Book One: Knights' Festival

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Brandon was frozen.

Although he had faced worse, nothing prepared him to lose his First Mate like that. He thought he could weather through after what the other one had done to him. He thought that nothing could tantamount to what the other one had done. Death was supposed to be normal for him. Especially since majority of their journeys were only for the bold, the daring (borderline suicidal), and the crazy.

But he was wrong.

The pirate captain hadn’t moved as he watched Luke’s body slowly dry up and wither away. His scrawny limbs had become lighter and turned into nothing but twigs. His cheeks sank in as his eyes dried up into hollow husks. Luke’s had become nothing more but a dead wooden log that lay in Brandon’s arms. Suddenly, small white lights began to swirl and fly from Luke’s body making its way out of the cavern. Some of the wisps approached him and laughed. At the sight of this, Brandon cracked a small smile. Its laugh was familiar. It was the laughter of his First Mate. He closed his eyes and let the wisps dance and flow with the wind before heading out towards the caverns.

You’re still with me.

Brandon clutched the small purple pouch tightly in his hand. It was the only memorabilia he had of his First Mate. That, and his corpse lying in his arms. But Brandon would rather not carry around a corpse. That’d be plain creepy, the pirate captain thought. But he didn’t want to leave Luke in the cavern where he was killed either.

“Brandon?”

He turned around to see Samantha standing behind him with Beatriz. Her dark eyes had a more forlorn expression and her lips had a sad smile on them. He could clearly see the tears in her eyes and her lips quivering to maintain the tears from spilling out. However, he soon saw the blue crystals fall and form streams on her rosy cheeks. The princess then began to let out small hiccups at the sight of the dryad’s corpse lying in his arms.

“I-I’m s-s-so sorry,” Samantha whispered and shook her head. Her eyes, wet and red from tears, looked at him with a melancholic and heartbroken daze. “I-I c-c-c-couldn’t do anything.”

Brandon shook his head. “Neither could I.We were all frozen solid.”

Beatriz shrugged. “Well, that’s that. We can’t change what happened.”

Samantha gasped, turning to Beatriz aghast. “How could you say that!? Luke just sacrificed himself - for us!”

“He made his choice. It’s not for us to decide.”

“Bea!”

“Everyone dies, princess. Nobody knows when or how he’ll die.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to shove Luke’s sacrifice aside carelessly!”

Brandon remained silent with the two girls yelling and bickering with each other. As much as Samantha had a point, Beatriz’s belief did too. Luke did make his choice. He made the choice to sacrifice himself even though he knew of his weakness to metal. But his heart sank at the thought. What was it like for Luke to take in something so poisonous? Did he not think twice? His hand then felt out the little purple pouch that Luke gave him. It made him wonder if Luke ever feared the pain of poison. But he remembered Luke’s words before he passed away.

I’m scared.

It was those words that stabbed him harder than anything else. Brandon felt the guilt and the pain build up in his stomach and burn his throat. Luke’s fear of death was more human than he’d ever seen. He glanced at Samantha and Beatriz bickering with one another about how Beatriz handled Luke’s death. Her snarls and growls towards Samantha’s sympathetic arguments rang incessantly in his ears. If he had heard right, Beatriz had been alive for four hundred years. And if there was anything he knew, time could change a person. Especially, if it had been past 400 hundred years.

Suddenly, they heard a loud shrieking cry in the cavern. Brandon immediately stood up with Samantha and Beatriz stopping mid-way in their argument. It was an intense, ear-splitting battle cry that caused the caverns to shudder with fright. Shadows loomed from the abyss from within the tunnels and drum-rolls thundered. The pirate captain narrowed his eyes and quickly grabbed his gunblades, steeling himself for any possible attack. Beatriz bolted for her scythe and grabbed it while Samantha swallowed nervously and focused her mana into her pendant.

“D-D-Do I-I-I even w-w-w-want to know wh-what th-they have!?” Samantha trembled fearfully. She shook her head. “Can we please just get out of here!?”

Beatriz nodded. “I couldn’t agree with you more!”

Brandon scowled as another battle-cry rang out again. “Orcs!”

After grabbing Luke’s corpse, Brandon made a run for it with the princess and her lady-in-waiting. He kept up the rear end while making sure that no orcs rushed after them. His eyes widened as rusty arrows shrieked through the air and zoomed towards him. He swung his sword and sliced one in half before cutting down another one. His lavender eyes darted all over the place only to see the exit of the cavern looming high above them through a long winding stairway.

“We better start running and climbing!” Brandon cut down five more arrows. A thunderous, deep roar shook the caverns. “Great,” he groaned with a dry chuckle. “They brought a Cave Troll.”

Beatriz ducked as another arrow flew for her head. “Well, someone’s pretty accurate with a bow and arrow!”

“I’d rather deal with arrows than incoming boulders!”

The three of them made it up the ramp and the stairways, dodging and sailing over arrows. From the great tremors caused by the fight, the whole cavern shook as debris and stalactites began to fall from the ceilings. Brandon zipped through the falling stalactites with his blade shooting out fast to reduce some of the falling stalactites into harmless debris. Beatriz stepped up the game and leapt forward with her scythe singing. Her blood poured into the scythe’s shaft and powered the gears to life. A huge grin curved up her lips as she danced through the falling debris and grinded them to pieces with gears. As they closed in, a tremendous circular shadow loomed over them.

“Did you have to jinx it!?” Samantha wailed.

Seeing the boulder, the pirate knew he couldn’t waste time. He spared a side glance to Beatriz whose icy blue eyes had already set their crosshairs onto the incoming boulder. The moment he saw her trademark arrogant smirk curve up her blood red lips, he knew she was going after the boulder. With one twitch of her heel, she lunged forward with her scythe swinging and the gears roaring and howling with a vengeance. Brandon smirked and leaped up into the air with one of his gunblades singing with the songs of the oceans. The two knights cleaved and shattered the boulder into many pieces while a purple force field appeared right on top of them. Brandon looked back at Samantha who yelped as bigger debris began to smash themselves against the barriers.

“Can you keep that up while moving?” Brandon asked. The last way he wanted to die was to be crushed by an angry boulder.

Samantha hesitantly nodded. “I’ll do my best!”

“You better! I don’t think anyone of us wants to go home as a pancake!”

“But pancakes are delicious!”

“Not when you’re the pancake!”

Brandon double-checked if Luke’s corpse was still in his grip. A small smile curved up in relief. There was no way in Tartaros that he was going to leave Luke in the dark dingy caverns of Fool’s Gold! Luke deserves to be on the surface, Brandon reminded himself. Even if he was a seaman by profession, he knew that Luke was a land-lover by heart. He loved the scent of the spring dew after a rainy night. He loved to listen to the symphony that the forest had prepared for him. It was only right that he would bring his First Mate at least to the surface and not bury him in a dead cave covered in gold. He deserved the sunlight. Not the darkness.

“There! The exit!” Samantha exclaimed in delight.

Brandon looked towards the white circle of light. The light nearly blinded him but he knew it was because he had spent a long time in the cavern where the lights were only mere reflections of gold. He kept his grip on Luke’s corpse and everything else while Beatriz had cleaved her way through. Suddenly, the ground split. Brandon staggered back and had Beatriz and Samantha separated on the other side.

“Brandon!” Samantha wailed.

Beatriz growled. “Shit, you’re gonna have to jump!”

Brandon growled in annoyance. Now that he didn’t have Luke, there was no way to assure himself that he wouldn’t fall to the ground and shatter in pieces. For the first time, fear of heights had seized him. If he were fighting on a ship, it would have been more comforting. But when fighting in a cavern that had almost absolutely nothing to reassure his survival, it unleashed dread and fear like no other. His legs trembled and his heart seized. The fall was pretty high and he was pretty sure that one misstep would send him shattering to the ground.

“I don’t have that kind of jump power.” Brandon shook his head. “There’s gotta be another way around this.”

He searched around only to see a gap splitting behind him, leaving him with an island to stand on. The island shuddered and trembled as it slowly began to teeter over. He could hear Samantha’s wails and screams of terror despite the shattering and crashing of debris in the cavern. Brandon nearly fell over only to struggle keeping his balance while making sure Luke’s corpse didn’t fall below.

“For fuck’s sake, Hawthorne! Ditch the goddamn corpse!” Beatriz hollered from the other side. “You’re gonna get yourself fucking killed!”

Brandon glared. “No way in hell!”

“You’re gonna lose your balance!”

“I’ll find a way around it!”

“Suit yourself, if you’re gonna die then that’s not my problem!”

Soon, the island teetered over once more. Brandon saw that it was his weight that controlled it wherever it went. A smirk curved on his lips as he then leaned forward, causing the teetering island to drop forward. His eyes focused on the ledge that Beatriz and Samantha stood on before putting all the energy in his legs to make that one leap. He threw himself forward with his anxiety building up inside him. He shook his head; now wasn’t the time for that. He leapt over and crashed right on the other side, tumbling right past Samantha and Beatriz. With a triumphant smirk, he stood up and dusted his coat and his clothes.

“Well, I made it. Problems?” Brandon chuckled with an amused raise of an eyebrow.

Beatriz scowled and shoved past him. “Yeah, yeah whatever. Let’s get the hell out of here before we get crushed!”


While Princess Samantha was out on her adventure, Princess Phylline sat herself down on a pad of grass in the gardens of Karthakos’ castle. Her moss green eyes watched the birds fly around in amusement before playing with the reeds that danced and blew with the wind. She chuckled in amusement; she didn’t expect Samantha to be that kind of person. To run away with pirates, it wasn’t very princess-like of her.

“That princess is going to get herself killed,” Phylline scoffed. She then turned to Ser Ace. “What do you think, Ser Ace? Do you think she’ll survive?”

Ser Ace shrugged. “I cannot say, milady. I do not know who she is with exactly.”

Phylline never did understand how Samantha thought. She preferred how Samantha was before she had left Sofiene. The princess still carried her bearings and ethics as a noble. There was no crazy attempt to do some dragon-slaying or even bothering to risk herself by hanging out with pirates. Pirates! Phylline exclaimed in her thoughts. What kind of princess would associate herself with such ruffians? Such madness would get her killed! Phylline scowled haughtily and played with a dandelion in her hand.

“From what I understood, she brought that incorrigible lady-in-waiting of hers and two ruffians from the streets.” Phylline rolled her eyes with a disgruntled scoff. “What kind of idiot is she!? She should have chosen knights of noble breeding.” She then turned to him with a coy smile. “Knights like you.”

Ser Ace chuckled and bowed. “You honour me with your words, milady.”

“Yet I know you are a knight by day. But by night, you are mine.”

“Your Grace is a wonderful poet.”

“Oh, it’s only because I’ve learned from my lover.”

Her knight passed her an alluring smirk. “Oh, is that so?”

“Of course. As you are my husband, you take precedence over the rest.”

“But we are not married yet.”

Phylline shook her head and walked over to him. A small smile curved up her lips as she gently brushed her hand against his cheek.

“We have no need for such. My love for you is the only proof we need.”

“As so is mine, milady. As so is mine.”

Suddenly, she heard loud rapping on the floor behind them. “Ser Ace!”

Phylline frowned at the recognition of the voice. If there was one night she found terribly annoying, it was Ser Jason.

Ser Jason was one of the youngest knights who formerly served as a squire to the late Ser Jaime. After Ser Jaime Goldhand had retired due to his hand being cut off, he then passed on his legacy to his squire - Ser Jason. The knight was as young as eighteen with a bright smile and clear grey eyes. But unlike majority of the knights, she had heard stories of him having more latent power and skill than that of her own personal knight Ser Ace. He had been able to control his mana and his body so well that nobody would have detected a battle with him in it should he be right next door or around the corner.

“Ser Ace! We’ve been called! One of the knights had killed their lord!” Jason said. “We have to kill him!”

Phylline frowned; another reason as to why she hated Ser Jason: he always found a reason to take her lover away just when things were about to get interesting. But she knew also that the reason he had interrupted them was equally important. In Karthakos, loyalties of knights were to be demanded by the lords and ladies they served. And in Karthakos, it was punishable by death should a knight kill his lord, lady, or even any noble that they came across.

“And if I may ask.” Phylline drawled in annoyance. She glared at Ser Jason. “And who is this knight who decided to kill their lord?”

“Ser Oedipus Blindblood. He… he killed Lord Raekon.”

Ser Ace raised an eyebrow and folded his arms. “Isn’t Lord Raekon his father?”

“According to the results, it was said he killed Lord Raekon upon the discovery of him sleeping with Lady Gomer.”

“Well, someone literally lived up to the legend of his name.”

“I’m sorry, sir?”

Ser Ace shook his head. “It’s a story left for another time, Jason. For now, we have to reinforce the cardinal rule.”

Ser Jason nodded. “Yes, the sacred rule: no knight can ever turn against their ruler.”

“Exactly,” Ser Ace agreed with a chuckle. “And that’s what we, the royal knights, do. We make sure that rule is followed.”

He then turned to the princess. “I shall be back, my princess.”

Princess Phylline folded her arms with a disapproving snort. “You better be.”

“Of course.”

With that, Ser Ace and Ser Jason departed.

Phylline sighed as she watched Ser Ace and Ser Jason walk away. She then turned her attention back to the garden. She was always so lonely; not many princesses had free time like she did. But it somewhat frustrated her. Other girls got to follow their dreams. Some went to Machinos to learn Mech Magic. Some other girls were trained in political intrigue and courtly graces. She let out an annoyed sigh until the bushes rustled for a bit. Her eyes widened when she heard the leaves rustle.

“Who’s there?” Phylline demanded. “Show yourself!”

From the bushes, a small rabbit popped out with its nose twitching. Phylline swooned at the sight of the fluffy white rabbit. Its ears twitched and its pink nose sniffed the air. It wagged its soft, cottony white tail and hopped towards her.

“Oh, you cute little thing. Here to keep me company?” Phylline cooed. She then scratched it behind its ears. “I suppose I can keep you.”

The rabbit smiled at her and bowed. “I’m happy to be of service to you, my beloved.”

Phylline gasped; the rabbit could talk! The weird part was that she even recognized the voice. “Thaddeus!?”

Slowly, the rabbit stepped away and took a different shape. A young man slowly took form. His hazel brown eyes sparkled with a mischievous mirth while his lips smiled boyishly at her. Thaddeus sported a hunter’s outfit – a green cotton tunic underneath a belted thick leather vest. His scuffed and slightly torn black pants added to his scruffy charm along with a dusty pair of leather vambraces. Strapped onto his back, he had a long quiver with arrows along with his folded bow.

“Hello, Thaddeus Lorde.” She giggled with a sultry smile. “Or should I say, Prince Thaddeus Darklust?”

Thaddeus chuckled. “I’m no Darklust. I’m a bastard.”

“A bastard that has risen in the ranks, do excuse my language.”

“Nothing wrong in calling me a bastard. It’s the politically correct term anyway.”

The princess’ moss green eyes flashed. “I will not have anyone call you such! You are Thaddeus Darklust, son of Lord David Darklust!”

“Born from a single night of passion, unfortunately. My brother is still the true heir to the House of Darklust.”

“Your brother is a sword-swallower!”

“Don’t speak with such disgust about my brother. He has done nothing but be loyal to the House of Karthakos.”

Phylline sighed. “I suppose. But it’s still terrible that I am to marry your brother.”

“It is just a paper marriage.”

“Political alliances must be built.”

“That is true. For the sake of Karthakos, I intend to keep the power within the House of Karthakos.”

“And how about that knight of yours?”

Phylline remained silent for a moment. She remembered how Ser Ace was always called out. Sometimes, he was even called for the most menial of tasks. She sighed; and here she thought getting Ser Ace promoted as the Lord Commander of the Karthakos Knights. The Knightmares, as they were called. As the lead knight, it was his duty to be on the field. But the Knightmares were still loyal to the House of Karthakos.

But it didn’t help her deal with the constant longing and pining.

Because he was of ignoble birth and she was of a noble house, the marriage would never be approved. Then again, she rolled her eyes. Marriage in the eyes of the nobility was just a way to cement a political alliance. It was the reason why she simply had Ser Ace become commander of the Knightmares, the Knightmare Legion himself. She thought that it would at least get him closer. Unfortunately, the title of Knightmare Legion carried many responsibilities. Including constant deployment onto the field.

“He’s... he’s there,” Phylline shrugged.

Thaddeus chuckled. “Why so evasive, beloved? Does he not know about us?”

“He respects my privacy.”

“Do you wish for him to know? Does he not know about your desire for an open end?”

Phylline remained silent for a moment before she shook her head. “It’s better that he doesn’t know.”

“Ah, so we shall continue our charade.”

“For now! We can’t just show it!”

“True, the House of Darklust has always just been a loyal vassal to the Karthakos.”

Phylline sighed. If there was anything, marriage wasn’t about true love. All it was about was the political alliances. And as far as she was concerned, princesses could only marry princes. And in a world of warring kingdoms, to prevent deaths – the princess must be sacrificed and be condemned to a loveless marriage.

“You’ve always been my beloved, princess.” Thaddeus whispered. He slid towards her as his hot breath tickled her ear. “I shall always be with you even if your Knightmare has pledged his so-called ‘loyalty’ to you.”

Phylline giggled softly and shook her head. She brushed her hand against his prickly cheek and chin, feeling the spiny stubbles at her palm. She looked into his eyes with a small smile. “And that’s all I need to hear from you.”


Samantha coughed and gasped as the dusty winds rushed past her. She winced at the falling impact, noticing that her breasts did cushion majority of the fall. The fall still hurt however. She winced and slowly lifted herself from the ground only to see that Brandon was on top of her and Beatriz, shielding them from any debris.

“Brandon! Are you okay!?” Samantha gasped. She saw the sweat dripping from his raven-coloured strands. “Oh my Deus, did you get hurt!?”

Brandon panted and shook his head. “No but my body’s still aching.” His lavender eyes then looked at her with a forlorn expression. “And also my conscience.”

Samantha paused for a moment as she saw Luke’s dried husk lying next to them. She still couldn’t believe what she had seen. Despite being trapped in her mind, she had seen Luke’s valiant efforts. It was his valiant efforts that saved them. Even though he knew the risks of them travelling through Fool’s Gold and wielding Beatriz’s scythe, he still pushed through with it.

But she was sure that he hadn’t really done it for her sake.

He had done it for his captain’s.

Although she had not heard the small exchange between them, Samantha could see the overwhelming guilt that threatened to swallow all of Brandon in his eyes. His lavender eyes no longer had the roguish, cocky look that made him so vibrant. She instead saw unspeakable sadness, as if she was staring at a window being beaten by the rain. The pirate captain groaned and tumbled away, lying flat on his back and giving her a chance to move.

“Brandon...” She whispered and shook her head. “If only I could...”

“You can’t resurrect the dead, lass.”

“B-But –”

“ – Luke’s dead, princess. And there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Samantha paused for a moment only to suddenly beam. “What about Azalethian magic? Maybe – ”

“ – Sam, you can barely use the magic! You might even turn Luke into a lizard!” Beatriz snapped. She scowled and flounced off. “You either bury him or you burn him. I’m not having some crazy remake of the necromancer on your birthday.”

Samantha hung her head in despondence, whimpering. “There’s really nothing...?”

“Sam, I’ve seen people live and die. And guess what? You’re all gonna die someday too anyway! So, walk forward and forget about it!”

“How could you talk about his death like that!? You couldn’t just have shoved it aside!”

“I’ve watched people die for 400 years! Best part is, I gutted, mutilated, dismembered, decapitated, and flayed them all personally!”

Samantha opened her mouth to retort only to notice a hand drop on her shoulder. “Brandon!” She gasped.

Brandon shook his head. “Let it go. Someone who’s seen the horrors she’s seen would be apathetic to death. After all, she herself can’t die.”

Beatriz chuckled bitterly. “Good you know and get it.”

“I’ve seen people die. I’m not idealistic. But...”

Beatriz raised an eyebrow. “But...?”

Brandon turned his head to Luke’s corpse. “I...,” He forced back his urge to cough up a sob and fought back his tears. “I at least want him buried near a forest. At least he’d be nearer to home that way.”

Beatriz shrugged. “We can do that.” She looked around only to see a forest at a distance. “There’s one a good thirty minute walk from here.”

Samantha shook her head vehemently. “I swear, if that’s another ugly, dank, insect-infested, dark forest filled with those horrifying, villainous, disgusting, abhorrent, eight-legged creatures – !”

“Relax, you don’t have to go.” Beatriz chuckled.

“Really?”

“Yeah, because we’ll lead the spiders to you anyway!”

Samantha whined with a pout. “You’re awful!”

“Awful’s quite the compliment. Thank you.”

Samantha groaned in annoyance. Just why did Beatriz have so much pleasure in torturing her? It made no sense! She looked at the lady-in-waiting’s devilish ice blue eyes. All she could see was the mischievous sense of pleasure the petite girl had in scaring her. She pouted but at the same time, brushed it off. All the days that Beatriz served as her lady-in-waiting, the young lady had always enjoyed tormenting her with her worst fear: spiders. A chill ran up her spine at the thought. Even the word itself struck fear into her heart.

However, Beatriz wasn’t her main concern.

She glanced at Brandon who strapped the dryad’s empty husk onto his back and prepared to make his way to the forest. As much as he didn’t show any signs of emotion, she could see his lavender eyes flickering with remorse and agony. He was bottling it up inside; by concealing it, he would not feel it. His pain would then be buried deep in his heart. The pain of losing his beloved First Mate. She never did ask however; who was the First Mate before Luke? The way Luke and Brandon spoke about him showed how much Luke and Brandon had gone through together.

She couldn’t help then but wonder, would Bea mourn for her the same way if she died?

She stared at the lady-in-waiting’s pale back. Beatriz never seemed to look back. She just kept ploughing through everything, never caring what the initial mechanics were to begin with. She remembered the times that they fought on the battlefield. While Brandon and Luke would watch their opponents with much caution, Beatriz would howl and scream her battle-cry before rushing into battle with her scythe swinging. She never did think things through now did she, Samantha pondered to herself. It was something she also constantly wondered – has there ever been a time Beatriz actually thought things through?

She continued strolling next to Brandon as they made their way to the forest. “I’m sorry.” She suddenly said.

Brandon turned to her with a raised eyebrow. “For what?”

“For getting Luke and you into this mess.”

“It – ”

“— I should have gotten real knights.”

“Now hold your horses, princess. Getting real knights or me wouldn’t have changed a thing. Someone was bound to die eventually.”

“But still, Luke was so young!”

Brandon shrugged. “He chose this life. He knew the occupational hazards. As naïve and sometimes idealistic as he is, he wasn’t completely oblivious to the dangers around him.”

Samantha then remained silent.

“And besides,” Brandon chuckled and shook his head. “He wouldn’t want you to feel guilty. And he’d kick me in the ass if I kept crying over him too.”

Samantha laughed softly. Brandon was right; Luke wouldn’t have wanted her to mourn. He would have wanted them to finish what they started. Guilt shot through her heart when she remembered the promises she made to Luke. Giving back the Warhammer, helping him learn his culture, and finally, helping him find his homeland. That was what she wanted to give him in return. Come to think of it, she realized. He never did ask for anything monetary. He just wanted to go home. The mere thought made tears slip from her eyes as she realized something: that her selfish dream to go back to Sofiene had cost Luke his life.

“Oh my Deus,” Samantha stopped dead in her tracks.

In hindsight, it was only then she realized…

She was the one who killed Luke.

She was the one who forced him to risk his life.

She was the one who demanded he cater to her every whim.

Samantha stopped and her knees buckled beneath her. She soon fell down to her knees, crumpling down onto the ground. Her head suddenly became so heavy and her hands began to tremble as the realization slowly sank in. But much to her surprise, her knees never touched the ground because Brandon had managed to catch her mid-way.

“B-Brandon?” Samantha whispered, shuddering in his arms. “B-But…”

“I know what you’re thinking.” Brandon rebuked her. “You think it’s your fault.”

Samantha froze. How did he know? She then hung her head in defeat. “But…”

“I already told you. He made his choice. He knew. He knew all the occupational hazards that came with it.”

“But –”

“If I hear one more self-pity peep out of you, I’m gonna have you walk the plank. You hear me?”

Seeing the same cockiness in Brandon’s eyes flicker back to life, Samantha nodded with a burbled smile. “Y-yes sir.”

Brandon smirked as he nodded. “Good, now let’s go find Luke a good resting place.”


Samantha and both her knights soon reached a forest made of Baobab trees. The trees stood tall with thick roots spreading throughout the forest. She winced at the musty smell of the dank forest. The princess shivered and shook her head; why would they want to bury Luke in a place like this? Soon, she noticed Beatriz summoning her scythe before raising it high above her head.

“Bea! Wait!” Samantha wailed, staring aghast. What was Beatriz doing!?

The lady-in-waiting ignored her and swung the scythe down. The gears tore through the dirt and shredded a deep trench into the soil, revealing a deep crevice. Samantha gasped in surprise as Brandon slowly lowered Luke’s corpse into the crevice below. Her heart twitched and wrenched with guilt as she watched Brandon’s arms slightly shiver with hesitation before he finally let Luke go.

“Would you like to cremate him or would prefer just throwing a pile of dirt on top?” Beatriz shrugged. She rested her scythe on her shoulder. “Burning him would at least prevent him from returning as an angry, undead creature.”

Brandon shook his head. “I don’t think he would transform just like that. But, can I just say one last thing?”

Beatriz groaned and rolled her eyes. “Just get it over with.”

The pirate nodded. Samantha cast a withering glance at Beatriz. She never could understand why Beatriz had to be so cold. The princess shivered from the cold and uncaring aura dripping from the Dark Knight’s body. She only heard about what kind of horrors Beatriz had seen 400 years ago. But what exactly did she see 400 hundred years ago?

“Hey, mate,” she heard Brandon begin his eulogy.

She then turned to watch Brandon say his last words.

“Thanks for sticking by me even if I was a pain in the ass.” Brandon chuckled with a shake of his head. “I didn’t expect you to stick with me until the end. I remember the times I pulled you all into those crazy shenanigans and nearly got us killed. You were always there to clean up after me, weren’t you?”

Guilt and remorse drowned Samantha’s heart. Tears threatened to fall as she desperately tried to dismiss the thought.

“I know I was a little hard on you. How could I not? You chose a profession that had more occupational hazards than a Viking! You chose to sail the seas when you could have chosen a home on one of our journeys and stayed there to live a happy life.”

While listening to his words, Samantha turned to Beatriz’s back. The lady-in-waiting had not moved an inch. She sighed and turned to Brandon who was already kneeling in front of the ditch where Luke was buried. She could hear his voice slightly cracking as he continued.

“But nonetheless, thanks. Thanks for everything. And I promise, I will see your homeland with my own two eyes and step on its soil with my own two feet. Most of all, your treasure is forever safe with me.”

As Brandon stood up, he then turned to Beatriz. “You have fire?”

Beatriz turned around and raised an eyebrow. “Thought you were gonna bury him?”

“I was going to. But like you said, someone might reanimate his corpse. I don’t think Luke would like that.”

Beatriz chuckled and brought out her scythe, summoning a dark blue fire. “Good choice.”

Samantha’s eyes widened as Beatriz’s scythe dropped down. A dark blue flame burst from the curved edge of the lady-in-waiting’s weapon as it consumed everything – from the bones, the skin, the organs, and the memories – of Brandon’s first mate.

As the fires flickered before her, Samantha couldn’t help but let the tears fall freely down her face. The salty crystals trailed down her cheek, streaming as her dark eyes watched Luke’s body being reduced to ash. From dust we came, to dust we shall return, it was an ancient adage she had heard once. But to see it happen in front of her, it was a different feeling from just reading it. The short tenure that Luke had served as her knight burned freshly in her mind.

“So where to now, princess?” She heard someone ask her.

She looked up to see Brandon and Beatriz standing before her as the dark blue flames burned behind them. Samantha hicupped when she looked across the mountain range. Her legs trembled and her knees wanted to buckle. But she knew she couldn’t. Not when Brandon and Beatriz fought so hard for her and that Luke had thrown his life away for her selfish reason. She had to keep going; she just had to.

“We continue heading for Machinos.” Samantha finally said. She shook her head. “Anyone know the way?”

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