Jepeth was tired, and more than a little hungry. It was late in the afternoon and the previous night he had his regular weekly duty of serving on the Royal Britannian Guard which ran late. Early the next morning word reached him from Tejnik that a reference to a comet had been found in the archives. He suggested that Jepeth should make haste to the Britain Public Library as soon as he could. In the rush to uncover more of this mystery, however, Jepeth had set out on a horseback without anything to eat for breakfast.
The Britain Public Library was a stately two-story building not too far from the Castle of Lord British. It was certainly smaller and more cramped than the ageless, expansive beauty that was Empath Abbey in Yew, but still welcoming. Upon arrival Jepeth marveled at the amount of shelves, scribes, students, and masters making use of the space.
Upon arrival he met with the head scribe, a funny little man in a worn brown robe and Minoc accent. A week earlier Jepeth charged Tejnik with finding more information about the comet situation. Jepeth was unsurprised by the degree to which his city administrator threw himself into the task. Messengers and letters tossed-through-moongates came at all hours in the following days inundating Jepeth with leads, potential explanations, and avenues to explore.
The head scribe from Minoc was just the latest individual that Jepeth had sought out for a lead. Unfortunately, after an entire day of being walked through archive material and given long explanations on the provenance of certain testimonies and correspondents Jepeth hadn’t learned much from the scribes of the Britain Public Library. All they had managed to uncover together was a reference to a ”comet” connected somehow to a long-dead and very forgotten pirate named “Bloodeye.” What was not apparent, however, was how the “comet” factored into the history of this pirate. The material that was available was scant, quite damaged, and written in a somewhat confusing dialect.
The head scribe unrolled a large, stained scroll before Jepeth.
“This is the last one which we believe may interest you,” said the head scribe. “We do have other accounts of this dread pirate Bloodeye so we know he was a real figure. But nothing in those accounts mention a comet. It may be possible that the ‘comet’ here was the name of his vessel.”
“That would be somewhat disappointing,” said Jepeth who was beginning to lament how much time he had given to the Library without eating anything first.
He ran his fingers down the text of the scroll. It was moldy and smelled of brine.
“This scroll, where did it come from?” said Jepeth.
“We believe this was from the former archive of Jhelom, sire,” said the head scribe. “They would have always kept more detailed records of piracy in Britannian waters.”
Jepeth frowned. The scroll was damaged and nearly unreadable. He recognized a few works here and there. He saw the word “comet” clear as day towards the top of the document. He and the scribe continued to examine the scroll inch by inch, doing their best not to breathe in the unpleasant smell.
The head scribe turned his head slightly before leaning in to examine the document closer.
“This word, sire, would appear to be from a local dialect,” said the scribe. “Being from that side of the world do you recognize it?”
Jepeth looked closer at where the scribe was pointing. “Marr,” said Jepeth, “it means sea.”
“Ah,” said the scribe smiling.
They continued to read silently before Jepeth stopped.
“That doesn’t make sense,” said Jepeth.
“Oh?” said the head scribe.
“They don't use ‘Marr’ for ‘sea’ in Jhelom,” said Jepeth. “They would use ‘maree.’”
Jepeth looked at the document again. “Are you sure this is from Jhelom?”
The scribe looked at Jepeth and shrugged, “we can only guess, sire.”
Jepeth knew that this uncertainty wasn’t the Library or scribe’s fault. In general Britannian history was a shamble. Despite great effort and expense there had never been a central archive devoted to preserving the stories and culture of the realm. The dimensional split between Felucca and Trammel certainly didn’t help matters as when many scribes and historians fled the old lands they couldn’t take their entire collections with them. Other private libraries had been established every now and then and while some were still in operation others had been left to rot in the wilderness as the buildings which housed them collapsed brick by brick, plank by plank.
It was that old, ancient enemy of history, however, that had wounded Britannian memory the most: war. The Burning of Trinsic, the Faction Wars, the temporary flooding and destruction of Yew; all of it had weakened and weakened the archives of history. This is what the head scribe realized as he examined the document with a fresh perspective after Jepeth’s comment on the local dialect in use.
“This scroll most likely came to us as salvage, sire,” said the head scribe. “It may not be from Jhelom originally. It is likely it came to us displaced from its original home because of conflict.”
“‘Marr’ is Skara Braen,” said Jepeth frowning, “one of the many words we have for the water.”
“And in what context would ye Skara Braens use it?” said the scribe.
“A rising sea,” said Jepeth.
“What conflict from Skara Brae’s past would send this scroll out alone into the world?” said the head scribe looking down at the document.
After awhile Jepeth said his thanks to the staff for their hospitality, shook the head scribe’s hand twice, and left the premises. He mounted his horse and began a slow trot down the tight, narrow alleys of Britain heading towards the eastern city.
As he rode along he mulled over what he had learned, or lack thereof: a pirate named ‘Bloodeye,’ a comet that may be a comet but more than likely may be a ship, and a scroll with no origin or author that speaks of a ‘rising sea.’ Like almost all of Tejnik’s leads (or the mage himself), it had promise but offered little understanding.
The horse trotted along happily, her dark hooves making a racket on the cobblestones as Jepeth rode. Finally he and his horse reached one of the three bridges which join West and East Britain together, spanning the small river which bifurcates the town. It was the Great Northern Bridge, which if Jepeth would turn left at and head true north would take him right to the lake at which in the center sat the incredible Castle Blackthorn. Britannia’s newest regent had updated his previous dwelling significantly since assuming the throne.
Instead Jepeth intended to continue to head East and have an early dinner (his first meal in almost a day) at the Wayfarer’s Inn. But as he came to cross the bridge his horse stopped and made a fearful whinny.
There at the end of the bridge stood a man (Jepeth assumed he was a man by build) armored in green mail. His face was completely covered by a matching green closed helm. His mail pants were cinched into dark leather boots, as was the sleeves of his chainmail shirt into his leather gloves. In his hands was a single, long metal kryss pitted and rusted.
Jepeth looked at the knight in green for a long moment. He subtly urged the horse forward but his mount would go not a step closer.
“I say,” said Jepeth. “would you mind stepping aside or coming through so that I may pass?”
“Aye,” said the Green Knight.
Jepeth looked slightly confused.
“Aye you will step aside, or aye you mind and shall not step aside?” asked Jepeth.
“Nae,” replied the Green Knight.
“That’s somehow even more unhelpful.”
“Aye,” said the Green Knight.
From across the bridge and still mounted Jepeth looked at the Knight a little closer. He began to understand what this was about.
“Look,” said Jepeth, “contrary to public opinion I don’t seek this sort of thing out.”
“And yet, here ye are,” said the Green Knight.
Jepeth sighed. He was tired and hungry and very much preferred not to do this.
“I have ye at a disadvantage,” said Jepeth. “I could force my horse forward and run you down.”
“Ye could,” replied the Green Knight, “but it would be unbecoming of a Governor and Paladin.”
“You’d be surprised,” said Jepeth, “Rash actions seem to be popular.”
“I am not worried,” said the Green Knight. “I know ye are not so ill-made.”
Jepeth was unsure exactly what that had meant.
“Please,” said the Green Knight, “take ye time.”
“Thank ye,” sighed Jepeth, as he dismounted his horse. He led her over to a tree on his side of the bridge and lashed her to the trunk. He unstrapped his sword from the beast and approached the bridge again.
“Now I would have ye at a disadvantage,” said the armored Green Knight. “Please, don your armor. I’ll wait.”
“Thank ye again,” said Jepeth. In his mind he marvelled at the excellent manners of this killer.
Jepeth returned to his horse and unbuckled the large bag containing his plate armor. It was constructed in such a way that most of the major pieces could be stowed together, fitting small pieces into large pieces. In total the equipment could be packed to a small size, but no less one of significant weight. He wiggled into the light mail shirt that went over his inner clothes and placed the largest piece upon his chest, strapping the two halves making the front and back metal chest into one piece. He also donned his helmet and gloves, leaving his arm pieces and leg pieces behind.
“Ye are still not fully garbed,” said the Green Knight.
“I know,” replied Jepeth. “But considering my lack of a full stomach and sleep the night before, I think I’ll forgo some pieces for agility.”
“A wise idea,” said the Green Knight.
“Oh thank ye, your approval matters a great deal to me,” said Jepeth as he approached the center of the bridge with his sword drawn. The Green Knight stepped forward as well, holding the twisted metal kryss in front of him in his left hand with his right raised behind him.
“A classic offensive starting fencing position,” said Jepeth.
He shifted his weight onto his back leg and raised his broadsword high up into a defensive position. He gripped the hilt with both hands, the sword raised almost above his head.
“Dupre’s Defense,” said the Green Knight from behind his helmet.
Now that Jepeth was close to him he could see the man’s armor more clearly. It, like the kryss, was pitted and damaged all over. It wasn’t green because it was made of Verite, but had a patina of rust. It made the Knight almost look like he was a metal statue come to life.
“Begin,” said Jepeth.
The Knight struck first. He thrust forward at Jepeth who countered with two quick swings, one to deflect the sword away from his core and another to redirect the kryss back putting the Knight onto the defensive.
Jepeth’s broadsword flashed in an attempt to pierce the Knight’s arm. No good, the knight deflected it. He used that momentum to step forward forcing Jepeth back. The bridge in which they fought was long, but not incredibly wide. It went like this for a few minutes; one advancing and the other deflecting. Each gaining and losing a few feet of bridge between salvos. Jepeth was grateful not to have worn his full set of armor, comfortable as he was fighting in it, because this opponent was surprisingly fast.
“Ye are well trained,” said Jepeth as he stepped back from the fight surrendering a few precious feet between them. “But I believe ye are trying to wear me down.”
The Green Knight also stepped back and swung the Kryss behind him, putting his right hand forward.
“And ye are trying to distract me with words,” replied the Green Knight.
Jepeth allowed a smile to show before advancing again. He thrust his sword forward attempting a maneuver taught in the Paladin Order. The attacker steps forward attempting three quick slash and punctures at the opponent’s weapon arm, opposite hip, and then that opposite knee. It forces them to continually lower their sword opening their head and neck for an attack.
But when he tried the attack (named the Trinsic Three for the Order’s headquarters) the Knight parried the first thrust as expected but sidestepped as Jepeth advanced for the second. This threw Jepeth off balance long enough for the Knight to slash down catching Jepeth in the clothed leg. The first blood was the Knight’s.
Jepeth grimaced in pain not allowing his opponent the satisfaction of hearing him cry out. He stepped backward but with an expert flourish upward swung his sword wide and winged the edge of the Knight’s mailed right wrist.
Both men stopped and collected themselves for the next salvo. A crowd of on-lookers in Britain had begun to form on either end of the bridge, drawn to the sound of clashing metal.
“The Trinsic Three was clever,” said the Green Knight. “But it is cancelled out by Lucero’s Gambit.”
“I’ll have to remember that,” said Jepeth over the cheers of the crowd which urged the men back to battle.
“See that you do,” said the Green Knight.
Jepeth had the distinct impression he was being grinned at even though he couldn’t see behind his attacker’s closed helm.
“So, you haven’t told me from where my destruction comes,” said Jepeth looking down at his bleeding thigh. “Are ye Fellowship?”
“Nae,” said the Green Knight.
“Well don’t tell me my end comes from a fencer hired by the Council of Mages,” laughed Jepeth. “Are they too afraid of losing another hand to send their own spellcaster?
“Nae,” said the Green Knight again.
“Alright, fine,” sighed Jepeth. He switched tactics. This opponent was good. In fact, he was downright excellent. Jepeth had been trying to end the battle elegantly and efficiently by attempting to deliver a flesh wound. The Green Knight’s skill and the wound he delivered, however, ensured that was no longer a possibility. Jepeth decided brute force was the only way through this.
Jepeth approached the center of the bridge again. The Green Knight did the same. If his injured wrist was giving him trouble, just like Jepeth, the Knight was trying to not let it show.
Jepeth, however, broke out into an almost running sprint as he swung his broadsword forward leaping at the Knight. The Green Knight answered Jepeth’s surprisingly energetic attack with a parry as they began to clash back and forth again. Jepeth knew that eventually fatigue would set in and so he attempted to burn through as much adrenaline from his wound as he could.
The sword and the kryss flashed back and forth. Up the bridge and down. The spectators cheered and gasped as blow after blow was delivered. Jepeth cut through the Knight’s green chainmail tunic on the right flank. It didn’t slow him. The Knight answered with another minor flesh wound on Jepeth’s shoulder. Again and again and again.
For a moment their weapons locked as they pushed each other up against the edge of the bridge. They held tight as each attempted to force the other down to one leg.
“What they say about ye was true,” said the Green Knight.
“And what was that,” replied Jepeth quietly as he was only inches from the Knight’s helmet. He could hear his opponent’s rasping breath from beneath it.
“Ye are quick to anger and quick to distraction. Ye miss the obvious,” said the Green Knight.
Before Jepeth could answer it happened.
The Green Knight shifted his weight back which unbalanced Jepeth. He fell forward only an inch but in that moment the Knight drew his weapon straight back towards his own chest, and then thrust it upwards and left straight into the upper joint of Jepeth’s plate chest armor. He felt the Kryss drag across his skin as the armor itself split apart. The straps were severed and as they swung away Jepeth tried to catch them before losing his balance and falling to the ground.
The Green Knight stood over Jepeth pointing his kryss down at his fallen opponent. The crowd of spectators who had been enjoying the fight cheered.
“Ye miss the obvious,” said the Knight. “It rises around you like a tide.”
“...Rises?” said Jepeth.
The Green Knight swung the Kryss up in a flourish. And was gone. He vanished as gently as the wind on a calm sea.
The spectators began to disperse as a woman ran up to Jepeth.
“Stay still, lord, we’ve sent for the ‘ealer!”
“Nae,” said Jepeth examining his shoulder and chest. “He... he didn’t injure me. I don’t need the healer.”
“It looked like ‘e stuck that kryss straight up yer ribs!” exclaimed the woman.
“He.. didn’t. That’s a disarming move.” said Jepeth with alarm. “It’s taught by the Paladins.”
The woman looked confused.
“Paladins don’t attack people in the street sire…” said the woman.
“I know,” said Jepeth. “But I think he is one. Or was.”
The woman cocked her head at Jepeth in confusion.
“I think he was undead,” said Jepeth.
The woman looked Jepeth in the eyes for a moment, before turning back towards the crowd.
“‘’e’s bonked ‘is ‘ead too! Where’s that damn ‘ealer?!”