Chapter 21 - Book of Fates


Happy holidays! For info about Christmas schedules, read the author notes under the poll!


The Fates decided the knight won't return the dwarf to slavery.


We seem to have put our hero in a bit of distress: his desire to help everybody and his strong moral stance against slavery leaves him with a clear, although not altogether easy choice.


Let’s see how it plays out.


***

The knight weighs his options: he cannot return the dwarf to these people Besides, even if the blacksmith lifted a third house into the air, there is no way Nitanna expects to fit all the town into them. Which means she plans to leave the slaves to fend for themselves when the monsters come. No, he cannot contribute to that plan. They’ll have a better chance with soldiers defending the walls. Not that he can say that.


“Prepare the map,” the knight says, relieving the tension in Dawn’s shoulders, “but we’ll also need lodgings for one night before we head out looking for the dwarf.”


Nitanna nods. “I wouldn’t dream of sending you off without proper rest. We expect the attack in three days, under the full moon. For now, it will be our great honor to share with you what little we have. Your supplicants await.”


With only that warning, Nitanna leads them out across the plaza, into a humble chapel devoted to King Cirus. Its white stonework, colored pink by the setting sun, contrasts with the grey masonry around it. They walk in through the heavy, wooden double door, and enter a candle-lit, circular room. A colorful mosaic adorns the chapel’s floor and the steps that lead to a raised platform.


Nitanna motions for Dawn to climb up on the altar. As soon as the elf sits on the cushions laid there for her, the chapel’s doors open. A line of townspeople stream in bearing gifts of food and valuables. The Knight and the Handmaiden take up stations behind Dawn, giving Ren a chance to observe the people laying their goods on the steps in front of the elven girl. They arrive with heads bowed, haggard but purposeful, as if certain this sacrifice would work.


Although humble, the offerings soon fill the stairs under Dawn’s feet. She greets each individual graciously, tastes their gifts when prompted, blesses their contribution and sends them off with a message of hope. The Knight is rather proud of what a benevolent goddess Dawn is turning out to be.


After what must have been the hundredth visitor the Handmaiden finally snorts in exasperation. “Am I mistaken or are you actually enjoying yourself?” She whispers to Dawn.


The girl’s pointed ears turn red, but she keeps her eyes firmly on the people kneeling at the bottom of the steps. “I am,” she murmurs back. “I think it’s lovely to bring so much joy and hope to those who had none.”


“False hope,” the handmaiden rebuts. “Or do you expect to fix all their problems for them from now on?”


“We will help them, won’t we?” said Dawn, glancing at Ren. “I am grateful for the opportunity and will play my role wholeheartedly until I’ve thanked and blessed everyone for their sacrifice.”


“Help them? When the Noxis come, who will be left behind while the towers fly to safety? Do you see enough space for the slaves?”


“I… But we’re still helping them, right?” she looks up at the knight. “Right?”


“I’m happy to find the blacksmith as Nitanna asked,” the knight replies, “but I don’t intend to bring him back. I am not contributing to her slave empire. Besides, I agree with the witch,” he adds grudgingly, “there isn’t enough space for the slaves inside those flying houses even if we got a third one afloat. They would be left behind to fend off the attack.”


“But these people are not evil — just desperate to survive. We can’t do nothing!”


“You’re already eating their food while they’re starving,” the handmaiden shrugs. “How big of a moral leap can leaving them to deal with their own problems be?”


At this Dawn frowns. A moment later, she stands up -- startling the next devotee who drops her bread basket. Muffins scatter over a section of the mosaic depicting King Cirus with a mushroom in one hand and an apple in the other.


Dawn clears her throat and speaks: “Dear people of Last Haven, I could never have imagined a more splendid welcome and my heart sings from joy, but these gifts are too many — even a goddess can’t eat this much alone. Please, it is my divine decree that tonight you spread these offerings amongst everyone in Last Haven. Everyone,” she stops to emphasize her last words. “From the highest to the low. Free or not.”


A few people clap, hesitate, and stop as her words sink in. Confused whispering echoes and intensifies as the crowd relays the message to the back of the line. Heads turn this way and that, looking to their neighbors for reassurance.


“Please,” Dawn continues, “it is my wish that you take good care of each other. Of everyone in Last Haven.”


She only gets blank stares in return. The line of people, so far purposeful and organized, has halted.


“Dawn...” the knight begins.


A light breeze rustles the handkerchiefs lining the gift baskets. Dust wafts up in the shaft of sunlight at the entrance. A few women catch their hats as they threaten to lift off their heads. Dawn lifts her arms, her hair billows and swirls around her dramatically, her voice is flat when she says: “That’s an order.”


The wind dissipates, the skirts and hats collapse back to their places, and silence falls over the chapel. Then someone claps, this time loudly, and in seconds the crowd applauds and cheers, the line moves again, and the happy populace fills the space with more offerings, certain of a better tomorrow.


The handmaiden shakes her head in disgust. “I should have killed the group of scouts and cultists when we first met them. We’d be far away by now, getting off this cursed continent instead of playing divine lackeys to dimwits.”


“Ah, but then,” said the knight, pleased to have thought of this before the handmaiden, “We would not have known of the flying houses — nor have gotten so close to them so easily.”


A spark of joy crosses Dawn’s grave expression. “Oh, I would be ever so glad to travel in a flying house — surrounded by wind and clouds, spreading justice and love. Haven’t you always dreamt of doing the same, sir prince knight?”


“Not in those exact words, no,” the knight admits. “I trust you two will be fine if I step out to see the houses up close?”


The thinning crowd parts as the Eternal Knight walks out to the plaza. He stomps over the cobblestones toward the two houses that hang in the air, tethered to neighboring buildings by chains as if out of fear they would float up and away. They’re suspended just high enough to prevent trespassers from reaching them from the ground, but low enough to appreciate the clean cuts through the stonework, indicating they were magically sliced off their foundations.


Both houses are three storeys tall, four if one counts the gable roof. They’re plain, although the stonework is clean and looks sturdy enough even when floating off the ground.


“These won’t fit the slaves, that’s for sure,” he sighs under his breath.


“That they won’t!” A loathsome, familiar voice answers him. The knight turns, rage welling up inside. Compie stands before him, its lid unlocked and ajar, two thin, long, chicken toed legs extending from it to the ground. “I know what you’re thinking,” it says, “and I have a solution for you.”


***

Such drama! The next obvious question is how the knight will react to the appearance of the treacherous box? You decide.


Option 1: The Eternal Knight hears Compie out. It obviously has something to do with the floating houses.


Option 2: The Eternal Knight stomps on Compie with all his strength. Nothing Compie says will make up for its betrayal.


Option 3: The Eternal Knight pretends he doesn’t know Compie. Never show your enemy they’ve caught you off guard.


***


The poll has been closed.


<<< Go back to the PREVIOUS CHAPTER


Author's note:

Hello wonderful people!

Since the X-mas holidays are closing in on us and everyone will be busy preparing, traveling, and freaking out, we decided to take a two-week break from Book Of Fates. We'll keep the poll open until the 30th of December. This should give everyone ample time to read and vote.


In addition, if you haven't seen it yet, here's a link to the '21 reader questions' interview we recorded this week. Or more accurately, blundered through with half of both of our faces off-screen. Mistakes were made, but we had fun. Special thanks to all who sent us questions and to Hanna for curating them.


Have a great weekend and happy holidays!


Love,

Kaya & Silver





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