Chilled mud splattered against Azoloth’s face and intermingled with the fresh tears cascading along his cheeks. He lay prone under a horse trough, listening to the sharp metallic sound of metal boots ringing out against the cobblestone street nearby. Guards rushed to and fro seeking any loving member of Sir Gregories household, including Azoloth. His heart raced as he did his best to slow his breathing. He understood panicking could only get him killed. Laying hidden by the trough and the flickering torchlight, he dwelt on the events of that evening.

Sir Gregory’s family ruled Candlecove Keep in the name of the King for time out of mind. A fortnight ago word came that the King Herald passed away and his daughter Juliet ascended to the throne as Queen. Dark rumors follow in the wake of the Kings death. Herald was a beloved King while his daughter was said to cavort with Demon worshippers and worse. Whispered words in dark alleys said she murdered her father to claim the crown as her own. Even darker whispers said a Demon Lord lurked behind it all.

Despite the rumors, when the contingent from the Kingdom arrived yesterday, Sir Gregory showed them no mistrust. His family’s stewardship of the land had lasted generations and the old Knight greeting them with open arms. A loyal subject to the realm, The Knight grieved the news of the King’s death. It was King Herald who gave Sir Gregory his Knighthood. They held a feast to mourn the passing of the King and celebrate the rise of the Queen. Yet, something foul was afoot.

The air of that spring evening was chilled it also held a hint of rain. Dark clouds rolled in across the sky soon after nightfall, obscuring the moon; hiding what transpired within the keep from the silvery orb.

The rain began gradually, yet before long fat drops poured down in a deluge, splattering against the stone buildings and cobblestone streets. Sir Gregory retired with the delegation from the Royal Court to his private chambers. Several men-at-arms and the squires, Azoloth and Trinsic joined the group. The retainers and guards stayed back to continue the feast in the great hall.

Azoloth and Trinsic stood on either side of the door watching the older men drink and talk. Azoloth and Trinsic could not have been more different. Azoloth stood 6 feet tall and was well built. Long black hair was brushed out smoothly and hung to his shoulders. This framed his tanned face, his features were handsome yet severe. Piercing blue eyes watched the world cautiously. Trinsic on the other hand was barely 5 feet 5 inches tall with a slender build and a crop of unruly read hair upon his head. His skin was pale and freckled. 

When Azoloth walked into a room he commanded attention, moving with a noble grace. Trinsic on the otherhand seemed to slink from place to place as if he did not wish to be seen. Azoloth was the embodiment of what people pictured a Knight to be, Trinisc was more like a rogue. At times it seemed Trinsic resented this depiction of him. Yet despite all of this he and Azoloth were fast friends.

The evening wore on the feast dwindled and keep guards who had partaken in the wine slumped to the ground one by one. One guard realizing the betrayal attempted to sound the alarm. An arm slid around him from behind and one of the royal soldiers slit his throat from ear to ear. The cooling body dropped to the oak floor as his warm lifeblood soaked into the wooden planks of the hall.

Meanwhile, the royal guardsmen struck suddenly overpowering the gate guards and flinging the gates wide open to the night. The invading force included hundreds of royal soldiers who flooded into the keep. It took the remaining defenders unawares. One guard managed to reach the alarm bell. The night shattered with the mighty bell ringing throughout the keep.

Sir Gregory never faltered in the face of his foes, nor did he hesitate. The Knight showed no mistrust, yet he was ready for battle at a moment’s notice. Recognizing the trap they had fallen into, his deep voice called out, ordering his squires to flee. He never faltered as his proud strides brought him across the room. His aged hands were steady as they grasped the hilt of his great sword and slid it from its sheath in one smooth motion. Striding forward fearlessly, he waded into battle. 

Azoloth wanted to stay, stand, fight, and die by his mentor’s side. Sir Gregory found the boy 3 years ago at 13 years of age, begging in the street. Azoloth’s mother died the year before and the half starved waif was on his own. The Knight he thought of as a father brought him here to the Keep. He spent the last 3 years training as a squire in the Keep.

Obeying orders had never been one of Azoloth’s strengths. Ready to draw his sword and charge forward, he would have died there if not for for Trinsic. Trinisc was Sir Gregory’s other squire about the same age as Azoloth. Cursing him as a fool, Trinsic grabbed his arm and dragged him out of the room. Later Azoloth regretted not having fought Trinsic more, yet between Sir Gregory’s order, the sudden unexpected chaos, and Trinsic dragging him from the room he had followed. Azoloth understood deep down that him dying there would have changed nothing. The battle was a hopeless one, and Sir Gregory would have died, regardless. Yet he believed it was his duty to stand and die with Sir Gregory. Azoloth never knew his own father, and Sir Gregory treated both of his adopted squires like Sons.

The flood of royal troops caused Azoloth and Trinsic to become separated shortly after their escape. Losing sight of Trinsic, Azoloth began to make his way towards the stables. Stravos and Crimson would be in the stables and he would not leave them behind. Already he had lost too much this day. Even if it cost him his life he would not lose them as well. There was no doubt in his mind that Sir Gregory died a hero’s death in defense of the Kingdom and her people this night. 

Azoloth could not understand why the Queen betrayed the Knighthood. Surely she must have known the Knights would not listen to the foul rumors. The very men she slaughtered would have been the first to defend her; dying to a man for her. Unless…

Horror shown on Azoloth’s face at the dawning realization. While Azoloth was young and in some way naïve, he realized there was more happening here than met the eye. The Knighthood did not swear fealty to the rule of the land. The Knights swore fealty to the land itself, along with her people. If the dark rumors were true, and the Queen did it for the Kingdom, the Knights would stand with her. The only reason for such a betrayal was if she betrayed the Kingdom to the Demons. The code of the Knighthood determined what he must do next. He would find the Queen and determine why she wanted the Knights out of her way. Throughout their thousand year history, the Knights supported the ruler of the land as if they were the land themselves. What horrible thing had the Queen done to break such an ancient pact. What horrible thing could make her believe the Knighthood would rise in rebellion against her?

Azoloth had been stealthily moving away from the grand hall and towards the stables for some time now. The sudden sound of boots approaching filled the air. Azoloth realized he was lost too deep in thought. He threw himself to the ground and rolled under a horse trough… the fear and exhaustion causing his eyes to burn as fresh tears spilt down his cheeks. The stamping of the soldier’s feet splattered his face with cold mud. 

 

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