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Bethany Lyon

"You may think all people deserve a share in the government, and that all people are so wise that we need their advice. That is, in my opinion, false."

217 views · last seen in Vallrien
a character in “The King and Guard”, as played by AceofSpade

Description




Bethany Lyon





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Name: Bethany Lyon

Age: 19

Gender: Female

Role: Monarch

Appearance: Bethany is a modestly tall (5’9”), slim and well rounded young woman, not quite the spitting image of pampered royalty one would tend to expect of her, but beautiful all the same. Contrary to her personality, her looks speak of a person willing to maintain the status quo, but not someone who was naturally born for the role, something which likely contributes to the ongoing animosity towards her (particularly amongst jealous peers).

Bethany was raised first and foremost as an empathetic ruler, and as such harbors a certain negligence in regards to appearance bordering on unfeminine. She flirts between expressions of lavish nobility and astounding simplicity, but primarily out of necessity. That said, she’s not particularly fond of dresses and the type of wardrobe frequently forced upon her, much preferring function over form.

Her skin tone is persistently fair and unblemished; a rather convincing façade as long as one doesn’t inspect her palms. Small calluses indicating a repeated activity of some sort present themselves on the four fingers of her hands, and to the observant, hint at her true nature. When allowed to, sheets of dark brown hair cascade well past the point of optimal performance, though more often than not are worn up in a bun to compensate. Overall she projects a strong image, if perhaps a bit eccentric for a ruler.

Personality/Abilities: How to describe one so volatile and reckless? Ones whose life is constantly under the threat of assassination? Where to begin? Over the course of her rule Bethany has often been considered impulsive, reclusive, and even cruel to an extent. Such connotations would perhaps contribute to justifying the attempts on her life, but those aren’t the whole truths.

Bethany has always viewed the position of Monarch as a seat of immense responsibility, as something to be equally feared and respected. It was power which could be abused selfishly, or selflessly. Though she rules with an iron fist, and is often times uncompromising and unreasonable with her demands, she levers this with sound judgment and compassion. This leads her to act cold and calculating at times, but not without reason. Will sacrificing a few save the majority? Rarely does she have the luxury of saving everyone. Perhaps the primary basis for her targeting is because of her willingness to break protocol as long as it benefits the people, even to the detriment of others or her own well being. Doing so tends to make enemies, intentional or not.

That said, Bethany’s behavior is filled with inconsistencies and is considered erratic at best. She’s informal to the point where her education has been questioned on more than one occasion and is infamous for her violent tendencies. In addition, for someone whose life is so regularly targeted, she treats such things with an almost casual normalcy. This may be due to her keen sense of knowing how to act when in danger. Being hard to offset is one of her strong points. On the other hand, she’s terrible at relying on others and suffers from extreme claustrophobia.

Brimming with energy is one of her specialties however, and if nothing else she’s highly motivated and driven. Bethany has dedicated her life to mending the affairs of her kingdom as has been taught to her by her uncle. She’s not overtly athletic, but can surprise you with her willingness to thrust herself head first into danger. Preferring to rely on her impeccable wits is more her style, but she isn’t shy to get her hands dirty basically. This is particularly reflected in her abilities to wield a tomahawk and knife simultaneously in combat.



History: Raised in the luxurious household of Lyon alongside her younger brother, Simon, Bethany understood the discrepancies between average citizens and nobles from an early age, even without firsthand experience. She never really knew her parents personally, the both of them having died in an accident before she was barely able to mutter their names, but she did have a mentor and guardian in the form of Lord General Albert Dhelman, the man upon whom she'd inherit the majority of her principles. Dhelman was the harsh, yet caring father she never had, and deeply philosophical. Considered too young to be managing an empire, Dhelman had taken up the mantle of King in the aftermath, acting as Vallrien’s ruler in her stead until she was deemed ready.

In those times the war still raged furiously, and caught in the peak of the turmoil, Dhelman raised her in the only way he knew how, as a soldier. Despite the risk and sudden adjustment of roles, Bethany showed a great deal of promise, progressing faster and better than the majority of her fellow cadets. Her development was almost frightening at times, as was her aptitude with a tomahawk and tactical acumen. She became a fast favorite of the General’s, even earning a commendation for leading the final assault at the Blue Gate, but like so many of the good things in her life, the moment seemed doomed to end before maturity.

It was a momentous achievement, to have broken the six month deadlock which had consumed more manpower than she was even willing to imagine. They celebrated that night by feasting in the long halls they’d been previously fighting for, the unattainable interior that had so frustratingly remained out of their grasps for six grueling months. One stray drink was all that it took. Awfully cunning of the Arcadians to have poisoned their drinks and food supplies in one final act of vengeance.

Before they knew it, five officers were dead and Dhelman was bedridden. One sip was enough to send the man who’d basically been a father to her to the wastes. Nothing could be done, and in the last minutes before his death Dhelman summoned Bethany to his chambers where they’d been treating him and announced her official graduation. That night, Bethany felt as if something important had been ripped right out of her.

With the death of Dhelman, Bethany expected things to escalate quickly, but astonishingly a truce was called between the warring factions, all hostilities were to cease immediately. She’d finally graduated but the war was over. Returning to Vallrien, Bethany picked up directly from where Dhelman left off, her focus now firmly set on rehabilitation and repairing the war’s damages. Many opposed her initially, unwilling to follow the leadership of a young upstart, but Dhelman’s dying will was clear. For them, they would have to find other ways of usurping the throne.

If history is any indication, Bethany's abrupt rise to power promises to be short, the only question remaining is, will she survive it?

So begins...

Bethany Lyon's Story

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Character Portrait: Zakiriya Kotane Character Portrait: Bethany Lyon
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Tears streamed from his eyes as he lay there, strapped down by rope and leather. His breath was hitched, hiccuping from the sobs that wracked his small frame. It was dark in the room, with only two candles burning low to offer any light. Surrounding him were people, one elderly man and one youthful woman.

The words that they spoke were unclear to him. They were speaking in a different language. He wasn’t sure as to what language they were talking in. Everything was a haze to him. The pain was the most apparent though. It burned through his flesh, making him shake and shudder upon the stone slab he was sprawled out across. His own voice was lost to him, but he knew the words he was begging.


Let me go.

They, of course, did not heed him. The woman reached out. Her pale fingers stretched across his chest, seemingly extending from the darkness and attached to nothing else. He cringed. The blood red nails curled down and scratched into his skin. Golden swirls seemed to cut into her fingers and arm before extending down to her finger tips and then into his chest.

The room erupted in his screams. His convulsions were only held down slightly by the ties. The old man’s voice was heard, saying something loudly over the boy’s screams. The woman pulled away. She responded in kind, her voice holding laughter in it. Leaning over, her beautiful face came into the fire light, hovering in the darkness and not attached to a body, or so it seemed to him.

“What a strong boy,” she said, her voice thick with an accent, “You will be a fine soldier.”

Her cackling laugh made him cringe, crying harder as she reached out and started again.


The bed creaked violently as the sounds of a body thrashing about filled the small room. Eventually, a heavy thud filled the air and a gasp of dry air. Clenching his chest, Zakiriya took several deep breathes to steady his body. He could feel bile climbing to the back of his throat. It was sharp and tasting almost of iron.

Cringing a bit, he bowed his head forward, resting it against the stone floor of his quarters. The young knight would have stayed there longer, but a knock on the door demanded his attention. The solid three raps rang out loud in his room. Turning his head a bit, Zakiriya sighed slightly. Knowing already who it would be, he pushed himself up to stand.

Allowing entrance to the one who had called for it, he took a step back to allow the enormous burly man inside. Zakiriya stood at attention, facing the man squarely though he dwarfed the knight. Large arms crossed over the man’s chest as he grinned broadly down at the shorter knight.

“Zakiriya, you lucky bastard you.”

The knight lifted an eyebrow. He watched his Captain’s face, the one good eye small and black in color like most of the people in the country of Trivel. The burly man was covered in scars almost from head to foot, including one that trailed from the top of his bald head down to his neck on the left side. A black patch covered the eye that was completely blind.

It was a deep contrast to Zakiriya's appearance. The young knight was shorter with deep, blue-black hair and striking blue eyes that were almost like dark ice crystals. His skin was fair in color where as the Captain was much darker from many years of sun tanning while training his men. Zakiriya couldn't get any color on his skin even if he tried.

“Seems the Queen is in need of your services, Zakiriya.”

Turning on his heel, Zakiriya began gathering his appropriate attire. He dressed in the colors of the Queen’s guard, black and crimson red. The black leather was tight across his chest with gold trimming and a silver flame across his chest. Underneath that was a long sleeved, black shirt that clung to his arms tightly, curving along his well toned stature.

Tucking in the black pants into his boots, he grabbed the long blood red jacket and pulled it on. The jacket had the insignia of the Queen's nation, a dragon with it's maw wide opened and ready to breathe fire. Only one button was on it at the center of his abdomen. Underneath this, he strapped on his sword and knife. As he was only going to see the Queen, he did not need to assemble his entire arsenal.

“Ready?”

“Yes,” Zakiriya answered shortly.

“Always were the silent type. Maybe you’ll be better suited than the others,” the Captain shook his head a bit as they both exited the small room and entered the stone hallway.

The knight’s quarters were attached to the palace, a small wing of only twenty rooms. They were the Queen’s palace guard, a special division of knights than just the army where Zakiriya had originally been employed to. They came from many different backgrounds and specialized in more than just sword play.

“The others?”

“The Queen has had a total of twelve personal body guards since taking the throne. The death threats are mounting and the attacks are getting worse. She can’t seem to keep a body guard longer than a few months.”

Zakiriya took the information in as they entered the main part of the castle. They were nearing the throne room. The palace was huge, almost maze like. The first King to rule had it built in such a way as to confuse the enemy should they ever be under siege. The gray stone walls were filled with an assortment of objects, things from past Monarchs to honor their triumphs and other such novelties.

Huge tapestries of landscapes filled one wall in the main hall that led to the throne room. Portraits on the other side. Beneath both, lining the hall were cases of old weapons and suits of armor. Some cases held treasures that were given to old Monarchs as gifts from the other Kingdoms.

Finally, they reached the double oaken doors that were pushed open for them by the two guards on either side of the doors. They walked in to a silent area where the Queen was seated up on her throne, the council and other advisers lining the hall as they passed through. There were whispers that followed as Zakiriya came in. Many of those whispers were about his origins, doubts about his being the named personal guard and also a few bets on how long he would last. The young knight ignored these as he kept his eyes trained on the woman who was seated before them.

Once they were close enough, the Captain dropped down to one knee, his long red cloak fluttering outwards as he did so. Zakiriya followed suit and knelt down before her too, his head bowed as he waited. The Captain presented him and the silence that followed afterwards was as heavy as stone.

“I present to you, Zakiriya Kotane, your Highness. He’s to serve as your personal body guard from now on.”


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Bethany Lyon





“..And that concludes the report for this month’s agriculture sector,” Jacob Thilander stated, finally putting to rest his near foot long parchment of statistics, none of them positive.

Famine, poverty, bandits, and rogue soldiers. That list of dilemmas didn’t even begin to scrape the mountain of issues which would take a significant miracle to resolve in her lifetime, maybe even a thousand years. The war was over and yet people were still dying. Some small part of her wished to curse her predecessors for their lack of foresight. Bethany’s dark orbs flickered over the motley entourage of aging advisors and councilmen for the dozenth time that morning as they awaited her word. Here she possessed utmost power, and at the same time, no power at all.

“Thank you for your efforts, councilman Thilander,” she said, her voice soft but strong enough to carry the weight of her concerns. She sounded far too old for a woman her age, “I hope that by the next report the new labor forces will have been implemented and that the more fields are underway. If anything of pressing concern appears, feel free to inform me.”

What she’d actually like to say was more along the lines of terminating the man’s position as the head of agriculture, but she had neither the luxury nor manpower to do so. Thilander was a ruthless and cunning business man who commandeered Vallrein’s farming industry in its entirety, without him, food supplies would plummet. Control the food, and you could also control the people. However business men could always be reasoned with. The thin man bowed, his grey receded hair facing towards her as he took his leave and stepped back into the audience. He was the last in a long list of people meant to address her today, and she had to suppress the urge to sigh for she’d endured up to twenty assorted figureheads before him, each with their own agenda.

“And thank you all for assembling this morning. This meeting is now adjourn...” she said moving to close the conference when the vast gates parted abruptly.

Bethany paused, as did the audience in the hall as two men with excellent composure strode through the doors behind them. They moved with purpose, heading directly towards throne and ignoring the wary glances of the noblemen surrounding them. These men were on official business and to them; the whole room might as well have been empty.

Their form identified them as palace guard, the blazing red royal insignia impossible to miss on their uniform as they marched towards the room’s center. One of the men was taller and more grizzled than his compatriot, sporting a dark eye patch over his one bad eye. His identity was easily discernable and Bethany was already well acquainted with the captain of her guard. The other however was new. Fresh faced but possessed of a grim demeanor all of his own. She idly wondered if too much of the captain had rubbed off on him. At least he was easier on the eyes compared to his brawny superior, but that was hardly an achievement in itself.

Regardless of her intense analysis, both of them curtseyed before her.

“I present to you, Zakiriya Kotane, your Highness. He’s to serve as you’re personal body guard from now on.” The captain announced. The name instantly rang a bell and prompted Bethany to mouth a silent ‘ah’. So that’s what this was about.

“The rest of you may leave,” Bethany stated, briefly ignoring the colorful duo before her. She waited patiently until each man and woman was ushered quietly out into the main hall, anyone unrelated to her own personnel affairs. They would no doubt be curious of the proceedings, but at least this way, interferences should be prevented.

“Greetings, the two of you, you may rise,” she smiled humbly at last as the twin doors flew shut. Suddenly remembering she’d been seated for the better part of three hours, Bethany took the chance to stand and step down from her throne which she always felt was designed for someone twice her size. Feeling the blood flow through to her feet felt damn good also.

The red gown shifted and flowed after her, its intricate designs and embroidery bothersome but not unappreciated by her. She imagined it took the better part of several months of arduous design and workmanship to develop. The dress featured floral emblems which almost resembled dancing flames, the motive was somewhat aggressive, but accentuated her regal elegance all the same. Like usual, her hair was tied up.

“I suppose this is our first real introduction, face to face, Chevalier Kotane,” she started, studying the man’s features. A certain level of formality had dropped from her tone, but her professionalism still remained. “Though I’m sure you know off me, and I off you, I hope we can move past our preconceptions now that we’ve reached this stage. You have an amazing record, and I’m told your skills with a sword are something to behold. I don’t care about any of those things. I just have two orders for you, protect the people, and protect your own life. Are we clear?”

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“The rest of you may leave,” the Queen's voice echoed out across the hall and there was the sounds of soft shuffling as the attendance dropped down to Zakiriya and the Captain. Both stayed down on one knee as they waited for the people to leave the room.

“Greetings, the two of you, you may rise,” Bethany stood from her place, the movement catching Zakiriya's gaze and prompting him to look upwards at her. The red gown fell down and swirled around her as she moved from the seat she'd been occupying. Her dark hair was tied up and her dark gaze was leveled on him and the Captain. Once ordered to, he slowly stood up along with the taller, burly Captain.

“I suppose this is our first real introduction, face to face, Chevalier Kotane,”

Zakiriya didn't say anything as she looked to him, her eyes flicking across his frame as she seemed to be studying him. The young knight didn't mind, most people did that often to him. It wasn't like he was of impressive size like the Captain, nor was he overly tall. Rather, Zakiriya was very average... aside from his skills.

“Though I’m sure you know off me, and I off you, I hope we can move past our preconceptions now that we’ve reached this stage. You have an amazing record, and I’m told your skills with a sword are something to behold. I don’t care about any of those things. I just have two orders for you, protect the people, and protect your own life. Are we clear?”

Slowly the young knight lifted an eyebrow. Strange woman he thought to himself though he didn't speak a word. His stony features stayed the same throughout her small speech to him. She was neither worried about herself or anything to do with her life being threatened. Instead, she was worried about his own life and those of the people. Did she not realize that he was her personal guard? He couldn't protect the people so much as he would protect her instead.

"My Lady, he is your personal guard," the Captain began, "I doubt very much that he would be protecting the people. He's meant to protect you, your Majesty."

It looked as if the Captain was going to say more, so Zakiriya lifted his hand, bringing the back of his hand up against the man's overly thick arm to stop him from continuing. Slowly he glanced over to the Captain, his gaze lifting up to look into the one good eye that watched him with a bit of surprise, "It's her order," was all he said to the Captain before turning to Bethany.

Closing his fist, he brought his right hand up to his chest and bowed forward to her, "I will do all in my power to serve you," Zakiriya said to her smoothly.

The Captain huffed a bit, a short kind of laugh as he crossed his arms, "Well, you couldn't have any better, my Lady," he said with a bit of admiration as well as something else that Zakiriya couldn't quite understand.

"He's definitely the best in the guard. He won't disappoint, I'm sure. In any case, he'll be with you from dawn to dusk. Try not to over work him. He may be somewhat inhuman, but he still has limits. If you'll excuse me," the Captain gave a short bow to her before turning on his heel. Reaching out he patted Zakiriya's shoulder heavily before he left the chambers.

The young knight turned a bit to watch him go before returning his attention to the woman before him. They were both almost of the same height, she being just a tad slight taller than he was. Even so, she looked delicate and he had to fight to keep a frown from crossing his lips as he watched her. He wondered briefly how she did it, ruling the way she did. It had to be grueling. Zakiriya stood there almost like a statue as he waited for her to either leave or command him further.

He belonged to her fully. Zakiriya was bound and ready to do anything at all as was his creed. All that was needed were the words to be said.

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Bethany Lyon





"My Lady, he is your personal guard," the Captain interjected politely, "I doubt very much that he would be protecting the people. He's meant to protect you, your Majesty."

She understood his concerns of course. It was a justified objection, and neither was she going to admonish the captain for performing his duties. On the surface, her two orders to Zakiriya seemed counterintuitive to the point of having a personal bodyguard after all, but Bethany had her own reasons. Her mouth opened to reply but to her surprise Zakiriya was a beat faster in responding to the heavy set captain.

"It's her order," he stated and then looked towards her direction. Zakiriya’s right fist clenched over his chest as he seemed pledged himself almost on reflex, "I will do all in my power to serve you."

"Well, you couldn't have any better, my Lady," the captain breathed, crossing his arms. Judging from his expression, this kind of response was to be expected.

Bethany seemed to concur as her light chuckles betrayed her impression. She couldn’t have indeed. “Admitting defeat already captain? I thought you were better than that,” she smiled.

"He's definitely the best in the guard. He won't disappoint, I'm sure. In any case, he'll be with you from dawn to dusk. Try not to over work him. He may be somewhat inhuman, but he still has limits. If you'll excuse me," the man bowed before briskly departing their company, no doubt already occupied by his next task.

“From dusk till dawn? I’d hope not. Even a lady needs some time to herself on occasion, and besides, shouldn’t you be telling that to my assassins?” she frowned after the man.

Bethany planted her hands on her hips as they were left to themselves for the most part, adjusting her posture to a less formal one. She found herself studying the man a second time, unable to gauge his persona thanks to his impeccable poker face. Even his eyes betrayed nothing, not a glint of malice or shimmer of amusement. If not for the uniform and her foreknowledge, she could’ve pegged him as a consultant or merchant. Habitually, she made a point of studying the guard’s records beforehand, and besides a few stray rumors of his mysterious origins, he seemed as flawless as his appearance led her to believe. In certain ways that’s what concerned her.

“Alright, you’ll do nicely,” she nodded in confirmation, speaking in part to herself.

“Chevalier Kotane! Why did you become a guardsmen?” she asked abruptly.




“From dusk till dawn? I’d hope not. Even a lady needs some time to herself on occasion, and besides, shouldn’t you be telling that to my assassins?”

Zakiriya once again lifted an eyebrow as she addressed the Captain as he was leaving. He wasn't sure what her thoughts were entirely, but the tone of voice may have been... jesting? The young knight wasn't sure. Finally, when the double doors shut, she looked at him with her hands on her hips. It seemed to be like she was examining him. Not that it bothered him all that much, he was rather used to it.

“Alright, you’ll do nicely,” Lady Bethany commented to herself softly.

Zakiriya was starting to resign himself to his own thoughts as he wasn't sure she would be speaking to him directly. It was about that time that he moved and placed himself directly at her right side, just a tad bit behind her and waited patiently for something to happen. In the few minutes that he'd had to himself, he was already stretching his senses to make sure they were truly alone.

“Chevalier Kotane! Why did you become a guardsmen?”

Her sudden question took him off guard. Looking over to her, he watched her for a long while. He wasn't sure how to answer to that question exactly. Zakiriya had a few things in mind that may have directed his choice to be a guardsmen, but where they really relevant to tell her? Finally he settled on an answer. The young knight wasn't a man of many words to begin with.

"My adopted father was one."

She tilted her head at that, clearly deliberating over the young man’s ambiguous answer. There was so much she felt was going unsaid in that simple statement, especially given his brief pause of consideration. Eventually she shrugged, shaking her head lightly. “A man of few words. I can’t tell if you’re aspirations are humble or lofty. Are you following your father’s ambition? Or your own? I guess it’d be your own in either case,” she talked, breaking into a tangent. Perhaps she felt the need to make up for his absence of conversation. Of course, she was already well aware of his adopted father’s identity, all that information came with the records too. It was just easier to feign ignorance on ones first meeting.

“No offence intended of course!” she added hastily after coming to realize her own words. “I think being a guardsmen is a noble aspiration, but rather thankless. It also imbues authority, and it’s because of that the job tends to draw in certain mind sets, not all of them savory...”

Pausing before she could start on another tangent, Bethany smiled awkwardly at her new found guard who’d barely uttered more than a few statements since their introduction. “Shall we walk Chevalier Kotane? I have much to attend to."

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“A man of few words. I can’t tell if you’re aspirations are humble or lofty. Are you following your father’s ambition? Or your own? I guess it’d be your own in either case,” Lady Bethany's voice filled the room as she spoke.

Zakiriya listened.

It was what he was good at. He only watched her as she turned to him, her words falling out of her lips rather quickly after her first speech. Perhaps she thought that she'd made him angry in some way with her earlier statement. This made him lift an eyebrow yet again. He certainly wasn't used to this sort of thing.

“No offence intended of course! I think being a guardsmen is a noble aspiration, but rather thankless. It also imbues authority, and it’s because of that the job tends to draw in certain mind sets, not all of them savory...”

At this Zakiriya's eyes darkened. His stony features broke for a mere moment to a deep frown as he looked away from her towards the double doors of the hall. The young knights memory brought to him a vile face that was amongst the guard. He didn't care for this particular person whose name was simply Fyi. The blonde haired, pale blue-eyed male was someone that Zakiriya detested. He too was of foreign origins much like Zakiriya was. Their contrasting difference -besides their physical appearance- was that Fyi's attitude left much to be desired. The other knight was haughty, pompous, and arrogant. He thought himself above the other knights and treated them as such. Zakiriya was no exception to this.

“Shall we walk Chevalier Kotane? I have much to attend to."

The young knight was brought out of his musing as Lady Bethany called for his attention. He glanced over to her before nodding briefly. Zakiriya would follow her anywhere she went so long as she would have him. As they left the throne room, the dark haired knight moved at her right side fluidly, almost silently. The hall outside of the throne room was long and empty, branching off into different parts of the palace as they went along. Zakiriya was unsure as to their destination, but neither minded nor cared really so long as his new charge was without a scratch.

They passed a hall to the left and continued on. However, Zakiriya felt something stir his senses. Reaching back he drew his knife and flipped around in almost a full circle to meet the one that came up behind them. The young knight had moved so quickly that the assailant seemed startled by it. Steel clashed together as Zak met the man's small dagger with his long knife. Rotating the weapon, he disarmed the man in dark robes within seconds. Quickly stepping in front of Lady Bethany, Zakiriya lunged forward, slashing his knife out to cut across the attackers throat.

Hissing, the robed man dropped back, almost bending backwards fully to avoid the death dealing blow. His hood fell away and dark hair revealed itself. The young knight recognized immediately one of the members of the audience as he'd been walked in with the Captain. Council or adviser member mattered not to the dark haired knight. Stepping forward to match the retreat of the other, Zakiriya thrust his arm forward with the knife headed straight for the throat yet again, but this time with the intention of running the blade through the attackers neck.

Stumbling backwards, the man hit the pillar behind him and found that he'd no where to go. Zak was far too close and moving at a seemingly insane speed. The young knight's movements were swift as he reached out and snatched the man's upper arm to keep him from running. His other hand with the knife shot forward still, seemingly losing no ground even though he'd been forced to move after the council member a second time.

The only thing on Zakiriya's mind was the safety of his charge, and at the moment it was still being threatened by this man's presence. The elimination of that was very simple, in Zak's eyes. There was only one thing to stop him, otherwise the young knight would continue his current, self-given mission.

Kill him.

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Bethany Lyon





Trusting Zakairiya to follow, Bethany made a beeline straight for her bedchambers as they exited the empty throne room, already eager to discard her royal attire. Not unusually, it was the first thought on her list of priorities for as beautiful as the dress was, she couldn’t bear the hindrance to the rest of her daily activities. Much too inefficient. Her brother would probably admonish her later for it, but she’d much rather endure a simple scolding. She adopted a brisk pace, click-clacking her high heels nimbly across the polished floor and intent to cover some of the castle’s vast ground in a reasonable time. Those shoes would have to go also. On the other hand, she could barely hear a sound coming out of Zakiriya, not that she needed to in order to tell his watchful gaze was on her.

Entering the next gallery to their immediate left, Bethany was already recounting the rest of the day’s activities in anticipation. Visit the town of Willsheim, dine with the mayor for tea, return to the castle, spend a good afternoon reading letters from the public, official papers and briefing notes. The list continued on well past sunset. Fortunately there weren’t any public ceremonies or functions which required her attendance today; such events had a frustrating tendency to consume more time than was necessa….

The loud clash of steel instantly alerted her to the potential threat looming behind them. Before she could process what was happening, she stopped, cautious of taking a step outside the protective range of her charge. There could be more assassins, and she was unarmed. Despite her instincts screaming to run, she stayed and measured the situation, drawing her focus away from her thoughts and towards the swift, brutal conflict unfolding between Zakiriya and her attacker. Escaping would expose the both of them, but staying still certainly didn’t seem like a smart option. Surely there must be others? Some part of her lingering naivety wanted to question how someone was able to sneak into the castle, but the other, more jaded portion of her identity, reminded her it’d happened more than once already.

Regardless, it was her first chance to glimpse Zakiriya in action. First and only apparently as the scuffle was over within seconds. Perceiving the threat, Zakiriya’s response was immediate and deadly. A man armed with a knife stood ahead, his identity veiled with a thick dark robe. Disarm and eliminate. It was so cold and immediate; his reply seemed to shock her. Most people tend to flee or act distressed when assaulted, Zakiriya didn’t even flinch.

She supposed she should’ve seen it coming. If anything should have tipped her off, the hall directly outside of the throne room had been cleared out unnervingly quickly before their departure. Typically you expected to see more than a few dozen nobles and advisors mingling outside the doorway, taking advantage of the meeting to climb the ladders of society and build a few contacts. There was none of that today.

The next time she blinked, Zakiriya had the man pinned against a pillar, grunting with effort to contain the ‘assassin’s’ struggles. At that point she loathed to use the word ‘assassin’ because the man was evidently a very poor one at that. In fact, he’d barely put up a fight. She waited a good moment to see if more assassins were coming, straining her ears and eyes for tell tale signs of the enemy. Wondering if perhaps her adversaries had given up, she finally stepped towards Zakiriya and placed a restraining hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t kill him,” she ordered sternly, "We'll take him in."

Zakiriya felt the hand on his shoulder and his body froze. The knife was just inches from the man's throat, the tip brushing the adams apple. The man underneath Zakiriya's iron like grip swallowed dryly as he stared downwards at the handle of the blade that never moved or wavered from it's position.

As if to keep the threat that if the man attempted anything, Zakiriya would not hesitate a second time to kill him, the young knight kept the blade there for several seconds longer than he probably should have. Finally, he lowered the weapon, but his gaze never left the assailant. Had Lady Bethany not stepped in and grabbed his arm, he would have surely killed the man without a second thought.

The last thing the young knight was worried about was asking questions. He didn't like wasting time like that. If they were foolish enough to attack his Queen, then they were not worthy of being asked why. Only worthy of his blade running through them. For a moment, Zak wanted to ask her why she wanted to 'take him in'. However, he refrained from doing so.

It was her order. He would heed it.

His body shifted to settle into a normal stance once more though he still held the man tightly by the upper arm. With a rough pull, he had the cloaked council member off the pillar he'd run into and securely at his left side. Sheathing the weapon, he turned to Bethany and waited for her next order.

Bethany moved between them to quickly observe the identity of the man, a tall, gaunt husk of a fellow. His hair, now noticeably disheveled after their tussle, held traces of fine grooming and even his clothes underneath were well matched. Strangely she didn’t recognize him, which was concerning given she made a point of remembering all the people who worked with her. Her eyes shifted back to regard the impeccably composed Zakiriya, sensing some hidden desire to question her charity despite his poker face. Unfortunately for him, this wasn’t the time for explanations.

“Now, where were we? Ah, heading back to my chambers,” she smiled, attempting to sooth the mood, “Let’s hurry shall we? Before we gather a crowd.”

As if right on cue, hurried footsteps could be heard approaching the hall. Bethany looked around as a trio of castle guards dashed to her aid, arriving traditionally late. Honestly, sometimes she couldn’t tell if the guards or her would be assassin’s were more incompetent.

“Are you okay your highness?”

“Yes, we’re both safe thanks for the efforts of Chevalier Kotane. Would you be so kind as to take this man to the holding cells Chevalier Accolon? I have a busy schedule,” she said, making a gesture towards their aggressor as concerns engulfed the duo.

“Yes mam!”

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Lady Bethany came and eyed the man that Zakiriya held in his grip. Her gaze flicked from head to foot, but it looked as if she did not know this man. She neither called his name, or addressed him in any way. The young knight found that slightly alarming.

“Now, where were we? Ah, heading back to my chambers. Let’s hurry shall we? Before we gather a crowd.”

Right after her words, the sounds of the guards flooding the hall filled the air. Zakiriya watched as they stormed towards them. His face didn't betray his thoughts. Late. No wonder she needs a personal guard. An eyebrow lifted ever so slightly as he silently wondered how it was that she'd survived so long. She must have had a set of skills all on her own to keep her own life. Of course, that and the other body guards that she'd had before him. Even so, those men had been killed while she still stood. Zak was unclear as to the details of those events, but it mattered not to him either way.

“Are you okay your highness?”

“Yes, we’re both safe thanks for the efforts of Chevalier Kotane. Would you be so kind as to take this man to the holding cells Chevalier Accolon? I have a busy schedule.”

“Yes mam!”

The knights stepped forward and relieved Zak of his burden. The young, dark haired knight allowed him to be released, hesitating only briefly to do so. It wasn't that he didn't trust the other guards to do their job, he was just more comfortable doing things himself. Only then did he know for sure that things were done correctly and thoroughly. Zakiriya watched them take the man down the hall, held between two of the guards tightly. Once they were out of sight, he fell into step next to his charge as she was obviously in a hurry.

As stated before, they were heading towards her chambers for whatever reason that she needed. The young knight followed her quickly, his thoughts on the sudden attempt. It had seemed rather rash, sudden and not well thought out. The man who had done it wasn't in the least good at wielding a knife. He had been shaking and showed no signs of military training at all. The entire situation had Zakiriya wondering. He didn't like the feel that it gave him. If anything, he was more suspicious of the event than anything else. There was more to it, he was sure.

"My Lady, you did not know him," he offered softly, "If I may suggest, making it a point to know those in your court."

As they moved down the hall, the young knight kept his senses stretched for anything else that may befall them. His thoughts still on the assassination. Perhaps it would do him some good to learn about the other attempts on her life if he wanted to better serve her. It was an odd feeling that permeated his chest the more he thought about it. It was something that was going to bother him for quite some time actually if he didn't find out the answers soon. Zak resolved that once they had a bit more time, he would ask her about her attackers personally.

The knight didn't wish to ask her right then, they were still out in the halls, a dangerous place in his own mind. Perhaps if they were to be alone in the throne room or her chambers. The last thing he wanted was someone to over hear them.

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Bethany Lyon





She watched as the guards moved forwards to arrest the infiltrator, stealing Zakiriya’s catch away from him. He seemed reluctant to give him in at first, but quickly relented as his instilled obedience kicked in.

"My Lady, you did not know him," Zakiriya advised once they were outside of earshot from the other guards, "If I may suggest, making it a point to know those in your court."

She barely paused to take note of his comment, merely shaking her head in a grim manner which suggested the opposite. “That’s the problem. I usually do.”




Thankfully they arrived later at her chambers without further incidents. Secluded deep within the castle’s labyrinthine architecture, Bethany’s living quarters were surprisingly modest, if not purposefully unassuming. There was no grand doorway embroidered in gold like the throne room, no around the clock procession of servants and guards navigating its interior. Just a door. The entryway was denoted with a wooden door which sat beneath a masonry archway, dimly lit by a quartet of torches like every other door they’d passed in the last few minutes. Behind that door was a small corridor which separated into a bathroom and bedroom.

The corridor was devoid of furnishings except for a small table and stool, assumedly for Zakiriya or whoever was posted to guard her. Despite Bethany’s protests, many of her advisers argued it would be prudent to keep at least one guard close at hand in case of emergency. Being the sole resident, Bethany led the way, opening the door to the corridor and then striding over to the next door at the end of the short hallway.

“I’ll be changing inside, so you’re welcome to take a seat while you wait,” she stated her intentions before winking, “But no peeking.”

Without further word, she promptly vanished behind the door, only to reappear a few minutes later having completely transformed. Stepping outside the room, Bethany beamed towards Zakiriya as she motioned at the exit, though she was still in the process of attaching a weapon to her belt. She’d since shed the elaborate gown, adopting a belted green tunic and black trousers which hugged her hour glass figure. Knee-high leather boots padded softly over the floor, replacing their obnoxious predecessors as she walked outside.

“Didn’t cause any mischief while you were waiting did you?” she teased. “We’ll be heading over to Willsheim, a town east of here. I’m meeting the mayor for lunch there to discuss some matters. We can talk more in the carriage.”




Navigating the assorted castle wings and luxurious guest houses consumed a good ten minutes of their time before they reached the castle grounds. Zakiriya hadn’t said much else during the journey, in fact it seemed as if he’d become more silent than when she’d first met, if that was possible. It was still sunny outside, though the warmth was accompanied with a slight draft of southerly winds. Rows of waist high hedges, immaculately maintained, passed them as the duo made their way towards a pair of waiting carriages.

Standing by the horses were two men, one whose military attire suggested he was chevalier, and another sporting a pair of glasses.

“I don’t believe you’ve met,” Bethany introduced, “This womanizer here is Chevalier Dufrain.”

The man dressed in a kaki uniform with a dragon’s maw stitched to his shoulder extended his arm out at Zakiriya. “Greetings Chevalier Kotane. I heard about this morning. Good job protecting our queen, never a dull moment in the life of the guard huh?”

He was a tall man, just shy of seventy-three inches, and sporting short, dirty blonde hair. Imitating the new guard, Dufrain had a sword by his side, but unlike him, he projected an easy going aura. Bethany smirked at his enthusiasm, “Maybe you could learn a thing or two from Chevalior Kotane.”

“And take away some of his precious time from guarding you? I think not,” Dufrain returned, chuckling.

“And my other colleague is Sergeant Major Cassidy,” Bethany said, moving on. “We graduated from the academy at the same time.”

On closer inspection, Robert Cassidy looked like a man in the wrong profession. He too wore a bland kaki uniform and extended his hand kindly as they were acquainted. Standing just a bit taller than Bethany, his owlish features and pale complexion seemed more at home in an office, or as that of a scholar. “A pleasure to meet you.”

“There’ll be time for more talk later, shall we get going?” Bethany ushered.

They moved into the carriage at her beckoning whilst Dufrain and Cassidy took the reins. The inside was nicely furnished, but nothing extraordinary, as per her instructions. Bethany never liked drawing attention to herself unless it was necessary. Typically, the interior consisted of two plush seats which faced each other. Bethany took the one facing the front.

“I sense you still have a few questions,” she asked once their journey was underway, “Now’s the time to ask them.”

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“That’s the problem. I usually do.”

Zak's eyes darkened as she said this. He kept pace with her as they moved down the hall, his thoughts on the sloppy attack. If she knew everyone in her court, then how was it that she'd missed one? How long had he been in her court, then? The most pressing question that kept resurfacing was who exactly that man was. The young knight pondered the implications and possibilities as they walked. It wasn't long after that he was soon following her into a small waiting area that was in front of her room.

“I’ll be changing inside, so you’re welcome to take a seat while you wait. But no peeking.”

Still without speaking, he watched her go inside, closing the door gently behind her. He glanced down at the stool and stared at it for quite some time before turning and resting his back against the wall. Zakiriya didn't sit, rather he crossed his arms over his chest and put one boot up against the wall behind him. Closing his eyes, he let his senses stretch further from his stationary place. There was nothing around him, aside from the Queen inside her room.

No peeking her last words came forward and he opened his gaze. What did that mean exactly? To top it off she'd... winked... at him. Zak was unsure as to what she meant entirely as he'd never been exposed to such jests before. It was hard for him to realize it was a joke of sorts. Instead, he spent the better half of his alone time there trying to figure out what she'd meant by it.

The door opened up a few minutes later and he was given quite a shock if there ever was one. The Queen had been in a lavish gown just minutes before hand, but now she stood before him clad in black pants, a green tunic and knee high boots. A belt was around the tunic, hugging it to her frame, just as the rest of the clothes did. She was currently in the process of putting on a weapon to the belt as she left the room, still adjusting everything to fit properly. For a long while, Zakiriya could do nothing but stare at her, astonished by the sudden change. Not to mention that she was wearing a weapon. Kings wore weapons, not Queens.

“Didn’t cause any mischief while you were waiting did you?”

"My Lady, it was silent the entire time," he answered bluntly, completely missing her jest.

“We’ll be heading over to Willsheim, a town east of here. I’m meeting the mayor for lunch there to discuss some matters. We can talk more in the carriage.”

He gave her a slight nod and followed her out of the small waiting area and back into the halls of the castle. He followed her out of the castle which took them quite some time to navigate through. It was a large structure to begin with, the many halls, wings and attachments made by previous Kings were the resulting palace as it stood then. It was maze like, something that not many could walk through easily. Lady Bethany, though, eased through it as if it were nothing but a straight line to the courtyard that waited for them with two horse drawn carriages.

“I don’t believe you’ve met. This womanizer here is Chevalier Dufrain.”

Womanizer? Doesn't sound like a good thing to me, he thought to himself as he eyed the man dressed in kaki. The insignia of the Queen was stitched to his shoulder, moving with his arm as he reached out a hand to Zakiriya, formally introducing himself. For a mere moment, the young knight hesitated as he dropped his gaze down to the hand and then gradually looked back up to the man.

“Greetings Chevalier Kotane. I heard about this morning. Good job protecting our queen, never a dull moment in the life of the guard huh?”

He took the hand that was extended and gripped it just as hard as the other did to his own. Zakiriya pulled away without a word though. The other was rather tall with short dirty blonde hair that may as well have bordered brown in color.

“Maybe you could learn a thing or two from Chevalior Kotane.”

Zakiriya's eyebrow came up as he glanced over to his charge. In heels she'd just barely been a bit taller than him, but now she was almost eye level. In no way a part of the conversation, he was left to stand there a bit awkwardly as the two of them chatted in regards to his behavior. At least that's what he thought they were talking about anyway. Zakiriya wasn't quite sure what exactly it was that Dufrain could 'learn' from him. If anything, Zak was sure to have warranted from Dufrain. It seemed the other knight was far more versed in conversation than he was.

“And take away some of his precious time from guarding you? I think not,” the man laughed and Bethany moved to the other man to introduce him to Zak. The young knight was unsure what exactly had been funny, but disregarded it as his attention was turned to the other man that was to accompany them.

“And my other colleague is Sergeant Major Cassidy. We graduated from the academy at the same time.”

The one named Cassidy was much taller than Bethany, and therefore taller than Zakiriya. He took the man's hand as well, this time hardly hesitating now that he was used to the situation somewhat. He still felt somewhat awkward, but it was being eased with how well Bethany was moving things along.

“A pleasure to meet you.”

"Sergeant Major," Zakiriya offered lightly.

“There’ll be time for more talk later, shall we get going?”

Lady Bethany ushered them all to take to the carriage, which he followed willingly. Allowing her entrance first, he followed after her and sat across from her. It was honestly the first time he'd been in a carriage such as this one. The seat beneath him was making him uncomfortable. It was too comfortable in his opinion. Within seconds the carriage was off, rocking and bumping as it rolled across the cobblestones of the courtyard. Zakiriya glanced out the window, not precisely enjoying the enclosed space. His gaze shot around the carriage as he tried to figure escape routes, the best possible way to handle all sorts of situations should they arise and what weapons he would use to combat those situations because of the small space.

“I sense you still have a few questions. Now’s the time to ask them.”

Zakiriya looked towards her as she spoke. He was slightly startled and taken aback by her sudden request. How she'd known that he'd been thinking of things earlier was beyond him. Then again, she was the Queen. The woman had to have some way of reading people. It was surprising still though because most people could not read him. Zakiriya didn't do it on purpose though, it was just how he was. He'd always been a blank slate really.

"My Lady," he started slowly. It took him a moment to gather his thoughts, "The attack. It was messy. He was no assassin, not even a fighter. His hands had never seen a weapon before. I'm worried," Zakiriya stopped there. She'd asked for his questions, not his thoughts on what had happened in the castle after her meeting.

"Does this happen often to you?" his gaze dropped down to her weapon. Perhaps that was the reason for her still being alive. She was definitely a refined woman, "What of the other guards? Why me?"

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Bethany Lyon





She didn’t get a reply, at least not immediately. There was a moment of silence as Zakiriya directed his gaze towards her, mildly astonished for once. Bethany chuckled lightly at his expression and the fact that her statement had apparently caught him off guard. It was warmly refreshing given just seconds ago he’d been analyzing their surroundings as if he’d never seen the interior of a carriage. As he contemplated, the sound of hooves and casual banter shared between Dufrain and Cassidy filtered into their noiseless conversation.

"My Lady, the attack. It was messy. He was no assassin, not even a fighter. His hands had never seen a weapon before. I'm worried," Zakiriya began stiffly, but was quick to get to the point. Giving voice to his concerns was clearly not one of his natural talents. Nonetheless, her new escort seemed determined to forge on.

"Does this happen often to you?" he questioned, highlighting the weapon she carried with his blue orbs. She frowned down at it herself. Had she offended his pride by bringing it? Zakiriya hardly seemed liked the petty man to be affected by something so trivial, either that or she’d made an exceptionally poor judgment of character.

"What of the other guards? Why me?"

Bethany smiled suddenly, knowingly, as though she understood the entirety of his burdens. “Having reconsiderations?” she replied, even if she knew the humor was lost on him. She’d be damned if she gave up. “I don’t blame you. Royal guards typically don’t have the greatest life expectancy in our kingdom.”

“That said, you’re awfully fixated on the past,” she smiled, mostly to show she wasn’t serious, and encourage him. Zakiriya’s questions were a good sign that he’d taken the initiative, perhaps even opened up a little. “Do these things happen often to me? Not really, most of my assailants tend to know how to wield their weapon of choice.”

“And why you? Well likely because you were the most capable swordsmen of your class. The last time I checked, being a good fighter was one of the prerequisites for being a guard, unless there’s been a change in criteria recently?” Bethany mused, “Though I suppose that doesn’t really answer your question. Let me ask you this instead. If you knew the reason I sanctioned you, would that change your decision to become my guard?”




“Having reconsiderations?”

Zakiriya lifted an eyebrow. Why would he reconsider the decision? He'd been ordered to do it, and he would do it.

“I don’t blame you. Royal guards typically don’t have the greatest life expectancy in our kingdom.”

As she spoke, his attention was grabbed by something on the street and he glanced out the window very briefly before returning his attention to her. Did she think that he would succumb to death easily? He answered her without missing a beat, "I won't die that easily."

To her, it probably sounded rather arrogant. To Zak, it was a natural response. He really honestly couldn't die all that easily. He wasn't sure how he knew this, but he just did. If anything, the way he carried himself and the way he fought were huge indicators of this fact.

“That said, you’re awfully fixated on the past,” she noted.

Her smile was rather brilliant. A thing that was foreign to him really and he found it fascinating in a way. His mother always smiled to, even when he didn't. Zakiriya wasn't sure he knew how to. Even so, he was surprised by this woman's brilliance, her smile and energy. With her life threatened often, he had been expecting something else to deal with.

“Do these things happen often to me? Not really, most of my assailants tend to know how to wield their weapon of choice. And why you? Well likely because you were the most capable swordsmen of your class. The last time I checked, being a good fighter was one of the prerequisites for being a guard, unless there’s been a change in criteria recently?”

Zakiriya tilted his head off to the side slightly, his striking gaze watching her. His face was smooth once again, the usual stone it normally was. He wasn't sure what she was really referring to though. Sure he was a good swordsman, the best out of the entire group as most would tell him, but nothings changed. As far as he knew anyway. Only that he was moved from his position as palace guard, to personal guard.

“Though I suppose that doesn’t really answer your question. Let me ask you this instead. If you knew the reason I sanctioned you, would that change your decision to become my guard?”

Once again, without a beat he answered her, short and to the point, "No."

He wouldn't change his mind. It wasn't really his decision to begin with. Still, he took his orders very seriously and saw it through to the end. He wasn't bothered by his change in the guard, he wasn't bothered with the fact that he had to protect this woman with his life. He was curious, really, as to why they hadn't chosen him sooner. Maybe he should have clarified the question. Not that he was really good with that sort of thing anyway.

Still, it seemed that Bethany was a very sharp woman. She was picking up on him rather quickly, which in all honestly made him a tad bit nervous, though he would never show it. It wouldn't, however, get in the way of his duties.

“Then you have your answer,” she grinned, resting her chin on her palm.




Willsheim was a trade town, nestled at the base of a mountain and connected to the sea shore. A quant little city, except for its bustling harbors and the multitude of factories which lay just beyond. Consisting of a meager population of several thousand, the community relied heavily on its sea business, having little in the way of other industrial opportunities. Thanks to its relative isolation, Willsheim and its people had avoided the worst of the war, but that also meant they’d been neglected for a long time in favor of more serious issues.

They arrived just before midday, cresting over a hill that overlooked the municipality. Ceramic roofscape jumped up to greet them, rising and falling in pitched gables. The majority of it shared the same distribution of mottled red colors, alongside the occasional sign of corrosion from galvanic sea air. New sounds joined with the location, the squawks of hungry marine avians, the low bass trumpets of tug boats, all of it harmonizing into one ambient buzz.

Passing a sign which read ‘beware the mountains’, the group moved into the heart of the town, eventually merging with the ongoing traffic. The population was noticeably denser within the main streets, and there were more shops too. Bethany calmly watched the passing scenery from within until their vehicle jolted to a stop.

“I guess it’s time,” she murmured, shuffling across to the exit. “Ever been outside of the city Chevalier Kotane?”

The first thing she noticed was air outside was cooler, making her shiver involuntarily, and tasted slightly of alkaline thanks to the town’s exposure to the sea. Bethany gazed around as she stepped down from the carriage, noticing they’d arrived just outside of the location her designated meeting place. Amber lights glistened through the restaurant’s windows with the promise of warmth and food. By virtue of their group’s appearance, they’d already drawn a few eyes, but nobody seemed to recognize them immediately, probably assuming Bethany was just another high born noble. Exactly the way she wanted it.

“Now Chevalier Kotane, while we are here on official business, I'd very much prefer if our identities weren't advertised,” she began, turning to address her colleagues. “The last thing we need is to draw the entire town’s attention on us. I’ll be dining with the mayor for two hours, so for the time being you’re free to wander and explore Willsheim at your own discretion. Don’t worry, Cassidy is accompanying me as an assistant.”

“What? You mean I have to guard carriage?” Dufrain protested.

“Unfortunately for you Dufrain, I can at least trust Chevalier Kotane to keep himself out of trouble,” Bethany smiled and promptly left them to open the door to the restaurant.

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The carriage rolled down the hill into the fishing town of Willsheim. Zakiriya gazed out the window as they edged their way down into the port city. His thoughts were still revolving around the mysterious answer that Lady Bethany had given him earlier. Except, it really hadn't been an answer in his eyes. All he'd said was that he wouldn't have changed his mind should she have told him why he'd been chosen. Her answer confused him slightly, but he didn't press the matter. It wasn't his place, or job to do so.

“I guess it’s time. Ever been outside of the city Chevalier Kotane?”

The door opened to the carriage and Zak was met by the sharp taste of salty sea water, fisheries and an over all musk that seemed to cling to the city's very edges. Immediately he disliked it, though there was a strange familiarity to it at the same time. His gaze narrowed slightly as he followed her out of the carriage. The cold wind brushed through the streets, picking up his attire in a flutter of red cloth.

Once again, he didn't answer her question. He was too lost in thought about the entire area to even consider her question about his being outside of their city. If he had answered, or thought to anyway, it would have been a simple 'no'. Though that would have been a lie. He could vaguely remember this city, the taste of the salt and the smell of fish was a clear reminder to him. Even so, he couldn't put his finger on why exactly he got the feeling he knew this place.

“Now Chevalier Kotane, while we are here on official business, I'd very much prefer if our identities weren't advertised,” Bethany stated as she turned to the other two who were with her.

Glancing down to his blaring red coat that clearly had the Queen's insignia on it, he quickly took it off and threw it into the carriage. Without it, he simply wore black head to foot making him look rather imposing, even though he wasn't all that large in size. Well muscled and toned, sure, but nothing like his Captain back at the palace.

"The last thing we need is to draw the entire town’s attention on us. I’ll be dining with the mayor for two hours, so for the time being you’re free to wander and explore Willsheim at your own discretion. Don’t worry, Cassidy is accompanying me as an assistant.”

"My Lady," Zakiriya began to protest, but Dufrain cut in sharply, complaining about his having to stay with the carriage.

“Unfortunately for you Dufrain, I can at least trust Chevalier Kotane to keep himself out of trouble,” she said and turned on her heel to head for the door of the place. She hardly left any room for Zak to speak up again.

Left out on the street that was growing cold and dark, he glanced over to Durfrain for a moment who looked almost like a puppy left in the rain. It was sort of how Zakiriya was feeling, though with less facial expressions. The young knight wasn't really an explorer so he stepped around the carriage and leaned against the wall of the building. Left to his thoughts he began thinking once again about how the place around him was so familiar.

Against the wall, lost in thought, the young knight felt a stir against the air. Turning his head, he eyed the darkness that was creeping against the streets. With a frown he pushed off the wall and started down the street, following the sensation that was pulling at him. It was something familiar yet something foreign at the same time. He worked his way down the hill quite a ways from the place where Bethany was. At the same time, it wasn't too far either. The threatening aura was getting slightly more apparent.

It had the familiar touch of magic, which had originally drawn his attention. Reaching down, he unsheathed his sword and dagger and went into a pitch black alleyway, the source of the feeling that disturbed him. Although he'd left Bethany's side, he was more worried about this entity's target. It was most likely the Queen, the way the magic was directed towards the building that she was staying in currently. Stalking down the alley, his bright blue gaze reflected the moonlight as it splashed across one area that was opened to another alley. Stopping in that stray beam of light, he slowly looked around for the being that was exuding such a presence.

The power of magic flooded the alley. Lifting his arms, he attempted to protect himself even though it was in vain. The magic hurled him backwards into the wall where he slammed into it with a painful thud. Crumpling to the ground, he pushed himself upwards, tasting blood in his mouth. Standing, he watched as a female figure paced out into the moonlight, her long fingernails curling towards him. His body froze, every muscle contracting so that he couldn't move.

"You're new," she purred.

He huffed in response, trying to get freedom from her crushing grip. The woman's black eyes and dark hair seemed to shine in the moonlight. There was a strange, orange halo around her irises. It seemed to glow as she flicked her gaze up and down his frame.

"Maybe I should play with you for a while before I go enjoy my next hunt."

Zak's eyes narrowed slightly hate mages, he thought to himself. Her fingers pressed against his chest and he hit the wall a second time. Released from her spell, he lunged forward from the kneeling position he'd fallen to. The knight's sword led the attack only to be brushed aside by her fingers almost as if she were pushing aside a piece of paper. Her other hand curled towards his stomach, just barely touching him once again like she did the first time.

Stumbling backwards, he dropped to both knees from the impact and coughed up blood onto the stones beneath him. Surprise was vivid in his eyes now. Wincing slightly, he looked up at her and ground his teeth. Kneeling down in front of him, she reached out and gripped a handful of his dark hair, "I know why you came out here now. You knew I was here. Not many people do, unless they have magic of their own. I wonder why you don't use it? Maybe you don't know how. Or maybe you just don't want to. You look like a knight, you certainly know how to wield a blade," she glanced over to the sword that had fallen from his grip a moment ago.

"Protecting someone? Well that's too bad. They'll just have to wait. I have orders and bigger and better things to do than toy around with a boy who can't even match up with me," she stood, still gripping his hair. Her full lips curled into a grin as she reached down with one finger towards his exposed forehead, "Go to sleep, little child. Maybe when you're all grown up you can play with the big boys in sorcery."

Her finger pressed against his skull lightly. Blinding light flooded his vision for a moment, followed by burning pain. His body tensed up, growing stiff. She released him and he crumpled to the ground. Stepping over his still form, she entered the main street and headed towards the glowing lights at the top of the small incline that he'd come down.

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“The mayor will see you, your highness,” a hostess wearing a rich, burgundy red skirt and white apron announced upon their entry.

“Thankyou,” Bethany replied and started following her through the long, broad interior of the establishment, probably one of the largest in Willsheim. Cassidy whistled in agreement, impressed by the display. A vast expanse populated with metal dining tables was not your typical sight in these rural areas.

Their location was surprisingly active also, and stiflingly hot compared to the cool sea breeze outside. Bethany guessed it was because the walls were newly developed and composed of one external and one internal wall, unlike the ancient solid castle walls at home which ensured her room was a polar ten degrees Celsius during the day. The duo where led to a private room secluded in the back corner of the restaurant, hidden behind a door between wound wire candle holders that resembled acorn seeds.

Before either of them could knock, the waitress turned the handle and directed them both inside.

“Your highness, please come in.”

Standing at the far end of a table, Mayor Thomas Campbell bowed respectfully, accompanied by three of his adjutants. Campbell was a stocky, but undeniably masculine fellow. Short, black hair rested atop sharp, chiseled features which possessed a hint of tanned ruggedness, crudeness even. He looked odd in a suit, as if the formality didn’t quite agree with him.

“Mayor Campbell,” Bethany smiled, closing the distance with a few steps, “I appreciate you receiving us so warmly.”

“No, no, the pleasure is all ours. We didn’t expect you to come in person when we sent you our messenger. Especially not over such a trivial matter,” Campbell returned and then silently gestured for the hostess to close the door behind her. “Please, take a seat,” he urged, resuming his own.

“One is never served so well as by oneself,” Bethany recited, pulling the chair out to sit back with refined ease.

“Issue Four, ‘The Dramatist’,” Campbell smirked, “You like reading?”

“My mentor did,” she replied. “Mayor Campbell, this is my assistant, Sergeant Major Cassidy.”

“A pleasure Sergeant Major,” Campbell acknowledged, nodding at the spectacled scholar, “I feel safer already knowing you’re here. Now, before we begin, shall I order some tea? Entrées? You must be famished after your journey, and I assure you, this restaurant has the finest cuisine in Willsheim. I should know, I own the place after all. I recommend the soufflé.”

That explained a lot. Bethany clasped her hands together and sat her head back as her dark eyes adjusted to the room’s moody lighting. Campbell was young and ambitious by mayor standards, sitting at the ripe age of forty six. Having retired from a military career, Campbell had apparently been compelled to run for the position of lord mayor, and successfully claimed the role a year ago. The most significant figure her reports showed where that the rate of crime had almost ceased since his instatement. “Tea would be nice,” Bethany said, relenting to the parched sensation within her throat. “Sergeant Major?”

“Long black for me, oh, and the soufflé,” Cassidy ordered, clearly relishing the chance to enjoy some good food. Whilst designed to be nutritious, army rations had an awful tendency to taste plain.

“Excellent, it will be done!” Campbell clapped, motioning to one of his adjutants.

“So, what do you have for us Mayor Campbell?” Bethany asked, broaching the topic of conversation at last, “The letter we received was frustratingly vague on details.”

“Well, I’m afraid to inform you your journey may have been in vain your highness,” Campbell began, steeping his brows into a frown. Bethany’s eyes widened as she remained silent for a moment.

“You see, the bandit issue has already been resolved.”

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Flinching slightly, his body shifted on the dark cobblestones of the alleyway. How long he'd been unconscious was a mystery, but the urgency he felt was probably the only reason he'd awoken when he did. Moving slowly, he moaned softly as he pulled himself to his hands and knees. Everything hurt. Pulsing, pounding pain flooded every limb, especially his forehead.

Reaching up, he winced as his fingers touched damaged skin just above his temple, under the hair line. His vision was hazy as he tried to focus on the dark cobblestones under his hands and knees. There was blood staining the rocks, at least as far as he could tell. Zakiriya could feel the thick, sticky liquid across his face, running through the edge of his right eyebrow and down to the corner of his eye. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to steady as he was panting slightly.

Standing, the young knight stumbled slightly as he attempted to regain his footing. Falling back against the building behind him, he slumped there for a moment. With a side glance into the alleyway, he spotted his sword not to far from where he'd coughed up blood after the woman had attacked him. Zak made for the weapon.

With it in his grasp, he straightened. The thin moonlight that had illuminated the area before hand was gone now. A thick fog was starting to cover the port city, low hanging clouds blocking out the glow of the silver orb in the sky above. Lifting the blade, he tested his body to see how much damage the sorceress had incurred on him. He gave a sharp intake of breath as his arm came up like normal to his shoulder height. A sharp stabbing coursed through his side and ribs.

Immediately lowering the sword he glowered at the steel weapon for a moment before dismissing the injuries all together and exiting the alleyway into the main street. Glancing to the right, he noted the darkness of the town before looking back up the short hill to where his Queen was stationed. The sorceress may not have been after Lady Bethany, but whomever she was after might be with or near his charge. That was something he wasn't going to allow.







The lights of the fancy restaurant were brilliant to her eyes, making her squint slightly as she entered. For a moment, she stood in the doorway of the building. Her dark gaze wandered, the orange glow around her irises seemingly fluxing to be larger or smaller. It took her a while, but her magic sorted out the one she wished to find.

The Mayor Campbell.

He was with someone as far as her senses could tell. Not that the sorceress was all that interested. Her orders were to assassinate the man, cause terror and chaos in the fish town. It was the beginning of a broader scope of things to happen. Hitting the port town was a small, but necessary step. They needed word to spread that they were active again and that they were willing to do anything. Including killing a major public figure.

Of course, that was just a stepping stone. Other figures would fall soon, all for one purpose. To gain the attention of the Queen and let her know that she was soon to fall prey to the wrath of those who were once powerful. That she had no where to hide from them. They would eventually get to her, no matter how long it took. Dragging the woman off the throne and killing her would be their final advance in a world that was slowly turning it's head on magic.

Not just any magic, though.

Sorcery, to be more specific. The magic of darker arts, a finesse that not many could handle. A kind of magic that instilled fear in any who stood against them. They were a force to be reckoned with, especially if spited as they were.

Her lips curled into a wicked grin as she strode through the restaurant. Ignoring the waitress that called for her, she eased her way through the crowded tables of patrons that were eating peacefully. Her movements were fluid almost like water as she worked towards the door in the corner of the restaurant where her magic had felt the presence of the man. As she approached the doors, her fingers lifted and weaved what would have seemed like circles to others in the air. The room grew icy cold rather than the inviting warmth it had originally.

Stopping a few feet from the door, the sorceress could feel the eyes of many people on her as she stood there. Lifting the other hand, her fingers extended outwards, she dragged the arm upwards with what seemed like a heavy tension against her palm and fingers. The room shuddered violently. Sharp cries of shock filled the air afterwards as the candle lights flickered, their flames struggling to stay alight until finally they ceased to exist.

Darkness plagued the restaurant. Pointing her opposite hand at the door, her head tilted backwards as her gaze grew wide with a blood like frenzy, the orange halo glowing in the darkness, "Do me a favor, Mayor, die screaming."







Zakiriya made the top of the hill just as the lights inside the restaurant went out. Looking over to the carriage, he spotted Dufrain. The young knight motioned for him, "Clear the civilians," he ordered then entered the building without looking back to see if the other knight had heeded his command. There wasn't time to hesitate and he wasn't about to wait for confirmation when the Queen was in danger.

It didn't take him long to adjust his sight to the darkness. The screaming was continuous, alerting him that there might be something in the shadows that clung too thickly to the walls. Grinding his teeth a bit, he moved quickly to the only figure that was emanating a powerful aura. His steps were soft against the carpet underfoot and he soon reached the sorceress without her noticing him. Lifting his weapon he lunged forward, ignoring the burn in his chest as he made to run her through cleanly.

Her body turned and his blade cut across her side instead of killing her as he'd wanted. Her hand snatched his wrist and pulled him full circle to face her, "You're a strong one. You should still be sleeping at the bottom of the hill," she hissed, her fingers curling tighter around his wrist, threatening to break it.

Zak ignored it and slashed outwards with his other knife that he'd drawn. The blade caught the side of her cheek. She's not blocking my attacks, only avoiding... is her magic of holding the shadows distracting her? he thought to himself as he struggled to get his arm free. The sorceress gave a short growl at him for slicing her face. Batting aside his arm that was coming back for another attempt at her throat, her fingers touched his chest and he felt the familiar pulse of her painful magic.

Hurled backwards, he went through the doors behind him. The young knight crashed onto the tabletop, sliding across it before hitting the back wall and falling to the floor. Coughing slightly, pushed himself upwards. Standing, he had to use the table to keep himself upright. Both weapons were lost to him after taking the her hit. Slipping his hands into the small folds of his clothes, he curled his fingers around the throwing knives he kept on his person. In one quick motion, he flung six of the small, but deadly, black steel projectiles out into the main room right where he knew the sorceress to be located at.

Three came back at him.

The first he managed to dodge, his gaze wide in surprise as it thudded against the wall behind him, just past his head. A slight cut forming along his cheek bone from it. The other took his shoulder and the third he was forced to duck from. Shifting from where he'd been standing, he pulled at the knife buried in the meat of his shoulder. Dropping the bloody weapon on the table he drew his other knife and went around the chairs of his companions to enter the main room once more.

"You're persistent, little boy," the sorceress called, "Come then, allow me to kill you before I kill the Mayor."

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The first sign of assault came as the room’s temperature dropped to below freezing. Bethany saw her breath steam in the air as the moisture suddenly condensed and then evaporated into fine mist. Icicles, moving like vines, wrapped around the table and walls, cracking wood as they went. Then there was the all too familiar sensation of goose flesh painting her skin.

“Cassidy!” she barked a warning, leaping up to back away from the door.

Suddenly, the lights went out. Bethany hissed a cursed as her world became dark, her mind settling into shock, fear and confusion. Somewhere, someplace outside, someone was screaming alongside the all prevailing cacophony of mass panic. Amongst it was the distinct whistle of a blade swinging, making a single bead of sweat trickle over her brow. She felt trapped.

A figure burst into the chamber through the doorway, or at least had been compelled to by a great exterior force. The strength of it shattered the door in a blizzard of splinters, sending the person hurtling over the table and smashing into the opposite wall they’d arrived from. Her eyes narrowed as they desperately fought to adjust to the gloom. Fortune had favored her however, had she failed to remove herself from the entrance, she would’ve been the first person to be squashed.

“How many?” she called, prompted to act by the sudden intrusion.

“I can’t exactly tell, one, two maybe?” Cassidy guessed, his voice heralding his location by her side. “This is rather bold,” he added sourly.

“Bolder than an attempt in broad daylight within my own castle?” Bethany smirked.

“Point taken.”

There were a series of surprised shouts as Campbell’s adjutants reacted to the hidden threat, throwing themselves forwards to protect the mayor who at least had the presence of mind to retreat to a corner of the room. It was pandemonium, but all of them stopped as a voice as cold as the room crept past the ruined doorway.

"You're persistent, little boy. Come then, allow me to kill you before I kill the Mayor."

So Campbell was their target. Still, Bethany felt strangely unnerved despite the fact that her life wasn’t directly in danger this time. She reached down her sides, unclipping the simple hatchet attached to her belt and faced Cassidy. “Sergeant Major, secure Mayor Campbell and escort him to safety,” she instructed.

“I left my weapons in the carriage,” Cassidy stated.

“Take my tomahawk,” she offered.

“I can hardly leave you unarmed your highn-,”

Cassidy’s protests were shortened by the weight of her axe landing within his palms. “I have a plan,” she said hastily.




“Hold her off while the Mayor escapes!” yelled one of the adjutants. Two of Campbell’s men followed after Zakiriya in support, flashing sabers whilst another physically shielded the suited mayor as they fled the room. Making a beeline for the entrance over by the far end of the restaurant, they didn’t stop to consider what was behind them.

Zakiriya moved into the open dinning room, leaving behind Cassidy and Bethany. He'd only caught slight words from their conversation, but he didn't bother responding. His first priority was eliminating the threat to the Queen. That threat was currently staring him down with an orange glow to her eyes and a wild sneer plastered on her face. The two adjutants who attacked were dispatched in an instance, one flung across the room and landing in a messy heap, the other stabbed through the waist with an offending knife.

The shadows were still twisting around the room unnaturally, alerting Zakiriya to the fact that she was still casting that particular spell. Why she hadn't let it down yet was a mystery to him, especially since he was hell bent on killing her. Dropping to a roll to avoid her stretched out hand, he picked up his lost sword. Coming out of the roll, he shot forward, sword headed straight for the woman's chest yet again.

She stumbled backwards, her fingers changing direction to deflect the steel weapon. Following her without missing a step, he slashed outwards with his dagger. Once again, she moved and he caught only her face. She hissed in pain, her eyes narrowing to mere slits as she attempted to backhand him.

Leaning back, he missed her blow by inches, her fingernail just barely brushing his nose. From the corner of his eye he spotted the Mayor being lead out towards the main doors with his guards. Zak didn't spare them anymore attention than that. As long as his Queen wasn't harmed and was safe with Cassidy, he was going to continue his fight.

That was until Cassidy came near them.

Zak's heart nearly stopped. Where is Lady Bethany?! he thought frantically.

He turned briefly, "Where is she?"

"Don't look away, ignorant child!" the sorceress snapped. Her hand gripped his shoulder holding his sword. A surge of energy rushed through him, causing him to drop to both knees, a sharp gasp of pain filling his lungs. It was hard to breathe, he couldn't move either aside from the slight tremble that took over every muscle.

The sorceress didn't release her grip as she lifted her other hand, an angry snarl on her lips as she glowered down at him. Zakiriya ground his teeth. A strange feeling washed over her painful magic and he felt a different kind of strength well up to the surface. A crackle of light flooded his fingers for a moment, sparking and dancing across his skin but not hurting him.

It spread from there until it covered his entire frame. Shocked at his own display, the sorceress tried to pull back but the dancing sparks lurched forward and hit her. With a sharp scream, she stumbled away from him. The shadows along the walls finally dropped and the restaurant was light again, though without the candles it was still slightly dim.

Zak panted as he knelt there, the power gone as quickly as it came. He was unsure as to how it even happened. The sorceress regained her composure but not quite as quickly as the dark haired knight. Getting to his feet again, he swayed slightly but threw another set of knives at her, forcing her backwards.

Looking over her shoulder, she eyed the door, with a small laugh she bolted for it, "At least one will still die tonight," her voice was soft but he heard it as she reached for the doors to follow after the Mayor.

“It probably won’t take her long to notice,” a voice coughed before he could pursue the witch. Standing bruised, but tall, Bethany discarded a borrowed suit casually onto the floor. Of the two men who’d fled through the entrance, neither of them was Campbell. Even if the guardsmen couldn’t have seen properly in the dark and their assassin could, chances where they couldn’t see through physical obstructions. In any case, identifying anyone during a fight, and in those conditions, seemed beyond human capacity. “The Sergeant Major should have already led Campbell through another exit.”

She gazed around, huffing in slight exhaustion. Most of the restaurant’s patrons had already evacuated, and with the exception of a few terrified staff, the establishment was practically deserted. Dufrain came rushing in shortly, bag over his shoulder and impotently waving his sword. “What happened here,” she whispered abruptly, guiding her lips to his ears, “You don’t mention of a word of it to anyone. The magic was all hers and fortunately backfired.”

“Madam!” Dufrain called, concern mixed with bewilderment on his features, “Are you okay? What happened?”

“I’m fine; did you alert the local guardsmen? Did you bring the first aid pack also?” Bethany asked. Dufrain nodded, warily looking her up and down. “Don’t worry, it’s for Chevalier Kotane. One of Campbell’s adjutants was stabbed. Would you be so kind as to check on the people here also? Make sure they’re okay.”

Complying without hesitation, Dufrain sheathed his sword and handed her the white doppel bag before going to check on the others.

“Now sit,” she commanded to Zakiriya, drawing a chair over. “You’ve sustained quite a few injuries. Have you forgotten my two orders already?”

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The inn was a welcome sight after their day of tribulations, and Bethany couldn’t help the sigh of relief that escape her as her boots hit the stone before the entrance. She was sore in few places but nothing a good rest and a bit of time wouldn’t fix. The band of warriors drew a few cocked eyebrows as they entered the premises, the royal badge more than a little conspicuous in a small time town. It was particularly unsettling if those said uniforms carried weapons in addition, as Zakiriya so often had the habit off.

He wasn’t the only exception this time for both knights were also accompanied with buckled swords. After their recent bout with death, Dufrain and Cassidy were understandably reluctant to relinquish their weapons completely. Fortunately, it was approaching that time of night where most sensible denizens of the town had retreated, bleary eyed and zombie shuffling, to waiting beds. The only category of people who tended to linger past this time was reserved to drunks, and as such, their transgressions went mostly unnoticed. The tried and true bell jingled as they entered, signaling their presence to a tired, middle-aged man whose weary eyes glanced up from his newspaper in mild astonishment.

The man studied the four, gaining the full measure of his guests as he mentally debating on whether they were worth the trouble or not. It was the weapons which finally convinced him, the inevitable risk of harm. He didn’t ask their purpose, introduce himself or seem overtly ecstatic to receive them as they approached the scuffed wooden counter by which he sat behind; he merely wanted to rinse his hands off them.

Once rooms where arranged, and a plan for tomorrow vaguely established, they divided up and separated. It was decided that Bethany’s room would be located parallel with Zakiriya’s, in case of emergencies. She argued they might as well have shared the room, her pragmatism, as ever, winning over her sense of social etiquette, but Cassidy had firmly reprimanded her thoughts.

Regardless of social etiquette, Bethany still had some unfinished business with the guardsman, which was why she now found herself outside the room he resided in. It was late and she knew that in all likelihood he was probably exhausted, and hurting, but Bethany felt as though the questions nagging her mind would plague her for all eternity if left unanswered. On the slim chance that she had miscalculated, that Zakiriya wasn’t who he said he was, Bethany had ordered Dufrain to monitor the discussion. It wasn’t just to console her own vain conjectures however, if what she believed was true then there was a distinct possibility that Zakiriya’s own life was also endangered.

Not wanting to delay the conversation, she lifted her hand and rasped her knuckles three times against the door. “Chevalier Kotane,” she called, “May I come in?”

At the sound of her voice and the knock on the door, Zak's eyes grew wide briefly as he glanced up from where he was seated. Having already looked at his terribly wounded side, he'd gotten to work at re-cleaning the wound in his shoulder. He didn't have anything to sew it closed, but he'd been in the middle of trying to improvise.

He watched the door for a moment, thinking on what to say in answer. He was hardly decent for his Queen to be coming into the room. Pulling his shirt back on would take too much time, not to mention painfully so. With a groan, he stood up and moved to the door to unlock it and allow her entrance.

"Yes," was his simple answer as he retreated to the bed. He could only hope that she wouldn't mind his appearance and he would apologize for it as well.

The door handle clicked as she turned the knob and allowed herself in. Bethany glanced around before directing her focus to Zakiriya, sitting half-naked along his bedside. The man was a natural swordsman, a ball of tendons, tightly wound and honed over what she could only imagine was a lifetime of training. If he wanted to, she imagined he could’ve snapped her neck in a heartbeat. Zakiriya wore an impressive number of scars, hinting at the precariousness of past exploits, like badges of honor. With his musculature on full display, she could finally see the giant, discolored welts he’d received in the past hours also, some still obviously requiring attention.

Bethany shut the door behind her quietly and strode in with purpose. If she was perturbed by their positions, it didn’t show in her calm expression and intrepid gait. Her time in the army had long since neutered her of her sense of privacy. “It seems I’ve interrupted you, so I’ll make this quick,” she stated professionally, not forgetting her purpose in being here. “What happened today Chevalier Kotane?”

Zakiriya glanced up at her, watching her with one could only describe as confusion... well as close as one could get with him. Lifting an eyebrow, he took a moment to answer. Figuring out what to say and how to say it was troublesome for him. He wasn't great at conversation anyway.

"After you left. I felt her. I knew she was there. An evil presence. So I went after it," he started there to see if that was what she meant.

“Felt her?” Bethany echoed, perking an eyebrow at him. She certainly recalled feeling a great deal of discomfort when facing the witch, a feeling that something unnatural was occurring, but she got the impression that Zakiriya’s extraordinary perception was different. “What do you mean felt her? Was it smell? The overhearing of a few words? You can’t expect me to believe you randomly detected this person, a coincidence meeting would be more believable.”

Zakiriya frowned a bit, his gaze dropping from hers, "Her power. I felt her magic, my Lady. I... could feel she wanted to kill someone. I thought her target was you," he shook his head a bit as he recalled the incident. Her words were still making him uncomfortable as he remembered what the witch had said. His brows drew together as he curled his fingers together tightly.

Even with his dubious explanations, Bethany was finding it increasingly more difficult to wrap her head around the concept. In reality, it was like trying to describe to a blind person what sight was. “Okay, you discovered her and then I presume confronted her going by Dufrain’s account. The witch overwhelmed you and invaded the restaurant anyway. What I need to know is, how long have you had the gift to use magic? I'm sure you're aware of what happens to witches,” she said, suddenly calculating, "They're taken by the witch hunters. Some are killed, some turned into living weapons. Not even I have the authority to oppose them."

His heart seemed to stop. Once again, blatant emotion spread across his face as his peircing blue gaze flew wide open. The moonlight in the room seemed to make them glow all the brighter as he sat there, shocked into silence. He hadn't realized that, it wasn't something he thought on as his own duties were only based off of the castle guard until recently. Slowly he regained his composure, somewhat.

"I... didn't know until she said, my Lady. She asked me why I didn't use it, but I never knew I had it. I didn't know what she was talking about," he winced, biting his lower lip a bit before continuing, "I was knocked unconscious by her magic, that's how she slipped past me. It wasn't until I fought her again in the restuarant that I felt the power. It just... happened. I didn't know what it was or even how to control it."

He turned away. He hadn't talked this much in ages... in fact as far as he could remember he'd always been rather silent. He frowned as he gazed out the window.

She grinned impishly, “That was a lie by the way, I’m the Queen of Vallrien, no one stands above me.”

For a single moment he thought he'd heard her wrong, but then it sunk in. A slight gasp pulled into his lungs and he turned sharply to look directly at her. She lied to him? Why? Utterly confused, he stared at her, trying to figure out what her motives were. Was she testing him? Probably. But it wasn't like he'd lied to her. Maybe she thought he would have lied to her. Why would she think that?

A million questions ran through his mind, no doubt flashing across his face as he stared at her, dumbfounded. With a slightly more heavily released breath of pent up air, he shook his head, "My lady? I... don't understand? Whatever punishment there is for having magic, I'll take it... I..." he lost his thoughts. Why? "Why lie?"

Bethany stretched abruptly, dispelling the tension she’d allowed to build up in her shoulders over the course of her day. “Don’t be daft Chevalier Kotane,” she said, wincing as her slender arms extended their full length, “You can’t expect me to be not concerned when you suddenly start to exhibit magic powers.”

“When you’ve been queen for as long as I’ve had, you learn not to take everything at face value. We’ve all fought our different battles. My scars may not be as pronounced as yours, but they exist nonetheless,” she continued, smiling now that she’d coaxed him out of his shell. “Don’t worry, there isn’t a punishment, but my statement from earlier still stands. It would be wise to be as discreet with your magic as possible, for both your sake and mine. I’ll let you get some rest now.”

"Concerned..." he repeated the word. Why would she be concerned for him? He was simply her shield, nothing more. This woman was strange. Not only that but she really had a way of getting under his skin. How she did it so easily was beyond him.

At the mention of scars he remembered his indecent exposure right then and glanced down at his own frame. There were indeed a handful of scars across his body. He tried to ignore the fact that she'd referenced that as he really couldn't do much about his appearance as it was, "I apologize," he muttered.

Zakiriya made to stand up to bow to her as she was going to leave. The movement pulled at the bruised side and he immediately dropped back onto the bed frame. With a slight wince he bowed his head to her instead, "My lady," was all he offered to her.

"Apologise for what?" she laughed heartily, and promptly left the room.




"That went better than anticipated," Dufrain said as she exited. The tall knight was propped against a wall, arms crossed, as he greeted Bethany with something resembling respect and caution after hearing their conversation. "He doesn't seem to think you suspect him."

"I'm sure he's aware of it on some level," Bethany sighed, "I think we can trust him however. His loyalty is...astounding at times."

Dufrain nodded, although whether it was acknowledging her words or simply her will was left to interpretation. "I've scheduled another appointment with the mayor, although he said he wasn't sure if there was much left to discuss."

"That's fine. I just want to make sure that the next time the witch strikes, we're there," she said.

"And how will you do that? Fortunately, after that failed attempt, they'll need some time to recuperate. Plus, it doesn't make sense to attack again so soon. I imagine Campbell and his guards will be on extra high alert now. So, how will you know when they're next attacking?" Dufrain asked, slightly incredulous.

Bethany ignored his question as she smirked and opened he door to her own room, "Goodnight Chevalier Dufrain."

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Zakiriya hadn't gotten any sleep really the night before. He had lay awake on the bed for most of the night, still pondering his Queen's words to him after she had left the room. He had heard the door to the other room close shortly after she had left him and a look out into the hall told him no one was there. Zak frowned as he realized that one of the other men had been standing outside his room while he and the Queen had talked.

It had dawned on him then. She doesn't trust me, it was a cold feeling that sunk into his chest and most of the reason why he didn't sleep. However, when he had finally managed to sleep, his dream was that of the familiar nightmare once more. When he woke up to the sun peeking through the window of his room, he was covered in sweat, heart beating rapidly and his breath sucking in and out of his lungs rapidly.

Sitting up, he winced slightly, feeling the nights wounds. Looking down at his side, he noted that the bruising had gone down considerably. His ribs felt less on fire than they had the night before. He was fairly sure the fractured ones had healed, and if any were broken, they were now merely fractures for the time being. His rapid healing was also another strange part of his being. Perhaps he should have told Bethany that too, since they had been on the topic of magic. Zakiriya wasn't sure if that was magic or his heritage though.

Zakiriya wasn't sure though, and at the moment he really didn't dwell on it. If anything, he was happy his injuries were healing and that he could perform his job once more. The slight fractures weren't going to slow him down, or at least he wasn't going to let them anyway. The wound in his shoulder was all but gone as well, only a small scab was left.

Dragging on his shirt, he shoved aside the last of his nightmare and prepared himself for the day. Smoothing out the wrinkles of his clothes, the cloth formed against his lithe frame. Buckling on his sword, he made a count of his throwing knives. Zakiriya had lost most of them the night before and he knew he was going to have to replenish them. The red cloak of his station was draped over the back of a chair in the room.

Glancing up at the mirror, he caught his reflection once more. He frowned deeply as he recalled the conversation that he practically had memorized by now because of how many times he had replayed it in his head. Zakiriya dragged the cloak from the chair and went to the door. He was still sure that his Queen didn't want them waltzing around the city with her insignia emblazoned on their clothes. Not to mention the bright red color was a clear indicator of who it was.

Still... she doesn't trust me. How do I get her to trust me? Zakiriya thought to himself. It was quite a depressing thought though. The fact that the woman he served was questioning him, was suspicious of him. Zak went down the stairs to the inns dining room slowly, still lost in thought. Then again, though, being the Queen, it was probably a natural thing for her to suspect those closest to her. If she had just simply accepted him, then perhaps it would be cause for him to worry about her sanity. Even so, he couldn't quite get the feeling of hurt to go away.

His honor was being tarnished, and as a knight who was dutiful and honor bound, he felt as if he was losing a piece of himself by the simple fact of her accusing him. She hadn't said it out right, and it had taken him most of the night to get the underlying message. His boots hit the landing of the first floor of the inn and he looked up to where Dufrain, Cassidy and his Queen were seated.

Making his way over, he caught Dufrain's gaze who nodded at him with a small smile, "There you are, thought you were going to sleep all day."

Cassidy glanced over and lifted an eyebrow, "Shouldn't you still be in bed? Last I checked you took one hell of a beating."

Zakiriya moved his brilliant blue gaze from one man to the other. Reaching out he took a chair and dragged it from under the table to sit down. Looking to Lady Bethany he didn't answer them. Instead he waited for his next set of orders from Lady Bethany. He would attend to her every need and show her just how loyal he truly was to her.

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Bethany Lyon





“Good morning Chevalier Kotane,” Bethany beamed as Zakiriya positioned his lean frame on top the sole vacant seat. Zakiriya was dressed in his full regalia once more, wearing the red cloak and dragon’s maw insignia proudly over his chest. She considered the image fetching, dashing even, given his impeccable composure. It was the knight’s signal that he was ready for whatever ill-deeds she had devised and she wouldn’t disappoint.

“I hope you had sufficient rest, today is going to be no less busy. Are you hungry?”

Unlike the aura of intense determination which radiated from Zakiriya, there was no subtle pretext behind the queen’s words as she greeted him. As far as Bethany was concerned, Campbell and the town’s safety took precedence. Zakiriya sat as the other three began conversing. He listened, hardly moving but certainly aware of their position and the people around them. When asked if he was hungry, he simply shook his head slightly.

“Straight to business huh?” Dufrain mused sympathetically, sipping from a steaming beverage of some dark concoction. The weary knight had his paws wrapped tightly around the ceramic cup, employing it as a makeshift heat pillow. “Sure you still want to be her bodyguard?” he teased, winking at Zakiriya.

Zak arched an eyebrow as he looked to Dufrain who was grinning at him. The young knight hardly saw how that was particularly funny and so he answered with skipping a beat and with his same stony features as always, "Yes."

“Back to the topic at hand,” Cassidy interjected, adjusting his spectacles in a business like fashion, “We should send word back to the palace of what’s transpired here. At least they’ll know what’s going on before you know, gossip starts. They might even send help.”

Cassidy turned the conversation back on track and Zakiriya was slightly relieved he'd done so. He listened to Bethany and the other knight as they conversed. So... the bandits we had originally come for had been dealt with? he thought. That didn't seem right. The plea for the Queen herself to come to the city and look into such a problem was not something that could be put off so easily. At least, not to Zakiriya.

If they had been so bad that the Queen had to be called, then they were more than what this city port could handle. Weren't they? But to say that the problem had already been dealt with before they even arrived was suspicious in and of itself. Zak's gaze narrowed as he stared at the table before him. Something is off here... he thought but he couldn't put his finger on it just yet.

Perhaps a little too stereotypically, Bethany was nurturing her own cup of tea as she considered the groups next course of action, savoring its taste calmly. She was the spitting image of someone used to having command, although her tone was always understated. Without the help of her aids, she’d forgone the make-up and fancy dressings expected from one of her status this morning, and once again, was wearing her green tunic from the day before. She hadn’t planned on staying more than an afternoon in Willsheim and was ill-prepared for any prolonged vacation of the sort. Still, her natural beauty was something all of its own to behold.

“We don’t even know what’s going on here,” she frowned, sinking her troubled gaze into her own drink. “I believe the best course of action maybe to pursue our original reason for being here.”

“The bandits?” Dufrain said, raising a question gaze. This time, it was his turn to frown. “Didn’t you mention Campbell said the problem was resolved?”

“I just like to be thorough,” Bethany smiled.

“But then who will protect the Mayor? Didn’t you have a plan for anticipating the next attack?” Dufrain continued pointing out the holes in her plan.

“Ah, that I do, but it’s no guarantee and its success depends entirely on one person,” she answered cryptically, directing her eyes in Zakiriya’s direction. Abruptly, all eyes were on him as the other two men pondered the meaning of her words.

His thoughts were hardly interrupted as he sat there, trying to piece together the strange event. He was pulled from his thoughts when he felt several pairs of eyes land on him. Glancing up, he looked between the three of them, unknowing of what was going to happen.

“Chevalier Kotane will guard Campbell for the time being,” she said, breaking the silence, “The trouble is, how do we lure out our dear assassin? I’d prefer not to be stuck in Willsheim indefinitely, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for the assassin to strike who-knows-when next. Any thoughts?”

Zak's heart lurched to the back of his throat, "My Lady!" he snapped out of his reverie immediately.

"I-..." he stopped himself. It was her order after all, but it still left a bitter taste in his mouth, "My lady... I will do as you've ordered," he answered softly, though he still didn't like the idea at all.

"Where will you be?" he asked abruptly, ignoring her question about how to lure out the assassin, the mage woman. Zakiriya was sure that her target was still Campbell and Zak was sure to meet her again without any problems. The only thing he wanted to be sure of was that the mage woman didn't find out that the woman Zakiriya was protecting was the Queen and not just a noble of the city.

“I’ll be meeting with Campbell of course,” she said smartly, as if the answer was obvious to anyone.

“Yes, of course! Why didn’t it occur to me?” Dufrain breathed, exasperate, “Locating yourself in the proximity of danger is exactly where the monarch of Vallrien should be. Do you have a death wish?”

Retracting from the table to lean against the back rest, Bethany drew her hands together in her lap as she ignored the knight’s dark cynicism. “In any case, perhaps Chevalier Kotane’s presence alone might be sufficient enough to provoke her. I’ll be meeting Campbell briefly at his manor this afternoon, the assassin might attack then, or she might not.”

“Explain,” Cassidy asked plainly. Though the scholar had thus far resisted the impulse to vent his unease, unlike his colleague, the man’s owlish features were colored with anxiety all the same.

“Well, she’s not very bright for one thing,” Bethany sneered, recalling last night’s lively events. “What kind of assassin announces their intentions?”

“The arrogant kind?” Dufrain answered unsteadily.

“That was rhetorical,” she frowned, “That kind of personality though… I’d be willing to bet the royal castle that she harbors a small grudge towards our ever dependable Chevalier Kotane now.”

“You don’t even like the castle,” Dufrain said, compelled to once more to point out the flaws in her statement.

“Which is precisely why I made that bet.”

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“I’ll be meeting with Campbell of course,” her voice was chipper, almost as if the answer had been obvious and Zakiriya hadn't been smart enough to see it.

The young knight watched her coolly with his striking blue gaze, an eyebrow lifted slightly as he regarded her. He supposed that it was better than what he had been expecting from her. At least he would be with her and easier to protect than if she were off gallivanting around the city port without him.

“Yes, of course! Why didn’t it occur to me? Locating yourself in the proximity of danger is exactly where the monarch of Vallrien should be. Do you have a death wish?”

"Dufrain," Zakiriya said, his voice a bit lower than usual. He wasn't too keen on the way he was speaking to the Queen, though he did share the same views. It was her orders, and they shouldn't question it. Besides, he was going to be with her. Zakiriya would make sure she was safe.

“In any case, perhaps Chevalier Kotane’s presence alone might be sufficient enough to provoke her. I’ll be meeting Campbell briefly at his manor this afternoon, the assassin might attack then, or she might not.”

“Explain,” Cassidy promted.

Zakiriya was also curious as to her reasoning. Why would the mage woman come out from where ever she was hiding just to attack him? To the young knight, it didn't make any sense at all.

“Well, she’s not very bright for one thing. What kind of assassin announces their intentions?”

“The arrogant kind?”

Zak turned his gaze over to Dufrain, though he didn't say anything. He didn't have to really because Bethany did so for him. Mentally, he applauded his Queen for her sharp tongue, though he was slightly grateful he wasn't on the receiving end of it.

“That was rhetorical. That kind of personality though… I’d be willing to bet the royal castle that she harbors a small grudge towards our ever dependable Chevalier Kotane now.”

“You don’t even like the castle.”

“Which is precisely why I made that bet.”

Zakiriya was now utterly confused. Why was Bethany wanting to bet the entire castle on the fact that this mage woman would come and attack him? Was it a joke? The dark haired knight wasn't sure. Maybe he would ask her later.






Zakiriya found himself in the halls of the Mayors home. As ordered, he was there to 'protect' Mayor Campbell. With him, though, was his charge, the Queen. They had come to the home so that Bethany could finish her business with the Mayor, but that was just a front. She was devious like that, and Zakiriya was starting to catch on fairly quickly. If he hadn't, well he probably would be lost and confused all the time.

Still, she did throw him for a loop fairly often which tended to make him slightly crazy, though he didn't voice any of those complaints. Following her, on her right side as was his usual spot, he moved swiftly down the hall dressed in just the black cloth that hugged his frame. He had left the red cloak behind once again, it was far too bright and revealing of his station. The last thing they wanted was the mage woman to realize that the Queen of Vallrien was in attendance as well.

They were being led down the hall by two of the Mayors personal attendants and Zakiriya was a ball of nerves as he stretched his senses for anything that was out of place. As far as he could tell, there wasn't anything as of yet, but he knew it wasn't going to last long. If Bethany was right, then the woman would be after them sometime that day -or night-. Though he still wasn't sure why the mage would want to attack him, he had to wonder that if she was after him now, why were they going to the Mayor?

Again, the dark haired knight didn't question his Queen. He followed her orders to the letter and that was all there was to it. Soon they reached the end of the hall and the pair of attendants opened the door for them to enter. Zakiriya stopped at the door and glanced down at Bethany briefly.

"Shall I accompany you? Or wait here," he asked her softly.

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Bethany Lyon





“Come in, don’t be shy now,” Bethany smiled, motioning her guardsman forwards as the two attendants opened the doors for them.

Waiting inside his prestigious office was Mayor Campbell, expectantly placed ahead of his immaculate desk. He was dressed in an authentic Blair & co gown that hid the bulk of his thickset frame, the spitting image of a government official. Despite yesterday’s traumas, he grinned without a trace of uncertainty as his guests entered, adopting that slick veneer which was bound to be second nature to political animals like him. Gazing at the luxurious work space, Bethany guessed Campbell had invested some time to cleaning the room in preparation. Nothing, not even a stray sheet of paper, tainted the soft carpet upon which they stood. No governor’s office was this clean.

“I’m relieved to see you survived the night Mayor,” she remarked as they entered the room with a purposeful tread. Campbell’s first steps evolved into a bow before rising at her gesture.

To her surprise, painting the many shelves on his walls was a small library of books, dozens of rows of ancient tomes and encyclopedias. She withheld as gasp as she recognized more than a few first editions, many of which were considered priceless. It was hard not to admire his collection.

“Likewise your highness,” Campbell replied, smiling warmly as he noticed her eye’s direction, “I sent guards to check on you afterwards. I was worried sick for your safety until Chevalier Dufrain contacted me. It seems I owe you a debt for architecting my escape.”

His eyes scanned her up and down, realizing her attire was exactly the same as the previous day. Her weapons, like Zakiriya’s, were ever present, not that it seemed to trouble to him. “Pragmatic as ever I see. If you had trouble with lodgings you should have asked me however,” he lamented, sounding mildly offended that they’d chosen staying the night in some dingy tavern over his personnel manor. “I’d have been more than honored to house you and your men.”

“Someone like me doesn’t survive as long as I have if I’m not,” she retorted, “Shall we resume our meeting now Mayor?”

Campbell frowned and then nodded, navigating around to the backside of his desk. There were a few chairs in the room, one he settled to occupy and another he offered to her. At his beckoning, an attendant brought the chair opposite to his so that the two were facing each other. Bethany accepted the seat and crossed her legs as she leant back, like a psychiatrist primed for their patient.

“If it’s about that bandit business, I already told you that the matter’s resolved,” he shrugged, ignoring her scrutiny, “I don’t know what else to say other than I’m sorry to have wasted your time. Mister Cadric, fetch us some tea please.”

“No no, that matter is resolved as you said,” Bethany agreed, “No, I arranged a second meeting because I was hoping to help you resolve this matter with the assassin.”

Campbell’s thin eyebrows raised a fraction, “As much as I appreciate the assistance, I can hardly accept your personal aid in the matter. That would put the Monarch of Vallrien at risk, an unforgivable act.”

“My business is my own and as such, I accept the risks associated with it personally,” Bethany said, dauntless, “As a mayor of Willsheim you’re hardly in a position to deny my aid even if you wanted to.”

Campbell gave her a hard stare, no doubt measuring the weight of his situation, before finally succumbing to open chuckles. “Your reputation precedes you, your highness. Not many ruler’s take it upon themselves to individually address issues like these, in fact, your example is almost unprecedented. Towns like mine have been ignored since the end of the war,” he smirked, reigning in his composure. “Okay, how may you help me then?”

“It matters to me,” Bethany stated.

"You know your highness, some might perceive your actions as a supreme act of generosity and perseverance. Others however, might consider your efforts a....waste of time," Campbell smirked, "No offence intended of course. I only want what's best for you."

“They can think what they want. As far as such people are concerned, I'm just a placeholder anyway. Do you know why anybody would want you dead Mayor Campbell? Knowing is the first step to resolving this issue," she said, promptly recovering the topic of conversation.

He shrugged again, but this time in a more helpless manner that seemed unbecoming of his character, “Who knows how the assassin orders think? It could be political rivals, old war grudges, anything. Do you know why you’re targeted?”

“I’m the monarch of Vallrien, an often considered a social and political deviant. People want my position and power,” Bethany responded unflinchingly, “The answer is more than often boring that it isn’t.”

“And for the cases it isn’t?” Campbell mused, his response far more enigmatic than she liked to hear.

“I don’t know what you mean by that.”

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Zakiriya listened to the exchange attentively after following Bethany into the room as he had been prompted by her. He was unsure at first, but settled in to standing at her right side just behind the chair with relative ease. Adapting a relaxed stance, his arms were behind his back, one hand holding the wrist of the other while he allowed his weight to be distributed evenly between both legs.

He glanced around the room, his sharp blue gaze taking in the tomes of books, the pristine elegance of the office and the smell of fresh air. His eyes narrowed ever so slightly as he swept the room. It definitely felt too clean. As Lady Bethany started the conversation with the Mayor, Zak kept his senses sharpened as he stood there, seemingly not paying attention when in fact he was very attentive.

At the mayors suggestion of seeking refuge with him the night before, the young knight lifted an eyebrow. Not that he thought Bethany would have accepted anyway, but Zak found it rather odd for the man to be offering right then for the night before rather than having done so in the first place. Surely the Mayor had known of their ordeal after the attack seeing as it took its toll on not just him but Bethany as well.

As the conversation turned towards the assassin woman from the night before, Zakiriya had to resist the urge to sigh. His Queen sure had a way of saying things, and she was especially fond of telling others that she 'didn't know what they were talking about'. The young knight, on the other hand, was beginning to see otherwise. Bethany was very much aware of many things, but she picked her words very carefully and led others around almost as easily as leading a cat with a bowl of tuna.

He turned his gaze down to her very briefly as he listened to her answer the Mayor about why she was targeted as the Monarch. Looking back up to the Mayor, the man had given her a quizzical look. Should Zak have been prompted to speak at all -which he was not-, he might have said something along the lines of 'she does this all the time'. It was certainly an interesting and sometimes irritating trait of hers.

The conversation continued for a little while longer and Zakiriya was beginning to think that things were turning out rather smoothly. Why Bethany had even thought that the mage woman would target him was still a mystery. He had no idea as to what he had done particularly that would have made the would be assassin angry. Unless it was my sudden attack against her... he wondered briefly as he unconsciously flexed his hand behind his back. The flashing electricity that had coursed along his entire frame was still something of a scary thought to him.

He felt for a single moment a strange presence, and that was all the warning he got. The moment he felt it, his eyes snapped open wide and he looked directly to the door. In those few seconds, he managed to reach down and move Bethany from the targeted area which was exactly where he was standing. The amount of power he had felt in that near instant had startled him, and as unwilling as he was to admit it, scared him.

He tried to be gentle with his Queen, but probably failed in his haste to move her out of the direct zone of magic. Immediately after he had tossed her from the chair she had been seated in, the floor beneath his feet opened up in a bright golden circle of symbols. A flash of light filled the circle and Zakiriya strained against the flood of magic that assaulted him. He gave a single cry of pain before the magic faded out and h dropped to the floor. With one arm wrapped around his waist, the other was on the floor, helping to hold up his shaking frame.

Panting slightly, he moved a bit slower than normally. The door shuddered once before exploding into a thousand pieces. Struggling to his feet, he used the chair to brace himself for a moment. Once he was steady, he reached down and drew both his sword and long knife. His body went into the calm that he always adopted when he was ready to kill. His face revealed no emotion much like it did all the time, but his eyes were colder, sharper, glowing even if one wanted to describe it like that.

The woman emerged from the hall and entered the room, her gaze finding Zakiriya quickly enough. Her fingers curled around her hip as she grinned at him, "Thought I felt you here. So glad I could find you, little knight. Though I am surprised. After the beating I gave you, you shouldn't be standing at all. So how is that?"

Zakiriya didn't answer her, only positioned himself between Bethany, the Mayor and the mage. Her grin didn't dissipate as she watched him. Lifting one hand, her fingers extended and darkness swirled around her fingertips. The womans eyes dropped down his frame, sizing him up almost. Then her mouth opened as she spoke again, drawing out the first word, "Ah... That explains everything."

Zakiriya narrowed his gaze.

"Well well, aren't you a along way from home, Airelian."

"Airelian?" Zakiriya repeated, confused as to what she had referred to him as.

The mage laughed, "You must be joking. You don't even recognize your own race? They must have done a number on you."

Zak ignored her. She was confusing him, a terrible thing to have happen in a fight. He lunged forward, moving very quickly to cover the distance between himself and the mage. She backed up, moving with him as he swung the sword with deadly accuracy. Just like the night before, she was barely dodging his attacks. The tip of the blade came a hairs breadth from her throat
singing as it went. He followed through with a half circle, his long knife coming at her from his side as his back was to her now. She hissed as the blade caught her arm as she blocked the weapon from going through her side.

Turning full circle, he faced her as she backed up again and launched another attack at him. Again, his blade was stopped by her fingertips and she reached out to his chest. Her fingers just barely touched him and his body froze. He gave a soft growl as he tried to free himself.

"Airelian... yes, that explains a lot of things. Why you are so lively right now, why I have to use a little bit more magic to put you down," as she growled the words her power increased and he slowly dropped to his knees, grinding his teeth against the pain, "And it explains the other night. Your own magic. Such a pity you don't remember any of that. To lose who you really are... it's almost like being a corpse, isn't it?"

She knelt down in front of him, her face close to his, "Allow me to help you. Since you don't know anything I can make it easier for you. Die for me, won't you?" she hissed and stood up. Her lips curled into a wicked grin, "Or better yet... become my little puppet. After all, an Airelian is such a waste to just go and kill."

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Bethany Lyon





“How unfortunate then that he’s already my bodyguard, and too busy as a result,” a voice interjected, soft, yet firm and resolute despite the sudden display of violence. “You’ll just have to find another puppet to toy with.”

Rising from her perch on the floor, Bethany stared at their intruder, able to appreciate her dangerous elegance for the first real time. Despite the assassin’s visage appearing not entirely unlike her own, there was undoubtedly something strange about her. Today there were no more unnatural shadows, no cover of darkness to disguise her presence. Any pretence of subterfuge had clearly evaporated the second she decided to attack the manor in an impressive display of what Bethany could only describe as reckless arrogance.

She felt a tingling also, identical to the time they’d been at the restaurant. It wasn’t quite as cold as that previous time, but it was the unmistakable feeling of magic and charged, otherworldly energies congregating within the room which sent the hairs on the back of her neck upright. Still, it was almost reassuring to realize they were fighting a living, breathing, fallible human.

“It’s funny though; for some reason I thought you’d look scarier,” she half chuckled at her own imagination, dusting her clothes off, “Chevalier Kotane, it doesn’t matter what she says. Defeat this woman.”

“How did she get here without raising any alarms?!” Campbell blurted out, his eyes glaring angrily at the intruder who would dare to tear apart his home. Standing behind his desk, Campbell swung his arm around, motioning his startled assistants. “Take her down!”

Perhaps encouraged by the governor’s words, the burly duo who’d formerly been too stunned to act suddenly leapt forwards to press their advantage, numbers. In the momentary lull which presented itself in the aftermath of Zakiriya’s and the lithe woman’s flashy exchange, they drew their weapons, one a sinister looking scimitar and the other a repeater crossbow.

“No!” Bethany yelled, but her warnings went unnoticed as the man with the crossbow pulled the trigger, filling the room with the sharp whistle of cross-bolts.




“How unfortunate then that he’s already my bodyguard, and too busy as a result. You’ll just have to find another puppet to toy with.”

The woman laughed at Bethany as the Queen spoke. Her fingers swirled around in front of Zak's frame, gold and silver strands beginning to hang in the air in front of him. Still, the young knight couldn't move though he strained to be free of her magic.

"That's too bad, he's going to be under my absolute control shortly. I think I'll have him kill you first."

“It’s funny though; for some reason I thought you’d look scarier. Chevalier Kotane, it doesn't matter what she says. Defeat this woman.”

Zakiriya's sharp blue gaze grew colder, darker even. With narrowed eyes, his jaw tightened after he answered Bethany, "Yes." The word was simple, but it was filled with every ounce of his determination and loyalty to her.

He began concentrating his new found energy. The sparks of his white electricity crackled first across his hands and then slowly trailed up his arms.

“How did she get here without raising any alarms?!Take her down!”

At the sound of Campbell finally gaining a stance in the fight, he ordered his two men to attack. Zak was still struggling to free himself though he was beginning to feel the mage woman loosening her hold on him. However, his advancement didn't last long as Bethany's shout filled the air and right after was the sound of a cross-bolt loosing it's arrows.

The woman hissed in anger and with a flick of her hand Zakiriya suddenly found his body lifted upwards. Startled by the sudden action, his magic flared up out of his control and he was freed from her hold, except with no time to do anything else. Stumbling forward, he felt two of the bolts thud into his back. A cough filled his lungs from the impact and he could taste blood.

The mage woman backed into the hall, her hand waving in front of her to stop the advancement of the other bolts that flew over Zak's frame as he had dropped to one knee yet again. With a flick of her hand, she sent the bolts right back at the two men that had tried to join the fight.

Breathing heavily, Zakiriya pulled himself to his feet. Reaching into his clothes, he withdrew his throwing knives and hurled the at her. As the knives went, he crouched slightly and followed right behind his weapons.

With another wave of her hand, she sent his small knives at him, which he had anticipated for her to do. His sword rang as he batted aside each one that came for him. Cursing to herself, he hand lowered and a slight shimmer filled the air around her fingers. Though he couldn't see it perfectly, the outline of pale blue swirling light curved around what could only be a summoned sword.

Slamming this into his own sword, she started fighting him in a style that he was much more comfortable with. Though Zakiriya was very proficient and very fast, the burn in his back kept him from doing most of what he normally would. Soon he was back in the room with her following him, defending for the most part instead of attacking as he usually would be.

Because of the near invisible sword, matching her swings was a lot harder and he ended up with more than a few cuts.

Bethany watched helplessly as the woman’s sorcery transformed Zakiriya into a pin-cushion, using him to shield her from the offensive projectiles which rained down the corridor, all the while smirking. It seemed the witch hadn’t been joking when she’d mentioned turning the guardsman into her puppet. The sight was unsettling for all of them, not least because of the prospect that anyone of them could be toyed with in a similar fashion. She was beginning to see how the witch managed to get this far without raising alarms.

“Campbell!” she snapped.

Her knuckles grew white as she twirled around and reached over the desk, violently wrenching the man forwards by his collar. The table buckled from the sudden shift in momentum, scattering a few ornaments onto the carpet. “Get those men to stop firing,” Bethany hissed, “Or if another bolt hits my chevalier, death will be the least if your concerns, I assure you.”

Campbell raised his brows at her language, and seemed on the verge of replying before both were forced to dive down as more bolts rained back at them. Bethany dropped the mayor and barely had time to duck as she sensed the impending doom, dodging a sharp edge by whiskers as it imbedded itself into the chair besides her. Several more punctured the wall behind them like badly aimed darts and soon it was apparent to all that plain quarrels were simply ineffective.

Bethany looked back to check on Zakiriya, noticing that the man was already back up and fighting. Incredibly, despite his grievous wounds, the guardsman was able to keep pace in a furious exchange of sword blows. Even if he was on the back foot, it seemed the entire witch’s focus was concentrated on just containing the chevalier’s abilities. If only they could give him the chance to strike.

“Your majesty, you can’t be-“ Campbell stammered as his gaze caught her hands reaching for the tomahawk at her side.

“It’s now or never Campbell,” Bethany smiled, launching herself onwards with explosive acceleration. Holding the axe weapon by the bottom of its shaft, Bethany swung sideways, carving a path into the mage’s side whilst her attention was still on Zakiriya.

Zakiriya's movements were short and quick, his blade working to keep the mages' from landing a more mortal blow on his body. Small cuts had formed along his arms and one across his cheek. None of this, though, seemed to bother him as he continued fighting, waiting for her to slip up so that he could kill her in a well placed strike.

From the corner of his eye, he caught Bethany moving and his gaze widened slightly. He almost yelled at her to stop what she was doing, but she was far too fast. Faster than he thought she was capable of. Her tomahawk cut through the air and the mage woman, who had been concentrated only on Zak, screeched out in pain.

Stumbling to the side, she flipped around to face Bethany. Zak moved rapidly. He slammed his weapon down into the mages as she made to strike back at the Queen. With the jarring move, she looked back at him with shock plastered on her pale face. Recoiling, his blade flashed three time across her upper body so quickly that it may have looked almost like one move.

Blood slowly started to seep from each of the deep gashes. Stepping forward, Zakiriya thrust his blade through the center of her chest immediately after cutting her open. He hovered there with his sword imbedded in her chest for a while as she stared at him in horror. With a hard wrench, he pulled his sword back from her chest.

Crimson liquid slowly trailed down his weapon as he watched her drop to the floor with his cold, icy gaze. When she finally crumpled to the floor, her life blood flowing onto the carpet in a puddle, he flicked his weapon and then sheathed it.

Turning his striking blue eyes settled on Bethany, "My lady. Are you alright?"

Bethany's stunned gaze turned to meet his red dyed figure. “Well done. Yes I’m fine,” she shuddered, her round features asserting themselves into a more composed form befitting of her. "I should be asking you that," she hesitated, stealing a glance at the woman's corpse. Confirming the kill, Bethany was slow to hang up her own weapons, half expecting the body to rise from the puddle of gore at a moment’s notice. In the absence of her magic, the world slowly regained a measure of warmth and coherence that it had lost in the conflict. Campbell was just as surprised as he rejoined them from behind his desk, cautiously tapering the final few steps between them with his eyes on the body.

“Excellent work, your highness,” he stated, still not quite believing the phenomenon. “And compliments to your chevalier of course. I expect that you wish to keep this a secret?”

He gave her a questioning look, reminding her that others had managed to eavesdrop on their conversation earlier. Supposing that the witch’s words had been true, that Zakiriya was Airelian, the implications were bound to bear significant consequences in the future. Maybe even the near future. What had she even meant by those words? Campbell smirked suggestively at her expression and strode over to one of his men.

“Another conversation perhaps,” he mused, bending over to aid his assistant. One of his men had gotten lucky, receiving two bolts in his left arm for his troubles. The other, who hadn’t quite been as lucky, was already cold.

“I trust that you will. In any case Mayor, what will you do? This isn’t a resolution. This is a bandaid. They can always send another assassin,” Bethany said. So far in this trip, nothing had developed in a manner which she found favorable, from Campbell’s cryptic answers, to the situation in general. This was meant to be a simple relief effort for a largely neglected town.

“A good question, the answer to which I don’t know,” Campbell shrugged, not bothering to face her. “Don’t worry; you’ve helped more than necessary already. I don’t intend to keep the nation’s queen as a bodyguard, and you should have more important matters to attend to. Let’s simply consider this matter resolved for the time being. If anything related should occur, you’ll be the first to know, your highness.”

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Character Portrait: Zakiriya Kotane Character Portrait: Bethany Lyon
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A Few Weeks Later


It had been a handful of weeks after the incident in the port city. Zakiriya had been plagued by his familiar nightmares, but added to them now was the mage woman who kept calling him an Airelian. He didn't know what the words meant, or what kind of meaning he should have been taking from them. So... now he knew he wasn't a resident of Vallrien, but wasn't that obvious in the first place? His eye's, hair and even his skin tone were different from the people on this continent.

To add to it, though, the woman had continued and said a handful of things that made him wonder. His magic, for one, that he never knew he had possessed in the first place, was a mystery still. He couldn't figure out how to use it, much less control it and thus he did all the he could to not use it. Which he succeeded in very well. Zak's strange ability to heal rapidly was also something else she mentioned. Were all Airelian's like this? Healing rapidly despite the severity of the wounds? He supposed he would never really know, unless he met one.

Still, in light of all of his questions and wanting to learn more about what that woman had said, he hadn't the time to do so. Or rather, he didn't give himself the time. Perhaps Zakiriya was just afraid of what he would find, and afraid of what Bethany would do if she found out more about him too. He didn't know how relations were between the two races, but he knew one thing for certain. He would serve the Queen to his dying breath, if only it was so easy to prove that to her.

In the past few weeks, he'd been at her side constantly. He'd become her shadow and whispers around the palace had begun. Zakiriya found himself hearing 'nick names' being made for him. Some more... imaginative, than others. The young knight didn't care though. So long as Bethany would have him, he would serve her. She was the same as ever, her jokes usually falling short on him, but he was beginning to think that he was catching on. Maybe.

Zak had thwarted a handful of attempts on her life, none as challenging as the mage had been for him. He was quick to dispatch any who got near her with evil intentions. The knight was also learning that Bethany didn't like for him to just kill the offender automatically. In light of that, he was trying to adjust and just subdue the attackers without mortal wounds... though he still wounded them.

He was also confronted by the one knight that he'd hoped to keep away from during his time since being switched to Bethany's personal guard. Fyi had sought him out a few times, since word had finally reached the barracks of his transfer. The blonde haired foreigner was the same as always, trying to get a violent reaction from Zakiriya via his jests and prodding. The man found that insulting Zakiriya's ability to defend the Queen was one sure way to get under the young knights thick skin. Even so, Zak had yet to strike out at the man. He was sure Fyi was trying his damndest though.

Aside from Fyi and the handful of assailants that often attempted to get to Bethany, things seemed to be going very well. In all honesty, it made Zakiriya edgy. He wasn't sure what to think. Things seemed... too easy. Having killed the mage woman, nothing else had happened regarding anyone wielding magic, and those that attacked the Queen were certainly no assassin, or wielders of magic. The young knight was starting to feel as if he was seriously missing something.

As he was preparing to go meet his Queen before her day started, a knock echoed through his dim chambers. The sun hadn't risen yet and so he had a single candle lit to give some light upon the small room that served as his quarters. He turned to the door, staring at it for a moment, a slight frown on his lips. Finishing buckling the weapon to his side, he moved and opened it. Inwardly he groaned, but outwardly he only stared at the blonde haired knight that grinned at him from the hall.

"Up early, Kotane."

Zakiriya didn't say anything in response, only stood there. What did the blonde want this time? It was definitely rare for the man to come to the dark haired knight at such an ungodly hour. Fyi's smile flickered into a sneering frown when he didn't get a response. He quickly composed himself though and took a step forward. Zakiriya moved, not liking the close proximity of the other. Fyi glanced around the small room briefly.

"Well, you always were the quiet one, Zak. And so tidy too. The epitome of a perfect knight. You know, it really pisses me off. You have this... air, about you that says you're better than everyone else. Except the problem is, no one wants to take you down a few pegs. But I will," Fyi stated sharply.

Zakiriya lifted an eyebrow as he regarded the other knight. What the hell was he talking about?

"People call you the 'Queen's Hellhound', or 'Guard Dog'. Hell," Fyi gave a sharp laugh, "I've even heard you called 'Reaper'. You certainly made a name for yourself, Zak. A couple of names. But... I think it's time to change all of that, don't you?" Fyi's voice had dropped to a dangerous level which put Zak on guard.

His body tensed as the other Knight moved surprisingly fast. One hand grabbed Zak's wrist -his sword arm- and the other slammed something up against his face. Both men stumbled backwards, Fyi pushing Zakiriya up against the wall of his room, next to the small cot. Zak's free hand gripped Fyi's that was locked over his nose and mouth, a sickening smell filling his mouth as he tried to breath. He was losing his strength rapidly, a dull pounding starting at the back of his skull and slowly working it's way forward.

Zakiriya struggled to say upright, weakly pulling his other arm to try to free himself and grab his weapon. It only took a few minutes, and Zak was slowly slumping down the wall until he hit the floor, weak and half conscious. The cloth wasn't removed though as Fyi's voice filled the haze that was starting to bring Zakiriya into a void of darkness.

"I wonder how well you'll convince the Queen you're innocent when you can't even speak properly as it is. Of course, knowing you, you'll just allow it to happen, won't you? I know a couple of things about you, Zak. Many of those things are going to be your undoing," Fyi leaned forward, whispering into Zak's ear right before he faded out, "Once you're gone, the Queen will be very vulnerable again. Just exactly what we wanted. So sorry," Fyi laughed.




Zakiriya was slowly starting to regain consciousness. He groaned heavily and shifted. His body was upon hard, cold marble and as he opened his eyes just a bit, he noted that blurry figures that were around him. With the position of everyone and the way he was facing he soon figured he was in the throne room. Both hands were tied roughly before him as he lay there. His limbs felt like lead and his breathing was slow. He could hear a voice, Fyi's to be precise and he frowned, wincing as the next thing he felt was one hell of a headache.

"Forgive my intrusion, My Lady," Fyi was saying, "But I have awful news for you. During routine inspection of the barracks..." he paused, almost as if he didn't want to say anything more. His voice was well toned, his acting must have been perfected for this moment. Zakiriya tried to move, but failed to do much of anything. The blonde knight continued, "We... found several things within Knight Kotane's room. I'm regretfully informing you that he has been caught committing high treason. We have sufficient evidence and reason to believe that he has been planning for your death, My Lady."

We... who is we? Zak thought groggily. Then he heard someone shifting on his other side, where his back was turned and he couldn't see. However, the voice was recognizable enough.

"Please, forgive me, your Highness," the Captain's voice rang out, deep and expressing his true feelings of regret and remorse, "I... hadn't known. I am to blame for putting you in the hands of one who was so dangerous. If there is anything that I may do to regain your favor... I am... truly at a loss as to what has been found and brought to light."

"My Lady, if I may suggest, putting him in the dungeons for now while you decide his punishment? He is like this now only because I was forced to subdue him after he attacked me. He is dangerous, My Lady. I wouldn't want to put your life in further danger."

Zak felt a heavy weight seemingly crush his entire body. He couldn't move, he couldn't speak. How was he to see how lady Bethany was taking this all? What would she do anyway? The young knight was at a loss, and to have his Captain there as well, speaking in turn with Fyi... she was sure to be won over. He closed his eyes. If she was... then he would accept it. The only thing he could do for her was try to warn her about Fyi. If he even got the chance to.

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Character Portrait: Zakiriya Kotane Character Portrait: Bethany Lyon
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Bethany Lyon





Bethany’s heels clicked rapidly against the cold marble as she strode towards the throne room, like a bull drawn towards red. Pursuing her was a host of attendants, including Cassidy, all of whom seemed on the brink of exertion as they hurried to keep pace with her highness. She’d been summoned to the throne room this late morning on an emergency, interrupting the negotiations between her and Vallrien’s sister country, Gholcratz. Of course she’d declined at first, to leave then would have been highly discourteous to their guests, but the message came directly from her Captain of guards. All morning she’d requested to know the location of chevalier Kotane, perturbed by his absence, now it seemed he’d been arrested. The vital information absent from the dispatch was why?

The wide, gilded doors to the throne room flung open with the force of a battering ram as Bethany entered; so fast that even the guards posted outside failed to respond in time, just barely snapping to attention as she passed. Awaiting her inside were five men and all eyes were drawn to her presence, her command, as she stepped through the doors wrought with angels and lions. She gazed at the spectacle before her, a shadow passing over her face as she recognized each individual, chief among them being Zakiriya. The disheveled guardsman was restrained on the floor, his limbs bound by ropes behind his back.

“Explain to me why chevalier Kotane is constrained Captain,” she asked, suppressing her foul mood for the time.

One man eventually found the courage to address her, Fyi. If she recalled correctly, the knight had been a part of Zakiriya’s previous assignment, a colleague, although the two had never acted as anything but adversaries.

"Forgive my intrusion, My Lady, but I have awful news for you. During routine inspection of the barracks..." he began, his voice level and authorative, “We... found several things within Knight Kotane's room. I'm regretfully informing you that he has been caught committing high treason. We have sufficient evidence and reason to believe that he has been planning for your death, My Lady.”

“I believe I addressed the Captain,” she snapped, silencing the soldier. Cassidy winced involuntarily. Most of the ceremonial cabinet hovered outside the hall, deciding that would have been better than entering the actual chamber.

"Please, forgive me, your Highness. I... hadn't known. I am to blame for putting you in the hands of one who was so dangerous. If there is anything that I may do to regain your favor... I am... truly at a loss as to what has been found and brought to light," said the wizened commander, shaking his head ashamedly.

"My Lady, if I may suggest, putting him in the dungeons for now while you decide his punishment? He is like this now only because I was forced to subdue him after he attacked me. He is dangerous, My Lady. I wouldn't want to put your life in further danger," Fyi ventured, chancing her wrath a second time. The young knight didn’t seem particularly upset at the prospect of betrayal, even from amongst their own ranks. Bethany knew men like Fyi, a certain breed of self-centered that thrived within Vallrien’s society, and when meshed with his tone, it left her with the vague impression that this farce may not be entirely professional.

After listening to them Bethany studied Zakiriya, perhaps hoping for a sign of protest, but the man’s eyes closed then. In the past month or so he’d never given a reason to suspect him, even with an abundance of opportunities at his fingertips. Was he so meticulous that he’d planned around her? Was she meant to take his silence as an admission of guilt? “Show me the evidence,” she stated, swallowing her suspicions, “Sergeant Major Cassidy?”

“Your highness?” responded the man, adjusting his spectacles habitually.

“You’re going to take chevalier Kotane to the holding cells,” she ordered, giving the scholar a long, hard stare, “And if the evidence warrants, we’ll hold a trial.”

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Also... the Captain doesn't have a name XD Sorry sorry >.>

Zakiriya's heart sunk heavily. Though that shouldn't have been a big surprise. He hadn't been able to find his voice, or words to say that he was innocent. Far too groggy, too heavy with whatever drug had been administered, he was lucky to have started gaining consciousness again.

Hands gripped his arms, pulling him up and his body was righted, making him groan slightly, wincing from the sudden pounding in his head. He was turned, and with one eye slightly cracked open, he gazed at Bethany. Allowing the person to move him, he leaned over to Bethany, his voice cracked as he tried to get words out to her in barely a whisper.

"Fyi... be careful," he managed before wincing again and stumbling as he was led from the throne room.

Fyi crossed his arms, an eyebrow lifting briefly as he watched Zak lean over to Bethany. Whatever was said was lost on him. Clearing his face he looked back to Bethany, "My Lady, I will gather that evidence for you, but it will take a bit of time. For now, perhaps I will leave our dear Captain in charge of you?"




“I’ll see it now,” she breathed, her voice metered even as she considered Zakiriya’s parting words. A warning? Or a desperate appeal? Uncharacteristic as the later was, Bethany acknowledged the frequent necessity of revising her opinions of others.

The more she thought about the situation, the more it appeared liked a petty squabble between rivaling chevaliers. It wasn’t uncommon. Differing personalities tended to clash, just like the representatives of her own council. Despite that knowledge, and her calm outward appearance, a portion of her resented the fact. Here she was attempting to secure their country’s future by establishing trade routes and her own knights couldn’t even keep from each other’s throats. What would she look like if she couldn’t resolve simple internal affairs?

Bethany greeted Fyi’s attention with a measured gaze. No matter what she thought of this farce, she’d observe the appropriate protocols. To do anything less would demean her and Zakiriya. “I’ll let the evidence speak for itself. As you can imagine chevalier Regale, this is a serious accusation,” Bethany said, advancing on Fyi and the Captain with a stoic expression, “Since the nature of this case is no longer private, I intend to uncover the truth of this swiftly.”

“I am the queen of Vallrien, my eyes and ears are everywhere,” she stated, allowing her tone to synchronize with the tension of the room, “As such, I’m certain you’re also aware of the penalty for regicide. It is not a simple death.”




"So..." Cassidy started slowly, gaining Zakiriya's attention just barely as he helped the slightly stumbling knight down the hall.

Whatever had been in that drug was affecting his system on a higher level. He could hardly talk, hardly move and hardly think. Normally, it would have only taken him a few hours to recover from something like a sleeping drought, but this was... very different. The usually graceful and silent footed knight, was stumbling and his footsteps loud across the floor.

"You have nothing to say towards this... accusation? You know, that's going to have Lady Bethany thinking it's true," Cassidy stated as he pulled at Zakiriya's arms to keep him upright, "Good God, can't you walk?"

The room was spinning for him and he finally just gave up and fell sideways, hitting the wall where he braced himself and tried to breathe properly. He looked over to Cassidy who hovered over him with worry and suspicion. Zak shook his head as he took deep, quick breathes of air. After a while, he managed to say a few things to Cassidy and hoped the man would believe him... or trust him enough to do as he was about to ask.

"Untie me... Fyi is..." he ground his teeth, "Don't leave her... Take me back..." one thing was for certain in Zakiriya's eyes. He was going to kill Fyi next chance he got. He could only hope that he could fight well enough to do so.

________________________________________


Fyi's eyebrow lifted, "You want to see it now? Alright, well, if you insist, I can't say no. I'll take you there. And if I may," his gaze shot to the people lingering outside, "I don't wish to further tarnish your knights reputation. Perhaps... just the three of us?" he suggested as he gestured to Bethany, the Captain, and himself.

Once that was settled, he brushed past her and the Captain and started down the hall outside the throne room, leading the way to the barracks.




Cassidy studied the man's desperate expression, his own a mask of incredulous disbelief. "You're asking me to defy Queen Lyon's orders? Based on what?" he asked, realizing belatedly that Zakiriya was hardly in a fit enough state to reply. Part of him suspected now that the knight's clumsiness was not entirely of his own choosing.

Shaking his head, the Sergeant Major stepped aside, distancing himself from the restrained chevalier. He had to resist the urge to glance around the empty hallway, feeling as though the act alone would have incriminated him. The holding cells were located in a separate building outside of the castle and there was still plenty of journey between them.

"I can't free you Kotane. Even if I did and I assume this isn't some plot to escape, you hardly seem like you'd be able to help her anyway," he frowned, adjusting his glasses. Abruptly, the scholar lowered his voice. "Of course, it can't really be helped if you had somehow managed to overpower me, and then in that moment somehow managed to free yourself."

________________________________________


"Certainly," Bethany nodded and then proceeded to dismiss the inquisitive assembly with a wave. There was some confusion as the gathering dispersed, unguided and suddenly without purpose. Some were doubtlessly jubilant to be free of the tedium, even if only briefly. Others would spend the rest of the day guessing as to what happened here.

She then gestured kindly towards the Captain, "After you, Captain."




Zakiriya eyed Cassidy for a while. He was still slouched against the wall, his breathing still erratic. Then the man's voice lowered as he adjusted his glasses. For a moment it didn't register to Zak what the other man was implying. However, once it did, Zak seemed to straighten against the wall. He gave a nod to the man as his gaze flicked from one side to the other in the empty hall.

The young knight pushed himself up to his feet, resting against the wall for a moment before he took a deep breath to try to calm his unsteady body, "Forgive me... I will take responsibility," he said softly.

"And... come quickly, when you can," he said as an afterthought because if anything Cassidy was right about his current state. He could damn well try, but succeeding was going to be an entirely different matter when it came to protecting the Queen. With that said, he rushed Cassidy to slam him into the wall of the hallway.

Once that was done, Zak looked around and when he was satisfied, broke a vase against the table. He paused for a moment, dizzy yet again and concentrated on breathing. His fingers touched the sharpened edges of the vase and he eventually managed to cut himself free from the ropes, but with cuts of his own across his hands and wrists.

Those he ignored and quickly set off down the hall.




Fyi took Bethany down the hall to the barracks, the Captain right behind him and following him was Bethany. The trio came to a slow halt outside the door of Zakiriya's room. Fyi motioned for the Queen to step forward to it as he opened the door, "Excuse the mess it was thoroughly searched," he said as the door was opened for them to see the state of the room. The once tidy room that never had a speck of dust or had anything out of place was a disaster. The bed was over turned, drawers strewn across the room with their contents upended upon the floor.

Fyi allowed the Queen to moved first as he fell behind her. His voice was soft as he spoke to her, "He's so tidy that he keeps everything hidden away fairly well, my Lady. It took quite the search to find what we wanted." Fyi moved rather quickly then. One arm wrapped around her, under one arm and up over to her shoulder. He held her tightly against him as he put cold steel up against her throat.

"I have to admit it was rather easy to get him out of the way. A necessity though seeing as he trails your every step. It took quite a long time to get the timing just right, to catch him without you by his side. He's so damned alert it's such a pain in the ass," he growled and then leaned into her ear, "But that's done now. It's been a... pleasure my Lady," he said in a growl and pressed the knife harder against her throat in preparation to cut.

Fyi let out a howl of pain and rage and stumbled away from her briefly, the knife falling from his fingers. Recovering rather quickly, he hauled her back into his grip and whirled around to see who had thrown that knife that now stuck out of his forearm. He growled, "Damn you... how is it you're still standing," Fyi cursed.

Standing -just barely- at the end of the hall of the barracks, Zakiriya swayed slightly. Fyi glowered at him, "And why are you still armed?" his voice was just above a whisper of anger as he asked this. The dark haired knight ignored him, instead his cold icy blue eyes settled on Bethany, giving her a quick glance over to make sure she was alright aside from being held hostage in Fyi's grip.

He was fairly sure that wouldn't last long though, if he knew his Queen well enough. What was odd, though, was that the Captain did nothing. Fyi's voice snapped through his thoughts, "Kill him,"

Zakiriya's heart seemed to clench tightly in his chest as the large burly Captain turned to him. Zak moved slightly, stumbling again and braced himself against the wall. For a moment his thoughts were simple... this was going to hurt later. Taking a deep breath, he reached into his clothes and withdrew another set of knives. Pushing off the wall he whirled into action, the small projectiles flying through the air with a distinct ringing sound as they went.

The taller Captain drew his sword and moved out of the way of two of the knives, the third deflected by his sword. Zak grit his teeth and took a quick look towards his room. His sword should still be in there. If he could just get inside the room... With that decided he rushed the larger man. Dropping down under the slash, he drew another small knife and slashed out at the Captain's leg. The blade only did a small cut that was sure to just annoy the man. Rising up, his knife caught against the sword and the two struggled for a moment. Zakiriya couldn't hold against the overpowering strength of the Captain.

Throwing his weight, he disengaged from the sword and threw a kick into the man's side, just barely getting him to move to the side. Twisting again, he lashed out, his boot hitting the flat of the blade and sending the weapon into an odd angle. One final twist with the added momentum he'd built up, he slammed the heel of his boot into the man's hand, forcing him to drop the sword now. The large man retaliated with a punch towards Zak's jaw. Moving just barely out of the way, he used his arm to direct the oncoming attack away from him further. Coming in close again, he landed his own punch to the Captain's stomach. A soft grunt came from the larger knight.

Zakiriya was suddenly struggling to breath as a knee crashed into his chest, hands on his back pushing him further down into the attack. The young knight coughed and crumpled to the floor. For the single moment that he lay there, he felt his fatigue catching up rather quickly and wondered if he was even going to make it for very much longer to save Bethany. Hands gripped the back of his shirt and pants and he was suddenly lifted upwards into the air. A sharp breath was the only sign of his shock at the sudden display of power and strength.

The Captain quite literally dragged the smaller knight up and over his head. With a slight running step he turned sideways just enough and threw Zakiriya through the door into his room. Zak shouted in shock and then hit the wall with a sharper cry before crumpling into the ruined bed and rolling to the floor off the mattress. Dizzy and tasting blood in his mouth, Zak started to push himself up. Catching a foot to his chest, he was knocked backwards onto his back. Rolling slightly he got to his hands and knees.

Standing up, he faced the Captain who struck him across his jaw, knocking him back a step. Following that a heavy kick to his chest again and he slammed into the wall where he dropped to his knees, coughing up blood now. His vision swam in and out but as he stared at the floor for a moment, he realized he was staring at the belt that held his sword. Zakiriya coughed again, tasting the coppery warmth of blood still and snatched up the belt in his hands.

The side of the Captains boot connected to his shoulder and he hit the floor, sliding a bit from the force of it. Hearing the heavy blade in his hands scrap across the ground his fingers found the hilt and in one motion withdrew it from the sheath. Zakiriya got to his knees and as the Captain came again for another hit, he lashed out with his sword. The larger man shouted and backed away. Zak got to his feet, the hand holding his sword crackling with white light.

Without a glance to Bethany or any hesitation in the least, Zakiriya lunged forward. His speed was shocking in light of his condition. The weapon lashed out very quickly. Two deep gashes across the man's large chest and then one final thrust straight through his chest. Zakiriya only came to a halt once his blade was deep in the Captain's chest cavity and through his heart. Wrenching the weapon free he watched the man slowly stumble back and hit the wall where he slid down to the floor.

He left the room and located Bethany. Putting himself in front of her, he looked to where Fyi was standing and next to the blonde knight was a woman he had never seen before. She grinned at him as she wrapped a hand around Fyi who seemed to be injured further, "Seems the knight still lives. What a pity," the woman voiced softly.

"It won't matter soon though. You can't stop us all, little Airelian. That woman will die, and you'll join her too," the hall seemed to shimmer as her magic wrapped around herself and Fyi. In the next instant, they were both gone. Zak's breath had been taken by the sheer amount of power that woman had. He trembled slightly and then reached out to steady himself as he was losing his balance again. His hand missed the wall and he instead hit the wall rather hard and dropped to the floor. Shifting around, he moved so that he could face Bethany.

"Forgive me..." he said to her softly as he watched Bethany from his place on the floor.


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Character Portrait: Zakiriya Kotane Character Portrait: Bethany Lyon
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Bethany Lyon





Zakiriya was laid up on something. It was warm, and the feel of it was different. It was probably what woke him. Since when did he fall asleep though? He couldn't really remember. The last thing he remembered, just barely, was killing the Captain and then Fyi after that being swept away by some woman. Finally, asking for forgivness from Bethany. He didn't remember if she'd answered him or not. It was nothing but darkness from that moment.

The young knight turned his head to try to see where he was, half expecting to be laid up in a cell. However, when he didn't see any bars around him, he was slightly surprised... or maybe he was relieved. The room was large, with other beds strewn out across it. Zakiriya recognized it as the healers room, a large ward located near the center of the palace, not far from the Queen's room actually.

Settled with where he was, his next task was to locate Bethany. Unsure of how long he'd been unconscious, or if she was truly alright, his first priority was her. Moving, he pushed himself up feeling a groggy sort of headache attack him, almost as if he'd slept for too long. Tossing the blankets aside, he pulled his body off the bed. He could feel bandages lacing his frame. For a moment he wondered why and tried to remember when he'd gotten injured. Zak ignored it though as things were still a bit hazy.

Sword... he thought groggily and searched for his weapon, which he could not find. A frown pulled his lips and he turned to head for the door.

"And where would you be going?" challenged a voice.

Sitting in the corner of the room, the queen's dark eyes scrutinized him from behind her book's covers. Bethany was resting comfortably in her arm chair, legs crossed, and despite his concerns; was more or less unscathed. "Don't worry, no one's going to attack you here," she stated very matter-of-factly.

Placing the book in her lap, she pursed her lips at the sight of his bandages. Evidently, not much time had elapsed since the incidence in his room for she still wore the same attire she wore then, down to the scattered specks of brown from Fyi's wound. "Rest, or do I have to give you an order everytime you get injured to look after yourself?"

Zakiriya whirled around at the sound of the Queen's voice. His first thought was to kneel, but as she continued he felt as he were being berated... which he probably was. Glancing around the room, he finally settled with a slight inward sigh, reserving himself to just stand there until she finished. Bowing his head to her, he wasn't entirely sure what to say in response. Or if he should say anything at all and just go back to the bed. The knight was still worried though, and with something like that happening so easily, he was even more driven to be at her side.

"My Lady, are you alright?" he asked, turning the conversation and hoping that she didn't avoid it as well and 'order' him. He on the other hand, was quite alright, aside from the headache.

In response to his question, Bethany's expression darkened for the briefest of moments. She always knew people close to her would conspire against her, reminding herself that she shouldn't have been surprised or shocked at the Captain or Fyi's betrayal. Sometimes detaching her emotions was all she could manage to keep reality in check. She willed herself to stay away from that place in her heart, an ebon well of hate and remorse. Willed and failed.

"As you can see, I'm doing quite alright," she smiled, "At the very least, better than you are. You'll be glad to know that your name has been cleared, for the time being."

Time being.... which means I'm still suspected, he looked down to the floor, silence filling the space as he contemplated that. Zakiriya supposed it was only natural. Yet again, he was feeling that same hit to his pride. There was really only one way to fix that though. He would have to be more careful in the furture and show her that he was nothing but loyal to her. Saying it, though, felt as if he were trying to polish something that shouldn't be. Words... just didn't do the trick. He gave her a nod in response.

Zakiriya pulled one hand up and gave her a bow, an elegant one, "My Lady, my life is yours."

She caught herself smirking, his declaration oddly reassuring amidst the turbulence of her own thoughts. "And I'll keep telling you I don't want it. Live for yourself. No one owns the right to any life other than their own," she chuckled, apparently amused by his act of loyalty, "Remember Chevalier Kotane, you're no use to me dead."

Zakiriya straightened, watching her without hesitation, "I live to serve, my Lady, and I will not die so easily," it was a rather presumptious thing to say he was sure, but... after all of the things that had happened so far. It was definitely the truth. His unwavering gaze held hers as he spoke.

"Good," she replied smoothly, matching his gaze. "Life is a precious, frivilous thing."

Satisfied he was alright for the moment; Bethany made to stand, effectively concluding their conversation. There was still much work to be done, and now with the matter of Fyi's treachery revealed, she had a veritable back log of issues to resolve. Claiming her novel, the title flashed quickly before him, reading 'The Known World: Airelia'. "Here, you might find this educational," she said before tossing him the text. "Tell me what you think when you're done."

Zakiriya caught the book deftly, turning it over he eyed the title, an eyebrow lifting slightly. His hands held it as he opened it somewhat gingerly. He wasn't sure he wanted to know. Fear of the contents kept him from turning the pages even more, but he was so curious at the same time. His hesitation was clear as he stood there, eyeing it. Finally he looked up at her, hands closing it, but tucking it under his arm, "Thank you. I will prepare to accompany you," he said softly. He would read the book later, probably that night when he was not busy with her daily duties of running around the palace. Or perhaps in this case, trying to figure out what she was going to do about Fyi and the Captain. He was sure there was going to be a lot of backlash about that.

"Didn't I just tell you to rest?" she mused. The queen sighed eventually, depressing her small shoulders. "Nevermind, if you have enough energy waste you might as well help me out a little. Come, I'll assign you some appropriate tasks. Chevalier Dufrain will take over your duties for the remainder of the day until the situation has calmed."