This part was very hard to get right, but I think it turned out well! I’m so excited we’ve gotten this far!
Part Eighteenth: The Sword of Ereth
Why was the King alone, yet surrounded by empty chairs? One of them had probably been for the Princess, and the other might belong to a prince, or another princess; and the other impressively adorned one that matched the King’s must belong to the Queen. But where was she? Probably still in bed, Sir Richard realized. It wasn’t even six. Though all this hurry would most likely be in vain: if the dragon was going to kill her, he could hardly be expected to wait four and twenty hours, could he?
“You are the Knight of the Eagle, who came to the Gate yesterday?” King Cedric asked. The knight could not accuse him if he sounded tired and uninterested.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“What do you desire?”
“I heard that you are having trouble with a dragon, Your Majesty.”
“Yes,” the King did not sound surprised that he knew this, but news of that sort would be all over the City. “Yes, what of it?”
“The girl at the inn told me he carried off your daughter. Is it not so?”
King Cedric groaned. “And you want to rescue her?”
Perceptive king! So much for approaching the point slowly. “Yes, Your Majesty, I do.”
“No.” The King looked ready to stand and start pacing up and down the dais in agitation. “Please. Do not get my hopes up.” He sighed deeply. “I thank you, Good Sir, for your chivalrous effort, but no. I cannot let you. You cannot kill it, it is too powerful. No weapon you have ever touched could even pierce its scales. Do not raise the hopes of my people—there is no hope.”
“There is hope, Your Majesty.” Sir Richard slipped his hand beneath his cloak and drew out the hidden sword. “There is this.”
Two guards stood at the foot of the dais, and one on either side of the door, and all four sprang forward in alarm. The King leapt to his feet in his surprise, but called them off. “Wait! Be ready, but let him explain—and, at all costs, do not touch the sword.” The guards stopped obediently but remained tense, and none of them made any move to sheath his sword or to return to his original position half the room away from the Knight. “You were told to lay your weapons at the door,” the King said suspiciously, laying a hand on his own sword that hung at his belt. “Explain. Quickly.”
“I apologize, Your Majesty, but you obviously know something about my sword, if you warn your men—wisely—not to touch it. Would you have let it out of your sight if you had inherited it?”
King Cedric shook his head. “I would not have.” He sad down wearily on the great throne. “You are offering to kill the dragon with this sword?”
Sir Richard nodded. “Yes, Your Majesty. This is one of the Six, that were made in Ereth. It was given to my great ancestor, Furlan of the Silver Fire, by the Maker of the Six; and so it has come to me. It was forged hundreds of years ago when there were more dragons in the world than there were mosquitoes; and on its blade is written the doom of all who dishonor noble and royal blood.”
“I know much of such swords,” the King said gravely. “I do not doubt you; and I honor you, as an Heir of one of the Erethian blades. But because you can pierce the monster’s scales with such a weapon does not mean it shall win the battle for you. Have you ever fought a dragon before?”
“No, Your Majesty, I am afraid I have not, but I have fought many battles, against many things.”
King Cedric looked at the Knight standing before him and sighed. “My daughter surrendered to the beast of her own free will, because he promised he would not destroy our City if she did. He will think—and think rightly—that we broke our side of the bargain if we send a warrior to fight him. If you fail, we will all die. What can you say to that?”
“I have nothing to say to it, Your Majesty. I cannot promise I will succeed—I cannot promise anything. I know lives are at stake, but I am willing to sacrifice my own. The choice is yours.”