D&S: To Be A Knight - Part Three

  • Before a dying fire, the chorus of crickets, and the gentle spring breeze, the camp was asleep. The boys were snoring, no doubt ready to complaint of dried throats in the morning and Mrs. Moorsley held onto to Aran as she usually did. She wouldn’t say it but Aeda knew that Aran was Mrs. Moorsley favourite – Aeda had overheard that he had qualities she wanted in a child: dutiful, quiet, and scholarly. Still, Mrs. Moorsley was still family in all but name and blood.

     

                   Aeda turned on her back and stared into the sky. Vast, eternal and beautiful. The twin moons were shy tonight, only half-showing their faces leaving behind painted clouds of violet and silver. Their backdrop were the stars, their light dazzling like sparks from a forge. She held up her hands and framed what she saw.

     

                   One day, I’ll make something as wonderful as this, she thought, smiling. Of moonstone perhaps? A pendant maybe? Yes, that’ll be brilliant.

     

                   She sighed.

     

                   No. Keep your mind on the tourney. On the joust. A Knight only has her mind on her mission, Aeda. Remember that!

     

                   Aeda grumbled to herself as she turned to her side, putting such distractions behind her. She shut her eyes as hard as she could, intent to fall asleep but sleep was as stubborn as she was. She pressed at her chest and felt her heart dance.

     

                   You need not claim champion, Aeda, she thought. Just don’t be so inept as to fall before the lances break… and survive until the quarter-finals.

     

                   She turned again and frowned.

     

                   But what if you do fall? If you feel faint? Father would be-

     

                   She rubbed her eyes and saw that there were two empty bedrolls – one for father and the other for Gorggnak. With bleary vision, she saw a faint light dancing by the cart.

     

                   Are they not done with the repairs? Must be worse than we thought.

     

                   Aeda rose and rubbed her arms. She’d finally conceded that sleep as eluded her; for now, at least. She walked to the tea pot, still respectably warm to be drinkable and poured two cups full.

     

                   As she approached, the two weren’t working but talking. It didn’t seem to be anything serious, she learned jokes and laughter – no doubt they were trading war stories.

     

                   ‘Mistress Aeda,’ Gorggnak said, bowing. ‘I thought you’d be asleep at this hour.’

     

                   Gorggnak was tall. Taller than father – tall but with abnormally long arms. He was rather skinny for an Orc with an almost willow-like body. His face was oddly youthful for his age and as is his arms and body, free from even a single strand of hair. Despite knowing him for all her life, Aeda knew little of him. She and Artos have guessed that Gorggnak was hiding something but they never had the courage to ask what.   

     

                   ‘Why yes,’ father said, smirking. ‘Why aren’t you sleeping at this hour?’

     

                   ‘I, uh,’ Aeda blushed as she bowed. ‘I wanted to bring both of you some tea.’

     

                   ‘Mmm,’ Gorggnak said. ‘Heartland Tea, I presume? I’ve always treasured the aftertaste; words can barely describe it. Master Albus, Mistress Aeda – believe I should inspect the wagon once again to make sure everything is in order. May I take my leave?’

     

                   ‘You may, Gorggnak,’ father said.

     

                   Nice save.

     

                   Gorggnak bowed and disappeared into the darkness.

     

                   ‘Now Aeda,’ Albus said, in-between sipping his cup. ‘You didn’t answer my question.’

     

                   ‘I just can’t sleep.’

     

                   ‘Are you nervous?’

     

                   Aeda nodded. ‘A little.’

     

                   Albus held open his cloak and Aeda pulled close, his warmth pushing away the cold.

     

                   ‘I’m nervous too. Jousts are dangerous things, Aeda and I-‘ he stopped. ‘And I don’t know what I’d do if you were hurt.’

     

                   ‘Please papa,’ Aeda said, smiling. ‘There’s no need to worry, I am not of DuPont glass – I am of steel; Martellus steel or are you telling me our family’s craft is of no value?’

     

                   Albus laughed. ‘By the Nine and the Seventeen, how could someone of my blood say something so horrible and rightly untrue?’

     

                   Aeda returned a short chuckle but said nothing, content with gazing upon the distance. Across the dancing stream to the distant fields beyond.

                   Father leaned against the cart and pointed. ‘Wouldn’t you think it’d be great?’

     

                   Aeda cocked her head.

     

                   ‘If the world was as peaceful as this?’ he continued. ‘The sound of the stream and the song of the crickets. Of the cool winds and the soft light of the moon.’

     

                   ‘I thought you were at peace at the forge?’ Aeda said. ‘With the songs of metal and hammer? With the heat of the furnace and the gleam of good steel shining at your face?’

     

                   Father’s face contorted into a silly frown. ‘I’m allowed to have a change of scenery every now and then, now am I?’

     

                   Aeda shrugged and Albus tousled her hair. The girl sighed, burying her head on her father’s side. Peace, perhaps it’s not so bad.

     

                   ‘Aeda.’ Father sipped his cup. ‘What troubles you? Let me hear your thoughts.’

     

                   For a moment, Aeda said nothing. She first bit her lip before she found her courage.

     

                   ‘Papa,’ she began. ‘What is there between you and Sir Reynald? Forgive me if I’m too bold but I’m just curious and-‘

     

                   Albus held out a hand. ‘No,’ he said. ‘It’s only your right you’re curious; an uncurious mind is as good as rusted metal. Now where should I begin?’

     

                   ‘From the beginning?’

     

                   ‘A curious mind indeed,’ he said with a sad smile. ‘Very well. Remember that the three legions sent to deal with the Ash King? I served in the 19th with your grandfather, Aenar.’

     

                   ‘And Sir Reynald?’

     

                   ‘Reynald…’ Albus hesitated and took a deep breath. ‘Reynald wasn’t an Imperial Knight like us. He’s a Knight of High Rock and wasn’t in the three legions.’

     

                   ‘Oh?’

     

                   Father shook his head. ‘Reynald and his band are what we call questing knights; knights wandering Tamriel in search of evils to vanquish and weak to protects – all that hogwash. They just happened by our campaign and joined us as auxiliary forces.

     

                   ‘Whatever my misgivings on the Knights of High Rock, even I must admit that as warriors, they are unparalleled – few can claim equal to their skill at sword, lance, and shield and they are dare I say, the finest horsemen I’ve ever seen.’

     

    ‘Are you telling me that a Knight of High Rock will beat an Imperial Knight in open combat?’

     

                   Father threw his head back and laughed. ‘I don’t think so. They’re unparalleled warriors but they’re not like us; they’re not soldiers. They fight for no objective, for no greater cause – each man only fights for riches and for his own glory. For his deeds to be entombed in the songs like Sir Matthias, Hero of Wayrest or Sir Ambroise, Slayer of the Vulture Kings. Even bloody Reynald has a few songs sung for him.’

     

                   For a moment father was quiet but Aeda saw a fire burning in his eyes. Not of anger but of pride.

     

                   ‘Bards don’t sing songs for us soldiers for need no songs to motivate us. We will eat maggot bread, sleep in the mud, endure to our breaking points and beyond but there is no glory for soldiers – glory isn’t our motivation, duty is.’

     

                   ‘Duty and steel?’ Aeda said.

     

                   ‘Duty and steel,’ he said, nodding. ‘What do you know of the Battle of Deshaan?’

     

                   ‘That’s the final battle of the Ash King Campaign – where the traitor was killed in battle.’

     

                   ‘And do you know who took his head?’

     

                   Aeda paused. ‘Sir Reynald! It was Sir Reynald who ended the rebellion!’

     

                   ‘Yes,’ father replied justly, his voice tinged with bitterness. ‘It was here when Reynald became Sir Reynald the Chivalrous. Where he became a paragon for all budding squires and pages to look up to. Here’s what the songs and the stories don’t tell – he only did so when he broke formation with his merry band.

     

                   ‘The battle plan was simple: the 19th will smash into the rebel lines while the cavalry will circle the enemy and attack – hammer and anvil, classic tactics. Of course, nothing ever goes according to plan.’

     

                   He shook his head.

     

                   ‘When the battle was joined, the rebels were as they were – easy blade fodder but what we didn’t know was that they did some dark magics before the battle. As we waded into their lines, some monsters, some Daedra exploded from a few of their numbers. These creatures were a mass of flesh, bone, claw, and tentacles; a true horror.

     

                   ‘Your grandfather and I, our flank bore the brunt of the assault but we held. The Imperial Knights always held. Then when our need was most dire, I heard the cornu and the bugle; a kind of horn that the Knights of High Rock used and it shames me to say that my hope soared. Our numbers dwindled but even in the chaos of battle, I saw that damnable gold eagle soaring. I had hoped before that banner shrunk away.’

     

                   Father looked into his cup. ‘Reynald was supposed to aid us – that was the plan but instead…’

     

                   ‘He went for the Ash King,’ Aeda said.

     

                   Albus nodded. ‘Your grandfather perished in that battle. If only Reynald had stuck to the plan, if only they controlled their lust for glory in just that moment.

     

                   ‘Aeda, my daughter, I want you to understand that duty is no easy thing. Even to this day as much as I hated it, Reynald’s decision had reason. By charging the Ash King, he not only eliminated their commander but also their channelers – as their blood stained the ashlands, the monsters fell apart. A part of me agrees, the soldier who understands that there can be no victory without sacrifice; that is our duty as Imperial Knights but the other, the son…’

     

                   Aeda looked up and saw a glint in her father’s eye. She hugged him, held him close.

     

                   ‘Papa,’ she said. ‘I’ve heard enough.’

     

                   ‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘Thank you, Aeda. Give no value to what I think of Sir Reynald: that is just a failing of mine as a soldier and as an Imperial Knight. Reynald is a good man who at least deserves a soldier’s respect. Come, the hour grows later still, the road is long and we need our rest. You need to keep your mind sharp if you are to be a knight.’

     

                   To be a Knight, Aeda thought. What does that even mean?

    ************************

    Previous: Part Two                                                                                                                                                                           Next: Part Four

Comments

1 Comment   |   ilanisilver likes this.
  • ilanisilver
    ilanisilver   ·  August 12
    Soul of an artist, heart of a knight. Nice imagery there and paints a good picture of Aeda’s character without any description or explanation whatsoever.