Chapter Nine

Allies on the road, Yada Yada Yada

Garfan reined in his horse Patrick, and signaled for the party to stop.
“What is it!?” asked Tarnah loudly.
The knight shot her a dirty look and put a finger to his lips in the universal signal of “shut your pie hole”!
“I am ready for battle, Sir Garfan,” she said more quietly but still too loud for any real stealth.
The knight put out his hand and Lockford handed him a large spear, which he hurled into the forest and a cry of surprise issued forth in return. A little ways in they saw a young man, pinned to a tree by his hood.
“Can I help you?” asked Garfan.
“A spy!” bellowed the Captain of the Duke’s Guard as she rushed towards the helpless youth. Garfan interposed himself before she could raise her battle-axe.
“Not a spy! Okay? He’s just a kid. I met him in the One Eyed Giant, right before you and your father tasked me with rescuing your sister.”
“Sir Garfan, I want to help!” implored the youth.
“Listen- I’m sorry, what was your name?”
“Caliric, Sir Garfan the Mighty!” he replied.
“Caliric, I’m going to take this spear out, let you down, and then you’re going to go home.”
“No.” He struggled to get down but only succeed in doing a spastic jig.
“Listen, kid-”
“Caliric, Chosen One.”
“Caliric, we’re off to very dangerous lands, and I can’t rescue the Duke’s daughter AND keep my eye on you. Go home.”
Lockford cleared his throat and Garfan knew things were going pear-shaped.
“What is it?”
“It seems to me, you are in need of a squire, sir.”
Caliric’s eyes lit up. “Really sir? I could be your squire?”
“No! I already have a squire. Lockford here is my squire!”
“Strictly speaking, I am your valet, a gentlemen’s gentlemen. A knight of your prominence does need a squire.”
Tarnah interjected, “Your valet is correct; it is unseemly for you to be absent a squire.”
Garfan disliked traveling with in groups of four; he thought it bad luck. Worse luck to talk about it, so what to say…
“That’s how I keep my enemies off balance,” he said.
“Has that been your strategy, sir?” enquired his valet.
Garfan narrowed his eyes. “Yes, it has,” he said through clenched teeth.
“Strange,” remarked Lockford, “that you have failed to mention it till this very moment.”
“But don’t you see!” Caliric exclaimed, “It’s brilliant. By acting contrary to expectations, the Chosen One undermines all the choices his foes make!”
Garfan nodded, in what he hoped was a sage manner. “You are a clever young man.”
Caliric blushed and stammered a thank you.
“So, keeping with my overall plan, you need to go back home and practice, your…” Looking around, he saw the bow and arrows that the would-be squire had brought with him. “Practice your bow work.”
“But Sir Garfan the-
“Because my foes, no…” he put his gauntleted hand on the lad’s shoulder in a comradely fashion, “Our foes, will expect me to bring everyone I can to this mission.”
Light filled Caliric’s eyes. “Our enemies will be befuddled!”
“Indeed! And it couldn’t work without you being a crucial part of the whole plan!”
“Let me down and I will return as fast as I can. I will fly like the wind!”
Garfan pulled the spear out and, after quickly bowing to each of them, Caliric ran back towards Whattlesworth.
Lockford raised an eyebrow at Garfan who said, “Not a word.”
If bows could be said to be cheeky, the one Lockford gave was positively defiant.
Garfan muttered and mounted Patrick, and the others followed.
“Sir Garfan,” said Lockford, “would you be so kind as to elaborate on your technique for confounding your enemies with erratic behavior?”
Tarnah riding alongside Garfan, stridently asked, ”Please, I would very much like to hear more of this system of yours.”

The knight shifted in his saddle. “Well you see…” and “The thing is…”. His sentence trailed of into some noncommittal sounds.
Tarnah frowned; she looked as if this was some sort of test… It certainly was confusing “Are you mocking me? As if I have fallen off the turnip cart!”
He stared at her. “No, I’m not mocking you because you are from a small hamlet.” Thinking that there were so many other reasons to mock her, but wisely, he did not name them.
Captain Tarnah sat taller in her saddle and fixed him with her most furious glare. “I have slain other men for less.”
He pulled Patrick up and they halted. “Okay, let’s clear the air here. I do not, and I cannot stress this enough, think less of you because of where you are from. It quite literally doesn’t matter to me. I’ve fought side by side with many, many heroes from all walks of life. There was Bianca of the Silver Spear; Talmek, sorcerer of the Northern wastes; Jaanna and Joonum, Twin Champions of the arena of Baduhak; Red Miriam, the Pirate Queen of the Celestial Starlit Seas; Cornelius CopperKettle; Warrior Priest Under the Mountain; Ulla, Protector of the Moonspun Forrest; The Shield Maidens of the Plains of Num-Num; Baron Pinmo, The Questing Pixie; Laaaaashaaaaa, Lizard burglar who stole The Eye of Eternity from the Mushroom People, who had incidentally stolen it from Laaaaashaaaaa’s people in the first place; the Nameless Giant Maid of the Crystal Jungle; Martor, the man with swords for hands; the Invisible Nun, Mistress of the Open-Handed Strike, and… Lockford, I know I’m forgetting someone.”
Putting a single finger to his chin, the valet said, “Bar-Bar-Rah, of the Savage Eye Poker Tribe.”
“Bar-Bar-Rah, she once beat up an oxen because she thought it had insulted her clan. It was actually a transforming shaman from a rival tribe, the Hair Pullers. So, she kinda had a point.”
Thirteen (he counted The Shield Maidens of Plains of Num-Num as one), which many people thought to be unlucky, was to his mind an excellent number.
Tarnah looked at Garfan and then to Lockford. “Does he speak true?”
“Indeed,” replied Lockford.
“I will have to consider your words in this matter,” she yelled thoughtfully.
Garfan wondered if she could think quietly to herself.
“Soon, your name will be added to that list of luminaries,” said Lockford.
Maybe it was her smile at the thought of being listed along with those heroes of renown, or the fact that she was not shouting at him, but Garfan was reminded of how lovely she was.
“You must tell me more of your erratic strategy!” she barked, although more kindly. “And this time be specific!”
It was the shouting, definitely the shouting.

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