Brothers in Arms
It was a beautiful warm day in the Kingdom of Kells. Maeve’s troops had not attacked in weeks and the lives of the people were peaceful, even if only for a while. King Conchobar’s soldiers could not afford to rest, however, and so they trained in the courtyard every day, the Mystic Knights often accompanying them.
Sometimes Rohan tried to improve the soldiers’ fighting skills or taught the royal guards a few new tricks, but today Angus had challenged him to a duel. He always enjoyed their little matches and didn’t mind that Angus actually won every now and then when it was just the two of them, but since Ivar and especially Deirdre were watching, he would make sure that his reputation as the mighty warrior Draganta stayed intact.
The two Mystic Knights circled each other, waiting for an opportunity to attack. Rohan was completely focused, but as always Angus kept taunting him, trying to distract his opponent.
“Today’s the day, Rohan, I know it. I’ll catch you completely by surprise and then you’ll cry like a baby. I’m just wondering what the princess will say when I defeat you in front of her.”
“Oh, I’m afraid, you’ll never find out,” Rohan replied, clashing his sword with Angus’. They traded blows, both trying to get the better of each other, but so far their match was even.
Angus blocked one of Rohan’s attacks and answered with a swift counterattack, but the blond man dodged in time to give him a shove forward, nearly sending his friend crashing into a wall. However, countless encounters with the castle guards throughout his entire life had made the former thief both tough and fast, so he turned back to Rohan and continued the fight without giving an inch.
Metal clashed against metal as the Mystic Knights took their duel onto the next level, fighting with nearly the same ferocity they would show a real enemy. The longer the battle went on, however, the more it became obvious that Rohan was the physically stronger one of them.
As he put more and more force into his blows, his best friend kept backing away and soon found himself against the wall. Angus refused to give up, though, and when Rohan’s blade met his again, he put all his energy into not only blocking the attack, but pushing the sword to the side. Seizing the opportunity, he subsequently knocked himself into Rohan, forcing the sword completely out of his hand and sending the both of them tumbling to the ground.
Deirdre yelped in surprise as the two men crashed down in front of her and it was clear that she thought this sparring match had gone far enough.
“Guys! Stop it! I really don’t care anymore who wins this, I just don’t want anyone to get hurt.” But Ivar simply pulled her aside, giving the two friends more room for their competition. He shook his head while laughing slightly.
“I’m afraid nothing can stop them until this is settled. Believe me, it’ll be best if we just let them finish, and we don’t want to upset the audience, right?”
The princess looked at him, confused, but the Mystic Knight of Water just nodded into the direction of the soldiers who had been practicing in the courtyard as well. All of them had abandoned their training and were now watching the fight of the two knights, some of them supporting Angus, but most of them calling repeatedly for Rohan to win. Deirdre shook her head, giving up.
“Men,” she sighed loudly, before she, too, redirected her attention back to her fighting friends.
Still on the ground, Angus had tackled Rohan and had pinned him beneath himself for a moment, but the leader of the Mystic Knights was fighting hard to regain the upper hand. He pushed Angus off, but his challenger wouldn’t let go and so they rolled over the ground together, only coming to a halt when they crashed into a nearby table where a few spare swords and shields had been put, knocking everything down in the process.
Both knights reached for the nearest item and hurried back to their feet to face each other, but as they finally took a closer look at their acquisitions, Angus laughed triumphantly. He had taken one of the guards’ swords, while Rohan had accidentally reached for one of the wooden shields.
“Looks like I’ve got the advantage now,” the former thief proclaimed happily.
“Less talk, more fighting, please, or I might get the impression that your tongue is the only weapon you’ve got,” Rohan replied matter-of-factly, irritating his friend.
“As you wish, but don’t say later that I didn’t warn you.”
The Mystic Knight of Earth attacked and then everything went so fast that Angus later swore to Dagda that Rohan must have pulled some kind of magic trick on him. His sword connected with the wooden shield and Rohan copied his movement from before, forcing the weapon to the side. Then he moved forward and brought one of his legs behind Angus’, tripping his friend with only a little shove. When the dark haired man hit the ground, the sword flew from his hand and out of reach, giving Rohan just enough time to retrieve his own. He approached his fallen friend and put the tip of the blade a few inches above his chest, finally claiming his victory.
“You give up?” Rohan’s voice was steady, but also clearly conveyed his concern. He had never had such a fierce battle with his best friend before and now he was unsure about how Angus would take his defeat. Also, if he was being honest, Rohan was exhausted and he just hoped that there wouldn’t be another attack. To his relief he found that Angus didn’t want to continue, either.
“For today. But believe me, I’ll try again,” he laughed while extending his hand for Rohan to help him up.
“Do that, my friend, I’ll be ready,” the Knight of Fire replied, as he helped Angus back to his feet. The second the two men were standing side by side again, hands still clasped tightly, a loud cheer erupted from the crowd of watching soldiers. Although it wasn’t just Rohan’s victory they were celebrating, but the great fight both of the Mystic Knights had delivered.
Ivar and Deirdre clearly shared the troops’ impression, as they now joined their team mates, looking excited. Any objection the princess might have had before against the duel seemed to have vanished as she now laid a hand on Angus’ shoulder happily.
“That was without a doubt one of the most impressive swordfights I’ve witnessed in my entire life. You’ll both give Temra’s soldiers a run for their money.”
Ivar wholeheartedly agreed.
“Yes. Several times I even thought you were winning, Angus. It was a very tight outcome and I’m glad you two usually fight on the same side.”
“So am I, Prince Ivar.” The loud voice of the king suddenly sounded over the courtyard, causing the soldiers to bow to their ruler and the Mystic Knights to stand up straighter as Conchobar approached their group.
“My King, we weren’t aware that you were watching our fight,” Rohan replied hurriedly. “Angus and I were just engaging in some little… friendly competition to stay alert until Maeve’s next move.”
King Conchobar laughed, raising an eyebrow.
“If that was what you call ‘friendly competition’, I truly don’t envy the next enemy you two encounter. But just as my soldiers and your fellow knights, I am deeply impressed and relieved to find Kells’ safety in such competent hands.” He nodded to both Rohan and Angus and then went on to return into the castle.
“Continue with your training and I won’t fear whatever Maeve has still in store for us.”
After the king and his personal guards had left, the Mystic Knights relaxed again. As the soldiers around them returned to their normal practice, the four young warriors looked at each other, all of them momentarily silent as Conchobar’s words sunk in. As usual, it was Angus who first broke the quiet.
“Wow, that was definitely the biggest praise I’ve ever received. I must remember this, and the next time I get myself into trouble I’ll just remind the king of my competent hands. He can’t say anything against that.”
The other three knights burst out into laughter at his words, and Ivar rested a hand on the shorter man’s shoulder.
“Oh, I’m pretty sure he just meant Rohan, my friend. After all, he won, or did you already forget that?”
Considering how much she always enjoyed teasing Angus, Deirdre was more than happy to back Ivar up.
“As a former thief, we all know your hands are pretty quick, but I clearly wouldn’t go as far as calling them ‘competent’. My father was most certainly talking to Draganta.”
As usual, Angus was already falling for their bait and replied in an aggravated tone.
“Just wait, Princess. The next time I’ll use my competent hands on you and then we’ll see who he was talking to.”
Deirdre blinked and blushed slightly, and for a fleeting second she looked at Angus, confused, unsure of what exactly he was talking about. As the Mystic Knight of Earth realised his precise words, though, he immediately turned away from her, looking very uncomfortable, and spared the princess any further talk on the subject.
Rohan and Ivar looked at each other, both aware of the awkward moment, but before one of them had the chance to say anything, a soldier of Kells came running through the open castle gates, looking completely exhausted. Upon seeing the Mystic Knights, he approached them quickly, trying to catch his breath.
“Princess Deirdre! A large troop of Temra soldiers is approaching the castle and the four Sentinels are with them. They were moving along the western shore to make sure we wouldn’t notice them until it was too late, but luckily a patrol caught sight of them. My men are fighting them as we speak, but I fear they’ll only manage to slow them down.”
The soldier had rushed his explanation and now nearly collapsed into the princess’ arms, had Rohan not caught him in time. He helped the man over to a nearby bench and called for someone to get some water. The Mystic Knights watched as the warrior downed the liquid greedily.
When he was ready to speak again, Deirdre was the one who asked the next question.
“Where do we find them? We can’t allow Temra’s troops to reach the castle.”
“Go northwest from here. They’ve already moved far into Kells, but you should be able to find them either still at the shore or coming from there.”
Rohan nodded and thanked the soldier for bringing the news as fast as he could. Then he turned to the others.
“Looks like we’ve got some unexpected guests, so maybe we should go and welcome them properly.”
“Yeah, but since they’re uninvited, we should probably just show them the way right back to Temra.” Angus suggested grimly.
“Maybe they got lost? But I bet we can give them a push in the right direction,” Ivar added, more than ready for another encounter with the Sea Serpent.
“What are we waiting for then?” Deirdre asked, looking eager for a chance to prove her own fighting skills, after the praise Rohan and Angus had received from her father. “For Kells!”
“For Kells!” The others agreed and got ready to leave at once.