Character Profile: Bart, the Knocker

Bart, the Knocker, appears in the Assassin Chronicles books along about book 5 or 6. He’s a faery creature who lives in a cave on the face of a cliff overlooking the sea in the underworld. He loves beer, ale, wine and smoking his pipe. To say he is very laid back doesn’t quite cover him. He likes to take it easy, but he does love to play checkers and collect shiny things. Unfortunately, for him, he is a bit slooooooooooow. His general appearance might remind you of a dwarf, short and stocky, indeterminate age, long beard, pointed cap, suspenders and hob-nail boots. Not much on fashion. Normally, he doesn’t care to get involved in things, but as keeper of the Four Horses of the Apocalypse, his life is entwined with the Order of the Red Cross of Gold whether he likes it or no. He’s none too friendly as faeries go, but he can become a trusted companion if you gain his trust or call his bluff.

I found an interesting article about these so-called “Earth Spirits” which gives a good job description for Knockers. He gets the name ‘Knocker’ from his normal occupation as a miner. Of course, Bart doesn’t have to mine for his living, though his ‘brothers’ may have to work for a living. Knockers are thought to make the odd knocking noises heard in mines just before cave-ins. However, it seems to be a matter of debate whether the knocks are meant to warn the miners to get out or perhaps the knocks might actually cause the cave-in. Either way, suspicious miners generally do not ignore these noises since their lives may depend on it.

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This little fellow adorning a garden gate reminds me of what Bart, the Knocker, might look like. Here is a short excerpt from Book VI:. The Dragonslayer where we first meet Bart:

Bart was deep in the cave, lying on a rock with his feet propped against the wall, his hands clasped over his heart and his pipe clenched between his teeth firmly. He was practicing winking. One had to keep in practice. He scowled deeply and then winked his left eye for several seconds. When he was pleased with his success, he opened both eyes and then concentrated on winking his right eye. Just as his right eyelid began to droop, the sounds of approaching footsteps echoed down the passage and he sat up quickly. A cloud of dust drifted lazily in front of him. Visitors? So soon? He’d just had visitors not more than twenty years ago. Why would someone be bothering him again so soon? And just when he was beginning to get good with his left eye! They probably wanted to eat his bread and butter and drink the last of his beer.

He shook his head and ran his gnarled fingers through his long black beard, scaring away three black and orange spiders and one field mouse. Picking up his hood from beside him, he shook off the layers of dust on it and pulled it over his head. His black eyes glowing with anticipation, he slid from the rock and brushed off the spiderwebs that had accumulated on his black tunic. He tugged on his vest, hitched up his pants and stomped his boots to wake up his toes. He waved his hand over a small pile of dried driftwood and seaweed and a greenish, blue fire sprang to life, illuminating the interior of the cavern. The light reflected from a thousand crystal stalactites in the ceiling, casting dancing shadows on the walls and in the depths. The stalagmites on the floor were draped with all sorts of accouterments. Most of them were useless, but interesting pieces of flotsam and jetsam that he had collected from the beach. They gave the cave a cozy feel. The dwarf brushed at his knobby knees again and then sat down on an upended wooden churn to wait for his unexpected guests to arrive. He crossed his arms over his chest, then crossed his legs. He sat very still.

Sam and Lucio eventually found their way to the chamber where Bart was waiting for them.

“Ho, there!” Bart stood up when they entered. “How goes it?”

“Oh, it goes well as well it might, Bart,” Sam answered the greeting, smiled at the dwarf and set the baskets on the floor in front of him.

“And who’s thot ye have withee?” Bart narrowed his dark eyes at the Italian. “’e looks loike a mon.”

“Aye, that he is,” Sam told him as Lucio dumped the heavy cask of beer on the floor. The resounding boom echoed down through the passages. “Lucius of Venetia, Knight of the Golden Eagle, venerable son of the Doge of Venice, Chevalier d’ l’Aigle d’Or, Poor Knight of Soloman’s Temple, Keeper of the Secrets of Isis and Osiris, Diviner of Souls, may I present Bart….” The elf called the dwarf’s full name and Lucio bowed his head to the dwarf.

The dwarf was dressed entirely in black and wore a gold dagger in his wide belt. The black hood on his head ended in a long red tassel at the point and sported a long, black feather on one side. The dwarf’s craggy face was accented by heavy shadows and only his long nose was clearly visible in the eerie blue light provided by the fire. His eyes seemed to glow literally like red coals in the deeper shadow under his hood. His voice was amazingly deep for one so small.

The dwarf bowed his head minutely and then stepped forward to knock on the keg with his gnarled fist. He produced a shiny silver hammer from one of his pockets and tapped the keg in several more places, listening intently to the sounds.

“And beer, ist?” he asked when he looked up.

“And milk and eggs,” Sam added. “Lucius di Venetia has traveled long times and hard paths to honor you with these gifts. And to honor himself with your presence.”

“And well he moight do,” Bart muttered and plucked one of the eggs from the basket. He eyed it closely. It was speckled and about half the size of a chicken’s egg. “Wot’s th’ occasion? Did I miss me birthday again?”

“No, not your birthday this time, Bart,” Sam told him and sat down cross-legged on the floor. 

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