Authors: Larry Correia
INTO THE STORM
A knight of Cygnar follows a strict moral code. His integrity is beyond reproach, he conducts himself as a gentleman at all times whether dealing with friend or foe, and he values honor above all. For a man to be knighted by the King of Cygnar is to place the eyes of the entire kingdom upon him, as if to say, “Behold this stalwart hero, for he is all that a warrior should aspire to be.”
Records of Chivalry
by Lord Percival Rainworth 486 AR
PART I: THE RECRUITERS
Spring, 606 AR
e hadn’t been dealt a very good hand, but when you make a habit of gambling with your life, you learned to make your own luck.
Considering that the tavern was a seedy little place on the outskirts of a tiny village deep in the Thornwood, it was fairly crowded. The patrons were rough folk, gathered here to spend their ill-gotten gains on poor quality ale, bad food, and ugly prostitutes. The tavern was the center of a lawless, wild settlement. The entire village consisted of a handful of huts on stilts to keep them out of the mud, a flea-ridden stable, and this sorry excuse for a tavern. It was made of logs slowly being devoured by moss and was so ramshackle it didn’t even warrant a name. This place was still within the borders of Cygnar, but only in the loosest sense of where lines fell on a map. The village was a forgotten place and a haven for bandits, though he was only looking for one bandit in particular.
“You been pondering on those cards a long time . . . What’s your play, stranger?”
“I’m in. Knights over jacks.”
One of the other players scoffed. “Not bloody likely odds, that.”
“I’m feeling lucky.” He slid three farthings across the table “Give me one more.”
“Bold move, gambler.” The dealer shoved another card at him. He was a big, thick-armed man, with a bushy black beard that would make any Khadoran proud. The dealer matched the description of a certain bandit leader with a hefty price on his head. “If you’re so confident, how come only three coppers?”
“Well, after losing the last few rounds to you boys, I’m afraid that’s all I’ve got left to my name.”
“Times are lean,” the dealer agreed. His armored great coat opened a bit as he leaned back, revealing a holstered repeater. That confirmed every man at the table was packing at least one weapon, a reasonable precaution in the Thornwood. “You looking for work, gambler?”
The two other players exchanged knowing glances. Of course, they were all with the same gang, so they would know what was coming next. The Thornwood Blades needed recruits. He’d made sure he looked the part. These types always fit a certain mold.
The gambler picked up the card. It was the Black Knight.
“I’m between jobs.”
“You strike me as a fella that knows how to handle himself.” The dealer gestured at the Caspian battle blade leaning against their table. “Seems like that sword has seen some use.”
“A bit.” He looked down at his sword. The metal grip had been polished smooth by hundreds of hours beneath callused hands. The cross guard was nicked and dented from countless impacts. “It’s gotten me by.”
“You’re a sight older than most of my men, but I figure a fella don’t get to be your age wandering around places like this without knowing how to take of himself. Marks on your face say you’re no stranger to getting cut.” The dealer ran his finger across his jawline, or at least where he probably had a jaw under all of that beard. “There’s work to be had here, good work, if you’ve got the guts for it.”
“When there’s enough crowns involved, I find the guts.”
“That’s what I like to hear.” Their current round of Fellig’s Fortunes was forgotten. Their hands of cards were laid on the table, and now it was time to talk business. The dealer leaned over the table conspiratorially, though everybody in the tavern either already knew or suspected his identity, and they were all too crooked themselves to try and collect a bounty. “The name’s Devlin. You heard of me?”
Devlin Norwick. Leader of the Thornwood Blades. Killer of men, women, and children.
“Can’t say that I have, but I’m just passing through.”
“My trade is on the roads to the east. Take what I want. Make a tidy profit doing so. Locals get a piece too, so they’re keen on keeping us around. I’ve got an outfit, and I could always use a good swordsman. I’m short a few hands—”