Chapter 1:

Chapter 1: The Cruel Knight

The Princess And Her Warmonger

Princess Isalene pumped her fists in the air and couldn't help but laugh at her success. She had snuck out of the palace without being detected! Of course, she hadn't really. Her father, King Robert, was much keener than one would think. He thought the twenty Royal Guards Isalene had brought with her will be enough to deter anyone from trying to attack his daughter.

The twenty royals guards That Isalene had brought with her were more loyal to her than her mother, who is in charge of the royal guards. So while King Robert may be aware of his daughter sneaking out of the palace without permission, his wife wasn't. Though, that was probably for the best as Queen Iscar can be quite overbearing. She definitely wouldn't allow Isalene to leave the palace without her or Robert's permission.

"I-Isalene, I don't think this is quite a good idea," A nervous voice told Isalene. Isalene turned to her left at the young noble wearing an extravagant purple and black dress which Isalene thought looked uncomfortable to wear.

"Oh come on, Bianca. My plan is full-proof! No one is aware that I am gone and, with you out in the open, no one is going to be suspicious as to why the royal guards are around."

Bianca raised an eyebrow, her purple eyes showing a hint of disbelief.

"I may be a high-ranking noble but I don't think an Archduke gets royal guard treatment unless they are in a festival," Bianca pointed out.

Isalene shook her head in disagreement, shaking off Bianca's argument.

"You worry too much. The arena is close to the palace anyway."

Bianca didn't see a point in what Isalene had just said. Sure royal guards sometimes come down when they are on break to watch the arena fights but these twenty were clearly on duty. They had a Red Feather* on their helmet after all. Still, she knew better than to try and persuade Isalene anymore. Once Isalene had set her mind to something, she won't stop until she gets it. In that way, mixed in with Princess Isalene's endless curiosity, makes Isalene a determined schemer, though at best she can be called a childish schemer.

Part of Princess Isalene's "flawless" plan was to dress up as some kind of servant. What servant wears a dirty-looking grey rag-like hooded robe is beyond Bianca but it does hide Isalene's features. Well, as long as no one gets close to her that is. Princess Isalene is known as the Kingdom's star. Her face is known even to the farthest reaches of the Kingdom. Her straight blonde hair and pale green eyes as well as her cute and sharp features make her have a youthful beauty that seems like it will never fade. Though, Isalene doesn't have much of a mature look to her despite being nineteen. Needless to say, if someone were to get close to Isalene they would instantly recognize her as the princess.

There is another flaw in her "flawless" plan. Princess Isalene hates violence. She is disgusted by it. Currently, Princess Isalene is heading towards the arena. She has been there plenty of times before but, when she is there, the arena makes the fighters spar. Normally, like today, the fighters fight to the death. There will be plenty of violence and blood. Add that with the real attitudes and personality of some of the knights on the list King Robert gave Isalene, some of the knights Bianca knows are nothing like the noble persona they had during the trials, and Isalene might even end up throwing up.

What trials? Well, recently, there was a trial held to determine Princess Isalene's new Personal Guard*. Her first personal guard died years ago when Isalene was six or seven years old and, since then, Isalene held off on getting a new one. However, when Isalene turned eighteen, both of her parents decided that it was time for her to get a new personal guard. So, despite her complaining, the King held a trial and gave Isalene a list of the knights who entered. Many knights had jumped at the chance to become Princess Isalene's new personal guard and the trial was still ongoing. So, Isalene got the bright idea to help her make a decision faster to go to the arena and see how the knights act out of royal eyes. It wasn't a bad plan, just not a well-thought-out one.

Even though the knights who entered the trial, which now that Bianca thinks about it is more of a competition, aren't allowed to fight in the arena in case they get killed or seriously injured, Bianca and the twenty royal guards escorting her and Princess Isalene knew that some knights wouldn't listen to the rules and fight at the arena, especially when breaking that rule doesn't get them disqualified. Isalene managed to press her royal guards on the matter and, once she learned that some of the knights would be at the arena, she had formed her plan.

"Well, what are we waiting for? The arena is straight ahead!" Isalene told her party before she started to walk forward, instantly breaking the rules of how a servant attending their master typically acts.

'Oi, didn't you say you knew exactly how servants act?' Bianca thought but kept her thoughts to herself. Isalene seemed to be having fun and it was better if she has fun now since she will probably not have any later once she arrives at the arena.

As the party walked down the cobbled streets, Isalene looked around in wonder. Normally she doesn't get to see how the city is like up close since when she is let outside, her parents accompany her, meaning that everyone was crowded around her. Her only glimpse of how the city was like without her and of her parents' presence was from her balcony. But, since her balcony is so high up, Isalene had a hard time seeing everyone down below. There was also the fact that her balcony is infused with magic and, since Isalene is a royal and can use royal magic, she can also see magic. So not only was the balcony very high up but when Isalene looked out of it, it looked like she was looking through stained glass.

Princess Isalene saw two royal guards on break leaning against a wall, resting in the shade the building provided. One of them looked up a little when Isalene's party went past before he closed his eyes again. A couple of adults milled around, talking or going somewhere. A few of them had brooms and were sweeping trash off the ground and into large or short metal bins known as waste bins. The people who were sweeping the trash were called Waste Collectors*. It was a dirty job but the pay was worth it. In fact, some may say they were paid more than they should be. Bianca told Isalene that waste collectors are very nice and wise people. Since then, Isalene had wanted to talk to one of them but never got the chance to.

As they kept on walking, three soldiers walked past them, children running by them. Bianca frowned at this. Where she lives and in more than a few other cities, children would never dare to go near a knight or a soldier, a knight especially. Only in the capital of the Kingdom can something like this exist.

Finally, after a couple minutes of walking, the arena's big gated entrance game into view. With it came the sound of cheering. As Isalene's part got closer, Isalene suddenly froze and coughed.

"What's that smell?" Isalene asked. Some of the royal guards stiffened but said nothing. Bianca and the royal guards recognized the smell. It was the smell of blood.

Normally, the arena uses magic talisman to keep the smell to a bare minimum but lately the trade routes the Kingdom has haven't been doing well. That was mainly due to the Great Wars* ramping up outside of the Kingdom's borders. So, the King ordered the talismans to be used during the trial in case Isalene smells the scent of death the arena normally carries.

Princess Isalene didn't push on the matter and instead walked over to a special spot that has been used for a while. The door was hidden behind some boxes and, since the arena is a big hole in the ground, this special spot acted just like the spot for royals. It offered a great view of the arena below and was partly covered by old black, hold, and red curtains which half hides whoever stands here. Even though this spot has been unused for what seemed to be years, no one has gotten rid of it.

Normally one would have to pay to get into the arena on T-days* and L-days* but, since the royal guards are here, the few guards patrolling the outside of the arena allowed them to pass without any trouble. After moving some of the boxes out of the way that was blocking the plain and old wooden door with a strange symbol on the center, Princess Isalene finally made it into the arena.

'Step two completed. Now let me see who is here-'

The moment Princess Isalene looked down at the arena floor below, she froze, her train of thought broken instantly. Down below the arena was a mess. Bodies were strewn about and the sand was dark and bloody. There were four people in the ring. Three of them were knights and the other one was a common soldier. Princess Isalene recognized one of the knights, the one wearing fancy silver armor equipped with a dark blue and silver greatsword and had short black hair and a goatee, as a knight who was in the trial. His name was Duncan Ryemor and Isalene remembered being impressed when she saw him perform. He was experienced and kind.

He along with the other people were badly wounded with the two other knights joking about some of their kills. Duncan was silent and when the announcer told them to leave the ring, he made his way and put a hand on the shoulder of the soldier. His voice wasn't as loud as the other two knights and it seemed like he was whispering so Isalene didn't hear what he told the soldier but whatever it is it caused the soldier to shake his head with a smile on his face and follow Duncan out of the ring.

Soon after the contenders left the ring a clean-up crew entered and started to gather the weapons and pile the bodies together, stripping them of their helmets and other such armor pieces. Once they did, a hooded person wearing purple and gold-colored robes walked into the ring, their face hidden by their hood, though Isalene reasoned they were female. Judging by their wear, they were a mage. But why would a mage be on the clean-up crew?

Princess Isalene got her answer when the mage aimed her hand at the pile of bodies and shot out a fireball from her open hand. The bodies caught on fire and Isalene quickly looked away, feeling tears in her eyes. The smell that came soon afterwards did not help. Bianca saw this and bit her lip.

"Isalene, you don't have to be here. It doesn't look like there are many knights from the trial here," Bianca told Isalene, putting a hand on her shoulder to comfort her.

Bianca knew what she said wasn't true. There is no telling how many knights from the trial and the list are actually here. Still, she couldn't stand seeing her friend like this.

"N-no, I'm fine," Isalene told Bianca in a voice that did not sound fine.

Before Bianca could argue, Isalene shook her friend's hand loose and walked away from the ledge. This secret spot in the arena hadn't changed from when she last saw it. There were still weapons and shields in boxes and even some helmets and armor were strewn around. There were also a lot of fancy decorated sticks with either claws or spikes at the end as well as some smooth wooden balls made into bracelets and necklaces. This place was used as storage in the past but Isalene and Bianca failed to recognize whose weapons and armor these belonged to. Bianca knew they weren't from the last generation of soldiers. Maybe they were used in the arena for a special event that isn't used anymore? To both Princess Isalene and Bianca, this theory made the most sense.

Isalene continued to look around the place until the announcer spoke again. When he did, Isalene made her way back to the ledge. The bodies and clean-up crew were gone and the burning smell from before had mysteriously disappeared. The scent of death still lingered though.

"The next match is one you have been waiting for! The mysterious long-time champion Cruel Knight faces off against the crowd favorites, Ellen Spear, the old yet still kicking, Dorean, and the Greatblade Ivan!"

Princess Isalene recognized the name Ellen Spear and, when the man entered the ring, she knew he was the same Ellen who went nine and zero in the trial, though three of those wins were a little questionable. Well kept yet not attractive short pale blond yellow hair and a smug look on his face. In his hand was a tall metal spear. He wore silver and purple armor that was heavy on the chest and shoulder pads but light everywhere else, besides the knees and feet. Ellen was the undeniable definition of a cocky noble knight. Princess Isalene looked him over before her eyes went over to the other two knights. Before she got a good look at them, the sound of a gate opening caused Isalene to look away from them. There were five metal gates in the ring with one of them having a simple large wooden door. That is where Ellen and the other two knights came from and where the other four contenders from before left through. Isalene had seen other gates open before, especially one where the calvary comes from, but not this one.

Out from the darkness came a knight Isalene had never seen before. Princess Isalene has seen the army the Kingdom has many times so while she may not know the names of the knights who didn't join the trial, she has seen them before. But she has never seen this knight before.

They wore black and dark grey armor that covered their entire body with gold and red highlights. On their back was a long black cape with similar gold and red outlines. Their helmet was like the Kingdom's helmets and not like the cruelly-named bucket helmets the Alliances uses but different. Sharper. Isalene had to squint but she could just make out that the vent-tail on their visor was shaped in a strange yet menacing pattern, like a jagged smile. It looked like there would be plumage on the top of the helmet with only the supports were on the top of the helmet and were clearly shaped like spikes. Resting on their shoulder blades behind their head was a large sword. Isalene would like to say it is a greatsword but the weapon is too large to be one. Its design was weird. It was colored a dusty silver color with matching slightly dark and dusty gold. The gold was used on the blade on pieces that resembled gears found in the Ancients* technology and in some machinery. Those gear-shaped pieces were covered by the blade, making the blade thicker than the hilt of the weapon in the middle before flattening out into a deadly and sharp point.

Princess Isalene instantly assumed this was Cruel Knight and, judging by the fact that the other three knights were facing him, Isalene knew she was correct.

Despite being outnumbered, Cruel Knight walked up lazily and stopped about twenty feet away from the three knights facing him. His sword was still slung over his shoulder blades and his stance was completely relaxed. The crowd instantly went quiet and the air went thick with tension.

"You may begin!" The announcer yelled out. The three knights instantly got into battle stances. Cruel Knight looked at them and slightly cocked his head to the left before swinging his weapon to his side in a disrespectful and lazy manner.

This seemed to anger Ellen as a vein bulged on his forehead and he darted forward and thrusted his spear, his movements a blur. But, to the Cruel Knight, they weren't. He caught the spear with one hand and lifted it up. Ellen froze and tugged on his spear, trying to rip it free from Cruel Knight's grasp, but it didn't even budge.

Cruel Knight lazily looked at the tip of the spear before lazily tossing it away. Ellen quickly drew in his spear and got ready to attack again. The other two knights, both having greatswords, decided that they should jump in and started circling Cruel Knight. He didn't pay them any mind until one of them lunged forward. Since Cruel Knight's sword is in his right hand and is currently at his side, the tip touching the ground, Dorean knew he had an opening. He even aimed at an angle so Cruel Knight couldn't just backstep his strike. However, he severely underestimated his opponent.

Cruel Knight turned in an instant and parried his blow before lunging forward himself and impaling Dorean with his sword and avoiding Ivan's attack as well. Once Ivan's blade hit the ground, Ellen thrust his spear at Cruel Knight again. Cruel Knight stopped moving and punched Dorean off his blade. With his blade free, he spun around and blocked Ellen's thrust, knocking his spear aside before he darted towards Ivan who has yet to get into a stance and jumped up into the air, stepping on Ellen's spear tip in the process and stopping Ellen from lifting his spear off the ground.

He slightly turned in the air and, because of that slight turn, was able to connect his right elbow into Ivan's face, causing him to stumble back. Once Cruel Knight landed he darted to his right and avoided Ivan's counter attack. With Ivan wide open, Cruel Knight wasted no time and thrust his sword into Ivan's left hip, even breaking some of his ribs in the attack.

Ivan grunted in pain but quickly spun around and got into a stance. However, Cruel Knight didn't continue attacking Ivan but had instead backed off, now in a proper stance, though the stance he was in wasn't like a stance one would typically use to fight with a greatsword. His left arm wasn't tucked in and he was using one hand to wield his greatsword. In fact, all of the attacks he did were with one hand on the greatsword.

The knights recovered and circled Cruel Knight once again, Dorean and Ellen behind him while Ivan was directly in front of Cruel Knight. Ellen attacked first, thrusting his spear forward while Ivan swung his sword from above his head, an overhead strike. At the same time, Dorean darted forward, his swing wide. It seemed over for Cruel Knight. However, Princess Isalene had a strong feeling that it wasn't.

Cruel Knight darted forward slightly and grabbed Ellen's spear while dropping his greatsword behind him, the greatsword falling into the ground and the hilt catching Dorean's blade, stopping his attack. Immediately afterwards, he darted backwards, avoiding Ivan's strike. This was all done within a second or so.

Cruel Knight turned his head to look at Dorean in a slow enough to be insulting and menacing yet fast enough to not waste time. Dorean freed his greatsword but before he could swing Cruel Knight spun around and grabbed him and proceeded to lift him up in the air with one hand by the throat. With Dorean in his hand, Cruel Knight spun around and threw Dorean down on Ivan's greatsword which he had yet to pick up. The result was Dorean being almost cut in half and Ivan's greatsword got stuck in the ground with the weight of Dorean's body.

Cruel Knight turned and ripped his greatsword from the ground and finally released Ellen's spear, causing Ellen to stumble backwards. Before Ivan could think of what to do, Cruel Knight spun back around swinging his greatsword. Ivan's head was cut clean off. Once his body fell, Cruel Knight lazily swung his sword, getting the blood off it. Now, only he and Ellen were left.

Ellen was nervous, his eyes darting back and forth while his hands tightened the grip he had on his spear. Ellen started backing up and, after watching him back up for a bit, Cruel Knight started following him at a slow and lazy pace. After a couple of seconds of this, Cruel Knight swung his sword up and rested it on his shoulder blades once again. The moment he did this, Ellen struck, lunging forward with his spear. Cruel Knight wasn't in a stance and he was relaxed. There is no way he can dodge Ellen's strike, and Ellen knew this.

However, Ellen was very wrong. Cruel Knight lazily stepped out of the way and, because of the lunge Ellen did to make sure he would hit Cruel Knight, Ellen ended up being a couple of inches in front of Cruel Knight. Cruel Knight wasted no time and let go of his sword with his right hand and punched Ellen in the face. At least that is what Isalene assumed he did. But when Ellen didn't go anywhere and started screaming in pain did Isalene realize she was wrong. Cruel Knight didn't punch Ellen. No. His fingers had impaled Ellen through his cheek and jaw.

Isalene looked at Cruel Knight's left hand and noticed that the armor on the hands ended in sharp metal claws with gold highlights.

Cruel Knight lifted Ellen off the ground with the hand that was impaled into Ellen's jaw and cheek, causing Ellen to scream louder in pain and for his left cheek to get torn open, before throwing him away.

Bianca had covered her ears when Ellen started screaming and when she saw Ellen's cheek start to tear open, she closed her eyes too. When the screaming stopped, she opened her eyes and saw that Cruel Knight had thrown Ellen more than seven feet away with one hand. All of Cruel Knight's moves had been done with barely any effort and both Isalene and Bianca could tell that Cruel Knight wasn't even tired, even though Cruel Knight had a helmet on.

Bianca turned to face Isalene to try and comfort her friend who, in her mind would no doubt be crying from what just happened but instead saw that Isalene was staring at the fight below, not a single trace of tears in her eyes.

Before Bianca could say anything, her attention was drawn back to the fight below when, with a yell, Ellen charged at Cruel Knight. Cruel Knight waited until Ellen's spear was in range and, instead of catching or dodging it like Ellen was expecting, he swung his sword so fast that Ellen couldn't see it.

Ellen faltered and stopped completely when he realized his spear had been cut into three pieces. By the time he focused back on Cruel Knight he had already descended upon him, his left hand shaped like a hook to pierce his chin and lift him up into the air where he would impale Ellen in his head with his waiting sword, a move he had done many times in the past to finish off enemies. However, Ellen wasn't going to just take his death.

Ellen quickly rolled out of the way and, seeing that Cruel Knight was wide open, took out a silver dagger he carries as a sidearm and thrust at Cruel Knight's left hip. The dagger never hit as Cruel Knight had miraculously managed to block the stab with his sword. Ellen looked up at met Cruel Knight's eyes which were hidden behind the helmet he wore. Even if Cruel Knight's eyes were hidden from sight, Ellen shuddered when they meant them. He has never felt such terror before.

"...P-please-" Ellen got out weakly. However, the moment he muttered the word Cruel Knight's eyes narrowed and they punched Ellen in the face, breaking his nose and sending him flying, his dagger flying from his hand as well.

Ellen landed and weakly got off his back and started crawling away, tears running down his face as well as blood from his broken nose all while begging for his life. The crowd still remained silent, even as Cruel Knight approached Ellen.

'Isn't Ellen a crowd favorite? Why is no one begging to spare his life?' Bianca wondered.

Cruel Knight went up to Ellen and knelt right in front of him, putting his greatsword on the ground. Ellen started sobbing even harder and met Cruel Knight's eyes once more and once again shuddered horribly. Cruel Knight gently lifted his chin up and brought Ellen to a sitting position. Then, they leaned in close and clearly said something to Ellen. No one but Ellen heard what Cruel Knight said but, whatever they said, it caused Ellen's eye to widen. However, before he could say anything, Cruel Knight raked his face with their right clawed hand. Ellen let out a choked scream, his head shooting backwards from the impact, giving Isalene a clear look at what Cruel Knight had done to him. Ellen's entire face was torn open, his brain exposed and one of his eyeballs was hanging out of its socket.

Ellen's scream quickly ended and he fell down, dead. Cruel Knight stood up and took their sword out of the ground. He stared at his work and Isalene noticed that his chest rose and fell slightly.

'Is he laughing?' Isalene asked herself in disbelief despite knowing that Cruel Knight was indeed laughing.

It was at this point that the crowd went wild. Princess Isalene felt tears well up in her eyes she covered her mouth. Then, Cruel Knight looked up. Their eyes met.

When their eyes met, Isalene froze. She detected no malice or anything in that gaze other than curiosity, even though Cruel Knight was wearing a helmet. Still, even if his gaze only held curiosity, Princess Isalene felt her blood freeze and could swear her heart stopped for a couple of seconds.

Then Isalene turned and suddenly puked on the ground. Bianca and the royal guards instantly went to her, asking her if she was alright. Isalene heard them but her world was in a daze. Instead of answering any of their questions, she got up and looked over the ledge again, thankful there was a short stone wall so Cruel knight didn't see that she just puked. Down below, Cruel Knight was looking at the crowd with an empty look. However, as if sensing her gaze, Cruel Knight turned around and met Isalene's eyes again. His gaze was the same as before. They looked at each other for a few seconds before Cruel Knight lowered their head and started walking back towards the gate they walked out of which was surprisingly still open. He disappeared into the darkness and the clean-up crew came out. Before Isalene could see anymore one of the royal guards picked her up and turned her around.

"My lady, I think we should go now," She told Isalene. Isalene nodded, her mind in a daze and a bitter feeling in the back of her throat that wasn't just from throwing up.

The royal guard nodded and picked her up, asking if she was allowed to do that to which Isalene only nodded again. They left the arena and made their way back to the palace. When they arrived at the palace gate, Isalene's thoughts cleared up.

'Ho-how can someone be that cruel? No, how could someone do something like that and take actual joy and amusement out of it!?'

Isalene closed her eyes and finally...

....came to one stupid conclusion.

'If I go back, will I find out?'




'Yeah, I think I will.'

Royal Guards: Every Faction has a variation of these soldiers. Elite and used either as the leader's personal army or as guards for high ranking nobles and leaders.

Red Feather: A Red Feather that is found on top of the helmets of royal guards in the Kingdom. Red means on duty, blue means off duty. It also means a red feather.

Personal Guard: The personal guard of someone. Usually, this title means that this guard is the personal guard of a leader's daughter or son.

Waste Collectors: People who clean the streets of cities and sometimes towns. These people are usually old people or reformed prisoners. This job, while dirty, pays very well and doesn't require as much effort as one would think.

Great Wars: The world of Nostalisk has always been in a state of constant war for as long as anyone remembers. Once, there was peace but now, in order to avoid the fate the Ancients had, the people of Nostalisk wage war with each other. Surprisingly, it works! However, now it seems that even if any Faction wants to stop the endless wars, they can't. There is no personal war anymore. There are only the Great Wars. Despite the death and destruction the Great Wars bring, it does have too many benefits to consider stopping. Corruption is scarce as is betrayal as, if you become an annoyance or betray someone, you'll either die or lead your own Faction to start weakening, in which case your own Faction will give you a very painful death. There is no discrimination either, though a few Factions seem to still have hate towards certain races. Finally, not only has the races of Nostalisk evolved to support their endless war lifestyle but even the world itself has.

T-days: Technically the first day of the cycle, it is named after the first Apostle.

L-days: Technically the third day of the cycle, it is named after the third Apostle.

Ancients: The ancestors of the races of Nostalisk. They lived in an age of "peace" and had great technology. Then, they destroyed themselves with their own weapons within eight short days. The current generations of Nostalisk have lasted longer than the Ancients despite being in a state of endless war. To this day some Ancient technology can be found, though it is considered taboo to meddle with it.