Cry of the Swan
There was a song sung by children in the
Seelie Realms about the great fallen knights who have died defending their King. It
was not a morbid song, though it deals with a matter most grave, and it tells of the Knight who is most dear to the hearts
of all Fair children who would aspire to walk beside their King in a place of glory.
The Child Knight, who fought under the White Banner of the Swan, was the ideal that faerie mothers have instilled in
their faerie sons and daughters, and how pure is the virtue of the young, that they only see the valour and forget the death!
Knights of the King (traditional)
…White of the feather
White of the snow
Where did the Child Knight go?
Over the mountains and
Over the streams?
Over the sunlight
And into my dreams?
The glory and valour
A swan on the wing
Oh give me the honor
To fight for my King
White of the feather
White of the snow
Where did the Child Knight go?
When the Seelie King formed the Border
Knights, he chose the best of all his knights to represent him. He strove to
find the knights who most embodied the ideals that the Seelie stood for. Justice
was chosen to represent justice, Red Sword was chosen to represent honor, the Wolfhunter for perseverance, and the Finder
for loyalty. The Child Knight was selected to represent purity, of the mind,
body, and spirit. No one knows with any certainty that the Child Knight was female,
for few ever saw her face, but her small stature led many to believe it to be true.
As for whether or not she was really a child at all, none but the King could attest to that, for the King knows the
hearts of all his Border Knights. Still, where history fails us, mystery suffices…
and few doubted that the Child Knight was indeed a child.
The Child Knight was a tiny creature, who
dressed in the purest snow white. Her face was always covered by a white cowl,
and her tiny hands were hidden by slim white gloves. When she rode upon her slim,
pale charger, the banner that flew behind her was white, the outline of a swan feather emblazoned in silver upon it. Tiny silver bells hung on the bridle of her mount, but the movement of the steed did
not stir them. Only the fresh, cool wind could make the bells sing. She carried a finely made silver rapier at her side, and a pearl and ivory buckler strapped to her left
arm. When the Child Knight rode out each morning, she was truly a magnificent
sight to behold. She never spoke, but with her rode a sense of calm and dignity,
and a feeling that as she passed, all the dark and wicked deeds you had ever done were instantly forgiven and forgotten. She wore her innocence as openly as she wore her tabard.
The villains that would stand against the
Child Knight were few and far between, for her goodness was as a shield against the dark-hearted. The power of right was on her side in battle, and flowed through her in a brilliant light. Never had she met a foe she could not defeat. She triumphed
in battle, ever humble and loyal to her king, earning the admiration of adults and the hero-worship of children, who wanted
to grow up to fight beside their king “just like the Child Knight”! The
Child Knight was a living legend in her time, and the children believed that she would never be defeated. The banner of the Swan flew high in children’s playhouses and bedchambers.
Still, there is no tree so mighty that
it cannot be felled by a whim of fortune, nor does it take the bravest of villains to conquer a hero. Such was the fate of the Child Knight, who lost her life, not to treachery, but to simple bad luck.
The Child Knight rode her prancing steed
bravely through the borderlands, turning back interlopers and slaying the occasional ruffian accosting innocent travelers.
As fortune would have it, she came upon a small band of Queen’s soldiers,
camped below a low rise, the smoke from their camp fires rising up into the twilight.
Quietly, the Child Knight slipped up to the top of the rise, laying low so that she could hear the conversation. She easily deduced that they were a scouting party, and that a larger band of soldiers
were just beyond the border, preparing to pass through a narrow straight of the Twilight Realms, and invade the lands of the
King! Creeping back down the hill, the Child Knight mounted her horse and rode
like a spring wind to the palace of the King to warn him.
The King put the Child Knight in charge
of leading the force, but he himself would ride out to see this battle, something he had not done in many a year. If the Child Knight felt pride, she did not show it, for she ever and only showed stillness and composure. The time for the meeting was set, when the two armies would clash, and the Child Knight’s
banner flew above the Seelie armies when clash they did.
Steel met steel, and magics white and black
flashed about, but in the end, the Twilight Realms had taken their toll on the Unseelie, and the Seelie drove them back. The Seelie returned in victory, but as they did, a single archer tripped upon a stone,
loosing a solitary arrow into the air. The knights of the King all watched it
fly up, up, into the clear sky of the morning, but when it fell, only one was swift enough to throw themselves in the way
of it, before it struck the King.
The Child Knight saw the lone arrow falling
from the sky, and leapt, silently, from her horse, knocking the King from his saddle, and catching the arrow through her heart. A rose of red blossomed on the white tabard of the Child Knight, who sank to the ground. The other knights milled about in a panic, but the King picked her up like a child,
and rode back to the palace, cradling the dying woman in his arms. Her white
charger followed behind them, nimbly dancing through over the hills.
She was laid out on a linen bed, and even
in her pain would not allow the King’s healers to remove so much as her hood.
When the healers protested, the King stopped them with a word. In death,
she was entitled to her dignity and to her secret. When at last her spirit departed,
her eyes, the only unshrouded part of her, met with the King’s and seemed to smile.
The King always showed sorrow when he lost a brave knight, but at the death of the Child Knight, it is said that he
wept such tears that the land began to weep with him, and ra river sprang up beside the palace where one had never been before,
briny to the taste and sprinkled all through with pearls and diamonds.
Her body was placed in a coffin of glass,
then the coffin placed in a chariot of gold, which was drawn throughout the kingdom by the Child Knight’s loyal steed. An army of children ran before it, sprinkling white rose petals in its path, and followed
behind it, crying in the streets. Such a funeral was never seen in the Seelie
Kingdoms, before or since, for that day died a knight with the truest heart, the Border Knight with the purest spirit.
And yet it is said, many, many years
hence, when the King of Shadow, once the King of Light, was slain by his son, that a figure rode in the funeral procession,
dressed all in white. A tiny figure, mounted on a nimble white charger, bridle
hung all with silver bells, with a silver rapier and a buckler of pearl, and it is said that this knight, for certainly a
knight the figure must be, wept such tears over the King’s death, that in the mortal world it rained for a fortnight. Did some force summon the Child Knight from her grave, or was death simply no bar
to a heart so true, and a loyalty so great?