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It struck the rider as odd that the weather was so...well-behaved. It felt, to him, that it should be storming, or at least raining, as his trusted steed made its slow, solemn way through the Highlands. It had been many, many years since last his hooves had been here, yet still he knew the paths as well as he had when he had first been created. It was just as well, the rider supposed, for his rider was in near-no condition to be doing much of anything at all, much less navigating a path that still broke his heart, nearly a century later.
At long last, however, the ride had to end, and the gigantic, star-eyed warhorse nickered quietly at his rider, who dismounted with a sigh. "Thank thee, Erebus. Take care of thy sister, whilst I," here, the massive lycaean gulped.
"....Whilst I am busy, my friend."
With that, he whistled two low notes, and one short, shrill one, and with a responding shriek, the form of a noble kestrel dove down from the clouds and alighted on the horse's saddle. The Knight smiled sadly, gently ran his massive paw through the kestrel's fur, and nodded sharply. "Right. Nyx, thou art in charge whilst I tend to my business. Keep an eye on Erebus for me, aye?"
And so the massive male worked his way through the Highlands, unmindful of the chill that still clung in the air, especially at this altitude, even moreso in the empty, breezy night. He glanced up at the starry skies, letting his boots work their way through the trail that, even now, a hundred years since he'd last walked them, they still remembered as though they'd been here but minutes before.
Finally, the Knight stood where once he would press a stone, and he would be swept away to his Lady's Temple. It was unremarkable, on the whole, save for the feeling that, even now, decades upon decades after Her death, he still would swear he felt some part of Her in the air, though he knew the Temple would forever remain closed to him.
"It is I, my Lady. I...I am home again. I..."
He started, then bit back a sob, reaching into his satchel and laying out a wreath made of blooms of jasmine, Her favored flower. "I have been away, for ninety-odd years...even I hath lost count. I do apologize that...I did not come by to say my farewells, sooner."
Here, the Knight wiped his moist eyes with the back of his gauntleted forepaw, gazing heavensward. "I...I know not why I did not come home sooner. I hath been lost, as I was when You first found me. Gone from land to land, fighting in war to war....because I was not good enough."
The Knight clenched his eyes shut, turning his unworthy gaze away from the glistening of the stars in the heavens as his tortured voice rang out, across the eerily-silent landscape, "I wasn't good enough, damnit! I slept one night and awoke the next morn to hear thou wert dead, gone, and there was naught I could do! I should have been awake! I should have been alert, I should have been a thousand damned things I wasn't, and I was thy -Sentinel-! I should have been here, I should have at least died by thy side!"
He sobbed again, aloud, and fell to his knees, the stars and moon glistening off the polished, night-black sheen of his full plate as his forepaws grabbed fistfuls of broken stone and dirt, squeezing them into his pawpads. "I canst nay change what hath happened, and I am -sorry-! Thou art gone, Sibyl is gone, and I canst nay change a moment of it! I am so sorry, my Lady!"
Here, the Knight let out an agonized wail, of sorrow, of guilt, of a soul tortured for too long by the weight hanging from his massive, broad shoulders. "Thou didst ever deserve better than the wastrel thou tooketh to Thy home! What didst thou see in me, that day? What didst Thou find worthy of the Knighthood thou didst bestow upon me? I was but a vagabond, all-but drunk on shame and sorrow in a Celidon gutter! Why didst Thou charge me to become a Knight, to serve Thee, when Thou must have Seen this is how it would end?! Why didst Thou name me Thy Sentinel, and that of Thy Oracle, when I was asleep at the most critical moment, the very moment I was appointed to prevent?!"
His fists beat a bloody tattoo upon the rocky ground as he began to wail anew before all the strength left his limbs, and the powerful lycaean slumped, as weak as a newborn pup. "....Why didst Thou allow me to rest? Why...why doth I feel, even now, that I hath slain thee, as surely as though my paws held the blade?"
With a sorrow-filled sigh, the lycaean raised the back of his sleeve to his face, and wiped his wet fur dry anew. "...I...have held all of this in for so long. I lost myself in the war immediately following thy fall, attempting to gather enough shards to...to bring thee back. It was never enough. I could never hold onto them long enough, either through misfortune, or through malice aforethought in murders, deaths, and the damned ungrateful Council's new furnace of war. I...could not save thee. And when I lost much of the strength I gained at Thy behest....I fled. For other wars, for other lands....I sought to join thee."
His gaze fell, now, to the wreath he'd brought, to pay tribute. It seemed...so little, now, too little. "...I thought I felt Thy stars again, last year. I canst even remember where I was...I hath been lost in a wash of anger, resentment, and hatred for so long. Mayhap I felt Thy star when I was on the road, betwixt the endless conflicts, seeking the next, I know not. The feeling was enough to call me back, and...so, here I am, facing thee with the courage I swore to when Thou didst knight me."
He knelt back on his haunches, raising his forepaws to clench at his thighs as he took a stultifying breath and released it. "Dost Thou remember? Thou didst charge me to become a better man, when Thou didst find me, and so I sought the Knighthood. I achieved it after many months of toil, to become worthy to join their number, and then Thou didst take my oath, and grant me my kestrel and steed, Nyx and Erebus. Of course Thou doth remember, Thou didst never leave a single achievement of any of Thy flock unnoted. Is Sibyl's postbox still flooded with the inane letters of my courtship? Is her chamber still littered with the knick knacks I made for her and Thyself whenever I mastered a new tradeskill?"
He sighed, sadly, as he lay down his shield, and then drew his sword from its scabbard and laid it upon the shield. Finally, after but a moment's thought, he slowly unbuckled, then removed his massive fullplate, propping it up against a standing stone. "I made these, in Thy name and for Thy honour, because Thou didst name and make me. Thou didst take mine oath, and Thou didst guide me, in my darkest hours, to become the man I am, now. For that, I hath been, and ever shalt be, a grateful, loving son. And for this...for Thee, Mother...I renew my vow, to Thee, in perpetuity, as I shall do each time I feel my spirit falter again."
Grabbing up his sword, and gazing upon the stars above, the lycaean slit open both of his paws with the blade, and swore, solemntly, to the night sky.
"'A Knight is sworn to Valour. His shield upholds the helpless, his blade defends the infirm. His strength uplifts the downtrodden, his cry upraises the spirit. His feet remain unmoving, his arm unseats the unwary. A Knight is sworn to Valour.
A Knight is sworn to Honour. His word speaks only truth, his heart knows only virtue. His trust emboldens the true, his eye seeks out the unjust. His oaths stand firm as the heavens, his judgement unmakes the unworthy. A Knight is sworn to Honour.
A Knight is Sworn to Gallantry. His compassion emboldens the meek, his love upholds the kingdom. His manner enkindles the ally, his anger unnerves the enemy. His hand remains ever gentle, his fist clenched ever unyielding. A Knight is Sworn to Gallantry.
A Knight is sworn to Duty. His shoulders uphold the burden, his wrath undoes the wicked. His work unseats the tyrant, his service exemplifies his liege. His passion protects his kin, his rage destroys his foe. A Knight is Sworn to Duty.
A Knight's service is never undone, and his work is never complete. Each day, let this Knight stand above, and stand for this Code, for this Knight is a symbol, an emblem, and a guardian to those in whose service this Knight stands. Let his word and action speak boldly across the land, and let his fall be ever marked by the tears of those to whom he has sworn this Code.
A Knight, sworn to Valour, Honour, Gallantry, and Duty, bears this code more heavily than a mountain, and more willingly than death, which to a Knight, is but as light as a feather's fall.
This oath, I, Agrias Nesemme, swear to Cassiopeia, Lady of the Night Sky. I swear to uphold this code in Her name, for Her honour, with righteousness and devotion to Her and Her works, willingly and without hesitation. Her virtues and Her goals are to become my virtues and my goals. I accept this burden, this duty, and this Code as my own, from now until the day my soul is extinguished, now and forever."
With the completion of his oath, he clenches his fists, ignoring the rivulets of blood dripping between his fingers as he recollected his equipment and settled it to rights upon his gigantic frame. Once done, he prostrated himself before the standing stone and the wreath of jasmine, and prayed, with all of his heart.
"Mother, my Lady....Thy star, I feel hath guided me home for a reason, and I believe with all my soul that I hath found that reason. I hath discovered a crusade, and made it mine own. But there is so much to do, so far to go, and I've so much strength to regain, and so I ask, whatever remnants of thee that are out there, not for forgiveness, nor for a sign, but...I ask thee, help us. Guide us, when and where Thou canst do so, if 'tis in thy interest to do so. I shall ever be watching, and ever be waiting, for Thee, my Mother. Please...whatever there is of Thee that can hear me, hear these words. I love Thee, Mother. I miss Thee. I...I am sorry I was not a better son."
With that, the Knight sobbed one last time, remaining prostrate for however much time he knew not, until at last, he stood and nodded shortly and sharply to himself, saluting the Night Sky. And with that, he turned on the heel of his boot, feeling somewhat shriven, made his way back home. But not before turning back to his inadequate memorial, and murmuring, more to himself than any of Cassiopeia that might still hear it, "Farewell, Mother. I shalt see Thee again, someday."