"Do...Do I really have to wear this?" asked Recke, scowling as he rapped his knuckles against the steel chest plate.
"Yes," said Weigand, raising his voice to talk over Recke's knocking. He frowned and grabbed the boy's wrist before he could knock on the armor again. "Stop that."
"Fine," pouted the boy with a helpless shrug. Weigand released him and his hands fell limp at his side. "But it's so bulky..."
"You wanna look heroic, don't you? A white knight needs white armor! White, shiny armor!" Weigand threw his hands into the air, "white as the clouds! Bright as the sun! You are the illustrious, the magnificent, the legend! You will crumble the walls, scale the castles, slay the enemies, and rescue the maiden!" roared the man, his stomach jiggling up and down with every word. The boy found himself entranced by it and stared until it stilled.
"Uh huh..." Recke tapped the chest plate once more with his fist.
"Hey!" barked Weigand.
"Sorry," mumbled the boy with a sigh.
"Now stand still, " said the large man with a grin upon his lips. "I'll get you in that armor."
Recke gulped as a thick steel helm was placed over his head, its visor lowered so all he could see was darkness. "I can't see!" snapped the boy. His voice echoed and came back to him sounding metallic.
"Oh, my bad, my boy!" He saw a speck of light and two fat fingers appear beneath the visor. He watched them move and soon light flooded in, banishing the darkness. "Better?"
"Better." agreed Recke, nodding. The helm rattled with every move. "Is it supposed to be this loose?"
"Look at me, Recke. I can't fit into one of those things, so I'm not too knowledgeable on it all..."
"But you're a smith, you make them!"
"Oh, so smiths have to know everything now, do they?"
"You...make...armor, you're supposed to know-"
"Enough, shut your mouth and- Oh, I think the chest plate is supposed to go on first..." He plucked the helm off from Recke's head, and placed it on a thick wooden table beside them. "I think..."
Recke groaned. It's going to be a long day...
The sun was setting by the time Recke emerged from Weigand's workshop. He could see his sweat leak out from the few open joints in the armor. "Do I really need to wear this? It's so hot under it-"
"Heroes don't complain." snapped the large man, smacking the helm. The steel rung and Recke screeched as his hands rushed up to hold his helm still. "Now, we've got you a horse, a pretty white one!"
"But I never rode-"
"Heroes don't complain," repeated Weigand sternly as he let Recke to the stables. On the way, they had passed several villagers, all of them dressed in dirtied rags. They had all stared at Recke, pointing their fingers and whispering to one another. He heard several children giggle and saw them mockingly waddle beside him. Let's see them wear this armor and walk properly! fumed Recke silently.
"This is the best horse we got, you see." Weigand pointed to a tall white mare at the end of the stable, its large head poking over the rusted iron fence that kept it in.
"Can it hold me while I'm dressed in this armor?"
"Dress? No, you need something more heroic sounding...You're heroically adorned!"
"Uh huh..." groaned Recke, growing annoyed.
"Anyway, yes, it'll hold you for sure. Let me just get you a step and a saddle..." Weigand looked about, and scratched his balding head as he walked off, mumbling about a lost saddle.
"So...hi there." greeted the armored boy as he gave the horse a weak and clumsy bow. "You may call me Sir Recke."
The horse snorted.
"You must be Sir Snort of Snortingham. I've heard of your bravery!"
Recke could have sworn he saw the horse roll its eyes. "Found it!" shouted Weigand in the distance. "Blasted thing was in an old shed!"
"Well, I'll be riding you soon. I look forwarding to working with the illustrious Sir Snort of Snortingham." The horse rolled its eyes and Recke grinned beneath his steel helm as he gave it one more bow.
Weigand dropped the saddle at Recke's feet and moved to Sir Snort. He unlocked the fence and led the horse over to the boy. "Slide the saddle on."
"Uhh..." Recke awkwardly bent over and the weight of the armor almost sent him plunging to the ground. He straightened and shook his head. "Can't."
Weigand frowned and placed the saddle onto the horse. "Now, the- I forgot the blasted stool!" Weigand stomped off once more, cursing beneath his breath.
"Looks like we're almost ready, Sir Snort."
Sir Snort shook itself, trying to knock the saddle from its back. "Woah there, Sir Snort!" Recke placed a hand on the beast's side, and stroked it. "It'll be fine, and just so you know, I hate this as much as you do."
Sir Snort groaned, rolled its eyes, and calmed down with a resigned snort.
"There! Now-"
"It was on the roof of my workshop! How it got up there, only the gods know!" bellowed Weigand, his voice far off.
Recke turned to see the large man running at this with a stool held up over his head as if he were charging into a battle. His belly shook violently and flailed from side to side as if it too were anticipating some kind of battle. "Um, you can slow down..."
"Ha, I'm too great to slow down!" guffawed the man, huffing and puffing, his face red and glistening with sweat. He stopped beside the boy and placed the stool between Recke and Sir Snort. "Get on."
"Um...How do I ride it, once I get on?"
"You...uh..." Weigand looked around, his eyes narrowed. "I don't see the stable master anywhere."
"Wait, these aren't yours?!"
"Me? Own horses? Ha!"
"How did you get the saddle then? And the key to open the horse's cage? Did you ask him if you could use them-"
"We have no time for that! You wanna save your beloved, don't you?"
"B-Beloved?" Recke's face grew hot beneath his helm. " W-We're good friends, that's all!" exclaimed the flustered boy, laughing uneasily. The force from his laugh knocked the visor back down and he was blind once more. "Darkness!" Weigand lifted the visor back up. "Light!"
"You're a foolish one, but whatever. Get on."
Still blushing, Recke climbed the stool and fitted himself onto the mare's back. Sir Snort's legs bent for a moment beneath the weight of Recke's armor, but quickly regained its posture with a quick snort.
"Armor, check. Horse, check. Love interest, check. Evil castle in the distance..." Weigand glanced at the setting sun. Recke followed Weigand's eyes and saw a black line standing upright. "Check." He nodded to himself and gave Recke a smirk. "Looks like we're all set- Sword! We almost forgot your sword! Wait here!" Weigand half ran, half waddled to his workshop and Recke could hear the clanging of metal being thrown. "A ha! Found it!" The large man ran out from the building with a blade tucked within a wooden scabbard. He handed it to Recke and grinned. "Do not unsheathe this blade until you reach the castle, got it?"
The knight glanced down at the ugly scabbard and ran his mailed finger over the wooden sides of it. "Uh, sure...the blade won't be as bad as the scabbard, right?"
Weigand shrugged. "It's a surprise for you and me, my boy. Now go while the sun is still awake! All the inhabitants of the castle must see your glowing figure charge straight at them! Go go go!" He slapped Sir Snort's butt, and the mare shrieked as it bolted off with Recke screaming and begging for mercy as he clung to its back.
They passed the village gate, they passed the great trees outside the village, they passed travelers and animals. Atop the horse's back, Recke found himself in a new world, a world blurred and sped up. With one hand firmly gripping the saddle's handle, he held up his visor with the other. "Slow down!" called Recke.
Sir Snort ignored the order.
The mare snorted and went faster.
"You stupid-!" His words halted in his gaping mouth. The black line he saw from the village grew wider and taller with every passing second. "I'm attacking that?" gasped Recke. "That's where Sonne is?" He remembered her smile. He remembered how she joked about somebody being kidnapped.
"I'm going to be a princess someday, you know" Sonne would say with a wide grin, "so that means I'm going to be kidnapped someday as well. It's, like, a rule. Every princess gets kidnapped at least once."
Recke frowned. You're always right. He urged the horse on and glared at the growing castle. As he neared it, he could hear shouts coming from within the great tower. "You bastards!" shouted Recke through his helm. "Give back Sonne!"
An arrow flew past him, grazing the side of his chest plate. He gulped, swallowing the fear, and continued. "Give her back!"
Knights adorned in blue armor poured out from the tower's entrance, all stomping and shouting with swords and axes raised in the air. Sir Snort halted as the sight of them and glanced back at Recke. "This is where I get off, right?" The mare snorted. "Thank you for your help, Sir Snort. It was an honor." Recke slid off of the horse and went tumbling to the ground. He rose to his feet and stumbled back, shaken from the fall. The knight shook his head and raised the sheathed sword into the air. "This is your last warning!" cried the white knight, his voice bold. "Give me back Sonne."
The blue knights continued to charge with their weapons poised for battle.
Recke grinned, "you better not regret it, if I let you live to regret it, that is." He tore the blade out from its scabbard, awakening it from its seemingly ancient slumber. Dust filled the air and Recke swatted at it with his blade. "How old is this stupid thing-" He stopped and watched the sword pulse white, as if it were breathing. The pulsing grew faster and dispersed the cloud of dust. "What kind of sword is this..."
He noticed the blue knights had stopped as well. They were staring at his blade and whispering to each other in hushed voices. One stepped forward with an ax in his hands.
"The hero's first challenger!" roared Recke as he charged in at the blue knight. Their weapons clashed, and sparks danced in the air around them. They drew their weapons back and swung once more, their steel ringing with each exchanging of blows. Recke spotted the other blue knights slowly move around them, trapping them. With weapons raised, they moved in slowly, shrinking the circle they made. Recke swirled away from his opponent and charged at another. With a battle cry, he plunged his blade deep into the blue knight's chest. The body jerked as a quick gasp escaped the blue knight's eye slits. His foe fell back as Recke ripped his blade out its chest and threw himself at another knight, swinging his sword like a madmen. An armored head flew into the air as the shortened body of a blue knight fell into another's, knocking it over with a loud crash.
One by one, Recke felled the knights, his sword throbbing with a blinding white light. "That didn't feel too heroic." mumbled the white knight, stepping over the slain bodies of his foes. He studied their armor and saw no blood leak out from the holes he had made. The work of a summoner? He shook the thought from his head. No time to worry. He charged into the tower's door, and found a poorly lit staircase the spiraled upwards. "Stairs..." gasped Recke, "too many stairs..." Whimpering, he began his ascent up. As he climbed, he passed empty, dark rooms. They were all the same, they all had a single round table in the center of the room, a blue tablecloth draped over it. He saw no chairs nor life in the rooms. What's with this place? He continued up, frowning at each den he passed. Every step made his feet grow heavier and heavier until his breathing was slow and labored and his body ached. My next quest will be to kill whoever made these damned stairs! He dragged himself up until he finally reached the top. The stairs halted a black door. Recke studied the ebony knob for a moment before lightly grabbing it and twisting. The door opened slowly inward, creaking faintly. A curtain of shadows hung before him, and not even the light from the sconces that lined the stairway could penetrate the darkness of the room.
Cautiously, Recke entered, his sword held with both hands. "Sonne?" whispered Recke, looking from side to side. "Sonne, you in here?"
The door slammed behind him, and the room suddenly lit up, dispelling the darkness to reveal Sonne tied to a chair with a tall, hooded figure standing beside her. "Sonne!" cried Recke, charging forward.
The hooded figure held up his hand, his long sleeves wobbling. "Shhh, she's sleeping."
"Give her back-" His helm flew from his head and bashed into a wall, flattening into a sheet of steel. "What-"
"My, someone looks startled!" laughed Sonne's captor. His face, masked by shadows, looked around. "See these walls? See how they glow and light the room? It's a special magic, you see. I had enchanted them as a child and behold! My spell has still not faded! I'm awfully proud of it, really. I have so few friends to brag to, though. Won't you please humor me and admire my walls? Tell me what you think about them, and be honest, oh how I do love honesty!"
Still shaken by the mage's magic, Recke could only nod. "They look...nice?"
"Oh, you really think so? Oh, thank you! I really did work hard on them, you know." The hooded figure clapped his hands and sighed. "Ah, so you're this girl's friend then? Recke, I presume?"
"She told me. She said Recke will come. Recke will save her. Recke will make me rue the day I touched her. Recke this, Recke that. That name fits, by the way. You look like a wreck, your hair is so messy! Don't you shower? No, of course not, you're still a boy who's greatest companion is his stench. Am I right? I'm right, aren't I? I'm always right." The hooded figure nodded slowly to himself, chuckling beneath the shadows cast over his face. "Yes, I'm always right. I knew you'd slay my summons. I knew you'd come here wielding that very sword. It's got a name, in case you don't know. It's called Pale Heart, for it pulses as if it were a beating heart, and you no doubt know why it's called pale, right? I hope you do, or you're more of a fool- Oh, look at me! Insulting my guest! How rude of me, why, I'm such a terrible host!"
Recke wondered if the man before him was even real. He acted too foolish, he spoke too much, and had too much power. He frowned, "Why did you take her?"
"I'll tell you if you defeat me. I'm the last boss of this dungeon, Recke!" shrieked the hooded man as he ascended into the air, his arms held wide out. "Defeat me, and level up and get the booty!"
"I mean, save your love." corrected the mage.
Recke blushed, "she's not my-"
"I can see through lies, you know. It's a magic of mine. And I told you I liked honesty, yet you speak such filth before my very ears! Be honest, speak truthfully! If you do so, I will tell you a secret!"
"A secret? Well..." The knight glanced back at Sonne. Her eyes were still closed, her head slumped over in sleep. It...It should be alright, she's asleep after all. She can't hear me...
"Yes? Say it, say it for me, Recke! Say it, say it, say it, say it-"
"Shut up, I'm trying to!" snapped the boy.
"S-Sorry..." mumbled the somber mage, bowing his head slightly.
"I...Love her-"
"Knew it! I freaking knew it!" cheered Sonne from her chair. "Haha, I knew you loved me!"
The mage lowered and laughed. "Man, that actually worked."
"Yeah, he actually admitted it! I knew you loved me, Recke! Man, am I good or what?"
"Ah, yes, the secret..." began the mage.
"Wait!" interrupted Sonne, "let me tell him." She rose from her seat and the ropes binding her fell to the ground. "You see, Recke, I knew you had feelings for me, women's intuition and such. I also knew you were too much of a coward to admit it normally! And I didn't want to be the first, because, well," She blushed, "I saw this boy confess to a girl in the village library. He was spouting off some stupid stuff about writing a book together with only them as characters." Sonne stuck out her tongue. "It sounded stupid, but it was sweet. I wanted you to be the first to confess, just like he was the first to confess to her! So we set this all up! Weigand was in on it too."
"He was..."
"And so is our mage here!"
The hooded man gave Recke a deep bow. "I'll sigh your armor, if you'd like. I do love fans."
"So you weren't in trouble...?" asked Recke.
"Me? In trouble? Not with you around." She grinned at the knight, "so anyway." Her face pulsed red and her words grew weak. "T-Thank you for saving me. And loving me."
"I..." Recke blushed and cleared his throat with a quick, forced cough. "I, Uh, you're welcome?"
Sonne giggled and ran to Recke. She wrapped her arms around him. "That armor's pretty cold... and fat."
"Weigand made me wear it." admitted Recke, scowling. "I had to be your white knight."
She smiled, "maybe we'll find a smaller suit of armor for you next time."
"Next time?!"
Sonne laughed and soon Recke found himself laughing as well. "I love you." whispered Sonne as she leaned in.
"I love you too." Their lips touched and they lost themselves in their own world until the mage coughed.
"So, um, yeah." mumbled the hooded man uneasily. "I'm just going to, uh, leave. Lots to do, you know, like painting pigs, throwing squirrels at people, and maybe conjuring a nature sprite. They tell the best stories, you know."
The couple backed away from each other with red faces and shaky legs. "Y-Yeah, you go do that." muttered Recke.
"Yeah..." The hooded man backed away to the ebony door. "Don't spill anything on my carpet!" He pointed down to the red oval matting that covered the floor. "Very fancy, very expensive. So I better not find anything bad on or in it."
"What do you mean-" Recke's face heated up. "Hey!"
The mage snickered beneath his hood and left the room, closing the door behind him.