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The kingdom through the.., p.41
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       The Kingdom through the Swamp: The Courts Divided - Book 1, p.41

           Kell Inkston

  Through the evening forest, the knights are led by Matimay, every soul holding a lantern of their own. It is a quiet parade, lit by the solemn, blue flames of their magic lights. Few words are exchanged, but there are two people that are more willing to talk than most.

  Dresmond, walking right next to Law on the way back inspects the small, temporary discolorations of where his wounds used to be; a common side-effect of healing magic. He sighs, looks behind him and can just barely spot the dreamy, misty lights of Liefland in the distance. Law notes that his companion has stopped. Law waits with him just a moment to admire the sounds, scents, and sights of the deep forest, and then speaks.

  “Dresmond,” Law begins, nodding to the path to follow the other Knights.

  “Right, sorry,” the boy responds, lasting one moment more before turning back to the mossy road.

  “I must say, I’m not really all that surprised.”

  “About what?”

  “That you were the only recruit out of the three that’s still here.”

  “Really? Did the other two seem ... incompetent?”

  “Not that. I just feel like, out of all you three, you’re the best suited for this line of work. Tell me, did any of the soldiers on the front lines run in like Lain did?”

  “... Quite a few, but most of them did it because they were sure they would come back.”

  “Interesting, you humans. So many of you seem to take suicide so casually.”

  “For the ones that die, I suppose they did.”

  “Yes well, dragon-kin take it much more seriously. A female will have at most three children that reach adulthood throughout her lifespan. From what I’ve read of the reservations, our culture still holds on; most of the children die from training and tests of ability before they’re even twenty. We spend so much time thrusting our children into danger, that when one of the does it voluntarily, it’s sung about for weeks, if not years.”

  “I see. I suppose we honor humans similarly, though I guess it’d be more common place amongst us.”

  “I remember one time ... Your human societies, no offense, are rather insane. I remember one time I saw on the newspapers a pair of boys dying to protect their mother from a highwayman. One was killed outright, and the other died of wounds shortly after. Had that happened in a dragon-kin society, those two souls would have been immortalized in songs and tales, but the very next day I checked the paper, expecting a multitude of services honoring the selflessness of the two children, and instead I find news on political gossip- as if it had never happened. I was disgusted.”

  “Is that so unusual? Societies need to go on; everyone has a job to do and we can’t just waste our time crying about people that are now irrelevant.”

  “... I respectfully disagree, Knight Dresmond.”

  “... That’s alright. I’m not sure how much my thoughts matter anyway.”

  “Why’s that?”

  “I’m surrounded by brave, selfless people every day in the Knights. I realized though, during the very first day of my combat duty, that I was a coward.”

  “... What?”

  “I told you how the squads I was with had died. Those stupid, under-equipped, boys shouting for the glory of their own kingdoms, they were the heroes, not me.”

  “But you survived; you did, and are still doing, your job in the war! You were the only one out of those multitudes that got out!”

  “Because they charged in. I watched them.”

  “... You stayed behind?”

  “I don’t know why. I came up ready to kill the eastern menace, but the moment I was shot in the arm from a stray bullet, all of the propaganda, all the hatred, just melted away. I wasn’t angry at the enemy; I was just scared for myself. The second I got hurt I wanted to quit, but I knew I wouldn’t have much of a life for me after the war if I ran away ... I’d be removed from the Knights, and no one would hire someone who was kicked from the Knights. I’m sorry- I’m a disgrace,” Dresmond says, looking away from Law, who is staring straight at the boy.

  “... Why are you telling me this?”

  “When I saw Lain throw himself at Oa I knew I had to come clean. I’m not a real soldier.” Law snuffs.

  “Well, maybe when you get back on the front lines you will be.”

  “... I don’t ... I know myself better than that. I’ll crumple into an abandoned building the second I’m free to move,” Dresmond says, stumbling for a blink second across a root before regaining his balance.

  “That could be, or you could do s’Lain did, and follow the code of the Knights. Being honest with a fellow knight like me was a step in the right direction, but you must understand we’re all on the long road to perfection; none of us are quite like our ancient King, but we dream and fight ourselves and our foes for the day that we might be, I ‘spose.”

  “The King ... he must have been something.”

  “I heard from Love that he was the most incredible person she had ever met ... and that meant something to me, because she was the most incredible person I had ever met.”

  “... You two must be close.” Law looks on to the traveling crowd of knights ahead of them.

  “I don’t know anymore. You heard s’disappeared conveniently after missing her shot and hitting Order in the leg?”

  “I didn’t.”

  “S’was ... like a mother to me. S’nursed me from the egg upwards to be a man of ... dignity and honesty, and now s’shoots her best friend in the leg and disappears. I just ... this past night have been… confusing, Dresmond. It’s all gone by s’fast, and I feel like we have barely any answers,” Law says, keeping his gaze straight into the long halls of the wood around them. Dresmond is quiet a moment and then sighs.

  “I have faith in her. She’s been with the Knights for thousands of years, after all.”

  “Yes, s’has. It’s weird. I remember when I was a child, I would ask her why, if she’s so old, does s’not know everything. S’would always smile, kiss me on the forehead and say: “because that’s someone else’s job.” Here we are though, thousands of years with people like Redemption, Order, Love and their kind, and where has our kingdom gone with the Knights? What have we really done, now that The King is gone?”

  “... More than anyone, I’d say. There’s a reason people still join the Knights, sir,” Dresmond says, making sure the two of them exchange a stare. There is a slight pause, and then Hos’Rayull speaks up.

  “... I suppose you’re right,” Law says, scratching his neck.

  “I am, if it weren’t for arch mages joining the knights, either before or after they learned longevity magic, the Western Kingdoms wouldn’t even exist, or worse, we’d be just like the Easterners.”

  “ ‘Barbarians in the clothing of nobility.’ ” Rayull says, repeating a popular quote.

  “Yes sir.”

  “Well ... thanks, Dresmond. You did a fine job, getting the other knights here.”

  “And you did a great job providing a distraction. I’ve actually never met a dragon-kin personally before you, and I’d say you’re a high cut above most of the humans I know,” Dresmond says frankly. Rayull coughs, as if he had something stuck in his throat, or just received a much unexpected, very welcome compliment.

  “... Thank you.”

  “No problem, Sir.”

  “And don’t call me ‘Sir.’ ”

  “... You got it, Rayull,” Dresmond says just as the lights of Liefland disappear completely. Neither of these Knights will ever see the lights of the fairy city again, but neither of them mind. Law’s too preoccupied with thoughts of Love’s disappearance, and Dresmond too distracted by the thought of his inevitable return to the battlefield.

  The two men follow the other knights through the wood and arrive back at the headquarters hours later. While others rest, Order and Redemption stay up through the night discussing their plans for entering Everlock, finding Chaos’ home, and retrieving the two other Knights, whom they assume to be
with the High Overlord.

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