Updated: Feb 1, 2022
KNIGHT FIRST CLASS
BY D. M. YELL
Edited by “Kaillup”
In a ship beside an island shore, a young captain knight pined for home and lady fair. His mind spun with ire at his rival, Commander Knight Jossiph, who crossed his cabin floor before him. Apart from their pride in knighthood and desire for that same lady fair, the two had nothing in common: in interest, virtue, or outlook on life.
Before Jossiph blundered into his private cabin, Captain Knight Christoph stood at peace before his mirror inspecting his khaki uniform and hoped for the end of war. The most handsome color on him was brown, according to his fair lady, and all he wanted was to make it back home alive to marry her. Victorea came into his mind even more frequently during that rough, windy, rainy April month. Always dressed in a clean professional manner, the captain knight draped his brown buffalo-fur cloak over his broad-shouldered back, and the habit rippled down his back to his strong thick calves. His cloak had a hood that blended well with his tan complexion and long dark brown hair. He peered at the reflection of his weary eyes, which changed from blue to green and back to blue again, depending on the color he wore and his surroundings.
His cabin was small, sparsely furnished with items such as a little table, a few chairs, a bed, and a treasure chest contained charts, maps, and letters. The room had four windows, one on each wall, making it possible for him to observe the habitats outside the ship in every direction. His father-sword, enchanted Curatorux, hung upon the bulkhead in two hooks. To the other knights, the longsword appeared odd in the hands of a young captain knight and Knight First Class; such a high-ranking officer and knight as him should have carried the most newly tempered blades on the market. Curatorux was too old-fashioned and shiny for most folks’ taste. Newly fashioned swords were forged with a heavier metal and offered the appearance of greater power and strength. Passed down to him by his father, Curatorux was an ancient, firm, and sturdy blade forged with Emperean steel and set into a beautiful handle by the Lords of Mount Empereon.
During his time at war with Krell, Christoph organized his Sheehanian knights well and led them into battle heroically, and, three months after his arrival, he became Captain Knight of the Arviggon. The frosty old captain before him made the grave error of scolding his crew too much when he perceived the sails were not being stowed away properly and fast enough. A sailor fell while trying to move faster up the main mast and broke his neck. Three other sailors were blamed for the death, and the salty old captain had them whipped by his officers. The crew would have attacked Captain Knight Avenel and called for a mutiny had Christoph not been onboard to intervene and convince the crew to stand down by demoting the old sea captain and replacing him himself. The old sea captain was greatly flustered yet held his tongue and departed the ship in humiliation and silence. The young captain knight was the perfect replacement; Christoph had a profound fascination and love for the sea since boyhood. His father had taught him the fundamentals of sailing and filled his mind with great knowledge and wonder of the sea. This training proved golden to him as he found respect from most of his fellow knights and crew.
Christoph stared out the starboard window and saw the shadows of knights mustering round a bonfire on the beach below. Commander Knight Jossiph, son of King Warlyn, prince of Sanabria, Knight First Class, leader of the Warlynians, stood out from the rest of his knights in the camp. The long frosty hair and shiny silver armor made Jossiph the most distinguishable man down on the sand. The commander knight was at least a foot taller than the rest of his men and could be seen roaring out his plans and orders at them. Most of the warrior knights' men were older than Christoph and Jossiph, and all of them gaped enthusiastically up at their leader with unquestioning admiration. The company of knights under Jossiph's command turned toward the Arviggon and began marching toward the ship, and so Christoph’s mind drifted. It went back to the day he had left Sanabria and the beautiful face of his fair lady; her bittersweet visage held a proud yet dejected expression. He could not wait to have Victorea’s blue eyes and long black hair in his presence once again, and this present conflict with Krell could not end quickly enough.
The metal knocker on his cabin door rapped steadily and woke him back to reality, and the captain knight backed away from the window.
“It is I, my lord,” a friendly voice on the other side said.
“Enter, Haarold.” His chief mate and best and most loyal friend came in. “Report.”
“M’lord, Prince Jossiph boards Arviggon with his band of Warlynian knights this hour. They are bullying the ship’s crew on the way to their berthing quarters. They are eager as ever to land on enemy shores this morning.”
“We will reach the strike zone before sunrise. Call the crew to the weatherdeck to man up for departure. Set the sails. When they finish, report back to me immediately.”
“Aye, m’lord.” The chief mate turned round to carry out the orders.
“Oh, and, uh, Haarold?”
Haarold stopped, caught off guard. “Yes, m’lord?” Christoph somberly stepped closer toward his friend. “Have you heard talk about Victorea’s birthday? Have you heard anything about her day of wed at the end of spring, who is the worthier--Jossiph or me--from the officers, knights, and crew?”
"It's hard to say," Haarold said, eyes shifting nervously. "I would say, from what little talk I have heard shipwide so far, the judgment between you both has been fairly equal. Which way most of them lean is indeterminable for me to say." Christoph furrowed his brow, and his chief mate's voice turned shaky. "Both of you have greatly improved your skills in war. Both of you have advanced in rank here. The men respect both of you, and both of you have commanded them better than anyone could have ever imagined. I would have to say their opinion of you both right now is equal, as far as performance goes. You have led this ship and the Sheehanian knights perfectly in the eyes of the crew, and Jossiph has single-handedly killed many enemies in battle. And yet, m'lord, other important matters are being judged besides both of your skills. One such factor is the love you and the princess share for each other. Many are all for a romantic wedding while others are considering the reality of what is best for the future of Sanabria's three realms. As you are aware, Jossiph's sister, Princess Samina, is the other matter. The Sanabrians are concerned about who she will marry and the results it will bear upon the kingdom and its future if she does not marry you. In the best interest of the three regions of the kingdom, everything will be divided properly and equally after the deaths of its current three kings."
“I’ve heard these concerns and whispers, too. Good to hear it from someone else, someone I trust and respect. Everyone is more impressed with Jossiph’s higher count in killings rather than in more important things, like leading men to do the right thing when it is the right time to do it.”
“Prince Jossiph has shown those capabilities as well, if you don’t mind me adding.”
Christoph’s lips curled and tightened as he dropped his gaze down to his leather steel-toed boots, neatly laced up his ankles. He did not look back up at Haarold again during this meeting. “He teaches his men that killing people should be fun.”
Haarold froze a moment before he could speak again. "He has, m'lord."
“Chief mate, get the men to their stations, secure gear for sea, and report back.”
“Aye, cap’an,” said Haarold, who departed in haste.
Christoph returned to the starboard side window and peered out. Opaque faces and heads of the Warlynian knights appeared, and bodies boarded his ship by way of rope-ladder. Moments later, the knocker clacked again, rapping hard and loudly, and Christoph opened the door. “That is no way to knock on the Captain’s door.”
Jossiph, Knight First Class, prince of Warlyn, stood as tall as ever before him outside the doorway, an inch above the door frame. Grinning slyly, he burst in and brushed past him.
“Enter, Jossiph, son of Warlyn.”
“Cut the fake humble commands, son of Sheehan,” Jossiph said.
Christoph’s head spun with ire as he ran his fingers through his long straight hair. His rival’s hair was more bright yellow than white under the glow of an oil-lit lamp that hung from a hook on the overhead. Jossiph’s long wavy hair spilled slothily over his shoulder blades. His eyes were dark in the dim light, and the rings of brown within them looked black and hollow now. Jossiph seated himself upon Christoph’s desk and peered at him provokingly.
“Are your men ready for the assault?” Christoph asked.
“What do you think?” Jossiph asked, mellow yet sarcastic.
Christoph spoke in a low, steady voice that increased only a little in volume. “Look, let’s not get into petty arguments over simple questions for once. So, if you could make things easier between us, I’d be most grateful.”
“Relax. No one is making anything uneasy between us except you, the one who always makes the most elementary remarks. Of course we are ready to go. My soldiers are the best, trained by the best, and I expect no less.”
“What do you think will happen when you finally take off your mask before all your followers, the maidens, and the nobility of our land? They ought to see the hideous deceit concealed behind your act.”
“First, your threats mean nothing to me. Who would believe you? Second, the maidens of our good and sweet land are under the spell of my every beck and call, blinded by my body and looks, powerless against my manhood. Last, are you going to show this alleged reality of yours, when you are a coward and will not accept a challenge from me? Who would dare believe a coward?”
“That is ridiculous.” Jossiph’s childish games caused Christoph to fear a fight would break out between them right then. His temper escalated, and Jossiph smirked sensing his remarks working. “It’s good to know you’re not as conceited as I thought; I was beginning to worry for you. The ladies of our realms are not your toys. Leave. Now.”
"Leave without telling you what I have come here to say?" Jossiph asked.
Christoph wanted to call his guards in from the passageway, but, instead, he gazed out the aft window and asked, "What is it you came to say?"
“A messenger arrived with a letter for both of us from the kings. It’s regarding the princess’s birthday wedding at spring’s end.” Jossiph sounded pleased he had received the information first. Jossiph stuck his long pale fingers into his breastplate and drew out a piece of crinkled, moistened parchment, once crisp and new when sent. He handed the parchment over to him dispassionately, and, after unfolding the letter, Christoph read it in silence:
Dear Princes of Sanabria, Jossiph and Christoph.
We Three Kings are proud of your initiative in the rescue effort. We hope you will
recover our people from Krell soon and return home safely and promptly. With regards to Victorea’s birthday wedding, We Three Kings will hold a private council at
Medena Castle, and the meeting will take place on the night of the next full moon. We
look forward to discussing and finding a reasonable solution in this matter--for the future good of the kingdom. King Medena sees you both worthy to marry his
daughter as does the whole land.
Ever your fathers and Kings of Sanabria, Sheehan, Warlyn, and Medena
Irritably, Christoph glanced up from the parchment and glared at Jossiph. “Thank you. Now leave.”
Jossiph did not crack an inch. “As temperamental as you are, I do not envision Victorea a suitable match for you.”
“While, of course, you imagine her for yourself. My, what a shock! Naturally, you would be so kind as to treat her as one of your more glorified playthings. To think you, a dog, can change overnight for the most beautiful woman on earth. That’s impossible.”
Jossiph did not flinch. Pride helped Jossiph keep his emotions under control. The acting Commander Knight shot up from the desk abruptly and landed face to face with Christoph. “Draw, Captain Neophyte; I dare you.” A "neophyte" was a derogatory word used for those who ranked lower than a knight, like beginning scout rangers, and a grave insult to Knights Third Class and above. "Hie, hie, cowardly son of Sheehan! Draw so that I may bring low your father's teachings in you. Better yet: I will allow you to be my first kill of the day."
Christoph imagined himself retrieving Curatorux deftly off the wall. He could almost feel the sword of his father in his grasp, its power surging in his hand, then through his body, as he thrust the blade through Jossiph’s neck. Yet to do so would only bring him dishonor and counter the knight’s code of honor. He hated the games Jossiph played, and, instead of fighting, he calmly walked out of his cabin through the door. In the passageway, he almost bumped into one of his guards, then he marched toward the hatch, threw it open, and strolled outside into the cold morning air. The crew rushed about the weatherdecks expeditiously, preparing to set sail and put the Arviggon to sea.
Jossiph followed the captain and acted completely solemnly. Christoph confronted him directly this time. "Move on with your childish ways. We will not fight this day."
A few younger sailors were listening in, pretending to be looking over the ship’s rails, down into the dark water.
“I will face you any day, Captain Knight. I will put you to shame for the love of our good, sweet kingdom. I will win the princess’s hand somehow and protect her from marrying you.”
Jossiph hoped this would throw him off, but the captain knight refused to let it thwart him from his present duty.
“M’lord! Captain!” Haarold hollered behind Jossiph from the upper deck. “Captain, the ship is ready to get underway.”
Christoph headed toward his chief mate, rushed past Jossiph, and ascended the stairs to the upper deck. "Hoist the colors!" The color guard hoisted the Sanabrian colors up the mainmast. An aqua-blue flag, with three swords linked together touching tips at the top center, was raised. Haarold reported updates to him, a muster of all men and crew was taken, and the Arviggon set sail toward its target destination.