The wind plays over the deserted courtyard, bringing with it the ever growing stench of death and decay. Another kingdom, another graveyard. But among all of this, something stirs.
A little hand clutches the dirt, trembling as pain racks their body, letting out a small groan as they try to pull themselves forward. She crawls over the body of the fallen knight, one eye scrunched half way shut and face twisted in agony. Her eyes widen and a small, terrified cry escapes her lips as she feels a pair of hands grabbing her and rolling her over.
"Ah-aaahh!" she cries as he feebly lifts her arm in preparation of the doom to come.
Her brow furrows as she looks at the two creatures standing above her. One, is the kindly face of an old lady, a small, sad smile appearing on her face. The crows feet, and wrinkles adorning her face tell of many years of hardships, victories, and a great knowledge of the world. Her pale, white eyes have seen true madness and suffering, while managing not to have been completely absorbed by it.
The other, a terrifying image. His eyes appearing red and bloodshot, eyebrows furrowed into what appears to be eternally contorted rage. The black rag pulled up over his face covering his nose, mouth, and whole bottom half of his face. Scars creep up from underneath the rag, crawling up towards his cheeks and the sides of his head, dark hair covering his head, his light bronze skin covered in dirt. His brown cloak tattered and weathered, the metal bracers on each arm as worn and scarred as he is.
"Hello there, child," the old woman says with a voice as sweet as honey, "you poor, poor thing."
She slowly lifts the child up, who cries in pain as her body is racked in agony. The small hole blasted straight through her abdomen still vaguely smoking from the shot.
"I know child, I know." The old woman says as she waves a hand over the wound, "that'll ease the pain for now, but we need to get her proper treatment."
"Then let's hurry up," the man's voice sounds like his vocal cords have been through a cheese grater, "you know they like to come back sometimes."
The man keeps an eye out as the old lady scoops up the child, and they make their hasty escape.
An odd feeling of peace envelops the little girl, and slowly she stirs. The warmth of the fire ahead soothes her, as does the gentle crackling of the flames as more wood is thrown in.
She tries to raise her arms to rub her eyes, and pain courses through her body. She lets out a cry of pain.
"Try not to move too much," the voice of the man, "you should be dead with an injury like that. But I think Lady Geralmine should have you up again in a few weeks."
The man glances back to the child.
"Hmm, can you talk at all?"
"Yes," her voice is hoarse.
"You sound almost as bad as I do," the man says, "let me get you some water."
While he is gone, a large, hulking figure enters the doorway. Half as tall as a man and wide as a bear; a green, slimy…thing walks in. Little white spikes cover its body, it's face contorted and twisted, teeth protruding, a waterfall of drool dripping from its mouth.
As its mouth opens it lets out a low pitched, gurgling sound. The girls eyes widen and she tries to call out. In a moment the man is standing over her, his eyebrows finally peeling up to reveal he actually has more than one facial expression.
"Heh, don't worry about him," he says, "that's Poodle. He's a good….dog, he won't hurt you."
As the little girl sips the water with his help, the man ponders something.
"Is that better? I just realized we don't even know your name yet."
"I'm…Luciana," she manages to squeak out.
"Hmm, my name is Keros," the man says, "nice to meet you."
The girl tries to say more, but Keros raises a hand.
"It's alright, we can talk later. It's probably best if you just rest now."
Just like that, the little girl Luciana, slips back into the realm of sleep.
Malakar enters the halls of his newest kingdom, flanked on either side by Lettic and Bulkar. The large chamber is filled with mercenaries, beast people of all sorts, kings, and down trodden peasants. Their prisoners all kneel on the floor. It seems the Helven have some mercy after all.
"All hail Malakar!" they cry.
"All hail the Helven!" they cry.
"Long live Malakar, our liberator!" they cry.
One man stands, quietly. The contempt written on his face, his arms crossed. As of late the Helven seem to have become bored with complete annihilation, or at least Malakar has.
"King Arius, our newest guest," Malakar says, "will you not bow and swear loyalty to your newest king?"
King Arius raises an eyebrow, before letting his arms fall to his side.
"I've heard of you, Malakar," Arius says, "I'm surprised you haven't just killed me on the spot."
"I've learned, that there is more need for the original inhabitants of this world than mere..play things."
Malakar glances back to Lettic.
"A lesson more of us would be better of learning."
"So what do you want from us?" Arius asks.
Malakar surveys all the prisoners in this very room.
"First, I want your loyalty, then your soldiers," Malakar says.
"And?" Arius asks.
"Tax and tribute, a portion of your crops, and produce us your finest equipment. We will negotiate the details later."
Malakar puts one hand on his chin.
"Hmm, and we'll establish trade with the other liberated kingdoms and communities. In return for your loyalty and effort, you'll have our protection, and my gratitude."
Arius takes a step back, his brow furrows.
"That's it?" he asks.
"As I said, we will work out the details later. But you'll be allowed to run your kingdom however you wish, provided you do as I have asked. Let none say that Malakar ever infringed on his citizens."
Arius looks to the group of his fallen peasants, chancellors, generals, and citizens. This is a much better deal than most others had gotten in the past. But who is this interloper to tell him what to do? He who ruled with a gentle hand, and built this very kingdom from the ground up? Who else can say they went from a life of barbarianism, only to rise to this esteem in so short a time?
He looks once again to all those he used to rule, and would continue to rule. The Helven…thing, Lettic's hand slightly crackles and his hand slightly twitches. The look on his face as he looks over all the prisoners. If he had been in charge, this would have ended much differently by now.
The king's throat visibly bulges as he swallows down his pride, and kneels down.
"Good choice," Lettic says, "I-"
Malakar raises his hand, silencing his underling. With this, Arius recites the oath to his usurper.
The Helven would continue to reign for many years.