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ChaNoWriMo: Fire Emblem - The Demon Weapons

Discussion in 'Creative Archive' started by Brendan Savem, Jan 3, 2012.

  1. So this is my entry for this years ChaNoWriMo. If you don't know what that is Check this out. I haven't actually attempted the challenge before, because I was so paranoid about time and such, but I decided that this year, since I have the advantage of a week of vacation. I'll at least give it a go and see what happens from there. Don't expect pristine quality here, we're after quantity. I'll try and update it every second day, or earlier if I can.

    Fire Emblem: The Demon Weapons​

    Prologue
    Long ago, in the beginnings of time, there was Chaos. Death, Decay, Destruction, Demons. Meager human lives lasted but a short time, as their very souls were claimed and consumed. The demons were savage beasts, ruled by Demonic Warlords that lived to slaughter humans and each other. Amongst the blood, war, and violence, there was a glimmer of hope. For the heavens heard the screams of man, and chose to end the demonic domination, by turning to one of the Warlords. The Demon Lucifer was changed by this unexpected destiny, and began to rally both human and demon in a renewed conquest to defeat his kin. Using the union of holy power and unholy ensnarement, the converted warlord crafted weapons which could contain the soulless husks of demons, and distributed them to his army. One by one, the seven demon warlords were sealed within the weapons, so they could no longer trouble the world. When his task was finally completed, Lucifer took his demons away, sealing himself the same way he sealed his enemies, thus leaving the world to the humans, the only reminder of the dark days from long ago were the seven weapons left behind…

    It's been over seventeen hundred years since the dark days of the Demon Warlords. There are three continents in the world today: The Sprawling Landmass of Terrastia, The Frozen Archipelago of Arctus, and the Southern Island of Stadais. While Arctus and Stadais are their own realms, Terrastia is broken up into five different kingdoms. Celawen, the Northern Republic, Thareveth the Mountain Monarchy, Gloeron the Usurper Pirate State, Jerauwien the Southern Desert Democracy, and Eraev, the Evergreen Kingdom of Rivers, at the very heart of the continent. It is here that Garret, the young squire to his father, began his rise to fame.



    "Come on! Hit harder than that! Harder!" A grizzled man in his late forties ordered, raising his weapon to deflect the blow from the oncoming axe. "Come on son! You can do better than that!" his father coaxed. Garret grunted as he lifted the axe above his head and then swung back. His father easily sidestepped and knocked the axe away with a swift blow from his own axe. Rosthen sighed as he looked at his son, panting and sweating after that spar. "Alright son, that's enough for today."

    "That was… better than usual…" Garret panted, drinking from a leather flask on his belt, before passing it to his father.

    "You're getting stronger, and you can at least swing it properly. But… you're holding it too firmly, you won't get anywhere if you keep trying to direct it so precisely, you just have to let the axe fall, it's no sword after all."

    "Okay dad… I'll keep that in mind for next time." Father and son rested without words for a few minutes, before Garret spoke again, brushing his dark brown hair from his emerald eyes, "Hey dad,"

    "Yes son?"

    "Aren't you concerned at all, with the anarchists and everything that's going on outside?"

    "We're doing what we can. Yes, there are some people that aren't happy with our methods, but that's what happens in a kingdom. My duty is to my king, so I'll protect him from whoever would judge his rule. Why the concern all of a sudden boy?"

    "I… I don't know, I met Rorik a few days ago, and he's saying a lot of things about what's happening outside the castle walls."

    "Rorik will say that we're being attacked by squirrels once he has a bottle in one hand. Most of what he's saying isn't true, we had one of them in the dungeons a couple of weeks ago, turns out he knew absolutely nothing, only that he was trying to overthrow the king."

    "Doesn't that… sound odd?" the young man asked,

    "A little… but that's for the army and the agency to deal with, the Order of the Emblem are castle guards, and our job is here in the castle-"

    "SIr Rosthen! We need you, there are intruders in the castle." A man in full armour burst in.

    "Sir Rorik! Slow down, what's going on? Have you been drinking again?"

    "Two flagons, but these are orders from General Sal! The anarchists are inside! We have to move!" Rorik then ran from the room again. Rosthen quickly grabbed his weapon, Garret too reached for his weapon.

    "Son, no. I want you to get out of here! Now!"

    "Wa-what? No! I'm staying." Garret stood adamant.

    "No, that's an order, from a knight to his squire. If they're already attacking the castle like this, then there must be some truth to Rorik's babbling, Now go!" Rosthen then disappeared after Rorik.

    "D… dad?" Garret almost whispered. Ross breathed in, then out, and then grabbed his axe and left. Two minutes later, he was already galloping away on horseback.

    Rosthen made his way straight to the throne room, stepping inside just as two men at the huge doorway were closing the doors. Rosthen was in here with twenty other castle guards, most of them in full armour, but some in varying states of dress. One of the soldiers was still in pyjamas. Amongst them, there was King Rahsthos himself, conversing with a soldier with a gaping wound in his shoulder.

    "It… it shouldn't be possible…" the wounded soldier spluttered.

    "Are you sure you saw it?" The king asked, a sense of dread in his voice.

    "Not just one, loads! They slaughtered so many of us… wh-why am I even alive?"

    "Just rest now soldier… you did good…" Rahsthos said, letting the soldier lay back and breathe easy.

    "Milord," Rosthen started, lowering himself onto one knee, "Forgive my intrusion, but what did he see?"

    "Sir Rosthen, there's no need for the formalities. Rise" Rosthen rose back to his feet, "Young Sir Esbern here says that the intruders are certainly the anarchists,"

    "So soon, what possessed them into trying such an assault?"

    "They… They weren't alone," Esbern spoke again. At that moment, a heavy thud echoed through the throne room, the sealed doors pushed backwards slightly before reforming themselves. Every standing soldier immediately drew their weapons, be them sword, spear, or axe. "The very face of death…" he continued, the doors pushed backwards again. "an army of creatures, so deformed… and demonic." he said, the doors visibly cracked as the hammering from behind the doors continued.

    "Milord, where's General Sal? And where's Princess Talia?" Rosthen asked, his axe ready and poised.

    "I sent Princess Talia away, fearing the worse would come to pass, as it is happening now. General Sal and his brother Sir Returaio are her escorts." King Rahsthos explained, pausing before speaking again, "Where's your son Garret?"

    "I sent him away too… I would be betraying his mother if I let him die here,"

    "Then I pray that both of our children live to see the next sun…" At that moment, the doors then burst open, paving the way for a dozen sharp weapons and many more beady red eyes glowing in the darkness…

    To be continued...
     
  2. Goodness me! I actually kept my promise! Anyway. This right here is the official chapter 1, with the previous piece being the prologue. This will be set up in a way similar to the Chapters in Fire Emblem games (or the only one I ever played), they each feature a significant battle the main characters are part of. So yeah, I only just noticed that there are actually plenty of opportunities here to put in the tutorial bits if this was to ever become a Fire Emblem game. Alas, let's leave that for later.

    Chapter 1 - General, Brother, Protector
    Garret rode fast, bolting right through the city and out into the forest, he didn't stop until he reached a small hill that peeked out through the trees. From here, he could see the castle again. There were several small columns of smoke emerging from the castle. Waiting for what seemed like forever, Garret remained here and kept looking at the castle to see the smoke steadily grow. Eventually though, they stopped, the fires causing them apparently extinguished.

    "Did we… win?" Garret asked himself, his black horse pushed its way into his face as if in response. "Alright Cleave, let's go back. Dad could take care of things after all. Maybe he'll even- what was that?" Garret stopped, Cleave snorted and turned his head, having heard the same noise. It sounded like metal on metal, clanging together repetitively. Garret has heard the sound plenty of times before. "Is somebody… sparring?" Garret left his horse on the hill, and followed the sounds to a small clearing. From the bushes, Garret could see a number of figures. Two men in Eraev Knight armour and young figure in a brown robe and hood, and three menacing figures, one standing on the sidelines and jeering, while the other two had weapons in their hands. It quickly became clear from the ferocity of the attacks that it was more than just a spar, it was a fight.

    Ten minutes earlier,

    "Is this far enough General? I can't see any more smoke, no more than what there was since we left. Wouldn't they have set the whole place on fire by now?" a young knight with short blonde hair asked a similar looking man with longer hair and the emblem of a red gem on his armour. Both of them were still on the backs of their clean white steads.

    "Don't let it fool you Returaio," the man answered back, "there's no telling what's happening inside the castle. We'll proceed as planned, until we are summoned back." The man turned over to a young girl behind him, her arms wrapped around his body and clinging on for dear life. "Milady, are you alright. We can rest here if you wish."

    "No, it's alright Sal," the young lady replied, the aristocratic heritage was clear on her accent, "the sooner we get to Thareveth, the better."

    "As you wish milady. Returaio, I hope you have the supplies. We'll keep riding until sunset. We'll cross the log bridge across the river on the other side of this forest and dismantle it, in case of any pursuit. If the castle is already secure, a messenger will meet us at the town of Baldra and-" Sal stopped, his keen eyes picking up movement in the trees behind his younger brother. "Returaio! Look out!" Almost immediately, the shaft of an arrow burst through the bushes and embedded itself in the shoulder of the young paladin. Returaio crumpled and quickly rolled off his horse. Sal leaped from his own steed and ran to check on his brother. "Are you alright!?"

    "Yeah," Returaio answered, pulling the arrow from his shoulder, wincing in pain as the arrow left his flesh and armour. "It's just a scratch general,"

    "Well well well, what have we got here?" a voice chimed, the three of them turned to see three men emerging from their hiding places. One was the archer that shot the arrow that wounded Returaio; a short man with a piercing stare, black cape, and a feathered hat. His bow was still in his hand. Another was a much more imposing figure, with broad shoulders, a tall stature, and an ornate lance in one hand. The third man was a hunchback with a staff at least twice as tall as he was and a menacing grin. It was he that spoke as he approached. "Two runaway soldiers and the traitorous princess of the kingdom. My my, that won't go down well with the people at all."

    "Save your babbling you crooked man." Returaio said, launching himself to his feet and drawing his own spear. "We're no traitors."

    "Who are you scoundrels?" Sal demanded, sword in hand, "How did you know we wouldn't take the main road?"

    "Ah, that was a very clever tactic there Sal." The lance man said, grinning as he stared down the Eraevian General, Spreading rumours of castle secrets and defensive flaws to thwart possible invaders. Unfortunately, none of them fooled us."

    "Wait… you're that mercenary from Gloeron. Are you with the anarchists."

    "Don't worry about those fools, this is just another contract. A very well paying one too."

    "Enough talking," the ranger said, replacing his bow with a short sword. "We have our orders, King Rahsthos wants his daughter back in the castle, and executed for aiding the anarchists in their attack that claimed the lives of so many knights in the Order of the Emblem."

    "What!? You think you can frame us for this? I'll drag your corpses back to the castle first" Returaio demanded, waving his spear in anger.

    "Sharp tongue," the mercenary smiled, "Let's see if your weapon is just as sharp." He then broke into a run, eager to cut the knight down where he stood. Someone else ran in to attack,

    "You'll have to cut through me first." Sal said, quickly swinging his sword to try and cut down the lance wielder, only to be parried away. "Returaio! Stay close to the princess, guard her with your life!" he ordered. He looked over and quickly saw that his younger brother was already in a skirmish with the ranger, sword and spear clashing on one another. Returaio didn't forget his duties though, he purposely kept the man from stepping within ten feet of the robed girl, still sat on the horse. He smiled briefly, and continued attacking his own opponent.

    As the fighting continued, both opponents began to show signs of wear. Returaio panted as he stabbed again with his lance, only for his opponent to jump out of range again.

    "You really think that you can defeat me little soldier? Think again, I will slay you where you stand! And retake my place at- OOF!" He was cut off as Returaio threw his spear at him mid sentence, causing him to topple over with the spear in his chest, pointing towards the heavens. Returaio smiled, then turned towards the other two fighters, ready to spill more blood. Only to see it spilled instead. The mercenary saw Returaio looking, and grinned. He spun his lance in his hands, not just deflecting two attacks from his opponent, but also knocking the sword out of its wielders hand. And in one swift and dreadful moment, he plunged his lance through the generals' heart.

    "SAL! NO!" Returaio shouted in vain. His brother's face curled up in anguish, and his body fell backwards, his blood staining the grass below him. In anger, Returaio immediately ran at the mercenary, fury and bloodlust in his eyes. The man simply punched him in the face as he approached completely unarmed. Returaio collapsed from the shock of the impact.

    "Absolutely pitiful…" the mercenary murmured, slowly walking around the young knight. "They say that General Sal was the best blade in all of Eraev, and yet he fell to my lance. Did you really believe that you would be capable enough to beat me yourself?" he stopped at his fallen comrade, pulling Returaio's own spear from him. "Don't worry though," he smiled, stepping towards the young knight, "I'll reunite you two again just as quickly as I separated you." he then lunged with the spear aimed to skewer Returaio's head…

    At that moment, Garret burst through the trees, his axe in hand, having just arrived to witness the fall of the general. With similar fury, he charged, heaving his weapon over his head to bring down on the mercenary. When his fathers words echoed through his mind,

    "You're holding it too firmly, you won't get anywhere if you keep trying to direct it so precisely, you just have to let the axe fall…" Garret breathed deeply, and gently loosened his grip on the axe as he swung it over his head, letting it continue its course, restrained and controlled by none. The axe hit its mark on the shaft of the spear, and with a sharp crack, it cleaved right through the wooden shaft and rendered the weapon useless. Garret smiled as he saw it, the sight of success. And then the stinging pain of a fist to the face.

    "You little runt!" the mercenary shouted, seething with rage. Returaio was almost completely forgotten. Returaio quickly rose to his feet, running back to the princess he was supposed to defend.

    "Talia! What are you waiting for? Run!" Slapping her horse on the back, sending it galloping anyway.

    "Must I do everything myself?" The hunchback shouted, Returaio looked and saw that he was trying to cast a spell, his raised hands glowing an impenetrable black. At that moment, something else burst into the small clearing. A black horse ran headlong into the dark-magic user, knocking him to the ground, and then trampling him. Returaio had to turn away when the hooves came down on the unfortunate mans' head. The horse kept going though, and instead charged into the mercenary, knocking him away from his master and ending his abuse. In a swift turn, it turned around and stopped behind Garret.

    "How lucky I am to have a horse like you Cleave." Garret commented, as he lifted up his axe and then lifted himself onto his horse. "Now let's get out of here!" the horse responded with a gallop, quickly tailing the robed girl through the trees. Returaio took the confusion to get to his own horse and go. First however, he ran over to his brother's corpse, and in an act of vengeance, took the fine lance that was still embedded in Sals chest. Before he heard the verbal curses of the mercenary behind him, Returaio was gone.

    "Curses…" the mercenary muttered. "My bounty and my lance… I'm going to savour wrenching his heart from his wretched body."

    "It seems that you have failed your mission Farkath." A voice behind him said, the mercenary turned to see the spell caster approaching him. Various scars on his face closing up as he drew the head of his staff along them.

    "That… is… not as pretty as the idea makes you believe…" Farkath couldn't take his eyes off of the staff, a long piece of black wood that ended in a pitch-black orb, held by four sharp claws. Upon closer inspection, Farkath could see that the orb had a distinct crack along the top of it. This crack pulsed red for a second, and then faded.

    "Don't be ridiculous. Immortality is as beautiful as I have ever dreamed it. How I adore this piece of wonders from Stadais."

    "While you're at it, maybe you could do your creepy voodoo and get Adam back on his feet? I'm going to need him for when I finish what I started."

    "Do not insult my magical abilities! But fine, fine. I should just so I can criticise him for losing to a page."


    Garret kept on riding after the woman ahead of him until he burst from the trees, he could just see her on the other side of the river, so he too followed, thundering across the wooden logs that formed a bridge across the rapid river. He stopped and dropped back down from his horse.

    "Are you alright? I hope those thugs didn't give you any trouble." Garret asked, slowly stepping towards the figure.

    "I'm safe now, thank you for helping." she replied,

    "Who are you anyway? You certainly don't look like a normal common folk. And why was the General of-"

    "Not another step." Garret turned to see a man only slightly older than he was, with short blonde hair, blue eyes, and pale skin. He quickly cuffed Garret by the shirt

    "Wait what? Aren't we on the same side here?" Garret asked, pointing to the red gem emblem on the man's chest.

    "He's right Returaio, I've seen him around the castle. He's one of our soldiers." the young woman said, Returaio looked intently at the squire, releasing his grip on his shirt.

    "I've seen you before too… you're Sir Rosthen's squire, aren't you?"

    "I'm also his son." Garret replied,

    "If you're his squire, then what are you doing out here instead of defending the castle?" Returaio demanded, ignoring Garret's comment about being Rosthen's son as well.

    "I'm following orders, Dad told me to come out here. Not that I agree with him. Hold on, what are you doing out here, instead of defending the castle?"

    "… just following orders."

    "Well, we should head back now, it looks like they've taken care of things in the castle." Garret suggested, pointing back to the way they came.

    "It's procedure, we're going to keep going, until we are officially told that we can go back. You however, aren't bound by that. So you can go home now if you really-."

    "I think he should come with us." the woman said, both men turned to her in surprise.

    "Pri-Princess Talia? Are you sure?" Returaio asked,

    "Wait! You're Princess Talia?" Garret asked, the woman pulled back her hood, revealing her fair face, opal eyes, silver hair, and heart-warming smile.

    "Indeed I am." She responded, answering both questions at the same time.

    "He's only a squire though, barely more than a page! He can't possibly protect you!" Returaio protested, Garret had to bite his tongue.

    "He did well protecting you Sir Returaio. Remember how that thug had you on the wrong end of your own spear." she responded. Returaio visibly scowled, then turned back to Garret.

    "Well now you have a choice squire. You can go home and revel in your good deeds today, or you can come with us for the short remainder of this trip. Just so you know though, I have to cut down this bridge before we leave. So when I do so, you better be on this side of the river, or the other. You better decide, and quickly."

    Garret looked back at the log bridge. This must have been the royal escape path. It was sturdy, but could quickly be collapsed. It could cut off potential pursuers and force them to take the long way around. Interesting, Garret long believed that the royal escape path was an underground tunnel from the throne room. Now Garret was here, in the middle of a current escape, albeit a paranoid one. Garret could easily just walk out of here, he really should get back to his-

    "Heeheeheeheh! Stop it please!" Princess Talia interrupted his thoughts, Garret turned to see that his horse Cleave, was nuzzling her quite affectionately, tickling her neck with his snout. Behind them, the horse she was riding earlier was looking on, appearing rather jealous. For a brief moment, Cleaves' eyes met with Garrets', and he could see the longing in them. He sighed, looks like he got talked into his decision by his own horse. Garret held his axe in both hands, and swung it at the rope holding the bridge together. It snapped and all the logs began to roll into the river. In less than three seconds, there was nothing left of the bridge that they had crossed. It may as well have never been there.

    "Well," Garret said, bringing his axe to rest on his shoulder, "Let's ride!"
     
  3. Now where have I been for the past two weeks? I had a semi-crisis on my hands, and had to stay away from Charms for the duration of it. I won't divulge the reason for this, other than that it has passed, and I should be able to return to my normal schedule. Although the question remains whether I will be able to complete the challenge entirely. Nevertheless, even if I miss the deadline, I will try to finish this story. I only just now put the finishing touches on this new chapter, after nearly finishing it over a week ago.

    Chapter 2 - A Good Nights Rest


    "Baldra?" Garret asked. As the trio slowed down as they entered the town. The sun had disappeared over the western horizon, and what light it brought was quickly fading too. The streets of the town were lit up by torches and lanterns, giving the remaining people on the streets light to wander. They paid little attention to the three figures on horses as they trotted through the streets.

    "We're stopping here for the night, that's all you need to know." Returaio explained, then trotted to the front. Talia trotted up to take Garrets place.

    "It's a long way to the Tharevethian Capital, so we need to make several stops on the way. Baldra is the first of the towns we stop in. It's a crossroads town in Eraev, so there's a large market economy. Have you ever been here?"

    "No, not personally. Apparently my mother lived here until she met my dad. Her dad, my grandpa, was a merchant's bodyguard." Garret explained,

    "How is your mother?" Talia asked,

    "She… died the day I was born."

    "I'm sorry… my mother died when I was only two. So I think I understand."

    "You're okay for a princess, you know. I was expecting someone who wouldn't want to even look at a common squire, let alone be friendly with one."

    "You proved yourself worthy today, if your father saw what you did, he wouldn't hesitate to have you knighted."

    "Wow… and I was expecting to wait another five years for that."

    "After that show of chivalry, I'm sure that you would make a great knight, Sir…" Garret took five seconds to realise that she was asking his name.

    "Garret" he replied, "Just call me Garret, I'm not a knight yet."

    "We're here!" Returaio cut in, pointing to a wooden building on the edge of the stone road. A sign marking it as "Baldra's Keg" said that it was also an inn. After tying up their horses at the stables on the side, they stepped into the building to be greeted by the sight of a group of burly thugs, all probably mercenaries, as they drank, sung, and wrestled: Another evening at the bar. Returaio went immediately to the bartender, with Garret and Talia following behind. The young man behind the bar had blood red hair, matching eyes, dirty clothes, and an apron on top of them. At first glance, he seemed to be cleaning a flagon. Looking over the bar table however, it became apparent that he was actually cleaning a curved scimitar. Upon seeing Returaio approaching, the man looked up, and quickly stopped cleaning the weapon.

    "More customers, and a soldier nonetheless. Day off with some friends?" he said, an accent on his tongue that was very British.

    "I'm looking for the innkeeper, Agatha. Is she here?" Returaio said,

    "Official business or something? Alrighty then… Hey Mama! There are some soldiers here to see you!" he called,

    "I'll be right out Drake." an older voice called back. After a few seconds, an elderly woman with red and grey hair, and numerous similarities to the younger bartender, despite differences in age and gender, emerged from the nearby double doors.

    "Now what is this all abou-?" she asked, before recognising the figures, "Is it that time again? Drake, keep working the bar. These are special guests, I'm going to show them up to their room."

    "Wait, are they-?" Drake asked,

    "Ssh. I'll explain everything after closing. For now though, you didn't see anything." She turned back to the trio, "Right up these stairs please," They followed her up the stairs, through the corridor, until they reached a room at the far end of the corridor. She pulled out a set of keys, picked one, and unlocked the door. The room inside was large, but there was a thin layer of dust on almost everything.

    "Sorry about the dust, I don't let anybody in here, and I only clean in here when I'm expecting you." she explained,

    "Don't worry Agatha, we're not looking for comfort on this trip." Returaio assured,

    "Thank you, Returaio was it?" Agatha locked the door behind them, with the added security, she let his concern show. "Now, what brings you over here, did something happen at the castle?" Returaio explained what happened that morning,

    "Those damn anarchists, claiming to want a better kingdom, but all they ever do is stir up trouble."

    "I saw the smoke in the castle stop, so maybe the castle already drove them out." Garret commented,

    "Really? In that case, we might be expecting a messenger to come along soon. Hold on, who are you anyway? You look rather familiar."

    "I'm Garret, son of Sir Rosthen." Garret introduced,

    "Rosthen…? Ah! Aren't you Annies' son?"

    "Yes… did you know her?"

    "Hah, she and your father first met each other here, it was love at first sight…" Agatha said, "You have your mother's hair, and her eyes." Garret went red,

    "um… thanks…"

    "You grew up so fast too, it's hardly been twenty years and already you're escorting the princess?"

    "That's a long story…" Returaio said quickly,

    "Garret was in the forest when some bandits attacked us, he saved us."

    "Did you now?" Agatha smiled, Garret went even more red.

    "But where are my manners? Princess Talia, welcome back to Baldra's Keg. You look as beautiful as ever, it's a real pity his majesty doesn't show off what a gem his daughter is."

    "Thank you Agatha, for letting us stay here."

    "It's my pleasure Princess." Agatha smiled, then looked around, "Where's Sir Sal? I heard that he's a general in the army now." Talia and Returaio couldn't look her in the eyes,

    "Um… when those bandits attacked…" Garret explained the tragic piece of the story,

    "Oh… I'm terribly sorry… Sal was a good man." Agatha paused, "I'm sure you're tired after that, so I'll leave you now. I'll wake you if a messenger comes. Otherwise, good luck on the rest of your journey." She stood up and left the room, leaving a key on the table.

    "Alright." Returaio said, moving over to a closet at the side of the room. There were several sets of blankets inside. He pulled them out and laid them on the floor. "Princess Talia gets the bed, you're on the floor with me squire"

    "It's Garret," Garret murmured, helping Returaio spread the blankets on the floor.


    Later that night, Garret laid on the floor, too bothered to fall asleep. He sat up, rubbing his head, he kept drifting back to the castle, wondering about his dad. Yeah they probably stopped the anarchists, but at what cost? Was he even alive? Did he lay down his life defending the king? These questions kept hammering his mind, and it was making him sick. Eventually, he couldn't take it anymore and decided to get some fresh air. He carefully slipped out of the room, closing the door behind him.

    Returaio didn't sleep either. He felt just as sick of himself. He replayed the death of his brother in his mind, and each time, it was bloodier and more gruesome. He saw blood before, but it never haunted him like this. Was it because Sals' blood was not unlike his own? And every time he saw it, he also saw Garret, there to help him, but not his brother. If he was there just a little bit sooner, could Sal have been saved? Was he there sooner? Could Garret have spent the first part of the fight hiding in the bushes, thinking he wouldn't have to get involved? Returaio couldn't shake that thought from his head, he couldn't blame someone else for Sal's death, could he? It was all that mercenary, the one that they left alive back there. No doubt, when Returaio got back, he would have to get a search party after that man, from Gloreon, was he? Eraev and Gloreon weren't on friendly terms at all, since the previous government was usurpered, and now the entire country is being carved up by pirate war bands vying for control of the country. No doubt, he would flee back there if he needed to hide. Unless Eraev was willing to go to war, they wouldn't be able to find him again. Returaio held his weapon tighter, or more, his stolen weapon. It was a fine lance, strong material, a sharp tip, and three hooks below it, to ensure maximum pain upon entry and exit. It was still caked with dried blood, the remnant of its latest victim. If this weapon was of any value, then perhaps the mercenary might come back for it… Returaio was interrupted in his thoughts as a crack of light spilled into the room, Returaio looked up to see that Garret was slipping out of the room, closing the door behind him. Returaio felt a bit more at ease, knowing he was out of the room for now. Returaio froze as he heard a gentle sniffling; Talia. Returaio knew that she was holding back these tears all day, simply to remain civil around Garret. What sort of princess would mourn the loss of one of her servants? Then again, Sal wasn't just a servant, he was her lover.

    Garret walked steadily down the stairs, the bar was dead silent now, the patrons either left or had retired to their rooms. The only people left in the bar were Agatha and a patron that fell asleep at one of the tables, an overturned flagon of ale still in his hand.

    "Ah, can't sleep Garret?" she asked, upon seeing the young axeman.

    "No… a lot happened today, you know?"

    "I fully understand, my husband used to be a soldier, served Eraev aiding the old conflict between Thareveth and Celawen some years back, heaven praise him. Even long after, he stayed up long nights thinking of the fighting he got himself in, Said it was like a real nightmare, the sort of things you accept as children, but don't realise what it truly is until people you know fall on the field of battle. I do what I can for the crown, but I would never have been able to become a soldier like he did."

    "I… think I understand what you mean. I'm worried about dad, he's a great fighter, but I can't help but feel concerned somehow, like something really bad had happened or-"

    "- is about to happen…" Agatha finished, Silence filled the room, cut by the snoring of the passed out man. "It's about time I threw that old sod out, his wife isn't going to be too happy later on. You however, you need rest. If you need to wear yourself out, Drake's out back, practicing with that sword of his. Takes to his father a bit too much if you ask me."

    "Thank you… I might as well." Garret followed her directions through the inn, until he emerged in a small garden area, where the red-haired bartender was practicing swinging at a wooden post with the very same scimitar he was cleaning earlier.

    "Ah, there you are." Drake greeted when he noticed Garret. "Here for a quick spar?"

    "Sure, just watch you don't get that thing too close to me."

    "Like it? Got it from a merchant from Jerauwien a couple of years ago, been practicing with it ever since."

    "Is it like using a regular sword?"

    "You can use it like one." Drake explained, hitting the weapon against the post, then pointing out the short groove caused by the blow. "You want to use it properly though, then you need to flick the wrist, to get the full potential of the blade." Drake hit the post again, showing the flick of the wrist. Garret saw that the groove this time was indeed deeper and longer than the last. "Mama told me everything, you guys are the princess escorts right?"

    "Returaio is, I'm just tagging along."

    "You're Garret then, Mama mentioned your mother." Drake pointed his weapon, "you ready to start?"

    "Yeah, just abou- Whoah!" Garret quickly raised his axe, feeling the impact of the weapon on its shaft, it wasn't as harshly as his father would usually hit, so he was able to absorb it well. Drake then spun around and struck again, Garret barely had time to register before it hit the shaft again. Garret took the chance to swing his axe at Drake, only to be blocked with the same speed and grace. Garret was in for a tough spar.

    Back in the bar. Agatha had just thrown the man out from the inn, although he fell back to sleep just outside, at least he wasn't in the inn anymore. She was mopping up the floor, the only remaining light being a lantern she placed on a table next to her, when the doors opened once again.

    "The bar is closed, but if you want a room. We have one left." Agatha said, not even looking up.

    "That's not why I'm here Mrs." a voice answered, Agatha looked up to see a man in leather armour with the Eraev seal stitched on his chest.

    "A soldier, is there any trouble?"

    "You know why I'm here, I'm here to reclaim Princess Talia,"

    "The messenger? But isn't Sir Cailin the royal messenger."

    "Sir Cailin is unwell, I'm his replacement."

    "Sir Cailin once came here with half his body rotting away, I had to keep him here for a week to make sure he didn't kill himself then and there. It would take more than that to keep him home and send someone else."

    "Under usual circumstances, yes. But these are not usual circumstances." his voice was growing colder, and more impatient with this old woman.

    "The fact that Princess Talia is here already makes it unusual circumstances. And I'm not going to turn her over until I am certain that they are going into the right hands."

    "If you won't turn over the traitorous princess, then you are also guilty of treason."

    "Traitorous?! You better explain yourself. Right now."

    "This morning, the anarchists made an attempt on the life of King Rahsthos, using a hidden passage within the castle. And it was Princess Talia that guided them to it. She then escaped in the ensuing battle, fleeing from the castle."

    "Don't be absurd! The anarchists would have killed her too, she fled from them." Agatha was confused on the inside, Talia would never be able to do those things, could she?

    "What I'm saying is true. And to prove it, General Sal, who set off to intercept her, was killed." Agatha fell silent, "now do you see? Now show me to Princess Talia immediately."

    "I am sorry…" Agatha said softly, then brought her tone back to firmness, "But you believe that Talia could possibly hurt General Sal, then you are sadly mistaken. I would not believe a word you said, even if I saw it with my own eyes. Now I have to ask you to leave, and to not come back."

    "Then you are just as treacherous as she is, and you know what we do to traitors." he grabbed his sword and swung it straight from her scabbard, knocking over the lantern as it swung into its mark.

    The two quickly developed a rhythm of striking and blocking.

    "So," Garret said, in between attacks, "does Talia usually come through here?"

    "You mean the princess? She does apparently," Drake answered, in between his own blows, "I have not seen her here myself, but you probably noticed that Mama knows her well."

    "Why? Why not any other place?"

    "When Papa returned from the war, as a war hero no less, he inherited the Baldra Keg from his Papa. That was apparently when he was selected to continue his service to the crown, by serving as a rest point on the escape route. It's no secret that the princess is the most prized possession of King Rahsthos, so he often sends her on this path as a drill of sort, Mama sees her every year, I've always been out of town when she does. We know its business, so we don't poke our noses in. Though from the way Mama speaks it, she's doing it even now to protect Talia rather than to serve the crown."

    "Like a daughter?"

    "Yeah, just like that." They stopped to focus more on the combat. It wasn't too much longer before Garret began to break sweat, and he could see Drake beginning to pant.

    "So where do you fit in here?" Garret asked,

    "Me? I'm my Mama's son, I'm supposed to inherit the inn when she passes on."

    "And the Princess protection duties?"

    "Same as she did, that's why she's so open with this to me. She is not like this to anyone else, just the man that will have to take over when she is done."

    "Is she really that old?"

    "Not as old as she looks, but she wants to retire actually." Drake said,

    "And why doesn't she? You seem capable to take control already."

    "Firstly, I still cannot break up a bar fight like she can. Second… I heard her whispering at night, saying she will rest easy when she saw the Princess with a ring on her finger."

    "Ring on her finger?" Garret stopped, forgetting all about the spar, "You mean as in marriage?"

    "What else? She is a ripe age, it only takes a suitable suitor. Either a prince or something one of the neighbouring countries, the old king, before Rahsthos, was actually a young prince from Thareveth, married the princess here in Eraev and became king, the two countries were friends ever since."

    "Gloeron used to have a prince, didn't they? Before the usurping I mean." Garret said,

    "Yeah, he's off the map now. He is probably dead like the rest of the family. Although she could look to other noblemen."

    "What about a soldier?"

    "A common soldier? Fantasy. We're talking about marrying a princess, and becoming king. The suitor would have to be a natural leader."

    "I meant more like an officer. Like a captain, or a g-" A shrill scream suddenly echoed through the night air, coming from the inn behind them. "What was that?" Garret shouted, almost matching the scream in loudness.

    "Something is happening in the inn!" Drake was already running towards the wooden door with Garret followed behind. They stormed back inside to see Agatha fall to the floor, a man standing over her with a bloody sword, and a fire spreading on the table behind him.

    "What have you done!" Drake shouted, already upon the soldier as blades clashed.

    "We gotta get everybody out!" Garret shouted, more worried about the fire and everybody that was sleeping upstairs. He ran up and hammered on each and every single door, until he reached his own room.

    "Fire! There's a fire in the bar!" Garret shouted into the room, Returaio and Talia were already their feet, something else already woke them up.

    "What did you do?" Returaio demanded,

    "I wish I knew, but we don't have time!" Garret shouted. Doors all around him were opening up, and the various people inside were already responding to Garret's cries, they charged down the stairs, desperate to escape the wooden inn before it went up in flames.

    Drake swung with almost barbaric ferocity at the soldier, matching experience with raw strength.

    "What! Did! You! Do! To! My! Mama!" he demanded through gritted teeth,

    "That traitorous wench? She refused to do her duty to the crown." the soldier answered. He then grabbed Drake with one hand, and with surprising strength, threw him out the window, before leaping after him. The two continued to fight out on the streets.

    "What do you mean refused?" Drake asked again, as swords collided time and time again.

    "Harboring a traitor is worthy of high-treason, I was merciful to lay her down that way,"

    "Liar!" Drake shouted, swinging his sword at the soldiers' leg, severing it almost completely off. The man crumpled and lay on the ground, dropping his weapon and clutching his wound. Drake paused over him with his sword poised.

    "Well… you can finish me here, but it won't change what she is, and what you are…" Drakes' hand trembled slightly, "Well, what are you waiting for? Are you scared?"

    "The first time is always a shock," Returaio interrupted, Returaio cut in and grabbed the man’s attention. "Who are you? And why did you attack the inn? You’re bringing disgrace to the uniform."

    “I’m bringing disgrace?” he asked, “I should ask you the same thing, especially after what happened to your brother.”

    “Explain yourself. Now.”

    Ten minutes later, the fire was extinguished, Agatha as wrapped in a linen sheet and placed on a table, and the people returned to their beds, disgruntled at having been awoken in such a manner, except those that saw the body of course. Drake, Garret, and Talia were sitting at a table, the three of them waiting, all eyes on the door. Soon enough, Returaio came back inside, carrying the attacker in his arms. He placed the man on a separate table, and covered him with a tablecloth.

    “He succumbed to his wounds. Blood loss from his leg wound. Even if he lived, he wouldn’t have enjoyed spending the rest of his life as a cripple.” Returaio explained, covering the body as best as he could.

    “… who was he?” Drake asked, he couldn’t look at the wrapped body, keeping his eyes focused on his scimitar and its red stains.

    “He was Jarvo of Weverleash, a young soldier that enjoyed a good ale, yet he loved his position as a soldier. He was sent in place of Sir Cailin to recover the princess of Eraev after the castle was secured.”

    “So we can go home now?” Garret asked, though his voice was uneasy, “Then why did he set the place on fire and…” Garret pointed to the other wrapped body on the opposite table.

    “Because Agatha was being uncooperative with him, and refused to turn in a known traitor to the kingdom.” Returaio replied,

    “Returaio… what are you saying?” Talia asked, a sense of knowing curled around her voice like a venomous snake.

    “That you, Princess Talia, are standing accused of aiding the assault on the king, abandoning the castle, and slaying General Sal of the Eravian army. A crime worthy of execution by hanging.”
     

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