Book One: Knights' Festival

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Will you quit it!??

Brandon shook his head and drew out his gunblades. “Great, time to clean up after her. Again.”

He lunged forward with his gunblades singing. His eyes narrowed in on his opponent with the creature rearing its head and snapping its fangs. Brandon smirked and slid across the floor, easily slipping past the attacking claws. He then swung behind them with his gunblades pointed at the long neck of the creature and fired several shots. The creature howled in agony as the bullets tore through its flesh before turning its angry gaze at Brandon. Before it could do anything, its neck was suddenly cleaved clean off with blood splattering on the golden floors. The pirate gawked at the sight of the decapitated head only to see Beatriz standing right in front of him.

Beatriz grinned and whirled her scythe. “Well, that was rather anti-climatic.”

“Most battles are best ended that way.” Brandon sheathed his blades. He shook his head. “I’ve never seen a creature like this before.”

“Really?”

“Well, I have. But it was more on similarity rather than the actual thing.”

“Different colours?”

“Different colours and different environments. They don’t necessarily belong to the same family.”

Princess Samantha, still trembling violently, shook her head and jabbed her finger at the creature'scorpse. “Wh-what do you think that is?”

Brandon shook his head. “Not sure. It’s probably a Midas Drake. It’s a kind of drake that just roams through the caves. Most drakes I know eat people.”

Samantha paled. “They eat people!?”

“Well, some. Not all.”

“Please don’t tell me there’s no other one.”

“I’d like to believe there’s none. But we best keep our guard up.”

That did nothing to soothe Samantha’s anxiety. Her eyes darted around as she shook her head. “A-at least it’s dead now.” She embraced her body tight.

Brandon grunted in agreement. But a frown marred his features as he took one last look at the creature. He didn’t remember there being many creatures in Fool’s Gold cavern. He glanced around with his ears twitching a bit. The halls were silent and all he heard was the rushing winds. He didn’t feel anything else. As he slowly proceeded forward with the princess and the other knights, he suddenly heard something bubbling behind him. His eyes widened; that didn't sound right! Dread filled his stomach as he listened to the bubbling and rupturing of flesh.

“That definitely doesn’t sound good,” he slowly turned around only to see the decapitated corpse twitching and thrashing about. “Yeah, definitely not good.”

Beatriz snapped around only to see the body slowly getting up and healing its wounds. “Oh you gotta be kidding.”

From the stump of where the head once was, two more heads sprung out from its neck. Brandon's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates; it could grow new heads! The creature shrieked twice as loud as it reared both its heads. A sardonic gleam appeared in its eyes as its two heads turned to each other with a malicious grin. The knights backed up with the princess and gawked at the two headed creature.

“You’re kidding,” Beatriz stamped her foot and shook her head. She then turned to Samantha. "Imagine that many tongues.”

Samantha gawked. "Bea!"

"What?"

"Do we have to talk about this now!?"

"I'm just saying, girls would get a kick out of this guy for doing head."

The creature shrieked at her with both its heads whipping back and its jaws snapping.

“We at least know what it is now.” Luke shrugged with a wistful smile.

Samantha wailed as its heads lunged for her. “RUN!”

The moment Samantha screamed, the creature let out an electrifying wail that scratched against their eardrums. Brandon shuddered and pointed his gunblade towards the cavern wall. Firing out a round, Brandon sent a boulder crashing down on the Hydra with a loud thump. As the boulder bludgeoned it, the creature shook of the daze and roared after the princess and her knights with a vengeance.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have done that!” Samantha wailed. “It’s angrier!”

“Well, then we’ll just have to cut its head off again!” Beatriz grinned. She brandished her scythe and pivoted around to take another shot at the Hydra. “I’m gonna turn this Hydra into dragon chunks once I’m done with it!”

Seeing Beatriz lunge towards the Hydra, it was only then that Brandon realized that Beatriz was making a fatal mistake. “Bea! Wait –!”

Beatriz swung her scythe to cleave off both heads. As both heads flew off, another four sprung out from the stump. Undaunted, the dark blonde girl roared and brought down her scythe on another head. From that one head, two split out. She cleaved down three heads and six heads sprung out instead. Beatriz growled and landed on the ground before leaping up again and revving up her scythe. The gears grinded and shrieked with power as sparks flew into the air. Her malice reflected on her weapon as an ominous dark aura coated its crescent blade.

“Get the hell out of my face!” Beatriz roared.

With one mighty swing, Beatriz cleaved all eight heads off with a glowing blade. The heads flew off as blood splattered against the golden cavern walls. Its body staggered back from the sheer force, slamming into the wall. Samantha yelped and slammed her staff onto the ground. Waves shot through the floor before enveloping Brandon, Luke, and she in a force-field to shield them from its guts splattering all over the place.

“The staff’s working save the least,” Luke smiled cheerfully.

Samantha shook her head, whining. “That doesn’t mean I want to keep doing that on a daily basis!”

Brandon sighed as he saw the bloody mess on the cavern floor. All eight heads littered the ground with blood oozing out from their torn flesh. A chill ran up his spine; watching blood ooze out was not his favourite thing to do. As much as he had fought people and made them bleed, seeing it ooze out still disgusted him.

After cleaving all eight heads off, Beatriz landed on the ground with a condescending smirk. “See? Not so hard now was it?”

Brandon gave her a hollow chuckle. “You might wanna check again,” he pointed behind her. “Never turn your back on your opponent.”

Beatriz froze when she heard a low growl and grumbling behind her. A sigh escaped her lips and her shoulders slumped. “Let me guess: it’s still alive and growling behind me with all its saliva dripping from its teeth, isn’t it?”

Brandon chuckled. “Shall I add that there are sixteen heads now?”

Beatriz turned around with her scythe gleaming. Her hands clenched the shaft of her scythe tightly with her veins bulging from beneath her skin. The lady-in-waiting growled as she swung her scythe. “Oh screw off!”

Unfortunately, the moment she cleaved one head off, another one grew in its place.

“Well," Beatriz scowled in annoyance. "Shit.”

“Will you quit it with the head slicing thing!?” Samantha wailed. Suddenly, one of the hydra's other heads bashed its head against the force-field. “BEA!”

“Tch,” the dark blonde girl dodge-rolled as one of the heads snapped its jaws at her. Beatriz rolled away before tumbling back up onto her feet, sneering. “Come on, is that the best you got!?”

The hydra howled and sent more of its heads after Samantha, Luke, and Brandon. With a swift kick, Brandon spun around and kicked Samantha and Luke aside. With six of its heads charging towards him, Brandon closed his eyes. He could hear their cries and snarls echo from every part of the cave. SWeat poured down from his temple and his knuckles paled from his grip. Brandon held his ground, waiting for the creature to rush in.

Hold your ground until the last moment, Brandon mentally reminded himself. The moment he heard it get close enough, his eyes snapped open."Now...!"

The six heads shrieked and threatened to tear him apart until he jumped up into the air. The moment the heads saw each other, their expression paled and their anger was replaced by terror as they smashed all into one another. Their necks were tangled with shards of their fangs breaking off from the impact. As Brandon sailed in the air, he saw the perfect shot. The pirate then pointed both gunblades at the hydra's heads.

“If you can’t slice their head off,” Brandon pointed his gunblades down at the crowns of the Hydra’s heads. “Might as well blow their brains out...!”

Six bullets screamed from the tip of the silver barrel, heading straight for the hydra. The gunshots were drowned out by the sound of the hydra's death scream as it twitched and fell on the ground. Brandon smirked as he saw six red dots form at the centre of each head.

"I never miss," a smirk curved up his lips until another head chased after him. "Oh shit."

The live hydra heads shrieked when they saw the other six heads lying limp on the ground. Terror and rage were clearly written on their faces. Their fangs snapped at Brandon as he deflected them with his sword, kicking one head away. However, four of the other heads swung back and ripped off the necks of the twitching, limp heads. Brandon's eyes widened as six of the heads he killed were soon replaced by twelve more.

“Ooh,” Luke winced. “Savage...”

“Oh you’ve got to be bloody joking.” Brandon groaned. “It has brains now!?"

The hydra shrieked and charged at him with all twelve heads snarling at him with a vengeance. He groaned in annoyance as he unleashed all the adrenaline into his legs. The fibres in his calves burned as all the pain rushed up to his thighs. But he didn’t care. The Hydra was already making its way towards Samantha and Luke! His eyes narrowed into a murderous glare as he crippled its left leg with a slash. The Hydra kicked up a fuss and turned its other heads at him, snarling after him.

“This fight isn’t getting us anywhere!” Beatriz groaned as she stomped on another head, dashing its brains against the wall only for the head to be ripped off. “You have any plans?”

“I think I do!” Brandon hollered as he ducked. He turned to Samantha. “Got any freezing spells?”

Samantha shook her head. “I… I’ve never used ice magic before!”

“It can’t be that hard!”

“What if I can’t control it and I freeze everyone here!?”

“Lass, you’re supposed to give no quarter to this bloody creature anyway!”

“You’ll turn into a popsicle too! And I was lucky I missed the last time!”

“Lass,” Brandon groaned as he bludgeoned one of the head of the hydras with the butt end of his gunblade. “Just, let it go.”

“Let what go?”

“Your fear. Just let it go, lass!”

Samantha pondered for a moment before beaming. “I usually sing to help me feel better!”

“Oh for Davy Jone’s Locker, damn hell you won’t! Don’t you dare sing! This isn’t some princess fairy tale where everything breaks into song! Do it without the singing!”

Samantha sighed and looked at her hands, shaking her head. “I-I’ll try.”

Brandon nodded. The word ‘try’ usually meant ‘no’. He glanced at Luke who clung onto the golden walls, shivering. He narrowed his eyes; it wasn’t like the dryad to be so terrified. Then again, he looked up at the snapping and angry Hydra. Who wouldn’t be when a dragon with eighteen heads snapping at them with their saliva drooling hungrily from their bloodstained fangs? A chill ran up his spine at the thought.

“Yeah, I shouldn’t have thought that,” Brandon frowned. He then dodged out of the way, tumbling to the side. “Luke, if you can speak Hydra, now would be the best time, mate!”

“I-I would, C-c-cap. But,” Luke looked at the floor, shivering. He shook his head. “B-but I can’t!”

“You can’t possibly be afraid of the floor, lad.” Brandon hollered. He ducked and slid past another snapping head. “It’s just gold.”

“W-well – ”

“– Mate, don’t hesitate! I can’t keep running and leaping forever!”

Luke nodded and slowly inched forward. “Um, h-hey…?”

The Hydra screeched and turned on Luke with its molten gold eyes gleaming at him.

“Um, the sun’s getting real low,” he began to soothe it, slowly stepping forward and wincing. “It’s alright. It’s all over.”

He slowly extended his hand to touch the Hydra’s noses. With Luke upfront and getting all of its attention, the Hydra had begun to inch away from both Brandon and Beatriz. The pirate slowly crept behind it and helped Beatriz up from being smacked around as she found herself stuck in one of the crevices.

“I didn’t know you could fit in there,” Brandon chuckled.

Beatriz scoffed. “It’s the most annoying part of being small.”

“I can see that.”

“Anyway, what now?”

Brandon turned around to see the Hydra looking at his First Mate. The little boy had continued to tremble and Samantha barely had a spell running. It didn’t look hostile at that point, staring with all the curiosity it had at the dryad. The pirate captain could see his First Mate trembling from the size of the Hydra. A scowl formed on his lips; the only thing they could do to disable the Hydra was to put bullets all through the heads before they can rip it off.

Brandon turned to Beatriz. “Think you can just jam the butt end into their skulls?”

Beatriz frowned. “You mean just stab their brains out?”

“The head-slicing thing clearly doesn’t work, lass.”

“But head-piking is boring!”

“So you’d rather keep cutting heads?”

“I could do it all day!”

“Lass, that ain’t the point. We can’t keep running around like useless scallywags and sea rats forever!”

Beatriz, seeing the annoyed look on the pirate’s face, sighed and shook her head. “Fine…”

Seeing that he got her cooperation, Brandon searched around the cavern. He could see the many cracks and crevices in the cavern that could serve as foot holds. The hydra seemed to croon and growl while looking at Luke as he ordered Beatriz to set off for the other side. The lady-in-waiting nodded and made her way to one side while Brandon took the other. With them both scaling the walls, they found themselves stationed right near it. Brandon nodded at Beatriz as both of them drew their weapons.

“Now!”

The Hydra yelped when it heard Brandon’s signal as the pirate and the lady-in-waiting loomed right above it. Beatriz closed her eyes and summoned an array of jet black spikes while both of Brandon’s gunblades were pointed to its heads.

“Nighty night,” Beatriz cackled gleefully. “Don’t let the bedbugs bite!”

“Why, hello there,” a devious grin curved up Brandon’s lips as he cocked the gun.

The hydra yelped as the spikes and the bullets hailed towards it. Each and every head one bullet or one spike each as Luke staggered back. Samantha quickly pushed past Luke with her hands coated with frost and ice.

“Let me handle this!” Samantha unleashed an icy gust, freezing the hydra.

The creature screamed and wailed, writhing in agony. Brandon and Beatriz smirked as they landed down and watched the frostbite crawl all over the creature’s body. Its arms and legs began to stiffen as the hydra continued to struggle. Panic flashed before its eyes as it stared into another pair of terrified eyes. Luke shivered as he clamped his hands over his ears, blocking out the screaming and the crying of the hydra as the frost soon covered it all. Soon, the entire hydra’s body was covered in ice with its body and expression frozen with terror.

“A-are we done now?” Luke shivered.

Brandon nodded. “Yeah, we can go now.”

The pirate however noticed that Luke was still trembling. It was rare to see his First Mate so shaken. He strode over to the boy and squatted in front of him, offering his hand.

“You okay, mate?” He asked. He saw the fear momentarily rush through Luke’s mismatched eyes. “You’ve been shaking in your boots ever since you got in here.”

Luke nodded stiffly, fighting back his trembling. “Y-yeah, sort of.”

“Don’t worry. Anything else that comes out, I’ll chop it to pieces.”

“It’s not that…”

“Then, what is it?”

Luke hung his head in shame. “I… I just never got used to hearing animals cry in pain like that. I mean, we are trespassing into its home.”

Brandon sighed. It was part of Luke being a dryad; hearing the cries and feeling the emotions of an animal were much more amplified than that of a regular human. It was also this ability that had been a main contributor to Luke’s hesitance in killing. Firing a gun, he would flinch. Using a knife, he barely knew how to hold it. But if Luke were to fight something that was still partially human, he could. He shook his head and grabbed hold of Luke’s shoulders, helping him up.

“Don’t worry about it, mate.” Brandon smiled. He shook his head. “I’ll warn you ahead if something like that happens.”

“Please do. It would be very much appreciated.” Luke nodded weakly. “Sh-shall we go?”

“Yeah.”

Brandon nodded with a smile. He checked Luke’s person, seeing that were no signs of visible wounds. A wave of relief washed over him. After all, he looked around the cave. There was barely any water in here. He knew Luke healed up by immersing himself in water and in sunlight. At least he managed to get some before making his way into the cavern. Before he could ask Luke anything else, Samantha then came running towards Luke, grabbing him by the shoulders.

“Oh, are you okay Luke? I saw you freak out and fall! Did the Hydra bite you – ?” Samantha babbled on.

“– It’s okay, nothing harmed the little sea pup,” Brandon chuckled. “Luke’s not so stupid that he’d let his hand get eaten.”

The princess scowled. “I wasn’t asking you.”

“Hey, I would like to think I protect my subordinates pretty well.”

“You nearly got his hand torn off!”

Luke quickly stepped in between the princess and the pirate. “No, no it’s okay! I’m fine.”

“Hey!”

The princess and the two pirates turned around to see Beatriz tapping her foot impatiently on the ground with an annoyed look.

“What the hell is taking you so long?! And why is it every time he gets whacked over, the whole village has to kick up a whole damn fuss?” Beatriz growled moodily. She sheathed her scythe and moved forward. “Come on, I don’t like staying in shiny gold places.”

Brandon nodded with a soft chuckle, sheathing his blades. “Yeah, sure you don’t.”


Samantha sighed and followed after the pirates and her lady-in-waiting. She took one last look at the Hydra that stood at the entrance, completely frozen. Despite it being her first time freezing an object, she was beside herself with giddy. Ice spells were never her favourite kind of spells. It required complete focus, control, and an extreme level of calmness that she herself didn’t understand. Fire and wind were more her kind of spells but nonetheless, she clapped her hands in delight.

“Oh my Deus, guys, did you just see how I managed to do that?” Samantha jumped up in delight. “I managed to perform an ice spell!”

Brandon chuckled. “Great, I’m assuming you can at least make popsicles now.”

“Not sure but that’d be totally cool beans!”

“... Cool beans?”

“It’s been my expression for something awesome!” Samantha sang and jogged up to Luke hugging him. “If you hadn’t distracted that Hydra, I would have froze something else!”

Beatriz snickered. “And here you were getting mad at Brandon for supposedly putting Luke’s life in danger.”

“He was in danger! But he’s safe now so, yay!”

“You got over that pretty quick.”

“That’s because Luke is alive!”

Brandon rolled his eyes with a sarcastic snort. “You can’t be that much of an airhead, can you?”

“I’m not an airhead!”

“Do you even know what an airhead is?”

“Of course! It’s a person whose head is full of air! Right? … Right?”

Luke groaned. “We’re doomed.”

“I’m surprised she still knows her ABC’s,” Brandon snickered. He looked around. “Well, there seems to be nothing for now.”

Beatriz nodded. “Save the least. I’m just damn exhausted,” she stretched her legs. “I actually feel kind of stiff.”

Samantha frowned for a moment. She threw a withering glance at Brandon who merely shrugged at her. The princess then began looking around for a place to stay. The golden ledges were sharp with small gold ores falling off from the winds of time eroding them away. She looked up at the golden stalactites that hung from the cavern ceilings as liquid gold began to drip from them. Even if she had read about Fool’s Gold in the books, she had never expected that the place be this beautiful. She yelped as her foot accidentally nudged a small golden ore as it fell through the darkness.

“Better watch your feet, lass.” Brandon pointed out. “The pathways can get skinny here.”

Samantha nodded. “Thanks.”

They slowly made their way across the narrow pathway. Samantha however couldn’t help but acknowledge the unsettling feeling forming in her stomach. It had been hitting her ever since she had entered the cave. When her dark eyes laid themselves on the golden monkshood flower outside the cavern, there was something inside her that chilled her fibres. As she uneasily shuffled her feet, she glanced forward to see Beatriz, Luke, and Brandon walking in front of her.

“I don’t like the feeling I’m getting guys,” Samantha shuddered. She embraced her body as a chill ran up her spine and her hairs stood on all ends. “Maybe we should find a place in one of the dead end’s or something.”

“Yeah, that’s what we’re looking for.” Luke looked around. “Looking for a cave pocket isn’t easy.”

Beatriz raised an eyebrow. “Can’t you communicate with the earth or something?”

“I would but it’s kind of hard when it’s metal.”

“Metal?”

“Gold is a kind of metal. A pure form if you’re just talking pure gold. I can’t talk to it.”

Brandon nodded. “But you can use vibrations right? To figure out places?”

“I can but only to a small extent.” Luke shrugged. “You’ll need someone who’s more well-versed in the wild. Someone who’s actually lived amongst animals.”

Samantha looked around and sniffed the air. Not a single scent. Then again, Samantha thought. It was like Luke said. The whole place was lined with solid gold! All she could hear was the echoes of their footsteps and the forest winds that came from Spinner’s Forest. She couldn’t help but wonder, how was this place able to exist with Azaleth being underneath? She frowned for a moment until a cold cavern will licked her skin. All her hairs stood on ends as she yelped and clung onto Brandon, digging her nails into his arm again.

“Easy, lass. No need to get so tense.” Brandon laughed good-naturedly. He patted Samantha’s shoulder before peeling off her nails from his coat, wincing. “It’s just the wind.”

“But I really don’t like how the wind’s blowing in here,” Samantha shook her head. “Maybe we should wait it out before we go.”

Beatriz winced at the weight of her arms and legs. “I agree, we’ve been through too much shit to be able to fight another problem right now.” She struggled to lift them only to flop. “So much for that.”

Brandon nodded. “Looks like we know what we’re going to look for then.”

Samantha agreed but couldn’t help but take one last look at where they once passed. The cold winds continued to blow against her skin as her hairs stood on their ends. Her heart shuddered and her whole body began to tremble. The princess shook her head. Maybe she was just imagining things? She wasn’t sure. But whatever it was…

She could only hope that it wasn’t a sign of terrible things to come.

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