Rough Chivalry

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Chapter 30

It took more than an hour to explain. Tewer told them everything, even about his encounter with an old woman on his 14th birthday, but he did leave out one thing: he never mentioned that the two girls had decided they wanted to be ruined rather than be separated forever. He told the story of the fight with the pirates in lurid detail, even to the confusion of his thoughts as he lay wounded and Nimianne shot the last pirate through the head. When he finished, he felt out of breath, almost faint, and he knelt before the Cid, not even knowing why he did.

"Please Cid," he said, "Nimianne said you might make it so I can never see her and Darah again. Please don't. They're the only friends I have in the world. I don't know what I should do now...I know nothing of the world outside of Whaelhreow but what my friends told me. I don't know what use I am to anyone. But please don't keep me away from my only friends."

The Cid rose again, surprise evident on his face.

"I cannot answer your request, not yet," he said, "more investigation is required. However I know you speak the truth, young Captain Tewer. My rod gives me that power, to always discern truth when I hear it. I believe your tale, though I deem something has been left out. I perceive that it is not your secret you protect, nor do you seem to wish to protect the pirates of your homeland. What of your homeland? Would you draw us charts of the hidden settlements? Would you show us how to eradicate the pirates?"

"I don't know, Cid," said Tewer, "if you would only fight pirates, then I might. But when you burned Slegebyrig, they say you, or your men, killed every single person, down to the urchins. I don't want that to happen."

"That is a lie," said Sir Perceval, his gold-washed armor glittering as he swept his hand in denial, "we brought over a hundred captives back, including seventy-eight children. They are here in this city even now in an orphanage, and all of them will be taught trades so they can choose their own lives."

"Then I will help you," said Tewer, getting to his feet, "I don't want anyone else to be treated as Nimianne and Darah were. I was starving when Krasten took me in, and I didn't even care if he might abuse me. It's my good fortune that he never did, but those other urchins...they would be better off here, I guess."

"You don't doubt my word?" Perceval looked startled, and Tewer looked at him, puzzled.

"Why should I?" He turned to Nimianne, then back to Perceval. "You're a knight, aren't you? The Cid called you Sir Perceval. Knights don't lie."

"They shouldn't," said Perceval, his face turning a little red, "but some of them do. I, however, do not."

"Sir Perceval is a Knight Constable of the Marteline Order of Saint John of Ghendd, Captain Tewer," said the Cid, "he is here as an ambassador of the Empire of the Jeweled Sea, though he has sailed with our ships and fought beside us often enough that we count him a good friend as well as an ally."

"And to you, my lord Cid, I owe apology," said the knight, "my anger earlier was both misplaced and unjust. I beg your forgiveness."

"It is given, Sir Perceval," said the Cid, "and I do understand as well. Many of us have lost loved ones to the scourge of piracy."

"I owe apology to you as well, young Tewer," said Perceval, "like the gracious Cid, I too can tell when a man is lying, as you are not. You may have been born on that island of...that island of Whaelhreow, but you, at least, are not tainted by wickedness. When I recovered my senses I opened my mind to the spirit world, and I can see the three Albinic Wights that have made themselves your guardians. Your spirit is bright, Tewer, bright and clear as a summer day. As Princess Nimianne says, you are noble and good."

"Thank you," said Tewer, not knowing where to look.

"What of the ransom you were promised," the Cid asked, "will you take gold, or would you prefer silver?"

"Nothing...my lord Cid," said Tewer, "the friendship of Nimianne and Darah is worth more than anything to me. I would rather be allowed to visit them at the...School of Healing, I think it's called."

That caused another stir in the crowd, and Nimianne turned to smile at him.

"500 pounds of silver is a lot of money," said the Cid, "are you sure, young Captain?"

"Very sure, Cid...my lord Cid," said Tewer.

"Well at the least," said the Cid, "you shall have a hundred pounds as a reward for rescuing them. I will consult with the Grand Mistress of Healers, and if she does not object to your visits, I shall not."

"Thank you, my lord Cid."

"Is it still your wish to study at the Great Hospital, Princess Nimianne?"

"Yes, lord Cid," she said, "though..." She stopped and blushed.

"A moment, my lord Cid," said another man, who stepped from the crowd and bowed. He wore clothing like that Rudigar had worn, and not like the tighter clothing most wore in Ascalon. He also had darker skin than anyone Tewer had ever seen, dark brown, almost black, and he stood inches taller than everyone else in the room.

"My lord," said the Cid, nodding his head, "has the Ambassador of Chai'ia anything to say in this matter?"

"I do, my lord Cid," said the man, "you stated, my lord Cid, that something has been omitted from the tale told by the Princess and this Captain Tewer. I do not gainsay anything that has been said, as I believe it to be true. However something has not been said, and I think it important that we know it before any long-term decisions are made."

"That may be wise," said the Cid, "is there something you wish to add, Princess Nimianne?"

"I think it should suffice," said Nimianne, "to say that no man harmed myself or Lady Darah, thanks to Captain Tewer."

"It is this that causes my wonder," said the Ambassador, "despite what we of noble rank wish to believe, my understanding of human nature compels me to note that almost any healthy young people of the opposite sex, if left alone together long enough, are likely to become more than friendly, shall we say."

"True enough," said the Cid, "but hardly a matter for open court. As I said, we will investigate a little more thoroughly, but I think for now, there is no reason to doubt Captain Tewer's good faith. I give you leave, Captain Tewer, to move as you will within the city of Asgalun. You may stay aboard your ship for now, or take a house if you so desire, but I invite you to stay here, in the Ramanic Asnavar, if you would not feel too confined. I will provide guards to ensure that none of your goods aboard ship are stolen or harmed, and confirm your ownership of the Martlet as Sir Rudigar desired."

"There's no need for additional investigation," said Nimianne, her face turning bright red, "I and Lady Darah are virgins still. No need to check anything more. Tewer told you himself that he took care of us while we were ill, but he did nothing to either of us though he had us at his mercy. And...in truth, he had more to fear that we would corrupt him, than that he might corrupt us!"

That caused laughter all around the court, and Tewer found himself flushing angrily.

"There was no need to say that, Nimianne," he said, "Laome! Haven't you and Darah suffered enough?"

"It needs saying," said Nimianne, "I offered to become Tewer's woman before we arrived here. I offered to marry him under Tranic vows, or just break my own vows and become his. He knew that it might harm me in society, because I had told him so many days before, and he would not do anything to harm me."

"I did the same," said Darah, "he is nobler than we."

"So it comes out," said the Ambassador. "Captain Tewer, I bow to your honor," he bowed in fact as well as in words. "It is no mean feat, to deny two ladies of such luminous beauty, simply because it could possibly harm them."

"They said it would ruin them," said Tewer, "how could I do that? They're my only friends!"

"Knightly done," said Sir Perceval, and he strode forward once more, unsheathing his sword. "As were your other deeds. Kneel, Tewer MacKrasten!"

"What?"

"Kneel! Take your knees!" Perceval said it in such a voice of command that Tewer could not help but kneel down.

Perceval hit him in the face, then raised him back to his feet, and said in a booming voice, "be thou a gallant knight!"

He handed his sword to Tewer, who took it dazedly, and he saw Nimianne and Darah smiling at him with shining eyes as the crowd cheered.

"Now you have rank enough to be a fit companion for even a princess," said Perceval, embracing him, "Sir Tewer."

"I don't understand," Tewer said.


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