­Knight to E-5

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Entry 3148 (25/06/11 19:58) 25/06/11 19:58
Diana grabbed the prince by his wrist and yanked him beside the stables. With one hand clasped around his wrist, she used the other to reach around and untie Alexios' steed. Carefully, the girl peered around the corner. The night was now only filled with darkness. With surprising strength, she swung the boy around the side and into the stable. More arrows whistled by as she threw herself in behind him. Alexios laid like a rag doll in the scattered hay. He appeared to be in a state of shock. Without any words, she reached to the arrow in his shoulder and snapped it off a few inches from his skin. The prince cried out.

With haste, she slung the boy up onto the horse's back and then climbed on behind him. The sword slid effortlessly into an empty scabbard. With a crack of the reins, the steed bolted from the stable, nearly toppling the pair off its back. They rode hard and fast. There were no travelers on the roads this night. The minutes seemed to take hours. Her heart pounded against the princes back. When they reached the town, she entered the first stable seen and tied the horse near the back.

Her eyes pierced the night as she scanned every street, window, and alleyway. The pair entered a nearby tavern. The air smelled of musty wood and sawdust. It was empty aside from the bartender and a few nearly unconscious drunks. She lead the prince to the rear and sat him facing away from the door. Diana then ordered two drinks from a weary bartender before joining him. Although her gaze appeared distant, she watched the door carefully from the corner of her eye.

"Have you rejoined the living," she inquired of the prince without making eye contact.
 
Entry 3151 27/06/11 01:59
Alexios was staring right at her, though she did not look at him. Gradually, over the course of a few minutes, he seemed to be drifting back into reality. His eyes went from still to bursting with thought. Though he did not break his gaze with her, a plethora of reactions were reflected in his eyes as he sat there. Then he let out a long, weary sigh, as though he had been holding his breath since he got shot. 

"How long since you slept?" he asked, and then he winced and grabbed his left shoulder. 

Then his eyes widened and they were filled with fear as he caught sight of something across the room. There stood three dressed in heavy red robes at the bar. Their clothing was elaborate and patterned with insanely intricate details and motifs. One was significantly shorter than the other two. They appeared as roses in a wasteland; such grace that it seemed as though the waste would crush them, and yet their hidden thorns would protect them from any such invasion. They had quiet words with the bartender, and then they left. 

"Defenders," Alexios muttered. "Temple Defenders. What business does the High Priestess have here? This village is nothing." He clasped his hands nervously together and tugged his cloak further across his chest, covering his regal armour. "We should leave them be. Though they may well be on our side, there is... I don't want... to risk the slight chance that they are... not." [1]
 
Entry 3158 27/06/11 02:29
The girl watched the defenders judiciously. "Curious timing," she commented, "Wouldn't you say?" As the robed creatures left the bar, Diana shifted in her seat and braced her back against the wall. "Who do you think just attacked us? The karithians don't seem like the type to use arrows." Her gaze shifted back to Alexios. A candle's flame seemed to dance in his eyes.

The prince winced again. "Don't agitate it," Diana scolded, "I'll treat the wound once we've regrouped. Until then I wouldn't fantasize about rest."
 
Entry 3160 27/06/11 02:43
Alexios nodded in agreement. "Very curious. Here, let me paint you a little picture. You know where we are. We are in Leotyne. Your people stay behind mountains and stone walls, because you are safe here. You do not meddle and wander over your borders. The Karithians have been camping over your borders, deep in the mountains. Your people ventured deep into the ranges to try to push them back. But we all know what happens when you push a Karithian... it pushes back. But it didn't push your people back. No, it pushes further south, in the province of Phedailin. They attacked our western fortress. The king was furious. So they sent me and my men to investigate. So I spoke with your lord, Lord Lance, and he took it as a threat. So me and my men hid in the mountains, and your cowardly leader has called to the province of Trelinia for help. Just like a big sister, Trelinia came to your aid."

Alexios peered around the room slowly. "But the only way into Leotyne by road is through the province of Jevithem. We all know how controlling the Jevithiums are. They didn't like seeing all these troops marching across their bridges and through their towns to get to Leotyne, so they stuck their big noses in and started threatening everybody." He quietened down a little and leaned in to her. "And you know, it could've been Leotyne, or Trelinia, or Jevithem, the one who did this." He hovered a hand over his shoulder. "And wounding royalty is punishable by death. So whoever is doing this either has no idea who we are, and therefore no idea what they're doing here, or has no care anymore for the authority of the king, in which case... may Nikina have mercy on all of Nidonn..."
 
Entry 3176 (30/06/11 00:54) 30/06/11 00:54
The girl ran her finger in circles around the edge of the drinking glass. "Then let us hope it was simply bad luck that we were attacked," Diana commented. She paused as a playful smile crossed her cheeks. "Perhaps they just wanted to put a pitiful creature out of his misery." Her voice held a twinge of bitterness towards the prince.

Diana's eyes drifted back towards the door. A feeling of solemness weighed down on the table. "Your men didn't explain your next plan of action," she stated, "With things so politically bleak, where were you headed next?"
 
Entry 3177 01/07/11 01:00
Alexios stared blankly at her for a moment. "Typical Leotians, hiding behind stone walls. Or was that... hiding behind insults?" Then he glanced toward the front of the tavern and suddenly pulled his hood down and sunk into his chair a little. "Jevithiums," he whispered, nodding. 

Six men had just entered. They were clad in armour that shone with brilliant dusty greys and blues in the bleak light, and they walked as though they were royalty. They seemed a little worn, as though they had been running, but were overall energetic and strong. The man in the lead had a shock of dark hair. With them was the giant knight from the clifftop. It was clear now that this knight was at least a foot higher than his companions, and his full armour and covered helm made him seem almost robotic. Some of the men took seats at the bar, while the troop's leader and the giant knight remained standing. They began to talk, though the knight's voice was completely inaudible. 

Alexios muttered curses under his breath. "If they recognise me, I cannot even... guess at the implications. And that giant knight, he seems... oddly familiar." 
"Preposterous! Utterly preposterous!" The Jevithium leader began to abuse the bartender. "Do you know who I am? I am Sir Arjun! Why the blank stare? You have not heard of me? I am a paladin of Lord Tobias! Sir Arjun...?! No, this is unacceptable. This village will burn!" And they all stormed out. 

The tavern was silent. Then people began to whisper to one another. The whispers rose to questions of concern. Somebody piped up: were they serious? Then a man fell through the door on his hands and knees. Between coughs and gasps to catch his breath, he said that the village was surrounded by soldiers in the dark with fire and arrows. 

Alexios looked to Diana. "They... were going to burn it anyway...?"
 
Entry 3180 01/07/11 01:24
Diana finished the drink and rose to her feet. "Time to go then." Alexios and the girl proceeded through a door in the rear of the tavern. They couldn't have been certain there was an exit, but as luck would have it, a small alleyway ran behind the building. The darkness concealed their pretense as they looked out onto the main street.

The city was now oddly quiet. If they were to try to escape on horseback now, the Jevithiums would likely shoot them dead. "Should we wait until the set fire to the city? Escape during the chaos?" Diana paused. "Perhaps it was a bluff." A speckle of fire soared through the air. It landed somewhere out of sight.

Diana turned to her companion and pressed his back against the stone wall. From her pouch she pulled a strip of leather and pushed it into Alexios' lips. "Bite," she commanded in a low voice. The prince knew what was to follow. Without hesitation, Diana disassembled her sheers and used one of the blades to extract the arrow from Alexios's shoulder. The procedure had been quick, but far from painless.

She wiped down her sheers and reassembled the tool. After a quick application of medicine, Diana bound his wound tightly. "Is that sufficient?" she inquired.
 
Entry 3182 01/07/11 01:33
Alexios' mouth hung open and he slowly bent over. Some blood began to seep until she bound the wound. Then he slowly moved his shoulder around and around until he could bear the pain. He looked up at her, paused, and then nodded. Somebody yelled something in the distance. It sounded violent. Somebody else yelled something back and then a woman screamed. A reddish orange glow loomed above a nearby building and small embers carried by the wind drifted across the dirt road running down the middle. The whole village reeked of fear and horror. Surrounding gasps turned to calls for help, and then voices rose with flames. More arrows shot overhead and soon almost every building was on fire. People began to run about, and villagers took up shovels and hoes to take down the Jevithiums who began to swarm through the village. The soldiers, however, were entirely ruthless and did not pause to slay anybody who opposed them. 

"Have you ever killed a man?" Alexios asked, drawing his sword with -- fortunately -- his right hand. "You may be required to do so... We have to escape..." [1]
 
Entry 3184 (01/07/11 01:53) 01/07/11 01:50
Diana avoided the question. "I left a sword in the stables with your steed," she stated. More screams scratched charred the air. Hidden in the deep shadows, the pair moved through the alleyways reaching the stable's rear wall. The structure had already caught fire.

Alexios wasted no time kicking in one of the wall's wooden panels. Although narrow, Diana squeezed through the opening. She detached the sheath from Alexios's steed and slung it over her shoulder. Through the panicked horses, she led the steed out the opening and quickly around into the alley. "Do you have a plan?" she called out to the prince. She could only just make out his silhouette in the shadows. 
 
Entry 3191 05/07/11 11:50
"You are proving most useful," Alexios muttered. "Of course I have a plan! I am royalty."

Then he bid her halt the horse as they came to the corner of a building. He put his finger to his lips and they listened to the yelling just around the corner. 

"Your lord is a coward, as you can plainly see! Already five villages have burned, and where is he? Where are your protectors?" It was Arjun in the middle of the street, mounted on his horse and surrounded by his soldiers. "You Leotians are too foolish to know that your lord is a useless heap of expensive cloth and pale flesh, but not so foolish that you stand no chance in realising that I am far more worthy than Lord Lance! That the Karithians continue to wander into your mountains is proof of his worthlessness. Fear not, for I am here to protect you!" He paused and there was a scream. "Sadly, the greatest of things come at the greatest of prices."

Something startled the horse and it leapt from the alley into the street. They found themselves amidst fighting. Though, to be fair, it was as much a public slaughtering of citizens. Alexios pointed his sword at Arjun and his men. 

"You are committing treason, and you will be arrested!" Alexios yelled at him. 
Sir Arjun turned his attention to the pair on horseback. "Oh really? And you will be killed, filthy farmers. Take them down! Spill their blood!"
Two men drew swords and rode down either side of the road, readying wide swings aimed at both of them. 
 
Entry 3200 05/07/11 23:22
"Oh what clever planning," Diana quipped.

Initially, she hadn't drawn her sword. Short of childhood play, Diana had never wielded a sizable blade, and now, on horseback, the task was even more daunting. With knights who carried death in their eyes charging forth, idealistic training scenarios fell to the wayside.

From its sheath, she drew the ancient blade into her left hand. The sword swung effortlessly through in her grip. She guided the steed to the right side of the road, forcing both of their attackers to her left. 

The perfect timing left only one of them able to strike. Diana only partially deflected the first attack. After their blades parted, the knight's steel sword chinked against Alexios's armor. Through sheer dumb luck, a strap on the knights harness caught on their steeds mount. It sent him tumbling to the ground. His head made an audible crack as it smashed into the side of a building.

Wasting no time, she turned their steed almost in place. She rode hard towards the other knight, who had only just began to circle back. Her sword swung in a wide arc sending his head tumbling from his shoulders. The brutality of the kill shook Diana to her core.

After what felt like an eternity of inaction, Alexios reached around her and pulled the reigns. Sir Arjun had already built momentum, ready to strike. The young prince steered the horse such that the knight would face his blade. He spurred the horse, sending the two into the duel.

[1]
 
Entry 3204 06/07/11 15:03
Alexios showed no fear as he swung his blade for the Jevithium knight. Metal clanged with such ferocity that Alexios flinched. The horse swerved around to face Arjun, who was already coming at them again. This time though, Arjun drew his horse to a halt, and the hooves of his black steed almost collided with Alexios and Diana. When the horse came down again, Arjun was onto Alexios with his sword like a madman. The prince could barely fend off the strong and rapid slashes. A wide swing by Arjun cut a small hole in the shoulder of Diana's tunic. In panic, both companions brought their swords down on him at once. Arjun found himself unable to parry two blows at the same time, and Diana's sword struck his left pauldron. There seemed to be a flash of light, and Arjun was thrown from his horse and onto the dirt. 

Before either of them could realise what had happened, Jevithium soldiers had begun to circle Alexios and Diana, trying to protect their fallen leader. Some were armed with polearms, and most wielded swords. Alexios brought the horse round in small circles but the ring of soldiers grew tighter. Then the circle parted and there stood the giant knight from earlier. He stood like a human fortress clad in full armour, barring the road out of the village. In his hand was a large spear with a head that seemed big enough to slice a man in two. The back end of the spear was attached to his back by a heavy chain. He rattled as he walked and stared at the two on horseback from beneath his full visor. 

"It's the Grand Marne!" the soldiers called, backing away as the great knight held forth his spear. 
"Damn," Alexios muttered. "That spear would... kill my horse..."
The Grand Marne stepped forward, turning to face the other way and thrusting his spear towards them with one hand. [1]
 
Entry 3206 (06/07/11 23:12) 06/07/11 23:11
Diana quickly scanned the circle of soldiers. Behind them rode two men with swords. One of the knights was left handed which left the gap between them awkward to guard. "Another day prince," Diana whispered. The girl yanked the reigns back from Alexios and pulled hard to the side. She spurred the horse into a full gallop sending the two hurdling towards the unprepared knights. The companions swung their blades and easily parried the soldier's clumsy attacks.

The opening lead back into the alleyway. She turned the horse behind the burning stables and darted down the dark corridor. The alley ended into another street. This one, although void of knights, was consumed in thick smoke and the subtle glow of fire. Cries of women clawed at Diana's ears as the smoke burned in her eyes. Already, clattering hooves echoed behind them. The girl once more spurred the horse into motion, this time heading east. At least, she hoped it was east. The chaos distorted the world, leaving it twisted and foreign.

The pair recklessly galloped through the smoke. The village houses sputtered into a dense forest. The wailing of a burning village dissipated into the quiet sounds of leaves rustling in the wind. She lead the steed off road and through some foliage. Behind the shields of great oaks, she dismounted Alexios's horse and vomited.
 
Entry 3226 15/07/11 03:45
Alexios steered the horse in a slow circle around her, his fists clenching tightly onto the reigns. 

"Stupid farmer girl!" he hissed. "Now that man thinks I am a coward! How am I to face him again! And the Jevithium paladin, Sir Arjun! We need to stop them, not run like injured dogs! Ugh!"

He slashed at a tree and his blade got wedged in the wood. He groaned as he tried to pull it free, almost falling off his horse. Slowly he looked around at the trees. They were tall and grey, with sharp branches and sharp leaves. Evergreen trees. Conifers. Sheer pillars of wood, like skeletal spires, punctured the haze of smoke that billowed through the mountain air above them. Some night birds stared down and made strange cooing noises at the pair. The darkness of the woods began to creep in around them. 

"A Grand Marne..." Alexios muttered, glancing to her to see how she was. "Such a knight has not been seen for over a thousand years. The rank is not supposed to exist. They are almost legendary. Why is there one helping Jevithem?" Diana, of course, had no answers for him. It was as foreign a title to her as the Legionite defenders from the far west. "We must reunite with my men. Of places to hide near here, where would they go? Are there abandoned forts nearby? Remote villages? Somewhere the Jevithiums will not find? Do you... even know where we are?"

[1]
 
Entry 3230 (16/07/11 11:34) 15/07/11 23:18
Diana wiped her mouth with one arm and grabbed a branch with the other. She pulled herself to her feet and braced her shoulder against a tree. "Swallow your pride prince," she hissed, "That wasn't an honorable battle. I'm not exactly a battle hardened soldier, and you are an injured dog. If we had stayed to fight, we would both be dead, and that would do no one any good." The girl was furious, but her exhaustion stole from her anger. The reality of what she had just done ate at her heart.

"Your men wouldn't be holed up in a cave or old shack with their prince in danger. They would have traveled north east of the village." She gestured in front of them, to the north, through the thick of woods they were in. "There's an old road that runs through the remains of a ruined city. It leads back to the village we just came from. That's our best chance of intercepting them."

"If it suits you, we can part ways then. I have no intention of dieing by of a foolhardy prince." 
 
Entry 3233 16/07/11 10:34
"That doesn't suit me," Alexios said, "Not at all. We had a deal, and your service is not ended, as I still require a guide." He stared her down from atop his horse, and once he had calmed a little, he thought over what she said. "A ruined city. Typical of Leotyne to abandon its cities and find a new place to bury potatoes. Phedailin would never do such a thing."

"Your highness?"
Alexios turned the horse. There was a person standing near a tree, clad heavily in red robes. It was one of the Temple Defenders from the tavern, and just as before, he stood out against the grey wood with grace.
"How long were you watching us?" Alexios demanded, looking to Diana, blaming her with his eyes. 
"Your highness?" the figure repeated. By his voice, they could tell that it was a boy, perhaps the same age as Alexios, though he appeared quite a bit shorter than the prince. "Are you the prince or not?"
"What if I am?" Alexios asked. "What business does the Temple have here? And since when do they recruit children?" 
The boy held up his hand and the woods momentarily flashed with blinding light. Alexios flinched and when he rubbed his eyes clear, the boy had a hold of his ankle. With surprising strength, the prince was tugged from his horse and sent into the leaves and dirt. 
"My name is Cyrus. We have orders to escort you back to Phedailin," the boy said. "If you do not cooperate, we will bring you back by force. His Highness the king insists that you return with us."
Alexios pushed Cyrus' helping hand away and stood on his own. He seemed as though he would scold the boy, but he visibly held himself back from doing so. "What written proof do you have? I cannot simply take your word as truth, even if you are from the temple."
Cyrus pulled back his hood, revealing his face. His hair was light brown and curled all around his soft face. Dark, solemn eyes stared at Alexios. With all the seriousness he could muster, standing to attention and with a brave gaze, he said, "I lost the letter. And... my companions."
Alexios paused, looked at Diana, and began to laugh. He laughed so loud that few people had ever heard it. 
 
Entry 3235 (16/07/11 21:45) 16/07/11 21:36
Diana popped Alexios in the back of the head. "Next time you decide to announce our presence, how about you use a horn," the girl seethed.

"We're wasting time. If we don't regroup with your men now, they may try to raid the village in your defense." Diana turned to Cyrus, "It's the same route back to Phedailin seeing as how we can't take the main roads now. I suggest we make haste. Did your companions have the kings letter? If so, we can search for them next."
 
Entry 3238 17/07/11 04:31
Alexios grabbed his head and glared at her, utterly offended. "Do you realise you have both commit a crime by assaulting m--"
"Uh, yes, my companions have the letter!" Cyrus said, sparkling with energy for a moment. "Let us move. This way, yes?" 

Cyrus and Diana began on foot, as Alexios was too bewildered to move his horse. Finally he caught up with them, trotting in front so he could take the lead. He drew his sword and looked about, wincing on occasion as pain from his wound shot through his left arm. The woods were strangely quiet. On the air were voices carried from nearby, distant wails and screams, muffled by darkness and reduced to whispered moans. Through the sharp branches they could see a soft warm glow reflected in the low clouds to one side. The burning village was there. 

"Halt," Alexios said. He pointed ahead. 
There was something on the ground. He drew closer to see that it was a man. A few nonresponsive nudges confirmed that the man was probably dead. 
"There are more," Cyrus said. 
Sure enough, the ground before them had bodies scattered all over it. Suddenly a foul smell became known to them all. Alexios turned up his nose and rode on, cautiously now, looking in all directions. None of the people were moving. It seemed as though they were running to escape and were all cut down. They took the path up a small slope and walked alongside a rocky cliff before they came round a corner to see a long heap of stone. There was what seemed to be an ancient tower, now crumbling and covered in mountain moss. 
"Defender, scout ahead," Alexios ordered, nodding to Cyrus. "See if anybody else has taken refuge here, be they friend or foe."
Cyrus looked up; moonlight revealed fear in his eyes. "I will... get up this cliff and view it from above. She can go through the old gate." Cyrus gave her a pleading look and then went to scramble up a cliff that flanked the old ruins. [1]
 
Entry 3240 18/07/11 00:00
Diana was far too tired to argue. Instead, she sauntered to the gate and placed a hand on its post. The grass was wild and ivy had taken to the tower walls. She lifted the latch expecting some resistance from the rust, but it flipped open with ease. Suspicious, Diana inspected the hinge more closely. Red flecks of rust had recently splintered loose and scattered on the ground.

Reluctantly, she reached for her blade. The girl drew it slowly creating an almost soothing hum. She proceeded through the gate and into the mouth of the old tower. There she stood looking into the darkness. Moon light peered in through numerous places where the stone had given way. Chunks of rock laid scattered throughout the bottom floor.

The structure was a rather simple watch tower with a spiral staircase. The stairs ended three quarters up the tower wall where the surface had fallen outward. It was an amazing feat that this place was still stood. A sudden movement caught Diana's eye. Something scuffled behind an overturned stone table.

"Show yourself. I mean you no harm," Diana stated. Still, she held the sword out in front of her.

A boy no older than eleven stepped out. Soon, an even younger girl hid behind him, clutching his sleeve. They were both filthy and looked completely exhausted. Diana noticed the boy had a splatter of blood across his chest. She sheathed her sword and stood neutrally.

"My name is Diana," she said in a gentle tone, "I have two warriors here with me. You have nothing to fear from us." Lowering to one knee, she continued, "Are either of you hurt?"

The boy looked to his sister and then back to Diana before shaking his head. He didn't seem ready to speak.

"Good. Stay right there. I'll go get my friends. I'll be right back." Diana leaned out of the door way and called out to Alexios in a whispered tone, "Only children. We should setup camp here. If we're lucky, your men will funnel through this junction to get to the city." Diana pointed towards where the road split further up the path. "In the meantime I think we should get some rest."
 
Latest Post Entry 3248 21/07/11 12:51
"Very well," Alexios said. "Well done."

Alexios dismounted and quickly scanned the cliffs above for Cyrus. There was no sign of the boy, though admittedly the red robe would appear dull grey in the moonlight. With a sigh and shake of the head, he lead his horse to almost the only piece of overhanging shelter he could see. Then he stopped and turned slowly back to Diana. 

"Wait, hold on... You said 'children' ...? How many? Leotian children? We are not bringing them with us. They are a burden. They can find a hole to hide in."
 
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