Friday, December 23, 2016

Kelliday 2016 1/3 - The Knights

The Kell Inkston 2016 Holiday Gift Part One
-In hopes of a time in which reading could change the world-

23rd - The Knights
Tis on the night before Kingsday,
And all throughout the court,
Is a miraculous silence,
The contemplative sort.

Tis in a warm office,
And further then a chair,
That the Royal Knight Ranalie
Sits quietly to stare.

She had pranced and paraded,
Drank lots and celebrated,
All this on this day before,
But now she looks to the floor.

Now stoic steps approach,
With deep and reverent din,
For on the night before Kingsday,
Another knight wishes in:

“Uh, hey chief,” comes a young voice accompanied alongside a knock.
Ranalie sits up, hides the glass of wine behind her desk and clears her throat. “Come in.”
The door makes way and casts a deep shadow through the hall. It’s Royal Knight Justice, Aen Aeswalt. He steps up with a small plate of Kingsday pastries. “Mam, I was sent to check up on you and give you these,” he says as he places the plate gently onto her desk, chaotic with paperwork even during the country’s most prestigious holiday.
Blackberries, no matter what dimension they’re found in, taste shockingly all alike—and it just so happens to be Ranalie’s favorite fruit.
She averts her shining gaze from the incredible delicacies as she steeples her fingers upon her desk. “Well that’s nice of them. Who sent them?”
“Well, you’ve been holed up in your office ever since lunchtime… they figured you might need someone to go check.”
She smirks. “Yes, but who was it?”
He scratches the back of his neck. “Well… They all thought you could maybe spend some more time out there. People have been sharing stories about Kingsday memories.”
With a subtle raise of her snow-white brow, she looses a long, professional sigh. “Yes, that all sounds… nice, but I’m busy.”
“Busy with what, chief? You shouldn’t working on holidays, you know.”
She smiles grimly. “I’ve been busy dealing with myself, Aen.”
He draws back. “First name basis, chief?”
“It’s Kingsday Eve.”
“Yes ma- ah, Ranalie.” He clears his throat. “So… what’s the problem been?”
She looks out the window a moment. The snow is fluttering down like ash on a battlefield. “How old are you, Aen?”
“About three hundred forty-six.”
“About?”
“Well, the only time I could say exactly three hundred forty-six would be the very moment on my actual birthday, right?”
“I suppose… So in all of your years, what has Kingsday come to mean to you?”
He hums. “Is this… related to your problem, by chance?”
She nods with a pursed smile. “More or less. Also I’m curious.”
Unmoving, he remains at attention, though his face is as animated as always. “Curious, mam?” He asks with perplexed face.
“As goofy as many of the other knights see you to be, Aen, I know better, and I know the way you look at the world is not only unique, but better, really, than the usual person.”
He averts his eyes, accepting the complement but not wanting to show it. “Well, thank you, mam.”
“Now tell me, what does Kingsday mean to you?”
“Could you be more specific?”
“I guess more precisely would be why do we celebrate it, year after year, century after century?”
Aen hums. “Alright. I guess when I was a lad we’d wake up on the eve like we did today and go to the parade, have The Silence, and finish decorating the mantel.”
“You finished the mantel the day of?”
“Yeah, my family was… my parent’s priorities were in different places than Kingsday stuff. They were more interested in making ends meet so I could keep going to school.”
“I see… go on.”
“Sure: We went to bed after all the food and games and such, then we woke up on Kingsday, opened gifts and everyone of school age and above drank their King’s Pint and that was sort of it.”
“And that was the whole thing?”
“Yup.”
Ranalie nods. “I thought as much. I guess it’s just so easy to get out of touch when you get… really old.”
“Ahh, you’re not old! You don’t look a day over twenty.”
She scoffs. “We both know that your flattery hasn’t taken you to good places, Knight Justice.”
He chuckles sheepishly. “Well I was just being polite.”
“Your genteelness is something that should be reserved for the royal courts, but we’re getting off track. I’ve had… I’ve lost count, but I know I’ve celebrated Kingsday thousands of times.”
“Wow.”
“Mhmm, though I suppose you guessed that.”
“Well yeah. You are the… well, oldest of us, after all.”
She nods. “Take up a seat.”
“Oh, thank you.” He steps aside and delivers a hardwood chair gently in front of Order’s desk.
“So what’s been bothering me, I guess,” Ranalie starts, “is that… that’s not what the people have been doing.”
“Hmm?”
“Like, the citizenry as a whole. When was the last time you visited a common home, Aen?”
Suddenly, as if touched by death, the ever-present boy in Aen’s eyes gives way to the three-hundred forty-six year old man. “Decades.”
She nods. “For the same reason as I, I’m sure.”
“It’s hard, you know that better than any of us, I’m sure. You meet a family, the husband and wife admire you so much, thank you again and again for the service you do to the kingdoms, the kids tell you how much they want to be like you when they grow up. And every time you have to play the role, tell the parents it’s no problem, and tell the children that they can do it if they try hard enough.”
As if by spiritual clockwork, they both peer over to the fireplace, crackling away without a care.
“And then?” Ranalie asks.
“Next time you meet them, the parents are old, and the children all moved out. You blink again and it’s a run-down shack.”
“Well… I went to a home recently.”
He looks to her as if surprised. “Out in public?”
She smiles as a red-white winter bird sings on a branch just out the window. “I had a cosmetic mage do a two-hour long appearance change right after lunch.”
“Oh.”
“You sound surprised.”
“Just, I thought you would know just about every magic there is to know.”
“Not a chance. I continue to sharpen magic that helps me with my job, but frivolous things, pleasant magics, I’m not nearly as well versed as the history books say.”
He raises his brows. “Ahh.”
“And now you look disappointed. You didn’t really think I was just like Chaos but good, did you? It’s a daily struggle for me to keep my head together.”
“Yeah, it’s all so effortless for him it seems… Do you think he celebrates Kingsday?”
Order scoffs and decides to pull up her wine glass. “Probably, and I bet it’s more sincere and sacred than anyone else’s.”
Justice hums in disapproval. “I find that hard to believe. Why would he care so much?”
“He was there, you know.”
“I heard.”
“So I’m sure, somewhere in one of his hidden towers, Chaos has that damn sword resting on his mantelpiece, a Kingsday decoration greater than any, I’m sure, and he gathers all his thousands of minions around, taking turns with maybe a dozen or so each time, and tells them all the story of when he stole Rayda’s sword. I imagine the holiday means so much to him because he was there when it all happened.”
Justice nods. “Just like… you?”
Order takes a sip of her glass. “Yup.”
“…So tell me, what was your visit to the commoner’s home like?”
“Well, I disguised myself as a homeless person looking for handouts.”
“W-really?”
“I was in a weird mood.”
“…Alright.”
“So I went door to door asking for food, peeking through windows, and getting just, a feeling for how life is for these people.”
“Which kingdom was this?”
“Ragnivan, in the west part of the capital.”
“Ahh.”
“After a long while of getting the usual excuses and send offs, one house not only gave me food, but took me in, sat me down, and let me celebrate the eve with them.”
“Wow, wonderful.”
She takes another sip. “I asked dumb questions on purpose, and the husband took me to be stupid. He explained to me that people don’t celebrate Kingsday as they used to. He told me that while every home has a mantel set up, very few practice the silence or tell the story by the mantel at all.”
“Wait… really? Why?”
“I asked him, and he told me that people don’t care about Rayda anymore, and it’s too much of a pain to spend an hour being quiet, or thirty minutes recalling the story…” She looks back to the window—the bird is gone. “Can’t really blame ‘em, though, it’s hard for people to care about someone who’s been dead for this long.”
“But he’s not dead.”
Ranalie scoffs. “Right, just sleeping. It’s dead enough… I just… It hurts my faith in people, and the holiday, I guess.”
“… I’ve been by your home a few times in the season, you have your mantle done and everything arranged a full month in advance… I heard you had at least three parties in the month.”
She nods. “I certainly did. I still had so much hope… and I still do, it’s the only thing holding me together, I’m afraid, the knowledge that one day, maybe, we get that sword back and raise him from his slumber—that would be something. Now, though, even the people are losing hope. Aen, normal humans don’t even have enough time in their lives to get angry- even at ninety years old I remember, everything was still so fresh. How could they lose faith so easily?”
Aen smiles. “You yourself said that you didn’t blame people for not looking up to someone who’s practically a myth now.”
“… But that myth was my friend, Aen. I saw him every day. We went to war together, studied spells, sucked at chess, built the glory of Reinen… If only you could have seen it before it all went to shit, maybe you’d feel what I’m feeling now… I’m sorry, it just seems like, year after year it’s all the same mindless celebration for a king that’s as good as dead, and I see that now. The veil’s be lifted… I can see clearly now that the people don’t care about the message, they just love the tradition, the feeling of warmth and familiarity. If they were asked, I’m sure they would say they care about Rayda, but it’s just so irrelevant in their lives now, they could hardly care that he saved the lives of their forefathers. They just don’t appreciate that, if it weren’t for him, none of this, and none of them would exist right now.”
“Well that’s their mistake for not appreciating tradition properly.”
“They have a point, Aen. Maybe the nature of people isn’t to keep up with meaning, but to simply enjoy that which feels meaningful.”
“… But people search for meaning.”
She scoffs. “The meaning they want, not what’s real… I just… It’s been millennia defending people, and it seems like I’m realizing that they don’t want the truth, they just want to feel true… I think Chaos has been right this whole time—we’re better off chained up as his little minions living the lives of simpletons than having anything to do with responsibility and progress… Kingsday used to have a point, but not anymore.”
“Wow.”
“I’m not even kidding… people are such… such garbage that holidays are wasted on us.” She takes a long, deep breath in front of a shocked-looking Aen. “…Well?”
Aen looks about the room awkwardly. “Well what?”
“Go ahead, prove me wrong.”
“Huh?”
She takes another, longer sip from her glass. “Show me how I’m wrong. Cheer me up. It’s something only you can do, it seems.”
Aen looks over to the fire, then her pastries, then back up to her blue, enchanted eyes. “Alright. Well… You know what you’re saying isn’t true. Chaos is insane, has short term memories, and probably smells bad.”
“Have you met him?”
“… No.”
She smirks. “He doesn’t smell bad.”
“Oh?”
“He doesn’t smell like anything, actually.”
“Anyway, he’s wrong… and so are you. Don’t let the feelings of the masses turn you away from meaning, what’s real. Just because the populous votes on something doesn’t mean it’s true. Matter of fact… humans are not inherently good, Chaos is right there.”
Ranalie laughs. “Wow, bleak.”
“No, it’s true, and everyone thinks that way, even you.”
“Do I?”
“Yes. We say we believe that people are good because it’s all part of us trying to make them good. Wishful thinking to change the world, I guess. People can do a lot if you believe in them… you know? It’s okay that us people aren’t all that great. We’ve made a peaceful world for humans to enjoy holidays however they please, and they choose not to care about them, that’s okay.”
“Is it?”
“For sure. Their Kingsday might not be ours because they don’t appreciate it—it means more to us and that’s the way it though be. It’s a holiday after all, which means it’s holy. Our job as knights are to preserve the freedoms of these people, to ensure they can disrespect Rayda as much as they please. The holiday hasn’t changed one bit, just the people celebrating it. Now, with all due respect, I won’t tell you anything that would be a disrespect to your rank… as a knight but as… as a friend who’s known you a really long time, you should get off your butt and celebrate Kingsday with the rest of us.”
Royal Knight Order, Ranalie of Reane, takes a deep breath. “But we’ll just be in our little bubble, celebrating something that only a handful of folks outside still really appreciate.”
“I’d like to think of it as the small circle of people who get it right. I’m sure Rayda would agree with us, and I’m sure he wouldn’t want you celebrating his sacrifice holed up like a kid getting smashed for nothing. Alcohol’s bad and you should feel bad.”
She grins. “Three hundred forty six years… and you still haven’t taken a drink, have you?”
He scoffs. “Of course I have, chief, I just learned fast that it’s not what I needed to feel better. We can dwell on our problems as long as we like, but solving them is a better drink than any.”
Ranalie leans back as she places the glass of wine neatly aside. “…I’ll take care of it later, I guess… I’ll finish up this bit of work for real and then I’ll be with you all.”
Aen grins as the boy blinks back in his eyes. “Alright, I’ll take my leave then, chief.” He turns and steps away, but just at the door, Ranalie draws breath.
“Hey, Aen?”
“Yes, mam?”
“Thanks… for the pastries, that is. You should take credit more often. There is such thing as being too humble, ya’ know.”
He smiles. “You’re very welcome, chief.”
Aen turns about again, closes the door, and leaves her, the fireplace feeling just a little warmer.
She gets up from her chair and looks out the window. Something should be done. With an official air, she turns back to her desk and begins crafting an unofficial command for a certain duo who would love nothing more than to take part in a grand tomfoolery.