A quest of Heroes - S01 E57

2 months ago

Read Story: SEASON 1 EPISODE 57

Thor hurried back to the Legion’s barracks at the crack of dawn, luckily arriving before the day’s training began. He was winded when he arrived, Krohn at his side, and he ran into the other boys just as they were waking, beginning to file out for the day’s assignments. He stood there, gasping, more troubled than ever. He hardly knew how he would make it through the day’s training; he would be counting down the minutes until the night’s feast, until he could warn the King. He felt certain the omen came to him so that he could deliver the warning. The fate of the kingdom rested on his shoulders.

Thor ran up beside Reece and O’Connor as they made their way out to the field, looking exhausted, and began to line up.

“Where were you last night?” Reece asked.

Thor wished he knew how to respond—but he didn’t really know where he had been himself. What was he supposed to say? That he had fallen asleep outside on the ground, on Argon’s mountain? It made no sense, not even to him.

“I don’t know,” he answered, not knowing how much to tell them.

“What do you mean you don’t know?” O’Connor asked.

“I got lost,” Thor said.

“Lost?”

“Well, you’re lucky you made it back when you did,” Reece said.

“If you had come back late for the day’s assignments, they wouldn’t have let you back into the Legion,” Elden added, coming up beside them, clapping a beefy hand on his shoulder. “Good to see you. You were missed yesterday.”

Thor was still shocked at the difference in how Elden treated him since their time on the far side of the Canyon.

“How did things go with my sister?” Reece asked, in a hushed tone.

Thor blushed, unsure how to respond.

“Did you see her?” Reece prodded.

“Yes, I did,” he began. “We had a great time. Although we had to leave abruptly.”

“Well,” Reece continued, as they all lined up side-by-side before Kolk and the King’s men, “you will get to see more of her tonight. Put on your finest. It’s the King’s feast.”

Thor’s stomach dropped. He thought of his dream and felt as if destiny were dancing before his eyes—and that he was helpless, fated to do nothing but just watch it unfold.

“QUIET!” yelled Kolk, as he began to pace before the boys.

Thor stiffened with the others as they all fell silent.

Kolk walked slowly up and down the lines, surveying them all.

“You had your fun yesterday. Now it’s back to training. And today, you will learn the ancient art of ditch-digging.”

A collective groan rose up among the boys.

“SILENCE!” he yelled.

The boys fell quiet.

“Ditch-digging is hard work,” Kolk continued. “But it is important work. You will one day find yourself out there in the wilderness, protecting our kingdom, with no one to help you. It will be freezing, so cold you can’t feel your toes, in the black of night, and you will do anything to keep warm. Or you may find yourself in a battle, in which you need to take cover to save yourself from the enemies’ arrows. There may be a million reasons why you need a ditch. And a ditch may be your best friend.

“Today,” he continued, clearing his throat, “you will spend all day digging, until your hands are red with calluses and your back is breaking, and you can’t take it anymore. Then, on the day of battle, it will not seem as bad.

“FOLLOW ME!” Kolk yelled.

There came another groan of disappointment as the boys broke down into lines of two and began marching across the field, following Kolk.

“Great,” Elden said. “Ditch-digging. Exactly how I wanted to spend the day.”

“Could be worse,” O’Connor said. “It could be raining.”

They looked up at the sky, and Thor spotted threatening clouds overhead.

“It just might,” Reece said. “Don’t jinx it.”

“THOR!” came a shout.

Thor turned to see Kolk glaring at him, off to the side. He ran over to him, wondering what he had done wrong.

“Yes, sire.”

“Your knight has summoned you,” he said curtly. “Report to Erec at the castle grounds. You’re lucky: you’re off duty for today. You will serve your knight instead, as all good squires should. But don’t think you’re getting out of ditch-digging. When you return tomorrow, you will be digging ditches by yourself. Now go!” he yelled.

Thor turned and saw the envious looks of the others, then ran from the field, heading for the castle. What could Erec want from him? Had it something to do with the King?

*

Thor ran through King’s Court, turning down a path he had never gone down before—toward the barracks of the Silver. Their barracks were much grander than those of the Legion’s, their buildings twice the size, lined with copper, and their pathways paved with new stone. To get there, Thor had to pass through a large arched gate where a dozen of the King’s men stood guard. The path then broadened, stretching out across a huge, open field and culminating in a complex of stone buildings encircled by a fence, and guarded by dozens more knights. It was an imposing sight, even from here.

Thor raced down the path, conspicuous in the open field. The knights already prepared for his approach, even though he was so far away, stepping forward and crossing their lances, looking straight ahead, ignoring him as they blocked his path.

“What business have you here?” one of them asked.

“I am reporting for duty,” Thor responded. “I am Erec’s squire.”

The knights exchanged a wary look, but another knight stepped forward and nodded. They stepped back, uncrossed their weapons, and the gate slowly opened, its metal spikes rising, creaking. The gate was immense, at least two feet thick, and Thor thought that this place was even more fortified than even the King’s castle.

“The second building on the right,” the knight yelled. “You’ll find him in the stables.”

Thor turned and hurried down the path through the courtyard, passing a compound of stone buildings, taking it all in. Everything was gleaming here, spotless, perfectly maintained. The whole place exuded an aura of strength.

Thor found the building, and was dazzled by the sight before him: dozens of the biggest and most beautiful horses he’d ever seen were tied up in neat rows outside the building, most of them covered in armor. The horses gleamed. Everything here was bigger, grander.

Real knights trotted by in every direction, carrying various weapons, passing through the courtyard on their way in or out of various gates. It was a busy place, and Thor could feel the presence of battle here. This place was not about training; it was about war. Life and death.

Thor passed through a small, arched entranceway, down a darkened corridor of stone, and hurried past stable after stable, searching for Erec. Thor reached the end of it, but he was nowhere to be found.

“Looking for Erec, are you?” a guard asked.

Thor turned and nodded.

“Yes, sire. I am his squire.”

“You are late. He is already outside, preparing his horse. Move quickly, then.”

Thor ran down the corridor and burst out of the stables into an open field. There was Erec, standing before a giant, valiant stallion, a gleaming black horse with a white nose. The horse snorted as Thor arrived, and Erec turned.

“I am sorry, sire,” Thor said, out of breath. “I came as fast as I could. I did not mean to be late.”

“You are just in time,” Erec said with a gracious smile. “Thor, meet Lannin,” he added, gesturing to the horse.

Lannin snorted and pranced, as if in response. Thor stepped up and reached out a hand and stroked his nose; he whinnied softly in return.

“He is my journey horse. A knight of rank has many horses, as you will learn. There is one for jousting, one for battle, and one for the long, solitary journey. This is the one you forge the closest friendship with. He likes you. That is good.”

Lannin leaned forward and stuck his nose in Thor’s palm. Thor was overwhelmed by the magnificence of this creature. He could see intelligence shining in his eyes. It was eerie; he felt as if the horse understood everything.

But something Erec said threw Thor off.

“Did you say a journey, sire?” he asked, surprised.

Erec stopped tightening the harness, turned and looked at him.

“Today is the day of my birth. I have reached my twenty-fifth year. That is a special day. Do you know about Selection Day?”

Thor shook his head. “Very little, sire; only what others tell me.”

“We knights of the Ring must always continue on, generation after generation,” Erec began. “We have until our twenty-fifth year to choose a bride. If one is not chosen by then, law dictates for us to find one. We are given one year to find her, and to bring her back. If we return without one, then one is given to us by the King, and we forfeit our right to choose.

“So today, I must embark on my journey to find my bride.”

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