(Note: I am Canadian, I use Canadian spelling. It is a weird hybrid of American and British.)
Also, edited by Emily and Charlotte. She is fantastic. I LOVE YOU WOMANS.
Also, edited by Emily and Charlotte. She is fantastic. I LOVE YOU WOMANS.
The last lights finally flickered and went out. Only the dim street lights were left on as the night passed peacefully.
Shadea Hain maintained his brisk pace as his eyes flickered from corner to corner of the dark and empty streets. The night was late, both moons were clearly visible in the night sky. The view from the High City was impeccable as always. From this vantage, the young Parah’Kni Commander could see the Monument.
The massive fortress that served as the headquarters of the Union floated lazily above the High City. It was metal and cone shaped, point turned downwards with several slender towers protruding from the top. It lay directly in the center of the city, to serve as a reminder to all of its station. Dozens of rivers, some massive and others small, flowed out from the Monument and filled the canals.
These canals started at the top, in the high city. But eventually they would fall to the Main City, and from there they would branch out and drop to the Lower City. Finally they would flow out and irrigate the farms that surrounded the massive city that was called Vurosis. The pure water that sustained the people of all castes was just one symbol of the Contract; a blessing from Kara’Haku that allowed continued existence.
Shadea halted suddenly and raised his hand; the dozen or so shapes that followed him in the dark halted as he continued on alone. At only twenty-three, it was a wonder the Commander had made it as far as he had. True he had come from the Coh’Na caste, but his family was gone now. All that was left was a tall and handsome man, with shoulder length black hair that was now tied back in red ribbon, framing his slender face and dark brown eyes. The power armour he wore did not inhibit him; it was meant to boost. It was dark in colour with many plates overlapping each other. A few lights glowed dully, displaying the fact that it was mechanical armour build by the Contract for Parah’Kni such as himself.
Armour like this was awarded to a Parah’Kni upon reaching the position of Squire. Each set of armour started off looking like it was mass produced, within a few years of service, each warrior would often add new pieces and parts. A Parah’Kni’s armour was more than just protection, it was a unique piece of art which served as a way of expressing themselves. He decorated his own simply, with a half-cape that covered only his left shoulder. The dark fabric went all the way down to his waist, he had brushed it to the side so it wouldn’t inhibit him.
Shadea continued to the end of the street alone; hand on the fully sheathed sword that was attached by a strap to his left hip. The black handled sword was single edged and slightly curved, it had a circular hand guard and fabric that wrapped around the hilt, the sword was unique. Although there were many swords designed in the same way, Shadea had crafted this particular blade with his own hand, he felt a special bond to it, it completed him like a limb he had never possessed before, an extension of his soul itself. Of course such a weapon had a name, but the Parah’Kni hadn’t shared it, such a thing could only be known by him, like a pet name between lovers.
It was truly a wonderful night, the numerous street lights reflecting off of the glass buildings of the High City. Having been built for Coh’Na, the buildings were most often tall, with excellent architecture and artistic merit. However, each building looked different and unique, kind of like how no two people ever looked the same. This was because every one of these had been built by a different person.
Shadea was also unused to the obvious Southern influence in the architecture. The buildings were less elaborate than the most other districts, instead built to display strength and power. As such, they were taller than in the West, thicker as well, built with stronger material such as brick or concrete. The closer to the center of the district, the smaller the buildings became as they gave way to less lavish structures. Now they were made up of shops and various other businesses that housed Ji’No.
Reaching the end of the cobblestone street, Shadea’s eyes peered quickly down either side of the splitting walkway. The area was completely deserted and safe to allow his master to pass through. Satisfied Shadea returned to his awaiting comrades.
“See anything Shadea Reshi-Hain’Kni?” Krez Ravineil asked quickly. He was Shadea’s current master, the one whom his Contract bound him to.
“No, Krez Seinta-Ravineil’Na” Shadea replied formally, as he always did. Krez was a young, stocky man in his late teens. The short curly hair that decorated his less-than-average face was cut neatly as per tradition. The well trimmed vest and dress shirt were comfortable as well as practical for a noble, as per Western tradition.
“I see.” Krez sneered; he was often impolite to his servants and his vassals.
“Krez Seinta-Ravineil’Na,” Shadea spoke up quickly, his tone held firmness but remained completely docile. “If I may insist, we should head back before we are discovered. We have come far out of our district; the Oordiri will not remain idle.”
Krez only shrugged in response and replied. “Well if that happens then it is your job, to protect me, is it not Shadea Hain’Kni?” the words cut, but Shadea held his composure. The exclusion of a formal honorific was a verbal sign that Krez was displeased with him.
“As you wish, Seinta,” Shadea replied quickly. He was surprised at his own words. True it was still correct only to use an honorific when addressing the Heir, but it was still distinctively less formal than he would normally use. Krez only nodded quickly and turned away as Shadea brought up his right hand in a Western style bow.
“I’ll be behind the troops. Press forward, we will get to the bottom of this tonight!” Krez waved his right hand and disappeared into the crowd of militia that stood waiting. The Parah’Kni shook his head quickly; he had no place to be so rude yet it came out so easily.
“Miri-Shadea, are you okay?” Synra asked as she stepped away from the line-up of her fellow Parah’Kni. The young woman always preferred to use the less formal Bureaucratic language: To many she came off as blunt.
“Yes, I am,” Shadea said coolly. Synra Tan was of the Re’In caste, yet this hadn’t stopped her from achieving status as a Parah’Kni Warlock and shedding her old Kana. With twenty Journeys since she was born, she was strikingly beautiful even in her full armour, which had been customized to suit her needs, she decorated it with a long dark sash, which was wrapped around her waist and draped to the ground, she wore her heavy robes with long sleeves and a hood, it dragged on the ground behind her. While Shadea’s armour was sharp and angular, hers was round and curved in places, it was feminine yet still practical, protecting her fully.
She was short in stature and quite voluptuous; her soft features were decorated by long auburn hair and deep blue eyes. In her right hand she held her focus spear, a weapon that would allow her to use her abilities to their full strength, the long dark shaft was much taller than her, and decorated with bright scarves wrapped around it and left to flow in the wind. In her other hand, which rested lazily at her hip, was her helmet.
Behind Synra stood the six other armoured Parah’Kni, that came as an escort, this included Koro the oldest of the squad. At twenty-six-Journeys, Koro Viz had become one of the most accomplished Medics of House Ravineil. Her honey-coloured hair was kept short as per Western fashion and seemed to add to the warm smiles and motherly disposition she always gave off. In combat she kept her submachine gun close and would only charge to help take care of the wounded.
Koro eyed Shadea, not saying a word. She held her usual look of concern, it was likely that she would be pestering him about his emotional state later. It was obvious this situation was unfavourable to Shadea. Koro stepped forward, quickly followed by Bu-un.
Bu-un Maynor was the biggest of them all, unsurprising considering his role as the squad’s sole Instigator. His wide jaw and scarred face added to his façade as a front line combatant, willing to cleave through any number of enemies with his large two handed sword. Off the battlefield he was talkative, especially when drunk, and had a distinct weakness for women.
Unlike the rest of them, he had added more plates to his armour, making it appear much bulkier and square shaped. The thicker armour would provide better protection, even going as far to include wide pieces of metal emerging from his chest, shoulders and back. They were raised high enough to touch his chin, they served as a blast shield that would protect his neck.
Bu-un held his usual wide grin, happy for the possible danger they faced. He walked with Koro; although the two of them often argued, they were good friends and depended on one another. That connection was sometimes worrying for the Parah’Kni leader, who had to work hard to get them to cooperate in their early days of working together. However, constant drilling had pressed the fact that they were a team above all else, not individual warriors as many people romanticized of the Parah’Kni. Bu-un glanced back at Silvin, his eyes lingering slightly, the young woman was quickly pushing through the rest of her comrades to get beside Synra.
Silvin Stiera, who had lived seventeen Journeys, was possibly the most overconfident person Shadea had ever met. She laughed at everything including her own jokes, and would often argue that her good looks-which included green eyes and brown, braided hair-could get her anywhere her weapon couldn’t. Unlike most Duellists, who often preferred slim blades for the purpose of speed and finesse, Silvin carried a falchion, a long, curved two handed sword that had a hilt half as long as the blade. Although seemingly unwieldy, the girl used it like a weapon of grace and caught her enemies off guard.
As usual, she dragged her comrade Harper alongside her. He was the same age as her and since they were both Squires they would often do things together. However, due to her aggressive nature, she would bully the shy boy into helping her with her whims.
Shadea smiled to himself. Harper Vaziz was docile as ever. Coh’Na born, with plenty of Kana, the seventeen Journeys old Architect was a vital corner stone of the team when defence was vitally needed. The short sword and pistol he carried were not his primary focus, but the young light-haired man was capable of killing as well.
Harper looked around nervously; unlike most of them, he was mindful of his surroundings as well as the danger of the situation. Unlike most warriors, he seemed to prefer the peaceful route when it came to combat. Many would have seen this as cowardly, however, Shadea knew that the young Squire would be firm when the situation required it. Harper let out a small yelp when he realized that Ceviliz stood behind him, looming and silent, finally deciding to make his way into the light.
Ceviliz Quiri remained quiet and in the rear, a habit that came from his training as a Stalker. He kept his helmet on at all times, its red mechanical eyes glowing dully beneath the hood of his dark robes. Beneath that, the young, handsome man with dark skin was constantly observing his surroundings. In his hands he held a rifle with an attached scope, very high quality and the least primitive gun they could find him. With it, Ceviliz could kill a man from unheard of distances. The long knife on his hip was not for show either; the Stalker could not be counted out in close combat.
Ceviliz tilted his head towards Harper, who stilled eyed his own comrade with distrust. Rather than fading into the darkness like he usually would, he stood with the rest of them, knowing when to come to a halt when Shadea wanted them gathered.
Shadea looked over his trusted Parah’Kni. They were all great warriors in their own right, chosen for their specific skill sets. As every Commander knew, having too much of the same would result in disaster, you needed someone for everything. The warriors looked back at him with their various mannerisms. Controlling their temperaments had been the true test of leadership, making them a team worth watching. Finally, Shadea’s gaze fell upon the young Squire most like himself.
Off to the side, looking uncertain, was young Izhan Dahz. Standing a little shorter then Shadea himself, the newest Parah’Kni in the squad was handsome with dark brown hair and light blue eyes. Confident, yet not overly so like Silvin, Izhan had a strong sense of justice. Anything he felt was worth doing was done without hesitation. On his left hip was a sword like Shadea’s own, but behind his back, on his belt were two duelling pistols-weapons he had proven to be more fond of. Yet most unsettling of all was the sheer amount of Kana Izhan had. He was not Coh’Na, yet he had more than Harper and almost as much as Shadea himself. The difference being that Shadea had trained for years and increased his Kana, whereas this boy was just starting. He only held access to one Gate, after all.
Shadea turned around and continued down the street as his squad continued to talk quietly. He would have preferred stealth, but Krez had ordered the Parah’Kni and the thirty or so militia who followed to act casual. It was odd, they were clearly in the wrong, yet the young heir expected them to act entitled.
“Why are we even on this walk?” Bu-un asked no one in particular. Shadea jerked his head to his right, Krez was walking alongside him and ignoring the talk behind them.
“It is not our place to ask such questions, Bira-Maynor,” Koro responded.
“We have no right to reject it,” Silvin interrupted. “But we can question it all we want! For example, why am I not ready for the assessment yet? I’m sick of being a Squire, I’m ready to be a full Parah’Kni!”
“Calm down,” Synra said to her Squire. Silvin was her best friend as well as her student. “Why can’t you be more like Yumi-Izhan or Yumi-Harper? They don’t mind waiting on Miri-Shadea’s orders.”
Silvin snorted in response and said.“Bira-Dahz’Kni is ready like I am. Harper-Nia isn’t!”
“Hey!” Harper cried out, flustered by the rude title bestowed upon him by Silvin.
“Quiet kids, seriously,” Koro broke out. “If you act like a Squire, Yumi-Silvin, how can you expect to be promoted to a full Parah’Kni?”
Silvin shrugged and responded briskly. “Based on my skills alone.”
“As long as it’s not your looks,” Synra said, giggling.
The two young women broke out into quiet laughter as the entire group pressed deeper into Oordiri territory.
After a moment Izhan spoke up for the first time. “Because, Miri-Maynor, we are going to catch the criminals.” Everyone’s face darkened. This was a heavy matter not worth joking about. In series of mysterious fires, many people in all levels of the city had died within Ravineil territory.
Now that the fires had switched over to Oordiri territory, Krez had dragged his Parah’Kni vassals and a small regiment of militia in the hopes of discovering the truth behind the incidents and solving it himself. He did this partly out of pride, but also because the young heir had fallen out of favour with his mother recently.
“Exactly!” Krez added gleefully. “And once we do that, I’m sure Mother will overlook this!”
Suddenly Ceviliz spoke up. “Shadea Shino-Hain,” he said in his usual drawl. “I know we are being watched.”
“Indeed,” Shadea said as he raised his right hand and balled it into a fist, signalling everyone to stop. He turned around and looked at Synra. “They know our location, Synra Shiana-Tan’Kni. Find them.”
“Wait!” Krez cut in. “If she is about to do that, wouldn’t that give away our position?”
“Not exactly, Krez Seinta-Ravineil’Na,” Harper replied. “A general idea of where we are, but to be more specific, they would have to use Anu.”
“I didn’t ask you,” Krez hissed. Harper reeled back a bit from the outburst.
“He is right Krez Seinta-Ravineil,” Shadea interrupted, nodding his head to the young Squire. “And besides, they already know where we are. Do it, Shiana.”
“Yes, Miri!” Synra smiled as she closed her eyes.
Shadea felt the familiar sensation of the hair on the back of his neck sticking up as Synra opened her first Gate. As a Herald, he could sense when anyone within a certain distance opened Gates, this sensation amounted to a vague feeling of the general direction of the other Herald. Synra being this close and using her abilities stood out like a beacon in his mind.
Eventually, the sensation loosened as she shut off her Kana flow and closed the Gate.
Opening her eyes, Synra said. “A group of Parah’Kni and militia smaller in numbers than we are just around that corner.”
Everyone put their hands on their weapons as a group of armoured figures rounded onto the street. They were followed by their own group of militia, men and women also wearing metal armour and holding bows or spears.
“Hold up,” Shadea firmly told his men. They all lowered their hands from their weapons and their group of militia backed off slightly.
“Oh, wonderful,” Krez sneered. “Oordiri watch dogs here to spoil our fun.”
“This is a serious matter, Seinta,” Shadea whispered as the group of Oordiri split into ranks and allowed two figures to walk through.
The first was a young woman, somewhere in her early twenties. She had long black hair which she let flow well past her shoulders. Her face was rather round but pretty, displaying her amber eyes. The Coh’Na woman’s clothing matched the current fashion of the South, where House Oordiri resided. This included a low-cut blouse that hung off her shoulders and displayed the extensive amounts of henna markings that took up a large portion of her chest, a short skirt that fit snugly around her ample hips and long leather boots. The people of the South valued the body above all else, thus her outfit celebrated her advantages. Synra was also from the South district and dressed very similar when out of uniform.
“Well, well, well,” the woman dragged out, coming to a firm stop. She placed her left arm under her breasts, sticking her right thumb against her henna marks, emphasizing them.
Upon closer inspection, Shadea could tell that they displayed the fact that she was already betrothed and was to be married within three months. “It seems like a few stray rats have scurried out from the West district and found themselves in an unfamiliar place.” She smiled, her smoky eyes drifting from Krez to Shadea to the rest of the men before returning back to Shadea. “I wouldn’t mind if some of you remained.” Suddenly, her voice became clear and hostile. “But the rest can leave.”
The armoured Parah’Kni that had followed her was fairly tall with wide shoulders and hips. Shadea could barely tell it was a woman because of her heavy robes and the hood and helmet she wore.
“There are places I would rather be,” Krez said slowly, his eyes going over all the Oordiri soldiers who were now only a few paces away. “Yet in my nightly stroll I happened to get lost, and found myself in the less than desirable South district. In the home of harlots, like you Key Zandi-Oordiri’Na.”
The silence that fell was only ended by the hostile giggle that Key let out. Shadea could feel a cold bead of sweat going down his face. Krez had just politely insulted the heiress of the Oordiri.
“Aren’t you pathetic!” Key sneered. “House Oordiri is in higher standing than House Ravineil! How dare you address me as your equal.”
Shadea glanced over at the Oordiri Parah’Kni. There were only five of them in total, but they were now restless and ready for a fight after the insult Krez had directed at their heiress. Yet the lead Parah’Kni was staring directly at him, her expression hidden by the mechanical mask. On her left hip was a double-edged long sword; while behind her back was the handle of what looked like an axe.
“Stand aside, Key Zandi-Oordiri,” Krez said, his lips curling into a smile. “I have a walk to finish.”
Key responded with a pout, yet her eyes were blazing. “I should punish you right now. When I heard from my scouts that Krez Ravineil was in Oordiri territory without permission, I thought to myself: How can I milk this for what it’s worth? And although you are not worth very much yourself, false Heir, your humiliation will bring me some form of gratification!”
Krez bit his lip in response and looked to Shadea. “I can hardly stand this bitch in court, I rather not drag this out any longer.”
“I clearly heard that,” Key interrupted as her gaze fixed on Shadea, she added.“Why do you choose to be such a little man’s vassal? You could come be a Parah’Kni for Oordiri.” She licked her lips and finished, “I could find many uses for you; it would be preferable to watching a little boy on his walk.”
Krez’s hands curled into fists as he went to take a step forward, but he stopped composed himself and replied. “You may choose to insult my House and my own being by trying to proposition me. But I assure you, House Ravineil is favoured by Kara’Haku and it is shown through our Parah’Kni and our contracts.”
“If you are so great, why are you lower than us?” Key snapped.
“A simple misunderstanding.” Krez snapped his fingers as the Oordiri militia drew their bows and the Parah’Kni unsheathed their various weapons.
“Oh my,” Key said quietly. “It seems like you are instigating a fight. Many good men and woman could die this way if we aren’t careful.”
“Then why don’t we make this simple and solve this dispute right now?” Krez grinned.
“What are you saying, little man?” Key responded quickly.
“I’m saying we leave this up to the Contract. My best Parah’Kni versus yours.”
Key reeled her head back and let loose a small laugh before her eyes locked onto Krez. “You’re serious aren’t you? You think that a Parah’Kni of Ravineil can match that of one of the Four Great Houses? Fine, I’ll humour you.” She clapped her hands. “Fairez-Fuara, I task you with cutting down this fool’s best Herald.”
“As you wish, Key-Fuara.” The female Parah’Kni who had flanked Key stepped forward. A sSuire scurried up behind and received her robes as she removed them and stood by idly.
“Shadea Reshi-Hain’Kni, take her out,” Krez said to Shadea as he backed away slowly. Synra shot him a worried look as Harper stepped forward and handed him his helmet.
The helmet like other Parah’Kni helms would fully encompass his head, it had dark narrow eyes made of a thick glass that would glow red, crossing over them like eyebrows was a sharp V shaped crest, the face was smooth, with vents where his mouth would be.
“I accept my Seinta’s challenge,” Shadea said as he stepped closer to Fairez. The onlookers wisely backed off.
“So…” Fairez added as she removed her helmet. Her pretty face was framed by black hair that was cut short but long enough to form curls past her ears, the curls were decorated with several long braids that varied in length from past her shoulders to chin length. Her amber eyes matched Key’s, yet held an extra degree of danger to them. “I think you are the most handsome thing I have ever had to kill.”
“I agree,” Shadea responded as he smiled coolly. “Don’t expect me to go easy on you just because you have good taste in men.”
“These eyes have never served me wrong.” Fairez batted her long dark eyelashes quickly. “And sadly, I will have to end this quick just to make a fool out of that man whom you serve…why don’t you take my dear cousin’s offer and serve us woman of the Oordiri instead.”
“Unfortunately, I am honour bound… hopefully, there will be room for that in the next life.”
Fairez let out a small giggle as she stepped closer and looked up at Shadea’s eyes.
“I am Fairez Oordiri’Kni. It is an honour to face such a polite gentlemen.”
“I am Shadea Hain’Kni. It is an honour to attempt reuniting a beautiful woman’s Kana with her family’s.”
The two warriors nodded as they stepped back from each other, seven paces as per Parah’Kni code. Shadea pulled his helmet over his head, careful to tuck his hair into it.
Finally, fully armoured, both of them drew their weapons. Shadea drew his single edged sword while Fairez drew her long sword in her right hand and the long-handled axe in her left.
Taking their stances and readying themselves, the two warriors waited four heartbeats before they charged at each other.