A quest of Heroes - S01 E58

2 months ago

Read Story: SEASON 1 EPISODE 58

Thor stared back, speechless.

“But sire, you are leaving? For one year?”

Thor’s stomach dropped at the thought of it. He felt his world crumbling around him. It wasn’t until this moment that he realized what a liking he had taken to Erec; in some ways, he had become like a father to him—certainly more of a father than the one he’d had.

“But then who shall I be squire to?” Thor asked. “And where will you go?”

Thor recalled how much Erec had stuck up for him, how he had saved his life. His heart sank at the idea of his leaving.

Erec laughed, a carefree laugh.

“Which question shall I answer first?” he said. “Do not worry. You have been assigned a new knight. You will be squire to him until my return. Kendrick, the King’s eldest son.”

Thor’s heart soared to hear that; he felt an equally strong attachment to Kendrick who, after all, was the first one to look out for him and assure him a spot in the Legion.

“As far as my journey….” Erec continued, “…I do not yet know. I know I will head south, toward the kingdom that I hail from, and search for a bride in that direction. If I do not find one within the Ring, then I may even cross the sea to my own kingdom to search for one there.”

“Your own kingdom, sire?” Thor asked.

Thor realized that he didn’t really know that much about Erec, about where he came from. He had always just assumed he had come from within the Ring.

Erec smiled. “Yes, far from here, across the sea. But that is a tale for another time. It will be a far journey, and a long one, and I must prepare. So help me now. Time is short. Harness my horse, and stock it with all manner of weapons.”

Thor’s head was spinning as he sprang into action, running to the horse armory and retrieving the distinct black and silver armor that belonged to Lannin. He ran back with one piece at a time, first placing the mailcoat on the horse’s back, reaching up to drape it around his huge body. Then Thor added the shaffron, the thin, plated metal for the horse’s head.

Lannin whinnied as he did so, but seemed to like it. He was a noble horse, a warrior, Thor could tell, and he seemed just as comfortable in armor as a knight would.

Thor ran back and retrieved Erec’s golden spurs, and helped attach one to each foot as Erec mounted the horse.

“Which weapons will you need, sire?” Thor asked.

Erec looked down, seeming huge from this perspective.

“It’s hard to anticipate what battles I might encounter throughout a year. But I need to be able to hunt, and to defend myself. So of course, I need my longsword. I also should bring my shortsword, a bow, a quiver of arrows, a short spear, a mace, a dagger, and my shield. I suspect that will do.”

“Yes, sire,” Thor said, and broke into action. He ran to Erec’s weapons rack, beside Lannin’s stable, and looked over the dozens of weapons. There was an impressive arsenal to choose from.

He carefully removed all the weapons Erec specified, bringing them back one at a time and handing them to Erec or placing them securely in the harness.

As Erec sat there tightening his leather gauntlets, preparing to leave, Thor could not stand to watch him go.

“Sire, I feel it is my duty to accompany you on this journey,” Thor said. “I am your squire after all.”

Erec shook his head.

“It is a journey I must take alone.”

“Then may I at least accompany you to the first crossing?” Thor pressed. “If you are heading south, those are roads that I know well. I am from the south.”

Erec looked down, considering.

“If you want to accompany me to the first crossing, I see no harm in that. But it is a hard day’s ride, so we must leave now. Take my squire’s horse, in the rear of the stable. The brown one with the red mane.”

Thor ran back to the stable and found the horse. As he mounted it, Krohn stuck his head out of his shirt and looked up and whined.

“It’s okay, Krohn,” Thor reassured.

Thor leaned forward, goaded the horse, and burst out of the stable. Erec had barely waited for him to catch up when he and Lannin raced off at a gallop. Thor followed Erec as best he could.

They rode together out of King’s Court, through the gate, as several guardsmen pulled it back and stood to the side. Several members of the Silver were lined up, watching, waiting, and as Erec rode by, they raised their fists in salute.

Thor was proud to ride beside him, to be his squire, and excited to accompany him, even if it was only to the first crossing.

There was so much Thor had left to say to Erec, so many things he wanted to ask him—and so much he wanted to thank him for. But there wasn’t time, as the two of them galloped south, bursting across the plains, the terrain constantly changing as their horses charged down the King’s road in the late morning sun. As they passed a hill, in the distance Thor could see all the Legion members in a field, breaking their backs as they dug. Thor was glad he was not among them. As Thor watched, he saw one of them stop and raise a fist in the air toward him. It was hard to see in the sun, but he felt sure it was Reece saluting. Thor raised a fist back as they rode on.

The well-paved roads gave way to untended country roads: narrower, rougher, and eventually hardly more than well-trodden paths cutting through the countryside. Thor knew it was dangerous for common folk to ride these roads alone—especially at night, with all the thieves that lurked on them, but Thor had little worry of this himself, especially with Erec at his side—in fact, if a robber should confront them, Thor feared more for the robber’s life. Of course, it would be crazy for any thief to attempt to stop a member of the Silver.

They rode all day, hardly taking a break, until Thor was exhausted, out of breath. He could hardly believe Erec’s stamina—yet he dared not let Erec know he was tired, for fear of seeming weak.

They passed a major crossroads, and Thor recognized it. He knew that if they bore right, it would bring them to his village. For a moment, Thor felt overwhelmed with nostalgia, and part of him wanted to take the road, to see his father, his village. He wondered what his father was doing right now, who was tending the sheep, how irate his father must have been when Thor had not returned. Not that he cared for him much. He just momentarily missed what was familiar. He was, in fact, relieved he had escaped from that small village, and another part of him wanted to never return.

They continued galloping on, farther and farther south, to territory even Thor had never been to. He had heard of the southern crossing, though he had never had reason to be there himself. It was one of three major crossroads that led to the southern reaches of the Ring. He was a good half day’s ride now from King’s court, and already the sun was getting long in the sky. Thor, sweating, out of breath, was starting to wonder with trepidation if he would make it back in time for the King’s feast tonight. Had he made a mistake to accompany Erec this far?

They rounded a hilltop, and finally Thor saw it, there on the horizon: the unmistakable sign of the first crossing. It was marked by a large, skinny tower, the King’s flag draped from it in all four directions, and members of the Silver standing guard atop its parapets. At the sight of Erec, the knight atop the tower blew his trumpet. Slowly, the gatehouse rose.

They were but a few hundred yards away, and Erec slowed his horse to a walk. Thor had a knot in his stomach as he realized these were his last few minutes with Erec until who knew how long. Who knew, indeed, if he would even return. One year was a long time, and anything could happen. Thor was glad, at least, that he had had this chance to accompany him. He felt as if he had fulfilled his duty.

The two of them walked side-by-side, their horses breathing hard, the men breathing hard, as they approached the tower.

“I may not see you for many moons,” Erec said. “When I return, I will have a bride in tow. Things may change. Though no matter what happens, know that you will always be my squire.”

Erec took a deep breath.

“As I leave you, there are some things I want you to remember. A knight is not forged by strength—but by intelligence. Courage alone does not make a knight, but courage and honor and wisdom together. You must work always to perfect your spirit, your mind. Chivalry is not passive—it is active. You must work on it, better yourself, every moment of every day.

“Over these moons, you will learn all manner of weapons, all manner of skills. But remember: there is another dimension to our fighting. The sorcerer’s dimension. Seek out Argon. Learn to develop your hidden powers. I have sensed them in you. You have great potential. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, sire,” Thor answered, welling with gratitude for his wisdom and understanding.

“I chose to take you under my wing for a reason. You are not like the others. You have a greater destiny. Greater, perhaps, even than mine. But it remains unfulfilled. You must not take it for granted. You must work at it. To be a great warrior, you must not only be fearless and skilled. You must also have a warrior’s spirit, and carry that always in your heart and your mind. You must be willing to lay down your life for others. The greatest knight does not quest for riches or honor or fame or glory. The greatest knight takes the hardest quest of all: the quest to make yourself a better person. Every day, you must strive to be better. Not just better than others—but better than yourself. You must quest to take up the cause of those lesser than yourself. You must defend those who cannot defend themselves. It is not a quest for the light-hearted. It is a quest of heroes.”

Thor’s mind spun as he took it all in, pondering Erec’s words carefully. He was overwhelmed with gratitude for him, and hardly knew how to respond. He sensed that it would take many moons for the full message of these words to sink in.

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