In this chapter, Brier meets Kent, a Knight of Astoria, as well as two old faces.
Quest 05 – The Astorian Knight
Astoria City is the bordered capitol of the Kingdom of Astoria. It is built around its ancient castle, and itself bordered by a great forest outside the walls and an impassable mountain range to the northwest. Several miles away, past the forest, are several smaller villages bordered by and protected by outposts. A small distance from the outposts stands a second great wall, the Third Border.
Such defenses were nothing to the Dark Lord. Balken himself conjured his black magics, tore open a massive hole in the Third Border and led his horde through, laying waste to the neighboring villages. His trained fighters were more than a match for the forest’s denizens. The city walls fell easily, the capitol trampled, and the castle turned to a massive pile of rubble.
Eight years after the destruction of Astoria, the kingdom has been rebuilt, and its defenses strengthened. The Astorian army is greater and mightier than ever. Most of its forces are located around the Third Border and patrol regularly, relying on produce from the border villages to sustain themselves. Aside from the border, the Astorian army also kept a force inside the castle to protect the royalty, defend the capitol, and be trained by the kingdom’s great leaders.
Knights only roamed the forests between the capitol and the border villages when they had to travel between the two areas, and such a thing was rarely called for. So it was strange that a man claiming to be Knight was roaming about. He was a man with short golden hair, in good shape, and muscled though not much taller than Brier.
Man: You, bard! And madam.
Man: Why do people insist on addressing me as “bard?”
Man: What is wrong with being called what one is? I am proud to be called “Knight.”
Brier: Well, you rather don’t look the role.
?Knight?: Much has happened. Tell me, have you seen anyone that looks the role but doesn’t play the part?
Brier: The role of Knight, you mean?
?Knight?: The very one.
Brier: Nay, can’t say that I have.
Svennia: But master, what about that odd character you told me about? The one named Valerie?
Brier: I wish you didn’t bring that up. I was planning on forgetting it happened.
?Knight?: Do you mean Valiant?
Brier: Possibly. It is odd that a supposed man would have such a name.
?Knight?: Valiant is my squire. He stole my armor and fled, possibly passing himself off as a Knight.
Brier: And why would he do that? But first, what should I call you?
Kent: I am Kent, a Knight of Astoria. There are those who call me the Virgin Squire.
Svennia: *giggle* Oh, sorry…
Brier: It’s actually quite an impressive title, Svennia.
Svennia: How is that?
Brier: In the Astorian army, the Squire class is assistant to Knights, learns from Knights, and aims to become Knights themselves. In war, they are there to maintain Knights’ equipment so the Knights themselves can relax and prepare for battle without worrying about the minor things.
Svennia: Well, I knew all that. How long have I been with you?
Brier: Allow me to repeat and reiterate. Squires are there to maintain a Knight’s equipment.
Svennia: Yes, I’m perfectly aware.
Brier: That’s why they’re called assistants.
Svennia: Makes sense.
Brier: Equipment is a euphemism.
Svennia: . . . Oh, gods!
Brier: Of course, there is no rule about this, it’s all tradition. The Squires have a right to defend themselves, but they’re no match against a trained Knight. But to be a Knight that remained a virgin Squire… that is impressive.
Svennia: (But my lord… in your army there was no such practice…)
Brier: (That’s one of the perks of being a villain. Rape and pillage. You get to choose.)
Brier: So, Kent. About this Squire of yours.
Kent: He’s from one of the border towns. And he’s weak. Always complaining about life as a Squire, completely lacking in the discipline needed to promote to Knight. While I slept, he stole my armor and left the training grounds. To do so during Lord Kruseid’s personal inspection… it is shameful.
Brier: Really? Last I saw of him, he was escorting a grocer from the forest to Astoria City.
Kent: If so, he didn’t stay long. I’d say he did it for the money, then went off to the border towns. No one, not even Knights, are allowed outside the Third Border until our Lord returns to the battlefield.
Brier: Then what are you doing dallying around here for? Get yourself to one of those towns and kick his ass!
Kent: Knights aren’t to be seen traveling about during the inspection. There weren’t any spare armor or weapons that I’d be able to bring with me. I’m completely defenseless.
Brier: Then pass yourself off as an adventurer and buy adventurer equipment.
Kent: I don’t have the money for that and don’t have the time to get it. I need my own equipment back. And I need help to get through the forest.
Svennia: What do you say, Master?
Brier: Well, we’re on our way to the border anyway. It wouldn’t hurt to bring someone along, but…
Svennia: It won’t come cheap.
Brier: Safe passage through the forest is 500.
Svennia: If you want to use any of our items, it costs extra.
Brier: 350, huh? Well… For 350, I’m not fighting. Svennia, you’ll handle everything.
Svennia: I understand. And I thought Knights were supposed to look out for ladies.
Kent: I… didn’t think that would happen.
Brier: No backing off on your word, now. It’s not becoming of your class. You settled on 350, and you shall have it.
Quest: Stroll Down to the Border Town
Recommended Level: 25
Party Leader: Brier
Brier [Bard] lv. 21
Title: Dark Bard
Svennia [Brute] lv. 33
Title: Chambermaid of Doom
Kent [Astorian Knight (Armorless)] lv. 40
Title: Virgin Squire
And so, the three and Arco…
Kent: Is that… a winged lizard?
…traversed the forest towards the nearest of the five border villages, Salek.
Kent: Maybe you refuse to perform battle songs, but how about some regular music. It is rather dull.
Brier: You sure?
Kent: Aren’t you a bard? What songs do you know.
Brier: Oh… a handful.
Kent: Such as?
Brier: Well… I know the Tangerine Song.
Kent: That’s not a song, that’s a children’s limerick.
Brier: Well excuse me, Sir Knight. Didn’t know you had such refined tastes. Tangeriiiiine, tangeriiiine, how could you be so…
Kent: I didn’t say to sing it.
Brier: Tough beans, it’s the only song I know.
Brier: What is it? Oh…
The path further up was blocked by a small horde of Orcs, a race of green, hairless creatures that appeared to have the facial features of a hog, the bulky stature of a bear, and the sharp cunning of an albino pigeon.
Kent: There’s too many of them. Come, let’s return and find a detour.
Brier: Nonsense. Svennia, destroy them!
Kent: Are you insane? Sending a single woman in by herself?
Brier: It’s what you paid for. It’s what he paid for, Svennia.
Svennia: Very well… I must obey.
Svennia, the former chambermaid, put down the large sack of items she carried and walked off the beaten path to a large tree. She punched a hole into its body and toppled it over the path, lifted the fallen log over her head, and throw it at the mob of Orcs. Three of them had their heads crushed under the weight of the suddenly-falling lumber; the surviving ones instinctively ran in all directions away from the impact.
Svennia: Shall I pursue?
Brier: No, I’d rather not waste time.
Kent: W… What the hell?
Brier: Surprised? That’s the strength of a woman of Harl.
Kent: But… I heard the people of Harl were tall, freakishly bulky men with the strength of 12!
Brier: No, the MEN of Harl are like that. The women of Harl are taller than the average woman but are relatively normal-sized. They still have the same strength as the men, though.
Kent: How is that physically possible?!
Brier: Well, they have to be strong in order to mate with the men and bear their children.
Kent: That wasn’t the question at hand, though…
Brier: Svennia, good job! I believe I leveled up.
Svennia: That’s wonderful news, my lord.
After several similar encounters, the group at last emerged from the forest and found themselves in Salek. They immediately spotted a man in a shining suit of armor fixing a cart near a tilling field.
Valiant: S-Sir Kent!
Kent: At last, I’ve found you!
Valiant: N-no… I… Wait, is that the vulgar bard I met the other day?
Brier: Hello, Valerie.
Kent: It’s time you returned my armor.
Old Woman: Valiant, who are these men?
Valiant: They’re just friends from the city, Mother.
Valiant’s Mother: Well, do finish up your business. Your father’s calling for you.
Valiant: Yes, yes, in a moment.
Kent: You had better start explaining yourself.
Brier: Although I think I’ve grasped the situation instantly.
Svennia: As have I.
Brier: But we have plenty of time. Let’s hear it straight from the calf’s mouth.
Valiant: How rude! I am a stallion!
Brier: Get on with it.
Valiant: Yes, of course. Just last week I received word that my father was deathly ill. I had to visit before his time was up. However, before I left for the capitol, I promised my parents that next we saw each other, I would be a Knight. I couldn’t let them down… especially not my father, who would have passed before seeing me rise to greatness! Please, just allow me this, Sir Kent.
Kent: I’m afraid it’s not that easy. There are laws against impersonating a Knight. Any other time and we might have been able to work something out, but to do so during King Kruseid’s personal inspection…
Valiant: I’m sure the King would understand my plight!
Brier: Well, even if Kent is willing to go easy on you, I personally don’t like you.
Valiant: The feeling is mutual, then.
Brier: But it would be trouble if I spoke of this, wouldn’t it?
Svennia: Master, do you really want free boarding so badly you would share a roof with a dying old man?
Brier: Yes. Yes I do.
Valiant: Well, I won’t have it. I can always silence you forcibly.
Kent: It’s that attitude that keeps you from being a true Knight!
Valiant: So you say, Sir Kent, but who wears the armor now?
Kent: Just because you wear Knight armor doesn’t make you a true Knight!
Valiant: Hah! The difference in character between me and other so-called Knights is marginal at best. Would you like to be tested?
Kent: If you mean a duel, I don’t have the necessary equipment. It’s not an even match.
Valiant: Then you’ve just contradicted yourself. If you are a true Knight, you should be able to defeat me regardless of my armor and sword, should you not?
Brier: Then, how about an unarmed battle? No sword. But you can still keep the armor.
Valiant: Very well, I’ll handicap myself.
Valiant thrust his sword into the ground and took his stance. Brier immediately took the sword out of the ground and swung it at a tree, instantly shattering the blade.
Kent: That was my sword! How did you- Never mind that, WHY did you do that?
Brier: You know, I can’t really say. It just felt like the right thing to do.
Svennia: Master can’t help but show off his curse every chance he gets.
Kent: You owe me a sword, bard.
Brier: Don’t call me bard.
Kent: Now, attack!
Valiant: Fool! I’ll crush you!
Kent used Trick Slide!
Valiant is knocked down!
Valiant fell face first to the ground. Kent immediately sat on top of his fallen adversary.
Kent: Can I get a count?
Valiant: Get off me!
Brier: 2! 3! 4!
Kent: Come now, you are a Knight, aren’t you? You’re wearing armor, aren’t you?
Brier: 5! 6! 7!
Kent: Go ahead, get me off.
Valiant: I… I can’t!
Brier: 8! 9! 10!
Kent: This duel is over.
Valiant: So easily?
Kent: You may be able to handle that armor’s weight enough to walk around, but it seems you haven’t quite had enough strength training. The way you are now, that armor was just a hindrance.
Kent: Well, I’ll at least let you keep the armor long enough to tell your parents that you got called back for special duty.
Valiant: Sir Kent… thank you.
Brier: Gee, how boring…
Suddenly, the sound of hoofs trampling over the earth was heard, steadily growing louder. Approaching the group was a large contingent of knights on horseback. At the forefront was a man dressed in armor that was all white, save for a red seven-rayed star – the emblem of Astoria – emblazoned on the chest piece. He is the King of Astoria, Kruseid. Riding at his side was his standard-bearer, a man also known by every soldier in Astoria.
Kent: M… My Lord! And Captain Dalton!
Kent quickly dropped to this knees in front of his lords. Valiant, too, followed suit.
Dalton: You have a lot of nerve, calling King Kruseid your lord, traitor.
Dalton: Sir Kent Reidhart, you are charged with high treason. Valiant Bartel, you are charged with desertion of the Astorian army. Both are sentenced to immediate execution!
Kent: I am no traitor!
Valiant: It’s all my fault, please hear me out!
Kruseid: Now, now, Captain. I don’t believe our information is incorrect, but let us hear their story before we get rid of two useful men.
Valiant: Thank you, my lord.
Valiant explained his actions and Kent’s reason for leaving.
Valiant: So you see, my heart was in the right place, but… it is unforgivable…
Kruseid: Yes… But I see no reason to doubt your story. Very well. Your honor shall not be sullied by the title of “traitor,” Kent.
Kent: I am grateful, my lord.
Kruseid: Valiant, I know your plight all too well. By my word, I hereby name thee an honorary Knight of Astoria.
Valiant: Ah… Yes, you are too kind!
Kruseid: Indeed. It is the least I could do.
Kruseid: I, Kruseid, Lord of all Astoria hereby decree! Sir Valiant Bartel is hereby charged with behavior unbecoming a Knight of Astoria, unlawful armored travel in the forest of Astoria, and theft of a fellow Knight’s equipment. He is to be publicly executed… as an honorable Knight of Astoria.
Valiant: But… but…!
Kruseid: Sir Kent Reidhart is hereby charged with breach of decorum in the audience of his Lord, desertion in the presence of his Lord, and initiating combat with a fellow Knight. He is to be stripped of his rank immediately and thrown into the dungeon to await future execution.
Kent: M… my Lord?
Brier: Well, it’s been nice knowing you, Kent. I bid you adieu!
Kent: Damn… Brier, get me out of this and I’ll pay you 1000G!
Brier: Oh? So, your life is worth more than your honor… Well said. But we’re no match for this lot. No dice.
Kruseid: Stay, bard. You look familiar.
Brier: Eh? I… don’t believe we’ve ever met, sir…. Have we met this man, Svennia?
Svennia: No, I don’t believe we have. Have we, Arco?
Arco: *shakes head*
Kruseid: Arco? Ahh… It’s you!
Brier: Thanks a lot, Svennia.
Kruseid: How is the common life, “Brier?”
Brier: It’s been a terrible bother.
Kruseid: Men, target the bard. Kill him!
Brier was soon surrounded by knights. Using his obsidian lute, Brier protected himself from their blades while Arco bit them with his poisonous bite.
Knights: AAAARGH, IT BURNS!
Kruseid: Don’t let him escape!
Svennia: My lord, I’ll try to hold them off, you es- My lord?
Brier and Arco had already stolen a horse and rode off towards the border. Following them were Kent and Valiant, also on stolen horse.
Brier: Idiots! Get your own escape route!
Kent: We just happen to be going the same direction!
Valiant: I don’t want to die!
Brier: Tough shit! I’ll be damned if I’m going to be dragged down by your lot! Arco!
Brier: “Shadows, shadows, congregate! Form a body drawn of hate! Shadows, shadows, congregate! Casting form of a decade late!”
Brier plays Rally of Shadows ~ Reversal Illusion!
Brier: I wanted to avoid this since it’s an embarrassing lyric, but I have no choice.
Arco, the winged lizard, absorbed the darkness around him. The village became a shadowless land. The sudden phenomena frightened the horses, and the chase ended. Arco grew into the mighty dark dragon it once was. Proudly, it stretched out its mighty wings. Brier grabbed on to Arco’s tail as it began its flight over the Third Border wall.
Brier: So long, Kruseid! Svennia, try to survive and return to my employ someday!
Svennia: Master, you ASSHOLE!
Knights: Yes, my Lord!
Brier: Heh. This one’s easier. No words for this one… Let’s see, here we go…
The archers all fired their arrows, but they traveled very short distances, barely covering five meters.
Kruseid: What’s the matter with you all?
Knight: Eh, it’s too much trouble aiming.
Knight: And pulling the string… who needs it? Pfft.
Brier plays Lament of Laziness!
Brier: Heh heh heh.
Kruseid: You weak-minded fools!
Brier: Okay, hurry up! You only have twenty seconds of transformation time left!
Brier: We’ll be spotted in the plains. We can lose them in the Rhean forest.
And so, Brier and Arco escaped Astoria, fleeing into the forests connected to Rhea.
As for the rest… Valiant was apprehended and executed in the center of his village. His parents were assured that he died as a Knight of Astoria. Kent wisely chose to follow Svennia into the Astorian forest, though how successful they were at evading the army is a story for another day…
In the next episode of Bardass! He is the renowned leader of the Seven Heroes, the former wandering prince, now seated at his rightful place as King of Astoria. They call him Kruseid the Just, but how did he come to be this way? Learn what happened after the fall of the Dark Lord Balken in Break 1: Kruseid the Just.