Dark Knights 1 - Excerpts

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Dark Knights 1

They were racing toward the edge of the woods. Gaining ground, her pursuer claimed:

 “I have you, my Lady.”

Mockingly, she said over her shoulder:

— “Not yet!”

She came out of the woods laughing, and almost crashed headlong into the ebony wall before her. It jerked aside, rising on its hind legs. She saw the muscles jut out beneath the velvet coat, as the black horse reared to the sky, neighing furiously. She drew back, and spotted the reins of the beast tied to a low branch. After a strap, a bay horse was watching her too.

The forelegs fell back heavily and the black horse snorted.

The boy had stopped behind her. In that brief moment, she couldn’t help herself. Saying:

 “Hey; hey!”

She extended a gloved hand toward the bridle.

— “No,” said the voice.

She saw him then. He was sitting on a low branch, wrapped in a black cloak.


The men-at-arms watched the stranger, who remained on guard, the counter to his right. They knew how fast a sword could be drawn.

— “No one moves when the belfry tolls at noon,” the leader said.

The dark knight then did something unexpected. Moving away his right hand from the weapon, he lifted the goblet to his lips, and quietly took a sip.

— “You should explain your customs to foreigners.”

And his hand went down leisurely near the grip.

— “You’ve desecrated the hour of the dead,” dropped the officer. “You broke the custom in the main street.”

The guests in the tavern started. They looked wide-eyed at the stranger, reconsidering him in an entirely different light.

The leader watched sometimes his hands, sometimes his face.

 “We don’t like troublemakers, here.”

Deep shadows were roaming between the low beams, stretching behind the men, severely shaping the faces.

 “What are you looking for stranger, except trouble?”

The Dark Man’s gaze was ice-cold.

— “And you?”

The officer’s left hand was on the scabbard. The bearded warrior shifted furtively the axe between his.

— “You're in trouble, stranger. You asked for it.”


The drums suddenly stopped. The herald intoned:

— “In the name of Duke Darius of Olamus, lord of Quicksilver. The highwaymen Denis and Almuric will be hanged here tomorrow. Spread the word, spread the word; come and be there. The exact hour of the hanging will be heralded tonight. Let justice be done, by the will of the eternal sky.”

He was rolling the bill, heading for the stairs, but in front of the people's faces, their silent wait full of hope and distress, he reconsidered. He told them, in a tone that was no longer official.

 “About Maximillien Werner, the Duke has made no decision…”

And he turned and went for the stairs. The crowd took a few moments to swallow this. Scores of persons remained grave, in thoughtful silence. The name clearly meant something to them. Then as the herald was coming down from the gallows, life resumed and people on the main place went about their business as if they no longer wanted to think about it.

The weigher placed a tinkling weight on the pan of the scale. The money changers traded with their customers, the shouts of good deals resumed between the stalls. Only a few persons lingered before the gallows with gloomy eyes. Grimly, the two serfs bent on the wheat stone. They lifted the slide, and a flood of brown seeds spread through the mouth of the bronze gargoyle, filling the sack below.


The two white-powdered courtesans were bored on their doorstep, when one nudged the other with an elbow. The stranger was quietly coming back in the lane. His thoughtful air set him apart, for once it was not the black armor.

The two girls hurried to make the best of themselves, the blonde lifting up her breasts in the corset. They leaned neglectfully against the porch, raising their chests a little, one leg bent, showing their ankles and shins through the split skirts.

When he passed, the blonde hailed:

— “Hey, sire…”

The knight stopped there, without turning. Encouraged, the girls made bewitching smiles.

 “A bit of recreation for the weary traveler?”

Slowly he turned his head, a gleam of amusement in his eyes.

Between their braids, the deep corsets unveiled the birth of the breasts. The one of the blonde was quite open, tightened below to raise her bosom. That of the brunette was split low and loosely laced. Their long belts dropped very low, highlighting thin waists. They were smiling at him, engaging and well-made.

 “A bath and a massage, by expert hands?” went on the blonde. “Do you want elation and enchantment of the senses?”

He watched them, his head tilted sideways. He glanced toward the corner of the alley, and made a quick decision. He came closer.


 “Why are the strangers forbidden… to see the rest of the valley?”

The beautiful eyes grew misty.

— “Because of the rebellion…” she squarely said.

He watched her, waiting for an explanation.

 “There is a rebellion on the outskirts of the kingdom. The Duke wants to check the travelers who might help the rebels…”

He nodded.

— “And the Duke's vassals, the men of power, do they meet with courtesans?”

She smiled.

— “The stranger wants lore.”

— “Stranger in a strange city, I'm trying to understand.”

— “Most have their mistresses and maids,” she said. “Everything they need is in their household.”

Her foot was caressing longingly, tenderly, the stranger’s leg. Her toes went past the shin guard, rising along the leather trousers. He was watching the door calmly, but reached out with his left hand, gently cuddling her ankle.

— “When the belfry tolls at non, you have a strange rite,” he said.

She studied him.

— “We are a strange people. We have our own customs.”



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