everything set up for tonight?” a tired yet powerful voice spoke. The speaker
sat upon a grand bed, propped up amongst many pillows placed just for him. Only
one of the window drapes were let open, letting in light from the setting sun,
leaving the rest of the room, including the bed and its occupant, in shadow.
“Is there anything else you suspect will be needed?”
Another man spoke from the foot of the bed, his face lit up by the light. He wore dark clothes meant for traveling through the night unseen. “I don’t think that will be necessary, sir. All of the men have reported in days ago. I have all the data and locations. I know what I’m looking for, or more precisely, who.”
“Excellent,” the man in the bed said, “Then I trust you know how to go about this, then. It’s not every day I ask you to accomplish this sort of task, Knight Shade.”
The Knight nodded his head, amber eyes glinting. “You can count on me, sir.”
The man on the bed took on a questioning tone, as if his eyebrow had gone up, “Alone? Even you can’t accomplish that.”
“I’ve prepared for that. I’ve asked two other Knights to come with me.”
“I thought we agreed,” the bed ridden man shifted among his many pillows, “You would be the only one to see all of them, did we not?”
“That’s not a problem, I’ve already made them swear that they would only accompany me as far as watching the Hover car and making sure there are no witnesses in the area. The only ones they know of are the ones they chose themselves.” Shade confirmed.
“Good, good,” a tired nod was visible from the shadows. “That is excellent.”
“Would that be all, sir?” The obedient Knight asked obsequiously.
The old man looked at his Knight from his bed. “I don’t suppose I have to repeat to you how important this is, Shade. Remember, though I’ve proposed this as an experiment, I want as little mistakes as possible. It’s crucial that everything goes as smoothly as can be done. That’s why I’ve put you in charge of this request.”
“You don’t need to repeat the importance of this to me, sir. I’ve taken it upon myself to work out every single flaw.” The Knight smiled like a child at a carnival, “Your request is as important to me as it is to yourself.”
“Hopefully even more so, if you’re really working that hard.” The older man said. “Who did you choose to come with you tonight?”
Shade dropped his smile, his mood soured. “Knight Harold and Knight Grephen. Not many of the others were as disposable.”
The old man though, was amused. “Quite the combo. I was assuming you’d ask Knights closer to you, like Oz, for example.”
“Oz declined my offer. He says it doesn’t feel right for a Knight to go off sneaking through the dark to do what you’ve asked me to do, sir.”
The man on the bed smiled. “Well he’s right. If it weren’t for our situation I would think this whole scheme of mine were ridiculous.”
The man settled himself up more comfortably on his bed, grunting as he slowly helped himself up. Shade tried approaching him to help but the man waved the Knight away.
“I can help myself, thank you Shade.” He settled back down. “I’m not helpless yet.”
“Are the medicines making it better, sir?” The Knight asked. “You seem much better than before.”
“Don’t concern yourself for my health, Shade.” The old man instructed him, “Your first priority should be tonight.”
“Yes, sir.” The Knight still seemed troubled but let it go. “I just wish I had well working partners.”
The old man chuckled softly until it turned into a cough. When he finished he still smiled. “We all have to conform with what we have. You can’t force Oz to come with you.”
“I know I can’t, I just wish he wouldn’t be so upset by this. None of the other Knights are.”
The old man looked at his Knight with a look of wisdom. “I chose all of my Knights for their characteristics, for their traits that none other Knight has. I chose you for your steadfastness and cunning, your quickness to improvise in whatever situation that presents itself to you. Knight Oz has his own qualities that make him the way he is. If he were not upset by this I’d be slightly disappointed, for his morals were one of the reasons why I knighted him. He is trustworthy and loyal, and he knows where his heart is.”
“I suppose so, sir. He wouldn’t be himself in the end.” The Knight resigned himself. “I’m just surprised he chose one. For a second I thought I’d have to pick one for him.”
“Like I said, he knows where his heart is. He is loyal and would not disobey, no matter his morals. In the end he does what’s right.”
“Even if he does it last minute.” Shade added, but then paused. “Sir, I do have something that I’d like to know, though.”
“And what would that be, Shade?” the old man asked.
“Well, why so many?” The Knight asked. “Why twelve of them? Why not pick one of the Knights, one you think is worthy, and just have him accomplish what you want, instead of all of us?”
The old man grinned at the Knight, resembling more a Cheshire cat grin than a knowing smile. “You’re curious to know whether or not I would have picked you, aren’t you Shade?”
“No, sir, I just—“
“No need to be modest with me, Knight, I know you. I picked you for who you are, not for your model good manners.” The old man said to him.
Shade smiled at the man. “You know me very well, sir. Better than most.”
“As I should.” He responded. “As for your question, it’s as I’ve said before. This is an experiment, and in order for it to be a proper experiment, there must be multiple trials.”
“Most people would think that this is absurd, and an attack on individual freedoms.” The Knight told him.
“Yes, well, most people aren’t kings of a kingdom, are they now?” The old man asked. “I believe that gives me certain rights. Besides, that’s why it’s important that word of this not be let out into the public. Who knows how they would react?”
“Have the letters to their families been sent out already?” The Knight asked.
“They have, though I suspect they won’t arrive until tomorrow in the morning, when they’ll notice they’re gone. The letter explains everything as well as provides compensation in case any of them need particular financial support.”
“Then it’s settled.” The Knight says, rubbing his gloved hands together.
The old man’s tone was curious now, “You’re actually very excited about this, aren’t you?”
“It’s like you said, this doesn’t happen every night.”
“Hm, well don’t get carried away.” The old man told him. “The maids have only prepared twelve rooms and I do not feel like asking them to prepare more.”
“I’ll be sure to restrain myself.”
The Knight looked out of the window, where the sun was now fading in the distance, a soft orange hue entering through the glass window pane. He looked back to the large bed. “I think it’d be best if I left now, sir.”
“I think you’re right, Shade.” The old man agreed, also looking out to the window.
The Knight bowed to the man before turning to exit the room, but as he opened the door to leave the man on the bed called to him again.
“One moment, Shade,” The man said as Shade stopped by the threshold, still holding the doorknob, “All this talk about the pressing issue and I haven’t even asked what I actually intended to ask you.”
Despite the shadows, you could see the old man smiling. “I know that I’ve placed the responsibility of all of the Knight’s chosen onto you, but please don’t forget that you are a Knight as well, and that you will be picking up your own lady tonight.”
The Knight grinned. “Of course not, sir. I’m saving the best for last.”
“The best, is that so?” the old man asked. “Whose feet have you chosen to sweep off? I noticed that though all the other Knight have written the names of their chosen, you have yet to do so.”
“I have a strange way of making decisions, your highness,” Shade answered, “But it didn’t take long to make my decision on this.”
“Then, who is it?” the King inquired, unable to hide his curiosity. “Surprises aren’t like you.”
“No, but secrets are.”