The Knight

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 2 (v.1) - chapter one.

Submitted: March 27, 2014

Reads: 107

Comments: 3

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Submitted: March 27, 2014

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chapter one.

 

He flew through the forest like a shadow on hawk’s wings, dark and silent, unburdened by the weight of his Fae armor, his feet hardly touching the ground. His passing left the soil and foliage intact, dense and lush as it was. The stealth he had so carefully cultivated came from spending no less than a hundred years among the Sídhe. He had not been born into this world with the gift of glamour as those of true Fae blood were, so he had had to survive with only his wits, his status, and the powers of the Knight bestowed upon him by the dethroned Seelie Queen. Through time, his honesty became his bargaining tool, his straightforwardness the only thing to cling to in a sea of faery illusion and delusion and madness. And though they had faded over the decades, his human quirks had once provided ample entertainment — enough to protect him from the harm of those who lusted after him or sought to bend him to their wills.

As he dwelled upon the past, his thoughts began to stray.

Despite all of this, the Sídhe had become his people and — dare he say it? — his family, though he was not bound to them by flesh and blood. They had welcomed him quite easily into their arms (whether in enthusiasm for his brotherhood, his usefulness, or his flesh, he never did quite figure out), and they had eventually termed him one of their own. But none displayed the genuine warmth that Queen Ilona had shown him. He became her vassal, her faithful servant; she became his queen, his mentor, and over time, his truest love, though he knew he would never become her consort even if he swore everlasting faithfulness to her heart and to her bed. It was simply not the way things were. His duties came before his passion, and her well-being, her status as a Queen, held priority over his desire. And he certainly had no right to be a father to her children, the Princes and Princesses, several of whom were far older than him. As it was, he would forever love her and, because he had no wish to sully her dignity or bring about his own dishonor, he would forever keep his distance.

After a short while, the trees gave way to a small clearing deep in the heart of the forest. He had known where his destination lay more so out of intrinsic feeling than physical knowledge; his feet and his senses had guided him there with the certainty of the sea when it rushes to meet the sky at the horizon. And there she was, standing at the foot of a regal oak, her slim, pale hand resting upon its bark, her hair falling to her waist in golden curls. The Queen was the epitome of grace and enchantment, the very portrait of beauty. And even though she had her back to him, he could nonetheless read the calmness in the slope of her shoulders, the settle of her hips, and the tilt of her neck. For that, he had to admire her. Nothing ever seemed to trouble her as deeply as it did him; she always held herself as if a solution existed for every dilemma, a solution that would be within reach at any given moment.

She had been deprived of her rightful place at the head of the Seelie Court. She had been thrown down and forced to gather her wits and her skirts and flee like a frightened Wyldfae. She had witnessed her most trusted advisers at the stake, burned; her most steadfast servants at her feet, torn to pieces; and her own children in iron shackles, imprisoned and waiting to die a slow, torturous death. Yet her demeanor had changed not at all; she still held herself like royalty. She was still the Queen — in heart alone, if not in name.

He dropped to one knee. “Your Majesty.”

“Sir Darren.” Her hand didn’t move from the oak. “Rise, noble one.” He rose and moved toward her, stopping a respectful five paces away, bowing his head. A moment later, he felt her touch upon his cheek; he closed his eyes briefly. When he opened them again, her face was before his, her crystal eyes blue and depthless.

“You have news?” she asked.

“None that is good.”

“Pray tell me, then.” Her voice, though not commanding, was firm.

Still he hesitated, in his feelings for her and his wish — however irrational — to keep even the smallest things from hurting her. She seemed to sense his inner struggle; her tone softened. “I must learn of the world beyond this forest, Darren. We both know that these lovely trees and these running brooks, secluded as they are, cannot shelter me forever. Soon, she will find me, and I will need all of the knowledge at my disposal and yours, good and bad, to find another refuge outside of her influence, and to continue looking for my daughter.”

“We need to bide our time before we can restore you and save the Princes and Princesses, but we must also keep well-hidden in the meantime. This I understand,” he said, and she nodded, taking away her hand. His face immediately felt cooler, as if the absence of her fingertips on his skin had caused summer to withdraw in a heartbeat. He pushed the sensation out of his mind and continued. “I headed north today, to the human town of Waleston, and combed it for signs of Fae. I found none, which is the only fortunate thing I have to report. However, I could not find evidence of the youngest Princess there, either. I am deeply sorry, Your Majesty.”

She turned her head to the north, her gaze faraway, as if hoping to see the town for herself. “That is where I saw them last,” she murmured. “I was so sure that she would be there — that they would both still be there. They could have moved to a different place, I suppose, but I was certain I would have sensed it if they did. I cannot have been mistaken, because even now . . .” She trailed off, her expression distant.

He did not know what to say except “I could feel no signs of her, Your Majesty, even with the awareness that she is only a half-blooded Fae. Not even the smallest trace of magic aura. They must have left at some point and not returned since.”

She said nothing.

His hand ached to touch her shoulder, to reassure her, but he knew that it would be improper. She could touch him at her will; she could brush his hand or his cheek, stroke his hair, even embrace him if she wished. He, too, longed for the privilege of holding her in his arms and feeling the shining gold of her tresses between his fingers. But he could not make physical contact with her without her permission. He could not risk violating the sacred bond between Queen and Knight, ruler and vassal, teacher and student. He could not touch her even though every part of his being cried out for it, even though she looked so lonely in her exile, a fallen Queen bathed in the paltry light that filtered through the leaves of the trees overhead.

Her voice, harder now, broke through his thoughts. He felt a strong current of determination in her body as she faced him again. “This must be the work of the false one. There can be no other explanation. Somehow, she has found my daughter, and somehow she has hidden her from me, just as she has hidden my sons and my other daughters in a secret prison deep within our realm. I gave birth to my daughter in Waleston. I will know where she is as long as she and I both live, even if she travels to the other side of the world. That is the one thing the false one cannot take away from me: the bond between mother and child,” she said steadily, but her tone was full of fire. “I know my daughter is still in her birthtown. I can feel her. If I have to go there to find her myself, I will not hesitate to do so, and I will allow no human as wretched as the false one to hinder me.”

Her passion roused his own, and he could feel every pulse of her intensity in his veins like sparks on water. But he knew her proposal was too dangerous. Neither of them could risk exposing him- or herself so recklessly, not when it was possible that the false queen’s mischief was afoot. He quickly interjected, “No, Your Majesty, please leave the finding of your daughter to me. You cannot afford to endanger yourself. I will go to Waleston again” — an idea popped into his head, and he hastened to share it — “and I will become one of them, one of the humans, and search for her under the guise of a mortal. It will be easier for me to find her that way without revealing myself, if she is indeed in hiding, and I will persuade her to come with us.”

“You will become a human?” She looked at him, disbelieving. “Darren . . . you will be putting yourself at a perilous disadvantage. Humans will sense your Sídhe powers, and you will attract the false one’s minions to you like flies to honey. And what if you should encounter the false one herself? She will recognize you at once for who and what you are.” There was a flicker of apprehension in her eyes. Not for herself, but for him.

This was the right thing to do. He had known it the moment the suggestion left his mouth. “I will take great care not to exhibit any behaviors that would betray my identity to either human or Fae. And I . . .” It was extremely difficult to go on, but he had to, and he did. “. . . And I request humbly that you release me from my vow of the Knight, so that I may undertake this task with complete efficiency.”

The only indication of her understanding of the immensity of this request was the widening of her eyes. Even so, she did not, for a second, cast doubt upon his sincerity, his competence, or his motive behind asking her to lift his binding oath to her. It was a true mark of the faith she had in him.

She asked finally, “You do realize what this entails?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

“You do realize that by forsaking your vow, you will lose both your powers as the Knight of the Seelie Court as well as your immortality?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.” His answer was immediate.

Her head lowered, and her eyes closed as if in realization herself. “You will have no defense against the false one,” she whispered. No longer formal, no longer pushing onward with the certainty that they would triumph, no longer blind to circumstance. “You will be alone. And I will not be able to help you.”

“I know. I intended to do it alone, Your Majesty, from the beginning.”

For a moment, it seemed that she could not speak. Then she drew in a deep breath. “I thank you” was all she said. He inclined his head, knelt to the forest floor, and waited for her next words. She placed the tips of her fingers on his forehead; they were warm, though they trembled slightly.

“I, Queen Ilona, to whom the Knight of the Seelie Court swore eternal fealty upon his inauguration, henceforth release Sir Darren Blake from his service to me, and relieve him of the hallowed powers of the Knight.”

A sudden rush of heat raced up his spine, taking his breath with it. Every nerve in his body was strung tight, every cell turned to molten fire. The sensation spread rapidly through his body, roiled in his organs and his bones until he was certain he could not bear it for much longer, but still he held his position without moving a muscle — and then, just as suddenly, it left his insides and surged to his forehead, where her fingers were, and dissipated. His eyes shot open and he gasped for air. He felt sweat in his palms, under his arms, and in his crotch. His hairline was wet with it. His armor weighed fifty pounds heavier upon his shoulders and back.

As if from far away, he heard her say, “You are freed. Rise not as my Knight, but as my friend, Darren Blake.”

He obeyed. For a moment, he thought his body would fail him, but his limbs withstood his weight and the weight of his armor well enough for him to straighten. It was as if a veil had been thrown over his eyes and cotton stuffed in his ears. The acuity of their surroundings had faded; the colors around them were washed out, and he could only dimly hear the birdsong in the trees, the rustle of the leaves on their branches. In a slight panic, he turned his eyes upon the Queen, and saw that she was as beautiful, as otherworldly, as she had ever been. The removal of his heightened senses had not diminished her in his eyes, and he was silently grateful.

“Darren,” she said, and it was then that he realized her eyes were full of tears.

He blinked in a vain effort to clear away the cloudiness of his mortal vision. “You will always be my Queen, and I will always be your Knight, Your Majesty. It is what was meant to be.” His throat felt thick and scratchy.

She smiled wanly. “Perhaps.” She kissed his forehead, the very place where she had touched him to remove his Knighthood. “But I thank you all the same,” she said softly. He leaned into her, unable to help himself. Knowing — with an unplaceable ache in his chest — that now, it no longer mattered, as she slid her arms around him, as he felt his arms come up around her.

He would have liked to stand there for a century, treasuring the moment where they were the closest they had ever been, but it was time for them to part. Time was crucial, and it was slipping away with each breath they took in tandem.

“Will you be all right?” she asked as they let each other go. He could still feel her warmth against his chest, could still smell her scent of elderberries and pine.

“I was once a human,” he said. His voice was steadier and he was already adjusting to the new awkwardness of his body, but his heart shook with the enormity of the task laid out before him, the uncertainty of his success, the great unknown of the world he had to re-enter without the blessing of the Sídhe. “I will become one again.”


© Copyright 2019 Thrice Written. All rights reserved.

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