Chapter 12 - Book of Fates



The Fates decided that the knight will sing.


Dear Fates, my charming audience, my omnipotent and all-seeing friends. My beloved enemies. You’ve risked much by thinking the knight will tame the dragon by attempting to emulate the treacherous magic box’s singing. Perhaps your optimism is rooted in infinite wisdom, yet I must remind you that we only control the knight, not the surrounding elements.


What I’m trying to say is that sometimes you reap what you sow.


***

“Stay in,” the knight says to the mushroom warriors. “You’ll get your time to shine battling the Noxis. Let me handle the dragon. Dawn, where are we with the door?”


“The bolts are stuck, but I can force them with magic! I need more time, prince knight sir!”


Over the course of this strange day, Ren has come to rely on his instincts for answers. Whether it is the magic of the armor, luck, or some higher force guiding him, he’d done well by trusting his intuition. Right now it tells him to sing Compie’s eerie song. He knows he can do this. After all, they're both made of metal.


Ren steps toward the waking dragon and bellows a high-pitched wail. The dragon stops mid-yawn and turns its attention on the knight.


“What are you doing?” Dawn hisses.


“I’m singing it to sleep,” Ren replies as the monster’s glowing eyes cast a circle of light around him. He continues his wail, but with somewhat less confidence.


“Maybe you need a different song. Something more… soothing,” says Dawn.


The knight knows she is right. Compared to Compie, his voice cannot match the screeching metallic wail that calmed the dragon. He can feel the monster’s breath heating his armor. Fearing the mushrooms inside him will cook through, he tries another song:


Once there was a knight so brave

Who never, I say never, had to shave.

His brothers wondered, ‘where’s his stubble?’

But oh, the knight, he wasn’t troubled.

The mushrooms inside the knight’s armor begin to hum the tune with him on the second verse. The dragon stretches, baleful eyes still on the knight.

Once there was a knight so true

But, oh my friends, his face was blue…


Ren thinks the dragon has begun to settle on its haunches and sings all the more loudly, until the monster pounces.


The dragon snaps its reptilian jaws at the knight. Ren jumps out of the way of the razor-sharp teeth, but the dragon is faster. It catches his left arm, crushing it and ripping it apart. The arm breaks off into pieces and scatters across the floor. Shocked and disbelieving, the knight staggers back, tumbling to the floor. But the monster doesn’t wait — a ball of blue dragon breath gathers in its throat and bursts out.


Suddenly, Dawn is in front of Ren and the torrent of flames explodes against an invisible barrier, ricocheting back at the hall, hitting the rows of pillars lining its walls. As if hit by a ballista, a pillar cracks and crumbles, then falls, crashing into the stone floor and through it.


Dawn holds her position under the stream of molten hot fire until the dragon stops to take another breath. She slumps to her knees in front of the knight, panting.


“We need to retreat,” she says.


“Retreat where?”


“Through the crack in the floor where the pillar fell.”


They run. His balance is off now that he’s missing an arm. It doesn’t hurt like a flesh and blood wound would, but he feels a loss of power. This time Dawn wouldn’t be able to mend it as she did before.


Ren cradles Dawn against his chest as he throws himself down the crevice, dodging another stream of dragon fire.


The drop, longer than Ren expected, is cushioned by Dawn’s powers and their eventual fall into a shallow underground stream. Above them, unseen, the dragon roars in frustrated fury. They crawl onto the embankment, beaten and battered, but far beyond the dragon’s reach.


Whimpering, Dawn shuffles back to the stream and plunges her sooty arms into the cold water. In the faint, purple glow of Violet Alert, Ren sees her curl in agony as the stream carries the dirt away, revealing raw and blistered arms. One side of her face is burned and bleeding, the hair on her temple signed to the scalp. She wipes the trickle of blood running down her cheek, but hisses as the raw, bubbling skin makes contact.


“Dawn, how bad is it?” the knight asks.


She strains to smile. “Oh, it’s nothing, just a little burn. It’s rather romantic to be scarred in battle, all real warriors are,” she says. “I imagine one day bards will sing of this too. I hope they get it right, especially how you almost tamed a dragon! I’ll make sure they do.” Her voice trembles. “We were so close to winning this one, if only we knew how to replicate the song.” She laughs, then sobs.


“I’m sorry, Dawn. I thought I could sing like Compie. It was foolish. I didn’t know you’d have to pay the price for my decision.”


“Don’t say that, prince knight sir. I just wasn’t strong enough to beat the dragon! Cato always said that life rarely works the way we expect it to, and now I really understand what she was trying to teach me. I still have a lot to learn, but I’ll try to do better next time!”


After that, the knight sits against the wall in silence as Dawn slowly falls into a fitful sleep, gently illuminated by the mushroom on Ren’s head. Two warrior mushrooms climb out of his armhole, and looking at the symbiosis on his head say: “We scout!” Feeling exhausted, Ren only nods as they scuttle upstream. Even a magical body has its limits.


But it is hard for the knight to rest. Racked by guilt, he tries to understand what possessed him to sing in the first place. In hindsight, it doesn’t sound like a good idea in the least.


The longer Ren Londaar considers the matter, the more he's convinced that it wasn’t the first time he followed an impulse that wasn’t entirely his own. It was like getting an answer delivered on a silver platter and having all other courses of action outshined by the one presented to him. The feeling bordered on obsession. So far he hadn’t second-guessed his decisions because they seemed to work to his advantage, but this time that feeling almost got them killed. Without an armored body he’d have bled dry, and Dawn should never have gotten hurt. He looks at the sleeping girl hugging her burned arms protectively. She will need a healer.


“Am I cursed?” The knight’s words echo at no one in the glowing cavern. “Have the gods turned against me?”


***

Oh, isn’t it fun to see mortals in pain? There’s no need to hide it, I know you love it. This is truly a sad sight, but we have no time to succumb to pity — as Fates you have important business to decide! Tell me, dear destiny-shapers, how does the knight resolve his existential crisis?


Option 1: The Knight chooses self-determinism and takes responsibility for his own actions. Voices, fate, and gods are the stuff of children’s stories, not to be believed by hardened warriors.


Option 2: The Knight chooses to believe in destiny. Everything is predetermined and one cannot rewrite the future. Very spiritual of him.


Option 3: The Knight chooses to examine that guiding impulse and concludes that the gods are messing with him. He’ll be a giant ball of paranoia for the rest of his life.


***

Today, we'd like to extend a special thanks to H.T. Brady, our editor, for writing the knight's song. We could not have done it without you!


The chapter voting closes every Monday at 8:00 AM WEST (Lisbon, Portugal time).


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