Knights in Shining Armor (And Princes in Love)

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The next few weeks had Veran unable to get a moment alone to himself, much less be able to seek out Cirthe and spend some time with her. He didn’t realize how much time they spent together when she was his personal guard until now, when he was being worked to the bone for the upcoming ceremony and she was doing her own thing separate from him. Veran felt a bit ashamed to admit to himself that he wasn’t even entirely sure what Cirthe did when she was not with him and not guarding him.

Was he that self absorbed? He didn’t even know the daily workings of his best friend and the girl he was in love with.

He wasn’t sure if it was just his increasing discomfort with the thoughts in his own head or if the weather was just that warm to make him feel like shedding out of his own skin.

“Adler, is there anything urgent that needs my attention right now?” Veran asked the stout man shuffling through the bundles of paperwork scattered on his desk. Even though Adler was an assistant that was personally appointed by his father, Veran found himself liking the man, despite his tendency to rattle on about the ‘greatness of His Majesty’. He was yet to see the so called ‘greatness’ of his father but that’s just him.

“Not that I can recall, sire. However, since you have been within the palace for quite a few days, I figured it would make for a nice change to have a training session scheduled for you outside--”

‘Maybe the warm weather wasn’t so bad after all’, Veran thought to himself, barely containing his glee. ‘Training outisde means seeing Cirthe and spending time with her.’

“--with your training being overlooked by Knight Fergo.”

Never had Veran disliked someone so quickly as he did when Adler stopped speaking. Adler was going to find a sudden influx of paperwork on his table real soon.

“Why Knight Fergo?” Veran asked, little to no attempts to hide his disdain at the mention of the knight.

Edmund Fergo was one of the Commanding Knights for the King. He was also a complete trash of a person. Fergo was always one of the snobby nobel kids who flaunted their family wealth and status in front of the less fortunate ones. Veran very vividly remembered multiple instances when they were young where he had to unwillingly pull up his privilege of being the King’s son in order to throw Fergo and his lackeys off of Cirthe. They were cruel to anyone who wasn’t born of nobility but they were especially cruel to Cirthe because she was always favored by Veran as well as his Uncle. Maybe if Fergo was half as lovely as Cirthe was, Veran huffed internally.

But the problem was that he was nowhere near close. Fergo grew up with the same haughty and obnoxious personality, though his behaviour towards Cirthe was less awful ever since she was appointed as Veran’s personal Knight. And also because Cirthe had quite literally thrown Fergo on his ass enough times during their training as Knights for him to attempt anything.

“Your Father, His Majesty, has requested so. Your Uncle as well.” Adler explained patiently.

Veran sighed and turned to walk towards the large window facing the training grounds, mood tanking further when Cirthe was nowhere to be seen.

“Will Uncle be there at least? I honestly don’t think I could stomach being in the presence of Fergo without someone else to distract me.” Veran turned back to Adler, noticing the amused look on his assistant’s face at the tone of distate in the prince’s words. Good to know there was at least someone on his side.

“Yes, Sir Ashforge will be present during your session, Your Highness.” Adler said, hesitating a moment before continuing. “Perhaps you could convince him to save you from the unpleasant company sooner than was scheduled.”

Veran knew he liked Adler for a reason.

If he thought it was warm inside the palace walls, he was a fool to think the outside would be anything but scorching hot sun rays beating down on their backs. Still, Veran found the too bright sun and occasional light breeze loads better than the stuffy insides of his office where the only smell he could pick out was the ink and the crisp sheets of paper bundled around on whatever flat surface available.

It was also a relief that most of the training ground had large patches of cool shade from the old giant trees lined up on the sides. Veran always had to forcibly drag Cirthe into the shade under one of the trees when they were teens, otherwise she would just sweat out her body weight practicing her swordmanship. Veran always suspected she gave into his whining because his weak body couldn’t handle weather that was too intense and they both were too aware of that.

Thank God for Uncle’s insistence on building up my fighting skills, Veran wondered to himself now as he dodged a rough kick to his thigh, stepping back to gain his footing and glaring at Fergo. I would have loathed to see this bastard defeating me in a simple sparring round.

“Why so timid, Your Highness?” Fergo said, that ever so irritating smirk plastered on his face, despite the fact that he had nothing to be smug about given that he had yet to land a blow on Veran.

“I’m sparing your face, Fergo. God knows it’s barely tolerable as is, a beating would just make it all the more worse.”

It wouldn’t be too far off to assume that the next slash of Fergo’s sword had a hint of added viciousness to it, the blade barely missing Veran’s practice armor with a sharp sound. Veran would be lying if he said he didn’t take joy in the fact that his words irked Fergo enough to affect his fighting movements.

“Boys, concentrate on the actual training and put aside your personal annoyances with each other, please.” Uncle Adras’s voice rang out from behind them, strict and serious. He was the head of the Knights’ training for a reason, after all.

Veran dug his heels into the ground and pushed back against the next blow of Fergo’s blade aimed at his shoulder, slightly lowered knees slightly that helped put extra strength in his block to shake his opponent off a few steps back. Without giving Fergo time to regain his footing, Veran charged forward with a wild swing of his sword, letting Fergo take in the sloppiness of the movement so he would put in more strength in his block and give Veran the chance to flip the dagger in his other hand back, the hilt of it brought down on Fergo’s side with a loud sound, not enough to break anything but the force being enough to throw his whole side into painful spasms making his stance falter. Veran was quick enough to take advantage of the misstep as he put all his strength into the kick he landed on Fergo’s middle, finally making him fall on his back and barely avoiding the blow to his temple by the hilt of Veran’s sword.

So much for being timid, eh?

“Apologies about being too timid, Knight Edmund.” Veran shot back and placed his sword into the holster along with the dagger. As the adrenaline slowly wore off, the sweat underneath the armor became an annoyance and he made quick work of taking it off.

Oh if only I could capture his face right now and have it put up everywhere in the palace. Veran thought to himself, not even bothering to hide his smug grin and shrugged at his Uncle’s tired look.

He was sure that Fergo muttered something nasty like he always does as he turned around to leave, something that he would have said out loud and directed at Cirthe if she was there. But he can’t exactly spew shit out loud when there was no one to listen but the Crown Prince himself, could he? Ah the joys of being the Prince.

“When will you stop this bickering, Veran. You’ve both grown up into fine young men, not to mention you’re meant to fight side by side should a situation require you to do so.” Adras started as he handed water to his nephew and walked him to a shaded area.

“Maybe when he stops being such a foul mouthed prick to Cirthe and anyone of a lower standing than him. This isn’t the old times, Uncle. And yet he continues to hold such backward beliefs and makes life difficult for others around him.” Veran protested, taking off his rough tunic and wiping the sweat off of him.

“He isn’t the only one, you know,” Adras held up a hand to stop Veran’s retort before adding, “I didn’t say that it was okay to hold such beliefs in this day and age, regardless of whether one person maintains it or a few thousand. I just meant that there are plenty like him because they’re high nobility and few can stand up against their authority. Those who can, choose not to for their own gain. That is why I think you would make a great King, Veran. You have that capability to think of people beyond what is set for them by others, to look at them as people you need to protect and care for first and foremost.”

Veran ignored the twisting in his stomach at the thought of ruling an entire nation and being expected to be perfect at it.

At his nephew’s continued silence, Adras sighed and clapped a hand on his shoulder.

“You know Cirthe would agree with me as well. She’s always believed in your potential to be a great King,” he continued, tone now less somber and more on the verge of teasing. “I have to admit, I’m surprised that you haven’t badgered me about her whereabouts yet, dear nephew.”

Veran was glad that his body was already flushed with blood because of the sun’s heat and the grueling training session. He didn’t need everyone to see how much of a goner he was considering his Uncle expected him to bother him about Cirthe.

“Well, I haven’t really been allowed to get a moment to myself these past few weeks,” Veran grumbled, quickly adding as an afterthought, “Not that I would have badgered you about her! I just, would not have minded knowing how she’s been doing, that’s all. She is my best friend, after all.”

"Right, of course.” Oh his Uncle was definitely enjoying this, the old man. “The closest of friends, you two. Anyhow, you would be glad to know that she isn’t wandering around throwing herself in every dangerous situation she stumbled upon. She did go on a few short expeditions out of the citadel recently. But apart from that, she’s just been training.”

Veran noticed the oddly amusing look Adras threw at him, which just made him that much more desperate to see Cirthe and spend some time with her. But at the same time, Veran wondered how would he feel seeing her after being apart for this long. It wasn’t like they had been together for every second of their lives, but the few times where they had been separated had been short and always held the promise of being together again. But this time, the way his father made it seem, Veran wasn’t sure if things would go back to the way they were after he becomes crowned. The dread building up in his chest made its presence known once again.

“Was--Did Cirthe get a say in this?” Veran asked finally, the rag in his hand gripped tightly. Adras knew what his nephew was talking about as he shifted to look at him properly.

“You know as much as I do that Cirthe wouldn’t disobey His Majesty’s orders, no matter how absurd they might be. She’s loyal to a fault.”

Veran wasn’t sure it was possible for his mood to turn any more darker but here he was. He really should’ve landed a few more brutal blows on Fergo to let out some of the frustration.

“But,” his Uncle added, “she did request His Majesty to let her test the new guards appointed to you herself, to see if they were even, and I quote ”competent enough to protect the Crown Prince“.”

The very thought of it made him laugh, the tension in his stance suddenly disappearing and leaving his body much more lax and loose. Of course Cirthe would ask to examine the new guards, who were mind you highly trained individuals in their own nation, just for the sake of his protection. It was such a her thing to do, Veran wasn’t sure if it was just the unforgiving hot weather that was making the bridge of his nose tingle in that too familiar way.

“Let me guess, she had them on their knees too soon,” Veran hoped the swipe of his hand over his eyes was subtle enough to pass as an attempt to wipe the sweat on his face.

“Well, she would have. His Majesty didn’t let it go that far, unfortunately. I would have loved to see it,” Adras grinned, standing up. Veran followed suit, knowing he’s spent enough time talking instead of continuing his training. He was surprised Adler hadn’t come running in yet babbling about timely schedule and idle chit chat.

“She’ll be fine, Veran. You have enough worries of your own with the ceremony coming up. Leave Cirthe to your dear uncle. I’ll take care of her well. Trust me.”

Veran nodded, smiling back as he followed his uncle to the training space.

“Of course I do, Uncle.”

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