The Unsung Knight Hero Skin

The name of the hero known as the Unsung Knight is a mystery to all. When she was a child, it was said she was a common thief, stealing and scavenging what she could to survive. But when she tried to steal from a noble Knight, the warrior saw something in her -- a spark. Instead of casting her aside, he took her under his wing, and trained her as a Warden. For years, she was taught the skills and the values of the now fallen order of Knights. Thus was she imbued with a fundamental set of beliefs: that she was intended to help.

When the Knight died, he passed unto his squire his sword, Valor’s Edge. Over the years, he had taught her all about the weapon, the place it held in Knight history, and the importance it still carried. He entrusted her with the sword and a mission: to carry on the legacy of the Knights, to help those left in the wake of the Cataclysm. And perhaps, one day, to fulfill the blade’s promise: to unite the Knights under a common banner.

The Squire

Part I.

It was a gloomy day, like all the others that had come before. Sometimes the sun broke through the clouds. Sometimes, the darkness lingered. She had woken up at dawn, as always. It was part of her training. “The wise are first to rise.” That’s what the Knight used to say, in the beginning. He was always full of sayings just like this one – and she had memorized them all. This one had been a lesson in perspective, one of the first things he had taught her after taking her under his wing.

It seemed like it had been so long ago now. She had been just a girl, stealing to survive. She had tried to sneak up on him, to take what little he had for herself. But he had caught her. With one swing of his sword, he could have ended it all. But that day, on one of those rare moments when rays of sunshine burst through the grey, the Knight had made a different choice. She often wondered what he had seen in her that day. Now here she was – a Squire. A Warden-to-be. A student in the ways of knighthood. Sometimes, she felt like an imposter. Like this was a life meant for someone else. Someone much worthier than a thief.

She treaded through the dry dirt, the wind pushing ceaselessly on her back. She held the hilt of her sword firmly, as if somehow this act alone helped ground her. She climbed over sharp rocks, passed through a minuscule cave system, and explored a dried ravine, once again pushing the boundaries of the areas she was instructed to explore. Every day, a little further. Every day, the search continued. The search for water, food, and more survivors – anyone in need of help. “The people come first.” The most important lesson. Some days, she got lucky. Others, less so. It had been half a day and so far, she hadn’t come across anyone living. All she had found was a handful of dry berries gathered from a withering tree. There wouldn’t be enough for all of them, but it would have to do.

Part II.

It was on her way back that she heard the distant sounds of struggle. Worry threatened to seize her by the throat when she realized it was coming from her camp – the small nook of ruins she, the old man and the three survivors in their care had come to call home. Faster she ran, the armor heavy on her back. Ignoring the beating heart in her chest, she pushed aside the fear and forced herself to breathe.

Her sword was already unsheathed when she saw the assailants: bandits. Five of them, armed with swords, locked in combat with her mentor. Behind him were the three refugees, huddled in a quivering mass, cowering in fear.

As she reached the group, she blocked a hit destined for the Knight’s back, before knocking the attacker back.

“I seem to recall a lesson about always protecting one’s back,” she sniped at the Knight. A playful tease.

“I knew you were coming,” the old warrior replied, clearly out of breath.

“I’m sure you did,” she added, parrying a pair of timed hits from two of the bandits. They looked rabid. Hungry. Ravenous. Driven by nothing but a need to survive at any cost. She could tell her mentor had been injured. He had seen his fair share of fighting in his heyday – but he was an old man now, and the bandits had more than likely taken him by surprise.

One of them charged her, but she parried his attack, spun around and sliced him clean across the back. She raised her head back up just in time to see the Knight slay another of the bandits with his legendary sword – Valor’s Edge. Many tales had he told her of the sword’s legend. Of its purpose and significance. Of its wielders, each of whom had carried the weapon before passing it on to another. Heroes, every one of them. Beacons of truth. Paragons of virtue. At night, she used to dream of their stories. Their feats and deeds. Deep down, she wondered if she would ever be worthy of their company.

Behind her, she heard the Knight groan in pain. He had taken another hit, blood splattering profusely from his leg. He recoiled as he fell, and she leapt to his defense, using her entire body to tackle his attacker. She then swirled and stabbed another in the chest, before pivoting and hacking her sword down on the fallen bandit. Before she could get back up, the last bandit came at her, raging and yelling, sword over his head, ready to swoop down on her. At the last possible moment, she raised her weapon to block the hit, but the enemy’s sword broke her feeble blade.

The bandit’s sword missed her by centimeters before finding purchase in the ground. He prepared for another attack, a final strike that would end her. For a second, all seemed lost. This was it. Her mentor was dying. She would be killed too, and so would the refugees. She had proven herself right. She was no Knight. She was a failure.

“No,” she thought, pushing all that back. The old man, he had seen something in her. And if she would do anything – anything at all – she would prove him right.

The Squire didn’t waste the opportunity. The hilt of her broken sword still in hand, she stuck the broken end right in the bandit’s neck. His face a tapestry of confusion, he fell on his back as dark-red blood gushed out unencumbered by flesh, an inch of shattered metal putting a definitive end to his life – and the battle.

Part III.

Removing her helm, the Squire rushed to her mentor’s side. His breath was ragged, and blood spilled from the corner of his mouth. On her knees, she held his hand, unable to fight the tears welling in her eyes.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

“Whatever for?” she asked.

“For giving this old man a reason to… to hope… again…”

Light fading from his eyes, he brought his fist to his chest, fingers still wrapped around the hilt of Valor’s Edge. Then, his grip loosened, and his hand fell away.

“Take it,” he commanded. “It’s yours now…”

She held his face, tears now freely falling down her cheeks. She couldn’t fathom what was happening. “Stay with me,” she begged.

“You no longer need me,” he said faintly, his lips breaking into a weak smile. “You are ready.”

A final breath, and he was gone. With a trembling hand, she closed his eyes. She allowed herself a moment – just a single moment – to breathe, to grieve. Then, her hand steady, she wrapped her fingers around the hilt of Valor’s Edge, and rose to her feet, her braided hair flowing in the rising wind.

She turned to the closest refugee – a boy, likely not much older than she had been when the old man had found her. Gently, she extended her open hand.

In her palm was the handful of berries she had collected.

The people came first.

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