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EPISODE 3: THE VENGEFUL KNIGHT
My feet fall silent and quick as I run through a forest. My head is lowered as I dart in-between trees, my arms outstretched behind me. I’m wearing a gray shirt, and a brown cloak that was my father’s. On my feet are black boots. In my right hand I hold my sword, a hand-and-a-half blade, which gleams in the late-morning light. As I run, my dull, orange hair receives pleasant gusts of air, which makes me feel cooler. Nonetheless, it’s warm out, and I am already sweating. I am used to being physically active, but not like this. I have a strong upper-body, and long legs and arms, but I am starting to feel as if I’m not fit for this. I stop running and lean against a tree, panting.
I stare at the grass below me, watching as drops of my sweat fall to the ground like rain. In the Golden Lands, even when it rains the sun still shines. That’s what it means to be the Golden Lands; to always have light. I think back to last sunset, to how dark it was, opposite of what the Golden Lands are meant to be. Is that what the Evil do? Turn what is meant to be light into darkness?
The Golden Lands is one of the Three Worlds in Terra. The other two are the Gray Lands and the Dark Lands. My parents used to say that the Evil came from the Dark Lands, or maybe even from a place beyond there, in a world we didn’t fully understand. I don’t know if I’ll ever know the truth. I find this kind of stuff intriguing; where the strange creatures of Terra come from, and what their worlds are like.
I may not know where the Evil comes from, but I am certain of one thing—in fact, it’s the only reason I’m here in this forest, maybe the only reason I’m still alive. I know that I will do whatever I can to punish and destroy those who do evil. Anyone who does evil I will find, just like the Evil found me. And just like the Evil that found me, so also will I cut down evil, leaving it to bleed out and die.
As I catch my breath, I notice that my necklace has fallen out from where it had been under my shirt. After I woke up this morning, I bandaged my stomach. By morning it had stopped bleeding, and it hurts even now to move. I still don’t know how I survived, but I did, and I’m done contemplating how. Anyway, after bandaging my stomach, I retrieved the necklace; it was a gift Frater and Soror made for me on one of my birthdays. It’s one of the few gifts I’ve received from them. I don’t know why I had the impulse to don the necklace, a mere brown string with a leather pendant, especially since I was in a furious, determined mood. I still wasn’t sure if my siblings meant anything to me, but I decided that I would go after them, at least to punish the Evil that captured them and almost killed me.
I raise my head after a few moments and look at my surroundings. This forest is wide and spacious, with no bushes or briars, but many rocks. The trees are of different kinds, but generally with the same qualities; they are all very tall, with their first branches appearing very high above the ground. Some are thick, with knots running up their trunk; others are thin and smooth, reflecting the yellow-tinted light. The leaves of the trees are impressively large, and consequently the ground is covered almost entirely with shade. Spots of pretty, serene light illuminate the ground at infrequent, irregular wherever the ceiling of foliage possesses an opening. Ahead of me a hill slowly climbs upwards; to my left the ground is flat; to my right it descends towards a rocky, open area. I love the open space, the color of the light, and the scent of the reinvigorating, fresh air. I have missed too much of this. My thoughts turn to my siblings playing in the middle of our sitting room floor, depressed and disgusting. I think of how they held me back from experiencing the world. I snort.
A moment later, I hear someone snort, in a way very similar to the way I just did. Cautious, I peek out from around the tree I was leaning against. My expression goes from curious-caution to enraged-hatred. Two Evil stand at the bottom of the depression to my right. On the ground between the two Evil is a man with a hole in his stomach, and the ground beneath him is wet with blood. I grip my sword and think, “So just like they did to me they’ll do to this man? At least they finished him off!” Crying out, I rush at the two Evil from behind my tree.
In the Golden Lands, there are three races of rational beings; Virus, Femina, and Malam, otherwise known as Knight, Beloved, and Evil. Knight is comprised of all the men of the Golden Lands, Beloved all the women, and Evil—as you might have guessed—all those who do evil.
I have never really known what it means to be a Knight; I’ve heard that it has to do with honor and courage and, at its highest level, great magical powers. I’ve never really believed in the latter of those three characteristics of what it means to be a Knight, but perhaps I am living the former two. Punishing these two Evil for their crime with death is surely an act of honor and bravery.
The beasts raise their swords and grunt with alarm. I clash only once with the first of them, holding my sword with two hands, and then I slice off his arm. I grin at my success as he cries out, a look of surprise on his face as he sees his arm fly away from his body. The second Evil strikes at me, and he drives me back; I instantly register that he is more ferocious than his companion. I am already tired, both physically and mentally worn by almost dying and then sprinting throughout the lands. Consequently, my level of confidence and determination almost plummets completely.
I block a blow for my left shoulder, then a cut for my right side, and then I stab. The beast is shorter than me, so my blow flashes for his head. He flicks his head to the side, and I only scratch him, blood running down his temple. He retaliates, still charging me, and he uppercuts in a massive, two-handed strike. I swing with all my might to meet the attack coming for my right side, but my feet are poorly positioned. I stop the sword but get knocked off my feet.
I grunt, feeling my stomach flare with pain, and I stagger, trying to both get away from the Evil and get to my feet. He runs after me. For a moment, fear replaces my hatred, and I think, “What am I doing? I don’t know how to fight!” I duck as I hear the beast grunt, and I feel a rush of air as his sword whirs over my head. He grunts again, and then again. I stoop lower as I crawl away, feeling the blade of the Evil sail over me each time, barely missing me.
Ahead of me there is a tree. I scamper towards it faster, and just as the beast lunges for me I spring forward, wrapping my arms around the tree. My momentum carries me around to the opposite side of the tree, narrowly escaping the beast’s attack. I don’t know how I am going to survive. I’m beginning to panic—maybe I should just run. There’s a blur of black movement, and the beast suddenly appears around the tree. He is fixed on killing me, on catching his prey.
I tense, raising my sword, when all of a sudden the Evil trips over one of the tree’s roots and falls toward me. Almost instinctively, I extend my sword, and he sinks into it. I falter for a moment, surprised at my abrupt victory, perplexed at my luck. Then I smile grimly as I see where my blow has landed; in the Evil’s stomach. I pull my sword free, and the beast grunts in pain.
I stare at him, the disgusting, cruel Evil, as he lays on the ground dying. His blood pools beneath him, and as I watch I think, “I must have looked just like that. Bleeding out. Helpless.” I watch the beast grow pale, my face impassive; the Evil begins to huff and sputter on the ground, but my heart feels no remorse. “Good,” I think as I watch him convulse and choke. “He deserves to die in the manner which his kind kills.”
It takes all of my patience not to beat and cut the Evil until he is a mere pile of flesh. The more I watch the beast with grim satisfaction, the more my hatred grows. He is ugly. He is pathetic. He is cruel. He is evil. But I control myself; I remain honorable. I may not be merciful, but I am not gruesome; I am not one of them.
Hefting my sword, I walk away from the beast. I am proud of myself. I killed two of the Evil today, one dying as blood flows from his arm, another from a hole in his stomach. Perhaps this is what it means to be a Knight.
And as I delight in my victory and their slow, well-deserved deaths, I know now, without a doubt, that this is only the beginning.
TO BE CONTINUED…