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Archives: Cian’s Quest

Chapter 5: The Road to Knighthood

    Meanwhile, on the hot sands of the desert far away from Cian and Ciprian’s location, a tent flap opened as two new bargains were led into their new master’s tent.

    The two youths were found in a village Emir’s men had taken great care to ransack. The few likely slaves that they’d gathered would fetch a decent price, but these two were healthy and would be worth the trouble of getting them.

    Rising from his cushions, the black bearded figure ran a hand along the neat trim and rounded a finger across his mustache. Emir was a handsome man, with an angel’s smile and a devil’s heart. As he stepped around the youths he nodded several times then spoke in their direction, “Mm good skin, healthy...You, girl! What are you called by?”

    The girl nearly jumped, then spoke, “Meggan...s...sir...”

    Emir wasn’t interested in the boy as much, but the girl was a pretty one. She’d make some noble or the like happy as a serving maid or bed wench if need be. Either way, they would both serve a purpose. Merchandise. Still, he was bothered by the fact Cian was loose, and he’d heard nothing from Ranth or his companions. It might have been nothing, but Emir hated loose ends. And more than that he wanted the boy to pay for the scar he’d given him. Gazing out of the flap, he turned his attention from his two new wares to regard the burning hot sands and thought dark thoughts of a gray eyed youth. Ye’ll pay dearly, boy. When we meet, I’ll scar you as you did me...and worse.

* * *

    After meeting Kylia, Ciprian led Cian directly to Castle Roid. The night before, Cian probably didn’t realize just how close he was to the castle. They passed by the knight’s barracks where Cian had waited with Carianna when Ciprian took Ranth and the other mercenaries down to the dungeon. They would have been interrogated by other knights, including Dernek, over the night. Hopefully anything that came from them was useful.

    The castle was impressive, as are most, and Cian, a lowly thief, would be walking the same ground as nobles, heroes and royalty. Parn, Spark, Etoh, Fahn, and many others who were revered in modern legends had walked here. Ciprian led him through the castle, aware of how awe-struck Cian must be. They passed through corridors decorated with tapestries and paintings, windows framed with white and gold velvet drapes. They walked through gardens, blooming in spring greenery and flowers.

    Cian was not so lucky as to meet any of the royal family, or see any nobles, not at these levels. These corridors were mostly filled with knights, patrolled by royal guards and tended by servants in livery. Some curiously examined the dark-skinned boy in a shirt too big and threadbare pants and shoes, tagging along behind the handsome holy knight. Some of the knights nodded in acknowledgment to Ciprian, but their eyes traveled to the ragamuffin young teenager behind him.

    Ciprian didn’t make any stops to explain just what Cian was doing with him. No guards were concerned by it, Ciprian was a holy knight, their superior, and if he was bringing a street urchin into the castle, he probably had a good reason. Perhaps the child would be given a job as a servant, or as some assumed properly, he would be registered as a squire.

    Finally, Ciprian led Cian into a cavernous room at the end of a corridor. It was lined with stone benches and a few knights loitered about, talking quietly amongst themselves. Opposite of the corridor they entered through was a pair of double doors of lacquered wood, guarded by two men.

    “Have a seat, Cian,” Ciprian said, gesturing to a bench near the door. The knight went to one of the guards and spoke, “I need to speak to the Marshal, it is a matter that require some expediency.”

    The guard nodded, sparing a glance to Cian, then slipped into the room behind the doors. Ciprian turned to Cian and smiled, hopefully they could get everything taken care of today and be on the road tomorrow.

    For all of his bravado, street smart sense and confidence. Cian was truly nervous, it was worse than his first job Emir had sent him on so long ago, the place was enormous, and the floors, walls and all were extremely well kept.

    Not to mention all of the guards and knights he saw, the boy usually did his best to avoid such types in the past as he’d had little use for those of law. But now... now he was in the thick of it. Feeling very out of place and more than a bit alone, even more so his dark hued skin wasn’t a common sight and made him feel even more out of place as he sat feeling very small. Glancing around, the boy could only sit and wait as he thought to himself, Gods, have I stepped in it this time?

    Ciprian noticed how uncomfortable Cian was, which was understandable, considering his life thus far. The knight reached out and rubbed Cian’s curly head. “Ah, you’ll be fine,” he assured the boy light heartedly.

    The guard soon returned and looked to Ciprian. “The marshal will see you now,” he said, then returned to his post beside the door.

    “C’mon Cian,” Ciprian said, motioning for Cian to come to his side, then led him into the office. The knight adopted a rigid, noble posture as he entered.

    The Knight’s Marshal’s office was much like the rest of the palace, but his walls were decorated with Valisian heraldry, swords, sets of armor, and items from enemies vanquished.

    “So, you have something important you have to speak to me about?” a middle-aged knight said from behind a broad oak desk. He eyed the boy curiously.

    “Aye, sir,” Ciprian replied. “This is Cian, and I would like to take him as a squire.”

    “A squire? Do you think you’re ready for a squire of your own? Isn’t he a little old?” the Marshal asked.

    “He has the heart to become a great knight, and he deserves a far better life than what he’s been given,” Ciprian replied firmly. “Besides, there is an issue of finding the criminals responsible for putting him in his situation. Will you hear his story?”

    The Marshal nodded, he was more than a little curious about this child, and Ciprian had been vague. “Have a seat boy,” the Marshal said, pointing toward a velvet cushioned chair in front of the desk. Ciprian took a seat off to the side. “Now, let’s hear this story of yours.”

    Leaning forward from his seat, Ciprian patted Cian’s shoulder. “Start from the beginning,” he said, gently encouraging Cian.

    Cian nodded to the Knight Marshall and began to relay his tale. It was full of memories, most of them sad. For over an hour or more he relayed the tale of his people the Han’eel; the slaughter of his people by mercenaries, the taking of his mother and sister into slavery. Cian spun the tale as he relayed holding the still, warm body of his mother in his arms as she’d been beaten to death for trying to escape with him and his sister. The day he and his sister were sold into slavery, and the day they were parted when she was sold. Emir’s eventual buying of him, the torturous training which he spoke of the beatings and learning the hard life of a thief. Cian had been hardened by the life, but not broken. The one thing which drove him, a thirst for freedom, finding his sister and seeing Emir pay for his crimes. As he ended the tale, he looked the Knight’s Marshall in the eye and spoke, his voice full of honesty and determination, “I realize I am a thief. I’m also honest in what I say and mean. Cip...Ciprian has been good and honest with me. He saved me. He’s also offered to help me find my sister and keep Emir from turning out others onto the streets like he did me. I don’t profess to be a saint sir, but I can be a damn good knight. And I’m willing to work hard however long and whatever it takes to do so. I’ve a chance at a better life and to find my only kin. One thing about me you’ll find, once I say I’ll put my mind to something, then I do it. And I’m putting my mind to it I can be a knight. I know I can. Umm...sir.”

    The Marshal was moved by Cian’s story, and he was never accused of being a soft man. Usually, a thief seeking redemption had the door slammed in his face--once a thief, always a thief--but the Marshal knew enough from Cian’s story that he wasn’t willingly a thief. However, could he trust that the boy was telling the truth?

    “Ciprian, you offered to help him?” the Marshal asked. “If you do, would that mean that you will train him on the road?”

    Ciprian nodded, and replied, “I still need to get a warrant to travel into Flaim to hunt this Emir. Last night, we captured three men who attacked us. being Cian and myself, as well as a priestess of Rada and a Holy Knight Dernek. The three men were mercenaries hired by Emir to capture Cian. They assaulted myself and the other knight, as well as the priestess, in their attempts to capture Cian. We brought them back to Roid, and I left them back in the dungeon. I haven’t had the chance to interrogate them, though perhaps Dernek might have.”

    The Knight’s Marshal nodded knowingly. “I received a report from him regarding the interrogation of a mercenary named Ranth and two others which corroborates what you’re telling me. He has informed me of the situation with this boy, and that you would probably be stopping by later today.”

    Ciprian was pleasantly surprised to hear this, though the Marshal hadn’t said a word about it when they first arrived. It was probably why he allowed them to see him immediately. The Marshal took a scroll from his desk and handed it to Ciprian.

    “It’s my review of Dernek’s report. It should get you a warrant to travel to Flaim, though first, we must consider Cian’s squirehood,” the Marshal explained, turning his eyes to Cian. He looked back at Ciprian and continued. “So what do you have in mind?”

    “I was considering, as you suggested, to train him while we travel. His skills and knowledge will be crucial to finding this slaver. When we return, he can be tested to see where his ability falls, then advance from there,” Ciprian explained. “We will also be accompanied by Carianna, the Rada priestess. She and I should be able to educate him sufficiently.”

    “That would be preferable than having to deal with the issues of initiating a thief as a squire, and putting him in a class with seven year olds,” the Marshal agreed. “He’ll be listed as a first rank squire, and I’ll supply you with the training gear you can carry on the road. When you return, we’ll test him to see in what rank he falls.” The Marshal took a leaf of parchment from his desk and scratched a note as he spoke. The room fell silent, save for the scraping of the quill, as he wrote out a rather long message. When he finally finished, he passed the note to Ciprian over the desk. “There, that’ll allow you to enroll him and get the equipment you need.”

    “Very good, sir. Thank you,” Ciprian said and rolled up the note quickly. The Marshal stood, and both men bowed to each other, hand over heart. As Ciprian straightened, he glanced to Cian with a small smile. “Let’s go, kid,” he announced and turned on his heel toward the door.

    Cian was shocked, dismayed and totally flabbergasted. The street smart thief could scarcely believe it, but apparently the Knight’s Marshal had decided to give him a chance. The young boy could hardly contain his enthusiasm and excitement, not to mention his overall joy.

    When the Marshal rose and did some sort of salute, Cian could only stand straight as a board and managed a respectful bow. He didn’t know if he was supposed to mimic the salute or not. But as he wasn’t a knight yet, he felt the bow would do. Perhaps saluting had to be earned.

    As they reached the outside, Cian looked up at Cip and wiped something from his eyes, the boy did his best to hide any sign of weakness. “Thanks Cip, that was...He’s a fair man. I won’t let any of you down. Damn flies...always getting in my face and eyes...”

* * *

    Kylia was having a slow day today, mostly large orders by a few organizations and temples. She leaned against the counter of her booth and sighed, maybe she would close up shop early if things got any slower. After an hour, things started picking up, the ships that were heading out in the next few days were stocking up and she was on her feet. One of her regular customers stopped by, he came from the desert and often bought stuff from her to keep illness away and promote endurance.

    “So whats going on, finally leaving town again? I should be in Flaim’s capital in a few months, so if you need anything more then look for me there.”

    The man replied with his usual nod and grin. She was creeped out by him, but he still paid well for her potions and the business kept her going. “Yeah, if you can help me out I’d appreciate it too. I’m leaving in two days, staying at the Inn by docks. Can ya let me know if you seen a boy and a knight? All I need.”

    She did not reply but finished the transaction, she then moved onto other customers after he left.

* * *

    Ciprian brought Cian out the the training yard where many boys, younger and older than Cian, trained. Some had wooden swords, though the elder boys were allowed to train with actual swords. They wore uniform white tunics and breeches with hardened leather armor on top, which Cian would soon have as well.

    Leading the soon-to-be squire through a covered walk beside the training yard, Ciprian approached a knight overlooking the squires’ training. He wasn’t very familiar with the elder knight, the former head of training who had trained him as a boy, died in the last war. The knight saw Ciprian and Cian coming and greeted them, curiously eying Cian. “Hail. What can I do for you, sir?” the title was stated not in deference, but equality.

    “This boy is to become my squire, though I have a unique set of circumstances,” Ciprian said as he passed the scroll the Knight’s Marshal had given him to the knight. “All I need is a training sword, squire’s clothing and armor.”

    The knight didn’t respond immediately, instead he read over the letter first. He seemed a bit frustrated with the situation, but it was the Marshal’s decision. “Alright, we need to enroll him, and we’ll get the equipment he needs. Follow me,” the knight finally replied and led Ciprian and Cian to his office, just off the walk along the yards.

    Cian’s eyes were wide with wonder as Ciprian led him out into the practice area, watching the other squires practice and go about their training held the boy’s attention until they met with the knight in charge of training and provisions.

    The boy waited quietly saying nothing as the fellow looked over the scroll the Knight’s Marshal had handed Cip. At first it seemed as if he wouldn’t follow orders and suit but that changed quickly when they were led into his office. It was stocked full of items and Cian wondered at just what would he learn while training.

    His office was modest and undecorated. Bookcases lined the walls and held rows of heavy leather bound books. In front of a desk was a three foot high stand to be reached by even the youngest squires, upon which one of those large books lay open to a lined page half-filled with hand written names. At the top of the stand was an ink pot and quill.

    “Just sign your name in the first empty line, son,” the knight said.

    The question caught him completely off guard as he was asked to sign his name. The boy looked down at the book and then back at the knight, then to Ciprian, and in an embarrassed voice, he spoke, feeling very low and insignificant, “I...would be happy to milord. But I...I can’t write...nor can I read... It wasn’t one of the things Emir taught me.”

    He felt horrible, Cian had always wished to learn the mysteries of scholars, but survival and honing his skills always took presidence over such a luxury. Unable to even meet Cip’s eyes, he looked back at the parchment, indecisive. Would he be disqualified or turned away since he couldn’t write?

    “Here, let me help,” Ciprian said. He took the quill, dipped it in ink, then placed it in Cian’s hand, guiding the boy’s fingers to hold it properly. Still holding onto Cian’s hand, Ciprian brought his hand to the empty line on the page. He wasn’t sure how to spell Cian, but he made a good guess. Firmly controlling Cian’s hand, Ciprian slowly showed him how to make a C then an I, an A, and an N to spell his name.

    “There, you’re done,” Ciprian said with a grin. Plucking the quill from Cian’s hand, he made a quick note regarding that he recommended Cian and the boy would be under his tutelage.

    “Don’t worry, son,” the squire trainer assured Cian. “A lot of boys come here and don’t know how to read or write, though they’re usually much younger than you.” He looked up to Ciprian. “You will be teaching him, right?”

    “Myself and a priestess of Rada,” Ciprian replied.

    The boy smiled overjoyed that one of the mysteries that had eluded him for so long would be his to learn. Turing towards Cip, Cian gave a bow and spoke in as respectful a tone as he could manage, “Ciprian, I pledge this to you as is a custom of my people. You’ve shown me kindness and have given me a chance to make my life better. No matter what comes of our venture, I will always respect and regard you as Sa’ KaHiar, which means brother in my people’s native tongue. At least, I remember that from my younger days. Thank you. Thank you more than I can ever say.” It was the most expressive and gracious thing he’d ever managed to say in his short life.

    Ciprian felt honored, but all he could do was chuckle and pat Cian on the shoulder. “Well, as a squire, I’m now Sir Ciprian to you, and more of a father than a brother,” Ciprian said, then winked and said softly. “But you don’t have to use that outside the castle. Let’s get you equipped now, all right?”

    With the registration taken care of, Ciprian led Cian off to a nearby supply room. A servant took Cian’s measurements and brought out two sets of white clothing and a set of hardened leather policeman’s which included a breastplate, shoulder guards, bracers and thigh guards. Along with the new wardrobe, he was provided a dagger for utilitarian uses, a wooden training sword, and a buckler. Ciprian acquired a wooden sword as well to help train Cian without hurting him or ruining his training sword with a real blade.

    When Cian received all his new equipment, Ciprian directed him to the nearby squires barracks. “You should go get changed now, and look like the squire you are,” Ciprian said.

    Cian’s grin threatened to split his face, the young boy went and changed in little time. A short while later, he stepped out in his new gear, looking a bit sheepish as it had taken him longer to get into it than he’d thought it would. Even so, Cian’s small and slight frame would undoubtedly fill out into his new clothing and armor as grew older. Practice sword in hand, the young man stepped up to Ciprian and stood at attention, trying to mimic what bare little he’d seen of the other Squire’s as he’d seen them in the training yard.

    Remembering how Ciprian had saluted the Knight’s Marshal, Cian did his best to mimic the gesture and spoke, “Sir Ciprian, Squire Cian reporting for duty sir.”

    Ciprian chuckled as Cian saluted. He didn’t quite feel right being saluted, but he realized that it was a practice that he needed to instill in Cian. “At ease, son,” Ciprian said. “Now, let’s get going. We need to get that warrant still.” Ciprian turned and led Cian out of the courtyard, back into the palace.

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