The Rogue Knight Page 100

“Are you certain?” Minimus asked.

The Rogue Knight held up a hand to stay him. “Though it will reduce me to my former state, and strip my knights of their stations, the honor that guides me demands that this young woman have her power back. I do not wish to walk the same path as Morgassa, claiming what does not belong to me. I may not have personally taken Honor’s abilities, but I collaborated with those who did, and if I now refuse to give up what belongs to her, I may as well have been the thief. My deepest apologies, Your Highness.”

“You have done much good,” Honor said. “Perhaps I should let you and your men keep my power for a season. I’m afraid that together, you wield it more effectively than I could alone.”

“At the moment, perhaps,” the Rogue Knight said. “But the power is yours. If I return it to you, it can continue to grow. One day, you will wield it with more might than any of us. And unlike us, you can stray beyond the Ellowine borders.”

“This is your decision?” Honor checked.

“It is,” the Rogue Knight said. “Phillip. Divide me in half just below the waist. This is my last command.”

Breastplate warped and scarred, the knight with the big battle-ax lumbered up to the Rogue Knight. Cole and Dalton shared a shocked glance. Was this an execution?

After raising the weapon high, Phillip paused. “Serving you has been our greatest honor.”

Cole looked away as the ax came down. He heard the impact. Unable to resist, he looked back and saw the bottom half of the Rogue Knight parted from the top.

Off to one side, Honor gasped. Eyes wide, she turned to Mira. “It’s back! I feel my power! It came in a rush. There were only hints before! It’s like it never left!”

Mira hugged her sister.

As Cole watched, the Rogue Knight’s armor dissipated, as did the full suits of armor of all the other knights besides Minimus. The knights lost stature. Some, like Oster and Desmond, wore other armor and gear underneath. Some were dressed in plain clothes. Several looked too old or frail to be warriors.

Nobody changed more than the Rogue Knight. Where the great knight had lain, a middle-aged dwarf sat up. He stood, slightly bowlegged, his stocky body barely more than three feet tall. He looked up at those around him.

“Sigmund!” Minimus exclaimed.

“Donovan,” the dwarf replied with a nod. “You kept your armor. I sensed something had changed within you.”

“Callista sealed my armor to me,” Minimus said. “She made my changing permanent.”

The dwarf nodded. “My power was borrowed. Same with Morgassa, even though she had sole claim to it. Eventually, it had to end.”

Cole frowned. “Morgassa worked a changing on me. She separated me from my power. But it didn’t go away when she died.”

“Then she must have used her own power to do it,” the dwarf said. “Her native power.”

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“Makes sense,” Honor agreed. “Callista said that Morgassa used to be a shapecrafter. She must have used shapecraft on Cole and Callista.”

“I worked for them.” The former Rogue Knight sighed. “The shapecrafters. I was no one of import. A lowly servant. Which is probably why they assumed they could control me. They did, at first. But within a week I had turned. Even after receiving great power from them, I still don’t understand the art they practice.”

Cole could hardly believe that this little man with the soft voice was the Rogue Knight. “Your name is Sigmund?” Cole asked.

The dwarf cleared his throat. “Correct. And Minimus is my older brother, Donovan. He never served the shapecrafters, as I did, to my shame. When I came to him and offered to make him a knight, he agreed, but insisted on keeping his small stature. He has always been more comfortable with his height than me. He embraced it with the nickname he invented.”

“It was good you made your armor large,” Minimus said. “Otherwise, you would have lost your legs.”

“My armor was big,” Sigmund said. “But I never altered my body to fill it. Since my armor moved with me as if part of me, there was no need. The choice to keep my hidden body small saved my feet.”

“You caused a lot of trouble for such a little guy,” Jace said.

“Never underestimate a man based on his stature alone,” Minimus chided.

“I have much to answer for,” Sigmund admitted. “I have made many more enemies than friends.” He went and knelt before Honor. “I will submit to whatever punishment you see fit to inflict.”

“You used my power well,” Honor said. “In the end you returned it voluntarily. You may have made enemies among the shapecrafters and the power brokers of Elloweer, but you have earned friends as well.” Honor looked to his men. “Are any of you ashamed of your leader?”

Phillip, a lean farmer in his forties, went down on one knee. “I would die for him.”

The other former knights knelt as well, heads bowed. Minimus knelt too.

Honor surveyed the wider area, taking in the sea of unconscious changelings. “I move we continue to keep the true identity of the Rogue Knight a mystery.”

“Prudent advice,” Sigmund said. “The Rogue Knight and his company are no longer. Divulging our past will only harm us and our cause. Let our enemies wonder who we were and where we have gone.”

“I remain,” Minimus said firmly.

“Aye,” Sigmund replied. “You do. And you are now free from any obligations to your former captain. Which may mean we ought to separate for a season.”

Minimus folded his arms. “I would hate to draw suspicion in your direction. I will go with Twitch. The lad needs a champion.” Minimus turned to Twitch. “Will you have me?”

“Yeah,” Twitch said, astonished and pleased. “Of course. Renford won’t know what hit him!”

“My usefulness may have decreased, but I will not forsake the rebellion,” Sigmund said. “It was the Rogue Knight’s cause, but it is now mine as well.”

“Mine too,” Desmond said. “And I’m happy to train any men who want help learning to fight without the aid of enchantments.”

All the other former knights shared their willingness to serve.

“We are yours to command,” Sigmund told Honor.

“Then rise,” Honor said. “The people who Morgassa possessed begin to stir. We should leave this place. I suggest we return to your encampment. Joe and Brady deserve to know what happened. We can make further choices from there.”

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