38 - Knight Errant

A decade after aliens landed on a medieval Earth, a feudal knight must travel across the globe in search of the bounty hunter that kidnapped his liege.

The year is 1100 Anno Domini. Ten years ago, a glowing mountain of steel and fire crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, off the southern coast of Sicily. The sea boiled, ships at sea were destroyed by massive waves and storms, and huge rotting tides of fish and other sea creatures washed up on the shores. The Church called the mountain a sign of the Apocalypse.

Out of the waters crawled strange octopus-like creatures with lances that spat lightning, whose weak and fleshy forms were protected by hardened air that deflected spears and arrows alike. Soon called "Beasts," they were extremely intelligent, and though generally docile and willing to trade for certain forms art and some foodstuffs, they were quick to turn violent if you wronged them - or if they thought you were thinking about wronging them.

The tools and devices they introduced to the world in seemingly endless supply radically altered the face of war and politics, and in the short time since the Beasts' arrival, the entire face of the Earth has changed.

SANCHO (26) is an Asturian knight, who rides one of the Beasts' flying chariots. He arrives at Kirkant, a port city in Sicily that is one of the main hubs of Beast trade in Europe. He travels with his sister, MARIA (15), who has for some reason accrued much favor among the Beasts - she even speaks snippets of their strange clicking-language.

They have come in search of Sancho's liege lord, Augustu. Augustu was kidnapped by the Bestials, a clan of bandits and raiders boasting both Human and Beast members. Sancho tries to get information out of SIKASIK, a Beast warrior known to hunt Bestials, but is rebuffed; "You can't fight Bestials, you die if you fight Bestials," Maria translates, and nothing Sancho says can convince him otherwise; "If I have to die in order to perform my duty, I'm willing to make that sacrifice," he says, but Sikasik moves on and leaves him behind.

Sancho doesn't give up so easily; he keeps asking around about Bestials, until he and Maria both are temporarily imprisoned. It's in prison that he meets HUGO, a merchant preparing for a run to Morocco, when Hugo comes to retrieve one of his caravan guards. Hugo offers to take Sancho on as a guard as well, with the promise that they get raided by Bestials sometimes, and even if they make it to Morocco without incident, he'll be closer to the Sahara then - which is the center of a lot of Bestial activity.

He agrees, though he has to negotiate passage for Maria as well. Maria winds up paying for herself, though, as she's able to fix some of the Beast magic running Hugo's hovercarts. Hugo tries to buy Maria from Sancho, but Sancho refuses.

The caravan does not get attacked; they wind up in Morocco unmolested.

Sancho signs up with a band of mercenaries hunting Bestials with bounties on their heads. Maria gets along well with one of the mercs, an older woman named SALIMA, who does not approve of Sancho and tries to convince her to join the mercenaries permanently. Even Sancho is at all tempted - their lifestyle is so free, it has its appeal as opposed to unchanging fealty to Augustu. But he's commited to his oaths, and Maria doesn't want to leave her only family.

The mercenaries begin their Bestial hunt; they find a small band kill them all, except for one human, a man named JORR. The mercenaries don't take prisoners, but Sancho needs one of the Bestials alive to milk for information; he and Maria wind up having to stand off against Salima and the others, who eventually back down, but they do leave them in the desert alone.

Jorr is grateful to Sancho for saving his life, though Sancho isn't exactly polite to him. Jorr does outright laugh when Sancho mentions Augustu, though - "Yeah, I know him. But kidnap him? Kidnap Augustu? You really don't know much about your liege lord, do you?" Jorr tells them Augustu is a leader of the Bestials and is currently at one of their bases in the mountains of Scandinavia. Jorr can get them in, if they can get him there.

They hoof it through the desert back to town, surviving partially thanks to Jorr's knowledge of desert survival. When they get back, they find the mercenaries have stolen Sancho's flying chariot, but Maria knows some Beast security commands to break through the light wall they're keeping it behind, and they steal it back.

They fly to Scandinavia, which has few Beasts - they don't like the cold. True to his word, Jorr leads them to a hidden cave complex where AUGUSTU (56) is indeed a respected leader.

Augustu tells Sancho he and many other military leaders are conspiring to kick the Beasts off of the Earth's surface - they're more at home in the water anyway; it's not right how they need to rule the land for no reason other than domination. That's why the Beast members of the Bestials signed on - they're human sympathizers.

They have a plan - a weapon that will make the very air lethal to Beasts, forcing them back under the sea. The only problem is, it needs some tools only available at the Beasts' mothership. Augustu is going on an assault against their home under the sea - he asks Sancho to join him, but Sancho refuses. Maria, though, does sign up - she's been talking more to the Beasts and gets on well with them, and her ability to interact with Beast tech makes her a bigger asset than an armored knight, anyway.

Sancho flips out, refuses to let her go, but he's imprisoned and left behind. Maria apologizes to him, but tells him this is a good thing - "If I have to die in order to make the world a better place, I'll gladly make that sacrifice." And she leaves with the assault team.

Sancho breaks out of the holding cell using the security commands Maria used on his chariot, and takes his chariot back to the Mediterranean. By the time he arrives, though, it's already too late - the entire assault team has been captured and is going to be executed. Sancho manages to get a minute to speak to Maria, who asks him what he'll do now that his duty to Augustu is about to be over, and he says he'll probably get himself killed trying to free Augustu from the block. She spits at him, says she's disgusted by him.

He's shocked - isn't she dying for Augustu too? What makes her situation different? She tells him she's dying for her own choices - she happened to align with Augustu here, that's all. She wishes Sancho a life of freedom before she's marched off to the chopping block.

Sancho thinks about what she said, and when it's her turn on the block, he shoots the executioner, flies in, grabs Maria, and flies away, chased by Beasts on their own chariots. Now it's Maria's turn to be shocked, but he doesn't have time to explain. He manages to elude the chariots for only a brief moment, but it's long enough to push Maria off and into the forest to escape. "I don't know how to live my life for myself, but I at least know how to choose who I live it for."

He flies off to lead the Beasts away, likely to die, leaving Maria alone in the woods.

Years later, Maria is still a member of the Bestials, working with a cell in the Amazon to push the Beasts out of the New World.