Sol Principalis System—Third Planet

Local date: 1201


THE sun streaming down on them and the heat of the midday were a far cry from what Daveth was used to in his native land by the North Sea. He didn’t complain, however, since this was his chance to make a name for himself. He wanted to be a knight and wear the large cross on his tunic like the man he fetched water and food for during the sieges. He had a long way to go, though. He didn’t come from a good family, and if his father had lived, he would have become a blacksmith, like his pa, his brothers, and his grandfather. He had two brothers who took over their father’s smithy when the man died though, and there was no place for Daveth. So when Sir Newell, an English knight, came to his town to scout for pages, Daveth had grabbed the opportunity and followed the man to war in to the Holy Land.

Daveth wasn’t afraid of hard work or of knights crossing swords in practice. In fact, he’d taken up a sword one day when his knight’s sparring partner had fallen wounded, and that was how he had come to be in his knight’s favor.

Daveth’s knight was a handsome one, with bright-blue eyes, fair skin, and—whenever he took his helmet off—brown floppy hair. Daveth doted on him and was even given leave to sleep in the knight’s quarters so he could fetch him things if he needed them in the middle of the night. Daveth barely dared to look into his knight’s eyes and only really saw their gemlike quality when they were sparring and both dressed in helmets and armor. He knew he had to be patient, though. Sir Newell was not of very high standing and couldn’t openly be seen being kind to his page, but in the privacy of their tent, Daveth enjoyed the kind words and pats on the shoulder his knight bestowed upon him.

The journey to the Holy Land was long and arduous, and Daveth didn’t mind walking next to his liege’s horse as they traveled in caravan. When, to his surprise, in Venice they embarked on a boat, Daveth’s eyes sparkled with excitement. He’d never been on a sea journey but had heard stories of pirates and plunder. What he was not prepared for were the storms.

After two days of being dreadfully seasick, the rocking ship was caught in a massive storm, sending more than one sailor overboard. Daveth was afraid for the first time in his life, for he could not swim. His knight didn’t exactly have sea legs, either, so Daveth clung to everything he could as he ventured outside for water and food. Once inside again, Sir Newell would often pull Daveth into his bed with him, and Daveth tended to his knight’s every need.

They managed to survive the sea journey, and Daveth was glad to disembark.

“We will need to fight once we arrive, Daveth,” Sir Newell said. “Are you prepared?”

“I will follow you to the death,” Daveth replied. His knight kissed his brow, for he could not kiss Daveth like he had kissed him in the privacy of their ship’s cabin.

“Are we there yet?”

“No,” Sir Newell said. “This is the city of Zara. Think of it as practice.”

The city fell in under a week, and since winter had arrived, leaving the seas even rougher than before, the decision was made to winter there. Their numbers grew and more auspicious knights arrived, but Daveth stayed true to his liege. With him he would arrive in the Holy Land and make a name for himself, for his knight had promised that he could.

“Why do you go on a crusade?” Daveth had once asked his knight.

“To repent for my sins.”

“And which sins would that be, that you would need to die for them?”

“I am a lover of men instead of women,” his knight had divulged.

“I was not aware this was a sin,” Daveth said honestly. His village priest had never mentioned such a thing.

“Do not repeat this to any living soul. It is not something we can talk to others about. But you are like me. You understand.”

Daveth could still not see the sin in loving someone. Even if that someone was his knight and he was a mere page.

When they finally arrived in the Holy Land, it was nothing like Daveth had imagined. He’d envisioned battles and knights in tunics with large red crosses, but instead found armies of fighters bored and waiting. Endlessly waiting.

“It is not yet time.” Sir Newell would tell Daveth whenever he asked why they did nothing but sit around.

“Someone else will take credit,” Daveth suggested.

“I am but one person, Daveth.”

“You are a knight, and you swore to fight to the death to uphold the Christian belief!”

Sir Newell cradled Daveth’s face with his hands. “Oh, my brave little soldier.”

“I am not little.”

“No, you are not. You have grown into a fine young man since I first took you with me.” He looked Daveth in the eye, and they were almost the same height now. “But you are too eager to die.”

Sir Newell took Daveth to his tent and took out one of his tunics. He slipped it over Daveth’s head and added a helmet and a sword. “You should fight with me. You have a regal name and it suits our cause.”

Daveth wished he had a mirror to see himself. He caressed the cross on his chest and when he looked up, he could see a little bit of himself in the sparkling blue eyes of his liege.

“After all, you already fight as well as me.”

“I don’t have a horse.”

“You can ride, can’t you?”

“Yes,” Daveth lied.

“They will provide us with horses who are ready for battle in the desert. I will make sure to get one for you as well.”

“So, no more waiting?”

The knight smiled. “I think we sufficiently starved our enemy, now let us rest. It will be a long day tomorrow.”

The next day wasn’t long or dangerous. They got up at the break of dawn, when the desert was still cool, and gathered by a well to mount their horses. As Daveth’s knight had professed, the warriors of the small city they were supposed to conquer were sufficiently starved and surrendered as soon as they saw the troops storm in.

It wasn’t until nightfall, when they gathered to drink all that was left of the wine, that an intruder entered their camp. Daveth was sitting next to his knight, proud of his first siege, when he spotted something moving in the shadows. He got up from where he was sitting.

“Is anyone there?”

“Come back here, Daveth. It’s probably a big cat.”

“I was sure there was a stranger lurking in the shadows,” Daveth said, turning around as his knight had requested.

Daveth saw his knight’s face turn to terror and then felt a sharp pain in his back. As he looked down he saw the point of a sword sticking out of his belly and blood staining his white and red tunic. Then he fell to his knees and into his knight’s arms.

“No, Dafydd. It’s too soon for you to die. We haven’t done everything we needed to do yet. Hang on, my darling Dafydd.”

Daveth had no time to question his knight’s strange pronunciation of his name as the world turned black.