Meanwhile Sir Tucker was just making his way out of Featherstone through the north side. He wasn't alone as he had Sir Robert was accompanying him although for the moment he hadn't seen his face yet. The more that they walked the more that Sir Tucker could tell that Sir Robert was struggling to move. The older knight was walking at a slower pace than he younger counterpart, if anything Sir Tucker was slowing his own pace just so that Sir Robert could keep up with him.
One thing that Sir Tucker was thankful for was the fact that he had received Juggernaut and his shield once again. He felt almost naked travelling without them but now that he had them back he felt complete again. He took a look at the sword and shield that Sir Robert was carrying and there didn't seem to be anything special about them. They would do against a peasant but a fully trained knight would be able to smash right through them. It was lucky for him that they were facing wolves rather than knights.
"May I ask you a question sir?" asked Sir Tucker who felt that he should be respectful to the older knight. His body might not be what it used to be but there was no doubt that he had experience on his side.
"Ask away young'n," replied Sir Robert. His voice still sounded old but there was some kindness behind them.
"Thank you, I was just wondering how you came to be in service of the Lady. I'm sure that it is an intriguing tale."
"Well it is a tale but not one that is terribly exciting I'm afraid." He cleared his throat and to do this he needed to lift up his visor. This was when Sir Tucker saw his face for the first time. All that could be seen was a wrinkled old face and a thick white moustache. "I served under her grandfather when I was a young man. When he passed on I then served her father and now that he has passed on as well I am now in her service."
"You've stuck with the same family for three generations?"
"Indeed I have, I pledged my services to the O'Hare family and I intend to serve them until I am released of my vows honourably or the breath leaves my body. I take it that you have only received you knighthood recently."
"Yes I only received it a couple of weeks ago when my friend and I were in Indigon. Lord Tyrone knighted me himself."
"Impressive and pray I ask why you were knighted. I've known people get knighted for a number of reasons, some of them are for the noblest of reasons and others are nothing more than for bargaining."
"I took part in a tournament at Indigon and Lord Tyrone Howlet was impressed with my skills and passion so he knighted me in front of his honoured guests."
"Then I congratulate you on your accomplishments. Most people think that to be a knight you just need to know how to swing a sword but there is much more to it than that. If it were that easy ever man, woman and child who thought that they could fight could be called a knight. Out of curiosity did you win that tournament?"
"Unfortunately no I didn't, I got through the elimination round and even my first one on one match. But unfortunately I was defeated by Lord Tyrone's heir."
"A shame that is but unfortunately even knights have to suffer defeats from time to time. From each defeat he learns and improves his skills or else he will be repeating the same mistake over and over again."
Their conversation was taking their mind off the walk and they were making a surprising amount of progress. It probably wouldn't be long before they reached the mine, they would have to be careful as wolves were not safe creatures. If the pack attacked them at once it might be too much for them to withstand.
Eventually they came across the mine that was in question. It was a fairly small mine that looked to be abandoned. It was eerie seeing it there with no workers at all. However it was expected to be more or less empty since the wolves had taken up residence there. They would have their work cut out for them trying to get rid of them. It would certainly not be a simple challenge.
The first thing that Sir Tucker did was to grab a nearby torch and light it up. Unfortunately humans were not gifted when it came to seeing in the dark so this torch would be their source of light through this challenge. Sir Robert showed no fear as he stepped inside of the mine just behind Sir Tucker. He had been through a lot over his long life and a pack of wolves weren't enough to scare him.
Carefully they stepped through the mine and they constantly listened out for anything that they considered to be dangerous. The howling of a wolf was one such indicator and Sir Tucker couldn't help but think of when he and his friend Kermit had been taken prisoner by people who dressed as wolves. It was different now that he was going to go up against the real thing.
They also had to look out for anything else that could be a hazard. If Sir Tucker tripped and fell he doubted that Sir Robert would be able to carry him to safety. Also if he suffered any other serious injuries he didn't think that he would be able to get to help in time. However it was not the first time that he had fought in such a small space. He remembered the first two trials however this time he needed one hand to hold onto the torch.
"What was that?" whispered Sir Robert as he thought he had heard something. He quickly tried to look in that direction but he couldn't see what could have caused the noise. It did make him on edge.
"I didn't hear anything," replied Sir Tucker who also whispered. He too began to look around but he also couldn't anything.
"I swear that I heard something." The Old man seemed to be absolutely convinced that he had heard something.
"Maybe it was just the wind. Any way let's keep going or else we'll never be done." He and Sir Robert kept their swords in their hands just in case there was some kind of surprise attack on them.
It wasn't long before they heard a loud growling sound. They knew that they had most likely found what they were looking for. Sir Tucker lifted his torch up as he expected to see wolves in front of him. He did see a wolf but this one was much larger than he had expected. It was roughly as tall as a man with brown fur and terrifying yellow eyes. Its teeth looked sharp enough to crush steel and the pair knew that they had run into something that they might not be prepared for.
Oblivious to what was happening Jessica was still sitting by Lady O'Hare who was listening to what her guards were telling her. They had brought forward a man who had been caught stealing, he had been stealing food from the market and had been doing it for some time before he had eventually been caught. He had now been brought before Lady O'Hare so that he could face her judgement.
"And that is the whole story my Lady," said the Guard. "This thief has stolen from the good people of the city for too long. His life is now in your hands."
"Before we go any further the defendant may speak," replied Lady O'Hare. "It would be unfair otherwise."
"Thank you my lady," said the Man. He was respectful as well since his fate was entirely up to her. "I know what I did was wrong but I had no choice, I had a family to feed and I prefer to steal for a living rather than watching them starve. If you had children who depended on you for their very survival you would do all you could wouldn't you? I am at your mercy but I feel like I did what was best."
"You make an interesting point." She smiled a little and then looked over to Jessica who was sitting at her right. "And what do you suggest should be done with him?" This caught everyone by surprise but no one was more surprised than Jessica herself.
"I um," replied Jessica as she found herself in a position that she hadn't expected to find herself. She had felt sorry for the man as she could see that he only stole to support himself and his family. He had meant no harm to those that he stole from but she still had to be careful with what she said. "I think we should show him mercy, he did what he did purely for his loved ones. Is that really wrong?"
"There is a reason why we have laws though. If we were to waver them then anarchy would prevail. Besides there is no guarantee that he is even telling the truth, I've known men to sell their own mothers if it meant that they got away with their crimes. Maybe the only thing that he was sorry about was the fact that he got caught. Do you still believe that we should be merciful?"
Jessica looked at the man again and she couldn't see a confident thief but instead a broken man. If she were in his shoes she didn't think that she would have done much different but she still had to be careful. She still didn't know how Lady O'Hare might react to her comments.
"I still think that we should be merciful," said Jessica who felt that she was doing the right thing.
"Very well," replied Lady O'Hare. She then looked over to the thief again. "Today is you're lucky day, normally I would have either taken your hand or your manhood but today you will lose neither. Instead you will work in one of the iron mines for thirty days without pay. If you turn out to be good at the work you might very well continue there with a paid salary. However if not then you will find yourself on the street again."
"Thank you my lady," said the Thief in response. He couldn't believe his luck as he knew that he had just been saved from losing a vital part of his body. It was much more of a relief to him.
"Don't thank me, thank my very tall friend sitting next to me. It is her mercy which has saved you for now but I must warn you. If I discover that you have been stealing again you will lose both your hand and your manhood. Now leave my sight before I change my mind and call for Sir Timothy."
The Thief bowed to say thank you as he was taken away by a couple of guards. Lady O'Hare gave a sigh as she could relax herself. She knew that when it came to dealing with her citizens she had to be stern and show that she was more than capable of judging as any man.
Due to the fact that she was a woman when she first came to power no one had really taken her that seriously. She had to prove that she was capable of being the head of a city like Featherstone. It had progressed steadily throughout the time of the O'Hares and if anything it was prospering more since she had become the Lady. However she did have one more additional weight on her shoulders. She was the last person to bore the O'Hare name and unless she married soon and could produce some heirs her family would go extinct and its legacy would extinguished.
"That was interesting now wasn't it?" asked Lady O'Hare as she turned her attentions back to Jessica. She was still sitting on her stool but she feared that it could collapse at any moment.
"It was my lady," replied Jessica who still remained respectful. "I'm glad that you showed that man mercy."
"It was your mercy that saved him not mine but now he knows that if he is caught again he will not be so lucky." She stood up from her seat and it was the only time when she was taller than her. "Please walk with me."
"As you wish."
Jessica also stood up from her stool and began to follow Lady O'Hare. They walked side by side but only a few steps behind them were a couple of guards. It had been decreed some time ago that she would always be protected by at least two guards at all times. They would stand outside of her bed chambers as she slept and would accompany her everywhere she went. The men guarding her would change once every few hours and quite a lot of time for them it was boring work. However it ensure that their lady was safe the guards would do practically anything.
Eventually they found themselves walking down one of the many hallways in the castle. On the walls Jessica could see various tapestries which depicted many members of the O'Hare family and also beautiful scenery. She had no idea where she was going but she still did as she was commanded.
"So tell me a little more about yourself Miss Snape," said Lady O'Hare who seemed to genuinely want to know. "A big girl like you must have an interesting story to tell." She smiled up at her and Jessica did feel a little safer.
"There isn't much to tell my lady," replied Jessica. It was funny to see them together as Lady O'Hare had said before that she made her look so small in comparison even though Lady O'Hare was a tall woman herself. "My family are farmers and until I came along nothing really interesting happened."
"Tell me how you got so tall? Whatever they're feeding you should be given to every dwarf in Angleland."
"When I was but a new born babe I was dying, eventually I was given an elixir that cured me of my condition but as a side effect it made me grow abnormally tall and I'm still growing." She didn't tell her about the fact that she could willingly make herself into a full blown giantess. At this moment in time she couldn't do it and for that reason she decided to keep that information to herself.
"Interesting, I might have accidentally taken a sip of that elixir myself but it might be because the O'Hares are known to be quite tall. It was said that my grandfather was six and a half feet tall even my own mother was around an inch shorter than I. However due to my height in the past I had a couple of wedding proposals from Lord Nostory down in the Summer Lands."
"Lord Nostory?" His name sent a shiver down her spine and the slightest hint of rage. She had to be careful not to accidentally increase her size. However her anxiety was detected by Lady O'Hare.
"Are you alright Miss Snape?"
"Y-yeah I'm fine." She took a couple of deep breaths and was able to calm herself down. The last thing she wanted to do was to grow out of her cast and make her injuries that much worse.
"Good, yeah he proposed to be a couple of times but both times I declined. He wanted me to go to him in July but my father told me that an O'Hare must always be in Featherstone so if I am to marry a man they would remain here. Plus there is the fact that any child I have will hold the O'Hare name no matter what the law said. They don't have to take the father's name, the mother's name is just as good if you ask me."
"If that is what you wish my lady."
"And what about your friend, I've seen how you looked at each other and that is something that goes far beyond friendship."
"He..." She couldn't think of what words to say next. She felt that the situation was complicated. Although they were friends again and all had been forgiven about their past deeds there was still some things that were up in the air. "He's a friend, we were almost more than that but something happened between us. One day we may be together again but right now we're just friends."
"I wouldn't wait around if I were you. No offense but you most likely don't have many men who are willing to marry someone of your stature. I know that most men don't like to be with maidens that they have to look up to. Besides Sir Tucker is quite a looker." She began to smile at Jessica. "If he were not of such a low birth I would consider making him my husband but alas it would have been something that wouldn't have gone down very well. If I were you I would marry him as soon as possible, a handsome man like that won't be single forever." She laughed but Jessica was a little nervous. She didn't really like what she was saying as they were hard truths.
"I will take your advice in accordance my lady." This was all that she could really say as she remembered to be respectful. If Lady O'Hare wanted to she could take Jessica's head before Sir Tucker returned and even then it wouldn't make a difference.
"Oh I forgot that you're hungry." To her it was like she had just remembered where she had left a set of keys. "Let's make our way to the kitchen so my cooks can cook you up something nice."
This sounded nice to Jessica and she continued to follow Lady O'Hare. The sound of food sounded pretty good to her and she could feel her stomach rumbling. She had noticed that she was eating more than she normally did and this was always bad news to her. It meant that she was likely having another growth spurt which was something that she really didn't want to think about. Life was difficult enough for her but growing any taller would only make her life that much more difficult. Unfortunately the elixir that had given her, her size was still in full effect.
Meanwhile the situation was very different for Sir Tucker and Sir Robert. They were face to face with a wolf who was much larger than they had expected. It could see them clearly in the dark and it seemed to have no fear of them at all. The two knights held their swords which gleamed in the torchlight. However they found themselves having to step back as the giant wolf stepped forward.
Sir Tucker didn't want to admit that he was scared. He had never seen such a creature before and this time he didn't have Jessica to defend him. He was on his own as he didn't think that he could rely too much on Sir Robert. Both men just looked at the wolf as it continued to walk towards them.
"What the hell is that?" asked Sir Tucker as he was desperate to get some answers from the older knight.
"I believe that is a great wolf," replied Sir Robert who like Sir Tucker was also quite scared with the situation. "I thought they were extinct."
"Apparently not." The wolf growled at them as it saw them as intruders that needed to be exterminated.
Suddenly it tried to slash Sir Tucker with its long claws but he was just able to raise his shield in time. If he had been any slower the claws might have been able to penetrate his light armour. However Sir Tucker didn't take any comfort in the knowledge that he had just saved himself.
Now the knights had to decide whether to stay and fight under the command of Lady O'Hare or to turn back and return without success. They knew that it meant that their honour would take a beating. However many men would prefer to lose some of their honour rather than their life. They saw the wolf continue to move towards them and this was when Sir Tucker did what he thought was best.
"Sir Robert get around behind it," said Sir Tucker as he was trying to think of a strategy. "It can't fight on two fronts."
Rather than responding with words Sir Robert made his way around the wolf but it was difficult since there wasn't too much room for him to move around. He also needed to be quick but unfortunately speed was something that had left his body many years ago. Despite this he still moved as fast as he could and the wolf saw him. It would have attacked the older knight but Sir Tucker launched a dummy attack to draw its attention. The wolf took the bait and tried to fend Sir Tucker off.
Thanks to the distraction Sir Robert was able to get behind the large wolf and slashed at its back leg. This caused the wolf to howl in pain and it turned its head towards him. Sir Tucker then ran towards the wolf and stabbed it right in the eye. The wolf cried out for the last time as Juggernaut had gone deep into its skull and it fell on the ground. It remained motionless and both knights began to take deep breaths.
"I guess they're back to being extinct," said Sir Tucker. He was still taking deep breaths as he was regaining his composure. "A shame to kill such a beast but it didn't really leave us that much of a choice."
"We could take this back with us as a trophy but I doubt we have the combined strength to pull off such a feat," replied Sir Robert. He had done his job but he still wanted to make his lady happy.
"I think we can still bring back the head." He knew that if Jessica had of been there she would have been upset with killing it, especially due to the fact that it was possibly the last of its kind. But he doubted that he and Sir Robert would have likely been killed. "Lady O'Hare can have it stuff and mounted if she likes."
"Indeed and if you wouldn't mind, I'll do the honours."
Sir Tucker didn't really want to do the deed himself so he was more than happy to watch Sir Robert do it instead. However before the older knight could cut off the head they began to hear more noises. They soon saw another set of large eyes in front of them and when Sir Tucker turned around he saw that there was another set behind them. It was his worst nightmare as both their escapes had been blocked off.
Both knights had hoped that there had only been one but unfortunately there were more than one of these Great Wolves and neither of them were happy to see them. The knights had killed a member of their pack and now they wanted revenge. It only made the situation that much more terrifying for them.
"I hope you have some kind of plan young sir," said Sir Robert as he couldn't see anyway out for either of them.
"I have an idea but most likely we won't survive," replied Sir Tucker. He laughed nervously for a few moments. "Unless of course you have a plan."
"I've got nothing, I guess the only thing to do is to go out in a blaze of glory and with our honour intact."
"Don't count us out just yet." He was still trying to think of a way out but unfortunately their options were extremely limited. The two Great Wolves were creeping closer towards them and time had more or less ran out for them.
"If we don't make it out it has been an honour fighting besides you no matter how brief our time together has been."
It was the first Great Wolf who made the first move by attempting to slash at Sir Robert. It struck its mark but the older knight was wearing heavy armour and this allowed him to withstand the slash. There was an ear wrenching sound as the claws came into contact with the metal and scrapped along. The armour wasn't undamaged as the claw marks were there for all to see. If the wolf struck in the same spot again it would most likely crack through the armour to the unguarded flesh below. A blow like that would more than certain kill the older knight before he could see a healer.
There was one opening that Sir Tucker did notice but it seemed to be a difficult one to get through. He could see a space between the legs of the Great Wolves and there was already a lot of risk with his idea. However with how the situation was deteriorating he needed to try something soon.
"How agile are you old man?" asked Sir Tucker. He didn't even turn to look at the old man as he stayed focused on the wolf ahead of him.
"I'm still as agile as the next man," replied Sir Robert who still focused on the wolf ahead of him.
"Good then follow my lead."
With that Sir Tucker ran forward and dived under the legs of the Great Wolf. He was able to catch the wolf by surprise and only a second later Sir Robert was behind him. Both knights were able to get through the legs of the wolf before it had even had a chance to react. Both knights quickly got back up to their feet but rather than fighting on they knew that they needed to retreat and quickly. The task was too much for the pair to handle and they needed reinforcements.
Both knights ran as quickly as they legs could carry them towards the exit of the mine. They had dropped the torch during the escape so now they were running in darkness but they just hoped that they didn't trip up on anything. They could hear the wolves right behind them and if they fell back they would certainly be killed. Sir Robert was still moving quickly even for his age and if Sir Tucker could see him he would be impressed. Even though he was wearing heavy armour he was still keeping up with the younger night.
After a few heart pounding moments both knights could see daylight ahead of them. They felt that they were close to victory but suddenly Sir Robert tripped over a large rock that had been concealed in the darkness.
Sir Tucker turned to look at the older knight but before he could do anything to help he saw Sir Robert be driven back into the darkness and he began to scream in agony. The fear over swept Sir Tucker as he soon heard cracking noises that was the breaking of bones and Sir Robert's cries of pain suddenly and eerily ceased.
Sir Tucker could only continue on as fast as his legs could carry him towards what he hoped to be the safety of sunlight. He didn't look back as he ran and within seconds he was out of the mine but instead of stopping he continued to run back towards Featherstone. He didn't want to report failure back to Lady O'Hare. He didn't know how she would react, especially with the additional fact that she had just lost one of her most loyal knights.
One thing that Sir Tucker did consider was leaving and not going back to Featherstone but he refused to leave Jessica behind. No matter what he would have to return and face the music, he could only hope that Lady O'Hare showed him mercy. He prayed to the gods but there was one particular demi-goddess who was listening.