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The kingdom through the.., p.2
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       The Kingdom through the Swamp: The Courts Divided - Book 1, p.2

           Kell Inkston
 
CHAPTER TWO: FROM THE FRONT TO THE BACK

  The Lord Knight General Order steps from New Reinen's space gate, a large rune-engraved portal that serves as either a beginning or an end for magic travels like this. She steps down from the gate into New Reinen's center square, glances over three young recruits, two of which who promptly salute and one that just stumbles in shock and confusion. She passes the training grounds into the executive office of the Royal Knights of The Old Kingdom of Reinen- the first and final true line between the Western Kingdoms and total oblivion.

  Order stands in the entryway a moment, takes a breath and waves a hand along her cheek as she speaks words from one of the many magic languages she knows. Suddenly, her flushed face returns to its former, pale state and her dilated pupils sharpen in focus. She finds magic that neutralizes alcoholic influences to be among her favorites when it comes to everyday life.

  The now sober Order passes through the silver halls, each window ridged with flower planters and moves across the regal burgundy carpets up to Redemption's office. Sitting in one of the chairs to the side is a hulking, broad knight, a dragon-kin: the magically-created crossbreed of human and dragon that once threatened the entirety of human civilization. To his side is a mace and shield, both the size of a person and hewn from the solid rock of the southern canyons.

  "Knight Law," Order greets him, bowing her head as she passes. The hulking mass of scales, teeth and muscles nods back.

  "Sir... By the way, Lord Knight Captain Redemption told me to wait for you and some third knight," he says, eying the chair next to him. Order stops at the door to Redemption's office.

  "So, you and I and someone else will be going on an assignment?"

  "S'what I've been told," he mutters through his bulwark of white teeth.

  "Very well," Order says, taking a seat next to Law in the rose-scented hall, laying her eyes on the rays of sun gleaming from the stained-glass windows. Order’s quiet a moment and looks at the sunlight as Law inspects his boots, both of the knights silent.

  "S'what have you been up to during the war?" Law asks.

  "I've been with the Blue Company up north," Order responds.

  "Leading, sir?"

  "Yes."

  "Ahh- I hear it's been fairly easy for you."

  "Mhmm- no matter how advanced the East's technology becomes, magic is realms above it."

  "Agreed."

  "And yourself?"

  "I've been in the Yellow Company," Law says, his words skewed with a sigh. Order raises a brow.

  "The front lines? How is it?"

  "I have no idea why the ministry of war didn't put you there. This war would be over. Your magic can resist any of their monstrosities of science- you could just walk into camp and kill them all."

  "I think you overestimate me," Order says as she stares ahead, smirking on the side.

  "I'm certain you're just being humble, sir."

  "Perhaps, but a Dragon-kin like you wouldn't have a problem with being on the front lines, would you?"

  "Not really, my armor s'thick it deflects bullets; only thing I need to look for are the cannon shots."

  "Cannon?" Order asks, turning her head to the word. Law shakes his head, his long mail clinking with each change of direction.

  "Really big firearms that they move on wheels- saw one shoot a Ragnivanian boy's head right off."

  "Like magic bolts?" She asks with a squint.

  "Yes."

  Order draws back into her seat and raises a brow in intrigue. "Interesting... but to be honest I don't think I would be of as much help there with you."

  "Why's that?"

  She raises her brows frankly. "I don't kill people if I can prevent it."

  He sharpens his gaze. "What do you mean?"

  "I've been around way too long, Law. I lost my taste for killing people quite a while ago- especially innocents who are forced to fight by their rulers," Order says calmly. Law snorts out a breath of hot air, staring at the wall alongside her.

  "You mur-… well, defeated many dragons in the Extermination Wars. They feel as much pain as a human would; what makes them s’different?" Law asks, turning his gaze directly on her. Order pauses in thought. If she answered honestly and said 'it's because they're not human,' it would imply that a dragon-kin like Law would only be half human and thus only half important.

  "I didn't hate the dragons, Rayull," Order says, calling Law by his true name, "but they threatened humanity, the fairies, and everyone else," she adds. Law scrapes his boot against the marble floor with an easy motion as he lets out a quick, gentle scoff.

  "Call me Law. And then after you removed the dragons, you removed the orcs. Only the fairies still have their own land outside of humanity's grasp."

  "That's not my responsibility, and it's not my fault. They waged war, and you need to remember I'm a soldier, not a ruler. I don’t make the decisions."

  "S'why do you suddenly turn away from killing humans?

  "I follow my orders. If I'm placed on the front line, I'll do it and I'll take care of it- that's it. I won’t enjoy it, but I’ll do it if I have to," Order says, straightening her gaze forward. Law stares at Order for a few seconds and then turns back to inspect his weapon.

  "I suppose that's sensible, sir. I just think you could be of more help elsewhere. If you cared s'much about human lives, why don't you just march into the Eastern Capital and threaten to kill him if he doesn't stop the war?"

  "You know my real job, Law."

  "The ‘Chaos Slayer?’"

  "It's the popular title, but I hate it personally."

  "Why's that?"

  "It implies that I ever killed him."

  "You're right, sir; I'm sorry. It must be hard, not being able to leave the Western Kingdoms in the case that he should attack," Law says, stealthily eying the lady next to him for any facial movement.

  "It's been a long life to live in one place. I've seen much of the world, almost every corner and nook, but sometimes I wonder how much more I would have seen if I weren't waiting for Chaos."

  "I suppose it's a job someone needs t'do. Thank you for your service," Law says, now looking at her from the side more blatantly. Order sees a spark of real respect in his eyes.

  "And yours," She says with a nod.

  "But unlike you, I'm allowed to go on leave. You sacrifice much more than any of us."

  "You're wrong there, I'm still here after almost seven thousand years, in this waiting room we call life. There are people who have given much more than I and have moved on."

  Law squints at Order. “Do you seek death?"

  "No, I’m happy, but I think anyone would get a little bitter about millennia passing once you start… forgetting people. You meet someone, shake their hand, fall in love with them and then the next thing you recall is the sight of their headstone. It was so strange, being young; it's like a dream now."

  "You are considered a savant when it comes to longevity magic, and even with all the close calls you've had, you’ve survived. I'm sorry if I came off as disrespectful, I didn’t mean to make you sound less than you are." Law says. Order shakes her head.

  Not a word is spoken for half a minute, as both struggle to find something to talk about that the other would appreciate.

  "You're in your eighties now, right?" Order asks turning again to Law.

  "Yes. The challenges of being a Dragon-kin in a society of humans is... unique."

  "I'd imagine. How's Meeo been?"

  "We haven't talked," Law says. Order hums.

  "For how long?"

  "A few months. I have no idea what she's doing; probably something petty and childish as usual."

  "I understand you find her a bit flippant, but that's no reason to say that about the person who raised you."

  "Don't remind me. Her love was smothering. I'm not a human. I can take care of myself."

  "I don't doubt you can, but I'd say she did a fairly good job raising you those fifty years."

  "Thank you, sir."


  "My pleasure, Law."

  "Yes, I suppose it's just irritating being around her. She still treats me like I'm a hatchling, and a Dragon-kin finishes that stage at about five years old. I just hate it that s'still gets on my case about things like finding a girlfriend or studying for my knight exams. We've… drifted apart."

  Order nods in thought just before she feels a very unique presence approaching them. Being magically attuned, Order can easily pick out specific people within a kilometer radius just based on their personal magic signatures. She smirks.

  "So, what would you say to her if she were here now?" Order asks, looking down the hall intently.

  "I'd tell her to grow up. Adults, let alone adults thousands of years old, should act as if they grew out of being a child. I'd tell her that coloring books are for children, that people grow out of lullabies and bedtime stories, and that people who refuse to become adults refuse to improve themse--"

  "Oh, Hosy, Ran! Hello!" coos a friendly, almost motherly voice from behind Law. Law cringes and slowly turns his head.

  The two spot the colorful, dyed hair and dreamy, cloud-set eyes of an old acquaintance. As usual she has a whimsical, aloof smile across her face and carries the overpowering smell of incense. Order smiles and Law promptly scowls.

  “You’re kiddi--”Order cuts off Law by shoving him lightly. Law sighs.

  “Meeo, hello!” Order greets Love with a bow.

  “Good afternoon, Knight Love,” Law grumbles. Meeo Letlind, titled “Love” by The Royal Knights of The Old Kingdom of Reinen Titles Committee, steps up to them, looks about a moment as if there is a ghost flying around in the room, and then focuses in on her two fellow knights.

  “Hiyo! Are you both good this peculiar day?” Love asks. Law pushes out a breath of hot air as if he were about to cook Love alive.

  “Have some respect, Knight Love. Call us by our titles unless you intend to discredit yourself,” Law warns with a scowl, showing off his sharp teeth. Love looks at Law with her usual, unchanging smile.

  “Oh?” she coos, “Okay then, Mister Lord Sergeant Knight Commander of the Royal Knights of the Old Kingdom of Reinen, I.D. number 3,982, Fourth-in-Command in the Yellow Company of the Eastern wars held upon the Gaingr--”

  “Funny, just my title,” Law interrupts.

  “You mean Mister Lord Ser-”

  “Love, come on,” Order cuts in with a smirk, hearing another distressed huff from Law. Love hums, moves her head about in thought, and nods.

  “Very well,” Love says as she takes a seat next to Law, who groans. Love then turns to Law and smiles.

  “So, you didn’t answer my question,” she reminds while delivering a kindly poke.

  “Yeah? What’s that?”

  “How are you, Law?” she says.

  “I’m fine.”

  Love grins and hugs Law. The dragon-kin shudders on contact.

  “Ohhh! I’m so happy to hear that! You know I’ve been worried about you, all of the other knights seem so happy to talk, but you never seem to have the time!” Love says as she rubs her soft cheek on Law’s shoulder pauldron. Order grins crassly.

  “Let me be, Knight Love. I don’t have time for your childish shenanigans.”

  “Oh, what? You were always so playful when you were just a little hatchli-”

  “I see you haven’t changed in the past year at all, Knight Love,” Law says, doing his best to defend his image in front of Order before Meeo tarnishes it with an embarrassing story about his childhood. Law pushes Love from him and crosses his arms as he turns away.

  “Mmm? Fine. Whatever you say, Hosy-Po-“

  “Order, please make her stop! She’s disrespecting the honor of her fellow knight, yet again,” Law pleads, interrupting Love the moment before she could utter his childhood nickname.

  “Hmm, Love,” Order begins. Love laughs and nods to Order, well aware of what she is going to say.

  “Alright, Order. I’m done,” she says with a long, knowing smile as she sits properly with her feet to the ground.

  “Thank you, Meeo,” Order says. Love giggles lightly.

  “Of course- of course. So how have you been, Order?”

  “I’ve been very well, thank you. You?” Order says.

  “Oh, oh I guess I’m okay, just been reading, various things about various things, you know,” Love says, shuffling about one of her many pockets and in armor compartments to locate a piece of paper, crumpled up and stained with a liquid smelling of chamomile.

  “Reading what, might I ask?” Love restores the note to readability by unfolding it and holds it up to Order with both hands.

  “This, along with a novel series I’ve been checking out recently using temporal-anomaly object collection. I was only able to find the second book in the series so far, but I’m sure I’ll find the others soon enough. Really do want to find out what happens to those poor ring bearers,” Love says.

  “Just like you to use realmancy to find books that haven’t been written yet,” Order says as she looks at the piece of paper.

  Realmancy is an incredibly specialized type of magic that only a small handful of people in the Omniverse can use with any degree of success; it deals with the collecting and interaction of objects that do not (or should not) exist. That said realmancy is quite the complex ordeal and is considered a craft of the insane, which what a lot of people certainly see Meeo Letlind, A.K.A. Knight Love, as.

  Order nods, says “interesting” to be polite and then reads the note. It’s also a summons by the leader of The Knights, Lord Captain Redemption.

  “A summons, same as mine,” Order says, returning the letter. Love raises a brow in interest.

  “Oh? I wonder why. Might he have something for the three of us?” Love guesses, tilting her head just a bit to the side.

  “That’s what Law heard. We were both called from the war too. What were you doing?” Order asks, leaning forward to look across Law to Love. Love hums and lightly pokes her cheek.

  “I was spending time with the nice people in the black company, actually,” Love says, receiving looks of surprise from Order and Law, sitting at her left.

  “No way,” Law says, looking aside.

  “Really now? Didn’t think you would be... you know...” Order pauses, trying to come up with the correct words for someone who’s been placed in the most brutal, murderous company, tasked with high-class assassination and espionage missions.

  “I’ve been getting that a lot, actually. I don’t find much of a problem with it,” Love says as she scratches the side of her cheek.

  “Yeah, sure. What did they have you do, read the operators bedtime stories?” Law asks with a wry smirk.

  “Hmm, I did a thing or two. Nothing very special,” Love says with a smile, “I presume you were read to in your company? Was anyone there to tuck you i-” Love halts her question the moment the doors open to the office. Knight Sensitivity steps out, his raven black hair, smooth Spirakandrin skin, and armor looking as well-groomed as usual.

  “Hello, Order, Law, Love,” he says with a smile and a nod as he passes them.

  The other three greet him back. Sensitivity disappears into his office with his new assignment. The three pause expectantly. They can hear the sound of papers, rustling.

  “Alright; thank you all for waiting. Get in here,” a kind, but controlling voice instructs from inside the office. The three Knights rise from their seats and enter the office of their leader, Lord Captain Redemption, the man most responsible for the safety of the millions who live in the Western Kingdoms.

 
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