A Promise of Blades
(A Kalliope & Kayden Collab)
Kayden had waited until his team had decided to look away before he slid off into the bustling assemblage of the dismissed congregation. Being made into an only child at a young age, Kayden was good at slipping through crowds and being unseen. All the years he spent escaping tutors or the wrath of his father had been good practice. He had not learned to make an entrance until later, but he was glad that he had acquired the skills for both, seeing Tomai and Kalliope hopefully finishing their conversation. Once he was past the throng of people, Kayden held himself up, squaring his shoulders and turning his well-formed face in just the right way to accentuate his jawline. He still held a few baubles, rings, and a single earring that befitted his station as prince, and though he was dressed accordingly as a student, he always made sure he was a very dashing one.
Only for a second did he feel a small sense of trepidation at the prospect of coming over to sweet talk one of the staff of Garreg Mach, much less the Knight Captain of Seiros. However, he hadn’t flirted with a woman in ages, so he decided ‘fuck it’ and sought to wing it. Firstly he needed to get rid of Tomai, and smart though Kayden was, he didn’t know Tomai well enough to send him on some errand. He was his professor, but the man had never been interested in anyone who wasn’t a magic-user, including the guild leader, Kayden himself. The prince waited a few seconds for the two to notice him before he ascended the three stone steps to stand before them. Kayden granted a courtly bow, not too low to show submission, but just enough to give respect. He made sure to use the proper inflection in his voice, and prayed to the goddess his crest held strong.
“Apologies for my interruption, professor. No doubt you do great service to the safety of us all in speaking with Knight Commander Kalliope. I was of like mind, truth be told. I know you’ve many duties to attend to, so I thought to speak to the Knight Kalliope myself about our hold’s defences once your talk was concluded.” He gave the barest hint of a pause after ‘concluded.’ The last words always held the most weight, and his crest tended to add just that ounce more of it. “I would also suggest speaking with Rudolf, as he gets intimidated quite easily, and with this whole affair of missing students, I think as a fellow mage, he would listen to you.”
Tomai wasn’t entirely impressed by Kayden’s arrival, albeit he would take any excuse to get away. He gave Kayden a short bow as he turned, taking a step backward and away from the pair. “Speak to your heart’s content, Your Highness,” He said, only briefly making eye contact with Kalliope before stepping away and choosing to linger elsewhere.
Kalliope wasn’t too happy, though it was clear she was more annoyed with Tomai. Once he was out of earshot, she let herself give the smallest huff of annoyance before giving her attention to the prince. “It honors me that you would take an interest; I am more than happy to ease any concerns you may have,” She told him.
“No believe me, the honor is mine,” He remarked earnestly, stepping closer. “I’ve overheard a lot about your reputation, so I’m mostly professionally curious.”
While he certainly had ulterior motives, Kayden was actually interested in how the Knight Commander ran things. “Before I was heir, I was raised and tutored as a soldier and a general, and while that obviously changed, the lessons never left. I still feel like that was my lot in life, and since you’re accomplished from all I hear, tell me what exactly is being done about the student’s protection?” He asked, speaking casually as if they were speaking over wine. That thought wasn’t an unpleasant one.
“The Knights of Seiros makes up their lack of numbers by refining the soldiers they do have. One knight can take out ten,” Kalliope stated, the smallest hint of pride in her tone. “Most, if not all who desire to join our ranks are trained here and provide the bodies needed so that Garreg Mach Monastery is never under-guarded. That isn’t to say the current guards are undertrained; the end of their training coincides with the start of the new school year, and they gain experience as the days pass under the mentorship from the senior members.”
An interesting system, Kayden thought to himself.
The woman looked after Tomai, a small glint in her eye. “The staff here are all expertly trained in combat as well, though I’m sure you’ve already seen your professors in action,” She chuckled as she looked back at him. “While Michail is a Knight of Seiros, the rest have varying experiences from elsewhere. If I recall correctly, Professor Malathice studied at Enbarr’s Royal University. Professor Kalonic--that is, Miss Euphemia--also squired under a Roundtable Knight in the Leicester Alliance. Professor Roland was one of my squires before he decided to teach, and I believe Professor Simeon was trained by the previous Archbishop.”
“Taking into account their schedules and capabilities, it’s easy for them to fill any gaps needed. Their proximity to the students makes it easy as well,” She concluded. “Despite the rumors, the Dormitory and the Cathedral are impenetrable.”
“Very praetorian,” he noted with at least a modicum of respect. “Meaning that as a compliment, of course. Not nearly as feudal as our system, though the Imperial Guards at my palace are some of the best in the world. Hand picked for loyalty and skill.” He held his head high, blue eyes steeled as if daring her to challenge the claim. Moments later, he smiled fondly. “I was lucky enough to have one of them teach me the basics, but my instructor of the sword was a duelist. I often wonder how it would have been if I kept up with my tutoring as an arsmen.”
He ran a hand through his thick, dark hair. Somehow it remained rakish, even after the motion. “You taught some of the professors, right? Must be strange seeing them teach students that were likely as bad as them. And wait...you’re extremely young, how long have you been the Commander?”
At Kayden’s last statement, Kalliope let out a rather hearty laugh. “I’ll take the compliment, but I’m older than I look,” She ended up admitting once her laughter died down. “Granted, I’ve been Commander for just under a decade and served as a Knight for two. Michail did serve as my squire once the knight he served ended up retiring, though aside from some sparring matches, I haven’t taught anyone else from the beginning like I did with Lysander. The latter’s a better teacher than I could ever be, though it’s a shame he decided to put all his efforts into education. But eh, he enjoys it, he’s good at it, so I can’t help but take pride that he found his calling.”
She frowned to herself for a moment. “...think it was Lady Arianthe that asked Michail to teach, though I was surprised,” She told him. “Not that I don’t think he’s capable, but he certainly has...a unique way of teaching. It’s nice to see him make the effort, though I got plenty of complaints that he’s being too rough on your lot.”
Kayden failed at hiding his smile, a chortle escaping his lips. He was not disbelieving anything, but the thought of Michail as a squire, following someone about was hilarious to him. “Well two decades as a knight is definitely nothing to scoff at. I’ve only practiced with the sword for one, and I’ve only seen two real engagements. I never thought one of them would be here, but the world outside of the palace is full of surprises.”
He found himself grinning. He found her attractive, but he was expecting someone either uninterested in speaking at all, or a hardass. She was actually very easy to speak to, he realized. His conscience got the better of him, which he usually found grating. He decided not to be shameless for once, and also for once, he didn’t feel overly vexxed about it. He side eyed the crowd, somehow suspicious eyes were on him. Veronica’s was his main concern, but he didn’t want to grant the other guilds any ammo on him, regardless. The Lions and the Deer weren’t having the best go of it, and he would be damned if the Eagles fell due to his lack of restraint. Still, he couldn’t quite let it go…
Turning back to her, he spoke. “I know you’d likely recommend one of the professors, and I can imagine how busy you probably are with...well everything that is happening.” He shrugged, continuing with a glint in his eyes. “But that being said, would you care to show me a few moves in the sparring ring sometime? Getting some hands-on lessons from the Commander would be amazing. I don’t entirely know what I can give you in return but since I seem to be emperor someday, I’m sure I can think of something.”
He imagined she would turn him down, but he wanted to ask regardless. He wasn’t lying about being interested in what she could teach him with the sword. Kayden only slightly asked because he was unapologetically interested in her.
“I’m honored that you’d ask. As long as you understand that I won’t be as easy an instructor as Michail, of course,” Kalliope replied. “I usually hover around the arena on the weekends whenever I have the time."
Oh shit... Had he been alone, he would have fist pumped and exclaimed ‘Yes!’ but at the current time, he simply did his best to hide how thrilled he was with a courtly poise. “Awesome. I wouldn’t be excited if I thought you’d hold back.” He cleared his throat and raised an eyebrow. “I won’t either.” He said, but it fell short and he made sure to chuckle and treat it as a joke. He knew it would be all he could do to stay alive.
"I’d be insulted otherwise,” Kalliope returned his jest with one of her own. Her eyes wandered to the rest of the room, the buzz of the cathedral becoming one less tense than before. She seemed a little relieved, though after a few seconds, she looked back at the prince. "Did you have any other questions for me?”
“Uh, yes.” He confessed. It was time for him to be a bit more responsible. He stepped closer and leaned in to speak more softly. “I understand if you can’t exactly share, or if no one really knows anything yet. But I wouldn’t be a good Guild Leader if I didn’t ask...do you know or have an inkling of what happened to those students?” He looked at her, gauging her reaction. “Is this a coordinated attack, or a spell gone wrong? Is it just possible that two students ran away and evaded security?”
“You’d have to ask Michail or Chionne, I don’t know the exact details of what happened,” She admitted. “Considering how late they were, I’m more inclined to believe they ran away. You’d be surprised how many noble kids take advantage of being away from their parents to run off and start lives of their own.”
Kayden hid his smile. The fact he didn’t get along with his father and truly did not want to marry the bride he had been assigned, he had certainly been tempted that same way. But Kalliope wasn’t privy to his thoughts so she couldn’t appreciate the irony.
“You don’t say? Well, I suppose that is all of my questions for now.” He replied, giving a small bow of respect. “I look forward to crossing blades with you this weekend.”
Kalliope nodded in acknowledgement before her eyes searched the now-thin crowd. Letting out a slightly disappointed sigh, she gave Kayden a shallow bow before taking her leave.