Having chosen to use Squire Castiel and the Ruined Coaching Inn in my story (since the creators of both gave open permission, so thanks to them for that) I have begun writing my story. I have to cut it down about 240 words and I'm not entirely satisfied with the second half, but here goes. Please, feel free to point out any fluff errors I might have made, my knowledge of Bretonnian fluff is limited to my memory since I have lost my army book so there may be mistakes.
I hope you enjoy it.
EDIT: See post #10 for final version
“Honour is all, chivalry is all.”
The words of the Knight’s Vow left a bitter taste in Sir Guillaume de Couronne’s mouth as he surveyed the scene of destruction before him.
It was hard to see where either honour or chivalry had been when the bandits had razed the village, and as the mutilated corpses of the inhabitants became visible he cursed himself for failing in his duty to protect these people.
The settlement was a devastated ruin, its rough hovels burned to the ground and the few items of value within them looted. Thick black plumes of oily smoke still rose into the red streaked evening sky, giving the impression that the sky itself was ablaze.
Steeling himself, he rode further into the village, scattering a flock of crows. Behind him he saw his squire, Hugh Castiel, had drawn his sword, the polished steel of the blade a reminder of the retribution that would be wrought upon those who had acted so on his father’s lands. He studied the squire’s face to judge the older man’s reaction to the scene. As usual, his expression was unreadable, and Guillaume wished for a moment that the man was more open with his thoughts.
“Tell the men to move into the ruin ahead,” he said to the squire, indicating the charred remains of a coaching house which was the most intact structure in the village. His voice was barely more than a whisper, and he hated the weakness in it.
“Sire?” questioned Castiel, concerned. Guillaume forced some strength into his voice this time. It would not do to appear feeble.
“This crime is a stain upon my family’s honour, and I will not rest until it has been eradicated. Justice must be done.”
“Aye, sire. Understood,” nodded Castiel.
Guillaume watched as Castiel returned to the men outside the settlement, wondering how the man’s ancient and battered equipment held together. Yet for all that he looked like any other man of his class, Guillaume knew that Castiel was an experienced and capable warrior. He knew also, however, that there was an ambitious streak to the man that his father did not like. It did not do for peasants to get ideas above their station.
As the squire turned a corner and disappeared from sight, Guillaume dismounted and bent over the body of a child. In death, the infant’s features were almost serene, and Guillaume stared into its lifeless eyes for a while.
‘Remember the face of each of those you fail,’ his father had told him, ‘that you might remember that every decision you make will have consequences for those under your care.’
Guillaume shuddered. There would be many new faces to remember today.
He cast his eyes down further over the tiny corpse. An arrow protruded from its shoulder and pinned it to its mother in a hideous mockery of a child’s paper chain. The wounds that had killed both of them still oozed hot and sticky blood.
Guillaume frowned as he noticed. The blood was fresh. He rose to his feet and was about to call out to Castiel when an arrow flew from his left, the arrowhead lodging itself in his side. Guillaume blinked and staggered away, the pain almost overwhelming, and reached for his sword. His hand fell to his side, useless, as a second arrow pierced the mail covering his chest, and he fell to his knees.
He looked up with what he hoped was defiance as a man stood over him and raised his sword. Blood flowed from his wounds, yet he scarcely noticed as he realised that his failure was complete.
“I’m sorry father,” he whispered, before the blade fell.
Although the entire settlement had an uncomfortable atmosphere to it, in the coaching inn this sensation was increased tenfold, and Castiel felt his skin crawl as he entered the structure. The tiling on the floor was cracked and the blood spattered across the tiles made the wanton nature of the crime even more apparent.
To the left of the main chamber was a door, and Castiel advanced cautiously towards it. On closer inspection, it became clear that the door was reinforced, but it was not locked and it swung open, revealing a long gallery that sloped downwards into the ground. The room was dark, but Castiel thought he saw the hint of movement in the shadows.
“Vasilles? Come here, you have the sharpest eyes of all of us,” he called to the archer he had brought with him, and the weasel-like man appeared, a sullen expression on his face.
“What do you see?” asked Castiel after a moment.
“There’s…something,” admitted Vasilles, “but I can’t make ou-“
He was interrupted by the arrow that killed him.
“Ambush!” bawled Castiel to the men behind him, but realised that they were behind him no longer. The door had shut, and from beyond it came the sounds of battle.
He swore and ran down the passageway. There was a silken hiss as a second arrow followed the first, but with the door closed visibility was poor and the shot went wide. Castiel saw the archer and charged, clattering heavily into the man. The archer stumbled and fell, and Castiel made to take advantage of the mistake and thrust his sword deep into the man’s chest. The man’s face contorted in agony for a moment, and then he died.
With the archer dead, Castiel moved further down the passageway. The air here smelled of damp, but it provided a welcome change from the charnel-house stench that hung over the rest of the village.
At the end of the passage was another door, untouched by the flames.
Covering himself with his shield, Castiel kicked open the door and found himself in a large underground room lit by guttering torches. He lowered his shield, finding himself alone. He walked across to an alcove in the wall, where several marks were scratched in the wall.
From closer up it was apparent that the marks were a form of religious artwork, perhaps dedicated to a local deity. He turned around, and froze.
For he was not alone in the room after all.
“Relax, Squire. I am unarmed.”
The voice, elegant and refined, belonged to a man standing in front of the squire dressed in a crimson doublet.
“Who are you?” Castiel demanded warily.
The man smiled.
“I’m surprised you don’t know me, Squire. My name is Lord Verne d’Acquitaine. I have had extensive dealings with your master over issues of his debts to the crown of late.”
“Is that why you murdered these people?” snarled Castiel.
“I should think not.” Verne laughed, surprised. “I came here for this.”
“What do you mean? Answer me or I swear I’ll gut you where you stand.”
“You see these symbols?” Verne indicated the scratched marks. “These symbols are ancient religious markings, dedicated to the pantheon of Chaos. Think of it, Squire, the power, the good that could be done.”
“And why should I not kill you now?”
“Because if you kill me now, you lose your best chance of knighthood, and would instead face censure.”
“Perhaps,” agreed Castiel, “but your deeds today must not go unpunished. And no true knight of Bretonnia would turn to such blasphemy.”
“True knight? Spare me your nobility, Squire. There are no true knights; only men of destiny and the chaff of history. Which will you be?”