71. Scars

 Every scar was a ridge of mountains or roaring rapid along the knight commander’s body, a map of his long career of service to his kingdom. The oldest of them was faded away, hardly visible under the coarse hair on his left arm. With a closer look, there was the silver, winding river of a parry gone bad as a Page. It was the first time he’d ever seen his own blood, happening even before the first callouses broke on his fingers.

The ones he was most proud of were the large, angry looking marks on his chest. There had been a fire on a diplomatic mission to a southern kingdom. Nothing intentional, likely just some idiot putting their candle too close to their windowsill and caught a drape on fire. He’d pulled the young princess from her room, and went back in for a yapping little dog she pleaded for him to save. The damn thing jumped out the window just before the scorching hot metal bar that held up the curtains fell on his chest. The burn had him in the medical wing of that backwater kingdom for almost a month. He never looked at charred meat the same way again. But, from left pectoral to right hip, the scar lingered even still, five years after the fact.

On the other side of his chest was the one he was most proud of. It was small compared to all of the others, only about two inches long, as thin as a blade. It was between his ribs on the right side, something you had to search very hard for, and few people got close enough to do so. And the man that got close enough to inflict the wound was an even rarer occurrence.

*~*~*

It was just two years ago, at some overly fussy ball to celebrate the birth date of the founding King. It was fitting that it had only been a week since his charge, the youngest prince of the Kingdom, ascended to the throne.  His brother was a madman deemed unfit for the position, and had not been too happy about the decision. But, the Knight Commander, newly made then, stood proudly beside his king, one hand on his sword and the other on the back of the throne. All night long people had been coming to pledge their allegiance to their new ruler. There was all the bowing, kissing rings, Lords from distant towns bringing gifts of grain or gold; the kind of things that the children’s stories would have skipped over.

He did not recognize the last in the long line of men and women as he stepped up to the dais, because the man wore a dark cloak, hiding his face. He had ignored the order to remove the hood in front of the King, and so the Knight Commander stepped forward. No one saw the blade that slipped from under the long sleeve of the cloak. It wasn’t until the man was fleeing from the ballroom that anyone noticed the tear in his leather armor and the blood pooling on the marble floor.

The bump on his head from when he had fallen backwards hurt more than the blade sinking into his skin. The medics told him that it had severed a major artery, and he was fortunate to be alive. He wouldn’t consider himself fortunate until the would-be assassin was in the ground.

*~*~*

And two years later, the man was still on the run. Which brought him back to the bed, and the newest in his collection of scars. This one, though, was from something much less…Lethal. The young King was wrapping up his finger, which he had managed to slice open with a small knife as he peeled a fruit.

“How did such a klutz like you become my Commander?” the King was clearly teasing, the candle lights sparkling in his dark eyes.

“My dashing good looks and charm?”

“Something like that.” The King pressed his lips to the covering he’d applied, eyes falling on the thin mark on the man’s ribs. “I never did thank you for that day…”

“Well then, perhaps you should start.” The knight tucked his fingers under the King’s chin, pulling his face upwards.

“Perhaps I should.”

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