It was snowing in the capital of Legume. As the snowflakes trickled down, the sound of children laughing and playing could be heard all around the capital. In this joyous atmosphere, there was a place that was markedly silent.
A courtyard with beautiful ornaments should have beautiful people smiling and laughing. However, this courtyard was not an ordinary one. It was the playground of the children of the current King of Legume. Usually, it would be full of laughing, happy children while their mothers sat sometimes at the side looking at the other women with barely concealed disdain.
This would usually be the case but today was not an ordinary day. On this cold, snowing day was the ninth birthday of Cedric Legume, first son of King Frank Legume. This was the day he would be officially retired from childhood and officially become the primary heir of the Kingdom.
Cedric stood in the center of this yard, extensively decorated for his coronation in front of his father who he had only seen three times before in his life. His father looked at him for a few moments before touching him with the ceremonial sword and naming him heir. Later on he would appear in front of the entire court after which he would be sent to a school which would teach him military and governmental matters. He would be remade the perfect heir.
To the side of this event was a young girl of seven years. Her name was Choice and she was the only female child the King had. She had dark hair and dark skin, the darkest of all four children of the king. She looked enviously at Cedric.
“Mama,” she whispered to the dark skinned woman next to her. “When it’s my turn please use silver decorations. I don’t like gold.”
“Choice,” her mother, Queen Sera, replied hesitantly with a strained smile, “I don’t think that’s going to be possible.”
“Why not? Gold decorations look weird. Silver is better. I don’t know why people think gold is better.”
“Darling, gold is considered to be worth more.” Her mother tried to explain the real reason why she had said it was impossible but looking at her daughter’s face she changed her response. “However, I’ll speak to your father about silver.”
“Okay mum,” Choice said, smiling. She felt there was something wrong with what had just happened but she got distracted thinking about the decorations she would have when it was time to be appointed one of the official heirs.
After the coronation, Choice left the palace with her mother accompanied by her bodyguards and some maids. She was a bit sad that her brother was not going to be in the palace anymore but since he’d turned ten, he had stopped playing with her and Seph, her younger brother. Seph’s mother wasn’t hers. He was the child of the second wife, Abigail. To be frank, Seph had stopped playing with her as much as before and Choice didn’t know why. She had wanted to play with Seph after the coronation but his mother had called him to stay with Cedric. So now, she was going to go to Duke Claremont’s house to play with his children.
On the way there, Choice looked out the Kariot to see the children of the capital playing in the snow and throwing ball at one another. She turned to her mother.
“Mama, can I go play in the snow with the others?”
“No,” came the tired reply, “It’s dangerous for you out there. Also it’s cold out there and warm in here. Don’t you want to be with your mum? Don’t talk about going out again”
“Okay mama but…” Choice was replying when suddenly a voice came from above the Kariot.
“Aww, she’s so cute. Why don’t you let her go outside? She really wants to.” Immediately, Sera was on alert.
“Who is that. Guards! There is an intruder here.”
“Oh come on. Royals, you are all just no fun.” Saying that, a blade cut through the roof and a face popped through. Choice looked up the face stunned at the events happening.
“Ah there you are,” the intruder said after seeing her and then smiled. The smile was not a nice one. Choice immediately knew that this person was dangerous.
“Mama,” she cried, frightened.
“It’s okay sweetheart. It’s going to be fine.”
“Oh no,” the intruder interrupted still grinning without abandon, “For you dear child, it’s not going to be fine.” Then he leaped into the Kariot.
‘What the hell are those guards doing?’, the Queen thought.
“If you are wondering about the guards, dear Queen, you really shouldn’t. Worry about yourself first.”
“Oh I am.”
By this time, the Kariot had already stopped. It seemed someone had managed to tamper with the runes that enabled it to move without assistance. Choice could hear the clashing of steel against steel. Outside it seemed was not any better.
Inside the Kariot, the Queen revealed a long staff that appeared from out of nowhere.
“Ah ha. I had heard about you. Sera, the long lived who gave up a life of fame and independence to become a queen of another kingdom. How pitiable.”
“It’s called caring for my nation. I suspect you have no idea what that means. You guys are too bold, causing trouble in the capital of a nation. You deserve punishment.”
“Punishment? Hahaha. You queen are hilarious. Well then. Come. Show me the punishment I deserve.”
“With pleasure,” Sera replied and used her staff to smack him. The intruder blocked and grinned. ‘Pathetic,’ he mouthed. Did she think that that ordinary strike would be enough to block him. He thrust his sword at her but Sera used her staff to redirect his thrust to the roof. As she tried to use the other side of the staff to strike him, he moved back quickly dragging the sword to the roof.
He removed the sword and smirked at her. That was much better. However, in the end he would win and fulfil his purpose. There really was no other outcome to this. Still that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to put up a fight.
Choice watched in surprise as her mother moved the metal staff as if it was another limb. She blocked the thrust of the intruder and replied with a swipe of her own.
A dodge, a swipe, a smack, a parry. Even though Sera’s weapon gave her the advantage of distance, she wasn’t able to prevent the intruder from coming closer to her.
‘I’ve gotten rusty. Also,’ she half turned to look at Choice at the same time using her staff to block of the slash, ‘I can’t stay here long. This Kariot is too crowded.’
Having made a decision, Sera prepared to use her staff to smash open one of the metal walls of the Kariot.
“Choice, when I tell you to run just run and keep on running. Okay?”
“Just do what I tell you. Okay?!”
“Hm. Are the royals planning something? There are always plans upon plans with you guys.”
Sera ignored him and gathered up her energy. She was never good at doing this and was definitely nothing close to using it like the mages. However, it was enough for a brief explosion.
The intruder immediately noticed the build up of aura but he was too late. Sera didn’t need to move to hit a wall with her weapon so she was faster than the assassin. Bang. There was a flash of light and a deafening sound then the wall crumbled.
“Run,” She shouted. At this, Choice immediately jumped down from the vehicle and started running at full speed. Due to this, the assassin was able to land a hit on Sera. While it wasn’t immediately damaging, it wasn’t negligible. It was a gaping cut on her upper arm which was bleeding copious amounts of blood. Sera knew she didn’t have time to wrap it so she used her aura as a makeshift bandage. ‘I have to finish this quickly.’ The intruder tried to chase after Choice but Sera used her staff to hit him on the stomach and send him flying. ‘That should hurt.’
“I’m your opponent. Where’d you think you are going.”
“Ah. I’m sorry. I’ll pay more attention to you. And then I’ll go after you daughter.”
“Talk after you get past me.”
Choice ran as fast as she could. Just as her mother told her. She ran even when she saw people up ahead fighting. Even when she saw the bodies of her guards falling down. Of Linz who’d given her a sweet the day before. Of Tina, one of her favourite carers who was always ready to tell her a tale before bed. So many people fell beside her. But Choice didn’t stop.
Choice had no idea where she was going except that it was away. Away from her mother. Away from the chaos and the bodies and the dead friends. And the knowledge that somehow this was her fault. Sometime during this fleeing, her sandals and clothes got stained with blood. The capital was a river of blood as if the heavens had decided to send plasma to fertilise their crops instead of water.
There was a reasons while magicians were feared wherever they went. Their mystical abilities could and often did cause chaos but there hadn’t been an incident in many years and people had begun to forget how horrific it could be when magic was unleashed maliciously. After that day, the kingdom of Legume would never forget again.
So Choice ran ignoring all the fallen bodies and dead people littered on the ground. She kept on running because she knew she wasn’t safe. She could hear people running after her. Choice ran as fast as she could but she knew that sooner or later. Still she didn’t know what else to do but what her mother said. Slowly her pursuers closed in on her and one almost grabbed her. It was a matter of time before she got caught and then everything would have been for nothing.
Suddenly, someone jumped in front of her. Choice stumbled and fell down after almost hitting this person. She looked up and saw a masked person dressed in dark blue with a rope circling their shoulder. Choice wanted to back away from this person but remembered that there were people chasing her. Then, she started to cry. She cried for her mother and for Tina and for all the dead people and for herself because she had run fast, real fast and she still was going to get caught.
“Ugh, I hate crying kids,” The masked person muttered. “Kid, stop crying. It’s going to be okay.” Perhaps this person was trying to be kind but it didn’t stop Choice from crying. When Choice cried it was like a faucet that had being plugged up for too long and had finally being allowed to flow. It was not okay. It wasn’t going to be okay because her mother had told her to run and she had run but she was still caught and not her mama was going to die.
“Agh. Okay I’ll deal with the pests approaching first. I better get paid well for this.”
Choice would never forget what happened next for the rest of her life. The figure carried her and put her in a container next to them. “Don’t come out until I finish cleaning up.”
This figure turned to the four people approaching and looked imperiously at them.
“Three people against one child is definitely unfair, don’t you think?”
“We have no quarrel with you. Just give us the child and save yourself a lot of trouble,” a muscular tall man yelled.
“I don’t think so. I don’t like doing what other people tell me to do. In fact not only will I not give you the child. I’ll also defeat you guys and you’ll tell me why you have the courage to make trouble in a capital city. So you should probably just give up before I take action”
“You. You think you can actually prevent our mission. We were just being polite. We aren’t asking you. We are telling.” Saying this the four people began to approach Choice and this mysterious fellow that had decided to protect her.
“Hah,” the fellow sighed, “Some people just don’t know how to respond to other people good natured request.” After saying this, the stranger uncrossed both hands and whispered something.
Choice shivered after this and felt cold. It seemed that something had happened that she couldn’t explain.
The attackers laughed at this action. “You want to bluff being a mage,” a woman said, “There are no mages in this rural kingdom.”
And then everyone felt it. Wind. A very heavy wind that had definitely not being there before. The stranger inclined their head and smirked then thrust their hand out.
“Shit,” screamed the aforementioned woman, “That’s magic. Scatter.” All the members of the group moved out of the path of the wind that the figure had just thrown at them and immediately switched their weapons. From this it was obvious that they knew how to fight magic users.
“So you have magic,” the woman continued conversationally. “But you’re not the first one one of those we’ve fought.” Immediately after she’d finished speaking dozens of arrows came from another one of her teammates. It seemed his weapon allowed him to shoot many arrows at the same time.
Choice flinched but the image of the figure being skewered by the arrows did not happen as expected. Instead, they’d caught all the arrows in the air with a smile and then returned the arrows back to sender. The attackers watched stunned at this event apart from one of them who jumped in front of the arrows with a sizeable shield. She was able to block most of the arrows but got hit with some of them and hissed in pain.
The woman who had been speaking earlier looked at her teammate and knew she wouldn’t be of help anymore. She looked at the person who had caused the injury and shook. That was a mage only mages could control elements that easily. They needed to leave immediately. None of them was a match for a mage. She looked at the burly man who nodded and threw a herb on the ground.
Instantly smoke filled the air and Choice heard the sound of feet moving quickly. It seemed that they were running away. Choice felt relieved that it was over although her protector didn’t feel the same way.
“Oh hell no. I didn’t come all the way and waste mana all for nothing.” Saying this, they waved their hands and cleared the smoke. Choice could see the four attackers running as fast as they could. When they noticed that the smoke has been cleared, they started throwing projectiles backwards to prevent the figure from catching up with them. It was all for naught though as the figure deflected all the projectiles to the side.
One of them however, ended up piercing Choice’s cheek and she screamed in agony. Choice had never really being hurt at all as she was the King’s only daughter and thus presumed to be his favourite so everyone in her life had being very careful and gentle with her. The figure turned and held her arms looking at her with worry. T
“Shit. Okay no time for games.” They said and gesturing with one hand, used the wind to bring back the people who had tried to escape. However, they were distracted with dealing with the knife in her face and so couldn’t deal with all of them. The burly man and the talking woman were able to escape. The figure clearly wanted to rise up and catch them but had to settle for getting two of them as they were dealing with her.
“Hang on Choice, help is on the way,” the figure said and removed her mask. Green eyes. Dark hair. Clearly a woman by the shape of the face. “Look at me,” she said, “ It’s going to be fine okay. It’s going to be fine.”
“I’m feeling sleepy,” Choice said and her eyes began to close. As her eyes began to droop, she saw her mother running to her. She had a lot of injuries but she was alive. Ah mama is okay. She’s okay. As she drifted off she saw green eyes and heard a voice telling her to stay awake. She felt really sleepy though and dropped off.