As I am the one that asked for this section to showcase SCA's writers, I figured I needed to be the first to post to it.... I have been writing short stories and poetry most of my life.... Much of my writing is inspired by the happening in my life at the time on conception.... This story is no different.... Being a 44 yr old disabled human hsa placed the spotlight on a lot of the mis-conceptions people have of our "differences"... This story shows that although we are different we all have a purpose whether we realize that or not... It may not always be obvious.... I hope you all enjoy the story.... Please forgive in typos, etc.... Sometimes they do slip by...
The Knight & the Dress Maker
Airidonia yawn and stretched, as she slowly rolled out of bed. She had become quite used to the soreness in her back and shoulders over the last few years; however the heaviness of her heart has a new ache. Reaching over and scratching the top of Samson’s head “yet another day mi’lorde, I wonder what news this day shall bring as well”. Samson merely meowed, stretched, and returned to the curled up position Airidonia had disturbed him from. “Meow you say, I wish I had your life.” She stated flatly as she shuffled her way into the connecting room.
Stretching one more time, she plopped herself into her big comfy chair and set to the task at hand. Reaching into her basket, she picked up the linen she had placed there from the night before. Lightly brushing the fabric smooth, a single tear fell from her eye, landing where her hand had just been. “now stop that you old woman”, she chided herself. For emotion was not something Airidonia was comfortable with. And these emotions she was truly not ready to release into the world that be. Reaching over the other arm of the chair, she plucked a needle and thread from its resting place. Again as she set needle to linen, another single tear fell landing in the middle of the beautiful linen.. “ok you old woman, no staining this one” Airidonia chided herself yet again.
With needle and thread in one hand and linen in another, she went to work. Carefully placing stitches in a uniform size along the edge of the fabric. Over the years Aridonia had become quite accustomed to making this particular pattern, however none had the meaning the one in her hand held. Allowing her mind to wander, another tear and another tear and another tear fell. Before Airidonia could stop herself, she had moistened a good portion of the linen in hand with her tears. Chiding herself she raised her head upward, “Forgive me mi’lorde I mean you no disgrace. Please do not see my tears as such”. Just as she finished whispering her apology for forgiveness, a light rap came upon the door.
Glancing toward the window, Airdonia realized it was time for her mid-day meal. Where had the morning gone, for it honestly seemed as the sun had just risen in the east reminding her, her work was not yet complete. Again came the light rapping on the door. “Elzabeth enter already, how many time have I told you, you do not need to knock before entering”. Airidonia had hoped she hid her emotions among her stern steady voice, for she feared she would worry Elzabeth unnecessary. “I know mi’ladye, you have told me time and time again. However our majesty has instructed me to always knock prior to entering. He has said you may not feel well and thus should not be disturbed”, Elzabeth said upon entering the room with the food tray.
The smell of the meal proceeded Elzabeth into the room, with grumbling stomach Airidonia asked “My child what wondrous smells do you bring an old woman today” again hoping to hide her emotion although her voice sounding very cracked, dry, and worrisome. “Mi’lady his majesty has asked you be brought your favorites today. I was very confused by his request, though he assured me it was necessary.” With a puzzled looked Elzabeth set the tray on the table in the center of the room. Although the room was not as large as many of the rooms in the castle, Airidonia had made it feel homey and warm with the few decorations his majesty had granted her; among these were her 2 big comfy chairs, a nice center table, and lots of basket containing a wide variety of colored fabrics, threads, and so forth. After setting the tray, Elzabeth walked over to admire Airidonia’s latest project. When she spotted the moisture upon the linen and knowing full well Airidonia would never condone such a behavior she began to question her mistress, “Mi’ladye is everything ok with you. You do not seem yourself after Sire Mitchell’s visit yesterday. You seem rather distracted”.
“Ai my child, I do not seem to be myself. I am a bit distracted as you shall put it”.
“Would talking about it help mi’lady. What is the project that has been set to your hands”.
“Child have you heard the news of our latest battle, and the numerous of losses”
“Ai I have,”
“among the losses was a dear friend of mine. A warrior that became very dear to me over the last few years”
“Mi’Ladye” Elzabeth explained, “You never told me you had a suitor, you sly one you”.
“oh no no , my child” Airidonia stated flatly and firmly, “ I think you truly misunderstand what I have said. I have said I lost a dear warrior. A friend, a confidant, a protector”.
“Mi’ladye, I am confused”
“Ai child, growing up, I am sure you have heard many a tail of the battles of Sire Lorde Romulus of Dragonplague
“Ai mi’ladye” Elzabeth said, “grand tales of battles fought hard and won in the name of our King”
“Ai young Elzabeth” Airidonia stated “how would you like to humor an old woman and listen to a tale you will hear nowhere else of a young arrogant, sickly skinny Romulus. One of a child looking to become a man at the tip and hilt of a sword”
“Mi’lady I beg to differ with you, for all the stories I have heard of Sire Romulus are always of strength, honor, desire, and determination. Your description of him does not pay justice to the tales”
“Child do you wish to humor an old ladye and listen or not” Airidonia stated, honestly more roughly and frustrated then surely she had meant to sound.
Taken a back with Airidonia’s determination, and somewhat forwardness; neither of which Elzabeth had experienced prior from her mistress she agreed to listen to the story. For it seemed this was a story Airidonia was truly determined to share with her, why her she was not sure; though she would never deny this woman anything she requested…
Laying her project carefully and neatly in the basic beside her chair, reaching for mug of mead and chunk of bread; Airidonia motioned for Elzabeth to sit, to make herself comfortable in the other chair.
“aaahhhh now where shall I begin” Airidonia said taking a sip from the mug. Taking a deep breath, ever so slowly letting the breathe escape; “Ai, I know exactly where to begin”
“As the sun began to rise in the east………”
T’was for the most part like any other morn among the castle folk; many had already set to their daily tasks when the first sounds, shouts and smells began to fill the air. Dragonsphere had held off the attack for nearly a week, keeping the crusading barbarians at bay. However today the barbarian had chosen a new way to attack, before day break; before the knights, militia, warriors had risen for the day. In the week prior they had attacked around mid-day always giving the King and his men time to prepare. Today was not to be the case.
As the screams and cries of the dead and dying could be heard through the walls; so could the order of his majesty; standing ever so soundly and astutely in the castle foyer, loudly giving orders to his men, instructing where to go, how to fight, what to do. When just as suddenly he turned his attention to another; “Sire Longknife, front and present now”. Longknife stopped in mid-stride toward the front and the heat of fighting, spinning on a single foot. “Yes My Majesty”, Longknife stated, bowing before the king.
“Longknife take your apprentice, Romulus and go to the south wing, and the room on the third floor. Protect all that are there”
“Ai majesty, as you bid” with that being said Longknife stood and proceeded to gather his apprentice.
“Longknife” the king yelled to be heard over the other ruckus in the war room. Longknife stopping ever so shortly “Yes you majesty”.
“You do know the importance of this assignment, do you not”
“Ai” is all Longknife said over his shoulder, grabbing the young Romulus by the arm and leading him down the hallway and away from the fighting in the main court yard.
About 10 feet down the hallway, Romulus jerked free from his Master, “What is the meaning of this? Why are we running away from the fight, from our friends and comrades?”
“it is not your place to question, if you wish to become a knight within this kingdom it is your place to do as your are told… and right now you have orders from I and your king.. Those orders are to go to the third floor now” Longknife screamed while grabbing Romulus by the arm yet again and forcing him down the hallway…
The pair ran down the long narrow hallway to the back of the castle, and then up the steep dark servant stairs . Once to the third floor, Longknife stopped suddenly causing Romulus to run square into his back.
“Why do we stop”
“shush” Longkife whispered while listening to any sounds to which may be coming from the hallway.. Once he was sure they were safe he proceeded down the hallway to the room he become quite accustomed to spending time within. Again he stopped listening for any and all sounds when he heard her voice.
“enter already you fool…. You will do me no good impaled outside my quarters door.”
With a chuckle, Longknife opened the door “mi’ladye glad to see the chaos in the lower levels have no affected your mood”
“Sire we have played this game way to long for it to bother me much any more”
“Ai we have” Longknife stated as he walked over to the only other empty chair in the room, placing his long sword against the arm, and his dagger in his lap, he sat down.
“Ai and who have you brought with you today” Airidonia stated curiously while pointing to the young Romulus no pacing in the room.
“Ai mistress may I present to you young Romulus, apprentice to the king’s guard”. As Romulus was introduced he bowed before the Airidonia, removing his hat in one swooping motion from the top og his head to his left shoulder. “Mi’ladye”
“ai they seem to just keep getting younger and younger… it is amazing with all of this fighting we still have any young men to continue with it”
“mistress, never fail you shall always be protected”
“ai the king will make sure of that”
As room became quiet, Airidona returned to the project she had laid aside when she heard Longknife approach. She always thought it amusing how he presumed he could ever sneak upon her. Yet it never failed, she heard him on the stair case and could count the seconds before he would be at her chamber door. He was as predictable in his approach as the sun rising and setting. It’s time may slightly be different from time to time, however his arrival was always the same.
As she began setting threaded needle to cloth, Longknife picked up the other end of the project, fingered the fabric revealing exactly what Airidonia was working on. Once he had it figured out, he picked a second needle from the thread ball, threaded it, and began stitching the opposite side as Airidonia. Airidonia couldn’t help herself, she stopped and watched in amazement on how this tough rigid warrior was so soft and perfect with a needle and thread. She smiled to herself with the realization, she was the one who had taught him how to stitch so perfectly.
Suddenly, shaken from her thoughts; all three nearly jumped to their feet at the sound of the cannon firing in the court yard. Young Romulus ran to the window peering down, he could tell it was our cannon firing on the enemy…
In a frustrated voice Romulus asked Longkinfe “how can you sit there doing ladye’s work while there is still fighting below in the court yard”
“Young Romulus, I will give you this one liberty, do not cross me again. We are here on orders”
“pppppppppffffffffffffttttttttttt” young Romulus stated while kicking at the stone in the floor “some orders, to watch an old woman high above any harm”
“Romulus, I warn you” Longknife growled deeply.
“Hush” Airidona told Longknife holding her hand up to him in a polite and loving manner.
“Romulus is young and anxious to make his way among the ranks.” Turning to face Longknife, “I remember another young warrior with the same aspirations”
“See she understands, besides she is safe here among these needles and fabrics. Who would think to threaten such a crone”
“Romulus, watch yourself” growled Longknife once again
“Fine” Romulus stated, returning his attention to the window and the fighting below. When he could no longer watch, he would pace back and forth in front of the window, stopping every so often to peer into the battle he so longed to be a part of below.
Another blow from the cannon, this one shaking the very walls of the chamber. Romulus suddenly stopped again before the window “Longknife, our friends, our comrades need us.. Must we stay here”
“Ai” is all Longknife said, retaining his concentration on the project he and Airidonia were working on.
“Great my first real battle and I spend it babysitting some old crone. A crippled old crone”
Romulus no more than had breathed the words and Longknife had his sword about the young man’s throat. “Longknife, no blood is to be shed in this room. Drop your sword now” Airidonia stated firmly flatly, while standing from her chair toward Romulus.
Longknife peered over the top of the young man, “Longknife now”. At the command, he slowly dropped his sword, growling deeply at Romulus.
“So I am an old crone, a worthless old crippled crone.. one not worth protecting.. Is that what you truly think” Airidonia asked Romulus, stepping to meet him toe to toe “Is it boy”
Romulus not wishing to look at Airidonia, kept his eyes focused on the floor “Ai ma’am”
“then let me ask you this… That fine linen tunic you wear under your armor, much like the one in there basket” Airidonia asked, pointing to the basket filled with linen near the far corner of the chamber “….. Is it of the king’s guard”
“That blanket you sleep under and place upon your horse, Tha blanket you use to protect both you and your fine creature from the elements…… is that not also of the king’s guard?”
“Ai” Romulus whispered, all the while keeping his gaze focused on the bricks right in front of his feet.
Reaching out and grabbing his chin, and forcing him to look her in the eyes “What was your answer Sir?”
“Ai” Romulus stated a bit louder.
“ai you say… Ai… Do you not know how the kings guard comes about those wondrous treasures you are so enjoying as an apprentice… wonders I am sure you did not have in your previous home”
Finally squaring his shoulders, Romulus answered, “I would presume the king’s tailor”. Romulus had no more finished this statement and Longknife could not help himself but to chuckle. Ironically his chuckle was slightly louder than he had intended. With all the temper Romulus could muster “Why do you laugh at me”.
“Do not pay attention to him, it is I who are asking the questions. Some tailor you say.. Some tailor. I suppose to you some peasant doing as the King bids when the king bids”
Romulus refused to answer at this point for he felt deep within his soul if he answered it would not bode well for him.
“Well young Romulus, a boy trying to be a man at the tip of a sword… Your answer to my questions stands before. For I, the old cripple crone not worth protecting and defending, is the very tailor you owe your fine clothing to. Yes the king supplies the textiles, I supply the talent in which you, Longknife, the guard and for that matter his Excellency wears. I, this lonely old crippled crone, not worth a day’s of your time; spends days, months, even years on clothing for you”
Just as Airidonia finished her statement, the door flew open “The king demands your presence Longknife”.
“by your leave, mi’ladye” Longknife stood and immediately asked Airidonia.
“Ai Sire, by my leave” Airidonia had no more than answered Longknife and Romulus was in the hallway and headed toward the stairs. All he could think of was getting away from Airidonia, getting away from the deep shame he felt within himself. For in one fail swoop, this mistress of the castle had taught Romulus not all are as they appear to be. This new knowledge made him feel truly uncomfortable within his own skin.
“Fear Not young Romulus” Longknife stated quietly as he quickly caught up with Romulus going down the stairs, “I too made a very similar disgrace upon my first meeting of our ladye Airidona. The difference I met her at court, not at battle.” Romulus said nothing, he only continued his speedy retreat down the stairs, toward the war room and his majesty.
Upon reaching the great war room, both men landed on one knee in front of his majesty. “your Excellency, By you command” was all Longknife said.
“Ai, Longknife, I gather by your quick response and presence all is well on the third floor and it’s inhabitants”
“good, good. Thank you for your personal service. You and your apprentice may now join the men in the court yard. Please get it cleaned up as quickly as possible and give the numbers to our Mistress”
“Ai, Your Excellency”. With that said Longknife and Romulus backed out of the large circular room, once out of sight of the king, they both stood and made a dash toward the court yard to receive further orders.
The clean up was a long and low process, for it seemed every time they picked up a stone from the castle’s massive wall they would find yet more dead. In the days following the attack, the dead seemed to out-number the living. Thankful to most in the Dragonsphere the dead were from the crusading barbarians… Dragonsphere had lost some, though it seemed their biggest losses were in peasants, farmers; the out skirt peoples and not of the king’s guard. Thankful to their training, the king’s swiftness, and a few other offenses most of the guard lived on to be rewarded with the cleanup.
To many of the guardsmen, the clean up seemed to be a daunting task, one that seemed to have no end. For Romulus, he welcomed the hard labor. It quickly consumed the days immediately following the battle. He relished it, it kept him from ruminating on what happened that very day. He still was not sure who the old crone was, nor why she managed to intimidate him the way she had. He had met some of the toughest the guard had to offer on the training field, none had made him feel like that.
However in the death quiet of the night, Romulus could not seem to escape her words, “not worth protecting, defending”… He had not heard those words in years, and the last person to use them toward him had used them in slightly different context. He was the one not worth protecting and the person was his father. He remembered that day, just like the day of the battle, most vividly. His father was not happy at him being sick yet again. His mother did her best, making excuses, feeding him extra portions, whatever she could. Romulus just never developed like his older brothers and his father constantly made his dissatisfaction in such facts known to Romulus.
On this very night, Romulus had come down ill yet again, and his father was making him pay for it. The scars on his back twinged as he remembered the pain, the humiliation, the sadness in his mother’s eyes.. Shaking his head, he made a concentrated effort to focus on the darkness before him. Tonight was his first real night on watch, alongside Longknife since the battle. He knew he must focus and make his master proud of him.
“don’t try so hard young Romulus” Longknife stated breaking the silence, clasping the young man by shoulder. “what be it that torments your soul so deeply”…
“ai master, nothing to worry you about”
“Romulus, in the heat of battle I must know, trust you have my back. You are not distracted by any deep memory. I have not seen this in you since the battle. Thus I say again, what torments your soul so deeply, especially on such a phenomenal night” Longknife finished, stretching his hand and arm in front of him, as if to show Romulus the beauties laying within the forest before them.
“Master my I speak freely then”
“it is the Mistress we protected during the battle. Who is she, or more like what is she? I have never in all my life been so happy to get away from anyone as I was her that evening. Not even my father, who I have told you of, caused that kind of distress within my soul”… Romulus paused before continuing “It was like” Shaking his head, he let his statement vanish within the light breeze that was beginning to wrap it’s cooling arms around both men.
“Ai, I take it you have never heard of the king’s talented dressmaker.”
“I have heard stories.. I know the bards sing of a ……………………………………….. woman among the king’s alliance that many men fear. Other than that, no not one of a particular dressmaker”
“Ai young Romulus, Airidonia is that very woman the bards sing of, the woman in the stories. She is the dressmaker that seems to protect the king and his guard. “
“How do you know of these things, when none else does. The guard never questioned where we were. They did not ask why we were not at their side. Yet none called us on such cowardness.”
All Longknife could was chuckle, yet again at Romulus. “Lad, none among the guard will ever question you when battle arises from that day forward. They knew where you were. You were at my side, doing as I have been trained, honored to do”
“sire, forgive me, I do not understand”
“You remember I told you that day I had made a similar mistake, however mine was during court”
“Would you like to hear of the tale, I feel it may help you to understand that in which you do not as of yet”.
“Ai, it was going on 5 years ago, when first came to the court as a young man. My father seeking to better our ties with the king had hoped to marry me off to one of the king’s daughters”
Romulus could not help himself, he chuckled at this thought. A young Longknife, not likely, and then to be married to a princess. Shaking his head. Romulus was not sure what Longknife had been adding to his mead before watch this evening, and he was not sure he wanted to know.
“Are you gonna listen boy or are you gonna give me grief”
“Sire I am sorry, please forgive me. I just cannot imagine you married to one of the king’s daughters”
Chuckling just slightly, Longknife continued “Neither could I. I am not the courtly kind and was not well with my father’s biding. Though as you well know, sons, daughters must do their father’s wishes. Thus I sat quietly as my father made his case before the king. When from behind the throne, this woman appeared between the king and queen. She scared the willies right out of me.”
Again a slight chuckle escaped Romulus. “Sire I cannot imagine anything scaring you, much less you having willies to scare”
Longknife chuckled boastfully and loudly enough in a positive response, Romulus knew he had chosen the right master to teach him to become one of the king’s guard.
“lad, if you keep that sense of humor with you upon the battlefield, you too will become a defending force one day” Longknife chuckled while talking “though trust me, I was once a young lad doing what was necessary to become the man I truly wished to be. For honestly, I wanted to be as I am today part of the king’s guard, not the king’s son-in-law puppet. And honestly I firmly believe Airidona saw this in me that day. For as she glided between the king and queen, she touched each on their shoulder and continued toward what I thought was my father.”
“Wait Airidonia, the crone upstairs……”
“Ai lad, now are you gonna let me finish or are you going to keep interrupting my story”
“Sorry sire, please continue”
What neither Longknife, nor Romulus knew was they had an audience that evening. Airidonia was sitting by her window enjoying the peacefulness of the breeze when she heard their voices on the wall below her window. Wanting to know what her protectors were doing on such a star lit night, she allowed her hearing to stretch to hear what they were discussing. She became quite amused when she heard Longknife’s recalling of the day she first met him. She let her mind wander back to that day as he continued his story.
“The court now calls before it Lorde Edgar, to make his bid before their excellencies” the court herald bellowed.
Realizing he had finally been called before the majesty, Edgar grabbed his son by the arm “now boy you best mind yourself while we do this” his said as he dragged his son across the room. Forcing the boy down alongside him, Edgar began his plea, “Your majesty I bring you an offer. One to which will bind both of our houses for ever more.”
As Edgar continued his plea, Airidonia was eyeing the young lad at his side. He intrigued her. His spirit was strong, unbroken… His soul was steady, one of honor. She watched as the boy held his head up, and looked around, as though he was not part of the show before her. Suddenly she heard the words “a marriage”… “No, this lad is not to marry.. and not with royalty” suddenly washed over Airidonia. As the feeling washed through her, she found herself moving between the king and queen, lightly brushing both on their shoulder’s as she passed through them. By lightly touching both of their majesties, they knew this young man was not a threat and she had a purpose for interrupting court. Almost as if floating Airidonia approached the young boy. “Rise to your feet, boy”. Airidonia had no more than given the command and the young lad was standing before her. Walking around the young boy, “Ai you will do fine, just fine”. With that said she approached their excellencies, winked at the king as she walked by, and just as quickly as she had interrupted court, she was gone.
“Lorde Edgar, your offer of marriage is hereby declined, however there is yet a way this alliance can be made if you are willing” The king bellowed as Airidonia disappeared behind the throne.
“You Majesty. That would be”
“You give me your son, he will become a member of my elite guard. In exchange you will keep your head, your property, and your title. Should you choose to disagree…..” the king let his voice float off as the rest of the statement need not be said
The young lad jumping to his feet, bowed before the crown “By your honor your majesty I accept. I being of age to be my own person, I hereby accept your offer.. regardless of what my father says”
Growling behind his breathe Edgar was doing his best to shut his son up. This was not the offer he wanted. He wanted the crown, he wanted that legacy, an heir, his son’s heir. How dare his son betray him in such a fashion. As he raised his hand to forcibly shut the boy up, a guard appeared and grabbed it mid air. It had been Edgar’s goal to belittle his boy right here before the king.
“Edgar…… You will not touch this young man again…. I see with my own eyes you do not cherish this boy as you have perceived to me you do… Thus…. It is here by ordered…. This boy is now my property to do with as I see fit… and as he wishes to be a member of my elite guard, thus shall it be… and you Edgar are hereby removed from this court, to be banished from these lands… You take with you only the clothes on your back… Your lands, your sons, daughters, wife are hereby forfeited to the crown…… Guards please escort this person to the furthest regions of the crown’s lands and see him on his way. Stay a fortnight to make sure he does not attempt to return to that in which is no longer his” with this said the king nodded to the herald to continue and move forward with the businesses at hand. Thankfully the rest of court was quite subdued in comparison.
Airidonia realized quickly she had picked the right lad. The boy excelled at everything. Swiftly he was able to take the captain of the guard in hand to hand. Within a few short months he was hunting with the elite hunters, bringing in much of the prey that season himself. None had seen such accuracy with a bow and arrow. Airidonia chuckled to herself more time than not as she watched his training from her third floor window. He was the perfect defender, protector for her; and obviously she had not been the only to think so.
“So let me get this straight” Romulus breaking through yet again “Airidona chose you, how… wait I am confused”
“Romulus” growled Longknife….”I am not going to tell you the rest of the story if you keep interrupting”
Airidonia unwittingly let out a quick chuckle, which both men heard immediately
“Who goes there” they growled in unison. Realizing what she had done she quickly slipped into the night, and no reply was ever given to the men..
With the sun rise, came more laborious work for the guard and less time for talk. “Another time I shall finish” was all Longnife said as they parted ways in the early hours before daybreak. “ai” said Romulus.
Longknife’s story had given Romulus a lot to think about during the day’s labor. If Airidonia had picked him to be her guard, then how did he come by being Longknife’s apprentice, and did that mean he was to step up and fill the position when Longknife left. How can any of this be possible? She is nothing but a crone, and tailor, an employee of the king. Surely Longknife is mistaken in his story. He did not come to the king’s guard to become a crone-sitter. He was determined to make his way within the guard, making a name for himself. Giving himself the strength to return to his father’s farm and make him eat those final words that night.
Although fort night into the cleaning process, the court yard still showed the scars of the battle. Large rocks still laid everywhere, the stench of rotting flesh could still be smelt here and there. The guard was beginning to realize the task before them was much larger than the battle to which created it. Above the noise and grumbles of the men, one could barely hear the herald’s bellow, “Longknife, you and you alone before his majesty, now”…
Longknife did not directly hear the herald as he was on the opposite side of the court yard, though he did hear one of the numerous relays. Looking strangely at the men working alongside him, he merely replied questioningly “Wonder what this is about”. Honestly Longknife had no clue, normally he had some form of inclination as to what his majesty wanted. This was not one of those cases.
Attempting to dust himself off and smooth out the fabric of his tunic, Longknife made his way to king’s private chambers. Tapping lightly on the door, He softly pushed the door open. He had been called to his majesty’s private chambers a number of times in the past, though none made him as nervous as today’s calling did. He was not sure why, he just had a real uneasy feeling about it. Once the door was opened enough he could fit through, he did so quietly. “Ai Longknife, always trying to be sneaky and quiet I hear” said Airidonia softly.
“Airidonia” he stated surprisingly. Thinking to himself why is she here. No wonder he was confused by this missive, she had something to do with it ..
“Ai, Longknife… Please come in and make yourself comfortable” replied the king.
“your majesty, I would rather stand if that does not offend your honor”
“Sire, in the many years of service you have given this court, you have naught ever offended it’s honor. Although it does have a few questions to pose to you on this day”….
“Ai” was all Longknife said though very puzzled. What did the king and Airidonia want from him. Why was he called before both of them? This was a first and surely not something he had ever expected.
“Longknife you know Airidonia and I are very good friends. We meet often and have many discussions about the future of our kingdom”
“well Airidonia has brought your young apprentice to my attention and thus I have questions of you… Do you know this young man well, his story of how he came to our guard”
“Longknife…. That was not an ai or nay question. Please tell us this young lad’s story if you would please”
“you majesty? ?” was all Longknife replied
“Longknife, I knew of your story when I choose you… Your story was laid before me, before my very eyes… I made a decision based upon that story… It is time for yet another decision to be made… before I choose to make said decision, I wish to know this lad’s story as well” interjected Airidonia
“Ai, though I am still confused as to this questioning.. Is there something I must know”
“Nay, Longknife… Please answer my questions honestly, honorably, as sworn to me to do so” the king said.
“Ai Your Majesty” agreed Longknife..
“then the boy’s story” the king asked once again
“Sire he comes from a farm some distance to the north. He is the youngest of many boys.. as for sisters I know not. He has not said. He has said his father would beat him often due to him always being sickly. His mother would sneak extra food portions to him in hopes to help him grow. On one final night after becoming sick yet again, his father beat him, and threw him out to the wolves in the forest. Telling him he was not worth protecting from them any further. That is when he came to join our guard”
“Can you then explain to me why you took this lad in and agreed to train him. If this is his story, he holds no value to the guard, no alliances, nothing. Why are we wasting time on this boy” the king said bluntly and gruffly.
“You majesty, I did not mean to offend by bringing the boy in. I just saw something within him. A strength, a drive, a desire”. Just as Longknife made this statement, Airidonia chuckled herself.
“Ai, I saw that in another young lad… “ Airidonia replied.
“Ai, you did Mistress and you were right about him those many years ago.” the king stated in reply to Airidonia.
Longknife was truly confused and yet very intrigued by this interaction between these two people. To his best recollection no one had ever spoken of seeing these two converse the way he was currently witnessing. There were no tales, no stories, no songs, there had only be speculation on how they got along and or talked with one another. This confused Longknife even more, why was he to be privy to such a private interaction between these two.
“Longknife,”Airidonia broke Longknife’s thoughts “I pose you this thought, do you feel in your heart of hearts, souls of souls, if the time were to come, this young Romulus would be a fitting replacement as my protector and defender”
Coughing and hacking, Longknife could not believe what he had just heard from Airidonia. A replacement, wait, was she not happy with him. What had he done to fall out of grace with her and the king. Before he thought about what he was saying “Excuse me, a replacement.. Mistress what have I done?”
Both the king and Airidonia, chuckled at Longknife’s response. “Not an immediate replacement dear sir, although the time will come when you must move forward with the other wonders life has to offer you. When that time comes, a befitting replacement must be trained prior and be waiting for his place within the guard. Thus again as Airidonia asked, I shall now ask…. Is the young Romulus of the outlands a proper replacement, should that time come” the king asked.
“Ai, your majesty… mistress” Longknife said bowing to each. “It maybe that is why I felt he was proper to become part of the guard. As the mistress saw a strong, honorable man within my hallow shell of a boy those years back, I see the same within the lad Romulus”
“Then it shall be” Airidonia stated quickly and flatly. “You shall train him quietly, discretely as you were trained. No one is to know of this conversation nor this decision until either myself or his majesty chooses to make it known”
“Longknife, do you understand the mistress’s order with regards to this situation” asked the king
“Ai, Sire, I shall follow this order as honorable and thoroughly as all previous orders.”
“you may leave, Longkife…. Remember your promise here this day, remember your oath to the throne” stated the king
“Ai, sire” Longknife quickly stated, bowed, turned on one foot and left the room just as quietly as he had entered.
This new order gave Longknife much to ponder. How was he going to train Romulus for all he needed to know in handling Airidonia and not give away the reason behind it all. At least when he was trained he knew why. He knew she had chosen him. He was also saddened by the fact she was now concerned with choosing another. Why? Just as the question touched his mind, a breeze seemed to touch his skin in such a way as if telling him something more lay ahead of him. Something beyond the king’s elite guard and the protection of Mistress Airidonia. With this new sense, new knowledge he set foot quickly back to the court yard and the numerous daunting tasks set before him.
The months seemed to fly by, the ever changing season passed one by one, all seemingly on a mission to get somewhere beyond time. Romulus’ training was going well… Longknife was quite proud of him and even more grateful to the relentless attacks of the crusading barbarians. For those attacks made training Romulus on how to handle Airidonia easier. Airidonia also helped with the training by talking more openly with Romulus, when they were cooped up, sometimes for days in her chambers. These conversations seemed to help Romulus realize just how talented Airidonia truly was. Longknife even at one point wondered if the young man had not become infatuated with Airidonia. Though when he brought this to Romulus’ attention, Romulus very passionately, honorable stood his ground merely stating, he “was befriending a lonely old lady”. Longknife smiled to hear that, Airidonia was no longer a crippled old crone. He again knew he had picked the right young man to be his replacement.
“HEAR YE….. HEAR YE…..” the court herald bellowed “Their majestis here by call before them Longknife, of the king’s elite guard”
Longknife looking around the room was shocked. He had not been told he would be called. He had not prepared for this. Although as he made his way up to kneel before their majesties, he noticed Airidonia had quietly appeared between them. Why is she here, he thought as he kneeled down.
“Mi’lord’s, Mi’lady’s I have called before us a great warrior. One who has always placed the needs of this crown, this court before his own. Even in the beginning he chose to serve the crown honorably, honestly and to the best of his ability” the king announced “that is why I have called him before me today. To reward his years of devote unquestioning service. Some time back, mistress Airidonia approached me about an offer, a reward shall we say for this warrior. We held a number of meetings, conferences, including one with this man”.
At this point you could truly hear the whisperings among the attendees. Never before had the king ever openly admitted to conferences with the Mistress Airidonia, nor had any ever been known to take part. Here today not only had his majesty admitted to confiding in Airidonia, he admitted to doing so with others present. The whispers did not stop the king from moving forward, albeit more loudly.
“After all said meetings, the following is what has been decided… Longknife… please look into my eyes so that you know what I say is the truth, an honest reward for a service that can never be match”. Upon the king’s orders, Longknife tilted his head from it bowing position, to look the king in the eyes as he continued.
“On this day I bestow to you lands taken by conquest in this court some odd years ago. These lands were removed from a man whose name shall never be repeated in this land. These lands are now yours, I am sure you are already very familiar with them. Also you may pick a wife of your choosing… One to which will continue to bind your alliance with this court.. and upon your head you shall bear the title of Baron of the lands of DragonSpring”. At this announcement Longknife’s eyes widen as almost with disbelief and questioning he looked straight at Airidonia. She merely nodded her head in agreement. This cannot be, he thought… “Baron Longknife, rise; what say you” the king said in finishing his announcement
Astonished and stunned Longknife rose to his feet, “your majesty, I know not what to say… other then By your wish your majesty”
“I wish Sir”
“then Ai your majesty”
“ai it shall be, make it known, Longkife is now Baron Longknife”
Bowing one more time, Longknife stunned by the recent events leaves the king’s presence and returns among the guard; who quickly and politely move him to the court seating, many finding his mumblings quite humorous while doing so.
“Their Majesty hereby calls Romulus before them” the herald bellowed.
Looking around and not fully understanding what just happened to Longknife nor knowing what that meant for him, Romulus was looking for a way out of this situation. Romulus had never been called before court in the few short years he had been present, he was just as happy to keep it that way. However the crowd seemed to part before him, allowing him to easily move forward. As he looked up, he also noticed Airidonia had not left from between their majesty. He hoped this was a positive sign. He had truly developed a bond with the Mistress. They had shared stories, past memories, experiences… Heck he even had become, like Longknife, enjoyed their times together working with the fine textiles. He never thought he could learn all the amazing things Airidonia had taught him; reading, sewing, singing, and most importantly sitting quietly enjoying nature all around. He looked up and gave her a slight smile as he bowed before their majesties and the mistress.
“Mi’lords, Mi’ladies I have called before us a true warrior. One with honor, strength, courage, and most important of all knowledge. This warrior has fought gallantly not only on the battle field of far away lands, also right here defending the Honorable Mistress Airidonia when times have called for it. Any order placed upon him, he has carried out with the greatest of ease”. Somewhere in the court could be heard a small slight chuckle. Those privy to the situation knew who made such a noise. Longknife merely bowed his head when he noticed the glare coming his way from Airidonia.
“thus today it is with great honor and pleasure I bestow the honor of Knight to this warrior as well as promoting him to protector and defender of the Mistress Airidonia.” In shock, Romulus could not believe his ears, knight defender…huh?... How when? “What say you Sire Romulus, do you accept as your king has asked”…
Rising slowly to his feet all he could muster was “Ai”… “Ai, it shall be” the king said. The king removed his sword from its sheath and touching Romulus on each shoulder declared “With this sword I knight you Sire Romulus, defender and protector to the Mistress Airidonia. May you serve her honorably, devotedly and with great strength and pride”… As the king finished you could hear the court bust into cheers.
Romulus was not used to such attention, as he looked around the court, he could not believe they were cheering for him. Not until he noticed one face among the crowd, one he thought he would never see again. Looking back to see if Airidonia saw the face as well, Romulus realized she was no longer standing with the king and queen. Quickly turning back to where the face had been, it was gone as well. Shaking his head, he figured it had merely been his mind playing tricks on him. In all of the excitement, it would not have surprised him.
The rest of court seemed to drag on for an eternity. Romulus anxiously awaited for it to end so he could question Longknife about all of this. Surely he had to know something was up. Then Romulus remembered his majesty granted Longknife the lands of Dragonspring… Wait Dragonspring, surely he heard wrong….
“HEAR YE… HEAR YE….” Bellowed the court herald breaking Romulus’ thoughts “This concludes the court of their Majesties.. It has been so ordered a feast is to begin in the main hall at sunset in honor of Baron Longknife of Dragonspring and Sir Romulus protector and defender to the mistress”.. With that court ended.
Romulus went instantly in search of Longknife. He found his Master sitting on the castle wall staring out into the dense forest. “You know Romulus had I not known it was you, I would have your head on the tip of my sword. You best learn to be quieter or Airidonia will know when you approach as well”
Romulus chuckled “Yeah as If she doesn’t already hear us coming.. She know way more than she let’s on. And I have a gut feeling she knew of this day as well…. Long before it happened”
“So I must ask you, did you know what was to happen today” Romulus asked
“none ?” Romulus said questioningly…
“Trust me, Had I know I would be handed my father’s lands, promoted to baron and lose the only true home I have ever had all in one day, I think I would have said something.” Longknife growled
“Ai, so it was your father’s lands his majesty bestowed upon you. Wow.. not sure I could handle that.. that is not why I came here…”
“Nay nor I Romulus, I agreed to the king’s agreement to become my own… to earn my own.. not have it handed to me like this”…
“Excuse me” both men jerked around suddenly at her voice “You my dear baron earned every square inch of that land… and when it was taken it was taken for this very day… I made very sure of that… You have fought gallantly… Always defending the crown to the best of your ability and in many cases even succeeding by your own standards… For your first winter here, you fed the court by your own hunting skills… We would have starved that winter had it not been for you… Thus for you to seek solice for one minute of being granted what should have always been yours in the first place, merely saddens me…. I made no mistake then… I make no mistake today…. You have always been a baron…. In you heart, in your soul… You merely had to earn it.. and you have done just that…. Thus I wish not to hear another degrading word from your mouth… You will ride out day after tomorrow, with your own guard and you will rule your lands, lands rightfully granted to you by the crown, with the honor and compassion I have seen you use within this court.”
“and you” turning her attention to Romulus, Airidonia continued “the face you saw in the crowd today was real” waving behind her she motioned someone to step forward. His jaw hit the floor, for standing before him was his mother. Running toward her, Romulus picked her up, swung her around, hugging her the whole time. Placing his mother on the ground, he turned toward Airidonia and went to speak “I am not done yet… You were not told of this day… For your loyalty, honor, had to be tested. You were brought to me by another.. Unlike him I did not choose you…. You were chosen for me.. Thus I had to make sure You could hold up to all that would be required of you to step into Longknife’s boots when this day did come… You have proven that beyond a belief… You have honestly gone so far as I call you friend… You are more than a protector, defender…. You are a confidante…. Something I have not had in many years” Turning toward Longknife. “This does not mean anything negative or derogatory toward you… It means you did your job well… You could not have picked a more perfect replacement… You chose me a friend… Someone you know in your hearts mind, who will protect me to their dying breathe. Sir Romulus is a most awesome legacy to leave with me Baron Longknife”.
“now both of you have a feast to prepare for. Sir Romulus, I am sure you have much you wish to catch up with your mother, and Baron Longknife I am sure you have much unfinished business as well. Thus no more negativity, I look forward to both of your smiling faces at tonight’s feast” with that said Airidonia disappeared as quickly as she arrived.
Both men clasped arms, “until this evening”. They parted ways. Although they would see each other briefly at the feast, they were not able to speak again. The next day Romulus was given leave to spend time with his mother. Longknife spent the day finalizing the papers with the king he would need to take with him on his journey “home”.
That night on the wall would be the last time Airidonia would see the two men together. She chose not to attend the feast. She had much work before her in her chambers and chose to work on it instead. In her hearts of hearts, she knew many things had come full circle. She knew Longknife would make an awesome Baron for the land of Dragonspring and as for Romulus… She knew she had a dear friend within him, and they would spend many years together as just that…
“Hear Ye… Hear Ye” came a call from the wall “A ride approaches fast from the south….. He wears the colors of DragonSpring…. Open the gates”…. As the rush of horse hoofs could be heard on the stone court yard, Airidonia could not stop herself from peering out her window to see what the ruckus was all about…
“Your majesty” the rider yelled almost out of breathe “I bring you word from Baron Longknife… Dragonspring is under attack… he asks for additional soldiers…. If you may….”
“If I may” bellowed the king “Captain Romulus”
“Ai Sire” Romulus quickly stepped forward
“Gather your best men, have them mounted and gone to Dragonspring by sunset” the king ordered
“Your majesty, I ask to go with my men on this mission… Baron Longknife is my master, and as we are safe and not under attack ourselves I am sure Mistress Airidonia will not need me until my return” Romulus asked
Glancing up, the king and Romulus saw Airidonia in her window… With the wave of her hand, she granted Romulus’ wish…
“Ai Romulus, it seems to be Mistress Airidonia’s desire to grant you this request. Ride swiftly, stay safe and return to us quickly for if Dragonspring is under attack, we may be soon” the king said granting Romulus his request. Waving his hand, the king dismissed Romulus, who immediately started bellowing orders to his men.
Airidonia smiled to herself, young skinny sickly Romulus had become quite a knight in his own right. Many songs and stories were sung throughout the land about this unbelievable knight, and this conquest would just be one more for them to sing.
As the days, nights and weeks passed with no word of the fighting to the south; Airidonia was starting to get worried when she heard the wall guard bellow. “In coming rider from the south”. Running to her window she peered out, hoping to see Romulus riding gallantly in. This was not to be the case… This rider rode hard and fast, this was a messenger. Most assuredly with news of the battle, all she could was wait. The king would notify her as quickly as he could with any word of her defender.
The minutes seemed to drag into hours, when finally there came a knock on her door. “Enter” was all she could muster at the moment. She got the horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach… Something was not right. To her amazement Sire Mitchell strolled through the door, this was all the confirmation she needed. Steadying herself for the news she said “what is the news you bring me this day”
“Mistress” he started glancing from her to the floor “it is with sad heart I bring you this news. Sire Romulus has been killed in battle at Dragonspring”.
Taking it in slowly, Airidonia pursed her lips together and stoutly said “you may leave”. By that command Sire Mitchell turned leaving the room and quietly shutting the door behind himself…
As he left, Airidonia allowed herself to weep… The first tears she had cried in years… She had seen many of the guard come and go… None had affected her as this one had… he had become her friend her confidant.
From nowhere she felt a quiet soft hug…. “I am so sorry mistress” It was Elzabeth’s soft voice. Hearing it brought Airidonia back to the here and now. “I never heard how Sire Romulus came to the guard. I guess many of us had just assumed he was born into it”
“Nai child…. He earned it” Airidonia said quietly smoothing her skirt. “Oh my” she exclaimed looking out the window “Where did this day go.. I have wasted an entire day…”
“Ai mistress, though I believe you needed to, for I can see your heart is not nearly as heavy as it was when we started our talk”
“Ai child, not nearly. Although I shall always miss Romulus.. his humor, his chuckles, his stories………”
“Mistress I know I am a poor replacement for him. However if you are willing I am. I can tell you stories from the lands I come from… I am not a gallant warrior, although I do consider myself a fine student of bards”…
“Ai a student of bards, maybe that is to be the next chapter in this old lady’s life”
What the Airidonia had not notice was the scroll sitting on the table near her chamber door. Sire Mitchell had laid it there when she had dismissed him the day before. The scroll was from Lorde Longknife, telling of Sire Romulus’ final words to her. “Please tell our mistress, I am sorry” .