“Kill them all.” Queen Eris of Alderrfrost commanded in a voice hauntingly sweet to her Dark Knights as they stood in her great hall. Her long pitch hair was pulled and twisted into two curled horns, and her gold crown encrusted with blood rubies and affixed with deadly points sat in the center. Queen Eris’ reptilian green eyes were lined in midnight charcoal, and her full mouth stained red. A black bodice offered up her milky pale cleavage and cinched tight her tiny waist. Her obsidian skirt slipped over her ample hips and down to her ankles with a slit revealing one well-toned leg. Black shoes with lethal looking silver heels rested on the back of one of her slave men. She sat regally in her ivory throne made of the skulls of animals and humans alike that had tried to destroy her, disappointed her or just were around when she lost her temper. Several ravens settled around her throne waiting to deliver messages on parchment made of dried flesh or exact mini revenge by blinding people. She pointed her scepter, made from the bones of the previous king, at the leader of her Dark Knights, Cedrych Ern, and demanded, “Bring me their heads as proof.”
The 13 of them moved as one unit from her great hall and out into the village all dressed identically in onyx from head-to-toe: leather tunics, chest plates over chain mail, and leather pants tucked into knee-high boots all in the same hue. Helmets covered their faces, and they were all roughly the same height and build as to make it hard to discern who was who. Silver broadswords strapped to their backs, and various other daggers hid throughout their uniforms. The Dark Knights were ready for battle of all kinds.
As the Dark Knights passed in two lines of six--with Cedrych at the head—through the village, most of the villagers ran inside their homes. The Dark Knights could be just passing through the village on a mission, or they could be coming for death.
The village in The Kingdom of Alderrfrost held roughly 800 people. Most of them were farmers, descended from farmers and raised their children to be farmers. Each family had a cordoned off section of farmland to themselves, but they traded goods and supplies freely by delivery or picking up. The Alderrfrosteans grew wheat, barely, corn, chickpeas, potatoes, and grapevines.
Domesticated cows and chickens were raised for food, and some of the bulls were trained to pull plows as only the Dark Knights were allowed horses. Sheep were raised and then sheared to make wool for their clothing.
A cluster of tradesmen existed as well—blacksmiths, carpenters, ironworkers, bricklayers, tailors and bakers. They set up shops grouped together at the end of the village before the farmland.
Portions of everyone’s goods, whether food or trade work, was picked up weekly by Queen Eris’s appointed Master Trader in a large wagon pulled by an exceptionally huge workhorse. He wore a black-plated mask with slits for his eyes and almost never spoke. An ominous presence, although he never caused harm himself. If anyone was short on supply, he sent a dark knight or two to take care of business. The villagers were rarely short.
Houses were made from scavenged bricks and chopped wood from the forest and outlying villages beyond their own that the Queen had order burned down. They came in all different colors and sizes, so that none of the houses looked alike except in the way they were built. All had perfectly squared-off edges, were two stories as to accommodate more people, and included a basement for storage and hiding from the monsters. A chimney rose from each roof, usually pouring smoke every evening for dinner and then in the winter from fires.
The Dark Knights filed out to the edge of the village.
Farmers in their fields paused what they were doing to stare at the Dark Knights in abject fear.
Cedrych could hear their sighs of relief as the Dark Knights passed by and a twinge yanked through his heart. Queen Eris ruled with terror, and Cedrych understood the logistics of that, but it didn’t mean sometimes he didn’t feel bad that his mere presence caused such reactions. Most of what the Dark Knights did was good for the people: protecting them from outsiders and deadly creatures.
Although his thoughts were tender, they never broke his carved marble-like face even under his helmet. The result of a need for a stoic countenance beat into him for years as a child.
The knights passed quickly through the elaborate labyrinth they traveled by auto-pilot and the next two towns until they reached Aelvale.
Elara Redd was just a small bundle of squeaks and cries when Cedrych Ern first found her.
Queen Eris had sent him and the rest of her Dark Knights on a quest into Aelvale to kill one of the packs of werewolves that had been terrorizing all the nearby kingdoms. Since Queen Eris’ takeover 19 years ago, she had been eradicating the werewolf threat, but new packs seemed to form all the time. Her kingdom feared her—as they should—but they also felt safer behind the walls of her intricate labyrinth. The Dark Knights were implemented almost immediately and carried out some of her darkest whims. However, the most horrifying things she reserved for her own pleasure. Her chamber and its nearest halls were known as Kokino Thantos—Red Death-- for a reason.
When the Dark Knights arrived to Elara’s blue clapboard house nestled among the trees, they found the pack.
All four of them were matted with blood from their kill as they exited the house. They all were varying shades of brown and their eyes a myriad of green. Fangs glistened as their jaws snapped in warning. They growled as they moved towards the knights.
Cedrych held up his left hand and the rest of the Dark Knights stilled around him.
The youngest of the pack of werewolves lunged forward and aimed at the nearest man’s throat.
It then became a bloody blur of swords, claws, daggers and fangs.
After a violent but successful battle, Cedrych crossed the wrap around wooden porch entered the house after hearing Elara’s cries in the silence.
The once cheery yellow walls were splattered with blood. Claw marks slashed pictures of various animals and raked through wooden tables. Past the overturned lamps and ruined flower patterned couch, lie two forms barely discernable as dead bodies.
Cedrych knelt down beside the two. His blonde braid swung down as he looked closer at their faces. “Oh, Drake.” He sighed, recognizing a childhood friend and his wife, Eleanora “My old friend, I’m so sorry.” They were friends before he went off to join the Dark Knights and serve The Queen. Drake Redd had saved his life when a werewolf attacked their tent as kids. A manipulation of fire came in handy against the beasts. Cedrych’s lightning control came a little later.
A tear slid down his right cheek and he closed his slate gray eyes in a moment of silence.
He grabbed a blanket off the upside down armchair and covered them both.
The cries from the next room grew louder and he left to find their source. Cedrych came upon a door with slashed marks and a freshly broken lock. Beyond the door he saw a nursery with soft pink walls and white furniture. The pink curtains, pictures and stuffed animals were all in a butterfly theme. In the white crib against the far wall, he found a tiny baby girl. Cedrych must have interrupted the werewolves from finishing.
The girl’s kiwi green eyes went wide when she saw him and her cries quieted. Soft tinsel silver hair circled her head like a tender halo.
Cedrych’s heart melted. Perhaps it was the innocence and goodness radiating through that baby’s eyes that sealed his own undoing. It would have been easier to give her a quick and painless death; surely it would have paid off the debt owed to her father. Instead, he raised her as his own, vowing to himself to always protect her and keep her secret.