The Hunt for Knights Begins
When Beatriz told her that they were going to a tavern, the princess didn’t expect the place to be so dilapidated.
The Cove was a quaint place but her paranoia that something was bound to fall apart eventually prevented her from enjoying the simplicity of the tavern. The wooden tables and chairs were positioned all over the room with pirates toasting and boasting about their latest journeys. She cautiously had made her way in, following after Beatriz who seemed to be completely in her element despite the eyes staring suspiciously at her.
“Bea, I don’t think we should be here,” Samantha whispered to her lady-in-waiting tersely. “I think we should just look at the training grounds for knights…”
“Bah, they don’t have anybody good there! They’re just a bunch of wimps!” Beatriz scoffed. She strode past the prying eyes. “Besides, as long as nobody does anything to piss me off, we should be out of here in no time!”
Samantha swallowed hard and nervously. Her dark eyes darted to and fro all over the place as she clung onto Beatriz. Why on earth would Beatriz suggest a tavern? As far as she knew, taverns were the worst place for a noble to be! She heard stories from nobles being ganged and beaten up, being pick-pocketed, being raped, or being stalked by some of the undesirables in the tavern.
Yet instead of feeling disgust, she felt pity.
All the while she had stayed in Sofiene; her playing grounds were cornered off by the walls of the castle. Commoners, people who were not considered nobles, and peasants were never allowed on castle grounds. Even then, should the peasant have something to address, they would speak to a messenger who would then deliver it to the king who was in the castle. The gap between the working class and the elites were obvious; the peasants would drag their bare feet on the cobblestone streets while the nobles had shoes to clip-clop all over the place. Some nobles even had carriages.
But Xychosia showed her so many things.
It was only now that she had taken a closer look to what peasants looked like. Some had scars on their faces. Their eyes, tired, would flicker with some form of life before dying out with indifference. Their hands were covered with calluses. Wrinkles would crease on their foreheads with beads of sweat pouring down. In the tavern, she had also spotted a few giving her looks of contempt. However, she felt nothing. Their contempt for her, to her, was understandable. After all, she got to live in comfort while the rest barely had a roof over their heads.
Samantha, nonetheless, still felt uneasy. With all the eyes on her, she felt a chill run up her spine and all the way to her nape. She could see where their eyes were going. While she assumed some were staring at her breasts, she knew it was also the necklace she was wearing. Even by simply melting the necklace, they could sell the metal for money.
“Bea,” she whispered. “Are you sure –?”
“—I’m sure this is the right place,” Beatriz waved her hand dismissively. She then hopped onto one of the chairs. “Hey pops!”
The bartender slowly turned around. Being beefy in structure, he clearly was triple Beatriz’s size. Samantha shivered at the sight of his thick eyebrows knitting together to form one thick mono-brow. His beefy hands crackled his knuckles as a sweaty stench caused her nose to wrinkle in disgust.
“I don’t serve drinks to minors, brat.” He scoffed and turned away, going back to his business. “Go back to the playground or something.”
Beatriz slammed her fist onto the wooden bar. “Hey! I’m talking to you, you old fart! I need some information!”
“What’s a little sleazy brat doin’ in a place like this then?” The bartender sneered. “You know everything comes with a price.”
“And so does my mercy if you don’t give me the information I need.”
“And what are you gonna do if I flick your nose? Call your daddy to come and kill me? Or go run crying to momma when I accidentally pull your little gold locks, Goldilocks?”
Beatriz fumed with her fists curling up. “What did you say!?”
Samantha, seeing her lady-in-waiting about to lose her temper, yelped as she immediately stepped in. “Bea, maybe we shouldn’t –!”
“– Yeah Goldilocks!” The bartender jeered. “Why don’t you listen to your booby friend over there?”
Now that got Beatriz. The small girl brought her thumb to her mouth and clamped her teeth hard. The bartender yelped when blood started trickling down her pale skin. Samantha swallowed hard; the moment Beatriz did that, that meant she was going to start a fight whether she liked it or not. She had seen Beatriz fight several times but never knew that Beatriz’s spells required a special medium for it. She had learned about magic needing mediums and the sort but Beatriz’s was the first she had seen with blood as its medium. Enough about that, Samantha shook her head. She could already see the blood dripping down Beatriz’s hand forming an intricate pattern on the girl’s forearm.
“Bea, we shouldn’t fight in here! Councilwoman Kara –!”
The lady-in-waiting ignored her pleas and attacked. Without any hesitation, Beatriz roared and rushed in as her armour materialized over her body. The pirates gasped in terror when the obsidian-coloured armour gleamed despite the dim lighting. The pirates shuddered and staggered back when her icy blue eyes glowed an eerie bright blue. A smirk curved up Beatriz’s sultry red lips as she stood tall and proud in her armour, staring down at the pale bartender. Beatriz’s scythe instantly materialized in her hand as she prepared to cleave the bartender in half. Terrified, the bartender yelped and all the patrons in the tavern suddenly drew out muskets and pistols all pointed at her, forcing Beatriz to stop mid way through her attack. Samantha swallowed hard and stood behind Beatriz, back to back.
“Um, I’m so sorry for my friend,” she waved her hand apologetically. “She loves the thrill of a good fight, you see…”
The patrons didn’t seem moved by Samantha’s apology. Instead, their eyes narrowed at her with a darker stare. Samantha swallowed hard; this wasn’t supposed to be how things ended up! She glanced at Beatriz. But instead of a terrified expression, a cruel, mocking smirk curved up her red lips. She whirled her scythe and put her middle finger up for everyone to see.
“Bring it on, motherfuckers!”
Samantha groaned; Beatriz was actually going for it! Their muskets and pistols shot out and all hell broke loose. Samantha quickly gathered her wits and channelled all her mana into her pendant. She felt the wild flow of energy circulating and howling inside her before it shot out of her palms. A purple wave cracked and splattered as it formed a protective bubble, shielding both Beatriz and her from the spraying bullets.
“Damn, you’re getting better at this!” Beatriz cackled gleefully. She jumped up and down, clearly filled with giddy before glancing back at Samantha. “How long can you keep this up!?”
“Bea, it’s not something I want to do every day!” Samantha wailed. She flinched as a musket bullet nearly cracked through the shield, knocking the princess back by its sheer impact. “Do something!”
Beatriz groaned and rolled her eyes. “Fine, fine.” She whirled her scythe and licked her lips with a bloodthirsty gleam in her eyes. “Let’s dance!”
Beatriz sailed right over her and burst through the barrier with her scythe swinging. The pirates gasped as she hooked four pirates in one swing before she flung them aside. Their bodies slammed and shattered the wooden tables as others opened fire. The bullets flew straight to her face until she whirled her scythe around and cleaved every bullet that flew towards her in half, leaving nothing but metal litter on the ground. The pirates paled as Beatriz slammed the scythe’s heel onto the wooden floors.
“So, which one of you dumb shits is gonna be next?” She beamed. With a whirl of her scythe, she then brought the blade up to her lips as she licked blunt edge of the scythe’s chine ever so slowly. “This little baby’s hungry after all,” she sang.
The pirates shuddered in fear but some others chose to charge at her. They let out a loud battle cry before lunging at her with all sorts of weapons: crow bars, broken table legs, chairs, and even steel steins used for the beer. Samantha shuddered and shook her head. It wasn’t that she feared for Beatriz’s life. It was more that she feared for the lives of the pirates who lunged at Beatriz in a berserker rage. Her hands trembled and she could feel her palms becoming clammy from the fear. Her blood chilled and soon her whole body began shaking when Beatriz let out a ferocious roar and lunged at them. Her scythe sung and cleaved through the air as she whirled and flung people to all the corners of the room. The lady-in-waiting refused to back down and continued her relentless assault until someone slammed a chair against her back.
“Bea!” Samantha cried out as the chair exploded into splinters on the smaller girl’s back.
The petite girl staggered forward but refused to bend her knee. Samantha saw Beatriz coughing and gasping as the pirate backed up with a splintered chair. He prepared to take another swing as Samantha froze. Her mind raced in terror as she pointed her hands at the pirate about to clobber Beatriz.
“Leave her alone!” Samantha shouted.
Her hand began to glow and all the mana creating the protective bubble compressed into a blast in her hands. From her fingertips, a bolt of fire blasted from her hand and latched itself onto the pirate’s coat. The pirate froze for a moment, sniffing the air until he finally noticed his coat was on fire.
“I’m on fire! Fire! FIRE!” He wailed.
Seeing her chance, Beatriz clambered back up to her feet and swung her scythe. The snath of her scythe tripped the pirate over as she recovered back up. As he crashed on the ground, the pirate began rolling on the floor to put out the fire. Showing no mercy, Beatriz however slammed her greaves into his stomach and caused the pirate to keel over. He groaned and coughed out blood as Beatriz wrapped her fingers around the man’s throat before flipping him over. The pirate screamed in agony as his chin splattered on the ground and she stomped onto his butt. He cried out in pain as she suddenly cracked the snath of her scythe, revealing a chain within the rod.
“Oh how am I going to enjoy this,” she giggled.
Samantha quickly rushed over to Beatriz. “Bea! Stop! This is too much!”
Before Beatriz could say anything, the two girls yelped as three gunshots echoed throughout the tavern. Samantha shivered and slowly turned towards the doorway where she saw a curl of smoke rising in the air from the tip of a glowing blue blade. She stared, puzzled. How could a blade shoot a bullet? It was then she noticed that the blade had a small split in the middle where she saw a silver barrel mounted in the mouth of the blade. However, what caught her attention more was its wielder who looked nothing short of displeased.
“What the feth is going on here?” A young man growled in annoyance. He scowled at Beatriz and her. “And who the hell are you two!?”
Samantha’s heart dropped straight down and her brain flew away. She didn’t care he was angry! He was perfect! Now this was a man who looked like a knight. His medium length black hair was cut at chin length and his body was clearly lean and toned. His face was clean of scars with his cheeks still having a bit of baby fat clinging to it. However, it was not his body or his sword that got her attention. It was his bright lavender orbs that stared daggers at her. Even if his eyes narrowed into deadly slits and promised funerals, Samantha still found her heart throbbing below her waist.
Unlike the other pirates who wore tattered clothes, this man clearly knew how to dress. Hugging his broad shoulders and his lean body was a crimson three-tailed coat that reached to his knees. He sported a pair of white khaki baggy pants with what appeared to be a black breast plate. On his arms, he had dark brown leather fingerless vambraces that had scuffed brass platings on the forearm area. But to Samantha, she didn’t care about what he wore. All she wanted was the lavender orbs that promised her funeral.
“Your eyes are so handsome,” she suddenly blurted out.
Beatriz gawked at her. “What?”
“His eyes… so…purple…”
“Oh for fuck’s sake! Sam, how can you focus on his eyes when he’s got a fucking blade in his hands!?”
Brandon couldn’t help but smirk in amusement. While most people would fear the gunblade, the black haired busty young woman showed no signs of fear. Instead, she was completely infatuated with his eyes. Brandon rolled his eyes with a disgruntled snort. He glanced around the room only to see majority of the tavern’s patrons lying on the ground. He could hear their groans of agony as they rolled over. He strode past the fallen bodies and sheathed his gunblade. The pirate captain suddenly felt something grip his coat when he saw Luke shivering and paling more and more.
“C-cap,” he trembled. “I-It’s...”
Brandon chuckled and ruffled the small boy’s hair. “Relax, Luke. I’ll parley with them.”
Luke shook his head vehemently. “It’s not that.” He trembled violently. “Her scythe... all the souls... I can hear them...!”
“Okay, Luke, I know you’re scared shitless but –.”
“Can’t you feel her magic?! It’s there!”
Brandon raised an eyebrow and looked up at the small girl in the obsidian armour. It was the moment he made eye-contact with her icy blue eyes that he felt a sudden heaviness slam onto his shoulders. He gasped and managed to keep his knees from buckling beneath the weight. The once humid airs chilled and licked against his cheeks and he looked up at her scythe. It was then he saw all the scratches and dents on the chine that he understood why Luke had gotten so spooked. But which one is it? Brandon glanced between Samantha and Beatriz when his gunblade suddenly began to hum and shudder violently in their sheathes. He quickly unsheathed both his gunblades when he saw both blades glowing bright stormy grey with thunder clapping within the swords.
“So it’s one of the two,” Brandon murmured. He stared into the eyes of the petite girl. “It feels as if the winds of Erkalla are on her side.”
The petite girl scoffed and pointed her scythe at him. “Hey, isn’t it rude to stare?!”
Brandon chuckled, shaking his head. “When was staring such a crime?”
“Since the day you wished you never did!” Beatriz snarled and brandished her scythe. “You’re sizing me up!”
“Guilty as charged. Being cleaved in half by a scythe was never on my bucket list of things to do.”
“Well too fucking bad! You’re gonna get it!”
The petite girl lunged at him with her scythe whirling. Brandon narrowed his eyes and immediately grabbed Luke by the neckline of his tunic before flinging him aside. Ignoring Luke’s protests and yelps, Brandon drew both his gunblades and parried the scythe. The chine lodged itself in between both his blades, growling with its gears grinding away. Sparks flew in between them as icy blue met lavender. The petite girl met his smirking expression with a look of rage as she whirled around to kick him in the stomach. He quickly dislodged both his blades and leapt back, keeping his distance. He heard a soft snick as he pulled the trigger. Bullets rushed out of the silver barrel with a stream of smoke flying right behind them. Much to his surprise, the petite girl did nothing to avoid the shots but instead let them hit the parts left exposed by her armour. She staggered back from the impact, slamming the butt end of her scythe onto the ground, digging it into the wooden panel.
“Bea!” He heard the buxom girl scream.
Brandon narrowed his eyes at the petite girl named Bea. He twirled his gunblades in his hands with a smirk. He could see the anger flashing in her icy blue eyes; her rage was her fuel. It was what made her fearsome. She easily committed to striking down her opponent no matter the cause. However, instead of an angered expression – he saw a more sardonic grin curve up her lips as a sadistic light twinkled in her icy blue eyes.
“Too bad for you. You don’t know who I am, do you?” Beatriz sneered. She stood straight despite her arms and legs now coated in blood.
Brandon scoffed. “Do I have to?”
“Yeah. That way, you could have actually won.”
He raised an eyebrow when he noticed the winds swirling inside the tavern. The winds had chilled the whole place to the point of frost started forming on the wooden beams on the ceiling. The air thickened as his throat began to dry and his voice seemingly trapped itself in his throat. An ominous feeling curdled his blood as his hands began to tremble and loosen its grip on his gunblades.
“You see, the more blood you make me spill,” a devilish glint appeared in her eyes. Suddenly, a dark violet light gleamed and swirled violently around her. “My blood, the wounds you inflicted on me are your loss!”
Brandon barely had time to react as he leapt back with the winds swirling and knocking him back. He crossed his blades in front of him as the winds smashed against the blades, shielding him from the impact. He heard Luke’s and the other girl’s screaming as Beatriz unleashed more power. A maniacal cackle ripped through the tavern as Brandon pushed against the winds.
“Shit,” Brandon growled. He glanced at Bea as the power swirled around her.”I don’t have any magic that can suppress that kind of shit…!”
While the petite girl gained more power, he saw glyphs carve themselves on the floor haphazardly. The winds carved it into the ground as the circles began to glow. He heard the howls and screams of dead souls as it swirled around him, whispering into his ear.
The pirate, he whose conscience knows none…
A heart so heavy that it longs for a watery grave.
Brandon Hawthorne, death by the War Hammer!
You know the truth of which you have broken.
Brandon winced as the voices howled louder and louder. His body shuddered as he struggled against the voices. He then glanced at Beatriz whose blood had already began leaking into her armour. Instead of staining her armour, it instead began to glow an eerie dark blue colour and formed ancient characters all over her body. A terrible fear seized him. All the adrenaline that had once powered him to fight Diedrich and parry Bea’s attacks had vanished. His heart thundered against his chest as his knees threatened to buckle beneath him.
“I,” Brandon gasped as the winds dried out his throat. He coughed and gasped for air. “… Shit!”
His throat tightened and his voice was drowned out by the howling winds and the souls that demanded vengeance. His knees then buckled beneath him as his vision began to blur. His lavender eyes widened when imps and all sorts of demons emerged from the portal, sneering and jeering at him. Canine-like demons growled and snapped its jaws with saliva dripping from their bloodstained fangs while the imps cackled gleefully and mockingly at him.
“Shame,” Bea scoffed at him. “You’re one of the few who managed to push me this far. But, all things must come to an end.” Her icy blue eyes sneered at him. “Including you.”
Brandon hissed in pain as he desperately tried to push himself off the ground. How could someone so small have that much power? He slowly lifted his arm that held his gunblade, shakily pointing the barrel at her head. Sweat poured down his face despite the arid winds ripping through his bronzed flesh.
“I only have one shot,” Brandon whispered. “One… shot…!”
Before he could pull the trigger, the buxom girl suddenly leapt in front of the girl named Bea. She stretched out her arms and screamed to the top of her lungs.
It was then he saw the extent of the other’s girl power. While Bea’s power was cold and violent, hers was virtually untapped and ready to explode. He could feel the power swelling up from inside her and threatening to burst out of her body. His eyes widened when he saw the pendant hanging on her neck. It was the owl holding a purple gem stone in its claws. There was only one city in the world that had that necklace.
“That’s the Sofiene –!”
Before he could finish his statement, everything around him went black.