Chapter One: Knights of the Round
Twelve knights on steeds rode into the far northern town. They were not subtle with who they were, the banner of the Knights of Round flew above their standard carrier. Their uniforms of a white gambeson with gold trims glared in the afternoon light. It was another adventure for the famed battalion. Another standard day to add another expected tale to the Knights of the Round.
The dozen had been on the road for 5 days and night, travelling to a far town north of North Harnt, between the border of Lutvvin and the Gulf of Sending. Spring had brought the temperature to a cool breeze. Not yet near the season of Ra'ise, the dew from Autumn clung to the grassy plains as the dark leafed trees of the East Great Forest waved welcome to them from beyond the small town they approached, wafting fresh scent of leaves from their branches.
‟What is the largest monster you've fought before, Lae Art?" One of the knights asked of his leader at the front.
Another knight, his senior, snapped back. ‟Watch your tongue, that's Lae Artria Pendragon to you."
Art could not help but laugh, as she is wont to do, her crystal voice carrying clear through the air. ‟It's fine, really. I think the largest creature I fought is a saurus. Nothing a challenge to all here, I assume."
Her bright sharp face smiled, her skin tanned from years spent training in daylight. Following her neck was a ponytail of silver. Tracing the road were eyes of gold. Unlike some of the others, she had no magic and could not hold weapons in magical sheathe. Even then, she held no swords at her waist nor spear strung on her shoulders. None of those was needed for her, for Art was unique, chosen. A reason why they would follow her to the ends.
‟Art," the aide from her side chimed in. ‟You may not know this, but none of us have fought anything larger than a bugbear."
‟Really? I could have sworn..." Soon though, her thoughts were cut off.
The party was nearing the village they had been dispatched to, and a lanky man in a sun-hat, green tunic over a stained brown shirt, and muddied pants jogged over to greet them.
‟Greetings, Lords and Laes!" the man practically shouted before reaching them. ‟I had not expected the queen to send the Knights of the Round themselves. I am Soira, the humble mayor of the village of Grimmel. Thank you for coming to our abode and responding to our aide."
Before her horse even slowed, Art was already halfway through her dismount, dexterous in her climb down. She landed the same time her mount stopped and proceeded the remaining short distance to the mayor on foot.
The man bowed. ‟Lae Artria of the Snow White herself!"
‟Please," Art extended her hand instead. ‟Just Art will do, kind mayor."
The man looked nervously at her outstretched arm and hesitated a moment before shaking her hand.
Art smiled. ‟With the Janus gone, the army and guards are on standby until the council can make a decision. Us knights under the queen are the only ones available to be ordered. I hope we're enough for the task you need."
The Mayor of Grimmel stumbled. ‟O-Of course! That's far more than I can ask for."
‟Can you brief me on the situation then?"
‟Y-Yes. As you may know, Grimmel is just a small lumbering village. This season though, we had a spade of murders. No one new has actually travelled here, so we suspected one of ourselves." The man looked nervously around, his pimple eyes darting to shadows. ‟But we had eye witnesses who saw a creature leaving the scene of the last two killings."
‟A creature?" Art sounded almost intrigued. Beasts were not known to come close to settlements without reasons, no matter their strength. ‟Have you investigated further?"
‟We had a detective arrive here yesterday, and she's been investigating the killings. She insists it's not a monster, but we have witnesses! A bipedal saurus, for sure! Or one of them damned drakins. Come to have revenge at us for what the Janus did, I'm sure."
‟Is that right?" Art turned to her party who had all gotten off their horses. Her tone shifted into seriousness, though her voice still carried her clarity. ‟Split into two groups of four. Interview the townsfolk. Gwain, settle the horses. Merylin, you're with me. I want to see what this detective has to say. Morgan, I want to you to survey the outskirts."
All eyes turned to Morgan who was behind the pack. She had stayed quiet throughout the journey, only speaking when spoken to, usually by Art. The town mayor took a step back and gasped when he saw her face for the first time.
The entire right of her face - even down her neck - looked akin to dried bedrock, fading westward to skin as white as northerners. Her ruby red hair was undercut, with a quarter kept long to be draped over her crusted bald side. She brushed a strain of her hair off her left eye, shaded gold in pairs. Like Art she held no weapons with her, at least not one people could see. Her entire right arm was hidden under a scarlet aramis cape, buttoned onto her gambeson by copper badges depicting dragons.
Morgan had gotten used to reactions such as the mayor's. She lacked no self confidence due to her looks. After all, she was one of the Knights of the Round.
She spoke like dark silk, her voice smooth but deep. ‟And what if it really is a saurus and I find it myself?"
Art smiled a challenge. ‟Then you'll be the second knight to kill a saurus."
Morgan gave a smirk back. ‟Challenge accepted, then."
The knights began splitting up to their tasks. Art and Meryl took the mayor back to the village proper, the latter glancing looks back at Morgan, still in disbelief. Her other companions gave her wishes of luck, which she nodded back in thanks. In the end, alone, she headed for the forest's edge.
She passed the small acre farmland of wheat and corn. Kows roamed a fenced up enclosure further east. There was nothing out of the ordinary and she was not sure what she was looking for.
A couple of farmers glanced at her face in fear. Then, confusion sets in as they noticed her uniform. Their eyes darted in the direction of an old sawmill to the west, the quickly looked down back to their work and avoided her gaze.
It was hard to blame their reactions. Seeing a monster walk around openly must have had them spooked. And she guessed having a saurus around would be terrifying too.
With quickened pace as twilight fell from the sky, she headed for the sawmill. Lumberjacks were few and far between as the work day had ended hours ago. The sawmill itself had but a few men and women around, carting the last of the logs off towards the village. Each glancing warily at her as she passed them.
‟A Knight of the Round?" someone whispered.
‟She looks like a monster!"
‟Shush! She'll hear you."
Even if she was used to it, she could not help hear the voices speaking like a conscience at the back of her head. She did her best to focus on her task at hand. Throughout her walk she saw no signs of a saurus-like creature, nor a drakin either. The former would have moved roughly, leaving tracks and flattened fields somewhere, and the latter, well, why would a drakin be that far out of Drakspire for no reason? The race of dragon born was never accustomed for flat lands. Their wings helped them glide through hills and mountains with ease, but no flyway exists for them on plains.
Her eyes glazed over to the site of a pile of tree trunks cut and stacked into pyramids. There were fresh moss growing on some of the wood, suggesting the collection had not been touched in a while for one reason or another. It was also further than any other resource depot, likely used when the city was more bustling, and the lumber trade was good. Even the path there had short grass grown over compared to the dry muddied ground that was normal to move through.
As she moved away from the hushed whispers of the yard workers and into the far edge of the yard, another voice was picked up by her ears.
A female voice exclaimed in hushed tones, ‟You need to leave. The Knights are here, and the villagers thinks some lizard creature did it. If they find you-"
‟Come with me. We can convinccce my tri-"
The conversation was cut off suddenly.
Channelling her magic, Morgan felt her face heat up as a smoky black glow lit up her left cheek. In her left hand, a messer side sword with an onyx cross guard formed from coagulating shadows. There was killing intent in the air, and it was not from her. At least, not just from her.
She was now out of sight of the main lumber yard, and no aid would arrive if she was to fall.
Even then, without hesitation, she stepped around the corner with a snaking thrust of her sword.
There was a pained hiss as her blade met meat. A bark-shade scaly lizard humanoid creature - two heads taller than her - had sharp claws that slashed down at her. She stepped back, parrying the strike, her blade sliding off the thick scale. The tip of the claws scraped the seams of her gambeson, barely touching the surface of her cloth armour.
The lizard creature, on bipedal feet, stumbled back, its reptile tail sweeping away at dirt as it did so, knocking up a small cloud of dirt. It got back into a combat stance, its claws raised again.
‟Foul monster!" Morgan growled. ‟You will pay for the lives you've taken!"
‟Monssster?" The lizard man hissed, its tongue flicking on the 's'. ‟I do not want to hear that from you."
‟Stop!" An elven woman in red stepped between them, her red hood fluttering off her head as she quickly spread her arms wide, facing Morgan. ‟He didn't kill anyone!"
‟You'd better explain yourself, lady," Morgan grunted back. ‟That things just tried to to kill me."
‟You ssstruck firssst!"
The elf snapped, ‟Stop it! Don't make things worse." Her short summer hair was disarrayed, with strands fraying across her face. ‟I can explain. He isn't a monster, nor a killer. He's just being framed."
Morgan still had her sword pointed at her, but her breath had slowed and her adrenaline lowered. Looking at the lizard now, he was also wearing a leather tunic. A belt hung around its waist, with tools like a tanning knife, an empty leather sack, and a sheathed crude stone knife. Tool usage were not common for monsters.
And upon further inspection, the creature looked close to the drakins, the drake-humanoid that had coexisted on Tearha for thousands of years. Its body was humanoid shaped, though lankier, with its face slightly protruding into a caramel snout from its bark brown scales and beasts-shaped brown eyes.
‟Are you a lizardkin?" Morgan finally asked, lowering her sword slightly. ‟I thought your kind went extinct after the First War?"
‟That information has been..." He paused, choosing his next words. ‟Exxxagerated.
‟And? What are you doing here?"
The elf woman felt safe enough to lower her arms, sweeping the ruffled hair out of her leaf-green eyes. ‟He's..." Like him, she paused. ‟He's my boyfriend."
Author's Note: Thanks for reading! You can support more of my stories and reading chapters early by going to (Patreon dot com slash aden_ng).