Chapter 2 ~ A True Knight
A young girl, nine years of age, gleefully ran through the halls of her family’s estate; she carried with her a toy sword as well as a book, which she tightly held against her chest. The girl directed her attention towards a window, and gazed upon the silent snowy landscapes of her house’s territory. There, she waited.
Female Voice: “Ah, Lady Gwendolyn, there you are!”
A middle-aged servant approached young Gwendolyn, yet she did not avert her eyes from the faraway road outside.
Female Servant: “I see. You’re waiting for your father’s guest.”
Gwendolyn excitedly looked at the servant and revealed a wide smile.
Gwendolyn: “It’s today, is it?! Sir Alfrid really is coming today! Right, Martha?!”
Gwendolyn’s smile widened as her expression lit up, unable to contain her excitement. The servant could not help but to smile as well. The little girl’s happiness was truly contagious.
Martha: “Now now, I know you admire him very much, but if you’re going to show yourself in front of Sir Alfrid, you must be wearing proper garments. Your nightgown is hardly the attire for a proper lady to show herself in! Now, follow along if you would.”
Gwendolyn: “Yes, Martha.”
Martha’s tone was stern yet caring, and Gwendolyn complied with her any request.
Martha: “I see you brought a book with you. Which one is it?”
Gwendolyn: “This is my favourite book! It’s full of stories of the greatest Sylerian knights of old!”
Martha: “Ah, that one again.”
Gwendolyn: “Do you think Sir Alfrid will ever get added to a book like this one day?”
Martha: “Yes, I am sure of it.”
Gwendolyn: “I wish I could be a knight too. Maybe I should ask him how he became so strong! What do you think, Martha?”
Martha: “Lady Gwendolyn, do not forget Sir Alfrid is coming here to fulfil his duty. You should not disturb him.”
Gwendolyn: “I know... Oh, but do you think he’ll let me come to see him in action?! I bet it would be really incredible to watch. Likely just as amazing as that time he defeated those raiders attacking the coast!”
“How I miss those times. The tales of knighthood and chivalry simply fascinated me to no end. Back then, everything was so simple.”
Now properly dressed, young Gwendolyn once again ran around the halls of her family’s estate, having heard that Sir Alfrid had finally arrived. As she turned at a corner, she bumped against something and fell to the ground. When she opened her eyes, she found herself in the presence of a tall middle-aged man with black hair - some hints of grey hairs starting to appear - a full beard and hazel eyes; he wore very beautiful white-silvery armour and carried himself with a noble and straight demeanour expected of a true knight.
Though Gwendolyn had never seen her idol in person, only hearing tales of his exploits, she had no doubts the man in front of her was Sir Alfrid von Grandale, Captain of the Royal Knights of Syleria; once more, Gwendolyn’s face lit up with excitement.
Alfrid was in the company of servants assigned to lead him to Marquis Edelweiss, Gwendolyn’s father. They were shocked at Gwendolyn’s behaviour, and feared an outburst coming from the stoic knight. Yet, to their surprise, he offered his hand to help her stand.
Sir Alfrid: “You are not hurt, are you?”
Gwendolyn: “I...I am f-fine!”
Alfrid smiles tenderly.
Gwendolyn: “You’re Sir Alfrid, right?!”
Alfrid: “You would be correct. Are you the daughter of Marquis Edelweiss, perhaps?”
Alfrid: “Your father is blessed for having such an adorable girl as his daughter.”
Gwendolyn: “Is it true you’re going help father defeat the brigands?”
Alfrid: “Indeed. Those brigands are a very dangerous underground organization. Your father made the right choice in asking for the Knight’s support. I will make sure he can return safely to his lovely daughter once more.”
Gwendolyn: “C-Can I come too?”
Alfrid: “I’m afraid that would be most unwise. It is far too dangerous. Battle is truly a horrible thing. A young lady like you needs not to see the horrors and the blood spilt by it.”
Gwendolyn: “...I-I understand. If only I were a knight too, I could fight at your side.”
Alfrid: “Yes. Perhaps one day, fate might see to us fighting side by side.”
Gwendolyn: “Y-you think so?!”
Alfrid: “Of course, but only if you work hard and grow strong! Being a knight is a dangerous and difficult job.”
Gwendolyn: “I will! I promise I will work harder than anyone in the world and become a knight!”
Alfrid: “*chuckles* Tell me, what is your name?”
Gwendolyn: “Gwendolyn, Sir! Gwendolyn von Edelweiss!”
Alfrid: “Very well, Lady Gwendolyn, I shall wait for the day I may call you my comrade!”
Sir Alfrid turned to the servants and asked to resume leading the way. And thus, Gwendolyn renewed her vigour of one day fulfilling her wish of becoming a knight. To one day stand alongside her idol, she would work hard and train every day. No longer would she simply pretend to be a famous knight, just playing around with her wooden sword. She would become just like the knights on her book.
As the years passed, her parents would eventually begin to provide her with the training she needed. Gwendolyn, now a squire, would study not only sword fighting, horseback riding and hand to hand combat, but also military tactics, geography and a variety of other knowledge that could very well help her survive different situations.
Her resolute dedication to her training had caught the attention of her brother, Gareth, younger only by three years. Noticing how much their parents doted over their eldest child, he too craved for their attention, and as such would mimic Gwendolyn, embarking too on the journey to knighthood.
At last, the day of Gwendolyn’s sixteenth birthday arrived. Recognized as a proper adult, she was finally eligible to become a knight. She travelled to Syleria’s capital, and there she endured harsh training. But no matter how harsh it became, even when many others gave up, Gwendolyn would always think back on her promise to Sir Alfrid - to the promise she had made to herself - and keep pressing forward.
With the right attitude and exemplary dedication, it came as no surprise when one year later news of her graduation arrived to her parents. In fact, Gwendolyn had done so with distinction – her instructors pointed out she had the fortitude, discipline and willpower to become a full-fledged Royal Knight.
Thanks to her family connections, and a recommendation from the capital’s instructors themselves, Gwendolyn had been accepted into the Royal Knights of Syleria, therefore fulfilling her childhood dream. Of course, she knew it was just the beginning.
Once again meeting her idol, now Captain Alfrid to her, she asked to be his apprentice. Alfrid immediately took her under his wing, not having forgotten the day they had met all those years ago.
Alfrid: “You have done well so far, Gwendolyn. I must warn you – as my apprentice, I shall hold you to the highest of standards. I will not be going easy on you. Therefore, I ask, are you willing to submit yourself to days of pain and struggle?”
Gwendolyn: “Yes, Captain Alfrid! I will face any challenge you put my way head on!”
Alfrid: “A fine answer.”
Alfrid’s mentorship was beyond anything Gwendolyn had experienced. She endured hours of intense training, day after day, to conditions so extreme; it would have been fatal for those too feeble. Truthfully, Alfrid had gauged Gwendolyn’s limits, and made sure her training was enough to be just outside her limits, but not too far as to kill her. Yet, Gwendolyn’s stubbornness would always drive her to go even further, beyond Alfrid’s expectations, and as such, she would frequently collapse from exhaustion, coming as far as almost dying several times.
Gwendolyn would always set her goals to accomplish more than Alfrid had asked. Were she expected to run one hundred laps around the palace, she would double it and make it two hundred; were she expected to spar with fifty opponents, she would make it one hundred. Usually, she would fail, time and time again, she would collapse into the dirt, but she would try again and again, stubbornly looking forward to outdo any expectations, and prove herself a worthy disciple for Alfrid. With each failure she experienced, the more determined she was to surpass her limits.
Though her training years were filled with pain, often having her body full of bruises and scars, they were memories very close and dear to her heart. She had grown to be a strong warrior.
Of course, as she was an official knight, her training was often interrupted, forced to take part in missions alongside the other knights. Gwendolyn performed exceptionally well in live combat, and she did not bat an eye at the foes she felled in battle; not even her first kill seemed to bother her. After all, they were foes she considered unjust – being slain by her sword was simply a deserving end to them. As long as justice laid at her side, there was no doubt or hesitation in her convictions. There, on the battlefield, she showed Captain Alfrid the kind of knight she had become.
So the day came, on her twenty-first birthday, when her hard work had been rewarded - her dedication acknowledged once more.
Alfrid: “Gwendolyn, you have proven to be a worthy student, one worthy of standing at my side. As such, I feel I must reward your accomplishments. Please, accept this.”
On Alfrid’s hands was a sword.
Gwendolyn: “It’s beautiful.”
Alfrid: “This is Lifthrasir, one of the two swords passed down in my family from generation to generation. I want you to accept it.”
Gwendolyn could hardly react, overcome by emotion.
Gwendolyn: “But...this is a precious treasure from your family!”
Alfrid: “Yes. I wish to entrust it with you – a knight worthy of using it. I have no doubts you will uncover its full potential. We may not share the same blood, but you are more than a comrade. You are like a daughter to me.”
Gwendolyn accepted, tears running down her face. The strong, always resolute knight had been so easily defeated by her emotions. Once more, Alfrid smiled; glad to see that she still retained her humanity.
After this, Gwendolyn vowed to work even harder, quickly mastering her new weapon and unleashing its true potential. With the magical abilities she had developed over the long years of training, she was able to freely transform Lifthrasir and wield it as a greatsword, developing a new fighting style separate from the other knights, one to make Alfrid’s ancestors proud.
No mission was too difficult, no task too daunting. And so the White Comet of Syleria was born - Gwendolyn, a noblewoman born in the snowy regions in north-eastern Syleria, who fought alongside the great Sir Alfrid in the name of the king.
Yet, her glory would come to a halt. Suddenly, Syleria found herself without a king – as he and his eldest son had tragically died in an alleged accident. The king’s youngest son rose to the throne and executed the Official of Household Affairs for being rumoured to having plotted the deaths of his father and brother. Shortly after the execution was carried out, the new king appointed a close nobleman – the person who had truly raised him due to the negligence of the previous king - as the new Official of Household Affairs, as well as his personal advisor. From then onwards, Syleria would no longer be the same.
Soon, Gwendolyn and the Royal Knights saw themselves in the battlefield once more, this time suppressing peasant revolts. At first, Gwendolyn thought of herself simply maintaining order in the kingdom, but as the body count on her hands increased, the enraged peasant faces would come to haunt her in her dreams.
Gwendolyn: “I don’t understand, Captain. What fuels the people’s anger so much?”
Alfrid: “It is only natural they would be so furious. The king has raised the taxes in order to fund his hedonistic lifestyle. He has provided no aid to the people during the recent drought. The people starve while he lives a luxurious life.”
Gwendolyn: “Then, what we do is not right! We shouldn’t raise our swords towards the people!”
Alfrid: “We must if our king orders so. The duty of a knight is to obey his lord and liege. Our king is our master; as such we must carry out his will. That is what means to be a knight.”
Gwendolyn: “...This...doesn’t feel right.”
Alfrid: “Steel yourself. True strength lies in standing strong no matter the foe. Loyalty and discipline are the greatest virtues of a knight.”
Gwendolyn: “Do you not feel any remorse, Captain Alfrid?”
Alfrid: “Of course I do. Yet, as a knight, my opinions do not matter. They must be separate from my duty. That is our reality.”
“Duty... I think about how it relates to what it means to be a knight often. Is a knight’s duty to blindly obey their king? Is that what it always has been? ...The knights in the books never seemed to struggle with these thoughts. They were always resolute in their purpose. ...Does that mean I am not a true knight? And if so, do I really wish to become a true knight?”
The sky was dark, as a red moon revealed itself through a cloud of smoke. Gwendolyn had been tasked with leading a force against a village which had allegedly been hiding insurgents for months. She led a force prepared to face any armed group they may come across, yet no opposing army stood against them – only ragtag peasants who could hardly lift a sword properly.
The king’s orders were to wipe the village off the map, and any who may reside in it. The events that succeeded burned deeply within Gwendolyn’s mind. She attempted to remove any doubt in her head and perform her duty as a knight. She and her troops heroically massacred the defenceless farmers and merchants who merely prayed for salvation, their screams and howls filling the night sky with incessant grief.
Fire lit the village as if it were a giant torch, blood dripping through the ground as a sign of one more screaming victim having its voice silenced. The faceless knights, hiding their emotionless expressions under their helmets, merely carried out their orders without so much a sigh. Their commander, Gwendolyn, actively driving away her doubt; but with each kill, the image of knighthood on her mind was slowly tainted by the blood of innocents. It would not be long until the extermination was complete.
Inside a house, one more body fell to Gwendolyn’s sword, staining her majestic armour with blood. As the man lay lifeless at her feet, the wife cried loudly, overcome with grief, tightly holding her two children close to her bosom. The kids embraced their mother, too crying in fear of the monster who had just slain their dear papa.
Slowly, Gwendolyn walked closer, her longsword ready to deliver the king’s will upon them as well. However, she could not bring herself to do so. As she witnessed the family she had just destroyed, tears running down their faces, doubt had taken over her mind. “Is this what being a knight truly means?” She felt dizzy. “Duty”, the word filled her head like a voice that would not cease. It urged her to strike the people in front of her. After all, being a knight has been your childhood dream.
Isn’t this what you always wanted? Your lifelong dream of becoming a knight, right in your grasp!
Kill them, it is your duty.
A knight need not concern itself with the burden of opinion or thinking. A knight must simply obey.
Go on, strike them! That’s what a true knight would do!
You’re a knight, aren’t you?
Let your arm of justice deliver the blow to wash the walls red with their unjust blood!
Come on, do it! Do not disappoint your dear Captain Alfrid.
What are you waiting for! dO iT, cOmE oN, dO iT, dO iT, dO iT, dO iT , dO iT, dO iT, dO iT, dO iT, dO iT, kill kill kill, dO iT, dO iT, kill, dO iT, yOu fAiLuRe oF a kNiGhT, dO iT, dO iT, dO iT, kIlL tHeM, eNd iT!
Three swift motions, it was all it took. The mother, alongside her kids, would now be together with the father.
Gwendolyn dropped her sword to the ground, her knees weak and collapsing due to the lack of strength. Both she and Lifthrasir were awash in blood, none of it deserving of being spilt. There had been no justice that night. She no longer could contain back her tears, simply slamming her fist against the floor in frustration.
Gwendolyn: “Why?! This isn’t what I had read in the books! Is this really what it means to be a knight?!? To kill innocents in the name of a tyrannical king???”
Gwendolyn screamed at the top of her lungs, the realization of her sins crawling at her back with unbearable weight. She would never forget the faces of the children slain by her hand.
“I had been naive, believing a knight to be the epitome of justice and virtue. My childish delusion was truly dead. A knight is nothing more than a killer dog that will obey whatever orders their lords give. ...Yet, as I thought about it more and more, I came to the realization that I could still be the knight I had always aspired to be. Not like Captain Alfrid, or any of the knights I had read in the books from my childhood. I would strive to be my ideal of knighthood, something I could truly be proud of being - a protector of the people, fighting for what I believe to be right.
It was in the day Captain Alfrid and I had been assigned to guard the king during one of his visits to a town when I finally stood for my beliefs. A kid had disrespected the king for not bowing in his presence. The kid’s mother had rushed in to apologize, yet the king ordered me to execute both of them. I refused.
I was arrested for treason. I did not resist. Captain Alfrid himself was there, after all. My execution had been scheduled to be days just before my twenty-fourth birthday. I had resigned to my fate. In the end, I hadn’t accomplished anything. My meaningless life would end just as swiftly as it had lasted. However, he saved me.
A few cloaked individuals came by and opened my cell, proceeding to help me escape the capital and lead me to an isolated house. There, Captain Alfrid waited for me. He had hired those individuals to free me. He gave me back my armour and sword, both which had been taken from me before I was locked up. He also gave me some money. That was when I realized what was going on. There was no turning back anymore. I would be a fugitive. Before leaving, Captain Alfrid said to me:”
Alfrid: “Gwendolyn...live on, faraway from Syleria. ...In spite of everything, I am still proud of what you have become. But do not ever forget, the next time we see each other, it will be as enemies.”
“Even if Captain Alfrid values duty and loyalty above all, he still retains his humanity deep within him. I have no doubts that saving me required a lot of twisted logic on his part, but I still believe in the good on his heart.
It has been a few months since I became an errant knight, fighting against kingdom troops and protecting the people of Syleria while being on the run. In spite of the hardships, I have vowed to fight for my own ideals of knighthood to my very last breath. I must free Syleria from its tyrannical king, even if along the way, I must take the lives of those who in the past stood with me as fellow comrades. That is the price to pay for my sins.”