The House of Yeel
Author:Michael McCloskey

Chapter 8: A Knight Reborn





Yeel led Jymoor into a side grove of the garden at first light. Jymoor watched the wizard, curious to see why he had so urgently called for her to follow. The scout caught sight of a set of shining armor plates stacked neatly in the overgrown grass.

“What’s that, my lord?”

“This is the artifact, the moon armor as you called it. I’m afraid that your hero has met with an unfortunate end. But that’s a secret that you and I shall keep, Jymoor. Something that only you and I will remember. And I did take great care to remember it.”

“Dead? How? Why is it a secret?” said Jymoor.

“Avorn suffered an unfortunate blow to the head. Watch your step around here, by the way, as you remember there are dangerous openings in the earth’s surface in this region.”

“Terrible…I can’t believe he’s dead. My people will take this as a terrible blow.”

“You said you wanted to save your people from the menace of the invaders. You must now play a greater part in this grand scheme of conflict between nations. Having the revered Crescent Knight at my side will help lend credibility to my efforts and rally support behind our plans to stop this invasion. As you say, hearing that the knight has fallen at this point, when things are most dire, would only demoralize your forces further. So you see, it is most clear that we must instead instate you as the next knight and perpetuate this legendary figure to advance our aims.”

Yeel handed Jymoor the finely crafted helm. The armor’s lustrous white surface held hints of blue and pink whorls of color.

“Me? Wear the moon armor? Ridiculous!”

“It was many, many years ago that I last traveled in your lands, Jymoor. Nevertheless, understand that I have seen this artifact before. And it wasn’t on Avorn. You see, the Crescent Knight is whoever wears the armor. You can become the next Crescent Knight. In fact, this artifact was designed to be transferred from one generation to the next, and it actually adapts to each new bearer over time.”

“Well, I, ah…”

“The armor lends the wearer courage as well,” said Yeel. “It will mold you into the woman you must be to wield such a powerful artifact. Don’t fear, my friend, I know of what I speak.”

Jymoor regarded the helm with a sense of awe.

“But I’m but a scout, a low-born woman without any training in the knightly arts of war.”

“I believe I can address that issue. You leave it to me, and I’m sure I can find a teacher for you, one who has remembered these arts you speak of. We have great resources at our disposal. It makes sense. I know myself. I would have accumulated a lot of useful friends and items.”

“Then they would know that I’m not the real knight, and they would reveal our secret, destroying our plan of deception,” Jymoor said. “Female knights are very rare, no one would believe…”

“Then that will only serve to make you more singular, more noteworthy. There are others we may enlist to our cause besides the people of your nation. Tonight we’ll go find one of them. Until then, just get used to the armor and take a role in leading the people back to your lands. You can do that, can’t you? After all, you know the way back well, as you are not only a skilled scout but also have traveled this way before.”

“Lord Yeel, this is all a bit too much. I’m immensely flattered that you would consider me capable of this, but I…I’m not a hero like you. I’m not legendary.”

Yeel stroked his strong chin and gazed at Jymoor for a moment. “Very well. Here is what we’ll do, my friend. You have only to put the armor onto your body. We’ll walk out together in the camp, and you’ll simply lead the way back to your lands. I’ll help shield you from any conversation so you won’t have to interact with anyone directly. I can make some excuse, a sickness perhaps. There’ll be no need to converse so there will be no chance of anyone noticing that your voice has changed. You’ll have to do nothing but wear the armor. Then, tonight, we’ll visit the friends that I have spoken of. Things will change, you’ll see. It’s a brilliant plan, one that affords you a great deal of safety and a good probability of success.”

Jymoor took a large breath of air. She held the helmet up in the growing light. Her hands shook slightly.

“Very well, Great Yeel. I shall trust in you because I’ve seen amazing things since I met you. This will have to be another wondrous adventure.”

“Excellent! Wonderful! You can accomplish this I assure you. You’ll see. No need to worry or—”

“Yeel, if I’m truly to play the role of Crescent Knight, then I may have to….interrupt you from time to time as you digress, since the knight was known to do that…I hope you understand.”

“Of course! Of course, I’m glad to see that you’re taking your new role so seriously, and indeed –”

“Yeel. Please. Just help me put this on?”

“Yes, of course. Er, um, yes, yes…talking less now. I can tell you prefer short and terse interactions. Though to tell you the truth, I find it quite difficult! Limiting communication can even be dangerous! Stifling the exchange of ideas can bring about great misunderstandings, you know.”

Jymoor struggled with the plates, trying to deduce their positioning as Yeel handed them over. As the weight increased, Jymoor started to breathe faster, feeling the pressure pushing her feet deeper into the grassy earth.

Jymoor grunted. “I thought you said that it would lend me strength,” she complained. She felt clumsy encased in the unfamiliar equipment.

“Soon, Jymoor. You must don more of it before the effect can be noticed. Lock your shoulder guard into place and I’ll hand you the helm. That should be enough to gain the muscular enhancement. I believe the effect is even greater under the light of the moon.”

Jymoor staggered for a moment, trying to connect the upper body pieces onto the massive breastplate. Yeel reached out and dropped the helm over her head smoothly. Immediately a burst of energy flowed through Jymoor, straightening her spine. Her heart slowed and she took a few cautious steps forward.

“I feel it! Yeel, you’re right again!”

“Yes, you see, we’ll overcome these challenges. I suggest one problem at a time. Perhaps we should complete the armor by putting on greaves and gauntlets. Then we can tackle the issue of your first public appearance as the Crescent Knight. By isolating these challenges we can simplify the process of analyzing and addressing each step—”

“Divide and conquer?”

“Divide and conquer? Divide and conquer! My, what a typically human way of describing the stratagem! The succinct encapsulation of a concept that spans broad—”

“I understand, Yeel,” Jymoor said confidently. Under the helm, Jymoor bit her lip. Had she just left off Lord Yeel’s honorific? Perhaps the armor did change a man, and women too…Once again, Yeel had slipped and spoken as if he were not human. Jymoor knew he looked human, but seemed like something more.

“That’s the last of it,” Yeel said, handing Jymoor an intricately designed gauntlet. Jymoor donned the glove and moved her fingers in it, amazed at the craftsmanship that allowed each finger its own motion, albeit with a somewhat stiffened feeling.

“Very well, one task behind us,” Yeel said. “A great success thus far. You see the subproblem was easily conquered. On to the next. Now, just listen to me and I’ll tell you exactly what to say…”





***





Jymoor strode out purposefully, walking around a giant patch of thorny flowers and coming into view of the main camp. The refugees were walking about, shaking off the night’s cold and obviously waiting for direction.

She looked out over the people. Jymoor felt a wave of certainty engulf her soul. She needed to step up and take over if they were to be led back to civilization safely. Someone had to provide the leadership to keep everyone working together and traveling quickly so they could get back and help Yeel defeat the invaders. She didn’t understand why such a task would have daunted her before; now it all seemed straightforward. She was a scout and she could find the way back. She would do it.

Jymoor walked toward the center knot of people and motioned to them.

“We’ve lost enough time!” Jymoor announced, trying to speak in a deeper voice. “We have a long way ahead of us, and each day counts. We will linger here only a few minutes more! Everyone help share the load; if anyone has things they can’t carry assemble over here. We need the able ones to help out; the only way we can make it back in good time is by cooperating with each other.”

Jymoor began to oversee the distribution of what little supplies and equipment were available for the journey. She assigned a small group to check the trail ahead, then formed other groups to forage for food and set up camp each night. Yeel brought the hidden weapons out. Jymoor put them back into the hands of the soldiers who had threatened violence before. Everyone seemed more level headed this time, and they didn’t restart the previous arguments. Then Jymoor assembled everyone in a marching order.

“Time is of the essence. A great enemy threatens our homeland. We all need to get back and help. The mighty Yeel and I plan to meet the invaders who threaten to wipe out our nation and defeat them.”

“And you will have me at your side!” called a soldier. “I owe you that, at least!”

“I’ll stand with you as well!” said another.

A cheer rose among the crowd.

Jymoor motioned with one arm, waving the group forward. Yeel stayed at her side as they started walking to the east. The refugees fell in behind them in twos and threes.

The first day of travel passed slowly, as the group meandered along the course home. Several times they had to stop and regroup. Jymoor assigned a scribe (who had been sent to record the deeds of a great warrior now dead) to take an accounting of how many refugees traveled with them, so if anyone became lost it would be noticed. The scribe would also take stock of who everyone was and what they were capable of, in case Yeel should wish to call upon their skills.

Most of the travelers had some food with them that had been turned to stone when they had been attacked by the serpent. Still, when they stopped an hour before sunset Jymoor sent groups out to forage for what little they could find. She was directing the construction of the night’s camp when Yeel sought her out.

“If you would be so kind as to accompany me, Your Knightship,” Yeel indicated his roveport. “There are some matters which we must discuss. Perhaps if there is someone you could leave in charge, then we could begin—”

“Yes, we should talk,” Jymoor announced loudly. “Kirangadr will be in charge in my absence. I believe he can take care of it. Take heart, you have your freedom at last. Maristaple is still a mighty city as in times long past. It’s many leagues away, but we’ll make it.”

With that, Yeel deployed his roveportal and the two moved through it to return to Yeel’s palace. Peace and quiet dominated the great house, broken only by the soft murmur of the fountain.

“You did a marvelous job of projecting the confidence and direction that they needed. I don’t believe anyone noticed any oddity, my friend, as they are just happy to be free. They’re still rejoicing so they don’t seek out problems or mysteries to wonder over. By the time they do, you’ll be the knight they’ve known all along.”

“I do think I can do it. Thank you for giving me the chance.” Jymoor pulled the heavy helmet off her head and turned it upside down so it could hold the gauntlets she pulled off her hands.

Yeel walked over to the water and peered over the wall, looking down into the rippling flow.

Jymoor stared up at the vaulted ceiling and wondered at the magnificence of the house. Everything remained perfectly white, devoid of even dust or cobwebs.

“What are you thinking, Yeel?” Jymoor asked. She spoke to Yeel as an equal. She realized that before she had been foolish to grovel before the wizard; after all, it was clear that the man didn’t even notice Jymoor’s begging. More efficient to simply get to the point. She looked at the gloves and the helm in her hands. Their presence felt comforting.

“Memories. I’m recalling them as I gaze at my…ah, my wonderful…pets. In the pool.”

“There are living things in there? Can we not drink from the water?”

“The water is drinkable, yes. Simply be very careful not to disturb these creatures in the slightest. They are frail, and extremely valuable to me. Do you understand? They are worth more than these artifacts that surround you.”

Jymoor stood next to Yeel and stared at the water. She almost declared the absence of anything whatsoever, then a near-transparent entity caught her eye. It floated smoothly through the water, making slow, imperious progress against the gentle current of the fountain. Jymoor looked further and spotted other identical creatures.

“They are monstrous…yet beautiful,” she breathed.

“Monstrous…perhaps. You should learn, Jymoor…Your Knightship…that sometimes things appear monstrous, but they are not so. There are monsters like those we met in the stone garden, and then there are others. Good monsters.”

“Ah, I understand of what you speak. Your helper. The thing that scared me when first I came here for you.”

“Ehrm, yes. That is a good example.”

“Then I shall look forward to meeting it…him, again.”

“Good. But for now we have another task before us. Another piece of the puzzle that we’re to solve, the next subtask of—”

“Divide and conquer again, eh?”

Yeel looked discomfited. “Yes. Although that is a rude, brutal way of describing the Grand Paradigm of Incremental Solution. We must now travel to a far-off place so we can gain the help of others in this task.”

“But the people of the garden…we must guide them.”

“We will not travel by foot. I have other places…spots we can travel to by more efficient means.” Yeel indicated the glowing gate that Jymoor had seen when she first entered the house.

“So let me get this straight…we’re to simply step through that gate, and go to this place I see through it, just as if we were stepping through the roveport back to where we were?”

“Exactly. Well, sort of. Not really. Very different actually. The roveportal works here within your world. This gate is of a different nature. There are further complications. We’ll have to set the temporal dilation carefully. We need as much time as we can get at our destination with a minimum of elapsed time here.”

“What?”

“Oh, it is a matter of time, my friend. The passage of events. We need as much time as possible. Things will pass here and things will pass there, and we want to pass a lot of things there and only a few things here; it is all a matter of the ratio of passings to passings.”

“My Lord Yeel, I know you are capable of a great many wondrous things, but you cannot stand there and tell me that you also control time itself…can you?”

“Oh, no, of course not,” Yeel said. Jymoor sighed with relief. “Control time itself? No…I can only arrange it such that it will slow down or speed up.”

“Oh…what?” yelped Jymoor. “Only speed it up or slow it down? Ah! Surely that isn’t possible…such power!”

“Well, there are a great number of constraints on the system. I haven’t the freedom to do whatever I want in this regard. It is simply a factor that I use to coordinate between our planes of reference. Now, please, I’m afraid I must concentrate. It wouldn’t do to make an error at this point…it’d be a little troubling if we were to run into ourselves.”

“What? Run into ourselves! Yeel! Are you absolutely certain we should be doing this?”

“Of course. It’s part of the plan I’ve already outlined. We are to meet people who can help in our cause, both in terms of training for you and military assistance for your kingdom. I have, in my time, come across many cultures and I’ve specifically remembered that I have a few favors to call in, here and there. If we’re successful, perhaps someday I shall call upon your people to help others in need elsewhere.”

“Yes, of course,” Jymoor said weakly. “I’m afraid I must…sit down for a moment, perhaps by the fountain?”

“Yes, by all means. By the fountain. Carefully, please. Could you possibly remember not to disturb any clear little creatures you see swimming in there? Remember, I said good monsters. Could you please commit this to memory?”

“I’ll remember, Great Yeel.”

“Thank you! I shall begin configuring the device. Now don’t worry. Almost every time I’ve encountered myself, I’ve proven to be a most hospitable fellow, at times almost magnanimous. And always quite stimulating. Of course I wouldn’t be foolhardy enough to try and remember such an event, I’m simply extrapolating from what I know of myself.”

Jymoor staggered over toward the fountain and sat.

“Only slow it down or speed it up…” she muttered.