Saturday, March 5, 2011

Of the Golden Earth and the Silver Skies

CHAPTER 3 – The King's Plan

“Look.”

  All the knights shifted their gaze towards the oncoming couple. It was Pawaka and Mega.

  They passed by a knight and he said, “Lucky you- a flying steed by day, and a wench to warm your bed by night.”

Mega’s face turned dark with wrath upon hearing those words.

  “How dare you…!” She slapped the knight as hard as she could. The knight touched his reddened cheeks and was about to retaliate when Pawaka interrupts.

  “If you have any problems with me or with my companion here, then bear in mind that we can always settle these problems of yours with our swords. I’ll take on your challenge anytime.” With that, he took Mega by the hand and led her towards the castle’s entrance.

  Disgraceful. For the knight, being slapped by Mega was disgraceful. But the only way for him to get to that wench was through Pawaka. A duel. He thought about it over and over again. The skills of Pawaka, both as a knight and bard are extremely good. His bardic abilities which were scorned by the other knights complement his knightly skills. And he uses both with expertise. How can he defeat the demi-mortal? The knight ponders. Perhaps, for now he will keep silent. But when he finds a way, that wench will pay for her insolence!

  A grudge buds anew. But that is common. A life without being held a grudge upon, being scorned upon, and being despised or loathed by was not a life of demi-mortals. Especially for those who are gifted with the ability to morph such as Mega. And Pawaka, he could be considered lucky, if he had not gone through a harsh past.

“Control your temper next time. Let them look bad, but not us.”

“Why? For the sake of our honour? We don’t have any good names to be taken care of!”

  “You do. I do,” he looked at her and said, “All of us demi-mortals do.” The knight understands her wrath. And he knew of the knights’ rudeness. Some are getting bolder as the days passed by. There used to be no qualms about Mega’s…special condition. Back then, she wasn’t quite comfortable with humans. She wouldn’t be around the castle grounds as often as she does now. But Pawaka’s gentle and persistent persuasions grew on her. She soon grew accustomed with the place and its people, since they were mostly nice to her. Still, there are a handful of rotten eggs- and they seem to grow in numbers. Now he dreads for Mega’s safety. Time and time again he regrets for being optimistic about human acceptance. Alas, much as he wishes to deny it, he knew the ways of these humans, on how they could be cordial to each other at a time, but turned against one another at the next.  He had once experienced it himself.
    
  They entered the castle, walked down the aisle and went to the main hall. In the end of the hall was the throne. And upon it was the King of Silver Skies - Cristoph Lonis himself.  His visage was a mixture of relief, joy, anxiety and sadness. The knight wonders. It must be something to do with his plans of Bentala Kencana, he assumed.
  
   It took some time for the Barons, the Ancients, the knights and the princess to arrive. But Cristoph Lonis doesn’t mind. He does not mind at all, for he knows that he needs patience to bear with each of them. Thus, he trains himself. And this is one of the ways he does.
   
  The young king spots Pawaka and Mega from afar. He had heard about the latest commotion the horse-maiden had caused. Cristoph knew of the knights’ ways. Some are truly gallant, while others are only by name. But it matters not to him, at least for the moment. His only concern is of Pawaka. The fox demi-mortal is the most important key in his plan. The key for his plan to either succeed or fail.

   Cristoph knocks the marble floor with his sceptre. Everyone is finally here, and he needs their attention. All eyes are upon him, waiting for him to speak.

"I believe all of you know of my plans to restore our ties with the land of Bentala Kencana.”

The crowd nodded in agreement, a few harsh whispers could be heard.

   “Messengers had been sent,” he paused and continues, “And the response we get is very encouraging, for Bentala Kencana too, wishes to restore the ties with us.”

   Pawaka looked at Scarttle. The princess looked as if a dark cloud is hanging over her head. It surrounds her with an aura of dark, twisted rage.

   “Furthermore, since both of the lands are facing the threats of war from our neighbours, the Ratu and I had decided to lend each other our best fighters, to fight for each respective side. 
The Ratu offered us her finest srikandi, and I, in return offered her our best knight.”

The floor was abuzz with murmurs from the crowd.

“Thus, I must break the news to you that I have chosen the knight to be exchanged.”

Tension builds as silence grips each and every one of the crowd.

“Pawaka.”

“WHAT?!” Mega’s voice echoed throughout the hall.

“You want to send Pawaka away?!”

“Mega!” The knight hushed her. She gave him an unsatisfied look.

“But it’s true, Pawaka.” He just kept quiet.

   One of the Ancients rose and said, “Your Highness, we do not know how this…srikandi will fare in a battle, so how can we exchange our best knight for something unknown?” The crowd went wild with agreement. The Ancients is a group of mages were well known for their intelligence and magic. They have a reputation that nearly shadows that of the King himself.   

Thus, they have many followers, and cannot be underestimated.

  “Bentala Kencana is a prosperous land with an enormous military power. I believe you have heard about its Ratu’s feat a few years ago, when she led her army against the Skrais – and was victorious. I believe she knows her warriors. And if she says that she will be sending her best srikandi, then I believe her.”

“How can you be so sure?”

The young king frowns. It is hard to convince them, but he knows the way.

  “I will go there myself to witness the srikandi’s battle skills. And I will bring a Baron and one of the Ancients with me. If all three of us are satisfied with her skills, then I shall exchange her with Pawaka. Enough questions. Dismiss, now.”

  The murmur dies slowly. The crowd dispersed quicker than they were collected. The only people left in the hall now are only Pawaka, Mega, Scarttle and Cristoph.

“My King. Apologies for this vassal’s insolence, but I wish to…”

  His words were not finished for Scarttle silenced him with a sentence that cuts him to the core.

“An insolent vassal deserves no more than to be thrown away, knight.”

  “Scarttle!!! That would be inappropriate. And that would be enough of comments from you.”
A displeased Scarttle just nodded.

  “We will talk, Pawaka. I am not throwing you away. And I know the exchange plan is risky, but I need to do so to gain her trust.”

  “I…I understand that perfectly, but still you should have not risk your safety by even planning to go there.” And I do not wish to leave Samudera alone. The thought echoes in his head, but it was not spoken.

  “You have no confidence in my combat skills? Or is it that you have other things in your mind? Tell me truthfully, Pawaka.”

Something’s amiss, the young king sensed. Pawaka’s voice was ever so slightly tinted with hesitation and doubt. He’s hiding something. But what?

Cristoph’s question was left hanging for the knight kept silent. He just stared blankly at the hard, cold marble floor. His thoughts were of Samudera, about his promise to not leave her alone. Again.

“Hey!” The shout pulls him back to reality. Back to Cristoph, Mega. And back to Scarttle, whose face was washed red with anger.

“Speak when you’re spoken to, knight!”

The knight sputtered a few apologies.

“Scarttle…let him take his time.”

“FINE!” King or no, Cristoph is her brother, and she hates it when he sides with someone else. She wondered time and time again, about why he became good friends with the demi-mortal, and why does he sides with that…fox rather than with his own flesh and blood? She despises demi-mortals, just like her father. And she could not grasp the reality that her brother is the opposite. For her, demi-mortals are of equals of beasts. They deserve none of her respect. Even if the gods favour them more.

The royalties are harassing poor Pawaka, thought the horse- maiden. She rushed by his side and said, “Pawaka doesn’t want to talk about it! Don’t push him!”

“Mega! It’s just that I do not wish to be seen as a coward, who turns his back on his country at the time she needed him the most…” It was the only logical answer the knight can afford to say at that time.

The young king looked at his disgruntled sister, then at his still kneeling knight.

“You’re still going there. You’re the only one worthy for this. The only one I could place my trust upon. Consider this as a request of high hopes from a friend. You would still serve the country; the difference is only the distance.”

    Speechless. The knight was rendered speechless. He weakly nodded in agreement.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Of the Golden Earth and the Silver Skies

Chapter 2- The Horse-Maiden and The Fox Knight



Morning came with all its glory. The still wet grass shines with colours of the rainbow as sunshine strikes upon them.

“Pawaka!!!”

  The knight glances towards the voice. “Mega?!” The maiden was racing across the meadows and is coming towards him at full speed. Upon reaching the knight, she leaps into his arms. He caught her and almost stumbled on his feet.

  “Pawaka,” she whined. “The others bullied me again last night. And it’s just because you weren’t there.”

  He puts Mega to the grassy ground. She gave him a pitiful look, expecting sympathy from the fox demi-mortal. He sighed. “Are you somehow injured, Mega?” The maiden showed him her arm. It was reddened with a few bite marks and bruises.

  She whimpered and winced with pain when the knight lays his left hand on the marks, while his right hand lies on the hilt of his blade. He closes his eyes. His hand glowed- and the blade turns into a brush. He opened his eyes and said, “Close your eyes, Mega.”

  He lifts the brush. Ink flows out as the brush touches the maiden’s arm. “There. All better.” Mega opened her eyes. The marks and bruises were gone. Her arm is as good as before.

“Thanks, Pawaka!” She wrapped her arms around the knight tightly.

  “Fine. Good .It’s my duty to watch over you. Now would you release me from your embrace?” he asked queasily. Mega giggled.

“What did you do last night?”

  The knight’s eyes brightened when he heard the question. “The King lent me a book! I’m going to finish it today!” Mega however did not share his enthusiasm. How boring, she thought. As if his life is like a huge schedule. Protect people, reading books - that is all he does.

  Pawaka was already settled down under a tree, reading the book with undivided attention. The maiden saunters around him, peeking at any chance. She flips the pages even before he managed to finish them, testing his patience, irking him till he grew bored of the book and fell asleep upon it instead.

  Soon, the horse maiden saw no response from the knight, and realised that he was slumbering peacefully. His face was of serenity and bliss. A rare occurrence for this knight, whose life was dedicated for others- and not much of his own.

  There had been too much in his mind lately. He had been fretting over his loved one’s safety; he had been playing espionage games upon the princess, fearing for the King’s wellbeing. That is, due to the fact that his suspicion of the princess bearing a sinister plan.

  “I seek too much…”  Mega looked over at the slumbering knight. Talking in his sleep…he must be badly troubled, she thought. He mumbled a few more words, but they were beyond her comprehension.

  She shook her head, then leaned over and whispered to his ears, “You help people. You help me. And that is all that matters.” Poor Pawaka. The thought echoes in her head. He stirred.

  “Hmm…ah…hey…I fell asleep? Mega, what time is it now? Have I been aslumber for long?” 

The knight sounds panicked.

“Calm down. What’s the need to rush? It’s only almost noon.”

  Pawaka grabbed the maiden’s hand and said, “We need to see the King at noon! We mustn’t be late!”

“I understand. I’ll change.”

  The wind swirled around her and covers her. Blinding white light flashed and the sound of flapping wings can be heard. The wind dies. And in place of Mega was a winged steed- pearl white, with mane, tail and wingtip of the lightest shade of green.

  Pawaka mounted the steed carefully. The steed galloped, slowly at first then gaining speed –faster and faster until they set off, with the wind whistling in their ears.
   
The emerald forest was like a speck of green in these heights. The flight was swift and short. They landed in a clearing just beyond the castle. Pawaka jumped down from the steed. He took a few steps forward, and then glanced behind.

 “Come on, Mega. We’ll go together. Come!”

  She looked down. Meekly she said, “It’ll be better for the both of us if I go in this way.”

“No.”

  The steed gazed upon Pawaka. She sees determination burning in his light green eyes.

“Why?” she asks.

  “I see you as no mere flying steed. I see you as a companion. And I want to enter that castle with you – not in your horse form,” he explains.

 She changes, and the maiden reappeared with a smile on her face.

“Let’s go, then.”
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