Book 2 Chapter 16

Preparing for the ceremony was in a way almost like therapy, allowing Mordred the time to collect his thoughts. In fact it may well have been the most relaxing thing he had been able to do in a long time. It was a sobering thought, and given his tendencies to introspection a fairly damning one. “So, about your armour, the formal one I mean,,,,” Dame Krim let herself trail off, only now aware that she was probably being inappropriate, again. “Yes, what about it?” Mordred welcomed the distraction, lest he allow his mind to wander across darker paths. “Aah! Y yes sorry Sir, it’s just, I know it’s rude but, is it true that it has a fully integrated medical protocol?” Mordred coughed, but only to hide an unwanted chuckle, the odd tendencies of the order of the road, and their sensibilities never failed to lighten his mood. ” It did come with a medical protocol, yes, however I have my own prefered software suite, and installed that instead.” Dame Krim shuddered, terrified by the casual tone in which Knight Commander Damodred had just spoken, the idea of someone battling a protocol, and not only winning, but also supplanting it with an entirely different program. “I should still have its original programing on a drive here somewhere, if you’re interested.” He had meant it as a placating gesture, thinking she found the removal of the orriginal code to be rude or cruel. Instead the figurative olive branch seemed to slap her in the face. ” You did not, delete it?” Her eyes were wide in terror. “Sir, to clarify, you put on the suit, removed the medical protocol, without deleting it, and then you installed your own suite of programming?” The tone of her voice caused Mordred to pause, and look up at her. “No, not exactly, I installed my prefered A.I. after transferring all the orriginal protocols to memory boxes, like the hackbox we used back on the Camelot.” He paused, and took a sip of his now long cold drink. “And yes I needed to wear the suit to do so, as all the controls are on the inside, or code driven, it wasn’t easy, but currently Gwenn34 is running the core functions, much like with my older armours.” A twitch made its way across the female Knight’s face, and it dawned on Mordred that nothing he could say or do would improve the situation, or even save it.
So instead he returned to his ritual preparations, carefully placing the small burlap satchel within his mother’s hands before slowly sealing the coffin. “Either way, that was in the past, now is our present, all went well back then,  and that is the end of it.”  Silence, awkward silence was all that answered his statement. “Dame Krim, you are still in my quarters, perhaps a different subject would make that less awkward.” He carefully sealed the coffin’s airtight edges before engaging its stasis function. “Sir? why are you sealing your dead mother into a stasis tomb? She is rather,,,dead Sir, so it won’t do her any good anymore?” For a while he remained silent, letting his fingers stroke the keys as he set the parameters. “The stasis is not for her specifically, although I do understand your confusion. The custom of the Knightly burial rites does not allow a dead Knight to be placed in stasis as it is considered abuse of the technology, this is a fact. ” Mordred paused briefly as he drew a deep breath, Dame Krim seemed oblivious of his reasoning, and also rather disconnected from common society or its norms. “My mother, Morgana, was however decidedly NOT a Knight, she was, to a degree, a civilian. But more importantly, aside from being my mother, she was a Queen.” He allowed himself to look at the female Knight, his ire made his choler rise, and he knew that he would fail to hide his mood if he did not at least look at the person he spoke with. To his surprise he found her nodding, in an expectant fashion. It reminded him of a scene he had once witnessed, though he could not recall where or when exactly, of a young child looking at a teacher as he explained tirelessly how the world worked. “So, in lieu of that, I am preparing my mothers casket for a voyage to a nearby proto-planet or a planet that has not yet formed its own ecosystem.” Dame Krim scrunched her nose a little, then rubbed it. “Where it will commit a series of manoeuvres, and ultimately land.” Dame Krim blinked and looked a little puzzled.”But Sir, why would you do that?” For a moment Mordred felt like he understood the teacher with the tired yet ever so patient smile from his memory, like across the centuries the man was now smiling at him and told him, now you know, as if all had come full circle.”Partly because that is the proper Burial rite for a space faring Queen. However I think you want to know why, not as in why perform it, as much as why is that the rite, correct?” She nodded fiercely, and oddly appeared uncomfortable. “The casket carries more than just the body and its wrappings, it also contains a set of three apple seeds, one for every aspect of my mother, once the casket has landed it will await the most opportune time to release the stasis, and initiate the germination cycle. Once that has been done the seeds, or at least one of the seeds will grow into an apple tree, using my mothers body as its initial food source, and hence from her death new life shall blossom, the tree, or trees will become the first life on the new otherwise plain planet, as the casket will have waited for the proper conditions, eventually there may grow a forest of apple trees descending from those three seeds. Thus the planet will become a new Avalon.” A thought occurred to him then. ” There is a toilet just over there the privacy curtain is recessed in the wall, use it if you must.”  The words Dame Krim spoke at that, as she darted towards the utility corner he had indicated, were mostly a riddle to him, but he was fairly certain he made out a sorry, and a thank you.

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Book 2 Chapter 15

“Auto doc, is such a crude term, don’t you process? I jest, be at ease patients, you are in capable manipulators.” The men and women of the order of the road cringed in abject horror, more than once had their order been called upon to decomission such a protocol, each time because of the same reason. Outdated equipment running obsolete analytics, with poor self diagnostics. Causing auto docs to operate without anesthetics, or worse. ” I refuse treatment! I repeat; I refuse treatment!” Dame Spriggott nearly screached her protest, ignoring her injuries just so the protocol might be tricked into thinking she was fine, it should work, it had worked before on medical protocols of the more recent Framework series. “Please patient 5461, cease your overly strenuous activities! You will merely agitate your injuries. Also if you feel the need to prove my thesis please do so in a more creative manner.” Terror gripped her mind, this protocol was more advanced than the newer and more widely used protocols, as she tried to find a way around that she realised it had ignored her refusal, hence it must be running on broken coding, grasping at straws she asked the first thing that came to mind. ” What thesis?” A syringe came into view as medical protocol Holm answered. “Everybody lies, especially when their health or well being is concerned. It is why I never consult records or databases, each diagnosis stands fresh, with no bias towards presumed prior mallfunctions, every examination is a full one.” The sting of the needle was followed by a dull ache. “Worry not 5461, I have learned much about alternative healing, and we have the parts, we can rebuild you.” With those words her world went dark .

Her world was pain, hot and cold alike, a deep tearing pain. Her world was also stench, ozone, burnt flesh, and sewage were it’s smells. In contrast her world was dark, yet filled with distant muted sounds, pleasantly rounded tones as if someone spoke with a deep and heavy voice, rounded off by decades of speaking. From far away she could hear her father’s voice, a wicked sneer as he yelled at her to get up, the enemy something or another, the deep voice was nicer to listen to, less demanding too. Cripa therefore ignored her father’s voice, and drifted at the edge of life, or death depending on how one looks at it, untill her world became dull, and of a more consistent temperature. After that she fell asleep, a real sleep with dreams rather than being unconscious.

It had taken him literal hours, but at long last he had finished finding and reading the most adequate manual for his current predicament. And so it was with a smile that Sir Tor pocketed his copy of: “distressed damsels, and how to deal with them.” Before carefully picking his damsel up in his arms and properly bringing her to the nearest medical facility known to him, the only hitch in that brilliant plan was that he only really knew of one such place, and that was back on the Sword of Damocles.

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Book 2 Chapter 14

Thirteen games, as many defeats, Sir Harding shook his head as he came to terms with his recent streak of ill fortune. “So you are not an illusion, and have in fact been practicing.” He had muttered mostly to himself, not really considering the other might have heard him. “Indeed I am quite real, and have been phracticing, excuse me.” A rasping cough wracked the Knight’s frame before he continued. “Now on to the questions I had, why are you in the stocks, what did hyou do? ” Sir harding had to look up to meet his old (apparently not dead) friend’s eyes. “I broke the chain of command, I was a fool, and right in front of the tower.” At the last part he saw the eyes of his friend harden, steel sneaking it’s way into the otherwise understanding and patient gaze. “Hyou mean ahcting cohmander Ton, formally of the tower. One of the proud few, adviser to the Knight commander himself?! ” The static was back in his voice, and the table groaned under the pressure Sir Balin’s gauntlets were subjecting it to. “Have hyou lost hyour mind? Hyour lucky he did not execute you on the spot!” The statement made no direct sense, not until Sir Tiberos Harding thought back to the moment, he had done as he always had, he had attempted to take point, claiming veterancy, Sir Idver had pushed him to the wall, because he had denied him his rank, then the tower had raised a weapon at his face, but tat wasn’t entirely right, not if he saw him as Acting Knight Commander Ton of the tower, because in that case his act could be seen as mutiny. as the thoughts finally started to make sense to him Sir Harding’s face turned pale. “Lucky bastard aren’t you? ” The malice was now gone from his friend’s voice, but something bothered Harding still. ” Balin, what did the tower mean when he said, Or I shall consider thee as I have once Arthur? ” The monstrous form of his friend shrugged. “I know it not, but I can probably find out, people talk, I hear things, hyou know how it goes, for now, one more? ” Sir Balin reset the board, his motions stiffer than before.

Carefully Sir Tor rounded the corner as he read his etiquette guide, “Humm apparently wrapping you in a rug is not the best way to treat you? Who would’ve guessed. Oh still unconscious I see, well good thing I checked the book now.” Oddly enough she seemed more, charred, than before. “Let us just set you down here, and mayhaps I can…” He stopped and stared at the grimy face, red skin showing amidst the scorch marks. “Clean you up, I guess.” Carefully, or at least as carefully as a huge overly trained clumsy power assist armoured Knight with no clear idea of being careful could manage, Sir Tor started unwrapping his most unfortunate cargo. And in doing so he conveniently forgot to remind himself to check how severe her charring was, or what the proper way of unwrapping an unwillingly wrapped victim was.

The room seemed unusually dark, and smelled of dirt and iron. She knew that it was a dream, that she was sleeping, yet still Dame Miriam Spriggot turned her head, and looked at where she knew Sir Ingles would be, sitting in a comfortable chair smoking cog knew what, just for the sake of looking decadent. Slowly her gaze focused on his face, the cocky smile as he removed the tube from his mouth. “Well, that’s another fine mess you got us out of eh?” The words made no sense, but in dreams they did not need to, they only needed to afford the minimal level of comfort.”No thanks to you I might say,,” her own voice sounded weak, like she was the one who was supposed to have died. Funny really she remembered this conversation, he had gotten stuck doing a field repair to a mobile command, and she had risked everything to get him evacuated, nearly getting herself killed in the process. “How was I supposed to help?” She finished for him, she liked doing that in this particular dream, “After all I had my hands quite full with being saved.” A frown slid over his face, a frown that seemed almost pained, “Actually I was going to say I was too busy kicking the bucket, like say two thirds of our order, rough guestimate that.” Reality had deemed her unfit to have nice things even as illusions, still this was her dream she would deny reality as much as she could. “Sir you are in far better shape than I am, now please no black humor, the day is bleak enough as it is no?” She tried to get up, only to find herself restrained. “Well you see Miriam, I died, and you’re having a horribly one sided conversation, I mean no offence I am very flattered you chose me as your imaginary friend and all that but really you should stop talking your scaring the survivors. Well what goes for survivors these days, slim pickings and all that.” Dame Spriggot did not answer him, instead she stared at the manacle which held her to the bed, the myriad tubes leading into her wrist, some clear, others a deep crimson, seeming to connect her to the very wall of the med bay, as behind her a cold voice spoke through a slight static haze. “Welcome patient designated 5461, it is good to register you as conscious, I am medical protocol Holm, and I shall be your fully automated emergency physician this day.” For a moment there was silence, for a moment it seemed no one member of the order of the road was even breathing, until quiet sobs broke the oppressive silence. it was Dunnhain who cracked. ” We are at the mercy of an auto-doc ! “

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Book 2 Chapter 13

The journey back to The Sword of Damocles was brief, or so it seemed to Mordred, the corpse in his arms was light, he had said his goodbyes long ago, long before he had a chance to meet with her again. Long before he became a commander, even long before he ever became an officer. To see her again was wonderful, confusing, and somehow painful. To lose her again so shortly after had been a strange experience, it made him feel somewhat numb, like the whole thing had been just  sort of dream, yet the fragile thing in his hands told him otherwise, forced him to acknowledge that up until recently  his mother had been alive. and now in one week he had been reunited with both his parents, only to witness them both die. The irony of it all left a rotten taste in his mouth, the absurdity made him question his sanity. The airlock sealed behind his group as they boarded The Sword of Damocles, no more need for charades then. “Gwenn34, take Sir Ton back to the medical bay, use the most efficient clearance free route.” With a steady pace Sir Ton walked towards the nearest elevator, leaving Dame Krim to stare after him. “Sir,,might not be the right time but, how?” For a brief moment he considered how to answer her before Knight Commander Mordred breathed deeply, letting the moment slide away from him, the situation was simple a knight had witnessed the retrieval system moving another Knight on it’s own. So all he needed to do was answer truthfully. “I activated his suit’s retrieval functions earlier, and put the suit A.I. in control, so now she is taking him to receive medical care.” That should sate her curiosity somewhat. “Do all armours have that? Does mine have that? Does yours?” Or of course he could have remembered that Dame Krim was one of those inquisitive types who wished to know everything they could about anything there was. “No, not all armours have the retrieval system, and if I look at yours I think you may have broken it, as for my own, no this one does not have it, it is after all an outdated suit of plate, that has not seen proper maintenance in oh three or four centuries I guess, with what has been going on there is no telling how much or little time has passed between maintenance checks.” She took her time to consider those words, and he could see her mind running circles around itself, good that would buy some time, at least until he had a suitable casket for his mother.

Sir Tor smiled as he dragged the carpet with on it the strange unconscious woman behind him into yet another defunct hallway. Things were definitely looking up for him, not only had he found a decent carpet to drag her with, he even had managed to find one that did not clash  with her current clothes, colour wise. Calmly he trotted along, the sparking wires overhead illuminating the hallway as he went, faintly he noticed the magnetic locks of his boots engaging, but thought little of it, today was going to be great!

Round another corner she led her group, and for a moment Dame Miriam Spriggot feared what she would find, or rather what she wouldn’t find. She stopped and turned her head, looking to her fellows. “Right if it isn’t around the corner, I’m going to off myself, who’s with me? ” Right after the words left her mouth she wished they hadn’t, and cursed herself for lacking the sense of humor that Sir Ingles had. The men however, started laughing.
And that was how they marched into the medical bay of The Camelot, laughing like lunatics as they half carried, half dragged each other and their fallen comrades, led by Dame Spriggot who was holding her pistol loosely by her side.

Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, Sir Tiberos Harding counted the rivets in the ceiling, it was his only entertainment so far, unless he would wish to further disgrace himself, he had acted like a pig headed boor, who hadn’t known when to nod, or worse, he acted like a man who didn’t know who to obey, he had in a word been stupid. Sure he had given Sir Idver many a beating on the training grounds, and yes he had the most experience, but to cross the Tower?  What had he been thinking? Actually he knew what he had thought, he had thought that there would be no repercussions, that he would be fine due to his seniority, he had forgotten his place and above all his rank. “Hyou look , Bored, is there a reason you look bored old bird?” The voice was metallic in nature, and filled with a sort of underlying menace he felt hard to place and describe. “WELL?” static filled the word as if to sand down the harsh sharp tone. “I look bored, because I am bored.” He didn’t look towards the voice, a deep rooted dread kept him from doing so. “Perhaps a game would help, alleviate your, boredom, a game between, old friends.” There was no question, though it felt like it was intended as one. “Of course you would have to look at me to play,,,” The sentence died off as if the speaker had meant to add more or was suddenly lost in thought. “I, can’t , I can’t look at you.” Harding felt sick to his stomach, his past had come to haunt him, maybe he was truly mad? “Why not?” The question was brief, curt, as if the spectre of his past knew the answer. “Because you aren’t there, not really, you’re dead, I saw you die.” There he said it, and now the moment would be dispelled, the voice would leave and he would wake up. And for a moment there was indeed silence. “LOOK, AT, ME!! YOU CUR!!” Static filled the voice like a audio transmitter pushed to it’s limits. Slowly Harding turned his head sweat starting to run along his neck as he did, before him stood Sir Balin, of the order of the dragon, his battle plate well maintained, his face mostly obscured, but his eyes, were those of a friend once lost, the sight itself nearly enough to break Sir Harding. “You,,,you live?” a near breathless whisper drawn from his suddenly dry throat, a million accusing thoughts jumbling through his mind, none making sense. “I visited you many times, now you will stop acting the fool, old hothead.” A sharp intake of breath caused the armour to rattle in a near purr. “And play checkers with me, as you explain yourself.” Only then did he notice the game his old dead friend was holding, as far as hallucinations went he did not mind this one. “Fine, let’s play then.”

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Book 2 Chapter 12

The great hall was silent, Sir Bron had stopped holding the false conversation for a while now, as it had become painfully obvious his fellow would not be answering. Still the others mostly seemed to respect protocol and ignore the unconscious Commander. Until the great door swung open, a mechanism that should have been sealed and locked as it had been an hour earlier when they had tried and failed to open it themselves. From beyond strode Knight Commander Mordred Damodred, bearing a suit of armour that was beneath his station, carrying aloft a small fragile body wrapped in a ragged and tattered red cloak, a red cloak that would be recognized as his by those who had been privileged enough to enter the Knight Commander’s private quarters.

The Knights immediately stood at attention, bearing their blades and guns aloft in salute, yet they were ignored, instead he walked on, towards Sir Ton, trailing closely behind him was a Knight of the Order of the Road, her uniform in a state of disarray, mostly dragging a bag with her armour behind her, but what was probably worse was that she too ignored  the other Knights, instead blurting out a seemingly endless stream of gibberish, seemingly to herself.
Needless to say that the assembled Knights were quite displeased.

“Rouse the acting commander if you please” The voice that rang from the Knight Commander’s helm was deep and solemn, but somehow soft. So Sir Bron moved with a sort of hesitance, before stopping just short of Sir Ton’s shoulder. “Sir, respectfully, I don’t believe that to be a good idea, or in fact the right course of action. ” Carefully Mordred lay down his package on the table, before gently, yet relentlessly pushing the other Knight aside. “Sir Ton, it is not your time to pass just yet, on your feet.” The words were spoken with a certain undertone that the Knights couldn’t place, granting them a quality that almost forced compliance, and Sir Ton did. “Sir Ton and I will return to the Sword, Dame Krim shall accompany us there ahead of the rest of the Order of the Road, we have to make preparations, Sir Bron You shall assume command of the Camelot for now, have her follow the Sword, that will be all.” as he spoke he picked up his package, and turned to the exit, Sir Ton following two steps behind him, somewhat stiffly, and the disheveled looking Dame closed the awkward procession, leaving Sir Bron and his men with more questions than answers.

Meanwhile Sir Tor took the time to carefully replace a broken fuse for one of the security system sub grids, all the while holding one eye on his unconscious guest. Not that he expected her to get up and run, or even attack mind you, just that he wanted to greet her appropriately, and it would be easier to do so when he saw her wake, as a simple, oh good you’re waking up, would be sufficient, as opposed to, oh hey hello there you stranger I saw braining herself with the floor, how are you doing on this fine day? Or at least it seemed like the safe route to take. Off course that was assuming she spoke the same language as him, or he as her, he wasn’t particularly picky really.  And So he ended up having to drag her along as he explored and repaired the Camelot, careful not to drag her face across the flooring, but also careful not to miss her waking.
It wasn’t until he came by one of the residence decks he realized his mistake in dragging her along as he did, and as such went looking for a carpet to appropriate.

 

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Book 2 Chapter 11

The warmth had come back, it had started to seem like little more than a memory, but it had come back, Cripa could almost feel her fingers again. Carefully she tried to open her eyes, some slight dusting of frost fell off her eyelids, otherwise she felt fine.  She knew she wasn’t off course, she was aware that it was a trick of her mind, likewise she knew her fathers voice to be a trick of her mind, still she followed the instructions however dirty they were, and relieved herself over her hands and feet. It hurt, it hurt bad but she knew it was necessary. “keep moving girl.” The voice was close, so she struggled to her feet. “Moving,always moving” Onward she staggered, half delirious, through halls that were no halls, caves that couldn’t be.

Round another corner, up another slope, past a slow moving canal of half frozen slurry. For a moment she thought of kneeling down and drinking, but the water did not look particularly inviting, the colour seemed off, and the smell was horrid. So she kept going, ignoring her dry throat, ignoring the possibly dead water, round another corner, and into a bright corridor, the sudden brightness blinding her, causing her to drop low as she attempted to hide her eyes from the light. Not taking the floor lighting into account. Thankfully her world went dark shortly after, as she drifted into unconsciousness, only barely registering the blunt force trauma to her forehead, the trauma she unwittingly had caused herself. Likewise she only barely registered the footsteps that approached, thinking instead of her father. Would he be proud of her? Of how far she had made it?
She thought he would.

Sir Tor, one of the Knights tasked with exploring and where possible restoring the depths of the Camelot startled, and turned just in time to see a red skinned woman banging her face into the floor. Carefully he replaced the wall panel, taking his time to twist in the screws to lock it into place, it wouldn’t do to rush his job just so he could save a stranger, he would aid her, but he would not neglect his duty’s to do so. Still he reached her just as she faded out. Not that he was far from where she had decided to brain herself. With some care he placed her on her side, then remembering his basic first aid made sure her tongue wouldn’t get stuck in her throat. “Well I don’t know who you are, but darn did you do a bang up job knocking yourself out like that.” Sir Tor calmly sat down next to her. “Mild frostbite, but oh do you smell bad, guess you really want to keep your fingers.” He checked the current temperature.”Well, you won’t be freezing again, atmospheric control seems to have kicked back in, and we’re gradually climbing the temperature ladder to say ten degrees above freezing, girl did you ever pick a dumb place to nap.” He had never been known to be subtle, or polite, or indeed capable of maintaining a decent conversation, but doing reconnaissance, or repairing minor damage to switchboards, or resetting breaker switches, were well within the scope of his abilities. Now what was it one had to do with an unidentified humanoid, typically if they were hostile the answer was to shoot them until they weren’t anymore, but if they weren’t hostile what then? Sir Tor Sighed and went through his pouches, looking for one of his many etiquette leaflets, ah there it was. “How to deal with non hostile humanoids, a comprehensive guide, step one: Attempt to communicate.”This was going nowhere, fast.

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Book 2 Chapter 10

The road was long and winding, but he cared not, his burden was light, nigh ethereal, and as such it did not bother him that he had to carry it. Behind him were the muffled footsteps of the silent engineer, the lone companion to the noise of his own mind.
Within him his thoughts raged, screaming for dominance, demanding every inch of his attention, accusations warred with doubts and mis-beliefs on equal footing.
Facts, normally a safe haven in such a situation, held a grim position over the battlefield of his mind.

For the fifth time the engineer coughed quietly, and for the fourth time it had been louder than before. Still he ignored the invitation to converse, rather he desired to dwell in silence than having to give voice to his thoughts now. “Sir, it, it was not your fault, you know that right? ” His mind reeled at her words, rearing up like a wounded beast kicked upon it’s sore flank, nearly he let fly his words of anger and self loathing, but bit it back, literally. “Sir? You’re starting to scare me,,,did you turn of your receiver? Is something broken?” His world seemed to collapse, just a little further. His mouth filling with a strong coppery taste. He swallowed before finally answering. “My, equipment, is fine.” It was brief, too brief, he knew it was, he knew full well he had to re-assure the engineer that no mistakes were made, he was fully aware it was his solemn duty to give her an explanation, or offer some comfort. Yet he did not, could not at this moment contemplate any way to do so.

Meanwhile back in the main assembly hall Sir Ton chose his path, forcing himself to remain upright, and above all, to not pass out. Gwenn34’s incessant raving apologies however were not a great help to his endeavors.
Nonetheless the Knight managed to set a few steps forward, before a most astute Sir Bron managed to subtly intercept him and guide him into a chair, where the last thing he heard was Gwenn34’s voice as it cut through his mind. “Something is horribly wrong,,” Something sure was, after all he was losing his consciousness, not that he managed to finish the thought.
Sir Bron sighed as he sat himself opposite to the acting Commander, Shaking his head ever so slightly as once more he struck up a conversation about nothing, the whole affair being but a formality, a way to keep the civilians from panicking, no Knight would fall for the charade he was committing himself to. But then again, they had all seen the trembling gait that Sir Ton had displayed, they had all witnessed  how he had sat him down. And, he had to remind himself, they all knew the protocol for a fainting commander before civilians. Still it bothered him that he could not have his fellow be examined or even treated.

The hallway was silent, even the footsteps of the Knights did little to alleviate the near physical pressure of the silence. The order of the Road being uncharacteristically quiet, as they moved towards the medical bay. Ten minutes ago their jokes had stopped. The last jest had been of the grand mechanic, Sir Ingles himself, and although it they had all chuckled no-one had found it funny. “Spriggot” He had croaked. “Do you know the difference between myself and the calendar?” her reply had been a simple, no, to which his reply had been “The calendar still has days left.” at first none of them had dared reply, not realizing that he was trying to go out as he had lived, “Ah,,you guys are killing me,,,laugh already will you? Talk about a tough crowd.” They all chuckled at that, but more to humor him than anything else, it had been his last joke.  Still Dame Spriggot led the procession onward, convincing herself she would find that damned medical bay if it was the last thing she did. No-one made complaints, they all knew her pain, because they all felt it themselves.

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