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The kingdom through the.., p.8
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       The Kingdom through the Swamp: The Courts Divided - Book 1, p.8

           Kell Inkston
 
CHAPTER EIGHT: SERIOUS FORCE ALPHA: THE RETURN OF GRIZZLED WAR VETERANS THAT TAKE THINGS SERIOUSLY

  A dwarf wearing a really-quite-silly hat leads Law and Dresmond down through the belly of Liefholn keep into a dark room. The magic lantern lights up and illuminates the place as Law places his towering mace and shield aside.

  It is a small room, lined with cabinets of surgical tools. In the middle is a suit of armor blatantly colored in the Ragnivanian red and white, filled with an excruciatingly-large amount of elfish arrows. To add, all of the crests on the armor are of the Ragnivanian winged blade, the symbol of the country.

  “This is the body, I presume?” Law asks. The dwarf, by the name of Bongle, nods.

  “Aye, dragon-creature, one and the same,” Bongle, hat silly as ever, says with a sneer. Law steps forward and begins looking over the armored corpse.

  “Do you have any written report on the incident?” Law asks.

  “Aye, but it was written by an elf,” the dwarf says with a mixed expression.

  “Damn, hand it over to my assistant and you’ll be on your way,” Law requests, hating the way elves speak more than any of the other fairy folk.

  “Aye. I’ll be waitin’ should ye have trouble figurin’ it,” Bongle says as he steps out, implying Law is as stupid as all the dragon-kin in the fairy tales. Law scoffs, not paying the dwarf another look.

  “Alright, Knight Dresmond, decipher the information and give me the gist, I hate reading through elvish grammar,” he snarls as he does his best to concentrate.

  While Law dislikes elves a good deal, many elves from other realms are usually considered by the general Omniverse-public to be a kind, intelligent and hospitable bunch.

  Dresmond takes an initial look at the report, sighs, and then speaks.

  “Looks here ... right, looks here that this culprit walked into one of the nearby fairy villages and just started hacking away at fairy folk. He was then sh- ... Sir,” Dresmond addresses. Law looks over to Dresmond.

  “Yes?”

  “What exactly is a ‘rooty tooty stringed shooty?’ ” the young, concealed knight asks with a tone of confusion. Law sighs.

  “Bows.”

  “Oh ... I see. Right, so th- ... hmm. Now then, what’s a ‘fussy tussy footy rushy?’ ”

  “It means ‘to run’, Knight Dresmond,” Law explains. Dresmond nods.

  “Alright. So the assailant cut down about twelve, consisting of two greater fairies, four dwarves, one halfling, and five elves, before he was chased down by the town’s guardsmen, and shot down with arrows, in which caused a slow ... ‘cryin’ sighin’ point’o dyin’, which I presume is their term of the time of ‘death,’ sir. That said, the assailant died mysteriously after the ... hmm, thirty-seventh arrow wound, then he just stopped moving.”

  “Heh, classic elf archery-skills. They can never quite hit the right spot,” Law says as he inspects the arrows in the corpse.

  “Whats more, the assailant seemed to lose no ... um ... ‘ewey gooey crimson spewy’ ... ahh, blood. Right, then the guards cleaned up the innocents, all killed by sword-wounds, and took this guy here to wait for our inspection to affirm if he’s legitimately Ragnivanian or not. They didn’t even pull off the helmet. That’s the whole report, sir,” Dresmond explains, placing the report aside and stepping up to the other side of the table.

  “I see, so let’s take a look at this guy, let’s start with the armor,” Law says as he removes his gauntlets, revealing a pair of large, clawed dragon-kin hands. Dresmond removes his gloves, ready to assist in any way.

  Law begins by pulling off one of the insignia on the dead knight. He looks at it a moment and gives a light scoff.

  “Yeah, this guy definitely wasn’t sent by Ragnivan.”

  “How so, sir?”

  “He’s covered in these insignia. What kingdom did you come from, boy?”

  “One of the mid-land towns, actually,” Dresmond states, referring to one of the many villages on the roads between kingdoms. It’s unusual to find someone from the midland joining the Royal Knights, it’s usually people from one of the capitals of the four western kingdoms, Kanvane and Ragnivan in particular, as they have particularly good reputations there. Law nods, thinking first that the boy was from Ragnivan.

  “Hmm, which town?”

  “Frau, sir.”

  “Oh? The same one where Order’s lives?”

  “Yes sir.”

  “Inspired by our little goddess, eh?” Law asks jokingly.

  “Sure, sir, but that’s not why I joined.”

  “Oh?”

  “I figured I might as well. When my older sister grew up I presumed I might as well not be a burden and go do some good. What my dad would’ve wanted; he was a knight,” Dresmond says, pulling off his hood.

  Law can see him now: soft, inch-length light brown hair, and open, clear Spirakandrin-brown eyes. He looks like the sort of person that would go and get himself killed in some way; Law’s known a few.

  “Ahh. How’d he die?”

  “He was posted in Kanvane, Chaos attacked during his service and he was one of the unlucky ones.”

  “There are few that are strong enough to fight him. I’m sorry.”

  “It’s alright ... we’ll get him one of these days,” Dresmond says, staring blankly at the corpse of the armored killer. There is a slight pause between the two of them, Dresmond looking to the side as if he’d just told a lie.

  “Right. So I’m sure this man isn’t on Ragnivanian orders, because usually they would only take one insignia to identify their rank and person. This guy’s obviously trying to make people think he’s Ragnivan, but I’d say he’s done a pretty shitty job of doing it ... would have been far more realistic if he just took one insignia. You understand?”

  “Yes sir,” Dresmond answers plainly. Law begins pulling off each insignia and checking the I.D.’s.

  “Tell me, Knight Dresmond, do you mind going on a no-rank basis?” Law says, his thin irises scanning over each insignia’s numbers and names.

  “Not at all, sir.”

  “Good, the name’s Hos’Rayull.”

  “Thank you sir, Dresmond Ulveroth.”

  “I come to understand you were in the yellow company,” Law asks as he places a few of the insignias to the side of a table.

  “Yes, sir.”

  “First name is fine, Dresmond, you’re obviously respectable enough to be given that privilege.”

  “Thank you, Ho- eh, pardon me, sir.”

  “Yes, Dresmond?”

  “Would you prefer to be called by your first or last name?” Dresmond asks, not knowing how dragon-kin deal with their names.

  “Higher dragon-kin always go by their age name when it comes to referring to one personally, Dresmond,” Hos’Rayull states, referring to the given on their twenty-fifth birthday, which signifies their best talent, or most defining personal trait.

  For the Reader’s information, in the obsolete language of the dragons, “Rayull” is a play on the words “rayu” for killing, and “yull” for endurance. The age name is a name dragon-kin keep with pride, and often consider it an offence to be called by their first name, the clan’s name, that simply signifies what clan they are from. In Hos’Rayull’s case, “hos” would be “of the south falls,” specifying that he’s likely from the dragon-kin reservation just northwest of Spiralkander, the southern-most country of the Western Kingdoms. They’re not treated well down there, though they’re not treated well anywhere, really.

  Dresmond clears his throat.

  “Right. Thank you, Rayull.”

  “Any time, Dresmond,” Law says with a slight smirk. Dresmond just nods, looking about nervously. “So, tell me about your thoughts on the war,” Hos’Rayull asks as he gets about half-way through the Ragnivanian insignias. Dresmond takes a breath.

  “Well, sir-”

  “Rayull,” Law again corrects with a tone so light, Dresmond would almost think it kind.

  “Yes, sorry, Rayull. I feel as
though the war is a necessary evil. From what I’ve been told, the East has been becoming increasingly more ambitious in sight of their technological revolution.”

  “I feel precisely the same way, Dresmond. Seems like a good few of our knights are afraid of protecting our own lands, as if defending our lives from other countries is something that we should be ashamed of.”

  “I suppose I wouldn’t blame them. The Knights have never been deployed against another country before.”

  “Hmm, you’ve done a bit of reading, I see.”

  “Just some knowledge passed around between the knights in my legion.”

  “Hmm, who was your commanding officer?” Law asks, as he gets down the last few insignias.

  “Kanvanian Arch Mage Niad.”

  “A Kanvanian? One of the co-op units, then?”

  “ …Yes,”

  “...How was it?”

  “What part of it?”

  “Mmm, your first week.”

  “I don’t know. I hated it.”

  “Yeah? How so?”

  “The mages walked in wearing robes, and very few of them knew anything more than the simple fire-magic they were taught in their first year.”

  Rayull squints with doubt. “Ahh ... How did they do?”

  “We lost half of my first group of twenty by the first day. By the time I received the post to return only two others and myself were still on the field. I got a gun by that point, so things were better.”

  “... I suppose you’d have to if you wanted to survive.”

  “Yeah, only reason we weren’t among the dead was by playing their game, and all of the dilapidated buildings caused by the siege magic from our side and the cannons from the East- that gave us some good places to hide.”

  “... How many squads were you in?”

  Dresmond sighs. “About eight.”

  “Amazing. You must have gotten hit by fire arms at least once?”

  “Four times, actually,” Dresmond says, opening up his cloak and clothing just enough to display the scars from military-grade healing-magic upon his milk chocolate-colored, Spirakandrin skin.

  “Mmm, you’re lucky to be alive,” Law says as he finishes inspecting his final insignia.

  “... Yeah. There were a lot of better people in those fights ... I’ll miss ‘em.”

  “Your fellows?”

  “Three other boys from Frau enlisted into The Knights. We all graduated at the same time and were sent into the co-op.”

  “... I’m sorry.”

  “It’s okay, I guess. I’m sure you know how it is.”

  “That’s true. The names and their faces are different, but the feeling of loss bites just as much. The ones that fought valiantly died with honor, and to the cowards, a well-deserved death,” Law says. Dresmond exhales sharply, as if he were suddenly hurt.

  “Yes, sir,” Dresmond says, coldening up. Law raises a scaled brow in interest, and then continues on.

  “Well, all of these insignias are real. Twenty seven in all; can’t imagine that he killed twenty seven Ragnivanian soldiers to get these… Must’ve stolen ‘em,” Law says, pushing the insignias aside to look over the rest of the armor. Everything is authentic.

  “What next, sir?”

  “Rayull.”

  “Yes, sorry- Rayull.”

  “ ‘Spose we might as well get our face,” Law says as he and Dresmond steps over to the corpse’s helmet. The helmet is impaled shut by arrows.

  “Hmm, let’s get rid of these,” Law says, grasping each arrow’s shaft from the base of the helmet and breaking them with ease. Dresmond does the same, gently so as not to mess up the face under the helmet. The shafts now short enough to open the visor, Law quickly pulls it up to reveal the face.

  There is no face under the helmet, only dozens of knifes, pointing outward towards the two knights.

  “Shit!” curses Law the second before the blades fire out from the helmet. Law forces his arm over Dresmond’s side of the helmet, taking the delivery of knives with his armored skin, effectively saving the young man’s life. The suit of armor promptly pulls out its sword, the very same it used to kill those twelve fairy-folk, and thrusts at Law to start the fight.

  Law, armor covered in knives, shakes the weapons off as he pushes into the corpse to set it off balance. As Dresmond opens his cloak to draw his daggers, the corpse regains its wavering, lazy balance, and prepares for its next assault.

  Law and Dresmond can see the corpse’s face, a godless meshing of objects, flesh, and internal organs, all held together with wire, nails and cloth.

  “A necromancer!” Law snaps, just as it races forward to them.

  The necromancer thrusts its blade forward at Law’s neck, but is quickly stumbled back again by a kick from the dragon-kin to the necromancer’s sort-of-face. Law rushes back to his weapon as the necromancer thrusts additional arms out of its suit of armor, and moves toward Dresmond.

  The cloaked boy unloads knife after knife into his target, but the necromancer only grasps them and throws them back with one of its newly-revealed arms. The corpse gets close, pushing Dresmond to the edge of the room, and was about to go at his throat when Law returns.

  Law throws down his giant mace, quickly dodged by the necromancer, but then it meets Law’s shield, forcing it forward and into the wall. Ignoring the necromancer’s arms stabbing at his draconic flesh, Law crushes his enemy into the wall and then takes a breath. Dresmond watches in awe as Law breaths a torrent of fire into the necromancer, engulfing its entire body. Law takes another breath, and burns him again as he drops his mace. Law brutishly tears off the still-flailing necromancer’s helmet, and then grasps the monstrosity by its neck. With one fell movement of force, Law beheads the necromancer, throws down the head, and crushes it under his boot. Still the abomination of life attacks, having torn off a few of Law’s scales and now doing its best to blindly get into his flesh. In Law’s finishing movements, he scrapes the necromancer across the wall and down to the floor, allowing him to pick up his mace. Law then forces his boot into the necromancer’s legs to hold it in place, and then he smashes his weapon down into his enemy, producing the simultaneous sound of metal being trashed, flesh being squished, and bones being cracked. He lets down his mace a few more times, each strike causing the ground to shake, until finally every joint in the necromancer’s body has been destroyed. The fire takes care of the rest, burning its soul-piece, an item that binds the necromancer to its monstrosity of objects and flesh, to nothingness. The necromancer goes limp, and Law raises his weapon out of the mortal wreckage.

  “That’s a surprise,” Law says, rubbing his barely-wounded neck. He guesses that the necromancer’s weapons were poisoned, as most necromancers do, but Law being part-dragon, his body will likely ignore it.

  “Damn,” Dresmond begins, “So ... it’s really dead? ... It was more metal and weapons than anything else inside. Are they usually that ... capable?”

  “Yeah, they’re a real bitch to get rid of if they design their bodies well. We better let Order know,” Hos’Rayull notes as he and Dresmond step away from the burning suit of armor and up the steps.

 
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