This story contains spoilers from the books Betrayal At Falador and Return to Canifis
Make sure you read the prologue: The Last Night - Prologue.
Our grandfather, Hadwin Strongwell, was born in Rimmington but he grew up in the great city of Falador, the capital of the kingdom of Asgarnia and the home of the White Knights. His parents were not very rich, but known to be good, honest people among the villagers.
When Hadwin was barely five, a famous White Knight of Falador, Sir Theodore Kassel, came to the tiny village to see how it was faring. Hadwin had heard many stories about him and his adventures. He was the pride of Rimmington, and a visit from him was a most joyous event. The normally sleepy little village was suddenly alive with people running out to greet the knight. Hadwin had clung shyly to his father as Sir Theodore spoke with the family privately later that night…
“We received your request to move into the city, and have been able to find proper housing for you and your family. This, of course, is in thanks for your brave service many years ago, Simon.”
“Thank you, Sir Theodore. It’s a shame I could not continue my training after that terrible night.”
“It’s regretful. You were so close to becoming a squire too... but I am glad to see that you and your family are doing well.”
“Aye. Thank Saradomin this useless arm didn’t stop me from learning to farm.” Simon raised his right arm slightly. Hadwin looked and saw the familiar long, deep scar running along the inside of his father’s elbow before twisting savagely down along his lower arm to his wrist.
Theodore couldn’t help but shiver in memory. Simon was just a young peon of about thirteen years of age during the invasion of Falador by Sulla and the Kinshra. He had taken up arms to help in the city’s defense, and had managed to fend off a good number of Sulla’s men despite his limited training. Many hours later, Theodore saw him being carried away to the infirmary screaming in pain as he clutched at his torn and bloodied sword arm. The pained look in Simon’s eyes when he personally told him that he could no longer become a Knight of Falador still haunted Theodore when he thought of it.
Theodore shook his head, as though to shake the memory out. “Your produce is known to be some of the best Asgarnia has ever tasted.”
“Ah, that’d be Laura’s doing. She’s given a lot of work caring for the crops.”
“I hear you do quite a bit of the work yourself, Simon. What’s this I hear about using scientific research to produce better crops?”
“Your old friend, Ebenezer, put me up to it. You remember that drought we had a few years ago? Well, a few of the plants survived, and Ebenezer had the idea of planting the seeds of those and maybe those would survive later droughts. It worked, and I decided to use the same idea with taste and size.”
Laura, Simon’s wife and Hadwin’s mother, smiled softly at the two men as she set down a tea tray. “I believe you two have quite a bit to catch up on. Come now, Hadwin, it’s time you went to bed.”
“Aww, but Mum!” Amid Simon’s protests as he was carried off to bed, Theodore chuckled.
“Did you ever think about having a family before everything happened?”
“Nay, Sir Theodore. I was prepared to swear my life to Saradomin.”
“And then the invasion happened.”
“And then the invasion,” Simon agreed. “Still, it is good that I am still able to serve the kingdom.”
“I only wish I could’ve saved you from such a terrible wound.” Theodore shifted in his chair slightly as he took a sip of tea. “Out of curiosity, why do you wish to move back to Falador?”
“As painful as the memories are, I want what’s best for my lad. Perhaps he can lead the life I always wanted.”
Theodore frowned slightly. “Is this something he may want to do though?”
“Saradomin willing. He loves hearing tales of you and your companions.”
“But stories are not the same as real life experiences, Simon. You know that very well yourself.” Theodore thought for a moment. “He still has two more years before we can take him in… If you’re serious about this, Simon, please speak with your son and prepare him of the upcoming challenges. I do not wish to have anyone in our Order that is unwilling to face the great task ahead.” Theodore stood, stretching a bit. “I best head back to the tavern for the night.”
“It is good seeing you again, Sir Theodore. May Saradomin always watch over you.”
“And may he watch over you and your family as well, Simon. We’ll discuss more of young Hadwin’s future when you’ve settled in Falador. Good night.”
Hadwin watched the great White Knight leave from between the stair banister posts. He couldn’t believe his ears. His father was a White Knight! Nay, he was a peon of the White Knights, but still! And now he wanted him to train to become a knight as well! Hadwin couldn’t help but grin in excitement, then cried out in surprise when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Simon turned to look towards the stairs while Laura tugged Hadwin up to his feet.
“Hadwin, didn’t I tell you it was time for bed?”
“Mum! How come Father never told me he was a White Knight?”
“Because I wasn’t one,” Simon answered as he came up the stairs, ruffling his son’s hair as Laura guided them back to Hadwin’s bedroom.
“But you were training to be one right? And I’ll get to be one too just like you!” Hadwin said excitedly.
“No, Hadwin. You won’t be like me. You’ll be better, and you’ll become a full knight, Saradomin willing.”
“And I’ll get to have adventures like Sir Theodore!”
Simon smiled sadly as he tucked his son into bed. “Perhaps. Sweet dreams, Hadwin.”
“Good night, Father, Mother.”
Simon sighed as he shut the door to Hadwin’s room and followed Laura back to theirs. “Am I hoping for too much for our only son, Laura? The boy will never have a hearth and home, just the honorable life of serving Saradomin.”
“The decision is ultimately his, Simon. Saradomin will guide him to greatness.” Laura settled underneath the covers of the bed. Simon followed suit and sighed as he rested his head on the pillows.
“You’re right… We must have faith. Good night, Laura.”
“Good night, Simon.”
Smoke. There was only smoke. Why was there so much smoke?
Heat. Intense heat, even. Then she understood. Fire!
The girl cried out for her parents, only to cough as the smoke rushed into her lungs. What was going on? She rolled out of her sleeping bag and felt her way around the large tent, doing her best to move towards the brightest spot that she could see. She stumbled out of the tent, crying out again at the sight before her.
Between the numerous tents of the Kinshra encampment, she saw flashes of white armor against black. The men were calling out to the women to flee from the camp, to take the children away. Where were her parents? Heavy footsteps suddenly sounded to her left. She screamed when she saw the looming figure of a White Knight coming for her. Her scream cut short when a rush of wind went past her, sending the White Knight to the ground. She turned around and found her mother, standing fully dressed in her dark mage robes. Her hand was already glowing with another spell.
“Run, daughter! Follow the others!”
The girl held back the urge to cry as she ran away from what was now a battlefield towards the group of women and children that she saw hurrying down the hill. As she got closer, she stopped short. There were White Knights surrounding them, ordering them towards some caravans not far away. She couldn’t go that way.
The mage gasped when she saw her daughter running back to her. She knew then something was terribly wrong. She threw another air surge spell against a trio of knights coming towards her, then ran to her daughter, gathering her into her arms.
“They captured them, Mother! There’s nowhere to go to!”
The mage nodded grimly as she surveyed the battle. “The White Knights have always been our enemies, but never did I imagine they’d be so low to attack a camp filled with women and children!”
“Mother! Look out!”
The mage ducked as an arrow whizzed dangerously close to their heads. She scrambled back to her feet and began to run again towards the edge of the camp. Several large chests, emptied of their contents, stood there after their latest pillage. The mage quickly opened one of them and placed the girl inside.
“Stay here and don’t make a sound! I’ll come get you when it’s safe!”
“But what about you and father?”
“I’ll find him! Now stay hidden!”
The girl peered out nervously from the chest as her mother ran back to join the fray. After several tense moments, she could see her holding the hand of a wounded Black Knight, guiding him away from immediate danger. Just as she thought they were coming to get her, a group of White Knights came upon them, tearing them apart. She could hear her parents scream in rage, and her eyes widened with fear as she saw her mother being dragged towards the caravans. Another group of knights tore off her father’s helmet, then threw him to the ground, swords raised. Just as the swords came down, just as her jaw dropped open to scream, so did the lid of the chest, shutting her in its darkness.