Greetings, my numerous fans, I have a hard time counting you already…
Now, let us continue on with the story:
This is a beautiful day, thought Hylven as he walked with his friend Rother through the city square. They both wore the grey armor. Many eyes followed them as they proudly crossed the busy markets, on their way to the castle. Hylven attracted more glances from women with his black-long hair gracefully dancing in the breeze. Rother, with his blond-short hair, had a more intimidating look that matched his personality. And despite his stern face, both he and Hylven were happy today. It is the day they become knights, and meet King Shallow in person.
Years ago, the people of the city witnessed many proud men and women marching to the castle gates, all of them donning the grey armor, on their way to become knights. It was the only activity that King Shallow did not delegate to Sir Falcus. The chosen citizen would kneel in front of the giant king. And he would make him, or her, rise again as a knight of Shrinkshard. These men and women were envied for their chance to exchange words with the King. But that was a long time ago. The streets of the capital city haven’t seen a grey armor on its way to knighthood since the battle of Red Hill.
That’s why Hylven and Rother weren’t surprised when people started following them. The crowd increased the more they neared the castle. A middle-aged man shouted “Good luck, lads! Pray the king doesn’t sleep in the middle of it” and those who heard him laughed. Rother smiled and looked at his friend “Lads?” Hylven returned the smile “Let them call me little boy, I don’t care. We are the first knights in ages, Rother. Life does not get better than this.” Rother’s smile faded “Becoming a knight has its merits, I’ll give you that. But it’s not all fame and glory.” Hylven laughed at his friend’s grimness. “You will age badly, my dear friend. Stop taking the world so seriously” Rother’s face stiffened as he said “And you will die young, Hylven, if you treat everything as a game. Becoming a kni…” Hylven interrupted him with an elbow to his chest. Rother was caught off guard, and staggered back a couple of steps. He looked at Hylven with the intent to kill. “Oh, watch out, people. The monster is about to come out. Run for your lives.” And he ran away before Rother gave chase. Everyone was laughing and cheering Rother to catch his friend. They raced toward the castle.
Hylven was standing in front of the guards when Rother caught up with him. The first was holding his laugh, while the latter was constraining his anger. The guard addressed them “State your names and business”. Hylven couldn’t contain himself “Save the act, Yurdin, it doesn’t suit you at all” Yurdin sighed “Just get inside, you lucky bastards” And he made way for them to enter. He stopped them before they got far “Hey!” and they turned to find him smiling “Don’t forget, tonight at the forest. Everyone will be waiting for you” Hylven replied “Don’t worry, we’ll be there” Yurdin’s face turned to stone “Don’t even think about leaving us out there in the cold and go chasing after them ladies” Hylven laughed “I said don’t worry, but remember, you will have to bow to me the next time we meet” Yurdin wasn’t amused “Yeah, you wish!” The pair reached the inner gate, and entered the castle.
The King’s court was straight ahead. Its gate was very high and wide. There were five men on both sides of the door, burdened with the daunting task of opening and closing the door for visitors. The young soldiers entered the court. Lords and ministers were lined on each side along the great hall. Rother’s tension rose as he saw how the nobles regarded them. He didn’t feel they were welcomed here. Hylven, on the other hand, was oblivious to it all. He was living the moment, and walked with his head high and proud, like a welcomed hero returning from a decisive battle. Sir Falcus greeted them in front of the stairs that lead to the throne, where King Shallow was setting, “Greetings, young warriors. Allow me to congratulate you on this memorable day. Your names will be written in history, as the first knights after the Battle of Red Hill.” He turned to address the entire court “Ladies and lords, allow me to introduce these great young men, Hylven Brisk, and Rother Frey. These fine warriors have managed to bring peace back to our kingdom, after a long struggle with the Black Cloaks. They have set a great example of bravery, determination, and loyalty to their kingdom.” Rother struggled with his emotions upon hearing those words. He and Hylven were among the soldiers of the Third Battalion, under the command of Sir Boshvack, one of the Five White Knights, when they dealt the final blow to the Black Cloaks. They chased their leader, Vanquim, who crossed the western border, trying to lose them in the plains of Darim. The dwarves didn’t welcome unexpected visitors to their lands. That’s why, despite the treaties, they launched their attack on both parties as soon as they crossed the border. Rother was hit in his shoulder with a poisoned arrow that stunned him. Vanquim saw him fall to the ground. The Black Cloaks’ leader knew he was done for, and was trying to kill as many of the Shrinkten soldiers as he could, so he rushed to finish the fallen soldier.
Rother will never forget what happened next. Vanquim was almost at strike range, when Hylven suddenly came between them. He engaged the Black Cloak head on, bushing him back, barley able to block the young soldier’s fast blows. Vanquim got his feet back, and aimed his strike at his opponent’s neck, but Hylven was too quick, he ducked, missing the sword by an inch. And before the wicked leader could regain his balance, Hylven thrust his sword through Vanquim’s chest, piercing his heart. Hylven tells everyone he was lucky, but Rother saw for himself that luck had nothing to do with it; he witnessed his friend’s potential revealed in the heat of battle.
Many knights were lost before the battalion crossed the border back to Shrikshard. Rother was carried all the way.
When they heard the news that they were to be knighted, Hylven almost hugged Sir Boshvack. But Rother wasn’t as happy. He didn’t feel that he deserved the honor. He was just a liability at the end. But he didn’t object, for that would be a great insult to the King himself.
“… and shall be the beginning of a new generation of knights, who will insure the prosperity of our great kingdom” Rother was able to hear the last part of Sir Falcus’ speech, after Hylven elbowed him. The Right Hand turned to face them. “And now, you may have the honor of climbing to the throne”
They climbed the stairs, and knelt in front of the throne. The giant king’s voice was so deep and strong when he spoke “To become knights of Shrinkshard, means that you are willing to give up your life, whenever it is needed for the protection of the Kingdom. You will always do whatever is necessary to eliminate any threat to our people. You will stand against your friends, families, and lovers, if they chose to turn against their King” Then he stood up, and they heard him draw his sword.
“I, King Shallow, the thirty first King of Shrinkshard, Declare these brave warriors as noble knights” Hylven was startled by the great shadow that fell on him, it was the King’s sword, coming down on his right shoulder. “Rise, Sir Hylven Brisk” He lifted his head, and was baffled by the King’s height. “Rise, Sir Rother Frey” Rother shared his friend’s astonishment at the King’s size. They have both heard about his abnormal size, but it was their first time to witness it.
Down bellow, the noble crowd applauded. And the ceremony was over.
“Well, that was quick” said Hylven on their way out of the castle, “The ceremony in my head was way more fun, and absolutely much longer” Rother was upset for a different reason “I didn’t like how the nobles were looking at us, I wanted to get out the second we stepped in”
“Really? I didn’t notice anything wrong, those guys always look bored. It’s like part of their prestige” Then he turned to look at his friend “Forget about the boring crowd, did you see how tall the King was? How could a man be that big?” And that did make Rother forget about the nobles “I was more startled by the size of his sword. The fact that he left it like a feather in his hand frightened me.” Hylven suddenly had a thought “I wonder why the King didn’t fight with us against the Black Cloaks. I think he would have wiped them out with a couple of swings from that enormous sw…” Rother interrupted him “Stop it, Hylven. Defending the kingdom was our duty as soldiers, and now as knights. The King’s place is on the throne, to rule.” Hylven laughed “Oh calm down, friend. I was joking, Ok?”
After 2 days, the weather was nice. And Hylven thought it would be a good idea to ride his horse into the forest.
To be continued…