This is a chapter I’m most proud of. When I was sixteen, I read Dale Furutani’s “Kill the Shogun.” It was the first time I read a novel in which I learned you could choreograph fights in a book or a novel. Before then, I’d just read “they engaged in battle” and the author presumes the reader’s imagination will do the rest. To me, that wasn’t enough.
However, if you’re skilled, you can describe a fight so much so that the reader can see each blow, each move, each block, each strike. Without further ado, I give you the climatic battle that engulfs Tintagel Castle. Princess Isolde has just been shot down by Gaheris’s arrow. The dike that held back the decades of strife and bad blood has been ruptured. The young men rise up and show why their generation will be the greatest knights Britannia’s ever seen.
The Knights with No Lords
Chapter 26 – Onslaught
By Rock Kitaro
Tristan’s roar reverberated louder than a chorus of angry trumpets. The Lion of Dumnonia was still leaning over the chopping block when he saw his beloved collapse to her knees. Adrenaline pumped through his veins and with brute force, Tristan curled his biceps and snapped the thick ropes binding his wrists.
The soldiers near the scaffold advanced to restrain him but Tristan was out of his mind. All he saw was red and there was no difference between friend or foe. He picked up a bench and crashed it against the four men sending them sprawling.
Another knight and old hunting buddy stood in his way with open palms trying to reason with him. Tristan slung the buddy by his breastplate as if he was nothing but a pillow. Trepidation kept other knights at bay as Tristan shouldered through the mass of hysteria. After shouldering through the crowd, Tristan slid to his knees and scooped up the wounded Isolde.
Panic struck like a stomped ant pile. Over 2,000 civilians rushed for the exits. Clanging steel and forceful grunts picked up as the battle began. Swords were drawn. Bows were pulled. The shimmer from raised shields flashed from every corner. Orders were drowned out by screams and crashes. Soon, the exits became clogged as soldiers struggled to enter and join the fray. It was chaos.
“NO!!! Don’t touch her! You’re not fit to touch my daughter!” Queen Iseult screamed as Sir Maven damn-near had to drag the queen to safety.
Like a guardian angel, Tristan wept and held Isolde close to his chest. Such sadness. Intense grief and an abandon of all ambition beset Tristan and Isolde as they pressed their faces together, blending their sweat and tears. The queen called for his head over and over again. Sir Maven and five guards had no choice but to physically lift her off the ground and carry her out of an exit.
“Fire the cannons!” Algayre shouted.
At once, a Hibernian archer hidden on the roof took up his long bow and set an arrow ablaze. Arching back, he aimed high and released. The flaming arrow sailed out of the abbey, southbound towards the edge of a precipice where five barrels of oil were stacked in a triangle. The thunderous explosion blasted fleeing citizens into the air and ignited a fire that spread from a pair of oak trees.
It was a signal to the Hibernian battleships at sea. Within seconds, a volley of cannonballs was unleashed but their aimed wasn’t to hit the castle. The booming cannons could be heard throughout the entire city. Morholt’s 260 warriors who had secretly come ashore were alerted. This was their cue to rise up and annihilate.
Horror and dread spread like a fast virus as slaughter screeched from every corridor, stairway, and plaza. But help was on the way.
King Lot heeded the earlier warning brought forth by Gawain and Constantine. Gawain predicted the ambush would begin at the wedding, but the prudent King Lot wasn’t the type to procrastinate. He ordered his Lothian knights to remain diligent, alert and ready, especially when the royal household was all gathered in one place.
When Morholt’s warriors attacked, the Lothians emerged in full battle armor. They combed through the waves of fleeing citizens and engaged the enemy Hibernians, crossing blades in the corridors, the stairways, and the plazas.
By the time Queen Iseult was carried to her ship at the Port of Talons, intense fighting had spilled out of Angel’s Square and into the streets. The monstrous Morholt had already chopped down nine men and he was just getting warmed up.
In Angel’s Square, Gawain, Gaheris, and Agravain were taking on all comers. It wasn’t long before Agravain began to splinter off on his own but Gawain wasn’t worried. Constantine joined Gawain and Gaheris with a sword and shield. He wasn’t as skilled as the brothers, but his bravery was up to par.
Gawain’s feet never stayed in one place for less than a second. He moved from side-to-side in a crescent sweep to protect his sharpshooting little brother. With nerves of steel, Gaheris’s arrows sniped off rival archers who were hiding on the roof and within the cloisters. His accuracy was ridiculous. Out of the sixteen arrows he let sail, he only missed once.
A loud crash of exploding bricks and mortar got everyone’s attention. Morholt had just rammed his way into Angel’s Square. Two knights challenged with a loud battle cry. Morholt swept them away with a single swing from his mighty ax. Then, his beer-stained eyes turned and settled on the back of the lion.
“Tristan…” Morholt grumbled.
By now, Isolde was no longer blinking. The trails of tears had crusted over her face and she could no longer feel Tristan’s warmth. With her last bit of strength, Princess Isolde caressed Tristan’s cheek and whispered, “Don’t lose.”
Tristan’s stone cold eyes slowly elevated to the massive obstruction that was blocking the sun from view. With his sights locked on the beast, Tristan carefully lowered the beauty to the grass. His cheeks convulsed as a tremendous roar of absolutely nothing to lose came blaring from his throat.
The entire courtyard seemed to tremor as Tristan and Morholt charged for each other. When he was close enough, Morholt raised his ax for a downward swing but Tristan flew at him like a missile, ramming his rock hard shoulders into Morholt’s gut and causing the giant to drop his blade. Tristan tackled Morholt into the now vacant royal platform and completely obliterated the structure on impact. Splinters of wood chips flew everywhere.
It was a brawl unlike any other, like two grizzly bears mindlessly swinging their fists, relying on nothing other than maximum power and true grit. Each blow sounded like thick slapping steaks. Morholt would grab Tristan and hurl him against a wall. Tristan would bounce back with a two-handed clubbing attack to send Morholt skidding in the grass.
Soldiers on both sides did their best to stand clear. It was terrifying. They had to fight in the midst of a destructive tornado that wreaked havoc in an unpredictable warpath. Anyone caught in their way were crushed, bludgeoned, or used as weapons.
In the market plaza just two blocks north of the St. Gabriel’s Abbey, the red-scarfed Pellinore was running across a breezeway when he caught sight of Hibernian warriors racing for the back entrance of the royal palace. With a hungry grin, Pellinore ignored Kanish’s advice to take the stairs. He leaped over a railing and dropped two tiers to land in an open yard where mothers where herding their children indoors.
Clutching his serrated sword with both hands, Pellinore unleashed a ravenous roar and sprinted towards a wall of twenty warriors all by himself. The children cried and screamed for someone to help him.
Pellinore didn’t need any help.
As he came within twenty feet of the closest halberd, he launched into the air and flung his long sword like a dagger to impale the closest man. He landed and snatched the shaft of two spears before the tips could scratch his armor, redirecting their momentum to stab each other. He yanked his sword out of the dead man and began cutting down warriors left and right like a scout hacking through vegetation in the jungle. He was so fast, his swings, so powerful that confusion spread. And when his eager Black Bloods joined the fray, the Hibernians didn’t stand a chance.