I knelt before the throne with a thousand eyes heavy on my back. The point of a sword touched my shoulders once, twice, then I rose on shaking legs to meet the gaze of the king.
“As the lone Knight of the Flame, you have received this kingdom’s highest honor and also its most dreaded task. Your path leads down a perilous road to a destination from which none have returned. May you be victorious against the dread serpent. Your kingdom is depending on you. I am depending on you. Congratulations, and farewell.”
The king extended his bejeweled hand. I took it with as much strength as I dared given his advanced age, kissed the signet, and forced determination onto my face. Beneath the crown, the king’s expression was veiled, not with the formality of office but with odd tenderness. Pity, perhaps?
Before I could wonder further, he released my grip with pressing fingers. The tilt of his head warned me not to question the tiny parchment he’d left in my palm. Mind and heart racing, I tucked it into my gauntlet as I retreated from the hall.
It wasn’t until evening, loosening my armor beside the campfire after a hard day’s ride, that I remembered the note. It fluttered from my glove, tossed by the wind almost into the flames. I snatched it back, myself burning with curiosity.
I read it once, twice, then sank on shaking legs to weep.
You have permission to fail.
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