Book One: Knights' Festival

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I Hate Nobles

Downstairs in the courtyard, Beatriz could only gasp at the sight of the courtyard. The colonnades were decorated with lavender and purple sashes braided into a single streamer with lanterns lighting up the courtyard floor. The tablecloths were white and pastel purple with a vase of Monkshood flowers at every table. The fountains flowed with chocolate rushing out of the spout. White orchids bloomed at the arch and formed a trellis at the entrance.

“Damn, Samantha’s gonna have kittens at the sight of this,” Beatriz shook her head. “Speaking of which...”

She glanced towards the window where Samantha’s room supposedly was. She could still see the warm white light shining through the pastel lavender curtains. Her lips pursed into a frown as she stormed towards the desert table. What was taking Samantha so long? Frustrated and bored, Beatriz grabbed a plate and started picking out random desserts. When it came to desserts, she operated only on a single logic: If the desert is dark-coloured, it was most probably chocolate. A smirk curved up her lips when she saw the buffet serving racks filled with plates full of all sorts of fruits. But her eyes focused more on the 2-foot glass jar and its contents. Inside the jar, marshmallows in all sorts of colours filled the jar to the brim.

Her eyes flickered with a wistful look. “Now this is what you call dessert!”

She wasted no time in ripping the cover off the jar. Beatriz didn’t even bother using the silver candy shovel. She just drove her hand into the jar and dug out as many marshmallows as she could get. A greedy grin curved up her lips. Half the marshmallows inside the jar were now on her plate. After piling it up on her plate, she then stuck her plate under the running chocolate fountain and coated not just the marshmallows but even the plate in chocolate. Beatriz beamed and then looked the window of where Samantha’s room was, hoping the princess would show up.

But still no sign of Samantha.

“For fuck’s sake, what the hell’s taking her so long?!” Beatriz grumbled as she ripped a chocolate covered marshmallow from the barbecue stick. “It doesn’t take a damn village to fix her face!”

The lady-in-waiting, despite the stares and murmurs, ignored all the nobles and their judgmental stares. She was in a black gown of her own style. She wanted it that way and nobody else could do diddly squat about it! When she saw their eyes travel towards her petite figure, she turned towards them with a sultry smirk forming up her blood red lips. Beatriz puckered them out with a seductive pout, causing the nobles to shuffle away with fear. Snickering, Beatriz shook her head when they shuffled away with their ears turning red.

“Hah, suckers,” Beatriz sneered under her breath. She then saw more nobles coming in. “Damn, who else isn’t here?”

“You know, muttering to yourself makes you rather unsightly.” A haughty voice scoffed at her.

Beatriz pivoted around sharply only to glare at the sight before her. “Princess Phylline of Karthakos...”

As much as Samantha had told her to be on her best behaviour, there were a few things that Beatriz could not suppress. One of them happened to be her long-standing grudge against the princess standing before her. Princess Phylline was – of course by all means – beautiful with her bronzed skin and long, flowing jet black hair. Her bronzed skin had been done justice by her single shoulder rose pink gown. A light peach sash draped down from her narrow shoulders and all the way down to the floor. However, it wasn’t her looks Beatriz was pissed off by.

Princess Phylline flipped back her long jet black hair. “You seem to be well, Beatriz.” Her voice hiding daggers despite her serene smile.

“And you seem to be alive.” The lady-in-waiting narrowed her eyes. “What are you doing here?”

“The same reason as to why we all are: to wish the lovely Princess Samantha happy birthday. After all, she has gone through a terrible, terrible ordeal.”

Beatriz grumbled. “The only one terrible here is you.”

“What is that? Did you say something?”

“Oh nothing, just that Samantha is lucky to have known someone like you.”

The princess giggled. “Well of course, Karthakos has always had good relations with Sofiene.” She then turned to her knight. “Ser Ace!”

A tall beefy young man quickly rushed to her side, bowing. “Milady?”

Beatriz examined the knight from head to toe. He stood taller than the princess by almost a foot with a soft and jolly feature fitting of his round face. His armour glimmered pristine white without a single scratch. However, she could tell he was no pushover. The great-sword mounted on his back said it all; its size was almost the same height as him and looked extremely unwieldy with its square hilt and blade. She could see the shape of his limbs under the chain-mail that wrapped around his arms and legs. Her only doubt however was his glasses – how blind was he without it?

“Can you please fetch me a glass of wine? I’m dreadfully parched,” she smiled sweetly.

Ace chuckled and bowed. “Your wish is my command.”

Beatriz forced down a chuckle. He waited her hand and foot, just like a butler. Last time she checked, knights had more pride than that and left their more meager tasks to their squires. However, she also noticed the twinkle in his eyes when he spoke to her. Perhaps her lover, she thought. She rolled her eyes and grabbed a dark chocolate brownie sitting behind it and ripped a huge chunk out of it with her teeth. The lady-in-waiting let out a disgruntled snort through her nose until she heard a trumpet blaring out. Everyone in attendance stopped whatever they were doing and turned towards the announcer at the doors of the citadel.

“Presenting Her Highnesses – Queen Regina of Xychosia, First of Her Name and Lady of Knowledge and the crown princess of Sofiene, Princess Samantha da Sofiene!”

The doors swung open as the orchestra played the welcoming march. Queen Regina strode out with her knights marching ahead of her. They stopped at a certain point, marching in place before pivoting to twirl their rapiers to form an arch for the queen to pass under. The nobles gasped in amazement as the queen gracefully stepped out from the doors. Beatriz could feel the elegance and the authority dripping from her. Even in a simple gown, the queen commanded the atmosphere with her aura. The nobles could barely hold their head up in her presence and bowed in submission to her. They also saw Samantha trailing behind her with her hands posed in front of her and her expression calm.

Samantha, swallowing nervously, glanced at the sea of people that attended her birthday. A shiver – not from the volume of the music nor the chilly night air – ran up her spine. Even though she was confident of her decision, she wasn’t sure who would turn against her. There were so many possibilities; empires from all over the world had come to attend her birthday.

Keep calm and walk forward, Samantha chanted in her head. Keep calm and walk forward.

As she neared the throne, she couldn’t wait to sit down and stretch her shoulders. Keeping calm and poised stressed her shoulders and froze it in a way she’d rather not have. She hid her flinching under a small smile while striding along. Behind the crowds, she could see Beatriz and Phylline standing next to each other. She could see the annoyance in the lady-in-waiting’s eyes as she grumbled at the side of her lip.

Can I kick this bitch?

Or at least that was how she understood Beatriz’s moving lips.

The princess smiled sheepishly and made her way to the throne. Her dark eyes glazed around the courtyard where she saw nobles from different empires. Fortunately, many of the empires present had good relations with Sofiene even if they were purely professional or business only. As Samantha made her way to the throne, the orchestra’s music faded out with Queen Regina stepping forward.

“It is with my utmost joy and honour that I present to you the crown princess of Sofiene,” Queen Regina gestured to the princess standing beside her. “Princess Samantha da Sofiene.”

A thunderous applause rang out as Samantha stepped forward and bobbed with a bit of a curtsy.

“Today, we celebrate her 21st birthday!”

More cheers rang out.

“But Princess Samantha could not have made it without her dear lady-in-waiting,” the queen gestured to the dark blonde girl standing in the back. “Beatriz Odissea!”

The people gasped; an Odissea still alive? The name caused many of the nobles to shudder in terror. They slowly turned around to see the dark blonde girl clad in a black. Beatriz swallowed the marshmallow in her mouth hole with her whole mouth coated in chocolate. Smiling sheepishly, Beatriz waved her hand before quickly grabbing a napkin to wipe her mouth.

“We all know how that name terrifies us. The story of the Odissea is something that we never want again.” Queen Regina hung her head solemnly. However, she beamed immediately after. “That is why – it is with great gratitude that we invite Beatriz to join us today in this celebration!”

The nobles and the people cheered.

“Now please go help yourselves to the buffet table! I hear that there is much roast beef and roast suckling pig to be had!”

The moment she said those words, the nobles immediately bolted for the tables. Princess Samantha giggled at the sight of them as they lunged for the plates. She saw the middle class people pass plates to their less fortunate brethren and some even filled them with food. However, that was not all what she saw. Her heart melted at the sight of a poor father passing all the food he was given to his wife and children. An old woman who passed her plate of food to a nobleman’s child only to be refused and be given more food. Samantha smiled at the sight; it was a rare sight to see all the people of Xychosia cast aside their social prejudices for one night. To treat people as people – it was something she barely saw in the lands of Sofiene.

“You have a wonderful tradition, Your Highness,” Samantha remarked offhandedly. “Everyone gets to eat.”

Queen Regina nodded with a small smile. “The poor should not need to dig through the trash of the banquets. If they wish to eat the food from the banquet then, they are more than welcome to join us in the banquets.”

“They never had that rule in Sofiene.”

“To each their own culture, princess. Your father perhaps was simply worried that someone might hurt you.”

“But how could they hurt me? Look at them!” Samantha gestured to all the people. “Nobody looks like they’re going to attack me with some weird spell or something!”

Queen Regina nodded and winked at her. “Well, this is where you learn to be a good judge of character. Not all nobles are noble and not all poor are poor in ethics.”

Samantha nodded; she knew that rule all too well. The sight of Sofiene’s soldiers murdering nobles and the poor indiscriminately haunted her all the way to her sleep. She remembered how her brothers had suddenly announced their declaration of war when they were playing a simple chess game. When the queen piece had been toppled, that was when they summoned their soldiers. She remembered the spears with their iron heads ready to puncture her with holes. The mocking smirks of betrayal from both her brothers, the angry yet doubtful stares of the soldiers – all of that had carved itself into her memories. She also remembered how her brothers gasped in terror when Beatriz had laid waste to all their soldiers. It was a bloody sight; her lady-in-waiting wasted no time in engaging them in combat. With her scythe swinging, Beatriz swung her scythe. Samantha remembered the paled expressions on their face before they were shredded, grinded, and mutilated beyond recognition. The gleaming red crescent blade with its grinding gears sparked and struck terror to the reinforcements who dared try to kill them both. It was the massacre that stunned her brothers long enough to make her escape.

“Oh what am I saying?” Queen Regina shook her head. She lovingly patted Samantha’s shoulders. “You shouldn’t be thinking about things like that.”

Samantha laughed with a shrug. “Well I have to learn eventually.”

“True but today is your birthday! Go enjoy yourself! Although,” the queen cast a sideward glance. “I believe that Beatriz desperately wants to get away from Princess Phylline.”

Blinking in disbelief, Samantha turned towards the desert table where she saw Beatriz feigning a smile and nodding. When she saw Phylline harping and talking to Beatriz, the princess could see the murderous intent hidden in the lady-in-waiting’s gnashed teeth. With this, she sighed and skipped off the stage and headed towards the buffet tables.

“Princess!” She heard a voice call.

She turned around to see Councilman Pocholo standing behind her. The man was beefy in structure with a short cut black hair. Like all Xychosia officials, he wore the traditional dark blue robe with a light blue stole that hung on his neck and cascaded down. He had a golden cord-belt tied around his waist to hold up his black slacks underneath. The man had a jovial demeanour, always willing to crack a joke or two. It was his cheerful demeanour that Samantha had found enjoyable, ever since she was young. His boisterous laughter and sometimes rather blunt jokes got him in trouble with other members of the council but it was something that she appreciated. He would pass by Sofiene and talk about some negotiations that concerned both Sofiene and Xychosia. It was then that he would always regale her with the stories of Xychosia and how Queen Regina would be more than happy to accommodate her goddaughter.

Little did she realize back then that she would really take her up on that offer.

“Councilman Pocholo,” she curtsied. “Enjoying the festivities I hope?”

The beefy councilman gave her a hearty laugh. “Of course! No need to worry about me! As long as there is food, I’m happy!”

Samantha giggled. “The kitchen really chose the fattest pig!”

“You bet! It was cooked to porkfection!”

“I heard that the roast beef was good.”

“Of course, I expect no less from Xychosia’s best chefs!”

Samantha nodded and glanced over the courtyard. “I don’t see Lady Kara and Lady Joy though.”

“Lady Kara’s probably organizing things with Lady Joy,” he chuckled. Councilman Pocholo then saw the two Councilwomen fussing over the decorations and logistics “You know how nitty gritty they are with details.”

Samantha glanced towards the other edge of the courtyard where she saw Councilwoman Joy and Councilwoman Kara, fussing over the minute details of the logistics and the decorations.She giggled at the sight of the rest of the council members enjoying themselves. She could see Councilwoman Angelica, a petite woman in a rose coloured gown, laughing at what some of the other noblewomen had said. Councilwoman Jocelyn, in her floral gown, nodded at the other ambassadors who were proposing all sorts of trade relations and treaties. Suddenly, she felt a tap on her shoulder. The moment she turned around, the princess saw a lanky middle-aged man with a kind smile.

“Councilman Jun! You made it!” Samantha beamed. “I thought you were in Machinos Empire!”

“I was,” the councilman nodded. “But I finished the treatment a little early so I was able to attend your birthday.”

Councilman Jun was a fair-skinned lanky middle-aged man. His hair was dark but cut short. A kind smile graced his lips. His moss green eyes sparkled with the same sincerity and kindness in his smile. Despite his age, he barely looked over thirty. Although he did have wrinkles from the stress, his eyes twinkled with the wisdom expected from the council members of Xychosia. He often had a soft-spoken demeanour; most of the time preferring to listen than to speak. However, his silence did not mean he was ignorant. He had knowledge on all the medical advancements done in both Xychosia and Machinos. But he was the one Samantha learned majority of her healing magic from. His gentle guidance made her look up to him like a father figure. Every time he passed by Sofiene, he would engage her in the library with enchanting stories of magic and healing magic. It was there that Samantha learned her first magic especially when she managed to cut herself by accident when she tried to make him a plate of scones.

Like all the members of Xychosia’s council, he sported a navy blue robe except his had been more form fitting. Over his shoulders, he also had a stole which was light blue. But his robe, unlike Councilman Pocholo’s, had been worn similarly like a trench coat with his white button-up formal shirt and his black slacks beneath.

“Oh, how is the queen of Machinos? Is she well?” Samantha asked.

Councilman Jun gestured behind her. “You’re better off asking her son who’s right behind you.”

The princess, puzzled, turned around where she saw Prince Hayden Machinos. “Ah!”

Prince Hayden bowed. “Milady.”

The prince was a young man with ginger coloured hair and a pair of ocean blue eyes. Unlike most princes who preferred appearing more manly, the young man still sported a boyish smile. He towered over her with him being a head taller than the princess. He chuckled softly and fixed the cuffs of his button-up shirt. Prince Hayden gently took her hand and pressed his lips against the back of her hand.

“Happy Birthday princess,” he smiled. “I hope you are enjoying yourself.”

Samantha nodded. “I most certainly am!” She then snatched two canapés that were being served by a passing waiter and offered him one. “I hope that the food is to your liking?”

“I am not the one to be picky, milady,” he scratched the back of his neck sheepishly and took the canapé. “I... I don’t like kicking up much of a fuss.”

“Wow, that’s something you don’t hear everyday from a prince.”

“Being nice got things done faster for me. Besides, complaining about something when its already there is a waste of time.”

Samantha nodded before noticing Beatriz’s icy blue eyes rolling at whatever Princess Phylline had said from a distance. “Oh, I’m sorry but I think I have to go. My lady-in-waiting seems to be in trouble.”

The prince stepped aside. “Please, by all means.”

Samantha nodded and made her way through the crowds. She swam through the sea of nobles while making her way to Beatriz. A bright smile curved up her lips; it had been a long time since she had a grand gala for her birthday. She heard nobles gossiping amongst one another, talking about the latest rumours and scandals. The common people had mingled amongst some of the nobles while many of the poor had been welcomed to the conversations. The lively chatter lit the courtyard with life along with the music that echoed into the air.

“Sofiene used to be like this,” Samantha murmured. “Keyword being used to.”

The Sofiene she remembered was full of life and joy. The people who roamed the street would gladly greet her as their princess. She remembered the bright red apples that had been wiped clean by the merchants who sold their wares by the castle gates. There were horses that pulled the carriages and brought nobles to their destinations. The knights and soldiers who would greet her every time she returned from her daily walk – all those things were what made Sofiene home. Her chest tightened at the memories being burned with fire.

“ – And that is how it works in Karthakos,” she overheard Princess Phylline say. “A knight should not only be a princess’ shield but also serve her in every way possible.”

“What if your princess’ a loony? Hasn’t it ever occurred that it might make knights disloyal?” Beatriz grunted with a dark scowl. “Heck, do you even care what your knights think?”

“For knights, loyalty to their princess is demanded and expected.”

“Not when the princess is a stuck up bitching brat.” Beatriz fired back before muttering the last part. “Like you.”

“Excuse me, what did you say? I couldn’t understand what you just said.”

Before Beatriz could retort, Samantha quickly stepped in between them with a smile. “I see you guys are having a lovely conversation.”

Princess Phylline giggled. “We sure are! Aren’t we, Beatriz?”

Beatriz feigned a smile while bristling. “Yeah. We are.”

Emphasis on lovely, Samantha laughed sheepishly. Beatriz had daggers glowing in her icy blue eyes that looked like she wanted to rip out Phylline’s innards. “Well, I hope the party is to your liking, princess?”

Phylline waved her hand dismissively. “Oh but it’s should be I who should be asking you that. This is your birthday after all.”

“Well, I like looking after my guests. Common courtesy after all.”

“Of course. We are both princesses. We both know that already.”

Samantha feigned laughter at the princess, nodding stiffly. Being a princess meant she always had play dates with other princesses or princes, depending on which neighbouring kingdom decided to drop by and say hello. Whenever Princess Phylline came over, she always demanded that there would be a procession to escort her. She would be accompanied by servants who would haul her along in a tent. It was as if she brought the entire household to serve her hand and foot!

“Anyhow,” Princess Phylline giggled and glanced around. “I must be going. My father would be looking for me.” She turned to her knight. “Ser Ace, shall we?”

The knight offered his arm. “As you wish, princess.”

As the princess flounced away with her knight, Beatriz scoffed the moment she was out of an earshot. “Fucking pansy princess.”

Samantha gasped, appalled. “Bea!”

“What? You and I both know she has a pole shoved up her ass! Probably from too much riding...”


“And her knight, he’s gonna have all that blasted into his face one day.”

“Bea! Enough!”

“... Fine.”

Samantha shook her head. “Bea, be nice. She didn’t bite you.”

“She had so many veiled insults towards me. The only thing that I didn’t tell her was that she was more used than a toothbrush,” Beatriz muttered. She grabbed another dark chocolate brownie off the dessert plates, ripping off a chunk from the decadent chocolate brownie. “Stress eating,” – she shoved the brownie in Samantha’s face. “Because of that bitch.”

Samantha shook her head. “I’m sorry.”

“This is what you get for ditching me for that bitch.”

“How was I supposed to know she had the ego the size of a Kraken?!”

Beatriz pouted before folding her arms, muttering. “Annoying little shit, I hope the hair in your armpits keeps forever growing.”

Samantha sighed and shook her head at Beatriz. Although her lady-in-waiting had been despised by many, the princess always found Beatriz’s straightforward and stubborn demeanour more refreshing. When Beatriz wanted something, it was a protracted game to convince her otherwise. Unless one was more stubborn and more aggressive than she was, Samantha knew it was a losing battle.

Seeing that Beatriz was calmed down, Samantha let her eyes wander and checked on all the nobles. She could hear the nobles’ laughters and chattering echoing from one end to the courtyard to another. A nostalgic smile curved up her lips when she heard the hearty laughter from drunken nobles thundered from different tables as the women giggled at what one said. Another thing she heard was the noblewomen in her age gap began fawning over the latest fashion trends as they started bragging about their dresses and their necklaces. Her heart twitched as nostalgia overwhelmed her. It reminded her of home. The whole celebration did. It reminded her of the dream she once had - to be queen and to spend her rule and reign in peace.

“Don’t forget to look at my neck-piece!” One of the girls bragged.

“Rubies?!” Another girl gasped.

“Not just any Rubies! Geora Rubies!”

Samantha groaned. As much as she loved looking at her Sofiene Amethyst, she didn’t have to point it out to people for them to notice it. She turned away from the conversation before looking at the other nobles.

“I hear you’re going to the Faura Academy in Fusika Village.” She heard one of the girls say. “For Mechos magic?”

“I’ve always liked machines and have been trying to reconcile the existence of both magic and machines. So, I thought Fusika would be a great place to start.”

“You’re certainly not wrong there. But won’t the boys look down on you?”

“Not if my grades are better than theirs!”

The girls giggled and cheered their friend on her response. Samantha laughed softly. Magic had always been meant for all in her opinion. Anybody could use magic as long as they were willing to learn it. For her, Councilman Jun was the first one to teach her magic. Back then, she expected his magic to be more violent and aggressive. But much to her surprise, his magic was soothing and healing. He took not only physical pain away but also emotional. However, he did mention to her that being a healer was also a double-edged sword. Unless, one had the ability to completely reject the event from existence. Thus, it was either reinforcing the healing potential of the said person or absorbing the damage within oneself.

Beatriz glanced around and poked her. “Didn’t Queen Regina mention something about there being some sort of play?”

“I thought it was a performance?”

“I don’t know. I saw performers coming in on airships so... might be a big production.”

Samantha nodded and smiled. She then looked up to the moon and noticed the stars shining within the darkness. The stars twinkled despite the clouds strolling along in the misty sky. She relaxed with a sigh of relief and closed her eyes, not even noticing that the purple gem suddenly had a small red circle marking it in the middle.

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