When you’re named for the god of bad luck, you’re at least a head shorter than everyone else around you, and your horse is the only black one in a world where every horse is a grey, people are bound to talk. Chael has spent the past eighteen years of his life proving to those around him that he’s worthy of his family name; that he’s meant to be a Shadow Knight. Just when things are finally going his way, Chael’s luck strikes again. Now, Chael is in a race against time to find the one who has taken everything from him and who plans on destroying the one thing he’s worked so hard for, the knighthood. As if this weren’t enough, he’ll have to reveal the one thing he’s managed to keep secret for the past eighteen years. With help from some unexpected sources, Chael sets off on a journey that will test his will, his character, and his heart.
“Come on, Harry!” My cheer was echoed by quite a few of the others. The two pulled their sparring swords and saluted the king and his family. The object of these games, of course, was to show off your skills and not to kill your opponent. The next ten minutes was filled with cheering, grunting, and the sound of swords hitting armor.
Caleb brought his sword over his head and swung down in an arc. Harry cried out as it connected with his forearm. Everyone close enough to hear it cringed at the sound of the bones breaking with the impact. Harry dropped his sword and fell to his knees as was customary for a person admitting defeat in the games. Caleb’s grin widened and I gave a yell before jumping into the arena and sprinting toward them. Caleb’s sword swung down to connect with side of Harry’s head. I grunted and my arm went numb as his weapon smashed against my elbow. The sound of feet running toward us and Caleb’s grunt as he was tackled to the ground made me smile despite the pain I was in. I sat beside Harry, both of us holding our arms.
“Thanks for that.” He shook his head in disbelief. “I can’t believe he was going to try and brain me when I’d already surrendered. How’s your arm?”
I shrugged. “Numb. Yours?”
“I wish it was numb.”
“What in the name of Dorathan’s honor is going on here? I have never seen the likes of this in all my years in the Knighthood! Caleb!”
Everyone jumped to their feet and stood at attention. The General stood before us, red with anger while the entire arena held their breath, waiting to see what was going to happen.
“Harry, Chael, you’re free to go see the healwife to have your arms looked after and Caleb…”
Everyone looked at me, shocked by my refusal. Even the General stood speechless.
“Sir, when we spoke yesterday, you promised me the match I wanted.”
“I want it now.”
“Chael, son, you’re hurt…”
“With all due respect, sir, my arm’s not broken.” I moved it to show I wasn’t lying and tried not to wince as the pins and needles moved along the length of it.
The general threw his hands up in desperation. “Chael’s luck,” he mumbled before throwing an apologetic look my way. “Alright, Chael. Nothing else is going as it should and quite frankly I’m at a bit of a loss. Caleb, you fight Chael for the Shadow Knight challenge.”
“Sir?” He shook off the hands holding him. “I just finished a fight, sir.” He shrank where he stood as the General’s glare honed in on him.
“Caleb, if it weren’t for the fact that your father has served under me for years and proven himself to be a fantastic and loyal Knight, I’d be throwing you out of this tournament and sending you home a peasant. Strip out of your armor. Now.”
He turned back to me and nodded before heading back to his place by the king.
“Ladies and gentleman! There has been a change in the order of our duels. Since they are now the only two Shadow Knight nominees not to be injured, we will now watch Caleb Kent and Chael McKinney battle for the honor of top Shadow.”
I tried to hide my groan as I pulled the armor from my arm. My father appeared with my protective vest and Caleb’s with his.
“Stay focused,” coached my father. He put a hand on my shoulder. “Whatever happens, I’m proud of you.”
I smiled. “Thanks, Dad.”
By the look on Caleb’s face, it wasn’t encouragement his father was giving him. Sir Vincent turned to me. “Good luck, Chael.”
A hush fell over the crowd as our staffs were carried in, not by a fellow knight as was customary, but by Princess Katheryn. Her long dark green satin dress brushed against the dirt, her small footprints followed by a drag line on either side as she pulled the staffs toward us. She handed Caleb his staff with a nod of her head and came to stand before me.
I smiled. “I’m not a sir, yet, your majesty.”
She smiled back, her dark brown eyes serious. “Everyone who’s been around the last two days can’t deny what you’re obviously meant to be.” She gave a nod and a slight bow which caused her blond hair to fall into her face. “I’d say good luck, but I don’t think you’ll need it. I look forward to the pleasure of your company tonight.”
I watched her walk back to her father where she turned and flashed a smile in my direction. I smiled back and turned to stare, surprised, at my father who was already looking at me with wide eyes. He gave a slight shake of his head, as if to clear it.
“Never mind about that.” He pulled me into a hug. “Make him regret every time he’s ever made fun of you.”