Title: A MEDIEVAL NIGHTMARE
Disclaimer: “SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron,” its characters and concepts are copyright to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc and are used without permission.
To T-Bone’s disbelief, the castle’s denizens were up at the first light of dawn. Not a morning person, he was grumbling under his breath at breakfast of, surprisingly, eggs and, not so surprisingly, pepper pot stew with plenty of milk. Feral and Razor were disgustingly alert and ready for the day.
Razor was already explaining how to build a platform of hay using a piece of charcoal and the surface of the table to Lord Ferlin. Feral and Queen Callista were listening nearby.
“Sounds simple enough, Sir Razor. We should have it completed by mid meal,” Lord Ferlin assured him.
“Thanks. If you don’t mind, I’d like to oversee the work? The Turbokat is very heavy, and the hay must be balanced just right,” Razor said carefully, not wanting to step on any toes.
“Aye, mayhap that would be wise, Sir Razor. Only thee would be aware of precisely what’s needed for thy flying machine,” Lord Ferlin agreed.
Smiling in relief, Razor followed the Captain of the guard out the doors and through the castle gates to where his knights were helping a large number of serfs collect and stack hay just outside the castle walls.
“Well, it seems there’s nothing for us to do until this afternoon. I think I’ll catch a few more Zzzz,” T-Bone said, stretching and yawning.
“You’re going to sleep while there’s such a great opportunity to learn about our past?” Feral sneered in disgust. “The historians in our time would give their canines for a glimpse of what we have the chance to witness.”
“Okay, okay! Geez, Feral, who knew you were a history buff!” T-Bone grumbled.
“I’m not, actually, but it would be a crime not to witness real history in the making,” Feral said seriously.
“Humph! Guess you’re right. What should we see first,” T-Bone said, surprised that he was willing to go on a tour of the past with Feral.
“Hmm, why don’t we check out the blacksmith’s and see how they make swords?” Feral suggested as he headed outside.
“Hey, cool! Maybe we can get one to take back,” the tiger tom said, getting more interested and willingly followed Feral to the outer courtyard where the various work shops were built along the inner walls of the keep.
The blacksmith’s shop wasn’t hard to find, the billow of smoke and the clang of a hammer led them right to it. The blacksmith was at an outside forge, hammering on a blade while a young male kitten fetched water at his command. An older kitten in his teens was handling the bellows. Feral and T-Bone came close enough to watch but not close enough to be in the way.
They watched, fascinated. The kittens studied the strangers nervously, but the blacksmith ignored them. He finally finished hammering and dropped the blade into a trough of water, which caused it to billow with steam. Only then did he look up at his guests.
“Can I help thee strangers?” he asked.
“We were just watching you work. We might be interested in a couple of swords if you have some completed,” T-Bone asked hesitantly. “This talent for making swords is pretty much a lost art where we come from.”
“Truly?” the blacksmith said in surprise. “That is heavy news, but from what I’ve heard whispered about the castle keep, thy weapons are more fearsome than my humble ones.”
“Oh, our weapons are pretty fancy alright, but they are nothing compared to the beauty, deadliness and excellent craftsmanship of a well made sword. They are considered a treasure in our world,” Feral said politely, admiring the one or two swords he could see hanging on the wall nearby.
“I appreciate thy kind words, stranger, and wouldst be honored if thee would take two swords of my making back to thy world with thee,” the blacksmith said proudly as he moved from the forge and retrieved two beautiful swords that had been carefully wrapped and laid in a wooden storage box against one wall.
“Forgive us, but we have no coin from this era to give for them,” Feral said in surprise.
“No payment will I take from thee. Please accept these as a token of my appreciation for thy kind words and to let thy place of abode see what craftsmen exist under Queen Callista’s rule. Tell them Arn Whitlar didst create them, that is all I ask of thee.” He smiled warmly as he handed the swords to each of them.
“Hey, thank you. That’s really generous of you!” T-Bone said, eyes gleaming at the precious gift in his paws.
“Yes, thank you, and we will remember to tell those of our land about your skills. May we watch you work for a little while?” Feral asked, admiring the sword in his paws as well.
“I wouldst be honored, good sir.” Arn smiled as he returned to his forge and pulled the sword from the trough and began hammering once more on it.
Feral and T-Bone watched in fascination for some time as Arn labored. Finally, they took their leave, holding their precious swords and waving their farewells. The scent of food roasting drew them along as they continued their walk past other shops. As they made their way toward the delectable odors, they stared in wonder at the various wares along the way. There was a booth that was selling a variety of beautiful material for making gowns, another had baskets made of reeds and grasses, yet another made crude as well as fine quality furniture. At the end of their trek they reached a booth that had their noses twitching. Skewers of meat and vegetables were roasting over open pits as well as fresh loafs of some kind of hard bread.
“Thee be hungry, good sirs?” a stooped old female Kat asked.
“It smells wonderful, but I’m sorry to say we don’t have any of your type of money to give you,” Feral said with a sigh of regret.
“Ah, good sir, thy hasn’t been told that thee are to be given whatever thee desires by order of our most gracious Queen. Please, I would be honored for thee to try my wares,” she said warmly.
“Oh, well in that case sure, we’d love to. Some of those meat skewer things and some bread would be great, and do you have something to drink as well?” T-Bone said hungrily, grateful for Queen Callista’s thoughtfulness.
“Aye, I do, handsome one. Here is thy meat and bread. Half a moment and I will bring thee some mead,” she said, smiling as she hobbled inside her shop, returning a few minutes later with two metal flagons filled with some kind of golden liquid.
Feral and T-Bone happily munched on the offered meal. Drinking the liquid cautiously, they both had nearly identical reactions. Eyes widened and they nearly choked on the rather strong drink.
Coughing, Feral gasped, “Kat’s Alive! What is this?” he asked the she Kat.
“Only the finest mead in this kingdom, good sir. It is made from the finest hops and honey with other secret ingredients handed down from my ancestors. Is it not to thy liking?” she asked in concern.
“No, no it’s fine, wonderful in fact. We’re just not used to it is all,” Feral quickly reassured her while taking more care drinking the strong mead. It actually was very good, but he could get really drunk on it, he could tell.
“Wow! You got that right. Has a right kick to it!” T-Bone said admiringly, smacking his lips.
The old she-kat grinned in pleased delight. “Glad I am that thee are enjoying it.”
“Oh yeah, it’s great, and the food is fantastic too. Thank you very much,” T-Bone told her with a smile. “Hey, Commander, shouldn’t we be getting back up to the castle now?” he asked his companion.
“Yes, I think you’re right. Thank you, madam, for the wonderful repast,” Feral told the she-kat politely as he handed the flagon back to her. She smiled warmly, accepting the thanks as her due.
T-Bone finished the drink quickly, making his head buzz a little then handed the cup back to her.
He and Feral quickly retraced their steps back to the castle gates to see how far Razor and company had gotten with their hay project.
They walked out the castle gates to the field where the hay was being stacked. They could see from where they stood that a sizeable pile had been built. He and Feral walked out to where they could see Razor and Lord Ferlin were standing, monitoring the work closely.
“How’s it going, buddy?” T-Bone asked as they got close to the pair.
“Just about finished, T-Bone. Where have you too been?” Razor asked, not taking his eyes off the work.
“Feral dragged me down to look at the shops in the keep. I have to admit it was interesting, and, look, we both got these really cool swords to take back with us,” T-Bone said, proudly showing off his prize.
Razor flicked his eyes to the weapon in T-Bone’s paws. “Hey, nice piece of history you got there,” he said admiringly. He took a look at Feral’s as well. “Hope I get a chance to look around too before we go.”
“Well, I’d say when we’ve got the Turbokat placed here, you go and take a quick trip to the shops too before tackling the repair job. Doesn’t matter how long we’re here; Callista will send us close to the time we left,” T-Bone told his partner with a smile.
“Huh! You’re right. I forgot about that. I’ll do just that.” Razor grinned excitedly then he went to check the bales more closely.
“Really think this will hold up that jet of yours?” Feral asked dubiously.
The tabby just shrugged his shoulders. “Razor knows this stuff. I just leave him to it.”
Feral just shook his head and watched. After about fifteen minutes, Razor seemed satisfied and signaled the workers could cease their stacking. He walked back to his friend’s side.
“Okay, that’s it. Now all we have to do is go get the jet and bring it back. Ready for another ride, T-Bone?” He grinned at his partner.
“Crud, no way I want to be humiliated a second time on one of those things,” he groused.
“I have a suggestion then, SWAT Kat. Lord Ferlin and I will take you two on our horses to the site. That way we can just ride back while you fly back. No need for extra horses that way,” Feral suggested with a smirk.
“An excellent idea, good sir. I’ll have our mounts readied immediately,” Lord Ferlin said, pleased with the solution and signaling a peasant to come to him. Giving the peasant his instructions, the young kat tore off for the castle stables while the three strangers and Lord Ferlin followed at a more sedate pace.
Some twenty minutes later, they were mounted and on their way to the farm where the Turbokat had landed. T-Bone carried both their swords across the saddle behind Feral’s back. Razor rode with Lord Ferlin. Having nothing better to do but watch the scenery, T-Bone took in a little more history as he witnessed peasants working in their fields and the tools they used and the way their houses were built. He turned his head and took the time to study more closely their fellow traveler, Lord Ferlin. There was something hauntingly familiar about the knight.
The more he stared the more he realized there was something about the Lord that teased at his memory.
Feral turned his head and growled, “Watch where you poke the pummel of that sword, SWAT Kat.”
T-Bone nearly snapped at him when the teasing memory jumped at him. It was Feral. He and Lord Ferlin had many of the same traits, and their appearances were hauntingly the same. He blinked then blurted, “Crud, Feral. Lord Ferlin is your ancestor.”
Feral looked back at him in surprise then looked over at Lord Ferlin, who had heard T-Bone and was looking at them in some confusion. Feral had to admit there was a lot of similarity between Ferlin and himself. Now that his attention had been drawn to it, he realized that the Lord’s last name ‘Ferlin’ could very well be an earlier version of his last name or another branch of his family lost in time.
“What is it that has thee so excited, Sir T-Bone?” Lord Ferlin asked in some concern.
“Oh, it just occurred to me that you might very well be Commander Feral’s ancestor. You two share a lot of common traits,” T-Bone told him.
“Indeed, how interesting. It’s quite possible I’m sure given the passage of time to thy own place,” Lord Ferlin said with an interested smile and a closer look at Feral.
“Heh! I think you might be right, T-Bone. Might be something you want to look into, Feral, when we get home,” Razor said, looking back and forth at the two of them.
“Hmm, you may be right, interesting,” Feral murmured more to himself than them as he turned back around.
A half hour from when they left the castle, their jet came into view. Relieved to see it, T-Bone could hardly wait to get off this horse. His butt was sore, and he was glad he wasn’t going to have to ride it back again. He and Razor hopped off and ran to the Turbokat.
“We’d better put some distance between us and them or the horses are going to bolt,” Feral said, turning his horse’s head around and heading back the way they’d come.
“You are right, of course. Best hold on tight to the reins,” Lord Ferlin warned just as the jet roared to life. The horses jolted and lunged, but both riders quickly gripped the reins tightly and pulled back hard then patted the sweating horses on the neck to calm them as they moved further away from the frightening noise.
Moments later, the roar diminished but could be heard in more subdued fashion overhead. Lord Ferlin looked up in utter fascination as the huge metal bird seemed to move through the air with ease.
“That is truly amazing. The wonders of thy world are truly staggering,” he said to his companion.
“I’m sure it seems that way to you, but it’s just every day stuff to us,” Feral said mildly.
They chatted amicably all the way back to the castle. Feral got to learn more about Lord Ferlin’s life, and he was only sorry he couldn’t reciprocate since it would affect the past if he did. The knight seemed to accept this with no difficulty. Feral found he really liked this Kat and regretted he would never see him again, that, in his time, Ferlin would have been long dead. That felt strange to realize with the living, breathing reality sitting beside him.
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