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A Hero's Journey: Squire

by precious_katuch14


Chapter 2: Squire

     Theodosia and Cavall sat at their table, having a simple dinner of potatoes and meat stew. “How was your day, Cavall?” the Red Elephante asked as she topped up his glass with water.

     “It was great,” he replied, nodding his thanks before helping himself to more potatoes. “I got full marks in our math exam today, did well in my language report, and passed my mapmaking test in geography.” The Blue Cybunny frowned, his spoon halfway to his mouth. “I didn’t do so well in our practical test in swordsmanship, though. Philip beat me in our match and Sir Auxentius wasn’t pleased.”

     “Well, that just means you’ll be trying harder next time, right?” said Theodosia, trying to encourage him. “Great knights aren’t built in a day, after all. And most of them had to go through whatever you’re going through right now.”

     Cavall pouted. “I don’t know if I’ll become a great knight. Fighting is so hard. I keep messing up and one time, I dropped my staff onto Mulligan’s foot.”

     His companion chortled. “Mulligan is a big strong Grarrl, I’m sure it’ll take more than a dropped staff to hurt him.”

     “Maybe I shouldn’t be a page. I don’t know if I’ll have what it takes to be a knight.”

     “But didn’t you say you wanted to be a hero, like your namesake? Cavall, who was a Cybunny like you, who went on lots of adventures?”

     “Yeah, but…” The Blue Cybunny slumped in his seat.

     “You seem to be doing well in all your other classes. You just need more practice in combat.” The Elephante reached across the table and gently cupped his chin. “I believe in you. To me, you’re already a knight – my helpful, kind knight.”

     Cavall blinked as he stared into Theodosia’s sincere eyes.

     “It’s not over yet. You can still get better. But if you don’t want to be a knight, you could apply for a scholarship to one of the academies here or even in Brightvale or Darigan Citadel. Do whatever you want, Cavall. I’ll support you, no matter what.”

     He sniffed as he tried to smile.

     “If you really think I’m your knight…then, I’ll do my best to become one for real.”

     * * *

     Cavall stared at the list that was tacked onto the door of the training master’s study, which enumerated the pages who had qualified to become squires and included a reminder that knights had a week to choose their squires from among the candidates. Besides the list was a grid showing their grades in their classes. He groaned softly at his grade in combat training, which was the lowest in that column.

     “Theodosia would be proud of you,” a shadow Grarrl said somberly, resting a large hand on the Blue Cybunny’s head. “You’re a squire now.”

     “Yeah. Thanks, Mulligan,” mumbled Cavall. He studied his row of grades and his heart skipped a beat when he saw that his marks for math were the highest, close to perfect. “Congratulations to you, too. I heard some knights were arguing over who got to choose you as squire.”

     Mulligan chuckled, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. “I already talked to Sir Oakley of Mulberry, the Kougra who’s the deadliest shot among the archers. I’d much rather be his squire. But enough about that. How are you holding up?”

     “Not very well.” Cavall sighed, looking away from the list. “I still can’t believe it. Theodosia wanted to see me graduate, at least…but she was old, and she always said she wasn’t very strong.” He swiftly scrubbed at his eyes, prompting an approaching Green Zafara to drape an arm across his shoulder.

     “Hi, Joanna,” he said bleakly.

     “Hi, Cavall. I’m so sorry about Theodosia. We miss her already – we miss her food and her kitchen commentary and King Skarl commentary, but mostly because she’s one of the kindest folks I ever met.”

     “We’re here for you, okay?” Mulligan added. “Just talk to us.”

     The Cybunny nodded slowly. “I’ll remember that.”

     “Please, remember. We’re worried about you,” Joanna insisted.

     “Has a knight picked you to be their squire yet?” Cavall asked her.

     She shook her head. “Uh-uh, but they have a week to choose. At least Mulligan’s set, and so is Philip.” The Zafara managed a brief chuckle. “That rascally Moehog got on Sir Jaco’s good side.”

     “Sir Jaco, the castle’s card game master?” asked Mulligan.

     “He said he liked Philip’s sense of humour.”

     “I’m sure someone will choose you,” said Cavall, tilting his head toward Joanna. “You’re one of the best in combat – you could beat Mulligan.”

     The Grarrl nodded heartily. “Oh, yeah, one time while practising she tripped me up while some knights were watching. I bet one of them will be choosing Joanna – hey!” He winced when Joanna lightly jabbed him in the ribs, blushing.

     The two of them looked at Cavall expectantly, but he just shook his head.

     “You saw my grades in combat. They’re terrible.”

     Mulligan frowned. “Hey, that’s what a knight-master is for. They’re gonna help you with that. And in exchange, you can help them with their taxes.” He winked. “I don’t know how you do it, I’ve never seen someone as good in math as you are.”

     “All your other grades are good, Cavall,” said Joanna. “You’ll find a knight-master before the week is up, I know it.”

     * * *

     “I’m taking on Joanna for my squire,” a Royal Blumaroo said, raising her hand. “I’ve seen her beat Mulligan in a sparring match; I would be honoured to train her.”

     “Thank you, Lady Colleen,” said a Blue Lupe, looking at the list tacked over the board in Meridell Castle’s war room. With a deft stroke of his quill, he drew a line through Joanna’s name before scribbling Colleen’s name beside Joanna’s. “That leaves Cavall.” He gestured to the lone name that had not been struck through.

     Jaco smirked. “I heard he’s a class A nerd, but not very good in battle.” The Speckled Gelert shuffled a deck of cards on the war room table. “Slow reflexes, clumsy, and constantly gloomy on top of everything.”

     A burly Yellow Lupe elbowed him. “Cut him some slack, he was an orphan before Theodosia took him in, and then she died, too.” He blew out a long, low sigh. “At least if he can get a knight-master, he won’t be alone.”

     “Are you taking him, Tuffold?” asked a Striped Kougra, who was leaning back in his chair and staring up at the old chandelier overhead.

     “I can’t,” said Tuffold, shaking his head. “I dunno if I’ll have enough patience for him. I bet you would, but you’ve already got Mulligan, the Grarrl.” He tilted his head toward Oakley. “Better hope he doesn’t step on you, he’s a big guy.”


     Jeran raised his arms over his head and clapped loudly to get everyone’s attention. “No one is interested in taking Cavall? This is the last day of the week.”

     “It’s not like anything happens after the week is over,” Jaco commented. “The kid just continues page duty or something and waits for a knight who can deal with him.” He ignored a glare from Jeran and started dealing out a solitaire game. “Unless some of the stuffy old knight scholars take a liking to him…”

     “Anyone? Anyone at all?”

     There were shrugs and whispers among the knights gathered in the room, but no one raised a hand or expressed any interest in the squire who scored the highest in mathematics, and lowest in combat arts.

     “Wait.” A white Ixi spoke up. “Is this all of us? These meetings are never complete because not all knights take squires, right? What if there’s another knight out there who can teach Cavall how to fight?”

     “Bethy’s right,” said Oakley. “Danner isn’t here – “

     Tuffold shoved him. “Danner can’t take a squire this time, remember? He’s too busy.”

     “Sorry, sorry. Anyway, what about Ladies Beryl and Vivienne?”

     “Those Pterii already said they needed time for family matters,” Colleen pointed out.

     “These meetings are never complete, as Bethy said,” Jeran noted. “But that’s not all. I’ve noticed one of us never attends these meetings. He has never taken a squire before.”

     Jaco raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, but what makes you think he’ll want to take a squire now when he’s always gone without?”

     That gave Jeran some pause, and he shrugged. “I don’t know, but it might be worth asking him now.”

     * * *

     Hanging in one of Meridell Castle’s great corridors was a large portrait of a Yellow Blumaroo knight clad in full armour, broadsword clutched in one hand and shield in the other against a red, blue and gold banner. The plaque at the bottom of the brass frame read, “Sir Reynold of Trestin, Champion, Mentor, Leader.” He stared out into the distance, not noticing the White Blumaroo standing at the foot of the portrait, gazing almost longingly up at him.

     Footsteps from the other end of the hallway made the Blumaroo turn away from the portrait to see who was coming his way.


     The Blue Lupe raised a hand casually in greeting before glancing at the portrait. “I didn’t think I would find you here, at your father’s portrait. You weren’t on the training grounds, or even in the library or your quarters.” Jeran folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the wall, next to the painting. “What’s going on?”

     A sigh. “It’s nothing. I just wanted time for myself, to think.” He started walking away from the portrait, but Jeran fell in step beside him.

     “To think…about what?”

     “What part of ‘time for myself’ didn’t you understand?”

     “Call me nosy, but this is what leaders do, wouldn’t you agree?” A grin tugged at Jeran’s lips. “We look out for the folks under us.”

     * * *

     When they emerged from the hallway, Rohane moved to rest his arm on a nearby windowsill, gazing out at the greenery below. He and Jeran could see the walls and the gate of the castle, and farther away, the shops, Illusen’s Glade, and the silhouette of the Turmaculus. Darigan Citadel, as always, loomed over the horizon, a silent witness to the activity down below in Meridell.

     “So, what were you thinking?” asked the Lupe.

     “I was thinking about what comes next,” Rohane answered pensively. “I know nothing is ever going to top my travels across Neopia, and I achieved my childhood dream of becoming a knight, but…I’ve run into a dead end.”

     “A dead end?”

     “I don’t know what else there is for me to do. Meridell has been mercifully quiet for a long time.”

     “’Mercifully’ is right.” Jeran shook his head and grinned. “But I get what you mean. Much as I enjoy the peace in Meridell, it doesn’t give knights like us a lot to do besides train for the next battle and hope that the next battle doesn’t come for a long, long time. And you do have an adventurous spirit. You are always the first to volunteer for the most far-flung missions.”

     “Don’t get me wrong, I like being a knight,” said Rohane. “Even if it means having to take orders from you.” He gave his companion a crooked smile, but the smile was swift to fade back into solemnity before Jeran could say anything about that remark. “I just don’t like being cooped up in the castle for so long, with little to do. But I know that even if I get on the road again, it’ll never match up to travelling with Mipsy, Talinia and Velm.”

     Jeran flicked his wrist, palm up, and shrugged. “You know, if you wanted to leave and travel again, I don’t think any of us can stop you. Not even King Skarl. We could even call it official leave.”

     The Blumaroo groaned softly, facing Jeran instead of the view outside the window. “I’m looking for something more. I feel like travelling isn’t enough anymore. It’s welcome, but I don’t know if it’s what I want, or need.”

     “Something more, huh,” the other knight repeated. “Actually, I was looking for you because there’s a squire…”

     Rohane cut him off with a sweep of his hand. “I told you, I don’t take on squires. I don’t feel good asking a kid to carry or polish my stuff.”

     “But you’re okay with teaching, aren’t you?”

     “Yeah, but…”

     “You’ve subbed for Sir Auxentius and the other training masters before, haven’t you? Don’t forget the time King Altador allowed you to mentor his daughter.”

     “Only because she insisted, and that made it easier for me to watch her while she stayed here,” Rohane reasoned, before looking Jeran in the eye and adding, “Lupes can be so stubborn.”

     The Blue Lupe merely laughed at that, his tail switching this way and that. “I know. Anyway, what if you became a training master here in the castle? I doubt it will tie you down, and you’ve already shown that you can teach combat arts.”

     “But that’s not all the squire would be learning, right?” Rohane’s ears drooped. “Squires also take up etiquette and continue their other lessons under their knight-master. I don’t know if I’m the best knight for that sort of job.”

     “You’ll never know for sure unless you try mentoring a squire,” Jeran pressed. He went on. “One squire doesn’t have a knight-master yet. It’s Cavall, the orphan Theodosia took in.”

     “I heard he’s a genius.” The Blumaroo grinned. “Sounds like he’s a lot smarter than me.”

     “He scored the lowest in combat. And he just lost Theodosia.” The mood between the two knights became sombre for a moment. “He doesn’t have anyone anymore.”

     They fell silent, glancing away from each other. Jeran ran a hand through the fur on his head, while Rohane folded his arms across his chest, almost protectively.

     “The week is almost up for knights to pick their squires. I don’t know if Cavall can take knowing that no one wants to mentor him, on top of Theodosia’s death.”

     “You mean there’s no one else?” Rohane lowered his arms slowly.

     Jeran shook his head. “If this doesn’t work out, I promise, I won’t bother you about taking squires ever again.”

     * * *

     It was the seventh day since the list of new squires had been posted. Every name had been checked off, except Cavall’s, and the Blue Cybunny was staring once again at that list on Sir Auxentius’ study with a steadily sinking heart.

     Guess I wasn’t good enough to get picked as someone’s squire, he thought bleakly. Sorry, Theodosia.

     He tugged his ears. The past four years had been the most enjoyable years of his life – learning, training, and making new friends. Theodosia had kept her promise and supported him all the way. He didn’t want any of it to end; he didn’t want to crawl back to his old family to claim his rights over the Wincott fortune. There had been no news about his parents since the fire that razed their hidden home, but it was possible for them to have lain low for more than four years if they survived and to lie in wait for him to come crawling back to them.

     Cavall stiffened his resolve, frowning at the list and shifting his gaze toward the door handle.

     This life is mine. I’ll fight for it. I won’t ever go back to being Cathton Wincott. I’ve come so far without anyone finding out who I really am.

     He took a deep breath, only to jump aside with a stifled yelp when Sir Auxentius’ door swung open. Out came a hardened orange Shoyru with a patch over his left eye and a scar on his right cheek. His face was weathered and seemed perpetually stern.

     “S-Sir Auxentius, sir,” gabbled Cavall, bobbing his head in a hurried bow.

     The Shoyru squinted at him with his right eye and placed a hand on his hip. “Well, that saves me the trouble of calling for you, boy.”

     “I-Is there anything you need, sir?”

     “Yes. I need you to step into my office and meet your new knight-master.”

     Cavall’s heart skipped a beat and shot into his throat. “My…knight-master?”

     Auxentius sighed as he gestured for the squire to enter. “Did I stutter? We just finished the paperwork.”

     With some trepidation, the Cybunny did as he was told and stepped into the office. The training master’s office had a sparse waiting area that doubled as a lounge, with a bench, bookshelves, and a single portrait of the Shoyru as a younger knight, without the eyepatch and scar. There were cupboards overhead, and Cavall’s mind wandered briefly as he wondered what was in them, until the sound of a second voice from the second half of the office dropped him promptly back into reality.

     “Master Aux? Back so soon?”

     Auxentius chuckled, a gravelly sound that Cavall heard very rarely. “Kid was just outside the office. Here he is.”

     The rest of Auxentius’ office had a desk, a small table with drawers that held several inkwells and quills, and a sword and a spear mounted overhead. The chair behind the desk was a woebegone velvet armchair, but the single wooden chair in front was occupied, and the occupant made Cavall gasp loudly before he could control himself.

     “Cavall, right?” the White Blumaroo asked lightly, standing up and offering a hand for him to shake. “I’m Sir Rohane. For the next four years, I will be your knight-master.”

     “Pretty sure he already knows who you are. Everyone does,” the Shoyru pointed out dryly.

     “I doubt that,” said Rohane, rolling his eyes at Auxentius. “Plus, isn’t it polite to introduce yourself anyway?” With shaking fingers, Cavall grasped his hand and shook it.

     “It’s…er, a pleasure, Sir Rohane,” the blue Cybunny said, his voice reduced to an awed whisper. Then he added quickly, “Thank you.”

     Auxentius leaned slightly toward Cavall. “Try not to give him too much trouble, all right?” He received a vigorous shaking of the head in response.

     “I’m sure he’ll be fine,” said Rohane after Cavall withdrew his hand.

     “He’s not the best in combat, but hopefully a swordsman of your caliber can help him shape up,” commented the Shoyru. “Good luck.”

     “I’m sorry,” Cavall blurted out.

     “For what?” Rohane asked.

     The Cybunny felt like shrinking until he was small enough to slip through the cracks in the floor. “Master Auxentius is right. I’m the worst fighter among all the squires.”

     “Well,” said Auxentius, “your other grades are good, at least. You just need to pay more attention to your fighting skills. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a squire as good as you in math.”

     “As your knight-master, I’m going to help you become a better fighter,” said Rohane. “So, you don’t have to apologize to me at all. But as a fair warning, I like to start training early.”

     “I’ll show up early. And I’ll work hard,” said Cavall quickly. “I promise. I’ll do my best.”

     I’ll do it for Theodosia, too, he added to himself.

To be continued…

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