End of the Beginning
Upon leaving Machinos, Samantha found herself greeted by the large fields and river that led her to Yartengar Mountains. She glanced at her knights, checking on them. After all, she had been missing for almost a month. She clenched her hands tightly into a fist. If only I had mastered my magic earlier, she thought.
However, Samantha knew it was impossible. Kevyn had already performed a crash course. Any further, she would risk her own life. According to Khanara and Kevyn, she would have broken her mind. With that, she would have rendered herself even more useless than before. The princess saw Kevyn walk alongside her dragon, looking at the map.
“How long did it take you to memorize Yartengar,” Samantha asked. “You literally roam around the place as if it were your home.”
Kevyn shrugged. “It took me around three years or so. After learning to rely on my other senses, it wasn’t so hard.”
Samantha nodded. When she looked up, she watched the clouds detangle themselves from the mountain tops. The foggy horizon soon revealed the defined shape of the mountain. She kicked the pebbles away as some got stuck in her shoes. I trekked this mountain barefoot, the princess realized.
“Surprised? So was I when you first showed your ass here,” Kevyn chuckled.
Samantha shook her head. “I’m amazed I actually did it,” the princess admitted mildly. “Now that I’m conscious, the trail actually looks… scary.”
Kevyn shook her head. “No need to worry,” she reassured before spotting a boulder, giving orders to Blitzkrieg. “I’ll give you the easiest one.”
Blitzkrieg growled and fired a blue bolt. The bolt disintegrated the boulder into dust as they continued. Samantha couldn’t help but wonder what happened to her dragon. After all, she had left the mountains and her dragon behind to bring down Reuben. I wonder how she is, Samantha thought to herself.
As they neared the mountain, the rocks began to shudder. Brandon, Daniel, and Beatriz immediately pulled out their weapons as two dragons revealed themselves to be the pile of stones.
“Sam, get back!” Beatriz lunged forward with her scythe swinging.
Samantha’s eyes widened and jumped at Beatriz, shoving her scythe back. “Noooo wait!”
Brandon pointed his gunblade only for Kevyn to slam his sword down and pointed her two fingers crackling with electricity at Daniel. “No sudden movements.”
The dragons roared and spread their wings with their shining blue eyes peaking from their rocky skin. Their scales appeared similarly to rocks with moss covering it. The dragon had angular face, similar to that of a square. It had a flat nose unlike Blitzkrieg who had a spear-like snout. They had stumpy legs and a long tail with a morning star attached at the end.
“Kevyn, I’ve never seen these.” Samantha shook her head. She asked, “What are they?”
Kevyn shook her head. “Don’t move a muscle,” she whispered.
“These dragons are Caverncrawlers. They only live underground and to make matters worse, they are perpetually hostile.”
Samantha swallowed hard. “Perpetually hostile?”
“Because they were constantly hunted down, it’s been ingrained into their brains that everything is out to kill them.”
Blitzkrieg growled and spread his wings, covering his body with electricity.
“Bud, you’re not helping,” Kevyn hissed.
Brandon rolled his eyes. “Great, are we just going to stand here like a bunch of flea-ridden idiots?”
“If you want to be torn limb from limb then, be my guest,” Kevyn hissed.
“I was joking!”
“It’s called sarcasm, dumbass.”
Daniel raised an eyebrow. “And why aren’t we allowed to shoot ’em?”
Beatriz raised her scythe. “I can just behead them, you know.”
“You guys are all morons.” Kevyn scowled and turned to Blitzkrieg. “And you! Behave.”
Blitzkrieg snorted in annoyance before folding his large wings. He threw her a withering glance before sulking on one side. Samantha turned to Kevyn who stared down the two angry dragons guarding the gates to Yartengar. What was she planning?
“Kevyn, what do you plan to do? We can’t stay like this forever,” Samantha protested.
Kevyn nodded. “I know but I’m trying to find a way where –”
Suddenly, a magic blast knocked down the dragons. The other Caverncrawler shrieked as Samantha and Kevyn turned to Beatriz who shrugged, revealing her smoking hands.
“What? We were taking forever!” Beatriz threw her hands up in annoyance. “Can we go now!?”
Suddenly, the Caverncrawlers lunged with their blue eyes turning a demonic red. Samantha quickly summoned a stone wall until the Caverncrawlers just chewed through it. All the blood drained from her face until jet of water blasted the Caverncrawler’s face. Samantha looked up and saw her Wavesniper squawking in delight.
“Bubbles!” She beamed. “You remember me!”
Kevyn threw a withering glance at Beatriz. “Are you a fucking idiot!? Why did you throw that!?”
“You were taking too long,” Beatriz snapped back.
“Yeah and a blast of magic will solve things!”
“It always does!”
“You goddamn idiot, the angrier these things get the stronger they become!”
Beatriz whipped out her scythe. “Great,” she sneered. “Just like me!”
The Caverncrawler she hit lunged at her as she attempted to blast it with magic. However, the second time around – the dragon just brushed it off and continued its assault towards her. Beatriz’s eyes widened as Kevyn clucked her tongue in annoyance. Generating electricity in between her fingertips, she created a ball of light and blinded the dragon. The Caverncrawler shrieked and retreated away. The other Caverncrawler rushed towards Kevyn and Samantha only for a bright purple flame to blind it. Kevyn turned around to see Samantha with a large purple ball of fire at the tip of her fingers.
“What? It’s the simplest form of light!” Samantha gawked at the dragon-tamer.
Kevyn shrugged. “Well, you’re definitely not wrong there.”
Suddenly, both girls heard more gunshots. Brandon and Daniel drawn both their firearms while Beatriz blocked incoming attacks. The Caverncrawlers dug and burrowed their way below, whipping Daniel’s assault rifle out of his hands. Daniel staggered back until another Caverncrawler tried to eat them while Blitzkrieg leapt in his defense, covering itself with electricity. The light blinded the incoming Caverncrawlers as it hissed and dug away.
Seeing that the other Caverncrawler fled, Samantha exhaled in relief. “I feel bad for them though.”
“I can’t agree with you more but they’ve been hunted more than enough times,” Kevyn admitted mildly. “But as long as humans exist out there, the dragons will forever be terrified and confined here in Yartengar Mountains. And to be honest, they don’t mind. It’s when the humans hunt them down that’s when they mind.”
Samantha nodded as her Wavesniper came up to her, crooning. “Bubbles, awww, I missed you!”
Kevyn chuckled as Brandon walked up next to her. “Bubbles?”
“Bubbles is the Wavesniper she trained here. She got to like her immediately. And to think Wavesnipers were terrified of humans.”
“I only heard that Wavesnipers can tear off en entire cannon with one shot of their water bullets.”
“Yeah, their ability to compress and pressurize water can deal a lot of damage. I haven’t seen any metal not cave in from the sheer force created from the water bullets.”
Brandon spotted Blitzkrieg moving towards Kevyn, crooning as it rubbed its head against her arm. “And that is…?”
“This is Blitzkrieg. He’s an Alastreus and also known as King of the Storms,” Kevyn stroked the nose of her dragon fondly. “He’s normally hostile to those who aren’t me but, you’re the exception.”
“That’s comforting.” Brandon gently placed his hand on Blitzkrieg’s snout. “Wow, a miracle. He didn’t rip my hand off.”
“Like I said, you’re an exception.”
“Thanks. Any chance I can tame a dragon like yours?”
“Not really. His kind’s endangered.”
Daniel slung his gun back on. “Damn, those Caverncrawlers hurt.”
“We wouldn’t have to fight them if Bea,” Kevyn growled while throwing a withering glance. “If Bea didn’t provoke them, we wouldn’t have to fight them.”
Beatriz shrugged. “Well, they were out to kill me.”
“No they weren’t. They were defending their fucking territory, you dumbass.”
Beatriz pouted and stuck her tongue out impishly at Kevyn. “Sheesh, no need to be such a dick. If you haven’t noticed, they were trying to kill us.”
“Then who was the dumbass who threw the first shot?”
“I… They were about to eat me!”
“That argument of yours is getting old real fast.”
Samantha stepped in between the two girls, shaking her head. “Alright, alright, that’s enough. Kevyn, please lead us through the Mountain Range. Bea, keep your scythe attached to your person. Daniel and Brandon, keep your weapons close to you. And most of all, no one attack anything.”
Kevyn smirked. “Well said, princess. No one attack anything unless you want your goddamn brains fried out.”
“I like how my brain is,” Brandon sheepishly laughed. “Sane and not fried.”
“Although deep fried,” Beatriz began to wonder. “I wonder how that tastes like.”
“Something I’d rather not eat.”
“I’m not the one with a fucked up history of Dark Magic.”
Samantha sighed and turned to Kevyn. “Should we get going?”
Kevyn nodded. “Yeah, any longer and the Caverncrawlers will bring friends.”
Samantha nodded and followed after Kevyn up the mountain trail. The other knights followed after her as they navigated through the large rocks. She glanced around to see smaller dragons watching them from a distance. Of course they’re afraid, the princess thought to herself. The only kind of humans they’ve seen are those who would torture dragons.
“Kevyn, will the Grand Dragons be okay with this?” Samantha scoured the area, noticing how many of the dragons fled at the sight of them. “I don’t want to intrude.”
“As long as we don’t make any more noise,” Kevyn reassured. “Dragons hate loud noise. Their hearing is enhanced; actually, all their senses are enhanced. Just don’t do anything stupid.”
Samantha turned to her other knights as they warily crossed the mountain trail. Daniel and Brandon stayed close to one another while Beatriz kept her scythe near her. After all, dragons were supposedly creatures of myth. They had a hide so tough that no weapon could pierce them. Their claws tore through the toughest metals and the slaying of a dragon granted one instant fame.
Suddenly, Blitzkrieg snorted.
“What is it, bud,” Kevyn asked.
Out of nowhere, Samantha and her knights heard loud chittering. “What was that,” the princess asked.
“I honestly don’t know,” Kevyn admitted.
Brandon narrowed his eyes. “This better not be one of those man-eating dragons!”
Daniel cocked his assault rifle. “Oh shit, you gotta be kidding me…!”
The ground beneath them rumbled and trembled when a large spinning horn burst from the ground. Samantha fell on her butt while her knights staggered at the sight of a large spinning horn. Beneath it, it had some sort of wheels and a large metal body.
“Fuck! It’s a mining drill!” Kevyn brandished her weapon, whirling it around. “Get your fucking ass out of here!”
Her double-edged chain swords lashed out as she charged it with electricity. As her chain swords wrapped around the drill, the drill suddenly yanked her forward. Kevyn hissed and let go of her sword.
“Get the fuck out,” Beatriz roared with her scythe swinging.
Brandon dodged the flying debris before driving his sword into the metal hull. Sparks flew into his face as he drove a deep gash into the hull.
“Damn, this thing’s thick!” Brandon leaped back as a machine gun fired at him. He hid behind a mountain structure. “Where the hell did that come from?”
Samantha slammed her hands on the ground as a large stalagmite threw its drill into the air. The Wavesniper flew into the air before diving with pressurized water shots. Blitzkrieg roared and unleashed a flurry of lightning bolts raining from its wings. Its loud screech sounded like the howling winds during a thunderstorm.
Beatriz dove and tore through its hull. She winced at the grinding sounds tearing against the metal hull. When she heard the bursting gunshots, she leapt back and deflected all the incoming bullets.
“Fuck this thing! Where did it come from,” Beatriz shrieked.
“I don’t know but its path ends here!” Samantha focused her mana on the metal.
The moment she did, Samantha began to crush it. She winced as the screeching sound of the metal crushing in her ears. Ugh, Samantha groaned to herself. The sound of it screeching sent shivers up her spine before she tried entrenching the mining drill into the ground.
“Kevyn! Light it up!” Samantha struggled to keep the Mining Drill in the ground.
Kevyn nodded and leaped on Blitzkrieg’s back. “Alright, bud. Give this fucker a good dose of how angry we get!”
The dragon roared and soared straight into the sky before diving down, coating itself with electricity. Kevyn coated her own body with electricity while getting ready to light up the mining drill.
More bullets shot at her until Daniel blasted one off with a grenade. Brandon hacked off one while Beatriz tore off the treads for the wheels. The tank sank into the ground as Samantha let go of the tank as she whistled.
“Bubbles,” Samantha called out.
The Wavesniper dove down and let Samantha mount her back. Bubbles chauffed and zoomed towards the disabled mining drill.
“Fire!” Samantha conjured her own water discs, blasting the same area.
The Wave Sniper tore a hole through the drill while Kevyn and Blitzkrieg unleashed a thunderstorm. The lightning zoomed down and shattered the tank, engulfing the large machine in a bright light. Samantha’s eyes widened as the explosion knocked she and Bubbles back. Brandon hid behind the stone and Daniel took cover behind another rock. Beatriz braced herself for impact while Kevyn and Blitzkrieg shot up for higher altitude.
When the light dimmed, all the knights found nothing but the charred remains of the mining drill. Kevyn dismounted Blitzkrieg before kicking over some of metal panels. Samantha looked around as well with her knights digging through it. Samantha frowned. No clue as to who created it. She squatted down and checked for anything else only to find an insignia of a rifle crossed with a farmer’s sickle.
“Guys, I think I found something,” Samantha called out.
The knights gathered around her and spotted the insignia. “Isn’t that the insignia of Militaris,” Beatriz asked.
“No kidding,” Brandon brushed away the soot from the charred metal panel bearing the insignia. He turned to Daniel. “Anything from your networks show up?”
Daniel shook his head. “I haven’t heard from anybody.”
Samantha sighed and turned to Kevyn. “Kevyn, we can’t fight Militaris.”
“I know. We’re outgunned. The least I can do is defend my home,” Kevyn said. “We have to hurry up. I need to talk to Khanara about this.”
Nodding, the princess stood up and followed after Kevyn. She heard the footsteps of the other knights follow her after taking one last look of the remains. She sighed; why would Militaris reach all the way out here? On foot, they were a week’s journey from the Yartengar Mountain Range. And if she remembered right, they already sat on top of a large deposit of metal ore and oil. She frowned; did their ruler’s greed know no bounds? Samantha vacillated on the thought before they reached a cavern. Kevyn then created a blue light at her fingertip.
“All of you stay close,” Kevyn ordered. “Since we don’t know what else could have possibly disturbed the dragons, best keep your guard up and stay close.”
Samantha and her knights nodded. As they made their way through the caverns, the only source of light they had was Kevyn’s blue light. Suddenly, she remembered something. Something that allowed the dragons to see in the dark.
“Wait!” Samantha began taking off her shoes.
Beatriz gawked. “The hell are you doing!? You’ll cut wounds into your feet.”
“No they won’t,” Samantha reassured the Dark Knight. “I need to see and if my eyes can’t do it, my feet can.”
Kevyn chuckled. “Smart. But no need,” the dragontamer said and ordered Blitzkrieg. “Do your stuff, Blitzkrieg.”
Blitzkrieg let out a throaty roar as it reverberated throughout the caves. Daniel nearly jumped and Brandon drew his swords.
“Relax,” Samantha reassured her knights. “It’s Blitzkrieg’s way of interacting with the environment.”
Brandon raised an eyebrow. “Won’t his shriek bring down the cavern on us?”
“No,” Kevyn replied. “These caverns have been here for thousands of years. I don’t think a roar of echolocation can break it that easy.”
“I hope so.” Daniel shuddered at the thought. “I prefer not being squashed.”
As they continued on, Blitzkrieg suddenly stopped.
“What’s wrong?” Samantha looked around. “Why’d we stop?”
Kevyn shook her head. “I don’t know. Blitzkrieg,” she turned to her dragon. “You okay, bud?”
Blitzkrieg refused to move.
“Hold on,” Kevyn said before throwing the ball of light into the air.
The moment the ball of light lit up the cavern, Samantha could see why Blitzkrieg froze. They stood at the ledge of a pit. In the pit below, there was a large white serpentine dragon with spikes covering its body. It had three pairs of wings, divided equally across its body. Its tail appeared to be whip-like and it had a large head with a fan at its sides. On top of its snout, it had a horn.
“You’re kidding me,” Kevyn gawked.
Brandon turned to the dragontamer. “Please tell me that thing is a friend of yours.”
“It’s not and I didn’t know it was that time of the century.”
“Every hundred years, this dragon hatches from an egg of a Hissing Mortus. This thing… is the Howling Mortus, a dragon known to have rapid fire abilities and spines that are as big as us.”
Samantha swallowed. “Does it eat people?”
“The Hissing Mortus are usually cavern dwellers like the Caverncrawlers. But this thing is the king of all cavern-dwelling dragons.”
“Great, maybe we can talk to it.” Brandon rolled his eyes.
“You wanna try getting eaten? Be my guest. This thing is the stuff made out of a knight’s nightmares.”
Samantha forced a lump down in her throat. “Have you tried taming it?”
“Tried and nearly died. And from the looks of it, this little guy is still growing.”
“He’s still growing!? He’s as big as Xychosia!”
“I’m not sure of their biggest size but I just know that he’s still a baby. You can tell from the small spines.”
Brandon threw his hands up in the air. “Great, now what?”
“We sneak and not do anything stupid,” Kevyn decided and she turned to Samantha. “You ready?”
Samantha laughed sheepishly. “As long as it doesn’t wake up.”
“Agreed. Tell your loose cannons to keep their weapons to themselves or I’ll feed them to it.”
Samantha turned to her knights. “You heard her.”
With that, the knights made their way slowly down the stairs. Everyone kept their feet light before spotting the exit from the pit. Samantha found herself unable to breathe, terrified of the prospect of waking up the sleeping dragon. Despite the dim lightning, the majestic size of the creature plus the two rows of jagged sharp teeth scared her enough.
Finally, they made their way to the exit. All knights exhaled in relief with the two dragons sighing as well. Bubbles and Blitzkrieg continued leading the way until they all heard a loud rush of water. Kevyn’s eyes widened in relief.
“We’re close by. Whatever you do, keep your weapons hidden,” Kevyn reminded them.
Beatriz shrugged. “Don’t worry. We’re not going to kill them.”
“A lot of them are trauma patients. Your scythe might trigger something. Besides, you smell like blood.”
“What? Damn.” Beatriz looked down. “Is it that time already?”
“I don’t mean that way, dumbass.” Kevyn rolled her eyes and scoffed. “Never mind, just don’t swing around any weapon.”
Continuing their way into the caverns, Samantha looked up at the large cavern structures. There were no cracks whatsoever. She could only wonder how long these caverns stood. Samantha brushed her hand against the wall of stone, letting the dust build up in between her fingernails. The crusts and cuts of the cavern were relatively uneven, showing that only nature had a hand in its structure. Soon, a light shone in front of them when she saw the recognizable waterfall where Kevyn first trained her.
“We’re here,” Kevyn announced.
No matter how many times she would see this place, Samantha knew she would never lose her amazement. “I guess we camp here.”
“Yeah, for now,” Kevyn said. “I’m gonna go look for Khanara.”
“And pray do tell why,” a kind and smooth voice asked.
The knights turned around and jumped. “Holy cow!”
Behind them stood Khanara with all her vibrant scales shining despite the dim lighting. Samantha looked on in amazement as her knights staggered back in surprise. Kevyn nodded and bowed to Khanara before standing up.
“What happened? I leave for 1 day and I find a Militaris Drill digging its stupid ass through the mountain,” Kevyn seethed with rage. “Do these fucking shitheads not know I come back with a fucking vengeance!?”
Khanara shook her head. “Kevyn, it is alright. The Howling Mortus saved us. He and his brothers helped us against the Militaris forces.”
Kevyn gaped. “You’re shitting me.”
“No Kevyn. I shit you not.”
“Dayum son, you’d think all those dragons wanted is some peace and quiet.”
Khanara chuckled and smiled, folding her legs beneath her chest. “Well, they always have. Unfortunately, that drill caused a ruckus.” She looked up and saw the other knights. “I see you brought friends.”
Brandon balked. “Lord, she can talk!”
“You’re screwing with me!” Beatriz shook her head. “She can talk!”
Daniel stared and gawked.
Khanara chuckled. “Well, yes. It’s my ability as a Sorcerer Dragon.”
“Damn, I thought your kind died!” Beatriz shook her head. “Damn, the history books need a shit ton of revising!”
“Ah, I’d rather not have humans be informed of our existence. We simply wish to live in peace. Nothing more.”
“Oh, makes sense.”
Khanara smiled at Kevyn. “I’m glad you’re making friends.”
Kevyn scoffed and hiked a thumb over. “You mean these dumbasses? I hate humans!”
“Kevyn, not all humans are the same.”
“Doesn’t mean I gotta like ’em.”
“Stop being such a hermit.”
“Stop babying me. I know what I’m doing.”
Samantha softly laughed at the sight of Kevyn. Unlike her usual crass self, Kevyn appeared to have the personality that of a rebellious teenager. The sight of the two of them bickering brought her way back. Come to think of it, Samantha realized. She always did what she was told. Keep quiet unless spoken to, be polite, eat properly, curtsy, and etc. – she did all those without an argument. Looking at Kevyn’s feisty personality, she would have bitten her instructor.
“Anyway, I hope Kevyn was more affable when she was with you,” Khanara said to Samantha.
“Definitely.” Samantha nodded. “She really knew how to protect people.”
Beatriz snorted. “Damn straight, she figured out how to incapacitate me,” she muttered. “Stupid bitch.”
“Too bad, ass hat,” Kevyn sneered. “It ain’t my fault you’re dumber than an ox. Wait, that’s insulting to the poor creature. Never mind.”
Beatriz brandished her scythe. “You want a rematch!?”
“Bring it!” Kevyn covered her arms with electricity. “This time, you won’t even lay a damn hit!”
Samantha quickly stood in between the two seething women. “Alright, that’s enough. We’ve had enough fighting for one day.” She turned to Brandon and Daniel. “Do you mind setting camp? I believe you guys can do more than just standing there.”
Daniel nodded. “Sorry, I just don’t wanna be caught in between two women playing for keeps.”
“I wouldn’t even call them women. More like demons,” Brandon shook his head.
Beatriz grinned. “That’s right.”
“Not my fault you guys acting like dumbasses.” Kevyn shrugged and took Blitzkrieg. “I’m gonna go get some fresh air. Blitzkrieg wants some flight time.”
Samantha nodded as Kevyn walked out of the room with Blitzkrieg. As soon as she was out of an earshot, the princess heard a dejected sigh from Khanara.
“Is something the matter,” Samantha asked.
“I don’t wish for Kevyn to lose touch with her humanity,” Khanara admitted. “It is my greatest fear. Day by day, she identifies herself more as a dragon.”
Brandon shrugged. “I don’t see what the problem is.”
“She needs to learn how to live among her own kind. Even if humans are hateful and disgusting creatures at times, I learned that they were so much more.”
“Really? Where did you learn that?”
“I learned it from her.”
“She showed a kindness not normal among humans when confronted by dragons. Instead of screaming, she mimicked our behaviour.”
“Wow,” Samantha gasped. “Well, she is capable of being kind. Although, she doesn’t have to be so brusque about things.”
“Well, that is what happens when she lives with the dragons for too long,” Khanara laughed bitterly. “I believe that there is nothing more than I can teach her.”
“But taking her away, won’t it endanger the dragons,” Samantha asked. There, she had finally said it. That question had been bugging her since time and memoriam.
Khanara shook her head. “You dare doubt the power of the dragons,” she huffed before chuckling, seeing the terrified expression of Samantha. “I jest but worry not. We can defend ourselves. We will not allow such stupid humans to sully our pride.”
Samantha bit her lip anxiously. Did Khanara not know what kind of weapons humans had out there? She shuddered at the thought. The large machine that was the Deus Ex Machina leveled a stadium! The drill broke through the earth and took her whole team of knights to take it out. No, Samantha shook her head. She couldn’t take Kevyn with her. She was their representative. She was their voice.
“I see.” Samantha nodded. Suddenly, she heard the beating of a pair of wings. “Oh! Kevyn’s back!”
Blitzkrieg descended from the hole in the ceiling with Kevyn on his back. Samantha watched Kevyn drop down from his back, revealing a bag full of food. The dragon-tamer hung it in front of her.
“Here, I got a balanced meal of fish, meat, and veggies. The spices are in the back.” Kevyn gestured to the hole in the wall behind Samantha. “You know where it is.”
The princess nodded as Kevyn walked off while Beatriz looked into the bag. “She better have brought steak.”
“She brought what makes a steak.” Samantha opened the bag with a wistful smile, revealing a styrofoam tray holding fresh meat. “You’ll just have to cook it yourself.”
“Damn it,” Beatriz grumbled. She grabbed the steak from Samantha. “Fucking damn steak…”
Samantha shook her head before turning to the two boys. “How’s camp?”
Daniel pitched up one more tent. “The tents are up.”
Samantha nodded before starting a small fire. “I guess we can rest up then.”
Night fell as Samantha, Daniel, Brandon, and Beatriz crowded around the campfire. Kevyn on the other hand leaned against Blitzkrieg and stayed far from the group. The princess glanced at Kevyn who examined a knife in her hand. She also noticed Kevyn’s bracers had changed.
“So where do we go from here?” Beatriz folded her arms. “Once she leads us out of Yartengar Mountain Range, she,” referring to Kevyn, “is gonna ditch us.”
“There’s a small outpost a few metres from here,” Daniel suggested. “It’ll take some walking but we should get there in a day.”
Brandon nodded. “Yeah, I’d like a place where we don’t have to fight for once.”
The princess pondered for a moment, drumming her fingers against her chin. “I want to ask you guys something.”
Puzzled, the three knights turned to her. “Huh?”
“What do you hope to gain out of this? Curious question, I just want to know what motivates you.”
Brandon shrugged. “Just getting my ship back and finding the home of the Dryads is enough.”
Daniel wrung his fingers together. “To have this endless war end already.”
Samantha turned to Beatriz. “And you?”
Beatriz scoffed. “I don’t need that. I got everything I need.”
“Yeah, I get to kill and fight as much as I please.”
Suddenly, a voice asked, “not even the sweet pleasure of death after living for so long?”
Everyone turned to Kevyn who stared her down.
“I can smell it. You’re stench is so bad that even Death wouldn’t want you. You make Satan look like chicken shit and Tartaros a playground. Aren’t you tired of seeing everyday happen the same way over and over again?”
Suddenly, Samantha noticed something in Beatriz’s eyes. A small glimmer of sadness flickered in her eyes. It looked like a form of longing; a longing to be free. Beatriz bit her lip before shaking her head.
“Don’t be stupid! I’m happy with the way things are,” Beatriz snapped. “As long as I get to fight, I’m happy!”
Kevyn chuckled. “Alright, no need to get so angry.”
“You’re quite a brat for someone who’s been alive for at least 400 years. Your brain should have at least fermented.”
Beatriz stood up. “Bitch!” She brandished her scythe. “I’ll fucking kill you!”
Kevyn chuckled and jumped up with her hand covered with a blue aura. “Don’t make me do what I did to Daniel. You can take a shit-ton of physical damage but emotional damage…” Her light brown eyes glowed into gold. “I wonder…”
Suddenly, Beatriz’s fingers peeled themselves of her scythe. Her body began to move by itself before Kevyn put her down easy.
“I can’t kill you but you better watch that mouth of yours,” Kevyn warned. “You could get your princess killed with your barbaric thinking.”
Beatriz hissed as her body flopped on the floor. “Bitch,” she muttered.
The pirate shrugged. “Kevyn’s right, you know.”
“Oh fuck off! I can defend her just fine,” Beatriz spat.
“Doesn’t mean you have to keep attracting trouble. I remember the first time you guys sought my help. The whole tavern turned into a bloody mess!”
“The barkeep called me Goldilocks!”
“Did it mean turning everything into splinters?”
“Stop scolding me as if you’re my mom! Because you’re fucking not,” Beatriz shrieked. She stood up and stamped her foot on the ground. “You think you can change me for your own desires!? AS IF!”
“Nobody’s asking you to change,” Daniel retorted. “It’s called watch your temper.”
“Fuck off! You don’t know anything, Agent! For all we know, you’re a Sleeper Agent!”
“If I were, I would have left Samantha to her demise in Machinos!”
“WELL YOU FUCKING DID!”
Samantha quickly stood up and quickly moulded the rocks into a fist. Before everyone knew it, the fist flew and slammed against Beatriz’s jaw to send her to the ground. The knights and Kevyn gawked as Beatriz slowly looked up and saw Samantha’s disapproving expression.
“I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like to live during your time,” Samantha said. “But it doesn’t mean you have to impose your way on others.”
Beatriz’s eyes widened.
“Besides, is this what you want?” Samantha emphasized each word carefully. “Is violence the only answer you have to solve your problems? Cursing, cussing, having your scythe solve your problems – you would have been no better than the Mad Queen herself.”
It was for the first time Samantha saw something glitter in Beatriz’s eyes. The Dark Knight’s blue eyes watered and her hands trembled. Watching Beatriz’s shivering form, Samantha realized she had touched a nerve. The smaller girl bit her lower lip with her petite body trembling. But it wasn’t the usual sadistic and angry kind of trembling. This trembling showed more fear and shame; shame of being compared, and fear of something beyond her control.
“Anyway,” Daniel declared. “I’m going to bed.”
“Same here,” Brandon added. “I think we’ve had enough tension for the day.”
Kevyn turned over, sleeping with Blitzkrieg’s wing hovering over her. “Same. Night.”
Samantha nodded at the three before shaking her head at Beatriz, heading off to bed. “I’ve tolerated most of your violent outbursts. But Beatriz, I hope you’re capable of thinking beyond yourself.”
I hope you’re capable of thinking beyond yourself.
Those words echoed loudly in her mind. Beatriz shuddered. Had she been the cause of Samantha’s problems all this time? Fuck that, Beatriz growled to herself. There was just no way. All this time, she had been fighting and defending her! Wasn’t that enough? Her hands clenched tightly into fists as she felt something liquid fall from her eyes. She brushed her finger under eye to see a teardrop on her finger.
“Where did this come from,” Beatriz murmured to herself. “When… when was the last time I did this…?”
What!? But I’m better than her! I love you, mommy!
Beatriz shivered at the sound of those words. A hysterical Bianca at that time begged to be the inheritor of their mother’s power. She looked at her hand before shaking her head. Beatriz plucked one of the bags and fluffed it. As soon as she dropped her head, she took a look at the others. Samantha had fallen asleep along with Brandon and Daniel. Kevyn had also passed out.
“Idiots,” she hissed before falling into a dreamless sleep.
Morning became uneventful. Samantha had noticed that Beatriz had become increasingly quiet. Brandon and Daniel chatted away with Kevyn. The Dark Knight however often had her eyes travelling around as if searching for something. Her footsteps seemed to trudge through the dirt and her arms hung limp on her side. A sad smile curved her lips as she inched her way towards Beatriz.
“Hey,” she asked. “You okay?”
Beatriz nodded. “Yeah…” Her voice seemed to trail away.
“Kevyn’s not usually mean. She’s just a bit blunt.”
“It’s not that! I don’t give a fuck!”
Hearing the girl snap, Samantha shook her head. “I think you are. More than you think.”
As they reached the end of the mountain slope, Kevyn stopped and pointed ahead. “This is as far as I can take you. Just don’t get yourselves killed.”
Samantha nodded. “Promise me you’ll watch over Bubbles?”
“No need to ask. I watch over all the dragons in this mountain range,” Kevyn chuckled. “Now get the hell off their mountain. Less people, the better.”
Samantha nodded before turning to her knights. “Shall we?”
Daniel nodded. “We can head to the outpost 100 metres from here. It shouldn’t be a long walk.”
Beatriz raised an eyebrow. “Why aren’t you bringing your water-breathing lizard with you?”
Samantha shook her head. “People are going to hunt her down. She’s safer with Kevyn. At least she knows everything there is to dragons.”
The princess and her knights made their way down the slope before finding their way to the plains. Samantha shook her flats a few times, shaking out the pebbles. The princess however couldn’t help but feel that she disappointed Khanara. However, she felt in her heart that she was right. If she took Kevyn away, that was exactly what poachers would want: a clear shot at the dragons. She sighed deeply before looking up to the sky.
“Something bothering you, lass?” Brandon raised an eyebrow.
Samantha shook her head. “Not really. I’m just wondering how big the world really is.”
“Trust me lass, it’s a whole lot bigger than the books say.”
“I’m sure. I just hope I live long enough to see the world.”
“Princess, trust me. You will.”
Samantha blinked. “Really?”
“When you made me your knight, I had to protect you. Besides, Luke won’t let me rest until I do my duty.”
Speechless, Samantha could do nothing but smile. “Thank you, Brandon.”
“My pleasure, lass. Besides, I want me ship back,” Brandon chuckled.
Samantha and her party continued their way until they reached a small village. However, unlike Chemia, the place was completely empty. Tumbleweeds crossed the cobblestone pathways. All the doors were shut. The windows showed no signs of movement inside the house. The sunbeams lit the cobblestones with the black streetlights glimmering under the sun. The leaves danced with the whistling winds as the four of them stepped inside the village. However, Samantha suddenly felt a chill up her spine and stopped midway. Suddenly, she heard metal clinking and footsteps. The sounds of a sliding and cocking mechanism echoed in her ears. The princess turned around as her hair stood on all ends.
“Princess, you alright?” Daniel turned around.
Samantha shuddered. “Who else is here?”
Daniel shook his head. “I don’t hear anything.”
“There is! Can’t you hear it?”
Brandon didn’t know what she was talking about until he saw a red circle appear on Beatriz’s toe. “It’s an ambush!”
“Shit,” Beatriz growled and summoned her scythe and armour. “We walked straight into it!”
Brandon whipped out his two swords, deflecting incoming bullets. Samantha yelped and summoned rocks to form a shield around her. As more bullets flew, Samantha pitched rocks towards the source of the bullets. However, the rocks shattered as more bullets flew. Beatriz whirled her scythe and cleaved through many incoming bullets until one shot right through her armour. The Dark Knight gasped in shock as Samantha saw Beatriz freeze. The princess’ eyes widened with terror as she saw Beatriz’s palm covered with blood.
“Bea,” Samantha screamed in horror.
Brandon snapped his attention towards Beatriz before kicking another soldier down. However, someone bludgeoned him at the back of his head and sent him crashing to the ground. Samantha glared and slammed her foot into the ground as stones shot out. She flung them towards the soldiers as more came coming in. She formed a barrier over Beatriz and Brandon while trying to defend them both. Where’s Daniel, the princess wondered. However, that one moment in thought caught her off guard and a whip suddenly wrapped itself around her neck.
“Ah,” Samantha gasped and tried to pull it off.
The moment she focused her thoughts somewhere else, the barrier covering her fallen knights dropped. She struggled to pull off the whip from her throat, watching all the soldiers closing in on her. Suddenly, Daniel emerged, completely unscathed.
“Daniel,” she coughed. “Help!”
Daniel didn’t say anything as another male walked up to him. “Those acting classes were worth it, ain’t it AK?”
Daniel refused to answer his friend and instead spun his sniper-assault rifle around before slamming the butt of it into her head.
With that, all Samantha could remember was the butt of a hybrid rifle hitting her face and the horror at the realization that she had been duped.
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