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       The Kingdom through the Swamp: The Courts Divided - Book 1, p.10

           Kell Inkston
 
CHAPTER TEN: WORKING HARD, I SEE

  We find Order a few minutes later gulping more fairy wine while she contemplates her next move in chess.

  She reaches forward, grasps her knight, and checks Tylvania’s king.

  “Check,” Order says, swirling the glass of 899 Fayrland Fyre in her hand.

  “Vastly, good knight; your strategy befits one of your making,” Tylvania says with a tone of admiration. Order nods.

  “Kind of you to say, your highness,” she responds, gesturing towards the board to invite her opponent’s next move.

  Pitch is still lazing about, reading the second book in the Oscar La’Coss series of novels, proving to be a popular bunch of novels even here, though the main character is widely regarded to be human. Tylvania hums in thought, and then snaps her long, graceful fingers.

  “Hmmoh ... so how fares your mind on the recent events of your land?” Tylvania says as she brashly moves the queen straight up to cover the king. Order looks down, wonders if the wine’s already getting to Tylvania, and responds.

  “The war ... how I feel about it?” Order asks as she calmly moves her black bishop into Tylvania’s white queen. Tylvania cringes a moment, and sighs, realizing how foolish her move was.

  “Verily, knightess,” she says with a slight look of disappointment as she stares down the spot her queen used to be.

  “Well, to be honest, I dislike it, but I feel like it was unavoidable. The east has been ripe for this for a good many years with their recent technological advantage. Those fire arms are terrifying things; like spells inserted into little pieces of metal. Though I’m sure they’re more afraid of us.”

  “Have they all of these weapons?”

  “Yeah. We’ve gotten our hands on a few of them, but the problem is none of the Western Kingdoms have mines set to produce enough gun powder.”

  “Gun power ... these are the essence of these arms?”

  “Yeah. They apparently pour them in little metal shells, and all the actual fire arm does is hold the bullet and act as the triggering mechanism. Apparently when this mechanism hits the shell hard enough, it creates an explosion out the direction of the barrel,” Order says, moving another piece.

  “My ... such times certainly chills the fireless heart,” Tylvania says before releasing her first rook.

  “Definitely, and the West hasn’t been particularly effective at disarming the conflict either.”

  “Oh?”

  “I think maybe, as Chaos has been in hiding for a while doing ... you know, Chaos stuff, some of the younger blood in the kingdoms has been getting a bit hot.”

  “Violent youths?”

  “Yeah, Ragnivanian mostly. Kanvane has a way of burying their children in reading, Spirakander in work, and Whihelmish in drinks. There are so many Ragnivanian soldiers causing trouble now, that some people say the war is actually a good thing.”

  “The cruel realities of youth and war, I do fear.”

  Order nods. “It’s gotten to be quite a problem. I’m disappointed at the root of it.”

  “Oh?”

  “I felt like The Republic could have prevented this, but the generals seem to really want it. Everyone’s going to feel the effects from this, maybe even centuries to come. Neither factions have been in a major conflict for so long, they’re begging to kill something.”

  “But your people are of a more arcane sort.”

  “Even so, they have ten gunmen for every magician, and they have their own, though far less.”

  “Think ye any fashion in which the powers at hand might have clipped such cata- oh,” Tylvania stops in the middle of her question upon seeing Law rush in. Law raises a brow, seeing Order laxing unarmored in a chair with a glass of wine and a face a bit redder than he thinks appropriate, and decides she has her own ways of dealing with things.

  “Erm, pardon the intrusion,” he says, quickly bowing his head.

  “It’s fine, Law. What do you need?” Order asks, leaning into her chair as Tylvania moves her pawn up.

  “I come bearing serious news: the supposed soldier of Ragnivan.”

  “Yes?” Order asks as she takes a sip of her wine.

  “It almost killed us. It was a necroman-” Order spits out her wine.

  “A necromancer?” She asks, eyes wide and flashing couple of different colors.

  “That’s right. It was playing dead, presumably to kill the people sent to autopsy it.”

  “Then, Oa ...” Order marks under her breath.

  “That’s what I’m afraid of,” Law says, crossing his arms. Pitch, who has been listening in from the moment Law came in, looks up from his book.

  “My ears hear true, but my heart denies ... Oa, the lord of the necromancers, the first of the undying?” he asks, putting aside his reading, and leaning in.

  “It could only be that if the necromancers are mobilizing,” Order notes.

  “Verily, then, it must be approaching us for the one time our kind holds in the greatest admiration, The High Tea of the first realmlings,” Pitch states with wide eyes.

  “Aye, ‘tis quite the ordeal,” a voice speaks from aside the room. Everyone looks over to see Gallin, the courtly advisor.

  The dwarf, fairly tall for his race, stands upright with an iron posture, covered in part by his long, bright red, expertly-braided, generic fantasy dwarf beard. He moves forward with a sturdy, quiet walk. In his hand is a half-filled tankard, which he puts aside the moment he steps up to the table in the middle of the room.

  “Ahh, good Gallin. He who owns my ear in every ordeal worthwhile. Be ye aware of our visitors, our accomplices in this business of peace?” Pitch asks, nodding over to Order. Gallin nods slowly, keeping a sharp eye on Law, who frowns.

  “Aye, indeed I am. I canna’ help but overhear the mention of necromancers,” he notes quietly, quickly locking his gaze over to Order.

  “That’s right. They attacked me and my assistant knight down in your very own death room. It was lying in wait,” Law says, labeling himself the current expert on the situation.

  “I see. So, hrm, Knight Law, was it?”

  “... Yes.”

  “I am curious. Have you brought any proof of the corpse’s identity?” he asks with a subtle rising of the brow. Law scoffs.

  “Well of course! All we need to do is go on down there and ... damn.”

  “Pardon me, mate?”

  “Eh, I mean, I don’t have any proof.” Law looks to the side.

  “Oh, but you killed it, didn’t you?” This is said with a tone of mock confusion.

  “...Yes.”

  “So why is there no evidence to present the people? Won’t they be suspicious of a cover up?” the dwarf says, stroking his beard as he leads Law along the obvious route.

  “I burned it… to a crisp.”

  “Aye, as expected of your kind, so prone to emotion.”

  “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

  “You dragon-bastards are incapable of logical discourse, mate. Yer all ignorant, blithering animals, capable of nothing else but killing n’--” Gallin stops short, hearing a disapproving hum from Pitch.

  “Animals? Ironic coming from a dwarf,” Law breaths back, imagining how easily he could kill this short creature.

  “You got a problem with dwarves, mate?” Gallin asks with a wide smile. Law looms over the dwarf, making the difference in stature blatantly clear.

  “Why wouldn’t I?” Rayull spits, burning fumes wafting from in-between his fortress of teeth.

  “Oh, and what’s this?” a calm, collected voice rings from the main hall. Everyone looks again to find Love and Lain.

  “Stay out of this!” Law snaps as his eyes whiten with rage.

  “Mmm, no, I don’t think that’s quite right, Mister tough guy Law.” Rayull draws back in shock, as if he were just struck by an invisible force.

  “Don’t mock me!”

  “Oh, and why not? Such impolite demeanor towards foreign diplomats is something worth mo-”


  “You didn’t hear what he said about me, about my kind!”

  “That doesn’t change the fact that you’re failing in your duty to be a respectful and reserved Knight of Reinen,” Love coos back amidst the shocked onlookers.

  “And let this bearded turd disrespect my kind?”

  “You earn respect by being an example, Hosy. You’re quite wro--”

  Love is silenced as Law promptly slaps her across the face. The fairies draw jolt in shock, and Order gets up to her feet. She’s usually pretty lax with her inferiors, but this is unacceptable.

  “Knight Law! Stand at attent--” Order is halted, as Love raises up her finger for time. Love, showing no signs of discomfort, looks up to Law, and himself down to her. There is a short pause, and then Love gestures with her head for Law to come step out with her.

  “I’ll be just a moment, you all. I have some fairly disturbing news to present with my investigation,” Love says, putting others in front of the mission as she usually does. A moment passes of intense silence, and then the two step out of the room and down the hall as Law calms himself. Gallin scoffs.

  “Dragonlings- No one told me the knights would be dragging one here,” he says.

  “You should be more careful with them, Gallin. They take a good deal of pride in their race, faults and all,” Order says, retaking her seat.

  “I do as I please, ambassador knight. Unlike you, I have extensi-” Gallin halts his speech as he hears a snicker from Tylvania, and a scoff from Pitch. Order sighs, and waits for herself to be identified to the dwarf. “Eh, what’s the matter?”

  “Good Gallin, surely the drink weighs heavy on your mind, as you would recognize the woman in front of you be gallant Order, slayer of ... the number of twelve during the wars of great blood, if I’m correct,” Pitch explains, referring to Order’s hand in the extermination wars.

  “Fourteen, actually,” Order corrects plainly.

  She was never a big fan of killing the noble dragons, but it’s hard when they’re so set on destroying everything you’ve spent your life building.

  Gallin’s expression lightens with fear.

  “O-of ... oh! Order! My greatest apologi- eh well. I had no idea it was you ... you know, without your armor and Monument drawn I eh ... had no idea you were so ...”

  “You can be honest,” she allows.

  “... Tall?” he says, quickly attempting flattery.

  “Short; thank you, and yes, it is me. Redemption sent me specifically on the chance that Chaos” might be involved, though that doesn’t look like the case anymore,” she explains, wondering how Gallin keeps his job being smashed by drink as much as he is.

  Pitch sighs.

  “Well there’s a matter in the essence of that thought. We still haven’t evidence great enough to outweigh the doubt of our people, especially the court of the forest, who seem all too sure of your many kingdom’s piece in this,” Pitch says, stating that, while he is the king, and trusts Order, many younger others do not, and might attempt to overthrow him for negligence. Order nods.

  “We’ll have to wait and see what Love has to offer. She’s done this sort of thing a few times. That aside, as Oa and its necromancers currently seem like the most likely option, we’ll have to prepare for the chance that it’ll pay a visit ... In all my years I’ve never seen it in person,” Order says.

  “Aye, few have, even less living to tell of it,” Gallin states, attempting to redeem himself in the conversation after mistaking Order as a common knight.

  “Let us be still then, and hold time in eager regard as we await the arrival of your accomplice,” Tylvania suggests, waving toward the chess board. The others agree, but just before Order makes her next move, Love returns.

  “Law offers his utmost apologies for his brash behavior, and will return after he’s gotten a drink at a nearby tavern. Now then, my news,” Love re-greets, the singed-red mark of the slap still bright across her face. The others exchange glances and look back at Love.

  “Necromancers?” Order asks. Love draws back with surprise.

  “Oh! However did you guess?”

  “Law had the same matter. How’s Lain?”

  “Fine, I gave him leave for the rest of the night.”

  “Did you, perchance, catch it alive?” Gallin butts in. Love hums in thought.

  “Well, I wouldn’t exactly say ‘catch’ but it probably is still alive.”

  “... Probably? Lass, we need it alive as proof of the Western Kingdom’s innocence. Without the necromancer, I doubt Pitch will be able to persuade the people it was not of human treachery,” Gallin says with a stern expression. Love bites her thumb in thought.

  “Oh, that so?”

  “Where exactly did you put it, Meeo?” Order asks, pretty sure of the answer, but asking in the hope that she didn’t actually. Love hums and looks aside sheepishly.

  “Well… I suppose I may have allowed it into Everlo-”

  “Damn,” Order exclaims as Love finishes her sentence, “looks like we don’t have much to go on, then,” Order says, tapping the table nervously. Love lets out a light, humorous sigh.

  “Well, actually, I could just enter Everlock myself and get it,” she offers, quickly sharpening the expression of concern on Order’s face.

  “This isn’t the time for jokes, Meeo.”

  “Oh, I’m quite serious.” Order’s expression darkens.

  “You’d be killed.”

  “I know it’s connected to a lower minus space, but to try and have me kick the bucket would probably be better than starting another war,” Love says with a smile. Order pauses a moment amidst the others; they have no idea what they’re talking about, but it sounds pretty intense.

  “Alright, good luck,” Order says, raising her glass under the impression that this is probably the last time she will see her friend; though she knows she couldn’t stop Love even if she were to command her not to.

  “Well then, no time like the present,” Love says as she pulls out Everlock, quickly causing several expressions of awe from among the fairy folk. She steps over to a position in the room that would not endanger the others, and turns to Order as she steps in front of the door.

  “Ranalie,” Love addresses with perfect confidence as she looks from the side of the door to her commander. There is a slight pause, and then she speaks.

  “Yes?” Order says.

  “Do me a favor and take care of Law for me, won’t you? Just in case something happens to me. He’s pretty buttery on the inside.”

  Order averts her gaze. “... Yeah.”

  “Take care, then,” Love says as she assumes poise, expecting this to be more of a minor inconvenience than a life or death situation; though her old friend feels differently. Order’s never heard of someone walking in and out of minus-space dimensions, though Love’s done it in secret quite a few times.

  Order quickly gets up and promptly steps over to her friend. Ranalie hugs Meeo, and buries her face into her shoulder.

  “I- ... I would prefer you didn’t go,” Order says, unsure of the dangers her friend will face. Love embraces Order in turn, and delivers a wide, almost motherly smile.

  “Oh, you. There’s nothing to worry about. It’s just one life for many, a pretty nice trade I’d say. I promise that I’ll do the best I can to get the necromancer back here and impress everyone and make sparkles, okay?” Love says with a deep peace about her. Order’s eyes, showing a sorrowful deep blue, shimmer as she nods.

  “I’ll miss you ... if you, you know,” Order says, holding one of her oldest friends. Love nods.

  “Don’t worry. I’ll do my job the best I can, and you do yours the best you can- alright?” Love says. Order sighs, says “yes,” and releases Meeo from her embrace.

  “Take care, Meeo.”

  “And you, Ranalie,” Love says as Order steps away from the door. Love winks at Order, and then turns to face the door.

  Love takes a deep breath, readies her hand and then, in an eye-blink ins
tant, opens the door, leaps in before she is assaulted by the unfathomable mass that awaits at the other side, and closes it shut behind her. Everlock stands vigilant, waiting for its next entrant. There is a short silence, and then Order looks over to the others.

  “I suppose we should also discuss what we’ll do in case she doesn’t return,” Order says blankly. Pitch shakes his head.

  “Nay, good knight; the hour grows late. Let us settle in our backs into their holders and dream upon its entirety. I will send out fairies to bid your knights to their clothy chambers. Be you amiable to such plea?” Pitch asks, knowing Order well enough to guess that she’ll need some time to get over this. Order puts down her glass, and straightens herself.

  “Yeah, you’re right ... thanks.”

  “Ever a pleasure to please,” Pitch says. Order turns to the chess board to finish, and moves in her queen, slaying Tylvania’s queen and check-mating the king into her own pawns. Tylvania sighs and shakes Order’s hand as the two call it match.

 
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