Part 1 - Two Knights
Even though it was already spring the nights remained cold, which led her to close her cloak about her, as she walked towards the kitchen. Once inside the ever warm and deliciously scented air made her smile, while she looked for the absolute queen of that small kingdom. She found Adira standing near a big oven, her round face red due to the heat emanating from it.
"Hello Adira. Need help?" she offered, peering curiously at what was cooking, and the woman turned to her with a motherly smile.
"No need, child. Please, have a sit. I'm sure you're tired after another long day," she guessed. "I'll bring you some of these cookies the moment they're baked."
Allana obeyed happily, sitting at the old wooden table as she had been told. Not long after Adira made right on her promise, and a plate of fuming prune chocolate cookies was placed in front of her. Allana took a deep breath, taking in the delicious aroma, and stole one, blowing her fingers has the cookies were too hot for her bare hands.
"And how's Kahor doing?" Adira wanted to know, taking the chair beside her, and Allana passed her cookie from one hand to another, trying to cool it down.
"A pile of nerves, as to be expected. You know how she's all pride and strong facade. Right now she's at the chapel. I think she'll be there the whole night. Which, either way, is better than having to deal with the stupid bunch at our dorm. I'm sure they wouldn't allow her a minute's rest. If only Kai would come back like he promised her ..."
"He will. This Knights of ours take their word quite seriously. And, from all the youngsters out there, Master Kai would be the last to break a promise like that," she added, smiling in that all knowing way Allana was used to see by now.
"I hope so ... Kahor would feel much more self-confident if he were here. And tomorrow is the big day!"
"Every Knight is going to be there! And our Elipson is going around everywhere, inviting everyone to attend, all proud of the fact that Kahor was her student and, above all, that she's a girl. It's quite the accomplishment, as I'm sure you've noticed."
And Allana had. And by now she couldn't feel amazed at how proud their instructor felt, since the other female cadets she knew, besides Kahor and Mihail, were all unfit, even for the simplest of cleaning tasks.
"Elipson is amazing ... She's so strong. And she's a wonderful teacher. I've learned tones from the few training sessions I've attended. But somehow ... sometimes, I just can't help feeling she's caring some big weight ... or some big secret. She can be so cold, and then it's just like she's not there. Like she's somewhere else, faraway ..." Adira sat in silence, for a moment, which made Allana realize what she'd just said. Not that she could exactly talk or condemn other people for lying or hiding secrets, since she was the biggest liar of them all. "Well, it's none of my business, anyway ..." she added, in an uncaring tone, and Adira took a heavy, deep breath.
"Although it's quite true," she confirmed, surprising Allana that had thought she'd said too much. After all Adira wasn't one to gossip about other people's lives. "That child has a rather sad past ... But no one knows the details of all that's happened. No one except Master Elian, and Master Denar, of course. They used to be really close, those three. But then Denar and Elipson got in some big fight and they stopped talking to each other all together. I'm sure that if it weren't for Master Elian, Elipson would have left us a long time ago."
Allana blushed, feeling her cheeks burn, and averted her gaze as she remembered the many times she had seen them together, and how Elian always seemed happy and relaxed when she was by his side.
"They're really close, aren't they?" she asked, knowing she shouldn't have. "Elian and Elipson, I mean ..."
"Oh, yes. Inseparable. But not in the way you're thinking," she added, again with that all knowing smile that only made Allana feel even more embarrassed. "Elipson was orphaned when she was quite young. She was found by one of the Knights, abandoned, roaming the streets of Mithir, and was practically adopted by the Order. She grew up amongst men armed to their teeth, and amongst swords, and fighting, and all knightly things," she said with a bit of despise, as if she had been against raising a child like that. "That's why she knows Elian since he was a child too. He was about five years old when she came to live in the Knight's complex. He was such an adorable child back then ..." Adira sighed, longingly, making Allana smile. "But then Master Elian fell really sick and no one knew exactly why. He simply stopped eating and refused to get out of his bed. His Majesty obviously called for the best healers and physicians of the Kingdom and neighboring Kingdoms, but no one seemed to know what was wrong with him. It was a really dark time for all of Mithir; the only heir to throne, still so small and frail, dying a little every day. As I'm sure you can imagine, everyone knew about the situation, everyone was worried and praying for the Prince's recovery. And it was then that this small, eight-year-old, orphan girl came to me and asked me to take her to our little Prince. I still remember it as if it were yesterday. The way she looked up at me, her gray eyes too serious for a child her age, her unwavering posture. Of course I tried to refuse her. She was a mere lost child and I couldn't exactly take her to see the Crown Prince. But, as I'm sure you've noticed, no one can make Elipson change her mind once she's made a decision. And so I kind of smuggled her into to the palace, and into Master Elian's chambers. And I don't know what she told him, or what happened in that room. All I know is that when she came out to where I was keeping watch he was following her, holding her hand. And then Master Elian looked me up in the eye and told me he was hungry. You simply can't imagine the tumult this all originated. They tried to make Elipson tell them what had happened but she wouldn't even talk about the matter, nor did Elian. And when they tried to stop her from visiting him, he stood up and ordered them to allow her to come and go as she pleased. Just a small boy that he was back then. And His Majesty agreed, for all he could think about was how relieved he was to see Master Elian up and healthy again. They've been together ever since. And I think it was through her he became so involved in the Knight's matters. He even restructured the whole system, creating the two distinct Orders. And, nowadays, he's the sole responsible for their management."
"So Elipson saved his life ..." Allana summed it up, still lost in the older woman's tale, and Adira smiled.
"I guess you could say that."
"Oh, Master Denar came to Mithir much later. About five or six years later. He was but a teen, very funny and amusing. I guess he had never settled down anywhere, before coming to us. He used to travel with a group, here and there. But it looks like there were some misunderstandings and Denar left them to travel alone. He used to make a living by preforming small tasks, like building something here, and fixing something there, and, when that wasn't enough, he would make money fighting in tournaments and duels. When he arrived in Mithir Elian was eleven or twelve, but already quite sure of his own ideas. He had just managed to convince His Majesty to build a new training ground for the Knights and, as such, a lot of workers were needed. That's how master Denar ended up working here. And after that was the renovation of the palace and he just kind of ... kept staying. I guess Master Elian liked him immediately for his young and, sometimes, irreverent spirit. Besides, Denar always had amazing stories to tell from his travels, and Elian loved to hear them. And so he ended up staying for good and becoming a Knight too. But I must be tiring you, with all this talk."
"Oh no, not at all!"
Adira smiled and faced the golden eyes of the girl right in front of her.
"The Young Master may be somewhat complex, even strange, and most of the times he doesn't know very well how to show his true feelings. But he loves you very much ... he always has," she added, making Allana blink in frightened realization, but Adira just kept smiling in that motherly way, softly patting her hand as she stood up. "And now you should go. It's late and tomorrow you'll have to get up early in the morning. This old woman as well, for that matter." she added, laughing as if she hadn't said what she'd just heard.
Allana stood up, obeying, still unsure of what to say or how to proceed, but Adira had returned to her recently baked cookies, stashing them safely in a wooden box.
"See you tomorrow, Adira," she told her and Adira looked at her over her round shoulder.
"Sleep well, child."