Minuet fought back the urge to take Herio into her arms and beg him to change his mind. "You, my valiant guardian, are to come back to me unharmed," she said fiercely.
"I will, my Queen," said Herio solemnly as he bowed low.
When he stood, Minuet embraced him and kissed him on both cheeks. "You are a right brave young man, but you sally forth on a knight's errand," she said. "Therefore, you must bear with you a knight's title. Kneel before me, Herio."
Astonishment flickered in his eyes as he knelt at once.
Minuet drew Hebraun's sword, raised it before her and kissed the blade. She smiled, eyes brimming with tears as she placed the blade on first one, then the other of his shoulders. "Ymladd yn erbyn drwg...Ymladd dros Niarg...Ymladd dros rhinwedd, marchog," she proclaimed. "Thou a royal knight of Niarg ybeoth. Ryst up, Sir Herio."
Herio stood at once. "You have honored me beyond my wildest dreams," he said, looking at her in wonder. "I will not disappoint you."
"I know," she said as she took Razzmorten's arm. "Now Father, please change Hubba Hubba so that these two brave souls may be on their way."
"Are you ready, Hubba Hubba?" he said.
"You got it, Wiz," said the satin crow looking up from amidst the scrambling brood and Pebbles. Suddenly all eyes went wide as Hubba Hubba ran his ebony beak down some flight feathers and gave himself a thorough shake. "Thanks, Wiz. Ready Sir Herio?"
"Not without us!" squeaked Chirp, winging into the room with Tweet and Squeak in a flurry of wings.
"At least for as far as we can make it by this evening," tweeted Squeak.
"Why that makes my morning!" cawed Hubba Hubba with a shake of his black ruff. "Let's go, shall we boys?"
"Just a moment before you leave," said Razzmorten. "Herio, Hubba Hubba, Chirp, Tweet and Squeak, this is a little something to bear in mind for the sake of everyone while you're off on this mission: no matter what happens, no matter how tempting, never ever peer into a skinweler."
Ch. 9, The Burgeoning
Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps