Book One: Knights' Festival

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In the middle of the night, Sandor strolled around. He couldn’t help but recall but what she had said to him. Where was he going to get the magic? And secondly, how was he going to get the magic? He sighed deeply before turning towards a small corner where a fly had flown mindlessly into the web. He heard a small hooting in the sky when he saw an owl glide with its prey twitching in its claws. He sighed again. Why couldn’t things be that easy?

Sandor continued strolling along as he went down the stairs that had been carved into the trees. As he continued to make his way down the stairs, he then noticed skulls lying down on the ground. And they weren’t just the regular skulls. Some of them were the skulls of his people! His eyes widened as he quickened his pace down the stairs until he reached the base of the tree. His blood ran cold and all the fibres in his body trembled with fear.

“Wh-what is this?” Sandor shook his head. “Why would this be in the village?!”

In a fit of terror, Sandor bolted. He rushed up the stairs as fast as his legs could carry him. Many questions swirled in his mind. Why was that there? Who made that thing? For as long as he lived in the village, he had never seen it before! He shook his head. Nobody in the village was capable of casting magic. Unless, he pondered for a moment. She couldn’t have escaped! There was a barrier! As he bolted up the stairs, he finally reached the house of Arkamedon as he pounded on the door.

“Chieftain Arkamedon! Chieftain!” He hollered.

The door opened to reveal a groggy chieftain.

“Come, you must see this!”

Sandor grabbed Arkamedon’s arm and wasted no time dragging him out. He bolted down the stairs, ignoring the skulls he had crushed under his feet. Finally, Arkamedon and Sandor reached the base of the tree where they finally had a good look of what Sandor was spooked by. On the ground, there was a summoning circle carved into the ground. But it wasn’t carved in the dirt. What he saw instead was a stone floor that had been chipped and engraved with ancient characters with a petrified amalgam sitting in the middle of the circle.

“What is this?” Arkamedon gasped. He stared at it in amazement. “It... It’s alive...”

“Barely,” Sandor shook his head. “But we must not keep it here! The village will be destroyed!”

“There will be no such thing!”

“And why not?! Our people will be in danger!”

A voice suddenly purred from the darkness. “The only thing that is in danger right now is you.”

Sandor gasped when he saw a pair of molten gold, orange eyes in the darkness. “You–!”

Before he could run, Arkamedon blocked his way with a blade on his throat.

“I suggest obeying your princess before I slit your throat, boy.”

Sandor’s eyes widened in admonishment. “You’re–!”

“–You were always so loyal to her,” the voice once again said as she revealed herself.

Sandor bristled. “Ariadne…”

Ariadne, his elder sister, had a spider form twisted and mutated beyond any of the Arachnos people. While their sister’s form was a twisted result of dark magic and her disease, Ariadne had let her lust for power consume her. Her skin had rot and wrinkled as her sweat oozed with dark magic from every pore from her body. A cruel and cold smirk curved up her lips. Despite the beauty she possessed, Sandor was repulsed by her appearance. Her spider legs extended from the lower base of her body as her topless human form stared down at him. He shuddered when he saw that her spider-like form now sported scorpion stingers and glowing eyes at her waist.

“Oh Sandor,” she shook her head. “You’re rather slow. You should have known that I already started my plans.”

“And what do you intend to do?” Sandor growled. “Sister will not let you harm those humans!”

“Oh, they’re not exactly human. My candidates are a little more powerful than that pathetic race.”

Sandor’s blood ran cold. “He has done no harm to our people!”

“You said it yourself, he betrayed his kind the moment he lent that girl his aid.”

“I did that to terrify him!”

“And yet your acts of intimidation did nothing, it instead spurred him even more to establish ties with us.”

Ariadne then scoffed with a fold of her arms. “As much as I don’t want to kill you, I can’t let your little tongue go wagging towards them.”

Arkamedon asked. “What should I do with him, milady?”

Ariadne pondered for a moment and hummed until she glanced towards the glyph. Sandor swallowed hard and his blood ran cold when he saw a cruel smirk curve up his sister’s lips. He shuddered and staggered back, struggling against Arkamedon’s grip. Sandor dug his nails into Arkamedon’s arms to wrench himself out only to hear his sister’s cold command.

“Kill him. I can easily replace him anyway.”

Sandor’s eyes widened when the knife slit his throat with a clean slice. He gasped and coughed with blood dripping from his neck. The world around him began to swirl as his voice choked and drowned itself in his blood as Arkamedon shoved him forward. He staggered forward and clasped his hand over his throat. Blood dripped past his hand despite the pressure as he fell forward and crashed right in the middle of the circle. Arkamedon smirked as he looked up to Ariadne.

“Shame, he did have some potential,” Arkamedon smirked.

Ariadne nodded. “He does. But,” a seductive smirk curved up her lips. “You have it more.”

Beatriz lay on the bed after a long night of feasting. Or what she thought was their version of feasting, she could barely eat anything! Her stomach was still grumbling from the lack of food! She stuck out her tongue in disgust. There was no way in Tartaros that she would eat a live, and still wriggling baby cockroach! She did have the satisfaction of pinning it down with toothpicks though. And slowly yet delicately, she pulled its legs off – one by one.

“Tch, that was the only thing I found amusing tonight,” she scowled. She turned over to face the window near her bed only to see the bright full moon.

Suddenly, a weird feeling roiled in her gut and veins. She shot up from her bed, feeling the mana swirling around her. It was a weird tingling feeling in her fibres. It was like adrenaline bursting through her veins every time she wanted to unleash a terrifying blast of dark magic. Its tremors reached the very depths of her soul and the density filled the air with a haunting growl. Beatriz could still feel the burning and roiling in her fibres as she climbed out of her bed.

“What’s Dark Magic doing in a forest like this?” Beatriz pondered. She then slipped off her bed and slid on a silver skull ring onto her ring finger.

She checked around the room only to see Samantha sleeping soundly on her bed. The lady-in-waiting sighed; at least it wasn’t Samantha. Then again, she shook her head. Samantha didn’t have the guts and the spirits to use Dark Magic. And for her, it was a good thing she didn’t. There were so many repercussions to using Dark Magic. And to use it at the magnitude she felt, it was bound to be something big.

“I better go check it out. That kind of shit isn’t something you just roll over the bed for,” Beatriz said. She then smirked. “Besides, I haven’t had a good fight since the time in the coliseum.”

She strolled out the bedroom, slowly and carefully shutting the door behind her as to not wake Samantha. As she strutted out the room, she found Luke also trying to close the door behind him ever so quietly.

“You couldn’t sleep either?” Beatriz asked.

Luke yelped and jumped up, shaking his head. “Ah! N-no, I’m just going to go get a glass of water!”

Beatriz frowned. “You’re a shitty liar, you know that?”

“… Yeah. I know. At least I tried?”

“Tch, I wouldn’t even call that trying. But, you felt it didn’t you?”

Luke sighed and nodded. “It’s weird. The earth is trembling underneath. It’s begging and pleading for help as if something terrible is going to happen.”

“Maybe there is,” Beatriz pointed out. “I felt a sudden surge of dark energy and that’s not normal. Not in a forest full of spider people who are terrified of magic users.”

“Yeah, I agree. The last time dark magic spiked was years ago during the rebellion against the Mad Queen.”

“You gonna check it out?”

“You okay with that?”

“I’m always one looking for a good fight.”

Luke shook his head.”I don’t think this is just going to be a good fight. We have to be careful!”

“Bah,” Beatriz spat with an annoyed scorn. “Being careful’s for chickens! I can totally handle it!”

“What if it’s a big mutated monster?”

“I’ll chop it down!”

“And if it’s a baby?”

“I’ll make it cry! I don’t give a fucking damn if you’re a woman or child. You irritate me; I will make you fucking regret it!”

Luke groaned and slapped his own forehead with his palm. “You really don’t give a damn don’t you?”

Beatriz smirked and shoved past him.”Honey badger don’t care, honey badger don’t give a shit.”

She strolled past him and headed straight out of the door. She strolled barefoot as the cold wind brushed against her pale skin. Looking up to the sky, Beatriz inhaled deep as the moonlight shone onto her skin. A smile curved up her bright red lips. What a perfect night, she thought. She stared straight into the full moon as the mana in her began to roil and bubble. Her nerves tingled in her fingers as she felt the energy and mana swirling around her.

“The night’s perfect.” Beatriz inhaled deeply. “The full moon, the dark energy – everything. It’s perfect for a ritual style magic. Hell, I can even feel the alignment of the planets.”

Luke trailed behind her. “Yeah, the trees are whispering to me too. It’s a magic filled night.”

“You can hear them talk to you?”

“It’s a dryad thing. Depending where you’re from.”

“Hmmm, so you’re carnivorous?”


“You’re a meat eater?”

Luke shrugged. “I try to live with photosynthesis and water.”

“Deus’ sake, you eat like a plant?!”

“Yeah, it’s cheaper too. But Cap’s desperately trying to get me to gain a little more weight ever since I tried firing a rifle and a shotgun.”

“A what and a what?”

“You know, those things that go bang bang?”

Beatriz stared at him stupidly. What bloody weapon goes bang bang? She did remember however that fireballs do the same thing. Or anything that involved summoning comets and meteors but weapons being able to do the same thing? It was a weird thing really. It was only then that she remembered hearing that sound also before from Brandon when he used his gunblades. She remembered the silver barrel mounted on his blade and the curl of white smoke that floated out of it after he pulled some sort of trigger.

“I... I’ve never seen one or used one,” Beatriz frowned, hiding her lack of knowledge. “Back in my day, we just used blades, catapults, arrow carts, trebuchets, ballistas, bow and arrows. That sort of stuff. No fancy pansy bang bang to win a fight.”

Luke shrugged. “Yeah. I told Cap the same thing but he insisted that I at least learn how to use a handgun. The ones that are standard issue in Militaris at least.”

Beatriz smirked and shushed him. “Let’s move.”

Luke nodded.

The lady-in-waiting followed the tightrope bridge as the roiling in her veins burned harder. The mana around her began to shudder and quake as the leaves around her began to rot. She saw the wooden platforms creaking at every step she took. Beatriz bolted as the bridge bucked beneath her feet with Luke sailing right after her. She stopped for a moment as she felt a sudden swelling of dark energy. Her eyes widened when she saw the leaves drying up and shrinking.

“Shit, what the fuck is going on?!” Beatriz looked around until realization hit her. “Damn it, Luke...!”

She turned around to see that Luke stood before her but she could see that his human disguise was already rotting away and revealing his woody and leafy form.

“We better make this quick!” Beatriz whispered harshly.

Before they could move, the ground suddenly trembled beneath them. An earthquake shook the whole village as Luke and Beatriz tried to keep steady despite the shaking ground. The wood panel beneath Beatriz’s feet cracked beneath her.

“Ah!” Beatriz yelped.

She fell right through the hole until someone grabbed her hand. Beatriz’s eyes widened as she saw the murky shadows beneath her as the splinters from the wooden panels fell to the dark forest floor below. Beatriz grunted and tried to pull herself up only to feel herself being moved up. Much to her surprise, Luke was the one pulling her. She gasped when she saw Luke struggling to pull her up even with both his arms transformed into his dryad form.

“Luke! I’m really heavy! Drop me!” Beatriz hollered.

Luke snapped. “No can do! You’re not the boss of me! Besides, Cap and the princess would use a hedge trimmer on me if I dropped you!”

Beatriz grunted and searched through the inky darkness until she saw a pair of glowing blue flaming eyes. “Fuck – !”

Suddenly, a blast shot up from the ground and flung her upwards. Luke yelped as Beatriz wailed when they suddenly crashed on the wooden panels.

“Ow...” Beatriz groaned only to see she was on top of Luke. “Well,” Beatriz grinned seductively. “Shall we proceed?”

“I have no idea what you mean,” Luke shook his head.

“Ugh, you’re such a plant.”

“Well, I kinda am a dryad.”

“Ugh, you’re being so damn corny.” Beatriz groaned and pushed herself off the ground.

“Last time I checked, I’m not yellow and only have two ears.” Luke hollered back until his eyes widened. “What... is...that?”

In front of them stood a large colossal giant with a spider body for the upper torso. Its skinned glowed and burned with an eerie dark green glow. It let out an angry roar with its glowing flaming blue eyes. As it turned around, its flaming limbs set some of the trees on fire as dried leaves beneath it caught on fire as well. Beatriz’s icy blue eyes widened at the sight of the wildfire as the forest fire grew bigger. She staggered back; where did that thing come from? She remembered the sudden surge of mana when she realized that it wasn’t just any kind of mana.

“Doom Mana,” Beatriz murmured as she stared in admonishment. “The last time I saw a fire this big was the day an empire was sacked...”

Luke raised an eyebrow. “Didn’t you say a few moments back that you could kick this guy’s ass?”

Beatriz snapped. “Luke, not now!”

The creature let out an angry bellow as it swung its claws at them. Beatriz’s eyes widened as she instinctively flipped her ring open to reveal a blade hidden inside it. She then slashed her thumb as the ancient markings all over her body activated. It glowed a dark midnight blue and black aura as it summoned her armour onto her body. She quickly called her scythe and caught the claw with her scythe.

“Shit, we have to make our stand here...!” Beatriz scowled. “Samantha would be scared shitless of this thing!”

Luke dodged another flying claw. “And you do have a plan?”

Beatriz paused for a moment.

“I don’t think silence is a plan!”

“I know,” Beatriz shrugged. She brandished her scythe and grinned maniacally. “This is my plan!”

With a loud battle-cry, Beatriz charged in with her scythe whirling. As a claw came flying towards her face, she ducked and rolled right beneath it before whirling around to slice it off. Blood splattered against her scythe as its red aura began to glow brighter. A smirk curved up her lips as she felt the heat beat against her pale skin. A loud roar echoed in her ears as the sheer volume blew away the sweat from her face.

“Your roar is pathetic! I’ve heard little girls scream louder than you!” Beatriz shrieked before she jammed the bladed end of the scythe’s shaft into its face. “C’mon, scream some more!”

The creature roared until the whole forest shook. It glared angrily at Beatriz before spewing venom in her face. Beatriz ducked the poison shots before sliding right under its arm before driving her scythe into it. Acid splattered out at her face as it ate through the wood. Her eyes widened in admonishment as she narrowly managed to block one coming towards her face. She winced, half-expecting the blood to melt through her scythe. Much to her relief, her scythe just ate it all.

“Phew, shit, if my scythe melted – I’d be dead,” Beatriz twitched. She narrowed her eyes at the spider creature. “You’re gonna wish you got anal from someone else!”

The creature roared and lunged at her as Beatriz shrieked and swung her scythe. The claws tried to claw off her arm only for the small girl to catch it with her gauntleted hand. Sparks flew as she struggled to push back the claw as it began pressing her to the ground. It shrieked in her face as its saliva dripped onto her scythe. Beatriz gasped as the air around her thickened until she felt a sharp pain shoot through her abdomen. She gasped when she saw the claw sticking out in front of her with blood dripping from her own body. She coughed out blood as the creature roared in her face.

“Bea!” Luke yelled. Suddenly, another claw spider leg went straight for him. “Whoa!”

The giant spider humanoid shrieked as it spewed its poisonous spit at him, melting the wooden panels. Luke staggered in terror when he saw Beatriz’s twitching and limp body impaled on one of the legs of the creature. His body shivered and his blood curdled and roiled inside him. It was for the first time he felt something snap inside him. A wild power. He could hear the roaring of the trees that demanded retribution. The earth cried and wept for vengeance. Luke plucked his glasses off before flinging it aside. His dark eyes then turned into their heterochromic form of molten gold and rose pink.

“The Forest demands vengeance for her children.” Luke hissed.

The giant spider humanoid growled at him until it realized what Luke was doing. The trees began to shudder as their branches began to sprout. His human skin fell away to reveal his true form as a dryad.

“Although I promised Cap that I would never use this form,” Luke chuckled bitterly. His eyes narrowed coldly at the creature. “And as a dryad, I’ve sworn to be a steward to all animals.”

The giant spider humanoid shrieked as the vines lashed out at it. The branches shot out and plunged its edges into its flesh. Blood poured from its body as it screeched in agony. The acidic blood melted its flesh as Luke smelled the stench of corroding flesh. Despite its screeches, he showed no mercy. He kept quiet and stood there with an impassive look on his face.

“But you’ll have to be an exception.” Luke growled. He then commanded the vines. “Let justice be done.”

The giant spider humanoid howled as the vines began to drag him down. Luke watched the spider-humanoid screamed in agony. He could hear the vines strangling and constricting the large spider humanoid. A sickening crack filled the air as Luke stared at it as more vines began to sprout from every orifice from its body.

“Your body should be filled with seeds by now,” Luke said. He snapped his fingers as one of the vines plucked off Beatriz’s limp body and placed her beside him. “I’ll be taking her back now, thank you very much.”

The vines began to rip and sprout from every portion of its body. Luke didn’t even flinch when a thorny vine had ripped its way through the giant’s eyeballs.

The giant spider creature groaned. “… Sister…”

Luke’s eyes widened and froze. “Sister?”

The giant spider humanoid roared before swinging its claws at Luke and Beatriz. The small boy quickly shoved Beatriz’s unconscious body out of the way before he got slapped aside. Luke gasped as his back slammed into the tree with Beatriz being hauled off. Luke, desperately trying to shake off the daze, staggered and swooned as he tried to push himself off the floor. It was only then a white cloth with a powerful scent overwhelmed him. Luke kicked and struggled as he gasped for air, struggling to shove away his attacker. His vision slowly became blurry as his arms and legs slowly changed back into his human form. He gasped and hacked before he finally passed out, barely getting a good look at his attacker.

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