the tower and wander over - perhaps their antics would dispel his ill mood.

As he walked casually along a gentle breeze played with his auburn hair and carried the clashes of wood-on-wood to his ears – interspersed between the clashes were Reginald’s theatrical taunts and battle cries.
Soon Nathan was within sight of the two. He thought he caught Reginald’s eye and raised a hand to wave, but his friend had already turned away. Nathan perked his ears, straining to hear.
The wind now carried fragments of conversation. From what little he could hear, Nathan surmised the two seemed to be planning some manner of daring act. But the squires’ remarks seemed to become more suspicious with each step forward. Nathan perked his ears, straining to hear.

“Tomorrow... he retires to his quarters, you lead one of the guards away on some wild... When …I’ll take care of the remaining … then… free to deal with our dear master.”

“The brute will…his own bed, coughing up blood. I just hope…doesn’t ruin my tunic.”

At that Nathan stopped dead in his tracks. Was the wind playing tricks? Surely his friends couldn’t be…He stood there frozen for a few moments before his legs agreed to take orders again. He began to walk somewhat gingerly forward, the wind suddenly seeming much colder. Reginald was the first to notice him.
“Why, my dear squire! Come to join us in a bout?
The two seemed to be acting as though noting was amiss. Malcolm regarded him with what looked like amusement. “I ah…thought I’d stretch my legs before supper.”
“Ah yes, it is fine weather for a stroll indeed. Although,” he added, leaning on his sword, “duelling in this heat has made me rather thirsty. What say you Malcolm? Shall we declare a truce and partake of the Fiddler Crab’s fine ale? Though perhaps we should first shed these sweat-ridden rags.”
“Excellent suggestion.”
“Well then,” he said, sliding the sword under his belt, “let us be off, I say.”
As they began to leave, Reginald looked over his shoulder at Nathan and said, “Oh and all parties present are invited of course.”

Nathan remained there, watching them leave, trying to make sense of their unsettling manner.
Had the squires become possessed by some unholy apparitions? Or perhaps, as his mother often said, his ears just needed a thorough washing. But no, he’d not imagined what he’d heard. Something peculiar was afoot.

As he heard the wooden door close, Nathan crept slowly up the stone steps, thankful of the fact that he was wearing his soft leather boots; his footsteps were barely audible. As he reached the door Nathan hesitated, for he realised he was about to spy on his friends – an act which was hardly gentlemanly – but he quickly decided the circumstances more than warranted it. Crouching down, he peered through the rust-encrusted keyhole.
The two squires were both in sight; Reginald stood closest to him, and was speaking excitedly.
“…was completely taken in! Bravo, my dear sir,” he said, bowing with exaggerated deference, “a most convincing performance indeed.”
Malcolm smiled. “I just hope we didn’t upset our good friend too much. You know how easily affected he can be.”
“Nonsense! You exaggerate. A good lesson for our esteemed squire: be suspicious of the words of any man, regardless of his station or how well you know him.”
“I swear, Reg,” laughed Malcolm, shaking his head in dismay, “you won’t stop until he’s as distrustful and cynical as you.”

Relief washed over Nathan: his friends were not treacherous fiends, nor possessed. Then he smiled a humourless smile, as it occurred to him that perhaps a measure of revenge was in order. So it’s deception, eh? Well, three can play at that game!

It was getting dark when Nathan parted the doors of the Fiddler Crab, spilling warmth and drunken song into the street in that moment before they closed behind him. He quickly surveyed the crowded room, eyes scanning the faces of the rabble of sailors, mercenaries and barflies. He spotted his friends at a small table in the corner, each holding a mug of ale. They seemed to be listening to the troubadour tenaciously strumming his lyre; Nathan could barely hear the notes over the sailor’s boisterous voices.
Presently he composed his features into an expression of extreme seriousness, and began making his way through the crowd.
“Nathan!” Reginald cheerfully exclaimed. “Where’ve you been all this time, young squire? What good is free time if not spent properly I ask you?”
Nathan bowed his head in greeting, said, “My squires, there’s a matter I must discuss. May I join you?”
Reginald flashed Malcolm a mischievous look. “But of course. Sit,” he said, pushing an empty chair out with a booted foot, “sit and tell us what has you so concerned.”
Nathan sat and leaned forward, hands coming together to support his chin.
“I must tell you,” he said, “that I overheard your conversation this morning in the bailey.”
Reginald’s eyes widened in surprise. “Oh? Our conversation?”
“I believe,” said Malcolm, also leaning forward, “that our friend was disturbed by certain comments we made while duelling .”
“Ah, I see,” said Reginald. “Well, that’s understandable. I suppose they were rather radical in nature, weren’t they?”
Nathan nodded, fighting to keep his mask of severity. “I confess I was shocked in no small degree upon hearing your plans.”
“Oh, of course. I do understand.”
“However…”
“Yes?”
“When the initial shock subsided…”
“Yes? Do go on.”
“I…I must tell you that…I am with you.”
In that moment Reginald and Malcolm’s faces were washed of all amusement.
Nathan quickly hid a smile with a hand. I have them.
He looked down before continuing, certain he couldn’t keep a straight face any longer.
“Would you prefer it be done with knives…” he said, and, his voice rising from suppressed laughter, managed to add. “…or poison?”
Nathan looked up, revealing his red face, and after a few moments comprehension flashed across Reginald and Malcolm’s faces. Suddenly all three burst into laugher, which grew louder and louder until they were competing with the sailors.
“Oh my dear sir ,” said Reginald, wiping tears from his eyes, “I’ve taught you well! Well indeed!

Reginald shouted to the innkeeper for another round of ales, and to the troubadour, whom he knew, “Rowan my good man, play something merry, I say!”
The man obliged; he strummed the lyre with increased intensity, and began to sing. It was a sea-chantey well known throughout the coastal towns of the Kingdom and many of the sailors joined in, waving their mugs in the air and spilling ale onto the floor.
After several verses, the three squires were content to sit quietly, soaking in the warmth of the hearth and the lyre’s melody and letting the bitter ale take effect.
 

Themistocles

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2006
Messages
50
Things in parenthasis could be removed.

Nathan let out yet another sigh as he surveyed the meagre trappings of his unkempt bedchamber. Taunton wasn’t exactly the centre of the Kingdom to begin with, and this room, in this secluded section of the castle made him feel (even more) isolated; today it bothered him more than usual. He was certain it was because in precisely a week he would turn seventeen years of age. Seventeen. He spat the word, deliberately making it sound like some ghastly incurable ailment. Seventeen and still in this ducal backwater, when many of the boys he had grown up with had already left the previous year to join the King’s armies, or to begin learning a trade under a willing master. Nathan wasn’t drawn to any trade, and he didn’t fancy becoming a common soldier with only a half-shield to protect his heart from an opponent’s sword. And so he had stayed here, entering the duke’s castle as a squire-minor. A servant of a servant.
Presently Nathan’s eyes focused on the narrow window, the only one, and he moved toward it, looked down towards the outer bailey. He smiled as he saw the familiar frames of Malcolm and Reginald, both squires like he, duelling enthusiastically with their battered wooden swords. The position of the sun told him it was still a while before supper, and since he was free from any duties of his station for the day, he decided to descend from the tower and wander over - perhaps their antics would dispel his ill mood.


As he walked casually along, a gentle breeze played with his auburn hair and carried the clashes of wood-on-wood to his ears – interspersed between the clashes were Reginald’s theatrical taunts and battle cries.
Soon Nathan was within sight of the two. He thought he caught Reginald’s eye and raised a hand to wave, but his friend had already turned away. Nathan perked his ears, straining to hear.
The wind (now) carried fragments of conversation. From what little he could hear, Nathan surmised the two seemed to be planning some manner of daring act. But the squires’ remarks seemed to become more suspicious with each step forward. Nathan perked his ears, straining to hear. You're repeating a sentence here. Should be different. Perhaps: Nathan strained to hear between the battle clashes. This would explain the ... throughout their dialogue.

“Tomorrow... he retires to his quarters, you lead one of the guards away on some wild... When …I’ll take care of the remaining … then… free to deal with our dear master.”

“The brute will…his own bed, coughing up blood. I just hope…doesn’t ruin my tunic.”

At that Nathan stopped dead in his tracks. Was the wind playing tricks? Surely his friends couldn’t be…He stood there frozen for a few moments before his legs agreed to take orders again. He began to walk somewhat gingerly forward, the wind suddenly seeming much colder. Reginald was the first to notice him.
“Why, my dear squire! Come to join us in a bout?
The two seemed to be acting as though noting was amiss. Malcolm regarded him with what looked like amusement. “I ah…thought I’d stretch my legs before supper.”
“Ah yes, it is fine weather for a stroll indeed. Although,” he added, leaning on his sword, “duelling in this heat has made me rather thirsty. What say you Malcolm? Shall we declare a truce and partake of the Fiddler Crab’s fine ale? Though perhaps we should first shed these sweat-ridden rags.”
“Excellent suggestion.”
“Well then,” he said, sliding the sword under his belt, “let us be off, I say.”
As they began to leave, Reginald looked over his shoulder at Nathan and said, “Oh and all parties present are invited of course.”

Nathan remained there, watching them leave, trying to make sense of their unsettling manner.
Had the squires become possessed by some unholy apparitions? Or perhaps, as his mother often said, his ears just needed a thorough washing. But no, he’d not imagined what he’d heard. Something peculiar was afoot. (sounds too Shirlock Holmes like, perhaps change to brewing...)

As he heard the wooden door close, Nathan crept slowly up the stone steps, thankful of the fact that he was wearing his soft leather boots; his footsteps were barely audible. As he reached the door Nathan hesitated, for he realised he was about to spy on his friends – an act which was hardly gentlemanly – but he quickly decided the circumstances more than warranted it. Crouching down, he peered through the rust-encrusted keyhole.
The two squires were both in sight; Reginald stood closest to him, and was speaking excitedly.
“…was completely taken in! Bravo, my dear sir,” he said, bowing with exaggerated deference, “a most convincing performance indeed.”
Malcolm smiled. “I just hope we didn’t upset our good friend too much. You know how easily affected he can be.”
“Nonsense! You exaggerate. A good lesson for our esteemed squire: be suspicious of the words of any man, regardless of his station or how well you know him.”
“I swear, Reg,” laughed Malcolm, shaking his head in dismay, “you won’t stop until he’s as distrustful and cynical as you.”

Relief washed over Nathan: his friends were not treacherous fiends, nor possessed. Then he smiled a humourless smile, as it occurred to him that perhaps a measure of revenge was in order. So it’s deception, eh? Well, three can play at that game!

It was getting dark when Nathan parted the doors of the Fiddler Crab, spilling warmth and drunken song into the street in that moment before they closed (behind him). (He quickly surveyed the crowded room,) His eyes scanning the faces of the rabble of sailors, mercenaries and barflies. He spotted his friends at a small table in the corner, each holding a mug of ale. They seemed to be listening to the troubadour tenaciously strumming his lyre; Nathan could barely hear the notes over the sailor’s boisterous voices.
Presently he composed his features into an expression of extreme seriousness, and began making his way through the crowd.
“Nathan!” Reginald cheerfully exclaimed. “Where’ve you been all this time, young squire? What good is free time if not spent properly I ask you?”
Nathan bowed his head in greeting, said, “My squires, there’s a matter I must discuss. May I join you?”
Reginald flashed Malcolm a mischievous look. “But of course. Sit,” he said, pushing an empty chair out with a booted foot, “sit and tell us what has you so concerned.”
Nathan sat and leaned forward, hands coming together to support his chin.
“I must tell you,” he said, “that I overheard your conversation this morning in the bailey.”
Reginald’s eyes widened in surprise. “Oh? Our conversation?”
“I believe,” said Malcolm, also leaning forward, “that our friend was disturbed by certain comments we made while duelling .”
“Ah, I see,” said Reginald. “Well, that’s understandable. I suppose they were rather radical in nature, weren’t they?”
Nathan nodded, fighting to keep his mask of severity. “I confess I was shocked in no small degree upon hearing your plans.”
“Oh, of course. I do understand.”
“However…”
“Yes?”
“When the initial shock subsided…”
“Yes? Do go on.”
“I…I must tell you that…I am with you.”
In that moment Reginald and Malcolm’s faces were washed of all amusement.
Nathan quickly hid a smile with a hand. I have them.
He looked down before continuing, certain he couldn’t keep a straight face any longer.
“Would you prefer it be done with knives…” he said, and, his voice rising from suppressed laughter, managed to add. “…or poison?”
Nathan looked up, revealing his red face, and after a few moments comprehension flashed across Reginald and Malcolm’s faces. Suddenly all three burst into laugher, which grew louder and louder until they were competing with the sailors.
“Oh my dear sir ,” said Reginald, wiping tears from his eyes, “I’ve taught you well! Well indeed!

Reginald shouted to the innkeeper for another round of ales, and to the troubadour, whom he knew, “Rowan my good man, play something merry, I say!”
The man obliged; he strummed the lyre with increased intensity, and began to sing. It was a sea-chantey well known throughout the coastal towns of the Kingdom and many of the sailors joined in, waving their mugs in the air and spilling ale onto the floor.
After several verses, the three squires were content to sit quietly, soaking in the warmth of the hearth and the lyre’s melody and letting the bitter ale take effect.

I quite liked this. It looks like you guys have something going here.
Don't let the previous critique dissuade you from the comment boards, I have seen him comment before, and he doesn't seem friendly.

Good work, looking forward to hearing more.
 
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