By My Honor: Part Six
Leaving the bound Scorchio where he lay, Tory slid up onto
Aiad’s back. The Uni extended his wings and reared up, pushing directly off of
the ground and into the sky, pumping his wings heavily. His sides heaved with
the exertion, but there was no time or space for a running start.
The winds picked up as the knight and squire approached,
almost as if they could sense aversive intentions against the Faerie. Aiad fought
the churning of the gales and Tory covered his eyes to protect them from their
lashing sting. The clouds before them hissed and whirled, trying to catch them
in their currents and throw them spinning uncontrolled to the earth.
Tory gripped the Uni’s mane with all of his strength,
willing them closer to the heart of the clouds. Despite the Uni’s straining
efforts they moved more and more slowly as they approached the teeming mass
of grey. Through the earsplitting howls of the maelstrom, the squire heard the
Please, if you can hear me, hurry…
“Aiad!” cried the Zafara over the sound of the wind.
The Uni’s voice was grim as he replied, “I heard it,
The plea of the princess seemed to give the knight
more strength. Lowering his head with determination he plunged forward, throwing
himself into the tossing clouds. The sound erupted around them in a deafening
roar then abruptly fell away, leaving utter silence.
Before them lay a palace of breathtaking loveliness
– but of sinister atmosphere. As the Uni landed, Tory dismounted from his back,
and they looked around cautiously, walking on light feet through brambles and
flower-patches. Then the air exploded with a heart-wrenching cry.
Aiad’s sharp glance at the squire said enough. The
two rushed toward the sound, hardly knowing what to expect.
They stopped short as a terrible scene met their eyes.
A tall, purple-robed form stood starkly outlined against the backdrop of grey.
Her outflung arm sparked as if charged with power, and directly in the line
of its extension writhed a single, agonized creature – a Draik. Motionless beside
him another lay, and Tory could sense a weak life-force coming from her. He
recognized it as the girl who’d spoken in his mind.
“It is the prince and princess,” confirmed Aiad.
“Attack, Tory – but carefully. She is a Faerie of great power.”
If she heard Aiad’s voice, the Faerie did not take
notice. Even the clear metallic sound of Tory’s blade being drawn did not distract
her from her spell. Tory glanced at the Uni uncertainly, but he nodded once,
signaling their charge. In a frantic rush of wings and steel they lunged toward
Some inner sense awoke within the Faerie, then; dropping
the tortured Draik to join the other, she wheeled just as they were within five
strides of her. Her uplifted arm caught the Uni as he stood and Tory watched,
horrified, as the stallion lifted up, up, gasping as if struggling against a
stranglehold around his neck. The Faerie swiped her arm away, and the knight
flew through the air and crashed into the palace wall. His body slid motionless
to the ground.
The Faerie wheeled toward Tory, then, fixing him with
two blank, emotionless eyes of glowing purple. Tory, overcome by disbelief and
despair, raised his blade, but he knew it would be no use. He, a half-trained
farmboy, had no chance against one who had so easily dispatched the head knight
of the realm.
Rather than taking him out quickly, though, a cruel
smile twisted at the Faerie’s lips. “You will be fun to play with,” she said
in a deep voice, reminiscent of the screaming wind.
“Do what you want,” said Tory, summoning up courage
from some hidden, desperate place, “only let the prince and princess go!”
The Faerie smirked at him. “Valiant, little squire,
but I don’t believe you are in a position to bargain.”
Keep her talking, thought Tory frantically.
Keep her talking, and it will keep her from attacking. Thinking quickly,
he called out, “I may be in more of a bargaining position than you realize.”
The Faerie lifted an eyebrow. “Really, little squire?
How is that?”
The words spilled from Tory’s mouth in a frenzied
rush. “Harm the prince and princess, and King Braedon will never rest until
they are returned – or you are destroyed. Aiad and I have found your lair, so
others may find it behind us. If he had the power to banish you once, he has
the power to do so again – or worse.” Behind the Faerie, the squire saw a slight
movement. His heart leapt – it was Aiad! The Uni was struggling slowly to his
feet, walking low to the ground on noiseless hooves. Keep talking, Tory
told himself. Keep the focus off of Aiad…
The Faerie saw him looking at the ground behind her,
and almost turned, but Tory cried, “Wait! I have not told you yet how taking
us in their place will help you. If you sent the prince and princess back, they
can simply tell the king that we died saving them, and that you will go after
them no longer, so he would send no one else in search of your domain. You would
still have two workers, just as you would have had before—“
“One,” the Faerie corrected, frowning at him.
“No, two,” came a voice from behind her. The Faerie’s
orblike eyes went wide in shock, then she fell forward to her knees. As Aiad
withdrew his horn from her back, she tumbled the rest of the way to the ground.
“Not chivalrous,” remarked the Uni as he stared at
the lifeless form. “Not knightly, to attack from behind.”
Tory grinned in relief. “I think she stepped outside
the laws of chivalry when she stole the Royal heirs.”
The knight and squire trotted to where the prince
and princess lay. Aratisil was in worse shape than his sister – his eyes were
strangely unfocused, but he was conscious still. His sister sat up weakly with
Tory’s help, and managed a small smile. “You heard me,” she said.
The squire returned the smile. “We both did, Your
Highness. Now, come with us. Everything will be all right.”
* * * * *
Tory popped another hot buttered baguette in his mouth,
marveling at the display of delicious food before him. He was seated next to
Aiad in a place of honor, for the banquet was to celebrate the safe return of
the Royal Draiks.
Up at the head, King Braedon spoke with his children,
and was lifting his eyebrows in disbelief. “You have a power?” he asked.
Araril nodded. “We can talk to each other through
our minds. The Faerie almost took it away, didn’t she, Aratisil?”
Her brother smiled in acknowledgment. “But all she
really succeeded in doing was temporarily allowing the power to expand to others
– that’s how Araril called Aiad and Tory.”
“But she could sense them, right? Just like she could
Shaking her head, Araril replied, “I don’t think
so, no. Not strongly anyway. I think all of her energy was concentrated on trying
to strip the powers of Aratisil – she didn’t even know Aiad was coming up behind
her until it was too late.”
“Behind her, eh?” asked the king, his eyes twinkling.
“Our head knight, a backstabber?”
Aiad smiled. “Perhaps there are times when the rules
are better bent.” His face turned solemn as he asked, “But what of Morgon’s
squire? We brought him back with the twins – is he to be imprisoned for life?”
“I think not,” said Braedon. “He has repented many
times over – and I think there is potential for goodness in him yet. All he
was doing was following orders, really.” The king pushed his plate away, sighing
in contentment. “Now, my head knight, his squire – what rewards would you ask
of me for the return of my children? I pledge to grant any request within my
“I ask nothing,” replied Aiad. “It was no more than
my duty would ask of me.”
Braedon smiled. “And you, young Tory? Anything you
After thinking for a moment, Tory asked, “If you
please, my lord, I ask only a few days off from my service. I have a visit I
wish to make.”
“You may not go,” replied King Braedon, “until I
have finished one thing with you – kneel.”
Taken aback at the king’s request, Tory lifted his
eyebrows. “Kneel, my lord?”
“That’s right,” affirmed the king. Beside him, Aiad
and the children were smiling.
Tory kneeled down at the feet of the king, unsure
of what to expect. The King Draik stood, and drew out the blade at his hip.
When the flat of the blade touched Tory’s shoulder, he gasped in sudden understanding,
his eyes going wide.
The blade lightly touched the other shoulder, and
the King draped a bolt of blue cloth about him. “I knight you for the bravery
displayed in rescuing my children from the Dark Faerie, in a quest more perilous
than any other of your rank has faced. Rise, Sir Tory the Valiant, Royal Zafara
Knight, defender of the realm. May you be a knight as worthy he whom you have
served as squire.”
Tory stood, as the king had instructed, numb with
shock. The paralysis spread through him and turned to racing elation – he, Tory
the farmboy, was a knight at last! “My King,” he replied quickly, bowing his
“You will still train with me, Tory?” asked Aiad,
his silvery eyes dancing. “I don’t believe your swordsmanship has quite reached
“Of course, Sir!” sputtered Tory, laughing. “I’m
far from it!”
Grinning broadly, the King waved his hand as if shooing
the Zafara away. “Go now, Sir Tory, to your errand. You have served us well.”
“I will, my lord,” replied the new knight, bending
his head in another quick bow. “And thank you.”
* * * * *
It was dark when he finally reached the path he knew
so well. Opening the creaky white-picket fence, Tory walked soundlessly to the
little house, the little door. He raised a fist to knock, smelling the scent
of soil up-turned for planting and smiling at the open cellar door, where the
piles of harvested crops were stored for the months of winter.
The door opened, shedding the warm glow of candlelight
out into the evening. The figure before him seemed strangely small, but the
knight recognized her nonetheless. “Mother!” he cried.
His mother’s familiar face was dim in the candlelight.
“Tory?” she asked in hesitant confusion. “Are you ill? Did you change your mind
about being a squire?” Her eyes took in his royal cape, then, and the crisp
sword at his hip, and her expression changed into happy disbelief. It warmed
his heart to see it. “My son,” she whispered, “you are a knight already?”
“It was for extraordinary services,” explained the
Zafara, almost tripping over his own words. “We’ll have money, mother – as much
as you need! The king has honored me and my family. You will not have to work
in the fields; you’ll have as much hired help as you could ever ask for, and—“
Laughing, his mother put a finger to his lips. “Hush,
now, my Tory. I am glad for what you have done for the family, but it is not
the size of my farm or the gold in the market that give me honor – no. Nothing
you do could give me more pride, Tory, than that you are my son.”
She smiled at his silence and held out her arm, leading
him into the little house. “Now, sit down here while I warm the soup and tell
me of it all, my Tory.”