There was a creak to Victor’s left; he turned and saw the knight whose armour bore the ram emblem had raised its hand. Victor jumped up from his seat, but a wave of the lion knight’s hand told him everything was fine and he should remain seated. The ram knight was an intimidating figure, with two iron horns spiralling from its black helmet and a war hammer fit for Goliath leaning over its shoulder. Its pointed visor, painted with red, demonic eyes at the sides, looked at Victor, then turned to the Spectre on the throne. “I have a question to ask him,” said the ram knight, in a boyish voice.
The Spectre leaned forward and looked to Victor. “Is that all right?”
The ram knight and the lion knight looked at Victor; Victor looked back and forth between the hidden faces awaiting his reply. “Uh… Yeah sure, go ahead,” he said.
The ram knight stepped forward, swinging his colossal bludgeoning tool at his side. A young, eager voice called from behind Victor, “I have a question too.”
Victor turned around and saw the snake knight had emerged from between two pillars.
“Okay, come on,” said the Spectre.
All the other knights began raising their hands and stepping out from their positions. Victor turned and looked at the Spectre, who, with a wave of his black sleeve, invited the knights forward. “Yeah okay, come up the front, guys. We’ll get a circle going. Uh… Sir Darrel and Sir Bob—would you organise—ahem—organise the chairs?”
The ram knight slammed the handle of his war hammer into the floor. The hall thundered and trembled; Victor swore in surprise at the sound, while the quake almost shook him from his seat. A rumbling, grinding noise followed, and between Victor and the platform a dozen stone pillars rose from the floor—stools just like the one he was sitting on, only about twice the size—forming a circle before the throne. The knights each stood by their chosen seat, facing inward, except for the stallion knight, who disappeared behind a column toward the corner of the room, and then emerged a few moments later carrying a large wicker basket. The stallion knight went around the circle distributing square, coloured cushions from the basket. Each of the knights took a cushion, placed it on his chair and then sat down, laying his weapon on the floor beside him. As the stallion knight came to Victor, he lowered the basket toward him. “Would you like a pillow to sit on?” he asked, in a timid, innocent voice. “These chairs get very uncomfortable.”
“Thank you,” said Victor, taking a fat blue cushion with tassels at the corners.
With everyone in the circle seated (including the stallion knight, who returned the basket behind the pillar and then joined the others), there was a long, awkward quiet in the room: shuffling of armoured boots, scratching of arms, adjusting of helmets—but no one spoke. Finally, the Spectre of Puberty motioned to the ram knight. “Sir Bob, you said you had a question for Sir Victor.”
The ram knight shifted in his seat. “Oh, I don’t mind. Someone else can go first.”
The Spectre looked around the circle. “Would anyone else like to start us off?”
All visors looked down; there were a few nervous murmurs.
“How about you, Sir Ian?” said the Spectre, extending a sleeve toward the wolf knight.
The wolf knight shook his head and said in a soft voice, “Not me.”
Victor looked curiously about the circle. “Can I just ask,” he said, “is everyone here fourteen years old?”
“Oh, no,” answered the Spectre. “I’m the only one who’s fourteen—I’m the oldest. All the knights—ahem, excuse me—the knights are eleven or twelve.”
“I’m not,” said the wolf knight.
“Oh yes,” said the Spectre. “Except for Sir Ian. He’s ten.”
“But I’m turning eleven,” said the wolf knight.
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