Cradle for the child

Taken from the nest

The bird searches in vain

Her fledglings wilt away

Child tries to fly

Into Mother's arms

Her wings are just a dream

In sleep, warm and charmed

KILL HIM, PRINCESS. OR ME.

CHAPTER ONE- Mother and Child

"Don't come any closer! Y-you're just like her! Your HORRIBLE mother!"

The sharp edges of the broken glass bottle stalked Tiera like a wolf with its fangs drawn out wide. Tiera was a tall, young girl with flowing, crystal white hair and pale skin. She wore dark sangria colored robes- the sacred attire of the Koujin knights. With growing trepidation, Tiera gaped at the old woman who was clutching onto the neck of the bottle with her dear life, her eyes trembling in fear, her frail body ready to die in a final stand at any moment.

I have to do this, Tiera thought to herself with grim determination. There's no one else who can save her family but me. She channeled all the courage she had into her throat and tongue, and uttered, "Please ma'am, I'm trying to help-"

"LIAR! Those blood orange eyes. You're hiding them! But I feel them glaring at me just the way your mother did all those years ago, to my own daughter!"

But Tiera had never had orange eyes of any shade- they have always been a light, lilac purple. Sadness seized her. She was too late; there was nothing she could do to help this poor woman. The Qivin had drained her of her empathy, of her trust, and of her sanity.

The two were locked in their struggle in a dark, empty dome. Its brown, metallic walls barely let any light in, its neon lamps fading like a dying flame. There were broken pieces of droids littering its floors. And then, footsteps, prattling down from the creaking stairs.

"Grandmother, please stop this!" A young boy of no more than ten stepped down the stairs, desperately racing to reclaim his grandmother's kindness. The old woman pounced her bloodshot side-eyes towards the boy.

I have to get him away, Tiera thought to herself. She whispered to the child, "She's already gone. She's been touched by the Qivin."

But the boy did not listen. "Grandmother, I know you're in there! It's me, Jacob!" The boy dashed towards his grandmother and hugged her. The old woman did not even move an inch. She only grasped the broken bottle in her hand even tighter, and tighter. Then, with one arm, she nestled her grandson towards her in a hug. She was growing more paranoid by the second. She eyed the boy with utmost suspicion. And finally, she made up her mind.

The old woman screeched and raised the fangs of the bottle high up into the air, but Tiera thrust her hand out and shattered the cracked glass with the Wraithen Energies. Its shards collapsed downwards and sliced through the old woman's forearms, and she screamed even harder. Tiera jumped forwards and broke the grandmother's strong grip, grabbing the crying boy and landing away from the old woman while shielding the child from danger.

As the old woman sat in her own blood and stared at her forearm, Tiera clutched onto the boy and ran out of the dome. She stepped outside onto the ground of the looming, gray planet, its cold dirt drenched in dry red and its palm trees caked in dust and soot. Frantic screams rang out in all directions as villagers scrambled to run from their homes.

"The Qivin! They're here!"

A villager swept past Tiera, dragging forwards the soot layered on the ground in a fleeting dust cloud. Tiera's mind raced to think of what to do, and then she asked the boy, "Where's the rest of your family?"

The crying boy tried to speak up, "T-there's no one else left. It was only me and her."

He's lost everything, Tiera thought to herself. She had to get him on the escape ship. Tiera ran through the crowds, pushing past a flurry of tan rags and scarves, and finally reached an opening. Just a few hundred feet ahead of her was an enormous, sleek silver transport ship, its engines roaring as villagers raced to jump on board, with soldiers working tirelessly to manage the situation growing out of their hands.

But as Tiera peered ahead, something was not right. The villagers moved savagely, without care. There were no families escaping together. Each one was fighting alone for their own self.

"HEY! Tiera shouted to the soldiers outside the ship, "We have to relocate! Those villagers have been blighted by the Qivin!"

The soldiers looked at Tiera, but they could not react fast enough in time. Villagers swarmed them and wrestled them down to the ground, snatching their weapons away, and firing the stolen blasters at each other as they selfishly tried to steal the few seats on the ship for their own selves. Thousands entered the scene, outnumbering all the officers, and the very few Koujin knights.

I have to find another ship, Tiera thought to herself. She ran west, running as fast as she could. The boy's tears gradually stopped falling, and the only thing consuming him was fear.

And then, an engine's roar boomed just above her. Tiera looked up and saw a golden ship descending. The doors opened, and from them came a young, dark skinned man wearing black, noble battle attire, and a royal coat. Downy silver bangs swept across his eyes and met with the rest of his soft, short hair. "Tiera!" he called out to her.

Tiera ran on board, and the two entered the cockpit, with the young man taking control of the pilot seat. The ship lifted off the ground and flew through the clouds.

Tiera breathed a sigh of relief. "Victor," she said to the young man, "What's happening with the Qivin?"

"Our army's driven off most of the Qivin predators. We couldn't save most of the villagers here, but we've stopped them and the Amoth from attacking the neighboring villages. They're retreating."

Though his words told of triumph, Victor's face was solemn. His broad shoulders were completely channeled into piloting the ship to a safe place. He was the Prince of House Xiffinsire, the heir to the throne of the Nobilis Kingdom. He had been raised by his grandparents to be one of the finest representatives of their House, becoming the greatest swimmer on his home planet, and one of the most accomplished, up and coming leaders. When, at a young age, the Temples discovered his bond with the Wraithen Energies, he was conditioned into a Koujin warrior. It was during his training that he met Tiera, the daughter of the late hero Bronson Hyloaether, and she was chosen to become his personal knight and retainer for life.

Tiera sat in silence. The boy, huddled in her arms, could not speak. Slowly, he drifted off into a slumber. Victor noticed that something was bothering Tiera, and he broke the silence. "I'm surprised you aren't dozing off like that kid. You haven't slept in days."

Tiera sighed. "It's not easy being a knight."

"That's because you worry too much about me," Victor teased, and then grinned. "Just because I'm a prince doesn't mean I can't take care of myself."

"Worry about you?" Tiera scoffed. "You've got a wild imagination. Don't forget that my main duty is to protect the people of the galaxy. You're just an afterthought."

"You say that, Hyloaether, but you never really mean it. If you were really serious about becoming a Koujin legend, you'd show up to all the sermons and take our masters' words in heart."

"Oh, I'm sure I've showed up to more sermons than you have. Weren't you the one who said how boring those old Koujin were?"

Victor smirked. "Boring, yeah, but not pointless. They've drilled that stuff in me since I was a kid, so I know it by heart. At least I've got an excuse for skipping out and cruising around Duron."

Tiera rolled her eyes. "I've learned more on Duron than I have at any sermon." She paused for a moment, lost in a thought, and spoke again, "It's a miracle Duron hasn't been torn apart yet by this war. There's all kinds of orphans and beggars there. Ratuya, Korfren, Mab. Even... those ones we're forbidden to speak to. No matter how terrifying they are, I wish I could save them. But the Koujin won't allow us."

Her words stroke deep into Victor's heart, and he stared into the open sky. "I hate seeing all that, too. But as Master Vulcavini said, there have to be sacrifices in war. The only way we can save many is by letting go of the few."

The ship landed near a camp teeming with Nobilis soldiers and villagers. As Tiera, holding the sleeping boy, and Victor stepped out, an old man with well polished antlers and a long, grey beard walked towards them with a warm smile. He wore dark plum robes, as all Koujin masters did.

"Tiera, Prince Victor," the old man greeted the Koujin knights, "I'm glad you two are safe."

Victor nodded back. "Thank you for your concern, Master." He then walked away to aid a battalion with injured villagers.

"Master Vulcavini," Tiera replied with great respect, "We need to help this kid. He just lost his whole family."

Vulcavini looked towards the boy, and his expression fell in pity. He told Tiera, "We'll do all we can to help." He walked towards the boy, but just then, he sensed something familiar. He lifted the boy's forearm up, and revealed several markings.

"Master," Tiera said, puzzled, "What's wrong?"

"This boy," Vulcavini said, "His markings are a family tradition which tell of the boy's parents. I recognize them. His mother had them, too."

Tiera was taken aback. "You knew his mother?"

"She was a Koujin knight."

"She... what?" Tiera suddenly remembered what the old woman said to her. "That boy's grandmother, after she was blighted by the Qivin... she claimed she knew my mother. She said my mother did something horrible to her daughter."

"Her thoughts must have been twisted by delusion and paranoia. The Qivin feed upon the goodwill of others, draining it from them. I'm sorry you had to be subjected to her attacks."

"But what if it wasn't all delusion? You know my father kept the marriage a secret- no one knew who my mother was. My father wanted to protect her identity from Qivin assassins looking for her. So if this boy's mother was a Koujin knight, the Wraithen Energies must run strong in his lineage. What if his grandmother truly sensed something she knew in me?"

Vulcavini shook his head. "We can't let into our minds the words of someone so far gone."

Just then, a piercing shriek cried out in the distance. Soldiers ran past Tiera, and shouted at each other, "Qivins have escaped from custody!" Tiera nodded at Vulcavini, handed the boy to her master, and joined the chase with the soldiers. She rushed past the camps of war torn villagers, jumping over crates and droids, running faster than all the soldiers in front of her. When she came to an open steppe, the shrieks stopped. Tiera had outran all the soldiers, and was left alone, surrounded only by empty tents and plains of dirt. She closed her eyes, and focused. I sense them, she thought to herself. She headed towards a tent, and lifted its flap. Inside, she saw a trembling mother in a robe, holding her child. Both of them had four red streaks across their cheeks, two on each side.

"I feel the good in you," the mother pleaded, "Please, you have to help us! Take him, take him somewhere safe!"

Tiera was paralyzed, unable to process the moment. The mother approached closer, holding her child in front of her, desperately trying to force it into Tiera's arms. But Tiera did not move. The child was closer to her now. Inching ever so closer, its soft arms reached towards her. But at the last moment, Tiera backed away.

The soldiers caught up to Tiera, barged inside of the tent, and shouted, "GET OUT! GET THE HELL OUT RIGHT NOW!"

The baby started crying again. The mother begged the soldiers, "You can't do this to us! If he doesn't feed soon, he'll die!"

The soldiers, clad in protective gear and gloves, ignored her. They grabbed onto the mother and hauled her out of the tent, ripping her baby away.

"NO!" the mother screamed, quivering in fear. "Please, just give him a little! He's just a child!"

Tiera could only stare at her as she was dragged away. Though something deep inside her wanted to do something, she knew she couldn't go against the greater good. She clenched her fist, and exhaled with silent anger inside. She remembered what happened to that boy's grandmother- no matter what, she had to resist the urge to let them feed. She could never let the Qivin feed.