Book One: Knights' Festival

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So It Begins

Samantha knew that people were after her.

But she didn’t expect such a big production!

The princess yelped and bolted from her seat as the Flesh Familiars lunged at her. She leapt over a fallen chair and dashed towards the other side of the courtyard while grabbing the hem of her gown. Sweat poured down her face. Her heart threatened to rip itself out of her chest and every fibre in her body fired up with adrenaline as she fled from the attacking Flesh Familiars. A shudder escaped her body; where did all these crazy creatures come from!?

The princess glanced back only to see a withered figure standing on stage. Although she could not see his face, she knew that it didn’t take a fully accomplished scholar to know that the withered figure on stage was bad news. Black smog swirled at the base of his feet as an emerald green light began to shine around him. The withered figure’s black shroud draped on the bony figure’s shoulders and a withered finger peeked out of its flared sleeve.

“Make sure the princess gets the gift that she deserves.” She heard the necromancer sneer. “The proper gift of Death!”

Samantha yelped and turned around only to find herself cornered by nine Flesh Familiars. A lump formed in her throat as the fear slowly crushed her windpipe. Her body trembled and her skin paled. She shivered, coughed, and hacked as her knees buckled beneath her. Suddenly, a realization hit her – she could use magic! With her trembling hands, she slowly grabbed hold of her pendant. Trying her best to blocking out the slippery and slobbering sounds of the Flesh Familiars, Samantha shut her eyes and focused her magic into the locket.

Deep breaths and focus. Deep breaths and focus. Imagine. Believe.

Those were the things she had been taught to do to cast her magic. Even if it were a simple barrier, the amount of focus was demanding. Her heart jumped with joy as the power began to swirl in her necklace. The pendant began to pulse with warmth as power began to brush against her skin. Suddenly, she heard something fizzle and sizzle. Her dark eyes snapped open when she found her power shrinking and dwindling into nothing but a small puff of smoke – just like all the hope she had left.

Oh no, Samantha swallowed nervously. She desperately tried to fire up the spell again only for it to fizzle out. “Don’t do this to me!”

The moment she said that, the Flesh Familiars screeched and lunged at her. With their beaks snapping and their tentacles flailing, Samantha screamed and instinctively raised her arms to shield her face. She shut her eyes and staggered against wall, waiting for her deathblow.

But, it never came.

Instead, she felt something warm splatter against her face. Her heart stopped – who saved her? The princess slowly opened her eyes when she found a petite young woman in a black dress wrenching the beak of the Flesh Familiar open while its teeth managed to cut through her palms. Another Flesh Familiar had jammed its beak into the woman’s left forearm with blood dripping out from the large wound.

“B-Bea,” Samantha was at a complete loss for words. “You –!”

“– You fucking shits,” Beatriz suddenly growled.

The Flesh Familiars froze in terror when the air around them suddenly chilled around them. Frost began to form on their slimy skin and dug into their flesh. Their screeches died out when a deathly aura swirled around Beatriz. Samantha shivered from the cold; her hands and fingers trembled as she wrapped her arms around her body. She noticed Beatriz’s bracelet change from a glassy midnight blue colour to a bloodstained black. Beatriz’s veins began to bulge under her skin as fangs began to grow.

“My wounds, my agony, my rage,” Beatriz's voice slowly rose into a terrifying, bloodcurdling roar. “Will be your damn loss!”

The moment she screamed, Samantha yelped as a large wave of dark magic blasted from Beatriz’s tiny body. The chilling wave froze the familiars as they coughed and gasped for air. The princess braced herself for the impact with more dark magic howling and roaring from Beatriz. She barely managed to keep her eyes open but, the princess still had a glimpse of what was happening to Beatriz.

The lady-in-waiting’s icy blue eyes shone bright as her veins began to bulge beneath her pale skin. From her blood, dark blue makings of an ancient language lost long ago covered her pale skin. The letters and words began to glow brighter as armour covered her body. The metal plating – blacker than darkness – glowed despite the chilly winds snuffing out the fire-lit lamps. Her black gown’s long hem had been ripped by the swirling winds, leaving nothing but a sheathe dress. A black leather fauld formed around her waist, bearing the crest of a skull with scythe and sword crossed behind it. Her spiked gauntlets slowly covered her wounded arms and her gown ripped from the sheer force of her power. Black spiked greaves formed around her feet with an obsidian black chest plate covering her plunging neckline. Spiked dark blue pauldrons moulded around her shoulders with the power emanating from it tossing her dark blonde permed tresses all over the place. Samantha could only gasp in surprise as a dark blue aura swirled in her hands before it crystallized into a large black scythe with gold enamelled around it. At the scythe’s crescent blade, golden gears materialized with chains wrapped around it and revealed its razor blades.

“You,” Samantha gasped. “You can summon it...?”

“A girl’s best friend,” Beatriz grinned. She then slammed the butt end of the scythe on the ground, causing Samantha to pale at the sight of the growling chain-saw scythe... thing. “You never leave home without it.”

Samantha laughed sheepishly. “Yeah...” She shook her head. “How in the world can you travel without getting arrested?!”

Beatriz shrugged. “It’s called other-worldly deposits and knowing the right medium.”

Suddenly, more Flesh Familiars lunged at them. Samantha backed up with Beatriz standing in front of her and brandished her scythe. She swallowed nervously at the sight of the Flesh Familiars. Despite Beatriz’s bravado, they seemed angrier than more terrified. Their screeches rang in her ears as she shuddered at the sight of their snapping beaks. Their tentacles suddenly revealed venomous barbs hidden in the suction cups of their tentacles. All the blood dropped to her feet as she froze where she stood. Beatriz immediately put her arm in front of her before whirling her scythe.

“Come on, bring it!” Beatriz taunted with a smirk curling up her red lips. “What’s the matter? Too much prodding made you too pathetic to fight back?!”

Samantha gasped; appalled by the lady-in-waiting’s taunt. “Bea!”

“What?! It’s either they use it for climbing or for other things!”

“Still...!”

“Fine!” Beatriz groaned. She then turned to the Flesh Familiars and mocked. “Come on, your tentacles are so sad – a guy can’t even get a decent hand-job off you!”

“Bea!”

That insult did it. The Flesh Familiars screeched and lunged at Beatriz who had a bloodthirsty grin on her face. Before they could touch her, they heard a loud rattling as their bodies stopped in mid-air. The Flesh Familiars twitched and screeched as their fleshy bodies were riddled with bullets. Samantha yelped and shielded her face from the incoming raining blood, covering her ears from the explosive gunshots. Their guts and entrails splattered against her gown as their corpses dropped right in front of her feet. There, she saw a bespectacled young man with black hair that had been gelled and slicked back. In his hands, he had a black umbrella with the mouth of its tip open. The two girls gawked as the young man folded his umbrella, twirled it, and planted its golden tip on the ground.

“Sorry about that,” the young man chuckled. “Had a few roadblocks before getting here.”

Beatriz, disbelieving, looked behind him. It was then her jaw slightly dropped. Behind the young man was a trail of corpses of Flesh Familiars lying on the ground with their blood splattered against the stone pavement. Their entrails and innards had been strewn all over the floor and Daniel’s suit barely had a stain on it. Casually, he flicked the dust off his shoulder.

“Forgive the gruesome sight, ladies.” He led both girls away from the trail of corpses. “These Flesh Familiars seem to not understand threats.”

Samantha mumbled. “They sure understand insults though.”

Beatriz pouted and folded her arms with an annoyed scoff. “Oh shut up.”

“Anyway, these Flesh Familiars – they have a caster do they not?”

The princess then glanced around as the soldiers of Xychosia rushed in to stop the incoming onslaught monsters. She bit her lower lip; where could the source be? She then remembered the ending of the performance – a caster in a black shroud that stood in the middle of the courtyard, letting black magic seep out from beneath his cloak.

“There was,” Samantha suddenly said.

Beatriz and he glanced at her. “There was a what...?”

“A caster. The Flesh Familiars were obeying some guy in a black shroud....”

The young man nodded. “The necromancer. He shouldn’t be too far off then.” He scanned the area and checked amongst the bushes. “Jude, what’s the view from up there?”

A female voice responded through his ear bud loudly. “There seems to be a mass of black energy swirling at the middle of the courtyard. It appears to be some link between the real world and Erkalla.”

The princess swallowed nervously. “E-Erkalla!?”

The world of Erkalla was only known to Man through books and tomes of times before. It was known to be nothing but a void filled with darkness. In the stories she had read, Erkalla was the dimension where only absolute evil could exist. It was dark and putrid to the core; not even the brightest light or the sun would shine through the abyss. The darkness would swirl into a whirlpool sucking up all life and hope until nothing was left. She shuddered at the images she had once seen – demons of all sorts clawing and snapping their jaws at their desperate attempt to survive the void.

“Great.” The young man groaned with a sarcastic sigh. “Any instabilities?”

“None at the moment.”

“What if we counter the black mass with an opposing magic?”

“Sir that would result to the explosion of Xychosia’s citadel. And... Everyone on it.”

“Tch,” he clucked his tongue in annoyance. Suddenly, an idea hit him. “I got it! Get an energy of the same nature running in the same direction!”

“Running numbers, sir!”

As he put the phone down, Samantha blinked and gawked. “Who’s Jude and who are you?”

Beatriz explained. “His name is Daniel Iscariot. And, he pretty much saved my ass from getting eaten by the Flesh Familiars.”

The princess shook her head. “Wow, talk about bad luck in the last name lottery.”

“Can we blame him? It’s not his fault that his father’s last name is Iscariot.”

The princess nodded. In the books she had read, the name Iscariot was the name of a traitor. He was a man who betrayed his close friend for thirty silver pieces before hanging himself out of grief. It was a sad story; a tragedy constantly performed in royal gatherings. It was a story of how one’s disciples could also be one’s worst enemy.

Samantha then took another glance at the young man who had just saved Beatriz’s and her life. He stood calmly while searching the perimeter. He was medium in build with lanky arms and stocky legs. His hair had been slightly mussed from battle. His oxfords had been stained with the blood of his enemies but his suit still appeared to be neatly pressed. She liked his umbrella though; nothing better than a concealable weapon or an increasingly functional accessory. I wonder if they come in purple though, she thought to herself. The umbrella would have been more appealing to her then.

“Sam,” someone called her. Then she heard the same voice snap. “Sam!”

“Where was the last time you saw the necromancer?!”

Samantha shook her head. “I... It was at the middle of the courtyard.”

Beatriz glanced towards the middle only to see nothing but a big black cloud of smoke. “Fuck damn, I can’t see anything!”

Daniel cracked his neck to loosen it. “Well,” – he popped open his umbrella. “There’s only one way to find where he is.”

Beatriz grinned and brandished her scythe.

“We charge in. We fight.”

Beatriz, letting out a bloodcurdling battle-cry lunged forward with her scythe whirling. The glowing chainsaw scythe cleaved through the black smoke. The sheer force blasted the smoke away and cleared a path for Samantha to run through. Amidst the smoke, a Flesh Familiar roared and lunged at her. The princess yelped as she quickly put up her hands to shove it away. Instead, a purple shockwave materialized from her palms and sent the Flesh Familiar flying. She gasped in surprise and looked at her hands before creating another wave from her palm. The force blasted away the gas as Beatriz leaped into the hole and cleaved another Flesh Familiar in half. Samantha gasped and stared at her hands; where did that power come from?

“Why are your spells so picky of when to Deusdamn show up?!” Beatriz grumbled moodily. She ducked before catching the Flesh Familiar, swinging it down before stomping on its face with her high heeled metal greaves. “You could have made our lives easier!”

Samantha shook her head. “Uh... because... I don’t know...?”

Beatriz groaned. “Geez, you could have figured it out before!”

The princess laughed sheepishly and bolted after Beatriz. She craned her neck, trying to search through the smoke. She remembered hearing the necromancer’s howling laughter; her hairs still stood on their ends as the cold wind brushed against her skin. She shivered until she felt a hand grab hers. Samantha gasped in surprise and looked up. Only to find Daniel smirking and holding her hand.

“Relax, Sam,” Daniel winked with a boyish smile. “No need to get so antsy.”

Samantha blinked before laughing sheepishly. “Y-yeah, I... I just never had encountered a –.”

A bullet suddenly zipped by and cut her off, causing her to yelp. In one smooth motion, Daniel quickly spun her around and popped open his umbrella as more shots came in. He then twisted the handle of his umbrella, changed the setting, and fired another round. The shotgun shell exploded from the tip and zipped through the black cloud of smoke. Shrieking, Samantha clamped her hands onto Daniel’s arm.

“What was that?!” Samantha wailed.

Daniel shook his head. “I don’t know. But whoever it is, the shooter wants you dead.”

“Fucking damn it, AK!” Mio snapped through the earpiece. “I told you not to fire!”

AK protested. There was a fucking Necromancer!

“So?!”

We’re not supposed to let the princess die, remember?!

“Doesn’t mean you could randomly shoot!”

I wasn’t randomly shooting! If I was, I could have taken a clear shot at that Odissea bitch’s head!

Mio groaned and slumped in his chair. And here he thought that it was going to be a quiet night. From what he remembered, scouting was supposed to be a quiet thing. All AK had to do was to sit on the rooftop all covered in black and watch the events unfold. But here he was – shooting blindly through a puff of smoke!

“Comrade, you might as well lead the necromancer out of the smoke.” Mio sighed. He began typing away as the crosshairs began to try and find AK’s target. “There’s no way you’re taking him down with that black miasma forming a shroud all around him.”

Copy that.

Mio snickered. “By the way, did you see the umbrella?”

Yeah, why don’t we have the good stuff like that?

“Because we’re not gentlemen, comrade. In Militaris, umbrellas are for pussies.”

He heard a snort with a chuckle. You are right, I suppose.

Mio groaned and shook his head. “Anyway, better head back. You got a long report ahead to you.”

He heard a groan before a message flashed on his screen. Fuck you.

“Hey, I don’t make the policies! I just remind you about it.”


Samantha, pale as a sheet, clung onto Daniel with a sheepish smile. “I’m so sorry. I’m kind of spooked right now.”

Daniel chuckled. “Yeah.” He winced as her perfectly manicured purple nails dug into his flesh despite his thick suit and white button-up dress shirt. “We better start moving then.”

The princess shivered and continued to follow after Daniel. Her dark eyes darted around and she could feel her palms sweating from the sheer terror that seized her. She staggered about as Daniel and Beatriz stayed in front of her. The chilling energy of the necromancer still swirled around the area; it still meant that the dark mage still lurked around. Her hand slowly went to her pendant as it began to pulse softly against her palm. The warmth filled her and calmed her thumping heart. She closed her eyes and breathed deep, trying to keep calm. Out of nowhere in the darkness, she heard a soft melody. Soothing her as if it were a lullaby. Trails of magic suddenly danced in the darkness with the gentle legato of the song. The trails soon solidified into colourful ribbons as it sprouted from different people. Beatriz had a dark green ribbon, Daniel barely had a ribbon, and she could see a lavender ribbon streaming from her breast.

“Wow,” she murmured. A warm feeling began to beat inside her. “I’ve... never felt this feeling before.”

Suddenly, a heart-seizing trill screamed over the lullaby. Samantha gasped as the trill grew louder and louder, rising into a blood-freezing crescendo. Her hairs stood on their ends as a skull emerged from the darkness with ominously glowing purple-blue flames. An incessant cackle roared in her ears as Samantha yelped only to see fires bursting around her. The fires seemingly rushed towards her with their gaping fiery fangs as Samantha wailed.

“No!”

With her words, another shockwave blasted from her. But instead coming from her whole body, the energy shot out from her glowing pendant. The amethyst glimmered bright with the ember wildly dancing within its crystalline prison. Samantha could feel an energy pulsing through her fibres as adrenaline rushed through every vein and artery in her being. Her dark pupils shrank. Her veins began to bulge under her skin. Purple lights swirled around her with a white stream of stardust glittering with it.

“Sam?!” She heard a male voice ask. “Sam!”

“For fuck’s sake, those brownies must’ve been Space Brownies!”

Before she knew it, words of a language she never knew rolled out of her mouth.

“Sacrificia Ventusa.”

The darkness brightened into light and returned her back to reality. Her eyes widened in astonishment when purple winds suddenly burst from the amulet and whirled around them. The miasma showed no resistance as the winds swirled them up and dissipated them into the air. She watched in amazement as the winds did her bidding and cast the ominous miasma out. As the black fog faded, the amethyst winds died as Samantha staggered about. She winced at the throbbing headache only for Daniel and Beatriz to catch her.

“What the hell was that?” Beatriz shook her head. “I thought I knew dead languages but Deus wept – what you just said was a fucking dead language! That died out during the times of the Odissea!”

Samantha groaned. “Say what...?”

“You basically said some gibberish that created an amethyst wind,” Daniel offered wistfully. “But she is right; that’s a spell language that has been dead for centuries.”

Samantha shook her head. “So where... where did that come from?”

Before they could answer her question with a shrug, they heard a small applause. Instead of a black smoke greeting them, the courtyard was instead cleared of the smoke and revealed the withered necromancer standing in the midst of the black miasma.

“Oh, what a beautiful evening for the last princess!” The necromancer sneered. “It seems that your magic have awakened.”

Samantha narrowed her eyes. “I’ve always had my magic.”

“Is that so? I’m surprised that the Archive Magic of Sofiene does not course through your veins.”

“It does! I... I just don’t use it as much!”

The necromancer jeered with a mocking shake of his head. “Truly what a waste. You know nothing, Princess Samantha.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You know nothing!” The necromancer snarled. “You nothing about the magic that you speak! You know –!”

Before the necromancer knew it, a gunshot had exploded right through his body. Samantha gasped and glanced at Daniel only to realize that he was the one who had opened fire. A small curl of smoke rose into the air from the golden tip of his umbrella. She gasped at the sight of the weapon; she had never seen it before. On first sight, it looked like an ordinary black umbrella. But in reality, it had hidden a brass barrel. Samantha gawked at Daniel as she stared at his umbrella and his stony expression.

“What?” He shrugged nonchalantly. “He was getting too noisy.”

The black miasma began to dissipate as the necromancer slowly fell to the ground. The withered corpse gargled blood from his throat and raised his head. His arms shot straight up into the air as he cried.

“Into your hands, I commend my spirit!”

With his last breath, the ground beneath him suddenly split open. Samantha screamed and staggered back while Beatriz brandished her weapon. The withered corpse suddenly began to bulge and contort with all its bodily fluids dripping from every side. Its flesh violently ripped and bulged from its former bony form only to reveal a much bigger version of the Flesh Familiar. The corpses of its miniature version of itself flew straight into its body as it devoured the creatures on contact. Its skin devoured the dead flesh as it mutated into an amalgam of all the creatures devoured. Its tentacles whipped around with its beak snapping. Its bloodthirsty screech echoed throughout the entire Xychosia as its tentacles slammed on the ground. Samantha swallowed hard and glanced at Beatriz and Daniel. Were they willing to fight it?

Her questions were suddenly answered when Daniel popped up his umbrella. “You might want to duck.”

Samantha nodded and hid behind his umbrella. Daniel then pulled out a lighter and snapped it open. He ducked behind the umbrella before hurling the lighter towards the shrieking creature. The abomination snarled and flung its tentacles at them only to touch the ticking lighter. Its breathing stopped as the lighter exploded into a blue flame before whirling into a roaring orange flamed tornado. The creature screamed in agony with its bodily fluids sizzling from the heat that lashed against its skin. Samantha gasped as Daniel shoved her down behind the umbrella. The shockwave rumbled and rolled throughout the courtyard and flung debris against the umbrella. Much to Samantha’s surprise, Beatriz leapt into the fray despite the roaring fires and flying debris.

“Bea!” Samantha screamed.

Beatriz grunted and snarled as her scythe cleaved through the stone flying in her direction. Another boulder flew towards her face to which she caught with her bare hand and slammed it into the ground. Despite the blood pouring from her gashes, Beatriz kept up the attack with her gauntleted fists shattering the rocks with a single punch.

Samantha could do nothing but gasp at the sight of Beatriz’s monstrous strength. She saw the blood splattering on the floor from the gashes on the abomination’s tentacles. It was then she saw a psychotic grin curve up Beatriz’s lips as she let out a bone-chilling laughter that even had the abomination shrinking in fear. A cold, dark wind rushed around them as more blood splattered on the ground. Much to the creature’s horror, Beatriz dabbed two of her fingers into a puddle of its blood before sucking her fingers. A delighted but cruel smirk adorned her pale face and red lips as the wounds on her arms began to heal.

“Well that was certainly delicious,” Beatriz chuckled. Her icy blue eyes shone with satanic desire. “I’m still a little hungry though!” She sang before bringing down her scythe again.

It screamed in agony as Beatriz hacked off another portion of the creature’s tentacles. Samantha yelped blood splattered at her feet and sizzled on the ground. Fleshy debris from the creature’s body hurled into the air as Samantha tried to form shockwave. Suddenly, the umbrella popped open, shielding both Daniel and her. The princess screamed as a portion of the abomination’s tentacle fell right in front of her. She gasped as her fingers gripped her bodice. Her heart pounded and trembled hard; this wasn’t supposed to be part of her birthday! Suddenly, she felt a hand drop on her shoulder. She stiffened before looking up only to see that it was Daniel.

“Don’t worry, Sam,” he gave her a boyish grin. “Beatriz and I won’t let that horror movie reject hurt you.”

Samantha was too stunned to say anything save for nodding. Daniel then turned his eyes towards the monster as its tentacles flailed towards him. He leapt out of the way as it crashed into the pavement while Samantha bolted away from it. She gasped at the sight of how the abomination began to grow in size. More tentacles sprouted from it as she dove for one of the dining tables. The pavement shattered from the strike as a roar ripped through the night air. Blood drained from her face as her heart began to pump. Her hand gripped her pendant, as if trying to seek solace from the purple stone. Sweat poured down her face as she desperately tried to rack her brains for an idea.

“Think, think,” Samantha mentally chanted to herself. There has to be a way! Or some spell –!

The moment she thought the word “spell”, something in her snapped. It was nothing turbulent; but instead, it was an eerie calm feeling. It swirled within her soul as she heard the trickling of water drops in her mind. It was the same feeling she had awhile ago when she had casted some sort of spell.

“Get rid of that ugly thing!” She heard another princes screech.

She snapped out of her daze when she saw a white knight leap into the fray with his broadsword swinging. His sword hacked off three tentacles in one swing as he dodge-rolled right under another swinging tentacle and hacked it off.

“You really should let your knights do the work,” she heard a voice chide her from behind. “It’s so unbecoming for a princess to involve herself in combat.”

Samantha whipped around only to see Princess Phylline with folded arms, standing behind her. “Phylline?!”

The princess of Karthakos flipped her hair back. “Well, what kind of friend would I be if I just let you get eaten?”

Samantha blinked; they were friends? Since when?

“Never mind,” she waved her hand dismissively. “What matters is we clean this horrid mess.” She hollered to her knight. “Ser Ace, this is my wish: remove that eyesore from this courtyard!”

Ser Ace, nodding, turned to her and bowed with a devilish smirk. “At once, milady.”

With a thundering battle-cry, Ser Ace leapt into the fray with Beatriz and Daniel. His sword sung and cleaved off another tentacle as Beatriz vaulted herself up into the air before using the momentum to bring down her scythe and drive its grinding and shrieking gears into its flesh. Samantha gasped at the sight of blood splattering against Beatriz’s pale skin and Ser Ace not even taking a single hit. Daniel sprung his umbrella open again as some of its guts nearly splashed on him before firing another shotgun round into the Abomination.

“See? This is how a knight should act,” Phylline gestured with a haughty smirk.

Samantha raised an eyebrow. “And what are we supposed to do? Sit there and the corner and look pretty!?”

“Why, enjoy the show of course! Even for Beatriz, that scythe of hers makes her so unbecoming.”

Samantha slowly nodded. This was how it had always been. Beatriz would go rushing in – whether in battle or not – and she would sit on the side and watch her lady-in-waiting cause untold amounts of mayhem. She sighed deeply to herself. As much as she liked staying on the side and letting people do the work for her, there was an itch inside her that made her want to join. That time she managed to dispel the black miasma, her shockwave spell to knock away incoming creatures – a sense of achievement bubbled inside her.

“There’s no rule that a princess should just sit there,” a voice of wisdom reassured her.

Samantha and Phylline turned around only to see the queen of Xychosia standing behind them. Her former ball gown was known a battle dress. Queen Regina wielded a staff with Xychosia’s sapphire mounted inside and a jewelled dagger. Her dark eyes narrowed ay the large abomination while other members of Xychosia’s council stepped up with their own weapons.

“You see, to be a queen and a lady you must be well-rounded,” Queen Regina strode forward with her sceptre glowing. She crossed both weapons in front of her as a flaming field burned around her. “After all, you must be well-rounded to defend your people.”

The abomination screeched at threw its tentacles at the queen. Queen Regina quickly summoned a red enchantment glyph only for five fire balls to form a whirling flaming shield in front of her. The abomination screeched as the flames seared its tentacles crisp. As it staggered back, a stream of golden sand floated in its face before it began to swirl around its body. The abomination swooned and staggered around and when Samantha looked back, there stood Councilman Jun calmly standing and letting golden sand float away from his palms. The princess couldn’t help but swoon at the sight of his steel expression as more sand burst from his palms.

“Don’t worry, you’ll only fall asleep.” Councilman Jun reassured with his moss green eyes flickering with all seriousness. “It’ll only be a little while...”

The abomination growled as it desperately tried to slash away the golden sand. But every strike it threw, the golden sand swirled faster to cover the holes. Soon, it formed a golden cocoon of sand all around the creature. The abomination, realizing what was happening, screeched and panicked in terror with its tentacles flailing about. As it tried to rampage out of the golden cage, Beatriz and Ser Ace leapt into the ait before bringing down their weapons onto its flailing limbs. Blood splattered against the golden sand as its dismembered limbs fell on the ground. Beatriz and Ser Ace leapt out of the way with Queen Regina directed the fireballs with her sceptre towards the golden coffin.

“Converge!” Queen Regina commanded.

The fireballs roared and rushed towards the golden coffin, and left nothing but a large, thunderous explosion. Samantha yelped at the flying debris and smoke rushed towards her face. She put her hands in front of her face, concentrating on the pendant. She shut her eyes and began praying to Deus. Mana started to pour through her veins. Her chest tightened at the strain until finally a purple bubble soon began to form. The bubble engulfed around her, the princess of Karthakos, and the nobles of the Xychosia and took the beating from the debris as it crashed against its jelly-like surface. Samantha winced at every thump on the barrier only to realize that she wasn’t getting hit. Her eyes slowly opened when she saw the big purple bubble forming all around her and the other nobles. She glanced at her palms; how was she able to make a barrier that big? Suddenly, a hand gently dropped on her shoulder. She nearly jumped until she saw that it was Councilman Jun standing behind her with a proud smile.

“Well done,” he nodded. “I expect nothing less from my student.”

Samantha beamed. “I learned from nobody but the best.”

“I’m certainly not the best but I’m glad I managed to teach you something.”

Suddenly, the abomination crawled towards them, angrier than ever. Its beak snapped and charged straight at the barrier, smashing its beak against the barrier. Samantha screamed and struggled to keep up the barrier as the impact nearly knocked her back.

“You better keep that barrier up!” Phylline barked. “If you don’t then, we’re going to die because of you!”

Samantha rolled her eyes and snapped. “I’m doing the best I can! You try holding up something like this against a man-eating, large, angry, raging, PMSing, bitching squid that’s on menopause!”

“Uh... I’d rather not. You’re already doing that for me.”

Ugh, Samantha rolled her eyes and focused on the barrier. She yelped as the beak nearly tore through the barrier as it started jabbing the surface faster. “BEA! DANIEL! HELP!”

The beak continued smashing against the barrier until she heard Beatriz screaming from above. She looked up only to see the lady-in-waiting leaping up into the air with her scythe above her head.

“Get the fuck away from the princess!” Beatriz roared.

Samantha beamed as Beatriz ripped away one of the tentacles. Daniel slid right in front of the screaming abomination with his umbrella opened up. Samantha heard a soft click before seeing green letters appear on the umbrella reading: ASSAULT RIFLE.

“Uh, what’s an assault rifle?” Samantha asked. She saw him snapping the umbrella forward.

Daniel smirked. “A kind of gun that has three kinds of fire: single,” – he pulled trigger as one explosive shot tore through the body. “Semi-automatic.” He flicked one of the switches and pulled the trigger multiple times, resulting to one shot each. “And my favourite: fully automatic,” he grinned. With one pull of a trigger, a burst stream of bullets rushed out and riddled the squid-like creature’s fleshy body with wounds.

Samantha yelped as blood splattered against the barrier until Beatriz suddenly landed on the ground, skidding. The petite girl slowly stood up with a sardonic grin on her face. Her chest rose heavily as she took a deep breath, letting the blood turned steam rush straight into her nostrils.

“Ah,” Beatriz giggled. She then turned towards the creature with icy blue glare. “Now where were we?”

The abomination yelped as Beatriz rushed forward with her scythe dragging her into the ground. As the scythe soaked up the blood, the blade began to glow with its gears grinded away the stone. Her legs sprinted faster and faster until she finally had enough momentum to spring up and swing her scythe over her head.

“Off with your head!” She shrieked.

Suddenly, Sam saw a bright blue flame burning on the other end where she saw Ser Ace standing with his great-sword glowing. Engraved markings on the blade shone as a symbol began to glow on the ground. With a sudden burst of power, Ser Ace lunged forward. His large sword then cleaved into its flesh as he dashed across the courtyard. Blood splattered on the ground as he ran faster and drove his sword deeper into its body.

“Ugh,” Phylline scoffed. “Didn’t I order him to make a clean kill?!”

Samantha raised an eyebrow. “I don’t remember you saying that to him.”

“Well... He should know that I like his armour pristine clean!”

“Tell him that then.”

“After serving me for the past six months, he should know by now!”

Samantha groaned and shook her head. “Bea,” she hollered over the barrier. “Can you try keeping it clean?! We don’t want to big a mess!”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m working on it!” Beatriz hollered as she slashed off the other tentacles.

After dismembering the creature, Daniel pulled out another lighter-hand grenade and threw it into its mouth. “Take cover!”

The squid-like abomination grinned and lunged towards Daniel with its beak snapping. Samantha gasped when she saw the small blinking red light on the lighter flickering faster and faster.

Samantha yelped and hollered. “Bea! Run!”

Beatriz glanced back to see the lighter-hand grenade tumbling in the air. Her eyes widened and she leapt for the tables and kicked one down to form a barricade. “Fuck –!”

It was then that the squid-like abomination’s eyes widened when it saw the lighter fall straight into its mouth. It coughed and gasped while trying desperately to upchuck the lighter. Ser Ace saw the paled expression of the monster before realizing what Daniel had thrown into its mouth.

“It’s a bomb! Run!” Ser Ace hollered.

Samantha could clearly see that Ser Ace’s holler had caused the abomination to freeze and pale. It then slowly looked at its stomach until the grenade finished its countdown. In five seconds, a large red orange inferno burst from its bowels and consumed its flesh. Samantha quickly turned back to the barrier as a shockwave slammed into her shield. She shut her eyes and fuelled the barrier with more mana, hardening it in the face of impact. More shockwaves crashed into the barrier as Samantha flinched at the sight of its entrails splattering all over the barrier.

“Ewwwwww,” Phylline whined. She shuddered at the sight of what appeared to be a kidney. “So gross!”

Samantha shook her head and winced at more bones and flesh splattering against the barrier. “Yeah...” For once, she couldn’t help but agree with finicky princess of Karthakos.

A white light then flashed from the flames before slowly dying out to reveal nothing but its charred flesh and bones. Its smoked remains lay scattered on the courtyard ground with some of them being what Samantha managed to identify as its internal organs. As the princess brought down the barrier, she slowly inched out and made her way through the courtyard.

Her once richly decorated birthday had been reduced to a charred mess. The smell of burnt flesh wafted into her nose. Samantha winced at the sight of the dead soldiers or dead nobles who were unable to escape. But somehow, fear didn’t seize her like she had expected. Instead, adrenaline pumped through her veins. She glanced at the pendant hanging on her neck, remembering the fresco painting on the ceiling of the library. Demons and maniacal sorcerers were not the only thing out there. There would be pirates, dragons, dark knights, and all sorts of other threats. She hung her head; it will only be awhile before other more threatening things would attack Xychosia.

“Sam, you okay?” She heard Beatriz ask. She turned around only to see a dirtied Beatriz. “You’re not hurt are you?”

Samantha shook her head. “No. I’m fine... I think.”

“But that barrier was great,” Beatriz beamed. “If you didn’t summon that, I would have had a harder time fighting that,” – she pondered for a moment before shrugging. “Giant squid... thing?”

“I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s no spell even to make something that big!”

“... There is.”

Princess Samantha turned around to see Councilman Jun. “You’ve seen it?”

The councilman took a good look at the mess in the courtyard with a hardened gaze. He strolled past Samantha and observed the corpses. He nodded and prodded the corpse with his foot, slightly turning it over. “It’s known a higher level of Necromancy.”

“But I thought necromancers died out years ago!”

“That’s what we all thought. Apparently there are still some practitioners out there.”

Samantha sighed and hung her head. “I never expected this to happen,” she shook her head. “I... I thought that the hunt for me had ended.”

“As long as they know you’re still alive, they will come after you.” Daniel explained. He glanced at the roof. “It seems even Militaris sent one of their men to kill you.”

Beatriz raised an eyebrow and glanced at the rooftop. “Huh?”

“There was an assailant. He took a shot at Samantha and I awhile ago.”

“But, I didn’t detect anything!”

Daniel shook his head. “Either way, you wouldn’t have been able to. Militaris is known to create the most potent anti-magic weapons. They reject all forms of magic.”

Queen Regina then turned to her soldiers. “Spread out, the assailant couldn’t have gotten that far!”

As the soldiers scattered out, Daniel nodded before noticing a bullet on the ground. “I know this bullet.”

Samantha blinked several times and stared at the golden-brass coloured bullet. “What is that?”

“It’s an Orichalcum-Adamantium bullet.” He examined the engravings closely. “Wow, they actually sent him.”

Beatriz raised an eyebrow. “Who?”

“Militaris has a spy-sniper scout named AK. He’s one of their best. I’ve only squared against him once.”

“And?”

Daniel pointed at a small keloid on his temple. “I narrowly managed to survive.”

“He must’ve planned to finish Samantha off during the whole mess.” Beatriz shook her head. She glanced at Samantha. “We can’t stay here. You’re a sitting duck as long as you stay here.”

Samantha hung her head; Beatriz was right. She glanced at the nobles who had raised her. Councilman Pocholo had an all-knowing smile. She saw the other council members with smiles on their faces. She then glanced at the pendant as the eyes of the owl seemed to twinkle back at her. She looked up at Beatriz who smiled as Daniel shrugged.

“It’s your choice, princess. Whether or not you wish to stay,” Daniel nodded. “As for me,” he pressed a few buttons on his dress watch. “I have to inform my superiors about this turn of events.”

Suddenly, Samantha and Beatriz heard a loud whirring noise only to see an aircraft hovering above them. The princess gasped; it was nothing like she had ever seen before! It was much smaller than an airship with a bulb for a body and a long tail. On both the top and at the tip of long tail, two pairs of metal strips whirled around. A large of gust descended on them as Daniel leapt up and took a hold of one of its metal feet.

“Looks like the war’s going to happen soon!” Daniel hollered from above. He then tapped the sides of the bars. “Take it away, Jude!”

The flying machine whistled and took off, leaving Samantha and the rest of the nobles in the courtyard. Samantha couldn’t believe it; she had never seen a machine like that before! Watching it leave the night horizon, Samantha found herself at a crossroad. She glanced at the destroyed courtyard and the corpses of the Flesh Familiars. Flags of Karthakos and Machinos were torn apart with tables overturn. Samantha looked up towards the Fire Trees looming above her as the red leaves began to bob and float before falling into her palm. She looked up to the sky where she saw the stars above her slowly fade into the horizon beyond Xychosia’s borders.

“It’s your call now, Sam,” Beatriz shrugged. She then sheathed her scythe as her armour disappeared, revealing her tattered and torn black gown. “But wherever you go, I go. So don’t even think about ditching me.”

Samantha nodded before turning towards the nobles of Xychosia. This was a war that was only meant to be in Sofiene. It was nothing more but a contest but now affected the empires all around. All the people who died for her sake – it would be a waste if she just stayed in Xychosia. Her hands clenched tightly into fists. Now was the time to act!

“I’ve decided to stand,” Samantha exhaled sharply. “I’ve decided to stand and fight. I’ve stayed in Xychosia for too long.”

The nobles looked upon her expectantly. Samantha nodded slowly. She suddenly felt something nudge her leg. To her surprise, she looked down to see a chair. Beatriz extended her hand to her with a grin. The princess, smiling, took Beatriz’s hand and climbed on the chair.

“Thank you all for the support you’ve given. But now,” Samantha nodded. Her mind rested at ease; everything was so clear now. “It’s time for me to go down the hill from where I stand and join the fight. Sofiene is a land dear to me and abandoning it now would stain the honour of being its princess. From this day forward, I will join the Knights’ Festival and win! I will regain Sofiene’s honour!”

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