Each group, knights, commoners, and royals alike, stared in shock as Assem fell backward. His pained wails only stifled as his back crashed into the rock wall foundation of the house behind him. His off-hand clutched his now stubby arm below the elbow tightly. Rivulets of blood trickled from between his fingers. The rest of his arm missing, lopped off as it soared into the air, an uneven serpentine string trailing after it. After a few moments of flight, the liberated end his limb plopped onto the dirt at Cyril’s and Randol’s feet.
Assem’s weapon, the saber, was now held in the ancient deity’s right hand. Its blade glimmered as the sun caught the crimson that slowly ran down its tip. She stood there, proud and beautiful, but also terrifying, as she stood over the maimed Earl. Her feline eyes narrowed with a reaper’s intent to take his soul. Confusion swirled through his mind. He hadn’t understood how she had managed to take it from him within the blink of an eye. However, more fear than confusion swirled through him, and so he never voiced his questions – only his terror.
“My Lord!” One of the Knights called out as he began to charge forward. His steps were quickly stilled by a warning glance from the perpetrator. At that moment, she resembled a Grim Reaper. Assem’s hand laid at her feet like some submissive demonic dog. She – it – was not human, the knight’s mind concluded before he scrambled back to his horse. He mounted it and quickly galloped away back into the north. The other knights rose their hands in surrender but made no move to follow their comrade.
What she had done had only been a few blinks of the eye to them. To her, however, it had been nearly more than several seconds. Her form had been befitting of an amateur. Her swing was bulky and unsightly. The pure force she had put into that strike had cut away his arm, this she knew. She could kill a dragon, but strength didn’t make you swing better.
The target of Assem’s cowardly attack, Randol, managed to turn in time to watch the limb fly up from Cyril’s upward swing. A line of blood had splattered against his freshly cleaned breastplate and his lower jaw. The whole event had taken place in five seconds. It had taken him a second to hear Assem’s attack. The disgraceful royal had a notable aura when he wanted blood, and Randol had sensed it. It had taken him another second to react. With Assem’s new speed and their distance, Randol had only a small chance to evade the strike to his mail covered back.
Just as Desmond had prophesied before, Randol was just too arrogant for his own good. Not in the wrong way, but Randol was an honorable man; he expected others to be the same. Even worse, he believed anyone of royal blood would also be noble. He would eventually be stabbed in the back one of these years. Had Cyril not have been there, Desmond’s ill-fated words would have been fulfilled. Now, the blade was in her hand. It’s blade now pressed against the craven man’s chest above his heart.
To Cyril’s hidden surprise, she felt her mana flowing into the blade. Its bloodied tip glowed faintly in the sunlight. To the untrained eye, it was undetectable. However, everyone in Randol’s grip knew what it was, aside from Cyril. It was an enchanted blade. Assem himself had stopped wailing. He, too, had noticed the enchantment activate, and he stiffened with dread.
Assem knew what the saber had been enchanted with. It was his only trump card, one that had taken quite a bit of coin to have done quietly. Knight’s Bane was the name. It reinforced a metal point to pierce metal. Bone, wood, metal, or something else. So long as it was a point, it could be used. However, it was a demanding spell to have permanently attached to an object, as enchanting was.
“Did… Did he try and–” Randol’s words were cut off by Cyril, who was still burning with bloodlust.
“Yes.” Her words cracked like a whip in the air. It had pulled the dread-filled man from his trance, and he began to plead.
“Please!” He squeaked. “It was a joke! I swear!” The scent of piss and shit reached everyone’s noses. Mai had to keep her distance.
Randol was still in shock. His mind saw the enchanted saber in her hand, and it couldn’t process it. “It was a joke, Cyril.” He didn’t want to think that his family could do this. He could accept everything, but not his family willing to kill each other. Cyril stared at Randol, her pupils narrowed dangerously as she applied a small bit of force. The saber’s tip broke the luxurious fabric and drew blood as it dug into the flesh. Assem wailed like a pig being boiled alive.
“I am Royalty! You can not k–” Assem tried to speak, his voice high and lacked its previous arrogance. Cyril did not dignify his words with her ears. With a quick thrust, the sword pierced the stones behind his heart. Blood pulsed out his back and down the blade. His life’s essence watered the weeds that grew along the wall. His face frozen with pain, fear, and the knowledge he had been killed. Indignation, confusion, and unwillingness swirled in his eyes.
“P-Pull it out…” He whimpered. His hand clawed weakly at the hilt. Cyril felt annoyed that he was still alive and twisted the blade. Blood immediately pooled over his chest. She turned the sword again, and more blood gushed forth. Assem tried to scream when it was twisted. Nothing came out. He fell limp after a few more seconds, and the saber slipped from his chest as Cyril pulled away.
“Anyone else?” Cyril asked as she turned her attention to the remaining knights. They all backed away, unwilling to fight the girl. She had enough gall to murder a royal family member in front of the First and Third Princes. Neither of them had ordered her to be killed yet either; thus, they weren’t going to try and fight her. They all scrambled onto their horses, and without a word, chased after their long gone comrade. She ignored the other audience and turned to Pricilla. She stared at the dead Earl with surprise.
“Mai, get her saddled,” Cyril ordered, her blood still up from Assem’s coward attack. She hadn’t been repulsed by the ease of her actions. All she thought about was protecting Randol. It had been a reflex, one she never knew she had.
She watched as Mai and Desmond helped Priscilla onto the shire as Cyril walked over to the river and dipped it into the water to clean it off. When she came back, she found Randol waiting for her. He looked conflicted. “Why did you have to kill him…?” Randol asked. “He should’ve faced trial!” He raised his voice.
For a moment, she wanted to explain everything she had heard about him. The kidnappings, rapes, and murders. All of which were mentioned and confirmed by the soldiers at the keep. It had been a real issue among them as their Lord was a tyrant on a power bend. However, she decided not to humor him with a response. Randol was a smart man or so hoped. A slow bubbling cheer began to spread among the peasants watching them had taken Randol off guard, and Cyril took that moment to ignore him as she saddled up on her horse. The saber was thrown into her storage.
Three long, tense days later, the group had arrived at Gully’s Port. The journey had been heated as the First Prince, and the ancient goddess had argued over Assem. As to add to their worries, they also weren’t sure how capable the artifact Cyril had used on them was. But no more apparitions haunted them within the woods, and it had been incredibly dull. When they had more people, there was always some sort of entertainment to be had. Singing, dancing, or gossip. There was none of that within their group, at least, not after that argument.
They passed beneath the Old Gate, the guards were more than happy they were gone. Priscilla had noted that the Inspection Officer, a low-ranked noble, had been nervous around Randol. He had been more nonchalant and uninterested in actually inspecting from what she saw. He had been more interested in making conversation with Cyril. This was until Randol had pushed his Royal Token in the officer’s face. Afterward, it had been smooth sailing, the officer more than willing to let them by.
Priscilla rode between the goddess’s lovely arms again. She had been more than aware of the lustrous gleam; the officer hadn’t even bothered to try. It reminded her of a few of the “forbidden” books, stashed upon a high shelf in the study, she was keenly aware that it was a “romance” story. In it, there was a scene were an Inspection Officer had harassed the heroine sexually. This went out for a few paragraphs until the charming male lead came in to save her.
While she didn’t remember the rest of that story, she had come to know that it was quite common for inspection officers to do such acts. Of course, to the common folk. In fact, there wasn’t a year when some inspection officers had not been jailed for their behavior. Nonetheless, once presented with a royal token, none of them were harassed.
The horses trodded down the Old Avenue, their horses kept in single file and lock-stepped. Stalls lined either side of the long road. Wagons and carriages occupied the center, and in between it all, foot traffic weaved about. The peaceful sounds of nature, the songs of birds and wind, were replaced by shouts. The wagons rattled, and there seemed to be someone always being nearly missed by one. Merchants advertised their wares loudly, and some even argued with each other.
Born and raised in the Capital, Priscilla noticed the distinct difference between the two. Here, everyone seemed to wear dull but practical clothing. The Capital, on the other hand, appeared to be a place where everyone wanted to show off. Fancy large hats and puffy dresses that need the assistance of maids. While here, everyone where simple tunic and dresses, though more beautiful than that of the folks in the suburbs. It was nicer.
Cyril wasn’t impressed. She noted that heavily beaten dirt road. The lack of buildings taller than three stories. Most were timber-framed while a few had some rock foundations showing. The only complete stone structures were the city’s walls and the City Lord’s castle. Built upon a hill, natural or man-made, she couldn’t say, it towered over the port city like a lone sentinel. It was… dull…
The cities she had designed, along with her parents, were majestic, to say the least. Towering stones that caught the passing of digital clouds. City centers could reach stores close to one-hundred stories, though that was the technological cap. Buildings were adorned with murals, and— She changed the thought with a sigh. She made the mistake of comparing a real-world place to her digital empires. Of course, they wouldn’t have the ability to do such. Magic, in its very lore, was hard-pressed to complete the feats she had built.
She didn’t correctly build within the confines of her own written lore.
Her eyes wandered over the buildings on their sides. None reached higher than three stories. They were timber-framed homes with wood tile roofs. All of them were built up next to each other apartments. She hadn’t paid much attention to the houses in Quinn’s Wood, it had been a village, and she had not expected much there. This, however, was a city, and her expectations were quickly broken. Unlike in anime, there weren’t any shops with glass windows. They were open windows with shutters and secured from the inside with security bars. The only structure that had remotely interested her was the castle that loomed over them.
“Noble ladies!” A merchant called out to Cyril and Priscilla, their file forced closer by a small traffic jam. “Your beauty will be complemented by my wares!” He held up a lovely metal hairpin shaped in a moon and another shaped with a sun. Priscilla’s eyes lit up, but Cyril only smiled and waved them away with a polite refusal. They weren’t much to look at.
“But, they were adorable!” Priscilla whined as she leaned over to steal another glance.
“We don’t have money.” Cyril reminded her. “Desmond the rest of the money on rations.”
The merchant’s stall was left behind. As if a spell had been broken, shop and stall keepers called out to them. Their file smelled of money, though they had none to spend. Assem’s saber came to mind. Maybe she could sell it, Cyril thought.
“Finely tailored dresses here!” A shop girl called out
“Fresh bears!” A stall keep yelled. “Lovely ladies must have lovely fruits!”
One by one, tenders tried to lure the file to their wares. As it was midday, the traffic was at its peak. They were kept to the fringes of the road, close to the shops and stalls. Thus, the two girls at the back of the line continued being solicited. The treatment, unfortunately, was not extended to the non-human in their group.
Mai had to suffer dirty glares and mothers steering their children away in fear. Had she kept her robe, she would have hidden away underneath. It wasn’t until one of the stall owners had yelled at her did Cyril and Priscilla notice.
“Filthy savage!” She cursed with disgust.
Then she noticed the stares, and even obscene gestures were thrown up at her.
“Stupid peasants.” Priscilla’s demeanor changed as she glared down at the people now.
“Why are they doing that?” Cyril had half a mind to dismount and commence a whole-sale beating upon them.
“They hate her,” Priscilla said. “She’s a beast-kin, and they still hate them from a war none of them had ever fought in.”
“War?” Cyril tried to remember if there were any long-held grudges she wrote, but none came to mind.
“The War of the Planes,” Priscilla answered. “It happened nearly just over a hundred years ago. The Empire tried to annex the Beastial planes. They had underestimated the tribes and ended up retreating from the planes utterly defeated. The Beast-kin are stronger, faster, and more resilient. Only off-set by their low birth rates, they’re forced to be reckoned with. Mai is more human than beast, but it doesn’t stop them from hating her. “
“Do you hate her…?” Cyril asked.
“No…” Priscilla asked, sadly.
The pair fell silent as Desmond began to shout back at a couple of men who yelled at Mai.
“Would it be wrong to say that I’m jealous of her…?” Priscilla asked. Her voice was barely loud enough for Cyril to hear. She didn’t answer. She wasn’t sure if she could. The file continued on as they listened to an irate Desmond as he defended Mai’s honor with verbal vigor…
“Take good care of her,” Cyril sent the tavern’s stable boy a smile that stole his breath. “She’s my friend.” The boy was taken aback by the tender affection she showed the horse. She patted the horse’s side before she turned to him and held out a single gold coin. The glint of gold broke his trance, and he tried to decline it out of fear. “Take it and take care of my friend here. I don’t need you to hand feed her and treat her like a queen, but just make sure she isn’t mistreated.”
“Of course, me’ lady!” The boy took the coin after several more assurances that Cyril didn’t want over the top treatment of the shire. “I’ll give her fresh apples as well!”
“That’s more like it.” Cyril let out a melodious laugh. The boy, no older than Priscilla, blushed. She bid him a good day and left the large stables. Beyond the stable’s doors, was a courtyard. It was a larger courtyard than a city tavern had the right to have, but the Ivory Pavilion was Gully’s Port’s best tavern by word of mouth. Cyril weighted the remaining ten gold coins in her hand. She considered depositing it into her storage.
“Don’t do it,” Priscilla warned her as she appeared at her side.
“I was only thinking about it.” Cyril rolled her eyes and dumped the coins into the new leather pouch. It hung beneath the hilt of her sword. “Where did you come from, anyway?”
“I waited for you.” Priscilla smiled innocently.
“You were supposed to go with Desmond to get our rooms,” Cyril said as she found an empty table to sit at.
“Desmond wanted me to make sure you didn’t rip reality open in front of everyone.” Priscilla laughed. “I have half a mind to believe you’d do it.”
“I do not rip reality open in –” Cyril was cut short by Priscilla.
“Your storage space.” She reminded her.
Cyril’s lips were parted, caught mid-sentence. Her pride wanted her to fight against the notion. The problem was that spatial magic technically was ripping apart reality. At least, in the way she designed it to be used.
“So is any other magic.” Cyril huffed in defeat, and Priscilla covered her mouth as a grin began to spread.
“Anyways,” She began. “I never knew you were a natural flirt.”
“How?” Cyril’s right eyebrow raised.
“The stable boy.” She said. “I saw what you did in there.” And she was also a tad jealous that damnable peasant got to hear Cyril’s lovely laugh.
“People are more willing to do nice things for you if you’re nice to them,” Cyril said as she waved over a barmaid. She only ordered a mug of water while Priscilla chose tea. The barmaid disappeared into the tavern, and out came the rest of the boys. Mai was absent. “Where’s Mai?” Cyril asked.
“She’ll stay in her room,” Randol said bluntly, still annoyed with Cyril.
“I wasn’t asking you.” Cyril bit back.
“A prince does not–” Randol was cut off my Priscilla.
“And she’s the creator.” Priscilla buffed out her chest with pride like a minion would do when their boss was a big shot.
“You’re getting braver,” Randol observed, annoyed that for once, someone other than his father could speak to him without respect.
Added into the pot of grievance that Randol had compiled since Quinn’s Wood, he had to add Assem’s saber in. Cyril had stopped at a large weaponsmith on the way. She had sold Assem’s saber for nearly half its worth. Fifteen gold coins. Randol had wanted to hand it over to his uncle as an apology, though, Cyril was a vindictive goddess from what they found out. The shop owner offered to pay twenty-five gold coins for the saber, as he had known someone who’d pay for it.
Randol, still annoyed with her, had begun to argue with her in the shop. Honor demanded that the sword be handed to Assem’s father. Cyril had the shop owner lowered his buying price by a gold coin. When Randol had begun to argue again, She dropped it again. Then again, until it had stopped at fifteen gold coins where Randol had finally kept quiet. To top it off, she kept ten for herself and handed Mai the rest.
Randol took that as an insult to his pride.
As they sat at the table, the maid came by and took their requests for food. Desmond rubbed his head in distress. Cyril had been quite the agreeable person, if not allot somewhat, but she turned out to be just as stubborn as his brother. She had wiped away the blight of the northern lands, yet Randol couldn’t be happy about it. The woman had slain a dragon in a matter of minutes. That fact may have been the only reason his brother hadn’t challenged her to a duel.
“You were doing so well a moment ago,” Desmond sighed again. “Can you both just at least act amicable?”
“Only if he apologizes,” Cyril said resolutely.
“Only if she promises to tell Assem’s father what she had done,” Randol said.
“Fine.” Cyril shrugged. Randol hadn’t expected her to agree, his retort hung on the tip of his tongue. “I’ll do it.” She said.
“Okay then…” Randol’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.
“Dearest brother,” Desmond sighed again. “Bury this hatchet, please.”
“I apologize for arguing with you,” Randol chewed the words awkwardly.
A smile bloomed on Cyril’s pink lips that made Randol smile back on impulse.
“Done!” She said as the barmaids delivered their food. “Friends?” She held out her delicate white hand out.
“… Friend.” Randol said as his tanned and calloused hand took hers.