He walked upon a perfect field of softly-bladed grass. While others had to weave their way through rusty crowds and obnoxious smelling peasants, this beacon of power strode as a King might within their throne-room, dancing to the sound and beat of the greatest strength to be found.
He hadn’t always been a bringer of fate, and now he couldn’t even claim to be truly like the men and women who surround him. He was something else, something made new but in the oldest of ways.
He was a Herald, and the kind that hadn’t been seen in a long time.
The green grass beneath his feet slowly faded away, as he made his way to the dark and oft-blooded lands of the tourney, he knew that soon a choice would have to be made. It wasn’t the Herald, or the champion’s choice, not in truth. Each challenger brought forth their own doom.
The Herald moved through the last of the crowds and toward a stand of wooden bleachers, sitting and allowing the sun to give it’s blessing. His tunic was clean and bold with shades of blue and green intermixing in a tornado that played tricks with the light. He had golden epaulets, denoting his champions status as the highest in the land, and wore a mask with a stern and contempting visage.
The bringer of fate looked out upon a field of knights battling in the general melee, a precursor to the champion rounds. First men would fight and prove their worth against fifteen others, then the solo rounds would continue until a champion was crowned. After each fight ended, the combatants were only allowed an hour before their next round, proving to the audience and sponsors that they were the fittest warriors to be found.
Taking his eyes off the field, he looked at the reserved and elevated platform which gave view to everything around it. His bleachers were made of an off-brown wood that had seen better days and likely hadn’t been cleaned in a century. The platform on the other hand, held an obese man on a large wooden seat shaped like a throne but without the grandeur to be expected. The jolly man screamed obscenities at those on the field, encouraging a knight with a black and purple tabard.
The Herald listened to the crowd pick up and repeat the fat man’s screams,
“Yaa, get em Blasteu!”
“You can do eet Blast! Those boys ain’t got nuttin!”
One inebriated fellow only two rows away made an unfortunate mistake,
“Bah the purple knight ain’t nuttin, wait till you see my boy the Gray Squire”
The crowd nearest to him booed and threw rotten fruit and tomatoes, forcing him to close his mouth quickly or find himself rushing for the nearby, and likely filthy, latrines. He put his hands up in mock surrender to the crowd, looking back onto the field.
The Herald smiled to himself, enjoying the sounds and somewhat filthy air around him. It had been too long since he’d sat among the people. He was always lauded upon and placed in the highest of pedestals for all to see but not come near. He’d snuck onto a carriage and bribed the coachmen to tell not a soul of who he was. Coachmen weren’t unique, always listening to gab and spreading gossip to their riders of who they’d taken and what they’d seen, but a gold bribe can seal most lips. Who he was could seal the rest.
The field had shrunk from sixteen men down to three, with the crowd favorite still fighting. Rather than taking his time and allowing the other two to fight it out, he stepped between them and swung a claymore with not a little strength. The long sword clashed against a knight in green on his right, doing little damage, while he swung his head low to dodge the attack of the second knight behind him. The purple knight moved quickly to get his feet underneath him and placed a heavy kick back into the green knight, knocking him over. Once a knight was knocked down, the weight of their plate wouldn’t let them rise up without help or an enormous amount of strength. The fight was now one on one.
Deaths were rare for a melee, but were known to happen at times. In many places, quite like the splinters, it was barely frowned upon. The splinters were a unique land of mixed baronies and counties, each keeping the other in check through marriage and bared teeth, with war breaking out in different places each year.
As the two knights caught their breath, The Herald looked back at the jolly man and saw what he had expected from the coachman’s rumors. There was a young girl sitting near him, likely no older than thirteen and barely into womanhood, whose cheeks seemed to have been drained of all their blood. Her pale countenance was explained by the lascivious grin on the Baron’s face and his hand disappearing into the folds of her gown.
This is why he was here.
A clash from the grounds brought his focus back to the field as he watched the purple knight beat on the final contender for his place in the solo rounds. One final hit on the last knight’s helmet, a large and potentially fatal dent left upon it, and the end of the melee was complete. The crowd cheered for their champion as the Baron removed his hand from his neighbor and sloshed back a drink, the young lady near him breathing quickly in her moment of reprieve.
The Herald got up and walked to a nearby pavilion. There were prayer pavilions at all tournaments, allowing the knights to beseech their divinities and spirits before their martial challenge. None ever knew if they’d be answered or what that answer may bring.
The Herald did.
He stepped into the soft tent and placed his knees on the small pillow provided, removing his mask. Kissing his finger, he drew it around the tornado on his tabard, calling to his champion. A powerful wind struck the pavilion.
Herald, why do you call on me so soon.
“I’m sorry, my lord. I have arrived at a place of cleansing and find in need of you.”
The wind outside lessened to a smooth and constant breeze. He felt a hand grip his heart and his body went completely still.
What is the name?
“Baron Kemp, my lord.”
What is the reason?
“He holds these lands, my lord, and is sponsoring a melee tournament upon the field. Rumors say, and my sight agrees, that he pressured another lord for his daughter’s hand, and forces himself upon her at any convenience, even in public.”
What is the outcome?
The Herald face cracked a small smile, “Benevolent Chaos, my lord”
The breeze outside shifted to a gale.
The Herald, still unable to move, did his best to clear his throat.
“Yes, my lord. Although I promise the next to not be.”
The wind outside continued to strike the pavilion as the Herald waited. He quietly held his breath as he fervently hoped they could change this land’s potential outcome.
A pact is agreed to, Herald.
The gale settled to a breeze, and then nothing at all, as the Herald straightened his body from the pillow. He took a moment to collect himself, fixed his mask in place, and pushed aside the pavilion’s cloth screen. He noticed the angle of the sun was wildly different from what it had been at the start of their communion. Time passed by differently when he spoke with his lord.
As he entered the field again, he saw the purple knight fighting yet again in the center, the crowd wildly cheering him and calling out their blessings.
This time instead of moving towards the bleachers, he walked toward the Baron and his platform. The lesser nobility was crowded on their own sides, but upon looking at the epaulets on his shoulders, allowed him to enter their platforms with more than one interested glance. The Herald made his way to the center platform holding the Baron and his young bride as the purple knight beat a grey knight into a wall. The knight raised a fist in the air and screamed at the sky.
“A victory for you my fine Baro! None here may gainsay your honor while I yet breathe!”
“Oh I don’t know about that” the Herald said loudly enough to be heard across the field. The crowd gasped as they took in his finery and boastful words.
“Sir, you seem to be a Herald of renown. Will you tell us your name and the name of your champion so we may better understand your claim” said a count to the Heralds left. He showed a clear resemblance to the poor young lady attempting and failing at holding a stoic appearance next to the Baron.
“I no longer have claim to a name Count, and I’m not allowed to release my champion’s name. Let me say that he is a worthy champion and has a claim to many victories in the past. I couldn’t even attempt to tell you how many.”
The Baron laboriously rose from his half-throne to speak, “A mystery challenger! I love it! Bring him out so he may try my champion Sir Blasteu. Let’s say in one hour, so he may have time to collect himself?”
The purple knight bristled on the field, lifting his visor and glaring at the Herald.
“Herald, your champion refuses to be named and doesn’t allow you to hold your own? What peasant foolery is this? What folly has he drawn you to? I’ve won dozens of tournaments in just the last year. Do you truly think this woebegone fool can strike me down? I’ll not wait an hour. I’ll not wait more than five minutes. Bring him forth so I may present my justice upon his body.” He finished his speech and slammed the visor back into place, placing his claymore toward the dirt and leaning upon it.
The Herald looked through the crowd. Many knights had already removed their armor or just woken from unconsciousness, excluding one knight who no longer seemed to breathe. The crowd was quiet, the nobles as well, all waiting for the Heralds next words. He looked over to the young lady staring straight ahead with no motion from her eyes.
“Young miss, may I have your name”
The Baron’s folds rippled anger, “Hey” he said, face red and a piece of meat still stuck on part of his bottom lip, “Don’t you be speaking to my betrothed, she’s mine, I won her and her family uhgreed.” In his anger, The Baron’s speech pattern started to slip to an earlier time. “Ya don’t get to speak to another man’s betrothed”.
“Miss, a name” The Herald asked again.
So quietly that only he and the Baron could hear, she whispered in a high-pitched voice, “Adelaine”.
“Hello Lady Adelaine” the Herald said back with a voice he tried to make soft, “This will be over soon”.
The Baron looked at the Herald with confusion, his partially food-filled mouth open in a sideways oval shape. The Herald winked at the Lady and began walking toward the field, hopping with energy down the steps. He stopped at an armor stand and took off his epaulets, placing them on top. The wind started to blow from the east as he looked at the purple knight.
“Sir, are you aware, as a knight, that young Lady Adelaine has no interest in being married to Baron Kemp?”
Sir Blasteu looked at the Herald, “I am, but as he owns this land, he owns the rights of its goods. She is his in totality”.
“Wrong answer” whispered the Herald with a slight smile behind his mask.
“So what will it be Airrald!” screamed the Baron. “Will he show, er are your words nothing but cowardice”.
“Here we go”
The Herald took a step toward the purple knight and in a deeper voice said, “I call upon the CHAOS”
A wind from the west joined the wind from the east, pressing toward the Herald and forcing his tabard to dance.
The Herald took another step, “I call upon the BALANCE”
A wind from the south streamed in from the platform and beyond, throwing jackets and hats to the air and pressing hard on any not well-braced. The Heralds epaulets flew to the sky as the crowd stared at the event.
The Herald took a third step, “I call upon the DIVINE”
A last wind joined from the north, sucking air into the sky and blinding many around the field with bits of dirt, sand, bone, and dried blood.
The Herald took one final step, almost at the purple knight, “I call upon TEMPEST”.
As the last word left his mouth, the symbol on his tabard flew off and encircled him. The Herald slowly faded from sight and in his place was something no one in the Splinters had ever expected to see. A man ten-foot-tall stood up from a crouch with a large warhammer in one hand. He had plate armor on, which was painted half in blue and half in green, with large shoulder guards and a swirling tornado emblazoned on his chest. Wearing no helmet, his dirty blonde hair fell down to his neck and framed a handsomely chiseled face. The wind no longer touched him as he grinned at the knight who suddenly seemed so small.
So it is you who insults our Herald, eh boy?, Said the deity in a voice that resonated with such power that the knight immediately sank to his knees. Blood leaked from the sides of his helmet, and Sir Blasteu screamed as those would be the last words he’d ever hear again.
Not so difficult a melee, said the God as he casually swiped his Warhammer at the fallen. The swift violence struck the purple knight in an explosion of blood and metal, spraying across the field and knights he had bested in the tournament.
Tempest tilted his head to the side as he looked at what remained of the Baron’s former champion. My Herald chose correctly. No knight should ever allow the young to lose their innocence. Pathetic wretch.
He looked across the crowd who hadn’t dared to move since the Herald first began walking from the platform. Pointing a finger at them, he then pointed down, and any who had been standing was now a sitting, watching, and unwilling participant of what would happen next. Their eyes, lungs, and the tilt of their head being the only allowed movement.
As he turned to face the platform, the winds turned with him and began blowing at the Baron, pinning him to his chair.
In a softer and heavily controlled voice, the God said, You may speak so-called ruler of these lands
The wind shifted away from the Baron’s face and chest, and all-around could hear his gasping and stuttering, drool falling down his chin.
“You canno be here! I invited no deities, no gawds! I know wha you are pretender! We killt ur kind a millenia ague!”
Did you not invite the willing fighters across all the splinters?
We are willing to fight, are you Baron of these lands? He spread his large hands and shifted his body left and right to include all of the territories. We believe this was once our seat in fact. Would you be up to our challenge?
“I ain’t nah fighter, I’m a nobel! It suhz so on meh contracts!”
Oh, we can satisfy the challenge without fighting…contracted nobility. Let us see what you are.
With those words, the God raised his right hand with his palm toward the Baron. Curling his fingers, he pulled downward in a quick rush then dragged his hand back to his chest. The Baron’s eyes started to bulge as he began to speak with no control.
“Me ma was uh eesemaker in the a-hundred villages yurrs agoo. Wen I wuz yung I wuh steal huhr heese wen she weren’t lookin and sell et un the streets. She always taught et was rats, but et was me allong. I got decent scrap en came up da hard way…”
The Baron told all who would listen about his depravities, from the eventual murder of his mother who learned of his thievery, to creating an assassins guild who also dabbled in blackmail. Eventually, the crowd and nearby nobility stopped looking in horror and awe at the God among them, and began to watch the Baron with unveiled rage and disgust, their faces trapped in a rictus of righteous anger but unable to move or speak.
Kemp finally came to modern times, as he spoke of his property, Lady Adelaine, and her family’s blackmail. It turned out that they had mixed blood from the Horrlands, a bordering swamp of monsters and mutations, and the Baron had learned of the terrible crimes her family had committed to keep their power. The Lady’s father turned purple, then pale, as the story continued on. His hands were gripped so tightly to his chair that the soft-wood was warping.
Tempest looked upon the crowd again, seeing what he hoped and expected of the locals. If they had agreed with or supported the Baron at this time, they’d have sealed their own fates. He uncurled his hand from his chest and pressed his palm back at the sweating fat man.
Enough! You have heard of his tales, you have heard the truths of this Count as well. He may not tell a lie in our presence. What say you residents of the Splinters? What say you people of the land? Do you accept his story? Is this who shall rule you with their descendants for the next hundred years! What say you!
The God allowed them to speak normally but instead of shouts and words, a terrifying wail and scream began erupting not only from the crowd of peasants, but even the nobility on the platform. Many stared without blinking at the Baron, but more than a few began glancing at the Count.
We say only this. Do not touch or harm Lady Adeleine. If we find that you have harmed her, we will return. Take back your land! Take back your honor! Show the world the truth of this Baron upon his body. The Count and his murderous family I leave to you. So we say, and so shall our benevolence allow. Survive this, people of the Splinters, and glory may still come forth from the mayhem.
With his final words, the God of Chaos took three steps and was already out of sight from those still trapped at the fields. With a spin of his finger he released the crowd, and a terrible eruption occurred behind him. The loudest sound of all was The Baron screaming about his contract, and sucking noises as metal struck through flesh and into wood.
Lady Adeleine ran down the platform, but true to the God’s proclamation, none touched her nor came even close. As she ran, a burning sensation traveled along her shoulder, and unseen by any, the brand of Tempest was now stamped upon her body.
Tempest slowed after moving some leagues away from the field, and after a powerful gust of wind, the Herald reappeared in the land. He walked with light steps, moving toward a carriage waiting at a nearby store.
“Excuse me sir, would you by chance be traveling today?” He asked, the perfect idea of courtesy.
“S’right, planning on moving down to the hundred villages ta see my family. You need a lift young herald?”
“That I do sir, and I’ll pay with gold thank you.”
Two large gold coins appeared in his hand, one with the Baron’s face on it, another with the Counts. He handed them over to the overjoyed carriage driver before stepping in. Immediately he fell to his knees and spoke to his champion.
“I promise my lord, next will be true chaos”
The carriage found a road as a pair of golden epaulets fell in through the carriage window. The Herald placed them on his shoulders and the next adventure began.
“So carriage driver, you heard any good gossip lately?”
I'm a high school English teacher in Texas. I also hold degrees in radiography and radio and television broadcasting. Though I obtained certain knowledge and skills from my prior degrees, I do not currently use them.