PART ONE - The Detective and the Knight
The train whistle woke the man from his sombre reverie.
He grunted softly as he shifted in his seat. Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, he wondered what he was doing in Yorkshire.
Fellow passengers on the train perhaps thought along similar lines. More likely, their thoughts concerned the thick, grizzled leather scabbard that hung from the man's back, making his sitting on the thick leather upholstery awkward, and further emphasising that the man plainly did not belong.
It was a sword. Not the slender curve of a sabre, as the militia of the county might wear, or the elaborate, stick-thin tin of a ceremonial official's sword of office, but the blunt, heavy straightness of a broadsword, as though plucked straight from the sweating, meaty hands of some crusader from centuries gone.
The hilt was plain, without decoration or gilt. The leather bindings around the grip looked weathered, worn, with rough flecks of lighter leather torn or sheared away.
If the passengers could move their eyes from the battered relic, they would see a man that seemed as though a mirror to the blade.
In his late fifties, perhaps, or maybe older, with deep, inlaid grooves about his brow, and around his jaw. Hair thin, and whitening, receding gently over his scalp.
Scars now mingled freely with the creases of age, and the teeth that could be seen when the man shifted, softly, were harsh, and rough, as though chippings of some angry flint.
Even his clothes were old. What was perhaps animal hide was bound tightly with rough leather, and fraying cloth, in some obscure cloak or poncho of the West that covered a more sober, dull navy blue coat. His trousers perhaps matched, or at least once did, but were largely hidden by the high black boots that ran high beyond his shins.
On his heels, two spurs, rusted and darkened, hung, useless and displaced among the luxury of the train.
It was the eyes that betrayed some everlasting youth. Some brilliant spark, alive and dancing. At once hazel and lush emerald, they sparkled, glazed, unblinking, as the passive scenery of the Yorkshire dales rolled past the window.
He had slept, his bright eyes open, still watching, for most of the journey. The other passengers, not trusting the shallow, steady breathing of the man, had chosen to find other carriages, or, for the unfortunate few, huddle tight against the carriage's oak door and stare fearfully for some movement or sudden lunge.
None came. The man, feeling the reassuring weight of his sword on his back, grunted, and watched the scenery slow, following trees as they vanished behind the window frame until it came to a halt.
A shadow fell over the carriage. Whistles, low rumblings (not THE rumbling), and the desperate shouts of people looking for trains and lost children in one, angry and confused synchronised yell, began to drown out the quiet twitterings of the countryside.
The man got up, slowly, as though unfolding himself. His back creaked.
The passengers sat, still huddled, in silence, and watched him leave. He ignored it.
He left the train station behind, heading out onto the grassy plains, ignoring the hum and rustle of the train pulling out once more behind him, leaving the station behind like a reluctant lover.
There had been a carriage, this time horse-drawn, awaiting his arrival at the station. He'd slipped past it.
His legs were seizing up. Needed to be limber. Awake. Ready.
For what? He scolded himself, angrily, as he walked, in measured, practised strides. This was Yorkshire. There weren't bandits or heathens or monsters to be beaten or vanquished or slayed here.
It was Yorkshire. Just plain, mundane Yorkshire, drifting through the year 1893 of the Eighth Glorious British Empire as it always did, with the occasional rumble (not THAT rumble) of dissent among the mill-workers, and the usual griping about taxes and the war in the Franco-lands.
Overhead, a zeppelin roared, slow rotors cork-screwing the mighty shape through the air. Around it, smaller balloons whirred, like wasps around a nest.
It was Yorkshire. Just Yorkshire.
With that in mind, the man, the last knight of a broken order, walked on, regretting the events that were to come.