The Rebel's Heart: Part Eleven
“I’m telling you, Darena. I’ll never become a knight. I’m weak, and I still don’t know why we haven’t heard from father yet, but it’s only a matter of time. This camp is over in just two days. Then you’ll be turned into a full-fledged member of the royal guard... again. I’m just going to be in the army, totally separated from you.”
Darena gave Amaretta a hard glare, but it was clearly not in jest. “Kara, you have been down on yourself for too long. You are better than you realize. It is true that you are not the best fighter here, but neither are you the worst. You may or may not end up a full-fledged knight, but you should be glad you’ve gotten this far! Under any other circumstances, you would have been sitting in the palace waiting for your next public appearance wearing your Princess’ uniform! You have done what no other pet would dare to do. You defied your father and subjected yourself to physical torment. Perhaps you can’t tell, but I know that you’re exhausted, hungry, and dirty. Any other pet would have given up long ago. You kept going. No matter what happens, you are the strongest pet here mentally, if not physically.”
Amaretta looked down shamefully. “Thanks, Darena. I can always count on you. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a better friend.”
Darena just smiled and shrugged off her friend’s praise. “Be that as it may, we still want to be knights, right?”
Amaretta rolled her eyes in jest. “Duh!”
Darena grinned. “Then pretend that this isn’t our free time, just run! We’ve only got a couple of days left, so let’s make them count! Once we’ve finished ten more laps, we’ll move on to the obstacle course.”
Although neither of the pets was aware of it, TRM was watching them from a distance. It was not lost on TRM that this was free time that was considered precious and rare. However, instead of resting, the two were training.
“It’s now time to review our prospects this year. You know what we’re looking for. TRM, because most often the recruits come from your shack, we’ll have you begin.”
“Thank you, director. All but three or four of the recruits from my shack are pretty much guaranteed to join the royal guard. One, however, is borderline. She and her friend have caught my eye. They appear deeply loyal to each other and aid each other as often as possible. Despite having a small bit of fee time, I see them running and training, without being forced to. One of them is a spotted Uni with a regal air to her. Her friend is a shadow Zafara. The Zafara is related to, and named after, Darena. As you may recall, Darena is the pet that we trained before she became a servant to the Princess Amaretta Creme. Apparently the elder Darena taught the younger Darena how to fight. I must say that she succeeded. Our current Darena is excellent and if I didn’t know better, I could be fooled into believing that they are one and the same. Regardless, the Uni is named Kara. She is not as skilled as her counterpart, but she has more spirit and determination than all of our army. She is not the most skilled pet here, but her devotion far exceeds that of all others.”
“Thank you, TRM. Do you think that perhaps they could be the two we’ve been looking for?”
“I am not sure, director, but it is very possible. They’ve already bonded deeply. I would assume that it occurred at the first training camp, but regardless, I do not believe that we will need to worry about one of them turning on the other. They are deeply loyal to each other.”
“Yes, but that can prove to be more of a hindrance than a help. Too much devotion could lead to heartbreak and failure. If one is exposed, the other is sure to follow.”
“That is true, but it is better than two who do not get along who are in a race to expose the other. That only leads to errors.”
A yellow Lupe interrupted TRM. “Excuse me, TRM, director. However, isn’t it a bit early to be making a decision? The two must be powerful. And besides that, you’ve not even heard about the rest of the potential candidates.”
The Desert Ruki interrupted the Lupe. “Tremane, do I detect jealousy? This problem of yours is becoming more annoying and more of a nuisance every year. You must get over this petty jealousy of yours. This must end. Do you understand me?”
Tremane looked down in shame. “Yes.”
“Very well. Tremane, who do you suggest from your shack that should join the royal guard?”
The director sat patiently as all of the leaders recommended the pets that should advance and those that would merely join the rest of the army. At the end of the meeting, the director called TRM aside to speak with him.
“TRM, you know that I trust your judgment. However, I must admit that this plan seems shaky. I must agree with Tremane that we are more concerned with strength than friendship. It is true that the two must get along with each other, but two separate pets can get along. The two should be strong.”
“Director, they are strong. If it were up to my discretion, I would still recommend both of them to advance and join the royal guard. I am merely saying that although the Uni may not be the most powerful, I know that she and the Zafara would watch out for and take care of each other. You cannot ask for much more.”
The Ruki pondered TRM’s words, and knew that she was right. “Very well. Bring them here so that we can tell them about this. And make it quick, as I have a problem that I need to deal with.”
TRM nodded and went out to search for Amaretta and Darena. She was not that surprised to find the two of them making their way through the obstacle course.
“Darena, Kara, get over here!”
Amaretta and Darena, both panting, jogged over to TRM.
“Good. Now, the director would like a word with the two of you.”
Amaretta and Darena followed TRM to the director’s private meeting room that was adjoined to the dining hall.
“Ah, Darena, Kara, it is good to see you two. Please, come in! I have heard much about you!”
Amaretta eyed the Ruki warily. “What have you heard?”
“All in due time, Kara, all in due time. Now, I have a quick question for you. Have you ever heard of Gortendre?”
TRM raised an eyebrow in the Ruki’s direction, but he ignored her.
Amaretta had never heard the name, and she failed miserably when she tried to pronounce it. “No. Who is Gorten Dree?”
The director laughed. “Not Gorten Dree, gore-ten-dray. Anyway, that is of no significance. I merely wondered. Now, have you heard of the Knights of the Royal Guard?”
Darena shrugged. “Of course. Who hasn’t?”
“Are you aware that a few of the most elite of the knights are often sent as spies to the opposing army?”
Amaretta replied this time. “Yes, but what does this have to do with us?”
“We want the two of you to be spies in Darigan’s army. You will both be knighted and join the Royal Guard. However, more than that, we would like you to spy.”
Amaretta looked unsure. She had always wanted to be a knight, but being a spy seemed far more deadly. “Isn’t that dangerous?”
The Ruki acknowledged her comment. “Yes, it is, but hardly any more dangerous than being in the Royal Guard. Do you accept?”
Amaretta looked at Darena before she replied, “Can’t we talk about this first?”
The Ruki shrugged. “Yes, but we must know within the next hour. We have a lot to review if you agree.”
Amaretta and Darena hurried off to the deserted dining hall.
“This is risky. We could be killed.”
“We have each other, but you’re right. We could be killed.”
“They think that we are elite. Or perhaps they believe that we are expendable.”
“Either way is acceptable.”
“Aw, what can it hurt? Spy, here I come!”
They returned to the office and spoke simultaneously, “We accept.”
The Ruki smiled. “Good. From now on you may refer to me as Urkelver. And just to help you with the pronunciation, it’s oo-err-k-el-v-er.”
Amaretta smiled sheepishly. “Hey, pronunciations are overrated. I prefer just winging it.”
Urkelver and Darena laughed. TRM, however, merely raised an eyebrow, shrugged, and walked away.
Amaretta nodded towards TRM. “What’s up with her?”
Urkelver shrugged. “Nobody knows. She keeps to herself and we don’t bother her. It’s the way of things. We just accept it. And you would do well to do the same. Now, on to the matter at hand. You’ve got just one day to learn all that you need to know to be a spy.”
Darena and Amaretta grinned.
“Alright then. Let’s get going.”
To be continued...