The Knight

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

Chapter 3 (v.1) - chapter two.

Submitted: April 01, 2014

Reads: 80

Comments: 2

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Submitted: April 01, 2014



chapter two.


Dusk was falling gently. Soon, the stars would emerge, the moon would hang itself with pride, and Darren knew he would find himself at the mercy of the Unseelie. He pulled his gaze away from the sky and upped his pace to a light run despite his aching legs and feet. The feeling of isolation building in his chest wasn’t a pleasant one, and he had no desire to linger when he knew that Waleston would soon be within sight.

It had been a full three and a half hours since Queen Ilona had removed his Knighthood at his request. He still felt disoriented, out of his element. He hadn’t fully realized that his abilities as a Knight had played such a prominent role in getting him to Waleston the first time around. As a Knight, he’d been faster and stronger, and he’d tired less quickly. But now, the journey to Waleston had lengthened considerably. What had once been a journey of an hour now took three times that — and he had yet to actually reach Waleston. He’d had to stop twice, to give his human limbs a chance to rest, and the delays were frustrating and nearly shameful in his mind.

It occurred to him more than once that he’d perhaps underestimated the simpler difficulties that would be involved in giving up his Knighthood. His body had been so graceful and weightless with his powers; now it felt like a sack of bricks molded into a vaguely human shape. And his armor certainly didn’t help. He’d stripped it off along with his leather padding and chainmail during the first leg of the walk, leaving him in only a tunic and trousers. The idea of just leaving it on the side of the road was ridiculous; it was precious Fae armor, forged to fit his form at Queen Ilona’s request and gifted to him at his Knighting ceremony. But even just carrying all of the parts bundled over his shoulder was slowing him down. In all of a hundred years, he’d never known his armor to be burdensome; it was an unsettling feeling to have something he’d once trusted and worn so intimately end up as nothing more than an unwelcome load on his back.

His breath was coming out of his mouth in short puffs, his lungs wheezing for another break. Reluctantly, he slowed down. And though there was no way he could have known, that turned out to be his mistake.

A sudden, raucous shriek pierced his ears. Darren jerked to a stop and whirled, heart thudding in his chest, all of his senses on high alert. He felt his knees bend, his hand fly to the concealed dagger strapped to his wrist. The air stood as still as his breath. He knew better than to make a sound; instead, he waited, and the descending night thickened like tar around him. Gradually, he felt a prickle start at the base of his skull and flit through his nerves, felt the tang of electricity on his tongue and the pins-and-needles on his skin. All too familiar to him, all too unwelcome.

Just my luck, it seems, he thought, gritting his teeth against the sensations.

She melted out of the darkness like a snake, her presence sucking away the very essence of the night. He averted his own gaze once hers turned upon him. Her eyes were the deepest purple of a bruise, sickening and enticing and dizzying in turns; they were the eyes of a being who knew how to charm, how to seduce, how to torment, how to induce insanity with the touch of a finger and a stolen kiss — and they were the eyes of a ruler who was fully aware of her power on all counts.  

Upon their past encounters, he had kept a cool distance from her and answered to her solely at Queen Ilona’s bidding, as was proper during the circumstances. He had made it clear that his loyalties lay in one Queen, and one Queen only, and the other would be wise not to attempt to command him. But now he felt the loss of his position and Queen Ilona’s protection acutely, so though it repulsed him, he removed his hand from the hilt of his dagger and offered a low, stiff bow. “Greetings, Queen Nathaira of the Unseelie Court,” he said. As he stared down hard at the ground, his mind worked quickly to discern the motive behind the Queen’s decision to follow him, but he found nothing. And that in itself was dangerous, because the Queen of the Unseelie never did anything without rhyme or reason, and only a fool would assume that her intentions were honorable.

Queen Nathaira laughed again, the sound echoing shrilly and eerily like it had the first time when it announced her appearance. “Greetings, noble Knight no more. I see that Ilona has released you from your vows. A generous favor for a human who has served her for so long, is it not?”

He ignored the insult. “It is true she has released me, but it was by my own choice, Your Majesty.”

She waved her hand as if to brush aside his statement. As she did so, the black material of her gown shimmered, and Darren found himself staring at it. It was not a type of fabric he had ever seen among the Sídhe. Nor was it in line with the Queen’s usual attire. The gown she wore now was of a much simpler cut, and while it intimately fit the sleekness of her body, it didn’t flow with her every movement or seem to possess a life of its own. It was cinched tightly at her waist, cupped obediently around her breasts. Still evident, however, was the material’s richness and fine make.

It seemed she hadn’t missed his silent observation, for she picked up a fold of her skirt and rubbed it delicately between two fingertips. “Silk,” she said, eyes cutting toward him slyly. “A fabric of human creation. Lovely and very expensive, but it somewhat lacks the elegance of Fae cloth. A pity. Do you think it suits me?”

She looked gorgeous in it, with all the beauty of a black rose and its many thorns, but Darren had no desire to say so. He looked away and maintained what he hoped was a respectful silence.

It was clear that Queen Nathaira was not about to be thwarted so easily. “Well, fair Knight?” she pressed. The title, coming from her mouth, was a mockery. Her voice itself was like a layer of pond scum on his skin; it was cold and sinewy, and just hearing it made the hair on the back of his neck rise.

“It looks wonderful,” he said flatly.

Pleased, she came closer, and her fingers danced along the shadow of his jaw. “Always so proud, are you not? Too proud to admit that you are human, too proud to admit that like most humans, you are easily enchanted by the baring of a little skin and a beckoning smile.” Her words were a low purr in his ear. He kept his face expressionless. “Although I do have to admit, I find stoicism to be an attractive feature in any male being. Tell me, little Knight, would you condescend your virtuous self to become a lover to the Queen? I may even make you my consort if it so happens that I am in a good mood.”

The very idea was simultaneously alluring and abhorrent to him, but his mind was racing ahead, racing to cover forbidden ground — the feeling of Queen Ilona in his arms . . . the touch of her warmth against his . . . her body soft, her lips half parted, her hair streaming over his shoulder in a waterfall of silk . . .

“Sinful indeed,” whispered Queen Nathaira. Darren startled, and she laughed, obviously amused, well aware that she had touched a nerve. Furious with himself for permitting his thoughts to stray in such a disgraceful direction, and for giving the Queen an advantage over him, Darren took a step backwards and refused to look at her.

“I do not know what you mean.”

“To the contrary, my dear, I think you know exactly what I mean. Do you really lust after her so? Oh, what an entertaining story that would make! The Knight of the Seelie, sworn to eternal servitude, but in reality a mere bitch in heat before his Queen. And when he is finally freed of his oath and his honor, the first thing he does is thrust himself upon her, forgoing the century of trust she has put in him for his own —”

“No!” Darren said sharply, shoving away the vulgar images taking shape before his mind’s eye. “My Queen is and always will be my liege, and I honor her as any servant honors his master. Forgive my bluntness, Your Majesty, but you are deeply mistaken if you believe that I think of her in that manner, and if you believe that I intend to force her to do anything against her will.”

Queen Nathaira smiled. “You need not lie to me. I see everything there is to see. You may run if you wish; you may even hide if you wish. But no matter where you are, know that I will always be able to bare the deepest, darkest secrets of your soul, dear Knight, and that nothing you do will stop me.” She paused. “I have lingered long enough, have I not? Onwards with your little journey, then. I shall delay you no further.” Darren watched her, struggling to keep his face impassive, as she spun on her heel and began to walk away.

After a few steps, however, she stopped again to look over her shoulder. “I do believe Ilona knows,” she said with a wolfish grin. “She may be overly pure of heart and a great sentimental fool, but she is not stupid. Why else would she be so willing to let you go? She fears for her own safety, is all.”

“What?” Darren was caught off guard, but before he could say any more, Queen Nathaira was flicking her hand carelessly at him.

“I must go. Farewell, my human Knight. Consider this my parting gift to you.”

All at once, the stars and the moon winked out. The ground disappeared from underneath his feet. For a gut-wrenching moment, he was free falling through space — then his vision returned, the world leveled out, and he found himself standing, alone and upright, at the end of the road. Before him were the outskirts of a sleeping town, suburban houses evenly spaced along a small street, dark and quiet, patiently awaiting morning. Queen Nathaira was gone, but the doubts she had planted remained like poisonous roots; they were reaching tendrils into his brain even as he took his first step off the asphalt onto grass, into truly human territory.

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