“Ashen, I can tell you how the king will react. The moment you tell him I’ve been apprehended, he will immediately send the order to bring me back for an execution as soon as possible. You will not even be able to put a word in before he will dismiss you onto another task.”
Those were the words ringing into the knight’s ears as her horse galloped straight for the capital. She had rode overnight to arrive at noon the next day, and she was determined to prove her friend’s paranoia to be misguided.
The heroine stepped on solid ground at the palace’s stables - no one had stopped her on her way in, courtesy of her status as a royal knight. She ran to the throne room, her helmet rattling in her arm with every wide step.
“I request an audience with the King!” She shouted as she opened the ornate double doors and walked swiftly towards the throne, bypassing a concerned looking servant in charge of the King’s agenda.
The regal master in question perked up, straightening from slouching on his armrest. “Why, hello there, Ashen. What news do you bring Us?”
“My liege,” she started, bowing down on one knee, “professor… I mean, the warlock fugitive is in custody.”
“Good, good,” The King started, standing up. “Let’s pay him a visit then, shall we? Which cell did you put him in?”
She shook her head, confounding herself in excuses. “My liege, they are under house arrest right now, but I promise to bring them back whenever I can!”
The man’s face turned sour. “You didn’t bring him here!?”
“That’s why I’m here!” She placed her palm on her chest. “The situation is complicated, I am doing as best I can and-“
The King stopped her with a wave of the hand. “Advisor, send a messenger with the order for all royal guards still on site to apprehend the warlock.” The man in question nodded, checking in his notes who was currently available.
Her blood ran cold, and Pepper’s words came back, taunting her again. “Wait, wait, wait! Just let me explain, there are people in danger and they’re the only one that can-“
He interrupted her once more, “Was your mission to bring the criminal back here or to concern yourself with some hostages?”
Her train of thought suddenly crashed. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Sir, it is my duty as a knight to protect our people!” she argued.
“YOUR DUTY IS TO DO AS YOU’RE ORDERED!” the King screamed. He sat back down, shaking his head. “You might be our best knight Ashen, but I should’ve known. This whole affair is too personal for you and you’re letting your sentiments swerve you off path.”
“My liege, I’m just trying to save lives!”
“And I salute your heroism. Ashen, you are dismissed from this affair. We’ve heard some rumors about a group of peasants refusing to pay their taxes in Hohenbourg, you will head there tomorrow morning.” He relaxed into his throne. “Am I clear?”
All had gone exactly as Pepper had predicted.
Ashen was too hurt and horrified to laugh at the irony, though.
“As… you wish, my liege.” she replied shakily.
“Very well. Dismissed. Go enjoy your afternoon.” As she turned to leave, he turned to his advisor, already done caring for her presence. Picking up the list of suitable candidates for the mission, he spoke. “Tell Leon to fetch his horse. He leaves tonight with a message to declare.”
They couldn’t put Leon on the case! That man was violent, coarse and malevolent! He only cared to hurt people for his own amusement, and… ! The heroine suddenly understood Pepper’s interest in fighting the establishment. Leon was a royal guard like herself.
How could she have been so blind? How did she ever think that a system that put people such as Leon in positions of power was benevolent in its intentions?
The moment she was out the throne room and the door closed behind her, she ran to the stables.
She would have to ride over night to arrive in the afternoon the next day, before Leon would.