One Step Ahead

Two cloaked silhouettes walked through the forest under the moon light. The taller one lead the way, staring down at the beaten trail. A trail beaten by wagons, carts, horses, and many peddlers. The snow was stomped into a trail. They traveled to a poor village in search of one man that may help them. Help them with a great threat and understand it a little better than they do.

The leader jerked his head to the sounds he thought he heard. Everything came to a halt. The leader only seen the darkness of the snow covered forest and his own breath; it was so cold. Inside the hood of the leader, you would think darkness is alive. Breathing. A shiny steel gauntlet, reflecting the light of the moon by its steel, came out of thick black cloak. It gripped the hilt of a sword. Sliding the steel blade out slightly, it was such fine crafted steel. Sharpening of steel scratched the ears of those near and with keen ears. The pommel of the blade shined a brilliant red glow. The leader of the two directed the red glow into the darkness of the forest. The smaller one kept still and didn't make a single movement. Only watched with a keen pair of eyes, staring into the darkness.

But nothing laid stirring in the darkness of the snow covered forest. There was only wood, branches, and heavy snow flat on the froze lands. Only breathing of the leader in this cold place. It was natural he was extremely cautious. Although they never spoke of it, they knew something hunted the two. A man, a very bad man with the greatest army this world as ever seen. What he wanted from the two wanderers, was unknown to the two wanderers. But the leader remained vigilant, and which kept them both alive for this long.

The gauntlet returned into the cloak to keep warm it's wearer. They continued moving. Their foots further compressed the already flattened snow. It made great noise. The sound made the leader uneasy, if they continued like this. He wouldn't be able to easy sense any... well wishers that are near, and give them his own well wishes.

In a brief moment, the leader definitely heard something this time. The hood sled off, and long rich blond hair came flowing out. Out over the cloak came a great steel shield. The smaller one turned to look behind him, through the trees came a single arrow. But the large leader dashed in front younger one. The arrow stopped dead by the great shield, shattering instantly. The younger one stepped to side of the large leader, a bow with an arrow all ready. And the arrow took flight into the darkness of the forest.

The mighty double-edged long sword sled out of its scabbard. The steel gauntlet holding it, gripped the hilt tightly. The arrow definitely hit something that wasn't wood or snow or the large leader would have heard it. He took careful short strides, looking back to see his companion has another arrow ready. But for good measure, he held his great steel shield in front of his chest, and most importantly, his heart.

He now stepped in the fresh snow and the darkness of the forest. He was glad his little companion was granted better vision in the darkness than most. Able to see faint figures, but not see them clearly as a you would in the day up close. A few steps into the dark forest, there was someone! Their assassin where a thick black coat, all other garments were black. The arrow, it was plunged squarely into his heart. The man was choking on his own blood; freezing in the snow.

Their assassin looked even more pathetic as he lay dying. The large leader rose his mighty double-edged long sword. Dreading very moment of it, fearing he'll never be forgiven what he'll do next. God will understand, the young Templar thought. The mighty long sword was plunged deeply into the assassin's throat. Such a terrible sound to slice another man's throat, the young Templar will never forget it. But the deed was done, the assassin was slain, as all the others that tried and failed to accomplish. All have tasted the cold steel of a Templar's sword, an honor for some, a nightmare for most.

The young Templar stepped out of the darkness of the forest, turning to his younger companion. "Well, we won't be having any more trouble from them the rest of the way," the young Templar said with a chuckle, but Brother Wade chuckled none. Death was death, it is never a laughing matter. The large leader cleaned his throat. "We best hurry." Brother Wade put his bow away, and ripped himself back in his thick warm cloak. The young Templar also put away his great long sword and quickly found his way to the lead.

They soon found their village they were searching for. It was a small and humble place. Long made houses, thick bundles of hay made the roofs, and stomped on snow served the only means of a road. Brother Wade could only imagine that this village couldn't afford paved roads of any kind. In it, they walked into the village's tavern. The tavern is the haven for all travelers, peddlers, village guards, and hunters. The drinks were mainly drank to escape all their troubles, and worst of all, the farmers motor-mouth wives.

The young Templar and Brother Wade stepped inside the tavern, and what a filthy place it was. There was week old blood stains, recently spilled drinks. Stray piles of hay laying in odd places. And sweaty loud-mouth unshaven men yelling and gambling. Despite all that, it was safer than most places the two companions have been to. It made them both feel warm and welcomed inside. But such a loud place, you'd wonder when it was quiet, if it ever was. Still, everyone was smiling and laughing, filled with joy. May God bless these children, Brother Wade said to himself as he touched his forehead, stomach, and both sides of his chest.

The two quickly found a quiet table, all for themselves. Sitting in their rocking squawking wooden chairs, the young Templar soon rested his elbows on the table. His hands fit together as they supported his chin. He gazed around the room intently, hoping to spot a familiar face or any one who might help them.

Brother Wade sit back in his chair and sighed. Three years, he thought. Three years since they were forced out of the Abbey by a great dark army that came from the south. A dark army created in the desert lands near the Holy Lands. Since than he and Sir Martin Folquet hid their selves, running in other words. Sir Martin was at least two years older than Wade, but was a full-fledged Knighted Templar before the Fran de Benard Abbey fell.

Brother Wade knew he would never be a Knighted Templar like Sir Martin was. At least when the Abbey stood strong and tall, he had a chance. Now, it was gone, he would never be a Templar. They just did this because no one never wanted me to be a knight; it was Brother Wade's only excuse. If the Abbey was gone, he shouldn't even hold the title "Brother" any more. But it was his only title, if Sir Martin kept his, why can't I keep mine? It doesn't matter what title it is, a title is a title.

Out of the ugliest, sweatiest, loudest men, came a the most beautiful woman Sir Martin has ever seen. She took his breath away. He seen many pretty women when him and his friends left the Abbey without permission. He knew he'd never tell Brother Wade these stories of his youth. Not that Sir Martin was afraid the kid would lose all respect in him. It was because, he was ashamed of what he did. What he did with those pretty women when he had them alone.

She was a humble bar maiden. Her job to take orders and serve her costumers. It may be the reason why this tavern was the most wildest Sir Martin had ever seen. Because they had such a beautiful lady serving them, speaking to them, smiling all the time. For a moment, Sir Martin gave her a longing stare. She quickly exchanged looks with Sir Martin's younger companions. Who was just as confused as she was.

A quick to his shin and Sir Martin broke the spell he was under, and what a powerful spell it was. "Ow!... Oh, right. We'd like to drinks please?" Sir Martin, still staring deeply into the bar maiden's green eyes. "Make my friend's, here, sweeter than most drinks." Brother Wade only solemnly shook his head in disgust.

The bar maiden paused long, and she looked to be blushing! "Right, I will bring them to you shortly, milord," and she was off to the back room to prepare the drinks. And Sir Martin couldn't help but watch her until she was out of sight. His face flushed after seeing what Brother Wade was doing. Hanging his hand low, shaking it all the while. In disgust no doubt, Sir Martin thought.

"Your sword is getting a little, u—h, how do I say this, too long, methinks," Brother Wade said. Once a dog, always a dog, Brother Wade thought bitterly. "You act the same around all the pretty well shaped ladies we seen along the way!" Sir Martin wanted to struggle the smart-mouth monk for what he said. But his code forbid it. It was the only keeping him at bay. But it couldn't restrain his sword from enlarging when he saw a pretty maiden. And this one bar maiden blew them all away, by far.

"Okay! Lets just do what we came here to do and find this man," Sir Martin hinted in his words, for Brother Wade to stay away. He didn't want to deal with the kid's high dedication to the Holy Order, tonight. But in the back of his mind, he didn't want the kid to ruin his chances with such a graceful maiden. He couldn't get her looks out of his mind. All he could think about was her green eyes, her small nose, and reddish brown hair. Everything about her appealed to him. Especially her nicely shaped body.

Sir Martin's words forced Brother Wade to stay quiet, and he slipped on his hood. He wanted to hide from the disloyal Templar's angry gaze. Disloyal by going against his vow of chastity and thinking in-pure thoughts with every woman he spots. But his greatest duty holds true, he doesn't go against that one. Protect the young monk and keep the Sword of Fran de Benard secret and out of the enemy's hands.

Moments later, the same bar maiden appeared before the two once again. But this time, Sir Martin restrained himself a lot better. She carefully placed their mugs filled with their drinks on the table. Brother Wade hoped behind all the foam there was at least some of the drink left. Sir Martin quickly took hold of his and took a nice long swig. And slammed the mug back on the table and turned to the bar maiden who was watching him with such intrigue. This rose a brow of Sir Martin. I might have a chance after all.

For a long Knighted Templar, Sir Martin Folquet was quite a charming young man. His long Blond rich hair, his boyish youthful face, and those dark brown eyes drawn any girl into his charm. It seems this one bar maiden was no expectation from all the other girls Sir Martin had charmed. Out of all his friends, he has always had the best luck with the ladies. And he was honorable Knight of the Templar. So that made the ladies feel safe, and a lot more things Brother Wade never had learned about.

She wore a warming smile. "Will there be anything else, milord?" She asked, couldn't help but giggle when she finished.

Sir Martin almost choked on his drink. He hurried to wipe his mouth. "Ahem, yes, do you know a man of Arnaud Bardo," He wanted for the bar maiden to collect herself and think, "An elder chap, we heard he lived around these parts. Have you seen him?" The face of the bar maiden made Sir Martin uneasy. The truth will hurt, the truth will set free. She looked sad and very sorry all of a sudden. Brother Wade looked hopeful.

"Master Bardo... " She paused. "I'm sorry, milord. But he was murdered days ago. We never discovered his murder as of yet. I'm so sorry... Was he a friend of yours?" She tilted her head to side, looking even more beautiful in Sir Martin's eyes.