Disclaimer – I don't own any of this.
(This is my first medieval fic. I understand that some hate these and some love them, so I thought I'd take a chance. I know that the medieval European setting doesn't really fit, but it is something I'm reasonably familiar with, so I'll use it in this experiment. Later, when I've done some more research I'll try a Japanese setting, though for this one I'll add some Japanese stuff where it fits. I will also be using digimon in this because I feel like it. For now, please read and enjoy!
PS – I'll be using some characters of my own design. If you recognise and hate them, then please tell me and I will never use them again. Please be honest.)
Knight, thou fallen star
The summer was a warm one, as though from some childhood idyll. Such is how one remembers it, where every day was bright and warm, a slight breeze in the air.
Such it seemed was every part of the Kingdom of Aldebaran in height of summer, but particularly so in the Royal residence at Alderamin.
The court was a hive of activity, as it always was. The Yagami dynasty was famed for it, and the recently crowned King Taichi was no exception. The Palace, and the surrounding city and province of Alderamin were in uproar over the upcoming state visit of Yamato Ishida, King of Rigel, a client kingdom of Aldebaran.
The ladies of the court were particularly excited, as both the young Kings were unmarried. And there was much talk of the unknown person King Yamato was bringing with him.
All, however, was not well within the Royal household.
Sir Jyou, the King's Physician, glanced nervously at the door of the Royal Privy. Sir Koushiro, a Knight of the Household, was hanging around at the other end of the room.
Or at least that was what he appeared to be doing.
He was always watching, his intelligent eyes scanning the room, taking in every little detail. There was always danger in a King's Household.
Some of the other courtiers were there too, but not all of them. Most of them were off preparing for the arrival of King Yamato.
A good thing too. It wouldn't do for them to see the King like this.
"I hope it wasn't something I did" commented Jyou nervously. "It usually turns put to be something I did."
"Don't worry about it," Gomamon commented at his ankle. "You're the physician after all, what you're doing is in his best interests."
"Gomamon is right," spoke Father Iori, chaplain and spiritual advisor to the Household, also a warrior-priest of some renown. "The King trusts you."
"I think I know what it is," came a peculiar voice from the window. Jyou looked to see Tentomon fly in through the open window and perch himself on the sill. "It's because of him again. You know, the one we mustn't mention?"
"You'd think he'd be over that by now," Koushiro rolled his eyes. "I mean, how ill can this have made him?"
"Did he take the syrup of figs?" Jyou asked guardedly.
"Yes," Koushiro replied, his face twisting with distaste at the memory. "It made things worse."
This comment served to make Jyou even more nervous. The King was hot-headed and quick to anger, but he had been on edge quite a lot recently. Jyou had been both his protector and his doctor long enough to learn a few things about King Taichi.
Things he hadn't necessarily wanted to know.
The most notable symptom of stress in the King was a tendency to bring up that issue. It was not normally good practice for anyone to annoy a monarch, but anyone who annoyed King Taichi was in for serious trouble.
The Privy door crashed open, making everyone in the room jump. King Taichi strode out, wearing only a blue robe with ermine trim. All bowed.
"Okay!" he snarled, obviously peeved. "Which one of you prescribed the syrup of figs?!"
"Uh…I did…Sire," Jyou felt ridiculous. He wished he had not changed into his ceremonial garb earlier of a pale blue cloak, mail coat and sword. He felt like an overdressed clown.
"Then you're an idiot!" Taichi said venomously.
"It was only a mild purgative!" Jyou blurted out, nervousness overcoming court protocol.
"MILD?!" the King roared. "I was stuck to that damn privy all night! There's enough down there to drown a Monochromon! Maybe I should recommend it to the assassins; three glasses guaranteed incapacitation!"
"Three glasses?!" Jyou exclaimed. "But you were only supposed to take three spoonfuls!"
The King stopped. All present held their breath.
What they had mistaken for astonishment at Jyou's rudeness was in fact embarrassment. The King had misheard his instructions the night before.
Taichi sagged, and his demeanour went from rage to exhaustion and vulnerability.
"I'm sorry," he said eventually. "I shouldn't have…said such things."
remarked Agumon, who emerged from the Privy chamber. "You're under a lot of pressure."
"Father Iori," the King regained his composure. "How are the preparations?"
"All goes well
Sire," Father Iori replied in his mild, polite manner. "King Yamato of Rigel and his entourage
should be arriving within the hour."
"Where are Princess Hikari and Princess Mimi?"
"Er…" Father Iori blushed and the other courtiers looked away.
"Well?" King Taichi seemed in danger of losing his patience again.
"Their Royal Highnesses are in Princess Mimi's chambers," Tentomon said.
"What?! What are they doing in there?!" Taichi exclaimed. Tentomon blushed, if such a thing was possible.
"Choosing their apparel sire" he replied eventually. Taichi sagged again.
"As big as Princess Mimi's wardrobe is, that could take hours!" He turned to Iori. "Father Iori, go and tell them to hurry up!"
"Me?!" Iori blushed redder than Tentomon. "Sire I can't go in there!"
"Yes you can!" Taichi snapped, his patience gone. "I'm the King and I can say who can and can't go where! And it's not like you're breaking your vows or anything!" He made to walk away, but then stopped and eyed Iori suspiciously.
"So long as you don't do anything…unbecoming." He strode off along the corridor, the other courtiers running to keep up.
"Why does this have to happen to me Armadillomon?" Iori was still red in the face.
"Don't ask me," his partner replied. "You're the Priest here, not me."
It wasn't that he had a problem with them. He had known the Princesses Hikari and Mimi, and Lady Sora and Lady Miyako their attendants, since he had been a nervous young novice of eight summers. Now fourteen, he was one of the youngest warrior clerics in living memory. As such, there were certain things he should not do and certain thoughts he should not think.
It had been easy then, when they were children. The girls had been innocent, happy, carefree and, most importantly of all, shapeless.
Now he had trouble even looking at them. It wasn't just the…well fortunately they were concealed, but everything. They had all grown into such beautiful young women, in both body and soul. It was enough to make him wish he had not taken the vows.
But if he had not, then he would never have met them. He was not an aristocrat by birth, but had been chosen for the novitiate because he had proven himself worthy. Had this not happened, then he never would have known them at all.
In particular, his friendship with Lady Miyako would never have happened.
Father Iori sighed, adjusted his mail coat, pulled his black cloak about him and headed for the Royal apartments. This was going to be very embarrassing.
* * * *
The morning broke over ruin and destruction.
Though the raiders had been defeated, they had managed to loot and burn the small village and kill most of its inhabitants.
Ken Ichijouji, Lord of Alioth, sat on his brown stallion and surveyed the destruction. A few men-at-arms stood around, within nothing to do as the enemy had been driven off. An even smaller number of survivors picked through the piles of ash and charcoal that had once been their homes, searching for valuables or the bodies of loved ones.
He felt sorry for them. They had lost what little they owned in a single night of carnage. He also felt angry with those who had done this, and he desired revenge for his tenants. They had trusted him to protect them. And it was up to him to prove that it had not been for nothing after all.
He wondered who it was that had attacked his people. Bandits most likely. Warriors who travelled the land burning, raping and pillaging as they pleased.
There was a thump and Ken looked to see Stingmon land next to him. He felt relieved to see the tall green-armoured digimon again. They had been together since Ken was a child.
Since those days.
Ken did not like to think about those times. He had tried to let go of the past ever since his digimon had returned to him. It had never been easy, and this little incident was a reminder for him.
Though Ken was a great Lord of the Northern border of Aldebaran, he didn't look much like one. His horse was old and sway-backed. He wore a mail coat that had belonged to his father, carried a cheap shield and a sword he had looted after a skirmish a year ago. His financial situation was not perfect. It hadn't been ever since he returned home to find his father's estates well fleeced.
No doubt to pay his brother's ransom. He must also have been captured. Yet his parents had made such sacrifices to pay for his freedom, yet not for their second son.
Their worthless spare son, perhaps not even legitimate. The son they ignored in favour of the prodigy that was Osamu.
His parents were dead. They had died some time before his return. His brother Osamu, their golden son, was god-knows-where. Being the only one available, Ken had taken up the title and was content with it. Being a Lord was surprisingly easy; so long as the King could not stand the sight of you.
At seventeen, he was Lord and master of the entire province of Alioth. He could summon two-hundred Knights to his banner, along with their retinues. Thousands owed him fealty and, more importantly at the present time, rents. He was not rich, as he had only recently finished paying off the bankers and charged far less rent than most of his equals and betters did. He was simply not the sort to triple the rents just to get on the Tournament circuit for a season or two.
Though he often considered himself unworthy, he did his best for his people. He governed them, heard their petitions, held annual tournaments.
But he had failed to protect the people of this small village.
Strange that the bandits had made it this far. If the accounts of the survivors were correct, then the raiders had come from the south.
Why had they not been stopped by others? They could not possibly have slipped past the border, as he employed local the Elfmon to keep an eye out. They must have come via the neighbouring territories.
Had it been deliberate? Had Duke Charles let them pass unchallenged to ravage his lands just to amuse himself?
Or amuse the King perhaps? Royal disfavour was not enviable. Though the King was unwilling to directly attack one of his own Lords, that did not stop him pulling something like this.
A surge of hatred ran through his heart. Though Taichi Yagami was King of Aldebaran, Lord Ken did not have to like him. He was a selfish, hot-headed, insensitive oaf, who had always delighted in making other people's lives miserable.
"Ken? Ken, what's wrong?" Ken was stirred from his reverie by a familiar voice. He looked down to see Wormmon, to which form Stingmon had reverted, sitting on his saddle pommel and staring up at him with worry in his blue eyes.
"Oh…the usual," Ken replied quietly, not really wanting to talk about it. "Any sign of them?"
"The survivors are heading north," Wormmon said in a more serious tone. "About fifty of them."
Ken grimaced. Fifty would not normally have been a problem, but of his two hundred Knights, only three were available, as their manors had been closest to his own.
Elderly Sir Gregor Hunt had seven archers with him. Sir John Clairmont, a brash young Knight of about Ken's age, had brought six Hobilars, light infantry on horseback. Finally there was Sir Robert Valindale, a very unpleasant fellow, who was accompanied by four men-at-arms on horseback and his long-suffering squire, Daisuke Motomiya. Also a Leomon who happened to be passing, and a Meramon with a score to settle.
They would have to do.
First up was Sir Robert. He walked his fine black stallion over and gave a small, almost insolent bow.
"Quite a slaughter eh…Sire." His voice dripped with condescension. "Pity they didn't stay long, I might have notched my sword a little more." He raised himself in his stirrups.
"MOTOMIYA! DAMN YOU! GET YOUR LAZY BONES OVER HERE!" he roared, his courtly tone gone.
His squire cantered over, on a horse that was in even worse condition than Ken's own. He was about Ken's age, with a strong build and spiky red-brown hair. His brown eyes sparkled with spirit and energy. Yet there was nervousness to his demeanour which did not seem to fit. It was no great surprise, considering how Sir Robert treated him. Where his master wore fine plate-mail, Daisuke had to make do with a leather jerkin.
"Get this clean and sharpened!" Sir Robert all but threw his blood-encrusted sword at Daisuke. "And do it quickly, or else I'll have the skin off your back!" Daisuke bowed and hurried away.
Ken did not like this at all, but it was not really his business how his Knights treated their Squires. He might have believed in chivalry up to a point, but Sir Robert despised it as unmanly. He began to hope that Sir Robert would be killed, for this boy's sake.
Also, he would be able to appropriate Sir Robert's horse.
He gazed upon his other two Knights, once they had assembled. Young Sir John, with a shock of blond hair, was itching for a fight. Sir Gregor, his hair whitened by age, looked old and tired, but ready nonetheless. Ken knew better than to equate age with weakness in this man's case.
"Gentlemen," Ken put on his best speaking tone. "What has happened here today was tragic, but there is no time for us to mourn. We must pursue the invaders and slay them all in punishment for their deeds."
"We are all with you my Lord!" Sir John replied with ardour.
"Aye, my Lord," Sir Gregor wheezed.
"And I too Sire," Sir Robert had reverted to his velvet voice.
"Come," Ken raised his voice so all could hear. "We go!"
He stood his horse and watched the soldiers assemble, all dressed in their masters' liveries. Grey boars on a black field for Sir Gregor. Prancing white horses on a green field for Sir John, and black crosses on a red field for Sir Robert.
Lord Ken's livery, worn by the twelve men-at-arms who had accompanied him, was a dark red hawk with a white head on a blue field.
Dark red with a white head, for an old friend.
As they were preparing to ride away, the Squire Daisuke came racing up with the sword, which he presented to Sir Robert. There was a look of desperate hope on his face.
Sir Robert took the sword with an expression suggesting that he had stood in something foul-smelling, inspected it, sheathed it, and then rode on.
Ken felt a pang of sympathy for the young squire, who looked utterly crushed. Even though it wasn't exactly proper, he had to say something.
"Don't worry about it," he said. Daisuke looked up in alarm as he rode up. "He'll learn to appreciate your efforts when he's being set upon by a hungry Kuwagamon." Lord Ken gave him what he thought was an encouraging smile, then turned his horse and galloped to the head of the column, Wormmon digivolving and taking to the air.
Daisuke stared after his Lord, his heart filling with admiration.
"He talked to me. He…he even smiled at me!"
(Well, here it is. Did you enjoy it? Or have I been reading too much history? This is my first attempt at a medieval fic, so just tell me if it is awful. I don't want to waste effort writing something that is bad. Please review so that I will know to delete this crap if that's what you think of it too.)