THE DAELIC ORDER OF knighthood is one of those rare brotherhoods in which a member is expected to remain in the Order for the rest of his life. Only in very rare and extreme instances will a person leave the Order.

Usually, when a man is dismissed from the Daelic Order, it is because of age. If one becomes so old he can no longer sit his horse or fight to the best of his ability in service to the King, he will be dismissed from his duties. The elderly man will be revered as a hero for his years of service, and the crown will provide for all of his needs for the rest of his life. It is quite unusual, however, for Daelic Knights to survive long enough to reach such a revered age.

The other somewhat common cause for a man to be removed from the Order is permanent injury. Much like the case with the extremely aged, if a Daelic Knight is wounded in battle or elsewhere, and this wound prevents him from continuing his duties, he will be dismissed from the order, and like the case of the elderly, his needs will be cared for by the royal family. This, also like the case of aging Daelic Knights, is very uncommon.

There are, of course, less honorable reasons a man may be dismissed from the Order. When a young man joins the Daelic Order, he takes vows of celibacy and loyalty to the crown. If the man brakes these vows, he will be dismissed from the brotherhood of knights, and unlike the other instances, his dismissal is dishonorable and shameful. He must leave the royal courts and spend his days living a meaningless life, unable to continue serving the throne.

During the reign of King Surchek the fourth, an unusual precedent was set. At that time, there lived a Daelic Knight named Rekdiol, who was a living legend among his people. The crown even acknowledged this man as a great hero worthy of revere. However, Rekdiol was later involved in a revolt against the king. The revolt was curbed, but a question remained; what should be done with the hero who betrayed the crown?

While the law suggested that Rekdiol should be executed, King Surchek made a special allowance for the rebellious knight. He was not executed or imprisoned, but he was dismissed from the Daelic Order for his crimes. This ruling served two purposes. It prevented the king from ordering the execution of a hero and a favorite of the common peoples, but it also removed Rekdiol from the only life he'd ever known. Shortly after the king's decision, Rekdiol committed suicide.

Today, while this choice is very uncommon, there are tales of other legendary knights who, after committing heinous crimes, were dismissed from the Order. This decision can be both an honor and shameful; an honor because a knight must truly be great to be granted his life, but shameful for he must leave the Order.

RICCIDARI SAT SILENTLY ON his horse, being careful not to look at anyone or anything. If he was too alert, someone may want to speak with him about the events that had happened, and Riccidari didn't want to reflect on all the changes that had suddenly burst into his life.

He wondered what he would do with himself now that he was no longer a Daelic Knight. Ever since he'd been a young child, every part of his life was focused on his prophesied membership in the Order. He'd received instruction in fighting with swords, the intricacies of honor, and all those things that would be useful for a knight. Now, all the preparation was for naught, and he didn't know what he was supposed to do with himself.

Verlita, oblivious to his bleak mood, rode beside him. She smiled cheerily at him, and said, "Well, I guess everything worked out for the best, didn't it? Dad's already organizing a celebration in honor of your being released from your imprisonment." Verlita stopped talking abruptly, seeming to notice Riccidari's scowl for the first time during their journey.

"I'm not much in the mood to celebrate my public humiliation," Riccidari grunted, spurring his horse forward to show Verlita that he had no desire to talk to her. His younger sister, as always, either failed to notice that he didn't want to talk, or she chose to ignore it. She was soon riding at his side again, but she said nothing.

Riccidari stared forward, but Verlita was still riding beside him, saying nothing. He glanced over at her, to see her looking at him with a questioning look on her face. He turned his face forward again, not wanting to invite her to ask him anything, but she still rode at his side. Finally, he turned back at her, and demanded, "What?"

"You don't need to be ashamed of what happened," Verlita said, sounding surprisingly intuitive. "I know you feel like you must have done something terrible to be dismissed from the Order, but you didn't have a choice. Now, if you'd done what the prophecy said and had been with a woman or something, that would be something to be ashamed of, but what you did was very brave, and everyone knows that."

Riccidari looked away. Verlita had never been one for grasping the complex rules of honor, and he didn't want to acknowledge that she had a point now. Verlita continued to speak, apparently not caring whether he ignored her or not. "You know yourself that you did nothing wrong. If you thought you shouldn't have ridden after me, you would have never done it. Trust me, I know you too well to think you would throw caution to the wind and purposefully do something you believed to be wrong or dishonorable."

Riccidari kept staring forward. The more his baby sister spoke, the harder it was for him to maintain his dark and dismal outlook on the rest of his life. He wondered if anyone would judge him if he suddenly stopped sulking and accepted his fate. He probably wouldn't be taking part in his father's celebrations, but there was nothing that said it was too late to see what other choices were left for the rest of his life besides becoming a recluse.

While Riccidari carefully kept his face composed, Verlita somehow seemed to know he was feeling better. She dropped her voice to a playful whisper and said, "Think about everything you can do now that you're not a knight. I have a friend who has always thought you were good-looking."

Riccidari turned to his sister with a proper look of shock on his face, then grinned mischievously. "Give me some time, then I can start causing trouble," he said, thinking of all the pranks he'd wanted to try as a boy but never had because his teachers had wanted him to act more mature. Feeling a little better about his destiny, Riccidari rode a little faster as the Olcotti Manor came into view.

The End