So I’ve been writing Knights in Shining Armor as responses to weekly writing prompts from Irene on The Inklings. This chapter has gotten the best response by far, and doesn’t require much knowledge of the world to understand, so I’m posting it here. Enjoy!
Aalina guided her horse through the woods, leaving the dark castle behind her. It was a terrible night to try and leave secretly; her horse’s white fur and her white cloak reflected the full moon brilliantly, making them far too visible. But it was tonight or no night, Aalina knew.
The horse–Veritas–gave a snort, tossing his head slightly.
“Hush,” Aalina scolded him. She felt like a weathered old grandmother. She looked like one too, even though her face showed her to be no more than five and twenty. But her body had a weary stance beneath it’s armor, and her eyes held a coldness that came with seeing far too much of life. Where her hair lacked greyness, her worldview more than made up for it.
And it was little wonder why. Though her body had a tired stance, there was a grace to her movements. It was the movement of a warrior, trained and seasoned.
The grim woman steered her stallion between trees, making her way to the main trade route between Bannantyne and King Reinhold’s kingdom. She was finally headed home, after this mess of a diplomatic trip.
Home was where a warm drink and bed awaited her. Home was where she wasn’t guarding the backside of an entire kingdom from the scathing Bannantyne’s. Home was where Reinhold was.
Yet, ironically, she never felt more out of place than when she was near him.
Aalina came upon the trade route. It was empty, the chill of winter not quite receded. She was the only person visible, a pale knight dressed in the ethereal light of the moon. A sword hung by her side, and a long cloak flowed over her horse’s flanks. Her dark hair spilled out of the helmet, her dark eyes staring straight ahead. Each clop of a horse’s hoof brought her closer to home.
Yes, this trip had been a disaster. Reinhold had sent Aalina in a final, desperate attempt to make peace between the two kingdoms. But Reinhold’s stance on magic was too relaxed for Bannantyne. Aalina had been as humble as possible, playing down their army’s strength and their importance in the world, but it had been of no avail. Reinhold was an immanent threat in their mind. A single knight could not change that view.
The journey home stretched out for several days. Aalina felt she was getting too old for it all. Perhaps her body hadn’t aged since the deal, but Aalina thought that perhaps the cold hurt old bones not for the aged structure, but for the aged soul.
And Aalina’s soul was ancient.
The trade route narrowed as she neared Reinhold’s castle, the usual paths taken by merchants splitting off towards large cities and not solitary fortresses. Soon, Veritas was walking through untended woods, muzzle straying from time to time towards a tempting clump of greenery.
But at one point, Aalina pulled Veritas to a stop. She turned her head ever so slightly, ear catching a noise on the wind.
Talking. Not too unusual, perhaps; this part of the forest was close to the castle. But one voice was very familiar. And the other not at all.
Aalina dismounted swiftly and unsheathed her sword, stalking towards the noise.
It was Princess Forestyne, speaking with a hooded man. Between the princess’ fingers danced a purple light, streaming like ribbons from hand to hand.
A thousand thoughts ran through Aalina’s head at one. The Bannantyne Kingdom would attack us for having a magical royal. Why is Forestyne not on the castle grounds? Who is the hooded man?
They all coalesced into a single thought.
Aalina stepped into the clearing, sword pointed at the hooded man. He was magical, no doubt of that. Stopping him would be tricky, if he chose to put up a fight.
“Step away from the princess,” Aalina said, voice gruff.
Forestyne reacted behind her, gasping or screaming or somesuch thing. The girl could never react to a thing usefully.
The hooded man stepped back, holding his hands out.
“I mean the princess no harm,” he said.
“I only wished to-”
“Leave, and I will discuss this with the king,” Aalina growled.
The man looked past the knight towards the princess, then vanished.
Aalina turned and wrapped an arm around the princess’ too-tiny waist and slung her up onto Veritas, her sword still in one hand. Aalina mounted in front of the girl, then urged the horse into a canter.
“Why did you do that?” Forestyne demanded when she got her voice back.
“I should be asking that question of you,” Aalina responded. “But I will leave it to your brother to pose.” She ducked a branch.
“Don’t tell Rei-” Forestyne began before the tree branch caught her mid-sentence.
Aalina galloped across the castle grounds before bursting through the main doors. Her horse’s hooves clattered with a ferocious noise on the flagstones before coming to a stop in front of the throne, where Reinhold sat.
Reinhold raised a single eyebrow up past the rim of his crown.
“Knight Aalina? Forestyne?”
Forestyne dismounted and left the room, purple skirts swishing. Aalina looked down at the king.
“I’m afraid I bring a lot of bad news,” she said.