More oft than not, one will not find a hero blessed with wealth and standing. Legends do not live to be mortals bearing arms nor exalting some righteous cause. A hero is meant to be immortal even though he is not. Indeed such an individual can only be a lion hidden amongst men.
~Ser Jon Wood the Young; Marquis Warden of the Throne
A Ranger's Tale
"Guy, I have something to tell you..."
Damn, I don't like where this is going. Dammit, Ales! Stop rocking back forth like that!
"Actually... I like you."
Wait a holy sec… what the fuck is that? Guy Cody, you lucky, lucky sod. I can't be hearing fairy tales, right? Is that her confession of love? The intoxicating fragrance from her dark flowing locks... is that a dream as well? Rosy cheeks now slightly flushed? Her doe-like eyes shying away from me?
"Wait a holy sec… me? Why me?"
"Why yes, you heard me, Guy… YOU."
Oh damn… this is some weird shit. I must have been smoking some funny herbs. Catts is gonna get it from me. For the very first time in history, I manage to believe that anything is possible once your brains go ‘pop’…
Wait a holy sec… I think I've just kept my composure.
Her affirmation to incredulous thoughts playing catch with me ends with a timid nod, a blissful smile sealing the best deal of my life. A lifelong dream finally arrives, the dreamer in me hitting an all-time high.
"Yes! Finally you've accepted me! Alestrial Eliaden! The one and only!"
Leaping in joy, I pump my fist like an eighteen year old virgin about to score with his first date. Finally freed, this rabbit here is now free to munch his carrot.
Wait a holy sec… am I using the correct term?
"I've always liked you all the while. It's just that I never had the chance to tell you," smiles my petite Cinha angel as she rested her delicate hands against my chest. Holding onto Ales’ shoulders, I can only bob my head like an enthusiastic puppy while feeling fountains of joy gushing from my eyes.
"I understand now, Ales. Our Father in heaven will bless our union for sure!"
"Of course He will. The Church has always been a fair system for the entire North. In my opinion, that is,” giggles Ales, “He will definitely give us His blessings as the Head of Quintet Faith, but if only..."
"Tell me, Ales. I'll do it for you! Even if it’ll cost me my life and my greatest pride! Unto the abyss and heavens high!"
They say pointing towards the skies is a guarantee of sincerity. Yep, I always saw that in the mimes and I learn stuff really fast.
"Oh, don't worry. Your life won't be at stake, but you're correct on the other count," says my fair lady as her eyes start emitting a green eerie glow, "I just want to take your manhood."
Wait a holy sec, that's the greatest comedy skit ever, right? Or maybe she just wants my manhood?
"Why are you giving me this expression? You've heard me right. That 'thing' in between your legs," giggles my fair lady again as a knife abruptly appears out of thin air. Great, just like epic tales recounting feats of Magic.
"You know one thing, Guy Cody? I really like my man to be incomplete. Please accede to my demands if you really love me," smiles my innocent Cinha angel, her knife flipping about with crazy dexterity, "Don't worry though. I know this will be painful, but we both know I shall take care of you forever. Unless of course you want to renege on our promise made six years ago."
Wait a holy sec, me getting chained all over and trapped in a dungeon? Great, marionette Guy is now shackled for life.
Wait a holy sec… am I gaping like that fish Uncle Parky boned years ago?
Shit! Shit’s all too damned real now! I can only shake my head violently in denial as my fountains manage to warp big time from joy to despair. Yeah, I know I’m getting way too calm. Sucks to be me alright.
"No! It shouldn't end like this! You're not the real deal! A faker! The real Alestrial Eliaden will never do such a thing to me! No... Nooo... NOOOOOOO!"
I really hate that stupid knife now! I know that vilest abomination is starting to dominate my sweetheart!
"Shut the fuck up!"
The sandy blond finds himself sprawling face first on the lacquered wooden floor, his eyes opened wide greeting every face glowering before him. Veins bulging along every temple sending him his mates’ regards, Guy Cody feels a sore bump on his forehead.
"Erm... it's a dream, no?" smiles a sheepish Guy in the face of all dressed in brown shorts and white collarless shirts.
"You're obviously having a nightmare," growls his closest friend, a fiery grimace complimenting his fiery hair, "To be straight, I don't give a flying ass on why you're drooling and screaming. But for the love of the entire Holy Quintet, DON’T WAKE US UP!"
"Eh, did I really scream that loud, Catts?" Guy replies, one hand still rubbing his forehead gently.
"There's no such thing as a quiet arsehole," snarls another lad, massive hands seizing by Guy by the collar, "Hopefully our bunk officers didn't end up hearing a stuck pig screaming. If not…”
For the first time in his life, Guy feels like a swine ready for slaughter. The image of a million knives stuck inside his body playing a macabre game with him, he’d rather be sentenced to castration by his beloved.
"Erm, okay Morris. I get the picture."
"What are all of you doing here?"
A question hollered out swiftly cutting into every listener’s ears, the impact akin to setting a hot knife against butter. Hastily shuffled themselves into position, the group of fifteen stand in ranks of three as a stocky bunk officer receives a proper salute.
"Catterm Leen! Guy Cody! Why are the two of you still not standing at attention?" barks their brunette superior decked in padded armour.
"Sorry, sir!" exclaims Catterm, "Erm, actually we're pretty much surprised at your surprise assault. As you can see, I was way too engrossed in teaching our stuck friend here some lessons on how civilisation works."
"Teach? You, Catts? Puh’lease, you're balmy beyond cure! And why mention civi..." before Guy can finish his statement, his best friend slapped him across the head.
"Shut up, fuckwit! You'll only get us all buggered good."
Delivering a wry smile conceived from his well humoured nature, Southgate Garrat doesn’t have to be a half-baked idiot in reaching a conclusion.
"It’s only natural for people to have nightmares especially those your age,” clearing his throat in an exaggerated manner, Southgate continues his speech, “But I do not desire any more shenanigans being shitted out. The Third Company’s repute within the Second Support Command has officially preceded everything else. Understand me, laddie bucks?"
The youths under his charge sing a song of relief within their hearts as they managed to escape jaws of the abyss. They could have easily been screwed ten times over, each individual making a mental note to buy himself a carving knife.
"Okie, lads! With all things said, prepare yourselves for the roll call. Dawn is nearing ‘pon us and may the Roar be with us! Understand?" exclaims a grinning Southgate, his right arm dramatically sweeping across.
"Man, it's a good thing seeing nice bloke Southgate as our bunk chief. Definitely luckier than us playing buff poker with them mad cats from Wearside and Tyneside years ago."
"Do you mind, Guy Cody?" snaps Catterm, “When was the last time an idiot mopped the floor with anyone from either Division?”
"Erm, last week? Or last month? You need to tell me, Catts."
“Guy Cody, I swear you’re asking for…”
Peals of intent tolling forth disrupting his best buddy’s threat, anticipation towards a long day ahead washes over the sandy blond like a cold morning bath. Cheesy smile worn like a badge of pride, Guy Cody instinctively cracks his knuckles. Four rigorous years spent in the Merseyside Academy and the life he has wanted so much since adopted begins to unfold like a drama on stage. The Red Lions' infamous quote instantly burnishing in his heart, strides stoked by passion taking him all the way unto the bathhouse.
Time to roar off the monkey piss.
Breakfast is a simple platter of bacon, scrambled eggs and plain buttered toast, both officers and recruits dining side by side. Military regulars always gladly steer clear from such practice, this is something used to earning sniggers. They call it a rarity in society, an insult to the military. The Red Lions would have nothing of it though, their penchant for trouble appreciated only by the smallborne. Frequent arrests beget only a slap in the wrist, no ruler is ever foolhardy enough to rile the masses. And the Red Lions belong to the smallborne in every sense of the word.
"Never bounded by blood, our pride will never fall. If one elite bugger pummels one of us, let him taste a hundred of us. "
"Eh, the food here rocks..." quips Guy with an off-tune whistle blown, his own plate cleared and returned personally.
"A blimey as well. This ain't the Tyneside Division because no one knows what their cooks are smoking before lighting the stove," chuckles Catterm, his foul mood dissipated fast, "Hey, there's still a bit of time before we gear up, so why not a little bant?”
“Hell yeah! Beater and Dickhead are back!”
Guy Cody promptly receives his reward for outspoken enthusiasm, a punch across the back of his skull being his keep.
“Do you want to get me killed?” snarls Catterm, his fiery hair ruffled in frustration, “Who told you out ourselves? Do you even know what Beater and Dickhead means?”
“Whoa, calm down! Cool your fire, Catts!”
“I suspect the only way to cool my fire is to roast you alive. I know Guy Cody is Beater, but are you so obsessed in letting Elys know my nickname?”
“Erm… yes? You’re damn good in pleasing girls.”
“I swear you should have fucked Adine when you got the chance,” growls Catterm with a palm placing over his face, “At least you won’t die a virgin.”
“Yeah. Anything wrong?” questions Catterm with an eyebrow raised.
“That hot pretty serving girl who got every dude hot under his pants?”
“You’re not just a cretin I see,” sighs the redhead, exasperation wearing him down like some insatiable lover, “You blind cretin. Which Adine are we now talking about?”
“Old Crocker’s daughter?”
“Yep, bingo there. Ugly as fuck, I hope you’re at least wise enough to remember,” comes the snorting reply. Then shock starts creeping into Catterm Leen, sudden realisation staking claim on him like a hungry lioness, “Wait a fucking minute, please don’t tell me…”
“Yep, bingo there!” grins a victorious Guy, “Saw her while during on job training just last cycle! At Old Crocker’s watering-hole no less. Can you believe she recognised me first?”
Oh shit. I must be hearing things since lying is the last thing Guy will ever do. Errgh! Why must I be his friend?
Welcome to Crocks, this is the sign greeting every patron upon stepping through a door of birch. Famed for its sweet apple ale and fluffy lamb pastries, Crock Tayn will always ensure only the best should suffice. Despite rival establishments earning more profit via adding harlots and gambling sport, Old Crocker, as old timers enjoy calling him, firmly believes in principles and integrity. Troubadours, in particular, enjoy his hospitality granted without deceit while children, young lads and fillies alike will always enjoy a mug of berry tea with tales of yore sung.
“So how’s business?”
The crippled man eyes his friend, emotions pulsating inside the soul. Silence means only one thing. Bad news. Crocks has endured plenty of years and recent losses. The old timers, their children and grandchildren are still around, but stubborn insistence has given many a leeway for those carving out a niche or more. Times change and people change, let alone honour and rules. Word has it that Old Crocker will close down his fruit yielded through hard work before the current winter starts, the greatest worry will surely be Adine.
“Closing by autumn.”
Three words it takes to wrench a fighter’s guts, Garyth Parkins starts cursing those unscrupulous upstarts. Old Crocker has aged quite a fair bit, only the Holy Quintet knows when he will ascend. And speaking of the gods…
One does not simply offer prayers and righteous act to succeed. Wonder how Parish Blauser is doing right now in that humble little shithole we call chapel.
“The age of lions is now standing at nadir, I’m afraid our time has ended long ago,” says Crock, wistful tone giving birth to welling tears.
“The Red Lions remain strong!”
Waving off Garyth’s protest, Crock puffs his cheeks. Getting up from the wooden stool, he fingers a portrait framed in reddish wood. The picture remains clear, yet one of the three is no longer around.
“If only we can get Guy and Adine together.”
“They would make a stunning pair,” nods Garyth, determination fuelling his inner fire, “Don’t worry, Old Crocker. I’ll take good care of her after you’re gone.”
“After this place is gone,” corrects a smiling Crock, the cold hard reality no longer strangling him like weeks before, “The poulter has predicted I won’t live anywhere beyond the coming month.”
“A little wonder why you’re so eager to sell this off. You’d rather sell out your hard earned keep than to sell out your only kin,” thumping a fist against his own chest, Garyth Parkins displays his approval, “My brother in spirit, I’ll back you this time round.”
“What’s wrong with the fearsome Crazy Park?” chuckles Crock, a wrinkled thumb caressing his chin.
“You know how besotted that stupid boy of mine is when it comes to a certain false noble.”
“Oh, you mean Alestrial Eliaden? Let them be, I say. Reckless youth will always make one wiser. Aren’t we the same as well? Me, you, a few others and the ten division gaffers?”
“Life is all about method training, but…” Garyth’s words trail off into nothing bar grief.
“I know your brother and his wife were good honest folks. Not even the gods could’ve predicted Redcart utterly razed.”
“Is it okay for us to change the subject right now, right here?” smiles Garyth Parkins abruptly, mischievous glint seen in iron grey eyes failing to obscure his lingering wound, “Remember how my boy met Fatty Leen’s boy?”
“Ah yes, Beater and Dickhead!” guffaws Crock Tayn, unbridled mirth reversing his age by half, “Wasn’t that because of Catterm insulting Adine? Holy Quintet be praised, for Catterm was merely insulting her looks.”
“Glad Adine proved Dickhead wrong. Feels weird seeing her and Elys being best of friends though,” shrugs Garyth, wry humour adorning both his visage and Old Crock’s like accolades allotted to veterans.
“You can’t touch me! I am under protection!”
This is a load of bollocks. I might’ve been to the Imperial Zoo only once, but I don’t remember some bloody animal on display that reads “seventy three winters.”
“C’mon, Guy. Bastard’s not worth your time.”
That’s a load of bollocks, Bruno. If Guy Cody wants something done, he’ll get it done.
“GUY! YOU HEAR ME???”
I’m getting sick and tired of people telling me about the law. Whatever happening to the good ol’days before I'm born is irrelevant. Change in the law? Bullshit if you tell me. Sorry, Catts. You’re yelling and Bruno’s advice won’t work on me. At least for this time.
“I am protected by the law!”
That’s it, you seventy three year old freak. You’re fucking dead.
“Tell me, old fuck.”
Wow, I must have sounded cool. Scoundrel’s face seems to freeze on the spot. Now that’s priceless.
“How many funeral songs have you sung?”
Anger boils up in me as I ask him this damning question. I don’t care who the fuck he is or what the fuck he did before coming here. Looks like Ales’ fellow Cinha, but he stinks of money and piss. You stay in Teesside, you better respect those in Teesside. If he thinks making fun of those kids drowned in some boating mishap is funny, I’ll show him real comedy.
Fury finally becomes my food, the steel pole gripped in my hand released. There’s no point sending my own ass to jail since there’s a promise I need to fulfil with Ales. But if I must recall any lessons learnt from uncle Parky, this will be it.
“Well, you know what people say about retribution…”
Wow, I must have learnt well from those mimes two days ago. You seventy three winters jackass, betcha never see a pissed off Kalaran, let alone three. Should’ve wagered a tenner with Catts and gay Bruno on whether you’re impotent.
“Wait, what are you doing to my wheelchair? Help! Somebody! Security!”
What am I doing? Go eat some shit, you dumb fuck.
This has to be the best part of my life. Seeing a scoundrel scream is one thing, knowing you’re the one shoving his wheels is seven times the value.
“By the gods! Garyth’s boy killed him!”
“Pah! That bastard!”
Then a strong hand grips my shoulder, relief taking over me when I realise who.
“Moron! What if you killed him? Trading a scum for jail time, who’s your classroom teacher by the way?”
I’d like to say uncle Parky, but Catts would flay me like a dead cat.
“Catts, he’s still alive!”
Wait, he’s still alive? What kind of freak is that old bugger? Some weird being infiltrating Teesside? Think I need to do something about this.
“No, Guy,” snaps Bruno, his sharp tone holding me in place just like always, “The Cinha geezer might be okay, but it seems that he has lost control of his bladder.”
“So how, Luk? I heard this old bum is some high end merchant doing business in our Saltburn. Just a few trot apart by my guess.”
Well, no one can fault Catts for being rational. Brains plus package, no wonder Elys is so desperate for him.
“I’ll make sure he lives,” smirks our pretty buddy, “And while I’m at it, staying noiseless as well.”
Okay, slight change in statement. Catts is rational, but Bruno is crafty. As for me, seeing old folks somersaulting like some lame acrobat is more than enough.
“What is it, Southgate? Spit it out before I do it for you.”
“You seem stressed out.”
“More likely pressed out of shape due to those jokers from the Third Company. Now do you want to talk? If not, please get the…”
“It’s Guy Cody again. Lost big time against those lads from Tyneside and Wearside. Via buff poker no less.”
“What did he do?”
“Floored the entire lot with only his boxers on. And in public view no less. Permission to summon, sir?”
“THAT’S IT! Get that little bugger in, I’m gonna bray him fucking hard.”
Moggray Tonn grins ruefully before a past not so distant. Three months have passed by swiftly, the moment where he will step forth into the training square igniting fire within his heart. He has known Garyth Parkins for years, the only individual in Crazy Park’s generation closer to the Northern Lion being Southgate Garatt. A knock then makes its presence heard, the guest none other than Southgate himself.
“Announcing combat readiness, sir! Permission to…”
“Don’t ask me a stupid question in private, Southgate,” chortles the war veteran, a friendly slap knocking the wind off Southgate’s lungs. As his number two tries catching his breath while remaining bent, the grizzled soldier sneaks a glimpse towards a banner of white emblazoned with a pouncing lion in red. The past revisiting him like one mass deluge, the Northern Lion recalls only too well Garyth Parkins’ shocking revelation.
“He ain’t even my nephew, can you believe it? I know this sounds absurd, but please keep this secret between us. That boy… I mean Guy… he’s actually discovered by my sister-in-law as a baby suckling from a lioness’ teats.”
“Parky, you fucking idiot,” glowers Moggray as he prepares to step beyond the door, “If the lad ain’t your kin, why did you lie by telling him your brother’s name ends at Cody?”
Futile questions growled merely begetting a bugle blared afar, Moggray Tonn can only settle for something crystal clear from the start.
That boy may not have any share in Garyth Parkins’ blood, but he’s truly the heir.