The pain, it was unbearable. Despite his training and his experience, the hooded man couldn’t avoid an impact of a bullet, hitting him near his kidneys. The wound wasn’t fatal, but the hooded man knew if he didn’t treat it soon, his life would be in danger. But… the pain was distracting him, and the bleeding was getting worse each minute. With his left hand on the wound, trying to slow the blood, and his right hand grabbing the handle of a sword, the hooded man was walking through the woods, looking for a town that could help him in his hour of need.
Alas, the hooded man thought that his end would come soon. He was in the middle of the Forest of Flondor, completely away from civilization. And even if he could find other humans—besides the accursed bandits that infested the forest—, it wasn’t guaranteed they would help the hooded man.
While walking, the hooded man stumbled, almost falling to the floor. His vision became blurred, while the pain intensified. Lowering his head, the hooded man saw the skin of his left hand completely red, and the stain of blood in his robes bigger than before. His strength started to falter, and his breathing became heavier. Cursing, the hooded man tried to get up; instead, he fell to the ground. Damn, perhaps… perhaps he might finally die. Perhaps his time was finally up. What an end for a coward like him; dying alone in the middle of nowhere. But he deserved it; especially after he betrayed his master and his kingdom. With a dry smile on his face, the hooded man moved slowly his eyes. Trees… Trees everywhere. All he could see were trunks and green leaves. Not even a single animal was nearby. He knew it well when he ran away so many years ago: his fate was to die alone. Powerless and without anyone at his side. Indeed, that was the ending he deserved. His breathing was raspier than before, his brain wasn’t registering the sound of the wind or the birds singing… anything at all. His vision was getting darker and darker each second. Slowly, he raised his right hand… So much blood on that hand; so many innocent people he killed while he was serving his kingdom and his master. So many people lost their beloved ones thanks to him. So much misery he brought to the world. If there was really a hell after he died, the hooded man knew he would pay for all eternity after all he did to those innocent people. The hooded man’s eyes were starting to shut. Before losing the vision, he saw a silhouette getting close to him. The hooded man couldn’t figure out what that figure was, but the odds that it was an animal like a bear were high. At least his body would serve as food for the bear and its cubs.
Darkness. He was falling in the void. His eyes—if he still had—couldn’t see anything. Silence. He couldn’t hear anything at all. Who he was? The man forgot his name. What was he supposed to do? The man couldn’t remember who he worked for. Where he was? The man was completely lost in that sea of darkness and silence. He couldn’t feel anything, he couldn’t speak, he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t… do anything at all. Did he even have a body?
Suddenly, a little flame appeared in front of the man. The flame started getting bigger and bigger, until it made the darkness disappear. The smell of charred wood started infiltrating his nostrils. Not only that, also another smell… the smell of burned flesh. And blood. The man was standing, staring the body of a woman who protected her daughter. A sword impaled her heart, killing the woman instantly. Her green eyes were full of dread and pain, but also determination. Meanwhile, the young child was trembling after seeing her own mother die in front of her.
He grabbed grabbed the shoulder of her mother, throwing aside her lifeless body. In front of the little girl appeared a big man, clad with golden armor; the clothes used by the Seven, the elite guards of the king. Without a second thought, the knight raised his sword and impaled the little girl too.
An old man was dumbfounded when he saw his granddaughter dying in front of him and his daughter’s body on the floor. As soon as the life left the eyes of his granddaughter, the knight took out the sword from her body and turned to face the old man. The old man implored mercy to the knight, but his words fell on deaf ears. And just like the other members of his family, the old man died instantly when the knight impaled him with his sword.
When the body of the old man dropped on the floor, the knight raised his right hand; the glove was painted red with the blood of innocent people. People, whose only crime was to be family of the rebels who tried to overthrow the king. They weren’t part of the coup, they didn’t participate in the riots a few days ago. Slowly, the knight’s eyes moved to his blade; its tip was also painted in red, dry and fresh blood. The knight suddenly dropped the sword and fell to his knees. The knight raised his trembling hands, looking at them with disbelief and terror. He became a knight to help people, protect the weak, battle injustice. Instead, he was slaughtering innocent people in the name of his king. The knight put his hands on his helmet and started screaming through his lungs. And his screams echoed throughout the forest, startling the person who was taking care of him.
The former knight woke up panting; his body drenched in sweat. He suddenly felt a great pain near his abdomen. Lowering his sight, he saw that someone took off his robes and opened his shirt to cure the wound. There were bandages there now, and a dark red spot where his wound was located. His body was laid out on a white sheet, covering him from the dirt and the moss.
“So, you woke up,” a female voice said. The knight saw on his left a woman who was tending at that moment a campfire. Since she was turning her back on him, the knight couldn’t see her face or her body; the darkness also helped cover her entire body. Yet, somehow, her voice seemed familiar. “Nightmares?” the knight didn’t answer the question. The first thing he did was look for his gun or sword, but he didn’t find them. Most likely the woman took them away from him. “A few minutes later and I would be burying your corpse by now.” Suddenly, he realized he was missing another item from his body.
“Where is my collar?” demanded the knight harshly. The woman didn’t reply, angering the knight. “Who are you?”
“Me?” the woman finally talked. “I’m just like you, a lone wanderer,” he didn’t believe her. “Are you hungry? What am I saying, you probably are.”
“Give me back my collar.”
“In due time. Now, let’s eat!”
The knight, with some difficulty, sat on the sheet. Now that the woman said those words, he finally realized how weak he felt and how his stomach was growling. He needed energy.
Without saying a word, the woman turned to finally face the man: she was holding a plate with some yellow liquid. “Soup. It will help you.”
The knight studied her face carefully. Her brown eyes showed ingenuity and kindness, something the he hasn’t seen in a long time. Her skin was smooth but with some wounds near her cheeks and a small scar near her upper lips. Her hair was black and messy and quite long, something that he didn’t realize until now. Unlike the knight, she was wearing a brown cape instead of robes, a white linen shirt, brown pants and brown leather boots. The knight couldn’t see any weapon or sheath or gun holster in her body. At first sight anyone would believe this woman was harmless, but the knight’s instincts told him that look was deceiving; she was hiding something. And she was probably dangerous. First, not anyone could wander through the Forest of Flondor without proper training in weapons, it was too dangerous. Not only bandits were lurking in the shadows, waiting the right moment to attack, but also dangerous animals too, hoping to catch their prey when they were unaware of their surroundings.
“Don’t worry, I didn’t poison the food,” with a smile on her face, the woman said that to the knight. Despite that, the man didn’t believe her. He took the plate with one hand and a spoon with the other, but he didn’t bring neither the liquid or the chicken’s leg to his mouth. Frowning, the woman moved her head with disbelief. A few seconds later, she also had a plate and a spoon in her hands. “See, it is safe,” said the woman after drinking some of the liquid. Again, the knight didn’t start eating. “Are your hands wounded too? I can feed you the soup.”
“It’s not necessary,” growled the knight. With apprehension, he lowered the spoon on the yellow liquid. With some difficulty, he raised the spoon with liquid on the bowl and introduced it on his mouth. After swallowing the content, the knight said hoarsely what he had in his mind. “Tasteless.”
The woman laughed. “Aye, you are right. I’m not the best cook. But at least it is nutritive,” she was right in that regard.
In complete silence, both ate the content of their plates. While they were eating, the knight noticed his collar was hanging around the woman’s neck. This angered him greatly. But, since he was weak and didn’t know what the woman was capable of, he didn’t say anything. When he finished, the knight felt his body a little stronger. His stomach stopped growling too. The pain also diminished greatly.
“So, what happened to you?” asked the woman after taking the plate from the knight. Complete silence. If she healed him, she must have an idea of what happened. No need to tell her more details. Now that he thought of that, was the bullet removed? He lowered his head to see the bandages. Completely doubtful; he would need a surgery for remove the bullet from his body. Thinking of it made the color disappear from the knight’s face. “Bandits?” he silently nodded with his head. That, at least, was enough. Sadly, the woman wanted more information. “Strange that someone is wandering this forest alone. It is dangerous,” the knight’s eyes were fixed on the collar with the shape of a rose, something the woman noticed. A grin appeared on her lips. “I’m surprised you are so fixated in this. Why?
“None of your business. Give my collar back. Now!” he was ready to use force if needed.
The woman, sensing danger perhaps, did what he wanted. When the knight got his trinket back, he immediately put it around his neck. The woman frowned but didn’t say anything. Now calmer, he looked at the woman’s face again. He didn’t understand why but that woman seemed familiar. So familiar. But it was impossible, he saw her die. He saw his companion and fellow knight die by the hands of the rebels when they took the kingdom. It was impossible unless… unless… The knight lowered his head again to see the bandages. Thanks to his ancient bloodline, he was healing faster than any normal human. That knight was also a member of the muneidin, so she could have escaped, and if properly tended, survived. Biting his lips, he stared the woman again.
“What?” the woman seemed startled. “Something on my face?” she moved her right hand to one of her cheeks.
“I don’t believe our meeting was coincidence,” the woman’s face changed instantly. Her innocent eyes disappeared, showing now cunning. The same look she had in her eyes when they were younger. This confirmed his suspicions. “How did you survive?”
“No need to answer that to a craven,” replied the woman harshly. Her sweet demeanor changed completely too. Now she was looking coldly at the disgraced knight. “Instead of staying with us to defeat the rebels, you ran away. Not only abandoned your king and your fellow knights, you also abandoned the princess and your master.”
The knight turned away his face. Yes, what he did was a complete disgrace. He betrayed everyone and fled from the city. It was thanks to him that the king was executed, and the princess was in exile right now, running from the usurper. Last he heard, she was hiding in the Diamond Archipelago. But she wasn’t the only one on the run, the disgraced knight was on the run too. The usurper put a price for the head for any muniedin captured or killed. Those years in exile have been some of the worst for the disgraced knight.
“So… Are you going to execute me?” asked the disgraced knight with a wicked smile in his face.
The woman frowned her face while looking at the disgraced knight with disgust. “Believe me, if it were for me I would do that. But our clan is near the point of extinction in these lands thanks to the usurper. It would be foolish of me to kill you.”
“What do you want then?” demanded the disgraced knight. The tone of his voice increased, although he didn’t care. The odds there were other people listening were quite low.
The woman didn’t reply immediately. Just like him, she studied him intently. Her eyes were moving slowly while checking first his face and then going to his body. As her eyes lowered, her face showed more disgust.
“No one would believe you were part of the Seven in the past,” the disgraced knight didn’t say anything. “Your body has lost its shape. No surprise the bandits managed to ambush you… Or you didn’t feel my presence.”
“You were there?” the knight opened his green eyes in surprise.
“Yes. The king would be ashamed of you if he could see you. No bandit should be able to harm a member of the Seven,” again, no reply from the knight. Which, for some reason, made the woman angry. Standing up, she crossed her arms and looked at the disgraced knight with utter disdain. “What have you been doing all these years?” the knight bit his lips. He won’t answer her question. She didn’t have a reason to know what has happened with his life after he defected and abandoned his allies. “Answer me!”
“Be quiet!” yelled the disgraced knight. His green eyes not only showed hate, but also pain and remorse. Memories started to resurface, memories he tried to suppress after what happened in that village. His right hand automatically grabbed the collar “You haven’t changed a bit. You always loved to critic other people and judge them without knowing them. You don’t have a single shed of empathy inside you. Why should I tell you what happened to me in all these years? The only gesture I’ll get from you is scorn and insults.
“On top of being a craven, you are a crybaby now,” the woman moved her head, completely exasperated. “You have disappointed me. The princess won’t be pleased,” just when the knight was going to open his mouth to talk, both heard some sounds. Horse’s hooves. They were getting close. The land was slightly trembling by each step the horses took. Suddenly, a feeling of dread started overtaking the disgraced knight’s body. With horror, he looked at his old companion.
“Don’t tell me…”
The color disappeared from the face of the man as soon as the horses with their riders appeared. Leading them was a woman the disgraced knight hoped to never see again. Despite almost twenty years have passed, she looked the same. And behind her, there was a man with a beard and long hair tied in a ponytail.
“Pri…Pri…Prince…” the name never managed to get out from his mouth.
“You are quite an elusive man, Sir Kail,” said Princess Silvy coldly. Her blue, icy eyes, as cold as the worst and harsher winters Kail has experienced, were looking at him with great disdain. She turned to see the woman. “How did you manage to find him, Dame Aria?”
“He has grown weak, Your Highness,” replied Aria while kneeling. “He was wounded by bandits. Had I not been nearby, the animals would have had a feast tonight and the accursed bandits would have his possessions.”
“Really?” Princess Silvy dismounted from her horse and walked until she got near Sir Kail. She observed him with her arms crossed. The hands of the knight were sweaty, and his heart was throbbing fast. Despite he didn’t feel any murdering feeling from them, Kail knew very well that their presence there wasn’t a good sign.
“Yes,” continued Aria. “But he is still useful. He is still in his prime. He still has some use for us.”
The eyes of the knight lingered on the bearded man who was still mounting his horse. Unlike the princess, Master Anathar only showed disappointment, resentment and sadness in his eyes. Kail wanted to ask for forgiveness, but he knew well that nothing would bring back Master Anathar’s mother. If he only had stayed at his post that day instead of running away…
“Tell me Sir Kail, are you interested in regaining your honor?” asked Princess Silvy.
Kail looked at the princess with a frown in his eyes. “My honor?”
Princess Silvy nodded with her head. “I’m willing to pardon your cowardice and betrayal if you help us retake Braidon. Certainly, we need more men and women with your prowess and skills with a sword.”
The mere idea of retaking Braidon sounded crazy to the disgraced knight. Something that the usurper made sure was to kill or imprison almost all the forces loyal to King Carmelo. Despite the princess managed to escape with Master Anathar and some of her allies, she didn’t have the strength nor allies to attack the country, even less take control of the capital and kill the usurper. That was impossible. Utter madness. Perhaps all those years in exile affected the mind of the princess.
“I see you don’t believe me, Sir Kail,” said Princess Silvy with a bitter smile on her lips. “That’s the problem of running away and hiding: you don’t know what is happening in the world. Don’t worry, you will soon catch up… If you help me retake my kingdom.”
Sir Kail looked at Aria and then at Master Anathar. The former nodded slightly with her head while Master Anathar ignored his former retainer. Then, he looked at his right hand, the hand that has wielded a sword and caused so much misery and despair. He once swore that he would disappear and avoid killing people, especially innocent ones. He tried his best to have a proper life, working in a village and helping the townsfolk. Alas, despite his best intentions, death always followed him. Death was an invisible companion that was stalking Sir Kail at day and night. Regardless of where he tried to settle down, Death was always at his side, guiding his right hand to a sword and forcing it to impale or slash people. And if he refused, Death made him pay by taking away the people he cared the most. With his left hand, Sir Kail grabbed again the collar with the shape of a rose. It was because of him that Clara and his unborn child died. He had nothing else in the world. He had nothing to lose anyways. Perhaps…perhaps killing was the only purpose he had in his life.
“You win, Your Highness,” Kail accepted Princess Silvy proposal. “I’ll help you retake Braidon from the usurper” and with some luck, die in the process.
“You made an excellent choice today, Sir Kail,” Princess Silvy eye’s glowed with satisfaction when she heard the answer. With a gesture, she motioned Dame Aria to help Kail. “I would order you to bend your knee, but since you are wounded… You are so feeble, Sir Kail. Don’t worry about that, we will make sure you get back in shape before we attack Braidon.”
A few minutes later, Kail was mounted on Aria’s horse, holding the female knight. While most of his wounds were completely healed, he was still lacking the strength to ride a horse by himself.
After making sure Kail was ready, Princess Silvy gave the order to move. The knight turned his head to see the place he was found. To think that he would return to his old life as a knight… A killer. Having said that, perhaps it was for the best. If what he heard is true, the people in Braidon were suffering; the usurper was a terrible leader and was leading the kingdom to ruin. He had to do something.
“I hope you are ready.” muttered the dame while they were moving. “You will notice soon Princess Silvy has changed.”
“I already have,” replied the knight with a dark voice.
Written by J.L. Sarlat
© All Rights Reserved 2019
One of the reasons I started writing was because of World of Warcraft. You see, I loved the story of Warcraft 3. Arthas and his transformation into a Death Knight, his rise to become a Lich King, Kael’Thas and the tragedy that befell to the Blood Elves… World of Warcraft disappointed me, though. Even from The Burning Crusade (I still love the expansion, though. Best experience I have ever had in a MMORPG) the story left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Like what happened to Kael, for example. It angered me because he was my favorite character in Wacraft 3. And after being fed up, I decided to write a fantasy world.
Since I was quite young back then and my experience as a writer was terrible, it was a hot mess. I wrote three books of that stuff, plus some side materials, and whenever I try to read it, I’m like this:
It is awful. It is like a bad mix of Lord of the Rings with Bleach, Warcraft and many other stories. Plus the writing is quite juvenile and doesn’t make sense at all.
But certain aspects of it can be salvaged, and that’s what I intend to do. Over time, I hope to continue writing more about this fantasy world and expand it. Right now I have a clear idea of what I intend to do, and that’s awesome.
Hope you liked it. Next post I will go back to Astral Wave, hopefully.