D&S: To Be A Knight - Part Nine

  • She gazed deeply into that face. Coal-black hair covered that face as finely as a mop would; messy and wet. The eyes, a dark shade of brown, so unremarkable that even she had forgotten about it – the same went with the mouth, nose and ears; they were as Imperial as they came. All unremarkable… except the jaw. Harsh and angular, the thing would’ve looked good on a man. Strong and stern but on a woman? Hideous!

     

                   Aeda frowned… and the face frowned back.

     

                   I am not a boy, her mind wandered. I’m a woman! A woman!

     

                   Droplets rippled in the bucket.

     

                   No, don’t. The bucket shuddered under her grip. Yours is the gift from your parents. To be ashamed is to shun your father. It is to dishonour your…

     

                   Suddenly Aeda remembered another face, one from a time so long ago yet as fresh as a glowing bar pulled from the fire. Of a summer and a bloodied knee. Of the sun caught in raven-black hair, hanging down to the waist. Of a smile that bore the warmth of a tender hearth and eyes not unlike the grey of good iron. A touch that made all the pain go away and that voice, a-

     

                   -splash, a jolt of cold brought her back to reality and to the ground.

     

                   ‘I’m sorry,’ Aeda said, scrambling. ‘I should’ve- I should’ve….’

     

                   She looked up and winced. Between her and the sun was a giant, towering over her. This giant however was not like the ones in the stories of Skyrim. Yes, it hulked but it wore no animal furs or wielded wooden clubs but was clad in steel: Imperial steel by their dull shine. A knight? A giant-knight? What nonsense!

     

                   ‘Are you alright?’ the giant-knight said. Aeda squinted and saw a pair of eyes. Bright and blue as the eternal sky. ‘You’re not hurt, are you?’

     

                   Aeda shook her head.

     

                   ‘Here, let me help you up,’ the giant-knight said. The giant-knight’s grip was strong yet gentle. Almost… womanly.

     

                   ‘Thank you,’ Aeda said or that was what she wanted to say but she found her jaw hanging again. And her heart pounding.

     

                   Now on her feet, the giant-knight seemed to have shrunk to a person barely stood a nail’s length taller than she. The giant-knight’s hair was as dark as hers but kept under control with a neat bun. On a closer inspection, the giant-knight’s armour was not truly dull but painted with a chalice wrapped by thorns, leaves, and flowers of white roses on the breastplate.

     

                   Aeda bowed her head. ‘I’m so sorry, Ser Marcella,’ she said, taking deep breaths between every word. ‘I should’ve been more careful. I-I-‘

     

                   Her head felt heavy.

     

                   ‘You ought to cover your mouth and one nostril. It helps with the overbreathing,’ Ser Marcella said, waving a finger. ‘And fret not, for the fault is mine not yours. You were in deep thought and I? I had no such excuse.’

     

                   Ser Marcella dropped to a knee and bowed her head. ‘Please, accept my humble apology.’

     

                   ‘No!’ Aeda said, her eyes widened. ‘I mean, there is no need to apologise, Ser Marcella.’

     

                   ‘It was never a question of need’. Ser Marcella picked up the bucket. ‘But a question of want. It is only just on my honour as a Knight of the Empire.’

     

                   ‘Thank you,’ Aeda said. ‘Thank you, Ser Marcella.’

     

                   Ser Marcella smiled. ‘You know of me but I don’t know of you. May I at least have the honour of a name, my lady?’

     

                   ‘Me? My-my name?’ Aeda said. ‘I’m uhm-m-ma. Emma! I’m Emma! My name is Emma!’

     

                   ‘Emma’ felt like sharing her breakfast.

                  

                   ‘Well met Emma,’ Ser Marcella said, extending an arm with a smile.

     

                   Aeda closed her mouth and thumbed a nostril; her lungs bellowed too fast again. When she finally found the courage to reach out, a shot of panic surged through her body.

     

                   It’s Ser Marcella and you’ve shamed yourself, you bloody oaf! She thought. That’s what they’ll call you – Aeda the Oaf. Aeda the Fool!

     

                   Fortunately, Ser Marcella’s touch brought back some semblance of sense and Aeda clasped her below the elbow. Aeda could feel her own fingers practically dancing while Ser Marcella’s grip was firm and steady.

     

                   ‘Are you sure you aren’t hurt?’ the giant-knight said, leaning closer and tilting her head. ‘You look like you’ve seen once of the Princes!’

     

                   ‘I’m fine,’ Aeda said. ‘I just need a moment.’

                  

                   ‘‘Emma, have we met before?’ Ser Marcella tapped her lip. ‘You look oddly familiar.’

     

                   ‘I don’t think so,’ Aeda said. ‘I look just like any other Imperial – plain as the day as they say.’

     

                   ‘Plain?’ Ser Marcella smirked. ‘You are far from plain, my lady.’

     

                   Ugly, you mean. I look like a boy.

     

                   ‘You,’ Aeda said, looking away. ‘are too kind, Ser Knight.’

     

                   ‘Aeda!’ a voice cried.

     

                   ‘Father!’ Aeda said as she spun around.

     

                   ‘Hail, Albus.’ Ser Marcella saluted.

     

                   ‘Hail, Marcella.’ Father returned the gesture. ‘I was looking for my daughter, Aeda… I see you’ve been acquainted.’

     

                   Ser Marcella shot Aeda a quick wink. ‘I knew there was something familiar about her. Would’ve guessed she was yours but she takes after Cissy more than you.’

     

                   Father wrapped an arm over Aeda’s shoulder. ‘Yes,’ he said quietly. ‘Yes, she does.’

     

                   Aeda blushed. No, I don’t. Mother was a great beauty and I am not.

     

                   ‘What happened to you?’ Father pointed at Ser Marcella’s soaked doublet.

     

                   ‘Oh this?’ Ser Marcella held her arms out. ‘I was-‘

     

                   ‘It’s my fault,’ Aeda said, tearing herself from his grasp and lowering her head. ‘I wasn’t careful and I walked into her.’

     

                   ‘You did?’ Father raised an eyebrow. ‘Aeda, how could you? Aren’t you a fan of Ser Marcella?’

     

                   ‘What?’ Aeda’s body snapped straight.

     

                   ‘Oh?’ Ser Marcella stroked her chin.

     

                   ‘That she is. Back home in Hammer, Aeda spends almost every supper talking about you Marcella. She’s especially enamoured with that piece you wore in the Kvatch Melee of forty-seven; the ones with the dragons.’

     

                   Ser Marcella waved her hand. ‘That thing? Not my proudest work but it’s good to know someone likes it.’

     

                   ‘What? No!’ Aeda said.

     

                   ‘So, you didn’t the dragons?’ Father said.

     

                   ‘No, I mean. I-’

     

                   Aeda closed her mouth and thumbed a nostril

     

                   Why are you doing this to me?

     

                   Ser Marcella snickered. ‘Aeda, no doubt that your father only jests! Albus, why are you so mean? What is it with boys who are so fond of tormenting girls? It’s as if we’re still living in the 3rd Era!’

     

                   Aeda let out a chuckle, weak as it was.

                  

                   ‘You know, Aeda. I’ve a good feeling about you.’ Ser Marcella snapped her fingers. ‘Say, how about you be my lancebearer for my next ride?’

     

                   Before Aeda could answer, the Painted Knight shook her head.

     

                   ‘No, it wouldn’t be proper; she’s your lancebearer, Albus.’

     

                   Her heart sank but she nodded.

     

                   ‘Quite the contrary,’ father said. ‘I think it’d be a great idea. Her younger can be my lancebearer for the next ride – after all, she did wrong you and I’ll have no Vendetta between our houses, especially over this. Still, the decision rests with Aeda. Would you like to be Ser Marcella’s lancebearer? Your jaw is hanging again.’

     

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