|The Ancient Prophecy
Part VII: The Quest for Loyalty
by Vipers ©
was split into 10 parts. Jump to any of the segments from here:
"As I said before, we need to forge an alliance of all five clans of the land. All the conflicts right now are just the beginning. A far stronger Army of Darkness will eventually come, and if we're not prepared, we will be swept aside. If all beings in the realm join hand, we may succeed."
"How do you know they will agree to your proposal?" Lord Garth asked.
"They will. I believe they are as concerned about their people as all of us here. If we fail, they will share the consequences with us. They realized the danger they face. They will agree."
"But how do you know they will not betray us? The Elves, for instance." The General asked.
"Even the Elves realized the danger. If we can convince them of our goodwill in this alliance, they will comply. We cannot waste anymore time. The longer we wait, the worse the damage will be."
"Young man, you know NOTHING about politics!" Lady Montana snarled.
"On the other hand..." Lord Garth suddenly said, "I think he is right..."
The whole room turned to face the young advisor. Lady Montana eyed him in disbelief. "You believe in this kid?!"
"The kid is right. We have to admit that we're losing the war. If we don't react soon, our people will suffer. With all political problems we're having, a large scale of drafting and recruitment will be impossible to do. An alliance will strengthen our defense while we try to regain trust from the people."
General Kepfer stood. "I agree. The boy is saying the truth. Young Ranger, I still doubt about the Elves' involvement in your plan, but you have my support."
"Thank you, General."
Then one by one the court members were convinced and approved the plan. Lady Montana was getting furious, for nobody seemed to support her anymore. The king, who had been watching the debate from his throne, smiled warmly at Atrus.
"As the majority of the court members have decided, I will give my blessing..."
"Your majesty!!! This is a mistake...!!!" Lady Montana roared in anger.
"This will be a limited meeting for the council of war!" The king announced.
Then several members began to leave their seats. Only a few remained in their places. Lady Montana threw Atrus a look in disgust, then left the room, cursing. Atrus found Anna standing right behind him. She gave a smirk and stepped on his feet.
"Ouch!! What was that for?!" He asked.
"For lying to me." Anna answered. "You speak like a master diplomat."
Soon the court was pretty empty. General Kepfer and Captain Hawk were still there. Prince Roberto was still beside the throne, staring warily at Atrus. He had to be pissed off, seeing his mother humiliated in front of the court. King Edward cleared his throat before continuing.
"Young man, I give you my blessing to forge the alliance you proposed. However, are you aware of the requirement for somebody to undertake a royal task?"
"Yes, your majesty. I have to attain the rank of royal knight." Atrus answered.
"And do you know what it takes to be a royal knight?" King Edward asked again.
"No, your majesty."
Prince Roberto stepped forward. "I am responsible in promoting people to the rank of royal knights. However, to attain a full title, you have to undertake as little as 25 tests to prove your worthiness."
Atrus didn't answer. Taking 25 tests would take too much time, and the search for the Champion of the Guardian would be delayed. The king, however, was able to read his thoughts.
"Roberto, can't we make an exception on this one?" The king asked. "This boy's reputation is well known and his dedication is proven. Doing all those tests will be a waste of time."
"I'm aware of that. I can cut all those tests into a duel. How's that?" The prince asked.
The girls were surprised, but Atrus nodded. "As you wish, my prince."
"Prince Roberto!" Captain Hawk stood up. "I would like the opportunity to do the duel."
"I appreciate your offer, Captain, but no." The prince said slowly. "I will fight him personally. If you defeat me fair and square, you'll get your title. GUARDS!! MY SWORD!!"
As Anna had said to him, any souls would tremble at the sight of the Kaiser Sword. It was at least four feet tall with long handle. The sword was made of reinforced steel. The design was not impressive; it was not made for beauty, it was made for power. The blade seemed to be able to cut through metal like butter. The sword looked very heavy on the guard's hand, but Roberto lifted it easily.
"Don't hold back, Ranger!" He said. "If you're hesitating, you get sliced. Got it?"
Maya came beside Atrus, bringing his sword. "Master, be careful..."
Atrus smiled, then told both girls to back off. He didn't draw the cursed sword, but instead just hung it on his back. The action startled the members of the council of war.
"If you don't use your sword, your little slave and lover will cry before your corpse!"
Atrus stared at the young prince defiantly. "I'm here at Lord Guardian's will. I believe He will fight the duel for me."
"Young fool!! Prepare to be slaughtered!!"
Prince Roberto dashed toward Atrus and swung the sword with all his might, but Atrus got out of the way. The gigantic sword smashed into the expensive table next to Maya and split it in half. Everybody in the room, including the king, grasped at the sight. Maya quickly clung at Anna, frightened.
"Come on, Prince, just between us." Atrus taunted. "I don't want my girls back in pieces..."
The prince easily lifted the sword and charged at him. Using his superior speed and dodging skill, he jumped from one spot to another, evading every blow Roberto could offer him. He didn't even draw his sword, knowing that even the magical sword would be smashed to pieces upon contact with Kaiser Sword. After a few minutes of intense 'cat-and-mouse' game, six sets of tables and eight chairs were wrecked. Only Anna, Maya, Lord Garth and General Kepfer remained in the seat. The rest of the council members hid behind the king's throne.
"You know what, Prince, I have a friend who is a carpenter. You can support his business if you keep on doing this everyday..."
The prince roared in anger at the taunt and dashed at Atrus like a madman. This time Atrus drew his weapon, ducked beneath the Kaiser's path, and hit the prince's left leg hit the sheathed sword. The covered sword didn't draw blood on his armored leg, but was enough to trip the furious prince. Prince Roberto smashed on a broken table, wrecking it even further and brought him down. Before he could rise, the demonic sword, now unsheathed, penetrated on the table next to his head. The cold-blue glow shrunk his guts almost instantly.
"I suppose the winner of the duel is already decided." Lord Garth declared.
The prince quickly rose up and challenged him. "The result is not fair! The Ranger cheated!"
"How so, Roberto?" The king asked.
"He taunted me! That is not a fair fight! He angered me..."
"And you were angered!!" The king suddenly roared. "You disappoint me, my son! As a foremost knight of the realm, you have violated every single code of honor of a knight!"
"Father, what do you mean...?" Roberto asked in confusion.
"Young Atrus didn't even use his swordsman skill." General Kepfer said coldly. "He was using your weakness as his strength. By doing that, he defeated you easily in what should have been a tough fight for him. He is under-armed and under-powered, but he outsmarted you. You are lost."
"But can't you see?! His sword... It's evil! I can sense it..."
"The sword is not important." Lord Garth said slowly. "The wielder is."
The prince was furious. "It can't be... I was defeated... by a Ranger...?" Then he rushed toward the door and left the court.
"The outcome has been decided." The king announced. "As the King of Aragon, I hereby appoint you, Ranger Atrus White Lion, with the title of royal knight. Wear it with pride, young man."
The king unsheathed his royal sword. Atrus knelt before him as he touched both shoulders with the sword. "Thank you, your majesty. I'm most honored."
"And I give you my blessing to forge the alliance of five clans. I will have my servants make the proposal. When it is finished, you will deliver it to the other four clans. I wish you success."
"Thank you, your majesty."
"But for the time being, I want you to do me a favor, Sir Atrus." The king continued. "I want you to do a royal task for me, along with your friends."
Both Anna and Maya joined Atrus before the king. "Anything that will please you, your majesty.' Anna politely answered.
General Kepfer stood up and walked toward the party. "Lately, our southern and western part of the kingdom has been harassed by the demons. Losses and casualties have been heavy. Our scouts have reported numerous abnormal patrol schedules and routes of our troops in that region. The question of the local officials' integrity is being questioned. A betrayal might be likely."
"Do you want us to investigate the matter?" Anna asked.
"Yes. You will go to Castle Stoke in the town of Blackwell."
"Blackwell...?!" Maya suddenly found herself saying.
"Yes, Blackwell. You will meet the governor of southern Aragon, Sir Anthony Stoke."
Maya shuddered at the name. Baron Stoke was the last man she wanted to see. He was her slaver. He had killed her father and degraded her like an animal. She had been captured in Castle Stone for a full year, passing days of pain and nights full with nightmares. The painful memory overcame her instantly. Her body trembled with fear. She could feel Atrus' hand reached out for her shoulder and drew her body close. Anna could only stare at her in sympathy. Maya snuggled close to her master. Her master and mistress understood her feeling. That was more that she could ask for.
"Young girl, is there something wrong?" The king suddenly asked Maya.
"Oh, no... I mean... yes, your majesty... I'm... not feeling well... That's all..."
"She's tired, your majesty." Atrus added. "It has been a long journey."
"Then I'll make this quick." King Edward nodded. "You will go there and convince Sir Stoke to begin countermeasure attempt to block the demon menace. That will include limited drafting of local villagers and constant training. Improvement of patrol schedule and garrisons placement will be in order as well. You will have my authority in this task. Do you understand?"
"We hear and heed, your majesty." Anna answered.
"If you complete this task, I will also appoint you and that little girl as honorary knights."
Maya stared at the king. "But, your majesty... I'm just a slave..."
"Status will never dictate dedications, young girl." Lord Garth said.
Maya hesitated before bowing at the king. "I'm in awe to my lord's generosity."
The king smiled. "Then I announce that the meeting is adjourned. Have some rest, little girl."
One by one the members left the wrecked court. Atrus held Maya's body, comforting her. Anna joined them in the center of the room. Maya was still frightened as the horrified memory returned.
"Master... Mistress... I... I don't know if I can do this..." She said slowly.
"You must, Maya!" Anna said. "We're with you! You will not be harmed!"
"I... I'm scared... I will jeopardize the mission..."
"Don't let your emotion control you." Anna suddenly found Lord Garth standing behind her. "That is what Lord Falagor, my mentor, has always said to me when I'm down."
Maya looked at her master. Atrus gave her an assuring smile. Her master had gone through bitter memory in Gideon, but he had managed to get out of his despair. She had his and Anna's support in this matter, and she knew her late father would want her to do this. She couldn't escape from reality, her father had told her. She had to confront her past enemy, just as Atrus had confronted his despair.
"Okay... I will try..."
Anna smiled, then helped her stood up. "Come. You need some rest." She turned to Atrus. "Meet us back in Rocklin. We will be in the inn." Then they walked out of the room.
Atrus turned to the young man before him. "Thank you for supporting us back there. I guess I owe you an apology. I... doubted your wisdom as a royal advisor..."
Lord Garth studied Atrus' face for a while, then smiled. "You're not the first one who think that way, but you're the first one who actually admit it. I'm amazed."
"When you know him better," Hawk suddenly appeared, "you will be amazed even further."
"Captain, you too. I thank you..."
"Forget it, Sir Atrus. You did most of the job anyway. I just want to wish you luck for your assignment. Take my advice. I personally don't trust Sir Stoke." Then he bid goodbye and left.
"Any advice for this one, Lord Garth?" Atrus asked him.
"Yes. Take a good care of your... um... slave, although you treat her like your lover... Anyway, I can sense a great deal of frustration in her heart."
"Thank you. I will. And I want to ask you a favor, if I may..."
"In my journey I have to find 5 warriors from each clan that have been selected by the Guardian to assist me in finding the Champion of the Guardian. They should have had a dream about him. If you can, please search the kingdom for this warrior."
Lord Garth thought for a while. "Searching for one dreamer in a kingdom will be a difficult task... But I will try my best."
"Thank you, Lord Garth..."
"And one more thing. If you're ever in Whitewater, send my best greeting to my mentor." Then he left the room.
Atrus stared at the exit for a while. How could Lord Garth know where Lord Falagor was? He was Falagor's student, but as a hermit, no one knew where he was except Atrus and the girls. He waved the thought off. All wizards were mysterious, he decided...
Maya tasted the curry for the fifth time. This time it was perfect. Smiling widely, she picked the pan out of the fire and put it on the table. Master Atrus would definitely like it, she thought. She put another pan of steamed rice and cleaned the kitchen. The dinner was served.
She took a towel and wiped the sweat off her forehead. It had been a long day, she said to herself. Her entire muscles were throbbing. She stretched them for a while. She still needed to make meals for their journey to Blackwell, because they wouldn't have time to do so tomorrow.
Her body shuddered again with the recalling of the town. She knew she had been used to working hard since she had joined Atrus' cause. She knew that the chores couldn't exhaust her like this. She knew that she was depressed. A part of her wanted to follow Atrus, but another part wanted to stay behind. She was afraid. She was afraid that their mission would bring back memories she wanted to forget.
And she yelped when a pair of hands circled her waist, only to find her mistress holding her. She looked at her with worry in her eyes.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you..." Anna said slowly.
"No, Mistress... That's all right. Do you like curry?"
Anna smiled. "Since I can't cook, I'm used to appreciate anything that is served for me."
was split into 10 parts. Jump to any of the segments from here:
|Another top quality story by Vipers.|
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