The Unremarkable Squire
by Nick Hayden
A squire’s oath is to be of service… but to whom?
In the kingdom of Basileon, an unremarkable and emotionally detached young man named Obed Kainos is about to stumble into adventure—quite against his will. When the knights of the realm gather in a quest to search for the lost Armor of Arkelon, Obed is chosen at random to replace the recently deceased squire of Sir Lance Valentino. While trying to perform his menial tasks faithfully, the young squire becomes entangled in the plots of mages, thieves, and kings.
And that’s just his first week on the job.
Unfortunately for Obed, his indifference cannot save him from his new oath. For despite his enigmatic personality (or perhaps because of it), he manages to attract a band of misfits to his cause— the ugly, the arrogant, the clumsy, and the cowardly—putting the legendary armor within the grasp of one who never wanted anything at all.
Obed’s eyes sprang open as his cheek hit the cold floor. He blinked. He saw nothing. He could not tell whether his eyes were open or closed. He rolled to his back, his arms searching the floor. A hand discovered the bed. Turning his head, he found a blinding sliver of light. Slowly, he pushed himself to his feet and hobbled toward the light with outstretched arms. He touched wood and pressed himself against the frame, gasping from exertion.
Groping along the door’s surface, he found the handle. He pulled it open—it was not locked—and brilliant light washed over him. He waded into the light, into the hallway, and pulled the door shut. The hall was empty. He stood swaying as his eyes sought the door and looked beyond it, to where his cot lay. Obed’s hands clenched then slowly loosened. He did not move.
“My life is not my own. I am squire to Sir Lance Valentino. My strength, my will, my… my will,” he yawned expansively, “my very life… is, is forfeit to the… preservation of order.” He leaned fully against the door. “The preservation of order,” he mumbled as his eyelids slid shut. Obed whacked his head against the wood. They opened reluctantly.
“The purity of maidens,” he continued, taking a step down the hallway, his shoulder against the wall. His eyes, dull and unfocused, were directed ahead, to the stairs he had ascended earlier that evening—but the moment’s clarity passed, and slumber’s seductive fingers beckoned him. He forced himself forward in spurts. He passed Lanna’s room, and then Liam’s, and reached the entrance to a vast room. Within, he heard voices.
“…no longer needed. I have acquired one by other means. You may do what you wish with yours. I have no use for her.” It was Garic speaking.
“You promised me payment upon locating and procuring her. It wasn’t easy. Who else could have done so with such alacrity?”
“You were still too slow.”
“I expect my money.”
“But you’ll not expect mine, I hope. Perhaps you could ransom her.”
There was bitter laughter. “Who’d want her?”
“A valid question. It is yours to answer. Now, in regard to your other tasks—”
Obed rubbed his eyes fiercely and, with a burst of determination, pushed himself past the open doorway. Inside he saw Garic talking to a full-length mirror. A wiry, weasel-like man stood in the mirror. His nose hooked like a beak.
Obed reached the stairs. Bracing himself against both walls, he descended. The stairs ended at a single room.
As Obed pushed the creaking door open, a column of light pierced the darkness. Upon the bed, sleeping, lay Violet. Obed walked slowly along the light’s path, but before Violet, his shadow heavy upon her, he hesitated. “Hello,” he said softly. She did not respond. “Please wake up.”
Violet jolted awake with a scream. Obed stopped her mouth with his hand. “I’m here to help you. You said you needed help. I’m here.”
She stopped screaming. Obed released her, deliberately wiping the saliva from his hand on to his pant leg. “Are you all right?”
“Get me out of here. Get me out of here before I don’t want to leave.”
Nick Hayden is the author of the fantasy novels Trouble on the Horizon and The Remnant of Dreams. He has penned a number of short story collections, including Dreams & Visions, and the novella The Isle of Gold. Hayden co-hosts a story-telling podcast, Derailed Trains of Thought, about once a month and also helps run the Children of the Wells web serial. Nick describes himself as a mild-mannered bookkeeper by day, a mild-mannered (albeit tortured) writer by night, a writing teacher three times a week, a youth leader on weekends, and a podcaster every month or so. He has a wife and two kids, who do a fine job of putting up with him.
Our website: www.barkingrainpress.org
Link to story page: http://barkbks.me/WfDXRg
Author Website: www.worksofnick.com
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