One more slash and the man fell. His blade sliced his chest open, leaving him coughing and crying on the ground, before fainting. Alan sheathed his blade once again and glanced around him. He gazed upon the cheering crowd and the high lords that watched him from the castle balcony. He glanced at them, bowed, before moving away, without saying a word. His clothes were made of black cloth and leather, with golden decorations all over it. His blade was strong, yet elegant, filled with artistic smithing. Yet, the most intriguing part of his outlook was his mask; a golden mask that covered his entire face, casting his true identity to shadow. He had become a legend in Lair. All the greatest lords talked about it, even the Lair family. He had become the greatest duelist of all Lair.
“Ser Alan,” a guard said as he walked by, “lord Leon is waiting for you,” Alan nodded, shook his shoulders and turned to the right, into the castle itself. Even though his face was covered with a mask, his posture made the talking. He was tensed, tired, and he still had his opponent’s blood on him. He wasn’t pleased about that. He was a clean and focused man, after all. As he made his way through the chattering and drinking crowds, he got to the high lord himself. He was sitting on his golden chair, drinking his wine. He was a bearded man and tall as a tree, but even so, he was a humble man, respecting others to the fullest. He wore rose-red cloaks, as a symbol of Lair, for today was the birthday of the current lord of Lair.
Alan walked to him and crossed his hands in front of him. “Lord Leon,” he said after a while, “you desired to speak with me?” Leon turned to him with a careful smile on his face, before he stood up. He walked to him and handed him a cup of wine.
“Indeed I did,” he spoke. He began walking away from the loud crowd, waving his hand as an invitation for Alan; he was quick to follow. As they walked among the beautiful gardens of the castle, Leon began to speak. “I’m so grateful you were able to arrive here in such a short time. You truly are as talented as they all say,” Alan chuckled and avoided Leon’s eye contact nervously.
“A lot of practice has gone into my training,” he answered, before taking a sip of his wine, “I’m glad you were satisfied with the show,” Leon mumbled as he sat down on a nearby chair, tapping his side, urging Alan to sit. After he joined him, there was a moment of silence, as both of them drank their wines and gazed around them, watching how the roses bloomed and the golden trees danced in the wind. How the vines had taken over the stone walls and the floor itself. It was a beautiful sight indeed.
“Let me ask you something, Ser Alan,” he said, without taking his eyes off the golden tree that stood in the middle of the room, “do you enjoy killing?” The question struck like ice in his bones. His hands began to tremble, almost spilling his wine onto the ground; he was thankful for his mask at that moment.
“Of course not,” he finally answered, “It’s against the law to kill another of your own kind. The Gods taught us that a long long time ago,” Leon turned to him in surprise.
“Do you still believe in those old stories?” he said as he began to laugh, pounding his leg like a drum, before tapping Alan’s shoulders, trying to make him join in his laugh, but Alan remained silent. As Leon calmed down, he glanced at Alan for a moment, rising his eyebrows in surprise, before quickly turning silent. He cleared his throat and said, “I’m sorry. It’s none of my business where you believe in. It just surprises me to know you are a faithful man,”
“It has been a surprise to many people before you, my lord,” He nodded as a reply. Leon twisted his thumbs for a while, biting his lip and glancing around him as if he was looking for an escape. He then sighed and said,
“The reason I asked you to meet me personally, once again, was because… I need your help Alan,” Alan gazed at him in surprise.
“My help?” Leon nodded. “What kind of help?”
“I need you to act as my duelist champion and travel to the capital. A huge tournament is held there and my family has gone unnoticed for far too long. It would be a great honor for me if you’d take part in their royal killing,” Alan glanced away. Cold sweat began flowing under his mask and his heart began beating like a drum. Leon noticed his odd behavior. “And yes, you’ll get a nice golden reward,” he said jokingly, tapping Alan’s back again. But as Alan remained silent, Leon realized something was wrong. “Are you alright, Alan?” Alan slowly looked at him and said,
“I’m… fine, yes. I’m just thinking about how I’d get to the capital,”
“What? You don’t have a horse? A man of your reputation should have no trouble getting a horse or two,”
“It’s not that, my lord,”
“Oh, so what is it then?” He played with a few thoughts in silence, trying to hold his thoughts together.
“I have a relative who needs my… assistance. I’m afraid she can’t be left alone,”
“I’m sure you’ll figure things out. Tell you what, I’ll pay you to win a few duels and I’ll also pay this relative of yours so she can come with you. Deal?” For a moment, he thought, staring at Leon who had already extended his hand, waiting for a handshake.
“So shall it be,” he replied as he shook the lord’s hand. A wide smile grew on Leon’s face. They both rose up and began walking out of the garden.
“I’ll send you a letter of instructions before you’ll leave for the capital. I can’t wait to see you there! Who knows, maybe you’ll be invited to Valnoria! Think about that, my friend!” Even though Leon was excited and laughing, Alan remained silent. He avoided any eye contact and he moved at the shadow of the rooms as if he was naked and trying not to be seen. Finally, he got to the gate and walked out, still hearing how the crowd cheered and chattered. Leon waved at him as he walked away, before returning to his people, once again.
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