The Fates chose for the knight to call himself Ren Londaar.
The Fates have cast their votes and — as always — I’m left to deal with the aftermath. You know, if you’d chosen ‘Bob’ we could have gone through this journey just murdering things and delighting in Bob’s oar fixation. Amnesis Seabourne could have forged himself a new identity, following a path no Eternal Knight has ever walked. Hell, he might have ended up the hero of Ferax and lived happily ever after.
But no, instead you name him Ren Londaar. I expect this will be a darker tale — I mean, that is the peril of facing one’s own shadow. It’ll require a deft hand and a great sense for balancing drama. Fortunately, I happen to be the best storyteller in the known dimensions. I accept your challenge gladly. Let us continue...
The Eternal Knight is pulled back in time, the memory of the two boys sparring in the courtyard returning.
He thrust the oar, but his opponent blocked the attack and stepped back, both of them panting. The ancient tradition of oar fighting had become fashionable in the royal household of Ritain after the Lake Lords joined the empire and was his favorite fighting style. Ren shifted his balance off his front foot, dug the paddle into the ground and flicked it up, scattering sand into the air. His opponent flinched and the edge of Ren’s paddle stopped an inch from the other boy’s throat, ending the fight.
A female voice, melodic but dangerous, spoke behind him. “Ren, be careful. You could not wish to injure the imperial heir.”
A shiver shook his shoulders. Ren withdrew his oar from under the blonde boy’s chin and sank to his knees, dropping his eyes to the ground without looking at the speaker. “I could not, mother. Never,” he said. “I am his and your loyal subject.”
He dared not lift his head, listening to her slow steps circling behind him.
“Good boy. Ealan has blessed me with such fine offspring.”
The vision in the Eternal Knight’s mind flickers and extinguishes, bringing him back to the flying tower, to Dawn, and the companion box.
With new heaviness he says, “Call me Ren… Ren Londaar.”
The box is unphased by this, but Dawn brings both hands up to her face and gasps, “Oh Cato would kill me!” Then she kneels with her head bowed, face obscured by a curtain of rose colored hair, and speaks even faster than usual: “My humblest apologies, your knightly sire sir! I wasn’t aware of being in the presence of the Eternal Prince of the royal house Londaar! I am so, so, so, so, so, so, so sorry, sir prince knight, for anything inappropriate I might’ve said before.”
“Get up, Dawn. My name isn’t worth dirtying your knees over.”
“But Ren Londaar is second son to Kai Londaar, the first emperor to unite all of Ritain. Everyone knows your story. It was such a glorious act of selfless love and duty: to give up your flesh and blood to serve your brother upon his ascension. I’m honored to be in your royal presence, prince knight sir!”
“I said to call me Ren, not ‘prince knight sir’,” the knight says. The title doesn’t sit right with him and he bristles at Dawn’s prostration. “Now, stand already. It’s awkward.”
Dawn raises her head, but remains kneeling. “Your memories must be returning! This is marvelous news. Quick — try to remember something else! What’s your favorite color? A beloved song? Your first kiss? Your mission prior to shipwrecking?”
“Dawn, you are giving me a headache. I remember nothing more. And we have more imminent problems to solve.” The Eternal Knight turns to the box. “Now that you know my name, I need to know what your purpose is, box?”
“A purpose?” The box says in its metallic voice. “You have a good eye, Ren Londaar. My beloved master created me with a great task in mind: besides keeping him company in his solitude, I control the movement and maintain the magical defenses of his home. Of course, this task will end soon, now that my master is dead. The magic that kept his home flying will wither away. Both I and his home shall be destroyed when we fall. You should leave unless you wish to perish with me.”
“I have no intention to die,” Ren Londaar says. Dawn, having stood up at the change of subject, nods in agreement. “Why was the monster hunting your master? It felt deliberate. Was it looking for the golden eye?”
“Possibly. The eye blocks the curse of Ferax. Over time, everyone in Ferax turns into one of those horrible abominations, but my brilliant master Turcifa created the orb to shield himself. He wore it for almost two decades. The monster must believe the eye will reverse the curse. What a pitiful, foolish creature.”
“Can the curse be reversed?” Ren Londaar asks.
“As if! The monster will never revert to its human form. The effects can be slowed down or blocked, but not reversed. It is a slow, sad, and inevitable transformation.”
“We saw your master change in front of our eyes after he lost the eye. There was nothing slow about it.”
“What?” the box shrieks, “My dear master died as a... monster? Oh foul Ferax! Oh unkind Fates! My poor poor master…” the box’s voice became a high, tinny whisper: “Years of cumulative exposure must have sprang into instant action. I expect that’s why he changed immediately. Alas, my good master deserved better. You won’t be as lucky, elf — you will feel it coming long before you die.”
Dawn shivers and shrinks back a step.
“That’s right, you silly girl. Finally catching on,” the box continues, louder again, as Dawn continues to back away, horrified. “Better hold on to that golden orb or you might find yourself blooming. You stole it from him before he died, didn’t you? Thief, thief!”
“She did no such thing,” the knight shouts, diverting the box’s attention back to himself, “Tell me, what causes this curse? I sense no magic around us, yet the effects are undeniable.”
Abruptly subdued once more, the box says: “This is nothing compared to what’s happening inland. There monsters are tenfold larger and stronger. My master said the curse spread by clouds of pollen. With the ocean wind keeping the clouds at bay, the shore is the safest place to live by in all of Ferax. But the moment you leave the shelter of the coast you’re done for. My beloved master worked on theories on how it came to be and how to stop it, but this was before my existence — before the abomination chased him out and made the tower into its lair. My master planned to retrieve his research one day. Perhaps… you could find it? You would rescue a brilliant man’s life’s work.”
“How did he plan on getting in, box?”
“ Compie ! My name is Compie ! Such rudeness should — but, no matter: there’s a tunnel that would take you directly to the cellars of the monster’s keep. My master planned to sneak in and free his home. He was simply waiting for the right opportunity. Oh master, you were too young to perish like this!”
“Why do you need this research? Aren’t you going to get buried along with this place when the magic fades?”
“It’s not for me. Think about it, Ren Londaar. It pays to be smart in a place like Ferax. Then, when you return to your empire, you can properly acknowledge my master’s brilliance by publishing the research. Besides, I’m sure you’ll find other valuables there too. They’re yours for the taking.” He finishes in that tinny whisper again.
“Fine, you have a deal, box. But there are a few ways of going about this that we should discuss.”
Dear, beloved Fates, it is time once more to tamper with a mortal’s future and cast your votes. This time I ask you: what kind of person is Ren Londaar?
Option 1. Ren Londaar, a fighter always ready to strike at the heart of the problem, wants Compie to fly the floating tower and crash it into the monster’s lair. No one fucks with him and his oar.
Option 2. It’s time he gets stealthy. Ren Londaar wants to enter the monster’s tower through the secret tunnel.
Option 3. Ren Londaar, never one to pass up an advantage if he doesn’t have to, wants to trade the golden eye for the oar.
The chapter voting closes every Monday at 8:00 AM WEST (Lisbon, Portugal time).