The Chronicles of Knight: The Knight Within - Part Five
When Aleron left the others the morning after they had
met Raatri, he had headed for the Citadel. Such was what was intended. There
was someone that he had to retrieve, a very special someone that just might
make the difference in the coming war.
He, like Tamal, thought of Avari and her actions
the previous night as he flew. He had to fly low: enemies might spot him if
he flew too high. It made slow going.
Avari's actions puzzled and intrigued him. He
knew that he was not a true knight, though he had been close to one when he
was dubbed a knight. Over the years, with the kingdom falling before his very
eyes, Aleron had simply lost heart. He was not a true knight… but Avari was.
Avari had not been dubbed a knight, though she
might have been one two winters ago if he had allowed her. He had not, for no
female could become a knight. They weren't strong enough, or brave enough. No
female could become a knight, he had silently told her for years. And yet she
had persisted to stay his squire, always following every order without complaint.
Even when he and Tamal played cruel jokes on her like the day before, leaving
her to be humiliated as she was, she never backed down. She kept her head up
high, her eyes determined, her heart fixed on just one thing: that she would
become a knight.
He did not know what she would do if she were
not allowed to become one this winter. There could not be a squire her age:
it did not follow code. What would she do when others were dubbed and she had
to watch, knowing that she would never become a knight? Would she continue studying,
or would she simply drift away? He knew from many past experiences that she
truly had the heart of a knight, following every code of chivalry and abiding
by truth. What she had done last night, defying Tamal and him, intrigued him.
He would not have done the same in her place.
He had been ready to kill the demon, surrendered or no, for even though the
law said that a surrendered enemy was not to be killed by a knight, he had lost
heart for the law and the old ways long before. He had wanted the Lupe to die.
But Avari had intervened.
The words she had spoken to Tamal rang in his
ears as if she had just spoke them the minute before. "Knight!" she had cried,
and he could hear fury in her voice at what he and Tamal had almost done. "You
are sworn to valor and honesty. Here lays your enemy, surrendered. By law and
by truth, you cannot kill him."
Just by speaking those words, Avari had shown
that she was the true knight that Meridell needed. His heart was now at war:
should he allow the girl to become a knight, or refuse her?
Either way might hurt Meridell, he believed.
If he refused her, then Meridell would be deprived of the rare, true knight.
He didn't know what she would do. Perhaps she would wander and continue doing
acts of chivalry, and become a knight at heart. Still, it wouldn't be enough.
She wouldn't have enough influence to change Meridell and her knights, nor could
she take on squires and train them in her ways.
If he did allow her to become a knight, then
other problems would arise. People would storm in saying that no girl could
become a knight. Part of his reputation might be ruined. Tamal would be shocked.
But Meridell needed the girl. She was one that would give her life for Meridell
and her people.
He felt ashamed at himself for doing what he
had done to her for the past few years. At first he had tried to discourage
her for her own good, for he knew that she would never become a knight. But
each passing day her resolve had grown, and she would not back down. Gradually
she became a joke to everyone, and yet she would not back down. She did not
turn cold. She didn't become a stone. Rather, she became what everyone didn't
want her to be, a knight.
A knight in heart, if not in name.
He felt himself lean towards allowing her to
be dubbed. Meridell needed her. She was a knight like Jeran himself, a true
knight. Brave, loyal, and true, she was the knight they needed now. Even if
she was a girl.
He realized then that it didn't matter what title
one bore. For if the heart was right, then the person was right, no matter what
title or form they had.
A girl could be a knight, a demon a hero.
Yes. If they had the right heart, then they could
be what others refused them to be.
It made him look into his own heart. He felt
ashamed. Though he was a knight in title, he was no knight at heart. He used
to be, but over the years it had withered away as he just lost heart. He might
come back, someday, but he would have to relearn the laws of chivalry. Not just
memorize them, but engrave them on his heart like he had once done. Avari had
the laws of chivalry burned into everything, her heart, her mind, her spirit.
She was a true knight while he was not. It was the heart that mattered, not
He caught an updraft and entered the Citadel.
"Close," the Techo assassin muttered to himself,
sniffing at the remains of a fire that had burned out sometime the night before.
He headed off into the forests, following the
scent of not one, but two Lupes. Both would have to die, he told himself. Two
quick bites, and then two quick kills. He scurried along the forest pathway,
following the invisible path of their smell.
Now that he was inside
the Citadel, Aleron let his mind return to exactly why he was there. King Skarl
VI's chosen heir had been taken prisoner by the Citadel only a few days before.
Since Vladimir was the best choice by far for the next king, Skarl wanted him
rescued. He had sent Tamal and Aleron to fetch the young prince.
Aleron had seen the princeling on several occasions,
and in many ways the young Skeith reminded him of Avari. The princeling would
become a knight come this winter, and he would be a knight and king that Meridell
needed. For an instant it struck Aleron that he didn't have to dub Avari at
all: Vladimir would be the knight they needed. Then he realized that one wasn't
enough, for people made mistakes. There was also only one Avari, and only one
heart of Avari.
His nostrils flared, ears pricked at the sound
of approaching feet. He quickly disappeared into the shadows, pressing close
against the cold walls. The one problem with his shining blue feathers was that
they just might attract unwanted attention.
He was in luck. The pair Moehog Guards patrolling
didn't even glance his way. He wished he could pounce out and show them how
terrible their Guard system was, but held back the impulse, remembering why
he was there. Once the minions had passed, he continued on.
The place was a maze to him, for he had never
before been there and did not have the slightest idea of where to look. If he
just stayed to shadows and wandered down corridors, luck might come and he might
find the prince. Perhaps he could stumble across some demon speaking of the
He grinned ruefully. There were too many "perhaps"
and "maybes" in his plans.
Snorting softly in frustration, he skirted into
the darker shadows to hide from more passing Guards. This time it was a pair
of Darigan Zafara's, though between them was a massive dark shape. Aleron's
golden eyes widened in shock. The massive form was that of an Eyrie like him,
though clearly Darigan from the red eyes and purple feathers. Four sets of talons
clicked off the stone surface, echoing down the long halls. From his arrogant
strides and silver-black jewelry, Aleron knew him to be Blake, the current ruler
of the Citadel.
"The princeling is a defiant one," the Eyrie
muttered to the Zafaras. The whisper bounded off the floors and walls into the
darkness. "His heart must be broken before They can come."
"Won't They kill him?" asked one of the Guards
The Eyrie chuckled. "No. They only kill demons.
I think that a Meridellian will be just fine… until, that is…"
Aleron hissed quietly in frustration. Even with
the whispering echoes, Blake and his Guards had passed and their words had faded
into darkness with them. Aleron did not know if they were headed to or from
the princeling, or had just talked of him in passing. He turned and quickly
headed after the trio. Even if they were leaving the princeling, Aleron might
be able to learn where he was kept from eavesdropping on Blake.
He glanced out a window on his way by, and nearly
skirted it to stay away from moonlight. Something there caught his attention
and held it. Flapping away into the distance was the small form a demon. He
could not tell what it was, though it did resemble a Cybunny. Which way the
demon was headed, he could not tell either, for he had lost all sense of direction
in the maze of the Citadel. Towards Meridell, or some other way? Did it matter?
Was the demon a spy or a runaway? Either way, a demon was leaving the Citadel.
Strange, he told himself, turning away. First Raatri, now the other.
Before I know it, the minions will all be flocking out of this prison.
Shaking his head, he continued through the maze,
following the whispering echoes of the three demons before him.
"Not too far," whispered
Zev, examining with dark eyes a few strands of black fur he had found caught
by a thorn by the Lupe's path. He sniffed at the ground and discovered the blood
that still dripped from Raatri's wound-a wound that he would not allow Avari
to clean. "So close." The assassin scurried off into the night. "So close."
To be continued...