I was shaken awake.
I hate being shaken awake!
Jerking up, I scared the servant from earlier, making her take a scared step back.
"What?" I snarled, angry at being awaken so rudely. And, hell, I was half-hoping I'd wake up and find out that the past few weeks in this alternate world were a crazy dream.
"M-Mage Kira wishes to see you, sir," she murmured, bowing her head.
Sighing, I ran my hand through my hair, then stood, practically towering over the little servant. What can I say? I was skinny little bitch, but at least I was tall.
I followed her as she led me through a maze of hallways, passing people and numerous doors. Tapestries hung from the hallway walls, and an occasional table with something like a vase or other decoration on it was set up against the walls. The walls were made of dark gray stone, and the ceiling had to be at least two stories high.
Finally, we reached our destination.
Passing through double wood doors, we entered a spacious room filled with cushions, tables with what looked like beakers and books littering their surfaces, and papers scattered everywhere. Strange little gadgets sat here and there, while a giant glass window took up nearly a whole side of the wall.
I was suitably impressed.
And, of course, it had the clichéd sorcerer/mage/wizard type person standing in the middle of the room looking busily important.
He was pretty young, considering my idea of a wizard, er, mage...whatever. Blond, in his thirties or forties, glasses, kind of a bumbling look, with dark green velvet robes. His hair was long, and pulled back into a pony tail, with a few strands loose and framing his face.
All in all, not really my idea of a mage, but oh well.
"Thank you, Lucy," he said to the servant girl, giving her a smile and a nod.
The servant blushed, curtsied, then fled, shutting the doors behind her. With a small chuckle, the guy turned to me, his eyes sweeping up and down my frame, coming to rest on my face.
"Sir Rhyse, I presume?" he asked.
"Yep," I said, nodding. "You must be the mage guy. Uh, Kira."
He blinked for a second, then gave me a small grin, tilting his head. "They must not be very formal where you come from."
I blinked back at him, then narrowed my eyes. Did he just call me rude? How-how...rude!
"Where I come from," I growled, "People have to earn my respect before I call them 'Sir.'"
After a small pause, the mage nodded. "Very well. Please, sit."
Huffing, I flopped into one of the few chairs in the room, opposite a large desk, which the mage sat behind.
"So," I said when the mage didn't speak for a few minutes. "Whats all this about? Do you know why I'm here?"
"Three months ago, our Seer told us of a prophecy," the mage said, giving me a piercing look, "Of a man who would come from another world to save ours."
I had a bad feeling I knew where this was going. "That's why you had your, er, knights looking for a stranger?"
"And you think this man is me?"
His eyes roamed over my face. "The man was said to be part metal."
I grimaced, fingering my lip ring. Straightening in my seat, I began taking my piercings out, setting them on his desk with a small tink. He stopped me just as I reached for my ear piercings.
I was somewhat relieved he stopped me there. My ear piercings were a bitch to get out.
"There are also several other consistencies that lead me to believe you are the man in the prophecy," the mage continued, reaching for one of my lip rings sitting on the desk.
"Oh? Like what?"
Turning the small metal hoop hoop this way and that, he said, "You are obviously not from this world."
Couldn't refute that.
But, there was no way I was some sort of hero. I-I'm just a regular person! My only talent is my ability to lie! I know a bit of fighting moves from childhood playground fights, self-defense stuff, but no sword fighting! I don't have 'magical abilities,' or some hidden talent.
"You've got the wrong guy," I said firmly.
"I do not believe so," he said softly, then immediately changed the subject. "How do you like your room?"
I was suddenly hit with the realization that I was in trouble. If I wasn't the man in the prophecy, then these guys had no use for me. I'd probably get kicked out of the castle or something. I couldn't live on the streets!
"It's...big," I said carefully."But I prefer my previous home."
The mage gave me a sad smile. "I am afraid," he said slowly, "that you will not be seeing your previous home for a while."
Tensing, I balled my hands into fists to keep from jumping up and screaming. "What?" I asked, my jaw clenched.
"There is a special occurrence that happens every three years; the Night of Osla," the mage said. "The God of Magic, Osla, is celebrated by his followers on that night, and, in return, the god gifts our land with one gift."
"What does that have to do with me?"
With a strange glint in his eye, the mage leaned forward. "We celebrated the Night of Osla a month ago. I believe you, Sir Rhyse, are our gift. He brought you from your land to ours, to help us save our land―"
"Wait, wait, wait," I interrupted, waving my hands. "A God? Magic? Me? That-that's absurd! I can't save your land!"
"You can," he said forcefully, his lips thin. "God Osla wouldn't have brought you here otherwise."
I jumped to my feet. "A God didn't bring me here! I was hit by a freakin' bus! I'm dead! This is all just-just neurons misfiring in my brain as I die, giving me weird visions! This. Isn't. Real!"
The Mage Kira shook his head before I even finished. "I am sorry, Sir Rhyse. This is no dream, nor visions. You are not dead. This is real. The danger to my land is real. You are the man sent to save us, and, as such, there is something special about you that Osla saw. You were brought here to us for a reason. You may not believe it, but I do."
"Fuck!" I yelled, pulling at my hair. "I don't want to be a damn hero! I'm just Rhyse! College drop-out! Orphan! Failure! Faggot! Fuck-up―"
I jumped at the shout, looking at Kira wide-eyed. He was on his feet, giving me a dark look, his fist clenched. Damn, I was just getting in some good alliteration there at the end of my rant.
"You may not believe you are a hero," he growled out, "but word of you has reached the city. People finally have hope, Sir Rhyse! They believe someone has been chosen by God Osla himself to save them! Are you going to destroy their only hope?"
He was yelling at the end, his face red. I stared at him, his glasses slightly skewed and softly panting.
"I'm sorry," I said, shaking my head. "But I'm not the hero you're looking for." These aren't the droids you're looking for, passed through my mind, but I quickly squashed the thought.
Slowly, Kira got himself under control, adjusting his glasses and taking deep breaths until he was breathing normally.
"Then," he said, his voice low and his eyes locked with mine, "pretend to be."
"Huh?" I asked, eyebrows raised.
"If you're not the real hero, then pretend to be until the real one comes along."
Lie. He's telling me to lie to a country, give them false hope, and pretend to be someone I'm not.
"I don't have a problem with it, but what do I get in return?" I asked.
"You can stay in the castle, for one thing," Kira said neutrally.
I sat back down in my chair. "Any other perks?"
Kira hesitated, then said, "You shall have the rank nearly equal to the Prince."
"Okay," I said slowly, nodding my head. "But, I don't give a shit about that, because I want to go home!"
The mage sighed, rubbing his forehead. "Didn't you understand what I said earlier?"
When I gave him a blank look, he rolled his eyes, then continued, "God Osla brought you here. Only he can send you back."
I felt my back hit the cushioned back of the chair as I slumped, my head spinning. "But-but, you said he only visits once every three years," I said, my voice faint.
"Yes," he said, his voice softer. "As such, you will be stuck here for three more years."
Closing my eyes, I tilted my head back and groaned. "Fuck my life."
Lifting my head back up, I glanced at Kira. "If I do this, then will you help me get home when the Night of Osla or whatever comes around?"
He hesitated, sighed, then nodded. "Yes."
"Fine," I said, resigned. "I'll do it. Tell everyone I'm the hero and shit."
God, this was giving me a headache.
Wonders of wonders, I got stuck with a bodyguard.
He was a big lug, with graying black hair, a short beard and mustache, and arms as thick as my thighs.
He could totally squish my head with one hand.
I think his name was Pete.
He scared me.
Thankfully, he stayed outside my room when I was in it, so I didn't have to make awkward conversation or anything.
I spent the next few days trying to figure out how to go about this whole 'hero' thing. I mean, should I announce myself? Make a grand gesture or something? Or should I go into the city with a big parade and have everyone bow down to me?
Hmm, the city. A medieval city. I've always wanted to go to one. Of course, I didn't actually believe I'd ever get the chance to be here, forcefully, I might add.
But, I'm good at making the best of a bad situation. Couldn't have lived all these years if I hadn't learned to adapt.
And, with that thought, I rolled off the bed I'd been laying on and stood. Walking over to a small table pressed against one of the walls, I looked down at the little trinkets on it.
Kira had given me some 'charms' that were supposed to be magic. A ring to transport me somewhere if I ever got in trouble, a necklace to protect me from magic, some earrings to protect me from physical damage (technically, they were for girls, but since I've got so many piercings, I doubt anyone would notice), and a healing bracelet.
I added the piercings to my already large collection on my ears, checked my facial piercings, then slipped on the necklace, ring and bracelet. I was still wearing the beetle necklace from earlier (sans beetle) and it clinked against the new necklace.
Satisfied, I took a deep breath, straightened my spine, and stood with a confident air in front of the full-length mirror beside the little table.
Ooh, I looked intimidating. Me likey.
Along with my charms, I'd gotten some new clothes to replace my old tattered jeans and shirt. I, of course, altered them a bit earlier to better suit my tastes.
Tight black pants that I'd slit up the sides with a knife, then used my shoe laces to hold the sides together, showing some skin. A thin, billowy black shirt that was extremely low cut and showed off the tattoos on my chest and arms. And, of course, my messy black hair, numerous piercings, and dangerous grin. All in all, I was downright sexy.
Hey, just because I was a 'hero' didn't mean I had to look like a goddamn saint.
I wonder if I should add a cape...or would that be too much?
Giving a sharp nod, I pivoted on my shiny new black boots, then marched over to the door. Flinging it open, I startled my guard, making me grin.
"I'm going out into the city," I informed him. Time to finally check out my new hero status outside the castle walls.
"S-Sir Rhyse," he said, frowning. "I don't think―"
"Exactly!" I yelled, holding up a finger inches from his mouth, then continued in a whisper. "Don't think. Do."
The lug continued frowning, straightening to his full height as he stopped leaning against the wall. Yikes, he's taller than me.
"Sir Rhyse," he repeated, his tone firm. "I was instructed to guard you―"
"Okay," I agreed, surprising him. Before he thought I was complacent or anything, though, I continued, "Then guard me in the city. Because I'm going. Right now."
Walking past him, I strode down the hall confidently, even though I had no idea where I was going. Trying to remember the path I had taken to get into the castle, I managed to reach one of the rooms we passed through when I first got here, finally getting my bearings.
Making our way outside, my shadow and I were just stepping onto the courtyard, when a couple servants came running up to us, leading two horses.
"Sir Rhyse!" one of the servants said, pausing a few yards away and giving a small bow. "Lord Kira instructed us to present you with a horse if you wish to leave the castle."
With that, he held out the reins.
I blinked at him, feeling a bit rebellious. The horse was boringly brown, with no distinguishing marks. It wasn't even cool looking! And Kira expects me to ride it?
You see, I have a bit of a...control issue.
I hate when people give me something and just expect me to use it with no complaint.
Like this horse. I didn't even get to choose my own horse! Kira just expects me to ride it. And it's not fit for a hero!
I need...a black stallion. One that matches my clothes. A warrior. A big brute. Powerful.
As a hero, I'm gonna need power. Need to look powerful. I will be the essence of power!
Insert mad laughter here.
If I'm gonna play this hero thing out, I'm going to need to do it right. People respond to power and charisma. With a dinky little brown horse like this, I'm not gonna earn people's immediate respect. I must make an impression.
But, I still need a ride into the city. The horse will have to wait.
Besides. Kira gave me some money to spend. I can buy my own damn horse! One I want!
Mounting the horses (that sounds so wrong), Pete and I headed down the stone path towards the gates separating the castle grounds from the city. After a quick chat with the guards there, we passed the gate and started down a wide stone path, quickly becoming surrounded by buildings of all shapes and sizes.
I knew people recognized me by the stares and pointing that followed in my wake. Whispers broke out among the people, then mutters, talking, yelling, and then, to my immense surprise, outright cheering!
Oh, man, this is awesome!
Sitting straighter in my seat, I grinned and waved, eating up the attention. People kept reaching out and touching me, brushing their hands against my legs and boots, nearly creating a barrier between me and Pete, but he simply shoved his way back to my side.
And that's when the crowed turned more...forceful.
The touches turned to tugs, the tugs to pulling, and the pulling to yanks so hard I nearly fell out of the saddle. Feeling the first sliver of panic tighten my chest, I held on to the reins for dear life, looking wildly around. The crowd was pushing forward, tightening and shoving the people around me, effectively trapping me.
I could hear pleas for help, and people yelling incomprehensibly, some asking for blessings, others pleading for the impossible, but I just couldn't figure out what the hell to do. How do you escape a mob on a horse?
The animal mentioned began to spook, tossing it's head and dancing on it's feet. Muttering under my breath, I unhooked my feet from the...er, the things you stick your feet in when you're riding a saddle, the turned so I was sitting sideways, and smoothly slipped to the ground, quickly diving in to the throng of bodies and effectively blended in.
Crouching a bit, I ducked my head, then picked a direction and began weaving through the bodies, ignoring grabbing hands and simply pushing my way forward.
I've been to concerts before, where crowds often became like this. This crowd was immensely easier than concert crowds to work my way through, because at concerts, people are usually jumping all around, waving their arms, kicking and screaming, while it's dark in the stadium. Here, though, it was simply a mash of people pushing against each other, with no waving arms and ear-splitting music in the background.
Gasping, I finally reached the edge of the crowd, but kept going, not wanting to get caught. Running down a random street, I glanced back at the crowd, heaving an inner sigh of relief as I saw the crowd was slowly beginning to dissipate.
Turning a corner, I leaned against the wall of a building as I caught my breath, my heart pounding. Grimacing, I poked at a newly-formed bruise on my arm, but it was a small one. I've had worse ones running into walls.
Still. It was the thought of things. I mean, I'm these people's hero! They aren't supposed to hurt me!
I sighed, knowing I was being unfair. They'd simply got over-excited, and, before you know it, that energy turned pushy, and BAM! A mob was formed.
Now I really need to get a big, scary brute of a horse, so people will be less inclined to get closed to me, and a mob like that won't happen again.
Groaning, I straightened away from the wall, then began walking leisurely down the street I was on, turning another corner and entering some sort of town square. Nearly an entire block had been paved with some sort of white stone, with pillars placed here and there, all leading up to a ginormous round structure that was four stories high and made of marble.
People milled around on the flat stone square, most getting in lines leading to the big building's entrance. Squinting, I could just make out what looked to be ticket vendors or something at the beginning of the lines, allowing people in to the building after they paid a fee.
Curious, I headed over to the square, leaving the paved road and stepping a few inches up onto the smooth white stone. Making my way closer, I tilted my head as I stared at the structure.
You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd say that was a coliseum.
Then again, maybe it was.
Only one way to find out!
Walking past all the people in line, I flashed my handy-dandy little amulet Kira had given me that gave me the authority to do what I want, I skipped the ticket vendors and made my way into the coliseum. After walking through a hallway, I had the choice to either go right, left, or straight through a tunnel towards light.
I went straight, of course.
After a few yards, I came upon the arena, but stayed slightly hidden in the tunnel exit, covered in shadows.
Two men on horseback were standing in the arena, circling each other. Leaning against a conveniently placed post, I crossed my arms and watched as they suddenly lunged, their swords clashing as they attempted to gut each other. They were already bloody and sweating, so it was obvious they'd been going at it for a while.
I jumped as a bell suddenly sounded, causing the two fighters to immediately halt and pull back to opposite sides of the arena. There, they dismounted the horses, then switched weapons to something else of their choosing. One grabbed another, heavier looking sword, while the other grabbed a spear.
I watched with interest as someone shouted a command, then the two fighters again went for each other, holding nothing back. With a sick feeling in my gut, I realized this was a fight to the death.
But, just like a car accident, I couldn't look away. With a horrid type of fascination, I watched as the spear wielding guy suddenly lunged for the other, neatly sliding his spear through the other man's ribs.
Turning away as the crowd went wild, I scowled at the opposite wall. People call this entertainment? Men killing each other like dogs for people's amusement? I knew humans were cruel, but this...
"Disgusting, isn't it?"
My head automatically jerked towards the voice, nearly giving me whiplash. Pete quietly stepped beside me, his body tense. I watched as his fists clenched, unclenched, then clenched again.
"It is," I agreed, turning back to the arena. A couple men were out there, tugging the body away through a tunnel on the opposite side of the arena, while another led the horse. Two other men were sprinkling sand from bags over the pools of blood, and a third raked the sand smooth. The winner of the fight was being shackled and collared, then roughly led our way, with his horse following close behind.
"Are the fighters criminals or something?" I asked Pete.
"No," he growled. "They're toys. Nobles find fighters in the villages, then either bribe the men or blackmail them into becoming this," he finished, jerking his chin towards the man in chains.
I was silent for a moment, then glanced at Pete. "How'd you find me?"
"You're not the only one Kira gave charms to," he said with a wry grin, though I could tell he was still angry.
I hummed, watching the fighter as he was led past us and down the tunnel. Blood and sweat dripped off him, and every step he took was labored, as if he was fighting against his own body to get it to move. His eyes flickered to me as he suddenly stopped right in front of me, and I was held frozen by the torment, hatred, and other roiling emotions I saw in their depths.
The man holding the chain clipped to the fighter's neck yanked on the metal, sending the fighter to his knees. Giving a sharp cry, the fighter fell forward and crashed to the ground, his shoulder connecting loudly with the ground. The chain-man growled, yanking on the chain again, but the fighter remained on the ground. With a quick movement, chain-man smashed his boot into the fighter's ribs, making him curl up into a ball.
"What the hell?" I yelled, shoving at chain-man. He turned to me in surprise, his eyes wide. "Can't you tell he's hurt!"
The man's eyes narrowed. He opened his mouth, but before he could speak, another man entered the tunnel, joining our little group.
I could tell he was noble by the way he dressed, his fat body, and the arrogant air surrounding him. I instantly disliked him.
"Well, well," he said, looking down his nose at the fighter. "It seems Remos has finally fallen. What was that, his tenth fight today? Seems we've finally found his limit."
I seethed as anger washed over me, an anger so intense I nearly howled at the man and attacked. How could he do this to somebody? Noble or not, he was still a worm.
No. That's an insult to worms.
I was just about to snap and tell the nobleman off, when I caught sight of the horse standing quietly behind the group, his head drooping and a lather of sweat slowly drying on his body.
Quickly taking a deep breath, I analyzed my options.
I was gonna make the fighter mine, there was no disputing that. I just had to figure out a way to go about it without having to order Pete to kill these two guys.
Despite how much these scum deserved to die, there's been enough killing for today.
Changing my attitude in a blink, I grinned at the nobleman, nodding down at the fighter appreciatively. "He's a good fighter," I said, glancing back at the nobleman. "How much for him and the horse?"
The nobleman blinked, giving me an indignant look. "And who," he said, with all the presumptuousness and contempt of a rich man speaking to lower class, "are you?"
"I," I said, in the same tone, but wracked up a few notches, with an added sneer, "am the Hero who's come to save your little world, Rhyse Lionheart."
Ha. Totally fake last name. But, Kira had said the prophecy stated I had the heart of a lion or something (I don't know what that means), so I figured I'd use the name to further my ploy of being a hero.
The name had the desired effect I'd been aiming for. The nobleman's arrogance wilted a bit as his eyes widened.
"S-Sir Lionheart," he stuttered, gulping. "I-it is an honor to meet you!"
"Yeah, thanks," I said curtly, then pointed at the fighter. "So, now then, buddy, how much for the horse and the man?"
Pausing, the noble glanced down at the fighter (what was name again? I think the noble said it. Ah! Something like Ray-mos. Uh, I'll call him Ray), then at the horse, then back at me.
"I am afraid," he said carefully, "they are not for sale."
"Oh?" I asked, tilting my head and giving him the puppy dog expression. "Not even for me?"
He licked his lips, taking a small step closer towards me. "W-would this earn me favor with Sir Lionheart?" he asked quietly.
I could see the greed and power-hungry emotions in his eyes, nearly making me gag, but I quickly swallowed and nodded. "If you give them to me, I won't forget it."
His expression eager, he quickly said, "Seven Yazers, Sir Lionheart. Normally, they'd go for ten, but I couldn't ask that of you in return for your kind favor."
I had no idea what a Yazer is, but I assume it was some kind of money, so I grabbed the little money pouch out of my pants pocket and tossed it to Pete, who'd been silent throughout the exchange.
"Give the man his money," I said. Pete nodded, then opened the pouch and began digging around in it.
While he and the noble dealt with the money, I crouched down beside the fighter, poking at his cheek with my finger. His eyes were closed and his breathing was shallow, but he was still alive. A few of the smaller cuts were beginning to congeal with blood, while the bigger wounds continued to ooze.
Glaring at chain-man, I rebelliously unclipped the chain and collar from around Remos' neck, tossing it a few meters away. Remos sighed, his body relaxing as I managed to get the shackles off, treating them the same as the collar.
After a few more words with the noble promising that I owed him one, the pile of shit finally left, leaving me alone with Pete, Remos, and the horse.
I could feel Pete standing behind me, but he remained silent for nearly a minute, before he finally broke down and spoke.
"That...that was a very noble thing you did," he said quietly.
I snorted. "Purely selfish," I said, again poking at the fighter's cheek. "I figure two bodyguards is better than one, plus I get a new horse."
"Sure," Pete said, but I could tell he didn't really believe me. And hell, for once, I didn't really care.
Straightening, I walked over to the horse and let it sniff my hand, before grabbing the reins and turning to Pete. "You carry the fighter, I'll lead the horse. Let's go back to the castle and get these two cleaned up."
Nodding, Pete hoisted up Remos and began leading the way back through side-streets and back alleys, so we ran into very few people.
Back at the castle, I ordered the servants to fix up the horse and come get me tomorrow to come see him. Following Pete, we headed to the soldier's infirmary to speak to the doctor, setting Remos down on a small bed.
The doc told us Remos had several serious injuries that would take a few weeks to heal, but he'd live.
"He mainly just needs rest," the doctor said, covering the fighter's prone body with a blanket.
"When you're done with him, send him up to rest in the room next to mine," I ordered. Man, I could really get used to ordering people around.
"Sir Rhyse," Pete said, his tone hesitant. "Those rooms are reserved for nobility and special guests. To house a mere arena fighter―"
Growling, I cut him off. Damn. Even though this was the middle ages, they still had stupid fucking politics involved. Nobility and peasants and all that crap.
"Fine," I ground out. "Then send him up to my room."
"You 'Sir Rhyse' me one more time, Pete," I warned, "and I will dig your eyes out with a spork."
He frowned, but went silent.
Turning back to the doctor, I confirmed he'd send the fighter to my room when Remos was well enough, then left the infirmary and made my way to Kira's study.
Knocking, I threw open the big double doors and strode into the office. Kira was sitting at his desk, glasses perched on his nose, and some papers in his hand.
He looked up when I barged in, his eyes narrowing. "Sir Rhyse," he said, his tone a little pissed off.
I grinned. "What's up?"
He blinked, glancing upwards. I was confused for a second, then realized he didn't understand the expression.
"N-no, uh, 'What's up' is a term where I come from that means 'What are you up to?' or 'What's going on?'" I muttered, scratching the back of my neck.
"Ah," was all he said as he set down his papers and took off his glasses. "Soldier, would you mind shutting the door on your way out?"
Pete nodded, taking that as his cue to leave. Turning back to me, Kira leaned back in his chair, sighing. "So," he drawled. "You've picked up a stray."
"Jeez, how'd you find out so quickly?"
He smirked. "I'm a mage. I have my ways."
I snorted, rolling my eyes. "One of the servants probably told ya, huh."
He frowned, and I grinned, knowing I was right.
"Anyway," he dismissed, straightening in his chair. "What do you plan to do with him?"
"New bodyguard," I said proudly.
"A fighter you just picked up off the ground?" Kira asked, his tone disbelieving.
I shrugged. "Why not? He'll be loyal to me since I saved him, and if he gives me any trouble, I'll just throw him back in the arena."
"Cold," Kira said, raising his eyebrows at me.
"No," I corrected smugly. "Pragmatic."
"Anyway," Kira said, changing the subject with a shake of his head. "What did you come to see me for?"
I blinked, then gave a slight jerk as I realized I'd been led off on a tangent.
"Well, you see, I had this brilliant epiphany when I was at the arena," I said, waving my arms a bit (I tended to talk with my hands a lot. It's gotten me into trouble a few times when people have stood too close. It's their own fault if I whacked them in the face, though!).
"I should totally start my own team of fighters," I continued eagerly. "Add a mage, a few more fighters, a thief, and other useful people, and I can hide behind them during fights and stuff, and not make an idiot out of myself during battle by showing my whimpiness. This way, no one'll find out I'm not really a hero, and, on the plus side, I won't be killed! Brilliant idea!" I finished, a little out of breath.
Kira just looked at me, his mouth slightly gaping.
"What?" I asked defensively. "It works in the movies!"
After a few false starts, Kira cleared his throat, then finally got out, "First of all, I don't know what 'movies' are. Second of all, a Hero can't hide behind others! It's-it's preposterous! Cowardly! The people will lose faith in you!"
I rolled my eyes, then gave him a piercing look. "To 'the people,' I'm nothing more than an obscure idea. I am a man from another world. If I collect fighters from the ranks of peasants, 'the people' will have a connection to them, and, through the fighters, a connection to me! 'Oh!' they'll say, 'Did you hear? The Hero's bodyguard was previously an arena fighter! The hero saved him! That means, he can save us, too!'"
Kira was quiet for a moment, and I could see his mind whirring with thoughts.
"You have a point," he reluctantly agreed. "But you can't simply hide behind them forever. You'll have to do something that will give people a reason to think you're the hero."
"Eh," I shrugged carelessly. "I'll think of something."
"Do it soon," Kira warned.
The next day, I managed to sneak past Pete when he was distracted by a female servant and head out to the stables. Spotting me, one of the stable boys lept out of his seat and ran into the stable, quickly disappearing into the wooden building. Amused, I followed at a more leisurely pace, and entered the building a few minutes later.
The stable boy was just bringing the arena horse out of it's stall as I reached them. Nervous, the boy bobbed a quick bow, then practically hid behind the horse.
"So," I said, my voice interested. "How's the horse? He all healed up and everything?"
The boy gulped audibly. "N-not yet, Sir Rhyse. He needs a few more days of rest before he'll be fully healed."
I ran my hand along the horse's neck, marveling at the feel of his muscle beneath the skin and hair. Jeez, he could totally knock me on my ass with a whip of his head.
The horse had a few scars marring his coat, and he twitched whenever I placed my hand on him. But, he was calm, and he didn't step on my toes, which earned him huge points in my favor.
"Who's taking care of him?" I asked the boy.
"I-I am, Sir Rhyse."
The horse lifted his head as I stood in front of him, sniffing my outstretched hand. When he didn't bite me, I began rubbing his snout, grinning. "Well, seems like you're doing a good job," I told the boy.
"Th-thank you, Sir Rhyse!"
After I spent a few more minutes checking out the horse, I left the stable and made my way to the infirmary. The doctor there was working on a soldier, bandaging up his arm, so I leaned against the wall and patiently waited until he was done, before striding up to the doctor.
"How's my fighter doing?" I asked him.
The doctor jumped to his feet, giving me a small bow, before straightening and indicating a door on the other side of the room. "We currently have him resting, and we're doing all we can to heal his injuries. This morning, he spoke a few words to my assistant, but he was incoherent."
"Well, it's a start, right?" I asked.
The doctor nodded. "He has survived the first night, and seems to be doing better than expected."
"Cool," I said, staring at the door as if I could see through it. "When can he be moved to my room?"
The doctor thought for a moment, then nodded. "Tomorrow, if Sir Rhyse approves."
"Sir Rhyse approves," I snickered.
After my visit with the doc, I headed back to the castle, running into a frantic Pete. Rather than yell or lecture me for running off on my own, Pete merely game me a small glare, scowling. Relieved I wasn't gonna get the ninth degree, I headed to the mess hall for lunch.
By the time the next day rolled around, I had to admit I was pretty excited. The doctor had Remos moved to my room with the help of a few able-bodied servants, and I had them set the fighter on a bed I'd had brought in earlier that day.
Shooing them from the room when they'd gotten Remos settled in, I shut the door firmly after them, then made my way to the bed, staring down at the fighter's face. He was a bit pale, and had a few cuts along his lips and cheeks, but his eyes moved behind his lids in REM sleep, so at least he wasn't brain dead.
After all, if he couldn't fight, he was useless.
The next two days, the doctor's assistant came and dealt with Remos when I went to the stables to visit the horse. It was a black and white horse, so it wasn't exactly the type I'd been looking for, but at least it would match my solidly black horse...when I found him.
The stable boy had been doing a good job at taming the horse and getting it used to other people riding it, so I made sure to compliment him and keep him happy. If you get the servants on your side, life'll be much easier. After all, servants transport food. For all I knew, if they didn't like someone, they might spit in the person's food.
Isn't that what waitresses and waiters do when you're a bitch to them at restaurants?
Remos managed to regain his senses a few days later. I was in my room when he suddenly gasped, causing me to glance at him. He was sitting up in bed, clutching his stomach, with a pained expression plastered to his face.
"Ah, finally lucid?" I asked, smirking at him.
Setting down the book I'd been skimming through, I stood and walked over to the bedside, staring at the fighter. He stared back, a confused expression on his face. Looking around, he warily pulled his blanket tighter over his lap, his fingers absently plucking at the bandages surrounding his ribs.
"Where-where am I?" he asked, his voice hoarse.
"My room," I said, plopping my ass on the edge of his bed.
He narrowed his eyes at me, suspicion dripping from his words. "Who're you?"
I was a little relieved he was talking normally. I mean, honestly, all the people here at the castle have been speaking all prim and proper, formal language, making my head spin. Jesus, it's like they've never heard of contractions! At least this guy wasn't as uptight and spoke normal people talk, like me.
"I'm Rhyse," I said, deciding to forgo the whole 'hero' thing for now.
Remos blinked, then ran his fingers through his hair, sighing. "What's going on? The-the arena...the fight..."
"You won," I said cheerfully. "I was so impressed, I bought you off that bitchy noble, and now you're mine."
He gave me another suspicious look, sizing me up. I was wearing a black shirt, pants and a vest, all custom made (gotta love Kira's personal tailors. Hehe, they can work magic on clothes), with bare feet, and only my snake-bites in. All-in-all, I was pretty tame today.
Remos still looked wary.
Rolling my eyes, I jumped to my feet. "Look, I'm not gonna molest you or anything. I didn't buy you to be my love slave, if that's what you're thinking." When the fighter gave me a sharp look, I smirked at him, continuing. "I saw you fight. That's why I want you. You can fight."
After a few seconds, Remos rubbed his eyes, laying back down on the bed. "So," he said, his voice neutral. "You want me to be your pet killer."
I scoffed, shaking my head. "Don't be so melodramatic. I want you to be my bodyguard. That's all," I finished lightly.
"But you still want me to kill for you," he pointed out, his voice dead.
Sighing, I began rocking on the balls of my feet, feeling restless. "I don't want anyone to die," I said quietly, ignoring Remos' surprised look. "I don't want you to kill for me. But, I don't want to die before I can go home. So, I need someone to protect me. I don't care how you keep me safe; you can knock people out and magic them to another city for all I care. Just keep. Me. Alive."
The fighter gave me a measuring look. "That's all you want me to do?" he asked cautiously.
"Yes," I immediately agreed. "I'm planning on gathering together a group or guard of my own. You're my second recruit. Your job is bodyguard. Someone else will have the job of killing," I joked, half-serious.
"And, who are you, exactly, to merit a guard of your own?" Remos asked with narrowed eyes.
I smirked, giving a small, mocking bow. "The Hero of your world, Sir Rhyse Lionheart. At your service."
Eyes widening slightly, Remos looked me over again, re-appraising me. "I've heard of you," he said, forcing a nonchalant look onto his face.
"Good," I grinned. "So, you'll become my bodyguard, correct?"
After a few seconds of thought, Remos gave me a hard look, his lips thinning as he remained silent. With a sharp breath, he finally nodded, frowning. "Yes. But I'm not calling you 'Lord Lionheart' or 'Master.'"
Grimacing, I shook my head. "Hell no. That's too tacky. Just call me Rhyse. We'll be working together, and I'm not your 'Lord.'"
"Do I get pay?"
I opened my mouth to answer, then suddenly shut it with a snap. Crap, I didn't even think of that. I glanced at Remos, considering simply lying to him, but I knew it was an easily-discoverable lie. And one of the things I'd learned about lying, is don't get discovered lying.
Besides, I'm gonna be trusting him with my life. And he'll have a pointy, very sharp sword. It'd be best if I didn't lie to him.
Well, about the money, anyway.
"I'll take care of it," was all I said, not promising anything, but it seemed to mollify him, at least.
I'd have to talk to Kira about paying my guard, but it shouldn't be too hard.
After all, if the mage doesn't help me, I'll just blackmail him.