The Unknown Past
Sir Ersintine of the house Shakala, founder of the Brotherhood of Justice, Sovereign of the Kingdom of Shakala, Duke of the Eastern Realm, honored prince of the Elven court, and high chief of the Dwarven clan Humanus.
Ersintine was born the third son of the house of Shakala to Tomak, Archduke of Anairia, and his wife Deni. Ersintine spent much of his young life exploring the wondrous mysteries of his father’s estate with his five siblings. During the holidays he attended the royal Anairian court where he and his royal cousins found new and exciting ways to complicate the lives of the already harried staff. Always a passionate child, Ersintine quickly developed a strong sense of justice and began questioning his poor father and mother about court edicts and the impact they had on the people of the kingdom.
At the age of 9, an oddly tall and gangly Ersintine begged his father to let him become apprenticed to a magistrate of the realm. For three years he meticulously read all the legal texts, attended every function the magistrate presided over, and questioned every ruling made. In his 12th year, his father insisted that he leave the apprenticeship of the magistrate and was go into training for knighthood as was befitting his station, much to the relief of the magistrate.
Ersintine’s ability to devote many hours to focused study allowed him to graduate from the novate class by the end of the first year. Well that and the fact that the daily exercise and large quantity of rich food changed him from a scrawny, graceless boy to a sturdy adolescent. An adolescent who could quote every clause in the Chivalric Code and every rule of law in both Common and High Anairian, all the while bludgeoning the elder novates into submission. Thus, his instructors advanced him to the rank of page.
As a page, Ersintine spent many hours learning (or relearning if you asked him) ballroom dancing, the singing of epics, composing poetry, calligraphy, and other niceties of the court. He was schooled in the value of humility when required to act as a manservant to visiting aristocracy, maintain the stables, tend horses, mend the tack, fetch water for the men’s baths, and other menial tasks beneath his station.
He also learned the arts of combat at his teachers hands. Weapons such as the lance, sword, mace, morning star, spear, javelin, and dagger. The defenses of armor and shield. Unarmed self-defense in the form of boxing and wrestling. Warfare studies from texts on famous battles and sieges, day and night maneuvers, siege engine principles and crafting techniques, and even some basic survival training.
In his 16th year, after the minimal time of three years as a page, Ersintine was promoted to squire and was assigned to Sir Quentain of the Green Blade. During the ceremony, the gifted yet slight Sir Quentain immediately challenged his new squire, the now towering powerhouse of a young man, to a duel to first blood. Sir Quentain quickly bloodied the former champion of the pages, three times before Ersintine surrendered his blade to the knight.
The embarrassment at the hands of Sir Quentain drove an already excellent student into a fervor of learning and a crazed dedication to excellence. Over the next two years Ersintine mastered every weapon placed in his hands, learned by rote every word of text in the library, and became the acknowledged expert on the history of warfare in the realm.
On Ersintine’s 18th day of naming, two years before the norm, he was called before the school’s council of knights and was given the tests of knighthood. Ersintine arrogantly strode into the council chambers and stood confidently before the 25 master knights. He quickly and correctly overcame every test the council could muster. Then as the council was passing judgment with what looked to be unanimous and glowing affirmation, the last council member, Sir Quentain, slowly stood. He removed his fabled green sword from his council scabbard, then removed his scabbard and placed it on the table. He then tipped his chair forward, leaned it against the table, and said, “If this spoiled brat is the best I can train and is to be found worthy of knighthood by this council, the I must resign my commission. Ersintine, I wish you the best of luck, but please do not mention that you were ever my squire.”
Confusion and frustration surged through Ersintine as his remaining masters praised him and offered him the title Knight-Bachelor. Ersintine numbly took the proclamation from their hands and stood, mutely staring at paper, for an excruciatingly long time. Then, slowly, Ersintine walked to the council table, placed the paper on the table, deliberately walked to the headmaster, slid to his knees, bowed his head, and said, “Master Knight Fellen, I think that I must refuse this honor at this time, as my lord Sir Quentain is correct. A knight should not be known for his martial prowess and knowledge of war alone. My lord has judged me according the code of chivalry and found me wanting. I beg the council to either allow me to continue my training or dismiss me from the school.”
Sir Fellen and the council conferred. He then turned to Ersintine, “Squire, you may use our facilities as you see fit to study, but you must use your exquisite skills to help train your fellow students. Return to us when you feel you deserve this title.”
Ersintine spent the next year either in his room, silently reading in the library, or quietly counseling the pages. He became known as “the quiet giant” among the pages. During that year he had visits from his father, mother, older brothers, and his sisters. All of them asked him to give up his exile and take up the Proclamation of Knighthood. On the day of his youngest sister’s visit, he broke down into tears as she left. A few days later, when he finally emerged from his room, he acted like a different person. He was joyful and outgoing, inquisitive and teasing, playful and rambunctious. He went to all the social gatherings with his peers. He bantered with the pages while assisting with their training.
He spent almost another year at the school. No one called him squire. No one called him master. No one called him teacher. No one called him Sir. He was just Ersintine, the gentle giant.
Late one winter afternoon, after an especially vigorous sword training session, another squire, Johann by name, asked Ersintine to accompany him to the Council of Knights chamber. Upon entering the chamber, Ersintine’s eyes swept immediately to Sir Quentain’s chair. The chair was righted, and Sir Quentain was seated in it. He then took in the rest of the room. A familiar older man, though not one of the masters, was seated at the head of the table looking down at some documents. His father and mother were seated quietly in couches along one wall. Near them were a few of the royal guard and Ersintine’s older cousin Prince Eammus. Ersintine and Johann moved to join a few other squires in a row at the foot of the table.
The masters began the testing starting at the far end of the row from Ersintine. Each squire was questioned until he failed to answer the question correctly. Ersintine waited quietly. Then they came to Ersintine. The questions started with each of the questions that had stumped the other four candidates. Ersintine calmly and confidently to each question as asked. All manner of topics were asked and answered by all masters save Sir Quentain. Then Sir Quentain stood and walked to the first squire and asked a single question, “Why do you want to be a knight of the realm?”.
The answers were all phrased somewhat differently, but every answer captured the same basic thought, “To obey my lord in all things with honor and valor”. Until he came to Ersintine. When Sir Quentain asked it Ersintine paused, looked Sir Quentain straight in the eye, and said, “My lord. I am not sure that I do want to be a knight. I know that I will always serve Justice. I know that it is vital that the laws of the realm are fairly applied to all.” He then turned to look at the man head of the table and continued, “But, your majesty, I also know that I do not get to chose my role in service to the realm and her lords. I pray that I may someday meet the expectations of this council.”
Sir Quentain frowned. “Squire,” he said. “Who are you to speak so to this council and the King himself?”
Ersintine looked back to Sir Quentain and replied, “I am just a man. Born, by fate or the will of the gods, to the two exceptional people sitting over there. Blessed with not only with this size and strength, but also with two eyes to see what is in front of me, two ears to hear what is around me, and the camaraderie of these outstanding men to learn from.” With the last words he stepped back from the row of squires and gestured toward the four candidates.
Sir Quentain then moved to his chair, while the room sat silent.
After Sir Quentain was seated the knights of the council quietly conversed for a few minutes. The headmaster, Sir Fellen, stepped to each of the first four squires an presented them with the Proclamation of Knighthood and named them each Knight-Bachelor. He then returned to his seat and asked Ersintine to approach the table.
The king rose from the head of the table and began slowly walking around it. “Nephew, how old are you?”
“I will have seen 20 years this naming day my king”, answered Ersintine.
“When were you last beaten on the practice field?”
“Just today your majesty, by Squire Hendly.”
The king, now standing in front of Ersintine, shook his head, “Not when did you let some one beat you. When were you last truly bested?”
“I am not sure your majesty, I quit trying to win every fight a long time ago. It seemed to me I could help the others more when I was not so worried about winning myself”
“The masters at this table seem to think that no one on these grounds could best you with any weapon. What do you say to that?”
“I am honored to have the masters’ confidence.”
“I have been told that your classes on law, contract, and treaty are attended by not only pages and squires but all magistrate apprentices in the city and many of the noble’s sons.”
” I am not sure who they are my king, as I do not take role. I did notice that many of the faces I do not see in other classes.”
“Ersintine, I have decided that I need you elsewhere the school will have to do without their star teacher. Kneel”
Ersintine knelt on one knee in front of his king.
“Ersintine, son of Tomak, of the house Shakala,” the king announced as he drew his sword. “I cannot have a Knight-Bachelor in charge of my new order of knights. Therefore, I dub thee, Sir Ersintine of the house Shakala. Knight-Captain to the king. Master of the Brotherhood of Justice. Arise sir knight and serve your king and his people.”
The story of Ersintine continues with the history of the Kingdom of Shakala.