Relic Knights: Calamity Comes, Chapter 2
Catermane Academy, Jannis, Doctrine Capitol – Festival of Scrolls
“You worry too much.” Francis clapped Master Wu on the back. The Doctrine lorekeeper tensed instinctively and, though sheathed, his paired dueling blades chimed softly as esper woke them. “See,” Francis smiled warmly, “it is not healthy for one so young to carry so much weight. It is the anniversary of the First Doctrine and my Order is here to help. This is your day to relax.” The wizened paladin gestured to the bright festival underway across the academy’s grounds. “This is your history brought to life—enjoy it.”
The Festival of Scrolls was celebrated throughout Doctrine space, indeed much of the Alliance continued to celebrate the day even after the Doctrine’s secession. The two great interstellar nations’ histories remained deeply intertwined and mutually prosperous despite the strained relations brought on by the Darkspace Calamity. As ever, The Erudite Prefectorium for Scholarly Excellence, also known as the Catermane Academy, was celebrating the Anniversary as befitting the original academy and founding institution of the living Doctrine. Officially, the academy spread across the planet’s single continent as a sprawling metropolis, but at its heart stood Catermane Castle and the entirety of Lord Catermane’s barony from before the planet united under the First Doctrine. The grounds and castle were meticulously maintained and had changed little since the days of Catermane himself. Arriving at the academy proper was like stepping into a time preserved only by myth and legend. The festival maintained the illusion with its brightly colored tents, food stalls, and snapping pennants.
Master Wu drank in the experience, absorbing the happy laughter of the novitiates and friendly banter of faculty and visiting parents. “Perhaps you are right, old friend,” his features relaxed, “but it is difficult in these times...and I am anything but young.”
“You are all pups,” a deep growling voice rumbled. A lupine form padded towards them on all fours. The beast stood as tall at the shoulder as either man, and as it spoke, its long muzzle revealed sharp fangs several inches long. As the primordial wolf cypher approached them, it rose to two legs, revealing a surprisingly humanoid form that now towered above them.
Francis smiled broadly. “Well met, Ekhis. I don’t suppose you’d care to elaborate on exactly how much older you are than us ‘pups’ would you?” he asked, already knowing no answer would be forthcoming. He stifled a small laugh as he noticed the thick grey fur around the wolf cypher’s head had been carefully braided and secured with bright red and gold ribbons. “I see young Miss Delphyne has fancied you up for the occasion.” Ekhis glowered as the paladin enjoyed his moment.
“My Knight is still a child,” Ekhis rumbled. “I indulge her while I can. She has already seen too much for one so young and the worst has not yet begun.” Instinctively his eyes darted to the small form of his Knight, Delphyne. The young girl was cheering exuberantly as racers from the Cerci Speed Circuit performed daredevil stunts on their hovercycles in the sky above. The act was one of many off-world performing groups the Doctrine had selected to take part in the festivities. “Master Wu is correct to be cautious,” he continued, “these are dangerous times. Even here in the heart of the Doctrine.”
Francis threw up his arms in exasperation. “There is a difference between readiness and paranoia. Do not mistake one for the other.” His voice grew stern with the steel and authority from his former days as the First of his paladin order, The Shattered Sword. “And do not mistake my willingness to participate in the joy of the life around us as a lack of readiness.”
“Never would I, nor Ekhis underestimate you, Lord Malory,” Master Wu soothed, “but so many non-Doctrine Knights in one location sets my mind ill at ease.” He watched the cheering crowd with Ekhis, intensely scrutinizing the racer at the center of the show: Suicide Queen. The fiery-haired Cerci racer and Knight could not be matched by even the most skilled members of her cadre, the Hell’s Belles. Wielding a stunning mastery of esper granted by her cypher Rollo, the Knight dodged, rolled, and pirouetted through the sky like a dancer on a stage. “Trouble follows Suicide Queen like a plague. I do not even know how she and her gang were allowed for the festivities, I certainly did not approve it.”
Ekhis suddenly averted his gaze and shifted uncomfortably, dropping back to all fours. The predatory wolf, suddenly replaced by a sulking pup. “That may have been my doing.”
“You mean Delphyne’s doing,” Francis chuckled. He glanced at Master Wu’s fuming features, then back to the chastened Ekhis. “Get your tail out from between your legs! That girl of yours is as headstrong and willful as any child I’ve met, and for better or worse, she’s loved that scoundrel biker since Apparition.” In the distance, the crowd roared as Suicide Queen performed a perfect Convergence Roll with six other bikers. “Personally, I think they’re good for one another. Suicide Queen could do with a dose of Delphyne’s innocence, and her affection for the child is obvious.” Ekhis growled. “Oh, come now, she’s not going to spirit her off to a life of speed bikes and crime.”
Previously unseen, Francis’s cypher, Quill swooped down among them. The blue falcon hovered between the three of them, his wings flapping slowly, small dust clouds swirling beneath him. A metal object glinted in his talons. Francis arched one eyebrow and stepped forward. “What have you got for me now?” he asked. The cypher dropped the object into his Knight’s cupped hand.
“What is it?” asked Master Wu. Francis held it up for all to see. The black brushed metallic communication device was no larger than a child’s thumb, but the embossed logo was plain to see. “Black Diamond,” Master Wu hissed.
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