Reverie's End: Blades of Malice
Day: 7/30/991; Time: 7th hour
Ordalia's spy had recovered and gave his report; it was just as they feared: House Eris was in an alliance with the Blades of Malice. The man had managed to escape, but he was injured by one of the red-cloaked men speaking with Sarah.
"It is as I feared; Eris has turned traitor," said Ordalia in a detached voice. She was deep in thought, planning their next course of action.
"Shouldn't we tell the king?!" declared Amalia.
Lloyd shrugged his shoulders and Ordalia smiled at the innocent proposal. "Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that; we need evidence. A few testimonies from my men mean nothing. It would only cause House Eris to try and silence us, and the king would start to suspect us instead… Nobody trusts anyone in Gamma," replied Ordalia.
"As hard as it might be to believe this, Amalia, there is much animosity between the four houses. The council meetings are merely formalities and opportunities to catch a glimpse of weakness from the others. Perhaps someone will slip and give out more information than is necessary," answered Lloyd, in a matter-of-fact manner.
Amalia looked sad; with each passing day, Ethos became a more bleak and hateful world. She had learned about many unpleasant things during her journeys, and there were more waiting for her in the future. "Why can't everyone just get along?" she thought to herself. Her innocence often brightened the party's mood. It was a welcome change from all of the liars in their midst.
Miri responded, "How does the country function like this? Shouldn't it fall apart?"
"It's the other way around, Charon survives because we don't trust each other. We all mind our own business and everyone manages their own lands as they wish. The other reason is fear; the one with the most power is in control. King Janus intervenes and coerces whenever he feels there is a need for action. Do not be fooled by his passive speech and stoic demeanor. He has reigned for over 20 years for a reason," said Ordalia, in a bitter tone of voice. She did not try to hide her irritation at having to be a servant at times; it was an insult to the honor of her noble house.
"So what do we do now?" asked Miri, breaking the awkward silence following Ordalia's speech.
Lloyd replied, "It is no longer safe here. If the Blades of Malice have infiltrated Gamma already, then we must leave immediately."
"Agreed… we need to withdraw," said Ordalia.
She left two of her knights with the wounded spy and told them to report if anything important occurred within the city. Ordalia and the rest of her company went to a private port in the northeast section of the city, and got on a ship, captained by a man in good standing with House Isles.
Ordalia began thinking about what could have happened to the spy that was shadowing House Nyr. She was starting to fear the worst had transpired. The new question in her mind was, "Who is not an ally of the Blades of Malice?" It was not a question with an easy answer. She almost laughed out loud at the thought of the king being an ally of the Blades; it would be a great plot twist, to be later written down in the annals of history. Her other immediate concern was whether or not her enemies knew of the existence of the Emerald. She could not discredit the possibility of every involved party having this knowledge. There was plenty to deliberate over in the coming days.
The ship arrived at Castle Isles without incident. Ordalia and the others got off safely and walked up the stone path leading to the front gates. They were greeted and escorted back home. The castle was a safe place, or so it seemed to them. But Ordalia was not the only one that was on a quest of knowledge-gathering.
The incident occurred the day after they returned, shortly before dinner time. Miri was sparring with Lloyd, and some of the other knights, outside the castle. They heard a scream from the 3rd floor: It was Ordalia. Everyone rushed to the study room as fast as they could. Upon their arrival, the battle had reached the hallways; they were greeted by the Lady of Isles holding a rapier like an inexperienced novice, surrounded by a few of her knights. In front of them were three red-cloaks. Lloyd and the others already had their weapons out and were ready to slay the intruders.
Ordalia was a bit shaken up, but still managed to jest, despite the circumstances. "It took you long enough," she said, looking over at Lloyd. She then looked at the red-cloaks with cold eyes, and said, "Someone is getting impatient… everyone knows the best time to kill someone is when it's least obvious. Couldn't wait till the grand assault on Gamma?"
"I'm just following orders. You are a threat to our plans," said the tallest of the red-cloaks, casually, as if speaking with a friend. He didn't seem stressed about the current situation.
Lloyd and a few of his knights did not wait for the banter to continue, and were already striking at their enemies' heads. One of the red-cloaks dual-wielded two short swords, and had no trouble blocking all incoming attacks. Isles' knights were skilled, but so were the Blades of Malice. Miri joined the fray as well, while Amalia stood in the back row, waiting for the right moment to aid her comrades.
The other red-cloak kept tossing shurikens in all directions, injuring a few knights. Shurikens were a weapon foreign to these parts of the world; they could only be bought in the Minas Federation or on the black market in Gamma. The intruders had a unique skill set.
Ordalia wanted to fight as well, but she knew that today was not a good day. Her curse was in effect and she was a liability. Miri and Amalia were still oblivious about Ordalia's physical and mental condition; she preferred to keep it that way. Ordalia reluctantly ran away to safety while the fighting went on. Her knights made sure that no one followed.
The tall leader of the red-cloaks noticed Ordalia fleeing and ran after her, punching any knight that got in his way. He was a brawler, one skilled in hand-to-hand combat. Under normal circumstances, fighting bare-handed against a knight was suicidal. However, the man wore spiked knuckles and surrounded his attacks in mana. This was a rare sight to behold; very few in Ethos were skilled both in the physical and magical realms of combat.
The knights struggled to keep him at bay; his assault was relentless. It seemed to them as if they were being punched in the stomach by air, but the air was strong enough to leave large dents in their armor. Any knight unfortunate enough to get punched in the face was incapacitated; they were not getting up for at least a few minutes.
Lloyd and Miri noticed the struggle and quickly rushed to the others' aid. The dual-wielder and the shuriken-user both decided to attack Miri at this moment. She parried one of the blades, and Lloyd blocked the other for her. A few shuriken passed by her head; all missed except for the one that grazed her cheek. Miri did not miss her opening; she spun around and stabbed the shuriken-thrower through the back. He fell to the ground, and lay there.
The dual wielder continued his onslaught and almost killed another knight, but was stopped by a flail to the legs. He lost his balance and was immediately disarmed of both his swords by Lloyd and Miri. The girl almost stabbed him with her trident, but Lloyd grabbed her arm. He motioned to a nearby mage to seize the man, and he was promptly wrapped up in vines. This one was going to be left alive for further questioning.
The tall red-cloaked man, turned around to face Miri and Lloyd. His expression was emotionless, but he was obviously shocked at the fall of his comrades. "Why are you making my job so hard? I'm really not in the mood for getting serious today."
"That's your fault.. You should have stayed away from Castle Isles," replied Miri, while clutching her trident with both arms.
"You threatened the life of Lady Ordalia… expect no quarter from me!" announced Lloyd, boldly pointing his sword at the man.
The tall red-cloaked man was in front of them before they realized it; he was very agile, despite his muscular appearance. Miri and Lloyd could barely keep up with him. Miri's trident failed as a parrying tool; the man's punches were starting to damage her weapon. He was overpowering them. The other knights tried to help out, but were pushed aside. Suddenly, a white beam hit the man in the chest and pushed him back a little. Everyone looked back at the source of the light; it was Amalia. She had been practicing her holy magic and finally succeeded. However, it was a short-lived moment of joy. The man didn't even get scratched and was about to begin his assault again.
At least that is what was supposed to happen. The aura surrounding the man began to flicker. He stopped attacking, and muttered to himself, "Guess I got a little carried away…" He continued to say, "I'll strike you a deal. Give me my comrade and I'll leave."
Lloyd retorted angrily, "You come here to slay the Lady Ordalia, and now you make demands!? Die, you insolent cur!"
"Okay… we can just do this my way then," said the man calmly. He ran into the midst of a group of knights, and knocked everyone out. He grabbed his comrade and jumped out of the window. It was a suicidal jump of at least 2 skars in height.
Miri and the others that were still conscious ran towards the window; the man was carrying his ally on his shoulder and they were both unharmed. He was levitating off the ground. He turned to his onlookers, and said, "We can finish this another day." He waved his hand, smiled, and quickly floated away from the castle; his destination was to the southeast.
By now the entire castle was in an uproar; everyone had been alerted to the intruder's presence. Lloyd looked back at the crowd that was starting to gather, and announced, "Summon Dari and Beron immediately. Inform them of the incident and have them follow the red-cloaked man." He continued to speak, "Heal the wounded as well. There is much work to be done!"
The Blades of Malice intruders had fatally wounded three knights, and heavily injured the remaining seven. Miri and Lloyd only sustained minor injuries; it was a miracle considering the strength of their assailants. Amalia and two other healers ran over to the injured and began the recovery process. Amalia, in particular, was becoming a skilled healer. She was being trained by Vira, a young girl that was one of Ordalia's vassals. The two had become good friends.
While all of this was going on, Lloyd walked over to the stairs and found Ordalia shivering, still clutching her rapier. She was muttering to herself; it was an attempt at casting a spell. Nothing was happening; it was just like every other time. She clenched her right fist and punched the ground in anger. Being weak was unacceptable; she wished for Athena's powers at this very moment. If it had only been yesterday or tomorrow, then at least she could have some dignity and fight alongside her men.
Lloyd looked over at her, sympathetically, and said, "The danger is gone. You need to get some rest now… we will worry about what steps to take tomorrow." Ordalia nodded in agreement. He helped her up and walked her to her room. Ordalia, and many others in the castle, could not sleep well that night.
Ordalia woke up as Athena the following day. It irritated her that she had no control over her life; everything was dictated by the flip of a coin. She looked at herself in the mirror. Ordalia had the same copper hair and bright brown eyes as always. The body and face stayed the same, but the soul changed daily. She had lived like this for two years now, but she never grew accustomed to it. Losing her memories and reading her notebook became part of the daily routine.
It was decided by Ordalia's council that the security needed to be increased and that the Lady of Isles be kept under a watchful eye at all times. She objected, but her counselors eventually won that argument. They could not take any risks now that it had become evident Ordalia was on the Blades' list of targets.
Miri, Amalia, and the others' main priority was preparing for the battle to come. The season of the wind would visit them soon enough.