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Kendr Scriptures - Drafts


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I have long contemplated doing this and I have decided that I will post the drafts of the novel I write here to get some feedback on what parts of the story, characters and world to improve/change. Keep in mind that the original version of this is written in German and that I have to translate it into English, which takes a lot longer than I expected, so updates might not be frequent (I have only written up to Chapter 6 of the original draft and only the first chapter is translated). 
Why do I take the time to translate this stuff? Well, I want to practice my translation skills, for one thing. And I thought I could give you guys something to sink your teeth into, since I don't know if this will ever end up getting published. I'm writing mostly for then fun of the craft itself, after all.

I hope you enjoy this little trip into DragonFlames' mind. Feel free to roast me however you feel like it. But do it over here, please.

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Kendr Scriptures - Valessian Rebellion

Chapter 1 - Her first mission

With the rise of the sun over the western mountains, the arduous training princess Eliana had to endure came to a close. Panting, she sank to her feet, leaning on her azure-bladed longsword for support. Sweat dripped from her forehead, her waist-long, raven hair was dishevelled. Her vision was blurred to the point where she could not see the triumphant grin in her teacher's face, who proudly carried his greataxe on his left shoulder. Frustration and anger filled her. How would she ever be able to support her kingdom if she could not even win a simple mock battle?

“You have become stronger, Eliana”, said the raspy voice of her teacher. The grey-bearded man walked over to her and offered his hand.

“Not strong enough.” Still out of breath, Eliana took her master's hand and he helped her stand, unsteady, so she had to lean against the wall to avoid falling. “Not strong enough...”, she repeated, gasping for air and holding her aching left arm, where she was hit with the blunt side of her opponent's weapon.
Kindly smiling at his student, he picked up her longsword and leaned it against the black rock wall next to her. “I'd say this should be enough for today”, said he, while looking out the window. “You did well.”
“Even if you repeat that over and over… it doesn't suddenly become true.” Eliana stared at her feet. Her vision was still blurry and only slowly getting used to the sunlight, which was so rare in this kingdom.
“Well, you do need to mind your defences”, instructed the veteran warrior while offering her a glass of water. “Fighting without a shield is dangerous enough as it is, thus it is a style focused on creating a perfect harmony between offence and defence. Your strikes are as fast as a hunting hawk and strong like an avalanche, but with a defence as lacklustre as yours, you'll never get very far on a real battlefield.” Though harsh, she knew his words to be true. She did not say anything, only looked at her sword leaning against the wall next to her. She was tired, angry and frustrated with herself. “A whole night's worth of training and I didn't accomplish anything…”, she mumbled dejectedly.
“Do not be too hard on yourself.” He softly patted her head while speaking. “While there is still a lot you need to learn, your progress is astounding. I have no doubt that you will be comfortably counted among Vales' strongest warriors in the near future.”
“Don't treat me like a child, Sir Richard.” She pushed her teacher's arm away, crossed her own and pouted.
“My apologies, it is just… Whenever I see you before me, I still see the little girl that was dead set on decorating my axe with paper flower petals and calling it 'Lil' Flower'”, spoke Richard with fondness. “And now here you are, all grown up into a beautiful young woman. Where does the time go?”
Eliana's face reddened. “Th-That was a long time ago!”, she shouted defensively. “Could you stop bringing that up again and again? It's embarrassing!”
Richard laughed loudly. “But even when you're all grown up, I guess you'll always be that little girl deep down. Or… not so deep down, seeing how you're not exactly the tallest girl in the world”, he said, snickering. Before Eliana could retort, reprimand him for poking fun at her size, the door to the training hall opened and a young man with dark brown hair stepped in. He wore a long, white robe with blue accents over black armour. On his belt was a sheath which contained a two-handed rapier. The man's stern eyes fell first unto Richard, then unto Eliana, who both looked at him expectantly.
“Here you are”, he greeted the young princess. “This would explain the noise… and the fact that you were not in your room.”
“Greetings, my liege”, said Richard with a respectful bow, and he placed his right hand on his heart. The young man silently returned the gesture, then turned to his younger sister.
“What is it, Elliot?”, asked Eliana.
“Father wishes to speak with us”, answered the crown prince of Vales. “He said it was urgent.”
“I see.” Eliana turned to her teacher and bowed. “Thank you for today, Sir Richard.”
“Do not mention it”, replied Richard with a kind smile. “Now, go to King Konrad. If it is urgent, you should waste no time.”

Elliot and Eliana left the training hall. The young princess followed a few steps behind her older brother through the corridors of black. Few torches lit the place, on the walls hung portraits of past rulers. There were no windows here through which the morning sun could lighten the dark path, and no carpet was there to distract from the bleak, black rock the castle was built from.
Soldiers patrolled through the hallways, greeting their crown prince respectfully upon sight. When they laid eyes on Eliana, however, they turned away and continued their rounds.
“How is your training going?”, asked he while the two were ascending a stairway.
“Sir Richard said I am doing well”, replied the young princess.
“I see.” The crown prince fell silent and walked ahead.
Her steps were still unsteady. She had to focus on each individual one and it became increasingly harder for her to keep up with her brother's brisk pace. Her vision blurred once more as the pain in her left arm returned.
Elliot stopped and turned to look at her, not saying a single word.
“Why… are we stopping?”, she asked, confused.
“You overdid it during training”, replied Elliot, turning around. “You need to take better care of your health.” He kept walking ahead, forcing her to follow.
“Er… of course. I'm sorry.”

On the upper floors, the hallways were wider and carpeted crimson with the Valessian royal family's crest imprinted on it in black; a black dragon coiling around a large sword. Two maids were in the process of cleaning said carpet when their eyes fell on the two royal siblings, they immediately bowed to Elliot. “Good morning, Prince Elliot”, greeted the two women. He acknowledged their greeting with a silent nod and continued on. Eliana again was ignored, as the two maids continued to focus on their work when they saw her.

The young princess grew more nervous with every step they took. She was still exhausted from training with Richard, but something else had invaded her mind. Something to almost make her forget her exhaustion and tiredness. Her heartbeat was accelerating, almost like a drum on a parade. A steady rhythm. Quicker. Quicker. And quicker. How was her father, she wondered. What did he want to say? What was so urgent that both her and Elliot's presence was required? Was he alright? What if…? No. No, he could not have been dead yet. He did ask Elliot to take her to him, after all. 'Don't worry too much!', she told herself. 'Your father is strong! Stronger than any old illness!'

… But no matter how many times she repeated those lines in her head, her heartbeat kept going faster and faster with worry the longer they took to reach the king's chambers.

After what felt like an eternity to Eliana, the two finally reached the door they had been seeking: their father's chamber was just beyond here. Elliot bade the two guards, whose pitch-black armour was adorned with crimson cloth, to step aside. They followed the order and bade the two siblings enter. Elliot opened the door to a dark room only lit by a single candle on a table next to a large bed. The windows were closed off by curtains, letting no light shine in. A pale man with a long beard sat in the large bed, he had already waited for his two children, a weak smile on his face. Eliana's heart nearly broke upon seeing her father in this state, while Elliot's stern expression did not change.
“Ah, my children! I am so glad to see you”, greeted the kind and reached out to the two. As if on instinct, Eliana took one of her father's cold, shivering hands and knelt beside him at the bed. “Father… How are you feeling?”, asked she quietly.
“I am fine, child”, replied Konrad, softly stroking his daughter's raven hair. “You worry… to much.” He coughed violently, then gasped for air.
“You had something you wanted to talk to us about, father?”, asked Elliot, who took his place beside his sister.
“Yes, I did...”, replied Konrad weakly. “Eliana, my daughter… how fares your training? I heard you finally started to use the blade I gave you?”
“Sir Richard said that I make good progress”, replied Eliana. “But I know that I still have a long way to go until I can call myself a warrior...”
“That is my girl”. The king smiled with pride. “But do not overdo it, alright? I can see that you have overworked yourself.”
“I am sorry. I'll be careful from now own.” She lowered her head.
Konrad laughed kindly, which erupted into a wild coughing fit. “Do not fret”, he said when his cough had subsided once more, “I am not angry with you. Richard only ever speaks highly of you and your prowess. You are becoming more and more like your grandmother with each day.”
“Thank you, father.” Eliana smiled weakly at him, trying her best to hide her worry.

Konrad turned to his son. “Elliot… how are my people? Are they alright?”
“If you can call it that in these times”, replied the crown prince hesitantly. “Two days ago, a storm ravaged the Central Plateau. Many villages and fields were destroyed in the process, the people left without homes.”
“I… see. Have you sent help to them?”
“Of course.” Elliot nodded firmly. “But the situation is getting worse. If these weather conditions remain, I fear that harvest might be even worse than it was last year. And if that happens, we'll have yet another famine.”
“What of our supply request to Liphia? Has the Republic responded yet?”
“No. There has not been a response.” Elliot furrowed his brow. “With the supplies we do have and the fields that are still there, we should be able to last through the year, but… it will be very close and… I do not know what to do afterwards.”
Konrad nodded sadly. “Why do I have to be bedridden now?”, asked he with frustration. “Forgive me for placing such a heavy burden on you, my son.”
“Prime Minister Mordred and mother do their best to help me”, told Elliot. “You do not need to worry, father. Vales is in good hands with me. You need only concern yourself with your recovery.”
“I know, my son. I know.” The king smiled and sank down on his pillow. “I am proud of you… both of you.” He looked at his children. “And… of course, Benjamin too.”
“Is he still studying in Raganor?”, asked Eliana.
“He is. And it is probably for best, too”, said Elliot sternly.
“Benjamin is a good boy”, said Konrad softly. “I just wish he would write more often.”
“As I have already said, it is probably for the best like this”, repeated Elliot.
“Why do you say that?”, asked Eliana, but she received no reply.
“Vales' situation right now is… difficult”, replied Konrad in his son's stead. “He is yet young, too young, to understand its magnitude. Your little brother is safe in Raganor, Eliana. The Empire is yet… a safe place to live.” He coughed again and drips of blood fell onto the bed sheets.
“Dad!” Eliana panicked.
“I am fine. I am fine”, said Konrad hurriedly. “You do not need to worry.” He laughed weakly. “It… has been a while since you last called me 'Dad'”, he added.
“This is no laughing matter, father”, protested Elliot. “She is merely concerned for your well-being. We all are, in fact.”

The three were interrupted by the distinct noise of armoured footsteps outside of the room. There was knocking shortly afterwards.
“Come in”, said Konrad weakly. The door opened and an out-of-breath messenger entered, nearly collapsing from exhaustion. Following him were three soldiers, who knelt down after greeting the royal family.
“Urgent message!”, shouted the messenger, his voice cracking on occasion. “Ladon Province… peasants… revolt…!”
“Please, calm down first”, ordered Elliot. “If you are so out of breath, it is impossible to understand what you are trying to say.”
The messenger took a few deep breaths as ordered and gathered his bearings before speaking up again: “A group of peasants has organized an uprising in Ladon Province! Prime Minister Mordred has ordered an emergency war council and Queen Lucille has ordered all officials to take part and gather in the council hall immediately.”
“An uprising?” Elliot rose. “How?”
Eliana was equally shocked.
“I knew it would come to this...” Konrad gave a resignated sigh. “My children… do not concern yourselves with me right now. Go to the council hall… protect Vales.”
“Of course, father.” Eliana nodded firmly and followed Elliot, the messenger and the soldiers out of the king's chamber to the council room, which was located next to the throne room on the first floor of Fabunil Fortress' main building. Dark clouds had gathered in the sky and distant rumbling could be heard.

The council hall was a very long room with a large stone table in the middle. To the left and right of the stone table large, wooden stands, and on the opposite end three large windows. From the ceiling hung the banners of the royal family, house Rosenstein. On the stands to the right were the places for the military officials, the left was reserved for the civil officers. Around the table, which had a detailed map of the kingdom engraved into it, were chairs reserved solely for the royal family and high council members, such as the Prime Minister and the three Dragon Generals, renowned leaders of the military, said to be the kingdom's strongest warriors. At the window end of the table was a large throne that was normally reserved for the ruler, but since King Konrad was indisposed, his wife, Queen Lucille von Harmun had taken his place. She was a young woman of fair complexion, dressed in a beautiful pale yellow gown with elaborate decorations. In her left hand, she held a gorgeously decorated golden feather fan, with which she cooled the air around her and hid the lower half of her face. To her left, a tall man in a dark blue robe had taken his seat, the Prime Minister and leading strategist, Mordred von Suhma.

“So the children of our generous king have finally deigned to join us”, said Mordred with bemusement upon seeing Elliot and Eliana enter the hall.
“Forgive our tardiness”, said Elliot as he took his place on his mother's right. “We were only just now informed that there was a council meeting today.”
“Do not worry about it, my dear son.” Queen Lucille smiled warmly at him. “Of course, talking to your father is very important, too. Is that not right?” She then turned to look at Eliana and her smile was replaced with a scornful scowl. The young princess felt her mother's sharp looks pierce her as the queen spoke: “Can you not at least have the decency to bathe when attending a meeting? Look at yourself! No better than a common barbarian. Your hair is out of place and I do not even want to talk about your clothes… You are an embarrassment to the royal family!”
Eliana was silent and avoided making eye contact with the queen.
“Mother, if I may”, Elliot spoke calmly. “Eliana has trained with Sir Richard all morning. Due to the sudden nature of this meeting and it's importance, she did not have the time to bathe or get dressed. I ask that you take these things into account, mother.”
“Fine, whatever...” The queen sighed in annoyance. “I will overlook your little slight today. You can thank your brother later, brat. Now sit down.”
Eliana obediently took her place at the other end of the table, next to another young woman, who placed a hand on her shoulder. She had black armour on, a dark blue cape, and a circlet with wing-like attachments on the left and right side in her shoulder-length hair. She was one of the three Dragon Generals, a woman known by the name of Cynthia von Mallas.
“Are you okay, princess?”, asked she, concerned.
“I am fine, General”, replied Eliana with a weak smile. “I'm… already used to it.”

“I think we have more important matters to discuss than the fashion sense of our dear princess”, said Mordred, chuckling at his own joke. He rose from his seat and bowed to the queen. “No offence, Your Highness.”
Lucille continued to cool herself with her fan while giving a disinterested nod.
Mordred cleared his throat and addressed the council, saying: “Your Highnesses, dear Generals, dear Ministers, soldiers and officials… Shortly after sunrise this morning, our scouts reported that an armed uprising against the Valessian royal family was formed in the city of Valthasar in Ladon Province.” He pointed to the map engraved into the table, indicating Valthasar city. “Their leaders are apparently of the mind that His Majesty, King Konrad, is to blame for the recent failings of the harvests and the ever more prevalent storms that have been plaguing our land for the last three years.”
“That is ridiculous!”, shouted a civil officer and he was met with agreement from all sides, until Mordred gave a sign with his hand, upon which everyone fell silent again.
“We are of course of one mind, dear listeners”, said the Prime Minister. “Though it is a sad fact that these fools believe what they are told… and that there are no less than thirty thousand of them.”

“D-Did he just say 'thirty thousand'?”, asked one of the military officers in disbelief.
“That's almost as many people as the entire population of Valthasar city”, a second added.
“My wife and children live there. I hope they are alright”, a third voiced his concerns.

“Thirty thousand, you say? What reason is there to fear?”, asked a particularly tall man, who sat next to Cynthia at the table. His armour had gold ornaments and was significantly more menacing that any other soldiers'. He stood about two heads taller than anyone else present. He, too, was a member of the three Dragon Generals, a man by the name of Ragnar. “Is such a thing really worth calling in an emergency meeting?”, he continued with a voice like thunder. “Our entire army is twenty times that size. And even if it wasn't, they are but ordinary people, barely trained for fighting! Just send the three Dragon General against them and they will turn tail and flee, be there three hundred or thirty thousand. It doesn't matter.” Everyone in the room stared at the General with partial disbelief, partial fear and partial respect.

“Of course I agree, General”, said Mordred. “Whether they be battle-hardened soldiers or simple peasants, a body of thirty thousand is nothing compared to the might of our own army. But what was the saying again? 'Pride goes before a fall'. That is why I suggest we take a more… strategic approach to all this.” He again directed the attention toward the map, where he had marked three different spots. “Our scouts have reported that our enemy has split off into three groups and is advancing on the capital as we speak”, he explained. “One group, around seven and a half thousand strong, is advancing from the north through Suhma Province, another, likewise seven and a half thousand, advances from the west along Naraka River between the Southern Ladonian Mountains and Memento Woods. Their main unit, fifteen thousand in number, is marching through the Central Plateau onto Fabunil city.”

“So they are trying a pincer attack”, deduced Cynthia.
“Indeed”, agreed another young man with blond hair, who had his arms crossed in front of his chest. His armour had a sophisticated black and golden design, over it he wore a golden robe. He was the queen's younger brother and the remaining member of the Dragon Generals; Ares von Harmun. “If they are truly peasants, they do at least know some basics of warfare.”
“Their main camp is located here, at Fang Mountain”, Mordred continued. “I think it is safe to assume that their leader, whomever it might be, will be there, overseeing the operation.”

Voices were heard from the stands as the military and civil officers discussed amongst themselves.
“These rebels seem to have thought this through.”
“No kidding. You'd think there was something else behind all of this.”
“What do you mean?”
“Think about it: an organized, armed uprising of no less than thirty thousand people. And they're not dumb enough to rush at us and get themselves killed in seconds. Whoever is behind this has to know their craft at least somewhat.”
“Oh, please! The 'divide and conquer' stratagem is as old as warfare itself. Even a little child could think of that!”

Mordred again gave a silent hand sign and again, every person present fell silent.
“That all does sound dangerous, doesn't it?” He chuckled gleefully. “I mean, two parts of the enemy forces are advancing through quite frankly difficult territory that even trained knights struggle to fight efficiently in. In addition, their main body just waltzes straight at us like a mob of brain-dead oxen over the Central Plateau, an area that is quite famous for not providing much tactical advantage in terms of possible ambushes or other such drivel. Their endgame should be obvious: they want to lure us into a trap. Their main body of fifteen thousand is bait to lure out the larger part of our own armies so that the other two groups can advance safely and besiege Fabunil city while its defences are weak. This stratagem was already employed once a long time ago, by our Ancestral Queen, Antonia, founder of the Valessian Kingdom, when she defeated the Duke of Fafnir. But the difference between then and now is that we are not arrogant fools who would fall for such an obvious trap. The solution to this is very simple. We just have to beat them at their own game. Our force will be divided into three parts as well. Each part will advance to a certain key location and wait for the enemy there. General Ares.”
“Yes, Prime Minister?”
“You and your Golden Cavalry shall take the highroad to Logos and intercept the enemy coming from the north. In addition to your own men, I'd say… fifteen thousand troops and five hundred horses should suffice?”
“Of course”, replied Ares. “The enemy will not gain an opportunity to cross the city border of Logos. Me and my Golden Cavalry will ensure as much!”
“Very nice.” Mordred nodded approvingly and addressed the woman sitting next to Eliana. “General Cynthia. You're up next.”
“I'm listening?”
“How fast can you organize three hundred Sky Drakes?”
“That will take around two or three hours.”
“Very good. Then do that and take them as well as ten thousand additional soldiers to the exit of Naraka Valley, where the Southern Ladonian Mountains and the Memento Woods end. You will ambush the enemy from the west there. I trust for someone with your ability this will not pose a problem?”
“Of course not, General”, said Cynthia with a firm nod. “My Wyvern Brigade exists to protect Vales.”
“And lastly, General Ragnar. I want you to camp at Dagon Gate and demoralize their main unit advancing through the Central Plateau. I trust you can handle it?”
“Very well”, said Ragnar with a firm nod. “As long as my heart beats in my chest, the enemy will never break through!”
“I know of your incredible fighting strength, General, but I still must insist that you take twenty thousand men with you in order for this mission to succeed. I hope this will not be a problem?”
“Twenty thousand seems a bit much”, Ragnar replied, clearly not agreeing to the plan in its entirety. “But if that is what is necessary, then I'll take them with me. The men do need a vacation from time to time.”
“Very good, very good!” Mordred laughed. “That is the defensive aspect of our plan taken care of. Your Majesty: I ask that you command a small force to defend the capital, just in case the enemy has some… surprises.”
“I have never doubted your planning before, Mordred”, said Elliot with a nod. “And this time is no different.”
“I am honored, my lord.” The Prime Minister bowed respectfully, then again addressed the council. “Now all that is left is to talk about our own offence. The enemy's main camp. And of course the fact that our enemy is concentrating his main force on attacking our capital, meaning their leader does not count on us to make an offensive move as well. And this is part two of my strategy: a small party will assault the enemy's base and seize the fools' leader while our main army keeps their main army busy. This should end the uprising quickly and efficiently.”

“And who is supposed to lead the assault troop?”, asked Cynthia. “If Prince Elliot stays here to guard the capital, Ares, Ragnar, and I go to intercept the enemy, and yourself oversee the operation, then who is left for this task?”
“You are right, of course, General, but I have already taken care of that.” Mordred pointed at Eliana, who startled when she was suddenly at the centre of attention. “Why else would she be here?”, added the Prime Minister.
“What? I-I have to lead the assault troop?”, asked Eliana in sheer disbelief. Her heart began beating rapidly and her throat tightened.
“Yes, indeed.” Mordred nodded, confirming his words once more. “No offence, Princess, but if you weren't a crucial part in my strategy, we surely would have given you enough time to get dressed properly and avoid the little faux pas from before.”
Eliana was silent. She was to take on the responsibility of an entire troop? That had to be a joke, surely! But no, Mordred was not one for jests, especially not when his strategies were concerned. On the other hand, this might have been the opportunity she had been waiting for. With a sad look, she first turned eyes toward her mother, then her brother.

“I have to object to this, Prime Minister”, interjected Elliot suddenly.
“Eliana has never been on an actual battlefield before. To give such an important task to someone so inexperienced is frankly ludicrous. I will lead the assault troop.” He had risen from his seat while the officers on the stands started whispering amongst themselves once again.
“But isn't that exactly what the Princess wants?”, asked Mordred. “An opportunity to prove herself worthy of the Valessian Royal name? To finally prove herself in actual combat instead of wasting her talents in a training hall?”
Queen Lucille nodded in agreement. “Eliana, I have decided to give you this one chance, so you can prove to me that you are more than a common brat”, she said sternly. “After all, Ancestral Queen Antonia was insignificant before she rebelled against the Kendrian Empire, as well. And both my husband and Sir Richard do not tire to sing your praises. Do you wish to prove your own father and teacher liars?”

Eliana did not answer. She could hear the stands gossiping.
“Can she really do it? I'm not sure...”
“Yes, just because she is King Konrad's daughter doesn't mean she inherited his prowess.”
“The opposite, if you ask me. I mean, look at her!”
“I know what you mean. A delicate flower such as her doesn't belong on the field of battle.”
“What's worse, she's shorter than other girls her age. What kind of strength could someone as tiny as her really have?”
“Indeed! My daughter is two years younger and already taller, yet she can't lift a simple log! So what could she possibly do?”
“But if Prime Minister Mordred personally selects her to lead the assault troop, then maybe the praises from His Majesty and Sir Richard aren't hot air, after all...”
“Even if the Prime Minister has decided thus… I doubt it was the right call.”
“I concur.”

“Of course, the young Princess will not have to accomplish this task on her own”, said Mordred. “She will be accompanied by very able knights. No one expects her to take the rebellion's leader on alone.”
“I still object.” Elliot firmly shook his head. “It's too dangerous for her.”
“Do you not trust your little sister?”, asked Lucille, and her son immediately fell silent. “Wasn't it you who told me to 'trust her more' and 'respect her more'? Now that I am doing that, it is you who opposes me. Do you take back your words, my son?”
“Of course not, I...”
“So why do you say she can not do it?”
Elliot's eyes wandered toward his younger sister who was still lost in her thoughts, then back to his mother and the Prime Minister, looking at him expectantly.

“This is a waste of time”, interjected Ragnar suddenly. “Does it really matter if she can lead the assault troop or not?"
“As much as I despise impatience, I have to agree.” Ares nodded. “Whether or not Princess Eliana is suited to this task has no bearing on the success of the subjugation. With or without her help, this rebellion will fail. But nothing is accomplished by sitting here and running our mouths like a bunch of excited chicken.”
“But still…!”, Elliot could not continue, as Eliana opened her mouth.
“I'll do it!”, she shouted suddenly. “I will lead the assault troop!”
“Are you sure about this?”, asked her brother.
“I am”, she confirmed. “And I will succeed. You'll see.”
“Spoken like a true warrior!” Ragnar applauded her. “The little girl does have some backbone!”
“My Queen, do you have any objections?”, asked Mordred.
“Of course not. We will proceed with this plan. I am sure my husband would have agreed.”
“And you, my Prince?”
“If it is Eliana's wish”, said Elliot hesitantly, then he turned to his younger sister. “Be careful out there. The battlefield is vastly different from the mock battles you're used to.”
“You can count on me, brother”, said Eliana with a reassuring smile.

“So it is decided. An operation like this requires careful preparation, but I still suggest you hurry. The enemy is on their way here, after all”. With these words, meeting was adjourned and everyone left the council hall to get ready for the upcoming campaign.

Outside meanwhile, it had started to rain and the masses of water prattled against the window and the dark walls. Eliana had taken her shower and dressed herself in a light, crimson battle garb. Her hair was still slightly wet as she left her room to make her final preparations to march. Her azure-coloured blade was sheathed at her hips.
“Ah, you're still as beautiful as ever, dear Princess!” She was stopped in her tracks by a particularly self-important voice and two knights approached her. One of them had a sword and dark blue armour, the other carried a long spear and his armour sparkled crimson.
“Sir Lucas, Sir Roderick”, she greeted her long time friends with a happy smile. “What are you doing here?”
“Prime Minister Mordred ordered us to accompany you, milady”, said Roderick, the blue-armoured knight. He had very properly styled hair and a stern look on his face.
“You two are part of the assault troop?”, asked Eliana.
“Yes, we are!”, shouted Lucas at the top of his lungs, brandishing his spear dramatically. His unkempt, messy hair and shiny blue armour were in stark contrast to Roderick's red and proper haircut. “But honestly? Even without orders, we would have gone with you! After all, a true knight never lets a lady run headlong into the jaws of danger. Especially if she is as breathtakingly beautiful as you!”
“How charming”, said Eliana sarcastically. “Is it possible for you to… not do that?”
“It's especially bad today”, said Roderick, putting a hand to his forehead and giving an exasperated sigh. “I swear, these are the times I ask myself how anyone thought making him a knight was a good idea...”
“Now you're just being unfair, Roddy!”, shouted Lucas. “You know that I am one of the best spear fighters this kingdom has ever seen!” He demonstrated his claims by twirling his spear around, forcing Roderick and Eliana to take a few steps away from him.
“In your dreams”, said Roderick dryly as Lucas dropped his weapon. “See?” He chuckled slightly.
Eliana giggled as well. “Don't fight, you two”, she said. “It's reassuring to have your support. It is my first time commanding a unit, after all.”
“Are you nervos?”, asked Roderick.
“I'd be lying if I said no. I feel like my heart could burst from my chest at any moment now”, admitted the young princess.
“Even if it were to do that, I would catch it!”, cried Lucas. “Your heart is safe with me, milady! Be assured of that!”
“Er… thanks, I think?” Eliana gave him a confused stare, but then she started laughing a little.
“There's what I've been waiting for”, said Lucas triumphantly. “Women are so much prettier when smiling! That frown did not suit you, milady!”
“Fine, fine!” Eliana shook her head. “If we want to reach the rebel base in time, we have to leave now. Is there anyone else accompanying us?”
“The Prime Minister has assigned two hundred soldiers and fifty horses to our unit”, explained Roderick while looking at a paper. “In addition, Sir Sieghart will be supporting us. He said to wait for him at the city gates.”
“Sieghart is coming, too?” Eliana was surprised.
“You bet!”, said Lucas. “He said he didn't want to miss your first campaign and insisted to accompany you!”
“With that, the whole gang would be back together, huh?”, asked Roderick with a nostalgic smile on his face.
“Yes, but I had hoped the fair Cynthia would accompany us, as well”, Lucas swooned. “But lo! She already has another duty to fulfill! The humanity!”
“I think she'll be happy about that”, said Roderick, shaking his head. “What in Antonia's name is wrong with you today?”
“Wrong? There is nothing wrong with me! But when our dear Princess insists on being a downer, I have to be this way to balance the mood, right?”
“So he's being the class clown again… that's nothing new.” Roderick sighed in exasperation. “In any case, I have already asked the men to wait for us at the city gates as well. Shall we go?”
“Yes.” Eliana nodded.

Fabunil Fortress, the royal castle of Vales, was built into the side of a steep mountain cliff, nearly levitating above its capital of the same name, located in the Valley of Fafnir. Surrounded by high peaks, the city was renowned as an impenetrable fortress, with its only entrance and exit being a singular, large gate to the south of the valley. A singular, circular staircase was the only way to and from the castle, with multiple balconies and platforms adorned with statues and sculptures turning the stairway itself into a work of art. The town's rooftops were usually shrouded in fog, the stairs wet from the ongoing rain, causing those entering and exiting the Fabunil Fortress to exercise caution while walking on them.

The city itself was silent as Eliana and her two childhood friends left the stairs. Only few people walked the shoddily cobbled streets this morning. Most of them were still inside their houses, made partially of wood, partially of stone. Rain prattled against closed shutters, dogs barked, and very few guards patrolled the streets.

“Most of them must have already left”, speculated Roderick.
“Meaning we should hurry, too”, added Lukas.

Upon reaching the circular town square, they still did not meet many townsfolk. The friends stopped their tracks and turned to the centre of the square, toward the fountain which held the statue of a young woman in elegant garb wielding two distinct swords, standing back to back with a man in impressive armour wielding a trident, and a second man, kneeling on the ground, holding a bow and pointing an arrow upwards. Behind the monument, an old, empty church building was situated.

Lukas and Roderick knelt down in front of the monument while Eliana only eyed it, awestruck at its realism. She really felt as if these three could have sprung to life at any moment. She remembered her childhood, when she, Roderick, Lukas, and Sieghart played at this very fountain and a smile formed at her lips.
“Oh, Ancestral Queen Antonia, give us the strength so that we may return from this campaign alive”, muttered Roderick in prayer.
“And please give me a chance to get with a beautiful young lady...”, added Lukas, earning him a smack on the back of his head by his colleague. “Ow!”

With their prayers spoken, the three continued onwards to the city gates. The city was quiet, rain came down from the sky, forming small puddles between the cobble stone. Underneath a protruding roof between two houses was a black cat with bright green eyes carefully watching the friends walking by, and meowing occasionally.
“An omen of good luck?”, Lukas smiled.
“No, to meet a meowing black cat on travels is a sign of bad things to come”, corrected Roderick with a grim expression. “I think we should be careful from here on.”
“Pure superstition”, said Eliana, waving off her friend's concerns. “We have to be careful, anyway, or else we'll end up on the wrong end of the enemies' blades. Besides, cats are cute. How could meeting one be bad luck?”
“Honestly, Roderick!” Lukas laughed. “Besides, this particular black cat has the same eye colour as our dear Princess. While hers are – of course – much more beautiful than that cat's, I still fail to see what's so bad about it. Do you mean to say milady is bad luck, too?”
“Maybe I was mistaken.” Roderick sighed in defeat.
“There is no 'maybe'. You were utterly mistaken!”, shouted Lukas. “We did just pray to the Ancestral Queen! I'm sure we'll be fine, so long as she watches over us!”
“That is just superstition, too”, whispered Eliana so that her friends could not hear.

The rain let up a bit as they finally reached the city gates. Around two hundred soldiers were already eagerly expecting them, some already mounted on one of the fifty horses that Mordred had assigned to them. A young man approached the three friends and gave a happy greeting. He wore a dark purple tunic above his black armour and carried a bow and a quiver containing arrows on his back.
“There you are, I've been waiting”, said the young man, smiling.
“Sieghart, it's good to see you!”, greeted Eliana back. “So you really are coming with us?”
“Yes. Prime Minister Morded ordered me to keep an eye on you, milady”, said Sieghart. “He also told me to jump in if Lukas messes up again”, he added with a chuckle. “Again, I am one of the strongest spear users in the entire kingdom!” Proudly, Lukas raised his weapon into the air and his nose along with it.
“And we all believe that”, said Sieghart sarcastically and the four friends shared a laugh.

“Well then, Princess”, said Roderick, “it seems we are ready to depart now. Do you wish to share a few words of motivation before we set out?”
“Er...” Eliana looked around nervously as the soldiers stood in front of her in orderly rows. Two hundred pairs of eyes were now entirely on her. “Um… O-our goal is the rebel's headquarter at the foot of Fang Mountain. I-if we take their leader captive… um… this fight will end with him. So… all troops, advance!” She thrust her sword into the air, and every soldier cheered and did the same. With that, the assault troop marched. Their way would lead them north through Suhma Province, then west along Sardon River and thus near the Central Mountains of Kendr and the second highest peak in the kingdom, Fang Mountain.

* * *
“Is there something bothering you?”, asked Queen Lucille upon seeing her son's troubled expression while waiting for a report from the different units.
“Something about this uprising does not seem right”, replied Elliot. “Great organizing and leadership skills are required to lead an army of thirty thousand men, much less winning them over to your cause. Not to mention the fact that they are using strategy, any strategy at all, to bring us down to our knees, old and hackneyed as it may be… I feel like there is more to this rebellion than meets the eye.”
“Winning thirty thousand people over is easy”, said Mordred. “Just tell them what they want to hear and they are as clay in your hands. But I do agree, my prince. Unlike past uprisings, where they would just throw themselves at us and hope not to get slaughtered, this time their leader seems to at least have some rudimentary clue as to what they are doing.”
“Indeed.” Elliot nodded. “And I am trying to figure out who it might be. Who could have any interest to throw Vales into chaos? With that kind of planning, no less?”
“Well, it's not like uprisings are particularly rare around here.” Mordred chuckled and shrugged. “But I have a hunch as to who could be behind this particular rebellion.”
“Tell us, please.”
“None other than the Republic of Liphia.”

As Mordred said these words, Elliot's eyes widened.
“Liphia? Really?”, the Crown Prince asked in shock.
“The Republic was never exactly friendly with us”, replied Lucille. “Remember, every time we asked them for help with our famine and poor harvests, they either turned us down or did not even send a reply.”
“Exactly.” Mordred nodded in agreement. “It is not unthinkable that they would try to sow discord in this land to weaken us and subsequently invade when we are on our last legs. Through our many requests for help, they know full well how weak we are. No matter how renowned our Dragon Generals may be, fighting while hungry, starved hurts morale. Isn't that right?”
“I don't believe it”, said Elliot, shaking his head. “What would Liphia stand to gain from an invasion against us?”
“One less enemy to worry about”, replied Mordred dryly. “Liphia has been involved in an armed conflict with the Raganorian Empire for years now, fighting over who gets supremacy over the city of Kargon. The only reason Liphia hasn't invaded and claimed Kargon yet is because they feel threatened by a certain kingdom to the south… OUR kingdom.”
Elliot looked down, deep in thought.
“Liphia has to use a significant part of their military force to guard their southern borders. Thus, they cannot fight Raganor at their full strength. If Liphia wants to take Kargon for themselves so badly, do you not think they would use every possibility available? Even destroying another country from within?”
“Liphia is ruled by cowards”, said Lucille. “Such underhanded tactics are right up their alley.”
Elliot rose from his seat. “We won't gain anything from mere speculation”, he said sternly. “For now, we should focus on ending this uprising as fast as possible. Everything else comes afterwards.”
“As you wish, my prince.” Mordred bowed respectfully.

* * *

Ares struck down three of his enemies with a single stroke of his black sword. His horse reared up. Surrounding him, the sound of battle. Angry cries. Steel striking steel. The battlefield in front of Logos, the capital of Suhma Province, was soon littered with the bodies of the rebels.
“As expected”, muttered the queen's younger brother. “They are but peasants.”
He watched as his soldiers carried off prisoners who uttered curses in the direction of the Dragon General.


The Dragon General could muster naught but a smile at these words.
“General, there are more of them incoming!”, one of his soldiers reported.
Ares looked in the direction of a hilltop and saw the white banners of his enemies approaching. “Hm, so this could get interesting after all”, muttered he with a bemused look, turned his horse around and addressed his soldiers. “Hear me, Golden Cavalry! No enemy will pass the city gates. Archers! Mages! Get ready! We will lay down the final strike!”

Arrows were fitted into bowstrings, ancient formulae spoken. The arrow tips began bursting into flames as they were released into the sky and rained down on their unassuming foes. From the rebel ranks arose pained screams and agonized shouts as they were burned along with their banners. As the infernal rain took its share, Ares ordered his men forward to slaughter anyone left standing. Angry neighing and screaming filled the air as both horses and riders clashed. The few survivors immediately threw down their weapons and surrendered, though Ares knew no mercy. He ordered their immediate execution in the town square of Logos. Every surviving rebel they had caught met their end here.

* * *
“Rebels, heed my voice! Take one step further and it shall be your last!”
Ragnar's thundering voice echoed through the Central Plateau as he swung his two greataxes and cut down one foe after another. “Those who wish to destroy the Valessian royal house will answer to my blade!”

A brave soldier lunged at him with his spear outstretched. An angry shout, he thrust his weapon toward his opponent, who looked at him threateningly, hurled one of his axes into the air, then grabbed the lance with one hand and lifted it along with its bearer into the air. The soldier was dumbfounded as he found himself levitating. Terrified, he stared right into the gleeful eyes of Ragnar and then everything flashed red in front of him. He could only barely see the shaft of the greataxe sticking out of his back as he felt the sharp metal blade bisecting his spine. Ragnar ripped his weapon out of his foe's back and hurled him away, along with his spear. The Dragon General then used his axes to strike down two more unlucky rebels. “Get out of my way!”, roared he.

“H-He's a demon!”
“Run! Run!!!”
“W-We have to get away!!!”

Utterly terrified, most of the rebels tried to run for their lives, but Ragnar was faster than they were. The last thing they felt was the steel of his greataxes.

The main unit of the rebels, fifteen thousand men, was dismantled in a matter of minutes. The appearance of Ragnar alone was enough to strike fear into the rebels' hearts as they scampered about trying to save themselves, only to run into Ragnar's own soldiers or the man himself. The few who did have the courage to face the fearsome general were cut down in seconds by the axes he wielded with such power that the very ground they fought on was torn apart.

“These fools...”, uttered Ragnar, shaking his head in disappointment as he watched the blood drip from his weapons. “They threw their lives away for nothing.”
“G-General, what do we do with the bodies?”, asked one of the soldiers.
“We cannot afford to have them all buried with proper ceremony”, replied Ragnar with annoyance. “As much as it shames me to do this, I order you to drop them all in a hole somewhere. Then, send a messenger to the capital that their main unit has been routed.”

The soldiers obeyed their commander's orders and began digging a large hole into the soft soil and threw the bodies of their enemies into it before closing it up again. None of them was happy to do it, but the alternative was getting on Ragnar's bad side and thus end up on the wrong end of his weapons.

* * *

With careful steps they made their way across the narrow pathway. To their left was the Memento Forest, dark and nearly never-ending, to their right the aggressive, wild Naraka River and the Southern Ladonian Range, steep cliffs that rose to the very heavens. Their orders were to reach and lay siege to Fabunil before the Valessian army could react. Since they left their base at the foot of Fang Mountain roughly three days ago, they had left a good portion of the way behind them. Their path was a perilous one, but it did guarantee that no Valessian soldier would interfere with their mission. In their hearts burned the will to finally bring an end to the tyrannical rule of House Rosenstein. It was their holy mission, to liberate Vales from their oppressive rule. And soon, the day would come that the land would finally be free again. So they were told by their leader.

“We almost made it”, said the unit commander and rallied his troops. “Memento Forest ends up ahead. Once we make it through there, we'll be home free!”

A loud roar stopped the seven and a half thousand men in their tracks. Utterly terrified, they turned to look up at the steep cliffs as the sun was suddenly blocked by many pairs of large wings. Scaled creatures were circling above them, roaring in many pitches as they set their sights on their prey.

“Sky Drakes?”, asked one of the rebels in panic.
“No… it's worse!”, replied another. “It's the Wyvern Brigade!!!”

“Everyone, attack, now!”, resounded Cynthia's voice. The Dragon General readied her dual-headed halberd and ordered her mount to dive bomb the enemy. Her unit followed after her. With weapons outstretched, they descended upon their enemy like a hawk would its prey, accompanied by the feral roars of their mounts.

“Run! RUN!!!”, ordered the unit commander and he and his men ran ahead toward the exit of Memento Forest. But they were already expected. An entire army, split up into three parts, was waiting for them. The rebels froze upon seeing the black-clad foe before them, their crimson-red banners quaking in the winds. As they took notice of the rebels, the Mages conjured powerful lightning and struck the rebel ranks from above.
“That's our cue!”, shouted one of the commanders. “Attack!” The soldiers behind them swiftly readied their weapons and attacked. With nowhere else to run, the rebels fled to the forest, but soon noticed that they were held at arrowpoint. Thousands of archers had hidden themselves in the shrubs and behind the dark trees. Above them, the Drake Knights still circled, waiting for someone to make a wrong move.

“Rebels, heed my words!”, called Cynthia from above. “You have no means of escape. And you are severely outnumbered. Trying to fight will only get you killed. If you surrender quietly, I give you my word that no harm shall come to you.”

The rebels shared looks of fright and uncertainty. In front of them were thousands of heavily armed soldiers, behind them waited many arrows to sink themselves into their flesh, and above, Sky Drakes circled like vultures, waiting for an ample opportunity to feast while Mages were waiting in anticipation, their hands wreathed in crackling electricity.
“We will never give up! We fight for the good of the people!”, shouted the unit captain and rushed one of the Valessian soldiers with sword raised. He was quickly struck down with the broad side of a two-handed greatsword. “Don't be so stubborn!”, said the soldier. “You should listen to General Cynthia. You're outnumbered. If you get killed here, you'll just die for nothing!”
“Better to die than… live another day under the rule of that tyrant!!!”, another rebel called out and roused the others to attack alongside him. “We either dethrone the tyrant or we die trying! Everyone! WITH ME!!!”
He had made but one step and already five arrows had struck his back and he fell to the ground, dead. This was the cue for the other rebels to desperately start fighting back. They split up to attack the enemies individually, but the Valessian army was leagues beyond them in fighting strength. In the woods, they had no escape from a relentless rain of arrows, those who escaped the forest met the double-headed halberd of Cynthia, the weapons of her peers or the claws and fangs of the Sky Drakes they rode. Others were struck down by powerful lightning bolts while the other soldiers struck down the rest. Naraka River was soon stained red with the rebels' blood.

* * *
Meanwhile, Eliana and her unit had reached the bank of Sardon River north of Suhma Provice and made camp there. Since they left the capital, three days had passed and they had marched with nary a break to bring an end to the rebel leader as soon as possible. But eventually, fatigue had gotten the better of them and they decided to rest here.

“Our next step is to advance westward”, said Roderick, pointing at a map of the area. “We'll reach Fang Mountain if we go downstream from here.”
“Very good”, said Eliana. “Then we will be there soon, right?”
“Are you nervous, milady?”, asked Lukas.
“I'd be lying if I said 'no'”, she confessed with a deep sigh. “But I have all of you with me, so it's okay.”
“Of course. You can rely on us, Princess”, promised Sieghart. “But for the moment, we should rest. It has been a long way to get here.”
“I agree.” Eliana nodded and left the tent, where Lukas, Roderick, and Sieghart went over further plans for the assault on the rebel base. She walked around camp. A cool breeze came from the south and dark clouds followed, blocking out the sun. Soon, raindrops started falling from the sky and onto the moist soil.
The Soldiers worked on their own as Eliana passed them. Some of them fed the horses while others inspected the weapons. While looking at them, she found it hard to believe that they were about to fight a crucial battle. They all seemed relaxed and confident.

The waters of Sardon River were quickly flowing along, though very clear, prompting her to wash her face and hands. The cold water felt refreshing on her skin and she felt her nervousness melt away, being replaced by exhaustion. Only now did she truly feel the fatigue of walking for three days without extended breaks. Still, her mind wandered. Why did the rebels decide to revolt? What was their goal? No matter how hard she thought, she could not make rhyme or reason of it.

Deeply lost in thought, she did not notice that someone had silently approached her. From a nearby bush, the assailant silently watched her.

“It's an ambush!!!” Eliana looked up upon hearing the sudden panicked call, but by then, it was already too late. An arrow lodged itself in her left shoulder, sending her body into a pain-induced shock. As the noise of battle erupted all around her, she struggled to suppress the excruciating pain and lift herself up. By the time she could reach for her sword to help her allies, a second arrow struck her in the back, causing her to stumble forward from the impact. On the wet rock, she lost her footing and fell into the river, where she soon lost consciousness.

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