An RPG detailing the aftermath of the events of PoP3 and the events before PoP4
 
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 [Story] Aftermath - Heroes of Pendor - Sir Jocelyn

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Azlanek
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PostSubject: [Story] Aftermath - Heroes of Pendor - Sir Jocelyn   Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:27 pm

Greetings fellow Pendorians,

After a good long while, I finally got around to finishing one of my many projects that was birthed during the high-time of the aftermath project. As the title says, it is about Sir Jocelyn, but a few of the other companions are in there as well. Taking place shortly before our "Power Struggle in the North" event, it is kind of a character study of Jocelyn as I envisioned him. Maybe a few of you will find the time to read it. I would love to hear your thoughts on it.


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PostSubject: Re: [Story] Aftermath - Heroes of Pendor - Sir Jocelyn   Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:32 pm

Aftermath - Heroes of Pendor - Sir Jocelyn





Night's Fading Shadows








Prologue









The three shadows moved through the night like ghosts. They were careful men, wary of the forest ground even with their eyes long adjusted to the dark and years of experience to fall back on. At every step, they probed the ground thoroughly for sticks and branches, before putting weight on the extended foot. It was an agonizingly slow process, but patience was key, and so they took their time, merging with the shadows of the forest in their dark garbs, their faces concealed and protected against the cold of the coming winter by deep-drawn hoods.


Beneath an overcast sky, the surrounding forest rose with black wooden pillars into the air, reaching out to form a canopy of claw-like, barren branches that ached hauntingly beneath the howling wind. Even during the day, the forest tended to be grim and forbidding this late in the year, gloomy and colourless save for the sickly browns and yellows of decomposing foliage. But now, with the sun set and not a shred of star- or moonlight reaching the ground, it was a nightmarish place, capable of sending a chill through the veins of even the bravest men. The darkness was near absolute, making it all but impossible to spot anything roaming between the trees, and yet the noise of something scurrying around or stirring up the bushes was a all too frequent companion. The three men were used to this though, and gave so sign of discomfort or fear. Padding the hilts and handles of the concealed weapons that they carried beneath their heavy cloaks, they were certain they were the meanest predator out here tonight.


It seemed to take forever, but eventually they spotted a soft glow in the distance; warm and comfy, the kind of glow only a campfire against a cold night was able conjure. After hours of crawling through the forest at a snail's pace, the three slavers were stiff and half-frozen, and two of them increased their pace as the prospect of a warming fire called out to them with an undeniable allure. They did not get far, though, for immediately an annoyed and violent hiss came from their leader, causing the two thugs to stop and fall back in line.


As they got closer, they saw that the campsite was on a small, secluded clearing. A single tent was staked into the ground, with meagre possessions scattered randomly around it. A horse was tethered nearby, in contrast to the rest of the camp recently groomed into shape and with a blanket over its back. In front of the fire itself, with its back to the approaching men, sat a single armoured figure, its cloak drawn tightly around its frame, and a sheathed sword leaning beside it at the fallen trunk that served for a bench.


The trio's leader  nodded gleefully at his companions, his scar-parted lips curled into an ugly smile beneath the rough fabric of his hood; Everything was just as their employer had said it would be.


When the foreign nobleman had first approached them in one of the shady taverns of the city, they had all been somewhat suspicious. Pickings had been rather slim for the Brotherhood since end of the war, and the sum the stranger had offered for the 'mere settling of a personal matter' had seemed too good to be true. But now, with their unsuspecting victim all but within their grasp, excitement for this fortunate turn of events was starting to spread among the three felons. Their generous benefactor had not considered it necessary to provide them with a name for the poor sod they were about to jump, but between the three of them, they were confident that they would be able to take him without much of a struggle, whoever he was. After all, for a knight to be hiding in a rotten, forsaken place such as this - how formidable could he really be?


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PostSubject: Re: [Story] Aftermath - Heroes of Pendor - Sir Jocelyn   Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:36 pm

Part I






By most standards, Sir Jocelyn of Pendor was among the most formidable warriors of the entire realm. As one of the legendary Four Knights that had helped the king in unifying the quarrelling parts of Pendor, his prowess and finesse were sung of throughout the land. He had crossed swords with the best and vilest that the lands had had to offer, had commanded forces ranging from scouting parties and militia troops to entire armies, and in the process of the war had won the love of a beautiful princess. In short, he was a hero, some would say one of the greatest of his age.


Yet, as he sat at his lonely camp-fire, right in the middle of nowhere, Jocelyn did not feel the least bit formidable or heroic. In fact, he felt utterly miserable, and knew he looked the part as well. His face was dirty, his long brown hair one untamed mess and his cheeks scratchy beneath a rioting beard that he could not bring himself to shave away. Dark circles framed his equally dark eyes, which sat dull and reddened within their sockets. It was a shameful state to be in, but in a way, also fitting.


Four days ago, Boadice had left him and departed for Sarleon. It had been after a huge fight, probably the biggest one that they ever had, but also a fight that had been long in the making and that had maybe been long overdue.


Boadice and Jocelyn had been in the countryside, hunting down bandits and keeping the king's peace until a messenger of the king had caught up to them, bearing news from the capital. Trouble was brewing in the north, the missive had said, and that it was suspected that Lady Ursula, by his majesty's grace governor of Ravenstern, was conspiring against the crown together with none other than the Queen of Veccavia.


Jocelyn had never seen Boadice more happy than when she had heard these news. In hindsight,  it should not have surprised him as much as it did. After all, Boadice was the rightful Queen of Veccavia and had harboured a deep grudge against the sister that deposed/dethroned her and vowing that she would take back what was hers long before Jocelyn had met ever met her.


He was not unsympathetic to her feeling this particular way. In fact, he probably understood it better than most: the desire for justice and for punishing those that had betrayed one's trust and love, but there was also a part of him that seemed determined to mirror Boadice's exultation with equal amounts of irritation and sorrow.


He had not shown it at first, had been uncertain of his feelings, confused, even ashamed, and Boadice had been so preoccupied with her overflowing joy and eagerness she had not noticed how her lover's demeanour had changed from one moment to the next. Even when he agreed to accompany her to Sarleon right away, she had not grown suspicious, which had only embittered Jocelyn further. After all this time that they were together, he would have liked to believe that she knew him better.


As the days passed, Jocelyn was growing more and more morose, just as Boadice's initial euphoria was slowly beginning to wane. It did not take much longer than that before Boadice noticed that something was wrong with him. He saw it in her eyes, the moment when the unuttered question and doubt crossed her mind for the first time, but she did not say anything, and it only served to  rekindled his fury. They talked little after that, and what conversations they had were dominated by an almost tangible sense of tension that soon turned into barely contained hostility.


That was until four days ago, when all their built-up discontent had been released in a storm-like tangle of arguing and blaming. Boadice snapped first. She had always lacked his patience and by extension his capabilities for gloating and sitting things out. She asked him what his problem had been this last couple of days, and when he replied both angry and helplessly what the problem could have possibly been, all barriers of restraint broke loose. Looking back, Jocelyn had trouble remembering who said what first. In his memory, it all seemed to happen at once.


Boadice accused him of being weak and a coward, of not wanting to help, of not wanting to see her happy and her throne restored. She said she was tired of putting up with his self-pity, of sleeping on the road like an outcast, of travelling around the land hunting vermin in order to keep some lice-ridden peasants safe, that he would abandon her now when she was needing him the most.


In return, he called her a cold, heartless witch that cared for nothing but revenge and power. He called her arrogant, selfish, obsessed and bloodthirsty. He told her that if his chosen life was so much beneath her, she should have stayed in that coastal palace near Javiksholm that king Mordred had awarded her, ordering slaves and servants around since that seems to be what she cared most about.


When all was over, it was a wonder it had not come to blows. Boadice, trembling with rage, had departed on the spot, without another look at him or a single word of goodbye. Jocelyn himself had been exhausted, physically and emotionally spent by the fight, and as he had looked at the love of his life departing, feeling only a gulping void of emptiness after venting his fury and frustration, he had fallen to his knees in despair, and wept as soon as Boadice was out of sight.


Since then he had barely moved a mile. He spent his days brooding and deep in thought, haunting the section of the forest like some tormented spirit chained to the place by fear and regret. Image was frighteningly apt in more than one way, for he indeed lacked the courage to go after her, desperately clinging on to the hope that she would come back to him, and not daring to imagine what would become of him if she did not. For the first time in more than a decade, Jocelyn felt truly alone.


Memories flashed by before his eyes, chaotically and completely unfiltered. He remembered the endless fighting of the war, all its victories and defeats, and random faces of fellow soldiers that were left behind on the battle-field, their names long lost to him. He also remembered the good times, the moments of companionship and friendship, the feasts and marriages and the many little wonders and acts of kindness he had been privileged to witness.


No matter what he saw, though, Boadice was always there. Even when he remembered the time that they had been separated — his break with Mordred and the events leading up to them rescuing Boadice from her Veccavian captors — the memory of how much he had missed her during those days was never far from his thoughts.


And now she was gone, and he was feeling her loss anew. His greatest regret was that he had realized only afterwards what he had truly been so upset about. It was so simple that it was almost ridiculous. He had been afraid of loosing her, nothing more, and he had seen it only when it was already too late. The irony of that did not escape him, although it would not have changed anything if he had realized it sooner. Nothing could change the fact that Boadice seemed determined to go back to Veccavia, and that this would have meant sooner or later that them being together could not last, for Jocelyn would not be able to follow her.


He knew in his heart that this was true. He had often tried to envision what his life on Veccavia would look like, but he could not. What would he do there, in a land where men were little more than slaves or breeding stock, mutilated simply to take away their dignity and make them more compliant? Was he supposed to just stand by and watch if it he had ever witnessed that vile custom? No, not for all the power and wealth of Veccavia, not for a kingship, not for anything; not even for love.


Not that it was likely that it would have ever come to this. Boadice would know better than to risk such incidents. She would find ways to isolate him from these events, try to keep him in line with pretty words and pleasurable distractions. He would be put in chains, invisible and golden, nothing more than a pet king in an alien country, maybe loved by the women, but only indulged by the queen. And for all his mistakes and shortcomings, he would not allow himself to be reduced to that. He would not sink that low. Boadice had to know that too.


He would have liked to see it as a betrayal; that Boadice was abandoning him, throwing away their life that they had built together on Pendor, only to pursue a decade-old feud with her sister. But even that little mercy was not granted him. He could not blame her. In truth, it was as much his fault as it was hers. She had made a simple choice, and he had made one in return. Neither of them meant that one wanted to abandon the other, at least not directly. It simply meant that there were things in life that they loved more than each other, that their love was not strong enough. That they would part.


Deep down, something in him broke in that moment. He could feel it clearly, as if a certain veil through which he had gazed upon life was torn away, only to reveal the real world to be a little less bright and colourful as the veil had made it seem.


He gazed up from the fire. He had no idea how much time had passed. All his muscles were tense and stiff, and he could feel the chilling coldness of drying tear-streaks on his face. He peered into the darkness around him, but his lined eyes, adjusted to the blaze, showed him nothing. He rolled his shoulders and flexed his arms, trying to get some feeling back into them and wrestling a series of squeaks from the joints of his armour. A deep sigh escaped his lips, before his eyes were drawn to the fire once more. Without a struggle, he succumbed to the mesmerizing dance of the flames again, willingly loosing himself in the sight.


The thoughts were just as dark as before. Jocelyn tried to break free of all the misery and self-pity that he had amassed, trying to think of something more joy- or hopeful, but sooner or later his concentration always slipped, and he slid back into the very pit he was trying to crawl out of. Every joyful thought he had inevitably led him back to his feelings of loss, and trying to draw on his life's victories and achievements achieved nothing but to remind him of the great failures of his life, and the sources of his sorrow.


Like the Knights of the Eventide, who had been his home and family before Jocelyn had learned the bitter truth about them. Like Mordred, the great king and once Jocelyn's friend and captain, who thought Jocelyn to be coward, and who - despite of knowing Jocelyn's story - had allowed the den of iniquity of Singal and the evil of the Eventide to remain in order to forge a tainted alliance and fill his war chest. And lastly like Roland, whom Jocelyn equally envied and admired, who was a paragon of humanity, a man Jocelyn considered to be nothing less than a brother, but who ultimately was also the man who had deprived Jocelyn of his faith. For it was through Roland and his visions that Jocelyn had learned of the divine will of Astraea, about her promise of forgiveness and salvation for the Knights of the Dawn. However, there seemed to be no destiny of redemption awaiting the Eventide, no hero destined to become their saviour, even though Jocelyn had prayed for this countless times, and was convinced that if he would have received a sign, and had it been ever so small, he would have taken up this cause, and seen it through to the end. But there had never been a sign, so he and his brethren were either beyond salvation, or had simply be forsaken by their Goddess. Either way, how could he still believe?


Bereft of everything he had ever cared for, he was as lost now as he had been after he had fled from his order, and without Boadice the terror that had gripped him in those days were returning as well. Already he could feel it stirring within him; a paranoia that had been born of a betrayal so fundamental and all-encompassing that it had almost driven Jocelyn into the arms of insanity. Before long, he would start suspecting any living soul of being secretly in league with the heretics again, constantly looking over his shoulder and still expecting for a dagger to plunge into his back at any given moment. A shiver ran down his spine, urging him to turn round and check, filling his head with images of shadows and raised daggers. But Jocelyn resisted the urge, at least this time. He knew his willpower would weaken eventually, and then fear would once more govern him, reducing him to a pitiful wretch jumping at his own shadow.


Why him? he wondered. Why had all this bad fortune had to be his? Was this supposed to be his destiny: To be a slave to his own cowardice when he could have easily been just as great as Roland or even Mordred himself, had he only been initiated into a different order or had found out about the Eventide's heresy differently? If only he had not been broken. He clenched his fists, trying to fight down the overwhelming sense of despair that was gripping him, until he could bear it no longer. He lunged to his feet, lungs heaving and his body trembling with impotent rage, ready to lash out at whatever scapegoat he could find. The fire of the blaze in front of him felt hot on his face, but by now it paled against the heat surging through his veins from within.


Tethered to the ground several yards to his right, his horse began to snort skittishly. For Jocelyn it was as good an excuse as any. His head whipped towards his mount like a sprung trap and with a devastating scowl he opened his mouth to unleash the furious torrent that had built up within him. And ... nothing. Silence. At the last moment, Jocelyn restraint himself. Something was not right, he thought sluggishly, his mind struggling to break through the rage-induced haze that clouded his thoughts. It took some effort, but then the mental fog was lifted, and the scales fell from his eyes. There was just no way that he was responsible for his horse's sudden nervousness, and if it was not him then - . Jocelyn darted around, just in time to glimpse at the three men that had silently appeared from the darkness, their sparsely lit faces bug-eyed and as surprised as he was. Then the first studded club flashed towards his face.


Driven by instinct, Jocelyn's reaction was fast, but not fast enough to avoid the descending blow completely. Shifting his weight and ducking his head to the right the club missed his unprotected head skull and crashed into his armoured shoulder. Jocelyn cried out, more in surprise than actual pain, and staggered away from his attacker, trying desperately to stay on his feet. The man rushed after him with gaping eyes, urged forward by the frantic shouts and curses of his comrades. Jocelyn's eyes darted toward his sword, still leaning against the tree-trunk where he had been seated.


With a high-pitched scream, the first thug came at him once more, but this time Jocelyn was ready for him. Finding his balance, he threw up his arm, blocking a sloppy strike that relied only on ferocity with his steel-encased forearm. In response his fist lashed out, and his gauntlet exploded against his assailant's chin, downing him with a muffled outcry and the sound of snapping teeth. Jocelyn wasted no time and lunged back to his seat, recovering his sword. The blade slid from its sheath with a clear, metallic sound that reverberated from the surrounding trees, and the steel glittered in the firelight as if freshly pulled from the heat of the forge. Jocelyn whipped it around his body a few times, just for good measure, before easing into his combat stance, gripping the sword with both hands.


The two men still standing seemed to reconsider their course of action as they saw the blade in Jocelyn's hand, their eyes switching back and forth between the glowing steel and their felled comrade.


"Told you that it sounded too good to be true," said the one to the other.


"Just shut up! Let's gut this whoreson and be done with it."


So it was an ordered attack, Jocelyn deduced, even as the would-be assassin's drew long, wicked daggers to accompany their crude maces. Jocelyn steered away from the fire as the two killers moved to surround him. But why? Why now? Were these thugs hired by the heretics? Or the Eventide? Jocelyn sighed. In the end it made no difference.


Just before the two thugs were able to sling themselves at him, they were stopped by the pain-warped voice of their third comrade, who struggled to his feet and stared at Jocelyn with murderous eyes. The man hawked and spat red to the ground, wiping the remaining traces of blood away with the hem of his shirt. Jocelyn cursed under his breath. Between his own skills and the protection his armour offered, he had been fairly confident of being able to handle two poorly equipped bandits on his own. Three men complicated the matter, especially when one hit to his unprotected head could very well be his end. For a second he considered a surprise attack, but he dismissed the notion just as quickly. If the was to die, he would do so with a shred of dignity intact.


The third thug took a bold step forward, trying himself at a menacing growl that was cut short when he flinched in pain. His two comrades laughed at that, drawing a devastating glare from their wounded friend. It did little to quell their amusement.


"You actually look better for it," remarked one of the scoundrels, he himself no pretty sight with a face littered with pockmarks. "Maybe you should thank our pretty boy here."


"Oh, I will thank him all right," Smashed-face replied, playing with his freshly drawn dagger. "I will take extra good care of him, you'll see."


The men advanced together, but Jocelyn surprised them with a reckless counter-charge. Hammering into them, he lashed out against the first, fainting a high slash but pulling through with a gruesome swing that all but disembowelled his enemy. As the man went down with inhuman screams, Jocelyn darted around, bringing up his sword just in time to parry a blow aimed at his head. He swayed backwards, away from a flashing knife, parrying the second mace. The outlaws darted after him, covering him with a flurry of blows that forced him backwards through sheer ferocity. Jocelyn was forced to divert all his attention to dodging and parrying just to stay alive, but he fought on grimly, knowing that this pace was impossible to maintain.


The first signs of exhaustion appeared soon. The attacks slowed down, and although the constant attacks had tired Jocelyn out as well, he exploited the opening immediately. His sword flashed in a glittering arc to whiplash aside another blow, and suddenly Jocelyn lunged forward, and lanced his sword through the guildman's exposed chest. The Thug looked at the blade for a moment, blood bubbling forth from his mouth and his eyes slowly glazing over, before Jocelyn jumped back, and the body tipped over, collapsing to the ground, never to rise again.



Having just witnessed the death of his two allies, Smashed-face began to scream frantically, eyes mad as he continued to come at Jocelyn, fear and panic providing him with the strength to force Jocelyn on the defensive once more. But Jocelyn was in control, and he was no longer fighting for his life. Instead, he was merely bidding his time, waiting for the right opportunity to present itself. When it finally came, the riposte that ripped through the thug's throat was so sudden and quick that  shock and surprise stood plainly written on the guildsman's features. There was no scream this time. The sounds of battle just died, followed by thud as the last corpse pitched to the ground.


Last edited by Azlanek on Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:51 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: [Story] Aftermath - Heroes of Pendor - Sir Jocelyn   Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:45 pm

Part II





With the tension slowly flowing out of him, Jocelyn took a step back to gaze at his handiwork. Two of the kills had been quick and relatively clean, but his first victim was still alive, trying desperately to stem the tide of blood and guts that spilled forth from his belly. The agonizing screams had faded by now, replaced by a pitiful whimpering and yelping. Jocelyn took a remorseful look at the injury. There was nothing he could do. With a sigh, he raised his sword once more and brought it down on the man, putting him out of his misery. The ensuing silence washed over Jocelyn like a comforting gush of water. He closed his eyes, and savoured it.


Unfortunately, it lasted only for a second.


The applause of a single pair of hands rose into the night, slow and steady and utterly insincere and mocking in its rhythm. With it, a rider emerged from the darkness of the forest, directing his horse effortlessly with his knees while clapping freely with his hands. Horse and rider were covered in black cloth and steel plates, the cruel design and sharp edges of the metalwork all too familiar to Jocelyn. The riders hair was blonde, flowing around his devilishly handsome face in a thick mane, and a wicked grin spread over his face beneath a wide moustache.


Jocelyn stared at the rider in shock, and the name rose from the very depths of all that he despised and loathed.


"Alistair."


Alistair's smile widened but he did not reply, proceeding further until he was merely ten feet away from Jocelyn. There, he stopped and allowed his applause to subside. Exhaling heavily, he leaned forward over the pommel of his saddle.


"It has been a while, has it not, Jocelyn? I must say, you had me worried there for a second. Three peasant thugs, and they almost got the better of you. Our old instructors would turn in their graves, if they knew."


Jocelyn gritted his teeth. The very sound of Alistair's voice triggered memories that sent shudders of disgust down his spine.


"I think they would turn if they knew that they taught monsters like you how to kill."


"Oh please," Alistair answered, laughing. "At least half of our instructors were in on our orders little secret, probably more. If I remember correctly, especially one of your favourites during the time. Great actor, really. Remind me, what was his name?"


''What do you want, Alistair?'' Jocelyn countered icily. ''Why have you sent these men after me?"


Alistair merely glanced at the three maimed bodies and shrugged. "A little mild entertainment, I suppose. Plus, it allowed me to make a more dramatic entrance. I think this special occasion deserved as much, wouldn't you agree?"


"No, I would not."


"Now, don't feel bad about this sorry lot. They were only peasants, after all. And not to be blunt, but you all but slaughtered the men barely a few moments ago. I think the time for regret has passed, even for you."


Jocelyn's voice was tomb-deep as he answered. "I fought them only because you hired them to kill me!"


"Not true," chided Alistair. "I hired them solely to give you a good beating, nothing more. Then again, I might have left out who you were and pretty much expected things to go this way, so in a sense you are not completely wrong either."


"Well, I am done playing your sick games, Alistair. So the order has finally come to silence me? Fine. Draw your sword and let's be done with it."


Alistair made no move to comply with Jocelyn's request. Instead he chuckled. "I am in no hurry. In fact, I want to savour this moment. And you are wrong. The order did not sent me. In fact, the order has stopped caring about you a long time ago."


Jocelyn blinked. Stopped caring about him? Could it be true? It did not make any sense. The Eventide would never let him go, not when he still knew the secret that could spell the order's doom. Alistair was lying. He had to.


"Just think about," said Alistair, sensing Jocelyn's doubt. "It's not like you are a threat. Certainly, you are a great hero now, but your king had his chance to listen to you and destroy the order. But he didn't back then, and since you two are not exactly on talking terms ever since, the general consensus is that King Mordred has no interest in wasting the time and resources that it would cost him to be rid of the order. So, you see, killing you would not serve any purpose. You tried to expose the order and you failed miserably at that. On the other hand, the king is still said to be somewhat fond of you, so hearing about your untimely demise might actually spur him to take action against the order contrary to his previously sublime reasoning."


Alistair's words found their mark, hitting Jocelyn like a thunderbolt and showering him with a torrent of needle-like questions.  Had he truly grown too insignificant for the order to care? Had he failed? He knew he had in a way, but this? It could still be a rouse, a cautionary voice in the back of his head objected, some sadistic game that Alistair was playing to torture and torment him. Just because he could not come up with a plausible reason for such actions, that did not mean that it could not make sense to the twisted, sick mind of a fiend like Alistair.


"Why are you here, then?"


Alistair gave him another flash of his smile. "As a matter of fact, I am kind of following in your footsteps. You see, I too am leaving the order, as well as saying goodbye to this sorry excuse of a kingdom. But before I leave, I intend to settle my affairs, and after having hunted you for so many years, I felt obliged to finish our little feud before taking my leave."


Alistair swung himself from his mount, completely ignoring the apparent weight of his platemail. Casually his hand reached for his sword, and with a long, scratching shriek, the blade slid free of its scabbard.


"It has been a while since the two of us crossed blades, hasn't it? I always rather enjoyed our little bouts; your constant eagerness to prove that you could beat me fairly was very entertaining. You did never manage, of course, but that did not keep you from trying all the harder the next day.'' Alistair stared at his blade as he spoke, and his eyes took on a mad sheen that combined with the light from the fire's blaze transformed his face into a demonic grimace. Slowly, he turned back towards Jocelyn, eyeing him with cruel anticipation.


"So how about it, Jocelyn?" he asked, saluting with his blade. "Think you can beat me now?"


It was as if cold fingers clawed their way into Jocelyn's back. A shudder ran down his spine, and tight dryness clogged his throat. This was what he had ran away from for more than ten years, and the accumulated dread lay on him with the weight of an avalanche. Yet there was nowhere to run. He did not have any other choice but to fight, and so fight he would. One way or another, it would end here.


Then, the strangest thing occurred. Suddenly the oppressive weight on his chest was gone, vanished like a bad dream. His racing mind began to settle and focus, taking in his opponent’s stance and comparing it to his memories of Alistair's fighting style. His limbs no longer felt shaky, and Jocelyn took in a long and relaxed breath as the fear flowed from him like wine from an unstopped bottle. He was still trapped and about to fight a terrifying enemy, but for the first time since he had run away from the order, Jocelyn felt free. A great emptiness yawned within him where previously the place had been filled with fears and concerns, and as Jocelyn stared in wonder at Alistair with fresh eyes, he could feel how this emptiness slowly filled with something else: Anger.


Alistair's smug smile died on his lips.


Jocelyn lashed out, driven by cold, controlled fury, swinging his sword in one deadly arc after another. Alistair, taken by surprise, was hard-pressed to defend himself, parrying desperately as he tried to escape out of reach. Jocelyn would have none of it, surging after his former brother and raining blow after blow on him.


"By the Goddess, Jocelyn!" Alistair shouted over the clash of their blades. "I didn't know you still had it in you!"


Jocelyn did not reply. Feinting a rising slash from the right, he sent a blow towards Alistair's unprotected head, but Alistair's sword rose and whiplashed his aside. In turn, Alistair now jumped forward, aiming a thrust as Jocelyn's face. Jocelyn swayed aside and struck again, but Alistair parried the blow effortlessly. Jocelyn remained on the offensive, showering his opponent with increasingly quick and impressive combinations, while Alistair feinted a certain passiveness, seemingly content with focusing on his defence only to lash out with wickedly quick ripostes that Jocelyn found increasingly hard to deflect.


Soon, both combatants were breathing hard, exhausted by the pace of their fighting and the weight of their armour. As if in silent agreement, the fighting ceased abruptly from one moment to the next, and the two knights stepped back, watching each other warily while they tried to catch their breath.


"Feeling better?" Alistair asked over a breathless chuckle. "You should not have left. With a fighting spirit like this, you might have actually saved a couple of your former friends from being cut to pieces in our cause."


"Your cause, not mine, and not theirs had they known what I do! Don't you dare try and pin their deaths on me. You and the rest of the order used them as tools, nothing more. If they died, then because of your depravity and greed!"


"Seeing everything in black and white must be awfully convenient for you. So you say the order is responsible for their deaths? Too bad there was no one who knew the truth, who could have told them about your so-called depravity and who could have saved them from laying down their sorry lives in service of those they thought they were fighting against. Oh, wait, there was somebody. You! But you did nothing.''


"There was nothing I could have done," Jocelyn replied, as much to himself as to Alistair. "They would not have believed me anyway. They would have insisted that I misheard or misunderstood what I saw, and I would have vanished before I had the chance to convince them."


Alistair shrugged. "That's what you tell yourself, but do you know? Have you tried? Oh, it was truly heartbreaking after you left. All those young knights and squires, trying to come up with a reason why you deserted them, trying to keep faith in you, that you would eventually return and explain your actions. Only you never came."


Jocelyn's hands clenched trembling around the hilt of his weapon. "How was I supposed to go back, you bloody bastard!? I was trying to get away and stay alive; because people like you were sent after me. You and the order ruined my life! You are monsters, killing innocents to appease your unholy patrons. And now you are telling me I should feel guilty? If you believe I am going to fall for this, you are insane."


"You always were such a melodramatic," said Alistair. "I am not trying to tell you anything, even though it is fun to poke holes into that frail countenance of yours. What I am trying to do, my narrow-minded friend, is to show you that your world view of black and white limits your potential."


"If by potential you mean becoming more like you, then I'll pass. I would rather die than to become a heretic like you."


Alistair smiled. "I know, and that is the true tragedy of your boring life."


Jocelyn snarled and threw himself at Alistair again, battering away at the defence the black-clad knight mustered. As before, Alistair soon retreated before the onslaught, but his smile never disappeared.


"The tragedy of my life,"Jocelyn screamed between strikes, "is that I dedicated my entire youth to a cause so rotten that it poisoned me forever!"


Attack after attack bounced off Alistair's blade, and Jocelyn worked himself into a true fury in his efforts to find an opening. Just when he started to become reckless and to neglect his own defence, Alistair struck back. He parried another cut that aimed to tear out his throat, and as Jocelyn reached back for his next strike, Alistair lashed out on his own. The first strike hammered against Jocelyn's breastplate. The blade was unable to penetrate the armour, but the impact broke Jocelyn's balance and sent him reeling backwards. Alistair surged after him and followed up on his first strike, showering Jocelyn with a torrent of blows that made it impossible for his enemy to regain his balance. Jocelyn struggled desperately to defend himself, but after the fifth attack, his blade was whipped aside, and Alistair's iron-clad foot connected with his stomach, sending him crashing to the ground. He landed hard, the impact driving what little air he had left from his lungs and stunning him for a moment. Nevertheless, he fought on, trying to keep Alistair at bay with a series of blind sweeps and slashes. But he hit nothing, and surged to his feet unopposed.


Alistair had not moved. He still stood where his kick had sent Jocelyn flying, his smile now more smug and arrogant than ever.


"You whine an awful lot, do you know that?'' he asked. ''It is quite an irritating habit, really. Have you ever considered it might be time you grew a spine?'' When Jocelyn did not answer, Alisterchuckled, and continued. ''All right, tough question, I'll admit. Let's start with something easier. Do you remember Sir Roberto, Jocelyn? How the old whoreson always said that there were three kind of persons in his world?"


The question took Jocelyn by surprise. Sir Roberto had been one of the senior knights during the time when Alistair and Jocelyn had been squires. A hard and unyielding man, Sir Roberto had possessed simple and yet iron philosophies on many of life's challenges. One of them had been the notion that there were basically three kinds of people you'd encounter in this life: winners, loosers, and fighters. Jocelyn had no idea though why Alistair was bringing this up now.


"I do," he said reluctantly. "What of it?"


"Now, I think we both know that you are not exactly the winning type, and I don't expect you to start now, but I believe when you stopped feeling sorry about yourself, you might at least develop fighter qualities, and that would be a big improvement for all people involved."


A fighter? Jocelyn wondered. He remembered Sir Roberto's words well. A fighter is a person who gets back up, no matter what life throws at him. He might struggle, and he might fail, but ultimately life will not be able to break him, and so he will emerge victorious, able to stand tall and proud in the eyes of the gods. Jocelyn was not sure whether it was always as easy as that. He had seen many people reach their breaking point, and usually it had not caused him to regard them as weak. Everybody had his limits of what he was able to endure, and as far as Jocelyn was concerned, there was no shame in that.


Still, the words of his former mentor struck a chord within him. Surely Sir Roberto would not have regarded him as a looser? He had endured, had he not? He had fought, and he had become a hero. Given the circumstances, surely that was more than most people achieved in their lives, and not the acts of a looser.


With his attention divided between his inner turmoil and keeping a wary eye on his opponent, Jocelyn almost would have missed the sound of approaching hoofbeats. But the sound pulled him out of his reverie, and glancing into the direction from which it came, Jocelyn spotted the faint sheen of a single torch-light moving between the trees. His gaze darted towards Alistair, but  Alistair looked as surprised as he did. Obviously whoever was coming was not part of Alistair's plan, but Alistair did not seem terrible concerned either, and his face settled quickly back into the sardonic smile that was so typical for him.


The lone rider steered his horse with a certain sense of urgency through the forest, certainly faster than wisdom would dictate when travelling through a densely wooded area at night, where one wrong step in the firelight might result in a crippling injury. Probably he had been attracted by the sounds of their fighting, Jocelyn thought, glancing once more at Alistair. Together they watched as the rider came closer, until finally they were able to see him clearly within the glow of his torch. Jocelyn's eyes widened in shock as he realized whom he was looking at. Tears rose to his eyes, but Jocelyn desperately blinked them away, as if afraid that should his vision blur, the truth of what he saw would somehow disappear. As it turned out,  it was not a he at all. The rider was a woman, and not just any woman at that: It was Boadice.


The princess of Veccavia wasted no time. As soon as she beheld Alistair and Jocelyn locked in combat on the clearing, she drew her own blade, her delicate face ablaze with hate and battle-lust, and with a high-pitched war cry, she urged her stallion into a charge. The horse whinnied and  reared, its flailing hooves tossing churned chunks of earth into the air. Then it leapt forward, and Boadice began to thunder towards Alistair, her sword raised and ready to take his head.


She never reached him.


Halfway towards Alistair, a shadowy figure leapt into Boadice's path, readying a long spear against the incoming charge. The ambush's distance and timing was well-placed, and Boadice was left with no time to react, certainly too little to avert the disaster. Her horse hit the spear at full speed, impaling itself on it as a good third of the weapon's length buried itself in the steed's powerful chest before the momentum of its charge and weight snapped the shaft. Mortally wounded, the horse whickered frantically and collapsed, toppling over and almost crushing first its slayer and then its rider within its death throes. Both combatants barely managed to jump clear, and Boadice hit the ground hard as she leapt to safety, her own momentum causing her to bounce off and spin onwards, throwing decaying leaves and sticks into the air before finally coming to a halt. She made no effort to rise. Meanwhile, her attacker recovered, and moved purposefully towards her, blade drawn.


"No!" Jocelyn screamed, immediately rushing towards her, but steel flashed through the air before him, forcing him backwards.


"Ah, ah, ah," Alistair chided, wiggling his finger as he moved into Jocelyn's path. "As you can see, my friend, you are not the only one who found himself a special someone during the war. May I introduce you to my lady Alyssa?"


Alistair wanted to go on, but Jocelyn was not listening, nor paying any mind to Alistair's woman. He surged forward and attacked, swinging his blade into Alistiar's parade only so he could slip by and reach Boadice, but Alistair anticipated his attentions and followed his every move, keeping his way barred.


"Listen, Jocelyn!" he barked. "We did not come here to hurt your little princess. She got hurt because she wanted to interfere with our little contest, and I couldn't have that, so I brought my own princess as insurance."


"Sshe iss sstill breathing," hissed Alistair's companion, leaning over Boadice's motionless form. The distinctive Snake Cult accent in her voice did not escape Jocelyn. He was glad to hear that Boadice was still alive, even though he did not trust the word of this Alyssa any more than that of Alistair, and seeing this vile woman breathing down the neck of the woman he loved made him shudder with disgust. His eyes turned back to Alistair.


"I swear to you, if you do anything to her – "


Alistair shook his head, disappointed. "Have you not listened to what I just said? I don't care about your Veccavian whore. Of course, the best way to ensure her safety would be for you to beat me, and rather quickly I suggest. It is rather hard to judge what kind of injuries she might have suffered during the fall, and to be frank, our little reunion has been somewhat of a disappointment until now. Maybe you're right, Jocelyn. We could use another source of entertainment on our journey of this rotten island. Just imagine all the things we could do to her.''


Jocelyn did. Part of him was well aware that this was again only a ruse of Alistair, a way to get him angry and mad, but at this point that knowledge alone was nowhere near enough to keep his emotions in check. He trembled with rage, desperately trying to stay calm.


Maybe it was a rouse, he thought, but that did not change the fact that Alistair and his woman were very much capable of any kind of cruelty, probably way beyond the scope of what Jocelyn could imagine. He glanced at Boadice's motionless form. She had come for him. Whatever had happened in Sarleon, she had found the time to head out and look for him, and she would not have done that without the intention to fix what was broken between them. Everything could have been right again, and now Alistair was responsible for ruining that, in addition to all the other atrocities he had committed. It did not suffice that he and his wretched ilk had destroyed his life and mocked everything that Jocelyn had ever believed in. Alistair had come to haunt him again, and in the process had injured the woman that Jocelyn loved with all his heart, and threatened her with torture.


Enough was enough.


With searing retribution surging through his veins, Jocelyn attacked. This time,  Alistair met him head-on. Both reached back and struck with all the strength they could muster, and the blades clashed with a high-pitched and resounding clank. Unwilling to back away, they locked their blades, both trying to overpower their opponent with all the strength they had left in them. Their arms  began to tremble under the strain and sweat beaded freely from their foreheads as they pitted themselves against each other, neither willing to back down, and ultimately evenly matched.  Alistair was the first to realize this. He gave in suddenly and swayed aside, sending a sweeping slash towards Jocelyn's neck, but the blade hissed over Jocelyn as the knight ducked and stormed forward, carried by the momentum of the freshly dissolved struggle. Alistair surged after him and stuck again. Jocelyn parried midturn and countered, sending a quick combination of overhead-cuts at Alistair, that bought him the time he needed to recover.


Alistair switched tactics. Despite the knowledge that his sword would prove all but useless against hardened steel plates, Alistair began to batter away at Jocelyn's armour, landing two solid blows before Jocelyn was able to adapt. When Jocelyn did, Alistair switched yet again, and his blade came lunging at Jocelyn's throat, but Jocelyn's own blade was ready and turned it aside. Repaying Alistair, Jocelyn connected with a powerful blow to Alistair's rip-section that caused Alistair to retreat out of range.


Glancing down to where the blow had hit him, Alistair laughed. "That's the spirit!" he cried.


Jocelyn did not reply. The time for talking was over. All he could see was all the world's wickedness glaring at him from Alistair's face; everything that had ever damaged or grieved him, and his only intend, his entire purpose in this moment, was to snuff it all out. Despite his onsetting weariness, Jocelyn's attacks increased in speed. The brief pauses between each clash of swords grew shorter and shorter, until the metallic clinks were almost inseparable. Jocelyn and Alistair were in constant motion now, circling, swaying and striking, parrying and dodging, lounging and retreating. Their blades clanged and clashed, screamed and whistled by, cut through air or smashed against armour plates, always searching for the opportunity to finally plunge into soft flesh. Whenever an opening presented itself, they lashed out with whatever limb or item they could come up with to attack, throwing punches, elbows and kicks at every convenience and striking with pommel and crossguard of their swords. Soon, they were both bleeding; Jocelyn from a vicious cut that had almost taken an eye and Alistair from a bruised and torn cheek where Jocelyn's gauntlet had hammered into his face. Yet still the two seemed evenly matched, their weapons and armour glistening in the slowly dying blaze of Jocelyn's fire, sweat and blood gleaming on their faces: Jocelyn's grim, Alistair's alight with sadistic enjoyment of the fight.


Once more they came at each other. Alistair's sword cut through the air like lightning. Jocelyn caught it with his own, battering it aside and following through into a return strike that was likewise turned aside by an equally flawless manoeuvre. At the side-lines, the Snake Priestess Alyssa was so mesmerized by the display of swordsmanship that she did not even notice how Boadice stirred briefly on the ground beside her.


The inevitable pinnacle of the duel arrived soon. Jocelyn whiplashed Alistair's sword aside and charged at him with a shoulder thrust that sent Alistair reeling backwards. Jocelyn surged after him, only to leap back the next second, escaping a slash that would have opened his throat by a hairsbreadth. In the brief respite that followed, as each warrior desperately tried to catch his breath, the two's eyes met, and as if a voice was whispering the truth into their ears, they suddenly knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that their next clash would be the last one.


Time seemed to slow down as the former brothers gathered their last bit of strength and charged at one another for the final time. Long, powerful strides carried them at a snail's pace towards each other. They churned up the ground as they ran, their cloaks billowing like wavering mist behind them, and floating pieces of wood and dead leaves trailing in their wake. Their swords reached back, glowing in the faint firelight like weapons of baleful enchantment, and then, with the fateful sluggishness of moments in which even the gods held their breath, they stuck. Time froze, and the doom-spelling cold clank of clashing metal rose and rang throughout the clearing and beyond, filling the emptiness between the trees with haunting echoes that slowly faded into the distance.


Jocelyn did not breath. He did not know how. His mind was blank and strangely detached, thinking of nothing, only waiting for the seconds to pass, sensing that something important was about to happen. His body felt numb and told him nothing. He was aware only of Alistair standing right next to him, so close they were almost touching.


His senses returned only slowly. Jocelyn thought that he had hit Alistair. In fact, he was certain of it. Soon, Alistair was bound to fall, Jocelyn thought, and then his redemption would finally be upon him. After that, he would deal with Alyssa, and take Boadice far away from all of this. All would be well again. He knew it would be. She had come back for him, had she not? Now it was his turn to do right by her. And he would. He would.


He did not notice when the groan was wrestled from his lips, nor did he register the pain that flared up in his body. Even as he began to pitch towards the ground, he was still waiting eagerly for Alistair to start falling. As darkness finally overtook him, his last thoughts were with Boadice, and how much he loved her.



Last edited by Azlanek on Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:51 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: [Story] Aftermath - Heroes of Pendor - Sir Jocelyn   Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:47 pm

Part III




He was not dead. The realisation came slowly, bits and pieces of the thought joining together through a fog of throbbing pain, confusion and nausea. Jocelyn blinked and groaned involuntarily. He was still in the forest, lying on the same ground where Alistair and he had fought. It was still night, and judging by the glow of his campfire, he could not have lost consciousness for long.


Boadice!


Jocelyn surged up, eyes widened with panic, and his heart beating like a frantic drum in his chest. A sigh of relief escaped him when he beheld Boadice still lying on the ground, followed by the sickening urge to vomit that Jocelyn was too weak to fight down.


By the time he was done and the retching of his throat subsided, all traces of his relief had dispersed as well, replaced with the tormenting question if her fall had been more serious than he had hoped. She should have come to by now, he decided. The looming cold of dread began to prick him with icy fingers. He would have liked nothing better than to speed to Boadice's side, but, as he realized, they were still not alone on the clearing. Alistair was still there, sitting nearby at Jocelyn's camp, a fiendishly smug grin on his face and the woman Alyssa close by at his side.


Jocelyn struggled to rise. He managed to get his knees under him and shook his head in an attempt to get rid of the dizziness that was threatening to engulf him. The world was spinning, and if anything the deafening throbbing from the side of his head only worsened. Nevertheless, Jocelyn hauled himself upwards, or at least he tried. He somehow managed, at least for a moment, balancing his weight on trembling legs, but then his limbs buckled and collapsed under him and he fell prone, groaning. He could hear muffled laughter in the distance, and then Alistair's voice talked to him, faint as if Alistair was talking to him through a wall of solid stone.


"Easy, Jocelyn. I would take my time if I were you. You just took a rather serious blow to the head. Masterfully executed, if I may say so. You really shouldn't be walking right now. Otherwise there would be little sense in me not killing you."


The taste of bile still lay bitter in Jocelyn's mouth. His tongue felt numb and out of place, yet somehow he managed to force a crude "why?" over his lips. Alistair stepped into his field of vision, dark and tall and like a giant, leaning onto his sword that he plunged into the soil mere inches away from Jocelyn's head. His tone was almost sympathetic as he replied.


"You really do not know the first thing about torture, do you?" He shook his head. "Let me give you a little introduction, then. The art of torture is about prolonging and sustaining pain and misery, and in your case, Jocelyn, I realized that death in many ways would account to being a kindness to you. You are one of the most miserable persons I have ever met, and to have beaten you, but allowing you to live on at my mercy is a slight I imagine will be almost impossible for you to bear. So how could I have killed you, when letting you live will give me pleasure for years and years to come."


Jocelyn just stared at Alistair, eyes glazed and his foggy mind barely able to comprehend what had just been said. He was tired, so very tired, and fighting the urge to close his eyes was about all he was able to concentrate on. Alistair reached for him, patting him gently on the cheek. The rough fabric of his gloves felt weird against Jocelyn's face, and the smell of old leather was painfully intense and disgusting.


"I hereby consider our affairs concluded," Alistair said. "I doubt we will see each other ever again, but who knows? Give my regards to your princess and the king, and farewell.''


Alistair disappeared from Jocelyn's sight, and Jocelyn lacked the will to move his head and follow his departure. He could hear a bit of ruffling and shuffling as the pair readied their horses, followed by the soft trodding of hooves on mud when they left. Soon the sound faded into nothingness. They were alone.


Jocelyn did not move. For over a minute, he just lay there. Slowly things were beginning to fall into place. Memories and an awareness for where he was and why were coming back to him, and as they did, so too did an understanding of Alistair's last words, and they hit Jocelyn harder than the would have ever admitted, resonating with the core of doubt that he was carrying inside of him. Was Alistair right? he wondered. Was his life such a mess that letting him live was a crueller fate than to kill him? Was he really that broken? Tears welled up in his eyes.


He had lost. Despite everything he had tried, despite how hard he had fought and struggled, he had still lost. A shroud of suffocating despair wrapped itself around him, crushing down upon his chest. He felt worthless, powerless, like a leaking ship within an endless sea of storms; always trying to find its way to a safe harbour, but ultimately never able to escape the murky waters and doomed to fail. What had it all been for? Would he leave anything behind, anything of worth? Had all the suffering and betrayal he had been forced to endure yielded anything good in return, anything at all? Where was the justice in all of this? he asked.


Nowhere, came the voice of his own thoughts, bitter and hostile. There was no justice in this world. Even the church of Astraea taught that the Goddess had forsaken the world, leaving it to men to bring about the paradise she envisioned. If that was true, Astraea was a fool. Jocelyn flinched immediately at the thought, chiding himself for thinking something his former self would have considered blasphemy of the most inexcusable kind. It did not make it less true, though. Left to themselves, all that mankind was able to create was a world such as they lived in now, flawed and cruel. The tears were running freely now, dripping from Jocelyn's eyes in a futile effort to drain the soul of the hopelessness that it was drowning in.


Jocelyn was stuck, starring at the night-sky, caught in cycles of gloomy thoughts that seamlessly guided him from one heart-wrenching revelation to the next. He tried to stop it, to force himself to think of something else and get up, but an invisible barrier had risen between his thoughts and actions, and while he could ponder on getting up or pushing past his dark thoughts, his intentions were strangely disconnected from the rest of him, and he found himself unable to make his body obey him.


Shreds of haunting realizations and memories flashed by him, tormenting him with feelings of guilt and worthlessness, until Jocelyn stumbled over something Alistair had said during their fight. In his mind, Jocelyn trailed back, until he stood once more in the sunscorched training yard of the Eventide, back in Barclay, staring at the towering figure of Sir Roberto.


"Life is hard," echoed the memory, "and we are just men. Sooner or later, life will throw you into the mud, make no mistake boys. But it doesn't matter. Some blessed few seem to be born lucky, and to those bastards everything comes easy. Good for them, I say, but what are their achievements really worth? Everyone can do what comes easy to him, and so there is little value in these actions. But to work hard, to strain and toil, and still to fail, but to get up and keep going, because it is good and necessary and worthwhile, even though it does not come easy to you; that is true determination, and more often than not, it is these people, those stand up when thrown down, that truly end up making a difference in our world. You all will have to decide every day what kind of person you want to be, and I pray that you will make the right choice."


Back in the day, Jocelyn and his friends had not really understood what Sir Roberto had tried to teach them. Young, promising proud men, they all had grown up constantly assured that they were winners, and none of them had allowed themselves to doubt this fact that had been bred into them. But now, lying beaten and broken in the mud of some unnamed forest, Jocelyn was finally able to comprehend what his instructor's words had meant. Alistair had been right: Jocelyn was no winner. He was not blessed by fate, and rarely in life had anything he had done come easy to him, and he was not ashamed of it. He also realized something else, and thinking about Sir Roberto, this was much worse: He was no fighter, either.


Sure, Jocelyn had spend almost his entire life bearing arms and fighting on various battlefields, but this was not what being a fighter meant. It was about not giving up, about shrugging off whatever life was able to throw at you, to get up and keep going without complaint or blame. In this, Jocelyn had failed miserably. He had thought himself to be a winner, a knight destined for glory and greatness, but when the world had turned against him and thrown him in the mud, he had not been able to accept it. Instead, he had wailed and complained like an insolent child, cursing the world and the gods and feeling sorry for himself. It mattered not whether it was the betrayal of his order, his break with Mordred, his envy of Roland, or even his fight with Boadice: Always he had found a way to out the blame on someone else, bitter and disappointed that they messed up his imagined destiny of being a hero, and through this blame he had given away all of his power.


In that moment, Jocelyn made a choice. It was a simple one, not easily kept, but one that would change his life: No more.


No more would he avoid taking responsibility for himself and his life, with all of its dents and flaws. No longer would he skulk at the failures and disappointments of the past, no matter how cruel or unjust they might have been. He had lost so much already, he realized. At the very least, he would claim what was left of his future, and not complain. Despite the misery he could still feel, the thought tasted sweet. Like freedom.


Out of nowhere, Boadice's face appeared above him. He had not heard her coming. Her hair was ruffled up and stood in all directions, and her face was streaked with dirt and a bruises. She looked at him with a rare mixture of concern and pity, and the first one gladdened him almost as much as the second one stung. Even though it was hard, Jocelyn held on to his new-found self-determination and pushed his pain aside, smiling as best he could at Boadice.


"You came back for me, he croaked, coughing briefly as he forced his tender throat into action.


Boadice knelt beside him, coming close. "Of course I did, you fool." Her voice was nothing but a hoarse whisper, but she smiled as well. "And as always, you bring me nothing but grief."


"Sorry." He reached out, touching her soft face through his gloves. Then he sighed. "I am sorry about before."


"Shush up," Boadice blurted, blinking away the onset of tears. "You are injured. We don't have to talk about that now."


But Jocelyn was adamant. "Yes, we do. Please, it is important. We have not talked about it for too long, and it was not talking that brought us to where we are now. We need to do this."


The words hung heavy in the air, and they both fell silent, sharing a long, tense look of unwilling anticipation. It took a while for Jocelyn to find the strength to move on.


"So, are you still determined to reclaim your throne?"


Boadice did not respond right away. She hesitated, averted her eyes and shifted around. Jocelyn had no intention of tormenting her, but It still meant much to him to see her like this. It showed him that she cared. Ultimately though, they both knew what the answer would be.


Boadice swallowed hard and looked at him. "Yes, I do. I am sorry, Joce, but that is who I am."


A sad smile appeared on Jocelyn's face. He caressed her cheek with his thumb. "I know,'' he whispered. ''And I love you, because of that and for everything that you are. I want for you to be able to return home, but I am afraid I will not be able to follow you when you do.''


Boadice reached for him, and her hands closed around his wrist. Her glimmering eyes stared into his, finally sharing the sad truth that they had both already sensed for quite some time. Boadice did not say anything, and that was all right with Jocelyn. It would not have changed anything. They both had made their choices. The rest would come in due time. Of one thing, Jocelyn was certain, though. He would see it through to the end.


"What now?" Boadice asked after a while.


Jocelyn turned away from her, his eyes travelling west, towards Sarleon, the coast of Pendor, and eventually Veccavia. His voice was calm, determined and heavy with the promise it contained. "Now?" He paused for a moment, then looked back at her. "Now we are going to get you that throne of yours."


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PostSubject: Re: [Story] Aftermath - Heroes of Pendor - Sir Jocelyn   Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:49 pm

Epilogue



As Jocelyn promised, so it happened. Days later, King Mordred I ordered the invasion of Veccavia, and an elite landing party, consisting of the full contingents of both the Knights of the Dawn and the Order of the Ebony Gauntlet, began their assault on the island's capital, just as the majority of the other orders held back Veccavia's invasion force landing on Pendor, and the Orders of the Griffon and Dragon laid siege to the city of Ravenstern and its rebellious ruler.


Boadice and her own loyal retainers lead the charge personally, guiding Pendor's fighting elite through the maze of the city-streets and towards the palace. Next to the princess, and never leaving her side, strode a mysterious knight in black armour, who none of the other knights knew by name or reputation, but who wielded his blade as skilfully as any man that day. Between Boadice and her champion, and the prowess of the warriors of Dawn and the Ebony Gauntlet, the forces of Pendor emerged triumphant that day, and Princess Boadice, once betrayed and forced to flee her homeland, became Queen Boadice again. In the weeks that followed, she proved herself to be a stern but just ruler, and her people flourished and rejoiced.


Almost nine months later to the day, Queen Boadice gave birth to a child. It was a son. On the same day, her mysterious champion appeared at court, as he had done before on rare occasions. He stayed for several days, but then vanished, along with the child, never to be heard from again. Even though his heart was heavy with grief, he did not regret any of it. Except maybe for the fact that he had Alistair to thank for it. That was just cruel.


The End
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