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Knight & Squire: Unwilling (Resubmitted)


by terpsichorean_writer

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Part Two: The King’s Concern

     Small rays of morning sun gleamed through the castle windows, suffusing the red and gold carpet with warmth and radiance. A small breeze floated through the narrow hallway, ruffling the tuft of fur on Jeran’s head.

      The knight winced, shutting his eyes tightly, as he limped towards the throne room for his morning meeting with King Skarl. His foot was still tender and swollen from yesterday’s events.

     The castle physician had examined it when he returned. Some prodding later, he determined it was not broken, much to Jeran’s relief. Unfortunately, he had also recommended the Lupe stay off it as much as possible. How was he going to train with an injured foot? He squeezed some air through clenched teeth. It was a choice he instantly regretted as he felt a surge of pain shoot up his jaw. Right. That was the other “present” that scoundrel had given him.

     Jeran sighed, something he had been doing with greater frequency lately. The physician gave him some cream for the pain, but that was all. He shook his head. I’ve been through worse than this. He nodded to the Ixi guards who flanked the throne room’s great wooden doors.

     “Your Majesty,” a herald sounded from the other side, “Sir Jeran, Champion of Meridell, has arrived.” Jeran inhaled deeply. The herald’s voice was like a blaring alarm that wouldn’t stop; it was hurting his sensitive ears. Was his presence always announced like this? The interior temperature was too hot; he almost needed to pant. The sun’s glare was almost blinding. And why was he feeling the breeze? Why weren’t the windows shut? Weren’t they supposed to be? Jeran huffed. This was stupid. Everything was stupid.

      The doors swung open with a slight creak. Let’s just get this over with. The fewer who see me like this, the better. He strode down the magnificent carpet towards King Skarl’s ostentatious throne. His foot was screaming at him. Suck it up, Jeran. Suck it up. The Lupe bowed from the waist, “Your Majesty,” he began. “I am here for our daily meeting.”

     The corners of the king’s mouth quirked upwards ever so slightly. It was the closest he typically got to a smile, “Sir Jeran, as always, thank your punctuality.”

     The knight tried to smile but winced instead. Fyora, his jaw! That punk had done more damage than he’d realized. “I am at your service, Majesty.” He cleared his throat, “Ahem, there is nothing notable to relate. Lisha and I have pored over the Lord Sheriff’s most current reports: bandit activity has been minimal aside from the usual altercation here and there. We’ve also looked over the most recent agricultural logs. Crop quotas are being met, and soil reports indicate good health. The harvest should be plentiful this year, sire.”

     King Skarl scratched his chin. Scritch, scritch. “Hmm,” he grumbled. “Very good, Sir Jeran. You and your sister continue to prove your worth to my great kingdom.”

     “We shall certainly continue to do so to the best of our ability,” Jeran replied. He was almost in the clear. The king should be getting hungry for his third breakfast. Surely a belly rumble was imminent. Come on, come on, he mentally pleaded. Growl for me. Well, for him. To Jeran’s horror, the corpulent king tightened his eyes. He tilted his head to the left. The look would’ve been comical were it not for the fact it came from the monarch.

     “All may be well in the kingdom,” King Skarl began. He scratched his chin again, “But all is not well with you, Sir Jeran.”

     Oh Fyora, no. Please don’t do this to me.

     “I… W-well…,” he stuttered. Great. What a time to flub your words, genius! He cleared his throat again. “I had some personal troubles yesterday, sire. But they were slight.”

     King Skarl frowned, “Your jaw is swollen, and you were limping as you approached me. I know you realize it is below the king’s concern to speak of personal matters; that is true for the most part.” He leaned forward, “However, I find the physical condition of my greatest knight very pertinent indeed. Who else is most responsible for protecting my kingdom?”

     Jeran fought the urge to bury his head in his hands. Why did it feel like he’d just been caught for a crime he never committed?

     “I… I cannot argue with that, sire.” He let a small sight escape his muzzle. “However, I do not wish to waste any more of your time, Majesty,” he deflected lamely. He desperately wished Lisha was with him. She was always better with words.

     “You are not wasting my time unless I say so, Sir Jeran,” Skarl tersely replied. “No more dithering. Tell me who did this to you,” he commanded.

     The Kodoatie was definitely out of the bag. “Of course, Majesty,” Jeran acquiesced. “It started in Meridell’s central market. I was out with Lisha picking up a shipment of recently repaired armour and weapons…”

     

***

     This was time-out. The most grown-up time out he’d been put in. Rowan whistled a tune as he lay on the cell’s cot. As it turned out, the guards' shack had a few cells in it. He wasn’t sure why nor did he care. What had that stupid Wocky said about having too much?

     He definitely deserved this. Not that he’d ever admit it.

     “Stop whistling, kid,” a green Draik ordered. “You’re throwin’ off my game here.” The guard threw his cards face down on the table to glower at the green Ogrin.

     “You had game to begin with?” Rowan parried.

     A seething glare made the surly boy grin. Time out wasn’t so bad. Especially since he got to mess with these losers. He’d be out soon anyway. There’s no way the higher-ups would punish him like an adult. Bad optics. Besides, he’d just put on his best little boy face, and he’d be out of the woods.

     Whoosh. The wooden door swung open, hitting the wall. Another guard, a red Draik, rushed in. Concern wrinkled his face. “His Majesty, King Skarl, has commanded an audience with the Ogrin.”

     “I have a name, you know,” Rowan complained. “And what does the king want with me anyway?”

      The red Draik lifted a pair of keys from his belt, “His Majesty wishes to see you. That is his concern, not mine.” Suddenly, his eyes widened. “Blast, I almost forgot.” He slammed the keys on the table, scattering the cards.

     “Hey!” the green Draik whined.

     The red Draik glared at his fellow guard before rushing from the room. He returned moments later with a light brown tunic and dark brown pants. “You can’t appear before His Majesty with those rags,” he said. The guard threw the clothes between the bars of the cell. “Put these on,” he commanded.

     “Fine, sheesh,” Rowan answered. He glowered at the guard, “Can’t you turn around or something? I’m trying to change here.”

     With a huff, the guard complied.

     With Rowan fully dressed, the red Draik retrieved the keys and began unlocking the cell. The previously whiny green Draik hurried from his seat with a pair of handcuffs. He grinned as he “accidentally” over-tightened them on Rowan’s writs. “You’re stuck with me now, kid. Who has game now?” He cocked his head, motioning for another guard, who looked identical, to join him. The Draiks practically yanked Rowan from his cell. “Now, move it.”

     

***

     Rowan’s head swivelled from side to side as he walked down the long hall where King Skarl sat. Fancy. He’d never been inside Meridell Castle before. He stared at the multiple statues flanking the crimson and gold carpet. They showed the king with arms raised and palms upturned, his hands holding the massive pillars that lined either side of the hall. Just who did this guy think he was? Regal banners of red and blue adorned with the Meridellian crest flowed down from the walls. Talk about overkill. Rowan snorted. One of the guards tightened his grip on the green Ogrin’s arm.

     “You are about to be in His Majesty’s presence. You will act accordingly,” he ordered.

     Whatever, Rowan thought. Let’s get this over with. I’ll probably get a slap on the wrist. Some “No more of that, young man” talk. Then, I’ll be free to go.

     “Your Majesty,” one of the guards announced, “we have brought the green Ogrin.”

     “Very good,” Skarl said. He waved his right hand, “Leave us.” The pair of Draiks bowed simultaneously before backing away.

     Rowan glanced at the king briefly before he spotted something else from the corner of his eye.

     Jeran stood nearby, resplendent in gleaming armour. Light glinted off the sand-coloured metal, making him look almost statuesque. Yep, Mr. Perfect is definitely a knight. Feh! The Lupe glared briefly at him before directing his gaze at the king once more.

     “So, you’re the one who harmed my Champion and Sorceress General,” a grumbling voice cut in. “What is your name, boy?”

     Rowan started. “I, um…,” he stuttered. The weight of where he was slammed into him. “M-my name is Rowan, your Majesty.”

     “Your full name,” the king commanded.

     Suddenly, Rowan’s posture straightened. He bowed from the waist with an elegance that belied his meagre attire and the handcuffs on his wrists. “My name is Rowan Felix de Albion,” he answered.

To be continued…

 
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