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By My Honor: Part Six


by laurelinden

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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 voice:

    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, too!”

    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 their enemy.

    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 sense you?”

     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 power.”

     “I ask nothing,” replied Aiad. “It was no more than my duty would ask of me.”

     Braedon smiled. “And you, young Tory? Anything you wish?”

     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 head.

     “You will still train with me, Tory?” asked Aiad, his silvery eyes dancing. “I don’t believe your swordsmanship has quite reached its potential.”

     “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.”

The End

 
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Other Episodes


» By My Honor: Part One
» By My Honor: Part Two
» By My Honor: Part Three
» By My Honor: Part Four
» By My Honor: Part Five



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