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Journal of a Paladin
Episode VI: Confinement
By Matthew R. Fleming
A.K.A. the Cheddar Paladin

Entry #6 – The Tenth of November in the Year Sixteen Hundred and Ninety-seven

My dreams as of late aren’t pleasant. There was actually a time for a while where I wasn’t even remembering my dreams, and I thought that the lack thereof was depressing. Now I wish that I didn’t have dreams.

The one I mentioned before, about the ship and the people on board, the man with the flaming sword and the others, that was when I still had pleasant dreams. My current situation does not permit much sleep, and when I do sleep, I’m not certain how long it’s been until I ask someone. And my dreams, as I said, are not pleasant.

I’m so miserable, I even long for the days when I was training, regardless of how grueling it was. I only knew Jordanello and my drillmaster’s son, Cary. While Cary was also officially an instructor, he was only a few years older than me, though he had a full-grown beard for his age. He wasn’t as disciplined as the other drillmasters, and he often associated himself with the recruits behind their backs. He especially fit in with Jordan and me. The three of us often congregated at the Black Stop after training hours.

On duty, though, Cary was to be called “Sir” Cary specifically. And when he wasn’t, that recruit was forced to do laps around the equestrian track… while there were riders practicing… in the opposite direction. Don’t get me wrong, though. Cary would apologize and buy the recruit a drink afterward. He just had to enforce the rules when he’s in command. It was his duty. That and his father is the chief drillmaster. He’d have been disappointed if he hadn’t made that type of demand. His dad got off on that type of punishment anyway.

Typical drill day:
Rise before the sun, “breakfast” at the barracks, suit up in wooden armor, warm-up exercises, laps, main instruction period, demonstration period, execution period (where we’d utilize what we were taught that day), re-instruction period (where, if we didn’t get it right, we ran laps, then we got it right or we’d run more laps (and we ALL ran laps if one of us didn’t get it)), cool-down exercises (difference between warm-up and cool-down escapes me in this case), “lunch,” repeat steps between “breakfast” and “lunch,” free-training (where we would train in the arts that we were most proficient in), dismissal at sunset. The lack of time for us at the end of the day was tight. So tight, it would seem that we were like inmates within a prison, very little freedom, if any.

There were perks, though. Upon completing training, each successful recruit would be given three sacks of Guardian Credits, upper-middle class housing, a personal steed to be housed in the military stables, and a full uniform and suit of basic armor. That and all recruits could charge their necessities while training to a military tab (which is most likely one of the reasons why they gave us just enough time to bathe, eat, drink, and then go to bed before having to start all over again).

And one more thing, after basic training, every recruit gains a full-boat scholarship to the WRA, the Winguard Royal Academy. WRA is, of course, the most prestigious private school in Guardian territory. All sorts of students enroll there. Some come out clerics, surgeons, or healers. Some come out knights, paladins, or scouts. Others come out as scholars, bards, or mages. I can also tell you that there’s even a near-secret branch of that school that teaches the arts of stealth and gathering information. Other areas of study are sailing and piloting, the latter having great popularity.

That reminds me, I hate sailing. I’m not fond of being on boats, even large ones. I especially don’t like to be in command on a boat. If that ship goes down, and I’m in command, I must go down with my ship. That’s what they teach you in sailing at WRA, and backed up by my paladin’s oath of honor, I can’t escape that fate. They teach the exact opposite in piloting. When I took that class, we had a whole unit dedicated to escaping a falling vessel. But I’m getting way ahead of myself.

Training… What did I do well in? My swordsmanship was mediocre, passable at best. What I was good at was blocking with my weapon or with a round medium shield, a “rondache” as it is called. They’re somewhat larger than a buckler, smaller than a kite shield, easy to move in combat, and very sturdy. Where I couldn’t make many points initially, I was good at preventing my opponent from landing a hit. I chose to focus on that fighting style.

Secondly, I’m not that fast a runner naturally. Though my speed picked up over the course of training, I was never the fastest. I often had to run more laps just for coming in last. So I’m not fast, but I am quick. In combat, I learned that I’m just as good at dodging as I am at blocking so long as it’s a one-on-one fight. So, before I even completed training, Sir Chesley, Cary’s father, began convincing me to minor in dueling at WRA.

Another proficiency I took up was marksmanship. Not so much with the bow, that was more of a strength-oriented weapon, and I’m not as strong as people make me out to be. I really liked the crossbow, and the crossbow really liked me. I placed 3rd in my company ranking with the crossbow. The only problem was, I was better at dueling and carrying a crossbow with a heavy stock and a quarrel of bolts became cumbersome to a duelist, so I stopped marksman training early, however, I became interested in it again at WRA, except for a different reason. I’ll get back to that in a later entry.

I was a great rider, mostly due to my lack of heavy equipment. When we practiced riding in the beginning, we all took off the wooden armor except for the helmet. When all of us were just in our normal attire, I wasn’t the fastest. Near the end of the program, we were all told to dress according to our projected profession. Mine being a lightly-armored duelist, I didn’t weigh down the steed with my rapier, leather armor, and rondache. Many of the others were training to be knights and they were forced to wear heavier armor and so were their horses. Truth be told, even during that time, I still wasn’t the fastest rider. I did, however, beat more of my fellow recruits’ times due to my lack of armor.

We had other training sessions as well. We did some swimming and other aquatic lessons. We had some night-time stealth “games” (I take that term lightly as the “games” were mandatory and the losing team did more laps the next morning). We trained with staves and polearms. I took to the partisan somewhat, and Jordan excelled at using a battle staff. There was also a hand-to-hand combat day (one of our first lessons, I believe), each recruit settling on an unarmed fighting style to practice. I settled on a defensive boxing style that was heavy on dodging and countering, a stick-and-move style called “Mac-fu” and Jordan took up judo.

The last two weeks of training, we held a tournament festival of sorts. There were three tourneys. The first was the attired racing that I mentioned. The second was a general tournament to discern a final ranking for each recruit in every lesson that we learned throughout the program. The last and most anticipated tournament was a one-on-one dueling tournament where each recruit used their most proficient fighting style.

It was the most dangerous event as we were finally issued real weapons and armor. The idea was that we weren’t supposed to kill at all. For each round we were to disable the opponent by disarming them, putting them at your mercy, or making three successful, non-lethal wounds. There were five levels, two out of three rounds each match, and each round was timed for 99 seconds. Can you believe that I made it to the final level?

Now as I’ve been saying, I was never at the top in any subject during my training. You want to know who was? Jordanello Hoffburg. He was quite the fighter. It would seem that initially, I would understand the less before him, and during the first execution period of the day, I would help him along, giving him hints as to how I’m doing it and just sharing information. By the second execution period of the day, Jordan was well ahead of everyone else at whatever we were doing.

So it was no surprise that the final match was between Jordan and me. I had made it due to my prowess as a duelist. Jordan made it because he was just that damn good. I was armed with a standard rapier used by the Royal Guard and an adamantium rondache. Rondaches, for the most part, are actually pretty rare in Winguard. The one I received for the event was more of a gag or a decoration. It was gold plated and beveled in cobalt on the front was a smiley face. Apparently, Sir Chesley had such an amount of faith in my potential victory, he specially requested a durable rondache from the palace just for my use.  Why a decoration was so durable was beyond me, that and the peculiar design made me wonder about the king’s taste in decoration. I was suited in standard Winguard light armor consisting of a hard leather cuirass, a leather pauldron on my sword shoulder, and a steel pauldron on my defensive shoulder, leather elbow pads, a steel helm, and leather boots. Statistically, my armaments were the second lightest out of all the other combatants.

Jordan was armed with a bronze battle staff and his usual attire which consisted of his green tunic, trousers, and light boots. He also wore his signature poncho. This made him the lightest of all combatants and seemingly the least threatening.

Since meeting him, we had become great friends. When we entered the dueling circle, in front of our fellow recruits and many citizens of Winguard (as the tournaments were open to spectators), we felt nothing but respect for each other. We both knew that we had hoped it wouldn’t come down to this. With no hope for a draw, we decided to fight as hard as we could for the sake of mutual respect for each other. We shook hands in the center, went to our starting lines, bowed to each other, and then the fight began.

First Round:
Jordan’s style was similar to mine in many ways. We instructed each other during free-training periods so we each tended to dodge and look for openings, parrying, and counter-attacking as often as we could. However, my style was more stationary, moving more or less in a circle around my opponent or backward when I defend. Jordan would often thrust his staff to the ground to pole vault to leap in a direction or spin around it for a sneak attack or a dodge.

Jordan attempted to disorient me with his acrobatics, but I stuck to my defenses. Keeping my guard up and my eye on the target, I wouldn’t allow a hit. I began to get worried about the time limit but then I realized that the final match was under an infinite time rule. I wonder if they changed the rule especially for us, knowing our steady, defensive styles or if that rule is used every year. Regardless, the round seemed to be going on forever, no matter how quick we each were moving.

Jordan kept me at a distance as my rapier could not compete with the attack range of his staff. He kept doing little jabs, hoping that I would tire from the constant impact. I had a hard time finding an opening. Yet there was one point where he would attempt to trip me, and I managed to avoid low, swooping attack and roll in to bash him with my shield, knocking him a few feet away. While it counted as a non-lethal injury, is was never enough to knock him down, as he always seemed to roll back to his feet and ready himself before I could get him pinned under my boot.

Eventually, he managed to vault over my head and, in my stunned amazement, he knocked down with his staff as he landed. He managed to pin me under his staff before I could get my face out of the dirt.

Second Round:
There was much of the same blocking and dodging. I tried something different, however. Sometime during the round I deflected one of his jabs and ran to strike one of his legs with my rapier. Using the momentum from my deflection, he spun 360 degrees and tried to hit my bludgeon my head with a full spin. I ducked under the spin, but then he planted the staff to attempt another jump. This time, I tackled the staff while he was in midair. This made him lose balance and the staff, and he landed on his back. Before he could manage to get on his feet, I pinned him with his own staff.

Final Round:
We couldn’t surprise each other anymore. We both circled the center of the ring strategizing our plans and wondering who would make the first move. The day started out partially cloudy at the beginning of the tournament, but then, during the final bout, the clouds had gathered and it had started to drizzle. We kept on staring each other down, as the crown began to regret the infinite time limit.

We could see in each other’s eyes that there was no way we’d be able to keep this up for long. We stopped circling for a moment. The crowd was shouting for us to make haste, “Hurry the Hell up!” I remember one saying and another shouting, “Kill each other already!” He nodded to me. I nodded to him. We kicked up the mud behind us as we each started to charge.

I was about to strike, and he was too, and I saw him wind his staff up for a full swing as he dashed toward me. He could have struck me. He SHOULD have struck me. He deliberately missed. In retrospect, I know he did. He was out of my attack range and I was well into his. He instead made contact with a the leg bone of a turkey that was thrown at my head by an angry, soaked, spectator that rather disliked waiting in the rain for the end of a match gone into overtime.

Of course I didn’t realize this until after I crashed into his half-turned back with my shield and pinned him under it for the victory. The audience booed and the only person I saw cheer was Sir Chesley. I believe he placed a large bet on my winning.

Jordan lay there where I had pinned him. I don’t think he was unable to move. I think he was just too disappointed to get up. All I could do is stand there, staring at his downed body in the center of the muddy ring. There was a sound of thunder and the crowd dispersed in a hurry. Jordan was carried off as the tournament healers thought he was unconscious and needed medical attention. I continued to stare at the center of the ring in the rain. I took off the helm and dropped my equipment there.  

I slowly made my way to the apartment in an almost trance-like stupor. I opened my door. I stood in the doorway, staring at Jordan lying there in his bed. I guessed that they dropped him off there as he was still in his clothes, sans poncho. I fell onto my own bed and stared at the ceiling, lost in thought. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t stop. The weight of the whole situation began crushing me. He prevented me from taking a serious blow to the head. The turkey leg was rather large, and at the speed that it was coming at me, colliding with the helm would have sent quite sound into my skull upon impact, allowing Jordan an unfair advantage. However, he sent it away to keep the match fair, not allowing interference. I imagine he thought that I would notice and stop my charge. I didn’t live up to his expectations, however.

Drowning with guilt and uncertainty, I don’t think I slept that night. However, I doubt I was truly awake, either. I was replaying the match, particularly the last moment over and over in my mind. Trapped by my guilt since the moment I stood up from my “victory“, I was not freed from it until I heard a knock on the door the next morning.

I got up and I noticed that Jordan had already left and sun was shining through the windows, which upset me at first because I thought I was late for training. It was Saturday, though, so I was okay. I opened the door to find on the front stoop my equipment including the shield, a certificate dictating that I cleared basic training, a deed to a home in the upper-middle class section of the city, three bags of credits, a small trophy, and a letter.

The letter read:
“To the victor of the Dueling Tournament,

“I hereby award you with this trophy displaying your glorious achievement during your training. You make this city proud to know that residing within it is a talented fighter such as yourself who shall use all of his talent to defend the city if that talent if ever needed to be called upon.

“Your prescience is requested one week from the signed date as a guest of honor for a banquet at the Royal Palace. You shall be retrieved and escorted by a member of the royal family at the time of your expected arrival. Please dress presentable and show your noble color at the appointment.

“Your Royal Highness,
King Conanius III Esq.”

‘Twas a small trophy and the letter was obviously printed before the tournament and simply dated with that day’s date. However, I was happy to receive them and my payment for finishing training. It was only after I opened the door that I realized that I wouldn’t have to go to training anymore. From there I was optimistic. I thought that maybe the town would forget all about my “victory” and actually appreciate the win. Maybe Jordan won’t have hard feelings about it. After all, he didn’t strangle me in my sleep, so that’s a good sign. I have a meeting with the royal family. It’s the start of summer and I wouldn’t start at WRA for another 6 weeks. Everything was actually looking good.

Then I dodged an incoming rock, picked up my stuff, and quickly closed the door.

I guessed that it was going to take a little while longer for the city to forget about the tournament.
My longest chapter so far. It's actually the first of two parts. I wanna write the second part really soon, like this week soon. Maybe.
I hope you enjoy!

The cover introduces my new uniform cover style. I'm basing it off of the older Marvel Comics style covers where you have a few ominous questions in a box and the "running pose" logo in the corner.

Add a Comment:
Soultaker06 Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2006
I wonder where Mac-fu comes from, eh?

You bastard, that's the thanks I get for protecting you? I call for a rematch. =P
cheddarpaladin Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2006  Student Digital Artist
1.) Little Mac, Punch-Out! NES Classic.

2.) There's gonna be one, actually.
GreenDazed Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2006  Hobbyist Digital Artist
One of the greatest things about pretty much all of your deviations is how those around you and close to you are featured within your stories and drawings as characters. It just shows to me how much you really care about those around you.

That's a true artist to me.
cheddarpaladin Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2006  Student Digital Artist
Dude, thank you so much, man. Thing about that is, I have so many good friends, I can't write any villains! 8D

But yeah, I draw alot of inspiration from all of you and I want to immortalize your personalities this way. Kinda write the fantasy story as if we really were those characters. For example, when I get to writing the part for your character, to reflect your knowledge of computers in an unelectronic world, I'm making your dude a clocksmith by trade, clockwork being a sort of equivalent to electronics for that era. That and you introduce me to the music of a music troupe called "Red Night" lol

That really means alot to me. I can't thank you enough for this comment.
superogue-KD Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2006   Writer
Excellent descriptions. It's great reading your stuff. I can't wait to read the next release. However, I do need to make a suggestion. You definitely need an editor. Now that I have my negative comment out of the way, it's time to begin with the positives.

1) Recap was excellent. You covered the past issues quite well so that if this were to be the first anyone read they would understand what was going on.

2) You gave accurate credit to all characters involved and did not leave anyone with more or less space than they needed or deserved.

3) The battle was excellent. You did not make yourself out to be some sort of impenetrable warrior nor were you too modest. You allowed Jordan his victories while at the same time leaving your own unblemished by obtrussive phenominality.

4) You gave your characters character. This is the most important part. You made them human and not just marrionettes in your story. Having been one to personally know the individuals portrayed I can honestly say that you allowed played them justly.

- If you would like to know more of what I thought I'll be available for a private talk so I may go into more detail.
cheddarpaladin Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2006  Student Digital Artist
I've never really had anyone give me CC before!
Always, "OMG soooo good cant wait for more!!!!!!1"
I really appreciate this!

YES! I need to look over my stuff before posting!
Bear in mind, I wrote this at 2:00aEt soooo.... especially that last part. Fast paced, fast typing, too tired to notice the wee errors. I'm glad you did.

Secondly, GAWD I'd love to talk about my work with a fellow lit appreciator just like yourself... or I could just talk to you so I don't have to find someone else. XD
I shall be online tonight before I start writing part II of this chapter. We shall talk then if possible.
EmziePoodlez Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2006
Wow. That was great! I'll be waiting impatiently for more ^_^

I LOVE the cover too! :D
cheddarpaladin Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2006  Student Digital Artist
Thanks much, Emily!
Glad you enjoyed it. The next will be along soon.
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