A short piece written in 2011, while studying for my MA
In recent years, the city of Avignon had acquired a level of stability that was the envy of the other dominions in Brocklen, if not all of Sothlintin. Twenty years previously Agnes the Vengeful had unceremoniously usurped Lord Daveth’s throne and sent him into exile. Since then she had managed to claw together a somewhat stable infrastructure. Merchants from neighbouring lands had settled in the city and established trade routes to far away lands. Industry was flourishing. Her subjects lived happily, free from tyranny and corruption.
However, Avignon was witness to its fair share of hardship, in fact, it was regularly besieged by the forces of darkness. Wild beasts roamed the surrounding forests, drawn close by the city’s waste piles and occasionally ventured into the city to prey on unsuspecting people. On more than one occasion a priceless artefact steeped in folklore that, through some unknown sorcery, provided Avignon with its famous ethereal glow, known simply as ‘The Light of Modosia’ had ceased to function, plunging the city into darkness and confusion for days.
But the people needn’t fear. In times of trouble and hardship, the city had one loyal subject who would leap to its rescue at the first call. Clivisius the Brave.
Little was known about the man himself, there were rumours that he was the illegitimate child of Agnes the Vengeful and Lord Daveth, but nevertheless his quests had become legendary throughout the city. It was Clivisius who had slain the great beast Chelob, son of Shelob by cornering him in Queen Agnes’s bathing quarters and forcing him to tumble from the window. It was Clivisius who had ventured to Bayencue to retrieve The Light of Modosia and bring illumination to the land. It was Clivisius that had battled the mighty Tigon and tamed it. Clivisius’ countless noble acts had ensured Avignon’s continued survival and success, and now he was to be rewarded for it.
However, Agnes the Vengeful was not one to simply bestow a knighthood or declare that someone had the freedom of the city. Only by surviving the most perilous quest conceivable could Clivisius the Brave become Sir Clivisius the Brave, of Avignon.
There was only one achievement Agnes could think of that was worthy of testing Clivisius; the retrieval of ‘The Hallowed Cloth’ of Tikmaxium.
Situated deep within the goblin kingdom and inhabited by the vilest creatures in all of Sothlintin, no man had ever entered Tikmaxium and left with his life. It would take all of Clivisius’ skill, determination and cunning to complete this quest successfully.
With enough provisions for both legs of the journey and his mighty sword Debitos by his side, Clivisius departed on his trusty steed, Raleigh, to a rapturous send off; even Queen Agnes was there to see him go.
The path to Tikmaxium was littered with dangers. Huge armoured creatures that dwarfed man and horse dominated the area, forcing Clivisius and Raleigh to make use of gullies and ditches in order to proceed undetected. The closer they got, the stronger the sulphurous fumes of Tikimaxium became.
Eventually, they made it to the gates of the hellish place. He knew that the Hallowed Cloth lay in its deepest recesses. He would need all of his wits and resolve to complete this near-impossible feat. He dismounted, secured Raleigh to a tree in a deep thicket and continued on foot, his head low and cape wrapped around him to conceal his sword.
Tikmaxium was a sight like nothing he had seen before. Everything was covered in waste and filth, in places piled higher than a man stood. Many emaciated goblins delved hungrily through the piles, as if searching for a nugget of gold. Some wore tattered tunics and carried weapons. They were obviously guards, Clivisius thought. He just had to make it to the cloth without drawing their attention.
He continued on, stopping occasionally to sift through a waste pile, ensuring no unwanted attention was directed his way. Soon he came to an archway. He read the inscription, ‘Virum Maiorem’. He had done it. He had reached the shrine of the Hallowed Cloth. It had been a lot simpler than he had envisioned it. He stepped inside and grabbed the luxurious fabric. It was softer than the smoothest silk he had ever felt although legend told that it was stronger than the strongest armour in the world. He placed it underneath his cloak and headed back toward the gate. At that moment, the guards spotted him.
The only thing he could do now was run. He looked around for a clear path to the exit. Settling on one, Clivisius made a dash for it. If he could get to Raleigh, he’d be able to outrun them. The guards were all around him and closing in. He looked ahead. The order had been sent to close the gates. The gargantuan metal doors were slowly creaking shut. Clivisius could feel his heart pounding in his ears as he dodged a blow from a guard’s mace.
Suddenly a guard near the exit released a Nipnchip, a dog-like hell-beast, putrid and decaying yet agile and ferocious. The creature charged through the waste and muck, its green and red eyes fixed on Clivisius. He drew Debitos and positioned himself, ready for the attack. The beast leapt toward him. Clivisius raised his mighty blade high above his head and thrust it forward to meet the incoming abomination. He plunged it deep into the Nipnchip and bellowed,
‘Septimus! Octo! Unus! Tres!’
Clive retrieved his debit card from the machine and placed it back in his wallet. He thanked the girl at the counter and collected his bag. Outside, he stuffed his new shirt into his backpack and unlocked his bicycle. He checked his watch. He had twenty minutes before Horde was due to start another raid on an Alliance stronghold. There was no way he was going to miss that.
‘Mum better like the shirt,’ he thought as he rode back to the little terraced house on Avignon Road.
‘I’m not going back there again any time soon.’