KNIGHTS OF HONOR
About time, right? Sorry! I had to finish GUARDING EDWARD and its bazillion epilogues…and I've entered several contest…and won some too! And let's not forget the other stories that have been done after I entered this one in the 2009 Age of Edward Contest.
You have LJ Summers to thank for lighting the fire under me to get this finished. As those of you who read my work know, I'm really a "Chatty Kathie" and my chapters or one-shots are generally quite long, and, um, CHATTY. LJ challenged me to write 3k words in 48 hours…and to make it TIGHT…I hope she thinks that I succeeded with this epilogue.
This epilogue is written in the third person POV.
Thank you, LJ Summers, u2shay and Leelan Oleander for prereading and pointing out those pesky little grammar bits! This is a better epilogue thanks to you!
~!~!~TWO WEEKS LATER~!~!~
Duke Aro was livid, just as he had been for the past two weeks, ever since his nephew, along with his Knights and the three gifts, had disappeared. He had found great joy in the fact that his brother's son had not followed in that good man's footsteps.
How he hated his brother. It was not fair that he should have her as his wife. She should have been his. But when he heard of Edward's fall from grace, how he seemed to follow more in Aro's steps, he had rejoiced. It had taken a long time to get that young man in his power, after his failed kidnapping, and he had reveled in the thought of what his brother would think.
And then they were gone, after only one night in his castle.
His anger had flared into a blaze when Victoria had told him that they had disappeared. He had beaten her badly with his fists and anything else close at hand.
His servants were afraid to get within arms' reach of him. Although keeping him plied with wine generally brought them some relief as he passed out eventually.
It was noon when one of the guards rushed into the Great Hall. He trembled as he approached his duke, not knowing how his message would be received.
When the duke acknowledged him, he spoke. "My Lord, the King is approaching. He has archers and men-at-arms and many knights with him. They will be here within the hour." The guard was wise and had stopped out of reach of the duke. He only had to duck when the chalice of wine was tossed his way. It was worth the soaking to not be actually struck.
The duke rose to his feet and roared for Victoria. Serfs scurried out the door and moments later Widow Cope appeared. She also stood at some distance from the enraged man.
"My Lord, Victoria passed this morning. There was infection in her wounds." Some said that they heard a bit of satisfaction in the widow's tone when she delivered her words.
Raising a shaky finger, the duke commanded the widow to make a feast fit for the King and for the rest to follow her instructions as she was now in charge of the household. Serfs scurried around to do his bidding.
Felix stood at his duke's side as they conferred over why the King was coming, with no warning, to the castle. He feared that this was not a joyful visit. There were many things that he had done in the duke's name and for his own satisfaction that the Good King John would probably not approve of. The King was a godly man and had spoken often of his wish that his countrymen would follow the Christian's Bible and the Knightly Code. Nothing that Aro or Felix had done would fit under those admonitions.
When all the preparations that could be made on such short notice were done, Aro and Sir Felix rode out of the castle to meet the King. They were accompanied by the hired knights that looked to the perverted duke. Those leaving the castle were astonished when they saw the mass of men that rode with the King.
The King waited slightly ahead of his forces, along with three knights and a few others of his Court, for the duke to approach. This showdown had been many years in the making. When he had become ruler, he had sent word to the kingdom that there would be a change in the way the people were dealt with. Many embraced his changes, but some, like Duke Aro, did not. He hoped that a battle wouldn't ensue, but he came prepared to take the day if so.
The vile little man stopped about thirty feet away from the King's party. King John heard a growl from the knight at his right. Sir Edward had a personal grudge against the duke and against the knight riding at his side. A sharp glance had the young man back in control, but his warhorse shifted, aware of the tension in his rider.
"My King, welcome to Aydon Castle. You honor us with your presence." Duke Aro had lost hope that this was a merely social visit. The King had far too many men with him for it to be that.
He nearly gasped when he saw that the knight to the King's right was his nephew. The look on the boy's face was nothing like the drunken smirk he had last seen there. He had to reassess the word boy, too. This man looked like he was out for blood.
On a bay stallion behind his nephew was his brother, Duke Carlisle. His face looked like it was set in stone, his gray eyes glittering in the weak sunshine. Movement caught the duke's eye. The King's men had moved and he and his own knights were surrounded. A spear of anger shot through the man's chest.
Surrounded…on his own land! Just as he thought to spur his horse forward, about a dozen of the King's archers stepped forward and dropped a knee, their arrows notched and ready to fly. Several squires rushed forward and held his horse while he and his knights were commanded to dismount. Demetri was brought forward from where he stood behind his duke. He had hoped to go unnoticed.
Aro sputtered, "What is the meaning of this, Majesty?"
King John made a small movement with his hand and a herald holding a scroll moved in front of the King and began to read a list of the transgressions that Duke Aro was guilty of. They included kidnapping, rape, attempted murder, outright murder and theft.
The herald then turned to Sir Felix and read off his list as well. Demetri's record was nearly as long.
The men stood stunned at the breadth of sins that were laid out for all to hear.
"You have no proof!" Duke Aro shouted.
Again from behind the King came a small group of men and women. They gave testimony to the fact that these grievances were, in fact, true. Felix had been stunned to recognize the three women that he had kidnapped amongst the assemblage. Demetri shuddered as he remembered what the dark haired one laid at his and Victoria's feet. He wished that she had survived the beating from the duke so that she could stand trial too.
Aro and Felix were both surprised that it was only a case of attempted murder with regard to Sir Michael of Keddington. He had survived his injuries, although he'd never have use of his right arm again.
The King announced his sentence on the accused. The hired knights were to be stripped of any titles and monies they had and their names were to be blacklisted. If they caused trouble at any time, they would be sent to the King's dungeon, never to be seen again. There would be no further chances.
Demetri was not given the chance to change his ways and live a good life. His sentence was twenty years in the dungeon at Balmoral. He had wielded the tools that had cut off fingers and ears and had pulled teeth at Aro's direction. He had done his job with gusto and would no longer be allowed his freedom.
Aro's titles and property were also stripped from him and he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. The King felt that if he were allowed to walk the earth, he'd find others that felt the way he did, the cycle would continue. Some questioned why the King didn't just have him drawn and quartered. There were certainly enough horses around to do it, and volunteers that would have tied the ropes to his limbs, but that was not the King's way. He felt that having the rest of his life to think about what he'd done would be punishment enough.
Felix, after having all his riches taken from him, including his horse, asked if he could fight to restore a small portion of his honor. The knights present agreed. Felix had been a good man once, although that was a long time ago. Their Code stated that he could do this. Although none of the true knights present thought he should be given any honor or special rights just because he had once been a Knight of the Court. It was up to the King to grant this and he knew that one of his knights was needful of justice, so he agreed and asked for a Champion to step forward.
Sir Edward immediately stepped from his horse and the King allowed him the chance to fight. If Felix won, he'd at least get his horse back and an escape route out of the kingdom. In losing he would spend the next twenty years in the dungeon, next to Demetri.
Edward's wife, Lady Bella, stepped to his side and caressed his cheek. He promised to be careful and told her not to worry and they shared a sweet kiss. Her friends, who had also testified, stepped close to offer her support while they watched the man who had rescued them fight against the man who had kidnapped them.
Rosalie's husband, Sir Emmett, gave Sir Edward a mighty clap on the back and told him not to hold back. Although the fight wouldn't be to the death, they would fight until there was a clear winner…and loser.
The King had dismounted and stood next to Lady Bella as they joined the people that formed an arena around the two knights. At his signal the two men began to circle. Suddenly they met with a clash of swords against shields. The crowd was silent as the fight continued. Felix was on the attack from the first moment. His life was on the line and the most he could hope for was his horse and way to freedom.
Sir Edward was intent on the fight. He kept remembering what this man had done, not only to his wife and her friends, but to so many others. He fought with Sir Michael in mind; a good man who would never be the same, even though he was grateful to be able to spend more time with his new wife.
They were evenly matched in skill. While one was filled with righteous anger, the other was filled with desperation. The Lady Bella gasped when a thrust from Felix's shield had her husband falling to one knee. He quickly sought to further his advantage but Sir Edward fought back and soon rose to his feet.
That was the turning point for the battle and Edward finally had Felix on the ground with his sword at this throat.
"Do you yield, Felix?" His voice was low and intense as he asked the former knight to give way.
Only Felix's panting breaths could be heard for a several moments, then, "I yield."
There was no cheering as Edward turned to walk back to his wife and the King. This was not a game. People's lives had been changed by these men and now justice had been served.
A gasp went up and Edward pivoted to see Felix on his feet and rushing toward him. Several arrows immediately looked like they sprouted from the former knight's chest and he fell short of his target.
Another sound caught Edward's attention and he spun back just in time to catch his wife in his arms. She was crying tears of relief and pressing kisses to his face and neck. When she finally calmed he set her back on the ground and they approached the King.
"Well met, Sir Edward." King John looked down at the man lying dead on the field. "He made his choice."
Turning to the crowd the King commanded silence and it quickly fell. "My People…hear my words. Today Duke Aro and those in his command who ruled with fear and pain are no more."
Cheers broke out from those who had cowered under the reign of Aro for far too long.
Raising his hands for the crowd to quiet again, the King continued, "I am leaving my three Knights, Edward, Emmett and Jasper here to rule together. They are good men and you can come to them for help and guidance. I truly believe that under their rule this area will prosper, you will prosper."
The cheers were even louder and this time the knights and men-at-arms joined in. The King had told how the three had been working for him, that they hadn't been the bad men that they had pretended to be for two years.
The King called for a feast to celebrate the new reign and to introduce his knights to the people that would be beholden to them.
The Widow Cope had things well underway inside the castle and the King's people stepped up to help. There were many mouths to feed, although Aro and Demetri were not among them. They had been loaded into a wagon were already on their way to Balmoral and the dungeon there. The driver said that he'd probably have to gag Aro before long. His whining was already getting on his nerves. The King gave his permission for that and said he wouldn't blame him for doing so.
Once the feast was over and the excitement had died down just a bit, Sir Edward led his wife to their rooms. It was not the one where they met, for which she was grateful.
They stood looking out the window over the field below as the sun began to set and twilight overtook the day. The turf was filled with the tents of the King's men.
"Will you be happy here, wife? I could talk to the King and ask to go elsewhere. There are plenty of good men that would stand here in my place." Edward had his arms around Bella's trim waist and she leaned back against him.
He felt her shake her head no as she placed her hands over his where he held her. "No, love, I think that we can make this a much better place. These people need someone like you, someone with morals and a will to do well."
Bella turned and looped her arms around her husband's neck. Husband, the word thrilled her each time she thought it. And she felt joy when he called her wife. They had married just a week ago…a week after they met in this very castle. She shivered and Edward pulled her close to his warm body.
"I'm here," he whispered, "I'll always be here for you."
Smiling, she looked up into his green eyes and nodded. "I know you will be." They shared a few soft kisses before turning to watch the sunset over the property and fields that they would tend together. Bella laughed as she pointed out a couple as they walked among the tents. The knight was tall and his companion was very small but their hands were tightly twined together as they stopped and spoke friends.
"Do you think that Alice is going to let Jasper hold out until she's fifteen to wed?" Bella asked.
Edward chuckled as he tucked her close to his side. "Sir Jasper intends to wait but she is a persistent little thing and now that you and Rosalie are wed, she doesn't want to be left behind."
They both shook their heads remembering the scene as Jasper told Alice's mother that he intended to marry her daughter, but not until she was fifteen. Alice may be small, but she was loud in her dismay. Jasper insisted that they wait for another eighteen months. He would not be swayed, or at least he was still standing firm after ten days. Neither one of those watching them as they walked among the tents thought that he'd last that long.
Full night had fallen and Bella joined her knight in their bed. She had come so far and yet here she was, back in the place where it had begun. He took her in his arms, caressing her and adoring every inch of her body as they professed their love for each other yet again, just as they had that first night on his cape as they lay under the stars.
And just like that night, she knew with her knight by her side, they could overcome whatever life handed them.
With a giggle she also realized that having her knight over her was good too, and under wasn't that bad either.
A/N…there you go, LJ…2776 words! Don't know how *tight* it is…! AND my a/n *only* has about 425 words in it, not the 1k that I threatened.
Thank you everyone that reads this little anti-historical romp. I say *anti* because it is not historically accurate and is only loosely based on English history…and I really mean loosely. Please forgive the changes to the Knights Code of Honor that I may have made…it is fiction after all.
I really wanted King John to have Aro drawn and quartered, but my King wouldn't have done that. It's better for Aro to live in the dungeon and know that he will never be released rather than having him killed relatively quickly. Those living at Aydon Castle will always be in Aro's mind as he rots in jail. Do know that his cell in the dungeon doesn't have an internet connection or a gym or gourmet foods. No, he is in a dank, dark cell with bread, water and thin gruel served twice a day. With no chance of escape except in death. And even though Demetri was given twenty years…and Aro life in prison…how long do you think they are really going to last in the dark and dampness? Does that help?
I've entered my EMERALDS TO RUBIES in the PickAPic Contest. A reader coined "DEAward" for our hero. I'd appreciate it if you would read it and if you think it's worthy, you could vote for it. The link is on my profile page, both for the story and for the contest.
LJ Summers has a scary little romp in the contest too…LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE…and I suggest you read it IN the sunshine!
Again, thank you everyone that has favorited, alerted and reviewed this story. I can't thank you enough for taking my Good Knight Edward to your hearts.