The whole day passed in stillness as the grains of time trickled like raindrops, gently flowing away from the hands of the villagers. Alas! The villagers’ first action-packed day had finally ended. The villagers experienced how descent the esquire’s torture-like drills and training regimens were. They even experience a once in a lifetime event as a bonus. They were visited by a chubby deviltusk boar in the middle of their training, leaving them scared, drained, and weary. The burly remains of the dead beast were even left in public display for everyone’s view. The esquire dangled the thing on a nearby tree, serving as a nice reminder to the villagers, making them work harder than they should.
The unrelenting glare of the fiery sun had made the villagers sweat as they stood in line and stared at the esquire.
“Men! You may now go home!” The esquire grinned at the faces of the villagers. “Oh, don’t forget to come back again the day after tomorrow.”
The sounds of sobs and relief were heard on the eastern outskirts of the village upon the announcement of the esquire. At last, the esquire dismissed the village sloths with a few instructions in tow, allowing the pitiable country dweller to go home in one piece. Without further ado, the villagers dragged their bodies away from the esquire as if they had seen a ghost, fearing Davin would change his mind.
The stumbling villagers felt the piercing gaze of the esquire on their backs, making them sprint faster back to the village as if no muscle ache could slow them down.
The esquire also decided to go for a short patrol around the east side of the village, leaving a few monster traps along the way, a precaution for any possible monster attacks. The esquire even dared to venture a little deeper in the forest of wilderness to scout and seek for beast tracks.
The esquire knew that the mere presence of a level three beast was something to be greatly wary of. The appearance of a wandering rank three beasts in any village could be counted as a very grave matter. A life and death matter. Rank three monsters such as the deviltusk boar were considered as horde leaders among the wild beasts. These beasts were known for leading most of the beast stampedes according to many Eudorian records. These monster stampedes were considered to be a national disaster, prompting all kingdoms and nations in all parts of the Eudorian continent to come to aid. It’s well known for its capability to wreak havoc both on the economy and stability of nations, halting all trades of goods and spreading famines over the victim nation.
“Hmnn, the fat thing doesn’t seem to belong to a horde.” The esquire frowned a little, wrinkles appearing on his forehead. “Nevertheless, this is still a bad omen. I better report this to the Lord.”
The esquire continued to search for monster tracks, taking his time to assure that nothing would escape their grasp. Though, it was not the first time he was doing this job. It was still hassling considering the confusing interlinking trees and dried-leaves covered soil which made his search a lot harder. The distinct smells of plants, animals, and beast mixed in the air made it even worse, making Davin pinched his nose in irritation.
The orange tinted-veils plowed through the entire sky, cloaking the esquire's shadow upon his arrival to the village from the outskirts of the village. It took him quite a lot of time digging for monster traces but only end up with few random scats. Davin wrapped the random droppings in different thick leaves and tied it with vines. He then put it on small dirty coin sack so that he could show it to the monster experts in the knight’s contingent.
Davin then carried the carcass of the dead beast in his back on his way home, thinking that its meat would be a nice gift to the Knight’s family. The heavy load behind Davin’s back attracted the attention of the curious villagers. Nevertheless, the villagers didn’t dare to pry, fearing for punishment if they stalled the esquire. They were contented in just watch the esquire as he dashed towards the old manor with the big hunt.
Despite carrying such a weighty monster, Davin ran as if he was a feather blown by the wind aspects. The esquire was determined to seek a bit of acknowledgment from the Lord and the Madame, thinking that perhaps with this gift the two would go easy on him during training.
Taking a glimpsed at the big blob of meat behind the esquire, more villagers flocked around the manor of the knight, it was such a rare sight in this village. The news about the beast behind the esquire noisily spread throughout the gossipy village, inviting a not so small crowd along the way.
Such random events were hot stuff in the village, a sizzling side-dish for the villagers' dinner gossips, something that they would never let go of.
Davin went to the only manor of the village, expecting to see the Knight’s shadow around its four corners.
He laid down the dead beast nearby lawn. He then gently knocked on the wooden door of the knight’s newly renovated home. Three gentle knocks resounded in the old manor’s door.
All of a sudden, a mellow yet elegant voice was heard from inside the door. “Come in.”
Hearing the voice, the esquire froze on the spot. A bit of panic had been laced on his face as cold sweat fell between his brows. He wished to turn back again yet was unable too. He even almost swallowed his tongue. He never thought that it would only be the madam instead of the knight. Yet, he could not back down now, forcing himself to answer. “Yes, Madam!”
He walked inside the room, his steps silent.
“Oh, please close the door after... Davin.”
The esquire then entered the room. Beads of sweat forming on his palms. His boots producing a squeaky sound as he entered the room. The manor lord’s room was covered with the odd-smell of books and documents.
At the center of the room, a rhythmic tune flowed and echoed in the esquire’s ears. The taps came from a beautiful lady, her silver hair shimmering as the rays of the heavens fell on her through the window pane. The Madame was wearing a striking blue-colored satin dress as if she was blooming bluebird flower. It was a rare sight, a contrast to the usual mercenary-styled clothes that the Madame loved to wear. Sitting before an old-mahogany desk, a number of documents were littered all around her, a light frown laced around her eyebrows.
The middle-aged looking esquire bowed with one of his knees on the ground and his right hand on his chest. Davin hid his face by lowering his head deeper on the floor. There was no other noise in the room aside from the sounds of echoing taps and rustling papers.
“Oh, where have you been Davin?” Madam Anise wasn’t a patient type of person. The attendants, maids, soldiers, and inner circle of the Knight’s house knew that fact.
This morning, the Madame tasked the esquire to bring the villagers to the farm fields after assembling them in the eastern village outskirts. Nevertheless, she didn’t see any shadows of the villagers around the tilled lands after she went off for an inspection.
The sounds of the Madame’s taps continued as she waited for the esquire’s answer. It’s rhythm changing from slow to fast then from fast to slow, throwing its listeners in confusion. Yet, in the ears of the esquire, the soft taps were like the sounds of roars of monsters resounding throughout his brain. It sounded like the clarion calls of the grim reaper, sending shivers to his spine. The changing tempo even made the esquire feel nauseous as if it was affecting his psyche and guts, making him want to puke his last meal.
“Kuhumm, Madame, I-I-I can explain! The esquire wiped his sweat. He even forgot to send a simple report to Madame about what occurred on the eastern outskirts of the village. The appearance of the deviltusk boar had taken both his thoughts and time. It’s a no-brainer that these dangerous events should be reported to the Madam and the Knight as soon as possible.
The Madame raised her head to look at the esquire before putting her attention on the documents. She then stopped tapping. She took the glass of tea nearby. She took a sip and returned it at the edge of the table. She then silently continued flipping through the batches of papers on her hands. “Hmnn, explain what?”
“W-why I was not able to send the villagers to the till the fields, Madame.” The esquire babbled, gritting his teeth.
“Oh, I see. Then tell me why? A sliver of frown slithered its way on the madame’s beautiful face, her voice turning a bit chilling. The remaining tea in the cup froze, the temperature in the room falling a few notches.
“I believed we clearly told you our orders this morning.”
The esquire’s eyes went round after seeing clear windows turning foggy due to the cold. Jogging his mind for his best way out, Davin thought of the appearance of the deviltusk boar. He knew that it was the best excuse he could give to the Madame.
Thus, he explained the attack that occurred on the eastern outskirts of the village.
The stuttering explanation of the esquire calmed the temper of Madam Annis a little. The frozen water and the foggy room returned to what it looks like in the beginning. A serious glint appeared in the eyes of the madam, her hands moved and tapped the document-filled table again.
“Hmnn…” The madam frowned for a moment. “Go to our home where the Knight is, do report it to him fast. Tell him that there would be an assembly tonight.”
“Yes, Madam!” The esquire saluted then scuttled to the door as fast as he could, scared that the madam might make him stay longer.
The esquire’s feet froze before it reached the doorsteps.
“Please bring the fat thing in the lawn to our home and send that smelly poop to that kid Auburn.”
Davin immediately sent the droppings to the esquire called Auburn for verification and study, telling him the madam wanted the results this evening. Seeing the clumsily tied poop, the young man named Auburn cursed Davin profusely calling him dirty poop-picker and smelly scat digger saying that he could just have called him to the place rather than picking the poop. The man roared about how smelly the things he brought was, cursing Davin to the high heavens before kicking him out.
The esquire then went his way to the Knight’s house.
Tock. Tock… tock.
“Greeting to you, Lord Knight! This lowly esquire has something URGENT to report!” The esquire respectfully said, standing ramrod straight, his hands on his left chest. Davin emphasized the word urgent. He thought that the encounter with the Deviltusk boar and meeting with the Madam. He felt that there was something fishy going on. One of the reasons why he was ordered to inform the Knight as soon as possible.
As if responding from the rhythmic knock, creaking sounds were heard coming from the old wooden door, tickling the ears of the esquire and some watching gossipy villagers. Unhurriedly it was opened… Though the expected visage of the burly knight was nowhere to be seen. Instead, a jovial smile from a gray-haired kid was what greeted the esquire.
“Ah, little lord”, the knight blankly stated.
The one who opened the door was the second son and the youngest child of the knight’s family, Klive.
The child puffed up his chest. Standing through the tip of his toes, looking oh so noble.
“Oh, Old Uncle…Where’s mom an’ dad? Whadda you need? Little Klive asked, his face sour yet respectful. The little guy seemed to be a little peeved. He felt the disappointment of the kid after seeing his supposed to be handsome face.
The esquire’s straight eyebrows twitched. Isn’t he the one who’s supposed to ask that question? Anyway, there is no point even if he got annoyed. He should just get straight to the point and go away.
“Kuhumm, little lord where’s…
“Elder Brother! Elder Sister! Old man Davin’s here.” Immediately cutting-off the words of the esquire, the irritated little guy shouted as he opted to call for a solid back up.
Bah! I ain’t that old yet! The middle-aged faced esquire quipped in his mind.
“Oh, he also brought a very big pig,” Catching a glimpse of the beast, Little Klive added, a glimmer of inquisitiveness arose from his droopy eyes.
Running like a wind, an amber-colored hair popped up out of nowhere. It was Liszt. Though, instead of talking to the esquire, the kid instead curiously gazed at the dead boar. He then walked towards Davin and gave him a full nod, gently tapping his arms a few times along the way. It seemed like the kid was trying to show his approval towards the esquire.
The esquire lips twitched. He then sighed. Ain’t this kid trying to act like his father?
Suddenly, Ciera, the little lady with silver hair showed up. She also threw an inquisitive look at the dead boar. She then carefully looked at the rugged esquire. Putting her dainty hand towards her chin, the girl pondered for a moment and asked.
“Uncle Davin, where did you found this fat pig.” The young lady pointed her small finger at the mountain-like body of the deviltusk boar, her gaze lingering around the dead beast. She thought that this Deviltusk boar was too big as compared to what was described and showed in her book, “Rutherford Kingdom’s Atlas of Beasts and Monsters”.
“Answering the young lady! During the training for the villagers, I decided to patrol around the area to assure their safety. Then this esquire accidentally found the beast lurking in the nearby forest on the outskirts. Thus I was forced to hunt it down.”
“Eh, this type of beast? Lurking in the nearby forest? Was my father or mother already informed about this?”
“Little lady, Madame is already aware. As for the Knight, that’s what I’m here for,” Davin discreetly said throwing a glance and sign towards Klive and Liszt. “I came here to report everything that happened to milord as ordered by the Madame, but the little lord was the one who opened the door after I knocked.
Little Klive playfully poked the iron-liked hide of the boar on the other hand young Liszt carefully touched its shiny long tusk.
Hearing the explanation of the esquire, Ciera gazed at her grinning little brother. The little lady could already guess what happened next.
“I see…Unfortunately, Dad went outside for a bit. It seemed like he was going to look for something or someone. It looks like Dad’s animalistic instinct is kicking-in in again.” Shrugging her shoulders the little lady replied. “You know… it is really rare for my father’s instinct to kick in in times of peace like now, right?
Understanding what the little lady was pointing out, the esquire simply nodded. Remembering the weird actions of the knight during the monster campaign, the esquire could not help himself but scratched his head. Those very weird actions were what saved them during those bloody campaigns.
Davin then moved his eyes towards the two young lords. It seemed the two were already starting to lose their interest. After feeding their curiosity, it seemed like they were ready to roll back to their rooms.
Seeing this, a glint of excitement appeared in the eyes of the little lady. It was now her time to play with the monster. Thus, she waltzed towards carcass curiously prodding its body. Eyeing one place to another, the young lady giggled taking her time studying the dead monster, touching the carcass of the beast to her heart's content.
“Hehe, based on the looks of the Deviltusk beast, it looks like it was a rank 3 monster. The size and length of the tusk and its dark hide were quality proof.” Ciera said as she continued an investigative monologue. My, my, hmmm…The broken goldish crown-like hair on its heads indicates that it's at peak rank 3 and it’s a step away to becoming a rank 4 monster.
It seemed like the little lady was trying hard to emulate her mother. Having such a charming and lovely mother, who could blame her? It seemed like too much expectation had burdened the young Ciera.
Though looking like an invulnerable little girl on the outside, the young lady was perhaps the most vulnerable among the three siblings. Such rare sight was only open to people who the little lady is close to like her family or the Knight's family attendants.
Looking at the little lady, the esquire sighed at the sight.
All of a sudden, a stifling cold penetrated the esquire's back. His instincts called for an adrenaline rush. The beats of his heart galloped in haste.
In a few milliseconds, his eyes coldly crept around the place, darting around for the source of the lying danger. His eyes darted around the old village chief’s house, from the windows up to roofs. The nearby village houses were not even spared from his scanning eyes.
Then the esquire saw the little lady playing along with the beast corpse. Then the esquire witness a shocking sight. The carcass of the beast suddenly showed a series of disturbing twitching movements. Maybe… it was still alive.
All of a sudden, he recalled some stories and information about the extreme vitality of demonic beast, enabling them to attack even in death. Alarm bells rang and buzzed in the esquire’s head. Nothing must happen to the little lady!
With a whooshing sound, the esquire rapidly ran towards Ciera. He pulled the little lady towards his embrace away from the twitching beast. He tightly hugged the little lady, with his body as cover.
A few seconds silence passed.
The nearby spectating villagers couldn’t help themselves but rub their eyes. They were baffled why the heck did the esquire ran and hugged the lady all of a sudden.
Now, this was awkward.
The carcass of the beast continued to twitch for a few moments. Then… then it was gone.
It was a false alarm. It was only death stiffness, a common occurrence in dead bodies during wars and subjugations. An event that causes the stiffening of the joints and muscles of a dead body a few hours after death.
The little lady was truly shocked by how fast things happened. The young lady flushed-red and released a loud yet delayed yelp. It sounded like a call for help. It attracted the attention of most of the villagers, attendants, and maids nearby.
Hearing the little lady's cute squeal, two little kids rapidly ran for a call of duty. They ran inside the house to get their weapons of choice. On the other hand, the village gossipers hidden on the corners rapidly formed a crowd on both sides of the house, as if they were trying to witness the creation of a new mythic story.
Seeing the intimate gesture, some of the villagers and attendants couldn't help themselves and whistle sweetly through the wind. They gave the esquire a thumbs up, acknowledging his very thick guts.
Upon the arrival of the two kids eyes went saucers. Their gaze shifted to the little lady, the dead boar, the esquire Davin... and of course the burly man standing like a hungry lion behind the two.
Hearing the whistles, the esquire was jolted awake. Carefully looking at the truly dead boar, he sighed in relief. His stiff nerves relaxing a bit. His alertness fading like the receding tide. He then carefully released his hold of the little lady.
“Are you alright my little lady?”
Feeling a little tipsy from shock, Ciera staggered and fell knee first. The lady even forgot to reply and could only sniff, signs of tears forming like dew in her eyes.
Seeing that the lady was fine, the esquire slowly turned around at the crowd. He decided to clearly explain what happened t-to t-the crow-d…
A few meters away from him, he saw a thick burly man sizing him up. His aura and vigor continuously slapping his face making it feel sour. It was the man he was seeking. All of a sudden, he felt like a little sheep in front of a monstrous beast. And this beast was very determined to tear him apart and eat his bones.
Feeling the danger, the esquire swerved his eyes around trying to find a viable escape route, the only possible key for a chance of survival. Looking behind, he saw two little kids carrying a wooden sword and a terrifying dagger.
Woah! Wait -wait ain't that the poisonous dagger that killed the Poison Wyvern in one hit during the campaign? Why is that with the kid?
Leaning his gaze towards both sides of the house, he could see a sea of villagers which the end he couldn't see. He was cornered by gossipers and rumor mongers. He would not be able to force his way out without injuring anybody.
Ah... the rooftop the esquire thought.
It was his last hope.
Steering his neck upward, the esquire tried to look for his escape route through the nearest rooftop.
Gently smiling, he saw the Madame standing there, steadily. In her hands were two well-designed cold sword hooks. Dammit! Why is the Madame standing there?!
He closed his eyes and quaffed like a real man.
He puffed out his seemingly deflating chest.
What run? This esquire is going to face this like a man.