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The kingdom through the.., p.4
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       The Kingdom through the Swamp: The Courts Divided - Book 1, p.4

           Kell Inkston
 
CHAPTER FOUR: INTO THE FOREST

  The six knights exit the space gate into Kanvane’s center square market, a bustling community of magicians, wizards, witches, and other magically-inclined folk. The dark, spiraling towers and buildings, tightly woven together to create a sort of maze, shimmer dreamily after a recent rain.

  Upon stepping out, the current space gate control officer approaches the group of six. He halts his approach, however, after realizing that all of them are Royal Knights, and thus held outside of their jurisdiction. If it’s business, a Royal Knight could bring or take most anything into Kanvane. The officer just bows.

  “Thank you for your service,” he says to the side.

  “And yours,” Order responds as they descend the steps leading up to the space gate and enter the commons. With Order taking the front and Law right behind her, the six move through the crowds, who instinctively make way for the knights, the most honored vocation of the Western Kingdoms- those who commit one’s life to servicing the masses without pay. It is thanks to them that the Western Kingdoms have held together for all of these years after the reign of their first and only true king, rather than dissolving into war.

  The knights move through the crowd without a problem, given the occasional bow or wave from civilians and shop-owners as they travel to the western gate of the city. Every moment she gets, Aoline takes one extra step closer to Order to the point that she’s hanging right behind her shoulder.

  “Eh, Lord Knight General Order?” she begins with a peep as they exit the gate out into Kanvane’s rural western road.

  “Yes?” Order answers.

  “It’s a gigantic pleasu- um, honor to help you on this mission! Thank you so much for letting me come along!”

  “Well, it wasn’t actually up to me, but I’m glad to have you,” Order says, scanning over some of the window-wares in some of the alchemical shops they pass.

  “Th- thank you, and you!”

  “Nice of you to say,” Order replies. Aoline takes a moment to regain herself. Law calmly looks over to Lain, who shrugs. Aoline takes a deep breath and continues.

  “Okay, phew okay. I-I’ve thought so long about what I would say to you when I’d meet you, but I can’t remember! I’m so sorry!”

  “It’s fine,” Order answers with a smile, finding Aoline an acceptable diversion to get her mind off of the war.

  “Oh, good! I was worried you’d think I was, hehe, crazy or something. To be honest, I think you’re the coolest person ever! I want to be just like you when I grow up!” Aoline says with a wide smile. Order raises a white brow in interest.

  “Yeah? Why’s that?” she answers, having had quite a few admirers before, but never quite certain why. Aoline scoffs in the friendliest way she can.

  “Isn’t it obvious?! You’re Chaos’ nemesis! The wielder of Monument, The Legendary Masteress of Light, She Who Looks Down at Evil and Laughs, Who wouldn’t want to be you? You’re perfect!” Aoline says with a volume the rest of the group finds less than comforting.

  “I can think of a few folks I’d rather be, to be honest. I’m not really all that impressive,” Order responds.

  “Really? Because I think you’re the greatest. I’m training in alteration magic just like you, so I, too can wield a sword as heavy as Monument! I’m practicing with this one, here. It’s only forty kilos, but I’m sure before long I’ll be lifting one hundred, then two hundred kilo weapons! I also paid a cosmetic mage to change my hair color to white; th-thought it would help.”

  Law barely keeps himself from groaning in disgust.

  “That would explain the white hair.”

  “Yeah. It’s super cool!”

  “I guess. I’ve had white hair for as long as I could remember. I think I was born with it.”

  “You don’t remember?! Like, you might have amnesia or something? That’s so coooool! Can I... eh, do you think I could touch you?... Your hair, I mean?!” Aoline exclaims with a gasp, pressing her hands into her cheeks like an embarrassed schoolgirl. At this point, Aoline’s obsession with Order has crossed the “enjoyably eccentric” threshold straight into “Get It off Me!” threshold, which is where most obsessive fandom rests. Order is quite prepared to handle this; she’s met a few others this excitable.

  “Aoline,” Order begins.

  “Yes?” she says, her eyes widening with fanatic glee.

  “I don’t mind us being friendly as long as you do not overstep your boundaries. I will not take off my helmet, and you may not touch my hair,” Order says with a straight tone, the typical one she uses when correcting subordinates. Aoline takes a breath, raises a finger, and lowers it back to her side.

  “R-right! Okay! Sorry! I- I really don’t know what I was thinking! Right, right! Sorry!” Aoline apologizes. She pauses for a moment with her eyes to the ground and turns back to Order. “But, I mean, if you’d ever like to touch my hair I wouldn’t mind that at all! Just thought I wou-” Aoline continues her peculiar hair-related invitation, of which Order tries her best to listen and care about, but were the Reader to ask her how much she remembers of that conversation, would have very little to say.

  Law for one finds it absolutely unacceptable that a low knight would dare talk to Order on such a strange and casual basis, but he figures that Order, as the second in command in the Royal Knights, would have no problem handling her if she needs to. He shrugs and relaxes. Besides, it’s been awhile since he’s just been a normal mission knight; perhaps this will be a nice change of pace.

  Law stretches his neck about, freeing himself up from his straightened gait, and allows his eyes to wander. He stretches his gaze to the one just behind him, the cloaked Dresmond.

  His cloak is of the standard issue for anyone involved in night operations and is concealing most of his body. Law’s dragon-like eye can, however, spot the glints of what looks like knives across a network of straps inside his cloak, along with a pair of dismal, shaded eyes peering out the hood. Law spends the rest of the walk wondering what sorts of nightmares the boy’s seen in the war thus far, and why Redemption decided to pull this kid and the other two recruits along with them.

  The group travels for about thirty minutes across the far west planes, into the wide, often-clouded fields of the Kanvanian countryside. By this point there is not a sign of civilization to be found, with the exception of the road, lazily waving between small groups of trees as it gradually leads into the looming forest of the fairies, like a wall of leaves and vines protecting a kingdom of its own.

  Order spots, at the edge of the forest, a man well-dressed in white, lacy, clothing of forest nobility, sitting and drinking tea in an equally effeminate chair, facing straight in their direction.

  “That must be the envoy,” Order says to the others.

  “Ahh, excellent!” Lain states, quickly pulling his bored, tired expression into a collected and charismatic smile.

  “Heh, looks about like how a fairy would dress,” Law says with a tone of humor in his voice. Lain scoffs quietly, and then quickly averts his gaze from Law. The Dragon-kin chuckles under his breath, and shrugs. He feels it’s a well-known fact that most if not all fairies are weak, pompous sissies who are too busy drinking tea and writing poetry to do anything practical.

  I would like to defend fairy-folk here, Reader, and say that it’s not true... but then I would be lying. The many fairy races rarely leave their kingdom, because when they’re not busy drinking tea, painting, and being vegetarians, they’re being xenophobic and horrified of most outsiders; sometimes both. Have you ever seen someone drink tea in a paranoid way, lovely Reader? It’s quite a sight.

  Moving on then:

  “Hmm, oh, I suppose so. They are quite the whimsical bunch, after all. I think it’s simply lovely,” Love answers with a light smile. Order turns to the others.

  “Knights, I’m certain most of you know, but it still needs stating. You must be on your best behavior. This is an investigation, but it’s also a diplomatic mission,” Order says, her he
lmet glinting in the light escaping the clouded sky above. She is met with nods, a casual thumbs up from Lain, and an ‘absolutely’ from Aoline. They step forward and meet with the man with a cup of tea.

  He is a fairly tall gentleman with light blue hair, dark eyes, and pale skin. As his hair is short, it is easy to spot his strangely shaped ears, signifying that he is a fairy-type of some sort; though of which kind remains to be revealed. With a concerned, rather uncomfortable expression he gets up from his chair and bows, keeping a close eye on Law in particular.

  It is worth stating for the nice Reader at this point that the Fairies have always had a pretty heavy dislike for dragons and their kind. They’ve always been uneasy, but as a result of the extermination wars, in which countless innocents died on both sides, they are considered the two most polarized factions in the world. If there weren't any humans around them at this moment, chances are this fairy would flee.

  Right, pardon the interruption again. You’re doing a great job.

  “Good day and good morrow, good knights. Pray thee, relinquish my woes: be you the destined errants of the ghastly accord between our two lands?” The handsome fairy says with a smile. It’s clear he’s a bit nervous. Order nods and speaks while Aoline holds down a snicker; she had no idea fairies talked like that.

  “Yes. We’re the knights sent to resolve the situation. Are you the Liefland envoy?” Order asks as she hands the writ to the fairy. He looks over the letter a moment and relaxes as he looks up.

  “Verily, I am he. I was sent to thee by his good high majesty to retrieve thee to the fair gardens of Liefland. The way is slim, but know it well I do, for guiding persons from place to place is my office of sort. What names were you given if we may be of such sweet acquaintance?” The fairy asks as he takes Order’s gauntleted hand and kisses it, a common practice to do for someone attempting to help another in fairy culture.

  Aoline’s eyes spark with shock.

  “My knight title is Order though you’re free to call me Ranalie,” Order begins, quickly placing a look of surprise and admiration in the fairy’s eyes.

  “Knight-Captain Law.”

  “Meeo, or Love, either one, really. It’s so nice to meet you.”

  “Aoline Rayworth,” she says with a mutter.

  “Lain Gainswold; nice to meet a fellow of the finer things.”

  “Knight Vanguard Dresmond Ulveroth,” the six of them say, each introducing him or herself. The fairy nods and gestures them along as they step off the road onto the wild grass and pass through the gate of bark into the forest of the fairies.

  “Order? Lest my ears play tricks, could it be that you are the defiant to the High Overlord he?” the fairy asks.

  “Yes, the one and the same,” Order says with a smirk under her helmet.

  “Hark, such sweetness fills me to know you will be placing your watchful eye over our affairs, my lady. You are in tales most flattering though I expect them to be true by most accounts. It is with honor I say, my identity be humble Matimay. At your service I be, to please you in any good thing you do desire.”

  “Thank you. I’ll be sure to let you know.”

  “And, truly I must ask of me, the savior of the Extermination Wars was thee?” Order glances over to Law, who huffs and looks away.

  “Yes.”

  “Oh, great murderer of dragons and slayer of their children, I knew well that the stories were of accord most true. This way, this way!” the fairy says, happy that most of the knights have come to help; he could have spared Law the trouble.

  Matimay leads the six knights into grounds increasingly moist, into the sunken forest that surrounds and defends the hidden kingdom of the fairies.

 
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