Disclaimer: I do not own White Knight Chronicles just my avatar and the words below.
Appologies for all those who have been waiting for oh so long for the next chapter of this story. To keep you happy until chapter 4 is done, I have edited & hopefully improved the original 3 chapters for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.
A long time ago, during what's known as the Dogma age, two great forces struggled for control of the world. They were called Yshrenia and Athwan. Their fortunes waxed and waned, but neither could ever gain the upper hand. In a bid to finish the war once and for all, Yshrenia created the Knights.
And just like that the tides changed; before long Athwan stood on the brink of defeat. But the Athwani forces made one, last desperate counter-attack. At the price of many lives, they used "sealing magic" to entrap the Yshrenian Knights. Without their super weapons, the Yshrenians were over whelmed by the Athwani Spellcasters. Now it was their turned to be pushed to the edge of defeat.
However before the Athwani could finish off their foes, they turned against themselves and their empire collapsed into civil war. Eventually both civilizations, Yshrenia and Athwan alike, faded away. For all their sacrifices, neither side ever gained ultimate victory, in the end their bloody struggle was all in vain.
However, the oracles of time prophesied a final battle would be fought ten millennia later...
Tufts of grass and dirt were thrown to the winds as a small band of horse riders tore through the plains of Balastor. Passing trees and high cliffs, the supposed leader of the small band halted atop a cliff face that gave them a grand view of a large kingdom.
Of the five riders, two of them wore identical armoured garbs indicating they were infantry. Another wore a suit of armour of what appeared to be rich green dragon or lizard scales which clung to him tightly giving the impression that he was swift in combat if the katana that hung at his waist was anything to go by. The fourth rider was shorter and more stockier than any of the other riders and wore a red and gold trimmed coat that made him look more like the leader of a circus troupe than an officer although the mad look in his eyes may prove otherwise. The fifth rider was clad from head to toe in jet black armour making him look like some demon that had stepped out of someone's nightmare.
'General' The man in the red coat said with a flourish. 'I give you Balandor'
The black armoured General said nothing as the fiery red slits of his helmet gazed down upon the kingdom where the sounds of celebration were starting in recognition of events to come.
"Yes, General Dragias" The man chuckled as if the black knight had spoken. 'I think tonight's celebration will be one to remember'
Whether General Dragias heard what his fellow rider said or not was unknown as he continued to stare down at the kingdom where their objective was hidden.
In the kingdom of Balandor the entire population was abuzz with activity. Tonight was the ball for Princess Cisna's coming-of-age. If that weren't enough a delegation from the continent of Faria, a long time enemy of Balandor, was coming to negotiate peace treaties and end a war that had ravaged both sides.
With such an important occasion upon them, it was only natural that the Castleguard would be on high alert and had increased the number of patrols and guards station at the two entrances to the kingdom to ward off those deemed suspicious and unworthy of entering and cause trouble for the kingdom and its guests.
As the four guards stationed at the entrance leading from the Greydall plains cast focused looks on all who passed them, what seemed to be an old man in a threadbare travelling cloak with its hood up and carrying a long object wrapped in cloth approached the gates. As he made to pass them, one of the guards called to him.
'Hey, you with the hood!' He barked at the old man. 'Not so fast'
The hooded man stopped and turned his head slightly towards the guard indicating that he heard him. 'You wouldn't be talking to me, would you?' He asked quietly as if unable to speak louder than a whisper.
'Let's have a look at your face!' The guard said as he stepped in front of the man.
'Surely you've got better things to look upon than the pockmarks and wrinkles of an old man, no?' The old man questioned bowing his head slightly to make sure his face remained hidden under his cloak.
The guard was obviously not buying the act and shoved the old man to show that he meant business. 'I said, take off the hood and show me your face!'
It looked like the old man had given up trying to avoid the inevitable and obediently lifted his head so the guard could see under the hood. The next moment, the guard's eyes were caught in the old man's and suddenly felt he was in a dream. Dropping his spear as his arms went limp and he began to sway on the spot, the guard gave the old man the go ahead.
'Good enough. Proceed' He said in a dazed voice making the guard not far from him stare in astonishment as he had watched the spectacle from where he was stationed.
'Oh, many thanks. You soldiers are truly a credit to your King' The old man commented before stepping passed the dazed guard and continuing on his way. The moment the old man had walked far enough away, the guard who had seen them stepped closer to his colleague.
'Hey, you sure?' He asked casting a suspicious glance at the old man's retreating back. 'I don't like the looks of him'
Ignoring the two guards behind him, the old man kept walking at his slow pace until he could see the whole of the castle from the road he was currently on. 'Any moment now' He muttered to himself his voice now sounding stronger and deeper than it had a few moments ago. 'The prophecies were very specific about where it would begin'
From her balcony that looked out over her father's kingdom, Princess Cisna gazed out into the blue sky. Standing near the entrance to the balcony behind her, her father King Valtos stared at his daughter with a sad look upon his face. It had been ten years since he had last seen her smile or speak and he just wished that she would utter just one more word before his time had come.
'Your Grace?' King Valtos recognised the voice of Sarvain, his aide, as the man walked towards him. 'How does our young princess fare today?'
The King shook his head from side to side slightly before answering the rather obvious question. 'Look at her Sarvain. She is the picture of her mother. Ten painful years since that day and still my Cisna speaks not a word'
The memory of that night was forever burned into his mind. It was just when the moon reached its zenith that the Farians had staged a daring attack on the kingdom. Whilst his loyal soldiers held them at bay, Valtos was notified that someone had managed to sneak into the castle. He returned just in time to witness his wife Floraine being stabbed through the heart by someone, presumably a Farian, shrouded in a black coat before jumping out the window. Not only had the King just seen his beloved wife die before his eyes, his dear sweet daughter was standing before him clutching a pillow as she stared at her mother's lifeless body.
'Are you certain we should proceed with the ball?' Sarvain asked pulling the King from his thoughts. 'Presenting her to the people now might only add to their alarm'
'Oh, what nonsense' Valtos scoffed quietly as he turned to look at Sarvain. 'None of those attending expect Cisna to speak. Her presence and her composure will suffice'
He spoke with a hint of pride when he said that. Despite having lost her mother at such a young age, Cisna had grown into a beautiful young lady and seemed to be encompassed in an air of calmness and confidence; reminding Valtos of his late wife.
'Still...I would give all my riches to see a real smile cross her face again' The King said before bowing his head as he remembered all the times before that night when Cisna used to laugh and smile bright enough to rival the sun itself. 'Floraine, she would know. She always knew how to make Cisna laugh...'
'Sire...Forgive me' Sarvain said quietly when the King fell silent as he started to slip into depression. 'But the princess's heart breaking condition begs the old question. Why in creation are we making peace with the same people who robbed her of her mother?'
In an instant Valtos had shaken off his depression and had once more become himself. 'My wife is gone Sarvain' He said turning to the grey haired advisor with a hardened look in his eye. 'War has taken her, just as it has taken so many before her. The Farians speak our tongue. We ought to trade words with them from now on, not lives'
Sarvain bowed his head at his King's wise words but that did not stop the small grumble of his disproval from escaping his lips.
Upon hearing the sound of her father's slightly raised voice, Cisna left the balcony's ledge and walked over to him curtsying when she was a few steps from him. The King's hardness immediately softened upon seeing his daughter before him.
'Oh, Cisna!' He sighed knowing full well that whenever she was around any sad thoughts seemed to just drift away. 'You look radiant. That dress suits you perfectly'
Cisna looked up at her father and smiled softly. Suddenly, armoured footsteps could be heard as a soldier walked towards them.
'Your Grace' He said going on one knee before his king.
'What is it?' Valtos asked of his subject.
'Archduke Dalam of Faria will be arriving shortly' The soldier replied keeping his eyes fixed on the ground before him.
'Good' Valtos nodded. 'See that he is given a proper welcome'
'Yes sire' The soldier complied but remained where he was. 'Also, a group calling themselves the Marcus Revellers are outside the gates. They say they wish to perform in honour of Her Highness's special day. Shall I turn them away?'
'A circus, today?' Valtos asked sounding both surprised and baffled.
'A gift!' Sarvain exclaimed enthusiastically. 'What day could be more deserving of a little extra celebration?'
The King pondered for a moment before turning to look at his daughter. Nodding to himself he then turned to look back at the soldier that informed him of the troupe and his aide. 'Very well. Let them into the city then'
Sarvain nodded before leaving after the soldier who had just got up and saluted before leaving moments earlier. As the King turned back to his daughter, Sarvain glanced back at the two of them before walking off a knowing and somewhat sinister smile tugging at his lips.
'Anything to report?' The Captain of the Castleguard asked as he approached one of the guards stationed at the entrance gates leading up to the castle drawbridge.
'No, sir' The guard replied.
Captain Cyrus nodded before turning his gaze down the wide road that lead from the gates straight down towards the centre of the kingdom where the citizens of Balandor were gathering as the delegation from Faria made its approach. People of all ages stared in awe at the rows of soldiers marching in perfect formation up the road towards the castle. Nestled in between two white furred beasts, a single person in splendid robes of sunflower yellow sat comfortably amidst a pile of plush cushions as his chair was carried by four muscular servants.
'That is quite the procession' The guard noted to his captain who just scoffed.
'I hope the archduke has enough pillows' He said just loud enough before schooling his expression and bowing as the procession reached them. 'Warmongering Farian scum'
Gesturing for his people to stop, the Archduke turned his gaze upon the captain of the guards. 'Who are you?' He asked in a monotone voice.
'I am Cyrus of Balandor. Captain of the Castleguard' Cyrus replied making sure his voice did not contain even a hint of anger at who he was talking to. 'Your Excellency, we are most honoured by your visit'
'Are you now?' Archduke Dalam asked in the same monotonous tone. After many years of fighting, what he just heard surely was not meant, at least not yet. 'Tell me, Sir. How is his Grace? Is he doing well these days?'
Cyrus nearly bit his tongue to keep himself in check. 'He is doing quite well, your Excellency' He managed to reply calmly.
'Is he now. That's good to hear' Dalam said mostly to himself before looking back at Cyrus once again. 'Now then, if you'll excuse me'
As if taking their cue, the procession continued off towards the castle. Once the procession had moved off the guard that Cyrus had spoken to before the delegation arrived spoke up.
'Does his Grace really hope to make peace with these people?' He asked of him.
Cyrus scoffed again as he rose to his feet. 'Peace with the Farians? The idea makes my blood boil'
Having been wielding his sword for his King and Kingdom since he had turned of age, Cyrus had fought in many a battle with the Farians. When Queen Floraine had been killed by those monsters, Cyrus took up the position of Captain of the Castleguard in the order to ensure they did not attempt to assassinate the Princess or, god forbid, the King himself.
Looking at the retreating back of the procession, Cyrus could not help but ask aloud one thing. 'Has the King forgotten so soon?'
Rapacci was in a right mood as he watched his new hire count up the many crates of bottled wine that were stacked neatly in one corner of his shop. With a ball going on there was obviously going to be a banquet and banquets always had wine. And wine was what his business, Rapacci Wines, was to deliver to the castle for the upcoming banquet.
'Make sure you've counted them properly' He said to the new guy who just lifted his right hand above his head gesturing that he heard the warg as his other hand continued to move up and down as he quickly counted up the remaining columns of crates full of bottled wine.
At that moment, the door to the shop opened and Rapacci swiftly turned his eyes towards the entrant and seeing red when he recognised the ponytailed youth that had walked in.
'Dammit, Leonard!' He snarled making the youth cringe and jump back a step. 'Where the hell have you been? You better not have forgotten what today is'
Leonard just stood there and took it. He had been looked after by Rapacci for twelve years and had learned that, when his guardian and boss got angry, it was best to just let him get it out of his system instead of doing something to make it worse. Although coming in on time may have prevented it.
'Yeah I know' Leonard answered the warg's question having had the answer literally beaten into him for the past seven weeks now. 'Today is the Princess's ball. She's introduced to society, we step into the big time, got it'
'This is a momentous day for Rapacci Wines. The court picked us to supply wine for a party at the castle!' Rapacci rambled off his eyes glazing over as he began remembering all the hardships he had gone through to get this far. 'We gotta do it right and earn a bona fide royal commendation! Ah, I've worked my fingers to the bone to guess this far...'
Leonard knew what was coming next. Rapacci would bawl at the roof whilst covering his face with one arm in elation of his dream nearly coming true and was not disappointed as Rapacci did just that.
'Look, I'll leave for the Parma winery now, and I'll still be back with time to spare' Leonard stated thinking it would calm him down only for it to backfire on him as Rapacci glared at him again.
'You better' he said before moving round from behind his desk and towards Leonard. 'I rented a Beastwain at the village for you. Use it ta cart the wine back here like your life depends on it' He waved a clenched fist threateningly at Leonard. 'Cause it does'
'All...all right!' Leonard gulped remembering all the other times Rapacci had all but flayed him to within an inch of his life for disappointing him.
'And while you're at it, that's the new guy' He added jerking his chin at the new hire who had watched the whole spectacle and looked like he was trying to figure out their relationship. 'Take him with you'
'Hi there, I'm Leonard' Leonard greeted as he stepped up to the new hire.
'Alastor' Came the reply as he raised his hand to shake Leonard's.
Leonard took a moment to look over him. The guy was tall and well built; his face seemed to have a frown permanently attached to it but he seemed alright; his face was slim and free of any blemishes whilst his eyes were of a dark blue with matching hair colour that was short and spiked on top with the sides braided to look like a head band.
Anything else Leonard wanted to speculate about the new hire would have to wait for another time as Rapacci had thrown a goblet at him that found its mark on the back of his head with a dull thunk.
'Just get your butts moving!' Rapacci growled at the two of them. 'You can talk on the road!'
'Alright, gods...' Leonard moaned as he nursed his sore head whilst heading for the door with Alastor following him.
'Cheerful guy' Alastor noted once the two of them had picked up their weapons that were lying just inside the door and headed outside.
'He's just anxious about getting that commendation' Leonard defended as he adjusted the strap of his sword belt. 'Trust me when I say that him like this is better when he is angry'
Alastor's eyebrows rose slightly before settling into their usual place as he placed his oak staff into the holster he had made out of an old strip of leather. 'So, what's the task?'
Leonard quickly fished a piece of paper out of the inner pocket of his leather vest and quickly looked over it. 'We have to fetch barrels of wine from the Parma warehouse using the Beastwain' He said before sighing. 'Boy, that's a lot of work'
'Don't complain, it's easier than carrying it ourselves' Alastor reasoned.
Leonard shuddered. He could barely carry one barrel of wine by himself and given that the party was at the castle there would have to be nearly two dozen barrels. He would have to carry whilst fighting off vespids and the odd polkan at the same time.
'Well, let's get going' He said after shuddering again.
As the two of them made their way through the back roads towards the main road that would lead them to the west gate, Leonard started up a conversation with Alastor and the two of them began to share bits about each other.
Alastor was twenty-eight years old making him ten years Leonard's senior and had last been in Balandor ten years ago when he enrolled into the king's army but then quit six years later and took a job in the free city of Greede. He then left a little over a year ago for reasons only he knew and wandered the lands until he was broke and took up the job at the winery. Leonard on the other hand had been living in Balandor as far back as he could remember and often spent his days playing with a childhood friend of his in the Balastor Plain. He was offered, or rather given, a job at his guardian's winery when he was deemed old enough to help out and had been working there ever since.
As the two of them made their way down the main road towards the gate, they passed by an old man in a ragged travelling cloak who was walking in the other direction. As if compelled to do so, Leonard turned his gaze towards the old man and was slightly surprised to see him looking back as if studying him before looking down again and continuing on his way.
'Weird' He mumbled as he watched the old man walk away for a second before catching up to Alastor who was waiting for him a few steps ahead.
'Friend of yours?' He asked gazing at the old man suspiciously.
'I was going to ask you the same thing' Leonard admitted as they continued towards the west gate
Just before Leonard and Alastor reached their destination, they began to notice a crowd gathering just ahead and festive music could be heard.
'Hey look' Leonard exclaimed when he saw two giant lizards towing a large theatre through the gates to Balandor.
'A troupe?' Alastor asked sounding slightly surprised.
From atop the moving theatre, a man in a top hat, wiry moustache and a red nose emerged from behind a curtain and spoke to the crowd. 'Ladies and gentlemen! Young and old of Balandor! I am Belcitane and in honour of Her Highness's coming-of-age day, I give you wonders aplenty and sights unlike any!
With a flourishing wave of his hand, acrobats appeared on stage and began flipping and cart wheeling about as fire crackers burst loose spewing forth streams of confetti bringing applause and cheers from the crowds. 'Step right up, the Marcus Revellers have arrived!'
'I've never seen a circus. This is going to be some party!' Leonard crowed looking excited.
'We might be able to catch the last half if we hurry' Alastor speculated as they headed out the west gate once the caravan had passed by and made their way onto the Balastor plain.
'The village of Parma is due south of here, pretty simple' Leonard said as he pointed out into the vast plain. 'There's not much to it, but it's a nice enough place'
'You talking about the plain, or the village?' Alastor asked as he rested one hand on his staff.
'The village' Leonard chuckled before turning serious. 'Keep a look out for monsters. We're in the wild now'
With a blurred motion of his arm, Alastor drew his staff and had it resting on his shoulder. 'Just don't get in the way of my spells and I'm sure we'll do fine'
Leonard nodded in agreement as he place a hand on the hilt of his sword. The two of them began making their way towards Parma at a steady pace keeping a wary eye out for the odd vespid swarm that they might run into.
The trip to Parma took only a few hours to make. With Leonard's swordsmanship and Alastor's magicks, the two of them were able to overcome any obstacles that were in their way. The only problem they had was when a group of nearby polkans and kibbles joined in the battle against several vespids resulting in quite a few bruises before Alastor sent them running with a fire spell.
'Told you it was a straight shot to Parma' Leonard said as they reached the gate to the village.
'Didn't mean we had to go straight through the middle of a swarm of vespids' Alastor grumbled as he holstered his staff. 'You're lucky I'm skilled in divine lore as well as spirit'
Divine and spirit, also known as elemental, lore were two main branches of magic that were common to most, if not all, Spellcasters these days. Divine lore was the art of healing and support magicks most commonly used by healers and doctors throughout the lands. Elemental lore was the complete opposite of divine due to its destructive force by fusing one of the four elements with a Spellcaster's mana, the energy used to channel and power spells, and targeting from one person or creature to several at once. Most Spellcasters focused on mastering one of the two; however there were some people like Alastor who used both.
Leonard shrugged it off and walked through the gate. Alastor shook his head at the youth's apparent sureness that they would have made it and followed him. Upon passing through the gate and advancing several more steps, Alastor could not help but whistle appreciatively at the peaceful settlement before him. The village was small, all of the houses were made up of stray, hay and clay yet looked sturdily built whilst the rest of the land was covered in vineyards. Coupled with the several windmills and quietness, it was no surprise why Alastor whistled.
'Welcome to Parma' Leonard said knowing full well why the Spellcaster whistled.
'Hey! You're on time for once'
Turning round at the sound of the person's voice, Leonard and Alastor saw a girl around Leonard's age with short purple hair and grey blue eyes walking towards them.
'Yulie!' Leonard called out when he recognised his best friend for the past eleven years.
'How've you been there, Leonard?' She asked as she stopped beside them then took a moment to study Alastor. She actually had to take a step back to look at him properly because he was a whole head taller than her. 'You must be the new guy. Rapacci told me you were coming. Glad you could make it'
Before Alastor could even nod his head in acknowledgement, Yulie had already started walking away. 'The wine's all set to go, follow me'
Alastor just stared after her. To him, it looked like the girl could hardly stay in one place for so long as if she had just swallowed a whole pouch of sweetdrops.
'Didn't think I would run into Yulie here' Leonard groaned causing Alastor to quirk an eyebrow at him.
'What's so bad about that?' he asked as the two of them followed their guide.
'Yulie's always ready to work and always teases me about something or other if she gets the chance' Leonard explained.
'Maybe if you weren't so lazy she wouldn't get to you so much' Alastor pointed out earning a light blow to the shoulder from Leonard.
'I get enough of that kind of talk from Rapacci and her without adding you to the list' Leonard stated.
'I'm just saying-' The rest of Alastor's sentence died in his throat when he saw the Beastwain. The creature looked like a cross between a mountain goat, a boar and about four times as big.
'You must be kidding' Leonard croaked when he found his voice again.
'Don't let his looks fool you' Yulie assured them as she stepped up to the creature and patted its flank. 'He's a big old pussycat'
Whilst Yulie petted the creature, Leonard and Alastor traded a look that told one another how doubtful they were about it. They quickly wiped the look off their faces when Yulie turned round but instead of looking at them, she looked about for someone else.
'Now...Where...?' She muttered quietly before speaking up slightly. 'Raus said he'd be here'
'Who?' Leonard asked sure he misheard her.
'Your driver. Raus is the only one who can get this fella to pull the wain; it won't move a step without his say-so' Yulie explained before heading back into the village. 'Sit tight, I'll see if I can find him'
'But...Yulie!' Leonard called out but it was already too late as the girl had vanished off into the village.
'Is she always like this?' Alastor asked subconsciously taking a half step away from the beast when it suddenly moaned.
'I'm just glad we hurried out here' Leonard replied before heading into the village himself. 'We better help her find him'
It was a little over an hour later when Raus was finally found. The papitaur was found napping against a tree stump amidst an impressive pile of empty wine bottles he had emptied himself despite his small size. When Yulie was called over from where she was searching for the little blighter, she nearly blew her top.
'Raus, you oaf!' she yelled at the little creature startling him awake.
'Ohh, dear me! Did I dose off again?' Raus spluttered as he woke up before crying in shock and pain when Yulie pick him up by the scruff of his neck and held him so that they were seeing each other eye to evil-eye.
'This is where you were hiding? I told you not to be late!' She scolded him making the scared papitaur's ears droop before letting him go and watching him scurry behind Leonard's legs.
It took another hour to calm down both Yulie and Raus before everything was set and ready to go. By that time, the sun had begun to sink behind the mountains covering the village and clouds in an orange gold light.
'We'd better haul cask' Leonard noted when he realised the time. He was sure Rapacci would skin and flay him to within an inch of his life then ask Alastor to fully heal him so he could do it all over again if he was late.
'Okay Leonard, like I mentioned before, Raus here will be driving the beastwain' Yulie explained giving the papitaur a quick glare when she said his name before becoming all cheerful again.
'Hello, happy to assist, Chief' Raus said to them before adding in an undertone. 'If I happen to doze off...again...kindly wake me up before this beastie remembers I forgot to feed it breakfast and turns me into a late lunch'
'Uh-huh...' Leonard muttered sharing another disbelieving look with Alastor.
'He's kind of weird, but he gets the job done' Yulie assured them having caught the look before saying brightly. 'Off we go!'
The two guys instantly turned their attention onto the girl who had started to skip away towards the entrance to the village.
'You're coming too?'
'Well yeah! I wouldn't miss this party for the world!' She said as if it explained everything before her expression turned sour. 'What, you don't want the extra help?'
'It's rather we don't want anyone slowing us down' Alastor replied bluntly causing the girl to glare at him. 'You'd basically be extra baggage for us to protect'
Instead of yelling at him, Yulie stomped off into one of the houses that was probably her own. Seconds later, she came out with a full quiver strapped to her back and a bow in her hands. Before Alastor could ask if she could use it properly, the girl had notched and fired an arrow at him sinking into the top of his staff and causing him to yelp in surprise.
'Come on, we're as late as it is!' she said to them before walking off as if pretending nothing just happened.
Leonard barely managed to hold back his laughter at the spellcaster's face when Yulie fired at him. He knew he should have warned Alastor about Yulie's temperament, but after witnessing the spectacle he was glad that he did not. Patting the Spellcaster on the shoulder as he passed, Leonard signalled for Raus to follow them.
'Women' Alastor muttered as he yanked the arrow out of his staff and throwing it away, not watching as it sunk point first into a nearby sign, before jogging to catch up with the party.
'God damn vespids!' Yulie cursed as she let loose an arrow at one of the oversized wasps and pinning it to a tree.
'It's really the papitaur you should be cursing' Leonard pointed out as he sliced through one of the woodland creatures then stabbing another that was about to clobber him with its club.
Yulie ignored the comment. The beastwain had clipped the side of a tree that housed a vespid nest. Naturally, the vespids responded by attacking them. Alastor had barely managed to cut the swarm in half with an ice spell before he was forced to shield himself from a barrage of nuts and pebbles from a group of polkans and kibbles, woodland creatures that had a tendency to join in fights regardless of who started it.
Whilst Leonard aided Alastor in pushing back the woodland creatures, Yulie was stuck with taking out the remaining vespids. She made swift work of all but one of the flying insects which had darted in close to her and was now trying to sting her. Drawing her hunting knife from its sheath beneath her quiver, Yulie attempted to stab the vespid as it came in close. Her thrust glanced off the insect's side whilst the insect managed to cut her on the shoulder drawing a small trickle of blood. Before it could come round for another pass, Alastor swatted the vespid away with his staff sending it towards Leonard who cleaved it in two with ease.
'Can you please stop falling asleep?' Leonard asked the papitaur after sheathing his sword.
'Sorry about that, chief' Raus apologized. 'Wine tends to make me feel sleepy'
'If it weren't for the fact that you're the only one who can make that beastwain move, I'd feed you to it right now' Yulie grumbled making sure the last part was loud enough for the papitaur to hear as she cast a healing spell on her wounded shoulder only to grimace. Although the cut had vanished the area around the cut was still tinged purple indicating she was poisoned. 'Anyone got some antidote grass on them?'
Alastor replied by placing his hand over the infected area and cast a cure spell. When he pulled back his hand the infected area on her shoulder had disappeared.
'Much better' Yulie sighed as the group started moving again.
'Don't mention it' Alastor grunted as he walked beside the beastwain. 'How come you can cast a healing spell but nothing else?'
'I've known how to do that since I was young. Believe me when I say it came in handy whenever Leonard got into scraps with polkans and kibbles when we were younger' Yulie explained remembering a younger Leonard covered in bumps and bruises all over his body. 'Unfortunately, I haven't been able to come across any books on divine lore to improve my skills'
'A healer who can barely heal; you really are just extra baggage' Alastor commented earing a shove from the girl.
'This extra baggage stopped a vespid from stabbing you through the head with its stinger!' Yulie remarked glaring daggers at the Spellcaster.
'I didn't see it, so it didn't happen' Alastor countered earning another shove from the girl.
Up ahead, Leonard smiled at their bickering before frowning as something akin to a sixth sense warned him of something approaching them. 'Wait' He called out causing the others to stop. 'Something's wrong'
'What is it?' Yulie asked unsure of what was happening.
'What's wrong, Chief?' Raus asked after halting the beastwain.
Leonard did not answer at first as his eyes roamed the landscape up ahead. 'You don't hear that?'
Yulie looked at Leonard in confusion, she had seen Leonard act like this several times before but this times felt like the real deal. Alastor on the other hand noted the total silence around them before putting one hand on the ground eyes closing as he focused before standing up suddenly after feeling a constant tremor getting closer.
'Company' He said as his right hand shifted to his holstered staff. 'Big company'
Leonard nodded in agreement whilst Yulie looked from one to the other in confusion. Before she could ask what they were talking about, she felt it herself. Large thumping sounds could soon be heard before a thirty foot troll came stomping round from behind a cliff face towards them, a heavy looking stone club held in one hand.
'A little far from home, don't you think?' Alastor asked.
'It must have smelled the wine' Leonard reasoned.
'What do we do, Chief' Raus asked as he fought to control the panicking beastwain.
'We fight!' Leonard declared as he drew his sword and charged at the troll.
The troll however did not seem to notice Leonard, rather the beastwain and its cargo, and started to charge towards it. Alastor realised this and made a pillar of stone rise out of the ground in front of the troll's right leg causing it to trip and crash to the ground as it collided with it. Enraged at being denied its prize, the troll picked itself up and made to swing its club down on Leonard only for Yulie to intervene by shooting an arrow that stuck home in its wrist causing it let go of the club.
Glaring at Yulie, the troll began making its way towards her when a strong wind spell to the head from Alastor coupled with Leonard driving his sword into the back of its injured right leg caused it to go down on bended knee. As it howled in pain, Yulie patiently waited for the opportune moment to fire an arrow at the creature. At the right moment Yulie released the shaft sending it into the troll's mouth, sinking through the soft tissue of the upper jaw and felling the creature. Leonard sighed in relief as he watched the troll fall backwards onto the ground and remained still.
'Well, we survived' Yulie noted as she joined the others next to the beastwain and inspected its cargo. 'And it looks like the wine is okay too'
'Nice going, chief!' Raus cheered. 'I thought I'd napped my last nap for sure!'
'Nah. The three of us can handle one little troll' Leonard said confidently as he looked from Alastor to Yulie before looking scared. 'It's Rapacci I'm scared of. Let's move!'
'Right!' Yulie cheered enthusiastically as they continued towards Balandor.
It was when the moon was hanging in the sky like a pendant when the group finally passed through the west gate and arrived in Balandor. There was no sign of any life on the streets and the only sounds to be heard were the creaking of the wain's wheels and the faint sound of festival music coming from further ahead.
'I told Rapacci I'd be back before sunset' Leonard moaned as he held his head. 'I am dead'
'Well, moaning about it isn't going to speed us up' Yulie pointed out as she passed him.
'My sincerest apologies, Chief' Raus said indeed looking guilty for knowing it was his fault they took so long getting to Balandor. The beast moaned as well but that was probably because it was tired rather than understanding the conversation.
'We're almost there, buddy' Leonard consoled it before heading to the back of the wain and began to push against it helping the beast get up the slope they were currently climbing.
Yulie and Alastor watched for a moment before lending a hand as well eventually reaching the top of the slope were the music and cheering could be heard much more clearly.
The Marcus Revellers appeared to still be entertaining the townsfolk with no sign of letting up. As they passed by, they could see acrobats either jumping about performing somersaults or twirling flaming batons single handed before tossing them into the air and catching them again.
'Ooh! I just love festivities!' Raus cheered as he watched from his seat atop the wain.
'"Wonders aplenty and sights unlike any". Sorry folks. The castle delivery comes first' Leonard told them causing Yulie's head to droop as she had been looking at the festivities with apparent joy and eagerness.
The group eventually stopped at the castle gates where they were greeted by two soldiers.
'Who are you, then?' One of them inquired.
'Rapacci Wines, Sir' Leonard stated as Yulie and Alastor bowed politely to them. 'We're here to deliver tonight's wine'
'All right. We've been expecting you' The other guard said. 'Though you were supposed to be here hours ago'
'Travel problems' Alastor explained with a shrug. 'Can't be helped'
'Merchants shouldn't keep the castle waiting!' The first guard butted in.
'They can if they want their deliveries to arrive intact' Alastor countered his eyes reduced to slits as his right hand began to twitch towards his staff his mind already debating over whether to encase the guard in ice or blast him into the moat.
'We were attacked by a monster on the way back from the warehouse and...' Leonard tried to explain before the guard cut him off.
'Stuff the excuses and get that wine inside now!' He ordered
'Yes, sir!' Yulie said sweetly stepping before the guards before either Leonard or Alastor could say or do anything else. 'We at Rapacci Wines look forward to serving you again!'
Alastor allowed his right hand to fall limp by his side. Yulie had actually saved that guard from being turned into an icicle or worse but now he was curious as to whether Yulie meant what she said and asked about it.
'Sure, I'll serve them again' She replied in the same sweet tone once they had gotten out of the guards hearing before scowling. 'If it's a boot in the face!'
Alastor could not help but smirk. 'You actually had me thinking you were going soft for a second'
Yulie grinned at the Spellcaster. 'Do you really think I'd let those jerks walk all over me?'
'No, but I pity those who try' Came the blunt reply.
Leonard cracked a grin of his own. The last guy who tried to walk over her ended up face down on the ground clutching the remains of his jewels after Yulie's foot was introduced to them. The poor guy could not walk properly for a week.
The beastwain was finally able to rest when they reached the entrance to the supply room where several servant women were waiting for them.
'Good evening, ma'am' Leonard greeted one of them. 'Here's your wine order'
'Thank you, lad. This will do fine' The servant woman said nodding in approval at the quantity of barrels on the wain.
'We'll be off then' Leonard replied and made to leave with the others before stopping when he noticed that the servants' door to the castle was left unattended.
'What are you doing?' Yulie whispered furiously when she noticed what her friend was about to do. 'You can't go in there!'
'She's right Leonard' Alastor added. 'They catch you you'll get more than the usual flogging from Rapacci when he hears'
'What's wrong with one quick peek?' He asked before slipping inside unaware that a chain of events had begun to unfold, with him at the centre of it all, just because of "one quick peek".
Leonard, Alastor and Yulie gazed about in awe at what they saw. The main hall they had found themselves in, was basked in the golden glow of candles and the amount of glamorously dressed Lords and Ladies filling the room indicated that nearly, if not all of the nobles in Balandor had been invited. The centre was draped in a deep red carpet where many couples were dancing in rhythm to a band of musicians that were in one corner of the hall whilst a banquet table had been set up along the opposite wall.
'An impressive example of how the better half lives' Alastor noted as the three of them made their way around the far edge of the room towards the banquette table.
Seated on his thrown, King Valtos glanced to one side and smiled when he saw his daughter slowly coming down the stairs flanked by two of her handmaidens. Immediately the music stopped and everyone in the room turned to see Princess Cisna step into the room.
From behind the pillar he was peeking out of, Leonard's eyes glazed over as he remembered a moment back when he was very young. Rapacci had taken him up to the castle gardens as part of a tour and they were currently passing one of the castle entrances out onto the garden when the Princess was passing through the corridor it was connected to.
He was completely smitten with her as she ran up to him smiling and brought her hands up to his face only to slightly lose that smile as her gaze watched something seemingly drift away from her. He was able to turn round in time to see blue winged butterfly fly away from its perch atop of his head.
'What are you doing?' Yulie asked curiously as she suddenly dropped her arms on top of Leonard's crouched form and gazed in the direction he was looking only to frown when she saw who it was.
'It's rude to stare at royalty, you know' She scolded him as she pushed herself off of him and walked away only to stop when she heard Alastor chuckle at something. 'Something funny, Magician-boy?'
'Not really' Alastor shrugged. 'But, I think I just figured out the reason why you're in that outfit. Attracts the attention of all males except for his, right?'
Yulie felt herself freeze up at those words. Alastor seemed to notice this and allowed one edge of his mouth to curl up in a small grin before leaning in.
'Here's some good advice' He whispered in her ear. 'Find someone else to give your heart to, before it gets broken'
With that he walked off leaving the stunned girl to her thoughts.
Belcitane laughed and waved at the gathered crowd as his acrobats wowed them with incredible feats before throwing a calculated glance towards the castle as he fingered his moustache. The party was sure to be in full swing by now and even the Castleguard was sure to be more lax at this late hour.
'Time to blow them away' He declared throwing off his top hat, coat and red nose. 'Enough of this charade! It's show time!'
Suddenly the top of the caravan exploded throwing burnt planks everywhere as Belcitane jumped off of it unscathed. As the crowds screamed as they covered their heads or children to protect them from falling debris, a large form could be seen through the smoke in the epicentre of the explosion. The smoke suddenly parted as a giant monster stomped towards them, flames spewing from its mouth and two lanterns attached to its head. As if it was not terrifying enough already, it also had a huge turret cannon strapped to its back.
The people of Balandor ran for their lives only for many of them to be cut down by the appearance of knights in dark grey armour wielding curved swords and shields coming out of hidden compartments in the bottom of the caravan. As the bloodshed continued, the old man carrying the clothed bundle hobbled towards the scene.
'What's this?' He asked himself before noticing one of the attacking soldiers charging at him with his sword raised.
It was the soldier that was felled being half covered by the ragged travelling cloak and white clothe whilst where the old man was standing was now a veteran swordsman wielding a long sword in one hand and its sheath in the other.
'So they've found it too' He confirmed before dashing off towards the castle where the fire spewing monster had headed off to.
'My noble friends, I thank you for coming here to celebrate this special day with my daughter' The King called out to his guests. 'How proud the late queen would be. It has been ten years since my beloved wife was lost to me. Today, the daughter she gave me, my dearest Cisna, celebrates her eighteenth birthday. The kindness you have shown her has made this day possible'
From where he was standing, Sarvain's eyes shifted from looking at His Grace and the far side of the hall as if expecting something to happen half impatiently.
'For that you have my deepest gratitude. Pease enjoy the evenings festivities' The King concluded before raising his goblet. 'Glory to Balandor!'
'Glory to Balandor!'
The crowd cheered raising their own goblets in toast before the music started up again. King Valtos allowed a small laugh to escape his lips as he watched the celebrations whilst Princess Cisna looked down at the carpet a sad expression on her face.
'Doesn't she look kind of sad to you?' Leonard asked of Yulie who was busy sampling a slice of cake.
'You think so?' She asked before pondering out loud, it was hard to tell if her words held a sarcastic or hard edge due to Alastor's earlier words. 'They say she hasn't spoken for ten whole years. Not since the queen was killed...You know, when Faria attacked the castle'
'Apparently she witnessed the Queen's death' Alastor put in, a bottle of fine wine he pilfered from somewhere in his hand. 'Can't really blame her, if you think about it'
'Cisna saw that?' Leonard asked disbelievingly.
Suddenly, the doors to the main hall burst open and a single soldier stumble through and towards the king as blood dripped down his side from a fresh wound. The crowd parted and gasped as they saw the man make his painful way up to the King who was frowning at the disturbance.
'What the devil is it?' Valtos barked angrily not seeing the soldiers green tunic stained red with blood.
'The town!' The soldier gasped. 'A terrible monster has attacked, killing...!'
A loud booming crash emanated from the doors the soldier came through as the doors themselves were blasted from its frame. In its place, the monster that had emerged from the caravan stomped through with dozens of the enemy soldiers that had been hiding in the caravan with it charging passed it towards the King and noble folk in the room.
'A pyredaemos?' Alastor exclaimed as he recognised the monster from the overhead balcony.
Pyredaemos were manmade giant fire breathers that could be summoned from the magic plane. Due to the power required to cast the appropriate summoning spell, whoever was behind this was no amateur.
'How did that get inside the castle?' Leonard asked as he watched the Castleguard confront the enemy before ducking down before the pyredaemos spotted him and tried to flame him.
'Probably hidden within that caravan' Alastor speculated before noticing enemy soldiers running up the staircase towards them. 'Whatever the case, we need to get out of here!'
Throwing his still half full bottle of wine at them, Alastor sent a fireball from his hand at it. Whilst spells were not as powerful without a magic imbued staff to amplify it, the explosion still managed to stun the soldiers long enough for Alastor and Leonard to get away.
Whilst the battle was occurring, King Valtos and Princess Cisna had quickly made their way up the staircase near the throne only to stop halfway when someone in Black armour stood walked down the stairs towards them a curved sword held in one hand.
Before the King could even ask how he got there and if Sarvain, who had ran up the stairs earlier, had been killed by this man, he felt a sharp pain in his abdomen as the knight's blade sank effortlessly into him. As darkness overtook him he felt his failing heart lift as if losing a heavy burden when he heard his daughter, his dear beautiful Cisna, plead for him not die. He felt elated that he could hear her voice one last time before passing away.
'Please...Father...' Cisna begged as she shook his still form tears spilling from her eyes at having seen her father murdered before her eyes just like her mother. She looked up in surprise when she heard the sound of steel upon steel just above her head.
Leonard had heard Cisna cry out when she saw her father collapse and had rushed to aid her when he saw the black knight's blade hovering just inches above her head. He did not know how it happened, but the next second Leonard found himself standing between her and the black knight his sword batting away his all the while glaring at the red slits for eye holes in the knight's helmet.
'Princess, this way!' He said to the girl forcing the knight back a step before turning round and running back the way he came clutching Cisna's hand in his own.
General Dragias stared after them for a moment before heading back up the stairs as if suddenly uninterested in them.
'Come on!' Leonard urged her having to pull her along slightly as she did not want to leave her father's body. 'We have to-'
Leonard stopped both mid-sentence and mid-step when he reached the bottom of the stairs and saw the same black knight he had crossed swords with moments ago before him issuing commands to his troops. When Leonard quickly glanced back the way he came before in front of him again, the black knight was nowhere to be seen. Shaking it off as his mind playing tricks on him, Leonard pulled the Princess after him into corridor leading away from the main hall.
'Your Excellency! Archduke Dalam!' Captain Cyrus called out to the dying Farian in his arms.
The Archduke's eyes were wide open in shock as he tried to take one final breath before succumbing to the fatal wound to his chest. The Captain gently rested the Archduke on the ground. Whilst he hated Farians in general, he held a grudging respect for the late Archduke for bravely entering enemy lands to negotiate peace. Now that attempt for peace had died with him.
'Sir Cyrus! The King!'
'What about him?' The Captain of the Castleguard asked as he spun round to face the soldier that was hurrying towards him. The news he had making this unreal nightmare even worse.
Leonard and Cisna finally stopped when the Princess's knees finally gave way and she collapsed to the ground. Taking the moment to sheath his sword and catch his breath, Leonard knelt down in front of the Princess and placed his hands on her shoulders.
'Come on, I won't let them get you' He assured her softly. 'Not you'
Cisna slowly raised her head to look at the person who had saved her from her father's killer. 'Who are you?' she asked quietly.
'I'm Leonard' He replied remembering the face little girl he had met so many years ago now being replaced by the older, more beautiful one before him.
'Why did you...?'
'Because, I care about you' Leonard said before realising what had passed his lips and quickly stepped away as he amended himself. 'We all do...care about you, I mean. Your Kingdom loves and needs you'
Cisna's expression, which had looked startled when he first spoke, changed into one of determination as she allowed Leonard to help her to her feet. A sudden roar emitting from nearby informed them of the pyredaemos being close by.
'Are you survivors?' Someone suddenly asked from a side passage entrance. Leonard and Cisna looked round to see an old man garbed in a strange green tunic and wielding a long sword beckon to them. 'This way! To the Cellars!'
Leonard quickly grabbed Cisna's hand before the two of them ran passed the old man into the passage way just as the pyredaemos's head appeared around the corner.
'Leonard? Where are you? Leonard!' Yulie called out for her friend as she suddenly appeared at the other end of the hall. She failed to notice the enemy soldier coming up behind her until she saw him fly passed her at an alarming speed and collide with the wall with a sickening crunch.
'What the hell are you still doing here?' Alastor demanded as he jogged up to her after disposing of her would be attacker. He had been separated from Leonard when the youth suddenly dashed off and was now searching for him whilst wiping out any of the enemy militia in his way.
Yulie spun round and was about to reply when she saw two more soldiers coming towards them from behind him. Noticing her gaze shift to something behind him, Alastor spun round with his staff raised and managed to deflect the enemies' swords. Undaunted by the sudden counter, the two soldiers pressed in on the Spellcaster.
After a brief moment of parrying blows expertly with his staff, Alastor was able to take out one of them with a fireball to the head but left himself vulnerable to the other. Before the enemy could strike, someone else struck from behind. Collapsing to the ground, Alastor and Yulie saw the same man who had just helped Leonard and Cisna moments ago.
'Thanks' Alastor acknowledged as he caught his breath before turning his gaze towards the pyredaemos. His eyes widened when he saw the creature was about to use the giant turret on its back. Quickly grabbing Yulie and the old man, Alastor pulled them into a nearby passageway before a blazing ball of fire whizzed passed them.
'Why you!' He growled stepping back out before he raised his staff above his head. An ice blue sphere begun forming above him and gradually expanded until it was about the size of a man's head.
Swinging his staff down in front of him, the sphere launched itself towards the pyredaemos coating everything in ice as it went just as the pyredaemos fired its cannon. The two projectiles collided in mid-air causing windows to explode and filling the entire hallway with smoke. Blinded upon being engulfed by the smoke, Alastor felt someone grab his arm and pull him away back down along the passage. Eyes blurred and watery, he could just make out the form of Yulie pulling him along.
'Where are we going?' He spluttered his mouth full of dust.
'After the old man' Yulie explained. 'Hopefully, he'll lead us to Leonard'
Whilst Alastor and Yulie were making their way through the same passage way Leonard and Cisna took, the latter two had found themselves in the underneath Balandor in the old catacombs and were currently making their way further down.
'This is like a castle under the castle' Leonard exclaimed as he looked about.
Cisna just nodded quietly clearly still distraught about what had just happened to her father and his Kingdom, although now it was her Kingdom.
'Come on, we have to move!' Leonard urged her pulling her lightly to make her follow him.
As they continued to wander further down into the old catacombs, Cisna suddenly gasped as she realised where they were headed.
'Wait...This is where...' She cut herself off suddenly and walked on ahead. 'Never mind, keep going'
Despite being confused, Leonard followed Cisna down the set of stairs they were on where up ahead a huge door could be seen.
'What's this?' He asked the Princess curiously pointing towards the doors.
'I think...it's the treasure vault' Cisna explained having a vague memory being down there once long ago.
A loud crash occurring behind them caused them to freeze up. They did not even have to look round to realise that the pyredaemos had found a way down to their location and was now barrelling towards them with a guttural roar. Grabbing Cisna's wrist, Leonard charged through the doors just seconds before the doorway exploded as the pyredaemos collided with it sending them flying with the shockwave.
Blinking his eyes several times to clear away the stars he gained when his head collided with the ground, Leonard was startled to see a pair of pale grey eyes stare back at him. Quickly lifting herself off of him when she realised the position they were in, Cisna waited for Leonard to get up before the two of them made their way away from the pile of rubble that had buried their pursuer.
'What's that?' Leonard suddenly asked pointing to the far end of the vault.
Attached to the wall by many sturdy chains, a huge suit of armour stood as if at attention. Its armoured plating was a pure white with a gold trim and a royal blue cape could be seen hanging from its shoulders. On a pedestal before it, a white gauntlet bearing a strange glyph near the elbow joint and a what appeared to be a ceremonial dagger were displayed.
'We found this armour seventeen years ago, after the cataclysm' Cisna explained. 'No one knows where it came from, but our scholars think it was made by the ancients'
'Those ancients must have been pretty tall' Leonard remarked as he stared up at the thirty foot suit of armour.
'That is an incorruptus'
Leonard and Cisna spun round to see the old man who had helped them before walk out from behind a pillar. It was unknown how he got here before them as there was only one entrance to the vault and it was now blocked off.
'A weapon of war, crafted by an ancient race. It is an awesome, cursed power' He continued as Leonard and Cisna cast their eyes back on the knight. 'The castle's invaders are after this. They seek a holy relic known as the Ark, the key to the incorruptus's power' He pointed at the pedestal where the gauntlet and dagger lay.
A sudden roar caused all three of them to turn towards the pile of rubble that was starting to shift.
'It's back!' Leonard exclaimed before the pile of rubble exploded in a shower of dirt as the pyredaemos freed itself with a blast from its cannon.
'Wonderful' The old man muttered sarcastically.
Leonard cursed before dashing towards the pedestal.
'What are you doing?' The old man asked in disbelief clearly shocked at what the youth was about to do.
'Fighting! You said it was a weapon, right?' Leonard answered as he reached the pedestal. 'Well, now seems like a damn good time to use it!'
'Fool! Stay away from it if you want to live!' The old man ordered. 'Only the worthy are permitted to touch that!'
'Maybe so' Leonard agreed but scooped up the gauntlet anyways. 'But if I don't, we're all dead anyway!'
Ignoring anything else the old man had to say, Leonard pulled the gauntlet onto his left arm and was immediately encased in a pale blue light. Had either Leonard or the old man paid attention to their surroundings, they would have noticed Cisna kneeling on the floor speaking in an ancient tongue as she was encased in a bluish green aura.
Opening his eyes, Leonard found himself atop some sort of stone platform with the strange glyph glowing at the centre of it.
'Where am I?' He asked himself as he stared at his surroundings. 'What happened?'
'O thee who wouldst wield my pow'r...'
Leonard spun in a full circle as he tried to locate the source of the voice, only to gasp when he saw what appeared to be some sort of phantom spirit float down in front of him. Half of it was covered in a pale white skin whereas the other half its skin was peeling off revealing black limbs with pale blue veins crisscrossing everywhere along them. Where its heart should be, a golden sphere was embedded in its chest.
'O thee who wouldst wield my pow'r... Draw thy blade' It said in a hollow voice. 'Now is the time to prove thyself worthy'
'Worthy of what?' Leonard asked before having to dive to the side to avoid being pierced by a spear appearing out of thin air.
'Hey! Just hold on!' Leonard called out to the phantom after leaping out of the way of another blade appearing out of thin air and trying to cleave him in two. 'I don't even have a weapon!'
No sooner did he say that did a sword appear in his hands. Stunned by the sudden appearance of the weapon, Leonard almost did not duck in time before he was sliced in two horizontally. Now armed, Leonard waited patiently for a gap between his adversary's attacks. After ducking a wide sweeping blow, Leonard quickly lunged forward and thrust his blade at the phantom's heart.
The sword vanished from his hands the moment it was about to penetrate the phantom's heart, yet when Leonard backed away assuming the phantom was about to counter strike the spectral did not move. It remained hovering where it was before Leonard not trying to attack him anymore.
'O thee who standeth and liveth before my blade. Thou art worthy of a pact. My master...' It said as it bowed before Leonard's feet. 'To thee, all my pow'r I bequeath'
The phantom suddenly transformed into an ethereal mist and disappeared into Leonard surrounding him once more in a pale blue light.
The old man covered his eyes as a bright light emanated from the boy before ending just as quickly, leaving the youth surprised at what had just happened.
'He's alive? I don't believe it' He swore out loud before realisation hit him. 'Could he really be one of the worthy?'
Leonard turned to face the pyredaemos that was quickly approaching him.
O Wizel, white warrior, wielder of the ancient sword...
The chant that came to Leonard's lips of his own accord was abruptly stopped when the pyredaemos reached him and put its foot down right on top of him. Ignoring the other two humans in the vault, the creature began attacking the incorruptus, tearing it from the chains that bound it in place and stomping down on it yet hardly making a dent. As if suddenly sensing a threat, the creature looked to its left where Leonard was now standing, the ceremonial dagger clutched in his right hand.
...grant me your power.
Flipping the dagger so he held it in the reverse hold, Leonard sheathed it into place on the gauntlet causing plate with the glyph to split in two down the middle whilst an enlarged version of the glyph appeared before him
In a blinding flash of light, the White Knight disappeared from under the pyredaemos's feet and reappeared kneeling in the place Leonard stood moments ago before rising to a standing position, its once vacant eyes briefly flashing a pure blue as it awakened from its long slumber.
'This is unexpected indeed' The old man muttered amazement as he watched the spectacle unfold before him.
At that moment, Captain Cyrus, Alastor, Yulie and several remaining members of the Castleguard came running through the remains of the vault door only to stop when they saw the White Knight moving of its own accord.
'It can't be!' The Captain muttered not believing his eyes. 'Impossible! Wh-Why is it moving?'
Yulie could not believe her eyes either. Not only that, but the Knight's presence reminded her of only one other person. 'Is that you...Leonard?'
Motioning with its right hand as if drawing a sword from the scabbard on its left hip, the Knight's sword appeared forming out of white light before solidifying into a ten foot blade with a keen edge. Before it could advance on the pyredaemos, the creature gave a guttural roar that shook the very foundations of the room. Alastor was barely able to conjure up a pair of barriers to protect the two groups of humans in the room before rubble began crashing down around them.
'Fighting's too risky here' The Knight said in Leonard's voice before charging towards the creature and hoisting it into the air. 'Change of plans!'
With a great heave, both the Knight and the pyredaemos went up through the roof causing dirt and rubble to clatter noisily off the barriers.
In the main hall of the castle, Belcitane was beginning to wonder if the Ark of the White Knight had been found when the ground exploded upward allowing the pyredaemos and the very thing he was looking for to emerge from below.
'Is that...?' He gasped as he watched the pyredaemos get thrown across the room like a rag doll.
'Now we can finish this. Prepare to die, beast!' Leonard said as he charged towards the creature with his sword raised. Swinging it effortlessly, he cut the barrel of the turret in two before the creature could realise what was happening.
Charging forward with all it had, the pyredaemos collided with Leonard yet did not force him an inch backwards. Pulling back his fist, Leonard slugged the creature right in the face only to be surprised as he watched it fly straight through the front of the castle onto courtyard.
'Did I just do that?' He asked himself in disbelief as he stared at his armoured fist.
As he made his way outside where the pyredaemos was just getting up, the rest of the party had finally reappeared from the treasure vault having had to take the long way up. As they followed the White Knight outside, none of them noticed General Dragias watching them from behind a nearby pillar.
After a brief struggle with the pyredaemos, Leonard finally managed to land the death blow. The creature gave one last roar before collapsing, its brief reign of terror finally finished.
'The lad did it...' The old man muttered sounding amazed that some random youth had managed to unlock and wield an ancient weapon effectively enough to smite such a powerful adversary.
Going down on one knee, the Knight reverted back into a breathless yet unharmed Leonard.
'It's over?' He asked himself in obvious disbelief whilst staring at his hands. 'But how did I...Where did I...?'
A sudden scream rang out across the courtyard followed by a loud boom as something struck the ground. Turning to the castle doors, Leonard could only stare and watch as Princess Cisna was held between the black knight and the ringleader as they were lifted into the air on what appeared to be an anchor for the huge black monoship that hovered overhead.
'Colour me surprised' Belcitane said to General Dragias. 'Who would have thought a mere child could control the Knight? This puts a kink in our plans'
'I would call this more than just a "kink"' The General pointed out.
'He's...not bad...I'll admit' Belcitane conceded grudgingly. 'But so what if he got the Ark? We can sort that out in due course. And we did achieve our other objective' He added meaning the deaths of the King and the Archduke of Faria.
'Indeed' The General agreed. 'Time has proven there can be no peace without wise leadership. With their leaders dead, these two nations are bound to pick up arms once again and return to their pointless war'
'Yes' Belcitane said eagerly as an evil smile tugged at his lips. 'The world we seek is close, General...'
By now, the anchor had been fully drawn in and the monoship began to fly away northwards. Leonard hung his head at his failure to protect the Princess as the others dealt with the blow their own way. The nightmare had finally come to a grand finale.
On that day, souls once parted came together again. It seemed like mere coincidence...
But softly, sadly, the wheels of a cruel destiny had already begun to turn.
Tales of the White Knight
Review if possible & 'til next time
Watch this space & peace out!