Monday, August 29, 2011

Sir Percival of the Stone Bridge

At the narrowest point of the river, where the old post road crosses, sits Sir Percival's bridge. When his grandfather, Halstead, built the bridge many years ago, it was a busy thoroughfare that connected the mining towns in the hills with the farmland and the big city in the plains. He charged a fair toll for crossing the bridge and in return he patrolled the area with a company of knights and kept bandits away. He enjoyed much prosperity in his time, and left a sizable inheritance to Sir Percival's father, Richard.

Richard had the ill fortune of presiding over a time of decline in the area. The mines ran out and travel became less desirable. As the revenue from the bridge declined, many of Richard's knights abandoned him. Even his two oldest sons moved away to seek their fortunes elsewhere. When it came time to declare an heir, he cut out his older sons and left his land his third son, Percival.

Sir Percival had to leave his formal religious studies unfinished to return home to manage the estate. He brought with him a very conservative priest as an adviser. He still makes occasional patrols with a few men-at-arms, but life near the stone bridge is quiet. Few travelers pass, and with little money to be made from robbery, even the bandits have moved on.

But not all is quiet in the riverside manor. Some say Percival has mad, and he forces a very strict piety on his household staff. Not only are the men and women completely segregated from each other, but he and his priest are the only people allowed to mingle with both groups. And while he has protected the countryside from the few bandits that still haunt the hills, he has become a scourge in his own right.

Though he never bothers merchants or tradesmen passing over the bridge, he always stops and interrogates young couples. If he feels they have been impious (and few people could live up to his standard of piety) he takes them into 'protective custody' so he can reform them and save their souls. They are never seen again.

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