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Knight & Squire: Preface


by terpsichorean_writer

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Part Two: Spells

     Lisha hurried to her brother’s side, bracing for the inevitable fallout. Jeran tensed. This was an ugly but necessary truth. To his shock, Rowan smirked in his all too familiar way.

          “Tell me something I don’t know,” he finally said.

     “How?” Jeran asked, astonished.

     Rowan snorted contemptuously, “Didn’t I just tell you and Four Eyes that my private tutors talked the War to death?” He scowled, expression darkening further, “They couldn’t help but blab about how noble and brave Father was for his role in making Meridell prosper. He was the ideal knight.”

     Jeran barely restrained himself from wincing at the sheer amount of venom in Rowan’s tone. Lisha, however, lacked her older brother’s restraint. Her face wrinkled in displeasure, “That’s no way to speak of your late father.”

          Jeran couldn’t help himself now; he inhaled harshly. She was too blunt sometimes, “Li, it’s not your place—."

     Rowan bared his teeth at the yellow-gold Aisha, “When did I trash Father, Four Eyes? He was a good man, and I loved him very much.” His brow furrowed as he glared at her, “No, my anger is only for knights. Stupid pawns.” The storm in his eyes dissipated momentarily, giving way to glimmering tears at their surface. “That obviously doesn’t include Mr. Perfect.”

     Lisha stepped back as she realized her mistake, “Rowan, I’m so—”

     “Just…” The storm resumed as he struggled to find more polite words, “Just shut it.” His shoulders rose as he inhaled deeply, “Do you want to hear the rest or not?”

     Lisha could only nod, thoroughly chastised. Jeran shook his head and squeezed his little sister’s shoulder. “Go ahead, Rowan.”

     Rowan glared at Lisha again before turning his attention to the azure-furred Lupe, “I’m skipping a few years. Nothing important there.” He ran a hand across his left ear, “I think I was 9 years old…”

     

***

     Rowan’s nose scrunched as he stared at the ancient script. How did Tristan read this? This was so hard! He rested his head on his left hand. Maybe he needed to take a break.

          No. He was going to get this. Tristan would be so proud, even if he didn’t unlock the spell. He cracked his knuckles and dove back into reading. In fact, he was concentrating so much that he failed to notice a visitor entering his room.

     The little green Ogrin grinned as he felt an arm around his shoulders. His white teeth flashed at the visitor.

     “What are you reading, Rowan?” Tristan asked.

     “Spells,” he answered happily.

     The red Blumaroo shook his head, “We both know who’s better at magic, Rowan. Besides, don’t you want to be a big, strong knight?”

     The petite Ogrin shrugged, “Sure, knights are the best! But…” He frowned.

     Tristan gave him a squeeze. “What?”

     “I want to be like you,” he replied.

     A warm smile spread across Tristan’s face, “I love you, too, but you should be your own person.”

     “Awww…” Rowan’s ears drooped in disappointment.

     Tristan shook his head and sighed, “How can I say no to that face? Okay, show me what you got.”

     “Yay. Okay, listen to this!” He straightened in his desk chair, trying his best to look official. The 9-year Ogrin

     closed his eyes. The magic was close; he could almost feel it. He began intoning the words from the Meridella Arcana. The pronunciation had to be just right…

     Thump. Rowan felt a rush of air as his door slammed shut. He stopped his recitation to look around his room. His big brother was gone. Rowan’s ears drooped again, “Tristan…?”

     He looked at the tome he’d borrowed. Suddenly, it looked less like a magical book and more like a collection of yellowed pages sandwiched between two dumb pieces of leather. The little Ogrin sniffled. He normally hated naps, but he suddenly felt like he needed one. Had he done something wrong?

     

***

     Slam!

     The 15-year-old Blumaroo rushed into his haven, locking the door behind him. He bent over and placed his hands on his knees. It couldn’t be! Yet, what else could it have been? He’d felt it. That spike! He sat down and braced himself against the door. He swore he’d seen it; the pages had glowed.

     He gathered his knees under his chin. It wasn’t fair! Rowan had martial skill and magic! His little brother was one of the few. “So, what does that make me?” he whispered. Silence enveloped him as he clenched his hands, fingernails digging into his arms.

     

***

     Several hours later

     Sir Hugo tiptoed into the dark house, taking care to shut the front door as softly as he could. The knights’ weekly meeting had run long. His brow furrowed. Things with their relatively new neighbor, Darigan Citadel, were going well enough. But if that were true, why was his stomach still in knots? How would this affect his sons’ futures? What would become of them?

          He shook his head. Now was not the time for excessive worry. He glanced around. Home, the familiarity was a balm for his anxious mind. Nothing to worry about, nothing out of the ordinary.

     Wait, scratch that. What of source of that light? It looked like it was coming from the hallway. Sir Hugo tensed as he crept closer. He touched the hilt of the dagger he kept hidden in the folds of his dark brown cloak. Had he forgotten to lock the door before he’d left?

     The red Blumaroo sighed with relief when he saw it came from Rowan’s room. His youngest had probably forgotten to turn the light off again. He cracked it open to find the little green Ogrin fast asleep at his desk.

     Sir Hugo pursed his lips. That was odd. Why wasn’t he in his bed? He moved closer. What was that under his arms? Sir Hugo squinted. Those were the pages of the Meridella Arcana. He grumbled softly. Not this again. It had been cute when he was 7 but not anymore. It was time for another talk.

     He nudged his son’s elbow, “Rowan.”

     The green Ogrin shot up, fear filling his eyes, “Ah! What, what?!”

     “Be quiet, Rowan,” he replied sternly. “I don’t want you waking your brother.”

     Rowan yawned and stretched. “Oh, it’s you, Daddy. I fell asleep at my desk again.”

     Sir Hugo frowned, the dark patches under his eyes deepening. “Again? Rowan Felix de Albion, how many times have I told you to stop looking at Tristan’s spell books?”

     Smack. Rowan’s left hand went to his mouth. He’d said too much. “I-I wasn’t looking at them again, Daddy. I swear.”

     The red Blumaroo scowled as he pulled the tome from under his son’s arms, “You’re lying, Rowan.” He thumped his right index finger on the Meridella Arcana’s cover. “Then what is this?”

     Rowan gulped and tensed. “I’m sorry, Daddy.”

     The scowl remained on Sir Hugo’s face, “That’s ‘Father’ to you, Rowan. Now, answer the question: how many times have I told you stop borrowing Tristan’s books?”

     Rowan clasped his hands and began to twiddle his thumbs, “A lot.” He hung his head, “B-but I want to keep reading them, Father. I want to be like Tristan. I want to try. It makes him happy.”

     “Look at me, Rowan,” Sir Hugo ordered. “How many times have we gone over this? House Albion is a knightly family. We are knights, first and foremost. We always will be.”

     Rowan gulped again, “B-but Mother was a mage. Tristan is a mage. I j-just want to learn how to read magic.”

     “Your mother married into this family; that could not be helped,” Sir Hugo explained. “And Tristan is an exception. I’ve told you that time and time again.”

     Rowan said nothing and stared at his lap.

     “You will undergo extra training tomorrow as discipline for your actions. I will also be ordering a lock box for Tristan’s spell books.”

     Rowan got up from his desk and sat down on the bed with a heavy thump, “Yes, Father…”

     Sir Hugo closed the door without another word.

     

***

     “I know little about your father, but that seemed uncharacteristically harsh,” Lisha remarked.

     Jeran winced again. Lisha really had to learn to watch her words sometimes. Though he didn’t disagree with her assessment.

     “Yeah, when it came to being a knight, I had no say,” Rowan acknowledged. “House Albion has always been a knightly house. And Father wanted to make sure it stayed that way.”

     Lisha glowered, “But, what did that mean for Tristan?”

     Before Jeran could admonish her, Rowan hit the floor. His body began to tremble.

     “Rowan?!” Jeran cried. He cradled his squire’s body, “Please, answer me!” Suddenly, he felt a hand on his arm.

     “Jeran, stop,” Lisha commanded. “Put Rowan in bed. Then, go get, Kayla. She should still be in her potion shop. I think she’s about to close for the day, but she’ll understand the urgency. Let her know it’s a wasting curse.”

     The azure-furred Luped didn’t know exactly what a wasting curse was, but he had a pretty good idea. Jeran carefully placed Rowan in bed before dashing out of the room.

     

***

     Slam! The door slammed against the wall as Jeran flung it open. “I’ve brought…Kayla,” he said in between hurried breaths. Beside him, stood a red Zafara dressed in school formal wear. A deep blue cap adorned with stars flowed from her shoulders, and a matching wizard’s hat completed the ensemble.

     Kayla’s amethyst eyes were hardened with worry, “You said it was a wasting curse, Li?”

     “Come look, Kay,” Lisha waved her best friend over to Rowan’s bedside. The yellow-gold Aisha swiftly unwrapped the bandage on Rowan’s right arm.

     Kayla bit the inside of her left cheek as she saw the little Ogrin’s whitish-green arm, “You’re definitely right, Li. I think I have some extra newt’s tail and Spyder Juice Elixir. I can whip up the potion in 15 minutes.” She was about to run out of the room, when she felt a hand on her right arm.

     “Not yet, Kay. We need to extend the treatable window for as long as we can.” Lisha replied. “You know what that means.”

     Kayla nodded, “A hindrance spell.”

     Lisha took her hand, “I need you to recite it with me. The two of us should have enough magical power to make the strongest obstacle possible.”

     Kayla squeezed her friend’s hand, “I’m ready.”

     Just as Lisha was about to begin, she felt someone grip her free hand, “Please, let me help, Li.” Jeran pleaded. “I hate feeling helpless."

     Lisha looked at her older brother, clearly worried, “Jeran, no. The spell will drain your life force faster than ours. Meridell’s Champion needs to be in top shape.”

     Jeran shook his head, “I don’t care, Li. He’s my squire; I need to do my part to help him.”

     Lisha sighed, “Okay, you win. However, if I feel like you’re in the slightest danger, I’m magically blocking you.”

     “Fine,” he relented.

     Lisha, Kayla, and Jeran closed their eyes. The sorceress and potion maker easily tapped into the ambient magical energy that surrounded them. Jeran strained as he tried to replicate what the other two were doing. However, he eventually gave up, focusing instead on saving Rowan’s life.

     Lisha and Kayla began reciting the spell, words flowing from their tongues like music. Jeran’s ears twitched; even he’d felt that surge of energy. Suddenly, the azure-furred Lupe felt his energy plummet. He sank to his knee, grimacing as he felt it hit the stone floor.

     “It’s over, Jeran. You did well,” she smiled reassuringly. “Now, go rest.”

     Jeran shook his head again, “No, I’ll rest while I keep watch.”

     Now, it was Lisha’s turn to grimace. She had forgotten how stubborn her brother could be. “Fine,” she answered. “I’m going to Kayla’s potion shop to help her make the potion. We’ll be back as soon as we can.”

     Jeran only nodded as he watched the two of them leave the room, “Rowan, you’d better be okay.”

     

***

     12:00 a.m. NST

     Rowan’s eyes creaked open, as he tried to look around him. Why was it so dark? And where had this pounding headache come from? He groaned, “Not…again…”

     “Rowan!” A blurry, azure-furred Lupe rushed to his bedside, “Thank Fyora you’re okay!”

     Rowan rubbed his eyes, “Did…did Tristan blast me again…or something?” He tried to smirk, but his whole face hurt.

     “Not exactly but it’s still his fault,” another voice added. Lisha snapped her fingers, a small flame appearing in her hand. “Kay, come here. He’s awake.”

     “Hang on, Li. I got a lantern because I don’t want you to use any more of your magical reserve,” Kayla replied. The metal clinked together as the red Zafara entered the room.

     “Who…is she?” Rowan asked. He squinted as Kayla brought the lamp closer. “Ugh…”

     “Oops, sorry,” Kayla smiled sheepishly. “I’m Kayla, Kayla Morrgin. I’m the Royal Chemist and Potion Maker, though I technically report to this girl.” She elbowed Lisha playfully.

     “Not now, Kay,” Lisha huffed. “A wasting curse is no joke, and we barely made it in time.”

     “Stop it, you two,” Jeran warned. “We all need sleep, especially Rowan,” he added.

     As if on cue, Rowan yawned. “Yeah… What Mr. Perfect said.”

     “You’re right, Jeran. We’ll explain everything soon, Rowan.” Lisha assured. “Good night.”

     To be continued…

     

 
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