The Fates decided the knight will dedicate himself to finding a way home.
Here we are at the dawn of a new arc of our story. I am pleased to see familiar faces in the crowd as well as a few new ones. It is said that nothing is better than sharing a story with a friend, but sharing it with friends as cruel and devious as you lot it’s even better. The best stories are about overcoming difficulties and for those challenges — which have been many — I have you, dear Fates, to thank for.
Now let’s resume where we left off: making life difficult for our skull-headed knight.
It is two weeks since Ren Londaar, the Eternal Knight, and his companion Dawn fought the Noxis.
Ren sits on a small stool outside a hut in the fishing village of Little Hope. His gaze is on the sea and his skull is full of questions. How will he find a ship to carry himself and Dawn across the waters, home to the Ritain Empire? And once there, what will his welcome? Will his brother be pleased he has survived? Or his mother, Queen Thyra, who forced him to give up his human body?
“What are you thinking about, prince knight sir?” Dawn asks from inside the hut. She’s laying on a thin mattress, tended by the village’s healer, one Elder Maquin. The horrible burns she sustained in their fight against the dragon nearly killed her. Ren had to carry her for days to reach this village. He’d nearly given up on her.
“Wondering how our mushroom friends are doing,” lied the knight, turning his attention to Dawn. He’d fulfilled his oath to the fungi, and they’d parted ways with the mushroom warpack and the symbiote after the battle at the tower.
“The mushroom spearmen?” asks Elder Maquin, not bothering to keep the incredulity from her crisp voice. The old woman takes every opportunity to express her disbelief about their story. The only part she does seem to take seriously is the dragon -- she claims she has seen wounds from dragon fire before and recognizes Dawn’s hurts.
“Yes!” says Dawn enthusiastically. “They were quite fierce, Elder Maquin. And brave. Can you imagine battling something that is twenty times your own height? Or a hundred times? I cannot. And yet, they leapt into battle with me and his royal knightness without a hesitation. And then against the Noxis too. Did we tell you they exploded as well?”
Elder Maquin nods indulgently to her. “Yes, child. You did.” She pats Dawn’s pink hair fondly. The villagers are yet wary of the Eternal Knight, but they seemed to have become quickly fond of Dawn. “Now hold still while I reapply this poultice.”
Dawn cannot help but wriggle as the old woman works. Elder Maquin’s face is like a weathered statue. She had clearly been beautiful in the past, but harsh winds and sunshine have hardened her expression. Her voice, still strong, carries much respect in the community. It was her voice that let them into the village -- when some would have let Dawn to die in the Knight’s arm.
“You can get up tomorrow,” Elder Maquin says as she changes Dawn’s bandages, “but you have to promise to take it slow, child.”
“Tomorrow?” Dawn groans. “But I feel good already, Elder Maquin! Look, the burns don’t hurt at all. I’m okay, so please, please, please, please, please let me help the prince knight!”
“The burns are not what I’m worried about,” Elder Maquin answers patiently. “Look.”
She holds up a pair of tweezers. In their grasp is a thin green vine. “I found Noxis infestation growing out of your ear. I removed it — seed and all — but I need more time to observe how bad the infection is. From what you told me, you’ve spent a lot of time in a Noxis lair, breathing the air.”
Dawn grows pale at the sight of the coiled seedling. “This means Turcifa’s eye doesn’t work unless it’s in the eye socket, doesn’t it? Oh, but I don’t feel any different! Maybe the fact that I’m an elf means I won’t turn into a monster as Turcifa did. It’s only normal that I have a strong, positive bond with nature, isn’t it? I mean, having flowers grow out of you is kind of divine.”
“Humph,” said Maquin. “I don’t think King Cirus thought so.”
“Who?” asks the knight.
“The elven wizard who ruled Ferax and who loosed the Noxis upon the land when he was betrayed,” replies the old woman, as though this is obvious. “Why did you come to Ferax if you didn’t know anything about the place?”
“I told you how we got here,” grumbles the knight.
“Oh yes,” says Maquin. “A shipwreck. How probable.”
“Hey!” calls a voice from the village, prompting Ren to turn. Helia, one of the villagers is nearly running towards them. “Hey, metal man! We need help at the nets! Big catch!”
The knight rises, saying: “Please make sure she’s safe from the Noxis, healer.”
Maquin snorts. “How do you think this village has survived? We catch the infections early.”
“Come on, sir metal man!” says Helia, impatiently. He’d warmed up the knight quicker than the others, even becoming playful with giant enchanted armor. The Knight obeys, striding along beside the skinny fisherman.
“How’s the lass?” he asks as they walk the short distance to the shore. The village is nestled in a small cove on the shoreline, all built on soil too rocky to grow either crops or the cursed flora of Ferax.
“Nearly well, I think.” says the knight.
“Ah, good, good,” says the man. “You’re not thinking of leaving still, are you? Because it’s madness, plain madness, to wander around just the two of you. Steel sinews or no. You should stay here. You’d be welcome! We could start calling the place A-Little-More-Hope.”
“I’m afraid we can’t stay,” says the knight. He must go home.
Helia sighs, shaking his head at this stubbornness. They reach the shore, where a dozen other villagers are lined up to help pull a heavy net from the ocean.
“I hope it’s a whale!” Helia rubs his hands together and then grasps the rope. Ren joins him.
“It’s not heavy enough to be a whale, but maybe a shark!” says another villager.
With no fertile soil, no animals to herd, the village survives off the treasures of the sea. Everything, be it shelter or clothes, was made from what the sea gave them. Capturing a whale meant security for weeks.
“That’s no shark.” Helia scoffs, disappointed. “It’s metal.”
Tangled in the net, surrounded by fish and algae, is a suit of golden armor swaddled in a red cape. Clutched in one gauntlet is a long, slender blade. “Metal man, is this a relative of yours?” Helia and the others look between the two suits of armor nervously.
The golden armor, delicately engraved with swirls, its helmet a lacy skull-shaped mask, isn’t alien to the knight. He recognizes it from his last memory as a human being: this is one of Thyra’s handmaidens.
“Seems dead,” an older fisherman says, prodding her leg. “Must’ve been in the sea for a long time.”
“Think it’s like our knight?” Helia asks. “Maybe there’s some fish inside. What do you say, fellas, shall we crack it open and see if we got lucky?”
And so, my dearest Fates, we resume our weekly ritual of bending destiny. Let us vote for what the knight does when faced with a shadow from his past!
I’m eager to see which way you will cast your vote.
Option 1: The Eternal Knight asks the fishermen to be careful when inspecting the handmaiden’s armor. He has a feeling this won’t end well. Better to stay out of the way in case things go bad.
Option 2: The Eternal Knight pulls the villagers aside and attempts to destroy the handmaiden armor with his bare fist. Strike first, ask questions later.
Option 3: The Eternal Knight tells the fishermen that she's an evil witch and they need to cage her. He immediately goes to search the surrounding coastline for others of her kind.
The chapter voting closes every Monday at 8:00 AM WEST (Lisbon, Portugal time).
Welcome to the second arc of BoF! The first four months have been a blast and the weekly release schedule has not only provided much-needed structure to our lives but also helped us get reacquainted with old friends and readers as well as introduced us to new ones on the Discord forum.
A writer's life is solitary by design, so having you all there keeping us company and discussing everyday things, creating memes, and keeping us motivated is invaluable. Thank you!
-Silver and Kaya