Crucible Vows

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Chapter 20

“I don’t have a way to hide my ears.” Elora stated as we neared the edge of Maulor.

I thought of her words for a moment and pulled Zealot to a stop just before we entered the town. I stepped off the horse and grabbed my shield from off of the saddle. I held out a hand to Elora, and she grabbed it and carefully slid off Zealot’s back. Grabbing the edge of my cape, I lifted it around so it covered her shoulders, and pulled her close to me.

“Zealot,” I caught the horse’s attention. “Go home.”

He let out a sound of agreement and took off towards the Baron’s house. Lifting the shield up to cover one side of us, I began to walk towards home with Elora under my arm. Though the action of covering ourselves did bring some attention to us, most people around us saw the Captain’s cape and left us alone.

While we walked, I listened to the people around us to try to hear anything that would be a danger to us. Most comments were simply gossip about who I was protecting, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. If anything, the people from Maulor were simply wondering what kind of person would require that a Captain of the Knights to protect them so completely. This was a moment I was glad that my torso was covered. They saw the shoulder crest, and not the missing lion from my black tunic.

Something suddenly impacted the shield, causing Elora to let out a small squeak of surprise. I pulled her closer to me and lowered my shield a small bit to see who had thrown something at us. Adolescent boys were smiling and laughing while congratulating the one who had thrown the object, and egg that was now splattered across the shield. A glare furrowed my brow as I stared at the boys.

Their laughter faltered when they saw me.

“Are you so ill entertained that you find joy in wasting food by throwing it at a person?” I asked harshly.

A few boys backed off and left, but there was one who stoked any remaining to join him as they continued to grab and throw egg at us. I lifted the shield again and protected myself and Elora from the spoiled food. My arm tightened around her and she clenched my tunic. I stared down at her as she squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block out any feeling of attack she was experiencing.

“Hey!” A deep voice called out. “You boys stop that!”

The fire stopped and I looked up again to see a burly man grab the one who stoked the others into action and pull him over to me. The other boys ran away. I lowered my shield enough to be able to talk comfortably, but it still covered Elora from view.

“I beg forgiveness my Lord.” The man said. “The boy impeded your honor.”

“Is that your market stand?” I asked, looking back at the arrangement of food.

“Yes, sir.” He bowed his head.

“Is he your boy?” I followed up.

His head remained bowed. “In a sense, my lord. He and his friends help me with the farming, and they are allowed to take a share home to their families as compensation for their work. This lad only has his mother.”

I looked down at the boy and noticed his apparel being more tattered than I originally recognized. He wouldn’t have the money to be able to compensate for the lost goods. And he needed the food for himself and his mother.

“What punishment do you wish to bestow?” The man’s voice shook with fear.

I looked them over again. “Are he and his friends usually done with their work by this time?”

“Yes sir.” The man confirmed.

I glanced down at Elora and remembered our conversation from earlier. “Have him and his friends report to the Baron’s house this time tomorrow. I will bestow my punishment on them there.”

I felt Elora’s grip on my tunic become tighter at my words.

“Of course, my lord.” The man said and forced the boy to bow.

With no other interruptions, I guided Elora towards my home. As we neared the gate of the mansion, I saw my mother and father standing on the doorstep looking hopeful. Lifting my visor, I smiled at them, and my mother lifted her skirts and ran towards me to hug me with my father close behind. I dropped the shield and held up a hand which stopped her. She didn’t notice the young woman I was covering. Slowly, I pulled my cape away and exposed Elora. She was stiff as she looked at my mother and father. She let go of my tunic and curtsied to my parents but said nothing.

My parents looked to me, and I gave them a nod of certainty. “Mother, Father, this is Elora.”

They stared at her only for a moment before my mother walked up and grabbed one of her hands. “Come with me, dear. I think you need a warm bath and a good meal.”

She looked back at me, and I simply nodded again. She turned back to my mother and followed her into the mansion. My father walked up to me and extended a handout to me. My hand went and grabbed his forearm and he mine as he pulled me into a hug.

“It’s good to see you, son.” He responded. “I suspect you have much you wish to discuss.”

“I have quite a story,” I agreed.

“Just last night,” Baron Farrah explained. “We had several Knight from the Capital and give news that you were removed from the Knights Order dishonorably.”

I let out a sigh. “Dishonorably according to King Rory.”

“It has to do with that young Elf woman, doesn’t it?” His head nodded towards the house where Elora went.

I nodded. “I was helping her get to Alovia.”

My father was silent for a moment.

“Her home was attacked by the King and his army.” I explained. “She came to Obrenor to try to escape. Almost had a normal life in one of the villages on the outskirts of the Kingdom. But there were many people there who tried to kill her. I eventually volunteered to get her to Alovia. Along the way, the King found out and demanded that I take her to the Capital, where he planned to have her executed. I disobeyed.”

We entered the large home and walked into a living area. My father sat down and listened to me while I briefly told him what happened. As I recalled everything that had happened, my emotions would vary according to where in the story I was. But one constant was whenever I thought about Elora, I felt a kind of warmth and joy. A feeling that I desired to feel all the time.

“I know I must have disappointed you, Father.” I said when I finished talking.

“Why would I ever be disappointed in my son who did the right thing?” He asked. “Luna, your mother and I raised you to do the right thing, no matter what the people around you say. You did just that. I don’t care if you’re a Knight or want to farm for your living. I want you happy. That’s all that matters for me.”

I smiled at him and pulled off my helmet. “Elora and I will probably stay here for a few days. I promised to teach her some moves in self-defense. And we will be having some adolescent boys coming by tomorrow.”

“Why are they coming?” Baron Farrah asked.

“They thought it would be funny to throw eggs at my shield.” I explained. “I was covering Elora from view because I didn’t know how the people of Maulor would react to an Elf entering their town. These boys are unable to pay for the food they used, and they are trying to provide for their families as well. So, I’m going to spend some time in the evening to teach them some skills that would help them care for their families.”

“That sounds like you.” He laughed.

“Now, you can’t have all the fun without us.” My mother’s voice called down from the top of the stairs.

We stood up to greet her, but I froze the moment I saw Elora. I hadn’t realized that my discussion with my father had gone so long. But it was enough time for her to have a bath and to get dressed in fresh garments. A violet dress hugged every curve of her body and decorated her in such a way that I couldn’t look away. The dress made the purple of her eyes stand out, and a simple style was done with her short hair. She was beautiful. It was only then that I noticed for the first time, the necklace around her neck. Had that always been there?

I swallowed the lump in my throat, trying to hid it as I did. I walked over her and bowed before offering a hand. A small smile came to her lips and she curtsied before placing her hand in mine. I gently moved it to the crook of my elbow and acted as her escort.

“I’m going to speak to Elora for a moment outside,” I explained to my parents without my eyes straying from the Elf.

“I’ll call you in when supper is ready.” My mother replied as I took Elora outside.

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