So, young Xavier, you're looking to become a knight, is it?
Yes, sir! I want to be a knight, just like you!
Is that so? And which traits that make up a knight are you going to take on?
A knight possesses three core traits: the first is that a knight wears shining armour, to protect themselves from danger and to dazzle their foes!
The second is a weapon that they can place their trust and lives on, to help defeat any who stands in their way.
You're on the right track, my boy.
And the third is that they rescue a princess!
A princess, eh? And why does it have to be a princess?
So I can marry into her family and gain enough wealth to never have to do a thing in my life!
Aha! So you have been learning! I'm proud of you, you'll make a fine knight some day, my boy! Kuhahahaha!
A lulling breeze swept through the quiet streets of Cranston Village, the merry weather being ignored by the residents of the village, their eyes focused upon the interior of the Hard Boiled Egg, the local inn and tavern. The village folk were all gazing upon the troupe of men and women, donning glittering armour, illuminated by the dim light of the tavern's interior. Strapped to their sides and backs were weapons of all sorts of calibre.
These were knights; chivalrous and brave.
The children of the town were mesmerised by the gathering of warriors, some of them even having dreams of rising to the status of a knight.
As they drank and ate, making full use of the good graces of the village, they would recount their own exploits to one another. Tales of fighting off bandits, slaying wild beasts, or serving in battles against opposing forces to the kingdom of Gracia rang throughout the tavern, filling the countryfolk with wild tales and a sense of awe.
One of the knights raised a mug of ale, grabbing the attention of her fellow knights.
"My fellows, on the morrow, we ride for the Village gates to take on the notorious fiend, to protect the villagers from this thieving devil and to gain the honour of taking the mayor's daughter's hand! I wish you all good fortune!"
With her toast came a hardy chorus of cheers. Next, to the woman, a young boy, dressed in simpler clothing passed a tray of food to the knight, the young squire grinning at the cheers his master had received.
Returning to a quieter part of the tavern, the squire sat amongst his fellow trainees, who were having celebrations of their own. These men and women were notably younger than their armoured teachers, all of them wearing simpler clothing, some with symbols etched onto their outfits.
"Catherine Cress, Knight of the Red Thorn. There's no doubt she will be the one who shall slay the Troll tomorrow, as she had many of the Danar Barbarians," the squire boy smiled, crossing his arms with a satisfied nod. The boy next to him, snorted in response, rubbing grease off of the short bristles that hugged his upper lip with his sleeve, before promptly taking another bite into his meaty meal.
"In your dreams," he began, his mouth full of food. "My master is the one who's going to kill that thing, Patton Favreau of the Sand Sharks. They're the strongest Order of Knights!"
This exchange led to the rest of the squires to commence their own boastful claims of their masters being the ones to take on the menacing Troll that threatened the village. All but one individual that sat at the squire's table, filling his mouth with meal upon meal, a small stack of plates already forming next to him.
The knights who sat away from their servants laughed merrily at the display, enjoying the notion of their disciples fighting for their honour. One knight pointed towards the gluttonous squire, grabbing his attention. The knight's luscious hair was swept back, and a broadsword was held within an ornate sheathe by his side. His chest plate armour had an image of a brown shark, rising from sand. It was the emblem of a Knight's Order.
"You there, boy," he waved, the squire turning to look at the warrior. "And what of your master? Surely you believe he can take on this Troll," he exclaimed, clapping his hand before turning towards the other knights. "Who is this young squire's master?"
A hushed silence fell over the tavern, save for the loud chewing and chomping of the young man.
Frowning, Favreau turned to look back at him in confusion. The knight began to think to himself that the boy may have been a swindler, looking to earn a free meal by riding with the knights. Getting to his feet, he strode over to the boy, scrutinising him.
The squire was older than the others but appeared more youthful than he was. His eyes shone with an amber hue, his scruffy dark hair had been hand-combed hastily off of his forehead. Over tight and clothing, he wore a grey duster jacket, made from a material that reflected the light, almost as if it were made of metal.
"I asked you a question, boy," Favreau spat. "Are you going to keep a knight waiting?"
Once he finished stuffing his face, he rose to his feet. "Xavier Maloi, that's who's going to defeat the Troll and save the girl," Xavier grinned.
"Maloi? Never heard of him."
"You have now, pleased to meet you," Xavier stated, offering his hand.
Another moment of hushed silence filled the tavern before everyone began to laugh. Tears fell and drinks were spilt. The squires began giggling amongst themselves, the thought of someone as ragged-looking as Xavier claiming to be a knight was sheer lunacy.
"And to which Order do you belong to?" Favreau asked between breaths.
Xavier merely shook his head. "I don't belong to any," he explained.
"I see, we have a Rogue Knight on our hands. So tell, me Xavier Maloi, Knight of None. How do you intend to defeat the Troll without any weapons?" Favreau inquired, gesturing to the lack of any weaponry on the man's figure. The laughter began to rise within the tavern as it became apparent, that Xavier had little more than a satchel for his belongings, not large enough to carry a weapon of any kind of consequence.
Frowning, Xavier crossed his arms. "I imagine you plan on taking the Troll on with your breath, correct?"
With that snide comment, the Knight of the Sand Shark's Order gauntlet came crashing down, turning the table between them into splinters. "Watch your mouth, boy," he growled, the two knights glaring at each other, making the difference in height between the two all the more apparent.
Turning, Favreau waved towards the tavern owner. "I'll pay for the damages, our errant Knight here was just leaving," the taller man stated, turning his back to Xavier.
Shaking his head, the duster wearing knight made his way towards the exit before another of the knights rushed over, placing a hand on his shoulder. Turning, he recognised the woman as the knight who had begun the commotion; Catherine Cress.
The knight gave him a stern look. "Fighting isn't a game, without training and experience, you'll meet your end tomorrow. We can't focus on protecting you, so I recommend you avoid getting in our way. I don't want to see you dead, Maloi," her voice held a solemn tone to it before she removed her hand from Xavier's shoulder, giving him a small pat.
"Take care, if you're still keen on becoming a knight, I'm sure the Red Thorns will offer you some assistance in training," she offered, before the sound of Favreau's voice came from the back of the tavern. "Yeah, like training in getting a haircut! Ha!"
Outside of the Hard Boiled Egg, Xavier made his way past the village folk, who gave the man a few sideways glances before muttering amongst themselves at the false knight. They all noted his lack of weaponry and armour, his outfit making him stand out like a sore thumb.
Stretching his arms, the dark-haired knight would make his way down the street, whistling to himself. It was true that he didn't look like the ideal image of a knight, but he was, without a doubt, a knight. Regardless of what everyone else thought.
A small applause came from one side of the street. Turning his head, he was met with the sight of a girl, no older than he was, her long red hair framing a beautiful face. Eyes widening, Xavier fell to one knee, splaying his arms out to his sides in a gesture of thanks.
"My lady," he began, his voice now deeper than it was before. "Has my whistling garnered your attention?"
The girl snorted to herself, causing Xavier's head to snap upwards, not having expected such a reaction. "No, your hustling skills is what I'm impressed with," she explained, before pointing towards the tavern. "It's impressive how you managed to sneak in with all of those knights without a master of your own."
Xavier frowned before getting up, dusting off his knee. "Like I told them, I'm a Knight myself," he explained. "And who are you?"
The girl gave him a wry smile, not giving his statement much credence. "My name is Eileen," she introduced herself. "Do you honestly believe you can take on a Troll? I saw it, you know. Two days ago, it destroyed buildings along the eastern side of the village with punches of its fist. It was as ugly as it was big," she shivered. "It demanded that in three days, we send the most beautiful girl in the village to it, or it'll destroy everything."
Xavier nodded, "I heard about the situation in the next town over. I plan on taking the beast out," he explained.
Eileen shook her head, her cheeks beginning to become flushed with anger. "You're just someone playing at being a knight. You've probably never picked up a weapon, not to mention how you wouldn't know how to swing one properly!" she exclaimed, pointing at his less than impressive frame.
Crossing his arms, the man's brow began to knit together in irritation. "I'll have you know I've been trained as a knight for years, far more, than I imagine, those louts in there have!" he claimed.
"If that's so, how come you haven't joined a Knight's Order, everyone knows that's the quickest way to becoming knighted and earning a True Knight's Title by the Reddin Kingdom.
Sounds to me like you don't know anything about being a knight."
Xavier simply shook his head. "I'm not looking to becoming knighted by the King, or joining an Order. I have my own goals, and those things wouldn't help me achieve them."
Shocked, Eileen took a step back. "Are serious? Being knighted is the greatest honour that could be bestowed upon a knight. It signifies that you have been recognised as one of the strongest, most courageous and chivalrous knights of the Kingdom," as she went on, her eyes began to light up with excitement, even for someone who didn't follow the Knight's Path, the idea of becoming beknighted filled anyone with a sense of wonder and awe.
This time, Xavier was the one to snort in response. "The strongest knights were from the Torus Kingdom, everybody knows that," he retaliated, running his hand through his hair.
Eileen caught her breath with that statement, her eyes wide in shock. "The Torus Knights were demons! Hellbent on war and conquest, surely you don't mean to say you look up to those monsters, do you? They used vile machinations to cut down valiant knights from all across the lands, they had no honour!"
Xavier remained silent. "They weren't strong enough," he added, his voice low. "They were defeated by the Alliance ten years ago, leaving their Kingdom as a demilitarised state in the lower corner of the continent, banning all of their creations and leaving the country as nothing more than a shadow of its former self."
Turning away from the man, Eileen shook her head. "Do us all a favour, and leave this village before tomorrow. Someone who thinks of those demons in any positive light shouldn't even breathe the word knight," she spat, walking away.
To the East of Cranston Village was a massive expanse of hills and farmland. It was here that almost a dozen of knights had gathered, each with their hands placed on their weaponry. Far off behind them stood their squires, carrying their belongings. Next to them hung banners, with flags flapping in the light breeze.
At the forefront of the knights stood Catherine Cress and Patton Favreau, the two knights were thought to be the strongest of the lot. It had been decided that they were going to lead the assault on the beast.
"I see our Errant Knight is nowhere to be found," Catherine noticed, her eyes looking across the hills to see any kind of hint to their target's whereabouts.
Patton Favreau laughed out loud. "It seems he's smarter than he looks. He would have gotten himself and us killed if he were here," he noted. "Did you see the red-head standing behind the squires? I have to hand it to the Troll, it sure knows good looks," he laughed.
Catherine merely shook her head. "I imagine she's the mayor's daughter. She has much to look forward to in life, let's make sure it isn't the servitude of a monster."
Favreau and the others grunted in response.
It was then that a loud rumbling noise echoed throughout the hills. As the sound began to rise, the knights entered into formation.
Those at the front raised their shields, whilst two to either side of them drew their weapons. A number of knights made up the rear guard, drawing their bows and notching arrows, readying themselves. The squires raised shields and spears of their own, ready to guard Eileen and usher her away if the battle took a turn for the worst. They recognised that her life was the most important, but couldn't leave her within the village, for fear of the Troll tearing through it in search of her.
With a sudden rush, a dark shape leapt from the tallest hill before it came crashing down in front of the knights. A massive, rotund beast, the Troll's fat nose hung down past its mouth, touching its chin, a wild grin splayed on its face. Yellow skin, with pink freckles, with small patches of hair protruding across its glistening body. Small eyes peered down at the knights with excitement. A single, curled horn sprouted from the top of its head.
"Ohohoho! How exciting~!" the beast squealed, clapping its hands together. "I haven't killed a knight in ages! You crush 'em, then they go splat!" it laughed, making vivid motions with its hands. Talon-like nails glinted in the morning sunlight.
"Archers!" Cress called, raising her axe towards the massive beast. As the arrows embedded themselves into the beast's flesh its eyes lit up, clearly enjoying the situation. With a malicious laugh, the beast clawed at one of the raised shields, tearing through the metal and swatting the man away, a scream emanating from the armoured knight.
Leaping to the side it tried to get closer to the other knights, stamping its foot down. The force of the move caused dirt to fly up into the air, granting an opportune moment for Patton Favreau to strike, drawing his sword and making a swing towards the beast's leg. The blade embedded itself into the Troll's leg, forcing the knight to wince as he attempted to pull it free.
Before he could properly free his sword, the Troll unleashed a wicked kick towards the man, slamming directly into the man's chest and sending him flying across the battlefield. His body slammed into the ground, causing dirt and earth to crack, blood spurting from his mouth.
The Red Thorn Knight whistled towards one of the knights carrying a shield, who raised it skyward. Taking a running start, she leapt onto the shield, before having the man holding it to push her up into the air. A buckler in one hand and her axe in the other, Catherine Cress made a swing towards the Troll's horn. "Take this!"
Turning its head, the Troll attempted to swat at the knight, barely missing, but managing to tilt its head out of the way enough in order to deflect the axe swing towards its horn with its nose. Green blood splattered across the knight as she fell to the ground, gushing out at her.
With a roar, the Troll clasped at its nose. "Ngaaaaaaahhhh!" it screamed, the sound of which caused the knights to clasp at their ears.
Dragging its nails across any knight it could find, the Troll quickly made its way towards the group of squires, each of whom was nervously quivering to themselves as the psychotic, grinning beast approached them.
Running to the forefront of her assembled guard, Eileen held out both her arms. "It's me you want," she yelled, her voice wavering but holding strong. "Stop what you're doing now, and I'll come with you without struggle," she promised.
The Troll chuckled to itself. "You're brave~!" it claimed, delightedly. "Shame," it mused, raising its arm in order to cut her down with its nails.
As the blow came slashing down, something brushed past Eileen. Looking with shock and horror, she watched as Xavier had jumped straight past her, in order to intercept the blow.
"No!" she screamed, reaching out to the man as he went tumbling along the ground.
The Troll looked down in confusion. "Did I miss one? I don't even know what that was," it said to itself, looking at its claws. Turning to face the man who had thrown himself into harm's way, it narrowed its eyes. There was something off about this man.
As he rose from the ground, the unarmoured individual grabbed the collar of his jacket, tugging at it to refit it onto his body. "That'll probably bruise," Xavier muttered.
"How?" the Troll cried, looking expectantly at the man. Its eyes then narrowed, there was definitely something off about this man. The knights around him held an air of valiance to them, despite some of their traits, they were certainly knights of regular standard. The man before him, on the other hand, held a different air about him. For the Troll, he could tell that this man had an aura that was reminiscent of looking at a dark cloud.
A dark cloud that released a loud, snapping sound, like thunder from the heavens. The hand of the Troll whisked back behind it, blood spluttering from it. Its eyes following its arm, it noticed a newly formed hole within it.
In Xavier's hand, he clutched an oddly shaped item. Boxlike, with a small handle where his hands gripped, alongside a small trigger where his index finger rested. At the end of the box, smoke trailed slowly from it. The Troll hadn't the faintest notion of what this weapon could be, but for the conscious few who were able to see the weapon, they recognised it.
It was the demon weapon of Torus, the tools that had helped make the infamous Kingdom rise through the ranks of power. It was a firearm.
None present had ever seen one in person, but the descriptions of these tools were ones etched into their memories, and before them stood a stern-faced knight with one in hand.
"Sorry I'm late," Xavier apologised. "I overslept, and seeing as how I wasn't allowed back into the tavern, none of you was able to wake me up," he smiled. "Lucky I came, though, Kuhehehehehe!"
Xavier's laughter filled the clearing, setting everyone on edge. Collectively, everyone thought of hos villainous his laugh was. "Allow me to introduce myself, Troll!" Xavier grinned. "Xavier Maloi, Errant Knight and last of the Torus Knights!"
The Troll retaliated with a wounded cry. "I don't care!" it screamed, racing towards Xavier, making vicious swipes at the man. Ducking beneath the first swing, the dark-haired man sidestepped between the creature's legs, taking another shot at the yellow-skinned monster's back. The cracking of the gunshot echoed throughout the clearing, causing the squires and Eileen to flinch, never having heard such a horrendous sound so close before.
Catherine tried to rise to her legs once more before falling again, her eyes following Xavier's steady, calculated movement. "He's agile," she noted. "And he doesn't waste time. Without relying on his own strength, he's making calculated blows with that... weapon." Despite the mockery they had made of him from before, the Errant Knight had now come and was taking on the beast with far more skill and power than they had. Was he really a man, or could it be that his claim of being from Torus was true and he was simply a demon?
"No," the Knight of the Red Thorn concluded to herself. "He's just an oddball knight."
The Troll made a wide handed swipe towards the knight, Xavier raising his arm to protect himself, ducking his head down. Being thrown to one side, he immediately landed on his feet. "This duster of mine is just as good as any armour," he explained to the Troll. "I don't think something as weak as you could tear it," he smirked.
The Troll howled in response before making a final push towards the gun-wielding knight. Xavier narrowed his eyes as he made a charge of his own. Darting to the side, he leapt towards the wounded Troll, who yelled in confusion, missing yet another swipe. It readied its other hand to swipe at him once he landed, but as he watched the young knight, he gaped as he realised what he was trying to accomplish by jumping.
Xavier's boots landed on the pommel of Favreau's blade, which was still embedded within the monster's leg. Using that as a springboard, he launched himself up into the air before he raised his firearm towards the beast.
"Time to end this, Thee-Shot Penance!"
Three shots rang in rapid-fire succession, the noise of which was like a cry from heavens. The sound of Troll's horn snapping apart followed soon after, followed by the low rumbling from within the Troll's body. The beast fell, taking Xavier with it. As the two hit the ground, the earth shook with the weight of the dead creature, green blood seeping around it.
Rising to his feet, Xavier flicked the side of his duster, placing his weapon back into its holster.
Making slow, steady steps towards the squires, they all got up and rushed to their master's aid, crying out for their names. As Xavier finally arrived at Eileen, he fell to his knee, taking the ladies' hand. "I suppose this makes us engaged then, huh?"
Her eyes widening, Eileen looked at Xavier in shock. "Wh-what?!" she yelled, taking her hand away from Xavier's before promptly backhanding him across the face, sending the young adult sprawling along the grass. "What?" Xavier repeated, stunned.
Cries and cheers from the village folk echoed from Cranston, as they revelled in victory at the defeat of the massive beast. Having missed the firearm, they had presumed the crackling roars of thunder had come from the Troll itself, or by some miracle of the heavens.
A short, bearded man, wearing a suit rushed to congratulate the knights. Following him was a young lady, a veil held over her face. Eyes wide with realisation, Xavier gave a knowing nod. "So you're not the mayor's daughter," he said aloud, Eileen nodding her head. "No, I'm not. Sorry for hitting you," she added, rubbing the back of her head.
"No problem," Xavier stated, trying to laugh off the matter, despite the large, red hand print that glowed across his face.
As the mayor congratulated the knights, he gestured towards to the lady next to him. "Brave knights, for your valiant efforts, I shall reward the one who saved this village with the highest award I could possibly give them, my daughter's hand in marriage. May the knight who defeated this beast, please step forward," he smiled, bowing his head in thanks. His daughter than raised the veil over her head, revealing her face.
Breaths were taken, as the mayor's daughter looked extraordinarily similar to the Troll's face, nose hanging to her chin and all. Giving a seductive smile and wink, all of the knights who didn't require immediate medical attention turned their heads towards Xavier. Who, to their shock, was nowhere to be seen. Naught but a dust cloud left in his place.
"I think I saw Patton Favreau's sword doing the last of the damage!" a voice called from far away. "Splendid!" the mayor grinned, turning to Favreau. "I imagine I'll be calling you, son soon," he said to the wounded knight.
Eileen turned to where she heard the voice, noticing a shining, grey duster flapping behind a running man. She raised her arm in momentary thanks.
Having been saved by a demon, she wondered how the world was beginning to change.