The Beowolf roared in rage before it was abruptly cut off as a greatsword slammed into its head. Its bone-like mask shattering as the edge bit deep into its skull.
The creature slumped to the ground, dead, pulling his weapon out the warrior watched as a black miasma leaked out of the crevice in the creature's head.
Looking around he could see several dozen bodies of other fallen Grimm scattered around in the area, the collective dark mist leaking from their corpses polluting the air. Though with their deaths came a heartbreaking reality, at least few hundred or so soldiers lay dead or wounded from the fighting.
The soft moans and cries of those that linger at Death's gate served nothing but a reminder of what was happening throughout the lands.
The Creatures of Grimm, no one knew where they had come from but they had always existed. Speculation was rampant about their origins; some calling them twisted forms of animals possessed by spirits. While others say they were the spirits of tortured animals themselves.
He didn't know and he didn't care. They were on the move and their target seemed to be them, people or Humanity, who now struggle to fend them off despite finally banding together.
During the multiple campaigns they've been a part of both defeats and pyrrhic victories that were dotted across the land. Towns and cities that stood for years were now nothing but ruins, the old world was burning.
The armies of Humanity have suffered more than one defeat that left a lasting mark on their ability to fight. Earlier that month he had led his forces east to help a city that was under siege by the Grimm. When they had arrived, two of the three city walls had been breached and fighting was fierce in the second layer.
For the next three days the two forces crushed the sieging Grimm in brutal close quarter combat. On the fourth day, the Grimm finally broke off fleeing into the nearby forests. The city however was in ruins with thousands dead and many more wounded they had no way to defend themselves.
The City Champion, who had taken command when the Lord of the city died in combat made the choice to abandon it.
However the Champion did hold a quick feast to thank them for coming to their aid, especially when they could have simply left them to die instead of risking their own lives. He could still remember seeing the prowess of the red hair Champion fighting even now.
The warrior looked to the south where a hill separated him from the others. As he approached the top of the hill the shattered body of a Nevermore fell behind him. The ruined creature struck head first into the ground only doing more damaged to the bone mask.
However it was the multiple bolts that stuck out of it that told him how the creature was killed. From where the bolts had imbedded in the creature, a dark misty miasma leaked out of the wounds only to pool at the ground and slowly disappear in the wind.
Looking up at the sky he could see it was about midday, the sun shone brightly on them. Shaking his head, he reached the top of the hill he could see the full extent of the battle being waged in the grasslands.
Ahead of him he could see a ten thousand strong shield wall four ranks deep facing down a horde of Beowolves and Ursai numbering in the thousands at least.
Though there was a good three hundred feet between the two forces, however in between them the effects of the first wave could be seen. Hundreds of soldiers lay dead or dying with no one able to help them for breaking rank would only help the Grimm zero in on a weakness of their line.
The soldiers in the front instead braced with their scutums and their spears pointing straight out. The soldiers in the second rank had their spears pointed up and over the shoulders of their comrades with shields raised above their heads. The third and fourth ranks had their scutums over their heads with spears pointing up.
The average soldier was armed with a scutum or a shield, along with a short spear, and an arming sword. In terms of protection they wore metal Galea helms, breastplates, and greaves. Underneath they wore simple leather boots and layered cotton clothes.
Despite this the soldiers stood resolute as they faced their foes despite the wails and calls of their kinsmen filling their ears. He couldn't help but feel sorry for them though, as it was tough even on him as well to hear the cries of pain of his people and to not be able to help them.
Thirty feet back from the main line were four groups of four hundred men armed with longbows. Each group was positioned on the far right and the left with two behind the center of the lines.
The archers drew back their bows and let loose a volley. He watched as hundreds of arrows soared to the sky, following their trajectory he could see them landing amongst the mass of Grimm.
There were a number of arrows that missed their marks. However the ones that did hit only did serious damage to ones that got hit by multiple arrows; other Grimm simply ignored the odd arrow or two sticking out from their bodies.
Looking behind him he could see more soldiers moving to them either to bolster the center or cover their flanks. There had been more than one occasion of the quicker and more nimble Grimm swinging to the far sides in order to strike from behind.
"My Lord!" A voice called out and he turned to his right to see two people making their way up the hill.
The first was a short middle age woman who wore a simple breast plate with a gambeson underneath it, along with leather braces and metal greaves over shin high leather boots. At her waist was a simple arming sword and in her hand was the dark wood of her longbow.
Her brown hair was tied in a tight bun behind her head and she had a stern look on her face that gave no room for idle talk. Though he suspected that might have to do with the fact that he founded her grieving over the bodies of her two of her three children.
The third had been the youngest girl that had hidden in a barrel during the attack. She had been sent to live with her aunt until the threat of the Grimm was dealt with.
In contrast her companion was nearly six and a half feet tall and built like an ox. He also wore plate armor that covered his body from the neck down. He didn't like wearing helmets, not because he thought they were ineffective or anything but mainly because he had a hard time seeing with only one eye.
Though he was still a fine warrior, strapped to his arm was a scutum that bore the claw marks of his experience against the foe. At his waist was a flanged mace, he couldn't help but also noticed the fresh blood stains on his gauntlets.
"Ah Vernius, Maud how was your trip today?" He asked cheerfully, Vernius laughed.
"Aye it went well my Lord, some mud from the rains but nothing to worry about." Maud on the other hand didn't crack a smile.
"Sire I think we have more pressing matters at hand." Vernius sighed.
"Maud one of these days you'll have to lighten up a bit." Vernius as Maud shot him a withering glare.
"I'll only lighten up once we've put the last of these hellish creatures into the ground."
"Well that may be a little hard to do since they disappear, which is bothersome since it makes collecting trophies hard as well." Maud looked as if she was going to put her sword into his chest so the warrior stepped in.
"That's enough, Maud is right we should focus on this fight. Vernius take your soldiers and cover the flanks, I see more Beowolves in the distance trying to skirt the main group. Set fire to the long grass and trees, that should hinder their movement. Maud I want your lieutenants to split up so they can reinforce Vernius along with reinforcing the center cluster. I have command of Aulus's section and already committed them along with my own sections, with Quintus and his men in reserve along with Vargus and his men." Both nodded their expressions stern.
"Have you received any word from Aléxandros and his force?" Vernius asked he shook his head.
"The last thing I've heard was they're holding up in Alekos past the Northern Mountains, they're going to try to get free after the failure of the Northern Kingdoms in their campaign to expand south." Maud shook her head at hearing this.
"What a waste, he took more than half the army to support those people despite them staying out of half our battles in that region." The Warrior gave her a hard looked that immediately caused her to drop her eyes.
"They are still people Maud; to abandon them to the Foe would do nothing for us then shorten the list of people that fight against them." Maud scoffed but a horn blew in the distance and he turned to face the battlefield. He could see how agitated they were but the Grimm hadn't moved yet, he could see the smaller ones looking ready to leap towards their forwards lines.
"See to your soldiers, they will make their move soon now." Both of them nodded and left him standing on the hilltop.
As if on cue there was a bellow in the distance, on the far side of the field the trees seemed to shudder. He gripped the hilt of his greatsword as the trees came apart. Out from them charged three Goliaths, they made a beeline for the center of his forces.
The Grimm parted as the giants came stomping through them. There was yelling from nearby and he looked down the hill to see Maud lining up her archers for this new threat as well as directing the redeployment of their ballista's.
It was a new technology that had spread as quickly as feet could carry them to every possible army or group of people holding up. They fired five foot long tempered steel bolts that could penetrate almost a dozen plates of armor with ease.
Now Maud had several dozen of these ballistae were being set up to support the infantry. This would also be the first time they would be tested in a large scale battle as this.
"Sire!" A new voice called out and he turned to see several soldiers coming up the hill. Four of them were in rudimentary leather armor for quick movement with some protection. The other three wore full plate armor with Great Helms, at their waists were longswords; one of them also held onto a pole that flew their banner. On the opposite side of his waist was a brass horn used for signaling.
"Ah Roderick you're here, better be ready to move the battle is starting." He said addressing the lead individual, the man nodded and gestured for his comrades to stand at ease. They were his runners; it was the one of the ways for orders or requests to be received. However he had heard that some city-states in the west were using flags as a method of communicating during battle.
Ahead of him, ballista crews started yelling and he watched as two dozen bolts were fired towards the charging Goliaths. The archers let loose another volley as the Grimm surged forward; he gripped the handle of his weapon as he watched a handful of bolts missing completely.
However the rest struck their target, the lead Goliath roared in anger as several of bolts embedded in its torso. While another three struck its bone mask, two cracked off without leaving a scratch while the third struck its eye causing it to bellow in pain or rage he wasn't sure.
It didn't slow down however as more bolts were fired he watched as this time as they struck it again. It faltered slightly as bolts hit its front legs, the creature roared as it fell less than forty feet from the shield wall.
The momentum carried its body into the lines, crushing dozens of soldiers as they tried back away from it. Capitalizing on that the Grimm crawled over the fallen Goliath to get past the shield wall.
He watched as a few of the displaced soldiers were torn apart by the claws of Beowolves and Ursai. On either side of the Goliath the men still in the shield wall moved inward to counter this development. The archers behind that section immediately moving back another fifty feet before letting loose a volley of arrows at the Grimm.
A few dozen Grimm were killed by the raining arrows before they turned their attention to the shield wall. Ursai charged forward into the waiting spears but even as multiple steel heads hit them they broke apart the lines at their points of contact.
In several places the Ursai roared and swiped at the soldiers. As his soldiers tried to deal with the Ursai, the Beowolves made their move. Running into the fray they bit, clawed and rammed into the men. All along the lines the soldiers did their best to keep the Grimm away. Some were successful and others weren't as their portions of the line were shattered.
"Sire! Vernius reports contact with Beowolves and Boarbatusks." A man yelled as he came up the hill to him.
"Does he require assistance?" He snapped back the man shook his head vigorously.
"No sire but he says that he's already committing his reserves and will not be able to support the center." He swore under his breath before nodding.
"Alright tell him to keep sending regular reports; I don't want our flanks collapsing at this stage of the fight." The man nodded before running back down the hill. He turned to the others.
"Tell Quintus that he needs to commit his force now, I want the bulk of his infantry supporting the center to help plug these gaps in as soon as possible while sending a few sections to Vernius so he can use them to bolster his sections where he needs them." Two of the men nodded before running down the hill as well. Looking back at the center he could see the shield wall was beginning to collapse even more as soldiers tried to pull back and reform.
"Someone find Vargus, tell him now's the time to push." The rest of the runners took off and he looked down at the battlefield. The last Goliath had been killed at this point as well but not before it shattered another portion of his lines on the far left.
Most of the fighting now was just chaotic mass of melee. Maud had her sections backing further up to try and rain arrows down at any cluster of Grimm they could find. Scanning the battlefield he could see more infantry coming to join the fray of the center.
Looking to his far right and left he could also see the Vernius's line was holding for the most part but fighting from the center was leaking over to his men. However with the arrival of Quintus's men the added bulk of manpower served to widen the gap simply by the press of numbers.
Though the numbers wouldn't be on their side forever in this case, the Grimm were slowly winning and because of that more Grimm were no doubt attracted to the area. If they couldn't put the Grimm into retreat soon they'll lose.
He looked behind him again and could see the last set of forces he had at his disposal. Two thousand men in black plate armor armed with poleaxes and longswords at their waists marched forward. At the lead he could see a taller man in white armor with a great helm holding a double-bitted axe.
Turning to the last three soldiers with him he nodded as he lifted the greatsword up. The man with the banner slammed the end into the dirt before taking off his helm, reaching down for the horn he lifted it up to his lips and gave a deep blow.
On cue Vargus and his men approaching the hill broke into a run, dividing up into four sections. Five hundred men went to either flank while the remainder went straight into the middle.
However he didn't see them charge as he had already charged down the hill, with the other two soldiers at his back running behind him as they drew their swords. As he ran by the Maud's troops they cheered at seeing him, the ones closest dropped their bows and drew their own blades as they joined him.
The first Grimm he saw was another Beowolf; the creature had its claws in a man's chest. It pried the dead man off its claws but it didn't get any farther as his greatsword separated its arm at the elbow. Following through with the strike he spun around bringing the blade down cutting deep through the shoulder into the torso.
However this wasn't just some one on one fight, in the corner of his eye he could see another Beowolf closing on him. Sliding the blade out he swung it horizontally taking the Beowolf in the head, the blade cleaved its bone mask and head in two.
Turning around he saw an Ursa Minor biting the head off a soldier, blood erupted from his shoulders dousing him and others in the warm liquid. Not wasting any time he leapt forward yelling as he brought the greatsword down in an overhead strike.
The Grimm brought its arm up in an attempt to halt the blade but it simply cut clean through the arm and embedded itself a foot into its shoulder. However a testament to the creature's desire to see him dead, it roared as it tried to overpower him and sink its teeth in him.
At that moment a spear landed into the side of its skull. The seven inch long tempered steel point broke off in its skull and it fell over dead. He turned to give a quick nod in thanks to the soldier but look over at him he saw that he was already dead.
A second Ursa Minor was ripping his body apart with its claws. A cold fury took over him as he pulled the great sword out of the dead Grimm. Roaring in anger that seemed to give pause to everyone and everything near him he charged the creature of Darkness.
Cleaving downwards the blade edge hit the back of the creature's neck and carried through like butter. As its head fell away he was already onto the next Grimm, ramming his blade into the Beowolf's back as two soldiers fended it off.
There was a roar behind him accompanied by the sound of metal being ripped and men screaming in pain. He turned around as a large Beowolf barreled into him; he fell onto the ground with the beast's snarling face less than a foot from him.
Releasing his grip on his sword, he balled his fist and struck the Grimm. Bones and teeth shattered as his gauntlet struck it. As it reeled from the blow he stood up with his greatsword in hand and drove the blade into its chest.
The Grimm snarled again in rage despite having a sword sticking out its back. He pulled the blade up ripping through its torso and out its shoulder. As the Grimm fell to the ground he leapt once more into the fray.
He pried the greatsword from the skull of the Ursa Major; around him groups of soldiers went about stabbing any Grimm that had yet to dissolve. Many more though were simply sorting the wounded from the dead which was a laborious task in finding those that still clung to life.
From those there were even fewer that would most likely survive to see the next day. The Grimm were merciless in their efforts to eliminate Humanity, there was never an attack that wasn't meant to be fatal.
"Sire." A voice called out to him and he turned to see Vargus with his helm in hand standing next to Maud. Both looked worn down and tired, blood stained both of their attires. Though the blood soaking that covered Maud blended in much more than Vargus in his white armor, which only served to reinforce the red stains more.
"Are you two alright?" They both nodded.
"We're fine, tired for sure but nothing we can't handle." Maud said as she looked towards the sky. Even Vargus looked a little uncomfortable but it was still easy for him to spot it. Though he found it vexing that they wouldn't speak up about whatever that troubled them. He turned away from them and continued to scour the land both for survivors or Grimm that were feigning death.
"Speak up; there are a number of things we need to deal with. I don't want us to be caught out in case another Grimm Horde finds us." Maud wrung her hands as she gulped before speaking.
"Sire, Vernius is dead." This brought him to a halt; he turned to the two warriors.
"How?" Vargus shook his head.
"It seems he got overwhelmed by a group of Beowolves, we found him under a pile of their decaying bodies." He nodded as he rubbed his chin with his free hand.
"So be it, arrange his body to be buried. We'll hold a quick service before we leave." Vargus bowed before leaving him and Maud alone. The woman looked to have aged another ten years as she wordlessly followed him.
"Sire, if you don't mind me asking but how can you keep going?" He looked towards her.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean we've lost so much already and Humanity isn't winning any decisive battles lately. I remember the battle in the red forest. We didn't win that battle, we only survived. Of the two hundred thousand soldiers that marched into the battle less than sixty thousand made it out alive and that was mostly us since you kept us back till half way through the fight." He chuckled softly.
"What's your point?" He could practically see Maud look of disbelief.
"Sire we're losing this war, in fact seeing who we stand amongst at this very moment. I dare not call it a war anymore but a fight for survival." He snorted.
"No need to be so melodramatic about this Maud. All wars are wars for survival but to address your point in why I can keep going it's because I know it's my purpose to do so." He turned to look at her.
"Did you know that when my mother found me as baby that I was in the middle of the forest on a stormy night?" She shook her head.
"It was a long time ago; she was a hunter and lived in the forest alone. One day she slips and loses conscious. Luckily for her no animal or Grimm would find her. It had gotten dark when she wakes up many hours later and starts to make her way through the forest at night. It was a difficult journey for the weather had taken a bad turn as well, with rain, lightning and wind. An hour into the trip she witnesses lightning striking rapidly over a hill. Curiosity over took her and she went to investigate. Coming over the hill she finds, well from what she says is a container that was too large and heavy for her to take with her. When she was about to abandon it, I started to cry out. It was at that moment that she decided to rescue me. Now mind you all this time wind and rain was blowing in her face at night. It would be a difficult journey even on her own despite her experience but she takes me nonetheless and by sheer force of willpower and skill she managed to get home safe with me in her arms. I used to ask her why she did that, and do you know what she told me?" Maud shook her head as he smiled remembering those nights.
"She told me that it was the right thing to do, that she could never leave a person behind especially a young innocent baby. She would tell me that she would do it again in a heartbeat and I grew up with her telling me about things like that. That I must do what I can to help others, especially those in need because if I don't help them who would help me when I need it? Looking at what's happening to us, I can say for certain that the teaching she gave me is just as important as it would be all those years ago." He looked towards the sky; it was starting to get dark. To get caught out at night after a battle would be a dangerous thing.
"Come on, let's return back to camp."
10 Minutes Later…
As he and Maud made it back to camp they went their separate ways, Maud needed to attend to her troops. So he was left alone to wonder the camp, many people called out praise to him or bowed in respect as he walked back. He would bow to them as well out of respect for trusting their lives with him.
Though he didn't show it but he always hated the praise, most of them looked at him as if he was some sort of hero. Which he didn't want to be one but it was barely better than being looked at as a god.
He always had thought he was big for his age when he was a young lad but his mother had simply told him that it was nothing to worry about. Now as he walks amongst his people he found that even the tallest amongst them that were seven feet tall didn't even reach his ribs.
Nor was there a person amongst them that was stronger, faster, or more skilled as a warrior as him despite spending years to get where they were. He a simple son of a hunter would beat them as if they were the recruits against a seasoned warrior and not the other way around.
He could still remember those early days of the Grimm threat as if it was yesterday. The days in which he realized that he wasn't normal.
In his first fight he had cut down a pack of Beowolves that had beset a small town in which he and his mother tended to trade with. When they saw the town being destroyed his mother had ran in to bring people to safety, while she did that he had picked up two woodcutting axes and attack the creatures.
It was a tough fight and he didn't really know what he was doing nor had he ever seen a Beowolf in person before. However he defeated them all and was able to save what remained of the town. Word spread fast and an army contingent found him in order to escort him to the capital Murias.
There he had met with the King Arcas, an old but well respected man. He was the last of his line since his wife and child died a long time ago. In his grief he had taken a vow never to take another woman so he was without an heir.
Upon their meeting however he had apparently seen something in him that struck a chord in the King's heart. So over the course of the next few months Arcas had him and his mother move into the Murias. There Arcas would teach him about ruling, swordplay, forging, diplomacy, warfare and a myriad of other topics.
One day however the old King fell sick and was unable to recover from it. On his deathbed he had numerous people come in and witness him as he kneeled at bed side of the King in order to be named as the heir to the throne.
It was an event that he looked at both with pride and fear. Arcas was an honorable Lord who had the respect of his people, yet here he was, a lowly nobody, who was taking the place of that beloved man.
Thankfully Arcas's advisors were good men as well and he was able to keep up in the beginning thanks to their help. Things changed when the Grimm gathered in what a few called the last war of man, everyone was at war and alliances were being made for the Kingdoms to help each other.
However as he upgraded the equipment of his army and bolstered their numbers with new recruits, the other Kingdoms suffered defeat after defeat. Hundreds of thousands died that first season with Kingdoms falling to ruin to never again be populated.
Once a year had gone by he finally decided to set out south to help the other Kingdoms. There he had set out with an army only numbering ten thousand men fighting men while he had a few thousand stay behind. It took a month till they reached the other Kingdoms, though many were much closer to city-states now since they've lost ground to the Grimm threat.
The first group of humans he saw had formed alliance between several small Kingdoms had already numbered nearly forty thousand strong that marched against an ever growing horde of Grimm that plagued their eastern borders.
However he didn't technically join them for they had formed a council of all the Kingdom lords to decide the Army's course of action. He didn't trust them to function properly as a divided leadership would only serve to cripple them.
So instead he stated that he would help them but not be a part of them. His choice led to a lot of outrage, not only from them but in his camp as well his Lieutenants also voiced opposition to it.
Some of them stated that Arcas would have put aside his pride to stand with others in this dark time, that his pride would get them killed. All he asked for in return of their accusations was to have a little trust in him. More than a few didn't look like they wanted to but did so nonetheless.
He knew they were good men just a little misguided in their notions about this new war they faced. So when the armies finally closed in on the Grimm Horde they all prepared for battle. He had the armorers in Murias make him simple plate armor and forge a sword that was twice the size of two greatswords for him to use for the first time since that fight in the village.
On the day of the battle he had his army stand off to the north of the field and watched as the two forces met. Or at least they would have if the ones in command of the army hadn't decided to try and break their forces off at the last second to try and encircle the Grimm with merely infantry.
With their flanks being over extended in an effort to encircle the Grimm they didn't take into account the Grimm's own ability to out maneuver their formations. They were still fighting as if they were against a human opponent.
The Grimm instead trapped the overextended sides and attacked the center with their larger beasts. A part of him wanted to just take his army and leave but he remembered what he mother had always taught him. So he attacked, he quickly broke his army in two and had them attack Grimm in the rear.
Though a number of them had sensed his approaching army and turned to face them, it was too late. The battle raged for the rest of the morning but they were able to decimate the Grimm Horde.
He could still remember the sight of blood that stained his armor and blade. The metallic scent of blood mixed with men soiling themselves clogged his nose but he survived and also won the battle with minimum casualties to his army.
Though the same couldn't be said to the other Kingdoms, they had lost more than half of their army and of the leaders that didn't die the rest had fled with the other nobility. So he had his army gather theirs and asked the men to pledge themselves to him, not a single person refused.
Word spread of his success and many mocked him saying that he only stole the glory of the other leaders. Though a few small Kingdoms and city-states hailed him a hero that they should all follow and many of those would do so till their last breath.
It was also at that time that he met Aléxandros; a storm emerged a few nights after the battle just like the one his mother told him about how she found him occurred. Something called out to him so he slipped out of his own camp to follow the sensation that pulled him.
In a small clearing it was there that he found Aléxandros. The warrior was fighting a trio of red skinned monsters with black blades that glowed in the night and onyx colored horns coming from their oddly shaped heads.
Immediately he came to his rescue, fighting the creatures that were as strong, fast and skilled as him. Though he was still able to best them and that's where he made his first true friend. It was a bit strange to explain that he found the man in the woods to his other commanders but they accepted him.
Though it might have to do with the fact that he was almost as large him in golden armor and carried a large sword such as his own.
So they set forth to return home. On the way he was greeted by a mass onset of people and soldiers that were coming from their abandoned their homes for his. The population of his Kingdom exploded that year to the point that it was almost too much for them to handle financial and agriculturally.
Not only that the growth of Faunus in the Kingdom grew as well. He never had a problem with the Faunus before but it seemed that there was a portion of his population that didn't like having them around. Fights and riots broke out forcing him to come down to talk with these people.
It was long and annoying as he tried to explain why they were just as welcomed as anyone else in his Kingdom. Most people accepted his argument, as they didn't truly hate them but simply didn't know them as well fellow people. For the most part they were as well known as the Grimm to them.
Word had always spread that the Faunus were animals in their own rights and should be treated as such. Other more extreme people viewed that they were just as bad as Grimm or the ones that brought them to end Mankind in the first place.
He crushed anyone that spoke like that and made a decree that all Faunus in his Kingdom were to be treated as rightful citizens. Anyone that would disobey this would thus forfeit their land and gold to those that they wronged or serve in the army till their crime was settled.
Thankfully everything seemed to settle down after that year but word came travelling towards him of the increase of Grimm activity. Almost every Kingdom out there was allying up to end this threat once and for all.
So for the next two years he readied his people once more for a long campaign, leaving a twenty thousand strong force to defend the Kingdom while the bulk of the army went to war. He left with an army fifty thousand strong and they joined the largest Military campaign the world had known at that point.
The combine strength of all the Kingdoms was too large to count. Some estimating that it was hundreds of thousands strong while even few saying that it was over a million strong. Even he was awed by the number of soldiers he had saw when he joined the "Grand Campaign" as many called it and they set forth.
In the end though they lost, oh how badly they had been beaten. During the seven year campaign, they gave chase and were chased by the Grimm all over the lands. The final battle that saw the Grand Army shattered was at a forest of red trees.
Out of all the participants of the Grand Campaign, his people weren't as badly as affected as others. Many armies were poorly equipped though and had even worse training.
With so many dead it meant a lot of the minor Kingdoms and city-states would be next to defenseless since they had the most to lose. Then add on with the fact that word would no doubt spread about what happened it would throw those places into chaos.
They would either to be torn apart by the advancing Grimm or rebellious Lords who wished to take power.
During their initial return journey they had seen a number of villages, towns and cities turned into mass graves that no one would ever come to visit again. He wouldn't even allow scouts to be sent in as a manner of respect to the fallen, while some grumbled at the lost opportunities for looting most welcomed the chance to have a semblance of peace with death.
However he knew that he couldn't stand back as people suffered so he had changed course with his army to help those that they could but even his soldiers who were utterly loyal were getting tired of fighting without reprieve. On top of that it seemed like every other week they would get word of another defeat that led to the rout of an army or destruction of a city.
As he finally reached his tent, he opened the flap and walked in. In the center was a table strewn with maps and letters by various Lords pleading for help. He had stopped reading those a long time ago.
He couldn't answer every one of them and to pick would only send a message that he was picking and choosing who he felt he must help.
Turning to the corner of the room was another table that was placed with a bowl of water and some food on it. He stripped off his armor along with his shirt that covered his torso and arms. Reaching into the bowl he splashed himself with lukewarm water, he noticed that the water falling back into the bowl was turning it red.
He looked away and picked up a porcelain jug of ale and drained it quickly. A slight warm sensation passed down his throat but it did nothing else for him.
Turning to the other side of the tent he sat down on his cot. He couldn't really sleep though; lately he has been plagued by dreams in his sleep. Dreams of him in that some weird container with others nearby, though what always stood out to him was the person standing in the room.
He was indescribable, that was the best way to put it. There was an aura that just felt so familiar and warm but at the same time different. As if he was someone that he should know but couldn't remember.
Closing his eyes and listening to the sounds of life outside his tent he picked up a very depressing noise, the noise of the dying. With so many wound the sound of their moans filled the air around the camp that he had to set double the amount of guards in case the Grimm were attracted.
Though a part of him was grateful in knowing that by morning many of those voices would be silenced. Their wounds were too extensive for his apothecaries to deal with in their current state of supplies.
"My Lord?" He opened his eyes to see a lanky dark hair girl no older than fourteen peaking in; she was holding another jug of what he assumed was ale.
"What is it Laelia?" He asked letting out a sigh, the young girl stepped into the tent and held up the jug.
"I was just coming to see if you would require another drink, I thought after a battle like today you'd want to celebrate." He looked at her puzzled.
"Celebrate?" She nodded and smiled brightly. Internally he recoiled to see the admiration in her eyes, the folly of youth he supposed.
"Laelia what makes you think that I would want to celebrate?" She looked puzzled at the question before a smile took over her face.
"Because you won, you beat back the Grimm today my Lord." He shook his head.
"Aye we did but at what cost, little one?" She looked puzzled at why he asked that and he could see the flash of recognition in her eyes. She wasn't a dumb girl, he knew that but her opinion of him seemed to cloud her judgment of situations now and again.
"There were a lot of people killed and wounded." He nodded.
"Now I will take that jug but I won't be drinking out of it for celebratory reasons." She shook her head.
"May I speak freely my Lord?" He nodded.
"You always have my permission to speak what's on your mind Laelia, it's one of the reason that I like having you around." He could practically see the red overtaking her cheeks and chuckled.
"Well my Lord I think you shouldn't think of this battle as a bad thing. If it wasn't for your leadership we'd be dead a long time ago. So keep doing what you're doing!" She squeaked before handing him the jug and scampering out of the tent.
The addition of women into the army was something that was met with more than a few reserved feelings about it.
Some believed that it wasn't right for women being in a place that was once meant for men. Others expressed concerns about how things were going bad and if women started to be lost in the fighting the chances to continue Humanity would die with them.
He didn't care though, when he took personal command of the army and marched towards the first large scale battle he wanted as many people as possible at his disposal. Sure he had yet to put together an all women fighting unit there were more than a few exceptional women that were fighting already.
There was Maud who was given command of the archers and support sections of the army. Valentina was the second in command to Vargus's dismounted men-at-arms sections. In fact the Captain of his guard was a tough as nails paranoid woman named Titiana.
He looked down at his hands which still had traces of blood; with battles like today it was necessary to have those sorts of numbers.
The army at the start of the battle had been a little more than more than fifteen thousand strong. From what his lieutenants and their sub-commanders had told him earlier they had lost nearly three thousand soldiers along with another fourteen hundred wounded.
Of those there were less than three hundred that would probably live to see another day even less would be able to return to active duty.
Had Aléxandros, who also happened to be his second in command, been present the army would have number over forty thousand. Sadly he had sent him in response to the North Kingdoms in their campaigning to retake the Northern Forests from the Grimm.
Thus Aléxandros had taken a significant portion of the army while he led the rest home. It had been decided that he would return to the Fortress City of Murias in the Northwest. From there he planned on holding a Council meeting amongst all of his Lords, Lieutenants, and their sub-commanders to decide the faith of the Kingdom.
One Month Later…
He stood on the balcony of the highest tower of Murias; the sky was grey with light snowfall starting to coat the land white. Below him he could see both of the castle's walls being manned properly with crews standing nearby the new installation of the ballistae weapons.
Past them he could see the ever growing city that expanded from the defensive walls of the castle. If they decide against his proposal today he probably would have to start funding a new wall project to protect his people.
"My Lord." A voice spoke up from behind him and he turned to face Laelia who stood in a simple blue tunic with a brown belt around her waist.
"Are they here Laelia?" She nodded.
"Lord Caius just arrived an hour ago and is already at the Great Hall." He nodded.
"Thank you Laelia, if you don't mind can you head down to the kitchens and make sure there is food this time. I don't want another ale incident." Laelia giggled at the memory of the night that the head chef Bale had forgotten to make the food ahead of time so he ended up serving a dozen barrels of ale. It was enough of a nightmare for him to try dealing with noblemen and dogmatic soldiers but it was even worse when they were drunk.
He followed Laelia as they left the room, she turned left and he went right walking towards the Great Hall. The interior of the castle was barely big enough for him to walk through, though he did have to duck often as he walked to avoid hitting his head on support columns and beams.
Soon enough he reached a large set of wooden doors, opening it he was greeted by the sight and sound of dozens of people crowding the Great Hall. Most of them were seated at the large rectangle table that was situated in the middle of the room.
There he could see a number of men and women either of noble or military background chatting as they drunk ale or wine. However upon seeing that he entered the room, the conversation stopped and everyone stood up to bow their heads in respect.
"Please my friends, sit, we have much to discuss today." He said as he walked towards the front of the long table. There sat a throne with the emblem of the Kingdom carved expertly into the back, as he sat down the other did so as well.
He also noted that five warriors in black plate armor with purple cloaks holding pollaxes were on either side of the room. They were incredibly useful while giving the user multiple options to be wielded as; they could be used as an armor piercing hammer, limb cutting axe, or a jabbing short spear.
Titiana was also behind the throne as well with her longsword in its sheath but he knew the paranoid woman had one hand on it.
At that moment Laelia appeared from a side door and held it open as multiple maids and butlers came out with trays of food or ale. He watched as everyone at the table practically drooled at the sight of food.
It was understandable most of them had been at war and food like this wasn't to be expected in the middle of the woods.
"Sire! You spoil us too much with this." A grizzled old nobleman called out further down the table, he chuckled and waved his hand dismissively.
"It's the least I can do for taking both of your sons to war with me Lord Faraday, we all know you needed them to keep your old lady off your back at home." That brought a chuckle out of the assembled group.
"Ah the old lady isn't that bad, she's just gets too tense sometimes. I swear she's gonna make me dig my own grave so I can crawl in just to sleep peacefully." Faraday chuckled.
"From what I hear she's gonna dig it for you if you can't stay awake in the bedroom." A noblewoman tittered on the other side, which brought another wave of laughter from the table.
"That's funny to hear from you Lady Ardra but I remember the last meeting that you tried getting a piece of the Lord before you passed out." A third person called out, one of Vargus's sub-commanders a man by the name of Allanson who was also representing his sickly father. Everyone laughed except for him and Lady Ardra who was beet red; he remembered that incident very well with her rather open advances in front of the others, he sighed much to the delight of the others.
"Alright now, let the Lord talk." Maud's voice cut through the laughter and everyone turned to look at him, he nodded towards Maud.
"Thank you Maud, now then you must be all wondering why I called you here. Well there's really only one big issue that will decide how the rest of this meeting will go." This drew their attention a lot more, the last time he had a big issue they joined the Grand Campaign.
"I know you must be thinking that I'm going to suggest preparing the army for another campaign around the lands to help those that we can with the Grimm threat."
"We'll follow you anywhere my lord!" A young nobleman called out further along the table, he threw him an annoyed glare for being interrupted and the young man settled back into his seat.
"What I was trying to say is I think we should leave." This brought forth the murmur of conversation at what he meant.
"Sire? What do you mean?" Another Lord seated closer to him asked.
"What I mean Karney, is that we build a fleet and sail away from here to find a new land to settle." Everyone looked shocked at this.
"But why?" Someone asked but he raised his hand to stop them.
"I understand that this sounds frightening but it's necessary. Every day the Creatures of Grimm grow stronger and stronger. Not only that the Kingdoms are falling apart and there have already been a number of rebellions for power that have grown in strength as well. Some of them will no doubt fall to the Grimm but I fear that someone is going to turn their eye on us and we might beat them back but it will attract the Grimm. When that happens we may hold out for a while but at the stage of development we're at where most of the population lays unprotected by proper defenses we'll be forced to fight on the open battlefield and we'll lose. So I want us to find a new land to settle where we can lay low for as long as possible to avoid conflict with the Grimm but also build up our strength." No one spoke a word until Aléxandros, who had been sitting to the right of him finally spoke up.
"I for one think that this is a good idea and wholly support it." He was more than seven and a half feet tall with shoulder length blond hair that was swept back and a scraggly beard. His icy blue eyes scanned everyone in the room, many of whom fidgeted under his gaze. However there were a few more people that took it in stride.
"I must disagree with you on this Lord Aléxandros; this is by far the riskiest thing I've heard in a long time." Another man said, a young black hair man with amber eyes. He was relatively new to the Lords having been originally a refugee that joined the army early on. His skill on the battlefield was remarkable enough that he had been given a title and land.
"Please elaborate Lord Perses." The man nodded him.
"Well my Lord I think that if we start to do this the Enemy will notice because of the nature of this event means us moving hundreds of thousands of citizens. The needs and logistics of such an endeavor would take a long time, maybe years if not decades of effort that we could put into the War." He nodded raising a hand to stop Perses.
"I understand that Perses but I feel that it's better in the long run. If we stay here and fight we may extend the lives of the other Kingdoms and city-states but sooner or later we'll lose on the field of battle and it'll cripple the army for a while before we gather new recruits and supplies to arm them. This would take a while to do as well." He nodded.
"I understand that my Lord but there is also the fact that we can demand tribute in form of manpower and supplies from those Kingdoms and city-states in return for us protecting them. If we take their strength and fold it into ours we'll be able to sustain ourselves longer." Aléxandros snorted.
"That leaves them just as open to attack Perses. If we start taking supplies that people can't afford to lose they'll be left to flounder and since we can't be everywhere at once that means we either let them get killed or we split up our forces to garrison them until they recover. However if we split up our forces they'll probably won't last more than a battle or two before they're completed decimated. At the same time that's already what's happening, we can't cover so much territory to protect all these people, if we try that and lose we not only get them killed but overextended the Kingdom's military arm. Then there's also the influx of refugees that we get every month. We're a target for everyone, friend or foe, so it's wise if we find some place where we can strengthen our position while not having to over extend our supplies dealing with the various threats here." One of the sub-commanders to Aulus raised their hand to be noticed, he pointed towards him.
"Speak Lord Eugen." The man bowed his head slightly.
"If I may Lord but I agree with both men on this matter, I feel it's my duty to help those in need here but I can understand that if we continue to hold our position here we'll drain ourselves in making these campaigns which would only lead the Grimm to find us here. However before I make a suggestion have we heard from those people that sailed east from that city with the Champion who threw that feast for us?" He nodded.
"You mean Colossae? I in fact have received word from them, which actually led me to this thought. They've established settlements in the land they found and have encountered other people there as well and working to build their strength up as well." Eugen nodded.
"Well my Lord may I put forth my proposal?" Eugen asked and he nodded.
"By all means." He bowed his head slightly.
"Thank you my Lord, I believe it would be best if we do both. We'll first send a small portion of the army along with volunteers to settle and make a coastal city, when they're ready for more people they'll send the ships that brought them there back to pick up more people and supplies. In that time we'll continue to prepare for such a journey by building more ships and preparing supplies for a long journey here. During that time the army can still function in helping only nearby Kingdoms and city-states but no more long campaigns that might end in disaster." He nodded.
"That sounds like an interesting idea however before we can even talk about that, I want a hand of everyone that supports this plan." He asked and saw that most of those that were present raised their hands. Though Perses didn't along with several other Lords and Commanders who he knew were close to him. He looked towards Aléxandros and nodded.
"Alright I support it as well; we can iron out the details of what we need in terms of food, materials, and manpower to complete this. I want everyone here to bring a manifest of their current material stocks, food, and weapon stores. I also want the province Lords to put together a population count, we'll want to know how many people there are so we can determine how many people we need to send in the first wave to keep the amount of trips short." The feeling that they had a solution to save their Kingdom and people was easy to read for him. Already aides were being sent running to complete his orders while others discussed military strategies for the landing forces.
He exchanged another look with Aléxandros. The man smiled briefly before excusing himself to join the other military commanders in discussing military strategies and objectives for the foreseeable future.
However the future is never set in stone. A little push here and there could create something new or destroy it as well.
He stood before the statue of his deceased mother. She had died a long time ago but he had the finest craftsmen the Kingdom build a life like statue to honor her.
It was the last thing that had yet to be destroyed in his life. As all around him Murias burned in the hellfire of war. Though its destruction was not credit to the claws of the Grimm but at the hands of one of his own Lords that sought to drive a dagger into his Kingdom.
Thankfully they had already sent the fourth wave of ships which would lead his people to a new land had already left. It was during the fifth wave that this rebellious lord made his attack when most of the Kingdom had busied themselves with preparing to leave.
With almost a third of the standing army already sailing across the Frost Sea, the Kingdom's standing forces was already depleted. With his betrayal another third of those that remained turned on their brothers in arms.
However he and Alexander were quick in rallying the loyalists to drive them off. The initial thought was that they would try a futile siege with a force so small that had also lost the initiative with their surprise attack.
They were wrong once again as he came back with a force of red skinned monsters, or as Aléxandros had called them, Daemons.
He also recognized them from the night that he saved Aléxandros so he knew that these foes weren't to be underestimated.
Even then with him and Aléxandros leading the defense they were unable to stop them. None of the men knew how to fight creatures that were adept as or better than them in fighting. The Grimm were strong, fast, and deadly but ultimately they were beasts thus incapable of creative thought as far as they knew.
Now the fighting was raging in the castle, with untold thousands no doubt dead and many more dying by the minute, he found it strange that he felt nothing. Was it shock? To know that his hard work to honor his mother and lead these people to better lives now crumbles to ash was numbing to say at least.
"S-S-Sire." A weak voice called out and he looked around the Great Hall. Dozens of mutilated bodies littered the floor, their armored bodies showing signs of grievous wounds that gave no illusion that they would make it. He spotted Vargus in the corner his weapon broken in two and a black blade embedded in his chest.
Titiana the Captain of his guard had her body pinned on the table with both of her arms missing, a black axe separating her upper and lower body. He reached out and closed her eyes which were wide with terror, the last feeling she had before she died.
"S-Sire." The voice called out even weaker, pinpointing the sound he saw something that finally made his heart squeeze. Young Laelia was slumped in his chair at the head of the table, her grey dress stained with the blood from the wound to her gut.
"Laelia dear, shush, I won't allow you to die." He said setting his greatsword on the table and made to pick her up but she put her hand on his arm. While she had no strength to stop him even before today it halted his movement.
"It's fine; there is no need to worry about a girl such as me." She whispered staring at him with longing in her eyes.
"There's something I've wanted to tell you since I was a foolish young girl that found her way into your service." She said tears glistened at the corner of her eyes.
"Hush, you don't have to say it, I've know what it is Laelia, I've always known." She didn't say anything as she gave a weak smile he waited a moment to hear her say something but she said nothing. She wasn't breathing anymore; he reached up and closed her eyes before leaning forward to kiss her forehead.
Standing up he turned to see Aléxandros at the door with his greatsword in hand. His armor was covered in blood and there was a cut on the right side of his face that leaked blood into his eye forcing it closed.
"I'm sorry." Aléxandros said with his back turned to him, he chuckled as he picked up his greatsword.
"Don't be, you weren't the one that just watched the girl that was madly in love with you die." Aléxandros stuck his hand out placing it on his breastplate stopping him from getting past.
"I'm serious, I don't know what it's like but I know that's not something anyone should go through." He sighed and patted Aléxandros's arm.
"Thank you old friend, but we need to gather what men we have left and get to the docks. I thought I saw Valentina's men holding out at there." Aléxandros nodded and the two warriors ran down the hall.
40 Minutes Later…
After navigating smoked filled hallways that were littered with the bodies of the dead, the two warriors finally managed to get out of the castle. Embers fell like snow from the sky and the night was illuminated by the raging fires that destroyed the city.
In the courtyard in front of them however they were not concerned with fires but with the blades of this enigmatic foe. Forty soldiers stood with their scutums locked together in a circle, spears sticking out like a porcupine.
However he could see that they weren't faring well as a three meter tall red creature had climbed onto a rampart and jumped into the middle. A few spears pierced and broke off in its red skin but the creature paid no heed to them as it started swinging its black blade.
Soldiers screamed and yelled in pain as each swipe of the blade was accompanied by blood splashing the cobblestone ground.
Charging with a wordless roar he leapt at the back of the nearest creature, Aléxandros calling out to him but still charging as well.
He lunged with his greatsword aiming for the small of the creature's back but it twisted out of the way in time. However he quickly followed up by twisting using the momentum to further carry the blade towards it, the pristine edge chopped through its right arm into its chest.
The creature grabbed his blade with its remaining hand in an attempt to keep him there but he simple raised a fist and punched the creatures face. Bones and teeth snapped under the impact, the force of the punch causing it to slide off his blade.
He raised it up in time to quickly turn aside a thrust of another black blade then delivering a low counter blow that took the creature's legs out from underneath it. As the creature fell to the floor roaring in anger he turned his greatsword point down and drove it into the creature's skull.
Looking up he could see Aléxandros driving his own blade through the skull of another creature. Looking towards the soldiers he could see that they had rallied when the creatures were distracted and had hacked the one amongst them to bits.
However the distraction didn't last very long as the remainder of the creatures roared before charging them. One charged with dual war axes, the creature raised them and chopped downward. Ducking beneath its reach he brought his blade over his shoulder chopping one arm off. The creature roared before kicking backwards, its cloven foot striking him in the back sending him stumbling a few steps.
Recovering quickly he brought his greatsword up in time to block a strike of a second creature before quickly kicking one of its legs. His sabaton crushed the fibula and tibia inward, causing black bone to stick out of its red skin.
Without looking he lashed backwards with his greatsword, he could feel the resistance of skin and bone as his blade cut another creature in half from the waist.
There was a roar and he saw a creature appear on his right with its blade raised over head. Turning to face it, he lunged forward with his shoulder; the creature fell back with its ribcage crushed inwards.
He turned around again to see the creature with the missing arm charged him again, swinging its weapon in its other hand. Swinging his greatsword up, he knocked it aside before twisting his wrist to bring the blade back cutting deep into its chest.
Another creature appeared on his left slashing down with its black sword. Stepping back he avoid the strike and caught the blow of the creature with his left hand as it tried to elbow him. Raising his blade he thrust it forward towards its chest but moved into his guard avoiding the blade.
As it did that it didn't see Aléxandros moving behind it swinging he blade high cutting its head off. The strength in the creature's body held out for a little while more as the severed head fell to the floor with the headless body following close behind. He looked at Aléxandros who was covered in a fresh coat of blood.
Looking around the courtyard he could see that barely twenty men were left standing. The rest lay dead with gaping wounds in their bodies that covered the floor in their blood.
"Sire! We thought you were still holding out in the Great Hall and figured we'd come to help you." A soldier called out as he shook the blood of the creatures from his sword.
"The Great Hall is no longer safe; we're moving down to the docks. There we can put those that still remain on the ships and set sail." The soldiers looked surprised to hear that.
"We're not staying?" Another man called out and he nodded.
"We cannot hold out against these creatures and it's my duty to get as many of my people to safety while I still breathe." He said but none of the men looked very happy about it. He couldn't blame them though, to lose one's home was truly a harsh thing to experience.
"That's enough, unless we want to be swarmed by more of them we need to get out of here." Aléxandros said as he stood next to him. The men nodded albeit a little reluctant, he turned towards the exit, even from there he could see the docks with dozens upon dozens of ships that were eighty meters long with twelve meter beams in the water. Each one was capable of carrying at most a little less than two hundred people and enough provisions for a two month journey.
Though he knew that the chances were there wasn't going to be enough ships for everyone. They had depended on the survival of the other ships they had sent out to continuously augment their ability to transport more people and supplies each time.
As they jogged out onto the ramparts that led to the docks he could see the carnage that was wrought on the defenders. Hundreds upon hundreds of bodies were strewn about, in some areas it was impossible to not step on piles of dead bodies.
At the far end of the pathway was Valentina's defensive line of troops. While most of her soldiers didn't have the ability to fully form a shield wall as they were her armor plated men-at-arms. There were still a sizeable number of regular soldiers that formed rudimentary vanguards that stood ahead of them forming defensive blocks.
He supposed her idea was to have them bear the brunt of the attacks and as the enemy focus on them she'd attack with her troops. He didn't like the idea because it meant using the men as bait but he supposed that she was just thinking on the fly.
"It's the Lord!" Someone yelled and he could practically feel the hope bursting alive in the defenders at seeing him. People cheered as he joined them and Valentina looked ever so relieved to see him there.
"Sire, what's the plan?" She asked hefting her longsword in both hands.
"Valentina I need two hundred volunteers." A smile split her face.
"You can as many of my men as you need to retake the castle my lord." He shook his head.
"No, I need them as a rearguard." It took a moment for her to register the words he was saying then her smile faded.
"What do you mean?" He looked towards the docked ships, there was still a few dozen still tied down to the docks while others that had filled up with as many people as they could and now sat a mile off coast.
"You and Aléxandros have to start getting as many people as you can onto those ships, I'll hold off the enemy while you do so." Aléxandros stepped forward.
"Are you sure I shouldn't do this?" He nodded.
"Yes, now hurry up." Aléxandros sighed in resignation. Turning around he saw that most of the soldiers were slowly backing away before turning to run to the ships. All that remained were the blocks of spearmen and a hundred men-at-arms.
He drew the spearmen back to form two semicircle shield formations with spears pointed out. In between the gaps of the two formations were the men-at-arms.
Standing with them he watched as there was another roar in the distance and from the Castle came more of the creatures. Looking from his left and right he could more of them coming down the docks towards them.
However there was something else there as well, in the sky above the castle where the fires raged unchecked came a new creature that settled itself on one of the ramparts of the castle. It's weight causing the stone to crack and crumble where its hoven feet touched.
It was a towering muscular beast, with a canine like face and horns that curved out from its head. It stood taller than any Goliath he had ever seen; sprouting from its back was also a pair of large leathery wings.
It wore a set of bronze plates with a large axe in its right hand and what looked to be a whip that was made from bones in its left hand.
Soon it jumped off the wall with a beat of its large wings and landed less than a hundred feet from them. As it stood at its full height dozens upon dozens of the smaller red creatures crowded to either side and seemed to wait for it.
For the first time in his life he felt a wave of fear pass over him. It wasn't a feeling that he was used to, he had seen it in his men time and time again as they went into battle but he could never relate.
Now as he stared at the winged creature he could feel a cold sweat break out on him as the creature seemed to zero in on him as well.
Glancing around he could see the men with him were nervous as well but he was also surprised to see what looked to be determination as well. Despite the fear they were no doubt experiencing every man that stood with him looked ready.
"Sire, we're with you!" A familiar voice said from behind and he saw Aléxandros moving to stand next to him. Hundreds of soldiers stomped down from the docks to join their comrades as they faced off with these creatures.
"I'm glad to see you Aléxandros." He said the shorter man snorted.
"Did you really thing I would ever leave you behind old friend." He said as they both raised their weapons. The winged creature gave an earthshaking roar before charging; the defenders gave a roar of their own and charged.
Seven Months Later…
Aléxandros stood on the wooden walls of the settlement and watched the surrounding area. Thousands of people worked on building homes, setting up crops or adding and expanding the walls.
The ships of the Kingdom lay anchored off shore in the distance with smaller boats moving back and forth as they transferred the last of their supplies.
Though despite the air of comfort and happiness the people expressed at having them here, there was a noticeable undertone of despair. To know that they were the last of their people was not something they could truly grasp yet.
Sure they had abandoning their home to be here but many seemed to have the belief that one day they could return home. Maybe not in their lifetime but their children's or even their grandchildren's lifetime would that dream be fulfilled.
Now that dream lay burnt and ruined as Murias was the night they had left. They had technically won and lost that night. They had managed to defeat the Lord of Blood's servant but at great cost, of the hundreds that charged into that fight less than a hundred made it out.
Even the Son had taken a few wounds from the Blood God's servant before they were managed to kill it. With its death the Host disappeared, melted away to return to their domain. Hope had begun to grow amongst the men but he knew it was going to be short lived when a Nevermores flew over them.
The Grimm had arrived.
It was a miracle that the fleet had managed to escape; the Nevermores had immediately set forth to crippling the ships. No doubt they did so to keep them from escaping over sea. A few of the ships already manned had some of the ballista weaponry built on board.
If it wasn't for them he doubt they would have gotten away. Though once at sea the Son had gone quiet as he recovered from his wounds and he knew that he was dealing with this tragic loss.
That was not the end though as it was tough journey where a number of ships were lost to storms or the lack of supplies to fix damages. Along with the surprising ambush of a three of large serpent Grimm that destroyed several ships, most of the crew members and passengers onboard never made it out of the water.
They fled after the fleet managed to kill one and wound the second. They continued on their journey and finally made it to the colony with barely enough food and water for another few days.
He had watched as the Son gave quick orders to the few Lieutenants that either lived in the colony or came with them. Before telling Aléxandros that he was in charged until he came back.
The entire colony mourned for the loss of their home but Aléxandros immediately set about in the construction and consolidation of the surrounding territory. It was a prime fishing area with light forests and grasslands to the north and south with a mountain range in the far west.
Despite the cold temperature the ground was good enough to cultivate things such as peas, onions, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, kale, along with wheat and oat. However for the colony their main focus was on fishing which apparently was a very bountiful endeavor.
Though ice in winter was a bit of a problem as it effectively shut it the fishing but they had learned to account for that. They would use a portion of that crop yield that year along with that which was saved from the year before to make up the shortage of fish.
The biggest problem they faced was defensively. While there were enough trees to construction a sturdy wall. However that problem wasn't that in materials but the army itself.
They just didn't have enough troops to field it properly like before. Population wise the colony was a little more than forty five thousand. Though with they're early arrival the population was now over fifty thousand.
Most of those people were civilians that were brought over on the third and fourth wave. The first two waves were purely military purposes. The total strength of the garrison was a little more than ten thousand strong. With their arrival it was now twelve thousand strong, however most of the supplies they brought over was food, medicines, and civilian construction material.
This led to military logistical issues such things to wear like warmer clothes for the soldiers as their current equipment wasn't built for the cold climate. Along with that there was a shortage of materials to patch up weapons and armor that had taken a beating in the Fall of Marius. The colony had yet to start mining ore for weapons and armor so they had relied on the Kingdom to supply it until then.
Ultimately these were all issues that would take time to deal with. He sighed, his breath leaving as a white cloud that disappeared second later. Looking up at the sky he had yet to see the sun in days since they arrived here and there was light snowfall that slowly coated everything.
"When do you think he'll return?" A familiar voice asked and he turned to see Maud standing in a fur lined cloak with a scarf and leather gloves on. She looked much older now but he supposed that had much to do with the stress of trying to maintain the military force here for years while protecting against any possible Grimm attack.
"I don't know Maud; he's got a lot of things on his mind to be fair." She nodded as she stood next to him. Though it was a little comical to see such a despairing height difference between the two of them, it was like a toddler standing next to their father.
"How does it feel to be Regent in his absence?" She asked next this time he sighed.
"I don't think I'll ever be truly capable of ruling." She chuckled at that.
"You already spent a lot of time helping him decide how to run both the Kingdom and the military. Had he actually shown signs of aging we would have believed that you would be his successor." She turned to look up at him, curiosity etched on her face.
"The more I think about it the more I realize how much is different about you two. None of you have seemed to age a single day since you two been around in the picture. Nor have the effects of stress and military life seemed to have a mark on you aside from actual scars. I remember seeing young men age thirty years in a few months at war with the Grimm but for you it looks like nothing significant." Aléxandros said nothing which did nothing to sate her curiosity. She turned away again and placed her hands on the ramparts, brushing aside some snow.
"You know how our Lord hates being seen as a god?" He nodded.
"Yes, I feel the same way about it as well. Religion has done nothing for Humanity so far and with the emergence of Grimm to cling to such beliefs if anything would be more unethical than anything else that I can think of." She looked at him surprised to hear the conviction in his voice. He cursed himself mentally; he was still beholden to the beliefs of his Master on the matter. Then again considering who it was, it was easy to see why he took to it and still believes in it.
"I believe that's the first time I've ever heard you speak like that Aléxandros. If you can put your conviction into other matters like ruling, you'll do fine."
"The passionate distaste for something does not make a good ruler, just an emotional one." She sighed.
"True but the conviction to do what you believe is right and not kneel to another person's ideals is just as important. Hated and dispassion lead to the downfall of many empires my old friend, but assimilation and unity can build something that lasts a thousand years." He couldn't help but wonder if that really is true. From his experience being too far on either scale is just as bad. Sometimes objectivity is a tool that is most useful when weighing the greater good over the greater result. In the end he would just have to wait to see what the future brings him.
A Month Later…
Aléxandros stood in the center of the courtyard facing the main gate of the settlement; people were congregating around at the edges to get a closer look at what was happening.
Lining the walls and the edge of the crowd were fully equipped soldiers three ranks deep that stood facing inward with a line of full plated men-at-arms holding their poleaxes in both hands.
Next to him was ten black armored guards that were supposed to be attached to the Son but he had rarely used them. Opting instead for them to serve more in a standard military capacity as elite troops or serve as protectors of the Murias.
Besides them was Valentina, Maud, and a few other of the remaining commanders and Lords that had sailed here.
Someone shouted above the gates and a murmur emerged from all sides as excited people talked to each other about seeing the Lord once more.
The gate was a heavy set wooden door four feet thick reinforced with sheets of metal. It was roughly the size of about two wagons wide and three high, it slowly opened.
Aléxandros smiled, in part at seeing the Son himself but also glad that his duties as Regent would now be over with his return.
However as he watched the tall, broad figure wrapped in a grey cloak step past the gate a feeling of unease settled over him. Something that made the hair on the back of his neck stand up, something he hadn't felt in years.
It was a Psyker.
This power however was younger if not a more watered down version to which he compared it too. What was really to be noted was the fact that it didn't have the sickly sweat stick that he longed associated with the Four.
That's when he saw him, an old man of average height with a grey beard and hair that was swept back. He was dressed in a worn coat that reached his knees and wrapped around him.
He walked behind the Son about dozen paces back but not because he was slow, he did it by design. In his right hand was a dark brown staff that he used to help him walk but he could tell that it was for show.
The man locked eyes with him and a shiver passed down his back. Not of fear but recognition, the Son was less than ten feet from him. A wide smile on his face but Aléxandros couldn't help but notice a new set of scars that crossed over his left eye.
"My Lord." He said as he dropped to one knee and bowed before him. The hundreds watching did so as well soldiers and civilians alike kneeled to their Lord.
"Please my friend you don't need to bow, none of you do." He said, raising his voice at the last part. One by one the people began to stand up; joy was starting to filter through the populace now.
Despite the Fall of Murias, many people were more distraught to hear that their lord had left them. Many believed that he undertook the journey as a way of self-atonement. Others believed that he had actually gone on a one man crusade to fight the Grimm and find the Traitors.
Of course those were all speculations as no one, not even him, knew why the Son left. Now with his return and this arrival of this stranger, Aléxandros felt that something else was on the horizon.
"Ah! Why the gloomy face old friend, you look like you just got married!" He said raising his voice enough that it carried across the courtyard. This drew laughter from more than a few people, which earned a lot of married men a slap to the arm.
"Him? Married, he'd chase away any woman with all his brooding." Valentina quipped earning more laughter from the assembled group save Maud who just stared ahead at the stranger.
"Sire, if you don't mind me asking but who is that man that came with you?" She said nodding towards him. He looked over his shoulder and a frown settled his face quickly before a new but much less sincere smile grew on it.
"That's a topic of conversation that I don't want to go into just yet but rest assured you may simply think of him as a Hermit of sorts." He clapped his hands.
"Anyways it's been a long time since I've been with my people; I say it's time we celebrate!" He called loudly earning a thunderous roar of approval from the gathered mass. Aléxandros couldn't help but think about how much of their reserve grain and food would have to be used if he was serious.
He gestured for them to get a move on, Valentina and Maud turned around with the honor guard to lead him towards the center of the city.
Aléxandros however stayed behind, opting instead to approach the Hermit. No one else seemed to notice him as people filtered back to their homes or shops with this news of the Lord returning.
"I see curiosity is something that tickles your mind young man if you decided to come speak with me." He couldn't help but smile a little.
"I wouldn't say that, I'm much older than I appear." The man gave a knowing smile this time.
"Oh I know and it must have been an experience to be with Him during that era, to sail the stars uniting all of the lost children under one banner." Aléxandros could feel his hands grow cold as he stepped closer to him. His towering form dwarfed the man but in the back of his mind he had a feeling that he would probably lose in a fight.
"How do you know this?" He asked softly, the man held up his free hand.
"There is much that I have been able to gleam over my lifetime, most of it was nonsensical but I recognize parts of your armor from The Ten Thousand." He felt his hand start to clench as he gave the older man a hard stare.
"What are you and what do you want with my Lord?" The old man chuckled as he stepped past him, Aléxandros watched as he gestured for him to follow.
"There is a great deal of things that I don't know about myself or how I came about these gifts. I've learned that the essence that gives me this power isn't even a fraction of a fraction that once belonged to a Being far superior than any Man, Faunus or creature as a whole. I know what lurks behind the veil of the universe. Huh, veil? What an interesting word wouldn't you agree as well dear Watcher? There's a veil over everyone's eyes that exist on this world and exists before we came here and will exist till longer after we are buried six feet under. Some will choose to look beyond it, those few I pity for it leaves them with a choice that lead down paths that can't be turned from. I guess you can call it Destiny." Aléxandros stared at the man as they walked down the snow covered streets. He's always believed that those who practice Clairvoyance were a dangerous sort. Not necessarily to the power itself but what it can do to them.
To see any possible line of time and trying to determine whether it will come true or not was a burden that few could or should carry.
"If you think anymore, you're gonna die from overworking your brain." The old man said he smirked towards him. Aléxandros felt a slight flash of annoyance at the man's flippancy.
"You're not very good at having conversation are you?"
"I wouldn't say that, I just prefer to pick and choose my words when the time calls for it." The man huffed in amusement.
"I can see that, I imagine you were a very stiff fella to talk with when you first got here. I wager you still are to be honest."
"Do you ever stop talking?"
"Nope." Aléxandros could tell it was going to be a long night.
Later That Night…
Aléxandros rubbed his face with one gloved hand as another roar of laughter echoed the hallway. The old man it seemed was quite good at telling stories.
The new Great Hall was much smaller than that they were used to in Murias. Though most of the Lords and Commanders that would have been there were now dead or sworn Foes.
At the head of the large rectangle table was him and the Son who took the center seat while he was his right. More than a few of the new Army Commanders had come to speak with him along with new civilian representatives.
Sure it was something that was always lacking on his own part in bonding with others but he simply didn't have a need to tell such tales. He had a duty to uphold and there isn't any time to slack on it, looking over at the Son. He could see that he was getting already acclimated to being at the head of the table and center of the party once more.
At the same time he could sense a tension that simmered under the surface of his Lord, not something that most people would notice. It was like he wanted to get up and leave right this moment specially to fight.
He could see it in the way his hands clenched into a fist to strike something or how they would if he gripped a weapon.
"Aléxandros, I know you haven't seen me in a while but no need to stare." The Son said with a half grin as he looked at him.
"I know." He nodded.
"So tell me has there been a decision on the name of this colony, I remember that there was a debate on what to call it." Aléxandros nodded.
"We decided to call it Clove." He raised an eyebrow.
"I put forth the name because once the last person made it on shore, there seemed to be a weight that settled on everyone as they realized that this was their only home left." He nodded.
"It fits, I like it." He inclined his head; the Son looked towards him again a somber look settling on his face.
"Aléxandros there's something we need to talk about." He shook his head.
"You can tell me in the morning, you're people wish to see you take command again." The Son gave a rueful smile.
"That may be the case but I gave up my right as the rightful lord the moment I left you in charge." He narrowed his eyes.
"What are you talking about?" He gave a sad smile before patting his arm and standing up. Everyone quieted down at he did, Aléxandros saw the Hermit give him a strange look before looking to the Son.
"Friends, comrades, countrymen, I know I've been gone for a long time so I beg your forgiveness for doing that." Cries of denial rang out from many of the people there.
"We understood why you left my Lord so we'll stand behind you through thick and thin." Valentina said smacking her chest with one hand as emphasis. Many more roared or hammered their cups into the hard wood table in support.
"And I thank you for that but during the time I was gone I had a lot of time to think to myself about the future of the Kingdom, of my people. It was out there that I realized what I had to do and when I came to that realization I made haste to come back as quick as I could." Aléxandros really didn't like where this was going.
"To be blunt, I'm abdicating my position to a much more suited person." He didn't get farther as everyone in the room cried out that he didn't need to do that. In a rare moment that Aléxandros has never seen except on the battlefield, he got angry.
"ENOUGH!" His voiced thundered accompanied by a loud crack, the room and everyone stood still. No one dared make a moved as he gave each person a piercing glare that Aléxandros found surprising that no one pissed themselves. Looking down at the table he could see that the Son had put a hole into the four inch thick hardwood.
"It's my right to give my title as I see fit and I shall do so. Unless one of you thinks you can stop me, I'm more than willing to have a duel to decide this matter with all of you." Not a single person met his gaze; everyone looked where they could without having to see him.
"Aléxandros. Stand." He commanded and with great reluctance he did.
The Son walked over to the back wall where his greatsword leaned against the wall, which during the time of his absence had acquired a number of new nicks and scratches on the blade. Picking it up he moved back towards him and gestured for him to kneel.
He rested the flat side of the blade on his shoulder and pointed with his free hand to a banner that hung above the fireplace behind them. It was a banner with twin golden crescents with a red background.
"I, High Lord of Arcadia, hereby grant this man before me in front of his peers and those of the Kingdom the full status and power of my position. Let no man, woman, or child not recognize him as the new Lord of this Kingdom and its people. Do you Aléxandros swear in front of your kinsmen that you will do all that you can for them?" A small part of him really wanted to say no but he knew that whether or not he took it the Son would still go through with whatever he planned.
"Do you swear to keep them fed?"
"Do you swear that you'll to keep them in good health?"
"Do you swear to defend and fight for them in time of war and crisis?"
"Yes." Each question and answer laid another invisible weight on his back. Peeking from the corner of his eye, he could see the Stranger smirking.
"Even if you die doing that duty?"
"As such it is witnessed by the people of Arcadia that you shall stand anew. No longer Aléxandros, the man who came from nowhere, but Alexander Arc, first of his name and High Lord of Arcadia."
The Next Morning…
Alexander stood in the main chambers that had been reserved for the Son. Though as of now he supposed it was his.
It was a well furbished room with a dark oak wood with a large carpet in the center with a bed over it. There were also paintings on the walls with an armor stand in one corner and a large table with rows of decanters filled with expensive spirits on it. To one side of the room was a large stone fireplace built into the wall.
Things that most people in the Kingdom wouldn't be able to afford. Though not that he had any real say in what it had looked like.
The room had been constructed in the beginning days of Clove for the Son if he ever came to visit or stay. Though the purpose changed when Murias fell and it changed again now that he plans on leaving again in a matter of days leaving Alexander the new High Lord of Arcadia.
"Why?" He asked as he looked out the single glass window that overlooked Clove. The colony or now city bustled with life as people went about their day, though surely by now the news was spreading about him being named the new High Lord.
"Because there are things out there that we need to take care of now." The Son said.
"There are things here that need to be looked after as well; didn't you always tell us how your mother told you to help those in need? These people need your help now." Alexander said as he turned around to look at them and gestured out the window.
"That's not what I see Alexander, you've done a great job as it is in developing every possible area in their lives as you can already." He ran a hand through his hair as he took a deep breath.
"These people are devoted to you, you can't leave them behind." The Son gave him a sad smile.
"I didn't leave them behind; I was just unable to grow with them. But then in the end that was always the destiny for our kind. We can guide and protect them but we can never end up being one of them, one day we must fade into history as nothing more than a myth or legend, a story to be passed down but never to be striven for." Alexander sighed as he looked towards the Hermit.
"I believe you have something to speak of as well, don't you?" The old man nodded.
"Don't worry lad I'll try not to bore you to death." He stood up and headed towards the fireplace to stare into it.
"During his Journey I encountered him fighting the servants of the Dark Gods. Watching him I had a vision of a place filled with nothing but hate and other dark emotions that I shan't describe. There I reckoned I saw the place where the fate of this world is to be decided and I saw a warrior illuminated in white fighting shadows in the view of a dark tower there were others with him but it was difficult to tell who they were but I believe the one I saw first is him." He closed his eyes as he leaned against the wall next to the fire place.
"There are a great many details that I'm unaware of but I feel that this is necessary to do. We must find this place and cut the head off the snake in order to save both Faunus and Mankind." Alexander crossed his arms.
"Honestly there are so many things wrong with that. How are the two of you supposed to do this? I'm sure you're strong but the two of you can't do this alone." The Hermit turned and he could see traces of a smile in his eyes.
"Who said we'll actually do this alone?" Alexander narrowed his eyes.
"You're not the only ones that have found their way to this world." The Hermit said as he raised his hand and said something. Alexander wasn't sure though, he could see him move his mouth to speak yet there was no sound, even the crackle of the fire seemed to be silenced it was as if he went deaf.
The room grew cold as in the Hermit's outstretched hand a symbol formed from ice; he could feel his face turn to a scowl as he recognized it. Alexander cupped his chin as he looked down at the floor in thought.
"Those that fled their own fall have sought shelter on these lands as well. I've encountered them many times, or well they've come to me many times and I've learned that we are similar in a sense." Alexander looked up.
"Do you mean you're abilities?" The Hermit smiled as he tossed the symbol into the flames to melt into nothing.
"True we're similar in that but I rather prefer to look at our mutual desire to have those on the outside leave us alone yet we cannot abide by watching the world fall to an unnatural death." Alexander ran his hand through his long hair in thought before he looked towards him again.
"I can't stop you in this can I?" The old man shook his head.
"No and nor can you help us." Alexander frowned again but the Son raised a hand to stop him from speaking.
"It's for the best Alexander, Arcadia would have had a chance had it not fallen apart even then I doubt most of the soldiers that would march with us to this fight would return home. Even now there's more than a small chance that we might lose this anyways so I would feel comfortable to know that the Kingdom would be left in capable hands such as yours." Alexander sat down on the bed and placed his face in his hands.
"You're fools to believe that this will actually work, you know that right? There are things that none of us understand that are taking place, to assume you can stop it is nothing but sheer hubris." The Hermit finally frowned.
"I understand you're frustrated with this Watcher but it must be done." Alexander simply nodded silently, the Son and the Hermit turned towards the door but as the Hermit approached the door he gestured for the Son to lean closer. Alexander could see in the corner of his eye the two of them staring at each other yet nothing was being said. The Son nodded and closed the door leaving the two of them in the room.
"What is it now old man?" The corner of the Hermits mouth twisted up in a grin.
"There are some things you and I need to talk about, specifically about you."
"I'm not sure I'm going to like this." Alexander said as he crossed his arms together, the old man laughed as he walked over to the decanters and poured himself a drink.
"You know about the Ether, right?"
"The Immaterium, what about it?" The Hermit took a seat and took a sup from his cup.
"Ah, that's good. Anyways there's something that I and the Exiled have come to figure out a while back. We discovered that something has given the ability for the people on this world to be able to produce their own latent powers."
"Exiled?" Alexander asked raising an eyebrow, the old man nodded impatiently.
"Yes, yes, that is what they call themselves. Though there's a different more official name but I call them the Exiled. Now back to my point, it seems that their spies have noticed that groups of Humans and Faunus have somehow unlocked this power. I do not know what it is but it's spreading, soon many if not all of the people will have this power at their disposal." Alexander rubbed his chin; he didn't find that to be welcome news at all. That kind of power has always been dangerous. It invited disaster in the form of total destruction of the world and with their current form of technology no one had a chance to stop such a thing once it takes root.
"I can see the worry in your face but don't fret, this power is only limited. Those that utilize it can only draw on their own life force; as such their connection to the Ether won't lead, them, to us nor can anyone truly tap into the powers that lay in that direction." Alexander looked up at him.
"So it will be limited then, that's a relief." The Hermit nodded.
"There's another thing that was discussed and that's the connection between this world and where we come from." Alexander raised an eyebrow at that.
"Connection?" He nodded.
"Something has drawn us to this world, I do not know what but it must have been powerful to orchestrate this and that something suggests that we won't be the only ones dragged here. Now the question you have to ask yourself is who else is going to come and when will that happen?"
"Do you know who can come through?" The Hermit shook his head.
"There's no way to know who or what will come through all you can do is be patient." The old man told him but Alexander was already thinking about plans to start putting together surveyor groups to start looking for potential areas of expansion.
He had come to realize a while ago that the lesson of Murias fall was that putting their eggs into one basket was not the smartest plan. No matter how well that basket was constructed, everything eventually goes up into flames.
"Do you have anything else you would like to ask?" Alexander looked up at the old man as a new thought popped into his head.
"What happened earlier when you made that symbol? The Hermit tilted his head a little in confusion.
"I'm not sure what you mean?" Alexander gestured to his ears.
"When you made that symbol, you said something but I couldn't hear it, in fact I couldn't hear anything until after it was formed."
"Ah I know what you mean; I simply called its Name." Alexander frowned.
"What does that mean?" The Hermit said nothing as he stood up and headed once more to the door before turning around.
"Do you want to know what my mother told me when I started showing signs of these powers as a child?" Alexander nodded and the Hermit smiled.
"Knowledge is Power so guard it well."
A Few Days Later…
Alexander once more stood at the main gate of Clove with the Lords and Commanders of Arcadia by his side, there was Maud who was the Prefect of Clove, Valentina who was the ranking Military Commander, the new Captain of the Guard and several others. Several steps behind them a line of black armored guards with their poleaxes stood at attention.
Surrounding them were lines of soldiers that separated the regular population of Clove and their former Lord who stood in his armor with a grey cloak draped around his shoulders. The people cried out in despair to see him leave and Alexander didn't blame them.
"It's strange to think of this as goodbye, a part of me wants to think that he'll return someday but I know deep down in my heart that this will be the last time we see him." Valentina said from his right.
"Things happen; all we can do is keep our chin up and take it in stride." Alexander said as he watched the two men walk out the city limits, the gate closing behind them
"Do you know where they are going?" Maud asked from behind him and he nodded.
"I do but he asked that I do not reveal any information about it." He could feel annoyance seep out of Maud at hearing that. She was never one to take kindly to being left out of the loop even when it was necessary.
"I'm still unsure of why that man is going with him." Another voiced asked and he looked towards the new Captain of the Guard a petite Faunus reptile by the name of Beatrice Eopsin. Her family had migrated to Arcadia a decade ago and her surprising skill with dual longsword saw her recruitment into the Guard.
"There are a lot of things that we don't know at this point Beatrice; all we can do is stay the course and do our duty." Valentina remarked.
"But that doesn't explain why he either burned everything that had his name or altered them to not say it." Beatrice and Alexander looked at her again.
"It's because he wanted to erase his name from our records."
"I understand that but I don't understand why he wants to do that, for all intents and purpose he might as well not exist." Alexander looked forward again.
"That's the point." All of them looked at him unsure what had happened that warranted this. Though none of them pressed the issue instead turning to leave as the crowd slowly started to disperse. Only he and Maud stayed behind along with two of the black armored Guards.
"Tell me the truth; is he going out there to die?" Alexander looked down at her.
"What makes you say that?" Maud looked up at him as if he was an idiot.
"Laelia and him were awfully close weren't they?" Alexander nodded.
"She was his assistant; she stayed close to as much as she could. I reckoned she'd even follow him onto the battlefield if she could." Maud looked away.
"That's love, it's a powerfully reckless tool that brings us to new heights but can also lay low even the strongest of us."
"Any emotion can do that, rage, grief, envy, we're spared from nothing yet to not experience those things means you're less human because of it."
"That's the thing about being human, nothing is easy. One day you might realize that but I doubt it will be soon." Alexander looked at her with an eyebrow raised.
"What are you trying to say?" Maud placed her hands on her hips.
"Come on Alexander, you can't fool me, I'm pretty sure I have a clear idea of the situation. The two of you have always been strange but when the old man arrived it became painfully clear that there was more to meet the eye." Alexander turned to her but the older woman just ignored the stare he gave her.
"And how much do you think you actually know Maud?" She smiled.
"I suppose I don't know the full thing but I'm certain about what I know." Alexander said nothing as he looked towards the sky.
"Get the others and meet me in my new chambers within the hour, we need to have a talk."
"Any questions?" Alexander asked as he stood in the middle of his chambers looking at the assemble Lords and Commanders. He had just finished giving them all a sparsely detailed story of his life that had taken nearly six hours to go over. Even then there were a number of things he couldn't get into like who his Master was and some of the more specific details on the powers beyond the veil of reality.
"Well, that's something." Beatrice said from the corner, Alexander nodded.
"I understand if this is a lot to process but I figured now would be a good time to clue to you all in on some of the things that were kept from you."
"Why?" Valentina asked.
"Because it's important, especially after what happened in Murias. I didn't want to say anything then because I figured it wasn't truly my place to speak. However now that I've been left in charge, I reckoned it would be better to keep you informed. I've seen what happens when important information is withheld and it can breed resentment."
"So what do we do now?" Maud asked. He turned towards a table to pick up a pile of sheets with his long and short term goals that he had written in the time Maud had gathered everyone. He distributed them and everyone looked them over, Maud was the first to comment.
"This is going to take time and even then I doubt we'll be able to get this done in a decade." Valentina scoffed.
"I don't think a decade is much time for him to worry about." This brought a small chuckle out of the room.
"I've already given orders out for surveyors to start moving around the region. Within the first year or year and a half the first phase of the plan should be ready to be drawn to a close." One of the new Lords in the room spoke up, he was a tall, thin man with brown hair and a young face.
"Still the fundamental part of the plan requires a long time to put into effect. I suppose we can put an emphasis on families and birth rate, maybe tax incentives for families." Alexander nodded.
"That's a good start Lord Caerus but don't make it seem like it's necessary to start a family just for the incentive. We don't want to rock the family dynamic too much leading to ill-suited people becoming parents. If you want to take charge of the Civic aspects then feel free to do so but have a proposal sent to me within the week." The Lord nodded and bowed his head before excusing himself.
"It looks as if we'll have to double the Guard then." Beatrice spoke up next. The Guard had traditionally been charged with maintaining the security and order of the capital Murias and now Clove as well. A crucial part in his plan for the restructuring of the Law included aspects that would prohibit the Adorarent Daemonia on the punishment of death.
"Not in this case Beatrice, I'm going to remove the Guard from their duties of overseeing the city. Beatrice snapped her head up at that and moved off the wall she had been leaning against.
"What!? Why Sire?! How have we failed you!?" Alexander held his had up to stopping her from breaking down.
"I'm merely giving the duty to a new group that will be built to only handle the law and safety of the city. The Guard will be my right hand in other matters; we'll talk more about this another time." Alexander turned to face the assembled group.
"Alright, I know this seems like a daunting task but I have faith in you all. Though I won't tell you a lie like saying that this will be easy or how we won't fail, failure and defeat are a part of life. The true test of a person is how they handle that, some may give up but others may rise to face the challenges of life and become stronger for that. I know which one you all belong to." Alexander said and the others simply gave him determined looks, a fire of intensity was present in each of their eyes that he couldn't help but smile.
Though a small part of his mind held no true hope for them to survive the next few decades, whether it was pessimism or realism, he wasn't sure.
Only time would tell.
Many Years Later…
"Get Down!" Someone screamed and Eucleia Aolos dove into a nearby crater. Gunfire cracked over her head and the unnatural roars of Grimm echoed around the area. Cradling her Agripinaa Mark 3 rifle she crawled towards the lip after waiting a few seconds. People were still screaming as she reached the lip of the crater.
In front of her there was another crater but inside of it was a large Beowolf, though its attention was distracted as it ripped at whoever was in there with it. The blood curdling scream was drowned out by more gunfire as other members of her platoon engaged the Grimm.
Raising her rifle up she pulled the box magazine out to inspect it before quickly slotting it back in and pulled the bolt up and back before pushing it back in. Lining it up with the black and white mass of the Grimm, she fired. The rifle kicked and she quickly worked the rifle's bolt as she put two more rounds into the Beowolf's side.
Little black clouds popped from the Beowolf's skin, but it wasn't a cloud of blood as she was used to see but the black misty substance commonly associated with Grimm.
The Grimm however was unfazed by this and looked towards her; the sight of its red eye zeroing in on her gave her pause. She wanted to curl up into a ball and forget the world but her training kicked in keeping her moving the bolt as she fired.
Even with the rifle rounds smacking into its torso, the Beowolf charged and Eucleia stood up to back out of the crater. When it reached twenty feet, four more rifles opened up nearby, the added weight of gunfire slowed the Beowolf as she quickly reloaded her weapon.
Pulling out her revolver she emptied the six rounds into the head of the beast. The Beowolf finally slumped to the ground, its limbs twitching and its blood red eyes seeming to focus on her.
"Eucleia! Get your ass moving!" Someone called out and she turned around, hopping out of the crater to run back towards a small patch of trees.
There were two dozen members of her platoon hold up amongst the trees. A few of them were sending rounds behind her. As she finally reached the trees she dove behind one of them, next to her were two soldiers from her squad that were manning a heavy stubber. Even more particular was the fact they were using their steel helmets to prop up the heavy stubber.
A long burst of fire erupted out of the barrel as they sighted another Beowolf. To Eucleia the weapon kind of sounded like someone beating rapidly on a drum set.
"For fuck sakes Eucleia, what were you doing out there?!" A voiced asked from her right, she looked to see her sergeant, a cat Faunus named Gabriel. Though she couldn't help but focus on the fact that he was holding a thick wad of gauze over the stump where his right hand used to be.
"Look at me Eucleia." He snapped and she tore her gaze from him to see that his face was looked more like snow than anything else.
"You've got to focus Eucleia, I know this is your first fight but if you can't keep your head on straight you're going to get killed, and worse you might get someone else killed." She gulped and nodded, Gabriel gave her a sickly smile.
"Good, now keep looking out there and keep the Grimm away. The rest of the company should be here soon." Looking out towards the snowy landscape she could help but shiver, though it wasn't because of the weather. She had gotten used to the biting chill the wind would bring in no matter how many layers they seemed to wear.
No, she could see the red eyes of Grimm in the distance watching and waiting. Even though it was midday their red eyes were just as clear as ever. So inhuman, so evil, it wasn't a wonder that they've been fighting for countless years against this threat.
"Is Dusken here?" Gabriel asked and a head popped into view. Dusken was the platoon's vox operator, without him they would be stuck here with no way of letting reinforcements know where they were.
"I'm here Sarge."
"Get on the line and see if you can get in contact with the Captain. We're already down a squad and the others are pinned, if they try to move without information they'll be brought down before they get even halfway here." Eucleia looked out again and saw what he was talking about. There were small groups of soldiers struck either in craters or behind rocks and trees. Occasionally they'd send some potshots towards the waiting Grimm.
"Why haven't they attacked us yet?" A voice spoke on her right and she looked down to see her squad mate Torish, a short dark skinned bald man who held another belt of rounds for Vivien, a pale blue hair girl who manned the stubber.
"I don't know Torish but if I had to hazard a guess it's probably because it's a relatively small pack." Vivien said before glancing up at Eucleia.
"Did you see Robinson out there?" Eucleia shook her head.
"No, where's everyone else?" Vivien shrugged.
"Neal, Ruddrick, and Hanson are dead, Sarge is hurt as you are no doubt aware but other than that the platoon is scattered around this place." Torish looked towards her now.
"Lieutenant Dike and his squad are dead as well." Eucleia blinked in surprise.
"How?" He pointed west towards a small hill where they had been originally trying to go to. Their objective had been to establish a small camp to watch for any approaching military force but instead they had run into this Beowolf pack.
"Tried taking his squad to try and get higher ground I suppose, fucking got slaughtered up there." Gabriel spoke from behind her.
"Gabe, they're on the move." A new voice spoke up and Eucleia looked to see a dour face man. It was Sergeant First Class Godden, aside from Gabriel; he was the only one with combat experience under their belt in the platoon.
"Show me." Gabriel said forcing himself to his feet but Field Chiurgeon Melos stopped him.
"Sergeant you can't move so much right now, you've lost a lot of blood already. You won't do any of us good passed out." Gabriel sat down reluctantly and fumbled a little in getting his revolver out, he gave a sickly smile towards the other man.
"Looks like this shit show is yours Godden, maybe you'll even get a commendation for this." Godden snorted.
"Yea, I'll put it with the others." There was a deep rumble and all conversation stopped as they looked towards the northern horizon.
"Was that thunder?" Someone near them asked.
"Could be artillery, maybe the 22nd finally got off their lazy butts and deployed their batteries." Torish said but Godden shook his head.
"No, the 22nd is supposed to be moving down south with the rest of the 6th Division and link with the 3rd Corp in case war breaks out with the Four Kingdoms." Lightning flashed and more thunder rolled over the area.
"A lightning storm?" Someone remarked as dark clouds rolled in from the Northern Mountains.
"Something about this doesn't bode very well if you ask me." Dusken said and Eucleia couldn't help but agree with the assessment. The Beowolves started to howl drawing everyone's attention back to their surroundings, Eucleia couldn't help but chide herself internally at forget they were there.
"They're leaving!" Someone shouted and they watched as one by one the Beowolves at the edge of the tree line took off. Eucleia couldn't help but notice that they headed in the opposite direction of the storm. Lightning struck nearby and she blinked as the afterimage lingered in her vision.
"That was close." She muttered to herself. Looking up to the sky she could see that it was starting to shift colors as well, it was becoming a mix of purple and blue with flashes of lightning racing across the sky. The air seemed to grow colder, a shiver went down her spine as the smell of something sweet and rancid wafted through the air around them.
"Dusken, get on the vox and tell Major Hagen that he needs to bring the Battalion here now." Godden snapped at the stunned young man who fumbled for the vox handset.
"Grayson go and pull everyone back, the Grimm are gone so we can regroup." Another man ran off to gather the scattered elements of the platoon.
"Sergeant, I can't get through to anyone of the other companies." Dusken reported and Godden swore as he snatched the handset from him to listen to it.
"Are you sure this is the right frequency?" He asked the vox operator and he nodded.
"Shit." Godden tossed the handset back to him and hefted his rifle; Gabriel looked up sluggishly to him. The man was looking more and more like a ghost, if they didn't get him to a Medicae Facility soon he was a goner.
"What's wrong?" Godden looked towards the man and for the first time since she's known the Sergeant First Class, she could clearly see fear on the man's face.
"There's only one thing I can think of that can truly challenge the Grimm." Godden whispered but despite the rising wind that seemed to carry unnatural howls they could all hear him fine. Like a sudden heavy weight they all realized what he meant.
"Fuck." Someone said in response to the apparent silence that had descended on the platoon. Lighting flashed nearby and thundered rolled across the land, followed closely by a large gust of wind. More lighting and thunder flashed, wind blew in their faces harshly while the ground shook with tremors.
"What the fuck is going on!?" Someone shouted everyone braced themselves as best they could. Eucleia didn't know but whatever it was, it was far beyond what they could handle. In the distance they could see a swirling spot of cloud mixed purple and blue that seemed to pulse. Lighting flashed continuously leaving afterimages burnt in her vision but she couldn't help but look nonetheless.
"I think it's time for you all to leave." A deep voice calmly spoke from behind her and much to her dismay, she squeaked in fear as she fell to the ground.
She rolled onto her back to see a slightly older man in golden armor with a helmet that had a red transverse plume on top. The very sight of him seemed to calm her nerves and soothe her eyes.
A large greatsword was imbedded tip first into the ground; the blade of the sword must have been at least five feet long with a styled hilt being another foot.
"It's the High Lord." Torish spoke in awe, many of the soldiers fell to their knees with their heads bowed. Eucleia couldn't help but notice the brief flash of what looked to be distaste in his eyes but maybe it was just a trick of light as he smiled at them.
"Sergeant First Class Lucian Godden, take your wounded and follow my subordinate here. He'll lead you to safety." Alexander gestured to a black armored warrior who stood behind him; he held a black pollaxe though she couldn't help but notice that the head of the weapon was tinged blue.
Along with that she could see red glow of the twin eye slits of the visored helmet watching her. She couldn't help but remember the red eyes of the Beowolves that it sent a shiver down her spine again.
"Yes sir, we'll get out of your way. Pack it up people, we're out of here!" Godden ordered and Alexander watched as the platoon of Arcadian soldiers gathered their few wounded. He couldn't help but feel a hint of nostalgia at the sight of them, even after all these years the Grimm still make each of their strikes to be fatal.
"My Lord, shall we head out now?" A voice spoke on his left and Alexander looked over to see one of the commanders of the Praetorian Guard that he had taken with him on this endeavor.
"Ah, Castor where is your Centuria right now?" The black armored warrior stepped forward and held up a map of the local area. Alexander could see a circle marked on the map of the target area then made two marks with a small pencil to indicate the direction of the Praetorian Centuria that had been sent ahead.
"Interesting, did you tell them to wait till my arrival?" The man nodded, though his face was obscured by the visored barbuta.
"Good, now let's move, we don't have a lot of time left."
Alexander stepped up to the edge of the tree line where a hundred warriors of the Praetorian Guard stood with their pollaxes held ready. Gripping the hilt of his own greatsword, blue light illuminated the blade and he could feel the steady hum of energy in the weapon.
A small smile crept to his face; he had sorely missed having a power weapon, his broke when he had first arrived here. Then with the current state of technology this world had at that time he knew that replacing it wouldn't happen for a long time.
Thought had they had been able to create even a few of them back then things might have been different but that was just wishful thinking.
Shaking his head out of his thoughts he looked forward again. In front of them was a large clearing where a three way fight was well underway.
Pink slithering creatures that were nothing more than twisted or perverted forms of humans with tentacles, claws and pincers fought the Creatures of Grimm. Hundreds of Beowolves, Ursai, and even half a dozen Deathstalkers went toe to toe with the Ruinous creatures.
The servants of the Lord of Dark Delights fought fiercely, both agile and strong they were more than a match for the lesser Grimm. A dozen Beowolves would be killed by a pair of Daemonettes before they even had a chance to land a hit.
Though he could see that much to the credit of the Grimm they were just as deadly.
The older and larger ones like the Deathstalkers proved to be able to take on a number of the Daemonettes in terms of its sheer size, strength and surprising speed. Though all but one were left alive, the others being dragged down one by one by the weight of numerous Daemonettes bent on their deaths.
While the Alpha or older Beowolves could keep up in speed while not being enticed by their horrendous charms like most sentient beings. The Ursai Majors ability to work in pairs kept them from being overwhelmed by the Daemonettes speed.
The third and smallest group was what looked to be a group of armored warriors. Now a small part of his mind still recognized the advance armor of his original time, along with the sharp crack and bangs of bolter fire.
There was a little more than a hundred of them, but he could see that a number of them were wounded or dead already. Farthest out from them was one warrior who seemed to be fighting and beating anything that came within blade reach.
"Prepare to charge!" He yelled loud enough for the hundred Praetorians around him to hear as he slipped his helmet on. Raising his greatsword he gripped it in both hands then charged. The sound of a hundred pairs of boots feet behind him was drowned out as the closet Daemonette turned to look at them.
It jumped and lashed downward with a spiked crab-like arm, Alexander spun to the right avoiding the claw and bringing his blade at a downward angle and connected with its torso. The energized blade sliced the Daemonette in half at the chest level.
He could hear it cackling in joy though it didn't last long as it quickly died. Though the haunting laugh lingered in the air as more and more of the Daemonettes took joy at their deaths.
Pivoting forward he reversed his grip and swung his sword again meeting the clawed strike of a second Daemonette. The blade cut the top of the pincer of its outstretched arm its face twisted in a mock version of absolute joy before he rammed his blade forward the tip of the blade cutting into its face.
Kicking it off and quickly jumped back as a yellow stinger struck the ground where he stood. Looking up he could see that the Deathstalker had zeroed in on him. Around him the Praetorians joined the fray, the sounds of fighting increased around him as full plated armored warriors fought with the foe of both sides.
Dashing forward he rolled under the first swipe of one of its pincers before rolling forward avoiding a second strike from the stinger. Rolling to his feet he could see the other pincer sailing towards him and spun inwards barely avoiding the pincer.
The Deathstalker's face within range of him now, he rolled to the side as it lunged forward. The chelicerae clicking as it sought to catch him. Standing up he jabbed his blade upward striking where its front left leg attached to the body.
Even with a powered weapon it felt as if he was striking stone with it, the Deathstalker screeched and moved away from him. However he kept near it and moved towards its face as it sought to collect itself, the leg he struck was motionless as the smell of brunt plastic wafted into the air temporally overwhelming the sickly sweet smell of the Ruinous foes. Lunging forward he slammed his blade; tip first, into one of its larger eyes near the top of its head.
Screeching again it tried to back away but he held onto his blade as it was embedded into the Grimm's eye. Heaving himself up, he stood on top of the creature and gripped his greatsword with both hands then pulled as hard as he could. The blade slipped more and more into the Deathstalker as it screamed in pain before falling to the ground.
He jumped forward and crouched low to the ground as the stinger soared after him only to strike the snowy ground. Standing up he turned and punched another eye, as his gauntlet struck it the eye burst in a shower of foul black greasy liquid.
Alexander gripped his sword and braced his foot against the bone carapace and pulled his blade out. Looking around he could see the tide of the battle was slowly turning with the sudden onslaught of the Praetorians.
The armored warriors on the hill rallied around their apparent leader and pushed towards them. The Grimm break off first from the fighting as more and more of them fell to the blades of the Praetorians.
The Daemonettes on the other hand seemed to double their efforts to fight, though whether it was to win or just to experience death he wasn't sure and nor did he want to know. Another Daemonette leapt at him from behind the corpse of the Deathstalker.
Jumping back he avoided the first strike then lunge with his blade but the Daemonette jumped over him. Spinning around he tried to catch it as it landed but just as its feet touched the snowy ground it did a backflip and lashed at him with its clawed foot.
The clawed foot struck his forearm and he moved back to create distance between him and the Daemonette as it jumped towards slashed down with its clawed hands. Alexander rolled forward and spun in a low crouch swinging his greatsword up. Though the Daemonette twisted its body to the side at the last second avoiding the blade.
Standing up he faced it as it rushed him again, he took his right hand off the hilt of the greatsword as he slashed with the blade horizontally. The Daemonette jumped up, twisting its body out of the way only for him to grab its foot and pull it down to the ground.
The Daemonette rolled on the ground and as it stood up he struck it with his armored gauntlet, shattering the bones of its face. Rolling on the ground with broken bones and shattered teeth it cackled with glee as it tried to stand up again.
However Alexander's greatsword as already descending on it, the energized blade met its head and cleaved through it.
Looking up he could see that the Daemonettes were in frenzy as the clouds were starting to dissipate. He gritted his teeth; this would be the most dangerous moment as their time was up. Whatever that kept them anchored was no longer there as they fled the area.
"Hunt them down!" Alexander yelled loudly, the Praetorians broke off in squads of ten and dispersed to chase down the foe. He turned around and was greeted by the sight of a red painted bolt pistol aimed at him.
The person holding it was a woman with short platinum blonde hair that was tied behind her head. She wore white armor with a black cloak with red trimming the edges. She had a broken sword in her other hand, the blade had fractured at the midpoint of the fuller.
"Who are you?" The woman asked as others surrounded him with bolters trained on him. They all wore similar armor to her and far as he could tell they were all women as well.
"I believe my obligation to answer any questions to someone that's holding a gun to my face isn't that high." The woman frowned.
"Your obligation is misplaced if you think that the person holding all the cards will be swayed by those words that disobey her command." Alexander smiled inside his helmet, the woman gestured to his greatsword.
"Toss that aside." Alexander tossed the greatsword out of reach and reached up for his helmet but the woman clicked her tongue.
"I wouldn't do that unless you want to keep that head." Alexander kept his hands up with their palms out.
"May I take off my helmet; it would do me no good to not look face to face with my apparent captors." The woman didn't say anything for a moment before she nodded.
"Fine, take it off. But do it slowly, if you don't then you're dead." Alexander chuckled as he slowly pulled his helmet off. He could see some of them relax a fraction; no doubt they had expected some twisted servants of the Ruinous Powers. He could also see the Aquila on some of their armor, he smiled.
"Tell me, how did the Praetorian of Terra keep the Traitor from reaching the Throne?" This drew a look of surprise on the woman's face.
"You have the Aquila on your armor, so I assume we won? How has my Master dealt with the remaining Traitors?" The woman lowered her bolt and he could see something in her eyes that made him realize that he may regret in asking this question.
"Who are you?" The woman asked.
"I may ask you the same." The woman stiffened before bowing her head slightly.
"I am Canoness Superior Arabella of the Order of the Sacred Rose." Alexander nodded.
"Well Canoness Superior Arabella, I was once known as Shield Captain Aléxandros of the Sentinel Guard but now you may refer to me as High Lord Alexander Arc of Arcadia."
A Few Days Later…
Alexander stood with his hands behind his back looking over the town of Helvisk from the town's central Keep. It was a relatively new town, with only a few thousand civilians, that was founded on the northern side of Arcadian territory that was settled a little more than a decade ago.
It had also been the site of one of the fiercest battles that the Arcadian Army had to fight in the last two decades.
The Septemtrionis Stipendium or informally known as the Northern Campaign had been a six year long effort in driving out the Grimm for new land to take. The lead Army elements had the task of tracking and harassing Grimm packs to keep them from forming into a sizable horde as the main strength of the Army moved in to fortify the areas.
There was only so much distance they could travel though due to the constraints of traveling by foot. Arcadia couldn't make enough vehicles to be able to transfer more than a small chunk at a time as there weren't enough manufactories to supply them.
On average they made about fifteen to twenty miles every few days through mountains and thick forests while having to maintain a steady supply line.
On top of that despite the best attempts of the Army vanguard, the Grimm had formed into a number of relatively large size hordes that either struck the Vanguard or main Army elements.
Many soldiers were lost in terrifying ambushes at night or when taken by surprise from Nevermores swooped down. While the small or medium sized ones didn't pose a big threat once enough firepower was directed towards them, the larger ones proved to be far more troublesome than any could hope for.
For instance the treacherous mountain trails meant spreading the Army thinly which meant any section under attack could only be supported by those in front or behind. So the Nevermores took more than a few soldiers to their deaths as they were either knocked off the trail or impaled from their steel like feathers.
With the rising casualties and poor weather hindering the movement of the main Army Group, the Vanguard receiving less and less supplies for them to move forward as such they were grounded to a full halt.
So it was decided that the Vanguard had done what it could and that they needed to form up with the rest of the Army. However at that point in time the Grimm had tarnished the supply lines so badly the Vanguard couldn't make it back safely without expending what supplies that they had left.
Though they were only four days travel from the main Army, the terrain and weather were against them. The main army had gotten bogged down in a massive blizzard so they would be delayed a few extra days before they could reach them.
So the Vanguard gathered and pooled their meager supplies into building a small fort to hold out in.
During the first night the Grimm descended on them. They were able to drive the Grimm out after an hour of harsh fighting but had suffered to the point that a fifth of their manpower was down for the count.
The Grimm however itched for another fight as they sensed blood on the wind, so they sieged the small fort for nearly a week.
By the time the main Army had gotten within range of the Vanguard, they were all but dead, with a little less than a company barricaded underground as Ursai pounded the doors. In the surrounding lands and forest a horde estimated to be around forty thousand strong waited for the Army.
Alexander had no faith in those numbers as it was completely unreliable for documentation as the dead never stayed long for an accurate account nor did they have the time to do a proper head count.
The subsequent battle lasted for the better part of another day with intense fighting over thirty miles of land. This blunted the Army's strength enough that he issued orders for the campaign to end the moment he heard about it.
At the end of the campaign the total count of the Arcadian forces had been a hundred thousand strong Army Corp. With a Light Infantry Division that had acted as the vanguard for the rest of the Army Corp.
In the end the final report of the Septemtrionis Stipendium that made it to his desk said that they had a little over forty thousand soldiers, either dead, wounded, or missing. It had been a crippling defeat but it did have some success in the long run for Arcadia.
Thanks to the early success of the campaign. They had established four new major spots to colonize due to their high abundance of ore and other mineral resources. Along with another six minor spots for basic settlement and agriculture purposes.
He also remembered that during time was also the first contact with Vacuoan merchants.
In the self-enforced seclusion of Arcadia they had been forgotten by the outside world which meant that information of what happened to the world was nonexistent. In return they had been lost to the annals of history as one of the few bright hopes of the world in beating the Grimm that was lost in the Old Age.
With their apparent disappearance it left a major power vacuum that had seen the defeat and death of an untold amount of people as they tried to step up to the role. They either died at the hands of others who wanted the title of most powerful or to the Grimm.
Even Murias was left untouched apparently as a sign of both respect and fear. If the Grimm had annihilated one of the most powerful Kingdoms at the time no one wanted to stay at the site of that defeat. Many people over the years claiming it to be cursed at the uneasy feeling it gave people.
However with the arrival of those merchants that had found their ways into the cold waters of Clove, they could finally hear about the outside world again.
News spread throughout Arcadia of the finding of Dust and the emergence of Aura. These new finds or discoveries had led to the people in the outside world finally forming together to challenge the Grimm. Driving them back in order to finally claim lost ground and cultivate its growth.
At the same time he found it sad that only Four Kingdoms remained those being Mantle, Vale, Vacuo and Mistral.
He did understand how Mistral had risen due to Arcadia's past campaigns on the continent of Sanus. Especially considering the Siege of Colossae where they helped the defenders defeat the Grimm then watched those people sail over the sea to find a new haven.
However diplomatic relationships have yet to be established with any of these Four Kingdoms in the years since the initial contact. Dispatching spies he was able to find out that there was tension brewing between the Four Kingdoms.
It seemed that Vale and Mantle were the principal actors of this tension with Mistral siding with Mantle and Vacuo staying out of the way.
Alexander decided that he'd keep commercial channels open to the Four Kingdoms but would ultimately stay away from engaging in any diplomatic talks. He didn't want to upset something that he had no true clue in nor did he want to get into a fight that didn't seem very important in the grand scheme of things.
He had also sent agents out to track down the merchants that had arrived in Arcadia and silenced them. While it was far from honorable, he didn't want too many outsiders to come into Arcadia especially since there was a substantial difference between the two groups now.
Instead he would rather continue helping Arcadia flourish as best he could. Looking over his shoulder he could see a dozen women sitting at a long wooden table eating silently in the stateroom of the town's Prefect.
Though there was another matter that took a lot of his time. It was the finding and recovery of people and items from his old life.
These women weren't the first ones to find their way to this world. Over the years he's found and recruited a number of people or taken abandoned technology to act as blueprints. Along with the destruction of items and beings that shouldn't exist as they could easily lead to the downfall of life on this world.
"So Custodian, what have you been doing here for so long?" A slightly gruff voice called out. He turned to face the table again; the women all eyed him with various degrees of awe and suspicion.
"I've been here, guiding and helping these people to the best of my abilities." One of the women crossed their arms.
"I find that hard to believe." He raised an eyebrow and looked towards the speaker. The woman had short brown hair and a scar crossing from one cheek over her nose to the other cheek.
"And you are?" The woman crossed her arms.
"Andromache, Retributor in the Order of the Sacred Rose." Alexander waved his hand dismissively.
"Yes, yes, whatever. Here's my question to you then Andromache of the Sacred Rose, what do you know about leading people?" The woman stiffened a little.
"I know a leader must be brave and decisive on the battlefield, understanding the needs of their soldiers…"
"No." Alexander cut her off.
"I asked what is it that you know about leading people, this doesn't just mean on the battlefield but in day to day life. To help this people farm the land, mine ore, tend to the sick and elderly, craft technology not only for their weapons but also for the betterment of their daily lives." The woman sat silent as Alexander stepped towards them. Another woman spoke up; she had a much softer voice and tone.
"Custodian, how come you haven't tried leaving this world?" He turned towards the woman who spoke; she was a shorter woman with short silver hair like most of the others.
"Leave in what sense? Go back to the time I originally left or leave this planet in general and see if I can make my way back to Terra?" The woman shrugged.
"Both?" Alexander sighed.
"There are a number of reasons why, for one I made a promise to lead these people. Another reason is the possibility that I have no idea what sort of distance I would need to travel which obviously leads to the lack of resources to make a void worthy ship. Though over the years I realized that I also need to take into account is time."
"Time?" He nodded.
"From what information that's been gathered, we've all landed or were transported here via a Warp portal or rift of some kind. The nature of the Warp is one of abstract reality; a day in there could be a thousand years into the future or a year in there a few hours in our reality." Arabella leaned forward.
"So you're suggesting that we're not only lost in where we are but also when?" He nodded.
"I can't prove it but I also can't disprove that as well." She nodded before leaning back in her chair, Alexander studied her face. It was striking in sense that he couldn't quite place a word to it but he couldn't help but stare, her dark blue, almost sapphire like eyes met his and they locked for a moment.
"Custodian if you don't mind me asking, since you know more about this world, can you tell me what were those creatures that attacked not only us but the lesser Daemons of the Prince of Pleasure as well?" Arabella asked and an easy smile spread across his face as he sat down.
"I'll be glad to tell you everything I can but please, call me Alexander."
Many Years Later…
Alexander Arc set the last of the boxes on the kitchen counter; looking down he could see himself in the reflection of the counter top. He had grown older over the years. At worst he looked to be in his mid-thirties.
His blonde hair had turned silver over the years as he kept it at a short cut that was swept to the right a little. He also had a few laugh lines around his eyes now as well.
His scar from the Fall of Murias had faded a little but was still noticeable if one were to get close to him.
What definitely hadn't change was his physique; he was still eight feet tall. Along with that his body was still fit and toned enough to put most men to shame. He did feel a little slower but not enough to be truly noticeable by anyone but him.
If he could only beat ninety nine men with his bare hands instead of a hundred, so be it. Though it didn't mean he had let his skills grow rusty over the years, he doubt that could ever truly happen. At times it felt like his body itched to be holding a weapon or to be fighting.
So whenever that itch grew he could spend days training, dueling, or forging if that didn't dampen the feeling he would go into the Outlands to fight Grimm. Many people have told him that it was reckless of him to do that but he didn't care. It was something he wanted, no, needed to do.
"You okay?" A soft voice asked behind him and he turned to see Arabella in a grey dress that reached to her ankles standing at the doorway with a bag over her shoulder. She hadn't seemed to age a day since they met.
Though her hair had grown out and now it was tied in a tight bun behind her head. Most noticeably was the fact that her dress bulged out at the midsection, she was pregnant.
"I'm fine, just finally glad to be here after all that time." She laughed softly, it sounded like music to his ears.
"I swear it's a miracle you managed to get anything done on your own sometimes." She said referring to the fact that she had to organize a council of Lords to take on, as she saw it, the trivial business of running a Kingdom.
Before that Alexander had a stack of papers two feet high every week that he would have to go through. Approving, denying, or adjusting the numerous proposition and requests that were sent to him.
"It wasn't that bad." She raised an eyebrow at him.
"Alexander, you know I love you but that's bullshit, I watched you sit at your desk for a day straight going through paper work before you finally took a break to grab some water. It was not good at all." Alexander shrugged.
"True and at least now I know how Mina learned to swear." Arabella's face flushed little.
"So how many more boxes do we have left?" She asked changing the topic as she looked at the box he had set on the counter.
"This is the last one, now we just have to open them up and organize it." She nodded.
"You can start opening up the boxes and sorting them out, I'm going to adjust the furniture and move the beds upstairs." Alexander tapped her forehead softly.
"Yea, I don't think a pregnant woman should do that so I'll move the furniture and you can organize the boxes." Arabella frowned.
"But that's so boring."
"Well if you really want you can trade places with Areto, she's watching the girls in the backyard." Arabella smiled.
"Deal!" She turned and briskly walked out of the kitchen before Alexander could say anything, he sighed.
Later that Night…
Alexander closed the picture book as he looked down at his sleeping children. If someone had told him when he first arrived here that he would somehow have children, he would have called them insane. He wasn't even sure if he actually could have children when he underwent the grueling process to become who he was now.
Looking down he could see his three children so far were asleep in their beds. The eldest, Katherine was barely eight years old, with Mina being six and five year old Sepherina. Now there was a fourth child on the way into this world.
With their birth he would have thought that his duty as High Lord would become less and less of a priority to him but strangely enough that remained to be untrue.
As much as he wanted to be a devoted father he couldn't help but think of the people he had lost over the years protecting Arcadia. Losing them to the Grimm, the servants of the Ruinous Powers or by his own mistakes, he couldn't forget them.
With those memories he swore to do all that he could to see the day that Arcadia will no longer have to be at war. So he must stay as High Lord until he was no longer suited for the position or died trying.
He knew Arabella would gladly give up complete control of her power in the Kingdom to be a mother to the girls but he couldn't. Was his duty getting in the way of his happiness?
Though the more he thought about it the more the question formed in his mind of whether this was true happiness or a fleeting emotion that had reawaken itself in his subconscious? A hand slid its way onto his right shoulder, looking up he could see Arabella standing next to him in a loose red nightgown.
"Aren't they beautiful?" She whispered looking down at the sleeping girls, he smiled slightly and nodded.
"Well they do take after their mother." Her hand squeeze his shoulder softly as he stood up, turning off a small desk lamp that he had used as he read to them.
The two of them made their way silently into the hall, closing the door to the children's room. Once the door was close they made their way into their own bedroom.
As they got ready for bed Alexander stood at the sink of the adjacent bathroom looking at the scar on his face. He traced it with his thumb; the skin was unnaturally smooth yet uneven.
"Is something wrong?" Arabella asked from behind.
"I don't know." He said as he turned around, Arabella tilted her head a little.
"I've just thinking about how I'm a father and how I should be devoting more of my time to being one. Yet I can't seem to accept that, a part of me feels that it's more important to be High Lord." Arabella stepped closer to him and took his hand with both of her hands. They were cool and smooth but he could feel the strength in them.
"Alexander I've know you feel like that for a while. I could tell the first time we met that you were someone who took his duty very serious. It's one of the reasons why I fell in love with you, at the same time I know you do what you can or have too, not just out of duty but devotion for the people. I also know you won't be a bad father to our kids; you'll always do your best to help them grow. So I won't ask you to pick or chose between me and the kids and your duty as High Lord nor will I abandon the people as well so worry not my dear, I will always be by your side." Arabella said placing his hand on her cheek.
"I love you Alexander Arc." She said after a moment of silence, Alexander could feel a smile grow on his face.
"And I love you Arabella Arc."
Several Months Later…
Alexander paced in the hallway on the second floor of his home, in the master bedroom Arabella was being attended by Sisters of the Hospitaller.
Katherine, Mina and Sepherina peeked out from their bedroom to watch him. They didn't know exactly what was going on but they knew something was afoot so they stayed at the doorway.
"How is she?" A gravelly voiced asked, Alexander turned to see a grizzled old man in the black and red military dress uniform of the Arcadian Army ascend the stairs. A patchwork of medals and ribbons adorned his left breast. Though the most prominent part was the golden Arc emblem that had a star fitted in the middle of it, pinned to his collar.
"Ah, Lord Commander Gareth, what brings you out here?" The older man saluted with a smile on his face, though only the left half responded as the right side had been thoroughly burned from a fire during the Faunus Rights Revolution.
"Ah well the Council saw fit to come and visit you and Arabella on this auspicious day. I'm just the first to arrive; the others will arrive within the day." Alexander bowed slightly.
"You honor me at visiting." The older man waved his hand dismissively
"Think nothing of it old man." The Lord Commander said and Alexander laughed.
"I'd watch who you call "Old Man" Gareth; some people may think you're talking to yourself. Though with the way you look, I'm sure they'll understand an old man going through a senile moment." The other man laughed in return.
"You're right but those younglings probably won't laugh for long when I'm done with them." Alexander chuckled as put patted his back.
"I remember when you were still a Colonel and you had the top five soldiers of your Division try to fight you in order to win a week long leave pass for the entire Division. I can still see the surprise on their faces when they found themselves on the ground." Gareth chuckled as he shook his head.
"Well if I had to pick something like that for you. I would have to pick the Sentinel Trial after the Faunus Right Revolution where you had the latest initiates of the Praetorians fight you. It was awe inspiring and terrifying to see what you did to them." The laughter died as memories resurfaced.
"It's a shame about what happened to them later." Gareth said his voice quieting down as he noticed the curious eyes of three young girls on him.
"Aye, but it just serves as nothing more than a reminder that we can never be lax when it comes to the Grimm and that goes double for the servants of the Ruinous Powers." Alexander said as he stared at the wall towards the master bedroom. The two men said nothing as they stood there.
"Do you know if it's another girl?" Gareth asked changing the subjects, Alexander shrugged.
"We decided to keep this one a surprise but I hope it's a boy between you and me." Gareth chuckled.
"Aye, the old lady and I stressed about our girl when she was young all the time, I'd hate to imagine what's like for you who already has three girls." Alexander grinned.
"Please, don't remind me of that of all things." The doors to the master bedroom open and Alexander was already at it as a Sister of the Hospitaller stepped out, squeaking in surprise at his sudden appearance in front of her.
"How are they?" Alexander asked and the woman smiled.
"They're fine my Lord, you can come in now." Alexander followed the Sister and saw Arabella sitting up in bed holding their newborn baby in her arms. Perspiration covered her face and her hair looked a little frazzled but she looked absolutely happy. She looked up and beckoned him over; coming up to the side he could see the face of the calm baby in her arms.
"It's a boy." She said flashing a tired smile up at him.
"Really?" Alexander asked breathlessly.
"Here, do you want to hold him?" Arabella asked before she gave the baby over to him and Alexander cradled him gently in his arms.
"What should we name him?" Arabella asked as he sat down next to her. Alexander could only think of one name. A name that held a major significance to his life ever since he found his way here, he smiled.
"Hello Jaune Arc."
Well, well, well, here's the new version of my First Story.
I've been working on this one section ever since I put to rest the First Version. It took me a long time and a lot of drafts to get it to an acceptable point.
Even then it may not be as good as I want it to be but I suppose that's me just being weird.
Anyways let me give a Shout out to TheMightyTeaRex for reading this and suffering my constant questions about what he thought about it.
So then now my turn to bug all of you, how did you like it? Anything you did or didn't like, please let me know in the Review sections or PM if you would like to talk about anything I would really appreciate it.
And if you're unfamiliar with my other story, A Dance of Death, feel free to check that out!
Let me also say that the next chapter is being worked on but I can't give an accurate time frame of it's release.
Anyways, till next time!