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The kingdom through the.., p.6
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       The Kingdom through the Swamp: The Courts Divided - Book 1, p.6

           Kell Inkston
 
CHAPTER SIX: SETTLING INTO LIEFLAND

  The group passes through wood after wood, diverse in color, scents and wildlife, for two more hours. They break for lunch, biscuits, tea, and standard issue Royal Knight Mystery Meat, Law eating more than half of the ration, though no one minds as there is much to go around. The rest of the trip has been filled with bantering back and forth between Lain and Aoline--who seem to be becoming fast friends thanks to their common interests in magic, the Royal Knights, and food--along with the occasional attempt on Aoline’s part to talk to Order, but often too excited at the thought of doing so and giving up until next time she can speak to her calmly. Finally, they near their destination.

  The wood is sparse and hilly now and covered in a cool mist that wraps around the trees and passes their scents to travelers. As the group overcomes their final hill, Matimay, who’s been lively for a little while now that he recognizes how close they are, turns to the group again and points to a small object in the mist.

  “Pray thee, knights. See ye yonder statue, fashioned in gleeful array?” Matimay says with a proud smile. Lain’s eyes instantly widen in realization of what the statue’s significance is. Order removes her helmet, and Love’s smile curves up wryly, as if she knows something the majority of the knights do not. Order and Love exchange quick smirks, and then listen to Aoline.

  “Hmm, yeah I do,” she says, it being the only thing jutting out of the whiteness in front of them.

  “Come with me, and see, the fair Liefland, revealed to thee,” Matimay invites as he steps down the hill and over to the statue, the others following close behind.

  The statue is upon a wide pedestal and is of a shimmering white, looking to have been fashioned by some radiant, unearthly material. It is of a tall woman with three pairs of wings--those of a butterfly’s, a dragonfly’s, and a dove’s, all-encompassing out from her back. She is standing over a group of frightened children, who surround her as if to find safety under her shadow. What’s more, the woman’s stern eyes are locked to the sky, as if she were staring toward the end of the world. While all of the figures in the statue are splendidly realistic, the woman in particular is almost eerily real, as if she could look over to the group at any moment.

  “Upon the standing stone, if you will- I’m certain you will find it a thrill,” Matimay requests as he stands upon the pedestal, shadowed by the statue of the great fairy. Aoline has a look of surprise on her face, figuring it’s sort of a strange request, but decides to go along when she sees her idol, Order, doing just as he asked. The group stands upon the pedestal, and Matimay giggles in a way Law finds all too concerning in regards to the legitimacy of his masculinity.

  “Okay, what now?’ Aoline questions, finding an acceptable position to the left of the tall fairy statue.

  “But, by light, we are here, under the watchful gaze of the first-most queen of the fairies, Ywlvare, for wherever she looks, so do her kind tread,” Matimay says as he strokes his light stubble a moment.

  “So, this is it? This statue is Liefland?” Aoline asks.

  “Not just, dear human. The fairest sight made by fair hands is all about us, entangled in realms unseen lest you look with caution most great,’ Matimay says with a spark of wonder in his eyes. Aoline gently looks over to Order, and makes an ‘I have no idea what he’s talking about’ face. There is an awkward silence, and then Aoline decides to ask.

  “Um, could you say that in more ... easy terms?” she questions, feeling embarrassed for not quite getting all he’s saying.

  “In the, mind me, plebeian words of the human tongue, it would likely go as: ‘We’re here, Liefland is all around us if you look hard enough,’” he says in plainer terms. Aoline ‘oohs’ in realization, and suddenly, just the moment the thought enters her head, she begins to see lights from the mist and hear jovial, colorful voices. It’s like, atop the pedestal, the entire landscape around them is changing. Aoline focuses in on the lights and the voices, and gradually, the kingdom of the fairies is revealed.

  Incoherent mumblings become distinct voices in conversations.

  Lights and vague figures are filled with color and depth.

  The scent of the forest is replaced with foods, spices, and mystic perfumes.

  The mist is no more, only a excited, bustling square market filled with dwarves, elves, gnomes, spirits, fairies, spooks, and plenteous other fine creatures of mysterious or unknown regards.

  The group is now in Liefland.

  “…Wow,” Aoline says blankly as the group steps off the pedestal.

  “Verily. This figure, our great ancient queen, is the very same who ferried us from the land of the titans to this new stand. Under her gaze may we always thrive. This is the path all fairies are free to take to be with their own kindred,” Matimay says with a whimsical smile curling across his face. He gestures the others to follow and then leads off to the white, spiraling towers of Liefland’s capital castle, Liefholn. Law lowers his head amidst short gasps from onlookers at the sight of a dragon-kin walking on the sacred ground of the fairies. As they step along through the crowds, Order speaks back to the others.

  “Once we meet with Pitch, chances are we’ll be split up and delegated to different parts of the investigation. I have no real preference on how we should be split up, do you two have any preferences?” Order asks, referring to the two higher-ranking knights. Law grunts.

  “Knight Dresmond,” he says promptly, disliking the other two teenagers a good deal. Love hums.

  “Well, seeing as Aoline would be thrilled to be with you, I’m sure, I suppose I’ll take Lain along,” Love says with nod. Order smirks, finding Love’s subtle humor as pleasant as always.

  “Alright, that’s how we’ll do it. I’ll give Aoline watch over the captured minions. Would you two feel confident about looking over the crime scenes for the murders if I’ll be discussing our case with Pitch?”

  “Of course.”

  “Mhmm,” Law and Love respond in their own ways.

  “Good- let’s do it then,” Order says, completing their exchange.

  The envoy of the fairies leads the six Knights past the group of unsurprisingly foppish-looking guards in through the gates Liefholn. He leads them through the main foyer right into the throne room.

  The large, glistening white throne room is made of what seems to be wood, with the outgrowths of trees ascending over the room and meeting in the center, creating a sort of half-roof, obscuring in part the swirl of stars above. Hovering over his throne is Pitch, the king of the fairies. He is dressed in a flowing white robe, embroidered in many a stanza and soliloquy. Long, graceful dragonfly wings span out at his sides, the light of the room shining through them with many colors. His curly black hair cascades gently over his brow, giving him a look of grace, wild wisdom, and intelligence.

  Really, were The Author to compare him to anyone is particular, it would likely be that one person who wrote all those books about a ‘sand man’ or something dream-related like that. Pardon, Reader, you may not know who he is, but in my dimension he is one of the greatest writers, and is worthy of high honors and endless calm spaces to continue his craft.

  Pitch looks down at the group, thoughtful eyes alight. Order and Law kneel, quickly followed by the others. Order removes her helmet and rests it at her side.

  "True, of what manner be these intruders through the veil of our ancient queen?” Pitch says, his voice ringing like a choir of bells.

  “Surely, good king, you recognize the very same swordsman who has aided us through the ages with her brilliant blade, Masteress Order? About her company are her two trusted inferiors, of the titles Love and Law. With one trainee knight to match each noble soul, they have come to alleviate our woes and suspicions of regarding a certain pair of predicaments most foul,’ Matimay explains to Pitch as he makes an eloquent bow.

  Pitch squints his eyes, marred a bit by age, to the white-haired swordsman at the front of the other knights. It is certainly Order--he hadn’t recognized her withou
t her blade drawn.

  “Light! Oh glorious! Tis’ none other than our steadfast and ancient friend. Oh, Order~ Good Order, I beseech thee, come and let us speak upon better things before you and I make our cases,” Pitch says with a wide, kingly smile, descending to stand on the same floor as his old friend. Order stands up, leading the others to match her movement.

  “I would be honored, but I need just a moment. I’d like to go ahead and get the others to work, if you don’t mind,” Order says, motioning her head over to the others. Pitch steps up to Order, embraces her, kisses her on her forehead and nods with the gaze of a long, sweet friend. Law scoffs under his breath as he rolls his eyes.

  “More than permissible, dear savioress,” he says as he turns to the other knights. He motions over a couple of dwarves with excessively silly hats. “There are two cases to be beheld by your talents, good knights. One of a fighter gone mad, wearing the regalia of your brutish Ragnivan, slain and in our dead rooms, and another of an unknown assailant, using magics of assault and destruction, who escaped before he was brought to his new life. You will let either serveling take you to either sight and know for yourself the great depravity waged against our friends. Make haste, for the fair folk of our kind have become restless,” Pitch says.

  “Then we will take our leave,” Law says with a bow, Dresmond copying Law in close unison.

  “I suppose we’ll be on our way as well,” Love coos with a slight nod herself, placing the still-unconscious minions over by the side of the room, disconnecting herself from the chains, clamping the free set on a nearby piece of the architecture, and then gently tugging Lain’s hand to come along with her to follow the nearby dwarf.

  “Fare thee well, my king! May your days ever be long!” Lain says, waiting for a chance to speak but rushed away by Love. Pitch laughs as the four knights disappear, following the dwarves with really quite unbelievably silly hats.

  Pitch raises a brow at Lain’s peculiar enthusiasm, and then turns to Order.

  “Peculiar life, that one.”

  “I suppose so, though I’ve met weirder people in the knights.”

  “Oh ho, you speak of Ju-”

  “Among others, yeah.”

  “Ahh, aye, verily.”

  “One moment, please,” Order asks as she turns to Aoline.

  “Can you watch the minions, Aoline?” she asks. Aoline eagerly nods.

  “Yes! I can totally do that for you! Just... eh--”

  “Yes?”

  “When’s dinner?”

  “Well, we ate lunch about an hour ago. You’ll have to wait.”

  “Ahh. It’s okay, you go on ahead. I’ll just be here… foodless,” Aoline says pitifully, as if that were supposed to make Order want to plop her down in a chair for a feast that instant. Order nods.

  “Don’t worry; I’m sure you can ask one of the servants for a book or something. See you soon,” Order says with a nod as she steps off with Pitch.

  “Yeah, definitely! See ya! Good luck!” Aoline says with a half-smile as she waves off Order.

  The moment she’s gone, Aoline curls up with a pouty frown, and mutters, “Just awesome.” She’s disappointed herself big time today. If she’s going to become Order’s apprentice, she’s going to have to act much more on-task and much less on stomach. Aoline puffs out hot air, determined to overcome her love of food. She’s certain she can do it if she tries hard enough- She’s certain she can turn this around. Aoline’s gaze sharpens to a combative level of focus. She’s decided, these three prisoners will be the best-looked after prisoners, ever!

  “She gone?” A deep voice in the pile of unconscious minions asks. Aoline realizes that she’s been incredibly quiet and that the minions, faking unconsciousness, have been waiting for a good escape opportunity. Aoline smiles, conjecturing that she can now thwart an escape attempt, become a hero in Order’s eyes, and rise through the ranks as her apprentice. She waits quietly, ushering in an atmosphere of safety for the minions.

  “Pretty sure, now get off my back!” the squeaky one says, on the verge of yelling. The chained minions begin shuffling out of their pile and back to their feet, just as Aoline assumes the most heroic, mighty stance she can think of.

  “Evening, Minions of Chaos,” Aoline says, her chosen pose being a copy of the stance Order was most commonly drawn in inside the ancient texts, her right hand around her back to draw her blade, and her left hand jutting out open and forward, as if asking evil to come forward and die by her hand. This, of course, is a pose Order has never made in her life, but that the ancient scribes thought would look ‘hella’ cool”.

  The minions quickly leap up to their feet.

  “Oh, eh, hi!” Cooking Minion says, raising a paw-sized hand and ensuing an awkward silence. Aoline clears her throat, and speaks up.

  “Going somewhere to cause some chaos, are we?” she says, copying the stupidly-punnish question Order always asks in every book of ‘Royal Knights Quest’ whenever she gets the jump on the stupid, incompetent, very fictional version of Overlord Chaos.

  For the Reader’s information, in all her thousands of years Order has never, ever punned on Overlord Chaos’ title, nor has she ever gotten the jump on him; it’s usually the other way around, really, Chaos has a soft spot for puns when he’s in the mood, too. If the Writer can be quite frank, the books starring Knight Redemption are far more realistic to his character, as he really does make cool poses before fights, unlike Order, who finds them gaudy and impractical. Now then:

  The minions share some glances, not quite sure whether to be afraid or laughing.

  “Eh, no, no not really. Actually we were ...” Cooking Minion thinks a moment. “We were just busy delivering this life saving medicine to the poor innocent forest animals that need our help! But you Knights came along and took us away. How could you do something so-” Cooking Minion stops delivering his lie as Aoline laughs over his squeak of a voice.

  “Yeah, obviously, because you love taking care of little forest animals rather than eating them,” Aoline says as she stretches out her stance a bit more, making herself feel cooler and more imposing, but instead just making her look really uncomfortable.

  “She’s got a point, they do taste pretty go-” Combat Minion is quickly elbowed by Magic Minion.

  “Well ... Well about that, actually we totally were, because Chaos loves keeping animals well fed ... so he can eat them!”

  “Yeah, what he said.”

  “Let’s go with that,” Cooking, Combat, and Magic Minion respond accordingly.

  “Right, and that’s why he sent out myself, his finest cook, along with these two dopes for protection,” Cooking Minion says, getting some nasty looks from the two other minions that are both at least four times his size. “My food is so delicious that it can cure any ailment through sheer joy alone!”

  “Pffft. Yeah nice try, idiot, but as a Royal Knight of the Old Kingdom of Reinen I am unmoved by your li- ...” Aoline stops a moment in thought as she feels a rumble in her stomach.

  “Eh, what’s the matter?” Cooking Minion asks, half-expecting that he’s about to get a face full of giant sword.

  “You’re a cook?” Aoline asks. Cooking Minion gives the best smile he can, his row of Chaos-like teeth showing clearly.

  “Why yes.”

  “How good are you?”

  “Well, let’s just say I’m the reason these two fatties next to me are the way they- Ow!”

  “SHUT YOUR MOUTH, COOKLING!” Combat Minion says, stepping promptly on Cooking Minion’s tiny foot.

  “Grah! You! What good is a Combat Minion that can’t even protect other minions! Fatty!”

  “It was Order, you cur! She wrecks dragons like reeds!”

  “Fatty!”

  “Knave!”

  “Fatty!”

  “Slovenly cur!”

  “Mega fat fatty!”

  “I’M NOT EVEN FAT YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE SHI-”

  “Hey,” Aoline says, interrupting Cooking Min
ion’s and Combat Minion’s civil conversation.

  “Yes?” Cooking Minion replies with a wide smile.

  “So you’re a good cook, then?”

  “Absolutely! Good enough to make Combat Minion here a useless cow ‘cough’ which he is ‘cough’,” he answers, confidently placing his hands on his hips.

  Slowly, a smile forms across Aoline’s face before she walks towards the minion’s chains.

 
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