For those of ya’all who are new up in here, I occasionally get the urge to write something “serious”.
I know, I know.
This is not what you signed up for when you jumped on the crazy train that is Kat O’ Nine Tales, but the good news is that I don’t do it often, and I always give a warning right up front so you can get your ticket punched and leap from the car before I begin. Don’t worry, I’ll loop right around and pick you up on the trip back to what-the-fuckery in the next post. In the mean time, here’s some juice boxes and a few comic books to keep you busy until I get back. Keep an eye on your little sister, and don’t talk to strangers.
So, background for this bit. I started it way back in the beginning of February when I’d just started packing for The Move–hence the “home” theme–but never got around to finishing it. I might have left this story in the pot since I moved up the projected finish date for my book, but then my hand was hurting like a bitch on Thursday night and I decided to use the pain to finish–hence the length. I’m gonna blame it on the paaaaaain, yeah yeaaaaah…
Off we go then.
UPDATE: I finally named my “child” and it’s “Borne in Armor”.
At sunset the ocean turned the colour of fire and blood, a morbid reflection of the battle which had just ended.
The knight stepped out onto the sand, the wet ground immediately sagging under the weight of heavy armour, and then she dropped to her knees.
“I’m so tired,” she murmured, her voice barely loud enough to carry above the crash of waves. She removed her helm and let her chin fall on her breastplate.
“It was a long battle, my lady,” her elderly squire moved to retrieve the helm from where it had fallen from his lady’s fingers, “and an even longer war. But your enemy’s host has finally been crushed. You will be able to rest now.”
A clash of metal interrupted him as a pair of swords crossed over a prize looted from one of many corpses littering the field.
The squire turned back to his lady and shuttered as the victor ended his opponent’s life in a flash of sliver and a spurt of crimson.
“Let us leave this place, my lady. Let us go home.”
The knight pulled the metal gauntlets from her hands and then dropped forward so that her fingers clawed into the sand.
“Home? And where would home be, dear squire?”
“The land of your birth of course, my lady.”
The knight laughed bitterly as her head continued to hang low.
“The land of my birth? Surely you do not mean that place many leagues from here, where the hills doze in sleepy emerald waves with blankets of tiny purple flowers? Where cherry trees blossom and perfume the air so richly that you can taste their sweetness? Where Autumn mists creep through the Beechnut tree forest like leashes of silver foxes?”
She raised her head to look at the squire with grey eyes that were as hard and cold as her armour.
“Surely you do not mean that place.”
The squire scoured his mind for the correct answer to his lady’s peculiar speech.
“I do not understand, my lady,” he was finally forced to admit.
The knight stood up, “Assist me in removing the rest of my suit.”
“My lady that is unwise. There may yet be enemies lurking at hand.”
“I am your knight and you will assist me,” her flinty eyes sliced into the squire.
“Yes, my lady,” he said quietly and began unfastening the knight’s breastplate. He was loathe to place it on the damp sand yet did not have a choice.
“Do remember the first time that you helped me don this armour?” the knight asked as another piece of fitted metal fell to the sand.
“I remember, my lady. You were fourteen, barely flowered, when you insisted that you would not become a spoil of war, that you would take your fate into your own hands and fight your family’s enemy. And so your father humoured you, and gave you this armour, never expecting that you actively use it.”
A note of pride entered the squire’s voice as he continued his work, “How could any of us have known the conqueror that you would become? How you would crush your enemies at every turn, destroy them in battle, and slaughter all who dared engage you.
He examined the gorget in his hands, “Truly my lady thrived in this armour.”
His eyes pleaded as he looked up, “And I would once again advise that my lady continue to wear it for her protection.”
“Counsel which was not requested of you, squire. Continue your work,” the knight looked out into the ocean, “I would do this final task unburdened.”
A strange chill ran through the squire and his hands remained still, “My lady?”
The knight continued to stare at the burning water, “You claim that your lady thrived in this armour. You are mistaken. Your lady died in this armour. And became something else.”
She turned to face him again, teeth clenched in anger, “I commanded you to continue your work.”
The squire slowly raised his hands, but then moved with deft, efficient motions until the knight’s entire suit lay in a pile on the sand and she stood before him wearing only a thin shift stained with sweat and blood.
“Is the land of my birth truly my home, squire?” she asked softly.
The ocean breeze combed through the lady’s long red hair and the squire was reminded of the little girl who would weave flowers into her braids.
“Yes, my lady,” the squire’s voice was heavy with urgency, “Yes, always.”
She smiled sadly, “Then I am to remain here.”
“There,” she said gesturing to the smoking battlefield with a bare arm, “That is the land of my birth, squire.”
The squire looked onto the field. The remains of those who had fallen in sacrifice of his lady’s victory were being carted away for proper burial, but the bodies of the enemy would remain to rot and feed whatever carrion would find them.
“There is no home to be found there, dear squire,” she finished and turned back to the rolling waves.
“And now you understand why I needed to be free of my false armour,” the lady began walking toward the surf.
The squire felt the tide of panic rise as he realized his lady’s purpose.
“No! My lady! Do not do this!”
She did not respond but continued to the water.
“My lady, please!”
Her feet had just met the water’s edge when she paused a moment but did not turn. The ocean foamed around her and up the shore from her back like the long lacy wedding veil the lady might have worn in a different life. And then she was gone beneath the waves.
Tears were running freely down the old man’s wrinkled cheeks as the last gasp of sunlight was swallowed by the horizon. He could not choke back his sobs at the bitter irony that, while he did understand his lady’s need to rid herself of her armour, she would have drown quicker had she kept it on.