The Bandit of Yostan

This is a short story I wrote for the RPC short story contest “Battle of the Bloggers”.

 

A knight rode down the hill in swift pursuit of a bandit. The distance between him and the bandit was narrowing, little by little the wheezing horses came closer together. The bandit cracked his whip harder than ever, and dug his spurs harder into his steed, but to no avail. As the knight on his swift charger pulled up beside him, the bandit thought hard. He knew that if he was caught he may hang on the end of a rope in the city square, for any of his many misdeeds. He pulled out his sword from his scabbard, and the knight did the same. Clash! The swords met, two men in a battle for life and death, vying with mighty strokes to prevail. As the knight with a mighty blow knocked bandit to the ground and the sword from his hand, but the horses passed on. The riderless horse of the bandit reared and galloped into a corn field, while the knight turned toward the bandit. The bandit struggled to his feet, with a searing pain in his left arm. But, he had no time to nurse his wound, for the knight came at him with a lowered lance and a temper. The bandit scurried up a small, nearby tree with the utmost dexterity, like he did as a young, energetic child near his home in Yostan. The knight dismounted and attempted to do the same as his opponent, but he was weighed down by his cumbersome armor. He took all of it off, except his helmet and his breastplate. He climbed up the tree carefully and slowly, with his sword still in his scabbard. As the knight neared him, he gripped the handle of his sword and readied to draw it from his scabbard. The bandit leapt upon the knight, and the two fell from the tree locked in combat. The knight hit the ground first, and the bandit ran into the woods. The knight raised himself from the dirt, whipped out his sword, and chased the bandit.

But the bandit was faster than he was. The bandit raced through the woods, with knowledge of every stump and vine. As the knight saw the bandit disappear into the woods, he sounded his horn. Several other horns answered him, some far, some near, and he continued his pursuit. The bandit heard the horns, and turned a pale color. He had not one pursuer, but many. He turned slightly to the left and ran even faster than before. The knight sounded again, but the horns seem farther away. The bandit reached his cave, and fell on the floor gasping for joy. He crawled in and began to nurse his wound.

The knight continued looking, but soon gave up the chase. Crestfallen, he turned and went back to look for his horse. But, as he walked he heard the voice of singing coming from a nearby valley:

“The king and his men, they tried to catch me,

but alas, those fools could not.

They return to the royal halls of Krestan,

And say, “he was not caught”.

A thousand times a thousand times,

the men said “he is here!”

but at the end of the tiring chase,

they begin to quake with fear.

What will he say, our noble sire,

when we return with naught.

Will we be punished in the place,

of the man whom we have sought?

The knight heard the song, and proceeded to see who it was. He saw a fire in a cave and a man dancing near it with a glass of wine in his hand. He silently walked toward the cave and then sprang into the opening with drawn sword. The bandit backed up to the bare wall of the cave. He was trapped, and he knew it. He looked for his sword, but it was far away, by the tree he had climbed. He looked for his dagger, but it was on the other side of the room, stuck into a wheel of cheese. He gulped and looked at the knight, his back flattened against the back of the cave. The knight said, “The king suspects you of a great crime, for which you will be hanged if convicted.” Many scenes flashed through the bandits mind, stealing a goat from Ronald the goatherd, stealing the wheel of cheese from the royal cook, and robbing multiple nobles and knights on the road. He didn’t remember anything else he did wrong, but any one of these actions of his would bring in serious punishment. He stared at the knight with fear in his eyes. The knight bound the bandit and searched the cave. The bandit wondered in his mind, “What can he be searching for? It is not the wheel of cheese, because it is in plain sight, and it can’t be the goat, because it is sleeping near the mouth of the cave, nor can it be money, because he already searched my money-bag.” The knight, breathing hard came right up to the bandit’s face and said, “Have you stolen the king’s pet frog?”

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