Some few hours before; Keon had knelt on the ground outside his burned down house. Tears streamed down his face. He had no thoughts and no feelings at the moment as he stared at Miranda’s little body. Her body was charred all over. She and her mother were burned alive in that house. How she must have suffered, he thought. A wave of emotions had suddenly washed over him, and he screamed in agony. “What was that!?” a voice called out. “There are more survivors! Get rid of them all!” another voice commanded. The clanking of metal could be heard as two imperial soldiers rushed at Keon, their giant swords gleaming in the moonlight. For a moment Keon had decided to stay where he was and allow himself to be cut down. He had nothing left to live for. He had lost his home, his family, his community, but more importantly than all of that, he had lost his true reason for living. Miranda. His baby sister who he had always promised to protect. He never cared much for his own life, but he wished only for Miranda to have a grand future. It was all stripped away from him in an instant.
Hours before, Keon had taken Miranda to the centre of the village to see the arrival of the princess. She was so happy and excited. It took a lot of convincing on Keon’s part to allow Julia to let him take her to the centre of the village at night. Eventually, she had allowed Keon to take her away, not so much that Keon convinced her, but instead because Kalor was drunk and in a foul mood. It would have been safer if Miranda was not in the house when her husband was in such a state.
Keon carried Miranda on his shoulders so that she could have a better view of the royal princess. “She’s so beautiful” Miranda swooned. “Not as beautiful as you little princess” Keon laughed. Miranda giggled as she tugged on his hair. Although he had to admit it, the rumours of the princess’s beauty were not exaggerated. She was exquisite. Her hair was set in a way he had never seen any woman wear it before. He could tell that she had long hair, but it was built upward instead of flowing down her back. A diamond tiara adorned her head which added to the impressive hairdo. More importantly, her hair was as black as night. It reminded him of the ocean when viewed in the evening. The colour of her hair stood out as her skin was pale yet it had a certain glow to it. Her eyes were the most captivating feature about her, however. They were violet. Keon had never seen anyone with violet coloured eyes before. She indeed was the most beautiful and unique woman he had ever laid eyes on.
The crowd dispersed as the princess made her way toward the tavern. Keon carried Miranda on his shoulders all the way home. As he entered the house, he was relieved to hear his father’s snores coming from the bedroom. Keon went to his bedroom which he shared with his little sister. He tucked her into bed and kissed her good night. It was the last time he would see her alive. Keon had decided to visit his usual rock formation on the hill for a while before going to bed.
Keon looked up at the stars and then closed his eyes. Images of him being a Knight of Gillia swirled around in his head. He was the most famous knight in the kingdom. As a reward for his honour and feats of bravery, King Kellin had offered him the princess Azzara to be his bride. The princess smiled at him as he stood there with his shining silver armour. Suddenly his fantasy was interrupted by shouting and screaming coming from the village. The imperial soldiers were breaking into people’s homes and accosting them. Keon ran down the hill quickly and hurried home. He was worried about Miranda. What was going on all of a sudden?
In his haste to reach home, Keon did not notice an imperial soldier standing in front of him, and he collided with the steel figure. The soldier barely flinched. Keon felt as though a charging horse had just hit him. Keon lay flat on his back as the soldier towered over him. “New orders!” another imperial soldier had appeared “Raze the village to the ground and kill everyone!”
Keon’s heart sank. What!? Why!?
The soldier drew his sword and intended to stab Keon while he was on the ground. Keon was too quick. Almost instinctively he rolled out of the way and got up to his feet. His body still hurt from the collision, but he couldn’t focus on that now. He needed to get home and find Miranda! The soldier chased after Keon but couldn’t catch up. Keon was too fast, and the soldier was weighed down by his heavy plate armour. Eventually, Keon lost sight of his pursuer and made a point of avoiding the soldiers that were running around burning buildings and slaughtering villagers.
Keon’s anxiety only grew as he finally made it to their little house. It was on fire. Keon rushed through the flames and entered the house. A burnt body lay on the floor of the kitchen. He knew who it was by the body shape. He wasted no time and rushed to his bedroom. He heard screaming and crying as he entered. Miranda’s body was on fire, but she was alive. Keon quickly found a blanket that hadn’t caught fire yet and began to douse the flames on his sister’s body. She screamed and cried out in pain. Keon wrapped her up in the blanket and carried her outside. He laid her gently on the ground and could only watch as her life slipped away. “Miranda! It’s ok! I’m here! Stay with me! please!”
Miranda tried to speak but couldn’t. Her eyes became lifeless, and she had stopped moving.
The soldier’s blade was inches away from cleaving Keon in two. Suddenly a wild cry came out of the darkness, and a large man attacked the two imperial soldiers with a two-handed sword. It was Kalor. Keon’s father was covered in blood and stab wounds. Any normal man would have died from such slashes, but Kalor had enough strength left to kill off one of the attackers and say “GO! GET OUT OF HERE KEON!”
Keon stared wide-eyed at his father as he battled the second imperial. He had never seen his father in such a rage. He displayed such immense power and strength and wondered if the imperial was as afraid of Kalor as he was. “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR YOU USELESS CHICKEN SHIT!? GET OUT OF HERE! NOW!”
Keon rose up from the ground and sprinted past his father and the imperial. Keon glanced back at his father only once before running as fast as he could out of the village. Having almost reached the entrance of the village, Keon heard a blood-curdling scream from atop the hill. It was a woman. Her screams sent chills down his spine. Putting his better judgement aside, Keon raced toward the south side of the village. Dashing up the hill, a horrifying scene had met his eyes. There was some creature standing over a limp figure. It was too dark to see clearly. Keon picked up the biggest stone he could find and threw it on the creature’s head. He had hoped that the limp figure was not dead. The beast turned around and walked toward him. As the animal moved into the moonlight, Keon’s breath had gotten stuck in his throat. The creature looked like a man but at the same time did not. It stood on two legs and wore brown robes. Its skin was blue and had black scales all around its face and a bald head. It had sharp black claws that dripped with blood. The creature laughed hysterically and said “Massster. It would appear that the hero has arrived”
‘It could speak!?’ Keon saw the limp figure slightly move on the ground. She’s still alive! He was relieved. I have to save her. I have to protect someone! Keon Picked up another large stone and threw it hard at the creature. The creature merely caught it in its claw and crushed it into dust. “Come, hero! What are you waiting for? Show Xandar your power” the creature laughed.
This is unreal, Keon thought. He was afraid. Besides the creatures terrifying appearance, it seemed to be a lot stronger than him. This creature had claws the size of daggers and all he had were a few stones lying around. The beast advanced toward him menacingly with its fork tongue protruding from its mouth. A real fear had gripped him then. His legs felt like lead, and his heart pounded uncontrollably. He wanted to run away. He wanted to leave the woman to her fate, but his legs would not move. It was then that he saw her — Miranda’s wide toothy smile. I couldn’t protect her, He thought. I couldn’t be there when she needed me the most. The creature got closer, laughing as it did. This time I’ll protect someone. Keon clenched his fists and charged at the beast. He yelled a war-cry as he planted his fist as hard as he could against the creature’s mouth. The creature stood there unflinching. It slammed the back of its claw against Keon’s torso and sent him crashing against a nearby tree.
Keon felt winded. His body ached all over, first from slamming into the steel-clad soldier. Then from the burns, he sustained when he tried to save Miranda, and now this new pain from being slammed against a tree with such incredible force.
Keon steadied himself and got back on his feet even though every inch of his body cried out in protest. “You will leave her alone…” he said softly.
“I didn’t quite catch that hero,” the creature said mockingly.
“I said…” Keon picked up a sharp tree branch that had broken off the tree he had just slammed into “LEAVE HER ALONE!” Keon charged again. This time Keon knew precisely what he was going to do. He charged at the creature as fast as he could. He felt its claws rip the flesh off his ribs, but he did not falter. Keon shoved the sharp end of the branch as hard as he could into the creature’s throat. The beast began to gurgle and splatter blood all over Keon. It stared wide-eyed at him before he gave it one last kick in the chest and sent it tumbling down the hill and into the darkness.
Keon fell to the ground on his knees. Thick, hot blood was gushing out from where the creature had slashed at him. He managed to pick himself up and walk toward the limp figure. Being closer to her now, he was shocked to see who the woman was. The princess Azzara lay there on her back, covered in deep cuts and blood. Keon immediately removed his shirt and covered her naked body. Her eyes were open, and her lips were trembling. She was alive.
Keon tried to pick her up, but it didn’t seem possible. He wasn’t very strong, and on top of that, he was barely keeping himself conscious. I have to protect someone. He kept saying to himself. He lifted the princess off the ground with all his strength. He screamed out in pain as he held her up, struggling to keep his body steady. Keon moved one step at a time. He walked down the hill carefully. He did not want to trip or stumble and end up hurting her more than she already was. I have to protect someone he kept saying over and over. His vision was blurred; he had no energy and no strength left. His body moved on pure force of will alone.
Finally, he had made it down the hill with the princess in his arms. Keon spotted a small hut that had not been burned down. Again, Keon moved one step at a time. He screamed out in pain with each step and each time he yelled out “I have to protect someone!”
Keon entered the tiny, one-room hut and laid the princess down on the bed. It wasn’t over yet, he thought. Keon looked around the cabin and found a cooking pot with warm water still inside. He took a nearby rag and drenched it in the water. He then found a barrel of ale and poured it all over her body to clean her wounds. She was already unconscious. This will make it easier, he thought. He rubbed the wet rag all over her body and tried not to stare longer than he had to.
After cleaning her wounds, Keon tore up a linen dress that was lying on the floor and tied the material around her wounds. He then covered her in blankets and then sat on the floor with his back against the bed. He poured ale over the slashes on his ribs and screamed. He then took a swig of the beer before tying the remaining linen around his torso.
That was it. He had nothing left. His eyes closed and everything went dark. His last thought before drifting off was ‘I am alone now. Solitude is my only path’ and with that, a young man and a young woman, from different creeds and backgrounds, drifted away into their dreams and nightmares as the sun rose over a devastated village.