The night passed silently. The whole Castle of Cainhorn was illuminated a lot more than usual with towers having big torches burning atop. Unlike normal times, the ramparts and walls of the Castle was filled with soldiers who were diligently patrolling or guarding the Castle.
Sir Hendrickson, the Arch-Bishop and the Grandmaster of Wardens were all given separate rooms, while a massive room was arranged for the Persian women and their retinue of servants. Julian, who had returned from the war, had accumulated some fatal wounds and had also lost his left eye, so he was sent to medical ward, where the doctor of the Castle, Sir Doncan MacGilvorra, to be treated and medicated properly, just like the many other veterans.
It was 11pm and almost everyone had already fallen to sleep, except Felix. Felix and Aslak had been living in the same room for all their lives and that was to happen until they were 10yrs old. In Felix's mind, flashbacks of his father's kind faces and memories fluttered, making it's extremely difficult to sleep.
In these times, deaths aren't uncommon and Felix is well aware of it. He has seen it before that whenever his father went to battles before, the number of people that would return would always be less than the number who went. There would always be lesser number of faces. It didn't bother him then, but it does now. Whenever he thinks of all of these as lies, the face of his father would wash up and pain would erupt in his heart. Finally, unable to endure the pain and the silence of the room, he stood up.
"Where are you going?" Asked Aslak, who just like him was awake. It was just the darkness that made it seem that he was sleeping.
"... I don't know.... maybe training..."
"Well, then I'm tagging along." He said and flung himself up from his bed. Felix pursued his lips and said, "...You don't need to-"
Aslak punched him quite hard on his chest and said, quite sternly, "What kind of a brother will I be, if I'm unable to support you when you're down. C'mon, if you ain't sleeping, I'm not sleeping too. Let's go. We need to finish the regiment that Demon Loann has given us or else we will get spanked."
Aslak's statement brightened Felix's mood and he smiled brightly at him.
"Hahaha. You've got quite close to him, haven't you." Felix's joked, flinging his arms around Aslak's shoulders. Aslak rolled his eyes and replied, "Like I would. He's my arch-nemesis."
"Ho ho! Slow as poke!" joked Aslak.
The Great Courtyard, like other places of the Castle was completely illuminated by torches and there was even a large metal bucket in which a large fire was lit, making the place great for practice.
Felix and Aslak were wearing the same suit of armor they were wearing this morning, with the only difference was the weapons. Felix was holding a Greatsword, 1.5times his current height, while Aslak was wielding a dual sword-dagger. Due to the less weight of the sword and dagger combination and with him being an archer, who generally has greater flexibility and agility than a knight, Aslak was able to dodge faster and parry quicker than Felix. The only thing which was Felix better than Aslak was punching his opponent with his steel gauntlets, but he can't do that now, not at Aslak and Aslak was taking advantage of it quite easily by taunting him. Well, maybe the taunting would change this.
Felix did a diagonal slash-attack, which was quite easily by Aslak, but right then, Felix did a 180-degrees turn and bam!
A kick right to torso of the Aslak's armor and swoosh he went.
"Holy moly!!" cried Felix quite surprised at the strength of his own kick and how weight-less Aslak was. "You alright, dud?!" he asked but all he got in return was a warcry!
The fight that ensued was quite brutal with swords clashing and clanging, but then Aslak disarmed Felix, followed by him being disarmed by Felix with his fist. Finally, in a fist fight, Aslak was beaten black and blue by Felix and forced to surrender. At the end of the fight, Aslak had a bloody nose and a bruised cheek, while Felix didn't have a single bruise other than a searing pain in his wrist where Aslak struck his blade to disarm him. Unable to bear the pain of his face, Aslak went to wash it and perhaps apply some cream if he comes across Sir Doncan, who always seems to go on midnight snack-hunting.
With Aslak gone, Felix again became lonely, but not quite so as before. He rubbed his gauntlet-covered arm and did a few moves to see whether it was serious or not, and fortunately it wasn't. The darkness around the courtyard seemed as if it was trying to surround Felix and for the first time, it made him a little frightful. The darkness, which was equivalent to death, made him remember his deceased father and he didn't want to remember. So, he went to the bench beside the big fire and sat down. His armet seemed heavy to him and so he opened it, threw it on the ground and sat there silently. He waited for Aslak to come back or for sleep to arrive, but neither came.
Silence ensued as he waited.
The rhythmic burning and twitching of the flame, like a soothing sound calmed his mind and the much-desired sleep started clasping him, but then suddenly he heard a faint footstep and the moment he did, the alarms in his brain started to buzz. He had an adrenaline rush, which drove the sleepiness away. He clasped his Greatsword tightly and pointed it at the darkness, from where the footsteps seems to be coming.
"Who's there?!!" he cried at the shadows.
"Don't fear, child." Was the reply, but Felix's grip on his Greatsword tightened. The footsteps coming from the shadows became louder and louder but then suddenly dimmed down and from within the shadow, a huge armored person came out.
The person wore a heavy suit of Knight armor with a circular steel armet with a cross carved on one of its cheek. This person was none other than the Grandmaster of the Order of Wardens, Sir Celyn.
Felix frowned and asked, "Sir Celyn?"
"Good lad, at least you know who I am." Said the armored man, Sir Celyn. He walked into the light and showed himself completely. Felix, in respect, put his blade down and put his hand on his heart and bowed slightly, the Knightly gesture shown to someone superior in rank or status.
"What might bring you here, Sir Celyn?" asked Felix, still a bit doubtful about his intention because for some reason, he was always getting the feeling that the Dean family has walked into muddy waters and that coming out of it wasn't going to be easy.
Sir Celyn returned the gesture, out of pure respect and said, "I know how you're feeling child and I respect it. sigh.... Your father was a chivalrous man and the bravest person I've ever met on the battlefield, but there are things that you must know about his death. I suspect..." his voice trailed off to a deep silence.
Felix frowned and asked, "What do you mean, Sir?"
He was doubtful of Sir Celyn and this further made him cautious. Sir Celyn sighed and replied, "It's better that you hear it from someone who has been with him in that campaign. Madam Yasmina."
Another shadow appeared behind Sir Celyn, who also stepped forward into the light, revealing herself and Felix was considerably shocked. The new person was none other than the white-clothed Persian woman with a bit of a bulging stomach. One of the Princess of the Heathen Lands, Princess Yasmina of Yasmin. She, just like the first time, was wearing a new white gown-like cloth and still had a white face-veil over her face to hide it.
"You..." cried Felix and immediately went into alert. He pointed his sword back at them, or rather her and went into full caution-mode. Sir Celyn who was shocked by the massive change of expression, tried to calm the situation by acting the middleman.
"Please! kiddo, put your weapon down. She is not your enemy. She's your father's wife now, so-"
"Let it be, sire."
Princess Yasmina interrupted Sir Celyn and walked infront, more into the light to let Felix have a clearer view of her. But instead, Felix became more cautious. He certainly didn't look upto the Heathens and had heard quite a lot of tales of their female Hassassins or Nizari Islamis, who can kill their opponents before even they know how they died. He has heard it from his father and he is never going to doubt him. But what happened next made him quite surprised.
Princess Yasmina, of whom he was so cautious about, took her face veil and showed her face, seriously shocking Felix. He was shocked because he has heard from his father that only the females of the Heathens' Lands only show their faces either to their husbands or to the closest or trusted person. And this has proved that she wasn't hostile against Felix or at least she considers him to be trusted.
The next thing which shocked him was her face. Unlike what he has heard from his father, that people from the Heathens' Lands are all dark-skinned and heavy beards, this Lady infront of him was in no way dark, even milk would be dark when compared to her. With a porcelain-like skin, big hazel eyes and long flowing black hair, she was a beauty through and through and that was even, when leaving her almost perfect nose and mouth.
"Can you believe me now?" she said in a small voice, which was filled with conviction.
"Uh... wait! What? I don't!" said Felix but he was clearly more shocked than he previously was.
"Haha!" she giggled silently and replied, "Everyone is as shocked as you when they first see my face. Your father was the same. Anyway, let me introduce myself to you. I'm Yasmina Mustafa from the principality of Yasmin. I was given to your father as a gift of apology for both his bravery, kindness and a mean of surrender, so you can deduce that this marriage was against my wish, unlike sister Aarti's."
"Who again?" asked Felix.
"The women in black, the other woman with a bulging stomach. She's your father's first mistress and unlike mine, she voluntarily married your father. And she's quite a nice girl."
"Um... I'm sorry, but I don't quite seem where this is going. I mean... uh..."
Felix stuttered as he tried to dodge the subject of his father's marriage, after all the facts about marriage and reproduction was very new to him and he was exceptionally embarrassed about it. And to talk about his father ...
Princess Yasmina shrugged her shoulders and smiled, "Doesn't matter, it's not the matter anyway. What I'm about to talk about is your father's death and the circumstances surrounding it. But before that, I've something to ask you. Do you trust Hendrickson?"
Felix frowned and answered, "I used to ... but not anymore. I've starting doubting ... peoples and yes, Hendrickson is the first one."
"Well, that certainly means, you're growing. You see, when you start to doubt, you start to reason and only a sane and growing person can reason, unlike your father, that is..." muttered Sir Celyn from the side.
"Ah! Don't listen to the old man." Interjected Princess Yasmina. "Your father wasn't wrong to trust Hendrickson. He has told me tales of his naval conquests and maneuvers and somethings which he said certainly shocked me a lot. And if all of those tales are true, then I've got to say that he is far more intelligent AND cunning than us, people of Persia."
"Cunning, eh! How so?" asked Felix, putting his blade down and lowering his guard for now.
"Cunning, like sending weaker nobles and knights to do the dirty job and to take the frontal assaults. Sending the nobles and Knights to such missions, where there is a hundred-percent guarantee of their deaths, which would mean that his forces would be fragmented and far easier to utilize for his needs and gains. Your father also went to many such battles and missions, but Lady luck always seems to favor him. Along with his faithful band of brothers, he seems to accomplish any and all missions. The man named Julian, who lost his left-eye is one of the most faithful persons I've ever met and he is one of the reasons, why your father was alive until now. And I see that you've a friend like that, don't you? I hope you will cherish him."
"Aslak ... yea, he's my brother and my best friend. I've ought to support him and vice-versa."