Chapter 10 - Sovereign

Chapter 10 - Sovereign

A Chapter by VassD
"

Pledges are made.

"

Several weeks passed, and as they did a pattern emerged.

 

At first, it was only once or twice a week, but soon, every morning Skaught came and walked with Ania to the training yard. She seemed to glow brighter and brighter every day.

 

Randen, however, seemed to be retreating farther into his shell, throwing more and more into his training. He got to the point where he could rival Ania at ranged targets. He, using a crossbow, could, nine times out of ten, hit the inner rings, if not the center, of the target. Ania was still better at knives, but on the longbow, which was quickly becoming her weapon of choice, she had to work hard to stay ahead of his ever improving skills.

 

Weeks melted into months and months quickly became a year. Echo’s sixteenth came and went, with the three friends working together to make a beautiful hummingbird statue. The boys both turned eighteen, transforming from gangly teenagers to handsome muscular men. Aimon, standing just over six feet, was easily taller than most of the people in the Compound, with Randen only a few inches shorter. Being such easily spotted targets, they received more than enough looks from the blossoming young girls. Ania was sure she saw Echo eye Aimon at least once, but said nothing, eager to see how it would play out.

 

Ania’s seventeenth came, and Skaught was now a frequent visitor to not only their breakfast table, but their evening hours as well, which had once been moments of solitude for all four of them, and now were the hours that Randen and Echo dreaded above all else.

 

The magic lessons proceeded with a speed that Ania would not have thought possible, covering massive amounts of ground, but still leaving lasting knowledge imprinted onto the minds of each Dativ present.

 

Learning first to create fire, both in short burst of flame and then lasting spheres or even walls of towering infernos, they moved on to creating and commanding beings of earth, wind and water. They learned to deflect arrows, nullify charges, and void any other magic in the air. Randen threw himself at these lessons with unprecedented fervor, an almost maniacal glint in his eye.

 

A few months after Ania’s seventeenth, the SwordMaster again called the Dativs to attention.

 

“As you all know, our country has been ruled by Queen Maribel’s sister, Lady  Ayraneth, since the death of Queen Adilayde, our last queen, mother to the Lady Daughter Princess Amirone and daughter to Queen Maribel.  Up until this point, Princess Amirone has been too young to take the throne. But in one week’s time, the princess will turn seventeen, and be crowned as the Celestial Glory of Koronea. A ball will be held on the night of her coronation, and you are all invited to attend. The ball itself is not mandatory, but afterwards, at the coronation itself, you must be there in uniform and with your Companion, those of you who have found yours, to join the Knights as we swear our fealty to the new ruler.

 

Lady Zeriphanth paused, making certain that they all understood what was expected of them. Nodding slightly when she received confirmation, she moved on. “These last few months have marked the beginning of your last year as Dativs. In eight months time, you will be given a series of tests that determine your ranking as Knights. At that time, you will be separated into files that will have been selected according to how efficiently you work together. At that time, you will be issued a new uniform and your weapons.

 

“Congratulations on making it this far.”

 

Lady Zeriphanth saluted them, fist to heart, and walked away. There was silence in the yard for several minutes after.

 

That night, in Ania’s room, the four friends discussed the upcoming coronation. “Are you going?” Echo asked as she and Ania sat on the bed together. The boys were on the floor, backs leaning against the bed, with their faces raised to be an active part of the conversation. Ania had Randen’s head in her lap, running her fingers through his long sand-gold hair. It was just as thick as her own, and from the very first Ania had loved to play with it. Originally, Randen had been embarrassed, but lately he had started sitting like this, precisely to allow her easier access so that she might play with it all she wished. He seemed to love the contact, and right now he had his eyes half closed, looking like nothing so much as a massive, lounging cat in his black Dativ uniform.

 

“Absolutely. Skaught said it’s going to be a dance.”

 

“Well, yes. Ball normally means dance.”

 

“Only normally. You never know.”

 

“Sure. But are you going because it’s a dance, or because Skaught will be there.”

 

Ania giggled. “Both.” She felt Randen stiffen, and she looked down at him, frowning. “Are you alright?”

 

“I’m fine. Just a little tired.”

 

“You can get up on the bed, you know.”

 

“Like I said, I’m fine. Besides, you can’t reach my head up there.” He reached up and pulled her hand back onto his head.  She ruffled his hair, and then bent over, quickly kissing the top of his head. It was a playful gesture, but she felt Randen go even more relaxed, almost limp, like he was about to pass out. She came back up, shoot a very confused look at the back of his head, so she didn’t see the hopeful glances shared between Echo and Aimon, nor the look of almost complete bliss that was written all over Randen’s face.

 

She never did.

 

Returning to talk of the ball, a singular doubt that she did not voice plagued Ania. She had nothing that would even come close to rivaling the beautiful clothes of the courtiers who were sure to be there. Even when Ania was a child, she had never cared for dresses, content to run about in trousers and a tunic, more suited to throwing knives and riding horses. Therefore, she hadn’t brought any with her, not that they would still fit her even if she had.

 

When the night grew black outside, they all stood, Aimon stretching the kinks out of his muscles. Randen paused to give the two girls hugs, picking Echo up off the ground for a few seconds before turning to Ania.

 

She was expecting a similar hug, but she watched as something changed in his eyes. They seemed to be made of liquid, but not as if he were about to cry. It was more as if she could see through them, into his soul. She was thrown back to the day she had met him, how she had been able to see through his fear to the cause, and even farther back to when she met Hakem, seeing his character and his need through his eyes. She saw…something in Randen’s eyes. What was it? It…seemed…so…very familiar…

 

He wrapped her in an embrace, gentle and all encompassing. It felt like he was a warm blanket, keeping her warm and safe from anything and everything. It felt like the times when Hakem would curl up around her to keep her warm at night, or when Alliania would hug her when she cried. Like the hugs from Xanya when her other sisters yelled at her, or the hug she had gotten from Sir Alecgorn as a child, but multiplied one hundredfold. It felt…wonderful.

 

Wonderful, and over too quickly. All too soon, Randen pulled away, and with a short word of goodbye, the three of them left her standing in her doorway to sort out her feelings.

 

The week both crawled and sped by, going immeasurably slow when she looked forward to the coronation, and astonishingly fast when she dwelled on her lack of attire. Ania wrestled with thoughts of Randen, Skaught, training, and the ball. She was so confused, and when the day came, scared.

 

The final classes of the day were over, and she was walking back to her room, having already said goodbye to her friends, each of them going their separate ways to prepare. As she escaped to her room, she couldn’t shake the thought of what on earth she was going to wear. If she couldn’t find anything, she would have to just stay in her room until the final ceremonies. Skaught would be so disappointed…and Randen… She shook her head, leaving matters of the heart for another day.

 

Coming up to her door, Ania saw a small package on the floor in front of it. Frowning slightly, she bent to pick it up. It was light, and very flexible, and her name was written on a small envelope tied to the top.

 

Walking into her room, she sat down on the bed, and opened the card. In simple, legible writing, it said, Lady Alliania wore this to the coronation of Queen Adilayde. She looked beautiful in it. That was night she agreed to marry me. Perhaps you will have similar luck.

Ania was stunned. Her aunt had been married? Why would Alliania not have told her?

 

Her mind swirling, Ania thought back to the days when her aunt would come visit her. She had always worn a silver ring with small diamonds in it on a chain around her neck. When asked about it, her aunt had said it was to remind her of the people she loved in the Compound. After she died, the ring had been returned to the Knights…to her husband.

 

Turning to the package, Ania opened it with no small amount of trepidation, and was stunned to see a beautiful gown, fit to shame any lord’s daughter.

 

Made of silk, it was the color of purple lilacs caught at summer’s twilight, soft and smooth. The skirt was layered so that it was wide and full, but at the same time neither restricting nor heavy. The sleeves came all the way down to her hands, coning over the back of her hand to loop around her middle finger. At the elbows, a diaphanous outer sleeve came down, widening until the base fell full and fluttering just past her the tips of her fingers. As Kryssa helped her put it on, she could easily see Alliania wearing the dress as she danced and twirled with the man she loved.

 

Two hours later, after much work, Ania looked at herself in the mirror, and she looked nothing like the seventeen year old Dativ that had stood there not long ago.

 

She looked like a beautiful young woman.

 

Her hair was curled, falling unbound in smooth, midnight curves with small pearls woven into the black strands. Around her neck, she wore the necklace her aunt had left her, as well as Alliania’s wedding ring, which, much to her surprise had been in the envelope as well. Kryssa had painted Ania’s face for her, darkening her eyelids and lashes so that her blue eyes seemed brighter.

 

Turning at a knock on the door, Ania opened it to see her three friends. Echo looked her up and down, nodding in approval as Aimon let out a low whistle. Smiling shyly, Ania gave a small twirl for their benefit. When she looked up, she was greeted by the broad grins of her friends.

 

Echo was wearing a deep red dress with split skirts, underneath which were her customary black pants and tall boots. With white and gold embroidery, the dress looked like something out of a fairy tale, and instead of standing out, her purple tipped hair seemed perfectly natural.

 

Aimon had on black pants with knee-high boots, much the same as the day they had all met. His shirt was a deep black-gold, with a long black overcoat that went down to the middle of his thigh. His family emblem emblazoned on a medallion strung about his neck, he looked every inch the noble.

 

Randen… Randen was wearing brown-black trousers and black boots. A midnight blue shirt with an open neck was tucked into a wide belt, and an open sided vest of the same brown-black color as his pants sat just under a black overcoat similar to Aimon’s topped off the ensemble. He too wore a Knight medallion. His eyes bore into hers, and they seemed filled with more light than the noon day sun. He seemed more alive than he had since the day they met.

 

They started down the hallway, Echo on Aimon’s arm, and Ania on Randen’s. They all laughed when Echo, annoyed that Aimon’s boots made his even taller than usual, which put their interlocking arms at an awkward angle, grabbed Aimon’s upper arm and pulled, bringing his shoulder down to her level, forcing him to walk bent to one side. All the while, Echo complained that “You’re not a tree, Aimon, so I shouldn’t need a ladder to get to the top of you!” After a few awkward steps, Ania helped extract the boy from her grasp.

 

Walking into the grand ballroom on the ground floor of the palace, Ania felt as if she were walking into a sea of color. Ball gowns and vibrant coats swirled to beautiful orchestral music, and Ania had to search to find her fellow Dativ, so different were they from their ordinary selves. There was Matya, in an emerald green ball gown that seemed to restrict her breathing more than it let her dance.  Elyys, one of the only other boys in their group, in a white coat and light brown trousers. Sir Alecgorn, in dark clothes that seemed as much his element as the black cloak of the Knights.

 

The song that was being played ended, an upbeat song beginning, and soon everyone was gathering into a circle on the dance floor. Joining hands, they began a fast paced dance that had Ania laughing and gasping at the same time. Soon it was over, replaced by a slower song and she found herself on the arm of Aimon, spinning and twirling their way across the dance floor. At the end of the song, Aimon bowed, and handed her off to a new partner.

 

And so the night progresses, Ania dancing with most of the young men on the floor, and sometimes more than once. There were times when she sat down, catching her breath or enjoying some of the fine food, but it was not long before she was up on her feet again.

 

As the dance began to wind down, she found herself in the arms of Randen, dancing gracefully to a smooth song that seemed almost sad. “I congratulate you on your dancing, Master Derris. It is a skill I did not know you possessed.”

 

“There are many things you don’t know, Mistress Kyatei.” He said it playfully, but Ania could have sworn she heard something else. Something mournful. It reminded her of when she had been faced with the choice of the three wolves. When she had denied the female, her cry had been heartbreaking. But this was different. With a twinge, she suddenly felt that if she had denied Hakem, this is what his cry would have felt like. What it would feel like to deny the right one.

 

Abruptly, she realized that she was much closer to Randen than when they had started. But instead of back away, Ania laid her head on his chest; letting her various emotions spin around in her head and heart. The mysteries presented by the note about her aunt compounded the emotional turmoil she faced with Skaught.

 

And now these strange feeling of Randen… When had they started? Life had been so much simpler when her only thoughts had been of Skaught.

 

Randen just held her, gently guiding them across the dance floor. His shirt was starting moisten with the tears he wasn’t sure she knew she was shedding. It didn’t matter. Holding her, he almost felt complete.

 

Looking up at him, Ania whispered, “Thank you, Randen.”

 

“What for? I’m just being a friend.”

 

“Not just a friend. A best friend.  Thank you for being here for me.”

 

“I always have been. And I always will be. No matter what.”

 

Ania suddenly remembered the note that had come with her bracelet. I’m right here. I always have been. Was it possible?

 

But before she could entertain that thought for longer than a heart beat, the song ended, and, looking up, she saw Skaught striding towards her. Skaught was wearing a suit of pure white. White boots, white trousers, white shirt, white overcoat. Around his head of white-blonde hair was the golden circlet of the First Lord Prince Protector.  The night was almost over. He had promised her the last dance.

 

Stepping away from Randen’s warm embrace, she took Skaught’s outstretched hand. It was the same as any of the other changes in partners she had made, but this time it was as if she was leaving something behind. She felt Randen’s arm linger around her waist, and a growing part longed to run back into his soft, kind embrace. But as she looked into the deep pools of eternity that were Skaught’s eyes, she thought, Life was simpler, and pulled away from the man who had been left, heart broken, on the outside for the past five years of his life, forced to live in the shadow of the man who had held his princess from him. Ania, not looking back, did not see the tears that fell from Randen’s eyes, nor did she see the self satisfied smile marring her prince’s face, for in his arms, everything was simple. Just the never ending sweep of singular emotion. No Alliania, no Randen. Not even Skaught. Just a single, straightforward, uncomplicated emotion. It didn’t even have a name, really. It was just there.

 

As the dance drew to a close, Ania bad a swift goodbye to Skaught and returned to her room to change into Dativ uniform. According to the Masters, there would be several petty ceremonies that were tradition for the sake of tradition. The actual coronation would begin almost an hour from now. More than enough time.

 

Back at her room, after removing the paint from her face and the pearls from her hair, she placed Alliania’s wedding ring into stone drawer under the window. When the dress was removed, she picked up the freshly cleaned Dativ uniform left on the bed for her by Kryssa.

 

First the black leather trousers lined inside and out with silk, then the undershirt of the same make. A long-sleeved silk shirt, hugging her curves, sitting flush up against her skin. The black knee-high boots. The wide belt with several sheathed knives and holders for more. Finally, the black cloak, and the plain leather head piece. A simple leather band, three finger widths at its widest point in the center, and gently tapering from there to three leather cords at the ends. Placing the widest point on her forehead, just overlapping her hairline, she tied the cords beneath the single braid that now hung halfway down her back. The few strands of hair she had let hang free were now held out of her eyes, and all who saw her saw a member of the Covenant.

 

Returning to the ball room, Ania stood in the shadows with the rest of her kind. The last of the ceremonies were ending, and the crowd was going quiet. Massive double doors opened, and a processional came out, and at the end, a beautiful seventeen year old woman in a gorgeous, pure white ceremonial dress. She had the same white gold hair as her brother, and a silver tiara graced her forehead.

 

She stepped before the throne, a pedestal of gold and gems sparkling in the lamp light. Wrima, High Priestess of the Order of the Heavenly Lord and Lady, stood before the princess as she dropped gracefully to her knees.  The silver robes of the Order glinted on the tall woman’s frame in the lowered light.

 

“Lady Daughter Princess Amirone Farstrend, you are called before this assembly to take control of your birthright. As the Celestial Glory of Koronea, your people will look to you for guidance, leadership, and stability. Do you understand this responsibility?”

 

“I do, Priestess.”

 

“Do you promise to lead your nation with kindness and wisdom?”

 

“I do, Priestess.”

 

“Do you pledge to protect your subjects with power and strength?”

 

“I do, Priestess.”

 

“Do you, above all, covenant to love your people with goodness and mercy, as has been the legacy of the Celestial Glory since the dawn of the first day of Koronea?”

 

Up until this point, Princess Amirone had been looking to the floor, head bowed in humble submission. At this, she looked up, and Ania saw the grace and beauty in her eyes. With a firm voice that Ania knew could well shake the very foundations of the earth. “I do, now and forever.”

 

“Then, with the authority of the ages and the grace of the Heavenly Beings, I do crown thee, Queen Amirone Farstrend, Eternal Ruler and Celestial Glory of Koronea.”

 

With this, the Priestess stood tall, arms raised, and with a blindingly white flash of purest light, a crown, more beautiful than any Ania had ever before seen or could even imagine, with gold and silver laurel leaves winding in and about each other with gems the size of Ania’s finger entwined within, appeared in her hands. Placing it on the new Queen’s head, the Priestess stepped back, murmuring a few words that caused the crown to send tendrils of gold and silver to wind about the tiara, making it one with the crown. Queen Amirone stepped up the dais, and, turning solemnly, sat in the Throne of Ages. Looking out among her people, Amirone’s eyes saw with the wisdom of all who had born the crown before her.

 

A cheer went up, steady and controlled, but still overpowering in its intensity. Ania joined in wholeheartedly, knowing this was a ruler she could follow without question. This was her Queen.

 

After several minutes, the remaining formalities were concluded, and all who were left in the hall were the Knights. Stepping forward as one, the black shrouded being stood perfectly still, in a block formation thirteen wide by thirteen deep. Again in perfect unison, they knelt and removed their hoods. In the front center stood the Masters and from there the Knights stood in order of seniority. Ania was in the second to last row, Randen and Echo to either side, Aimon just beyond Randen. Skaught was a few rows in front of her, his headpiece plated with silver, showing his rank as full Knight.

 

Standing at wide intervals so the largest Companions could fit beside their Knights, together they nearly filled the entire hall. It was eerily quiet, and the effect was undiminished when, as a single voice, the black entity spoke.

 

"I pledge my life, my love, my heart, my soul, my sword, my fist, and my loyalty to the Celestial Queen of Koronea. Each and every one of these before harm touches my Queen."

 

Standing one by one, the Masters started the final pledges in motion. Taking a step forward, each Master, and then each of the Knights in turn, gave their pledges, their Companions appearing as they did.

 

“Lady SwordMaster Zeriphanth Gyami and Kama ProngHorn do pledge themselves to you.”

 

“Sir BowMaster Alecgorn Arganesh and Nyika DeathsPaw do pledge themselves to you.”

 

“Lady HorseMaster Verigo DeMisi and Berjiall SilverMane do pledge themselves to you.”

 

And so it went down the lines, Knight after Knight giving their personal promise to protect and defend their queen. Elyys Faye. Matya Gyatui and Firdin ForestPaw. Skaught Farstrend and Krakyll NightBeak.

 

“Aimon Zahur does pledge himself to you.”

 

“Randen Derris and Trissta CanisOrb do pledge themselves to you.”

 

“Ania Kyatei and Hakem HawkEye do pledge themselves to you.”

 

“Tiffynee Caldez and Nyllia FleetFeather do pledge themselves to you.”

 

Once the final pledge was given, they again knelt drawing weapons and holding them to their foreheads. Speaking as one, they gave the Knight’s Pledge, this time in Geschyichti. Finishing, they looked up.

 

“Direct us, O Queen. We are yours.”

 

Looking at them all, but seeming for all the world to be gazing at each individual, Queen Amirone spoke. “No, good Knights. I am yours.” And with that simple statement, Ania knew this to be a queen she would gladly give her life for.  



© 2012 VassD


Author's Note

VassD
The beginning of this one seems to have far too much exposition. The end is better, but the beginning axes out WAY to much.

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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

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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