A STONE HEART: PRIDE

 

“His loyalty to this kingdom has proven exceptional, time and time again.” The Honorable King of the Lands of Red Sun and Blue Ocean sat inadvertently on his throne. His hand propped up his long wavy hair as his beard moved with every word, which was recorded by a young squire. 

            A mighty knight, timeworn wrinkles complemented pauldrons that sat on his broad shoulders, stepped forward out of a circle of his peers that surrounded the throne. Ivory plates and cerulean inscriptions gave his armor prestige and providence. “My honorable lord, this mage is,” he looked over to his brotherhood, they exchanged glances filled with uncertainty. He then looked back to his king and finished, “A difficult one to work alongside.” The men behind him awaited the king’s response with silent apprehension. Their arms folded behind them, each one primed for combat and duty.  

            The king inspected the chivalrous paladin. He respected this man out of all the others in his order. Inside the great halls of the castle, only one other received the respect that could rival the great king’s own. His royal majesty looked him straight in his eyes and delivered his final decree. “I see, but we have dire need of him, Sir Kendrick, “The White Knight.” Send for the mage I request. I want Ironhide, “The Protector of Heroes”, standing before his king.”

            The alabaster champion and his cohorts unanimously slapped their fists against their chests and bowed to their king’s command. All then said in unison, “By your command, we give you our service.” Their voices traversed across the night sky, shattering dreams that belonged to the dreamers of the benevolent kingdom’s providences, and echoing beyond the kingdom’s walls, unknowingly disturbing the scorching flames of a resting dragon.

 

            Darkness varnished over the eyes of one exhausted mage. Ironhide walked in shackles to where he guessed, the palace. Every step he took along a far-reaching carpet caused his head to ache more and more.

            “You men are lucky I’ve become a devout Christian, or else—”

            A strong backhand rolled Ironhide’s masked head around his neck.

            “Shut up! You had your chance to talk,” one of the guards escorting him down the castle’s main hall ordered.

            Ironhide grimaced inside the veil; he definitely could not take another hit from that guard again. He then said as they neared the main doors that led into the throne room, “Let’s not talk for a while, okay? Sounds good.”

            “Enter!” A dastardly chilling breeze brushed past Ironhide and his capturers as the doors to the infamous king granted them entry. The aroma of velvet and musk bothered him as much as being hogtied and dragged to an audience which he respectfully declined; he loathed these moments. Fame had set him on a burdensome road. He finally tired of walking around blindfolded; he decided to use one of his many special abilities as he forced his eyes shut, and whispered, “Clairvoyance.” Inside of the black sack over his face, Ironhide eyes illuminated to a ghostly white. From the overdone tapestries to the well-stitched rug that was probably put together by a family also tired of the kingdom’s tasks. The Brotherhood of Saints stood beneath the king’s throne, as one's pets should attend to themselves. Ironhide had a name for them; he could not quell a chuckle as he came to a halt.

            “Remove his shackles!” Ironhide gladly welcomed the relief surging through his wrists. “Remove the veil that he may pay honor to his king!” A young noble rushed over to unveil the magician. He placed his hands around the mage’s neck, cuffing the heavy fabric, and as he removed it, he gasped at the sight of him and dropped to the ground. Ironhide’s glowing eyes alarmed every man in the court.

            The mage looked at the ground and tapped the youth with his metal boot. He then said to the king, “It seems that your noble fainted, sire.”

            The king looked down at the noble, “It seems as he did, Protector of Heroes.” The king ordered his removal from his throne room.

            After the guards had heaved the fainthearted boy, Ironhide wanted to know why the kingdom forced him out of his home, especially during the Day of Sun cleaning. He cleared his throat, everyone’s eyes lingering on his colorless peepers. He did not care enough about his audience to turn off his illumination magic, as he said, “I do not appreciate being separated from my family during a day of rest, king.”

            The king’s eyebrow curved with intrigue. He placed his hand on the side of his face and leaned in his throne. “Family? You have no wife or children.”

            Ironhide licked his lips as he replied, “But I do. I’m talking about Bethany, my wolf.”

            “Enough of this foolish talk!” The knight in all white stepped out of the ranks of his men, closing the gap between him and the mage. He shoved Ironhide over as he stood beside him, directing himself towards his king. “My lord, this man has no choice as we all know but to do what every citizen of this great nation has sworn to do,” his fellow knights nodded their heads and staked their fists in the air.

            The king looked at his champion; his words were undoubtedly true. “What do you say to this?” He directed his question to Ironhide, whose eyes continued to disturb him and all of his men.

            “Well, to be honest, I do not want to do anything today,”

            The king returned, “That can be—”

            “Or tomorrow, or the next day, or the next year. I want to live my life for myself now.” Ironhide started to become exhausted and removed his enhancement. Everyone looked relieved as his eyes returned to their jade hue.

            The king replied with his hands rubbing his thick beard, “I cannot permit that for the dragon must be slain with haste.”

            “Are you freaking mad! No one has killed a dragon in more than fifty years.” Ironhide examined the room full of jesters and lapdogs. “Let these ‘heroes’ go and risk their lives. I have something to live for.”

            Sir Kendrick broke his silence, “You will do what is commanded. I need your assistance, and you will grant it.”

            Ironhide never liked knights; they swore the oath of being obnoxious tools for the king’s pleasure. “I think it is time for me to take my leave.” Ironhide pulled out two metallic balls and threw them on the floor. A gray haze spread over the throne room, blinding everyone who frantically sought out the mage. The knight's sword shined through the smoke as they twirled them like fans, blowing the plume back.

            “Where is he? Do not let him escape,” the king ordered his men to surround the inside and outside of the castle. “This mage’s magic shall not be taken lightly.”

            To the surprise of the court, Sir Kendrick sat his accumulated weight on top of a groaning magician.

            “Get off me! I swear when I get up!”

            “You will learn your place, Ironhide. Your magic doesn’t frighten me,” Sir Kendrick lifted him up by his hands he held together with a strong grip. He then said to his king, “I ask that we set off immediately, my King. Ironhide will be in my care until I return with the head of the flaming serpent.

            The knights and the king congratulated the knight on his decree. Ironhide, on the other hand, regretted coming to this place, and more so that this white knight saw through one of his tricks. He decided not to run; it would serve no purpose to have him or the entire kingdom chasing him down. Only when they faced the dragon would he run faster than a sailor on land, His freedom depended on it.