By: David Christy
Town of Hafen, Octhania in the Year 3
The woman ran on, knowing her pursuer was right behind her and would
catch up soon. She didn’t care. She kept running, regardless of how futile it seemed.
There was fire all around her. The
entire town was burning. There was
really no place to run to…but this didn’t give her reason enough to stop
It had been only three months since the evil Carnage had been sealed away. In that short time, the entire world had since plunged into chaos and Octhania was no exception. Entire towns were consumed by arsonists, looters, rapists, rioters and burglars. Many had concluded that the world was ending and soon everything would be plunged into the Abyss itself.
At that time, Marianne would have agreed with those doomsayers. Her town had fallen victim to the spreading madness.
And now she was running to escape the man that had just attacked her.
Marianne was a beautiful young woman in her mid-twenties with perfect
skin, red hair, and dark green eyes. It
was obvious what that man would do to her once he caught her.
She risked a look over her shoulder to see how close he was, but this
proved fatal. She lost her footing
and tripped, skidding into the ground. Her
torn dress hampered her in getting back up, and soon the man was upon her.
He threw her to the ground and pinned her arms down.
She screamed and kicked all she could, but the man was far stronger than
she was. Seeing that mad look in his eye, she felt herself begin to
“Ho, now. A proper
gentleman would buy her a glass of wine first.
Perhaps some dinner, too,” came a voice.
The rogue looked up at the man who spoke, a handsome fellow approaching
his thirties with long blond hair pulled back into a ponytail, chiseled
features, a strong chin, and mischievous blue eyes.
He leaned against a building (one of the few not yet on fire) casually,
his arms crossed.
“Oh, gods…oh, please help me,” Marianne sobbed.
The rogue ignored her and focused on the stranger.
“Get lost. This one’s
mine. You can find your own.”
The stranger stood and dusted off his backside.
“Sorry. But I’m afraid I
have to intervene. Code of Honor
and all that,” he grinned.
The rogue leaned down close to Marianne’s face and whispered to her. “Make one move from this spot, and I’ll slit your throat.” He then stood up and withdrew a long bladed dagger and pointed it at the stranger.
The stranger seemed perfectly calm and drew no weapon. “Well…let’s get it over with, shall we? Before the town has fallen to ash,” he said, almost as if it were a joke.
“Idiot,” the rogue spat and charged the stranger. He thrust the blade at his heart, and the stranger threw up an arm casually to block it. The rogue could hardly believe it, but didn’t slow down. He let the blade dive toward the arm…and then it hit something. Not bone, not sinew…but metal. Or something like it. It hit with a loud ‘clang!’ and the rogue felt his very bones rattle. He looked in shock at the now dented blade in his hand. “What the hell?!” the rogue cried.
The stranger jabbed him in the jaw quickly, sending the rogue sprawling backwards. The rogue quickly recovered and rubbed his raw chin. He pulled out two short swords and wielded them together. “I’ll make you pay for that. Do you know who I am? I’m the leader of the Silver Wolves. That makes this my town. And no one’s getting in my way, hear me?”
The stranger smiled. “Really? You sound important. Let me introduce myself, though. Perhaps you have even heard of me?” He raised his arms into the air. “Draco Comes Stabuli!” he cried in a strange language.
Some manner of substance that can be best described as ‘liquid metal’ started to emerge from the stranger’s skin. This substance covered his body and began to harden, forming an elaborate suit of armor. It seemed made of copper and had all sorts of runes carved onto the various pieces. The helmet was draconic in shape with two large horns protruding backward from the top and a series of smaller ones protruding in the same direction on the cheek areas.
Magically, a trident formed in his hands. The pole seemed made of copper and was topped with the head of a dragon with its maw wide open. Protruding from the maw was the head of the trident, which shimmered in the moonslight.
“Holy crap,” the rogue muttered at seeing the transformation.
“They all say that. I am Nikolaus Immerfort of the Imperial Dragoon Knights.” He bent down into an offensive stance, pointing the tips of his trident at the rogue. The blade began to be covered in a water-like substance, giving it the impression it was wet. “Do you accept a duel then?”
The rogue answered this by dropping his swords, turning tail, and running in the other direction. The Dragoon sighed. “They all do that, too.” He lowered his trident and approached the young woman who had been lying motionless on the ground, breathing frantically.
“It’s all right, my lady. He is gone.” The trident seemed to melt into liquid and seeped back into his hand. He then held his now open hand out to Marianne to help her up. The woman looked up at him, eyes wide with astonishment and even a little fear. But she took his hand anyway, remembering that he was a Dragoon Knight. He was order in this chaos. He was hope in this despair.
“We best get you somewhere safe. My brother is all ready on the other side of town, rounding up survivors,” Nikolaus said. “Do you trust me, miss?”
Marianne nodded, still quivering from her flight from the rogue. Nikolaus took her hand and then promptly picked her off the ground, cradling her in his arms. “Then do not fear.” And before she could even answer, he leapt off the ground—30 yards up. She screamed and grabbed hold of his neck as tightly as she could. They landed safely away from the town smoothly, the armor absorbing all of the impact from the landing.
“There, that wasn’t so bad, now was it?” he asked her. But she had fainted dead away. Shrugging, Nikolaus leapt on.
When Marianne came to, she found herself lying inside a rather spacious tent on a soft cot. She felt as if waking from a bad nightmare, but the realization slowly dawned on her. She sat up and looked around at her surroundings. It was daylight now, and the horrible screams and blazing fires were no longer heard. The tent was bare save for the cot and a full-sized standing mirror. She slowly stood and glanced at herself in the mirror.
She was a frightful mess. Her hair, which usually spilled over her shoulders, was now frayed and encrusted with mud. Her rosy cheeks suffered some cuts and bruises. And her simple brown dress—the dress that her grandmother had woven for her—was now in near tatters. Fortunately it was still intact enough to keep her modest.
As she gazed dully at her reflection, she heard voices murmuring outside of the tent. She felt her whole body stiffen in fear. Was she a prisoner? Was that man who rescued her really a Dragoon Knight? And where was she now?
Her curiosity finally overcame her fear and she found she could move again. She tipped toed to the opening flap of the tent and peaked outside. She saw the man again—the gentlemen who saved her. He had called himself Nikolaus, she remembered. Nikolaus Immerfort. There were two others with him. Nikolaus had his back to her, but he was facing the two strangers, giving Marianne a good vantage point to make out their faces.
The first person was a young man close to her age. He bore a sharp resemblance to Nikolaus, however his hair was short—in the military style the local soldiers often wore it. He also had a budding mustache on his lip, although at this point it was hardly more than a light blond fuzz.
When Marianne looked at the second person, she felt a chill go down her
spine. The second person was a
woman, looking to be in her early thirties.
She was exotically beautiful, and Marianne felt like she might be from
another nation altogether. She had
long hair as black as a raven’s down that hung down to her ankles.
She had on an elegant low cut black dress made of silk. While Nikolaus and the other man looked as if they had been
traveling for many days, this woman appeared as if she had just bathed.
Never had Marianne seen a woman so clean—surely she was royalty.
But the strangest part was the woman’s eyes…Marianne could not look
away. They were black as night
itself. Not just the pupils, but
also the entire eye—pupil, iris, and even the white of the eye was dark.
It was a very disturbing image. The
woman looked extremely bored and would occasionally fold her arms and huff in
contempt. If the two men noticed, they did not care.
The dark eyed woman glanced around and happened to look over Nikolaus’
shoulder at that point and spot Marianne peeking from outside the tent. She smiled—not a caring or sweet smile, but one of intrigue
and mischievousness. Her expression
was that of a child who just walked on their rival sibling with their hand in
the cookie jar. Marianne’s first
instinct was to duck and hide, but the woman’s eyes held her in place with
The younger man, the one that Marianne didn’t know, noticed the
woman’s look and also turned to see Marianne.
He nodded to Nikolaus, gesturing with his eyes to the girl.
Nikolaus turned and laughed. “Finally
awake, miss?” He held out his
hand to her.
Despite the situation and uncertainty, all of her fear and confusion
seemed to melt away at looking into Nikolaus’ playful blue eyes.
She took his hand and he led her to the center of the group.
“Allow me to introduce myself in a more formal manner, as well as allow
you to meet my comrades,” he said. He
placed a hand on his chest and bowed deeply.
“I am Sir Nikolaus Immerfort, Copper Dragoon of the Imperial Dragoon
Knights. I’m afraid I did not catch your name, miss.”
Marianne swallowed but found her voice.
“I am Marianne Coppersmith of Hafen,” she said.
As an afterthought, she tried to courtesy, but this caused her torn dress
to rip a little more, so she quickly abandoned the gesture.
This caused a chuckle from the dark-eyed woman.
“Coppersmith and Copper Dragoon? Must
be fate,” Nikolaus said, giving her a sly wink that caused her face to flush
as red as her hair. “This is my
little brother and fellow Dragoon,” he nodded to the other young man.
“Sir Wilhelm Immerfort, Black Dragoon Knight!” the lad saluted. Marianne started at his suddenness, as she was just a simple
commoner—not his superior officer.
Nikolaus laughed. “Don’t
mind him. He’s always so
formal.” He slapped his brother
on the shoulder, causing him to waver in his perfect salute.
“And they call me Midnight,” the woman said, sashaying up to her. On instinct, Marianne took a step back at Midnight’s
approach. She never took more than
two steps, however, before Wilhelm grabbed her wrist harshly and yanked her back
to stand by him. She whimpered in
pain and looked at the boy with hurt eyes.
He simply glared back at her.
“You stay where I can see you,” Wilhelm scolded her.
“You’re mean! I was just
going to say hello!” Midnight protested, her eyes watering in pain at
Wilhelm’s tight grip on her wrist. Or
so it would have appeared. Wilhelm
knew her too well to be fooled by such an act.
“Yes, well…now that the pleasantries are out of the way…we were
just discussing ways to restore this land to some semblance of order.
Tell me, Marianne, do you know anything about the capital city?
Your home was very close to it,” Nikolaus asked her.
Suddenly put on the spot, Marianne shifted her weight from foot to foot.
“Yes, I know it very well. I’ve
been there dozens of times,” she lied. In
truth, she had only been there once, as a child, when her father went to
petition the Overlord to lower taxes on food.
But Marianne realized if she had nothing helpful to give the Dragoons,
they would probably leave her here with the other refugees, and she was
determined not to leave Nikolaus’ side.
“Akillus, Capital City..,” Wilhelm muttered.
“It’s no doubt in ruins by now.”
He turned to his brother. “Perhaps
we could send Penny to check things out beforehand?
Where is he, anyway?”
Nikolaus let out a heavy sigh. “I
sent him on to the Tancun Islands. His
mate and eggs are there. He was a
nervous wreck, worried if they had survived Carnage or not.
You know Carnage went straight through there, right?
So what could I do? I let
him go home and check.”
Midnight frowned. “Why
can’t I go see my family then? Sir
Nikolaus, if only your brother was as kind-hearted as you,” she said, batting
Wilhelm let out a low growl. “Like
you even have a family! No
level-headed male would mate with you…and if he did, you’d probably kill him
Marianne watched the exchange in confusion.
At first she had believed Midnight to be Wilhelm’s wife or escort.
But he treated her so harshly, now she wondered if Midnight was a slave.
Did the Dragoons keep slaves? It
was Eonian policy, but somehow she never really pictured the chivalrous knights
having a harem.
“Enough chatter. If Penny
is not available, then you shall go. Not
so fast!” Wilhelm cried suddenly when Midnight’s face erupted into joy.
“Understand that I am giving you a direct order.”
Midnight’s smile faded and she shivered, as if some invisible force had
just brushed up against her. Wilhelm
continued. “You are to go to the capital city of Akillus.
You will evaluate the situation and return immediately to report.
Now get out of my face.”
Looking like a child who had just been lectured, Midnight stalked off,
her fists balled up and her mouth turned up into a vicious scowl.
Marianne approached Wilhelm cautiously.
“Akillus is a two day walk from here…is it safe to let her go by
Nikolaus laughed. “Safe
for her? Or for whoever has the
misfortune to cross her path?”
This puzzled Marianne even more. Was
Midnight a powerful sorceress then? But
before she could ask, her question was answered in the most spectacular manner.
She heard a great roar off in the distance where Midnight had walked.
Startled, she saw that the black-eyed woman near the horizon, bowled over
in what appeared to be great pain.
A pair of black, bat-like wings sprout from her back, tearing her dress.
She began to double and then triple in size.
Her milky white skin hardened and formed into black, glossy scales.
Two large horns protruded from her forehead and a long, spearheaded tail
emerged from her bottom-backside. A
fin formed down her back and her neck grew outward.
Within moments, Midnight had transformed into a creature of legend and
myth…a dragon. Her body was now a
good thirty feet long—sixty if you include the tail. The dragon craned its long neck to look behind it and spit
out its reptilian forked-tongue. It
then roared with such ferocity that the ground itself shook.
Marianne felt her breath leave her at the sight of the monster. Suddenly, she was terrified in a way she wasn’t even aware
was possible. This beast she saw
before her was greater than anything she had ever seen.
What was she? She was just a
fly to a god. She was just a morsel
of food—not even an appetizer. She
felt her body tremble and go cold. Darkness
threatened to overtake her, but then a pair of hands grabbed her and held her
up. They belonged to Nikolaus.
“Dragonfear,” he whispered in her ear, holding her steady.
“Fear not. She is under
Wilhelm’s control. And even if
she was not, the two of us could easily take her out.”
The dragon laughed cruelly, its voice still that of
Midnight’s. It then flapped its
wings twice and leapt into the air, flying into the horizon.
“You…you control dragons?” she managed to sputter out once Midnight
was out of seeing range. She knew
the Dragoons had great powers…but to control dragons!
Wilhelm nodded. “Each
dragoon has a special bonded mount. Midnight
is mine. Nikolaus’ is a Copper
named Penny. Our bonded mount must
do whatever we tell it to. The
magic of our armor compels it to do so.”
“Penny is a friendly, high-spirited dragon who happily serves me,”
Nikolaus said. “Unfortunately,
Midnight is quite the opposite. She’s
rather vicious and hates the fact that a ‘mere human’ can dictate her
“She shall return in a few hours. Until then, we should see to the refugees,” Wilhelm advised.
(One Year Later)
Marianne awoke refreshed from a good night’s sleep.
She slipped out of the silk sheets on her goose-feather stuffed bed and
drifted to her window. She pulled
back the satin curtains and let the sun beam down on her face.
She smiled pleasantly and brushed her red curls from her eyes.
It had been an entire year since that day she met Nikolaus.
And so much had changed.
The capital city of Akillus—no, the city of Immerfort it was now called
in honor of its new leader, had been completely rebuilt.
It had been in shambles when they first reached it. Apparently Carnage had done something to the mountains to the
north that resulted in three rivers appearing and converging on the spot the
great city had been. Everything had
been washed away.
But under Nikolaus’ leadership, the people found hope and began to
rebuild. Seeing the noble Dragoon
Knights ride in on Midnight inspired them to believe that maybe this reigning
chaos would be brought to an end. Nikolaus
himself commissioned a new palace to be built into the face of the cliff, hidden
by the new waterfall. Using canals,
aqueducts and a system of sewers, the people were able to rebuild the city onto
the mouth of the river, letting it flow around, through, and under the city
Soon things began to flourish again.
Once Immerfort was in a decent stage of repair, Nikolaus and Wilhelm
began to send people from town to town along the coast, helping them rebuild. The Central Frontier was lost, though. It would take too many resources and men to cultivate it.
But the people were optimistic that within a few decades, the Frontier
would be completely civilized.
And it was all because of Nikolaus, Marianne thought.
Never once did he falter in his judgment. He was wise beyond his years.
Marianne supposed working so closely with the Emperor for so long, he had
a good understanding of how to lead people. Everyone in the city looked up to him for support, and he
never once let the people down.
Marianne quickly got dressed. Today was a very important day—one she and all the people of Octhania had been looking forward to for many months. Today was the coronation.
“I hereby decree you…Kaiser Nikolaus the First,” the high priest of Ark said, placing the crown on the dragoon’s head. The gather spectators applauded wildly as Nikolaus stood and waved to the people—to his people.
I only wish Lord Wilhelm could have been here to see this, thought Marianne as she watched Nikolaus be crowned. Two weeks before he had left, claiming that he was going into seclusion with Midnight to train for the day Carnage ever returned. Marianne had heard rumors that Wilhelm also left so Nikolaus could take the throne undisputed. It was true that Wilhelm was better at following orders than issuing them. But now Nikolaus was left alone…
Alone, like herself, Marianne realized. She had no family anymore and now that Nikolaus was kaiser and the city in the process of being rebuilt, it seemed like her role in this had ended. She wondered what she would do now. Could she ever go back to the simple peasant life she used to live?
As if answering her worrisome thoughts, she saw Nikolaus beckoning her to come to him. Blushing with embarrassment, she approached. He deftly slipped his arm around her waist and urged her to wave to the crowds with him.
Flustered, she did so, but not sure why. “Marianne,” Nikolaus spoke, “you cannot hide in the crowds during such a wonderful celebration. Your people will want to meet you.”
“M-My people?” she asked incredulously. She looked up at him, stunned.
Nikolaus shot her a sly wink. “I had been hoping you’d rule by my side…but if you’d rather not…”
Marianne felt the entire world spin, threatening to throw her off its surface and into the vastness of the sky void. “Yes!” she blurted, her face as red as the moon. Was this really happening?
Nikolaus grinned and pulled her tightly toward him, embracing her in a powerful kiss. The crowds went crazy with applause and cheering, but at that moment, neither Marianne nor Nikolaus heard them.
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