Paranymph

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paranymph
  1. a groomsman or a bridesmaid.
  2.  a friend who accompanied the bridegroom when he went to bring home the bride. b. the bridesmaid who escorted the bride to the bridegroom.

The forest was uncharacteristically calm as the light jumped through the tree branches. The only sound was of nature and horses chewing fruit that had been pulled from a brown leather satchel. They seemed bewildered by today’s leisurely pace instead of the ferocity of battle for which they were bred.

Two men sat atop their steeds, staring off in different directions as they listened to the wind whistle through the trees.

“Peace,” King Lucius said with relish. “May it always be so.”

“At least in our lifetime,” Callis said.

“No–beyond our lifetime to our children and grandchildren.” The King often pronounced his hopes as if he could bring them to pass, simply by speaking them aloud.

Callis was unsure of children or grandchildren, but he knew the importance of peace.

To anyone in the forest, he probably looked like one of King Lucius’ royal guards, staying as close by the King’s side as a paranymph. But Callis was more. He had pledged his life to the King decades ago when they were young and foolish–when their swords were made of wood and their foes were still imaginary–but he had meant every word.

Now their bodies were stronger and more scarred, their friendship deeper, their enemies far too real.

It was their shared vision for peace and freedom that kept them fighting, even in what seemed the most impossible situations. The losses had been great, but the victories had been greater as the borders of the kingdom expanded to take on new territories and increase peace.

King Lucius’ father, King Bernard II, had reigned for fifty years. His success had been unparalleled, until Lucius took the throne. There were doubters and detractors who cast shadows on Lucius’ abilities, spreading rumors and maligning his reputation to his most loyal officials. Callis had offered to remove their voices from court, but King Lucius had adamantly opposed this method.

“I am not threatened by their doubts, Callis,” he had said. “Their concerns are for the success of the Kingdom and they do not yet see that I am what they need.”

How the King was able to keep a level head as his father lay dying, Callis wasn’t sure, but he admired the quiet strength that kept the king from foolish decisions.

It had only been five years since Lucius had assumed the throne, but the awe of the most recent conquests spread, causing many nearby kingdoms to surrender without resistance. Those moments were preferable and enjoyable, but rare.

The slight cracking of twigs caught the ears of both men. Callis instinctively unsheathed his sword, poised to fight.

King Lucius held up his hand, signaling Callis to wait. He had sensed a slight shift in the wind moments before any sound confirmed what he knew to be true. He had known they were not alone, but neither were they being threatened.

“Come out,” King Lucius bellowed. “Show yourself.”

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