The Aliens They Summoned
Felix hurried up the stairs to where Lord Viktor resided. He spent most of his time in the tower, looking after his wife and children, or planning for the inevitable return of the beast, as he said. As Felix remembered the bloodshot eyes and yellow teeth, he couldn't help but agree with his Lord. The beast was unpredictable, and while there hadn't been any messages about another attack, he knew it was only a matter of time.
He could walk better, now.
"A knight must have full control over his feet!" Lord Viktor had said, and so he went to the castle's shoemaker William to have something done.
Lord Viktor went to him, too, but his foot needed more assistance as there was no foot left, and so he had yet to receive his pair.
Many were like that.
William was all alone, as another shoemaker had died and the third lost both his arms.
For some reason, Lord Viktor had ordered him to prioritize Felix's shoes, which honored him greatly. He had been assigned as Lord Viktor's personal guard as many of the abled knights had been sent away to warn the castles, towns, and cities around them personally.
They had to believe them with the wounds they donned.
Felix knocked on the door of Lord Viktor's room, announcing himself.
"Lord Viktor?" Silence. He wasn't there or he didn't want to be interrupted. Not about to give up yet, Felix went to the stone wall and pressed on a high-up brick with his sword. "Spear-headed Swordfight."
After it took note of the password, though Felix didn't know how this worked, the wall slid open, revealing a secret tunnel lit by everlasting torches.
Everything about it screamed magic.
It had been created by the magicians under previous Lords' command, and it served as a secret room for war planning to this day.
Only the current Lord and a select few of his loyal followers can be granted entrance at a time.
With the death of Sir Walter and his personal guard, Lord Viktor assigned Felix as one of the next ones to be granted access.
It was one of the greatest honors a knight could be granted.
Another wooden door, reinforced with countless spells, separated him from Lord Viktor. Felix knocked once, twice, made a pause, then a third time.
"Yes, my Lord."
"... come in." The door opened itself, and Felix walked in. The room was decorated with ancient-looking instruments and maps of the whole world. Strategies and meetings had been planned in here before the kingdoms had even been formed. "I hope you bring me good news, for once. I can't stand bad news... What about our prisoner? Did he spill anything?"
Felix hesitated, then began his report.
"All we get out of Marion is the continued stammering of stopping this madness and running away. He went so far as to tell all of us to go to a far place, away from humans. I don't know if this is a strategy of him to sway us, but we won't escape while the beast runs around as it does. Swords might not prove to be a viable strategy, but if we could block it off with tower shields and have our mages attack it in the meantime-"
"So nothing new on that front, huh?" Lord Viktor interrupted, sighing. He rubbed his temples, pointing with a finger on the map in front of him, fastened to a table. "It could be resting, or it feasts on animals right now. What do the scouts report?"
Felix quickly caught himself again.
"The scouts report many animal corpses, but nothing was slain recently. All signs suggest that the beast left these parts and moved on."
"I see." Lord Viktor threw a last, regretful glance at the map, then turned to face Felix. His presence nearly overwhelmed the newly-knighted man. "Our herbologists, apothecaries, and hunters all looked into the beast, right? Did they..."
Felix shook his head before his Lord could ask.
"We know no creature like this. It is the first of its kind to come into contact with humans. That is their verdict."
Lord Viktor sighed again.
He looked desperate.
"Tell me about the responses."
"My Lord, you ordered me not to-"
"And now I order you to do. Come, maybe it could get amusing?"
His voice suggested that he knew that it wouldn't be amusing in the slightest. Felix nodded, thinking about which responses to warm his tolerance for irritation up with.
"As usual, most people of the Belarus Kingdom opted not to respond."
"Most of them?" Lord Viktor inquired, crossing his arms.
"Yes, my Lord. A few mocked us for not being able to deal with a single beast, others told us that they were more fearsome and fierce than this cute creature we described, but one of them, Chieftain Baltasar, replied with a most curious phrase. 'Our woods house stranger creatures than the one you described. We have nothing to fear.' I believe it means something."
"Hmm... Sir Felix, are you suggesting that someone from the Belarus Kingdom set this beast loose in our castle?"
Felix shook his head.
"No, my Lord. All I'm suggesting is that we might finally know where this beast came from. I can't be sure since I never went there in person, but the woods of Belarus Kingdom are rumored to house creatures of unrivaled ferocity."
"As terrifying as their forest homes," Lord Viktor mumbled. "My father used to say that. This idiom came into existence when King Gordan's predecessor lost against the barbaric forces of King Hergor, who united the clans of Belarus Kingdom for the first time. It was a fierce war," he said, nodding along. Felix was glad to have missed that particular event of history. "Your thought intrigues me, though, Sir Felix. We might have to investigate when our forces return."
"Yes, my Lord." Felix decided to move to the most receptive party next. "The Paegan Nation remains to believe us. They even offered their assistance in the case of another attack."
Lord Viktor snorted.
"Nothing but a ploy to get us on their good side."
"Should I send a refusal?" Felix suggested.
His Lord shook his head, sighing.
"We need all the men we need. Tell them that any help would be greatly appreciated."
"Yes, my Lord. Judging by the distance between our castles, though... We might have to wait a few weeks before they arrive."
"That's fine," Lord Viktor said. "It gives us hope. If we survive until then, it's our victory." Silence enveloped the knight and Lord until the latter shook himself free of the spell. "What about King Gordan, then? Any word of the cities?"
"The King didn't write back to us. The first we heard of the cities was when our knights and guards arrived and told them what we've seen. As suspected, they wouldn't just believe the story of a superhuman beast taking over our castle single-handedly. Some even advised you to stop sending letters while being drunk."
Though they probably think that because the writing was so awful, Felix silently added.
"... They are fools, all of them." Lord Viktor smacked his fist on the table as hard as he could. He gritted his teeth and looked at Felix. "Let us leave this place. It makes me mad."
"I shall follow you, my Lord."
"You are my guard, so of course you will." They left the secret room and paid a quick visit to Helga, Sarah, and Tom. The kids needed the constant attention of their mother in this crisis. A trauma like this was the worst that could happen to these immature minds, he noted. It was the same with the servants, the farmers, and everyone else in the castle. The children were the most vulnerable, and their tiny minds couldn't deal with the wounds, the blood, the dead... Afterward, Lord Viktor and Felix left the castle altogether, walking along the castle walls, instead. Lord Viktor's gaze was distant as he scanned his lands. "Say, could any of our farmers take their jobs up, again?"
"Some have, my Lord. Many lost a limb or have other... complications, causing them to be unable to work and grow crops. Many fields have been raided by boars and our livestock was diminished by the beast."
"How long will it last?"
"If we hold ourselves back, maybe a few months," Felix said, unsure of the truth to his words. The opinions among the keepers of the pantry were split in that regard. Some said that killing the injured off would ensure their continued survival, while the other found the survival of everyone to be the top priority. They would have to pay the price one way or another. "The new crops coming in will barely keep the healthy alive, or so I've been told."
"So it seems." Leaning on his walking stick, carved by a hunter for Lord Viktor, they walked to the next guard tower and descended, coming out on an open field. The borders were littered with spare pieces of armor and equipment made for fighting, as well as weapons. These are the training grounds, Felix noted. "Suit yourself," Lord Viktor announced, grabbing a random sword. "As my personal guard, you need to have the capabilities of a thousand men. Even with one leg, I can beat you in swordplay. Cange that, Sir Felix. Get stronger than me, and earn the title I bestowed upon you!"
"Yes, my Lord!"
Ever since the massacre of the full moon, most of the strong guards and knights were dead. The ones they had left were injured, apprentices, or crippled.
In a way, it had been most reckless to announce their weakened state to the neighbors.
If someone wanted to invade them now, they wouldn't be met with any resistance.
Even these private lessons with Lord Viktor, a more adept sword-fighter than it might seem, wouldn't ensure the survival of this outpost.
But if he could defend his Lord for just one more second, it was worth it.
They trained until the sun went down.
Felix thought to notice a hint of a smile on his Lord's face.
It was only a small distraction, but he was glad to provide it.
Naturally, Lord Viktor won by a landslide.