Disclaimer: The KA lads never were mine, still aren't mine and never will be. Everything you recognize, belongs to Jerry Bruckheimer & Touchstone Pictures - godsdamnit ! No copyright infringement is intended.
Real Men Wear ... Kilts ?
Bors, Gawain, Dagonet and Tristan sat at their usual table at the tavern. All four were at a loose end. Bored out of their skulls. Because Lancelot, the preferred choice to be the butt of their jokes, had gone with Arthur to see Merlin, the remaining Sarmatian knights were desperate for something to pass the time.
"Ugh ..." Bors sighed heavily as he refilled his goblet. "I'm bored ..." He passed the clay pitcher over to Gawain, who lounged beside him studying his tangled mane carefully for split ends. The tall blond reached across the table and carefully topped up his tankard, then pushed the ewer across the rough oak surface to where Dagonet and Tristan sat.
"Me too," Gawain growled huskily, looking extremely fed up. "Strange how quiet it is when Lance isn't here ..." He took a long draught from his tankard, then wiped the froth away from his beard with the back of his hand.
"Nice and quiet, you mean," Dagonet's deep, rich voice rumbled softly. He tore a chunk of bread and used a piece of it to mop up some of Vanora's famous goat stew from the rim of his wooden bowl, before chewing the morsel thoughtfully. There'd been no love lost between him and the dark knight after the shambles of the enforced washing of Gawain's hair.
"I take it you've still not forgiven him, cousin ?" A grinning Bors casually leaned forward, his big paw surreptitiously inching towards Dagonet's plate in an attempt to steal some of the bread.
"Too bloody right, I haven't !" The Healer muttered, glaring moodily at his stew as if daring it to sprout legs and prance off the table before fleeing out of the tavern. "If that slippery, little sod thinks for a moment that I've forgotten about that stroke he pulled, he's in for a nasty surprize ... Don't care how long it takes me, but I will pay him back ..."
There was a sudden yelp and Bors drew back abruptly, nursing his right hand which now had a livid, red, spoon-shaped mark on its back. He looked at his cousin with wounded eyes, the embodiment of injured innocence. Dagonet was no fool and merely raised a sceptical eyebrow.
"And stay the hell away from my bread, Bors," Dagonet warned him softly, his silvery gaze mild and reproachful. "You've already managed to demolish half a loaf as it is ..."
There was a muffled snigger from the blond Halani's end of the table, which suddenly turned into a mysterious coughing fit. Gawain promptly raised his tankard to his lips to conceal his mirth. Bors glowered at him.
The Scout had been watching the encounter in silent amusement and smirked, before leaning towards Dagonet and lightly placing his right hand on the Roxolani giant's forearm to draw his attention. Dagonet turned to look at him, a faint, gentle smile playing on his lips and tilted his head to one side. Tristan mirrored the smile with a ghost of a smirk. He pushed his own plate, which had a considerable chunk of bread left and offered it to the Healer.
"Here, Dag. Have mine. I've finished. I don't want it ..."
Dagonet merely nodded in thanks. His silver gaze lingering warmly on the Aorsi Scout's lean, handsome face, before helping himself to the remaining bread. Tristan returned the look with equal warmth and interest and unconsciously ran the tip of his tongue across his lower lip. Dagonet averted his gaze, his cheekbones slightly pink, then shyly looked up at the Aorsi who smirked knowingly.
Slightly uncomfortable with the warm intimacy between the Scout and the Healer, Gawain coughed and shared an bashful look with Bors, who was far from embarrassed.
The older Roxolani rolled his eyes and announced bluntly, "Gods ! Will you two get a room ? I've only just eaten and I don't fancy losing it just yet !"
His comment only succeeded in turning his young cousin's face a fierier shade of scarlet and had Tristan's golden eyes sparkling with quiet amusement and yearning. Dagonet looked as if he genuinely wanted the ground to open up and swallow him. Tact, diplomacy and discretion were far from being Bors' strong points. In fact, he seriously doubted that the gobby knight actually knew such things existed. He also sensed that if Bors didn't find something or someone to distract him soon, that he would end up being Lancelot's replacement for the evening. The butt of all of their teasing. And that would never do.
Dagonet, in desperation and with a strong need for self-preservation, hurriedly looked around the tavern. Relief coursed wildly through him when his eyes fell upon a newcomer walking through the tavern door. The tall Healer visibly relaxed and momentarily felt a twinge of guilt for what he was about to do. But when he quickly glanced at Bors and saw the obvious gleam of mischief in the older knight's eyes, he swiftly quashed it.
Galahad ran a weary hand through his dark, curly mop of hair and sighed heavily. It had been a long day and he was tired. Dog-tired. He'd just come from the baths, directly from the valetudinarium and was now heading to the tavern for something to eat before turning in for the night.
The youngest Halani - fondly known to the other knights as the "Pup," or the "Whelp" - was in one of his moods. Basically, he was pissed off and as the day progressed, his temper became shorter. Out of all of the knights, he was the most impulsive. The hot-headed, passionate one, with the fiery temper which contrasted sharply with his innocent, trusting nature.
He'd had a bad day. His grey mare pulled up lame late morning and the only horse Jols had been able to offer as a replacement was an vicious, ill-tempered, newly broken in, chestnut gelding. It had been a battle of wills right from the start and the beast would not be cowed by him.
But what had really annoyed him was the Woad ambush on their return from patrol to the fort.
It had just been the five of them, Bors, Dagonet, Gawain, Tristan and himself. They were crossing the river, when they came under sudden onslaught of arrows from a rogue Woad scouting party. Tristan immediately started firing his own arrows with faultless, clinical precision, while Bors and Gawain swiftly dismounted and got into the thick of the fighting with an enthusiasm they didn't bother to hide.
Unlike the other Sarmatian knights, Dagonet's fighting style differed greatly. The tall, powerful Roxolani Healer was a reluctant warrior and hated killing. Quiet and gentle-natured, he was the one who hated bloodshed the most, yet that did not prevent him from being a less skilled or formidable fighter. If anything, it made him more dangerous as he did not maim his opponents, but directly went for a swift, merciful kill. If you were felled in battle by the big knight - and the gods were smiling at you - you did not get back up again ... Dagonet remained in Flight's saddle, running down the Woads, cleaving them with the huge bastard sword he favoured. None of them who had the misfortune to cross his path, ever rose to challenge him.
Galahad meanwhile, was not so fortunate. The gelding which Jols had loaned him, was skittish and unlike the other calmer warhorses, had no experience of battle. Nostrils flaring and terrified by the heavy scent of fresh blood in the air, the wild-eyed, frightened, sweat-soaked animal reared onto its hindlegs, dislodging its rider from the saddle into the river.
Dazed and soaked to the skin, Galahad failed to notice the stealthy approach of a Woad from behind and only became aware of it when Dagonet took a dive from the powerful, black stallion's back to permanently take down the blue painted native. By the time the sodden pair of knights managed to clamber out of the river, only Bors, Gawain and Tristan remained surrounded by the numerous bodies of their enemy. The tall, lion-maned blond Halani took one look at his half-drowned kinsman and began to laugh, as did Dagonet's cousin, Bors. Tristan, although his lips were twitching in silent mirth only had eyes for the tall, cropped-haired, scarred lover, his golden eyes lighting up with relief when Dagonet hauled himself out of the water, dragging the Pup out with him.
They were about to head back to the fort when Bors idly observed, a slight smirk gracing his jovial face, "Looks like you'll be walking back, Pup ..."
"Er ... why would I be walking ?" Galahad's brow furrowed with confusion. He bent down to wring some of the excess water out of his sodden kilt and grimaced as the cold, muddy water trickled down his bare, muscular calves, "Ugh ..."
Gawain snorted with barely concealed amusement and quickly turned his head, when Galahad glared at him.
"If you'd actually bothered to look, Skirtboy," Tristan drawled lazily, reaching into one of his many saddlebags which contained yet more apples and pulling one out to study it. When the apple in question met his exacting, high standard of approval, the Aorsi Scout polished it thoroughly with a clean rag he kept down the side of his boot, before slicing it in thin slivers with an unused, spotless hunting knife. It never ceased to amaze the other knights how many lethal blades Tristan kept about his person, or that he always seemed to be in possession of a limitless supply of apples. As Bors once observed, "the day Tristan ran out of apples and weapons would be the day that the world would come to an end ..." And no one wanted to be around when that happened. An unarmed, apple-less Tristan did not bode well for anyone ...
Tristan delicately placed a slice of apple in his mouth. He closed his eyes and chewed it pensively, savouring the sweet, juicy fruit contentedly, before finally continuing with what he'd begun to say, "if you took the time to look, Whelp, you'd have seen your nag's bolted. Reckon it's probably back at the fort by now ..."
Sure enough, the Scout was right. There was no sign of the reddish-brown gelding anywhere and Galahad began to curse the missing animal vehemently, with language that was so ripe it had Bors, the fort's Mr Vulgarity himself, speechless and blushing furiously. It took a while for Galahad to stop ranting and calm down and for the others to stop laughing.
"The only thing that useless, vicious bag of bones Jols has the nerve to call a horse, will be good for once I've finished with it, is fucking dogfood ! I swear, I'll fucking kill it ..."
That final remark was enough to have Gawain convulsing with laughter once more.
"Right, you grumpy, little sod," he said with quiet affection, sweeping a heavy swathe of tawny hair away from his face, "you're coming back with me ..." He leant over in the saddle, reached down to grab his young kinsman and hauled him up to sit behind him. Galahad gave a startled yelp and immediately wrapped his arms around the bigger knight's waist to stop himself from sliding off the horse's back.
It wasn't long before Bors, who'd been following Gawain's horse on the narrow path, sniggered then commented loudly for the others to hear, "Gods ! I never realized 'til now how much the Whelp looks like a girl clinging to our Gawain, in that skir- "
That was enough to wind up Galahad, who spat angrily, "Bloody hell ! How many times do I have to tell you lot, huh ... ? For mercy's sake, it's not a bloody skirt ... it's a kilt, godsdammit !"
Grinning faintly, Dagonet risked a sideways glance at Tristan and saw that the Scout's shoulders were shaking helplessly in silent amusement, his golden eyes dancing merrily. Clearly the Aorsi was enjoying seeing Bors bait the younger man. Despite his bullish, vulgar manner, each and every one of the knights knew the older pugilistic Roxolani was basically a soft touch at heart and that there was no malice or harm in his teasing. But Galahad 's sense of humour had deserted him and he was far too annoyed to think clearly.
"A fucking K.I.L.T. , Bors ! Kilt ! But I wouldn't expect someone like you to recognize the difference, considering what little brain you've got is lodging in your breeches !" Galahad harumphed. Feeling cold, he shivered and promptly sneezed loudly, almost deafening Gawain in the process. Galahad gave a loud sniffle and wiped his nose.
"Oh, for the love of gods, Gal ..." Gawain groaned loudly. "If I catch you wiping that fucking nose of yours in my hair, you're a dead man. I mean it. I'll kick your arse and you'll be walking home ..."
The Whelp gave another unimpressed sniffle. He then sneezed once more, before falling into what could only be classed as an almighty sulk for the rest of the journey back to the fort.
"I see the Pup's back from the valetudinarium," Dagonet softly remarked, reaching out for his tankard of mead. He swallowed a hefty draught and waited hopefully for Bors' attention to fall upon their hapless brother-in-arms.
Bors' eyes immediately lit up when he saw Galahad approach their table and rubbed his hands in gleeful anticipation of the prospect of fresh sport. Teasing Galahad was always more fun than his young cousin. It was so much easier getting a rise out of the boyishly good-looking Halani than Dagonet as Dag had far better control over his temper and rarely lost it. But when he did ... ? It was advisable to have a fast horse saddled and waiting for a swift escape. Dagonet - the most placid and gentle of the Sarmatians - was formidable and terrifying to behold when roused, as Bors knew to his cost from past experience.
Galahad made his way towards them, carrying a fresh pitcher of ale and a bowl of stew. There was something different about him this evening, yet the others - who'd been freely partaking of the ale and mead - couldn't quite figure what it was. Taking his usual seat beside Gawain, he quietly began to eat.
"So, Pup ..." Bors began, pausing to wink at Gawain and to lounge back on his seat, "you going to tell us why you keep wearing that skirt ?"
"'S not a skirt, Bors ... It's a damn kilt and you damn well know it," Galahad muttered and continued to quickly eat his stew.
"Skirt ... Kilt ... Who the fuck cares ?" Bors replied, reaching across to refill his tankard. "What I want to know is why you're so attached to something a girl would wear ?"
Galahad slowly raised his head and glowered. "Look ... it's simple. Even a fool like you should be able to understand. Women wear skirts. Men wear kilts- "
Bors snorted in disbelief.
By now, a sniggering Gawain had become seriously interested in a knot on the surface of their table and was lightly tracing over the grain with a small dagger.
The Scout meanwhile, had his back resting comfortably against Dagonet's lean, powerful torso. He was also, going by the amount of apple cores on the table in front of him, slicing up his fourth apple of the evening. Every so often, he'd pass a sliver of fruit to Dagonet who willingly accepted them. That in itself was unusual, as the Aorsi was very possessive of his apples and seldom shared them. The man was loyal to a fault, would fight fiercely for and on behalf of his fellow Sarmatians, even willingly lay down his life for his brethren ... but when it came to his stash of beloved apples, he would defend and kill for them.
"You're such a girl, Galaha- "
Galahad dropped his spoon into the bowl with a clatter. "Do you honestly want to know why I wear my kilt ? Hmmm ... ? It's because it's practical- "
"Practical, my arse !" Bors roared with laughter. "There's naught practical about having your bollocks swinging in the breeze or getting your bare arse dunked in an ice-cold river, boy ..."
Galahad quirked an eyebrow and smirked. "No ? Comes in very handy in hot summers though. Why do you think I never sweat as much as you lot in the heat ? Besides, the wenches seem to like it. A lot ... And who says I go about the place bare-arsed anyway ?" He sneezed violently.
"I rest my case," Bors stated smugly, taking another pull from his tankard. "No wonder you've got a cold, lad. Wearing something so womanly ... That's just asking for trouble ..."
"So, Bors ... Are you trying to say that the entire Roman army's full of skirt-clad women, then ?" Galahad immediately asked. "After all, they wear leather kilts too. And there's nothing girlish or womanly about those hard, vicious bastards ..."
"Oi ! Never said that ... impudent Pup !"
"Well, you implied it ..." Galahad sneezed once more and slowly rose from the table. He grabbed his clay pitcher of ale and stated matter-of-factly, "I'm turning in. Physician's orders."
"Definitely acting like a woman ..." Bors muttered, making the other three knights laugh, "I blame the influence of that godsdamn skirt ! It's turning our Pup into a girl ..."
Bors suddenly realized what was different about the Pup and stared at him in disbelief. "Fucking hell, Pup ! Where in hell's name's your leather skirt got to ... ?"
Standing up straight, Galahad smirked at the stunned expression on his brethren's faces. For once the infamous kilt was missing in action and he was clad in a pair of very flattering, rather snug fitting, black leather breeches and sturdy boots.
"Shut your trap, Bors, you might just catch a draught if you leave it open like that for too long ... The 'skirt,' as you persist in calling it, is drying out in front of a fire, like Arthur advised me to do. It's like a weapon, Arthur said. Take care of it properly and keep it clean and it'll last a lifetime. And after wearing these damn leathers this evening, I'll be bloody glad to have it back. No wonder the Roman army sticks to wearing them and are so formidable. I can see now why they do it ... It just proves that real men do wear ... kilts !"
And with that final remark - which successfully managed to shut Bors up for the rest of the evening - a smirking Galahad left the tavern clutching his ewer of ale and headed back to his quarters.