The Tragedy of Cavalric, Knight of the Garter
By: Anna & Edward Cates
Genre: Fantasy, Humor, Roleplaying
Wordcount: 4258

A story by Anna & Edward Cates

(This story has been previously published at Dynamic Patterns Literary Webzine.)

The Tragedy of Cavalric, Knight of the Garter

by Anna & Edward Cates

Eric sat welded onto his metal foldout chair. He grabbed clear, green dice, grinding them together for luck. With a twist of his wrist, they tumbled onto the card table. "Natural twenty!" he sputtered, "probably double damage!"

"Yep," his cousin Ted quipped. "That orc's 'spleened.' Now for the hob goblin . . . Ah, pitiful miss. Your attack."

Green dice blurred again from Eric's frenzied thumbs. "Eighteen plus dexterity bonus is twenty-one. Is he thoroughly thrashed?" Eric spat, sliding fingers over his un-kept hair.

"He's hurting badly. He's got one hit point left, but he's stunned, so you finish him off - cut the last bloody tendon holding the head on his debilitated shoulders," The husky man laughed, routinely flipping away black curls from his sweaty neck and stroking his freshly-cropped goatee. "Do you want this guy's armor? He's got plus three plate mail."

"Plus three plate? That'll come in handy!"

Ted poked his finger across the cardboard chart dividing the table. "Your armor class is now negative four," he told Eric with a sleepy snort.

Eric greedily smeared away his previous mark from the plastic covering his character sheet, then added the revised information, his eyes steadily shimmering. "I search the room for treasure, trap doors, and secret passageways."

"You find nothing," Ted bluntly informed him. "The room is empty but for a bed, a pile of ritualistic bones, and a dung heap."

"Dung heap?" Eric calculated. "The perfect place to hide valuables: Cavalric searches it!"

Ted's smooth brows shot together and slid down his deep-set sockets. "You are going to search the dung heap?" he asked incredulously. Eric eyes bulged, his nostrils heaved, and his lower lip released a trembling strand of spittle. "Of course! It's the perfect place to hide treasure. I'm sure Illrack thought no one would think to look there!"

Ted scowled. "You search the dung heap and discover nothing, except now the stench has grown worse, and you're covered with it!"

"There are no gems?" Eric asked meekly, disappointment burbling.

"There's nothing, nothing but the distant sound of quickly advancing Hell Hounds, who now will be able to smell you all throughout the maze." Ted turned impatiently from his player, flapped through The Dungeon Master's Guide and Fiend Folio, then browsed through his gray folder, bursting with maps, chartered rooms on graph paper, and lists of his own rules. He remained immersed for nearly twenty minutes, occasionally whittling facts onto scrap paper with a steel pencil. Meanwhile, Eric sat quietly, patiently waiting, with head bowed and hands folded over his flannel-covered stomach. He kept this pose, completely motionless, except for the occasional twitch of his amphibian-like jowls and the throb of his Adam's apple, hiding amid a nest of red facial hair.

"Perhaps Iriadas has had better luck with the plundering?" he finally offered, ending the pause.

Ted raised his dark head. "Why don't you go see?"
Eric's eyes bulged at The Dungeon Master.

"Very well. Cavalric returns to the room before the hall of spikes."

A vein in Ted's eyes reddened. "Good. Cavalric opens the cracked door and steps inside. Iriadas, dressed in The Dark Lord's robes, is sitting behind a table.
The sword of life-stealing is spread before him on the table. His clawed hand is smoothing the head of his lizard dog, who sniffs Illrack's mutilated body, slumped to their left."

Eric squirmed at the new knowledge. He snatched the dice, cracked them between wet palms, and thrust them against the cardboard divider with a smack. "I assume by rolling initiative that I have made the right assumption?"

"Precisely," Ted yawned. "Iriadas is now The Dark Lord. What did you roll?"

Air hissed through Eric's gaped teeth. "Two," he gurgled, then, resisting resignation, his imminent battle drive set in. He licked his flaccid lips and spluttered gleefully, "I draw the two-handed battle glaive of Gruumvoldhoriose the Stormslayer and shout, ' traitorous dog, knave, pig person!'" He stammered.
"'Long have I sought the murderer of King Grisbane!'" Eric's eyes glazed over with vacuous rapture, "'and now at long last has come the momentous occasion of my revenge!'" His oration ended in a crescendo of ecstasy as he threw wide his arms in exultation, nearly overturning his Mountain Dew can. Suddenly tempted by the chartreuse fluid, he drained the can, flicking the crushed aluminum remains amid the growing heap at his feet.

Eric probably would have continued his grandiloquence, but Ted interjected.
"Iriadas laughs derisively and rises slowly as the gloom seems to deepen about him, accentuating his piercing eyes. 'Your revenge? The King was a fool! And so are you if you did not see that I tricked you into leading me here to fulfill my destiny!' Iriadas waves his hand at Cavalric dismissively and turns up his nose in disgust. 'I'll not soil my hands with the likes of you! Crawl back to the midden from whence you came and burrow in it to your heart's delight, and take that hulking storm axe with you. It will not avail you now! While you were out playing the crusader I have slain Illrack and taken his Mystical Mantle of the Overlord for my own!'" A slow grin spread across Ted's whiskered lips at Eric's slack-jawed horror. His sunken eyes glinted in feral glee, "'yes,'" Iriadas continues, "'even now it's power flows through me. I am no longer the mere mortal you once knew. Not even your 'spear and magic helmet' can harm me now!'" Ted chuckled, pausing to let this declaration seep into Eric's bewildered mind and took a sip of grape juice from the plastic chalice in front of him behind the official Dungeon Master's Screen. "Iriadas's lizard dog growls menacingly.
With his own dexterity heightened by the arcane power of the mantle, Iriadas easily beats the 'two' you scored for initiative, and with his role, gains the first move. He summons the power of the Dark Underlord to cast a spell . . ."

"Ah ha! I attack while he still chants!" Erik spat with rabid intensity, "even with my score of 'two' I will still have first strike! I'll hit him long before his spell goes off."

"I didn't say he chanted." Ted scoffed, "with the power of the Dark Underlord, his spell goes off instantly; I just have to roll to see what the results are!"

Stunned disbelief nearly floored Eric, as his moment of joy melted into dawning terror. He clutched his dice and grease pencil with white knuckled trepidation awaiting his foe's attack. Ted picked his nose with feigned nonchalance and grabbed up his percentile dice. Casually he threw several roles. With each consecutive cast his diabolical grin widened as he scribbled down the results on scrap paper. He paused, holding the findings at arm's-length, perusing them approvingly.

Eric's eyes bulged. He slurped more Mountain Dew, wiping the shivering dribble from his bearded chin with the back of his hand as he awaited the results with bated breath. Meanwhile, Ted took another sip from the tepid "Elven wine" in his plastic chalice, as Eric ground his dice into his palm in mortified frustration, impatiently expecting the announcement of Cavalric's doom.

Ted scratched the back of his hirsute neck dislodging several errant flakes of dandruff, which settled amid their fellows on the back of his sweaty Def Leppard-Pyromania T-shirt. Finally satisfied with his moment of triumph, Ted raised his arms melodramatically and intoned, "slowly impermeable darkness deepens about Iriadas, and his hollow laughter seems to retreat into the distance, but in front of you the bloodless and mutilated body of Illrack the acolytes arises, clutching the sword of life stealing. Its eyes glow with unholy light!" Ted chuckled and shook his head, "Dude, you are so hosed!"

Just then, the first round of heartburn, provoked by a lunch of leftover meatloaf, began to assault Ted's burly chest. But the thought of Cavalric's imminent demise kept him focused. Eric leaned his sweaty-haired head over the cardboard divider, like a naughty schoolboy, attempting to steal answers from a classmate. Ted growled, disgruntled at the affront, and blew hot breath onto Eric's clammy visage to thwart his offense, then snatched up the cardboard. "Well, what are you going to do?" Ted intensified.

"I remove my sword, 'Dragon Fire,' and hold up its glow before the Demon Lord," Eric scrambled at last, questioning for a moment the veracity of his once-most-trusted battle ax.

Ted's lip curled. "He laughs at your stupidity and remains undaunted. Then, he speaks: 'Now you must worship me, knave. Bow down to me, and pledge to me your service and soul, and you will be spared from the misery of the certain destruction that I have planned for you otherwise. Lay your weapons at my feet and come forward like the tender worm erupting from its sheath of earth to face the brilliance of the sun. Then, I will forgive your lowliness and raise you up till you are as ferocious as a dragon. I will empower you to do my bidding, and you will share in the glory of my diabolical darkness. I will give you your due portion of evil; only repent of your service to The Crown and renounce your lawful and goodly ways, and I will be forgiving of your pathetic past of sickeningly sweet tendencies!'"

Ted learned forward over his restored cardboard visor to await Eric's response.
Eric clutched his dice with gangly-nuckled phalanges, habitually grinding them together, absent-mindedly. His blood-shot eyes lost their focus at the choice before him: to die now, most likely, and let his own destiny remain unfulfilled, or to mouth a meaningless oath of service to this dark, foreboding specter, and hope to revolt from him and gain his freedom later, when opportunity might arise - sometime and some place distant - in the concealment of the Enchanted Forests, perhaps. Now the thought presented itself: what would be most wise and what would be most brave? And what was the difference between bravery and foolhardiness? Cavalric had much to decide, and very little time to do so . . .

Suddenly the reverie was shattered as the door down the hall opened emitting the blaring sounds of Van Halen-David Lee Roth reaching down between his legs to ease the seat back. "Panama, Panama, Panama, ahh". Both boys groaned.
"'It's Tehhhhhhhd! He cheats on his homework eveyday. His homework! His homework!" Came the singsong litany both boys knew so well and dreaded. Ted's sister Angie had emerged from her lair bent on derision. Ted belched loudly, his heartburn flaring up immediately at the unwelcome intrusion. He drained his chalice and poured another from the jug beside him on the floor, finishing most of it as well. Eric grimaced and leaned back in his chair with a sigh of resignation. Angie burgeoned her way into the room amid a cloud of brightly colored handkerchiefs in imitation of the gold-haired rocker whose music still blared in the background. Her own hair, dyed blue black that week, hung limply about her shoulders. "It's Tehhhhhhhd!" She began, smacking her chewing gum loudly between opened lips and gyrating her undulating hips obnoxiously, as she thrust her finger toward the object of her mockery.

"Imagine that. We would never have known if you hadn't told us," intoned Eric sarcastically. "Really, is it?"

"What do you want?" Ted asked angrily.

"Yeeeaaah righhhht!" Came the nonsensical reply. Angie knew she had achieved her goal. Her sheer irritation quota was already high, but it could be much higher still. She had not yet begun to irritate! Seeing the piles of polyhedral dice on either side of the table, she quickly snatched a handful of Ted's. "You got some dice do you?"

"Put those down! They don't make that kind anymore!" Ted snapped.

"Yeeeaaah righhhhht!" Angie laughed, carelessly tossing them back on the table, as a vein in Ted's temple began to throb. Angie danced quickly over to the bookshelf.

"Will you get out!" Ted shouted.

"Yeeeaaah righhhhht!" Came the scoffing reply. She picked up a G.I. Joe figure from an elaborately posed battle scene on the shelf. "A little soldier boy, yeeeaaah!"

"Put that back! That took hours to set up!" Ted began to sit up but realized that he could not do so easily because of the multitude of folders, papers, dice, and the easily overturned chalice of grape juice in front of him on the folding table. He began to cautiously ease his own seat back, the fury in his mind steadily mounting. Eric sat by resolutely, his arms folded across his flannel-covered chest, the wiry red hair of his scraggly beard slightly twitching. "If you don't need anything, get out!" Ted yelled.

Suddenly, Angie bent down and looked under the bed. "Maaaaaan, look at the size of the dust bunnies under here!" She chided, retrieving one daintily between her fingers and holding it out with a disgustedly mischievous grin.

"Leave my dust alone!" Ted blazed, and immediately realizing the absurtity of what he said, groaned in resignation.

"'Leave my dust alone,'" Angie chortled in mimicry, grinning broadly, her victory absolute, her foes completely disheartened and defeated. She sauntered to the doorway, "Hey Ted, when are you going to help me with that poster for the dance?"

Several unflattering options presented themselves to his mind as Ted still stewed over his own idiotic remark. "You mean that 'Dr. Duane and Animal Angie' dance that you are going to co-host down at the junior high school?"

"Yeah. I thought you could draw me on a leash with a big iron chain and of lots of spikes and Duane holding it with lots of records and flames-n-stuff.
Wouldn't that be cool?" Angie intoned, enraptured.

"Yeah, with lots of leather and freaky, weird stuff. Don't worry, by the time I'm done with those posters everyone will think it's a big goth, S&M party instead of a dance," Ted laughed, turning to Eric. "I wish I could see the look on the principal's face when he sees them."

"Maybe we should invite Illrack and Iriadas." Interjected his cousin.

"Don't forget the lizard dog, and hobgoblins, and hell hounds," Ted added, and then changed the subject. It's funny how people who aren't into goth or S&M think it's cool when everyone thinks they are," Ted snipped to Eric mockingly.

"Yeah, she's just into David Lee Roth and his jungle studs," Eric observed, catching his cousins unspoken cue and emphasizing the last two words derisively with a smirk.

"Don't make fun of David Lee Roth! He's the ultimate male!" Angie, still lingering, huskily rebuked. "When I see that thick, curly blond chest hair . . ." she paused, wringing her hands, fortunately leaving the verbal picture unfinished . . . "With all that hair . . . " she reverberated, biting her lip, "he must have tons of testosterone." Angie's eyes sparkled with demonic yearning. Eric's fingers twitched as he wrinkled his face in disgust.

"You'd better watch out Eric," jested Ted, "she'll see that beard..."

"That's revolting!" Angie exclaimed, wheeling sharply and walking back to her room, slamming the door behind her. The sounds of Van Halen faded to a distant roar.

"Now where were we?" asked Ted, turning once more to Eric, who quickly lost himself again in the game's focus. "Ah Yes, Cavalric was scrutinizing The Dark Lord" . . .

"What reason do I have to believe that what you offer you will hold to?" Cavalric spoke after a moment.

The Dark Lord bristled. His scarred and disfigured face grimaced with disgust at the cavalier's delay. "I could destroy you now, slug," he sneered from his misshapen orifice, his words slurring hideously in a snake-like lisp - his tongue lolling for a moment at the edge of his wrinkled lower lip as his shoulders shrugged and relaxed momentarily then tightened again as he raised his hand up into the air, and a large, ruby ring on his finger began to glow eerily with the morbidity of even more yet-unannounced and menacing power.

Cavalric delved deeply into his even-further-troubling thoughts as a faint pain in his chest began to manifest itself. Could it be that already, some malevolent charm was impeding him? Was a dreadful doom even now falling upon him, blotting away even his memory of hope for fulfilling his glorious destiny? Maybe such thoughts had ever been in vain, the frivolous attempts of childhood wet nurses and nannies to bolster his tenderly budding, young ego. Dread grew upon the cavalier like lichen upon an old oak.
Cavalric braced himself and spoke, raising up his brandished sword and mustering his courage and will with daring decision. "I will NEVER yield to thee--and you will have no victory!" he boldly declared and lunged forth with a suddenness toward his enemy. But hardly had he spoken these words and made his advance when The Dark Lord thrust out his hand in dark magical gesture, and as he did so, Cavalric found himself hurled back against the rocky wall, though The Demon Lord had lain not one finger upon him. The Dark Lord's Hell Hound began to salivate in expectancy as Cavalric burst against the rough stones, bones colliding with their brazen hardness, his head crashing back so that his senses nearly left him like a swarm of bees buzzing frantically from a struck hive.

The Dark Lord's slurred laughter filled the room as Cavalric' eyes and thoughts grew murky as the swamplands. The Dark Lord's seemingly imminent victory filled him with a dank mirth that grew into shrill cries of glee that echoed and rebounded off the walls, seeming almost to expand them into a haven of evil-loving hell.Suddenly, the lights went out in Cavalric' mind, his last speck of vision the crimson glow smoking from its setting upon The Dark Lords extended index finger, laden with its discolored nail, pointed like a knife tip . . .

Eric ground his teeth in frustration as he frenziedly tried in vain to glean from the jumble of his thoughts a solution to the seemingly inexorable end of Cavalric. "What about the healing potion I picked up in room 17?"

Ted shook his head gravely, "Sorry, Cavalric failed his save. He's falling unconscious now. The strange sensation in his chest seems to be spreading slowly throughout his entire body. His vision is dimming. The pain from the impact against the wall he can barely feel. Everything's becoming dreamlike." Ted scratched his goatee and set down his dice. Eric was plainly distraught. Ted knew how much work at gone into the Cavalric character; the hours that had been spent gaming, tediously honing his skills; but he had succumbed to greed and failed to heed the subtle warning signs that Iriadas would betray him out of his own lust for power. Either way it seemed the Dark Lord had won. "I'm open to suggestions, but quite frankly I can't see how Cavalric can possibly survive aside from some miracle," Ted concluded, shrugging his shoulders.

Eric scowled in consternation and asked, somewhat reluctantly, "what if I submit to him? What if I bend my knee to him and wait for my day of vengeance? At least that way I would have a chance to go after Iriadas later."

Ted's furry eyebrows bunched in surprise, "You would be forsaking your god.
Cavalric would be a disgrace, an outcast to his order. Are you sure you want to do that?" Ted asked.

Eric grimaced and spoke in exasperation, "it's either that or start all over again from scratch. It took forever to get this far."

"You realize the Dark Lord may just kill you anyway, or worse! It's not like you can expect him to react with honor. It may be better for you just to save the dignity of your character and let him enter the ranks of the glorious dead by the side of his god in the pantheon of the departed," Ted offered, knowing full well the duplicity of the Dark Lord, now inhabiting the body of Illrack.

"I can always recant later and make a sacred pilgrimage to the fountain of Tehrebaalos for cleansing, as long as I'm still alive," Eric reasoned. The frustration was beginning to get the better of him. He fumed, "besides, what about the prophecy of the Oracle of Shaastaszoda that said Cavalric would avenge the death of the king? That can't possibly come true if I'm dead."

"No seer is 100 percent accurate, and the prophecy was rather cryptic if you recall. It could be interpreted any number of ways. It may have been only that Cavalric would have a hand in the avenging of the king's death, which he certainly has already done," Ted argued. "Are you sure you want to do this? The Dark Lord would like nothing better than to see a Knight of the Garter grovel at his feet. After all, it was your order that banished him to the netherworld. He bears no love for your ilk," Ted concluded.

"I know, I know!" Eric ranted. "But like you said, I just don't seem to have any other choice!"

Ted relented and picked at his dice, shaking them in his hand, "all right, we'll see what will happen, but I wouldn't hold my breath if I was you." Ted snorted and cocked a grin, "lets see if Illrack is in the market for a new simpering sycophant." With that, his nimble fingers pinched together his dice for another tumble. Down fell the gem-like determiner with a dull smack against the white paper. Ted stared at the top number and shrugged his face and shoulders in surprise. "Hmmm. How interesting. Cavalric may be in for a bit of luck after all: A natural 20!"

Eric threw back his exalted head like a desert dry nomad, experiencing the wet season's first bountiful rains. Up went his arms, grabbing the air like a banner. "Bravo! Bravo!" he exclaimed with dedicated relief.

Air whizzed from Ted's nostrils like the panting of a bull. "It seems that the blow Cavalric suffered to his head has not knocked him out completely. He shakes his head and groans, reviving from the stones' hardness" . . .

Widely hypnotized grew the mystified eyes of Eric, falling once more into the plot's unfolding pattern . . .

. . . Cavalric opened his eyes to the advancing Dark Lord, straddling forward, boots bluntly clicking the smooth rock floor. The Dark Lord's deep chuckling, less gleeful now and more intense, vibrated from his throat, filled the room, and seemed to fill Cavalric as well. Quickly and with surprising suddenness of dexterity, Cavalric hoisted himself upward till he was standing once more, using each rapidly disappearing second to wash away his quickly-fading dizziness.

The mantled Dark Lord halted his advance. "Now do you yield, or do you die?" the twisted apparition questioned, raising up his ringed finger once more and ignoring the good boon of Cavalric's recovery . . .
Eric squirmed in his chair, thoughts of lost glory itching his conscience. But was there any other way? "Sometimes you have to loose to win," he remembered someone once saying. He ducked his head and made his choice: "Cavalric will yield," came The Player's reluctant reply, for the moment anyway, he thought.

The bull snorted again. . .

. . . The Dark Lord erupted in evil laughter, suddenly metamorphasizing into dark magical chanting, incanting another spell. The orb left standing on the table began glowing in hellacious fire . . .

Ted gnashed his teeth into a pirate smile. "Role the dice!"
Eric's visibly paling hand took up the purple, multi-sided die, then let drop the next roll. The face of the die parallel to Heaven revealed the disappointed score: one.

"Well?" Ted asked, impatiently awaiting Eric's hesitant reply.

"I can't believe this," Eric laughed nervously. "A natural twenty!"

"Oh really," Ted sneered suspiciously, his cunning setting in. In a second, he yanked back the cardboard divider separating both sides of the table. Eric's hand shot to the die to shield his score, but it was too late: Ted had seen the truth of the roll.

"Good; a one," Ted replied carelessly. "You were getting too powerful and the game was becoming tiresome. Now Iriadas' stolen orb has swept you into another elemental dimension. Cavalric is no more."

"What? What about my glorious destiny? What about the oracle's prophecy? What about revenge, revenge, revenge on behalf of the dead king? How could you let this happen to me?"

Ted laughed, reveling in his power. "Oh please! Maybe you bit off a little more noble ambition than you could chew. What about that sweet, young lass, Vamira, that you left all alone back in the Enchanted Forest, with no one to protect her or fend for her except the old witch, Hagabraid? Even now someone else is 'visiting her with his tender mercies,' to use the most censored terms! But speaking of biting and chewing," Ted continued with an indifferent belch. "I think I'll steal down to the kitchen to finish off the rest of last night's leftovers." And with that, Ted thrust his husky carcass from the card table and descended the stairs for another cold meatloaf sandwich . . .

Back to Bards College