Last week, Amara was the Lyte Brigade’s newest recruit. This week, Amara enlists the Lyte Brigade’s even newer recruit.
Copyright 2021-2022 J.B. Norman
Tancred has spent most of his life hearing about the great good fortune and exceedingly heroic deeds of his most venerable ancestors. Not the sort of thing somebody forgets about his own family.
Especially while the still-living members of his family are so utterly resolute in refusing to allow him to forget.
For about the millionth time in his life, and what feels like the hundredth time just this week, Tancred finds himself being walked down the long, long hallway of his family’s palatial ancestral home, where a long, long line of paintings, engravings, statues, and tapestries of the very most esteemed of his esteemed forebears gaze silently from the walls.
“And that brings us to your great-great-great-grandfather’s illegitimate third son,” his grandfather is telling him, not for the first time, or the second. Or the five hundredth.
“You’ll recall, of course, that he was also a Tancred. Now, he heroically located the lost stuffed cat of the youngest daughter of the Prince of Porthaven, and was subsequently awarded a peerage and a permanent seat on the Prince’s advisory council. And a very generous gift certificate redeemable at any business located in the Outfitting District. Such an honour is not given lightly, my boy.”
Having explained this in excruciating detail, Tancred’s grandfather moves to the next painting. “
And that, in turn, brings us your great-great-aunt,” he begins. “Now, she —”
Tancred pre-empts his grandfather’s latest lecture. “— dropped a rock on the head of the enemy general during the Great Siege of Northgate. Yes, Grandfather. I remember.”
He has heard the story so many times, it would be hard not to.
Unfortunately, Tancred’s interjection does nothing to hasten his grandfather’s meticulously, painfully detailed account of the Great Siege of Northgate: the composition of the opposing forces, the livery of the various notable commanders present for the duration, the state of the construction of the walls of Northgate at the time, the inevitable problems of historiography that arise in attempting to study such an event.
And many, many more things that Tancred stops paying attention to.
Tancred is becoming increasingly desperate for any sudden interruption that might save him. The ennui is becoming so deep that Tancred is seriously considering foregoing all pretence of subtly and simply leaping through one the windows.
Just as Tancred starts manoeuvring himself for his running start, the family butler steps into the hallway.
“Pardon the interruption,” he says. “Sir Tancred, a certain Miss Amara Valda requests to speak with you.”
Tancred is already half-way through the door by the time the butler has finished speaking.
“Terribly sorry, Grandfather!” he calls over his shoulder. “I’d love to go over more of the family history, but I’m sure this can’t possibly wait.”
Tancred follows the butler to the house’s entryway, where Amara is occupying herself by studying the artwork hanging on the walls.
“Miss Amara Valda, Sir,” the butler declares.
Tancred steps forward. “Miss Amara,” he says. “Always a pleasure. How can I help?”
“I’ve recently become a provisional member of a guild known as the Lyte Brigade,” Amara explains.
“The what-now?” Tancred asks.
“You haven’t heard of the Lyte Brigade?” Amara asks. “Well, it’s true we’re still technically disbanded. And that’s precisely why I’m here. We need five members to be reinstated, so I thought I’d do my part to aid my guildmates by canvassing for new recruits. Sir Tancred, a knight of your reputation would make a fine addition to the Lyte Brigade.”
“You know, lad —” Tancred hears his grandfather unexpectedly declare from over his shoulder.
“Gah!” Tancred exclaims. “G-Grandfather? How long have you been standing there?”
“— your very own great-uncle was a member of the original Lyte Brigade. He was, as I recall, almost eaten by a particularly ill-tempered Turboshark. He was fine, in the end, though he never did manage to bring himself to go back into the water,” his grandfather continues.
“See, Sir Tancred? What could be more fitting than another member of your family joining the Lyte Brigade?” Amara asks.
“It does my heart good to hear that such a fine institution is making a resurgence,” Tancred’s grandfather says. He turns to Tancred. ”Joining a guild is just the thing, my boy! Just think of what you might accomplish.”
“Your commentary is as welcome as always, Grandfather,” Tancred mutters.
“Perhaps you’ve seen our posters around town?” Amara asks, handing Tancred a paper informing him that The Lyte Brigade Needs YOU.
“You know, Grandfather,” Tancred says. “You’re quite right. I should join a guild. In fact, why don’t Miss Amara and I head off to the Lyte Brigade’s office right now? Surely, that would be a much better use of time than going over all the same stories we’ve heard a thousand times before.”
“Bah!” his grandfather scoffs. “There’ll be time enough for guilds. Surely, there can be no better use of your time than studying and committing to heart the bold deeds of your ancestors. Let them be your example for your own exploits. And your young friend is, of course, more than welcome to stay and listen.”
As his grandfather begins his latest oration, Tancred’s gaze slowly creeps towards the door, tantalisingly close but just out of reach. The desperate escape plan Tancred has in mind is well beneath a man of his noble birth and upbringing, and may not even work, though he sees no other way.
“By the Powers!” he exclaims loudly and suddenly, pointing in the vague direction of a line of marble busts of his various distant relations. “What is happening over there? I think the bust of Cousin Eleutherius is about to fall off its plinth!”
“We can’t have that!” Tancred’s grandfather exclaims, wheeling around to follow his grandson’s finger.
“Shall we, Miss Amara?” Tancred asks as he bolts for the door.
“I’m sorry, Grandfather!” he calls over his shoulder. “But I already know all of this!”
After a brief moment of flustered bemusement, Amara runs after him.
“A cunning stratagem,” Tancred’s grandfather says to no one but the family cat meandering through the room.
“One is, of course, reminded of my own father’s diversionary tactics at the Battle of the Fourteen Steps.”
“Nolan,” Matilda says gravely, glaring at him from across the table. “I hate you.”
“But you passed the exam!” Nolan counters.
“After you let me fall into a thorn bush the size of Porthaven!” Matilda says hotly. “I believe your exact words were ‘Don’t worry, I’ll help you.’ Some help you were,” she scoffs. “I’m still plucking thorns out of my hair and fixing all the tears in my clothes.”
“I told you to use a barrier spell,” Nolan mutters.
Matilda surges up from her seat. “You’re going to need a barrier spell!”
Nolan tries to shield himself with Matilda’s scorecard. “But look at your grades! The lowest you got was a Satisfactory. You did better than I did in some parts!”
“Well, I suppose I am pretty awesome,” Matilda concedes.
Her good humour fades quickly. “I’m still mad at you, though.” She shakes her head.
“Whatever. I’m going to go see if Falcata needs help with anything.”
As the inn’s door opens, Nolan looks over to see a flushed, out-of-breath Amara alongside a slightly less out-of-breath blond man.
“Here we are,” Amara tells the blond man in a breathless gasp. “That’s him,” she says, slumping against the wall to catch her breath. “I’ll be along in a minute.”
“Splendid,” the blond man says. He makes his way over to Nolan. “Allow me to introduce myself. I have the great, grand, privileged honour of being —”
He clears his throat, takes a breath and begins to recite an improbably lengthy name.
“— Tancred Gildas Mallory Astolfo Ambrosius Winnifred Perceval Galahad Cervantes Orlando von Ivanhoe-Hauteburg.”
Nolan stares blankly, feeling just a little inadequate with his lone middle name.
“And, yes,” the young man continues, “that’s the Porthaven von Ivanhoe-Hauteburgs, not the Greengrove von Ivanhoe-Hauteburgs.”
He bows low.
“At your service. I suppose Miss Amara just recruited me into your guild.”
“Nice to meet you, Sir —” Nolan says, still trying to make sense of all of the names flung at him. “— what was after Astolfo?”
“Of course,” the many-named young man continues. “I would be remiss not to mention that, properly speaking, it’s Sir Tancred et cetera, et cetera, von Ivanhoe-Hauteburg.”
He bows again.
“Still at your service.”
“You’re a knight?” Nolan exclaims.
“It’s really more of an hereditary title, I’m afraid, what with the long line of most esteemed and venerable ancestors, and all,” the many-named young man explains. “I’ve learned a little about swords and tilting and all that, but that’s mostly just for show. I’m afraid I’ve learned rather more about books and dancing and proper manners. And which tiny fork to use when.”
“Oh,” Nolan answers, feeling just a little disappointed despite his best efforts. “You can still join the guild.”
“Splendid,” the young knight answers. “Now, there are forms to be signed, are there not?”
“Welcome aboard,” Nolan says, before realising to his horror that he’s forgotten which one of the knight’s many names go first. “Sir, um, Winnifred?”
“Tancred,” the knight says.
“Right. Tancred. I knew that.”
Amara finally catches her breath and crosses the room towards Nolan and Tancred.
“Nolan,” she notes, “I do believe that makes Sir Tancred the fifth member of the Lyte Brigade.”
She watches Nolan’s dark brown eyes widen in excitement as the realisation dawns. “Yeah! He is! We did it!” Remembering that he has an audience, he blushes and clears his throat.
“Excuse me for a minute,” he says, pushing himself away from the table and inching towards the door.
Even through the walls, Amara can hear his loud, prolonged WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!-ing, as loud as if he were standing right beside her.
She catches glimpses of him through the inn’s windows, running around the perimeter of the building with his arms raised triumphantly, hollering like a lunatic. Or perhaps a Darkstone.
“Powers,” she mutters to herself with a sigh. “I do believe I have made a terrible mistake. What have I gotten myself into?”
“So, he seems like quite the nice fellow,” Tancred offers.
And there you have it, the Lyte Brigade finally has five members and is ready for reinstatement.
Come back next week for the Lyte Brigade’s first day as a proper guild.
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