D&S: To Be A Knight - Part Nineteen

  • Aeda breathed steam and fire.


                   Every breathe, every gasp was in itself a battle. Drying up, the heat was surprisingly sweltering under her helmet. Aeda was tempted to slam her visor up, to take but a gulp of fresh air to clear her mind but for some reason she did not do so.


                   Closing in she saw… Aeda wasn’t quite sure what she saw. It was a creature with maroon and yellow stripes sitting on a dark creature.


                   Where am I?


                   Her vision blurred as a red haze converged, dimming everything but the creature. She shook her head, a strange buzzing sensation hitting her. Aeda’s head throbbed and she felt so sleepy… it would be so nice to just lie down and-


                   Certainty neighed, saving her.


                   Lonacque. Lonacque! Aeda blinked. Even if it did not clear the pain in her head nor the red haze in her vision nor the fire in her lungs, it did wake her training. Certainty was already ready to make the final gallop; he only waited for the signal. Aeda couched her lance and lightly stung the horse with her spurs. She raised her shield and at the same time, aimed her point between the colourful surcoat and the shield bearing a roaring lion.


                   The lion looked up, blinded as he kissed the crimson hammer of Martellus. Aeda turned her shield but the angle wasn’t sharp enough; the lance splintered anyway leaving a spray of wooden knives peppering against her face, each piece ringing like rain on rooftiles.


                   Both eyes open!


                   Aeda retaliated, striking Lonacque at his gorget. Her lance snapped cleanly in half and for a second, Lonacque looked as if he were to fall but the squire recovered. She cursed for if she had aimed higher, the coronal might’ve just slid up for a headshot. She tossed her broken lance aside as waves of emotion – of bloodlust hit her.


                   And it felt good.


                   Terror. Rage. Excitement. She had felt this earlier but now it consumed her. Suddenly she didn’t feel the pain. Her arms felt lighter and even in her helmet, breathing felt crisp. This bloodlust made her feel alive.


                   Aeda raised her visor and cheered when the herald slotted a point for her. One to one, not the best of starts nor the worst. She grinned. Was this what they felt? She thought. Was this what father-


                   An image of a man lying on a cot tried to claw into her mind but she buried it to the back of her mind. No, she had to focus on the now. She and Lonacque exchanged glares as they made their pass. Aeda couldn’t help but feel a hint of satisfaction when she noted the dent in his breastplate.


                   I hit as hard as an auroch too, snail-eater!


                   Artos rushed to her side, fresh lance in hand before pausing in his step.


                   ‘Aeda,’ he said. ‘You’re bleeding!’


                   ‘I am?’ Aeda said, wiping her face and blinking wildly. Two eyes, still good. She shifted in her saddle as Artos climbed on a step and reached out to her. Aeda only now felt a strange itch at her side; close to her chest and beneath her weapon arm.

                   ‘Like the bite of a-‘ She then yelped as Artos pulled a splinter out in one quick motion. ‘Flea.’


                   Aeda snatched the splinter and frowned. Little bastard actually went between the gussets, she thought, flicking the shard aside with a huff. She then rotated her arm – movement was fine but the itching continued when she did. Will need to get it looked at after Lonacque falls.


                   ‘Aeda,’ Artos said, scurrying about checking and securing buckle to buckle. ‘Are you well? You seem pale?’


                   ‘Pale? What do you mean?’ She cocked her head.


                   ‘It means you’re pale.’ Artos shrugged. ‘With dark eyes and lips.’


                   ‘Damn.’ Aeda paused before she finally said, ‘Do you have any salts?’


                   Without a word, Artos pulled a capsule from his pocket and Aeda accepted it with a nod. Closing her eyes and gripping onto Certainty’s reigns, Aeda crushed the capsule and drew in the pungent fumes. Aeda coughed and gagged, fighting to not fall off her horse before the trumpet sounded. With the fog cleared, Aeda stuffed one nostril with her finger and blew hard.


                   By the Nine that was awful.


                   She slammed her visor down early, the world now a little too loud and too bright. Aeda hefted the lance, feeling the weight on her arms. The shield, cratered in some places was still good as it hung off her shoulder. Artos cleared the list and retreated to the racks. She was ready.


                   I am of steel: Martellus steel. She inhaled. I am of steel: Martellus steel. She exhaled. I am of steel: Martellus steel.


                   The signal was given and the riders surged.


                   All was clearer than before but the buzzing sensation returned. Aeda cursed, cradling her lance. She and Lonacque raced towards each other, like two arrows loosened by the most skilled of bowmen. Lonacque charged early, the squire wishing to draw more power into his blow. Aeda however maintained a rhythmic gallop, bobbing to Certainty’s breathing.


                   Both eyes open. Take no chances; strike the chest.


                   Within a spitting distance, Lonacque shifted his point upward, an iron fist threatening to bash her head in. She saw it and ducked under the attack and answered with a thrust. Without warning, Certainty jerked and with it, Aeda’s arm.


                   No, you stupid horse! Why did you-


                   Hands, arms, shoulder, and body jolted – her lance took Lonacque right in the face and the squire drooped to his side, hands holding on to his reigns. As his horse circle the list, its rider quietly slinked to the ground.


                   Aeda scratched Certainty’s ear on the ride back, a grim satisfaction rolled over her as Lonacque’s servants helped him to his feet. One of them ripped his helmet off, revealing a slightly bruised face but one that would heal. Unfortunately.


                   ‘Aeda,’ Artos said, seizing the reigns. ‘That was amazing!’


                   ‘That was Certainty’s work,’ she said, petting the valiant steed’s mane. ‘I was only lucky,’ she continued, swinging her legs over the saddle and jumping to the ground. Bad move for as she landed, her legs collapsed like a copper sheet under a press and Aeda, tasted mud again.


                   Artos saved her from drowning – it would be undignified to drown in a puddle. The Mud Knight, she smiled bitterly at that thought.


                   The herald once more climbed on the viewing stand and cleared his throat. ‘Cedric de Aquilos,’ he began and continued rambling the rest of the titles. Aeda tuned out as she loosened the straps to her soiled armour. The metals needed some wiping down – even the best steel would suffer rust when coated in mire.


                   ‘…Champion of the Junior Lancers of Rivenspire,’ the herald said as Artos pulled the pieces off Aeda from gauntlets and greaves, breastplate and gorget. Aeda sighed as her helmet went free, a light wind blowing against her sticky hair.


                   ‘Tiberius Symmachus. Come forth and prove your valour!’


                   Tiberius rode out to the calls of the cheering crowd and this time, Aeda was one of them if a little lethargic. The salts only did so much. Looking all so majestic on his grey courser, Aeda’s legs felt weak again when the rider gave her a quick salute before he lined himself at the lift.


                   Aeda grinned and blushed when she remembered that she wasn’t alone this time. Artos however paid no heed to her expressions. In fact, his own seemed… a little concerned; face contorted into a grimace.


                   ‘Is something wrong?’ she said but he didn’t answer. Aeda followed his gaze – the line down the list. Even in this distance, she could see the wretched Cedric and his minion, du Mesnil pointing and laughing at her. She frowned, turning to her mucked clothes, brushing away a few clumps.


                   ‘Tiberius will show them,’ she continued. ‘He’ll thrash du Mesnil good and then…’ Tiberius had the best chance on beating Cedric by Aeda’s reckoning. He has the skill and the knowledge to do so. However, she was his next joust after du Mesnil – for Tiberius to ride against Cedric, she’d had to lose. She wondered if she had a chance to begin with.


                   ‘That’s not it,’ Artos finally answered, shaking his head. ‘Look.’


                   Tiberius rotated his shield arm and stretched his back; coolly analysing the situation or so Aeda believed. His steed was well disciplined, poised like a beast of parades. du Mesnil however had his lance ready, his stripped surcoat of white and green billowing in the wind. The squire’s destrier trumpeted and pawed at the ground; eager for blood it seems.


                   The trumpets nearly blew when the crowds were thrown into confusion. A man, three lozenges sewn on his tabard ran to the list and waved a white flag.


                   du Mesnil withdraws?


                   The squire tore off his helmet and exploded at the man, no doubt one of his house’s servants. He calmed himself when the servant exchanged a quick few word. It took a few heartbeats before Aeda noticed that the whole fort grew silent.


                   ‘Uncle Mark told me not to tell,’ Artos whispered. ‘Tiberius. He isn’t who he says he is. He’s blood isn’t of the knight. His is blood is of the dragon.’


                   The Blood of the Dragon. Royalty.


                   ‘Titus Mede, Crown Prince of the Empire.’


                   Tiberius tipped his lance in salute, then slinked back to his tent as he had before. Aeda keeled over and retched.



    Previous: Part Eighteen                                                                                                                                    Next: Part Twenty


1 Comment   |   Sotek likes this.
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  March 6, 2020
    So much hidden emotion here. Loving this series. reminds me of the film @A Knight's tale. Keep up the great work Delta.