A tale of a stable boy who became a knight

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I have received an inordinate number of queries about  why I am not longer a moderator at PuristSPro (of the Cartier forum specifically), after having been one since 2006. I don’t have more to say about that, but I can offer this tale of dragons, knights and adventure. It is long, but it is a wonderful story, penned by a scribe whose name is now forgotten…

Horologia was a realm dominated by the old, and not so old, and also new, noble dynasties of Helvetian League. They were famed throughout the realm for their exquisite fabrications of metal and stone, thanks to the rich mines deep under the League’s lands.

Legendary was the wealth of the noble houses, for their precious mechanical fabrications were sought after across the continent, especially by the mercantile lords of the East. But it was not always picturesque in the league, for the lands of the League were occasionally beset by the scourge of the fire-breathing dragons, who claimed the barren lands of the south.

Within the realm of Horologia existed a few hamlets, small communities that survived on trading with the noble houses of the League. In these hamlets lived knights who slew the dragons which afflicted the Helvetian League, for which they were richly rewarded with treasures from the league. One of these hamlets, Clearistia, was administered by a knighthood. These knights would gather around a large round table – knights were old and young, bold and meek, strong and wily – but all around the table submitted to the same code.  The table stood in the middle of a great hall, built with thick walls of stone. And on the top of the round table, the three talismanic numerals of the knighthood were engraved: “1-7-8”.

In the small hamlet of Clearistia lived a stable boy, who dreamed of becoming a knight one day. And that day soon came, though it was not an auspicious one. Discord had long been brewing amongst the knighthood, and one of the senior knights left in mysterious circumstances. He journeyed across the Dark Thunder Mountains to a land beset by strife and revolution, so said the leaders of the knighthood. The departed knight was then held up by the leaders of the knighthood as someone who broke the code of the round table. The departed knight was soon followed by other senior knights, who, in contrast, made their leave in polite circumstances. Some of these knights even went to join the noble houses of the Helvetian League, earning accolades and respect from all around. In the midst of all of this, the stable boy was asked by the knighthood to become a knight. He was asked to become a knight during a fraught time for Clearistia, as the troubles and dragons from across the Dark Thunder Mountains were threatening to spread to Clearistia.

But he believed in the code of the knighthood, and accepted the honour. He did not actually start as a knight, but instead as a cavalryman; he first had to prove he could slay the dragons. And so he did and he became a knight. Meanwhile Clearistia has grown from a hamlet to a medium-sized town that was thriving on trade with the Helvetia League. As Clearistia grew, so did its districts and population. Each of the knights had a district to administer, and so was the former stable boy. He was given a district he had never visited, the one known as Drothsentier, but nevertheless he was grateful, for it was bestowed upon him. He administered the district to the best of his ability. His district did modestly, very modestly, well. One day, however, the district voted to secede from Clearistia. And so the former stable boy was left without a district. But in his time as a knight, the former stable boy had become acquainted with a baron of one of the oldest and grandest houses of the Helvetian League, the house of Ruedelapaix, which had its grand palace on the thirteenth and tallest, of the Misty Mountains. The baron wanted Ruedelapaix to have its own district in Clearistia, seeing how the once small hamlet was thriving. Together the baron and the former stable boy worked to establish a district in Clearistia. After a year, it finally happened, when the powers that were, agreed. Rumour had it the grand lord of Ruedelapaix himself approved the district in Clearistia. And so the former stable boy had a district one again, and he was pleased. All, however, was not well in the knighthood. For alongside the expansion of Clearistia from a hamlet to a town, and to perhaps a city, came the expansion of the knighthood. More and more knights were recruited, as more and more districts sprung up in Clearistia. They came from far and away, including a knight bearing not a sword, but a mysterious curved blade known as the katana.

The grand round table in the grand hall was getting crowded, and elbows tended to bump at knightly gatherings, after which the knights were advised to remove their armour before entering. The knighthood had grown and so it had to evolve. Where once a knight was a just troll basher or dragon slayer, it was no longer the case. A member of the knighthood was appointed:

“DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR OF TROLLE [sic] BASHING AND DRAGON SLAYING (SOUTH-EASTERN CLEARISTIA)”

Yet another was appointed:

“ADMINISTRATIVE DEPUTY OF TROLLE [sic] SLAYING AND DRAGON BASHING (EAST-SOUTHERN CLEARISTIA)”

Even for the knights themselves, it was confusing. But the knights looked at the round table and felt assured. And yet another knight was appointed:

“ASSISTANT SENIOR EXECUTIVE VICE-SUPERVISOR OF TREASURY (DRAGON GOLD)”

This was to help manage the gold paid by the Helvetian houses to the treasury of Clearistia. Some of this gold, a small sum monthly, was given to each knight for his services in slaying dragons and bashing trolls. None of the knights grew rich from this, but they believed in the code of the round table. The dragon slaying knights did not query the accumulation or use of the rest of the gold, for the code of the round table meant that there was no need to, and the code was on the great table, and the great table was round.

As Clearistia prospered, its happy townsfolk were happy, though they did engage in the occasional gossip. Mighty and wealthy as they were, the houses of Helvetian League did not always reign benignly.  Whereas in the past the residents of Clearistia were permitted dissent courteously amongst themselves, that freedom gradually diminished, slowing but steadily like a creeping vine, as the trading links with the Helvetian houses grew. Some leaders of the knighthood were now openly proclaiming the might and magnificence of the Helvetian houses which paid tribute to Clearistia – as they rightly should have for those houses were mighty and magnificent. But still, there was unease amongst knights and townsfolk, especially when the lesser of the Helvetian houses began to trade with Clearistia.    Although the former stable boy, who had by now become a senior knight, was happy in administering his district, while bashing the odd troll, he too felt unease. He was not alone, and there were murmurings amongst his fellow knights. But they all believed in the code of the table, which was round and great, and no disobedient words escaped their lips.

During a particularly cold winter, the former stable boy decided to purchase a small acreage, on which he could toil and cultivate his own crops at his own pace and time. He had seen other knights do so, and they seemed contented, and he liked the idea of being a gentleman farmer. The former stable boy planted all sorts of crops. Though many of the houses of the Helvetian League offered him gold, he turned them down. His crops were not for sale or barter, instead he gave them away to friends, and the occasional friendly passersby.  And he even on instance indulged in a discreet criticism of the great houses of the Helvetian League, with the same occasional friendly passersby. Some townsfolk of Clearistia would secret travel to his acreage to indulge in just such discreet criticism. While he tended his small acreage, the former stable boy also administered the Ruedelapaix district of Clearistia. In doing both, he was pleased – both were prospering, not always simultaneously, but when one ebbed, the other flowed, and then the currents reversed. And it was even whispered the high lords of the house of Ruedelapaix, far away in the rich lands of the Helvetian League, were pleased as well. All was well… Until catastrophe struck. It was more than two years since the former stable boy had acquired his acreage, and one morning he awoke to find a notice pinned to his door with a blade. After many summers and winters, he was no longer a knight – effective immediately. The previous night, as he had slept, agents of the knighthood had come and taken his horse, his armour and his sword. No reason was given, and he was advised by the leaders of the knighthood to go quietly, otherwise the leaders would expose many alleged misdeeds, which were allegedly great, innumerable and unforgiveable. The former stable boy was baffled.

He was told he would have access to the great hall, which contained the round table of “1-7-8”, for the next 24 hours. And so without horse, armour or sword, the former knight announced his leaving to the residents of Clearistia and his district. He was distressed he had to do this, distressed to cause a commotion in the community he helped build. But he owed a duty to those who cared enough to know, to explain why he was walking around the town square without armour for the first time. Some of the other knights offered him quiet words of comfort in the corridors leading to the great hall. His sadness was tempered by these gestures of friendship. He did not know all of them, but he respected many, and counted a few as his brothers in arms. By this turn of events, the former stable boy was shocked, and then quickly deeply, deeply saddened. He had spent many seasons, and many dragon raids, as a knight of the round table. But he understood – the leaders of the knighthood were no longer running a small hamlet but a vast, thriving and growing metropolis. They were no longer just knights, they were a government, raising revenue and taxes, and conducting foreign policy with the Helvetian League. And whether or not the former stable boy was a knight, the fellowship would continue, changed but unbroken, and so would Clearistia. He was glad he was once part of it; his name might have been erased from the round table but the townsfolk of Clearistia remembered. As he walked out of the great hall for the last time, the former stable boy realised the hall seemed much larger, and grander, than he had first remembered it. The sturdy stone walls were now covered with rich tapestries embroidered with scenes of dragon slaying, tribute from the houses of the Helvetian League. It also looked darker, for the candles were flickering in a wind that could barely be felt. And in the dim room, the former stable boy noticed something eerie, and puzzling. On the top of the large, round table, the talismanic numbers of “1-7-8” had faded, very much so. And most bewildering of all, the round table was no longer round.

~fin~

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