Clangs Of Steel And A Kiss
By Kadeeja Ruwaidah
The town was busy with bustling activities. Loud chatter could be heard as children frolicked about, and sounds of heated bargaining between shopkeepers and the townsfolk.
Eilaria walked past all of them, seemingly not minding anyone. A Girl on a mission. People moved out of her way, as she passed, whispers floating about the air.
The redhead was used to all this. She was, after all, a Viscountess and a savage one at that. Her gaze took in the people milling about, searching for the one she was looking for. She had a general idea where he might be, but so far, she couldn't see him anywhere here.
"Lady Eilaria, what brings you to the town on this fine morning? " she heard a male ask, as she whirled around to meet the eyes of a well-groomed man. Damascus. Someone she had befriended among a few of the townsfolk. This one in particular was from a wealthy family and knew all the ins and outs of the kingdom.
"I'm looking for His majesty, Dominic. Have you seen him? " she asked him, lightly flipping a lock of her long Red hair over her shoulder.
He frowned slightly, his brows pinching together as he thought. "I think he went to the market square. Saw him walking in that direction," he elaborated, before adding under his breath, "Amazes me such down-to-earth Kings exists".
Eilaria nodded to him gratefully, his whispered words not lost on her, but she decided not to comment. It was true. The King really was down to earth. And she figured that, if it wasn't for Thorn and the other higher-ups, the kingdom would've been in shambles a long time ago.
"Thank you for the info. See you around, " she said cheerfully, leaning in to kiss his cheek, before waving and running off. Since she knew where the King would be, she didn't need to dwindle around here anymore.
The Kingdom of Narva. It was a powerful kingdom, preceded by Kings who achieved great feats. But Dominic, the current King, was a man who was soft at heart, and would potentially not even injure an ant. He loathed politics and quite often, all the kingdom's affairs were given to his ministers to take care of. And you could usually see him frolicking about in the town on most sunny days.
Soon, Eilaria reached the square, and just as Damascus had said, there, in the middle of the square -surrounded by many children- was the king. He was carving up pieces of wood, into animal figures, and handing them to the children, who cheered and laughed, watching him. It was a beautiful sight, but she was sorry that she would have to drag him away.
"Dom - I mean, your Majesty! You're coming with me, " Eilaria exclaimed as she reached the group, grabbed Dominic's arm, and began to lift/drag him from where he was seated on a raised cobblestone platform.
The children started to protest, but Eilaria had just the thing for it. She reached into the small pouch she was wearing around her waist and brought out a fistful of candy. She threw them high into the air, sure that the kids would scurry about to catch them. There was enough for everyone to go around. "I'm sorry, but I need to borrow him, " she apologized and began to drag him away.
"Wha- what? The heck Eilaria. What do you think you're doing? " the King asked, flabbergasted at her behavior. But he wasn't surprised. Eilaria was always spontaneous, and the hell did he know what ran through the crazy woman's head.
"Well, we're going to teach you how to fight today, " she checked, her lips breaking into a gorgeous smile, as she relentlessly began to drag him through the marketplace. People stared, but she didn't give two cents about them.
"Teach me how to fight? What the hell? Why so suddenly?" The King was still confused beyond measure, as he stumbled about, trying to keep up with the pace she was dragging him with. He looked at the red mass of curls bouncing as she walked. The slightly smaller woman had a death-like grip on his arm.
"Well, I heard about the outrageous deal between you and Octavian. And if it ever comes down to having you fight him, then I rather you stay in one full piece than as blocks of meat, " she elaborated, just as soon as they reached the edge of the woods, a good distance away from the town and civilization.
The said outrageous deal was between Dominic and Octavian, who was the King of the neighboring kingdom. The contents of the verbal deal were so outrageous, That when Eilaria first heard about it, she was right about ready to rip into Dominic.
Octavian had bartered a deal involving the Kingdom as a prize. A duel. And if Dominic lost, the Kingdom of Narva would be signed away to the Kingdom of Eclipse, which Octavian headed. It was the most ridiculous deal Eilaria had ever heard because Dominic didn't even know how to wield a weapon. He knew how to use a knife to carve up wooden toys, but a duel? It was hopeless. That's why, Eilaria and Thorn -the captain of the Knight's Squad- came up with the idea of teaching Dom to fight.
She dragged him into the woods, ignoring the branches snagging at her dark clothes, and purposefully going in a direction like she knew where she was actually going, because Dominic certainly didn't. All he saw were just rows and rows of trees and branches that scratched at his face and clothes.
He was still clueless and lost throughout the whole way. He couldn't even begin to understand what was going on here. He wasn't very fond of the idea of having to learn to fight. He much rather not resort to having any violence, but the red-head did have a point. What if the kingdom was at stake and it all came down upon his shoulder? Would he be any sort of king if he didn't know how to defend his people? But on that point- he doesn't know why Eilaria was bringing this up out of the blue.
They soon reached a clearing, in the middle of nowhere. How did she even find this place? Dominic wondered, amazed at her.
"Here we are, " she chirped, as she let go of his arm and turned around, giving him an eerie grin that would've made the Cheshire cat proud.
"And this is..? " he asked with uncertainty, looking around only to see trees and more trees surrounding the little patch of a clearing.
"Well, it's my training ground. This is the place I come to, to practice target hitting and the likes. There's also a small shed there, which has about all the weapons I have collected throughout the years, including a few my grandpappy had given down to me, " she stated proudly, pointing to a well-hidden small shed.
Honestly, Dominic would never have caught sight of the shed had she not pointed it out to the man. It was like it was camouflaged or something. He was pretty sure that it hadn't been there a few seconds ago. Or maybe he was just tired that he hadn't looked well.
"Okay, so now that we've established that. What am I here for again? " he asked, uncertainty crossing his facial features again, not sure if he would like the answer he would get.
"Grab a weapon and let's get down to business, " she said, a wicked gleam of light glinting in the depths of her eyes, as she licked her bottom lip slowly.
"Look, I know you and Thorn had always been on my case for not learning to wild a weapon, but why have you suddenly gone all guerilla war captain on me? It's not like we have a sudden difficult situation on our hand or anything, right?" He implored, his eyes twitching nervously as he looked around. He's never been fond of the dark woods.
"Whatever do you mean?" Eilaria stared at him like he'd suddenly grown an extra head on his shoulders. "Do you even hear yourself? You fool! You made an unethical deal with King Octavian, without even consulting the council members and now you're asking me why you have to learn to fight?" Eilaria seethed, her nostrils flaring, as she narrowed her eyes at him.
"A deal? What deal?"
Eilaria couldn't believe her ears. Was Dominic acting like this purposefully to get on her nerves?
"The deal with the duel and Narva as the prize? Ring a bell?" she questioned sarcastically.
"Urm. Wait, what? That was just drunken talk between two...men", Dominic finished weakly, his words reducing in volume as realization hit him.
He'd been out in the town, drinking when a man had slid up to him and offered him a drink in return for a game of chess. Naturally, Dominic had agreed given his amiable nature. And suddenly Dominic remembered the exact dealings of that night, as his eyes widened.
" Oh have you finally remembered? U bartered the kingdom in a drunken stupor! I can't tell if you're just ignorant or foolish. Maybe both?" Eilaria seethed as she opened the door to the shed and went in, with Dominic following her like a rag doll.
"I'm sorry, I didn't realize- "
"What's done is done. The Kingdom of Eclipse sent us the official deal document, insigned by both the Kings' words. The situation isn't reversible. Octavian took advantage of your vulnerabilities and we have to fix it."
Dominic had to fumble about to catch the sword she had thrown at him while lecturing him. He was feeling devastated and worthless at this point. How could he have been so careless! The Kings' insignia was a word of oath that couldn't be broken. In a world where magic was loathed and looked down upon, certain aspects of it were still used and the Kings' insignia was one of them. Words spoken with purpose and authority in front of a magic pamphlet would automatically be engraved and sealed as a deal.
But there was a catch. No one could misuse the insignia to achieve what wasn't theirs. They could propose a tournament, a fight, or anything similar to physically achieve them. No one knows who invented the Kings' insignia, but even after magic was banned, the insignia was still used.
"Ready?" Eilaria broke into Dominic's thoughts.
"No, but let's do this," he gulped as he walked to the open field.
The sounds of clangs and clashes brought Eilaria back from her deep reverie. She looked up to see Dominic sweating, sagging against a tree, and breathing hard. The sword she had given him was lying a few feet away from his feet, and defeat was written all over his face.
"Again. Pick it up, " Thorn barked, as she gripped her steel blade tightly in her hand. This wasn't the time to go easy on him. He had such a short time, yet such a long way to go. She didn't want to think of this situation as hopeless, but it was seeming to look like that no matter what she wanted to believe.
Eilaria had let Thorn know in advance where she would be taking Dom and not too long after their session had started, Thorn had shown up. Eilaria was a master at weapons, but Thorn was on another level. That's why she was the captain of the Knight's order.
"You and Eilaria are too hard on me. Just because you know how to handle a sword doesn't mean you should go all out on me, " Dominic grumbled, complaining as if he was a broken record, because that's what he kept saying each time the sword flew out his hand.
"Oh?! So you want me to go easy on you? Fine by me. Pick up the blade, " Thorn instructed calmly, but there was a hidden undertone to her words. She watched him like a hawk, as he picked up his sword, and turned to face her again. His movements were already getting sloppy.
And without warning, Thorn proceeded onto the offense. Her footsteps light, as if walking on air, barely touching the ground. She seemed to be flying, as she ran at him, and attacked him with a series of fast flurry attacks, not even giving him a breather.
Dominic panicked, as he tried to parry all of her swings, succeeding with some, and getting pushed back with the others. He didn't have a scratch on him though, because she wouldn't hurt him. But, he was in awe of the head guard.
Dominic's back slammed into a tree, and with nowhere to go, he let the sword fall from his hand and raised his palm in front of him. A sign of defeat, as Thorn's blade, was pointed directly at his heart.
"I thought I told you to take it easy on me. Baby steps first, " Dominic whined, worry swirling in his bright eyes.
"That's just it, Your majesty. We've been easy with you from the beginning, " Thorn said sternly, letting the sword fall back to her side. This was getting absolutely nowhere. She had to admit, there were improvements though. His footing had improved, and his parrying ability seemed to have improved as well. There was just the little fact that he was never ready to go on the offense. Which greatly irked Thorn.
Eilaria sighed, as she looked back into her hands. Nestled in her palm was a necklace of silver chain attached to a small glass vial. And inside the vial was a green shimmering liquid that swirled hypnotically. Eilaria still hadn't made up her mind on what to do with it. Should she give it to him, should she not?
"Eilaria, you deal with his stubborn asś now. I'm tired, " Thorn exclaimed, grumbling numerous other things under her breath, as she stalked to the tree stump Eilaria was sitting on.
Eilaria quickly slipped the little glass vial into her sleeves, before Thorn could see, as she got up, nodding at her.
"Please, can I take a breather? " Dominic asked, raising his hand in the air. He was breathing too hard, and there were beads of sweat rolling down his forehead. But suddenly, without any warning, his eyes seemed to roll into the back of his head, as he swayed on his feet for a few seconds before he started to fall.
Eilaria quickly rushed to him, catching him just before his head hit the ground, Thorn right behind her.
"Dominic? Dom! Dom, wake up, " Eilaria called out, lightly slapping his cheeks, but he seemed to be unconscious.
"We overdid it. His stamina is too low. I don't know what we're gonna do. We're screwed, " Thorn lamented, worry lacing her words, as her face scrunched up. Thorn didn't like seeing their King like this, but they had no choice.
"Don't worry. It'll work out. We'll think of a plan. You're smart. I'm smart. He is smart. Between us, I think we can think of something, " Eilaria responded, with more confidence than she felt. She cradled his body to her chest, protectively, as she dipped down, softly brushing her lips against his temples. Oh, Dominic! Why did you have to bring this mess upon yourself? She thought as sadness clouded her eyes.
Eilaria felt the weight of the vial in her sleeves, where it was held securely. Should she after all resort to witchcraft?
"You go ahead. I'll wait till he wakes and bring him back home, " Eilaria instructed, as she looked up at Thorn, and motioned with her head towards a clear path in the middle of the trees that surrounded them.
Thorn looked hesitatingly at Dominic and then at Eilaria before she nodded, a weary sigh being dragged out of her. "Take care of him, " she said as a final parting sentence, before she turned on her heels, sheathing her sword, and with a few purposeful strides, her figure disappeared within the forest trees.
"That was messy. Oof, I never would've imagined the guy you've come to love would be so weak, Ri-Ri, " a high-pitched voice floated, seemingly out of nowhere, before a small figure stepped out into the clearing.
"I thought I told you not to call me Ri-Ri, " Eilaria counteracted, without even looking at the figure. She didn't need to. She knew who it was. She could feel her presence always, no matter where she went.
You see, Eilaria was a witch. And witches were scorned, shunned, and hunted in this day and age. Her family belonged to a line of glorious and prestigious wizards and witches, but as the world slowly started to turn on them, they had no choice but to go undercover.
A small girl walked towards them, with a childish curiosity burning in her eyes. "Does he bite? " she asked Eilaria, as the little girl poked his chest.
Looking at the girl, you would immediately come to know she wasn't an ordinary human being. In fact, it was left to question if she even was a human. What with the small furry ears on her head, and the red fluffy tail swishing about at her back, everyone could deduce that this girl was anything but human.
"No, he doesn't. And stop that, " Eilaria chided, as she shot the girl a frown. "Are you here because you were bored, Aynia? Or have you heard something?"
Aynia was a familiar. Eilaria's familiar. Familiars were mystical beings who could cross planes and walk about anywhere. And Aynia was an exceptional familiar. She was intelligent than most, but her most admirable trait was her undivided loyalty. She'd do anything for Eilaria.
"I've heard multiple things, Ri-Ri, but none too good. Whispers of wars to come and a bloody battle are on top of the list, " Aynia said with a grave face, as her feline eyes regarded Eilaria, wanting to see how she took the news.
"I see... " Eilaria said no more before she looked down at Dominic. Right now, she had more pressing things to worry about than a war that may or may not come. "You may go, but tell me when you have something specific, " Eilaria requested, as the girl disappeared as if on command. Her essence seemed to fade away, scattering into the winds.
Eilaria sighed, as her head started to throb, the beginnings of a long headache to come. Looking down at the man nestled in her arms, she steeled her thoughts. She had to be strong, and whatever comes, she would protect him, no matter what. It was a self oath she took to herself. An oath of love. She gently leaned down, and softly brushed her lips against his, capturing it in a soft and sensual kiss. A kiss to awaken him, as strings of power surged through her to him. A kiss of virility.
By Kadeeja Ruwaidah