The sound of wood hitting against each other with men grunting, gasping and wheezing as they get beaten or jabbed by the opponent's wooden sword. Dust turned into mud as the blue sky becomes dark and rain begins to fall. Thunder could be heard from a distance along with a strike of lighting, but that didn’t really matter. The men training continued to do so knowing that when mother nature changes , the battle doesn’t stop.
In the middle of the training grounds, two people are dueling harder than the rest. They both have speed and persistence. One of them though lacks specific skills. He acts cocky and irrational, always thinking he has the upper hand, especially since he is a Prince. His father wanted him to grow up and learn something of importance if the man was to become king someday. Instead of acting like a childish boy who gets everything he wants.
The other trainee is a Knight. They are cautious, sure-footed, determined, and very skilled in fighting and sword handling. The person observes their opponent carefully. How their steps are not calculated and the fact that they are not paying attention. The Knight takes the opportunity and knocks the man down, using the wooden sword in their hands and pressing the point against the Prince's heart.
“Dead… Never take your eye’s off the person you are fighting or will die every time, Prince Hardy.” Sir John Wainwright called out.
“He cheated! I want to re-duel!” The Prince exclaimed.
The Knight, who always wore a helmet when dueling, unlike the rest who didn't like to when they train, took theirs off. Chin length fiery red hair cascaded down as the headgear gradually came off. What surprised the Prince the most was the feminine features upon the persons face.
Brown eyes shot daggers at Hardy. “She did not! You, sir, were to busy showing off to your pals that you didn’t see me come at you. It’s your fault you lost, not mine.”
“Lady Haught, fine work. Best you go back to your corridors for now.” Sir Wainwright placed a comforting hand on the Knights shoulder before she headed towards the door.
Nicole Haught, a Knight with no actual propose, other than training those who wanted to become one as well. She desperately wanted to be a ‘real’ Knight. To protect and serve a Princess from all the unknown dangers of the worlds. But to do so, the redhead either had to wait until such as job came up or she left the Kingdom walls of Haught and went to others to offer her services.
The Haught’s name alone was well known. Everyone knew it was a family of Knights and nothing more. They served many Kingdoms and trained even more men. Whenever a girl was born into the family, they would be allowed to take part in the training if they wanted or were able to do what they wanted instead. Kings and Queens were not fond of the openness the Haught’s gave their children but never spoke poorly of them either. Not when they had quite a few of their Knights roaming their castle halls keeping everyone safe within it.
Arriving at her room and disrobing from the training jerkin, Nicole put on her tunic and wrapped the belt around her waist. Some days she hated training, others she found appealing. Today was the latter of the two. It wasn’t the first time, she helped train a Prince and knew it wouldn’t be her last. This particular lad though was a man-child and had no sense in what he was doing. She honestly felt terrible for the Princess, who most likely would be forced to marry him, and the Kingdom he would be taking over. No one deserved that much ignorance to be ruling hundreds or even thousands of people.
Changing pants was the next thing the redhead did. She did quick work to undo the boots and the drawstring holding her pants up. As much as she loved training, Nicole enjoyed relaxing just as much. After retying the string to her trousers, she slipped her boots back on and headed outside. The Knight might be done for the day, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t watch the others learn and grow.
Nicole joined her mentor Sir Wainwright out on the second-floor balcony. It was a habit for them, watching the men and the few women train to become Knights. It gave them a sense of peace and pride knowing that their hard work was paying off. Helping others to develop better, stronger and more confident in themselves than the day before. Nothing was more satisfying than that to them.
The mentor and his trainee were deep in conversation about new sword technics and how to go about teaching it when heavy footsteps caught their attention. Nicole looked towards the sound and smiled. Her father still donned in his metal armor, stopped just before his daughter.
“Welcome back, father. How was your trip to the Kingdoms? Make any good impressions whilst there?” Nicole inquired.
“You know very well I wasn’t selling myself, just riding along with the other Knights to make sure they arrived safely.”
“That explains the month and a half. But you’ve gone an extra two weeks. What kept you away, Nathaniel?” Wainwright asked.
It wasn’t unusual for the older Knight to be gone for weeks or months at a time. The closest Kingdom was a four days ride. After that, it doubled in numbers. Most times, Nathaniel would be gone for months instead of weeks. Usually, he would be doing personal training or like this last time, making sure his newest Knights arrive safely at their new or old Kingdom. It was safe to say, Nicoles’s father tended to be gone more now than when she was a kid.
Shortly after Nicole’s eighth birthday, her mother became ill and died soon after. Her father didn’t take his wife’s passing well but managed to pull through nonetheless. It was hard on the both of them after that. Nathaniel had stopped doing his regular outings to train on top of letting his friend Sir Wainwright take over for the Kingdom in that aspect. It was easier to end ninety-nine percent of his responsibilities, it was safer in a way. The older Knights only concern was to be there for his daughter and his daughter.
Once the initial shock of losing her mother subsided, Nicole managed to get her father to return back to his royal duties, with one condition. Nathaniel had to let her train to become a Knight as well. It was a dream before the redhead's mother passed and she knew her mother wouldn’t approve if she let it slip between the cracks afterward. It was her mother’s last dying wish. To know her daughter fulfilled her dream of becoming a Knight just like her father.
It took some time getting used to being the Head Knight again at his Kingdom, but Nathaniel powered through. Having his daughter by his side, learning and progressing quickly, it made matters more comfortable every day. By the time Nicole turned twelve, the older Knight had gone back to traveling and occasionally brought the young girl with him so she could understand the full extent if his Royal duties of a Knight.
“I was called upon a few times on my way back through. Most from townspeople and had one appealing visit as well. Those particular folks will be arriving soon.”
Nicole’s father walked away with no explanation. No inquiry as to who was visiting the Realm. The way Nathaniel spoke and the way his shoulders squared, the people who were arriving, were significant. How important, the older Knight didn’t reveal. Nicole wished her father had. Sure they’ve had Princes come to their Kingdom but whoever they were sounded more significant. Powerful. Now the redhead had to wait. For how long, she didn’t know. The older man’s “soon” ranged from a day to an entire month. She really wished it wasn’t the latter of the two.
With the last statement still roaming in her head and trying to come up with the endless possibilities of which King or Queen was coming to their Kingdom, Nicole decided to try and keep her mind preoccupied. She returned her focus to the men, women, and few children down below in hopes of navigating her mind elsewhere. Sadly, after ten minutes of watching and talking to her mentor, it did nothing but make mind spin even faster. Maybe sparring with the kids in the rain will help.
Dust was flying out from under the carriage and the horse's hooves. If the wind was blowing in the right direction, you could hear the horses neighing, wheels clanking along with the sound of shoed hooves galloping down the beaten dirt path. Trees surrounded the road on both sides, making the scenery unsatisfying to look at. The two people inside in carriage didn’t mind though, it was a journey that they wanted to make and knew how long it was going to take. Even if it meant staring upon thick forests with nothing to hide beyond the wild animals it held.
The trip took roughly a month and a week long. Heavy rains made the path to muddy to ride through which put a pause on the journey. The passengers weren’t thrilled about having to stop and making them late, but wooden wheels, even with four horses pulling the carriage, would still somehow get stuck. Not that the people inside would know anything about it in the first place.
Back at the Haught Kingdom, Nicole and her father were busy training. The older man is training a newer recruit while the daughter is focused on Prince Hardy. One is fighting harder than other and continues to sigh in disapproval. The blonde hair man has barely made any progress in the last two months, and it was starting to aggravate her. By now, most trainees had the basic formats down, but this boy-man could hardly hold his sword properly.
The older Knight, on the other hand, was gentle and reassuring. His new trainee was nervous to begin with and straightforward about making his parents proud and didn’t want to mess up. Nathaniel was pleased with the boy's admissions and told him that the beginning sessions were always done tentatively. The young man smiled then nervously gulped when he glanced over at Nicole. The Knight followed his path and chuckled.
“No worries, son. I won't have you duel against my daughter anytime soon.”
The boy gasped and was about to say something when he was interrupted by the sound of a horn. The noise lingered, then stopped. A few seconds later it sounded off again. Nathaniel gave an apologetic grin to his trainee and set about placing the wooden sword in a crate with the others.
Nicole continued to fight, much to the Prince’s dismay. The trainee swung his head towards the noise. The redhead took the opportunity and did one of her favorite moves. She dropped down and spun around with one of her legs out. Making Hardy fall onto his back. The Knight took her wooden sword and pressed it to his chest, again. Nicole lost count after twelve on how many times she had done that in the last hour of training.
“How many time do I have to tell you not to take your eyes off your opponent!” The Knight yelled at the Prince. “Whatever is going on, does not concern you!” Prince Hardy scoffed and slowly got up off the ground.
While the Knight had taken out Hardy, the large double-wide wooden doors had opened for a team of horses pulling a carriage behind them. The buggy was black with gold wheels and borders. The crest on the doors was a mixture of silver, gold, and red. It had a golden lion on either side of a red and silver shield with a gold Kings crown above it. Below the shield and between the lion's feet was a golden ribbon with the name EARP in red in the middle.
Nathaniel waited until the horses stopped entirely before walking over to greet his guests. He took a quick glance over his shoulder when he heard his daughter yelling at the Prince. Shaking his head, the Knight returned his focus back to the people who were getting out of the carriage.
“Welcome to Haught’s Kingdom, your Majesty’s.” The Knight bowed before the King and Queen. “How was the journey?”
“Long with a couple of wet days holding us back.”
“Sorry to hear. Now, if you’ll follow me, I’ll introduce you to my strongest and most well-trained Knight I have.”
The King, Queen, and Nathaniel, all walk over to the younger Knight and their trainee. The Majesty’s recognized the blonde haired man and the both of made a mental note. The three stopped a few yards away and watched the two battle, intently.
Nicole spied her father and the two guests. She was busy circling the Prince and waiting for his next strike. Again, the boy-man took his eyes off her when he noticed the King and Queen. The redhead saw the smirk on his face and took it upon her to get rid of it. While his eyes were still trained on the others, the Knight wielded forward and struck Hardy in the arm. She then quickly crouched down and brought her sword up to protect her. The Prince swung back and the two swords collided with each other. Nicole used the power she had in her legs and pushed herself up, putting all of the force in her arms in hopes of making Hardy unbalance.
The Prince thought he finally had the redhead, but when she lunged upwards, he did, in fact, lose his footing. Nicole took the chance and jumped up, bringing her feet in the air and kicking the blonde hair man in the chest, sending him flying backward. The second Hardy was on his back, the Knight was already on him. The younger man was able to recoil and brought his sword up but was fast enough. The redhead swung the wooden hard enough that when it hit the other, it went right out of his and way out of his react.
Nicole pointed the sword at the Princes face. “Surrender, unless you think you are able to take me down before I kill you.”
Hardy weighed his options and chose wrong. He wanted to impress the King and Queen by being able to take out the Knight and figured he’d be able to do so by now. The Prince made the slightest movement and instantly regretted it. Nicole’s foot made contact with his groin, and her sword was pushed hard into his chest once again.
The King and Queen clapped their hands at the performance, and both of them were apparently impressed by the Knight. Nathaniel looked over at his guests and received a nod from the Lord. The older Knight walked over to his daughter and congratulated her on winning another round with the boy-man. Ever since returning home, he was surprised that Nicole hadn’t given up on the Prince. Even though it was clear as day that the redhead was getting more and more frustrated with Hardy every day. Deep down, Nathaniel would have sent the man home already for just wasting their time when they could have been training someone else.
Nicole turned around and walked away from the Prince while she took off her helmet. The Knight stepped up to her father with a smirk on her face. It quickly went away though when she saw the crest-like pin on the male guest that she didn’t know. That was when she decided to give Nathaniel a curious look and nodded towards the King and Queen. The older Knight gave her look that said ‘wait a minute, and I’ll introduce you.’ The redhead was guided over to her guests and bowed before them when she stopped in front of them.
“Your Majesty’s, welcome to our Kingdom,” Nicole said loud enough as she was still bent forward.
Customarily a woman would curtsey before royalty. It was the proper way of doing things. Nicole, for the most part, did not seem it was appropriate to make such a gesture. She was a Knight after all, and they all bowed, but then again, Knights were usually men and not women. Either way, the redhead was looking forward to changing the way on how women were expected to do specific tasks and stay within their ranks. She was never one to follow those kinds of rules anyway.
“Lady Nicole Haught, daughter of Sir Nathaniel Haught and the next heir to the Knight’s Realm.” Nicole bowed again. “Pleasure to meet you both… excuse my manner, but I am unfamiliar with your crest.”
“King Ward Earp and this is my wife, Queen Michelle Earp. I must say, you have quite the impressive techniques.” The man said. He heard a scoff come from behind the two Knights. “Prince Hardy James, do you have something to say?”
“No, King Ward. It's good to see you both again.” Hardy walked up beside Nicole and continued talking. Not even bothering to bow to greet the King and Queen. “My father inform you that I am here training?”
“No, he did not,” Queen Michelle said hastily. “How long have you’ve been doing so?”
“Two months.” The Prince said proudly, but was quickly shot down by the Queen.
“Not much progress, I see. Your father's money going to waste as usual.” The Queen turned her attention to Nicole. “I applaud you for training with him that long. It only makes the decision even easier to make.”
The Prince took a step back and dropped his head to hide his face that was flushed with embarrassment. He generally thought Queen Michelle liked him, for the many hours he has spent at their castle trying to court one of their daughters, he assumed they were on good terms. Now he didn’t know what think, but before he could say anything the King spoke up.
“My wife is correct. Lady Haught, I am requesting for you to train at my castle. I am in need of new blood, and Sir Haught offered me his best Knight. I must admit I wasn’t expecting a woman to be a Knight, but I can see you are qualified enough. I will not take no for an answer.” Lord Earp heard another scoff come from the Prince but ignored him.
“How long?” The redhead asked curiously.
“Until my fresh blood is deemed ready enough to protect my Kingdom.”
“I’ll accept on two conditions.” King Ward nodded. “No other Knight stands in my way, while I am training. The moment they tell me how to do my job, I walk. Second, my mentor Sir Wainwright comes with me.”
The King and Queen looked at one and then to Nicole and Nathaniel. Ward wasn’t the type of person to make deals with those who were apart of Nobility. He didn’t even like striking deals with other Royalty members. The King was self-centered and genuinely didn’t care for others. Anyone below the Royalty line was considered a peasant, and he didn’t like to associate himself with them. He didn’t even care about those who lived within his Castle walls.
The Majesty’s looked back at each other and nodded. King Ward reluctantly turned to the younger Knight with a blank expression. He honestly did not like the situation he was in but had to get over it. The lord would merely complain about it on the journey back home.
“I approve of your conditions.”