D&S: To Be A Knight - Part Twenty-One

  • You have made the vows, a voice rang. You invoked Vendetta.


                   Aeda knelt in her tent, alone. Like a shroud, the darkness crept around her, hiding her.


                  You southerners are no knights – only fools!


                   Her armour loomed over her. Her armour – the skin of a knight, judged her with its eyeless gaze.


                   Cease this childish game!


                   Soon now. It was only a matter of time before she was to ride. To face Cedric. To show everyone the hubris of this inept rider against the Young Eagle, the Champion Lancer of High Rock.


                   To you I only say this: Glory.


                   This was wrong, improper. The tournament was to reveal the best of them and Tiberius was the better of her. He rode more gallantly, more skilfully than she ever could. By the all the laws of Gods and men, he should’ve been here, not her. The Gods have destined Tiberius for greatness and she?


                   Mediocre. Fraud. Disgrace.


                   Then why did he take the fall? Was it because he pitied her or was it because she was too weak to do the right thing?


                   Master Aeda. Restrain yourself!


                   She wanted to be more – needed to be more but always fell short. It was meant to be. No grand destiny. No pride, only dishonour. No discipline, only impulse. No skill, only luck. A terrible knight she’d be! And there it was again, the hubris to believe she’d even be a knight.


                   What upsets me so is that you lost control!


                   The wound in her palm stung. This feeling, now this she deserved. The one thing in her life not given to her but well-earned – Pain. Shame. Punishment. She clenched her fist, nails digging deep and blood pooling in her hand.


                   I’m not worthy. Not worthy.


                   Aeda grit her teeth and slammed her fist into the ground, screaming. She struck the ground again and again, stopping when all became numb. Slowly, she raised her bloodied, ruined hands. The hands, shaped by the gods, gifted by her parents.


                   ‘What have I done?’ She whispered. What have I done?’


                   Tears stung her eyes yet there was no answer. Her armour still judged her. They all judged her. All of them. The gods, father, her brothers – Aeda herself. She had done wrong, again.


                   Stupid girl. You stupid girl.


                   ‘I… I didn’t mean to!’ She crumpled, curled into a ball and wept. ‘What have I done? What have I done?’


                   Alone. She felt so alone. She could only sit and shiver, the fault was hers. Hers alone.


                   The tent rustled and Aeda immediately stood up, so straight and tall, full of false pride.


                   ‘Aeda?’ a voice rasped.


                   She rubbed away her tears and saluted. ‘Father,’ she said. ‘I’m just making my preparations and I-‘ Aeda dropped to her knees and bowed so low that her forehead kissed the ground. ‘How can I be of service?’


                   ‘Aeda,’ he said. ‘Show me your face.’


                   She trembled at that command but complied, looking up. Even when father slouched, she still had such dignity to him. A true knight. He walked over and crouched before her.


                   ‘Child,’ he said, wiping her face. ‘Are you hurt? There’s blood on you.’


                   ‘Blood?’ She swatted his hand away and smeared her face with a sleeve. Red, as he had said. ‘Oh, I was careless and I reopened my wound. Worry not father, it’s a trivial matter – it shan’t be a bother in the list.’


                   Father nodded.


                   ‘May I have a seat?’ he said.


                   ‘Of course,’ she said, pointing at a stool.


                   Father grunted, pulling over the stool and sat down. ‘My back all aches – is this what’s it like to grow old?’


                   Aeda shrugged and bowed her head.


                   ‘Tell me,’ he said. ‘What’s on your mind? What troubles you so?’


                   Aeda licked her lips. ‘I’m just nervous, father,’ she said. ‘I feel like I’m in the stories. Your stories. The ones before a battle. I feel faint; my heart flutters, the breath quickens.’


                   She looked at him with a smile. A fake smile. ‘I’m excited, exhilarated. This feeling, it makes me feel so alive, so-‘ she continued before father placed a hand on her shoulder.


                   You spoke too much. A panic shot through her. He knows. He knows you lie!


                   Father smiled back. ‘That’s good,’ he said, patting. ‘It’s a feeling you should get used to. I never really did but it’s good that you do.’


                   Aeda smiled and nodded.


                   She caught a glimpse of it. She dared not search his eyes but she saw a moment of sorrow on his face. Her stomach dropped. What did she do know? She wondered. How did she hurt father again?


                   ‘Aeda,’ he said with a sigh. ‘Why do you want to be a knight?’


                   Aeda winced and took a moment to compose herself. ‘Because,’ she began, voice resolute. ‘It is my duty. It is my duty to my family and to the Empire that I serve and there is no greater honour than to serve.’


                   A good and proper Imperial answer. Aeda knew that while she was no knight, she could at least pretend to be one.


                   Father shook his head. ‘Why do you want to be a knight?’ he asked again.


                   Aeda began to quiver but steeled herself. She was steel. Martellus steel.


                   ‘Because I want to be remembered. Like in the songs and the epics of the great heroes like Ser Matthias or the Hero of Kvatch, I wish for my name to be held up in glory for all of eternity. I wish my name to be written in the annals of the scrolls and my deeds be remembered by all. I am ashamed by how selfish it is but it is true.’


                   ‘Why,’ he said, voice steady. ‘Do you want to be a knight?’


                   Why did she want to be a knight? That question again. It’s because it was her duty to be a knight as ordered in the first oath. It’s because knights are remembered and respected – from the western shores of Hammerfell to the ashen coasts of Morrowind, all of Tamriel knew of the knights. It was glory, eternal glory.


                   But father asked why did she want to be a knight? She. Her. Aeda Martellus, his firstborn. Why did she want to be a knight? Why? She herself asked. Why did she want to be a knight? It was her duty. It was for the glory. Yes, duty and glory that was her answer – it simply made sense.


                   ‘Why do I want to be a knight?’ she whispered. For duty and glory, the words answered din her mind. Duty and glory, glory and duty. That was why anyone would want to be a knight.


                   Yet it that was not why she wanted to be knight. What… did she want? She asked herself. She asked herself even though she knew the answer. It was simple, almost juvenile.


                   ‘Because,’ she said, tears streaming down her face. ‘Because I just wanted to make you proud, pa! I tried; I really did but all I ever did was shame you! I’m just a stupid farmgirl on a pig than a true rider! I can barely forge a nail even though I have the blood of the smith, the greatest smith flowing through my veins. And Aran... I’m sorry. I’m so-‘


                   Father stepped in and hugged her. Aeda flinched, her body reacting for a punch that never came. She wanted to pull away, she did not deserve this, did not earn this. She tried but his familiar warmth, one of wistful summer days that just melted away the pain.


                   The knight held on, not letting go.


                   ‘Oh, my little Adda,’ father cooed. ‘I’ve always been proud of you.’


                   Aeda sniffled and father pulled her closer.


                   ‘But why?’ she said, voice ragged. ‘What have I done that is worthy of you?’


                   ‘What have you done that’s worthy?’ he said, not letting go. ‘You’re my daughter, is that not enough? I care not for the knight nor for the smith – all I care is the little girl who calls me father.’


                   ‘Papa!’ Aeda said, burying her face in his shoulder.


                   He chuckled. ‘That said, it’s not over yet. Can you ride?’


                   She wiped her eyes, pulling away from him. ‘Steel does not yield so easily and I’m a Martellus.’


                   She smiled.


                   ‘That you are.’ He smiled back, wiping away the last droplets with his rough hands. ‘But the question remains: Are you ready?’


                   Aeda slowly stood up and walked to her armour. Was she ready? The question rang in her head. No, she wasn’t…. Not yet.


                   She laid a hand on her armour, the metal cool to the touch. Light gleamed of its scratched and dented surface though the tarnished plates did remind her of a saying: metal unrusted is metal untested. Armour wasn’t supposed to look pretty, it was supposed to keep you alive and her armour did.


                   She frowned when she noticed that she left some bloodstains on it. Blood despite what some believe, isn’t very good for the metal and that’s from those who believe in using strange rituals. Even stranger are those who use blood to paint their armour. She shuddered. Blood rusts metal. She wiped it off and left a smear of red…




                   ‘Father? I know I’m not very good at bending metals but I want to try something.’


                   ‘Oh?’ he said. ‘What would that be?’


                   ‘I want to try my hand at painting.’


                   ‘You mean like Ser Marcella?’


                   She spun and met his eyes. ‘Yes. Like Ser Marcella.’



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