There have been a number of days in my life that have stood out to me as important, the day I married, the days each of my children were born, but none stand out in terms of my importance to the Kingdom quite so much as the day of my elevation to Knighthood. It was one of the biggest events the Castle Thorn had hosted, royal banners fluttered over the parapets and the entire Royal Congress was in attendance, it was considered important to make it a moment of pomp and ceremony as the kingdom still reeled from the effects of the plague that had claimed all but a few of the population over the age of fifteen.
The youth of today don’t quite understand when we talk of the plague, those few of us left who lived through it remember a time of fear and heart-wrenching loss, I lost my father and my uncles in the space of a few weeks, my mother was one of the last to perish, a strong woman she held on to life with all the tenacity of a Janoan Jungle fighter, I still carry her locket for those moments when the fight seems insurmountable.
The castle felt so empty without her gentle laugh or my father’s booming voice, even the servants were mostly gone, my brothers and I would meet every night in the dining hall and I would prepare small meals for the three of us, before long my cousin Francis joined us and the entire family Marshal migrated to House Thorn to survive together, it was in those days that the House Marshal realised its own strength, for it was then that we bonded and grew close, of course we’d always been brothers but now we recognised in each other the strengths we would need to survive.
It was several months before word reached us from the Palace that new King had been crowned and he’d wed the daughter of Duke Fafnir Helgard, a spirited girl who had begun training with the Longsword under my tutelage, needless to say I was terrified at the news. The messenger let us know the Royals were on their way for a great celebration and to make ready. Within a week we had hired a brand new team of servants to prepare the feast and to make the keep ready for company, as it had fallen into a somewhat dusty and inhospitable place in the intervening months with so few of us occupying it. I even brought some of the local boys in as Men-at-Arms, the uniforms far too big for them and the halberds hung in hands that clearly did not know how to use them.
Thankfully when the Crown arrived I found friends in King Alerxius and Queen Lucretia, they were all too familiar with the decimation of the plague, they informed me the Kingdom needed good news in this dark time and that it was time I took on the role that my father had left to me, and so it was that Castle Thorn hosted the first grand tournament of the reign of King Alerxius Rex and Queen Lucretia Regina.
~ Graf Albrecht Marshal of Lowenburg
Dawn was just piercing the stain glass window at the peak of the chapel where wall met ceiling, and yet despite the early hour the small building was packed to the very doors, at the head of the room near the altar stood a young man resplendent in the royal colours with his head surmounted by a golden crown of the finest make. At his side stood his Queen, an equally young lady with a fiery glint in her eye that betrayed the strength and passion with which she lived and ruled. At their sides stood the Dukes of Lor Voskara, each in their own colours bearing the styles of their respective Duchies. All were powerful people and yet all bore the soft innocent faces of children, not one among them showing the hardness of feature that older rulers bore.
Approaching them from the open doors at the far end of the chapel came a large boy in a plain white tunic that hung past his knees, its rough spun fabric dragging uncomfortably against his damp skin, the ritual bath had left his golden hair plastered to the back of his neck, his blue eyes glaring proudly across the room, careful not to make eye contact with anyone lest the confident façade crack. Once he reached the end of the hall he bowed at the waist to his King and Queen, “Your Majesties, I am your humble servant, Lord Albrecht of House Marshal, son of the late Conrad Marshal who ruled your sovereign lands of Lowenburg, the Ancestral home of my family.” He spoke the ritual words keeping his head lowered. Despite this he still stood a shoulder above the young King, though the young man did not look intimidated in the slightest, raised as he was to the Crown of the land the Scion of House Xakorai knew this young man would lay down his life in his service.
“These words we hear and receive gratefully young Albrecht, take a knee.” The King ordered knowing he’d be obeyed. Albrecht dropped to a knee before the royals keeping his head bowed. “The kingdom has suffered greatly in recent times, and we find ourselves undefended from our enemies by the Knights who called this kingdom home, this is a problem we will start to rectify today,” At these words the King drew the great sword of State from its scabbard and held it point down before him, “Albrecht Marshal, on this day We are minded to name you Knight, hear these words and swear to obey them,” He began intoning the words that were older than the stones upon which they stood, “Do you so swear, to be without fear in the face of your enemies, to speak the truth always even if it leads to your death, to safe guard the helpless, until your Lord release you, death take you or judgement comes?” As the echo of his words died the eyes of Albrecht met those of his King as he responded.
“This I swear by mouth and hand, to speak and to be silent, to strike and to spare, in living and dying, until my Lord release me, death take me, or the world ends, thus I swear, Albrecht Marshal.”
The sword rose and lay flat on Albrecht’s shoulder, “Then I dub thee once,” It rose and fell to his other shoulder, “I dub thee twice,” Finally it rested on the top of his head, “I dub thee Knight of Lor Voskara.” Removing the sword and with the lightning reflexes of a trained warrior, the young king struck Albrecht across the jaw with the back of his hand, “And that is so you remember it, you are now a Knight and the lands are thankful to once more have such a mighty protector, but before I ask you to rise I must beg you stay one moment longer.” Albrecht raised an eye quizzically at his Leige, “Firstly you must be outfitted as befits a knight of the realm, your family have donated the appropriate items, a chain of fealty from your brother Marius,” The second son of Conrad placed a plain chain of iron around his brother’s neck, “Spurs to recognise your position as a cavalryman of the highest order from your Cousin Francis,” The golden rowels with their sharp points were affixed to his boots, “And a belt of white from the Crown so that you recognise your duty to remain forever honourable.” The Queen placed the belt about his waist, a sword now hanging from his hip. “You are now outfitted as befits a knight, but there is one more thing you require, the Lands of Lowenburg weep for the loss of your father, but they languish without a true leader, as such you require the coronet of Lowenburg, as we name you Graf, and grant you the rights and privileges of a Count within our Court.” As he spoke the younger Marshal’s placed the silver embattled coronet upon Albrecht’s stunned brow, pulling him to his feet and turning to meet the cheers of the assembled crowd…