The Knight and His Squire
Copyright© 2015 by Spherical Spoon
The party of four – Rohea, Maes, Gilmr and Pyar – traveled quickly towards Wolle. Maes got progressively better, and each day's journey on the road was longer than the last. Rohea was in a hurry to return to the knights' cottage to coordinate the freeing of King Wespil from the clutches of the mages. He was not totally convinced that a single dark mage had usurped control of the kingdom. He still believed the Mage Council was directly involved. Nevertheless, he kept his thoughts to himself, lest Pyar was a spy who would betray him. From the conversations Rohea had had with Pyar along the journey, she seemed like an honest young mage who truly believed Rohea had been set up, by Cyler. However, it could very well be the case that Pyar had been led to believe it, and could be persuaded otherwise in the future.
As the party rode closer to Wolle, they slowed their pace and were more wary. While Pyar was not a well-known mage, Rohea would be recognized on sight by the city guards. They did not want to risk a confrontation with loyal soldiers of the kingdom. As such, Rohea took a fork in the road when they were two days away from the capital, and led them West of Wolle, around a thick forest. Maes had expected such a move, since she had been to the cottage before, but the other two had not.
"Why did we take the fork?" Gilmr asked.
"We cannot just march blindly into Wolle," Rohea said. "We would surely be captured or killed."
"What are we going to do then?" Pyar asked.
"Pyar," Rohea said. "You know I am innocent, right?"
"Then, go to Wolle and clear my name. Maes will accompany you." Rohea did not want to let Pyar know of the knights' cottage, for it was a secret among the knights and their trusted allies.
"Yes, I can do that," Pyar replied. "It will be difficult to convince them of Master Cyler's actions, but I hope they will believe me."
"Gilmr and I will wait for news from Maes, and we will enter the capital once it's safe to do so. Maes will know where to find us."
Maes looked at Rohea and nodded.
Pyar and Maes then rode back towards the fork in the road, and headed towards Wolle.
"Where are we going then?" Gilmr asked.
"There is a place near here that will be a safe haven for us," Rohea replied. "For your safety, I am going to blindfold you as we enter the forest."
Gilmr nodded, and let Rohea tie a blindfold across his eyes. Rohea then led the two horses into the forest, and directed Gilmr through the twists and turns in the forest path. For added security, he deliberately took circled back a few times before arriving at the cottage.
"We are here," Rohea declared as he removed Gilmr's blindfold.
"Ah," Gilmr said. "A secret hideout."
"I will not say more about this place," Rohea said. "But there will be others here who will aid us in our endeavor."
"Once Pyar clears your name, isn't it a simple task of heading to the capital and apprehending Cyler?"
"I doubt it will be that easy," Rohea said with a sigh. "It will be the word of one young mage against the will of the Mage Council."
"Why did you send Pyar and Maes to Wolle then, if you think the chances are low?"
"It is worth a try," Rohea replied.
They approached the cottage door, and Rohea knocked thrice. He waited for a response, but failed to hear any after a minute. Rohea pushed the door open with a creak and stepped inside. He gasped. There were multiple bodies strewn across the large room. Rohea recognized one of them, and ran to his side.
"Tirym," Rohea called as he reached to shake the body slouched over the wooden table. He pulled his hand back when he made contact. He had felt the coldness of the body.
Tirym was dead, and had been dead for several days. Rohea pulled the corpse back, so that the weight would be resting on the back of the chair and not the table. Tirym's face was in a grimace, and his eyelids were surrounded by dark black pits. Otherwise, there were no signs of injury on his body.
"Mages!" Rohea cursed.
"Aye, these look like the handiwork of mages as well," Gilmr concurred as he checked a few other bodies in the room.
"How could the mages have done this?" Rohea said aloud to himself. "The cottage is protected by wards that prevent scrying and other spells."
"Could it be the dark mage Cyler?"
"It's possible," Rohea said. "That still doesn't explain how he knew of the cottage's location though. Come, there is one person who can answer these questions for us," Rohea continued as he headed outside."
Rohea approached Feisty and unbuckled his pack that was attached to the saddle. He stuck his hand into the pack and searched around for some time. He retrieved two small bottles, each filled with a colorless liquid. One bottle had a red string tied around its neck, and the other had a brown string. Putting the bottles down on the ground, he reached towards Feisty and unstrapped his shield. Then, he placed the shield on the ground, with its handle facing up. A small piece of cloth was tied to one end of the handle, and Rohea carefully removed it, revealing a small rune etched on the handle. Rohea retrieved the bottles and opened them in turn, pouring a drop of the liquid from each bottle onto the rune.
Pyar and Maes rode confidently through the city gates of Wolle. Pyar was dressed in her mage robes, and the guards bowed respectfully as she passed. Since Maes was riding with Pyar, they did not stop or question her as she passed the gates.
After a short ride past the gates, Maes said, "You should head to the Mage Council and clear Sir Rohea's name."
"Yes, I'm going to do that," Pyar said. "Aren't you coming along?"
Maes shook her head. "I have other matters to attend to. Once the council hears that I'm Sir Rohea's squire, they may even want to capture me."
"Very well," Pyar replied. "How will we meet after?"
"Once Sir Rohea's name is cleared, send word to The Stinky Mug. I will hear of it from there, and inform Sir Rohea."
"What if the council doesn't believe me?"
"Then I will hear of nothing and leave in three days," Maes said.
Maes looked around, and noted that all the guards patrolling the city were wearing the wrist bands. She slipped into a dark alley and was soon out of sight. Pyar nudged her horse, and rode up the hill towards the citadel and the mage towers.
"These are grave accusations, Mage Pyar," an elderly mage said as Pyar explained the situation to him. "About your former master, too."
"I understand, Mage Loffvr," Pyar replied. "But I believe that it is indeed the case."
"Very well," Lovvr said. "I will call for a meeting of the Council. Let us proceed to the Room of Deliberation."
Lovvr signaled to his aide, who then scrambled down the stairs. Lovvr extended his hand to Pyar, and then mumbled a few words. A brief flash occurred and the Pyar found herself in the Room of Deliberation, where the Mage Council met and where access was restricted to a spell known only to the council.
Over the next few minutes, other members of the council teleported in, and seated themselves around the room. Pyar was standing in the middle. Cyler teleported in shortly, and smiled at Pyar as he walked to his seat. Finally, all the seats were filled.
Lovvr nodded, and motioned for Pyar to begin.
Pyar began, "Esteemed members of the council, I first learned of the dark practitioner when I was scrying and encountered a dark feeling."
Cyler interrupted and said, "Pyar, the council knows of your experience and how that led to the exile of Sir Rohea. What other news do you bring before us today?"
Pyar swallowed. "Sir Rohea is not the dark practitioner. He was set up so it would look that way."
There were several gasps, and murmurs began around the room. Lovvr cleared his throat, and everyone in the room fell silent.
"Who do you think is the dark practitioner then?" he asked.
"Master Cyler," Pyar declared.
All eyes were drawn to Cyler after Pyar's accusation. To Pyar's surprise, Cyler laughed.
"Me? The dark practitioner?" Cyler said. "Now, now, Pyar, surely you must have some proof of this accusation."
Pyar described her travels and her findings. She told the council of Rohea's honesty, and the encounter with the dark mages and what she had learned from the one that was captured.