Join in an extraordinary quest, as a Druid named Ravenna suffers nightmares about a horrendous murder. The death of a condemned knight 10 centuries ago and the images of an innocent maiden’s mysterious sacrifice drive Ravenna on a long journey to find answers.
Knightfall takes readers along on Ravenna’s incredible ride, featuring colorful characters, death-defying dragons, wizards and spellbinding action that all combine to create an unforgettable experience.
Published by Lupyne Books
Paperback (May 3, 2008) — 288 Pages — ISBN: 978-0-9949314-3-6
Kindle E-book (Jan. 6, 2016) — 817 KB, 271 Pages — ISBN: 978-0-9949314-5-0
Other E-book (Jan. 6, 2016) — 751 KB, 246 Page — ISBN: 978-0-9949314-4-3
A Small Wager
The faint glow of the moon seeped through the cracks between the window bars, shedding scant light into the small room. It was just as well; for the cubicle’s occupant, sitting on the wooden plank he was forced to use as a bed, did not seem to want to be disturbed. His eyes, not looking at the starlit sky showing through the tiny slits, fixed on some point beyond the wall as he sat deep in thought.
Throughout his life, he had had much to live up to; he was at the end of a very long line of fathers and sons, each of whom had had the honour and privilege of serving under the banner of the much beloved Lord King. Each had risen through the ranks of the Knights of the Silver Dragon–the kingdom’s finest corps of warriors. Some had even been fortunate enough to be selected for the King’s personal regiment, the Crystal Guard.
Unfortunately, he had not reaped the same degree of success. His admittance into the knighthood had been granted based more on his incredible lineage than on personal merit. Granted, he was one of the best warriors to ever vie for a distinguished place in the Lord King’s army; though his dedication to following in the family line was strong, however, his moral judgement left much to be desired. His dedication to the cause of justice had been lacklustre at best. What he wanted most was the prestige of being part of one of the kingdom’s most distinguished forces.
He had devoted much of his time to becoming the best swordsman in all the land. In this way, he wished to make his departed father proud. By his late teens, there was no other who could match him with a blade and very few who could keep up with him on the endurance course. He thought that would be enough to get him the respect he felt he deserved, but he was wrong. That they did not hold him in any regard was something they plainly showed him by keeping him down in the ranks of the Lord King’s army.
However, at that particular moment, his adolescent years and early adulthood were not what filled his mind in this desolate place. What consumed his attention now were the circumstances that had brought him here, which kept coming to mind.
The sun shone brightly in the sky, warming the bustling city square. Merchants stood in their booths or beside their carts, beckoning the passers-by to partake of their wares. Two soldiers of the City Guard patrolled each of the eight entrances to the bazaar. One of them nodded to the knight as he passed by him to enter the throng of customers.
Still trying to figure out what he was doing here, the stately figure strode along one of the aisles between countless carts. Granted, he had no duties to perform until later that night; but surely he could have come up with a better way to pass the time than come to this place and be surrounded by the commoners.
Turning another corner, the knight bumped into a hapless old man, nearly knocking the small baskets he was carrying to the ground. The warrior lost his composure and grabbed the veteran’s tunic collar with his lightning-quick, gloved hand. However, before his intended berating could part his lips, a gentle rustling of robes caught his attention.
Across the aisle, in front of an herb shop, stood the fairest maiden the knight had ever seen. Elegant, translucent sandals caressed slender feet below heavenly shaped calves. The hem of a shimmering, satinlike, silver dress graciously fell from full hips and a small waist, which formed a perfect hourglass shape. The bosom was a little smaller than he usually liked, but its proportion complemented the slender shoulders and arms better than he would have expected. The pearly hue of the slender neck was flawless, unmarred by any sign of blemishes; and it flowed seamlessly to the pointed ears. The almond-shaped eyes, silver-blue in colour, looked about the marketplace and seemed to draw the warrior in toward her, even though she never actually looked directly at him. A slight breeze swayed the long, fair, blonde hair that topped her perfection.
After a few moments, which seemed like an eternity to the knight, the elfin lady nodded to the shop’s owner and headed down one of the many aisles of the square. An intense warmth overcame the man, a sensation uncommon for one who usually had full control of his emotions.
“Lovely, is she not?” The knight looked to his left to see a black-robed fellow standing there. His hood was drawn over his head, but the soldier still managed to see a few strands of silver-white hair shining from within the shadows of the cowl. He also realized that the heat he had felt earlier did not come from within, but was emanating from this stranger.
“You don’t think so?” commented the knight.
“Aye, I do.” The old man nodded in agreement. “But I would forget her if I were you.”
“But I’m not you.” The knight turned his body to the stranger, only to come face to face with a young man. At least, his complexion gave the impression of youth. His white eyes, however, showed the wisdom one could only obtain with decades of diverse experiences.
“It does not matter how charming you think you are, Sir Knight. Your insurmountable drawback is the form of your ears,” stated the robed figure, intently staring, studying the knight.
“What’s wrong with my ears?” The warrior raised one gloved hand to assess the form of his right one, worrying that, despite how inconceivable it was, someone had managed to slip by his acute attention to his surroundings and do something to mar his person.
“In her eyes, they are not the right shape,” explained the stranger. “In her eyes, if you are not elfin, you are not good enough for her attention.”
“And you can tell that just by looking at her?” The soldier was finding it quite difficult to take the man seriously.
“You would be surprised what I know, Sir Aldaberran.”
That took the knight aback, for he was positive he had not told the man his name. Despite the soldier’s great adeptness at showing no emotion, the robed man still seemed to notice; but the knight quickly regained his composure.
“And who might you be, wizard?”
“A wizard, you say?” The stranger lifted an eyebrow, intrigued by the man’s statement.
“Don’t patronize me,” scoffed the knight before explaining his reasoning. “It’s not just the robes that give you away; it’s the arrogance with which you conduct yourself. It speaks of a man who thinks he’s better than the average man. Clerics try to mingle with the people, until they become High Priests. At that point, they start wearing colourful, extravagant costumes. Druids mainly keep to themselves, never starting a conversation, unless it’s about the trees in their groves or the weather. So, my ‘friend’, you could be nothing else but a mage.”
A slight smile formed on the stranger’s lips.
“That is what I like about you, Aldaberran; you are always thinking, assessing other people and their motives. However, who I am does not matter.”
“It doesn’t? I suppose you’re going to tell me what does.” The knight looked away from the stranger and returned his gaze to the elfin maiden, who was still walking down the street, almost at the limit of his sight.
“No, all this nonsense with the elf woman is merely a diversion to me.” He joined the warrior in his stare down the street.
“And what, pray tell, amuses you so much?” Now that the woman had passed beyond the reach of his vision, he returned his attention to the young-old man.
“You think you can change all the years of conditioning she has endured, all the decades of being told humans are as worthless as dwarves?” The wizard continued to stare in the distance, as if he could still see the elf maiden.
“I can be very persuasive, if so inclined.”
“And inclined you shall be.” The spellcaster finally turned to the warrior. “Let us have a little wager,” he said; “I say, by the end of a week, you still have not managed to bed the lovely lady.”
“You are giving me seven full days to win a woman’s heart?” The knight had to use all his discipline to refrain from bursting out in laughter. “It takes me only seven minutes to have them in my bed; it takes a mere seven hours to have them totally, and irrevocably, devoted to me.”
“So you should not have any problems, then.” The smirk on the wizard’s face widened to a sly grin.
“What are the terms of this wager?” asked Aldaberran, a little wary of the stranger’s motives.
“If you manage to peel away all the prejudices, as well as her clothing, I will owe you a favor. It does not matter what it is; I will be bound to fulfil your wishes. If you fail, I will be calling on you to do the same for me.”
“And what, exactly, would you be asking of me?” The knight did not trust this man.
“Are you already envisioning failure? I thought you to be a confident man; evidently, I was wrong. There must be someone else in this plaza worthy of my attention.”
The mage turned and started to walk away, but Aldaberran quickly put a stop to his departure by grabbing his shoulder. The knight was surprised once again, this time by the firmness of the man’s muscles under the cloth. “Now wait just a second.” There was no outward sign of the warrior’s astonishment in his voice. “Who said anything about my failing? That isn’t the issue. I don’t trust anyone I don’t know, and I trust wizards’ motives even less.”
“That is what I wanted to see–a man weary of his surroundings and the musings of every single individual around him.” The mage patted the knight on the shoulder before easily freeing himself from the soldier’s grip. “I will see you in a week, Aldaberran.” With that the spellcaster vanished into the crowd.
The warrior stood at the corner for a few moments before eventually leaving the bazaar, wondering what favour a wizard would want from a man like him.
It took the knight a full day and a half to find the lovely elfin woman again in the bustling Crystal City. Crystalmyre, as it was written on the official maps, was the capital and the largest municipality of Rond Thora, which was in turn the greatest kingdom of Kagendur. The numerous buildings and busy streets lay at the foot of a slight hill, on which stood the majestic Radiant Castle, home of the Lord King–revered ruler of the nation. In addition to the sheer enormity of the city, the demands of being a member of the Knights of the Silver Dragon limited Aldaberran’s ability to devote himself to the search, for he had other duties to perform. All these factors made the otherwise simple location of his query a tedious task.
The knight’s problems were only beginning, much to his surprise. The lady did not take to him as he expected. In fact, she did as the old mage had predicted, that is, she dismissed him immediately. He was not to be dissuaded, however. There was no way he would permit himself to owe something to a stranger, and a wizard at that.
For the next few days, Aldaberran returned to the house where the elfin maiden resided. Each time, he had a new tactic to win her heart, until they both tired of the courting battle. “Be gone with you!” she finally told him as she blocked his entry into her home on the sixth night of his intrusions. She pointed down the street, showing him where she would like him to go. She had stopped inviting him in after the second visit.
“M’Lady–,” he began, but the elf maiden immediately cut him off.
“Sir Knight, I have already heard your intentions and have dismissed them, repeatedly. Now, once again, please leave.” Her finger still pointed down the street. Passers-by turned their heads to see what the commotion was all about as they walked past the couple. They were confused by the man, who merely stood in front of the lady, his face as hard as stone, showing no sign of life. Most dismissed them immediately, while others hurried along when they noticed the baleful glare in the man’s eyes.
“Let’s go inside–” the knight said, taking a step toward her and lifting an arm to gently guide her into the house.
“I’ve told you to go,” she repeated a little more loudly, for clearly he had not heard her before.
“And I’m telling you, I’m not leaving until you get off your elfin high horse and give me a chance.” His voice was getting loud now. The knight had to concentrate, exhale, and ease the frustration threatening to erupt from him. “All I want is a few moments to talk to you.”
“You have used every lame advance known to your kind. I have told you, every way I could think of, that I am not, and never will be, interested. I have no more time to waste with you.” With that, the elf turned and entered her house, quickly closing the door before the knight could utter another word. Aldaberran cursed her under his breath and turned to leave, only to find the old mage standing in front of him. The extreme heat radiating from the robed figure hit the warrior with the impact of an ocean’s wave. “You seem to be having a few problems, Sir Knight.” The black hood effectively hid the man’s eyes, but it did not mask the broad smile under them.
“Nothing I can’t handle. Now get out of my way.” Aldaberran pushed himself past the spellcaster and started up the street.
“You have only one day left, Aldaberran.”
“I know–” The knight turned, intent on unleashing all his fury on the wizard, but he found the street empty. Another growl escaped the man’s mouth as he resumed his way back to his quarters in the castle.
Aldaberran spent the entire morning of the next day in his room, and most of the afternoon as well, trying to find a way to breach the first barrier to his goal. Nothing was coming to mind, and the sun was telling him that his time was quickly running out. Every so often, the hidden face of the mage would pop into the knight’s mind, driving everything else out. The worst part was the timing of these reminders. They would always appear as he was on the verge of finding a solution; but as soon as the young face with the ancient hair and eyes invaded his mind, his ideas would always leave him.
Eventually, Aldaberran gave up his brainstorming and opted for what he had been doing for the rest of the week, that is, playing things by ear. He was aware of the fact it had not worked for him as of yet; but at this point, with only hours until the deadline, he had nothing to lose.
Throwing on his cloak, the knight left his quarters and began the long, winding journey through the many corridors of the castle to the courtyard. He did not even notice the many compatriots he passed until one of them called after him. “Hey, Aldaberran! Where are you going? You have Watch in thirty minutes.” No reply came as the knight continued on his way.
A few moments later, at the precise time his duties were to begin, in fact, Aldaberran knocked on a familiar door. He did not wait for a reply, as he had done for the past six days, but opened it and walked into the elfin maiden’s home. The door closed behind him. Her protests pierced the night air for a short while before soon drowning in silence.