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Dragon Knight

Post #1

Stories said that there was no living thing that could withstand dragonfear.

That morning, Jeni had awoken expecting a usual day; sunny and warm, calm and quiet, full of baking and lugging hay and wood, with her brothers and mother and father. Instead, on that day, the sky above her village would fill with smoke and arrows, enough to darken the sun.

Jeni had seen grown men gripped by a terrible fear, greater than the fear of the fires that burned the village to the ground, and the fear of the army that closed in around the village, or their fears for their wives or children. Jeni saw the men of her villages, that had been her icons of strength, broken by the dragonfear.

She would learn, much later, that it was not these men's fault; the mindless terror a dragon's presence engendered was enough to drive men mad with dread, or to stop the hearts of women and children. Only the most willful, or the most clever, or the most courageous, or the most foolish, could withstand the presence of a dragon. With everyone else in the village screaming and running, fleeing in blind panic, Jeni ran from fire to fire with a bucket in her hand. Desperately, Jeni fought to save her home and her village; she felt the tears stinging her eyes and chasing down her face, cutting worn paths through the soot and ash.

In the end, she fell, exhausted; she was bent but unbowed, falling to her knees in the still-simmering ash that had once been her childhood home, put her face in her hands, and wept.

She did not know how long she had cried (hours, she thought) when she heard the sound of boots, and the voices of unfamiliar men. She was too tired, too worn and too spent to lower her hands or open her eyes, though, until she felt a firm hand grip her shoulder, and attempt to tip her over.

"Oi!" the man called, his voice as rough as untreated wood, even as Jeni's arm whipped around to strike his. "This one's alive! Sargent, this one here's alive!"

Jeni raised her head to cast her gaze about, nervous and unsure what was happening around her. Two handfuls of men made their way through the ruins of her village, swords at their sides and wearing protective chain shirts and tunics. They were digging about in the ash with sticks -- long sticks with metal spikes at the end, which they used to move what little of the ruins were intact out of their way.

One of the men, perhaps a little older, his skin a little more olive-coloured and his face certainly more weather-worn than the others, broke off and moved towards Jeni.

"Tauric." the man beside her said, seemingly out of nowhere. "I'm Tauric. And this is my Sargent, Lauris. Do you remember your name? Were you hit on the head?"

Jeni turned her head, to regard him with anger and a touch of confusion. "I'm ...', she began, and then paused. "I'm Jeni, of the Barrelwrights. My father is ... was a Barrelwright, as his father before him, and as my brothers will ... would be. And I was not hit on the head."

The olive man, who had closed with the pair whilst Jeni spoke, narrowed his eyes, and regarded her with a most unique combination of compassion and suspicion. "There was a dragon." he stated simply.

Jeni nodded. The olive man's tone implied that she owed him some explanation. "There were fires." Jeni answered. "The dragon, it ... it lit so many fires. I had ... this bucket ..." she said, holding the remnants of the fire patrol's bucket aloft. "I was on the fire patrol. Only girl on the patrol. My father insisted. Said there was no rule against girls carrying buckets."

Images of the arguments between her father and the other men of the village tore through her mind. She had never been a girl, like the other girls; she had little interest in baking or child-rearing or sewing, and had cared nothing for hopscotch or skipping rope, spending her time instead climbing trees, exploring the woods, chasing frogs, or fighting other boys with sticks; habits having seven brothers had only encouraged.

Lauris still looked suspicious, but nodded. "And you ... tended the fires, even as the dragon ...?" he said, his tone making his words a question. As she nodded, Tauric gazed at her as though she were growing another head, so she added, "It ... didn't work."

There was a pause, before Tauric and Lauris responded to her comment with laughter, looking around themselves at the ashes of the inferno all about them. Jeni felt her lip quiver, but she was too tired and too angry to be bothered to cry again. Lauris stepped closer, and offered his hand to help her stand.

"I'd say not." he said, with a chuckle, as Jeni stood. "Still. I think your father was a wise man, to have told the fire patrol to take a girl with enough chutzpah to throw water onto dragonfire." He nodded to Tauric, who smirked and nodded back.

"Come, girl. You're probably hungry, and cold and wet and thirsty, I wouldn't doubt." he continued. "Let us see bursa eve gelen escort if we can't find you a bath, and some clothes?"

Lauric took Jeni to a tent full of women, who tended to her. They set her in a warm bath, and with cloths and sponges cleaned her face and her body, and brushed her hair. The bathwater was scented, like lilacs, which Jeni had never heard of before. The ladies wore robes of silk in a rainbow of colors, and painted their faces as the women of Jeni's village did only for festivals, making their lips red as roses and their eyes shadowed in blues and greens.

The ladies joked with each other all day long, and while Jeni did not quite understand their humor, their laughter was nonetheless infectious, and Jeni laughed along. Throughout the afternoon, men would come into the tent, and then leave, taking one girl or another for a short time. When the girls returned, they were often flushed, and the girls who had stayed behind offered amused congratulations, although Jeni was not sure why. As afternoon turned to evening, some of the girls offered to paint Jeni's face, and she gratefully accepted. They made over her face, in white and red, greens and blues, brushing and combing Jeni's hair, and making the girl in the mirror appear as the young woman Jeni might grow into one day.

Abruptly, though, the flap of the tent was flung aside. The cool of the night air seemed to rush in, and several of the ladies gasped. Silhouetted by the light from the tent, still standing in the darkness of the outside, Jeni could make out the straight lines and gleaming metal of plate armor. A knight. Jeni sat very still, hoping whomever stood at the door would not notice her, among all the other girls.

A voice came from the figure at the door, one that was gruff, and gravelly, and had the tone of one used to command, but it surprised Jeni, for it was also the voice of a woman.

"There was a girl sent here." the voice spoke. The figure stepped into the tent. She bowed her head, slightly, although she need not have; she was not short, by any means, but nowhere near the six-foot opening to the tent.

Some of the ladies passed a snicker back and forth as the armoured woman spoke. They exchanged knowing smirks, and Jeni had the feeling that somehow she'd missed a joke. Several of the girls shifted slightly, parting their robes just so much, revealing more skin than Jeni had seen from any woman except her mother.

"Well, m'lord ... m'lady. There's all kinds of girls here. Probably even some what could fill your fancy, had you a notion to it." said one of the ladies, near the front. As she spoke, the lady stood, and Jeni found herself staring as the painted woman flowed across the floor. It was as though she never quite lifted her feet from the ground, even as her hips swayed back and forth. Jeni caught herself staring, and blinked.

The woman in the plate armour, however, stood unmoving. She was not as pretty as some of the other women assembled in the tent, but her stern grey eyes, high cheekbones, and full lips would have turned heads in Jeni's village. These features combined with her blonde hair, which was cut in a boy's bob-cut around her face to make her a striking woman. Jeni wondered what she would look like, painted as she other women had been.

"That's no matter for now, though, is it?" the Lady spoke, cracking a slight smile. "To be sure, I am ... my muscles are weary, from a day's work, and I may yet come seeking a girl skilled with her ... hands, to work the knots from my shoulders, and a day's riding from my thighs." The woman in the armour raised an eyebrow, smirking as if pleased with herself; the ladies around Jeni shared another giggle, and one made a curious motion with her tongue between two fingers at another. "Still. That shall have to wait. I'm here for the girl." the armoured woman finished.

Heads quietly swiveled until much of the room was looking at Jeni. She felt her cheeks flush at being the center of attention, and saw the armoured woman blink several times, as if in surprise or disbelief. "I was told the girl in question was quite young." the lady said, quietly. Nearly as quietly, the woman beside her answered, with a mischievous grin, "Well, makeup can work wonders, and you know these farmgirls -- strong and sturdy, like their fathers."

The lady's calm demeanor returned, and she nodded to her hostess, before crossing the tent in three long strides, to stop beside Jeni. "May I take a moment, girl?"

Jeni didn't feel she had another choice; the woman in armour had a way of asking questions that made them seem like commands. She nodded, and rose, and walked alongside the woman towards and out the door of the tent.


The night outside was much cooler than the interior of the tent, and Jeni shuddered at the sudden change of temperature. All around, men made their bursa escort way back and forth, and music from some nearby campfire teased around Jeni's ears and feet. There was great a field of tents all around them, dozens if not scores.

"I am Lady Hathdrake." the lady said, and then paused, waiting for Jeni to respond. Jeni nodded, answering only, "Jeni" and pointing to herself.

The Lady Hathdrake began to walk, a measured pace, with her armor clanking and clanging. Jeni walked along, not quite jogging so that she could keep up. "I am told you fared remarkably today. I'm told you were found clutching a fireman's bucket, working to the last."

Jeni opened her mouth, meaning to correct Lady Hathdrake, but the lady kept speaking. Jeni slowly closed her mouth wordlessly.

"There are few, very few, who could continue at their duties, even duties as essential as a fire patrol, as a dragon bore down on them. I've seen grown men wet themselves and hide behind rocks as dragons passed overhead; I've seen horses struck dead in terror at the sound of a dragon's call. Dragonfear, it's called. Breaks the minds, and hearts, of men. All men." the Lady said, watching Jeni's reaction with a slight turn of her head.

Jeni only nodded. She remembered what she had seen of the others in her village, and remembered having to fill the buckets herself, before running across the village clutching them, because all others had fled -- or perished. Dragonfear.

"All men and women are overcome by dragonfear; it strikes the wise and the foolish, the courageous and the craven. There are none that can stand against it. Except..."

The Lady abruptly swiveled on her heel, to face Jeni. "Why, except you. A simple farmgirl, who tended a bucket while her village burned, who somehow evaded the dragonfire, withstood the dragonfear, and stayed on duty while everything she knew burnt to ash, and dust." The Lady's eyes narrowed at Jeni, and she regarded her with suspicion.

Jeni's mouth fell agape again, then closed, then opened. She wasn't sure what the lady could be accusing her of. She felt as though she was going to cry, though she didn't have any tears left. She closed her mouth again, and only nodded in response, before mumbling, "Yes."

"Yes ... m'lady." the armoured woman corrected her.

"Yes, of course. M'lady, so sorry." Jeni said, with a slight curtsey.

The Lady raised her hand, still clad in a leather glove, and ran her thumb across Jeni's face, smearing the paint there. Quietly, she murmured, "You can still smell it, can't you? That scent like a roasting suckling-pig, the smell of a bonfire of rotten eggs?"

Jeni nodded, blinking to try to hold back tears, and failing.

"You are not the only one to have lost loved ones to these beasts." the Lady said, quietly. "My father had a summering-home not far from here. I was ... I was perhaps not quite your age. The house went up like kindling-wood. I remember ... I ran to the barn to free the horses. I remember setting my hands on the gate; it bore our house-crest, and it was so, so heavy ... and that day, so hot."

She closed her fist, tightly, as the unpleasant memory of the painful burn was painful itself. Jeni nodded, and the Lady nodded back to her.

"I cannot promise you kindness, for you are starting late, and a girl besides. It might be an easier life if I return you to the ... the girl's tent, for you to age and make your own coin. But I can promise you hearty meals and a fine bed, with a horse to ride and the feel of cold steel in your hands."

Jeni's head swirled. She wasn't sure what the Lady was talking about. The Lady must have seen her confusion, for she knelt, carefully, her armor protesting, dropping to one knee, so that her head was just above Jeni's eye-level.

"I would train you, as I made my father's men train me. Swordplay. Armor wearing. Combat, heraldry, and other knightly matters. I would teach you such skills, Jeni, such skills that ..."

The Lady paused, and breathed a heavy sigh, her voice ragged. She reached out, and took Jeni's hands in her own "Jeni, I ... I do not have your gift. Like all the others, I am powerless before the wyrms; the dragonfear strips me of my skill and pride, and leaves me a sobbing wreck, just like all others. All others, but you. You could fight them, Jeni. I could teach you."

"Fight ... dragons?" Jeni asked, nervous and unsure of the Lady Hathdrake's words. The Lady nodded eagerly.

"More than fight them, my girl. You can do much more than fight them. With my help -- you can win."

= =

Lady Hathdrake had been honest when she said she could not promise kindness. There were no more than a month of nights, in the next ten years, that Jeni did not go to bed with aches and pains, and bruising, muscle pain and exhaustion seemed to be constant companions. But she grew steadily stronger, her muscles görükle escort well-defined under a soft and protective layer of flesh. Jeni's curves presented challenges to the armorsmiths and bowyers the Lady had hired, and between her 12th and 14th year even her training armor had needed constant adjustment. Late nights were spent pouring over ancient books with special tutors, learning the things a young knight would need to know.

Throughout the process, Lady Hathdrake was Jeni's constant companion. When Jeni was young, the Lady was protective and loving, helping her learn to read and write; when she grew older, their relationship matured, into something akin to that between an older brother and a younger sister, or lifelong friends. The Lady helped Jeni celebrate her accomplishments and work through her trials, encouraged her, and gently teased her to keep her modest, just as Jeni's brothers had done.

Jeni did not remain quite so naïve as she had been when she first arrived at Lady Hathdrake's keep. She noticed, even when young, that the Lady kept only young and female servants, each one pleasing to the eye in a different way; some curved and plump, some muscled or thin, this one blonde and that one with red hair. The Lady knew each of them by name, and flattered them with praise and compliments, which, as a younger woman, Jeni had thought was a sign of a caring master of the house. When she came to understand that the Lady had brought most, if not all, of these young women to her bed at one time or another, she was at first confused, for what little she knew of such things had suggested that it was a man that lay with a woman. But, after reflection, such a choice made sense, since, after all, the Lady had taken up blade and bow, rode into battle and commanded men to fight and die, and wore armor and was the head of her household. Seeing her with a man, or a suitor, would have been even more confusing.

One evening, early in Jeni's eighteenth year, after a particularly difficult day, she had retired to the sitting-room. Her tasks were done, and her tutors had already left for the night. Mira, a pleasantly plump little brunette with a quirky smile, had brought Jeni her ointments for her bruises and wine, for her ill mood. Jeni had been liberally applying both, her body aching from her first full day in full regalia instead of training armor; the extra weight did not distribute well over her slim shoulders and wide hips. Carvil, the armorer, had promised revisions, and between that and a considerable exertion of will, Jeni had barely managed not to force him into the ill-fitting wreck.

Still. The wine was chilled, and the fire warm, and the day done, and she had armor, and sword, and a full stomach and a good horse. Aching hips seemed a small price to pay.

"I hear tell your first session in the armor was not a rousing success." came a voice, sounding lightly amused from the door of the sitting-room. Jeni turned to the Lady Hathdrake and smiled, albeit slightly half-heartedly, adjusting her body to prepare to take her legs off the widened seat, to make room for them both.

"I'm sure -- ouch -- it will improve. Carvil is likely in his room, cursing these child-bearing hips right now, and wondering how to get the steel bent around them." Jeni said, with a chuckle. "In my training armor, so much of the weight was on my shoulders, but here, it's like the chestplate rests wholly on my hips..."

The Lady nodded, as she took a seat beside Jeni, holding aloft a goblet, and a dusty bottle of wine. "As did mine, at first. He shall need to mount it higher, and bring the armor of your hips up to meet it, I expect. I brought this for sharing -- ambrosia, with a hint of strawberries. From the southern provinces. Two glasses, and I promise the ache in your hips shall be swept away" the Lady said, pushing both hands apart from each other, then setting the items she held down on the end table. "Bring your legs back up, Jeni; I can see the welts at your hips, and you must ache."

Jeni hesitated, but relented; she brought her legs up, and the Lady Hathdrake reached out to pull them onto her lap, wincing and producing a sympathetic whimper. "Oh, you ... " she muttered, and pressed her fingers at Jeni's calf.

Jeni had, in the past, professional muscle-workers, to help her muscles to relax, strengthen, and grow, part of which was a rub-down after a hard workout, but those masseurs had not worked her muscles with the attention and supple strength of the Lady's touch. A soft, low moan escaped her lips, and she felt herself blush, and she giggled. "Feels good" she murmured, and sipped her wine.

The Lady Hathdrake rubbed at her calf a good long moment or two, quietly, before softly saying, "The definition in your legs is incredible." As she spoke, her hands rubbed along the back of Jeni's calf, down from behind her knee to her ankle -- and then came up again, over the knee, to gently encircle Jeni's thigh.

"Your hands feel so good." Jeni said, and heard herself let a small moan escape, again. She turned herself, slightly, trying without being vulgar to present the back of her thighs to Lady Hathdrake, imagining how lovely it would feel to give those strong muscles relief.
09-18-2023, at 09:34 PM

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