Shades of Light

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Chapter 5

The morning sun reflected blindingly in the armor of the knights. Hidden deep within their tank-like suits, the men were barely recognizable as humanoids. If there were any women among them, Isaac and Caroline weren't able to tell. The commander was the only one without a helmet, not even carrying one with him. He looked down at them from atop his steed. His face was noble and his eyes kind. The steed he rode on was the largest of all the knights. Each one of the animals was white and had it's own set of armor. The animals reminded Caroline of ordinary cattle but far more muscular. From her training she knew that they were 'horses' and supposedly very noble and intelligent creatures. The resemblance to cattle bothered her a little though. In a distant past, a predecessor of her order had imported the creatures en masse. When there had been no need for them anymore they had been slaughtered just like ordinary cattle.

“Greetings, Sir Knight, Lady Knight,” yhe lead knight said in a bombastic and slightly pompous voice. “I am Sir Leonard the Brave, Slayer of the Bad Phoenix, Duke of Burrowfalls and Son of Charles The Magnificent.”

An awkward silence followed until Isaac stepped forward to introduce them. Slightly startled, Caroline grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him back. “As you keenly observe, we are agents of Midgard, here for your protection. A being from Hel has breached our defenses and infiltrated your realm. We suggest civilians avoid contact at all costs and hope you will aid us in the retrieval. I am Sir Caroline and this is Brother Isaac.”

Isaac waved awkwardly. Sir Leonard sized them up for a moment.

“My Seer had alerted me to the arrival of this evil being,” he said in a more casual tone. “We're riding out to slay it now. Any assistance you could provide would be most welcome. The father of my father spoke very highly of your people. He called the people of Midgard wise and powerful. I look forward to seeing you live up to that.”

“We will not disappoint you,” Caroline said. Isaac nodded in assent.

“Now,” His horse started to walk, immediately followed by the other four knights. Caroline and Isaac glanced at each other before following. When they caught up with Leonard, he continued. “, I would like to know what we are up against.”

“That would be why I'm here,” Isaac said. “We are dealing with a very cunning demon here, Leo. It will probably take the guise of a normal man but with black hair and a silvery white skin. Oh, and red eyes. It won't move like a normal man though. I suggest you don't try to fight it like one.”

“It is said that those from your world do not fight with honor,” Leonard said. “How do you suggest we deal with that?”

“This thing is not from our world,” Isaac said and got a warning look from Caroline. “But I see what you mean. Would it be possible for you to abandon your code of honor?”

Leonard’s expression answered his question.

“Then, perhaps, you would allow us to intervene when we think it is most opportune.”

“The shame would be on you.” Leonard seemed to consider this. “I deem this to be acceptable but I loathe to ask this from you.”

“We would accept this shame for the good of both our worlds,” Caroline said.

“This truly threatens the safety of two Realms?”

“It's not a leader...but it seems to be a decent teacher. Your people would quickly be corrupted and the corruption would eventually spill over into our world.”

“I will not allow that to happen.”

“Nor will we.”

They walked in silence for a while. Sir Leonard just sat on his horse, staring ahead haughtily. None of the other knights moved or made any sound. It was clear that they had to slow down their speed to allow the two foreign agents to keep up. Isaac didn't mind that they hadn't offered them a ride. He didn't trust the animals. Caroline though that the poor creatures wouldn't be able to carry the extra weight even though she knew better.

“So, what do you think of our world, agents of Midgard?” Leonard asked without looking at them.

“We believe in science, reason and order. Your world is...incomprehensible to us,” Caroline said.

“Surely you see that this world is not without any of those things?”

“We do.” Caroline nodded. “It comes and goes more easily here. I hope you will also admit that, if these things were incomplete, you would not know it because of a lack of reference.”

“It is possible,” Leonard grumbled. “Your weapons definitely seem beyond my ken. How will you capture this creature with those metal and wood...tools.”

“You will see,” Isaac said.

“We do not intend to capture it,” Caroline said. “The laws of the Republic, our people, do not allow for the execution of a person without a trial. Those only apply within the borders of the Republic though, and we are not dealing with a person.”

“The laws of my order do extend into all Realms and territories, and they demand the summary execution of creatures like these,” Isaac added.

“You care for these laws but not honor in combat?” Leonard said, frowning. “I have met people who didn't value honor but they did not care for the law either. You seem even stranger to me.”

“We are not of this world,” Caroline said, smiling. “Let us focus focus on what we have in common instead.”

“Safety, stability and progress. Order above all,” Isaac said, ignoring Caroline. “Those are the things the Republic was built for and what it was built on. Only by living in our Realm would you see why those things are so important to us. If I told you, you would not understand.”

Leonard seemed taken aback by this and remained quiet. Isaac grinned in response to Caroline's exasperated expression.

They encountered a patrol of the city guard just as the city came into sight. The men in leather and chain-mail looked far too old and weak to be doing their job. In the Republic they would've either been promoted to a more administrative function or demoted to harmless menial labor. They dutifully reported to the knights about the numerous attacks which had taken place along the roads to and from their city. Witnesses claimed it had been only one bandit but one with such strength and so violent that he had easily overpowered anyone in his way. This bandit hadn't stolen much, mostly food and clothes, but he had killed more people in one night than they usually had in a century. None of the city guards had ever heard of a bandit killing people and they seemed to be under the impression that somebody was pulling an elaborate prank.

Leonard decided that he could not let this go on and the three of them agreed that Caroline and Isaac would just have to catch up later. As he rode off he shouted the suggestion that they buy horses but neither of them had any money. When Isaac suggested they just steal the horses, Caroline quickened her pace and ignored him.

“Capital City is just a day away from here,” she said when Isaac had been quiet for an hour. It was getting 'dark' soon but they had agreed to keep walking for as long as possible. The invigorating effect the Realm had on them made it very likely that they would be walking all through the night.

“What's so special about that place?” he said.

“That's where most of the military power in the Realm is,” she said. “Unless they're out questing, of course. The Empress has her court there and they seem to have a vague idea of needing to protect her.”

“Is she important?”

“No, but the people love her.”

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