D&S: To Be A Knight - Part Twenty-Three

  • Aeda stood at attention, the setting sun blinding her eyes.


                   She was still clad in her armour; breastplate, greaves, and arming doublet all. Her neck chaffed mighty fierce against her sweat stained, blood crusted collar. She wore no gauntlets nor vambrace – the healers had them removed for metals interfered with their magicks. They did a good job for the most part although her nose remained bent and crooked at some places.


                   Tiber- No, not Tiberius. He was Titus Mede, Crown-Prince to the Empire. The Crown-Prince stood on the raised stand as all of Fort Istirus watched in silence.


                   ‘Cedric de Aquilos,’ he said, regal and commanding. ‘I am greatly impressed by the fine horsemanship I witnessed today and you more so by claiming the title of Champion!’




                   ‘Come here and accept this cup of silver to commemorate this fine day of your glory.’


                   Aeda turned to father who stood next to her. He nodded and she clapped her hands as did the rest of the Imperial Knights and Chevaliers of High Rock.


                   Cedric climbed to the stand, knelt before the prince as was proper of him. He accepted the cup and bowed his head.


                   ‘More than this cup,’ the Crown-Prince continued as the cheering quieted. ‘I promised a boon to the champion and with the honoured citizens of the Empire and the Gods as my witness, I, Crown-Prince Titus of House Mede shall reward you a boon. Name what you wish of me and speak plainly and true. If within reason, I see no cause to deny you.’


                   Within reason? Aeda thought. The squire could have riches and all the glory he wished.


                   ‘For my boon,’ Cedric said to the quiet yard. ‘I wish to be dubbed to knighthood by he who is the Blood of the Dragon for there is no greater honour than to receive accolade from those blessed with such a lineage.’


                   The crowd drew still and Aeda set her jaw. To ask for such a reward, was it right?


                   ‘You speak true, squire,’ said the Crown-Prince. ‘I can only think of a few greater honours. A simple and just request that is of trivial matter to me but even for something so simple must be requested twice. Cedric de Aquilos, what do you wish for your boon?’


                   ‘I wish for you, the Blood of the Dragon to knight me.’


                   The Crown-Prince nodded and drew his sword. Even at a distance, Aeda could see that is was truly a fine weapon. Gilded with gold, the sword’s guard and pommel was encrusted with rubies and the blade featured patterns of rippling steel. A masterwork of Hammerfell.


                   ‘Cedric de Aquilos,’ he began, booming as he rested the blade on the squire’s right shoulder. ‘Before the gods you make this oath and by their grace, I shall speak on their behalf – Cedric de Aquilos, do you swear to defend those who cannot defend themselves?’


                   ‘By the gods,’ Cedric said, hand pressed against his heart. ‘I do swear to defend those who cannot defend themselves.’


                   The sword moved to tap the squire’s left. ‘Cedric de Aquilos, do you swear to commit no evil nor will through your inaction let evil prevail?’


                   ‘By the gods,’ Cedric said. ‘I do swear to commit no evil nor through my inaction shall let evil prevail.’


                   The sword moved to the squire’s right. ‘Cedric de Aquilos, do you swear the be brave and not let the moons gaze upon you twice lest you be judged idle and false?’


                   ‘By the gods,’ Cedric said. ‘I do be brave and not let the moons gaze upon me twice lest I judged be idle and false.’


                   ‘Before the gods,’ the Crown-Prince said. ‘Speak the words of your forebears and of the ancient codes of Chivalry.’


                   ‘Let which is innocent, never be in fear,’ the Chevaliers said in unison. ‘Let which is sacred, ever be preserved. Let that which is evil, forevermore be perished.’


                   ‘That is your oath and by witness of the gods, you shall keep.’ The Crown-Prince lifted his sword. ‘Arise, Knight Errant. Arise, Sir Cedric de Aquilos.’


                   The fort exploded into cheers.


                   Knight Errant? Aeda thought. She was sure they were all Chevaliers when they became knights. Perhaps there was more to them than she would admit.


                   Cedric stood up proud and true – he really did seem a knight. She applauded hard for the bastard with a rueful smile on her face. Next time mayhaps.


                   The Crown-Prince raised a hand, silencing all. He turned and looked at Aeda with a glare that could melt steel.


                   ‘Aeda of House Martellus!’ he said, pointing. ‘Come forth!’


                   Aeda froze. She felt her face turn pale and her legs tremble.


                   ‘Go Aeda,’ father said, a hand on her shoulder. ‘Don’t make him ask twice.’


                   Aeda swallowed and jogged to the stand.


                   A foot on the stairs, Aeda’s boots suddenly felt so heavy. Why was it so heavy? By the time she reached the top of the stand, the yard seemed so much… bigger than what it was on Certainty. Why was it so large?


                   Aeda knelt – really, crumpled before the Crown-Prince as he waved Sir Cedric away.


                   The grainy wood digging into her forehead, Aeda found the courage to speak the words, ‘What do you ask of me, my prince?’


                   ‘Aeda Martellus,’ the Crown-Prince said simply. ‘You joust like a man riding on a boar with a log in his hand.’


                   Aeda winced.


                   ‘No finesse, no control,’ he continued to the stifled laughter of the crowd. ‘Seyda the Fool would make a better rider than you.’


                   The crowd grew from stifled to open laughter. Now Aeda knew she was going to die of shame. Why would he do this? Why would-


                   The Crown-Prince raised his hand again, silencing them.


                   ‘But there is more to being a knight than mere horsemanship,’ he said. ‘A knight is brave, fearless. A true knight is dutiful and stubborn in the face of defeat. And you Aeda Martellus; what you lack in skill you make up in virtue. And that I say, is what weights more in the eyes of the Gods and to me.’


                   ‘Thank you, my prince,’ Aeda sputtered. Was this why he called me?


                   The Crown-Prince turned his sword, shining sunlight at Aeda’s face.


                   ‘There are many in the Empire that believe that there is no greater honour than to be knighted by those of the Dragon blood. Do you not agree?’


                   Aeda’s heart fluttered. He couldn’t possibly mean-


                   ‘They are correct, my prince,’ she found herself saying.  


                   The Crown-Prince said nothing for a little too long of a time before he said, ‘What say you, Aeda of House Martellus? What say that I knight you, here and now?’


                   A murmur ran through the crowd and Aeda gasped.


                   ‘That,’ she licked her lips. ‘Would not be proper, my prince. I will not accept a boon which I did not earn.’


                   Aeda held her breath, waiting for a reply.


                   ‘You know your place.’ The Crown-Prince sheathed his blade. ‘No, it would not be proper for me to give you your knighthood – you have yet to earn that honour.’


                   Aeda released a sigh of relief. Covertly, she hoped.


                   ‘Tell me, Aeda of House Martellus. Why do you want to be a knight? For the riches and glory?’


                   ‘I do not for riches and glory,’ she said. ‘But for duty to my family and empire.’


                   ‘Duty and Steel?’


                   Aeda dared to look up at the Crown-Prince, meeting his dark brown eyes. ‘Duty and Steel.’


                   The Crown-Prince grinned.


                   ‘Ser Albus of House Martellus, come forth!’ he suddenly said.


                   Father jogged to the stand, saluted and then knelt.


                   ‘What do you ask of me, my prince?’ he said.


                   ‘For it is not proper for me to knight your daughter as she did not earn such a privilege – I have considered a lesser reward.’


                   ‘My prince?’ Aeda and her father said at the same time.


                   ‘Ser Albus Martellus,’ the Crown-Prince said. ‘Draw your sword.’


                   Father stood and drew his sword, a sword that Aeda was very family with. She spent many a day polishing it, oiling it, sharpening it – from tip to pommel, she knew every scratch, every chip. It was of simple but honest Imperial design. While it was not of splendid works such as the Crown-Prince’s sword, it was a work of art all the same.


                   It was an art of steel – no, of Martellus steel.


                   Aeda bit down on her quivering lips. The tears barely held back.


                   ‘Aeda of House Martellus,’ father began solemnly. Aeda felt the blade touching her. ‘I call upon you to speak true. I call upon you to speak right. ‘I call upon you to speak before the gods. Do you accept these terms?’


                   ‘Yes, fa-Ser Albus.’ She raised her head to look at him. ‘I, Aeda of House Martellus accept these terms.’


                   ‘Then speak the words before the gods,’ he said. ‘Speak the words before the Blood of the Dragon and of those witness here.’


                   ‘Upon my body, I do swear to be without fear against our enemies,’ the words came to her as shouts. The other Imperial Knights, repeated the oath in unison.


                   It was a knight’s duty to face all whom dare threaten the Empire, Father once said. And he who quivers in his boots is no coward should he stand his ground.


                   ‘Upon my heart, I do swear to ever be kind and just to any I shall see.’


                   An Imperial Knight was more than a soldier – an Imperial Knight is to be a symbol of all the virtues of the Empire.


                   ‘Upon my soul, I do swear loyalty unending to the Emperor and the House of Mede.’


                   Above all, an Imperial Knight is a servant, never master. And who we serve? The Empire? The Emperor? The Legion? That is a question for you to answer.


                   ‘That is our oath for we are Knights of the Empire.’


                   ‘Should I fail in my oath, may I die a thousand deaths and eternal shame be brought upon my House.’             


                   Duty is all. Duty is Steel – the words of our House.


                   ‘And that oath I shall keep, to the bitter end and then some.’


                   Father raised a hand and smacked Aeda across the face. Aeda tasted metal.


                   ‘And by blood your oath is sealed and by pain you will remember,’ father said. ‘Arise, Ser Aeda. Arise a knight.’



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