Adventure of the Falcon
Rupert and his mother spend the winter with Richard and Elffin at Richard's estate, the latter beginning to teach Rupert the finer points of chivalry. On the traditional date of May 5, all ride out. Richard's mother is left to keep an eye on the estate in his absence. After about a week of riding north with no encounters, they meet a knight, Aeren of Winterbourne. He bests Rupert and Elffin in a friendly bout of jousting; they camp as a group and continue on to the north as a foursome.
After several more days they enter the County of Rydychen and encounter a knight (Sir Kyborn) guarding a bridge. All who pass must either defeat him or proclaim the beauty of the lady he loves. He defeats two of the travelers (I forget which ones) and is bested by the others, and they continue on.
On the road the party is attacked by a poisonous-clawed flying monster of some sort, about the size of a large dog, but evidently a mutant falcon of some sort. It is driven off after a series of diving attacks which wound Richard and nearly Aeren. The peasants relay rumors of monsters, a curse on the land, someone named Thomas, and something having to do with a Jew. The party continues on to the Earl Boso's castle. Three knights are visiting, led by Ruthyn the Brass, known for his tournament skill. Boso has a handful of household knights. The earl himself is a keen falconer.
There is much gossip from the south. Merlin has been missing for a long time; Arthur has summoned a Jewish scholar to court, perhaps as a replacement, who disappeared en route to Camelot along with his escort, leaving evidence of a fight. A reward is offered, all knights are summoned to lend their aid, and there are rumors of Saxon involvement.
The party also learns of local events, making sense of the other rumors. Thomas was the earl's falconer, undisputed as the best in the land. He disappeared on a night of strange noises and lights. The morning after, the earl's favorite falcon, Lightning, was found transformed into a monster which escaped and began terrorizing the countryside, and ever since there have been strange incidents in the castle of items flying through the air. All of this is loudly blamed on two visiting knights of Gorre, Maddog and Maddor, who had been guests at the castle and left just before these events.
The Lady Evelyn (a lady-in-waiting at the castle) loved Thomas but had been forbidden by Boso to marry him. She was courted by the somewhat obnoxious Sir John (a household knight) and refused him. Evelyn believes the recent events are due to Thomas's unhappy spirit and plans to drown herself to appease him, but Elffin dissuades her.
Richard fights Mervyn of the Silver Slipper over an insult Mervyn gave to the Earl of Salisbury and is defeated. He is wounded, but surprisingly not bitter over being defeated by a man who wears a silver slipper as a token of his lady. Rupert is nearly killed protecting the sleepwalking Evelyn from an attack by Lightning, who seems larger upon every encounter. There are more mysterious happenings, including an evil vortex in the room Sir John shares with the other household knights, and falling tapestries. The earl, apparently losing his grip, forbids any mention of the strange events and talks about falconry. A lot.
Turns out, everything was the fault of Harededd, Thomas's apprentice, who was insanely jealous of his master and also a necromancer, a student of an ex-druid named Atacoon. Harededd had most of Thomas' body in the back room of the mews and had buried his head in the middle of a Stonehenge-like circle of bones in the countryside (the knights, having tracked a wounded Lightning to the circle, destroy it and find Thomas's head, interrupting the bond between Harededd and the monster). Lightning destroys its master and perhaps Atacoon as well (there are a lot of body parts) as well as the mews itself, much to the devastation of the already-unbalanced Earl Boso, who orders the troublemaking knights (and Evelyn) to leave his lands forever. They park the lady with some relations and turn southward; as he raves madly before being killed by the beast, Harededd also mentions the mysterious missing Jew, and the knights receive a dream directing them to the east to find him; they are now determined to attend to the king's order and seek him out.
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© 1998 David Twiddy