The Tale of Artur Jakartai

Chapter I

First, How Jakart begat a son named Artur and gave him over to the Temple of Heironeous.

555 CY

It befell in the days of Holmer, Earl of Walworth, Knight Commander over all the Shield Land Lords, that there lived a Shieldlander named Jakart the son of Merlart the son of Tristart the son of Fendart, an Oeredian, and a mighty man renowned for valorous deeds in the service of the Shield, though he himself could claim no title as lord nor knight. He made his coin as an adventurer and sellsword until the years weighed too heavily upon him for bravery and foolishness, at which time he used what coin he had saved to purchase a wide and fertile valley for cultivation on the border of the Western Reaches of Warfields, along the banks of the Ritensa. Cold and long were the winters, but the land gave forth an abundance, hastening to bring grain to head for the shortness of the summer months. Every year at harvest, fang-faced goblins and orcs crossed the river to steal away the sheaves from the threshing floors, but Jakart and the servants of his household slew them oft as he found them, pursued them back to the river, and sent them home, most often empty-handed.

This man took a wife to marry from his own people. She bore him sons and daughters and brought blessing upon him, but his eye went astray after her maidservant, a Bakluni girl called Shushaht. He took Shushaht for a concubine, and she conceived. In those places and at that time, such things were never done by decent folk of the Shielding, and many tongues wagged over the scandal and spoke of the base northfolk unworthy of the protection of the gods. In the fifth year of the fiftieth decade of the fifth century, Shushaht conceived a child. Jakart feared the evil eye upon the child, for he feared his own wife had uttered a fearsome curse. He prayed over Shushaht’s swollen belly and dedicated the child to the service of Heironeous, be it a son or a daughter. That night, whilst the man slept in the bed beside his concubine, the god appeared to him in a dream and spake, “Son of Serten, I have heard the slander and the gossip of those tongues that wag against thee, but I have found thee a passing good man. Never have they labors been rightly rewarded nor all thy devotions. Give the child unto me, and call his name Artur, for I shall deck him with worshipful adventures surpassing the name of thy fathers.”

When her days were fulfilled, Shushaht travailed painfully; the child was large within her. Nor would the Wisdom Healer come to assist one who worshipped Bakluni gods, so Shushaht perished with the child still in her womb. With tears to wet the blade, Jakart cut the still living child out from his mother’s womb, washed him, rubbed him with salt, and swaddled him. He placed the squalling boy into the arms of his wife and said, “Behold my son Artur. Raise him as one of thine own.” The Oeredian woman raised Artur, but not as one of her own. All his brothers mistreated him and called him “Artur Scortumson,” the Oeredian word for the son of a whore, for they were ashamed of how their father had so dishonored their mother.

Being tender-hearted rather than clever or cunning, Artur took the mistreatment and the insults to heart. He thought himself ever most unworthy, deeming himself lower than the servants of the household. Thus the gods sowed within him the seeds of humility, unlike the haughty bearing of Shieldland nobles. Still, his temper flared quickly, and many were the buffets he bestowed upon his brothers, and they upon him. Blackened eyes and bloodied noses he bore as trophies of a day’s work. His father loved him all the more for his pains, and favored him over his brothers. Jakart taught the boy the art of the sword as his father had taught him. Verily, in those days, the Hierarchs pressed hard on the Shielders, and many bandits of the Free Lords too.

Artur grew to be a powerful lad, long limbed, a head taller than all his brothers, broad of shoulder, well-formed, strong-armed, quick and agile like his father. When thirteen winters had passed, Jakart thought to deliver him over to the temple of Heironeous, as he had pledged before the child was born, but in truth, his heart misgave him, and he regretted his oath. His wife insisted, “Will you really deny the gods? Give him to the priests. Scortumson shall never share in the inheritance with my sons.”

Jakart gave heed to her words, rose early in the morning, and roused his son.

“Where goest thou father?” the boy inquired on observing horses saddled and provision for a long journey packed away.

“To Stahzer for the Brewfest Fair,” spake he. “We have need for a new breed mare, and I should like to purchase some little things for thy mother and thy brothers and sisters.”

Artur had never before in all his life been more than a few days ride from his father’s farm. The prospect of adventure pleased him much. He wore a sword at his side and a helm upon his head lest they encounter bandits or goblins on the way. On arriving in Stahzer, the boy took delight in all that his eyes beheld. He played in the Brewfest games, and none could best him, though he competed with grown men twice his age. The Oeridian maids swooned over him, many a woman much older than his years sighed at his passing, for scarcely a man more handsome than the Warfields boy could they hope to find in the Holy Realm be they of their own blood or Flanmen. Indeed, the blood of Shushaht had left a handsome mark upon his features: high cheek bones, bright green eyes that shone like emeralds, golden skin, and fine dark hair. Oblivious to their flatteries and flirtations, he avoided conversations on account of his discomfort with words, often tripping over his own tongue. His timidity plucked at their hearts, and the girls loved him all the more for it. On the last day of the festival, which in Shield Lands is set aside as a solemn day of remembrance, Jakart said unto his son, “Before we return to our home on the banks of Ritensa, let us visit once more the shrine of Invincible Heironeous.” There the father tearfully delivered up his son to the priest and the old Glory Axes at the Temple of Heironeous and bade him farewell, only saying further unto him, “My son, may you find valor in his name.” So Artur Jakartai became Artur of Heironeous.

Read the next chapter: Artur the Avenger

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