A rash of complaints come to Siegfried about the need for a more stable leader, and how people want Siegfried to take more command in governmental matters - at the same time Siegfried is being informed that the dark wizard has reappeared in the neighboring kingdom of dwarves and that they need to go to slay him...
Siegfried’s cheek was swollen into a bright circular bruise that showed the impact of knuckles perfectly across his face. He tapped it lightly with his fingers, feeling the sting, before Gilsa pushed his hand away quickly and lightly pressed a towel of ice to his face. Reicket was taking a drink of water, a cold towel wrapped over his shoulders. Gilsa watched them both with a pained look, because in the end he still couldn’t bring himself to lay a hand on Siegfried.
“You stopped crying.” Reicket congratulated as he tossed the towel back on the rack, “That’s a good sign.”
“I wasn’t crying.” Siegfried truthfully said, taking the ice pack to hold. “I didn’t expect it to be so hard to keep my eyes open.”
“There were tears, it was crying.” Reicket shrugged. “If I get hit in the nose it happens to me too.”
“You didn’t lose your footing.” Gilsa sighed unhappily, “That’s better than most.”
“I dropped my guard though, didn’t I?” Siegfried questioned, “And I couldn’t focus right after. And, my neck hurts, so I think I tightened instead of turning, and-”
Three loud blows cut across the gym from the heavy wooden door.
“Seriously?” Reicket sighed in exasperation.
“Enter!” Siegfried shouted, standing from the bench. He gently took the ice pack away and poked at his throbbing cheek.
“Just tell them to wait.” Reicket mumbled, prompting Gilsa to elbow him harshly in the side. Reicket rolled his eyes and stepped away, not caring about the two glares sent his way. He was annoyed by the constant interruptions, and he thought the others were too, but they were too nice to mention it.
One of an endless number of Siegfried’s counselors opened the door then. He bowed as he did, and Siegfried gave him permission to speak as he went over. If this was another counselor come calling, it was a matter of government. One of the many that interrupted them today, and yesterday, and the day before that. Each time it was something Siegfried merely needed to advise on, or he’d have to leave in a rush to account for something.
“You think that they’d be able to run everything better, since they’ve been doing it since he was a kid.” Reicket drank some water after he spoke, sitting down heavily next to Gilsa.
“It’s the first time there’s been a clear, designated, and capable leader in ten years.” Gilsa’s eyes were locked onto Siegfried. “I can understand why they want his Highness’ input.”
“What are you talking about? There’s always been the Queen.”
Gilsa squinted at him funnily. “Have you ever seen the Queen?”
“Well, no. But I haven’t seen Siegfried much either and he’s always been there.” Reicket shrugged.
Gilsa thought about what Reicket said, how it was so nonchalant, and wondered if they were even considering the same things.
“I’m sorry, I have to go.” Siegfried came back over, his voice disappointed and apologetic. “For some reason there’s a large amount of livestock with hats and fake beards stuck to them.”
Reicket laughed, “And what, you have to go pull them all off?”
Siegfried chuckled tiredly. This was one of many stupidly small problems which were being blown up big enough to reach his ears. “No, I need to ligate the litany of legal problems that it brings. Taxes, importing, figuring out who did it, what happens if any of them are harmed and what relief I can offer.”
Gilsa stood. “That’s fine. When you are ready you know where to find me.”
“Is this like the thing where all the wagons were missing their wheels.”
Siegfried sighed, “It was just the one wheel, if it was all of them that might have been better. No, I’m hoping this is more like the big pile of chairs being stacked at every entrance of the town so no one could leave.”
Reicket snickered, “But then how did we get the messenger?” He asked again, repeating what he’d sarcastically said yesterday. “Or maybe it’s like all the giant gopher holes!”
“It better not be like the giant gopher holes.” Siegfried pouted, “Some people take falling into holes too personally. How was I supposed to -” Siegfried sighed, “Anyway, I’ll try and keep it short. Have a good day.”
Reicket waved as Siegfried left, Gilsa rising to bow since he was always respectful. Gilsa also began cleaning up once the door had closed. Reicket finished his water and placed his hands on his hips. Watched as Gilsa moved to pick up the practice swords, how he took all the towels and folded them nearly, using one to wipe up their sweat from the gym floor. Reicket brought a hand to his mouth and cleared his throat. Gilsa looked over at him, unbothered, with one of his eyebrows raised.
“I - uh - wanted to - uh talk to you.” Reicket said, gaining and losing his nerve. He’d actually been trying to talk to Gilsa for awhile. Okay, he had spoken to him, but he wanted to say something, and he didn’t want Siegfried to come and change Gilsa’s response.
Gilsa threw down the towel he’d use to clean the floor, and raised an arm over his head to stretch it. “What about?” His bone cracked, and then he switched his arms.
“I… uh, wanted to tell you that I noticed.” Reicket raised his arm above his head, almost the same gesture, but scratched the embarrassing tingle coming up his neck instead of stretching.
“Noticed?” Gilsa repeated, confused.
“The rations.” Reicket started with. “When you were separating them, how you… and when we travel, then also all the times - you know I’m not stupid!” Reicket shouted, then immediately sighed, turning to Gilsa with his palms out, “You know?”
Gilsa had a stunned and concerned twist to his face. He shook his head slowly,. “I have no idea what-”
“When you gave yourself less food! And you, you always went into danger first, but would travel in the back to make sure no one snuck up on us, and that - you know - I noticed. Too. And, you know, with the bridge. I - I know you would’ve gone last too, even though you couldn’t cross it without help, and if you went last…” Reicket turned and shrugged, “I can go last sometimes too. Is what I wanted to talk to you about.”
Gilsa inspected Reicket. At least, Reicket felt like he was being inspected. Though Gilsa was really looking at him in a new way. Seeing him for a moment like he had more potential than just another one of the many people Gilsa had trained or trained with. Reicket and Gilsa had been through two journeys together, only two, and perhaps spent a week together otherwise. It was surprising at having this habit pointed out. Gilsa knew he’d been trained like that, he’d forged himself to do so, but he had never expected Reicket to notice. Maybe Siegfried would, since he did it for Siegfried, but he also did so for Reicket the stable hand. Not that Reicket was any less than Siegfried. No, not at all.
Gilsa nodded, “Alright. That I can understand.”
“You do?” Reicket turned to Gilsa, not sure if he was embarrassed at it or relieved.
“I can’t promise I’ll do it, stable hand, but I will speak up about it.”
“And you’ll let me lead more too.” Reicket decided. “That’s what I wanted to say, too.”
“You aren’t leading.” Gilsa informed him, “That is his Highness’ role-”
“You know you’re lying right?” Reicket interrupted.
Gilsa rolled his eyes, “as the White Knight. I’m just making sure he stays safe.”
Reicket knew that Gilsa knew he was lying. He was saying it because Gilsa was supposed to, because of who he was. Reicket rolled his eyes. He’d lead, he’d just ask again later. “So then-”
The door to the gym opened again, and two guards came in. Both were clearly in a hurry, out of breath and immediately snapped to attention as they spotted Gilsa. One raised his hand, a scroll held tightly in it, and the other raised a salute.
“Sir, your presence is immediately needed. There is an evil wizard at our dwarven borders.”
Gilsa rocked back a bit. “But we’ve been at peace with the dwarves for centuries.”
Reicket smiled and clapped him on the back. “Sounds like another job for us then! The Rainbow Knights.”
Gilsa blinked at him, but he wasn’t able to find any words.
Reicket smiled and started running from the room. “I’ll go get the horses!”
The room had a massive set up of tables. Three were made into a massive U in the center of the room, two more flanked the walls, and a desk of papers was before the massive floor-to-ceiling windows which overlooked the ground floor garden. While the wood of the tables were worn and discolored from use all the chairs were plush, new, and overstuffed for comfort. Otherwise it would be impossible to work day in and out as a governor from the uncomfortableness.
“Would they be satisfied if we instilled a councilman there - he could make the decisions required much faster than I.” Siegfried suggested, his hands holding two different letters. “That’s what both burroughs want. Unless I’ve misunderstood.”
“My King, they would still need to proceed with your explicit permission.” Siegfried’s Grand Advisor, Lord Pennywise, offered. He had to be contrarian. To try and see things from the negative, so that they could best avoid them.
“I trust everyone here. I do.” Siegfried declared, setting down the letters. “You all have led this kingdom in wonderful ways, and been incredibly dependable. Your service is incomparable, and I would never fathom excluding your voices - not to mention vetoing them. I am newly King, and… young, and unwise, and so I would trust your judgements in making decisions for the burrows without my input.”
“That is not the attitude of a King.” Grand Advisor Pennywise softly said, though it had the weight of all his sixty years behind it. “Moreover, the complaints from local leadership are about listening to a stand-in. Many already feel as if we do not give credence to their elders or wisemen, and instilling a direct position of power as you propose would cause much disagreement between us and local powers.”
“As the King, such disagreement can be healthy, though.” Advisor Tall cautioned. “It is very common when a new King is crowned for there to be a bit of… push back. Even when your father took the throne there were those who remained unsatisfied.”
“Yes, but I don’t want to disturb the people if I can help it.” Siegfried put in, “If it’s local leadership then perhaps I can meet with them and discuss?”
Grand Advisor Pennywise spread his fingers. “Here we are.”
“To say nothing of the university yet, as well.”
Siegfried raised a hand, “That would require more civil workers than we have, I won’t force people into building something.”
Advisor Tall shook his head.“It would turn away quite a lot-”
A single pounding knock boomed out from the door interrupting their conversation. It startled the other two who were in the room, doing far more route work than they. It took a moment for anyone to answer the door.
“Gilsa!” Siegfried stood up from his chair, hand folding shut the ledger of paperwork. “Hello! You need’nt kneel, please.”
Gilsa stopped where he was about to do just that, and instead gave a small bow. “Your Highness. Commander Julius wanted me to ask your permission to send Green Squadron to the dwarves to investigate the sighting of the Dark Wizard.”
“What?” Siegfried gasped, “But hadn’t we eliminated him?”
“That is what the Commander would like to investigate. The news only reached us moments ago. Dispatching Green Squadron would be a recognizance mission, to better understand the situation.”
“Julius wants to send an armed squadron to our border with the dwarves?” Advisor Tall balked, “That would be a clear act of aggression!”
“We have been at peace with the dwarves for years - it could be possible they aligned with the dark forces during this time of new leadership for warful gains.”
“Stop.” Siegfried interrupted them. “I am talking to Gilsa.”
Grand Advisor Pennywise nodded, and he sat back in his chair, almost becoming furniture as his robes settled about him.
“You cannot think it - to send any force toward the dwarves would overbalance our precarious peace with them.” Advisor Tall cautioned again.
“Shut up.” Siegfried repeated, though he kept the venom out of his voice. “Gilsa, how did you hear of this? When exactly?”
Gilsa seemed a bit surprised at Siegfried’s outburst, but listened all the same. “The rumors were brought to us by a bird - today - from Harrow. It was a sighting reported by hunters. They saw the same little wooden - toy - things. And heard thunder on a cloudless day. Because it was on the mountains, and in dwarven territory, no one has looked into it further.”
“Until today!” Reicket shouted, pushing in Gilsa and making both stumble fully into the room. “Because today, the Rainbow Knights are on the case!”
“Who let - how did -” Gilsa shoved Reicket off him with a stammer, and tried to recollect his bearings.
“We’re all packed and waiting, Siegfried!” Reicket eagerly grinned, “Just give us the word.”
Siegfried looked between Gilsa and Reicket, and then his two advisors. Only Reicket seemed immune to the mood of the room, passing over the decorum with ease and his plan to ride off. To perhaps face the Dark Wizard. To follow his sense of adventure. He had no conniption in doing so.
“I… have to finish matters here first. There’s-”
“There’s a Dark Wizard again! What more do you need to know, you’re the White Knight aren’t you!”
“Yes, but I’m also the King. I can’t just ride toward the border - or leave matters unfinished.”
Gilsa lightly pushed Reicket out of the way. “That’s everything your Highness, I’m sorry, I’ll take Reicket home.” Gilsa hissed at him.
Reicket turned around in Gilsa’s grip, trying his hardest to not be pushed away. “What! Why! We have a job to do!”
“Gilsa, wait, and Reicket stop it.” Siegfried told them. “I just - of course I’ll go as the White Knight. And…” Siegfried paused for a moment. “And I’ll bring Green Squadron as well. For protection. If the burrows need an answer so quickly then allow for their local leaders to make a quick call and have that be in place until I return and review it. Make that the standing issue until you or I can figure something out.”
Siegfried smiled at Reicket, and almost laughed at Gilsa’s horrified look. “I think the reappearance of a Dark Wizard is more pressing than some old farts pestering me about laws.”
Rising from the earth was steam. Massive billowing clouds which plumed up from the rocky breaks between the trees. Huge rings of salt and minerals lined pools of clear water which showed endless black abyss. Mountains rose up around the geysers in low hills, dipping and rising until they formed huge sharp cliffs in the distance, culminating in a final spire piercing the sky covered in fields of snow. Here, were the hot spring pools puffed steam up, there could be no snow for the heat was too oppressive, scorching the grass from the ground and leaving behind on ancient burned stones. Hidden in this bald land, surrounded by towers of green trees was where the dwarven kingdom lay.
No one could force the land to give up the secret of how to enter the dwarven kingdom. Therefore, it was with immense relief and much trepidation that Siegfried, Gilsa, Reicket and the ranks of Green Squadron approached the two dwarves. They were standing with backs to the smoke rising from a fat mounded geyser. Arms crossed. Wreathed in flame.
“Stop staring.” Gilsa hissed at Reicket behind Siegfried’s back. He tried to keep it quiet, but that was difficult being on horseback. “You’re being rude.”
“I can’t help it.” Reicket whispered back. “I thought they were just… short.”
“Hail, friend dwarves!” Siegfried happily greeted, “I am King Siegfried of Crystalandia. I have come to speak with your King on the rumors of the reappearance of a Dark Wizard.”
“Stop. Staring.” Gilsa hissed at Reicket again, and he kicked him in the thigh.
Reicket turned to him with an expletive face. One that tried to urge Gilsa to be quiet and also show he was trying and failing horribly. Gilsa glared back at him for failing, for not being able to hold onto decorum a bit better when faced with the dwarves.
“We greet you, King Siegfried. There is the concern of such force at our door step, and thus we have come to see you.”
“I came with my men because - well - there is a dark wizard about. In addition, I have brought my two most trusted friends; Gilsa and Reicket. They fought alongside me as Rainbow Knights against this Dark Wizard not too long ago. Therefore this concerns me greatly.”
“Rainbow Knights?” One of the dwarves turned to look at the other.
It was difficult to tell, because they didn’t have eyes, so much as smouldering coals set in holes within their heads. The dwarves were made of fire and metal, their skin a roasted copper color, greased with heat and clearly made of impressively strong unmalleable metal. Their faces were blank and unexpressive because of their unbending metal flesh, their entire heads having to turn because even their black coal eyes had trouble moving. They were short, but stout with their iron muscles and thick bodies. Made for lifting, for brawn, power and sheer strength. Where their hair or joints would be was thick glowing lava and fire. Hot lines of red ran up and down them like veins, and the flames from their chins and heads floating up and toward the sky. All they wore were metal skirts made of embossed plates riveted together to cover their hips and legs. Dwarves.
Both carried massive hammers nearly twice their size in their stout fat hands.
“Yes.” Siegfried beamed. “I can prove it as well. Don’t be alarmed.”
Siegfried reached toward his hip them, and he pulled forward the white sword. He didn’t take it from the belt loop where it hung, but maneuvered it to be seen front and center alongside him. There was no denying it then. The fine craftsmanship, the immortal fine gleam, the massive heart-shaped gem. Even a glance was enough to be sure that Siegfried spoke true.
“Aye.” One of the dwarves said, voice as unemotive as his face. “Aye. We see you to be true, King Siegfried. I shall take you and your fellows within Dravenhiem.”
“Your guard and horses must stay without.” The second clarified. “For they have no claim to entry.”
Siegfried glanced over his shoulder to his friends. He had a serious face, and came to a quick conclusion. “I will bring my two brother Rainbow Knights - Gilsa and Reicket.”
“That is agreeable. Follow me please, King Siegfried.”
Siegfried, Gilsa and Reicket dismounted from their horses. Gilsa quickly took off his backpack from his horse and slung it on. Reicket did his best to stare at Siegfried instead of dwarf. Except that quickly became impossible. As they came closer to the dwarves the one who invited them turned around to face the rising heat from the hot spring. Then the copper arms lifted up, hammer held high, and the steam began to part like a curtain. Suddenly the dwarf slammed the hammer into the crust of the pool, making the salt and crusted minerals ring. Within a moment the hot spring began to bubble, to churn, water jumping up in shots and columns, hot air popping and hissing. Massive water pressure built, shooting vertical waves up suddenly, and then it exploded upward in a massive torrent of rising waves, spewing forth all the water which had filled the hole, smoke and glittering water filling the sky above before it cascaded back to the ground in painful rain.
Reicket had stepped back to watch the display of the geyser erupting, Siegfried ducking his head down as he failed to keep dry and Gilsa kept his eyes on the dwarf. The dwarf began walking down the empty hole left behind from the water. Gilsa called for the other two to hurriedly follow.
They began walking down then, a straight hike down, and while it was brief it was beautiful. All underground was coated in lattices of minerals and salt. The ceiling had long hanging poles of glittering microgems. The ground was rocky from the crystals. The walls sharp and cutting. Everything glittered, leading straight down toward massive bridge constructed of a single massive fallen spire of pure crystal. Foggy and full of dark lines and imperfections which did nothing to take away from the impressive size, the whole bridge was from the bottom of this path over a deep casam containing lava. At the other end of this bridge rose a city of metal.
Gilsa's lips pressed flat as they came to the start of the bridge.
Siegfried and Reicket paused for him.
"Are you able to get across?" Siegfried gently asked. "We'll help."
"Come on! Look at at that!" Reicket bubbled, pressing two hands to Gilsa's shoulders to shove him forward. "Just look at the huge metal - tall - wide - crazy cool fort place! Get over it, let's go!"
Gilsa tried walking forward as his heels dug into the smooth glass surface of the bridge. "I - I am. It's just -" Gilsa's eyes were completely round as he started at the glowing heat of the laval beneath the bridge. "I can fall…" He whined, the back of his knees tingling and airy.
"Didn't you tell Ricket to stop, staring? Take your own advice." Siegfried reached back and grabbed Gilsa's hand to pull him along. "Close your eyes if you need to - we have you."
"No, I can. Walk." Gilsa declared, moving his eyes to just glare at his feet. " I can."
Reicket pushed him forward as he snickered and Siegfried pulled him stoically. Their guide hadn't slowed at all for their struggle, and once Gilsa overcame the bridge they needed to race to catch up. Around them the metal city rose in sheets of smooth black iron. There were no windows, and only sharp retectulangar doorways. Much of the light rose up from the laval far far below, casting long shadows upward and outwards in several directions, yet a line of the bright black and red laval ran as a gutter across the tops and middle of buildings to bleed the light down and chase away the darkness. Pressed into the walls from top to bottom were words declaring the stores' names, or the family names of the dwarves who lived there. Except now the streets were deserted, and eerily clean.
Reicket couldn't help staring at the completely foregin and magical dwarf again. As much as his heart beat for the excitement of venturing into this new underground place, it also thudded in his chest with nervousness and the prickling feeling of danger. He stepped a bit closer to Gilsa, who walked on the left of Siegfried, and Gilsa glare at him again for staring. As if he too wasn't watching the iron back of their guide sharply as well.
Siegfried, more bold than both of them, spoke. "Is there a reason there aren't any people here? I didn't mean to disturb anything."
"Work." The dwarf responded.
"Everyone." The dwarf responded, and thought it was hard to hear there was the unmistakable glow of deep pride in his voice.
They continued on until an uncompromising squat fortress rose before them. Short, strong, and an almost perfect mimicry of the dwarves within and around its walls, this building implied nothing less than the castle it was. From the front it was a perfect square, and where it lacked windows it made up in a strange artful pattern of rising rectangles. Sharp angles, and yet somehow natural and elegant in their pattern. A pattern which repeated and grew, shrinking near the top and bottom, widening at the edges to grow longer and straighter to bend around the sides. And inlaid at the very bottom was a single double door with vertical thick handles to be pulled open. Though they appeared heavy their guide had no trouble taking hold with one hand and grinding the metal door open against the floor.
Gilsa stood silent in front of the mosaic. His arms were crossed, like he was cold, though the underground city of the dwarves was sweltering. He didn't even turn as Reicket entered the room as well, almost as if he didn't hear him. Reicket instantly felt awkward and hotly embarrassed. He never enjoyed silence, and seeing Gilsa not be aware of him made him worry that maybe he shouldn't just barge in. Except he wanted to stare at the art a bit more too.
Better now than later. "It's very pretty isn't it?" Reicket said loudly, trying to let Gilsa know he was there.
Gilsa's eyes didn't move from the glass trapped against the wall. "Yes. Very well done. I thought the dwarves would do more metal work…" His words trailed off, the thought unfinished and lazily thrown out.
Reicket let out a breath, though he still felt as if Gilsa hadn't noticed him and that he was still being intrusive by coming close to see the picture. "I don't know if you can make a good drawing out of metal. I bet they don't paint though!" He wasn't sure if it was supposed to be a bad joke, but Reicket said it anyway. Gilsa didn't laugh or look at him still, so Reicket started at the mosaic as well.
"It sucks that you can't tell which is which, though." Reicket had to cross his arms as he stared as well, almost chilled despite the heat. He flapped his hand nonchalantly, though his chest continued to squeeze and fill him with nervousness. "Since… you know… there's no color anymore."
Carefully cut glass made up the portrait of the Rainbow Knights. The former Rainbow Knights. Most of them, at least. There were five. There was supposed to be seven. White, Red, Orange, Green, Yellow, Blue, Purple. One Knight for each of the swords, one sword for each of the colors. Everyone knew there was supposed to be seven, but here there were five, and in the other mosaics in the halls there were six, a few of four or three, and rarely seven. Not that you could tell they were the Rainbow Knights by sight now. The colored glass losing its one quality, and leaving behind grays and blacks and whites and ghosts.
"You can." Gilsa interrupted. "Heinrich Brightsoar the Third, the White Knight."
He lifted his head to indicate the man. His portrait was clearly white. His sword out alone before the four other figures. Waring the White Armor, wielding the White Sword.
"Yeah, I mean, you can tell him, but the others is what I meant. Because you have to tell based on color." Reicket glanced at one of the other mosaics and noticed that one lacked the White Knight. "Rainbow Knights with no Rainbow."
"Orion Friend. The Purple Knight." Gilsa pointed out with his eyes.
The man there had hands that were shades lighter than the rest of his skin, like they were dipped in some other color, and one hand held a dagger. The man had long hair, and he wore no armor but long flowing robes, and a wreath on his head.
"Hallivar Eddas, the Orange Knight."
This man stood to the left of the former king. He had on the only helmet, one with two horns, and huge pauldrons upon his shoulders. He wore gauntlets with spikes upon them. His greaves similar. All of his picture was heavy armor, more strength than grace, and held in both hands hands, pointed to rest upon the ground, was a massive war hammer.
"Oh!" Reicket realized, his eyes turning to the other mosaics then. "You can tell because of the weapons. Then… uh…" Reicket didn't know the weapons which correspond to which knight.
"Tristian Callium, the Green Knight."
He had on some armor, but no where near the Orange. He had a short sword at his hip, hand holding it there, and he was farthest from the White Knight, even almost separate from the others because none of his image touched their tight group. The man had a beard, and short hair, he seemed kinder because his weapon was in its sheath, and on his only armor, his chest plate, was the embellishment of a rose.
"Blackvie Ducere. The Blue."
Gilsa pointed at the man to the right of Heinrich the White. The picture had the man holding the spear up, not as high as Heinrich. He had a cape on, and looked remarkable for the half skirt he wore on his hips. His hair was back in a ponytail, black or near black, and he wore more armor than the Green, but less than the Orange, and despite being a drawing had more presence and commanding than both. Yet still less than Heinrich, who remained front and center.
"You know them all, huh." Reicket felt a bit more relaxed now that he had names to faces, though still nothing more to identify the people. "Is it because you are a knight in training?"
"I guess." Gilsa noncommittally responded. "The Yellow Sword is a scythe. The Red Sword - I don't know. There hasn't been a Red Knight in a long time. I think sixty years. Once I heard it was bow, and once I read it was a sword like the Green or White, and my Grandfather was certain it was a spear. Something about it being the opposite of the Blue."
"Wait, if the Blue Sword is a spear, why would the Red Sword be a spear?"
Gilsa shrugged. "I don't know."
Reicket stared at him. Gilsa sounded a bit… subdued. Then he turned back to the mosaic and grinned. "Which would you want? Wouldn't it be cool to take the Red Sword, if it hasn't had a knight in a hundred years?"
Reicket rolled his eyes. "I'd take the White, but that's Siegfried's so… Maybe the Yellow. My favorite color is gold, because it's gold, and Yellow is the closest. No, on second thought, the Orange looks best. Strong and big, and that is an awesome helmet." He raised his hands above his head. "I like the horns especially. What'd you pick?"
Gilsa was quiet.
Reicket was just about to say something, to ask a question, to break the uncomfortableness which threatened to surface, when Gilsa shook his head.
"I don't know. I will do what my King requires."
Reicket smiled. "Yeah, I figured you'd say that. But then, pick one that's your favorite color, at least?"
"My favorite color is black." Gilsa turned to him and raised an eyebrow.
"Well then, come on, don't be so boring. How come you can't pick?"
"First, the Rainbow Swords pick their user. Second, they have different powers, and since I don't know what they all are, I won't choose."
"What!" Reicket exclaimed, "They have powers! What powers?"
"I just said I don't know."
"Don't know them all. Which do you know?"
Gilsa looked at the mosaic, and then back to Reicket, except not right at him. "The Blue controls water."
"Changed my mind, I want the Blue, Wait, what about the White? Do you think Siegfried would know? What does that one do?" Reicket turned back to the door. "Think we can go check on him yet?"
"They said they'd come get us." Gilsa told him. "Until he's done talking to the dwarven Prince you just need to stay put."
"We could just check." Reicket offered.
Gilsa wasn't sure if he should sigh or roll his eyes. "Why don't you go and look at the rest of the Knights? This place seems endless."
"Oh, do you think they have a picture of the original Rainbow Knights?" Reicket quickly asked, turning around. "That'd be something to see. I'm going to check. Are you coming?"
Gilsa shook his head. "I'll wait here, at the door, and call for you when the dwarf comes."
Reicket looked at him weirdly. "Are you sure? Wouldn't you be incredible if you saw it? We're the first people ever to be down here."
"We aren't, and I'm sure we'll have time to come back and see it if you find the picture. I'll stay here."
Reicket watched as Gilsa turned back to the mosaic of the former Rainbow Knights. The ones before them, and the ones that had been thought to be the last. The ones who had been killed ten years ago. Who lost to an evil so great that all of the color had died with them. Reicket suddenly got why Gilsa needed to keep his arms crossed, holding himself tightly. He turned to go and explore.
He looked exactly the same as the guard, and yet distinct. His skin was brighter, almost clean, his eyes less rough and coal like, yet no less dark. His fiery hair seemed brighter, harder to look at, and a burning hot as opposed to the guards low light flames. To mark him as the Prince he wore a massive amulet of a bright shining jewel around his neck. Facially, Siegfried couldn't tell a single thing. The Prince had a dwarven face, and that was all he could tell reasonably. He thanked his god that the Prince wore the necklace.
"We greet you, King Siegfried. We are Prince Articulr. We extend our apologies, King Siegfried, that our father is not presently within the Kingdom. We shall speak to you in his place, of course, and extend our dwarven hospitality to your and your fellows."
"I am humble before you. Thank you for this audience, for I come to you due to concerns which affect both our peaceful Kingdoms." Siegfried took a breath after he spoke. He'd never addressed another person of royalty before. Sure, on rare occasions he had spoken to his court before noble's, but nothing like this. Each word felt as if reverberated within him, knocking around inside and making him almost shake with how nervous he was.
"News of a Dark Wizard within my Kingdom had reached me a short while ago, and I ventured forth myself with my Rainbow Knights to turn him. I fear rumors have surfaced of this same Dark Wizard within your Kingdom, and thus I have come before you to ask permission to take my Rainbow Knights, and the Green Squadron, to track down this Dark Wizard and eliminate his threat. With your permission, Prince Articulr."
There wasn't a throne in this room. Instead there was a massive row of black pyramid stairs that marched up to the back wall. That was where the Prince stood, short iron arms crossed, eyes gazing down to where Siegfred stood at the bottom. Siegfried was aware enough that he shouldn't kneel, but he still felt small. He felt like he should be less emotional, and more formal, except he wasn't sure if he could do both and that made him anxious. Not to even mention the fear he had of offending the Prince so much he'd ruin the peace between their Kingdoms and he was trapped here, underground, with his friends somewhere else and his protection hundreds of miles above him.
"We too have heard of such danger. This is a matter we believe to be of our own concern, and your worry is appreciated." The dwarven Prince's voice stayed level, his words filled with dominance.
Siegfried waited a beat to hear more, and yet the dwarf didn't speak. He swallowed to wet his dry throat, because he couldn't break the silence by clearing it. "As I have faced the Dark Wizard I understand personally the danger he brings. I ask for your permission to hunt him down in the continuing friendship of our countries, and also to ask for your assistance. I would be remiss to exclude your wisdom and strength from my quest to eliminate the Dark Wizard. I and my Rainbow Knights would be honored for you to accompany us Prince Ariculr."
The dwarven Prince kept his arms crossed. "We see your concern on these matters and agree this needs to be delt with immediately."
Siegfried let out a quiet relieved breath. "I thank you greatly for agreeing, Prince Ariculr."
"We have also heard you are a Rainbow Knight, King Siegfried. It is of our opinion that due to the gravity of this situation, those who must deal with this must be only the finest warriors. Indeed, were you a Rainbow Knight we would see no greater man to deal with this alleged Dark Wizard."
Siegfried felt his breath freeze in his lungs. There wasn't a slight inflection in the Prince's voice, but the words… "I am a Rainbow Knight, Prince Ariculr. I am the White Knight, and I have rediscovered and claimed the White Sword."
"Approach, King Siegfried, so we may see this White Sword."
Siegfried finally turned his eyes from the infernal looking dwarf to look at his sword. His sword. The White Sword his father had carried. One that seemed to always be meant for the King of Crystaliandia, and one that felt weightless and balanced perfectly in his hands.
He handed it over to Prince Ariculr carefully with both of his hands. It felt right letting his fingers linger on the blade for a moment too long as the Prince received it in the same way. His fat fingers seemed to glow as he held it, his black eyes lighting up a moment, but beyond that he didn't move.
"No, you are not the White Knight, King Siegfried. We see you do not understand the gravity of the title, or the nature of the Swords."
The dwarven Prince turned his head toward the tip of the broad sword, then down to the hilt. "She is also in a bit of disrepair."
Prince Ariculr passed the White Sword back to Siegfried who had gone mute.
"As such, King Siegfried, you have no claim to come within my Kingdom any longer, and if you wish to remain you must prove yourself by defeating us in combat. Were you to fail in this the matter of the Dark Wizard shall fall to our Kingdom, and be of your concern no longer."
Siegfried clung to the White Sword. He took it back quickly, and stepped away, tucking it against his chest. His eyes were stuck between the pure white of the Sword, and the unemotive face of the dwarven Prince. Siegfried felt his tongue freeze in his mouth, and his head start to spin.
"I know I am the White Knight." Siegfried said, his voice far bolder than he felt. "When I discovered the sword it showed to me color again the moment I touched it. This is my father's sword."
The dwarven Prince continued to stare. "We cannot discuss more until you have a claim to be here. Otherwise, you must leave immediately."
Siegfried sucked in a breath. He wanted to rage, and say no - now he wanted answers. He had the White Sword that meant he was the White Knight. Siegfried was King, he could be here on that alone. He wanted to say how offended he felt at the mere suggestion he wasn't fit, that he wasn't what he so obviously was.
Except he was King Siegfried as well. He couldn't scream at another leader. He couldn't refuse their customs. He didn't have the ability to risk the peace his father fought so had to claim with the dwarves.
"Fine. Very well." Siegfried corrected, "Then I shall earn my claim through combat, as you suggested. I shall use the White Sword."
Prince Ariculr nodded. "Then we shall choose our preferred weapon as well; Warhammar Vhar."
The dwarf reached one hand out to his side. A spake lit up in the center of his palm, then another, and from that erupted a spire of flame. It flashed and jumped, and then took the clean shape of a massive hammer before it extinguished in a flash of light.
Finally Prince Ariculr smiled, and his voice showed some emotion. "We shall come when you are ready, King Siegfired."
"Now?" Siegfried gasped, amazed at the display of magic and power.
Siegfried glanced behind him. Downward were black steps, and then the walls of the room. The entire place was barren of furniture, but had catacombs of doors carved into walls. The ceiling was high, carved in blocks, and had massive hanging chandeliers. Siegfried wasn't looking for a place to hide, but he wasn't sure what he was looking for either.
Siegfried turned back to face the Prince. He changed how he was holding his sword. His hands came to it confidently, fingers tightening around the hilt to hold the large weapon. His chest willed with a powerful breath, and he put a pace between them.
The dwarven Prince sprung at Siegfried with a massive swing of the warhammer. Siegfried thought he'd been ready, except the fury of the swing shocked him and he quickly sprang backward. He held his sword up before him as the dwarven Prince came at him again, though he couldn't block the far more heavy weapon and had to move aside again. Siegfried glanced over his shoulder as he was forced back down the stairs and quickly decided to run down them all. He was far faster doing so, Prince Ariculr needing to take more time and concentration to lumber down them as Siegfried sprung to the floor.
He turned around quickly, slicing through the air just as Prince Ariculr reached the bottom step, the iron man blocking with the thick metal handle. Prince Ariculr shoved Siegfried's blade away, making him stumble back, and the Prince slammed his warhammer down. Siegfried dove to the side, his feet sliding a bit too much and he had to catch him to move again as a second swing came down. He found his footing then, and he brought his sword to bear. A swing hadn't work so he thrust his blade out straight.
Then the dwarven Prince dodged himself, but he was slow, and so Siegfried tried again. But this time the dwarven Prince ducked and he pressed forward along the sword's lengthHe was close enough to strike Siegfried with his fist then, and slammed the handle into Siegfried's face, cracking his nose loudly in a spray of blood.
Siegfried closed one eye as it hit him, his head shook and his vision blurred, but he clenched his teeth and shoved back. He slipped his sword around the warhammer, forward, and down toward the dwarf's shoulder and throat in a decapitation strike. The white blade of his sword rested there, and the warhammer stayed pressed into his broken nose.
Siegfried tried letting out a breath, but he had to cough and clear his mouth from the blood falling over his lips. He knew he wasn't continuing, and he knew he had lost, but more importantly, his face felt like it had been broken like a plate. With a graceful stumble Siegfried pulled away from the fight, dropping one hand from his sword to cup his broken face and groan.
This hurt far more than the punch. It was far more crushing as well. This hurt in far more ways than one. His pride. His nose. His despair, he felt horrible.
"You have lost to me, King Siegfried."
Siegfried nodded, his throat swelling, his breath getting caught int he blood from his nose again, and he tried to suppress his frustrated angry shiver.
"However, I shall see your bravery as your claim, instead of yours as the Whie Knight, and shall allow you to stay."
Siegfried spit into his hand, and then wiped it on his sleeve so he could speak, though his voice was cowed. "Thank you."
The dwarven Prince slammed his warhammer into the ground, exploding it into fire. It melted down into the ground, disappearing as it dwindled out. He was smiling. "Your youth is refreshing, and makes you braver than your abilities. We shall lend our strength to your quest in eliminating this Dark Wizard."
"Even though… I lost?" Siegfried wanted to take the words back as soon as he spoke them - he shouldn't advocate again himself, and needed to remember all he said would affect his Kingdom as well as himself. He was struggling to think of a way to excuse his words, but the dwarven Prince spoke.
"Especially so. We would be remiss in not assisting you when you so clearly need it."
Siegfried helplessly nodded in agreement. He had handled the Dark Wizard fine before, or at least he had thought so, but hadn't the Dark Wizard escaped? Hadn't he been relying on Gilsa and Reciket? Hadn't that strange man taken him completely by surprise?
"As well as explaining to you how to find and unite with the rest of the Rainbow Knights."
Siegfried finally could lift his head, his pain pushed to a distant and constant throb. "You know how to find the Rainbow Knights?"
"In a way. Let us get you cleaned up and returned to your friends. They follow you, and should know as well."
"Yes." Siegfried breathlessly agreed. He was sure he was hearing what was said. Prince Ariculr knew something that he didn't about the Swords. About the Rainbow Knights. "Yes. Please."
Gilsa looked as if he was about to burst a blood vessel. His face was stretched thin, eyes wide to erase all winkles, and a throbbing vein pulsed at his temple. He obviously was biting his tongue in his mouth to keep from screaming, and his hands were clenched in military fists at his side. Reicket thought he looked just as hilarious, because he was trying very hard not to laugh at Siegfried's broken nose and nasally sounding voice. Siegfried noticed and tried to glare, but instead let out a sigh.
"Behave yourselves please. What Prince Ariculr is going to tell us is important and I don't want to interrupt or offend him."
"I can." Reicket promised, though he almost giggled at the high fluty tone of Siegfried's voice. He sounded ridiculous.
Gilsa turned his frantic exploding glare on him. Reicket cleared his throat and avoided Gilsa's anger. "Is it… your wish?" Gilsa eeked out, his voice more of a pained growl than his level and calm tone.
Siegfried nodded. "I'm going to listen to him. Prince Ariculr is also lending us his resources to find and defeat the Dark Wizard. And -" Siegfried emphasized, his whiny word making Reicket snicker "- he is Crystalandia's ally so you will give him due respect. Reicket."
"What?" Reicket innocently wondered.
"Reicket." Gilsa repeated, far less kindly.
"Okay, I got it. I can just be quiet. Promise." Reicket pressed his palms together.
"Gilsa." Siegfried cautioned.
"What?" Gilsa snapped, actually shocked.
Siegfried gestured to the tick white bandage taped over his obviously swollen nose.
Gilsa took a breath. "I will… withhold my opinions."
"Alright then, follow me."
Siegfried didn't have to lead them far. The halls and stairs and more halls were all made in a perfect utilitarian style here. All were as astright and to the point as possible. That also made the entire place a maze due to the many criss crossing routes. Many went unders, some over, and all of them crossed each other. As long as they went straight they'd get to where they were going, at least, and quickly came to meet the Prince in a sitting room.
"I've returned, Prince Ariculr. These are two of my fellow selected Knights - Gilsa and Reicket."
"Greetings." Prince Ariculr said, staying seated on a stone bench at the stone table. "We noticed your Rainbow Knights do not have any Swords."
Siegfried nodded. "Yes, but I - I don't think that I can call them anything else. They were with me when I reclaimed the White Sword, and remain with me now, so that is what I will call them."
"Then you only have the White Sword."
"Yes." Siegfried let out the word uncomfortably. He went over and sat across from the dwarven Prince. He gestured for Gilsa and Reicket to do the same and then they were all at the same table.
"You said you know how to find the others, correct?" Siegfried hastily pressed.
The dwarven Prince leaned forward. "We have not heard of any way concrete. The Rainbow Swords can only be found, and wielded by those who the Swords deem worthy. We noticed you are not the White Knight because we were able to hold the White Sword. Once a Knight and Sword are united, truly, no one else may touch the Rainbow Sword. In this way, throughout history, have the Rainbow Knights been chosen, and recognized."
Siegfried kept his eyes on the Prince, but his hand went to the sword at his hip. "If… if only the Knight the Sword deems… worthy… can find it, doesn't that make me the White Knight itself? How does that help us find the other Swords?"
"It could be that at the time you were destined for the White Sword, or perhaps will be, but that is only a possibility. There have been tales of the Swords using others who are not destined, to find their true owners. The Swords have their own ways, and aren't meant to be questioned. This is important to you, King Siegfried, because if you seek the Rainbow Swords you must first find those worthy of them, you must first gather those who are destined to be Rainbow Knights."
Reicket frowned and leaned on his hand. "Wait, but how does that make sense? If you need the Sword to find the Knight and the Knight to find the Sword doesn't that mean you can't?"
Gilsa responded before the others could. "It means they'll find each other."
"Exactly that, yes." Prince Ariculr gracefully responded. "To be certain that it is correct, however, you need to understand that much. A Rainbow Knight cannot be separated from their Sword - it is physically impossible to take the Sword from them."
"But," Siegfried interrupted, voice concerned, "but if I found it, and yet I can be separated from it what does that mean?"
Gilsa placed a hand on Siegfried's back, though he stayed stoic and didn't turn toward him.
"That is all we have heard. The secrets of the Rainbow Knights were passed down personally and guarded well. All of which we have recorded your friends have seen already in the Hall of Heroes."
Siegfried turned to Gilsa then, and he looked conflicted and relieved and pleading. Gilsa kept his hand where it was. "Portraits."
"I see." Siegfried moped. "Thank you then, for all you have offered, Prince Ariculr."
"Were there more, it would not be something we would hide." The dwarven Prince assured. "If that is all, let us be off immediately to smite this Dark Wizard. It is greatly disturbing that these rumors are possibly true."
"Y-Yes, of course." Siegfried hastily agreed, and he was the first to rise at the table. "Immediately."