Chapter 8 - Ignorance

Chapter 8 - Ignorance

A Chapter by VassD
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Time has passed. The relationship between characters is explored, and new abilities are revealed.

"

Ania sidestepped swiftly, barely missing what would have been a lethal cut from his great sword.  To any onlooker, her rapier would have seemed flimsy by comparison, but size was not the most important factor.

 

As she ducked another well aimed cut that could have taken her head off, she followed through with a low swing to the back of his knees. He jumped, so it never connected�"but it wasn’t supposed to. While he was still in the air, she came up, driving one shoulder into his gut.

 

He staggered, falling backwards, and before he could right himself, Ania took the knife she held in her left hand, and her rapier in the right, adjusting her grip ever so slightly, and at just the right moment, she crossed her arms, and hooked his great sword at the point where the cross guard met the blade with notches in her own blade at the same point. A single twist, and the blade was wrenched out of his grip, she having timed it to the exact moment when his hands instinctively loosened in reaction to falling.

 

When he hit the ground, disarmed, she promptly put a foot on his chest, keeping him from standing up. She leaned down, a self-satisfied smirk on her face, her grin growing when she saw the look of disgust on his face. She put the tip of her rapier to his throat, and opened her mouth.

 

“My point, Randen.”

 

“You lie. I let you win.”

 

“Keep telling yourself that, boy.” She couldn’t help but laugh as she pulled him up, brushing dirt from his dark Dativ uniform. Walking to the weapon racks, they pulled the leather sheathes from their blades, and placed them as well as the weapons back on the racks.

 

Even though they couldn’t see the sun from inside the Inner Compound, they knew it must be well above the horizon, as it always was when they finished their sparring match. It was a set pattern, one they had followed from their first week as Dativs, a little over four years ago.

 

“You’ve been practicing,” said Randen as they walked amiably through the corridors toward the breakfast hall. People in the rooms around them were starting to stir, some coherent enough to be dressed and walking the halls as well, but most were just staring blearily out their doors at the people who were insane enough to actually be awake.

 

“Of course I have. You didn’t actually think I’d keep letting you beat me, did you? I still have a bruised collarbone from when you tried to decapitate me last month.”  

 

“I told you I’m sorry. I keep forgetting the rest of you can actually feel it. I can just…block it, somehow.” Randen’s face had taken on a sorrowful expression, and Ania could tell he meant it.  She had been too slow to parry a side thrust, and the resulting collision had nearly broken her collarbone. Rand had nearly cried when he realized what he had done.

 

But what he said was true. Whenever he fought, it was as if he shut off the part of his mind that registered pain. Once he came very close to breaking his arm in a fall from his horse, Maldeen. He had barely even blinked before getting back up.  But later that night, Ania had seen him in his room, a look of stiff agony on his face, his hand limp before him, and Adyn, his manservant, trying to ease the pain. Randen had since grown so used to his ability that at times he forgot others couldn’t do the same.

 

Aimon ran up from a side hall, coming from his own morning practice with Echo. They had all taken to sparring with each other, and it gave them more practice with other weapon types than in normal weapons training.  “Morning, you two. How was practice?”

 

“I beat him,” said Ania before Randen could get a word in. Aimon smiled broadly, and nodded his approval. “Where’s Echo?”

 

“She ran into Matya on our way over, and they started talking. I didn’t hear what they sad but it didn’t seem like they would have appreciated any involvement on my part.”

 

“Wise choice, brother. Had you become involved, I doubt you would have made it out with all your vital organs.” Ania looked at him askance, a questioning look on her face. Randen made a defensive gesture. “I’m just saying that girls don’t seem to appreciate it when we join in their conversations!”

 

Ania rolled her eyes, and reached over, giving his shoulder a playful shove. As the trio made their way, laughing, to the breakfast hall, Echo ran up to them, a less than cheerful expression on her face. 

 

“I don’t want to talk about it.” She said before a word could even pass Ania’s lips. Randen shot Aimon a look that clearly said, “See what I mean?”

 

They reached the doors to the dining hall and Ania was just about to enter when she suddenly stepped back.

 

Randen was just about to ask her what was wrong when she started smoothing her hair and clothes.

 

Skaught.

 

“How do I look?” Ania’s heart was jumping at her ribs, as it always did when she saw Skaught, as it had for the last four years. She still wasn’t entirely sure what it was, but she knew one thing: there was a not-so-small part of her that liked it.

 

“How do I look?” Her voice was barely above a whisper now. She looked pleadingly at her friends.

 

“You look like a Dativ who was just beating the tar out of a partner, or having your own tar beaten out, same as every morning.” Aimon smiled at her, telling her he was only teasing, but she still looked panicked as she turned to Randen and Echo.

 

“You’re beautiful,” Randen said it softly, not even entirely sure Ania had heard him, but he didn’t bother to repeat himself because Echo had already taken her best friend in hand, surveying her with a critical eye. After four years, they had learned that no amount of compliments or teasing could make that girl see reason when she saw Skaught. She needed the honest truth.

 

“Alright, I do believe you’re now presentable,” said Echo after an extensive clothes brushing and hair smoothing. Ania heaved a smile of relief, turned on her heel, and walked into the breakfast hall, a smile already back on her face. As they followed her in, Randen felt the comforting hand of Aimon on his shoulder. He had come to know it well.

 

The four of them made their way to the same table they had sat at for the part four years, the familiar motions ingrained so wholly into their minds and muscles they were able to make their way to the table with no conscious effort.  For several long moments they merely sat on the long oak benches, talking amiably amongst themselves. But teenage hunger soon won out over their social lives, and they were tearing into the warm food before them, just as they did every morning.

 

Suddenly, Echo sat up, slapping a hand to her forehead. “I must be losing my mind! Ania, I almost forgot, it’s your sixteenth birthday!”

 

Ania nodded solemnly. “Strange how I had noticed that.”

 

“Oh, hush. Anyway, I got you something.” Echo reached into her pack and pulled out a wooden figurine about as tall as Ania’s hand. It was a wolf, head raised in a triumphant howl. “I asked Lyem to help me. I’m still not as good as he is with a knife.”

 

Ania smiled. Every year on their birthdays, Echo gave them each an animal carving, and on their sixteenth birthdays, she had given them one of their Companions. Randen’s hawk had looked to be about to take off, and he had said Trissta was jealous of its lovely feathers. Aimon had yet to find a Companion, so Echo had let him pick whatever animal he wanted, and had delivered a magnificent statuette of a silver fox. When they had asked him why a fox, Aimon had said he “admired their stealth.” None of them believed him for a second. Every time he caught Aimon looking at the fox, Randen didn’t waste a second before telling him to admit that he really thought the fox’s fur was pretty. And every time, Aimon just shrugged, neither confirming nor denying it.

 

Ania held her latest acquisition down to the floor, where Hakem lay lounging in the pool of sunlight cast by an open window. Lifting his head, he sniffed at the small statue, and in Ania’s mind, his clear, smooth voice rang. It is good, Mistress, but why must it be so small?

Ania giggled. Hakem had grown considerably in the last four years, and now had surpassed the size of the other male wolf that had vied for her approval. “Just because you’re the size of a small grizzly doesn’t make it bad to be small.”

 

Yes, Mistress.  Ania rolled her eyes and told the others what he had said. They were still laughing when Ania felt a small touch on her shoulder.

 

She turned, expecting to se Lyem or perhaps Sir Alecgorn, but her heart skipped at least ten beats when she met the eternally deep brown eyes of Skaught Farstrend.

 

Stumbling to her feet, she managed to voice a stuttering, “Prince Skaught!” before her voice entirely died. But before she could kneel and recite the Knight’s Pledge, he put his hand on her shoulder�"nearly causing her heart to give out�"and said “Please, don’t bother.  Just call me Skaught. We’re all Dativs here.” The First Lord Prince Protector had taken his name very seriously, and had joined the Knights when he was ten. Now, seven and a half years later, he was close to full instatement as a Knight. As a Dativ, he wore a headpiece of leather, as did all Dativs, but his had the hawk’s face symbol, normally imprinted with simple leather working, outlined with small studded diamonds, as well as the Royal Farstrend Family Crest. It was a more casual headpiece than was worn by past princes, but it was still more extravagant than even the Masters.

 

Unsure of what to do, Ania gave a small curtsy, saying in a timid voice, “Of course, my Pr�"I mean, Skaught.” She looked up to see if that was what he had meant,  all the while enjoying the shiver that went down her spine at saying his name so casually…in front of him. Something inside her came alive when she saw him smile.  “Was there something you wished to say?”

 

“In fact, there was, Ania.” Her poor heart would not be able to take much more of this.  “I have heard from several reliable sources that today is your sixteenth birthday, and I was wondering if you would do me the honor of accepting this gift.” From under his cloak Skaught brought out an old leather bound book. She took it reverentially, stunned that he even knew who she was. Turning the book over in her hands, she was a faded gilt title, barely visible but still legible.

 

“Nephin’s Journal?” She recognized the name, but how had he known…?

 

“Nephin Corifalle was one of two soldiers that started the elite guard around the Royal Family. You know them as the Fathers of the Covenant.  This is his journal. I saw you in the libraries, and you seemed to enjoy books about the Knights.  Nephin was also the only other Knight to have a wolf Companion.”

 

Ania had to think for a minute before she remembered how to breathe. How on earth had he known that she idolized Nephin? Ever since Lyem had mentioned the Founding Knight, she had felt a strange connection to the long dead man. She had made it a personal commitment to learn as much about him as possible.

 

“How…why…wha…” Ania realized she was speaking gibberish and shook herself. “Thank you so much! Is there anything I can do to repay you?” What a dumb phrase. Where on earth did that come from? Ania mentally berated herself, but she was unable to even think when Skaught’s face lit up with a bright grin.

 

“As a matter of fact, yes. Would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the training yard?” Ania’s heart threatened to give out. Unable to speak, she just nodded. Standing up, she placed her little wolf statue in her bag, Hakem stretching languidly as he stood up. Shooting a giddy grin back at her friends, she held her latest�"and already most treasured�"acquisition tight to her chest, and at a gentlemanly gesture from Skaught, started on her way. It was amazing how natural it felt to be walking along with the Prince; almost like it was something…she was meant to do.

 

Back at the table, Echo gave a massive shudder. “Yecth. I reeeeaaaally don’t like that guy.”

 

Aimon shot her a strange look. “‘That guy’ is the First Lord Prince Protector of all Koronea, and your best friend’s object of infatuation for the past four years.”

 

“I know, but there’s just something about him…it makes me feel….slimy. He reminds me of a weasel.”

 

“Raven.”

 

“What?” Echo gave Randen a perplexed look.

 

“He found a Companion last week. Big, ugly, black raven. Nasty little eyes. Foul, evil, oily, peck-out-dead-men’s-eyes raven.” Randen said this in a voice that clearly stated his distaste for the creature.

 

“Well, raven or weasel, I don’t like him.” Echo said this in such a tone as to leave no room for argument.

 

Aimon and Echo stood, gathering up their things as they prepared to go to the training yard. Aimon looked at Randen, who was still sitting. “You coming?”

 

Randen shook his head, saying, “I’ll catch up with you in a moment.” His friends shrugged, heading off for another normal day.

 

Trissta fluttered down from the eaves of the hall, the small package he had entrusted to her still firmly tied to her leg. He reached out, untying it the bundle smaller than his palm. Gently unwrapping it, he stared at the bracelet he had worked on for the past three months. A simple silver chain with small pendants secured at even intervals. A wolf of silver, a hawk of bronze, a horse of diamond, and a panther of obsidian. He had found a TruMage to help him create the perfect little figures, but he himself had used newly learned skills to create a tiny ruby heart inlaid into a larger gold one. His vision beginning to blur, but he had stared so long at the words on the pure white sheet of paper he had wrapped the simple gift in that he needed no aid to know what was written there.

 

 

 

I Love You

 

 

Letting out a strangled cry, Randen threw the bracelet and the crumpled note as far from himself as he could. He heard his masterpiece smash into one of the marble columns, and he wondered if any of the figures had broken. He felt sure at least one heart in the room was shattered beyond repair. He ran out of the room without a backwards glance, thankful no one else was awake yet.

 

The silence rang with the sudden departure, so complete was it that all creation could have heard the barely perceptible creak of the door as a slight, brown-haired girl walked in, stepping easily around benches and columns to reach a knife left on the table. Aimon had left it, and she had offered to retrieve it.

 

Echo was surprised to see that Randen was gone. He must have taken a different route than usual this morning. She couldn’t imagine why. Maybe a change of scenery?

 

Knowing she had plenty of time before their generally training began, Echo made no effort to hurry.  She had offered to get Aimon’s knife for him because she wanted a chance to walk of the steam she had built up during her rather unproductive conversation with Matya. Rude little prig. She wasn’t short…she was just at a lower altitude than everybody else. She was taking her time, looking at the various floor patterns when she saw a slight shimmer in the shadows at the base of one of the pillars.

 

Kneeling, she saw it was a beautifully crafted bracelet. She sat for a moment, admiring the gorgeous pendants, turning them over in her hands, until she saw something rather strange.

 

A gold heart, not much larger than the tip of her first finger, with a smaller ruby heart inlaid in the center. That in itself was not that odd, but the ruby heart was split down the center, the fracture catching the light, a mesmerizing shimmer in the shadows. This confused Echo because she could have sworn that true gems couldn’t shatter.  Even stranger was the fact that the malleable gold around it showed no sign of the impact necessary to shatter a precious stone.

 

She was still puzzling over this when a slight flutter of wings caused her head, and the latest string of random oddities was joined by yet another. Trissta was hopping towards her, a small piece of paper in her mouth.

 

Taking the slip of paper from the hawk’s mouth, Echo was struck speechless by the three simple words written there.

 

Echo had a very good memory for handwriting, needing only to see a specific sample once before she could remember it years in the future. A simple note written as a birthday wish two and a half years ago struck her memory, and along with the hawk standing by her, there was no doubt in Echo’s mind who had written the note.

 

Other memories surfaced�"of a sandy-haired youth hugging a new friend, of the bereaved look when a foolish girl brushed a heartfelt statement off as no more than a sweet compliment, and of a crushed, shadowed look in normally bright eyes when another stole the heart of his love.

 

“Ania, you fool child. You spend years pining over a god, all the while trampling the better man beneath your feet. You blind, blind fool!” Echo’s little heart ached for Randen, unable to fathom what he was going through. She had always known the childish infatuation Ania had held for the Prince would someday hurt her, but she hadn’t realized the damage it had already caused.

 

Her mind made up, Echo pocketed the jewelry, resolving to give it to Ania, to force her to see reason, when a set of images and feelings worked their way into her mind. Images of misconception, more harm done than good, and broken hearts bombarded her, all the while with an overwhelming sense of a single word�"wait. Echo looked into the golden eyes of Trissta, and together they made a plan. Echo would give the bracelet to Ania, but not tell her who gave it. Randen needed the time to win her himself. Ania needed the time to get over her obsession with Skaught.

 

Echo normally would have left well enough alone, but she couldn’t bear to see her friend hurt so much. She had to act, if only to save herself the agony of watching their pain.

 

 

 

 



© 2012 VassD


Author's Note

VassD
This is where my problem of a straight-line plot comes in. Here, it starts to become primarily a romance novel, which is not what I want. Even the concept of advancing in the Knights seems to take a backseat--all of the characters pick up everything very easily, and things just happen. There isn't really any conflict in anything but this one concept, and even that's a little cheesy. Suggestions would be REALLY helpful.

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Added on April 25, 2012
Last Updated on April 25, 2012
Tags: knights, covenant, fantasy, novel


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VassD
VassD

A tiny random town-city-dimension, ID



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I'm a fledgling author with dreams about as big as one of Robert Jordan's books. Maybe more than one on top of each other. I love writing fantasy and science fiction stories (No matter how long a piec.. more..

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A Chapter by VassD