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The kingdom through the.., p.33
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       The Kingdom through the Swamp: The Courts Divided - Book 1, p.33

           Kell Inkston

  Meeo wakes up outside in Liefland’s grand square, her clothing pulled up to reveal her stomach. Looking to her left and right, she spots Order, Law and Dresmond, all bound next to her with their stomachs vulnerable as well. Around them is a sizable crowd of angry, excited fairy-folk.

  “Ha! This lass just woke up!”

  “Necromancer friend, die prepare to!”

  “Suffer for your grave evils!” are among of the few shouts she hears as Law turns to her.

  “Evening,” a bruised, spit-covered Law asks, the first to awaken. Love notes that his shirtless body, constricted in magic binds, has the marks of strain on them; he’s been trying to break them.

  “Oh, good evening, Law. How are you?” she asks, flopping on her side to see him.

  “Good, now help me get out of these bonds. You have a spell or something, right?” he asks as his muscles bristle under the binds. Love looks down at her hands, and notices there are mana-flow-sealing notes on them.

  “It seems that I don’t,” she says with a chuckle.

  “You’re kidding? I’m not going to die like this.”

  “Hmm, are you afraid of dying?”

  “Hah, I welcome it, but we are bound in honor to complete our mission! Besides, my ancestors would laugh if I were to die a prisoner, and the Allbeing would cry if I were to die before completing my duty. I won’t be dying here, for myself, and for the good of everything,” Law says with a wide, unafraid grin.

  There is a pause between the two amidst the foresty air and then Love nods just as she’s hit with a half-eaten apple.

  “G-good, I’d have it no other way,” Love says with a wide, calm smile matching “Hosey’s” in its fearlessness. Rayull turns to look up at the stars, says “yeah,” and returns to exerting himself against the vines holding him to the ground.

  Law’s struggle lasts for about five more minutes until Order begins muttering to herself; she seems to be having a dream. Love turns her head over to Order and blows hard, turning up her white hair a bit; she quickly breaks a smile.

  “R-roem, please!” she says with a sort of playful glee that’s strange for her. Love blows hard for a moment, and decides she’s is unable to wake her. Meeo hums and then looks over to one of the fairies in the crowd. She gets their attention and gestures over to Order with her eyes.

  Taking the hint, a four-year-old dwarf tosses his mostly-finished lolly-pop at the unconscious Order, causing her to jolt awake instantly. It takes her a moment to get herself together, but the youthful, free joy on her face quickly fades to the Order everyone knows the moment she takes proper account of her situation. She sighs and speaks:

  “The execution, then?” she says.

  “That’s right.”

  “Why yes, Ran,” Law and Love affirm respectively.

  “Great ... So we’ve failed.”

  “Seems that way,” Love responds with a smirk.

  “... And I don’t suppose anyone’s coming to help.”

  “We don’t know that yet, actually. It was Dresmond’s assignment,” Law says, speaking with surprising-stability for someone forcing everything they have against their bindings. Order raises a moonlight brow, and pushes herself up just enough to spot the unconscious Spiralkandrin boy with a large amount of grief on his features, vined-up at the far end. Ranalie returns to her neutral position.

  “This isn’t fair. Dresmond can’t be more than twenty, and they’re about to execute ‘em,” she starts, finally realizing the last time she was here in Liefland was a whopping three hundred years ago; allowing more than enough generations for a people to go nuts.

  “That’s the station of the Knights,” Law notes plainly as the sunset hues in the sky fade into blues.

  “It is, but it shouldn’t be. Knights should die to necromancers, criminals, crazy-ass wizards, wayward dragonkin—”

  “Pardon me, mam?” Law asks with a half-humored growl.

  “Don’t act like it doesn’t happen. Dragons, orcs, anything out of society’s line ... and Chaos, dammit! They should die to things that should actually be threatening! But what the hell even happened to these people!?”

  “Fairyfolk,” Law notes, making sure the distinction between them is clear.

  “No, Law. They are, like anything that speaks, worthy of a person’s respect ... well, maybe not ... anything, but Humans, Fairy-kind, Dragon-kin--”

  “Thank you.”

  “Sure: Void Types, Orcs, Trolls, Drowgen, Ruseils, and any of the crazy whatever-they-ares we see in subspace; they should die protecting these people. It’s a little damn hard though when there are societies like this one that try to kill you for helping! Like, who the hell even educated these people? They’re stupid, stupid and xenophobic,” Order says amidst a hail of objects and saliva hurling at her.

  “Order, you need to calm down; this won’t he--”

  “Aw, shut up, Meeo! You know this was all someone else’s fault, and now if a miracle doesn’t happen soon, we’re dead thanks to his stupidity! It’ll end! I’ll be a failure! I’ll die and Chaos will still share our Earth ... Ten thousand years and I couldn’t even make him move to another dimension ... What have I done with all my time? What was my worth?!” Order chastises herself, instantly surprising Law; he’s never seen her complain about anything.

  “Lord Knight General,” Rayull says. Order sighs, takes a deep breath, and remembers all the times that were as close as this.

  “Yes, Law?” she returns with a calmer, though still stressed demeanor.

  “Don’t give up hope. Maybe ... maybe the fairies would be willing to help for when Oa comes,” he says, winning expressions of surprise from both of the lady Knights; neither expected him to be so open to the idea of trusting the very same people that were entrusted with the torture and execution of his ancestors.

  “You want to reason with them?” Order asks, making sure Law isn’t indirectly suggesting a giant shield made out of fairy-bones.

  “... Well, yes. It’s pretty obvious I can’t break out of these, even using fire, and all of our magic is bound, so perhaps they’ll be willing to hear from the criminals themselves,” he suggests as he lets up on the vines that have shown no signs of tearing from the past fifteen minutes of force.

  Order overlooks the crowd, an angry, quite-beautiful bunch numbering several hundred from as far as she can see around herself. She takes a breath.

  “Noble Fairies of Liefland, turn your listening to here, this miserable spot held by unfair convict,” Order begins with a louder, more authoritative voice, quickly gaining suspicious, interested glances from the surrounding square.


  “What lies have you to tell now?” are among some of the responding voices in the crowd.

  “I will be sky-clear to you, noble, gentle creatures: you have been tricked! Our sort, though from far off way like the kind of the dead, hold no avarice to your souls. We desire your prosperity, not your destruction, your happiness, not your misery. Release us and we shall keep our promise, and shield you from the oncoming evil.”

  “And of what sort is this?! You offend us with your patronizing squabbling!”

  “Lies and treachery, as expected!” she hears in response as the sky darkens into twilight. Meeo coos strangely as she watches the sky darken, and turns to Ranalie.

  “We’re running out of time, Ran. Mind if I go ahead and give it a try?” Meeo asks with a smile over to her friend. Order nods and Love begins. “Oh, I quite disagree, fairies,” Love says simply with more grace than Order’s ever heard a person hold herself with when constrained to the ground. The unified vision of the square now shifts to her as Dresmond pulls himself from a dream.

  “Good luck,” Order whispers.

  “Oy, why’sat?” a random dwarf asks Love.

  “Everything my commander said was the truth, and we know because we have been fighting these necromancer folks for a long time. Oh, but wait,” she says, effectively quieting down the
crowd right before another outburst, “I can prove it, too!” she finishes, silencing the yelling and rage amongst the audience as Gallin approaches the center of the square’s amphitheater.

  “How so?”

  “Tell us!”

  “Yeah, sure,” only three of the many voices call out. Love, with a confident look on her face, clears her throat to provide some sort of additional pause before she lays down the prediction.

  “Well, I’d bet that while Gallin makes his speech things will get really misty and the necromancers will come.”

  “Yeah, and you know this because you’re with them!” an indignant, sissy-elf voice cries out.

  “No, I know this because that’s how necromancers tend to appear because we’ve beat them up so many times. Now, perhaps you’re a fan of having your tea parties ruined here in Liefland, I don’t know because I’m a foreigner, but I really think you should trust me when I say, humbly, we’re the best people here for the job of getting rid of these nasty, vile necromancers, and that you should trust us t--”

  “Not a soul here cares for your lies, human.” Gallin says with crowd-silencing authority the moment he tires of the human’s attempts at gaining their freedoms. Cheers erupt from all about as the Tallest of Dwarves takes the podium.

  “Oh, are you so sure?” Love says with a confidence about her that Gallin would take great joy in removing. Gallin simply chortles at the thought of fairies actually being swayed by human trickery. He wouldn’t say it were he asked, but he’s quite thrilled to be killing Love especially; something about her that makes his stomach churn.

  “Very sure. Now, listen well, my brothers and sisters of the fair queen. We take out our lives in this land of leaves, this Liefland to protect ourselves from those that would rally up to have us destroyed. We have four such spies here in our midst. It took our best agents to discover that they have been working in secret with the necromancers!” he says as he presents the four helpless Knights. His monologue is encouraged by the collective cheer of the fairy folk, eager to feel secure from the thought of the humans possibly being right about the necromancer’s approach. “These horrible, lying, evil, dragon-licking warmongers have come to blind our senses as the necromancers move upon us, but I can assure you it has all been taken care of. The necromancers have been defeated for I, Gallin, have dispatched our most-elite group of fairies to dispose of them in their secret base. We had our kingdom’s finest tracker go with them and follow the traitor’s route to and from the base. We will see them parade straight into this very square in a matter of moments, triumphant in their battle against the vile necromancers, dragon-kin, and humans in their underground stronghold. They will arrive to the dying screams of these three evil humans, and one dragon-man!” he notes, the crowd hissing in disgust when he points to the humbled Rayull. “As such, they are due for execution. Traitors to the Crown of Light are all treated the same way, given the most painful demise our world has to offer, as living, squirming soil-food for prized crying crillions!” Gallin says amidst the fever-pitch of cheering as he states both what’s obvious and what’s most exciting to the fairies.

  With a very smooth, graceful, un-dwarf-like gesture, he motions to the winter gardener, the designated executioner, to bring out the crying crillion seeds. They’re thick, wide, dagger-like seeds, the sharp point meant to be pressed into the ground or, in this case, a living creature.

  Dresmond promptly breaks out into a cold sweat as he clenches his fists.

  “Are you afraid?” Law asks, watching the veiled winter gardener display the fist-sized seeds for the entire crowd to see. Dresmond lets loose a quick, quiet puff of air from his lungs.

  “Yes. Aren’t you?” the boy says with an honest fear in his eyes. Rayull never noticed before, but the lad is very striking when he’s not concealed by his hood; he has both prominent Spirakandrin and Kanvanian features to his face.

  “I am, but I’ll be ready when we get our chance to escape,” the dragon-kin says with a glare far-more confident than Dresmond would expect of a person about to be executed by his nemeses.

  “... You think we’ll be okay then?”

  “I know we will. Love has it all squared away. Did you contact Redemption?” Law asks.

  “I did. I hope you’re right,” Dresmond says amid the frantic cheering of the crowds when the winter gardener brings the seeds to the group towards the far left; apparently he’ll be starting with Order.

  “I am. She’s never failed anyone,” Hos’Rayull says with a ridged grin, saying something he knows isn’t true; she was never there for him when he needed her the most. In reality he really only has himself to blame; however, for each time he could have talked to her at the breakfast table, he kept dialogue to a minimum and instead kept his nose buried in one of his martial arts books. His office has bookshelves of them, each one testament to one step closer he could be to his guardian, but isn’t.

  “Oh, Hosey. You’re too kind,” Love says with a smile, her life’s failures flashing through her mind. Law nods.

  “Thanks ... mother,” Rayull says as the executioner kneels down and looms over Order with the first seed. Order’s eyes are the coldest blue imaginable; she’s not ready to die. Just as the winter gardener gets close enough for Order to see through his hood, she feels a sharp, godless chill run down her spine; not one of fear, but of foreboding, intense magic.

  Order has developed her senses to pick it up the moment it is nearby: the mana-signature of Overlord Chaos. It is a signature so unmistakably large, so brutishly-unapologetic in its power. It’s like he isn’t even trying to conceal it. He’s nearby, possibly somewhere in the crowd. Her frown turns to shame, imagining that he could be watching her death, grinning like he always does.

  ‘Now then, we could request for last words from our little criminals, but they’ll be singing songs for days to come! They have plenty of time to cry and regret their decisions! Winter gardener, plant the first seed!’ Gallin commands with more joy than the four prisoners find quite appropriate for the situation. The Winter Gardener positions the first seed over Order’s uncovered abdomen, decorated with jovial, ornate markings to display precisely where the gardener will plant the seed, and then pushes into her ceremoniously.

  Order cries out as her muscles reflexively tense around the seed as if it were a blade. She grasps at the ground as if trying to find something to hold onto as cheers from all around her overpowers her single yelp of agony. She takes a deep breath and opens her eyes, restored and waiting for Chaos to appear.

  Just now, a thick fog rolls in from the woods, encroaching upon the square; only Love ... and her Overlord, who is here now, pays it mind.

  “Next criminal!” Gallin says with a laugh mixed in, certain the shows the other three will put on will be much livelier than Order’s. The gardener moves to Love and prepares the next seed. Love gives the gardener a calm, long smile, which takes him a moment to process before he does the deed, and then positions the seed over her core to plunge it inside of her. It is here that he is interrupted.

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