Chapter Twelve: Dubbing

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Damian woke up on an uncomfortable surface. The grass beneath him felt like it'd aged and grown brittle. He felt around his surroundings, trying to figure out what he'd fallen asleep in.

It was hay.

That made a lot of sense.

He opened his eyes, pupils shrinking at the morning light. His spine was bent. He tried to remember how he fell asleep the previous night, but the thought wasn't quite coming to him. From what he could deduce, he'd fallen asleep while sitting upright and halfway through the night slumped over onto a bale of hay. He brushed a few stray straws from his face and looked around.

He was in a barn. Well, not just any barn--the barn. The one he'd spent the last how many--fifteen? yeah, fifteen--years getting to know inside and out. He looked forward at the handful of stables, each containing a handsome horse. Three mares, two stallions. They snorted, as if to say good morning.

"I was wondering where you'd chosen to spend the night," a friendly voice bellowed from behind him.

Damian turned to see who it was.

It was a familiar face, one of a man who was well into his forties--although, with the rough life he'd led it could have been easy to mistake him for someone older. His features were round, but not portly. He looked like someone who ate well, but didn't necessarily overindulge. While his skin was paler than one may expect for someone who spent most of their time out on patrol, his cheeks were a rosy red. He had a bushy beard whose chestnut hair had started to grey in recent years, but it only made him appear wiser instead of more tired. His name was Eldric, Damian didn't have to recall that part.

Sir Eldric. Damian's mentor since the time he was a mere page of seven years old.

The knight approached him. "I had a feeling you would be in here. It was always sort of your escape place. Indeed, I remember the night before my dubbing ceremony. After the church service, I spent it quietly under the bramble tree just outside my residence. It was all well and good until it began raining." He started to laugh.

Damian laughed along, too.

"Now get straightened up, boy, we have an appointment with royalty and tardiness would not be in our best interest." The knight ushered him to get up.

Damian hastily stood up. "Yes, sir." He brushed off any remaining straws of hay and began making his way back to his own personal quarters. He examined his clothes as he walked. He hadn't meant to fall asleep wearing the traditional white vesture and white shoes, but he also hadn't meant to fall asleep on a barrel of hay. These things just sort of happen this time. Damian was mostly just happy that his red cape was safely stored elsewhere.

When he got back to his quarters, servants were there to help him prepare. It almost made him uncomfortable, letting other people fuss over them like that when not long ago he was right there with them. Eldric said he had a good heart like that, but constantly reminded him that that was soon going to be his responsibility.

By the time they were done, he was fully decked out in the traditional clothing. He touched the edges of the red cape, childlike wonder welling up inside of him. He graciously thanked the servants and the posse made their way to the carriage.

Eldric was already there waiting for him. He was beaming ear to ear with pride. "Young Damian, you look more ready than I have ever seen you. How do you feel?"

He nodded rigorously, despite the curling in his stomach. "I feel ready."

"Excellent," the knight nodded. "Then let us be on our way."

The two boarded the carriage and they were off. It wasn't a long journey to the castle, perhaps only a few hours. Excitement and anticipation swirled inside Damian. He felt sick, but in a good way. The ride was quiet, probably for the purpose of quiet meditation, but he didn't mind.

Damian had been to the castle a couple times before, but he'd never been there for a ceremony like this. The building felt like a feat of God and man as they pulled up to it. The carriage had to stop outside as the drawbridge opened to allow them in. Damian could only hear the murmurings between the guards and their driver. In due time, they were allowed to enter.

As they passed through the entrance gates, Damian felt dwarfed by the size. The walls were tall and made of fortifying stone. The various workers walking about looked incredibly normal, yet privy to things Damian could only dream about. He'd never really wished to be royal, per se, but it was often a thought that sparked his imagination.

The carriage eventually stopped. Eldric finally spoke up. "Well, looks like we've made it in time for our appointment.

Damian stood at the door to the throne room. He was alone, as per customary to the ceremony. His heartbeat was ringing in his ears. But in a good way. Definitely in a good way, he reminded himself. He toyed with the robe on his shoulders, but once he realized what he was doing he stopped. He stood absolutely still.

After a moment of silent rigidity, the door finally opened. A herald stood at the door, a scrawny, squeaky sort of guy. He called out to all those in the room. "In anticipation of Her Majesty's knighthood, the recent graduated Squire, Damian of the Ryker family. If Master Damian would approach the throne."

Damian took his first steps into the room. Sure enough, at the end of a narrow walkway stood a tall throne. Seated in it was the Queen, a middle-aged woman with a stern face. Her black hair had begun to grey, and even from the other side of the room Damian could make out the wrinkles at the edge of her mouth. She wore her best regalia today, a gown bigger than Damian could even imagine a single person being strong enough to carry, a bejeweled crown atop her head. Even coming from a noble family, Damian could hardly comprehend the sheer amount of wealth affixed to one person.

Also in the room were a collection of other knights and nobles. Eldric stood at the queen's right side, the prideful grin still beaming. It made Damian feel at ease, if only for a moment.

He took each step toward the throne carefully and evenly, trying very hard to not misstep in any way. It took a minute, but he finally made it to his spot. Without speaking, he kneeled before the Queen and bowed his head.

The Queen spoke up, voice echoing through the chamber. "Master Damian of the Ryker family."

"Yes, Your Majesty?" He spoke meekly. Perhaps more meekly than a future knight was supposed to speak.

"I have heard of your exploits in the battle of Dunway. Your strategic analysis and quick thinking saved the lives of dozens of men. That is an incredible feat for a man of your youth."

"I exist to serve. Thank you, Your Majesty."

She continued. "Your accomplishments in battle along with your apprenticeship under Sir Eldric have proven you worthy of knighthood. Have you performed all necessary parochial practices?"

"Yes, Your Majesty."

"Have you taken the vow of chivalry?"

"I have, Your Majesty."

"Then, Master Damian, I believe it is time." She stood up from her throne with relative ease, despite the apparent weight of her dress. She turned to the side. A young squire held up a board holding a sword and shield on it. She lifted the shield in one hand and the sword in the other.

The Queen approached Damian. "Master Damian, you have completed all necessary ceremonies and feats to be dubbed into knighthood. By the power vested in me, through God and the Holy Kingdom of Artan, I hereby dub thee, Sir Damian Ryker, loyal knight of the Kingdom." She took the sword and touched both shoulders.

Damian kept his head bowed.

"Now, rise Good Knight, and take your rightful belongings."

Damian nearly bounced up and graciously took the sword and shield from the Queen.

The room erupted in applause from the other knights and nobles. His heartbeat still hadn't subsided. He could hear his mentor utter a teary 'Congratulations' from the sidelines.

Despite years of training, Damian's face erupted into a smile and mouthed a quiet thank you.

The Queen returned it with a small grin. "Now then!" she proclaimed, and the entire room became silent. "I believe it is time to begin the festivities."

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