“I will keep that promise, though I make no such vows about the horse.” Diana spoke at an attempt to make a joke. She was thankful that the girl was willing to teach her, to help her grow from just a simple treasure locked away. Her eyes drifted to Byron, who was looking at them with a mixture of curiosity and something else, like a parent watching their kid to prevent them from trying something stupid. She couldn’t hold the gaze as she finished off her current mug of ale, looking into its depths before letting out a sigh.
A steady silence fell between them, Damanius unable to place the feelings bubbling between them. It was like a tick in the back of his head, a need to fill the silence that sat heavy between them, yet feeling unable to start on a topic. He still didn’t want to talk about the night prior, and nothing about the place had grabbed her yet to really talk about. Most of the others had moved on, the few brothers that had come in late eating in silence while the travelers headed to the cottages they had purchased for the night. His meal was gone, and he sat, clutching the empty mug as he just let the world move about him, letting the quiet thicken like a cotton blanket.
“You two could make a drowned man look pleased.” Byron spoke as he moved to speak with them, his voice a bit raspy from his tales. Throwing back the rest of his ale, he let out a rather loud sigh and settled into the bench, looking the two of them over for a while longer. Damanius could feel himself shrinking into himself, trying to pull himself up to a better feeling, yet it was hard to come by. He was content with how things were, but felt a bit of unease that seemed to lurk just out of view.
“Look, ya can’t waste your time just starin at the sun until things happen, both of ya.” Byron spoke, pointing a finger at the both of them. Damanius began to speak back to him, but the old knight held up a finger to silence them.
“Listen, let me tell you a story about your father, the late king. I think it suits both of you rather well.” Byron spoke, shifting a bit closer while looking heaven bound. Damanius remained silent while Byron set himself up for another long story. The jovial storyman from prior had been set aside for a more serious knight, one who still longed for the glory of his youth.
“Your father, may his spirit rest with God, was a shrewd man, though knew how to address his people. This was before your second sister was born, Kokiri was born. We were on a campaign to address the southern borders and the threat of invasion. We had come to the local inn and retired there for the night, on the third day of the trail. Most knights were tired and ready for a good meal.” Byron spoke, giving himself a thoughtful pat on his stomach.
“I don’t remember this one.” Diana spoke, trying to scrub through all she could remember of her lessons. All of her fathers campaigns had been implanted into her, from quelling the emerald tides from the east, to governing the lands. The fact that one of the campaigns would be left out either meant the mission was a complete disgrace, or a sordid affair best forgotten.
“It was a meager one. Most of the dealings with the south were never written down due to how simple they were. Only a show of force was enough to keep them quiet. Now hush and let me tell my story.” Byron spoke to her, shushing her. Damanius felt slightly indignant at being told off like a child, but he would hold in his tongue for now.
“Regardless, during the evening meal, a local jester had begun his words. He began upon the king, roasting him with words I would dare not speak. Shango and I, both having followed the king to the pub, had moved to silence the man for daring to speak against the king.” Byron spoke, a twisty smile curling his lips. Damanius sat in mild shock, knowing that insulting the king was about a sentence to the gaols, or even worse. His father was a strong man, never to suffer a fool that dared mock him.
“Before we could so much as draw our blades, Aminan moved in, staying us as he moved in. The jester turned whiter than a ghost, dropping to his knees as the king stood over him. He waited a moment before pulling up the man, giving him the goofiest grin I thought possible.”
“‘You got it all wrong, Jester. It was a mackerel that had managed to knock me off the boat, not a tuna. At least tell it right!’ He corrected the man, moments before the rest of the room burst into laughter as he moved to return to his seat.” Byron spoke, letting out a deep chuckle at the memory.
“So, of course in shock I asked him, ‘King Aminan, how could you let him off so easily, even as he insults you,’ To which, his response still shocks me.
‘Never be ashamed of what has brought you here, nor worry what past you carry. Those who judge you will neither pity or praise you if you hide from all that you have done. If I am to be judged by the people, I will let them know I am not a folly to tomfoolery like the rest of them.’
“What… what does that even mean? He corrected a jester's tale about a bad fishing trip, and that his was response?” Dianaspoke, a puzzled look across his face as she glanced between the two of them while trying to figure out his meaning. She had remembered several of the lessons her father had spoken to her, most of them sensible and straightforward. This was as straight as an arrow in a windstorm.
“You have more brains than smarts, don’t you? King Aminan was never ashamed of his past and actions, knowing that everything he had done was all he could in the heart of the moment. Hold yourself with pride and humility, for your actions were done for what was needed.” Byron spoke, looking between the both of them so they could soak up his words.
“Now, by your leave, I will retire to rest. Unlike the two of you who slept the day away, some of us had to actually work.” Byron spoke back in his jovial tones, smiling at the two of them before excusing himself from the table.
“...I feel more confused than before.” Diana spoke rather bluntly as she watched him hobble through the main doors, leaving a sour taste in her mouth, yet more puzzled than anything else.
ON THE ROAD
Joaquim held onto the side of the wagon, the moon hiding behind the clouds, obscuring their road travels. The wagon driver and guard had just crossed through the next town, a short ride into the castle town. He had persuaded the men to ride through the night, knowing that Sir Byron wanted them back as soon as he could. Even more, if he could reach them early enough, it would leave enough time to enjoy some of the more pleasant sights. More so, the roads had been unpleasant to them since passing the first town.
Guards had been posted both at the entrances of the town, stopping any and all who traveled through. The wagon had nearly been torn apart while they dug through anything they could. Apparently, the men were looking for a kidnapper and noblewoman, the princess of the late king no less! Joaquin didn’t even know one had still lived, and the news that she had been captured had him worried yet very excited. Already he was fantasizing what the young woman must have looked like, thinking of what this could mean to the current king. While he was no fan of king Sinal, he didn’t dare speak out against him. Those were the whispers between the riders and himself, just pondering what the princess must look like, and what that meant for the current King.