Chapter 9

“Have you ever had to deal with any powerful mages?” Zap asked, walking at an easy pace next to Sir Drake Kunimitsu, who was back in his professional combat suit.

“A few, yes,” Sir Drake replied, leaning against his cart as he pushed it down the aisle. “Knights aren’t generally the best tactical choice against a good mage, though. Few of us have much magical defense at our disposal, and a powerful mage will wipe out a squad of troops quite easily.”

“What will a corporation usually do?”

“If we’re talking about war, most companies keep a few combat mages on hand for situations like that. The action’s usually split. The mages keep each other busy while the knights and their squads handle ground conflict.”

“Huh,” Zap replied.

“But there are always exceptions,” Sir Drake said. “Extreme situations can occur, and a knight must always be ready to defend his company and property no matter who attacks. I have killed more than one magic-user who deigned to attack me and mine.”

“Well, what do you do?”

Drake rested his hand on his sword, touching it like a lover. “The Cavalier Artisans Collective crafts their blades to be perfectly balanced, both in weight and function. A knight’s sword can be enchanted for unusual situations, through the pommel,” he tapped the pommel of the sword, “such that the enchantment extends through the blade. The blade itself, however, is specially treated in its design to deflect spell energies. A sufficiently skilled knight can literally parry spells.”

Zap’s eyes widened. “Wow.”

“Miss Steve!” Sir Drake said as the two walked down the aisle.

Steve stood at the end of the aisle, a tabletshell cradled in her arms. She looked up from her work and smiled at Zap and the CK. Drake continued. “Zap has just told me of your promotion. Wholly deserved, I say, and well-received. It is encouraging to see a strong young person like yourself duly rewarded.”

“Thanks, Sir Kunimitsu,” Steve said, bowing.

Sir Drake’s expression grew a bit more serious. “I also hear that you have been pressured into a lunch date with Sir Lewis Birchmore.”

Steve’s jaw clenched. “Tomorrow,” she said in a clipped tone.

“Surely it is not your company that is advising this,” Sir Drake said, his tone low and dangerous.

“No,” Steve said. “He’s been legally banned from the store, actually. I just … don’t want to make an enemy of a knight. It’s not a good idea.”

“You’re sure? If you wished to challenge him, I would champion you,” Sir Drake said confidently.

“It’s fine,” Steve said, letting out a resigned sigh and tucking the tabletshell against her side. “You know? We’ll go on a date, he’ll hit on me, I’ll be charmless, I’ll let him know that things aren’t going to work out. Not like anybody’d want to go on a second date with me.”

Sir Drake and Zap stared at Steve. A moment of silence passed by.

“Are you serious?” Sir Drake asked, wide-eyed.

“I have never been on a second date, Sir Kunimitsu,” Steve said, an edge creeping into her voice. “I craft weapons of death for a living and enjoy it. That’s not very fetching in a girl. I’ve gotta go.”

She hurried away, leaving her coworker and the knight standing alone in the aisle.

“Does she … do this often?” Sir Kunimitsu asked.

“Just often enough to confuse the hell out of me,” Zap replied sadly.