The Everknight: A New Dawn | Teen Ink

The Everknight: A New Dawn

May 3, 2021
By SummerMorosi, San Rafael, California
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SummerMorosi, San Rafael, California
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Wesley tried to look nonchalant leaning against a stone wall, half in and half out of an alcove and holding a suit of armour. He thought it had belonged to one of his ancestors, but he didn't remember. He wasn't looking at the armour though; he was trying to listen to the ancient sage talking by the fireplace without actually looking like he cared. Younger kids were enthralled, sitting as close to the old man as they could, hanging on his every word like Highwinter sweets.

"-and the Everknight raised his massive sword high in the air, letting the sunlight bounce off of it into the dragon's eyes, and cried, 'Begone, foul wyrm!' The dragon roared, spitting flame at the lone knight on the hill." There was a gasp from the small listeners, though they had all heard it before. It was the legend of the Everknight's first adventure, where he slew the Elder Dragon who had terrorized the people of Fallon for decades. Oryeon finished his narration with a dramatic "-and pierced the dragon through the heart!" he gently poked a child in the chest, who squealed and pretended to die theatrically. "Now run along to your mothers; it's bedtime for little knights and fair maidens." They dispersed and Wesley redoubled his efforts to look disinterested. His little brother, Merric, who was young enough to listen to fantasy stories without embarrassment, and a young servant girl walked past him together.

"What if I want to be a fair maiden, not a knight?" Merric asked solemnly.

"Then I will be the knight," the little girl said, striking a pose and wielding an imaginary sword. "We can go on grand adventures."

"Tomorrow," Merric said with a yawn. "I want to go to sleep now." They trotted off.

"You used to want to go on grand adventures too," Oryeon said, making Wesley jump. The old man was surprisingly agile and silent. "I could see you listening."

"That obvious, huh?" He asked, feeling his cheeks heat up. He was much too old for bedtime tales.

"It is nothing to be embarrassed about. Even I enjoy the legends still." His eyes went far away and slightly unfocused, "She's about your age I think," he said ponderously.


"Nevermind," Oryeon said, shaking his head slightly. "I haven't been feeling myself lately." Now that Wesley was paying attention, the wizard did look a little unsteady on his feet.

"Do you want me to walk you to your rooms?" He asked.

"I'll be alright," he said, putting a hand on Wesley's shoulders. "Everything will be fine." He wandered off muttering something about having 'lost his honor' and 'that girl. That was a story Wesley really didn't want to hear. He put it out of his mind and went to bed even though it was still early for someone of his age. 

Some hours later, Wesley was dreaming of wolves when he was rudely shaken awake. He blinked with bleary eyes at the servant with a candle by his bedside. "What?" He mumbled. 

"Sorry to wake you, Highness, but Sage Oryeon is ill. He's asking for you," he said. Wesley pulled back the covers and grabbed his robe. 

"Is the doctor with him?" He asked, trying to pull on his slippers and follow the servant at the same time. 

"Yes, but it's not good news, I'm afraid." They hurried up long flights of stone steps to the old mage's tower on the eastern wall of the castle. In the bed chambers, people were gathered with flickering candles around Oryeon's large bed. He looked very small and pale in it as if he were made of the same wax as the tapers. The whole room smelled of conflicting incense and sickness; the stuffy, chemical smell that hung around sickbeds. The doctor was there and so was the Dark Herald, head priest to the god of death. That was not a good sign. 

"Can you give me a moment alone with Wesley?" Oryeon said, voice hoarse. The doctor nodded and the attending people shuffled out.

"What's wrong?" Wesley asked, coming to stand next to the bed. The sage's hand shot out and grabbed Wesley's shirt front, pulling him down with unpredictable strength.

"The sun must rise," he croaked.

"I don't know what you mean," he said, trying to get the old man to lay down, "Save your breath." 

The sage's gnarled fingers tightened in Wesley's shirtfront. "Eversun Castle," he said, "Go to Eversun Castle Hallow Moor and find the Everknight. Do you hear me?"

"The Everknight is just a story," Wesley said, trying to soothe the older man. He must be delusional in his fevered state.

"No. Promise me, Wesley. Promise me you'll go, no matter what," Oryeon said, growing increasingly frantic.

"Okay, I promise," Wesley said. 

"On your honor as a prince," Oryeon pressed. Wesley hesitated. That was a more serious vow. Oryeon coughed and took a huge, shuddering breath. His lungs made a wholly unpleasant sound.

"Alright, fine. On my honor as a prince. Go to sleep, now," Wesley consoled.

"The sun must rise," he said, eyes fixing on the ceiling. The hand-knotted in Wesley's shirt went limp. Wesley screamed for the doctor but the noise that should have been loud barely registered over the roaring in his ears

The sun did rise, bright and cheerful as fit the spring day but not the castle's mood. He watched it rise from where he sat outside on the balcony strewn with instruments for charting and studying the stars; instruments he doubted anyone knew how to use anymore. Eversun Castle on the Hallow Moor. The destination kept haunting him, his promise breathing down his neck. The sun must rise. The sun had risen, hours ago, taunting him that his best friend was gone. As if in a reminder of how long he'd hidden there, his stomach grumbled. He hadn't wanted breakfast. He dreaded going downstairs. Everyone would fuss over him, suffocate him. Maybe a journey would do him good. Give him a chance to be alone for a while.

Three days later, Wesley came into sight of the lone castle on the moor. At least that was real. He shuddered and glanced back. The small, seedy town of Glimmergulch had passed out of view some time ago, but he could still feel the stares and whispers of the townspeople stepping on his heels. 

"The castle on the moor? That be haunted, laddie," the blacksmith had said, "Anyone who tries to get in is driven away by spirits." 

Wesley had reluctantly handed over the reins of his lame horse and resolved to proceed on foot. There was not much of what could be called a road leading out onto the moor. It was honestly little more than a track. Other than the castle, it was uninhabited by humankind. The winds picked up at night and wild beasts made crossing it with merchant caravans impossible. Nothing could be grown there and though it was said to have been once the nesting ground of great dragons, no gentle animals were to be found. Glimmergulch was all that was left of the old trading posts where dragons would change into human form and trade with the human population.

A hundred yards from the gate the path widened into a properly packed earth road. The portcullis was raised but rusted and Wesley wasn't sure whether the gate was meant to be welcoming or foreboding. He walked carefully underneath into the space between the castle's three wings and outer wall. 

"Hello?" He called into the empty courtyard, peering around. Perhaps someone was crouching behind the well in the middle of the yard? He crept forward until he could check behind it. Nothing but an empty bucket. 

"Hello yourself," a disgruntled voice said behind him. He turned around to see a girl about his age wearing plain clothes, honey blonde hair pulled up in a ponytail.

"Who are you?" He asked.

"Who am I? Who are you?" She retorted.

"I asked first."

"This is my house, so I have precedence."

"I'm Prince Wesley Messervy," he said. When she didn't react, he continued. "I'm here to see the Everknight. Sage Oryeon sent me." She huffed and walked past him to the well.

"If Oryeon wants to talk to me, he can come to do it himself. He certainly knows where to find me." She threw the bucket into the well, letting the rope uncoil until there was a distant splash.

"He's dead," he said softly. She froze.

"What?" There was a quiet venom in her voice that prompted him to talk fast.

"He died several days ago. He was very old, it was his time."

"No," she said, turning around. "He shouldn't have grown old. He shouldn't have died."

"Everyone dies someday," he said, bridling a bit. He felt like he was being called a liar. Why would he lie about the death of a friend?

"Not Cardinal Sages," she contradicted, then she muttered to herself, "But the sun rose this morning, the barrier is still there. He must've passed his power to someone." She grabbed him by the shoulders, making him look at her. "Who was with him when he died?"

"I was," he said, bewildered. She had a strong grip.

"That's why you could get through the barrier." She nodded as she understood but Wesley felt like he was getting more left behind.

"What barrier?" He asked, pulling away frustrated.

"Eversun Castle is surrounded by a barrier of magical energy meant to keep me in and keep everyone else out. I haven't talked to anyone in a century."

"I don't understand. I'm here to talk to the Everknight because Oryeon told me to. I don't know about any barriers."

"Boy, you're talking to the Everknight. Who did you think I was, a rabbit?"

"You're not the Everknight," he said.

"And you're the expert?"

"For one, the Everknight is a guy, and two, he's been around for ages so he's really old, like Sage Oryeon, and three, you're not a knight."

"Well, all those reasons don't change the fact that I'm me, so..." She shrugged

"Prove it, then," he challenged. 

"Sure," she shrugged, "Follow me." She led him out of the frontal courtyard through some empty rooms and out to a classic training yard behind the kitchen gardens. At Adellion Castle it would have been full of squires training and knights practicing. This one was desolate but well maintained, which was more than could be said for the interior of the castle. Leaning against a straw practice dummy was a long silver sword with an emerald pommel. It looked exactly how Oryeon had described it in his stories.

"The Eversword," he breathed.

"Told you." She grabbed it and tossed it up in the air to catch it by the hilt.

"You're a girl." He felt like his world was shifting under his feet.

"I noticed." 

"Maybe you stole it," he said, still trying to prove his point.

"My name is Honor of Fallon. I am the Everknight and have been since I was seventeen years old when the Eversword chose me to defeat the Elder Dragon. I tamed the Twilight Mare, drove the dragons to the western lands, and was there at the consecration of the Compass Rose Temple. I am the immortal guardian of Adellion."

"So you're the Everknight, for real." 

"Yes, last time I checked, I was real" she said, slipping the Eversword into her belt.

"You're not just a legend, then." 

"I am a legend," she said, "Why must that mean I'm not real?" she set her head on one side. "Come to think of it, this world needs some new legends. It seems even mine have been corrupted," she snorted, "Me, a man."

They sat at the fireplace late into the night, with Honor grilling Wesley for an update on the modern world. He told her about the new alliance with Candance, a country to the north, and how the trade agreement with the Reppenear Islands had suddenly fallen apart when the country closed its borders. His favourite moment was when he mentioned his great grandfather in passing and she had said, aghast, "Llyod had kids?" He even confessed to loving her legends. When Wesley felt that the next yawn might unhinge his jaw, he decided sleep was in order. Honor, he still had a little bit of trouble thinking of her as such, showed him to a dusty bedroom for the night. He was quite certain there were rats under the floorboards, but he was too tired to care.

After fitful dreams and shadowy nightmares, some instinct woke him up. A pulling feeling of some kind. Restless, he rolled over. He could see a faint, jagged line of lightning grey out his eastern-facing window. A silhouette was standing several yards from the castle's outer wall. At first, Wesley wondered who it could be, until he realized that the only other person possible was Honor. He grabbed his cloak, pausing to dust it off slightly, and threw it on. Whatever Honor was doing had to be more fun than his nightmares. 

It was chilly outside, the way grey mornings usually are and the dew clung to Wesley's shoes as he crossed the grass to where Honor watched the mountains. She was wearing armour, which was why Wesley hadn't recognized her instantly. He couldn't make out many details in the pre-dawn gloom but he could tell the armour was old, the same style of the suit he'd unsuccessfully hidden behind on the night Oryeon told his last story, but well-maintained nevertheless. The Eversword was stuck point first into the ground between her feet, her gauntleted hands resting on the emerald.

"It's a new dawn," she said, eyes still watching the mountains where a sliver of sun was now visible. "And a new day."

"Yeah," he agreed, watching the sky ombre from dark blue to pink and orange.

"I got the call this morning," she said, still slightly hushed as if afraid to wake the world too soon.

"The call to what?" Wesley asked, just as quiet.

"Adventure," she said, "You felt it too, I think, something woke you, didn't it? It's not a noise, exactly, it's like a-"

"Horn call?" He asked, "Not the call itself but the feeling of something starting that goes with it. The beginning of the hunt."

"Exactly," Honor said, "The Eversword ties me to the land. I can feel the mountains moving and the rivers running. It's been so..." She made a face as if searching for the right word. "Placid, these last few centuries."

"You say that like it's a bad thing," Wesley said, "Peace is good, right?"

"Yes, peace is good. But this isn’t peace, it’s stagnation. Nothing bad happened but neither did anything good. Nothing monumental. Nothing worthy of stories. You thought I was a story. I let down my guard. I was bitter and mad at the world and I failed in my guardianship. When you leave something to sit it goes rancid, it starts to fester. I can feel it, Wesley. Something very rotten is eating away at our shores. The land is sick and I didn't notice." She made a grunt of frustration and lashed out at the air in front of her. To Wesley's surprise her punch connected with something. A glimmering dome of light flared up around the castle before fading away to invisibility again.

"The barrier you were talking about?" Wesley asked.

"The one Oryeon and the other Cardinal Sages put up to keep me here," Honor said, inspecting her knuckles for damage. "The one you're going to help me break."

"What?" He asked. 

"As I said, something is very wrong in Adellion. Something caused a Cardinal Sage to grow old and die. Time shouldn’t apply to them the same way it does other humans. As the immortal guardian of this land, I can't sit on my hands and watch the world burn, even if my potatoes are almost ready to harvest. I've done that for too long."

"Do we have a plan?" Wesley was part terrified and partly thrilled to be going on a quest with his hero.

"Find whatever is poisoning magic and hit it really hard with my sword," she said simply. "Works nine times out of ten."

"Okay," he said slowly. That wasn't much of a plan. "I meant to break down the barrier and find the thing."

"Oryeon passed his magic on to you. You are the new eastern Sage, so the barrier is partly made up of your magic. If you withdraw it, it should collapse. It's a perfect time now since dawn should be when you are the strongest."

"How do you know all this?" Wesley wondered, squinting at the air, trying to see the barrier.

"I traveled with all the Sages for many years. I helped build the Temple of the Compass Rose. We were all good friends," she said wistfully, "You sort of have to be when you are immortal or nearly so. Not many people will always be there for you."

"And they locked you up in here? What did you do?" He asked. 

"That is really a story for another time," she said, "We're losing the dawn hour."

"Right," he said, "How do I break this?"

"I really wouldn't know," Honor said, "I'm no mage."

"That's helpful," he muttered. "Can you at least show me where it is?" she reached out a finger and poked. The dome flared into visibility again for a split second and Wesley felt a small shiver in his chest, like a plucked harp string. "Do it again," he said, this time internally listening for that note. This time, he latched on to it, trying to memorize its feeling. The light that made up the wall did not fade away and neither did the vibration. If anything it seemed to grow louder and the dome brighter.

"You're doing something," Honor said, uprooting her sword and taking a step back. Wesley ignored her, now feeling the entire dome resonate. There were four distinct notes harmonizing together. Wesley grinned, he didn't know how to take his magic out of the mix but maybe, just maybe, he could shake it apart. He focused on making the sound and feel of his magic more intense, louder. And then he could feel the sun. If the dome was a four-part harmony, the sun was a symphony. The feeling built in Wesley's chest, a pressure of the three identical notes building off one another. The dome shattered and Wesley lost his concentration.

After taking a second to regain his breath, Wesley could no longer hear the dome or the sun. The note in his chest was softer now but he could still feel it.

"Would it be bad if I said I was surprised that worked?" Honor asked, half laughing.

"What, you don't believe in me?" Wesley teased, still buzzing with his accomplishment.

"Truthfully, I've only known you for a couple of hours, which is not a long time for an immortal." She put a hand on his shoulder, "But I do consider myself a good judge of character and I believe that Oryeon chose the right person."

"Thanks. That means a lot," Wesley said, and he meant it. From the moment he'd realized that he was now the eastern Sage he'd felt as if he was buried ten feet deep underground. Her confidence in him, his hero's endorsement, made him feel less like he had a ton of dirt sitting on his chest.

"Now," Honor said, "To prepare for an adventure. I was up all night gathering supplies. Unfortunately, most of my old things have broken or decayed in the closet I stuffed them in several decades ago, including my map which is probably out of date anyway, so our first stop has to be some city or town."

"I came through a small town on the edge of the moor on my way here but they wouldn't have the things we'd need for a real journey," Wesley said. "We could go to Ebonspire, on the other side of the moor, but we'd need horses. Mine threw a shoe on the way over here and I had to leave it in Glimmergulch."

"Not a problem," Honor said.

"I didn't see stables," Wesley pointed out. "Are we going to walk back to Glimmergulch, then ride all the way to Ebonspire? That doesn't sound very efficient."

"I thought you were a fan of my legends," Honor said, "Unless Oryeon neglected to mention Zalika."


"The Twilight Mare. The legendary horse that runs on the edge of day and night. One of my favorite quests." Wesley's eyes got wide.

"We're going to ride on the Twilight Mare?" He gasped in awe.

"At least as far as the city you mentioned," Honor said, sheathing her sword, "Riding with Zalika has some drawbacks." She started back towards the castle. "Let's finish packing, the sooner we get our start the better."

When all Honor's and Wesley's stuff was squished tightly into some old, slightly mildewed saddlebags Honor found in a closet they walked out the front gates. "Good riddance," Honor muttered as they passed over the line where the barrier used to stand. There was a black circle of soot surrounding the castle.

"Won't you miss this place?" Wesley asked.

"Oh, maybe a little," Honor said, "You stay anywhere long enough and it begins to look like home, but Eversun castle will always mean heartbreak to me. I honestly hope I never see it again."

"Are you ever going to tell me the story of why you were imprisoned here?"

"Later," she promised, then set the bags down, pulled off one glove, and, putting two fingers in her mouth, gave a high, piercing whistle. There was a deafening silence in the surrounding country for a few seconds before the distant beating of hooves came thundering down the road. A horse like no other Wesley had ever seen came trotting across the moor. One side of the horse was ebony, the other white. Seeing it from one angle at a distance you might think it was a dark horse, and from the opposite side, a light one. Her hooves and hair seemed to be made of silver.

"Zalika!" Honor cried, waving to the oncoming mare.

"She's amazing," Wesley breathed.

"She’s probably super mad at me though," Honor said, reaching to grab the reins as the horse slowed to a walk in front of them. "I left her saddled for two and a half centuries. My stuff is probably still in there." Zalika gave Honor what can only be described as a horse glare with her large, dark brown eyes.

"So you were preparing for a journey before you got stuck in the castle?" Wesley guessed.

"You are just full of questions, aren't you?" she said, "I said I would tell you later. Hop on." She pulled herself into the saddle with an expert's ease and extended a hand to him. He handed her the saddlebags which she tied on top of the ones that were already there. Then he hesitated.

"There's only one horse," he said,

"Observant, isn't he?" Honor said, patting Zalika's neck. "Yeah, you can ride behind me." Wesley swallowed and vaulted up onto Zalika's high back. He clung to the packs behind him as he tried to find his seat. "You can hold on to me," Honor said, "I don't bite. Just keep your hands where they are supposed to be and you get to keep them, yeah?" He gulped and gingerly wrapped his arms around her waist. "Alright. Walk on, Zalika!"

The legendary mare set a quick pace across the moor, never minding the lack of road. Honor constantly kept an eye on the sun, however, and began to get nervous around noon. "Zal," she said, "Give me some warning before you-" Before she could finish her sentence they were suddenly sitting in the grass with no horse to be found. "Before you do that," Honor said disgustedly, pushing herself to her feet.

"What just happened?" Wesley asked, a little shaken by the experience of one second riding a horse across a moor and the next second sitting on it.

"One of the drawbacks of riding Zal," Honor explained, dusting off her cloak. "She disappears for two hours at midday and midnight. We've got to walk until I can call her back. And now it's storytime,"

"While we're walking? Why not when you're sitting on a horse?"

"I've found that when people are walking and out of breath they can't interrupt me with lots of questions," she said brightly.

"No questions. Got it." He said and resolved to shut up.

"I've been the Everknight for a long time," Honor started. "At first it was amazing. I was saving people and going on crazy adventures. I was stronger and faster than ever before and the sword was like a part of me that I never knew I needed."

"How did you get the sword?" Wesley interrupted. She glared at him and he shut his mouth.

"Later." She promised, "As I was saying, being me was great until my family and friends started to grow old and die. Soon everyone I knew was gone and the world order was changing. As colonies of people spread further from the capital and the coast, hysteria and paranoia grew about the dragons. As humans encroached on traditional hunting grounds, tensions flared. Rogue knights and mercenaries began hunting dragons. Now, alone knight could not hope to take a grown dragon in a fair fight but towns hired groups of them to defend stolen territory. The thugs and ruffians began to kill young dragons and smash eggs. False prophets began teaching that ritually eating dragon eggs would increase a warrior's strength and life span. Utter nonsense, by the way. The balance of Adellion was being upset. If things were left to continue it was possible that both humans and dragons would be wiped out. I journeyed up to the Flamefang mountains where the king of dragons lived."

"Did you kill him?" Wesley whispered. 

"You are failing at this non-interruption thing." She informed him. "No, I did not kill him. Contrary to popular belief I do not hate dragons. Only one, and he's dead now. We came to an agreement. The dragons would migrate west, to new, undiscovered lands free of humans."

"The legends always made it sound like you fought them all off, and I understand that they were wrong," Wesley said, again ignoring his promise to be quiet. "But how did that get you imprisoned. I don't think you did anything wrong."

"I didn't do anything wrong," Honor said, angrily. "I never did anything wrong. Is falling in love wrong?"

"You fell in love?" Wesley asked. She sighed.

"With a dragon." She said, looking at the sky. "His name was Tavin and he was amazing. He helped me convince the dragons to follow my plan to relocate them. He was leading the last group of dragons across the Lost Ocean and I was going to go with him."

"You were going to leave Adellion? Is that possible?" 

"I was going to renounce the Eversword," she said, "I asked the Cardinal Sages, my oldest friends, to meet me at Eversun Castle, a place we stopped at often. I had already packed Zalika for the journey. I was going to entrust the sword to them so they could choose another guardian. They told me I was crazy. They accused me of being ruled by my emotions like I hadn't been in perfect control of my own destiny for the last thousand years. They cast the barrier spell to keep me in the castle. The worst part? Tavin thinks I stood him up. He thinks I didn't love him enough to make that sacrifice."

"That's horrible," Wesley whispered. 

"He had to be so mad at me," she laughed a little bit. "He's cute when he's mad." She put a hand to the sky, closing one eye and considering the angle. "Half an hour at least we have to keep walking." 

Wesley finally was able to keep silent, sensing that Honor was really not in a talking mood after her little confession. He kept sneaking peeks at her back, trying to guess what kind of dragon could steal the knight's heart. 

The sun tipped past noon and Honor again summoned Zalika who looked as unapologetic as a horse could about dumping them on the moor. This time as they rode they brainstormed what could be affecting Adellion. Neither had any substantial clue. Honor stopped Zal before the sun had set in the first substantial copse of trees they had seen for miles. 

"We need to set up camp before it's too dark to see," she explained, "And who knows where we'll be able to get firewood after this."

Wesley fell asleep looking at the stars, wondering just how much his life had changed. It hadn't really had time to sink in for him. The legends were real. The Everknight was real. And he was a mage. Not just a mage, one of the mages. He drifted off to more of the surreal, twisted dreams that had plagued him since Oryeon died. His last thought was that he hoped he didn't scream in his sleep. 

They both woke at dawn by unspoken agreement and, even though they were bleary-eyed and stumbling, neither looked as if they wanted to go back to sleep. They were officially off the moor in just over an hour, trotting more carefully through woods until they came to a lane. That lane joined with another and another until it was officially a road. 

"We should walk," Honor said. "Zalika is too recognizable. We'll draw attention. Grab your stuff."

"Right," he said, sliding off and beginning to unbuckle their bags. Honor stood nose to nose with her horse for a long minute, then grabbed her own packs. 

"We're not far off now," she said, "I can hear a thoroughfare." The traffic trying to get through the main gates of the city was intense. If not for Honor's height, he would have lost her in an instant. The struggle to find space to move lessened only slightly as they crossed through the portcullis and into the city slums pushed up against the inside of the wall.

Wesley didn't notice when his pocket was picked but Honor did. She stuffed her bags into his hands and vaulted over an empty wagon bed the thief had slid under. To his eternal embarrassment, he stood stock-still like a log while Honor grabbed the grubby man by the back of the shirt. She hauled him around and snatched Wesley's pack out of his hands. She made as if to let him go but a larger man, who must have been an accomplice, shoved Honor into oncoming traffic. Wesley heard the morbid crunch from the other side of the road as a plow horse stepped on Honor's arm, exactly where her head would have been a split second earlier. There were numerous gasps but Honor was not the one who screamed.

People gathered around the fallen woman, yelling and squeaking hysterically but Wesley had developed tunnel vision. A sinking feeling in his chest and a roaring in his ears reminded him of standing by Oryeon's bedside. Then a rough voice yelled, "I'm fine, idiots." And the overwhelming sensation faded. He knew that annoyed tone. "Just give me a minute," Honor said, holding her arm to her chest and standing up. She walked right through the throng with no need to push, they parted around her like fishes to a shark. 

"Wes," she said, jerking her head towards the upper city, "Let's keep moving."

"You're injured," he said, hating himself for the comment as soon as it came out of his mouth.

"Give it a couple of hours." She said, "I heal fast," She sounded confident but she only made it a few blocks down before she ducked into an alley and threw up. 

"Are you okay?" Wesley asked, torn between trying to help and fighting down nausea himself. 

"I'll be alright in time," she said, panting slightly. "Still hurts, though. We have to get your bag back. It had the map in it." She unfastened her cape with one hand and molded it into a sling for her arm. 

"We can take you to a doctor, you know," Wesley said, "You don't have to do it like you're  on the battlefield or something."

"The whole world's a battlefield, kid," she said, struggling to tie the two ends around her neck with one hand. It was at moments like these, when her eyes held so much intensity and depth, that Wesley was reminded that Honor was old. "Now, stop standing there like a potted plant and help me tie this knot." 

Wesley had never excelled at the arts of a woodsman, sailor, or warrior. He was a scholar at heart and any knot he tried to tie, even with Honor's growled coaching, simply refused to hold. He began to suspect Honor might actually murder him single-handedly out of pure frustration when a pair of slim, brown hands pushed him aside. Wesley stepped back as the girl wove the ends of the cape back into the knot so that the more weight it bore the tighter it got. 

"Clever," Honor remarked, testing it. "Thank you," The two girls shared a smile. The newcomer was obviously from the Reppenear Islands, she had the classic light brown skin and acacia eyes. 

"I know how you can get your stuff back," she said, "I'm Rulenne."

"Honor," The knight introduced, "and my useless friend here is Wesley. It’s a pleasure to meet you." 

Wesley opened his mouth but couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't make him sound like an idiot in front of such a pretty girl, and so succeeded in looking like an idiot anyway. 

"Hi," he finally said. Honor gave him a funny look. He shook his head slightly. Focus, he mentally chastised himself. "You said you can help us get our stuff back?" she nodded.

"Riaz took it," Rulenne said, "Those were his goons." 

"Who is Riaz?" Wesley asked, 

"The self-proclaimed crime lord of Ebonspire's slums. He gets the first pickings of all the tourists who come through here." Rulenne said,

"Do you work for him?" Honor interrogated.

"She's not a thief!" Wesley gasped, horrified that Honor would make such an accusation.

"Oh?" Honor said, "Then where has your coin purse gone?" Rulenne grinned and handed him his wallet. 

"Can't blame me for trying;" she said with a shrug, "I do work for him. Well, I did. He has something of mine and I want it back. You help me get my things, I will help you get yours."

"What makes you think we can help you?" Honor asked, not unkindly. 

"I don't think Mr. Wesley here is the owner of that sword," Rulenne said, pointing to the Eversword strapped to Honor's bag, wrapped in a spare tunic to keep the iconic emerald from being recognized. "The way you went after that man tells me you can use it."

"Fine," Honor said, "It's a deal. But if you break it, you will find out just how well I can use it."

"Deal," Rulenne said, "I'll take you to his tavern." 

They followed the slight girl out of the alley and through the streets. Honor bumped Wesley playfully with her good shoulder.

"Just keep your head about, you, alright?" she said, 

"W-what do you mean?" He said, blushing furiously. She'd caught him staring at how Rulenne's black curls reflected the light.

"Yeah, she's pretty but don't let that distract you," she said, "Or at least wait until after we get our stuff back before you make a fool of yourself. She's out of your league."

"I will remind you that I am a prince!" he said, indignant. 

"Mh-hmm." She hummed. "You couldn't string two words together when you first saw her. Try complimenting her hair, works on all the girls." He stared at her for a second. "What?" she asked. 

"It's just... I thought that-" he stumbled, "Wasn't Tavin a guy?" 

"I don't understand the big deal sometimes," she said, "Girls are pretty, guys are pretty, what's the problem?"

"Guys don't usually like being called pretty," Rulenne jumped in; making Wesley blush again. How long had she been listening?

"Any guy who minds being called pretty is not a guy you should be interested in." Honor said knowingly, "Any man should know how to take a compliment." 

"Not all men would consider it a compliment, though," Wesley argued. 

"Why don't we ask this Riaz guy if he likes being called pretty?" Honor suggested. 

Rulenne wrinkled her nose delicately. "Riaz is not pretty." She said. That was the most understated way she could have put it. Honor privately decided that killing the man might be the greatest public service she could ever perform. A botched tattoo caused one side of his jaw to sag and his lips to not line up. His nose was swollen from a lifetime of alcohol and brawls. He reeked of a man who liked to abuse his power. They entered the tavern with a piece of tattooed vellum above the door calling it the Hog's Blood, as discreetly as possible. They needn't have minded. Riaz and those nearest him were insensate even though noon had barely passed. 

"See that door over there?" Rulenne asked, pointing to an iron-bound oak slab in the hallway leading back behind the public area. "That leads to where all of Riaz's loot is stored. He sorts through it every week and sells or throws out what he doesn't want to keep. Your things should already be in there." 

"It's got to be harder than this," Honor said, "What's to stop us from waltzing in there and taking our stuff?"

"It has a magic lock," Rulenne explained. "Only Riaz can touch the key without it screaming. Lots of Riaz's men sleep in the boarding rooms above the tavern. They'd be down there in a second if they heard anything amiss." 

"You're a thief, can you pick the lock?" Wesley wondered.

"It's said to be unpickable." She shook her head, "Riaz may be a disgusting person but he's no fool. He works with criminals after all." Honor frowned, searching the door for any clue as to how to open it. There seemed to be nothing remotely remarkable about it. Then something went off in her head. 

She motioned for Wesley to come close, then whispered in his ear, "I'm not so good at this, not having any magic myself, but can you see if you can detect the magic in the lock?" 

"I'll try," he said, unsure of what that would accomplish. He listened for the humming in his chest and once he felt it, he tried to hear the lock. To his surprise, he could hear other notes that were not his. Two strong, similar strains seemed to be coming from Honor and the Eversword but silence from the door. He frowned and concentrated harder. Nothing. Giving up, he looked at Honor and shook his head, disappointed he couldn't help. She just grinned.

"What?" He asked, "Isn't that a bad thing?" 

"Nope," she said cheerfully, "I have a theory."

"What happened?" Rulenne asked, looking between them.

"It seemed strange to me that this lowlife could get his hands on a magic item like that," Honor explained. "It seems like an oddly specific and tricky thing to steal and probably worth more than it would protect. Why not just resell it and get a normal lock?"

"What are you saying?" Wesley asked, "That Riaz doesn't actually have a magic lock?" 

"Exactly," she said, "It would be cheaper and just as effective if everyone only thought that if they investigated, an alarm would go off." 

"I told you Riaz was no fool," Rulenne said happily, "Now we just need to pick the lock and get inside without anyone noticing us." 

"Without noticing you two," Honor corrected. "Subtlety has never been my forte so I'll provide the distraction. Plus, I want to talk to this Riaz. He might be able to point me in the direction of someone I wish to talk to." She pushed herself up from the table with one hand and walked towards the snoring, odorous men snoring over spilled ale. The rest of the patrons took notice as Honor winked at Rulenne and Wesley, and kicked Riaz's chair out from under him. He gave a very unmanly shriek of fright as he was dumped on the floor. 

"Is she mad?" Rulenne asked in awe as Honor grinned down at the blustering bully at her feet.

"Sometimes I don't know," Wesley said, "We'd better hurry." They ducked behind the counter to the back hallway as the rest of the customers either rose to their feet to defend their criminal lord or fled the scene.

Wesley forever regretted he was unable to witness the resulting chaos in the common room. He heard much of it though. Lots of screaming and yelling and drunken threats. Rulenne paid no attention, she was wholly focused on the bent wires between her quick fingers. At last, the doorknob turned, no alarm sounded. Inside, Wesley quickly spotted his pack, it was near the front of the room. The contents were scattered near it and he quickly stuffed them inside. Rulenne took a bit longer. She was picking things up and throwing them to the side, searching shelf after shelf. 

"Hurry," Wesley hissed, anxious at the loud noises coming from the front room. 

"Got it," she said, "Come on, out the back." She pulled him out of the room and further into the hallway.

"What about Honor?" He asked, resisting for a moment.

"What about me?" she asked from behind him, a little breathless. "Did you find everything?"

"How did you get away?" Wesley asked as Rulenne nodded.

"Insulted his mother, leaving them to fight amongst themselves. Hasn't failed me in a thousand years. Let's go." With both girls hustling him along they made it into a side street and away from the area in no time at all. Once they could no longer hear the racket of men fighting or of people calling for the constabulary Wesley asked what information Honor had wanted from Riaz, of all people.

"I wanted to know who currently owned the Scrying Scroll," she said, "It seemed like the kind of thing a thief would keep an ear on and, lo and behold, it's here in the city."

"The Scrying Scroll?" Rulenne asked,

"A magical map of the world except it shows real-time events that are happening." Honor explained.

"Who has it?" Wesley asked, 

"Luckily it's in the hands I expected it to be in. When the-" she glanced at Rulenne and amended what she was about to say. "When my friends left me at the castle they separated some of my more powerful items. Namely my map and my helmet and a few other things. They gave the scroll to another friend of mine, a scholar, who apparently passed it down. They live here now," she cast a disdainful glance at the squalor around them, "Though I can't imagine why." She'd phrased it carefully enough where Rulenne might think it had merely been handed from father to son when one moved away from home. Wesley knew it must have been several generations. 

"Do we have to steal that too?" Rulenne wondered.

"I hope not," Honor said, "With luck, he'll let me see it. It is rightfully mine and we only mean to borrow it."

"Where do we find him?" Wesley wondered. 

"That's what I don't know," she turned to Rulenne. "Do you know where I can find the Donnafar household?" Rulenne nodded. 

"They live uptown." She said, "Famous merchants."

"Wonderful," Honor said, "Lead the way if you will. Or just give us directions. I suppose now that you got your item back you don't need to stay with us."

"I'll lead you there. Come, I'm curious," she said, and they walked off again. 

Wesley, who generally left the gallivanting around in armour to his older brother and was more bookish by nature, was beginning to suffer from all the walking. So he was immensely grateful when they rapped on the door of a great house and were let inside to a waiting room by a bored-looking butler. It was several steps up from the Hog's Blood, the seats were cushioned and though the others waiting gave them disdainful looks, Wesley did not mind. He supposed they did make an odd-looking party, three very dirty youths, one with a broken arm and a sword, and carrying around re-stolen possessions. Too tired to care after his long day, he would have fallen asleep if not for the dread of nightmares. 

He could barely remember exactly what his dreams were about, only a vague silhouette of an armoured man and many, many unpleasant feelings. Honor became increasingly impatient as time went on and one by one, the other waiting people filled into and out of the large office. 

"Would you mind if we cut in?" she asked the next man, "Our business is important." He sniffed and raised an eyebrow.

"How do you know my business isn't just as pressing as yours?" He asked quite rudely. 

"Ours concerns the fate of the world." Honor said with a harsh tone,

"Don't they all." He said dismissively, "I'm trying to find a way to sell rice now that Repennear has closed its borders." Wesley noticed that Rulenne flinched slightly. What had happened in Repennear?

"Repennear closed its borders over ten months ago," Wesley pointed out, "Why are you worried about rice now?" 

"I didn't sell out until now," The grumpy businessman said, "Now if you will excuse me," he stood up, straightened his cravat, and walked through the ornate double doors into the office.

"Rice," Honor said disdainfully. "We've got actual problems here!"

"What are you looking for on the scroll?" Rulenne asked, 

"Where they put my helmet for one," Honor said, "But we also wanted to see-" she was cut off as the double doors banged open and the man from before stormed out of the house in a huff. 

Wesley forever regretted he was unable to witness the resulting chaos in the common room. He heard much of it though. Lots of screaming and yelling and drunken threats. Rulenne paid no attention, she was wholly focused on the bent wires between her quick fingers. At last, the doorknob turned, no alarm sounded. Inside, Wesley quickly spotted his pack, it was near the front of the room. The contents were scattered near it and he quickly stuffed them inside. Rulenne took a bit longer. She was picking things up and throwing them to the side, searching shelf after shelf. 

"Hurry," Wesley hissed, anxious at the loud noises coming from the front room. 

"Got it," she said, "Come on, out the back." She pulled him out of the room and further into the hallway.

"What about Honor?" He asked, resisting for a moment.

"What about me?" she asked from behind him, a little breathless. "Did you find everything?"

"How did you get away?" Wesley asked as Rulenne nodded.

"Insulted his mother, leaving them to fight amongst themselves. Hasn't failed me in a thousand years. Let's go." With both girls hustling him along they made it into a side street and away from the area in no time at all. Once they could no longer hear the racket of men fighting or of people calling for the constabulary Wesley asked what information Honor had wanted from Riaz, of all people.

"I wanted to know who currently owned the Scrying Scroll," she said, "It seemed like the kind of thing a thief would keep an ear on and, lo and behold, it's here in the city."

"The Scrying Scroll?" Rulenne asked,

"A magical map of the world except it shows real-time events that are happening." Honor explained.

"Who has it?" Wesley asked, 

"Luckily it's in the hands I expected it to be in. When the-" she glanced at Rulenne and amended what she was about to say. "When my friends left me at the castle they separated some of my more powerful items. Namely my map and my helmet and a few other things. They gave the scroll to another friend of mine, a scholar, who apparently passed it down. They live here now," she cast a disdainful glance at the squalor around them, "Though I can't imagine why." She'd phrased it carefully enough where Rulenne might think it had merely been handed from father to son when one moved away from home. Wesley knew it must have been several generations. 

"Do we have to steal that too?" Rulenne wondered.

"I hope not," Honor said, "With luck, he'll let me see it. It is rightfully mine and we only mean to borrow it."

"Where do we find him?" Wesley wondered. 

"That's what I don't know," she turned to Rulenne. "Do you know where I can find the Donnafar household?" Rulenne nodded. 

"They live uptown." She said, "Famous merchants."

"Wonderful," Honor said, "Lead the way if you will. Or just give us directions. I suppose now that you got your item back you don't need to stay with us."

"I'll lead you there. Come, I'm curious," she said, and they walked off again. 

Wesley, who generally left the gallivanting around in armour to his older brother and was more bookish by nature, was beginning to suffer from all the walking. So he was immensely grateful when they rapped on the door of a great house and were let inside to a waiting room by a bored-looking butler. It was several steps up from the Hog's Blood, the seats were cushioned and though the others waiting gave them disdainful looks, Wesley did not mind. He supposed they did make an odd-looking party, three very dirty youths, one with a broken arm and a sword, and carrying around re-stolen possessions. Too tired to care for his long day, he would have fallen asleep if not for the dread of nightmares. 

He could barely remember exactly what his dreams were about, only a vague silhouette of an armoured man and many, many unpleasant feelings. Honor became increasingly impatient as time went on and one by one, the other waiting people filled into and out of the large office. 

"Would you mind if we cut in?" she asked the next man, "Our business is important." He sniffed and raised an eyebrow.

"How do you know my business isn't just as pressing as yours?" He asked quite rudely. 

"Ours concerns the fate of the world." Honor said with a harsh tone,

"Don't they all." He said dismissively, "I'm trying to find a way to sell rice now that Repennear has closed its borders." Wesley noticed that Rulenne flinched slightly. What had happened in Repennear?

"Repennear closed its borders over ten months ago," Wesley pointed out, "Why are you worried about rice now?" 

"I didn't sell out until now," The grumpy businessman said, "Now if you will excuse me," he stood up, straightened his cravat, and walked through the ornate double doors into the office.

"Rice," Honor said disdainfully. "We've got actual problems here!"

"What are you looking for on the scroll?" Rulenne asked, 

"Where they put my helmet for one," Honor said, "But we also wanted to see-" she was cut off as the double doors banged open and the man from before stormed out of the house in a huff. 

"Ready to go?" Honor asked behind him. He jumped slightly and turned, trying his best not to look guilty. 

"How are you so fast at getting ready for journeys and stuff?" He asked, noticing her improvised sling was gone. She was using her arm as normal.

"To be fair, we were already packed," she said, "But mostly it's practice. Over a thousand years of it."

"I've been meaning to ask," Wesley said, "How did you become the Everknight?"

"There's no legend about it? That seems strange."

"There is one, and it's possibly my favourite, but knowing you now, it's completely wrong."

"Alright," Honor said, "I'll tell you on the road. Rulenne and Jedidiah are about to leave."

They were leading horses out of the Donnafar stables when Honor and Wesley found them. Jedidiah offered them horses too but Honor shook her head. "Even with Zalika's little quirks, she's faster." Jedidiah mounted his horse but Rulenne surprised both Honor and Wesley by drawing them into a group hug.

"Thank you both," she said, 

"Never a problem," Honor said, trying to extricate herself as quickly as possible. Apparently, she wasn't a hugging person. 

"We'll see you at the castle," Wesley said,

"On the eve of battle is more likely," Honor said. "Godspeed, Princess."

"To you too." And with that exchange, both parties were off. 

Outside of the city once more, Wesley pounced.

"Storytime," he said, picking up his pace slightly to match Honor's long strides. 

"I did promise," Honor conceded. "Over a thousand years ago, when the gods still meddled in the land of Adellion, a huge, evil dragon settled in what was then Fief Fallon. He blocked the pass out of the valley with giant boulders that were only pebbles to him but too large for any human to lift. He guarded it jealously. He began stealing sheep in the night, then pigs and cows. Our strongest warriors went to slay him but none returned. 

As the number of qualified men dwindled, he got bolder and came during the day. We stopped fighting back, afraid that if we provoked him he would begin to steal people as well. Our worst fears came true when farms on the very edge of the valley were found destroyed. The local clergy called on the gods and forged a sword with an emerald pommel. They cast a spell to locate the destined wielder of the sword.”

"And they found you," Wesley said, "Oryeon told us this part."

"Not quite," she said, her green eyes suddenly heartbreakingly sad. "They found my twin brother. His name was Verity. They handed him the sword and told him he was special. That he was going to save the whole town. They made a whole production out of it, everyone turned out to watch like it was a fair day. They sent him out into a wide field, with no armour, no plan, trusting in fate to keep him safe. Verity yelled at the sky, challenging the Elder Dragon to a duel. Verity was so much smaller than the beast, as I was watching from the sidelines I got this sick, churning feeling in my stomach."

"What happened?" Wesley prompted softly when Honor seemed to trail off into thought. He noticed that her voice changed as she talked, gaining a slight old-fashioned accent.

"He died. The Elder Dragon broke his spine with one flick of his tail and then roared his amusement at the sky. The village people scattered, screaming and crying. I could hear my mother wailing above the stampede, but I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't take my eyes off of the silver sword in my brother's limp, lifeless hand. Time seemed to stop, and I think it actually did. Nobody moved as I crossed that field towards the sword. When I picked it up I expected to see my reflection in the blade but instead, I saw a horse running along the knife's edge between day and night. I saw a marble temple on a mountain peak with four sages gathered around it. I saw a female knight in gleaming armour on a hill, facing a legion of dragons flying out over the ocean. I saw a lone man in black armour waving a bloody flag. I saw a thousand sunrises and a thousand sunsets. I saw the sword I had in my hands, shattered on the grey stone in front of me. I saw my own broken reflection staring up at me in those shards. I remember how my eyes looked, grey and dull and old even though my face was the same. Then the sword went blank and only reflected the sky and I knew I had seen the day I would die."


"I don't know the day or the hour," Honor explained, "But I will know the moment when it comes. I'm unsure whether shattering the sword is what will kill me or what shattered it. It's been a nagging question, as I am sure you can imagine."

"If you saw that, why would you renounce the sword to be with Tavin?" 

"Part of me knew it wouldn't work. Either nothing would happen or I would die on the spot, but part of me hoped that I could avoid that fate. Die of old age or disease or something natural. It was wholly selfish of me, but I wanted to die knowing I'd gone on one great adventure for myself and not for the fate of Adellion."

"I don't think that's selfish," Wesley said,

"I think it's the definition of selfish, but not necessarily wrong. Now," she chided. "No more questions or you'll never hear the end of the story." Wesley mimed buttoning his lips and Honor continued, "After the visions faded, time sped back up and I could hear the screaming and the roaring again but something had changed. The sword wasn't as heavy in my hands and it seemed like clouds of wool had been pulled out of my brain to make space for clear thought. I was practically in between the dragon's front talons but he hadn't noticed, being too busy celebrating his own cruelty. I jumped, higher than I expected, and swung my sword at the paler scales of his slimy underbelly. Swampy, goopy green blood sprayed in every direction and the dragon's roars changed from delight to fury. I'd done nothing more than making him mad with my blind slashing. He kicked me backward and I skidded several yards in the mud. He pounced on me and I reacted unthinkingly, holding the sword up to try to shield my face. Sunlight reflected off of the blade into the monster's furious eyes and his attack missed."

"Did you really yell, 'Begone foul wyrm!'?" Wesley asked, "Oryeon always said that part in the most dramatic voice," 

Honor smirked. "I think I called him something a little stronger than that. The dragon heard me and spitfire in my direction. I ran, dodging fireballs with no plan. Looking back, it's a wonder I kept hold of my sword. I used it to shine light into the lizard's eyes again, temporarily blinding him long enough for me to get closer. I saw that I had aimed too far back in my last attempt and had missed the heart. I lunged again and this time I hit home, the sword seeming to know where to go. I left the sword in the Elder Dragon's heart as the life leaked slowly out of him. I had no intention of ever picking it up again. I held my twin brother's body and cried hot tears full of sadness, anger, and shame."

"What made you pick it up again?"

"Hate." She said, "In my eyes, the dragon was only partly to blame for my brother's death. It was the priests who had walked into my house and assumed my brother was meant to be the knight and not me. I was going to kill them for taking my brother from me."

"What stopped you?"

"Who said I stopped?" 

Wesley stopped walking. "You killed them?" He whispered, horrified. He felt sick. It was one thing to know that his hero had killed people on the battlefield for glory and to save Adellion, but for revenge?

She gave a long sigh. "No, I didn't. I blacked out halfway back to town. I'm told I slept for five days. In the interim, someone moved the blocking on the road and people from neighboring towns had gotten word of the miracle and flooded in. I was overwhelmed with people asking me to get rid of wild beasts, bless their babies, or sign unsavory parts of their bodies that I couldn't think about the priests. I was approached by a knight the day after I woke up who offered to teach me how to use a sword properly. I accepted and we left the next day. I count that as one of the only times I ran away."

"Did you ever go back?"

"Oh, many times. I buried my parents next to Verity. I watched my childhood friends turn into adults, get married, have children, and grow old. Eventually, I went back and there was no one left who knew me when I was merely Honor, the other half of Verity, and not Honor, the Everknight."

"Why are you called the Everknight?" He wondered. "Neither Oryeon nor any of the visiting bards knew your name."

"It was a game Verity and I played as children.  We would take turns pretending to fight imaginary evils with a stick we wrapped in string. He promised me that the game would go on forever and never end. Everknight. The townspeople wanted to name my sword Dragon Killer or Avenger but at that time I didn't want to remember what would become my first adventure. I wanted to focus on what had been before and what was coming, so I called it the Eversword."

"I'm sorry I made you retell it then," 

"No," she said, "As you get older you realize the importance of memory. How every experience, bad or good or in between, is like a brick building a house. I am made of everything I've ever done and seen. To try and deny a part of myself like that would be like cutting off my hand. Extremely inconvenient."

Wesley snorted, "For you maybe,"

"I think we can call Zalika back now. It shouldn't be too long until we get to the Temple of the Compass Rose." She put her fingers to her lips, then hesitated, a thoughtful look on her face. "I wonder if Xan will be there." She whistled and the familiar rush of hooves on dirt greeted them before Wesley could ask who Xan was.

They were off again, flying across the landscape. Wesley began to notice a slight change. The relatively flat land dotted with swaths of trees coming off the moor began to become more heavily forested as the road began to rise and fall more sharply. The more hilly country slowed their progress ever so slightly and Wesley began to feel as if each wasted minute were a diamond falling into the sea. Honor had forbidden him from asking where they were after the seventh consecutive question.

“Are we going to make it in time?" He asked Honor when they stopped to sleep for the first time. “And what about Jedidiah and Rulenne?”

“We’re almost there." Honor consoled. “Jedidiah and Rulene might even be approaching Eversun Castle by now. With the Scrying Scroll your father, the king, will be able to get his troops where they need to be. Once we get my helmet we’ll be set, the most logical course of action is to hold them at the coast.”  

"Here we are," she said, finally, swinging out of the saddle to clear Wesley's view of a mountainside. A steep track wound almost straight upward to a marble cathedral supported by columns. 

"Do we have to walk all the way up there?" Wesley said, afraid of the answer. The last few days of physical exertion were wearing on him.

"You don't have to, I'll lead Zal, I just want to keep my sword ready for" Cutting herself off with a flurry of motion she drew her sword and lunged to one side, slashing at a copper coloured viper slithering across the road. "-those little buggers," she finished, kicking the carcass into the bushes. "Sun Serpents. Highly venomous and extremely mean so watch your step."

"Why would they store your helmet here?" Wesley asked, sometimes he felt like all he'd done in the last few days was ask questions. "The sages gave the Scrying Scroll to the Donnafar family."

"My armour isn't part of a set, you see. I collected it along the way." Honor explained, "My gauntlets came from the hoard of the Elder Dragon. My bracers were given to me by my first fencing teacher. A blacksmith friend forged my chest plate out of bars of a strange metal I found in a wights barrow. But my helmet," she paused and halted the horse, putting a finger to her lips. A golden snake rippled its way across the path. Once it had disappeared into the bushes she continued, "My helmet was forged by the gods and is one of five items, each belonging to a different country, that stops the divine and mortal realms from interacting anymore. If it were to break our world would be plunged back into the midst of the Immortal Wars. It also keeps me alive."

"And we're taking it out of its very safe place and bringing it into battle?" 

"That's where it's strongest." She said, "We're going to need the edge it gives me if we are going to beat this Neverknight figure. I'm sure he's got himself his own set of magical armour."

"You're not worried?" 

"I'd be a fool not to be," she said, "But I still have confidence in our plan. Adellion has faced worse."

"So this is the Compass Rose Temple," Wesley breathed as they reached the summit. The sun had just hit high noon and the white marble was blazing with reflected light. 

"My helmet is probably in the treasury," Honor said, pushing the huge wooden doors open. 

"Shouldn't you, like, knock or something?" Wesley asked. This was a sacred space, he felt like they needed to be more reverent. 

"You and I both belong here," Honor pointed out, "I helped build it. Xan won't mind, he's probably working on a sculpture or something."

Wesley was reminded of a question he'd meant to ask earlier. "Who's Xan?" 

"The northern Sage," Honor said, "He's the official guardian of the temple. Can't you feel his magic?"

Embarrassed that it hadn't occurred to him to try feeling with his magic like he'd done in the Hog's Blood Tavern, Wesley started listening for the humming in his chest. His particular note of magic was all around him. Woven into the marble columns and drifting through the air, particularly concentrated, he noticed, on the eastern facing wall. There were three other notes, besides Honor's green glow. One, very strong and hard and unyielding was getting louder. Almost as if the source was- "He's coming closer!" Wesley gasped. 

"Oryeon?" A voice called from inside. A bulky man pried open the doors the rest of the way. He was built like one of the mountain men from Adellion's northernmost ridge. Huge and savage, he was head and shoulders taller than Honor, who was not a short person. "Not Oryeon," he amended. Wesley thought he might have squeaked.

"Xan!" Honor said, grinning, 

"Honor!" he looked thrilled. He went for a hug but Honor ducked it. "What is going on with you, little one? Didn't we leave you somewhere?"

"Yeah, thanks for that by the way," she said, crossing her arms.

"I meant to come back and get you once you came to your senses, but I lost track of time,"

"Sure you did," Honor said in a sing-song voice that told Wesley exactly how much Honor believed the giant.

"And who is your small friend!" Xan said, turning to Wesley. He squinted at him for a second then his face fell. "No..." He whispered, which was still quite loud. 

"About a week ago," Honor said softly. "He passed his powers to Wesley,"

"That's not possible," Xan shook his head. "I didn't feel anything."

"Neither did I," Honor said. Xan's shoulders slumped for a second and then, with a great effort, the giant straightened them. 

"Welcome to the brotherhood, Wesley." He said, holding out a hand twice the size of Wesley's own. "I suppose you came here for guidance?"

"There is a man calling himself the Neverknight on his way to Adellion. We believe he is part of what caused Oryeon to die. I came here to see if I can get more in touch with my powers so I can help defeat him." 

"And I want my stuff back," Honor muttered, causing Xan to give a booming "HA, HA!" as they entered the temple. Neither, it seemed, were people who stayed sad for long. The inside of the temple was circular, with a huge atrium open to the sky. Doorways led to surrounding rooms around the outside edges but the focal point was the embellished compass rose set into the floor. Tiny carvings were set in concentric rings around them. Wesley spotted a female knight holding aloft a tiny emerald sword. He spotted countless other pictures telling the history and lore of Adellion. A block of raw marble and carving tools sat to one side. Stone dust covered the floors.

"I'm afraid I wasn't expecting visitors," Xan said, trying to brush up the mess. "I've been alone for so long. Just me and my carving, you know?" Honor did not look impressed but Xan only laughed at her reaction. "Your belongings are in there, Little Knight," Xan motioned to one of the doorways. Honor pulled it open and immediately started coughing from a plume of dust. Swearing faintly, she began sorting through piles of items. Wesley spotted something with a familiar sword and rose device emblazoned on it. He pulled it out.

"Is this your shield?" He asked, 

"Yes!" she said, taking it from him and sliding it on. Inspecting it, she rapped on the wood with her knuckles. "Still solid," she pronounced. 

"I'm surprised it didn't rot," Wesley said,

"I may not have my own sorcery like you two but pretty much all my gear is magical in some way or another." She unbuckled the shield and leaned it against the wall. "I've had a lot of adventures."

They found her helmet underneath a moldy stuffed cow which Wesley could not imagine a reason for it being there. None of the others questioned it though, so he rolled with it. She shook it out and slid it on. Immediately, Wesley could hear the magic he associated with Honor and the Eversword ten times louder without even trying, the tones becoming richer and more complex.

“Wow," he muttered, 

“Hear that, kid?” Xan said, putting a massive hand on his shoulder. Wesley nodded. “That’s the sound of a hero. What would be great is if you could see it too.”

“See what?" He asked. 

Xan sighed. “It was worth a try. She’s not glowing to you?” Wesley squinted at Honor. No glow. He shook his head. 

“That’ll come with practice I suppose, but let’s see if I can speed up the process a little to help you with your coming battle.”

“Should we wait until dawn?" Honor asked, 

“If you think you can spare the time,” Xan said, 

“It’s worth it to give you any sort of advantage. It’d be a shame to lose two Cardinal Sages in the course of a month.”

“Have any Sages died before?”

“Valerian and Kennaan, the original southern and eastern sages, over six hundred years ago now,” Xan said, “Both were killed in the Immortal War, they were replaced but we haven’t seen much of them. The sun still sets and the wind still blows so I assume they are alright.” A realization hit Wesley in the stomach. 

“How long do Cardinal Sages live?" He asked cautiously. Xan shrugged again.

“I haven’t died yet so, who knows?” The giant said. 

“But Oryeon got old," he pointed out,

“A fluke, likely due to this Neverknight person who is coming from Reppenear." Honor said. 

“So I’m-" he whispered the last word, “Immortal?”

“Welcome to the club,” Honor said, slapping him on the back. She said, “I’m starving,” and walked out of the room like Wesley’s life hadn’t just been shaken apart. 

“You get used to it,” Xan said, a little more sympathetically. “The trick is to stop thinking about where you are now as the culmination of all you’ve ever done and start thinking like you are still on your journey. Makes you feel young." He followed Honor.

“I am young,” Wesley complained, “For now." He’d deal with it later, he decided. No use thinking about immortality when he might die in the coming battle. What a comforting thought.

His sleep was again plagued by nightmares and shadowy horrors. After this crisis passed, he was looking forward to a long, restful sleep. Shaking himself awake fully he pushed himself up on his elbows. Dawn was approaching, he could tell. He sighed. If dawn woke him every morning he might never get the uninterrupted sleep he craved. 

“Punctual, just like Oryeon,” Xan said, 

“What did you want me to do this morning?” Wesley hoped it wasn’t exercising. He didn’t think he could take it just then. 

“A little meditation.” 

Wesley looked at the giant mountain man and repeated slowly “Meditation.”

“Yes. It’s where you sit and try to center-”

“I know what it is,” Wesley said, “I just don’t understand how it will help me in the long run. Weren’t we talking about a boost of magic?”

“You don’t need more magic, son,” Xan said, “You’re practically overflowing with it, you just need to learn how to access it. Honor said you knew how to break things," he chuckled. “Brake. Like the dawn? Get it?” Wesley didn’t and it must’ve shown on his face because Xan said, “Nevermind. It’s like you are a teacup and the tea is your magic. You are currently taking a thimbleful at a time, we’re going to teach you to use a spoon. Eventually, with practice, you will be able to lift the whole cup.”

Wesley nodded. He wasn’t entirely certain he understood but he had a vague idea. Xan directed him to the inlaid compass rose on the floor. He sat, cross-legged, on the stylized ‘E’ marking the eastern direction. Xan sat similarly on the N. 

“Just repeat after me and picture in your mind,” Xan said, taking a deep breath and closing his eyes. Wesley copied him. “Strong winds from the north.”

“Strong winds from the north,” Wesley parroted. Imagining the blizzards that sometimes gusted through Adellion castle. 

“Gentle zephyrs from the south,” Xan said, blowing out air slowly. Wesley repeated the words, picturing kites flying with his little brother in the summers. “A wash of brilliant colours in the west,” Wesley remembered the countless sunsets he’d seen and wondered what it must be like to be Honor, to remember thousands of unique pictures.

"Don't lose focus," Xan admonished, making Wesley wonder briefly if Xan could see his thoughts before redirecting his mind to the next sentence Xan gave him to say. 

"New life and light from the east." As soon as the last word left his mouth, his eyes flew open involuntarily. The world was bejeweled in sparkling lights. It was overwhelming. Xan blazed ice blue. Honor, standing to one side, shown emerald green with a mishmash rainbow on her armour. Orange, blue, magenta, and aquamarine suffused the once white marble. Bass notes thrummed in his chest so hard Wesley couldn't hear his own thoughts. Desperately searching for somewhere solid to look, Wesley glanced at his clasped hands. Light orange flames danced around his wrists. It was all too much, Wesley fainted.

"Did you kill him?" A voice above his head wondered.

"No, he's just tired." A much deeper voice replied. 

"Look at those flames," The first voice commented. 

"Oryeon could barely light a candle, this kid's going to rival a dragon."

"Don't bring up dragons," The first voice said hotly. There was a reply but Wesley couldn't determine the words, he faded away to blissful, dreamless sleep, his exhausted body pulling his mind down. 

He woke up in the lumpy, dusty bed he'd used the night before and for a split second thought, he had dreamed the previous events. The sun streaming in through the window indicated high noon, however, so he knew they were real. He had seen a million shades of magic and felt them like an impossible song. Even now, he could hear the threads of it winding through the temple. Something stood out to him and he sat up to hear more. Straining his ears, he could almost, almost hear lyrics to the melody. 

"Truth. Strength. Chivalry." The voiceless music sang, "Old yet young. Guardian. Sacrifice. Timeless. Daring. Loyal. Justice." All with an almost triumphant accord, like the chorus of hunting horns, then it turned more melancholy. "Lost," It sang, "Lost love. Lost family. Lost company. Lost path." Wesley recognized the song. It was Honor. As if thinking her name called her to him, Honor gently opened the door.

"Oh, wonderful, you're awake." Honor said, "How do you feel?" 

"Great!" he said, "No nightmares," 

"And your magic?" she checked,

"Good as new," he said, feeling a little awkward around her now that he'd heard that song. It didn't feel right knowing things she hadn't told him. 

"Ready to ride?" she asked, 

"So soon?" His back ached. Did they have to go back to the fast-paced traveling right then? 

"You've been asleep for three days," she said, "I could've killed Xan for wasting that much time but I think we'll make it if we hustle." That explained the backaches. Three days. His father would be on his way to intercept the Repennearian armada at the coast, gathering the army along the way. 

"We have to go," he said, swinging his legs out of bed and wincing at the cold marble floor. 

"I'll summon Zalika," Honor said, "Meet you outside."

"Right," he found his shoes under the bed and fumbled the laces several times before finally tying them in a knot. He couldn't find his bags so he assumed they were already with the horse. Rushing, he nearly collided with Xan as he yanked open his door. The only reason he had warning enough to get out of the way was a loud burst of song that talked about the immovability of stone but how it could be coaxed into beautiful shapes. Wesley wanted to listen longer but was too busy moving his toes out of harm's way. 

"You heard that, kid?" Xan said, ducking under the door frame to enter the room. 

"Yeah," Wesley said, craning his head back to look the mountain man in the eyes.

"Am I glowing?" He asked. Wesley squinted and was surprised to find that indeed he was. A pale blue aura surrounded the large man. Catching another colour out of the corner of his eye, Wesley looked at himself. A yellow-orange corona ringed him, moving in a flickering pattern compared to the solid shimmer of Xan's. "Seeing your aura is all well and good," Xan warned, "but I wouldn't listen to yourself until you're ready to know what you'll hear."

"What does that mean?" Wesley was confused.

Xan huffed, "You try to be all philosophical for once and they never listen. The songs, boy. The ones that tell you what things are. I know you hear them. They tell the truth and always the truth and sometimes that's too much for one person to know about themselves. Can you really face everything you've ever hated about yourself straight up in your face?" That did not sound pleasant so Wesley shook his head. "Give it time, you're young. What I wouldn't give to have discovered who I was on my own," Xan shook his head as if to dispel a memory. "Honor's waiting for you, kid, and if I know anything, it's best not to keep Honor of Fallon waiting."

They were back to the furious forced march through the Adellion countryside. The route they chose passed through towns occasionally and sometimes they were able to sleep in real beds but mostly it was long hours of riding and walking. They were making good time on the legendary horse but Wesley was a nervous wreck as they finally approached the coast, Honor taking her best guess as to where the Repenear armada would land and where the king would choose to greet them. They could hear the camp before they saw it.

Wesley and Honor crested the hill to see a battleground arrayed before them, it was not a stealth operation. Trees along the coast had been cut and shaped into tall bulwarks to defend the encamped army below. "He got the army together, they must have convinced him the threat was real," Wesley noted. "Do you think Rulenne is down there?" 

"If I were you, I'd rather she wasn't," Honor said, "Battles can get messy no matter how carefully they're planned."

"You're right." He said, scanning the horizon on the sea. "How long until they arrive, do you think?"

"Only one way to know," Honor dismounted, "Let's find your father. He should have the Scrying Scroll." Wesley slid off of Zalika's back as well, his legs immensely sore. They were stopped by two sentries when they tried to enter the camp but Wesley brought out his ring and they let them pass with odd glances. Honor's armour and sword drew a lot of attention from the gathered warriors as they navigated the rows of tents to the large one at the centre. 

King Roland of Adellion looked a lot like his sons but there were lines in his face that were yet to be present in Wesley's. He was frowning down at a map, Wesley recognized it as the Scrying Scroll, his face grave. "Father," Wesley said, ducking a hanging drape. "We're here." The frown disappeared for a moment. 

"Wesley!" he said, "You're covered in dirt." 

"Observant," Honor commented, "I see where Wesley gets it. I'm Honor."

"The Everknight," The King said reverently. "It's an honor to have you here."

"Did you just make a pun?" Honor asked,

"No disrespect intended!" he looked so concerned, Wesley could hardly contain his laughter. 

“Sorry, your majesty,” Honor said, “It’s been a long road. I couldn’t resist a bit of fun.”

“We all need laughter now and again,” The king conceded, relaxing. “Though I’m afraid it is not to be.”

“How long until they arrive?" Honor asked, stepping closer to see the scroll.

“We should be able to see them on the horizon tomorrow,” Roland said grimly. 

“What about our navy?” Wesley asked, 

The king shook his head. “Still in the north. The same winds that are hastening the arrival of our enemy are holding them back.”

“A land battle then,” Honor proposed.

“It must be,” Roland agreed, “Our reports indicate that the Reppenearian ships are not all warships, many are merely merchant vessels carrying soldiers. It is likely they will wish to fight on land as well.”

“Do we know how many there are?" Honor asked,

“What good would it do?” The king shrugged. “We have to pray we have enough soldiers of our own to hold them off.” Wesley briefly considered mentioning the message canister he’d sent but decided that sharing such a fragile hope might break it. 

Wesley was always glancing at the horizon, waiting for dark, black ships to come bringing doom. The honor was popular in camp, training in the open fields, sharing correct versions of her legends to avid listeners, but even she was pensive. 

The tension ratcheted up when a horn sounded, signalling that the ships had been spotted. Men grabbed for weapons and strapped on armour but it was no use. There was nothing they could do while the ships were still at sea. As soon as they were within range men fired catapults and flaming ballistae into the sides of the ships until it was too dark to aim. 

“Something’s wrong with those soldiers,” Honor said, squinting at the enemy ranks. She flicked down her visor and gasped. “I don’t think they’re alive," she pulled off her helmet and offered it to Wesley. “Look," she prompted.

He put it on, it was the wrong fit but the visor magically helped him see farther, like a spyglass. The faces of the enemy were grey and rotting, their eyes pale milky orbs. A knight on the front lines lugging a battle-ax suffered from a leaking black wound nearly cleaving his head in half. Wesley nearly threw up.

“Undead," he said, “They must be. What do we do?”

“Pray,” advised a grizzled knight with bear scratches in his chest plate. 

“I don’t put much stock in the gods,” Honor admitted, “But whatever makes you feel better.” Taking another look at the enemy, Wesley caught his breath. Something Honor had once said pinging in the back of his mind.

“You have to see this," he said, handing her helmet back and pointing. A knight in sculpted black armour waved a torn, bloody black flag. Antlers protruded from his helmet to create a terrifying silhouette. 

“I’ve seen this moment,” Honor said softly, “That’s not a good sign.” With that grim omen, she sat in silence.

Bated breath all around, there was nothing to do but wait as the sounds of the enemy setting up camp echoed across the no-man’s-land. It was too dark to mount an attack but not dark enough to feel safe. Some men slept. Others paced. Wesley continually wrung his hands. Honor sat completely still, her naked blade balanced across her knees, a calm sigil of what Adellion stood for. The fog rolled in and the word was passed around to prepare to attack at dawn. 

Crouching in line with the other soldiers in the eerie pre-dawn, Honor leaned over to Wesley. "Hold off the sunrise for a couple of seconds, can you?" Honor whispered.

"Why?" Could he really stop the sun from rising?

"This is one of my favourite tricks," she leaned to her other side and whispered to the soldier there to raise his shield at a certain angle, then pass on the message. Then she repeated the message to the warrior on Wesley's other side. All down the line shields were raised. "Once the sun rises the light will reflect right into the enemy's eyes. It will throw off the first volley of arrows." The ranks of soldiers around them would need a few more seconds to get their shields in position to actually make a difference. 

Wesley concentrated on the music he could feel on the horizon. He endeavored to make it softer, to keep it from coming closer, and he succeeded. He could feel the tension growing, though, like trying to keep water from flowing out of a hole. "Now," Honor whispered and he released his hold. The sun sprang into the sky quite suddenly and a blinding flash lit in the enemy's eyes. 

"Move!" she yelled, her voice strangely amplified to reach down the line of warriors. A great roar came from the opposite end of the field as the blinded troops started running for the Adellion encampment. 

Wesley had to ignore all the noise and listen for magic, this was when he was strongest. He closed his eyes to concentrate, trusting in his compatriots and Honor to keep him safe. There was a wild and raucous song swirling around the entire field. Battle song, he realized, and put it out of his head. That was not what he needed to hear. He needed to hear unfamiliar magics. Enemy mages. There was a low, sickly rhythm in addition to the song of war coming from the enemy camp. It gave him the chills and his stomach rebelled. 

“Rotten. Wasting. Oozing,” It sang. It must be the song animating the undead warriors, he thought. Still not what he was looking for. There! A burnt orange glow at the back of the enemy’s ranks, near the catapults. The mage’s magic song was choppy and irregular but Wesley concentrated on it as hard as he could. Working his way into the cracks in the enemy mage’s magic Wesley shattered it like he had the dome over Eversun Castle what felt like a lifetime ago. The burnt orange glow went out. Surprised at how tired he felt, Wesley shook his head to clear it and opened his eyes. The fighting had moved beyond him now, the Adellion forces slowly gaining ground, leaving him standing next to blood-spattered dirt and moaning, rotting corpses. He quickly closed his eyes again. He had more work to do. 

He found two more enemy mages before they cottoned on to his scheme and began protecting themselves with magic. It took even more energy to break down their barriers now and Wesley was already weary when the sun tipped past noon. He opened his eyes, gasping for air, a little unsteady on his feet, to find that the tides had turned, and not in Adellion’s favour. The front lines were much closer to him than they had been even at dawn.

He looked to his right as a familiar emerald green glow caught his eye. Honor yielded her place in a shield wall to a new member and retreated a few yards to sit on a tree stump. Sitting was definitely what his body craved so Wesley skirted a mud patch and approached her.

“They cut a tendon,” Honor grimaced, inspecting her left elbow. “I’ve got no idea how they got past my shield but I should be alright in a few minutes. I heal faster in the thick of it. How are you holding up?”

“It’s my first real battle," he confessed, sitting next to her. “And I’m worn out,”

“You’re doing good work, I saw-" she paused, cocking her head to one side. Then Wesley heard it too. 

A rhythmic whump, whump, whump echoed over the battleground from the western sky. Both sides paused in confusion, the sounds of battle dying away for a moment, listening intently. Honor leaped to her feet and pulled off her helmet, green eyes huge. "Dragon wings," she said, "Those are dragon wings," 

Wesley felt elated. His message canister to Tavin in the Western Lands had arrived and the dragons were joining the battle. He turned to Honor with a huge, goofy grin on his face to tell her the good news. Black-armored hands shoved into his chest. He was thrown several yards away into hard dirt, knocking the wind out of him. 

Inside a dome of swirling, sickly purple light the Neverknight had Honor by the hair, his massive sword to her throat. He coughed weakly twice until his lungs restarted and he could breathe again. He made a great effort and stumbled to the barrier. He could break it, right? It was no different from the one surrounding Eversun Castle. He just had to concentrate. 

No such luxury was afforded him. A jarring, scratchy note from behind prompted him to dive to one side. A bolt of purple magic was absorbed into the shield right where his head had been.

"It's sundown for the eastern Sage!" A wet, slimy voice gurgled. A wafer-thin man in stained magenta robes extended pale, spidery hands towards Wesley again. The fingers were black and necrotic like they had been frostbitten. Black goo dribbled from the corner of one yellow eye. Another streak of tainted purple light zipped from the mage's skeletal hands. Flinching, Wesley brought up his own hands instinctively. The bolt bounced off of a wall of pale orange light. It flickered and disappeared, but Wesley was still alive. He had no time to worry about Honor as he conjured another wall of light to deflect twin shafts of spoiled violet energy.

Honor couldn't hear anything that was happening outside of the new domed prison she was in. She wouldn't have heard much anyway over her inner voice cursing herself thousand times over for letting herself get distracted. Her helmet had bounced and rolled away, but it was still inside the dome so maybe there was hope. If she could get the massive broadsword away from her neck. 

"The Everknight," The Neverknight said, "We meet at last." His voice was tinny through his full faceplate. 

"Nice to meet you," Honor said as casually as she could, trying not to move her head. She wasn't sure she would survive being decapitated. The sword at her throat had a jagged, razor edge made for hacking through bones. She carefully reversed her grip on her own, much slimmer sword, and swung it in a butterfly arc in front of her own face, redirecting the demonic sword away from her body. She tucked and rolled, sharp points of her armour digging into her back, and grabbed her helmet. Next stop, she thought, wherever those idiots stashed my gorget.

Wesley threw his first fireball by accident. It had been meant as a punch but he'd misjudged the distance between him and the enemy mage and fell short. He was only disappointed in himself for a brief second before the mage's greasy robes went up in orange flames. Unfortunately, the mage didn't seem bothered by the fire. He grinned an increasingly sinister grin as the grey flesh of his face melted and sloughed off. The wizard abandoned magical tactics and lunged at Wesley, tackling him to the ground. The seemingly frail man weighed a surprising amount and Wesley couldn't get out from under the burning corpse no matter how hard he tried. Just when he thought he was going to pass out from lack of air the oppressive weight was ripped away. A massive green-scaled dragon head with ivory fangs tossed the incinerated mage to one side. Jade-toned cat eyes looked down at Wesley, lying in the mud.

Honor got to her feet slowly, channeling all her supernatural grace. The black knight wasn't much taller than her, excluding the horns on his helmet, but he was a good deal bulkier and his blade was much longer. What was more, his armor seemed to be molded to his body. There were no chinks she could see. A contrast to her, working with light, incomplete skirmish armor unsuited to sustained battle. That was alright. It wasn't a suit of armor the Eversword had chosen to guard Adellion. It was a young farm girl grieving for her brother. While her armor was an asset, a roadmap of where she'd been and what she'd done, nothing could erase the young woman who lunged unafraid at the underbelly of a dragon over a thousand years ago. 

Careful not to hint at her actions with her body language, Honor thrust for the Neverknight's legs. Instead of moving out of the way, he swung his broadsword, knocking her blow aside. Still trying to work out how to get through his beetle-like armor she stayed on her toes, waiting for him to make the next move.

Above Wesley, the dragon shrank until only the form of a man stood over him. The man did not look entirely human, his eyes were too green as was his hair, his teeth too sharp, but Wesley accepted the hand up he was offered. "He tasted rotten." The dragon-man commented, gesturing to the charred cadaver.

"Thank you," Wesley gasped, brushing himself off. Amazingly, he hadn't been burned. The dragon-man was eyeing him critically. 

"You smell like sun magic," he said, "Are you the eastern Sage?"

"Yes," he said, sticking his hand out. "I'm Wesley."

"Tavin, at your service," The dragon man said. 

"Tavin? Like, the Tavin?" 

"You've heard of me?" 

"Yeah, from-" His eyes went wide, remembering. "Honor!" His fight had taken him several dozen yards away from the dome. "She's trapped in there with the Neverknight!"

"Or you could say he is trapped with her," Tavin said, he had to shout to be heard. The battle had flared near them. "Come. We need to help with the fight,"

"But-" Wesley protested.

"Don't worry about Honor. She can fight her own battles." Tavin insisted. "Your forces need your help." He pointed to the front lines where the gruesome undead soldiers were beginning to swarm over the first line of defenses.

"Alright," Wesley conceded, casting a last concerned glance at the dome and the two figures within it before running in the opposite direction. He could throw fire now. He was finally a threat. He was no longer useless.

Honor's plan of cutting through the enemy knight's armor was useless. Even the Eversword skidded off the curved surface without even leaving a scratch. The honor was not in as good of shape. She'd sustained a cut to the thigh early in the battle and had reopened it in an attempt to trip up the larger man. It was healing fast but not as quickly as she would hope. 

"Stand down, Everknight!" he boomed, "This is none of your concern!"

"You're trying to invade Adellion," Honor replied, on high alert for a trick or a distraction. "That is the definition of my concern."

"Why bother with Adellion now? You've abandoned it for so many years," he said, making a slight feint. Honor didn't react. Whoever this was may have a lifetime of sword fighting practice but Honor had several. The point about abandoning Adellion did hit a nerve, though. She had planned to leave after all. 

"Why are you bothering with Adellion?" she asked,

"If I stand at the center of the Compass Rose Temple my powers will be magnified a hundredfold. I will raise the dead of the world and bring empires to their knees." He promised.

"Someone you loved died, didn't they?" Honor asked, recognizing grief in his words.

"He died pointlessly, for nothing!" he hissed. "And the world will feel my pain." 

"That won't make it better," Honor said, "I can promise you it never gets better. I lost my brother over a millennium ago. I've since had people who I called brothers but nothing ever heals that hole."

"Then you understand!" he said, "I'm trying to bring him back!"

"You can't!" Honor said, "No one comes back from the Divine Realms. Trust me, I've been there, don't you think I've tried?"

"I brought them back!" The Neverknight motioned to the horde of reanimated soldiers attacking the Adellion coast.

"You brought their bodies back, not their souls," Honor said, "Not their memories or their ambitions or their emotions. I'd rather remember my brother how he was instead of settling for a shambling recreation, wouldn't you?" The Neverknight gave an anguished yell but made no moves.

"His name was Verity," Honor said softly. 

"His name was Edmund,"

"He's gone," 

"He's gone," he repeated. The Neverknight dropped his massive sword in the dirt and sank to his knees with a clang. His black sculpted armor turned gelatinous and began to sag off of him like thick oil. It seeped into the ground leaving a bare, bone-white patch with a very ordinary-looking Repennearian man on his knees in the center. An amulet dropped off his neck. When it hit the ground everyone with magic in their blood, including Honor and the dragons felt a pulse emanate from it. The dome collapsed. The undead soldiers turned to smoke. The black sails of the ship in the harbor turned white. Curious, Honor tried to pick up the carved black stone but pulled her hand back with a hiss. It had somehow burned her hand through her gloves. 

"Where am I?" The Reppenerian man asked, "Who are you?"

"What?" That was all Honor said back. How could he not know he was trying to kill me a second ago?

When the decomposing man Wesley was preparing to fireball turned into smoke he froze. Then realized his fist was on still fire and panicked. Snuffing it out in the dirt he looked around. Confused soldiers and knights poked piles of ash suspiciously, wondering where their opponents had gone. Then a cheer erupted down the line. Honor must have defeated the Neverknight, Wesley thought. He turned around and tried to run back to where the dome had been, but his legs were too rubbery. He settled for a quick walk. Tavin joined him, swooping down from the sky to land on two human legs. He and the other dragons had been setting fire to the enemy from the sky. 

"I'm trying to find Honor," Wesley explained, "Have you seen her."

"She's over there," Tavin said, "I saw her from the sky."

"Great, come with me, I want to find out what happened."

"I'm not sure that's a great idea..." Tavin hedged, "Maybe I should just go."

"You flew all the way here and risked your life to fight undead corpses and you're going to chicken out now?" Wesley teased. 

"Fine," The dragon man said. They skirted the edge of a crater created by a rogue magic blast and approached where Honor stood. She was talking to a man kneeling on the ground.

"Where's the Neverknight?" Wesley called, 

"This is him," Honor said, extending a hand to the Reppenearian man. "We talked."

"I thought the plan was to hit him really hard with your sword?" Wesley asked, wondering how the man Honor was talking to could be the black knight from before. He had a completely different frame. 

"This was a one out of ten times when diplomacy is better," Honor said, "I think this amulet was using his emotions to control him." She pointed to the polished black stone on the white ground. "Don't touch it though, it burned-" she trailed off as she finally turned around. Tavin was half skulking behind Wesley. 

"I used a messenger canister from Jedidiah's office to contact the dragons for aid," Wesley said, suddenly nervous.

"I heard," Honor said, not looking at him. Her eyes never left Tavin who was studiously looking at the dirt. "I tried to come to the docks," Honor said in a lower voice. 

"Well, you didn't," Tavin said, still not looking at her. "What happened, Adellion was in danger?"

"I was ambushed-" 

He cut her off. "By what, obligation?"

"By a couple of crackpot wizards who-"

"Told you you were destined for great things? Gave you a quest?" He jeered.

"Will you let me finish?" she snapped. He finally met her eyes. "I told the sages I was leaving and they freaked out on me. They trapped me in a castle and took my stuff. I only got out a couple of days ago. That's why I couldn't meet you at the docks."

"Really?" Tavin checked,

"It's true," Wesley affirmed. 

"Forgive me?" Honor asked the most vulnerable Wesley had seen her.

"What for?" Tavin asked, giving a wide dragon's grin. They embraced, one hug Honor did not pull away from, and Wesley felt a change in the underlying humming of magic he'd become accustomed to. Honor's song, he realized. Where once it had said "Lost" now it said "Home" and that was the most beautiful thing he could imagine.

Back at Adellion Castle, Wesley leaned on the balcony railing of what had once been Oryeon’s tower. It was the perfect place to watch the sunrise. He’d aired the place out and said goodbye to the spirit of his old friend. They’d found Honor’s gorget and boot knives locked in a trunk along with dozens of books on magic objects. Wesley had spent all night pouring through them by the light of pale orange flames of his own creation. He’d abandoned them for a moment to watch the dawn. There was a knock at the door. Pushing himself away from the rail he crossed the room to open it, expecting a servant or Honor to chastise him into going to bed. 

Instead, it was Rulenne, and he was suddenly extremely conscious that he was wearing yesterday’s clothes. She had to prompt him with a,“May I come in?” before he was able to move. 

“Right," he said, “Yes, come in. Sorry, it’s been a long night.”

“Reading?" she asked, picking up Agbert’s Archetype to Archaic Amulets. 

“I wanted to know more about the amulet we found," he explained. They had eventually used the end of a spear to delicately pick up the black stone by its chain and transport it perilously back to Adellion Castle where it now resided in the vault. 

“Discover anything?" she wanted to know.

“Not really," he took the book from her and opened it to a bookmarked page, pointing at a passage. “This one had some references to necromantic stones but here in the description it characterizes them as white or light grey, never black." Somehow it was easier to talk to her while he was in his element. He could look at the old, dusty books instead of her large, enchanting eyes. He grabbed another book from the bed. “And this one talks of a stone that grants the wearer armour like the Neverknight wore but makes no mention of undead soldiers. If I only knew where the Neverknight got it from, but he doesn’t remember.”

“There has to be something,” Rulenne said, taking a closer look at the drawing in Agbert’s Archetype. “We have a really old section on magic in the Reppenear Royal library.”

“You’re heading back to Reppenear already?” Wesley knew it was coming but he had been hoping for a few more days to work up his courage. 

“I must. The people have been without a proper leader for over a year and I need to know if any of my family members survived.”

“I know," he said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I wish I could stay in Adellion for a little longer too," she said, setting the book down carefully. “I actually like it now that I’m not stealing on the streets. Plus, I have a feeling this isn’t over yet.”

“I don’t think so either,” Wesley said. “There are too many loose ends.”

“I agree," she said, “So maybe once I put my country in order we could get together and try to figure it out?”

“Yeah, Honor has this friend Xan-" he started, reaching for another book to show her his idea but she rolled her eyes.

“I meant the two of us,” 

“Oh," he said, then his face went red and he said again. “Oh.”

“I’m leaving now," she said, “Honor and Tavin are giving me a lift to the coast before they join the other dragons in the west.”

“That’s what they decided then, Honor’s renouncing the Eversword?”

“No, she’s going to keep it.” Rulenne explained, “After they get things settled in the Dragonlands Tavin is going to come here, to see if we can reintegrate dragons into human society.”

“That’s amazing,” Wesley said. What would it be like to have dragons roam Adellion again?

“Well, this is goodbye then,” Rulenne said, giving Wesley a hug. She pulled back, laughing.

“What?” Wesley asked, confused.

“You really do need to pay more attention," she chuckled, holding up his signet ring on its cord. 

“Hey!" he said, snatching it back. 

“Goodbye Prince Wesley Messervy of Adellion, Sage of the East,” Rulenne said as she left the tower, her words formal, her tone not.

“Goodbye Princess Rulenne of Reppenear,” Wesley said, going back to the balcony, fingering his signet ring. His fingers brushed against something unfamiliar and looked down. On the same cord as his ring was strung a tiny loop of wire and an orange glass bead made to look like a sunrise. He held it up to the new day’s light and watched the sunbeams reflect off the tiny imperfections in the glass. Below in the main courtyard, a thunderous flapping of wings heralded a green dragon lifting off toward the southwestern coast. 

“A new age,” Wesley said, repeating what Honor had said on the moor. “A new day.”

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