Part 13:

The Most Important Moment of your Lives

Tekole observed himself in the mirror, although in truth it was not his reflection itself that caught his attention, but rather the clarity of it. He had never seen a mirror of this quality before, and especially not one of this size. Such goods rarely made it to Uruda so far from the East, and this must have been a holdover from the building’s earlier days as a hotel.

Even with the light of morning coming into the room, the outfit Tekole wore now was pitch black, to the point where the black curls of his hair appeared brown in comparison. Tekole reached over, adding the wide brimmed hat to the ensemble, and looked himself over. The cut of the tunic and poncho was simplistic to say the least, and the material had been dyed so heavily as to become uncomfortably stiff, but the look struck an imposing visage nonetheless.

Sufficiently satisfied that he had correctly assembled the outfit, Tekole turned and left the room. Although said room had been well lit, the hallway attached to it was just as dark as it had been the night before, if not more so. Tekole reached the stairwell to the lobby, and was careful to keep his footing as he descended the flight.

Barely visible was a long oval table that had been placed in the center of the room, with a large candle and ornate holder set atop it as the only source of light. At the opposite end of the table was a tall silhouette. It looked up, and waved erratically as Tekole approached.

“Hi Kajulan,” said Tekole, taking a seat beside it.

“Hello,” Kajulan responded, leaning back in her chair and kicking her feet up on the table. “Pretty crazy time last night, huh? I mean, can you believe we’re still alive?”

Tekole shook his head. “No.” His eyes glanced up, looking at the top of Kajulan’s head. “Where’s your hat?”

“Oh, I hate hats, so I left it.”

Tekole’s eyes widened. “Kajulan, I don’t think that’s an option.”

“So?” asked Kajulan, shrugging. “What are they going to do? Shoot me?”

Tekole was so taken aback by the Kajulan’s reply that he didn’t even respond. Instead he looked off into the void, and nothing looked back.

“Hey,” said Kajulan, snapping her fingers in front of his face. “Come back to me.”

“Oh, sorry.” Tekole looked back at her. “You know, I’m kind of surprised you were up first.”

“Really?” asked Kajulan, tilting her head. “Why’s that?”

“I don’t know. I guess there’s just a type of person you associate with being a night owl.”

“Well, all owls are night owls,” replied Kajulan, missing the point entirely. “At least I think they are.”

“Sorry to interrupt this inanity!” came a voice from the balcony. “But the most important moment of your lives is about to begin!” The two looked up, and although they could not see who was speaking, it was clear that it was Jethin. He had a unique way of speaking, as if he was trying very hard to hide an accent. In retrospect, it was actually kind of surprising that he had been able to hear their conversation, as the two hadn’t been talking very loudly. He must have had very good hearing. Like an owl.

Jethin descended the stairwell and approached the table, slowly coming into view of the candlelight. He was dressed in fine robes, ornately decorated with a pattern of teal and red, but the hat he wore was simple, identical in shape and color to the one now worn by Tekole. Jethin was not alone, flanked on either side by a man and a woman. Both were dressed quite similarly to the other members of the gang, but they jingled as they walked, mail sleeves visible beneath their tunics, and there hats were made not of cloth but of metal. Each carried a long handled axe, and wore a curved sword sheathed at their side.

“So,” began Jethin, pointing his finger and quickly moving it back and forth between the two. “Who wants to go first?”

There was no response for a long while, until Tekole finally began to stand. Jethin ignored him, instead pointing towards Kajulan. “You first.” Kajulan looked over at Tekole in disbelief, but stood nonetheless and walked up to the tajkyn.

“Now kneel,” he said. “Head down.”

The look on Kajulan’s face was one of enraged unamusement, but she did as she was told. Jethin drew from his belt a long-bladed knife, and laid the flat end against her shoulder. “I Jethin,” he began. “Lord of his house and ranking member of the Tajlyndic nobility, hereby offer you the protection of myself and that of my realm.” He slid the blade over, pressing the dull edge against her neck. “In exchange I ask for your oath, to follow me as your liege, to respect your liege, and to obey your liege’s commands.”

“So long as they remain consistent with the histories of our people,” muttered the woman behind him.

“What was that?” asked Jethin.

“Nothing sir!” She lowered her head. “My lord.”

Jethin turned back towards Kajulan. “Well?” She remained silent, and Jethin turned the knife in his hand, resting the sharp edge ever so gently against her. “This is the part where you say “I swear the oath.””

Kajulan’s eyes looked up, although it wasn’t enough to see his face in her current position. Every fiber of her being wanted to remain silent, except for the one he currently had his knife against.

“I swear the oath.”

Jethin smiled and withdrew the knife, bending down to kiss her forehead. “Get up,” he said. Kajulan stood, and Jethin sent her back before motioning for Tekole to replace her. The two repeated the same ceremony, until Tekole was sent back as well.

“Welcome to the clan,” said Jethin, doing an impressively small bow as he spoke. “Now then, seeing that it is your first day being responsible adults instead of violent hooligans, you will be accompanying a more senior member of our order as he performs his duties.” He looked straight past the two. “Think you can handle that, Ladu?”

“Yes,” replied Ladu.

Kajulan jumped. “Holy crap!” she said. “How long have you and big guy been there?”

“The whole time. Could you really not see us?”

“No!? I mean, that’s not unreasonable. It’s dark!”

Jethin snapped his fingers, and the room’s more substantial lighting was lit. He ran a hand across the large candle, extinguishing it.

“Oh yes,” he said, continuing as if not a word had been spoken since his last sentence. “Here, I noticed you forgot yours.” He removed his hat and dropped in on Kajulan’s head, the neatly combed nature of his own hair clearly exposing this as a prerehearsed act. “Got to cover that mop of yours somehow.”