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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

3.2.11.6. Rise of the Lion - Part Two

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The shout of ‘KNEEL!’ snaps Robert out from his thoughts. He falls on his knees, following Hulferd. Then, Rael’charon begins his report.
‘Your Majesty, here is the fugitive, the most wanted man in the entire land, the accused killer of the Pope, and a traitor to our country: Robert Chandler. Despite his honorable feat in Enia’s Sanctum, he abused his status as Vadis’ champion and committed the crime of all crimes.’
Ah, the truth didn’t convince old Rael after all, Robert thinks.
‘However,’ the elf continues. ‘During questioning, I didn’t find a single trace of evil in him. He is composedly emotional as he is still young, but in an extent not even close to killing me and my sister. No trait, speck of glint worthy of an heir of the Lord of Lies there.
His only mistakes are: He let himself being careless and distracted, leaving his sword in the crime scene. So someone used that to frame him, and he got himself involved with the wrong sort of people, namely Sheena Mekh’ta and her gang.
With his boldly spoken answers added, all in all, I hereby conclude that Robert is not the murderer of Pope Xylen Felicitia of Valanis, and I shall do the best I can to investigate this matter further and produce more proofs of his innocence, thus revealing the real killer.’
Hearing this, Robert suddenly feels that a burden like lifting Terra Eternia on his back was abruptly relieved, but he doesn’t show it on his face. Hulferd and Ney look absolutely relieved.
John Walthorn, however, protests, ‘But what of piracy? Hijacking the ship Le Partizane is also a crime!’
Now it’s the King’s turn to speak, ‘That’s true, Lord Walthorn. Whether Robert did it or not, he is still involved because he used Sheena to free his own countryman, and Sheena used him to remove the threat from Skyship Aurora. Besides, we are still at war against Arcadia, so I see this as a strategy to weaken the Arcadians’ morale for the advantage of Lore, our advantage. For that reason and that reason only, I hereby pardon Robert’s act of piracy. Let it be my decree. Is that understood, Lord Walthorn??’
John answers with a trembling voice out of fear, anger or both, ‘I understand, Your Majesty. But how about my brother, Larson? Robert must’ve killed him in cold blood! Let justice be done upon him!’
Sir John Hickram rises from his seat and speaks, ‘May I say my share, Your Majesty?’
The King nods, saying, 'Yes, you may, Sir Hickram.'
'Lord Walthorn, I do understand your loss, as I almost lost my life to this serial killer, too. But please, with all due respect, investigate the facts first before you pass judgment! Don't accuse Robert solely because of your personal dislike!'
'How dare you, Sir Hickram...! I won't tolerate this insolence!' John bangs on the table in front of him.
'I'm not finished yet, Your Excellency. When I heard about the murder of Squire Kelba and Lord Larson, I rode at once from Rand to Varestine to investigate this matter, because it happened in my former Lord's territory.
Suddenly, on the way, we were attacked! We couldn't see that single attacker, but apparently one of my guards felt it or saw it somehow, then the attacker was going to stab my back, that brave guard shielded me and got stabbed in the chest instead. Hearing his deathly scream, all other guards immediately covered me. The attack didn't come again, and when we were sure that it was safe, we brought the guard's body to Varestine with all haste.
There, we examined the guard's body and compared it with Lord Larson's and Squire Kelba's. All of them had the same cause of death: stabbed or slitted with dagger. The wounds were so clean and expertly done, and almost no blood came out of them. I doubt even Robert Chandler can do it like that. It takes a very skilled assassin, a magically superb dagger, or both.'
John Walthorn protests, 'Rubbish! With his skill, Robert can do it as well as any assassin, with any dagger!'
'With all due respect, Your Excellency, I think you don't know the extents and limits of Robert's strength. Your father trained him to be a swordsman. He can aim straight on target but his speed is pretty much normal. If you want more proof, I brought into this place the preserved and embalmed remains of Squire Kelba and my guard for further investigation. They are now being examined by royal physicians through autopsy.'
'Well done, Sir Hickram. While we wait for the royal physicians' results,' saya the King. 'Guards! Bring the pirates in here!'
The great door opens again, and this time four people come in, hands bound, with four soldiers escorting them. Three of them seem struggling.
'Traitor! Vow-breaker! White-haired bastard! How dare you ensnare us with lowly, cowardly traps! Lemme at him! Lemme at him! I'll whack his face up and down so hard he won't recognize it anymore!'
Baxter keeps on swearing like that until he sees Sheena's eyes beaming at him. Baxter looks around him, realizes where he is now and falls on his knees. Sheena, Ellephar and Zigurd follow suit.
The King says, 'Release that man,' indicating Zigurd. 'He is Sir Zigurd, and I have reasons to believe that Robert and these pirates have released him from the gallows.'
As the guards release Sir Zigurd, Rael'charon adds, 'Sheena Mekh'ta, Baxter and Ellephar, you are hereby accused of piracy and murder, punishable of death by hanging. However, as you've committed it in the territory of Arcadia, to which Lore is in war against, and on the account that you have rescued to Loreans, Robert Chandler and Sir Zigurd alias Zachary, the Kingdom of Lore offers you: You are to be our Privateer or serve thirty years of your time in our dungeon.'
'This is unfair!' Sheena shouts. 'I, Sheena Mekh’ta, the honorable corsair from Meshallah shall never bow to any lord or nation!’
‘You call this unfair,’ Rael’charon answers. ‘Yet you were unwise to go deep in a kingdom that prohibits piracy and exposed yourself in front of our agents. You should’ve let Robert and Sir Zigurd go free the moment they set foot in Lore.’
‘I knew Robert would leave me and I didn’t want to lose a trustworthy and powerful lieutenant like him, so I thought I’d better come and see things to the end. If things went awry, Robert could come back to us outlaws anytime and we both are going to rule the seas,’ says Sheena matter-of-factly. ‘But the fact is, things went smoothly for Robert and roughly for us. So, we’d rather die than living in shame or solitude.’
‘Well said, Sheena. Well said indeed,’ says Rael’charon. ‘But please, don’t misunderstand our offer and hear the details first before you decide. We don’t ask you to swear allegiance to us or to share any portion of your loots with us. We only implore you not to target Lorean ships and prioritize on Arcadians. If you are caught, just deny your link with us right away and say that you acted on your own accord only. That’s it. No strings attached. So, what say you?’
‘Seems like an interesting offer. We accept,’ says Sheena firmly.
The King says, ‘Very well then. Guards! Release Sheena, Baxter and Ellephar. Rael’charon, I entrust this matter to you. Just have the Letter of Marque ready and I shall sign it. Now I think it’s no need to wait for the royal physicians. Guards! Remove Robert Chandler’s binds.’
As the guards done so, King George stands up from his throne, takes out his sword and holds it aloft, saying,
‘Rise, Robert Chandler! Come hither!’
Robert gets up, his face looks a bit worried. He approaches the King slowly and carefully.
‘Kneel!’
He kneels before the King as told.
‘Hear ye, nobles, officers, soldiers, and people of Lore! You are witnesseth of this proceeding! Robert Chandler,’ The King touches Robert’s left shoulder with the flat part of the sword blade, ‘With the power bestowed upon me by Vadis, The Right Way,’ and touches his right shoulder, ‘I dub thee. From now on you will be known as Sir Robert Chandler, Knight of Lore under my service, your King, your master, and your Lord. I will reward loyalty with love, betrayal with vengeance, and may you and your descendants live long and prosper as you made our country prosper. May Vadis help us all!’
Robert’s knighting is readily cheered by all people inside that hall.
‘HUZZAH! HUZZAH! HUZZAH for Sir Robert, the Newborn Lion!’
The Newborn Lion is the appropriate name for a new knight, because he is automatically admitted into the Order of the Lions. King George then retires for the day, and Robert is surrounded by officials, ministers and knights, all congratulate him.
‘Ah, the King believes in you after all!’ says Sir Vincent, patting Robert’s shoulder. Even a soft pat from him is forceful enough for Robert.
Sir Alaric adds, ‘You are really a hero out there, kid!’
‘Welcome to our fellowship! The Order of Lions is complete once more!’ That’s the official welcome from Head of the Order, Sir Mallard.
Lady Irene, ever since the days of Adamar Walthorn always regards Robert like her own son, and now she’s giving him words of advice, ‘You are not a vagabond monster hunter anymore, Robert. You are now a soldier, and a soldier must obey and lead at the same time with total integrity and discipline. Be loyal to your lord and his wings will protect you. Be just to your subordinates, and they will fight and die for you gladly.’
‘Thank you, Lady Irene,’ says Robert. ‘I shall bear that in mind all along the way.’
Duke John Walthorn, a few officers and nobles and Sir Keenan, the newly recruited member of the Order leave the room without congratulating Robert, most of them scowl and grunt. Well, that’s politics, Robert thinks as he sees them. Whenever there’s position, there’s always opposition.
Robert goes out from the hall with Sheena, Baxter, Ellephar, Zigurd and Hulferd. Thanking each other, it’s time for Sheena to take her leave.
‘Looks like I lost a good first mate after all,’ she says.
‘But gains privilege and good name in return,’ Robert replies. ‘You have one less enemy to avoid, and your work will be easier without people chasing me around.’
Sir Zigurd adds, ‘And for saving me back there, I’m eternally grateful.’
‘And for taking us safely to Lore,’ Robert wraps them all up. ‘I would be happy to call you “my friend” from now on.’
‘Just one more favor for me then, Robert,’ says Sheena. ‘You keep the Letter of Marque safe for me and see to it that everyone honors that agreement. Your King is just and wise, Robert. You are lucky to serve under him.’
‘I’m also glad he’s willing to see further into the truth. I never expected him to put that much trust in me, but he did. So from now I’ll live up to his expectations. Well, I’m bound now. I will surely miss our adventures together.’
‘Me too, Robert,’ says Sheena. ‘So, good bye from now. May Khalik Al-Kalam watch over you. Until we meet again.’
‘’Till we meet again, Sheena Mekh’ta.’
At last, the Pirate Lady turns her back from Robert with heavy heart. As she walks away with Baxter and Ellephar who merely smirk and wave to Robert, the Orcbane can’t help thinking,
There they go, and here I am again. Facing my past, embracing my future. Though the Loreans believe me, I still need to face that trial. Furthermore, how am I going to deal with Eloise? Our love is mutual, but our statuses make it impossible. Will it be any different? Will there be hope at all? Only time will tell. Only time.

End of Chapter Eleven

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