Chapter Five – Forged by the Fists of Grundlebad!
Pocket’s eyelids dithered before springing open to welcome sunlight into his eyes for the first time in days. Although they needed time to adjust his nose didn't, he sensed Damarus by his side who tended to the questions racing through Pocket’s mind. "Everything is fine so don’t back flip out of bed or anything". Pocket eased back into his weariness and surveyed his surroundings. There was a window that looked out onto high city walls adorned with the flags. Damarus saw his eyes peer into the distance. "Yes we are in the human capital city of Divinity's Reach". She saw him trace the outline of the bandages wrapped around his arms and flinch in pain. "You will be fine Pocket, you're healing very well and will make a full recovery". Pocket's nose sprang into action detecting another smell. "That's Loren, he's…" Pocket launched himself out of bed landing on all fours and sprang out of the room. "…making waffles and pancakes for breakfast," concluded an amused Damarus who was very aware that she was now speaking to herself. She jokingly considered whether Pocket had a hidden obsession for puddings but dismissed the notion when entering the kitchen to find Pocket in an embrace with Loren in the kitchen. It reminded him that Pocket was still very young and she exchanged a look with Loren who acknowledged the same. It was easy to forget after all he had been through in the past year.
"Honestly I'm absolutely fine, you're still the one in bandages" reassured Loren. He was right, Pocket thought back to the conclusion of their battle, he had definitely won but here they were weeks later with Loren seemingly unhurt, in stark contrast to himself. Pocket was pulled back into the moment by a stack of pancakes making their way to the kitchen table. The three of them sat down for breakfast as Pocket attacked what was probably his own weight in waffles. "Do you know of Grundlebad?" Damarus asked. Pocket had heard the question but was unable to answer with a mouth full of food. "He is probably the only Tyrian who loves waffles more than you evidently do. Once you've recovered fully your next mission will be to find him, he's been missing lately". Pocket scoffed down the rest of his breakfast then enquired, "Why do we need to find him?" "Because it’s time to acquire your armour, and Grundlebad is the only one who can craft it for you" answered Loren. Pocket was taken aback slightly, "that's not true, we Asura craft our own armour and weapons. My father had the best Asuran armour crafted by the finest..." He paused mid-sentence and his already large eyes opened wider still as the importance of finding Grundlebad finally dawned on him. Damarus interjected, "that's right; your Father's armour was also crafted by no other than Grundlebad himself, a Knight Templar". Loren rescused a jar of maple syrup out of Pocket’s hands as his eyes rolled and he fainted backwards off his stool.
The next week of recovery was tough as it dragged on. Sitting idly didn't come naturally to Pocket but his stay in the capital gave him the opportunity to explore Divinity's Reach. The city dwarfed Rata Sum and for a brief moment he thought he liked it better than home. There was a portal gate to Ebonhawke too and it gave him the chance to visit his mother. The week finally came to an end with Damarus and Pocket stood at the huge front gate of Divinity's Reach. "The key to finding Grundlebad will lie with his squad members. Head to Hoelbrak and find Thanos Payne. But a word of warning; whatever you do, do not comment on his…" Damarus hesitated a moment "…well, don't say anything. Just ask him if he knows where Grundlebad is." Pocket seized on Damarus' flawed logic, "But how can I ask him and not say anything at the same time?" Damarus conceded, "You will have to speak with him, what I meant to say is; just make sure you don’t insult him in any way whatsoever." Although still slightly confused the mission sounded simple enough so Pocket promised he wouldn’t say anything silly and made his preparations to leave for Hoelbrak.
Emerging through the portal he felt the freezing wind of the North cling to his face. He hadn't been this far north for almost a year and it triggered a memory of his visit to the Priory. He reported to the Great Lodge to begin his search for Thanos. As he approached the great doors he leant his head backwards to find the top. He almost fell backwards trying to do so and realised that even from 100 yards it was impossible to get a full view, the gate made those in Divinity's Reach seem small. He found the doors slightly ajar and wondered what the mechanism for opening and closing them was. He could see no obvious system for doing so and the thought of Norn heaving the doors open manually left him in awe. As he walked inside the unfriendly cold of the north was replaced by a welcoming warmth and to his surprise, he had already found Thanos Payne. Not the real one of course but a life size poster which read: "Keg Brawl World Championship winner 2013 Thanos Payne of the Hoelbrak Hotshots". It was terrifying and Pocket wondered whether the other competitors had simply quit out of fear. The tournament had taken place at Lake Mourn - his next port of call.
He found the arena was actually on the lake itself which was frozen over. It was the off-season and there were many groups of Norn, young and old, playing. He scanned the ice with his large eyes and they settled on a particularly large group right in the middle of the lake, it was Thanos! As he approached he found himself wondering into what felt like a forest. He was dwarfed by the tree-trunk-like legs of the many Norn surrounding him. He tried his best to get closer but every step he took led him deeper into the forest and the sunlight began to diminish overhead. He pushed as far as he could go. "Excuse me could I please have a word with you Mr Payne?" this first attempt was an utter failure and was completely drowned out by the cheering and laughter of Thanos’ fans. "Thanos Payne!" He shouted loudly, he was certain he could be heard as he drew some looks from the giant faces above but the problem was that he was shouting exactly the same words as at least a dozen others. Exasperated he took a deep breath, pointed his mouth to the sky and screamed "Grundlebad is missing!" There was some commotion before the crowd settled and then began to split. Just as the sunlight was beginning to return to the re-emerging ice it was completely blocked out again by the figure of Thanos as he walked towards him, his steps were longer than Pocket's entire body. Pocket cleared his throat, "Hello Thanos, I am Pocket of the Knights Templar and I have been sent here on a mission to find Grundlebad. He is missing and Damarus has…" he was interrupted by a hearty Norn laugh, "I'll help you find him, in fact I know exactly where he is.” Pocket’s initial frustration in getting Thanos' attention turned to excitement, and was then cut short instantly, “But first you need to face me in a Keg Brawl challenge”, he let out another emphatic laugh which went on long enough for others to join in. Pocket stood alone in the echoing laughter resonating around him and brought silence to the crowd, “Done”. He regretted his confident tone the moment Thanos got back to his feet and ushered for people to clear the ice.
Keg Brawl is a team sport played by two teams of five, at the start of the game a keg is placed in the centre of the playing area and the aim of the game is for each team to retrieve the keg and take it back to their end, known as the ‘brewer’. The team that can retrieve 11 kegs first, or the most kegs by an agreed period of time, wins.
The challenge was set, they would not be playing a proper match, all Pocket had to do was retrieve one keg back to his ‘brewer’ within 10 minutes. If he could successfully do so, he would win. An old Norn slid a keg from the edge of the playing area and Pocket was amazed to see it stop perfectly in the centre of ice. He looked around gaged the distance to the keg that split Thanos and himself, he was sure he could get to it first, there was no doubt that he was much faster than his opponent. Rather he focussed on how he would get the keg back to his brewer, the ice seemed slippery enough to be able to slide it but that would make it just as easy for Thanos to knock it out of the way. He would have to think of a different strategy.
“BEGIN!” came the cry from the edge of the field, the game had started! Pocket launched himself towards the keg and as his feet slipped on the ice he realised that he would not get there first. Thanos was already sliding to the keg on his belly! Pocket clenched his fists at being so easily beaten by the Norn and knowing that his speed meant nothing here. Thanos put one foot on top of the keg and smiled, “well come and get it, you won’t score without it you know”. Pocket slid slowly towards Thanos who watched him closely, there were giggles in a the crowd as he got closer and then complete silence, they were waiting for something. Pocket concentrated on the keg, he was only 10 or so meters away when Thanos suddlenly dismounted the keg and kicked it forcefully right at him. It hit him flush in the chest and sent him flying backwards with his arms and legs wrapped either side of the keg. He managed to grip it and spun on top. He was light enough to barely slow it down and as he got his bearings he realised he was actually travelling back to his brewer, he couldn’t believe his luck. But Thanos had realised his mistake and was now torpedoing towards Pocket on the ice, his arms swept back on his sides. It was going to be close. Pocket noticed the keg finally slowing and his chance of an easy victory fading. Thanos was soon upon him and he grabbed the keg and flung it upwards with such force that Pocket felt his insides move. The crowd cheered as he was launched high up into the air back towards to the centre of the field. The cheers turned to gasps as Pocket steadied himself in the air, spun and landed on all fours. Thanos nodded approvingly and beckoned Pocket to attempt another claim of the keg.
He leaped towards the champion, hopping and flipping over the ice, and faked a dive towards the keg, instead springing up into the air and onto it just as Thanos kicked it again, who was dismayed to find that he had again just gifted it to Pocket. As the keg came to a halt Pocket stood on top and folded his arms. The gesture delighted the crowd who were getting more than they had bargained for. It had the opposite effect on Thanos however who hurtled towards the keg again. Pocket secretly hoped Thanos would just throw the keg backwards right to his brewer but alas that was not to be the case. This time the champion sped towards him, leapt up into the air and stomped into the ice sending a fierce vibration up through the keg and paralysing Pocket temporarily. He followed up with a head-butt which smashed into the top of the keg, shattering it, sending Pocket sprawling and causing ale to spill out onto the ground.
‘STOP!’ yelled the old Norn. Both contestants backed away from the keg and awaited the arrival of the next keg, but it never came. “The ten minutes are up, Thanos is the winner”. The crowd was in stunned silence, in the excitement of the match everybody, including Pocket and Thanos had forgotten the challenge was only to last ten minutes. Pocket slumped to his knees and began to consider the consequences, how would he find Grundlebad now? Thanos walked over to him, knelt down and placed his hand on Pocket’s shoulder “I will take you to Grundlebad.” Pocket didn’t understand, “But I didn’t win?” Thanos smiled, “Nobody said you had to win,” he said accompanied by another hoot of laughter. Pocket’s was stunned; he had been outwitted by a Norn again! He blamed the cold weather, swallowed his pride and offered a hand to his new friend. Thanos sized up Pocket’s palm and offered a high-five instead and their hands met accompanied by cheers from the on looking crowd, “Let’s go”.
As they emerged through the portal gate Pocket choked on the fumes of the Black Citadel. He followed Thanos closely as they marched down Mustering Ground, through the Ashford Gate and to Smokestead Bar. “Grundlebad is never missing, even Damarus knows that,” claimed Thanos, "she probably thought it safer if you came here to speak to him accompanied by me. And she'd be right." They walked up a metal ramp and were just about to enter a small bar before they were halted at the entrance. ”No Charr, no bar!” snarled the guard. “We don’t want any trouble, we’re here to speak with Grundlebad,” insisted Thanos. “Whose ‘we’?” asked the guard squaring up to Thanos. He was oblivious to the fact that Pocket was standing behind them, the Norn nudged Pocket and retorted, “Me and myself, I’m heading inside whether you like it or not!” Pocket took the hint and slid past them; inside he was met by confused looks from glazed eyes and wasted no time in trying to find Grundlebad as he headed for the bar, “Excuse me, I’m looking for a someone by the name of Grundlebad, do you know where I can find him?” The barmaid stared at him for a few seconds and then nudged her head towards the end of the bar, Pocket turned to look and found a Charr sleeping with his horns resting on the bar top, Pocket offered a weak “thank you” and walked towards him. He was adorned in the most impressive armour Pocket had ever seen; it was an illuminating gold with numerous spikes finished with thick polished leather. It was definitely custom made and followed the counters of his body perfectly. He was mumbling something in his sleep, Pocket tried waking him with words but it was no use, he grabbed one of Grundlebad’s hands and shook it slightly. Grundlebad awoke in a rage, seized Pocket’s arm, pulled him right up to his muzzle and roared, “Don’t touch my French toast!” There was silence in the bar and everyone looked round to see what had happened, realising it was Grundlebad they went back to their business. Pocket was still trembling as Grundlebad’s fury receded and he let go of Pocket’s arm. “I’m sorry, bad dream,” he offered in way of an apology. “About French toast?” quizzed Pocket. Grundlebad shook off the remainder of his hangover, noticed the Knights Templar emblem on Pocket's armour and offered him a clenched fist. “Allow me to introduce myself; I am Grundlebad, Commander of the Mists!” They fist-bumped and Pocket was about to explain his mission when Thanos, followed by two heavily bruised guards, rushed into the bar. Grundlebad looked at Thanos accusingly who shrugged, “I missed you”. One of the guards let out a fierce growl, “You big, fat, slow Norn! I’m going to feed you to the wurms!” Grundlebad’s eyes widened as he grabbed Pocket and threw him over the bar, “you better hide!” As Pocket crouched behind the bar he heard a deep roar, “What did you call me?! Fat?! Slow?!” There followed an almighty brawl as the guards set about Thanos and Grundlebad. The fighting continued as more and more guards filtered through the doors, Pocket peered around the edge of the bar and was amazed at the ferocity of his two fellow Warriors. “We will have to get out of here soon or I’ll be summoned by the Adamant Guard, we had better head to the Mists. Follow me”. Thanos barged through the entrance followed by Grundlebad and Pocket and they retraced their steps in a sprint back to the portal gate.
They appeared in a huge citadel and Pocket doubled over to catch his breath while Grundlebad and Thanos doubled over in fits of laughter. The air was much clearer here but dotted with the sound of artillery fire. As he looked around he realised they were standing in the middle of a war, this was his first time in the Mists. Grundlebad led them to the citadel chambers where they had a chance to settle before Pocket explained his mission, and the events that had led him to find Thanos. They listened silently as he recounted the events of Ebonhawke, then Lions Arch, his induction to the Knights Templar and his training with Loren. “So here I am, I have passed all the tests that have been set, all the obstacles that have been placed in my way. I myself did not at first believe the prophecy that was put forth to me in the Priory but now I know that it is my destiny to slay the Crystal Dragon, but I can’t do it without your help”. The continued silence was eventually broken by a deep sigh from Grundlebad, “Fear not Pocket. I will craft you armour worthy of a Knight, worthy of your Father and my friend.” Pocket buried his face in his hands as relief ran through his mind, “But before I begin I will ask you the same three questions I asked him,” Pocket looked to Grundlebad worryingly, “for the sake of creative direction!” They all laughed as Grundlebad quizzed Pocket:
“One: night or day?”
“Two: Soldier or Scholar?”
“Three: Norn or Charr?”
Pocket assessed the question, considered flattering Grundlebad and then looked to Thanos who stared back at him with a poker face. “Asura!”
They nodded approvingly and Grundlebad stood, “Get some rest; it will be ready in the morning.”
The next day Pocket was awoken by the sound of marching, he peered through the curtains to see soldiers heading out of the Citadel gates. As he pulled them back light flooded in and lit up something in the middle of his room. He shielded his eyes to get a better view and what he saw left him speechless, it was his new armour and it looked just like his fathers. It was held up in mid-air with Asuran levitation crystals and he wondered how a Charr had been able to acquire and craft such material. He carefully packed the armour Loren had given him in Lion’s Arch before putting it on. It felt extremely light and he was amazed to find that despite the generous plating it did not restrict his movement in any way, in fact he was able to move around as easily as ever.
He found Grundlebad outside, “So you like it?” he asked, it may as well have been a rhetorical question, “It’s amazing, how did you do this, and in one night?!” Gundlebad surveyed his own work and nodded in satisfaction, “Let me talk you through all the features, firstly it is crafted using orichalcum ore, the finest, lighest and strongest metal in all of Tyria, accompanied by Asuran levitation crystals which help to levitate the armour, effectively eliminating the weight, allowing you full unhindered movement, further they assist your dodging by providing a short boost to your jumps and evades. The helmet comes complete with a heads-up visor allowing you to view information about your target, status on your boons and best of all, a lens so you can remove your glasses. The armour is augmented with Soldier runes which offer self-healing and cleansing of any conditions applied on you in battle. Lastly it is painted in a custom Midnight Purple and you can change the colour of the crystals via the visor menu, I think it’s the second option under settings. Best of all it comes with a lifetime guarantee and you can service it and any standard armour repair station throughout Tyria.”
Pocket was speechless. Grundlebad knelt down, placed his paws on Pocket’s shoulder and peered into his new helm, “how about a test drive?!” He roared to rally a zerg of other soldiers around them. "Sure, I just have one question, it's been playing on my mind since we got here, why and who are we fighting?" Enquired Pocket. An eery silence descended on the crowd of soldiers as they paused to contemplate, looking firstly at themselves, then each other and lastly at Grundlebad to answer what Pocket thought was a simple question. The silence was broken by the sweeping sound of a trebuchet shot that flew through the air and crashed into a nearby wall somewhere. "Charge! Get to the tower and man our siege! Go now!" Barked Grundlebad, the horde ran out of the nearby gate leaving him and Pocket alone. "Well?" Insisted Pocket. "It's complicated" offered Grundlebad as an explanation. "Complicated as in we don't really know why we're fighting?" Countered Pocket. "Listen, I like you Pocket but we don't have time for this right now, they will be lost without me out there ok? We can have this hypothetical discussion later" and with that he charged out towards the continuing sound of rock smashing against stone. Pocket took a moment to asses the situation, the entire Citadel was empty now. Could he justify this as yet unexplainable war as indeed a test drive for his new armour? After all, facing the Shatterer without testing its full capabilities would not be wise. Content, he ran after Grundlebad and into battle for the first time.
Next time : Chapter Six – Hungry for more!
A Knight's Tale - Chapter Five - Forged by the Fists of Grundlebad
by Pocket on Aug 02, 2013 at 07:31 PM}