On an island small and remote,
once the peak of a dead empire's smallest mountain and now barely more than a wind-swept sandbar, a knight sat nude eating a crab. But this was no ordinary knight, as you will see; he stood at the height of one-and-a-half men, and had the hair of several more, with a beard befitting a castaway of his tenure. The crab, on the other hand, was ordinary as it was raw, as the wild knight sat cross-legged, licking and biting at the cracks in the crustacean's shell, his longsword protected from the crab juice under his arm. As his yellowed teeth snipped away the morsels of flesh they gathered, the crab's red shells further cracked under his fingers, allowing the grease of the raw corpse to drip down his wrists before being caught by the nude man's ravenous tongue.
It was a day typical in the life of the castaway, one which he had grown accustomed to in his year of abandon. Behind the beast was his shelter of shipwreck and tree parts, as was his makeshift stone firepit, though he had forgotten the civilized custom of cooking with small meals such as the crab in his hand. In fact, the routine nature of his consumption, combined with his hunger, made it so only something far, far out
of the ordinary would make him forget the slippery meal at hand. Today, it took the form of a caravel bearing the flag of Caetia's Order coming into the view of the clear, blue ocean.
Vilayet Harbor, Palamara
It is a proud moment for the sun when the people of a city are forced to notice the heat of his shine, and on this day, the sun would feel rather accomplished were it not for a young priestess on a lonely sailboat. This priestess, who's parents deemed it suitable to name her Fe, was far too occupied with a bucket of fish and the encroaching pod of dolphins to pay heed to the machinations of whichever deity was deemed to have the domain of the sun, for she knew which deity she served, and hers was Lady Caetia.
Of course, Fe had company on the sailboat, but none which captured her interest. There was Sir Ivan, a knight kept as a retainer to the Priestesses, as well as the closest thing the boat had to a captain, who at the moment was leaned against the mast, hat tipped so as to avoid the sunbeams. And there was Eta, an acolyte of the Temple who Fe was supposed to be teaching but both thought would be better if she learned in silence. As the dolphins gathered round, Fe tossed her fish to the sea, quietly reciting a prayer in the language of Caetia's faithful, a language thought to have it's origins before the rains. As this routine continued and the contents of the bucket grew lower, Eta grew impetuous while she squinted in the bright sunlight.
"Might I try and feed them?" she asked curiously. She was but a child, eleven years old but with the stature of a girl even younger. Fe, a girl of twenty, with the strength of the kink in her hair reflecting the faith in her heart, at first said nothing, and wished to continue the trend of silence but knew the girl would probably speak again.
"You do not know the proper orations. Think on the nature of order while you watch me." Eta was unsatisfied with the answer, but fell silent, with which Fe was content, and the feeding continued. Each dolphin clacked hungrily while they waited to be fed, but did not fight over the food, for they knew each of them would receive their share. Eta turned and looked at the land behind her, the citadel of Vilayet. The towers and walls of the knights loomed heroically above the white buildings and tight streets of the city below. Close to the harbor was Caetia's Temple and Fe and Etas' home. Today was market day in Vilayet, or as they knew it in Palamara, the 'Day of Feeding', when the families of the city would go into the marketplace and buy whatever food they would need for the week to come, as well as the only day of the week when the urban families of the island would typically pay for a meal rather than cook at home. It was a day that Eta sorely missed, as it was also the day when the dolphins of the harbor would be fed, and when the Temple's soup kitchen would be active, so the priestesses, including Eta since her family turned her over nearly a year ago, were always busy.
Feeding the dolphins was Fe's favorite part of the job, though she enjoyed it more when she could do it alone. She didn't quite mind Ivan's company, she guessed, since he was usually quiet and respectful, unlike the young acolyte at her side. The priestess smiled, as a new dolphin came upon the group gathered, one which she recognized by the slight scar on his snout, and she threw him a sardine, which he happily caught while the others clacked jealously. When she reached into the bucket again, she found it was empty.
"Alright," she said as she turned to the knight behind her, "take us around, Ivan," and Ivan nodded, shifting to take them to a different side of the island, where they would feet a different group of Caetia's servants. His muscles flexed as he unfurled the main sail, and Fe bit her lip, something which Eta picked up on but said nothing. Does Fe like Ivan?
she pondered, but quickly dismissed the thought. While it was no longer forbidden for priestesses to marry, and marriage between knights and the clergy was rather common, a retainer could get into trouble for even looking at a priestess lewdly. When the boat began to move away from their spot, the dolphins followed after them for a bit before dissipating, and Ivan went to the rudder while Fe went to the bow. Eta was stuck in the middle, and decided to go back to the knight.
"Hi," she said, to which Ivan boredly nodded. She sat next to him, looking down as they cut the water beside them, before looking again to the man. "So," she began, "Why'd you start serving the Temple?"
He sighed. "Wasn't much of a choice." He paused before continuing. "But, the priestesses are nicer than the Knights." She nodded, pretending to understand what he meant, since every knight she's ever met has been extremely polite.
"Wouldn't you rather be off fighting pirates, though?" The usually stoic knight chuckled at that, while Vilayet began to disappear in the distance.
"Nah, leave the fighting to the men with a death wish." He looked over to Fe, who smiled back at him. "Some knights have something to live for." He looked back to Eta. "Besides, if the temple ever gets attacked, I'll have my share of fighting." The acolyte seemed to tense up at the words.
"Is that..something that happens?" She asked.
"Not recently, but used to happen all the time." He smirked, remembering why it was he went to join the knights from his far-off homeland. "When the knights came 'round, the attacks stopped."
"Oh," Eta replied meekly. She looked back to the water. Ever since she moved to the temple, it seemed all everybody could ever talk about aside from Caetia's justice was history. Fe approached the two, seeming both nervous and irritated, something which if you knew Fe wouldn't surprise you at all. She nervously tapped her fingers as she looked between the two. Somehow, this eleven year old girl had gotten Ivan to say more in the past couple of minutes than Fe had their entire time knowing each other.
"Is she bothering you?" She asked, referring to the acolyte, to which Ivan shook his head.
"No, no, just talking about the knights and such," he said, while Eta looked at Fe, smiling assuredly.
"Oh...of course," Fe replied, "I am...so, so grateful for the Knights..." She blushed, embarrassed, but the color in her cheeks flushed as they turned the corner.
The castaway knight was promptly washed and dressed in adequate clothing by the ship's crew before being deemed presentable to what the ship was transporting; a host of Caetian nuns, or, at least, future nuns, on their way to a convent on a small island owned by the Order. Throughout the entire ordeal, he remained silent, and seemed adamant that the sword remain by his side. Below deck, he sat at a wooden table while the young nuns gathered before him, and the group eyed him carefully while he eyed them back, neither sides speaking. The difference was that while they stood in fear, below his bushy eyebrows were two eyed stalwart, determined, and stoney. One nun was not afraid, however. She was far older than the rest, and was clearly experienced in her profession.
"Well, if you shall not speak," she began, "I will. I am Sister Gelena, of the Sisterhood of Duvara. And you are?" She paused to see if he would stop. He did not.
"I see," She continued, clearing her throat. "Well, if you choose to remain silent, so be it, but at the very least listen." She gestured to the young girls arranged behind her. "We are transporting our new sisters to our convent on Il Sulo. From the looks of it, you've been alone on that island for a long time, so I understand if you are cautious."
At that moment, a young sister approached the knight with a bowl of soup, which he snatched from her hands with a wooden spoon and hungrily began slurping. "Look at me," Gelena ordered sternly, and after a brief moment, the castaway reluctantly placed down his bowl and angrily looked up, before she continued. "I understand your...current behavior. But the moment you become a threat to my sisters, do not think I will hesitate to put you back on the island we found you on." His eyes squinted with annoyance. "Is that understood?" After a brief moment, he slowly began to nod.
"Good," said the old nun, and the sisters walked away.
The tide was washing away the blood which stained the Palamaran beach, as Fe and Ivan uplifted the victim who was the source of the redness; an old fisherman, who's son stood by idly with his face flushed. While the priestess and the knight lowered the body of the fainted old man onto the sailboat, Fe began to treat his wounds, and Ivan turned to the younger man, stepping off the boat towards him.
"You his son?" He asked, and the young man swallowed and collected his thoughts.
"Y-yes, this is my father, s-sir knight. We...we were out, fishing, alone of course. The rest of the fisherman are in the market, so my father thought this would be the best time to do it, when there was no competition." Ivan now stood close to him, and the son seemed to tense up, averting the knight's gaze.
"Relax, man, I am only a retainer of the Temple, but I am still a knight. You are safe now." The man took a deep breath, and suddenly a look of anger took hold of his face, and he looked Ivan square in the eyes.
"Well that's the thing, isn't it?" He began, "It were the knights who've done this."
A while later, the castaway stood on the deck of the ship, sword and sheathe still close at hand, though now leaned agains the ship's fence. He heard footsteps move behind him, but he said nothing, nor did he turn.
"I trust you've found your sleeping quarters up to your liking," Gelena said. "Much better than a desert island could offer." She was greeted by silence, save for the light crashing of waves against the side of the ship. "It was not my choice to take you on, you know. But the crew insisted, and once they saw that sword on you, the one or two knights among them refused to leave you ashore." She paused, thinking her next words carefully. "Of course, having the sword of a knight on you doesn't make you one." At this, the castaway turned around angrily, fist clenched.
"You don't like that?" the nun said in response. "Say something then." He thought for a moment before turning back to the water. She waited. "Fine then. If you refuse to say who you are, I will simply have to report you to the Order's authority. Perhaps they will have answers for me." She turned to leave, when she heard a voice, gruff, low, and scratched by sea wind.
"Wait," said the knight. "I am...I am Sir Anton, Captain of the Knight Guard."