Chivarly: A Jake Savage Adventure is a short story that elegantly examines the concept of chivalry. Like so many idealised concepts, that of the noble warrior can be destroyed by the reality of war or the aftermath. Stories of battle more usually depict the bravery of the mounted soldiers who lead the charge, the strategy, the cunning and, if you’re lucky, the blood and the gore. Medieval battle was horrific. Even the smallest wound could turn septic and kill a man. Not many stories cover what happens after. The filth and more lingering varieties of death: aforementioned wounds and privation. An army of any size requires vast quantities of food. They can leave the countryside stripped and starving. That’s the setting of this short story.
Desperate for food and warmth, a small band of English soldiers make for a castle behind a deserted French village. They suspect the remaining villagers are holed up there, along with any supplies. The promise of shelter from the rain is motivation enough. A lone knight guards the bridge. A lady sits in a pavilion behind and it is she who warns off the English soldiers. The knight is curiously silent, but soon proves deadly.
Invited to duel the knight, the English quickly abuse the notion of chivalry. The archers, Jake Savage among them, are ordered to attack first. When their arrows apparently have no effect, men are sent onto the bridge two at a time. The knight cuts them down like wheat. Jake is directed to find another way around the bridge.
At this point in the story, it becomes obvious there is an element of fantasy at play. Arrows appear to slip through the knight’s armour and his sword is wickedly sharp and accurate. The English become more desperate. Jake does find a way around the knight and a way to stop him. It is in the aftermath of this skirmish that Jake proves he is more chivalrous than the knight leading the English band.
Mark Lord is the author of several adventures in alternate history. His interest in both history and fantasy are obvious in this story. He also edits ‘Alt Hist’, a magazine of historical fiction and alternate history. ‘Chivalry’ is the first story of his I have read and liked it a lot. Aside from his choice to play with the definition of chivalry, I also liked the setting, that of the aftermath of battle. I don’t think it is covered enough, which is a shame as the ashes of war give rise to some of the most history and alternate history tales I have read.
Written for and originally posted at SFCrowsnest.