Our allies mourned in silence with us. Content with their victory the opposing army withdrew and we made no move stop them. They had declared war on the church and had won. As news of the Sun Knight's death spread our followers would turn away from the God of Light, their faith broken, and they would be lured in by the temptation of the coin. They would concern themselves with materialistic happiness without regards to the consequences. The people's souls would eventually be lost, but our hearts had already been ripped and we no longer thought about what would become of the people.
Our fighting spirits had been smothered by reality. We were now leaderless and broken. Even Judgment, who should have taken charge the moment Theo fell, took no action. As the sun sank well below the horizon his dark robes became part of the darkness that surrounded us all and we knew the gods had turned their backs.
"I'm going to try to cast resurrection," I declared suddenly.
"You can't!" Judgment pulled me back. "You don't have that kind of power. None of us do. You'd only die as well. How will you face Theo then?"
I looked up at him sharply.
"If there is an afterlife I'm very certain we would not be reunited in it anyway." I said coolly. A sharp pain resounded in my chest. The thought of not seeing Theo ever again was more painful than any wound an ax or sword could inflict. He was my commander, my Sun Knight, and… my friend. I smothered another round of sobs as I remembered we had never reached a resolution between us. We were still in the middle of a fight and for the life of me I couldn't remember what had started it, only that I had senselessly continued it.
God of Light… I prayed for what would be the last time. Not once have I preformed necromancy. I've buried my talents, overcame my fears, and found that one spark of light within me- please! Reaching deep down into my heart I found the faint flicker of holy light. It was the thing most precious too me in the entire world. It was the miracle I had forged through prayers and faith. It was my proof that there was a God of Light and that every dark act I had ever committed served a larger purpose. I don't care if I never use holy light again! Give me back my Sun Knight!
My holy light flared to life, sputtered a moment, and blew out like a candle.
I paused for a moment and grit my teeth to keep from screaming. It was madness that I, who could barely even cast the lowest healing spell once a day, would even think of casting resurrection. Furious at myself for being so helpless, I rashly gathered all of my holy light in my fist and slammed it squarely into Sun's motionless chest.
Theo's body jerked and I nearly jumped out of my skin. Theo gasped in pain. After coughing a few more times our "dead" leader sat up.
"Blimy!" He exclaimed. "That felt weird."
We stared at him dumbfounded. Theo looked over at us smugly with an oddly boyish expression and plucked the grass out of his hair.
"If I didn't know any better," He said. "I'd say you look like you've all seen a ghost."
My mind went numb. "You… tricked…" I couldn't get the words out. When he saw my expression Theo grinned even wider.
"Yes, well, you're not the only one who consorts with necromancers." He reached into his pocket and pulled out some glass shards. "The blade was coated with a sedative and I used a charm to cover myself in dark element for effect." He winked at me. "I must have looked like a pretty corpse indeed to your eyes."
My sense of relief turned into a firestorm of rage. I gave off a deadly snarl. Fortunately Frost and Leaf were able to grab my arms before I could lunge at our now all-too-lively leader.
"Take it easy," Leaf soothed.
"If you kill him off for real then we'll only be left with more problems," Frost agreed.
"But your pulse…" Judgment's eyes grew wide with realization. He marched over to where Theo was sitting and without warning shot a deft hand down the Sun Knight's shirt.
"Hey!" Theo protested. "I know you're happy to see me, Judgment, but this is a bit much don't you think?!"
From out of Theo's blood covered garments Judgment fished out a spherical object. He studied the object carefully and then tossed it to me.
"A rubber ball," I caught the object and tossed it back and forth between my hands. "What does this mean?"
"If you place it here," Judgment pointed to his arm pit. "And squeeze it'll cut off the circulation to the wrist." He gave a wry grin. "I should have just rung his neck to be sure."
The next morning just as the sun was rising, mounted on a pale steed was a noble figure dressed in white with golden hair flowing behind him. It was a sight that would be talked about for years to come. According to the whispers of the town the Holy Knights had rallied around a nameless cleric to bring Sun back from the dead. They returned to battle the next day and the enemy army was utterly crushed. More importantly the foreigners brought the strange, miraculous story back to their own countries and news of the miracle spread near and far.
"Well done Sun!" the pope praised. "The church is packed every Sunday thanks to your recklessness."
"A sedative," I grumbled for the millionth. "Of all the low down dirty deeds- you used a drug to make us all think you had died."
"It only stopped my heart for a moment," Sun soothed. "How many times do I have to say I'm sorry?"
"A drug!" I snapped again. "You know how I feel about those things!"
Sun nodded. "Yes, yes, but that's not why we're here."
"Yes, why did you call this meeting?" The pope inquired.
There was a polite rap on the door and Carlisle Judgment walked in. He gave a respectful greeting to the pope and spared Theo a scary glare.
"Because," Theo muttered under his breath. "Someone was refusing to speak to me ever again." He said in a louder voice, "I've been thinking about some things. I think it's time we made some changes. Big ones. I think we should disband the last of the platoons."
"…What?!" All three of us looked at Sun in horror.
"I'll draw up the details later and present it to parliament." Sun told us. "It's ridiculous to have two armies. We'll still continue to serve the people, of course, but as people. Not as knights."
"Sun what sort of nonsense are you suggesting?" the Pope screamed. "What will happen to the Twelve?"
"There will still be the twelve," Sun nodded. "I promised that, but only the twelve. There will still be much to do in the future, but I think it's time we give up the swords, the bows, the dagger, the lances, and the whips. They are sadly outdated."
"And what of guns?" I asked. "Do we pick up those instead?"
"No, Knight-Cap…." Sun stopped realizing that without a platoon the title wouldn't be necessary. He adopted the title the citizenry called me. "Hell knight," he said. "There are far more difficult weapons to wield than guns. For instance, have you tried your hand with a hammer recently?"
"I don't understand," Judgment confessed and that was saying something. He knew Theo better than anyone.
"We will serve the people by serving the people," Theo explained. "We'll start by building shelters for homeless families and children. Give them a place for food and rest. We'll need places for opium addicts to receive treatment. Sanctuaries for abused women…"
We stared at in amazement. This was Theo talking?
Theo responded to our stares by saying, "Just because I act like a hopeless womanizing flop doesn't mean I don't know what's going on around me."
"But Theo, this would mean…" I felt strange. I felt very strange. With what Theo was suggesting I wouldn't be a knight anymore.
"This would mean that you, my dearest friends wouldn't have to turn your backs to the light anymore." He told us smoothly. "No more killing. Judgment, your investigation skills are the best there is so I think we should continue to use that, but let the government decide what do with criminals."
He turned to the pope. "With this we wouldn't be tied down to just one country. We are entering times when bullets will soon out number swords. It doesn't take skill to murder with a gun. There is no secret art or discipline to learn. The platoon barracks can be converted to classrooms for healers. It is that skill that the world will need now more than ever. This way the knights could go between boarders and speak for the church, not for the king."
The pope remained silent and scratched his chin thoughtfully.
My mind was still reeling. I was trying to picture the world that Theo described. It wasn't easy, but I tried. I pictured my family and the other children living out on the streets. What would my life have been like if there had been somewhere else to go, somewhere other than the rat-infested Court of Miracles? What would have happened to her then? If there had been a sanctuary for Elisa Motife to escape her family then maybe we could have met under better terms? Perhaps we could have even been friends?
I could feel my stomach turn as I remembered the soulless shell that was Elisa and the woman I still hated most in the world. I hated her almost as much as I loved my friends. I wondered if there was some twisted law of nature that prescribed that to maintain the balance of the universe humans had to love and to hate equally in their hearts. I then considered that it might have just been me and that I, who played both sides of light and shadow, could neither be all good or all evil.
I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn't realize only Theo and myself were the ones left in the room until he cleared his throat. The Pope and Judgment had taken their leave to consider Theo's proposition.
"So," he managed to say awkwardly. "I think the two of us are long overdue for a talk."
"Yes?" I wasn't sure what to expect.
Theo looked nervous suddenly as if unsure of how to begin. "I haven't been exactly… truthful. When I was unconscious there was a brief moment… Do you know why Judgment's giving me the silent treatment?"
"Because you faked your death and nearly drove us to our own graves out of worry?" I suggested. "The only reason I'm willing to forgive you is because I'd say we're just about even now."
"No," Theo replied gravely. "I would say we are exactly even."
I watched him stand and noticed almost immediately something was wrong. He had to use the conference table between us to even get out of his chair. I narrowed my eyes and keenly studied his right leg.
"Judgment noticed almost immediately, but I asked him to keep it a secret for now." Theo explained. He drew a white cane from underneath the table. He woodenly limped over to my side where I could see that the leg was completely paralyzed. I looked up at Theo in wonderment.
"There was a mistake on the amount of sedative to use," he explained. "I very well could have died if you hadn't… The limp will be permanent. I'll need you to do even more assignments now, I'm afraid. They won't be as exhilarating as assassinations, but believe me when I say they're important."
I was caught speechless.
"While I was unconscious I felt the oddest sensation of being outside my body." Theo sat down again and reflected. "I thought it was a dream. I was certain it was a dream." He looked at me with a strange look in his eyes. They had a greenish tint to them that I had never noticed before. "In the dream I met Grisia Sun. He's not what you think, Glo. He's really-"
I cut him off right there. "I know enough about my people, Theo. I know the history of the Shadow God just as much as- no, more than I do my country of birth. Whatever you might think Grisia Sun saved us all. It is a legend that has been passed down through my family for generations." I smiled wryly. "It's part of the reason my family came to this country. It's why my parents had no problems converting to the church and why it is my highest honor that I serve you." I smiled embarrassed, "Just like my ancestor, Awaitsun, did. Well, with a few minor differences."I leaned forward and nodded affirming to say softly, "There isn't a little boy on the continent who doesn't wish to the Sun Knight. Can you blame me for wanting you to be perfect? You're my Sun Knight, after all." I leaned back in my chair and watched Theo's expression carefully. He seemed to understand what I was saying and understand me at last.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I was just being stubborn."
"I know," I grinned. "Apology accepted."
"Do I really have to give up seeing women?"
"Everyone knows the Sun Knight only loves the God of Light," I looked at him seriously. "But don't do it all at once. If you change too quickly the others will worry something is wrong. How about I introduce you to an acquaintance of mine? She's one of my top agents and so much better than those giggling messes you seem to fancy."
"Sure," Sun nodded with a wry grin. "If 'big sis' approves it must be okay."
I made a face.
Legend of the Hell Knight- Epilogue
With the support of his two most trusted allies and best friends, Theo Sun ever so slowly made his changes come to pass. By the time Theo retired at the age of fifty (ten years later than what was traditional) trains had become the main means of transportation between cities. As he had predicted the technology served them well and gave the Twelve Holy Knights more mobility and freedom than an army of horses. Theo's plans and ideas bore almost instant fruit. The government was all over the disbandment of an army that they had not control over. The holy knights soon found themselves occupied running shelters and other services for the people.
The Judgment platoon was disbanded, but didn't disappear. Through a partnership with the local authorities Judgment formed an academy that trained royal knights on how to conduct investigations. These new agents worked to protect the peace and became known as "Peace Officers" and their base of operations in the capital became known as the "King's Yard" or simply "the yard".
The Leaf platoon set to work acquiring land rights for wilderness parks and preserves. The Leaf Knights became known as "rangers" and specialized in protecting nature and rescuing lost travelers who wondered off into the wilderness. As technology encroached on the city wilderness trips became popular among the all classes. The pope was excited to use any and every opportunity to make money- er, "educate the masses".
One after the other the Holy Knights took on a different role in society. As Theo had predicted the challenges they faced were far more difficult than any adventure they had faced before. With Glo's expertise they were able to jump through any legal hoops and sometimes bribe their way to results. The Hell Knight was very pleased to use her talents in such a way. It was a more fulfilling life than she could have ever dreamed of. Finally they were all able call it quits when Theo retired, but while the Holy Knights were exhausted they were sad to go. It would be left to the next generation to carry the torch forward into a brighter future.
The last person to depart the capital was Gloria. Theo saw her off at the station. Neither could believe that they had seen half a century go by in their lifetimes. Glo was set to leave on the earliest train to Kissinger hoping to be reunited with her family by evening. For the first time in years she was dressed as woman. Theo thought there was something rather seductive about the black mourning gown. As her last disguise Glo was dressed as a widow for it would have been unseemly for a woman her age to be unwed.
However, despite his eye-catching red clothes, it was Theo who was really in mourning. His wife's death was one of the factors that had convinced him to finally retire. Glo had comforted as long as she could, but it was well passed time for her to move on with her own life. Her student was just as talented as she had been (despite being a boy). If Hell Knights could be famous she knew without a doubt he would be, but that wasn't the nature of the "new role" of the Hell Knight.
Theo winced as the two hugged their farewells His bum leg was getting worse with age. He wondered how much longer he had to endure the aches of life. His holy magic had weakened considerably, but it still burned through his veins making him look younger than his age. Glo's agelessness came from good breeding rather than holy light. She seemed to magically stop aging once she hit thirty. Only upon close inspection could one notice the subtle wrinkles that marked her face and deepened when she laughed.
"Best of luck my friend," Theo told her.
"And you, my Sun Knight." Glo replied as she stepped on the train. The conductor was shouting the last call.
"What will you do once you get to Kissinger?" Theo called over train whistle.
"My younger brother has come into some money!" Glo shouted back. "He's offered me a job with his shipping company! Two silver pieces a day!"
Theo's jaw dropped and Glo laughed. He kept waving stupidly until the train was out of sight. Theo shook his head in wonderment. Glancing at the sky he spotted the sun just barely peeking out of the clouds and something struck him. There was an odd feeling in his heart. He wasn't sad at their parting. In fact it was quite the opposite. Grinning to himself he suddenly felt a spur of youthful energy. He had just enough spark for one more adventure.
"Kissinger," He mused. "By the God of Light, what am I doing just standing here?" He twirled around as fast as his leg would let him and marched right to the counter. "Ticket seller!"
"Yes? What can I do for you, sir?" the man behind the counter seemed startled by Theo's vigor.
"When's the next train to Kissinger?" Theo demanded. "Hurry man!"
"Y-yes! Kissinger? What's the rush sir?"
"Women! Why my foolish young fellow," Theo grinning like a madman dropped his wallet on the counter. "Why there are rich ladies to court in Kissinger! On with it man! We mustn't let them get away!"
"Right, right, useless fop," the counter man muttered under his breath. "I'll get you a ticket. Will that be all?"
"For now," Theo answered wryly.
The Next Chapter of New Legends: The Legend of the Leaf Knight
75 years after the time of Theo Sun a young orphan, Owain, trains to be the next Leaf Knight in charge of protecting the natural resources and the forests in the name of the God of Light. The woods do not interest him, however, and Owain finds himself and his fellow knights-in-training caught up in many misadventures in the capital city. It is a new age. Clockwork gadgets are sold in the streets like hotcakes, airships fill the skies, and dark forces are at work in the underground as a well known professor is murdered in cold blood. Could the murder possibly have to do with his discovery on the mystery behind disappearance of the elves?
New Legends (plural) is a story about not just one generation of knights, but a collection of stories linked in a single timeline that moves forward with changes in technology. So, beak out the tea! We're expecting a lot of new (and a few public domain inspired) faces in the next steam punk inspired arc followed by a quick hop to the modern era before blasting off into the space age!