Part 12: Training Begins
The kingdom rejoiced when Princess Emerald was returned to the palace safe and sound.
They did not, however, rejoice at a child of evil being brought with her. Especially when the gossip around town spread the word that he was to train in order to possibly become one of the Knights of Dusk.
Janus did what he did best as the days went on; he ignored them. He had been given a place to stay at the palace, and the maids did their best to avoid him, while other servants dared to glare at him. The guards always gripped their weapons tighter when he approached, as if they expected him to suddenly lash out. Sometimes he felt like doing just that to see what they would do.
Prince Hunter, who was only a few weeks away from being coronated, was so busy he never saw him. He was all right with that. The only other royal he saw occasionally was that of Princess Emerald, when they happened to be passing by in the same corridors. Of course, she avoided him, too.
He tried not to let it bother him. He had more important matters at hand. The day finally arrived that he would begin training. Early that morning, he stood before the floor mirror in his dimly lit room, imagining himself in shiny armor. It was difficult to do with a simple, darkly colored tunic, trousers, and a cloak. They were a far cry from the armor he had always dreamed of donning.
He would prove himself worthy of wearing it soon enough.
A knock at his door made him flinch. “C-come in,” he said.
The door opened and Prince Hunter, Emerald, and the head of the Knights of Dusk walked in. His eyes widened as they all squeezed into the room.
“Good day, Janus,” Prince Hunter said, though there was an edge in his voice that told Janus he did not truly mean for him to have a good day. “I suppose you are ready to join the others?”
“Others?” Janus asked in a low voice.
“Of course,” said the Head Master – Thomas, if he remembered correctly. “There are others who are training to become knights alongside us. Those who are not good enough for the Knights of Dusk become regular knights. Those who are not good enough to even be regular knights are made soldiers in the king’s army.”
“And they only choose five knights every year to join the ranks,” Hunter added coldly. “So I suggest you work very hard to prove yourself worthy.”
“Don’t worry,” Janus said, struggling to keep his tone even. “I will work harder than all of them.”
“That’s good to hear, because you are already at a disadvantage. Multiple disadvantages, actually,” said Thomas.
Janus glanced at Emerald, who quickly lowered her gaze to the floor. “What disadvantages would those be? Besides being related to the witch who stole your princess.”
Thomas sighed. “Follow me.”
Janus was led out of his room and down a spiraling staircase. The palace was masterfully built, with red carpets, golden accents, and polished stone. Everything was perfect. Too perfect for Janus, but he could stand it as long as he got what he wanted.
The courtyard was beautiful, with stone walkways, green grass and flowers, and a large fountain in the center. It almost reminded him of his tower, and a pang of home sickness took his breath away for a moment.
Thomas gesturing to a line of thirteen young children snapped him out of it. Wait…children?! “That would be your second biggest disadvantage,” said Thomas, a grim look on his face. I don’t know your age, but I know you aren’t seven or eight. That’s when most kids begin training to become knights.”
“So…I cannot train?” Janus said, his face falling. His heart fell with it. Was it all a trick after all?
“I’m still going to let you, I’m just saying you’ll have to make for a pretty darn good knight if you want to stand out. Well, I mean, you’ll be standing out anyway, but if you want people to notice you instead of these fresh-faced kiddos, you’ll have to work hard.”
Janus’ hands clenched into fists. Of course he would work hard. This was all he ever wanted; all he ever cared about. He wasn’t about to let these puny children take this away from him! His jaw set with determination, he stomped over to the children and stood in formation with them, Thomas, Emerald, and Hunter following behind them.
When the children saw that the prince was here, they all murmured to each other in awe, totally not realizing that the witch’s brother was amongst them.
“All right, future knights,” Thomas said, raising his voice so all of them could see. “For today, you all will perform a series of tasks. No need to worry whether your performance is above average or not for awhile, since your positions won’t be decided for another year. However, it does help to be above average. Exceptional, even.”
A little boy raised his hand.
“Yes?” Thomas said, sighing.
The boy then pointed at Janus. “I thought only lil’ kids like us could join!” His voice was annoyingly squeaky.
Janus grimaced when all the other kids began to stare at him.
“And he’s got horns!” another boy cried, gasping. “He’s that man Papa told me about!”
“All right, all right,” Thomas raised a hand to shush the murmurs and gasps that began to grow louder. “Just focus on your own business and making sure you’re doing your best to become a knight. You have no room for other peoples’ business from now on.”
Janus swallowed hard, sure that his cheeks were beet red. However, he supposed that while being older than the children was a disadvantage, it was also an advantage. He was surely stronger and faster than them. Well he was probably stronger and faster than the average man, anyway. Hopefully he would be able to outdo these children at everything so the knights would do him a lovely favor and overlook his age.
Thomas ordered them all to the field beyond the palace walls, so the all filed in line to be led out. As Janus got in line, he thought he spotted Princess Emerald watched him out of the corner of his eye. When he glanced in her direction, she quickly looked away, but he could see her cheeks flaming. She couldn’t possible like a man like him…could she? They were true lovers, but did that mean fate would force them together?
He was afraid to find out.
~ <♥> ~
Hello all my loyal readers! Things have gotten a little awkward for Janus, and I’m sorry to say it’ll only get worse from here on out… I want to ask you all though; who would you like to see end up together? Hunter and Emerald, or Janus and Emerald? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Also, big thanks to Spider-man lover for the beautiful new cover art! 👏
Thank you for reading! God bless y’all, and have a wonderful weekend!