Today was 13th of Month of Snowflakes. The second day when Colonel Reggie's men come to harass and loot the town of Cainshire. and today was also the breaking point of the Roberts household.
The Roberts household was one of the few households in the town of Cainshire which wasn't a slave family or fishermen. Before the Disaster, Roberts family was a pretty wealthy, well-known and well-reputed in Cainshire. They were once an adventurer family who had settled in the calm town in desire of peace and ever since then, they took up a blacksmithing and petty business in the town. The head of the family, Lyon Roberts wasn't any good with a furnace but it was enough to fix fishing nets, simple household equipments and others and being an adventurer, he was a master at fixing things up. Additionally, for some strange reason, there wasn't much carpentry or furniture in Cainshire, making his life easier on him. Along with that, the meagre taxes, friendly neighborhood, good merchants and a very good in-land water trading made Cainshire the ideal town for himand he with his 15-members household, there weren't anything which they couldn't complete in time.
But after the Disaster, it all changed. Being one of the most wealthiest people in the town, Roberts family was the first to be hit by the raiding soldiers. Right after the first raid, their house was left in shambles and disarray. Most of their furniture were broken, their antiquities stolen and their sons conscripted. The family was hit hard and were left to their death, but Lyon, the head of the family wasn't disheartened.
He went to the Cainhorn Castle to seek justice but was disappointed to know the truth of the situation. All the other people who went with him, were disheartened and in despair, but he wasn't. He was an optimistic person and tried to make the most out of the bad situation. He tried to use his lost adventuring skills like waxing his enemies with a honeyed tongue, bribing people and working extra hard, the basic traits of every ordinary adventurer, to keep himself and his family afloat. And like that, he was able to keep his family intact for 19 whole months.
On the 19th raid, his family was hit again by the raiding soldiers. These soldiers, unlike from the previous raids, were conscripts from Cainshire. Knowing this, Lyon was happy for a moment but then he was dismayed to know that these conscripted soldiers were none other than the kids and men of all his 'new' enemies. His family was completely looted. 7 family members, out of 15, were killed that month. Most of them were his uncles and aunts, who couldn't take such harsh treatment. His mother was also amongst them. On the subsequent raids, more and more of his family members were killed. After the elderlies, it was the ladies, who committed suicideand finally his brothers, who too killed each other in paranoia. The only ones left was he, his step-brother Lumero and his daughter-disguised-as-son Percy. The only reason why she has been able to keep her disguise until now, was because of the fact that when she was born, her father wanted a boy very bad. So, he and his wife treated her like a boy and even announced it to all the other people that she was a boy. As for why she hadn't been conscripted until now, was because she, or rather, he was too 'thin' and un-manly.
The three years since the death of Sir Aston Dean, the town of Cainshire saw many changes, from change in lifestyles, habits, dressing and behavior.
With the increasing scarcity of food and resources, people started behavior more like animals and barbarians rather than civilized being. Pickpocketing, thievery and robbery became more and more common and people started distrusting humans as a whole. Other than a few relatives, everyone else, even the most closestneighbors became archenemies. But there were a few upsides to all these too.
With the increasing scarcity of food and disappearance of traders willing to trade, people of Cainshire turned to more vegetarian diets. People started eating worms and other forest products like roots, tubers and leaves to supplement their nutritional values. The benefit in this was that the unknown fear of the people of Cainshire towards the forests of Cainhorn disappeared as more and more people of Cainshire turned towards the forests for their daily resources like firewood, foods like mushrooms, roots and tubers and other objects like tree-wax and oils for their household use. They started to look at the forest as a means of surviving rather than as a restricted area, full of creepy monsters and Spriggans. This resulted in the popularity of the herd-gathering profession and a small trade of herbs and forest product emerged. But it was obviously nothing which could generate 5 Golds a year revenue.
"Move it!! Move it, you slowpokes!!" cried a young Sergeant of arms. He was a young boy of 20 or 22 and had a heck lot of scars on his face. His face was very fair, like milk, and he had brown eyes and blonde hair. A Cainshiren. A conscript.
The man smiled ruthlessly at his juniors, who were also conscripts, and at the kneeling people infront of him. These people were also Cainshiren and all of them had a single expression on their face, a face full of disgust and hatred.
Among the kneeling people was Lyon Roberts, his brother Lumero and his daughter, Percy. Lyon made an angry face at the young Sergeant, whose name was Christoff and who lived two streets away from here and shouted, "Christoff!! Enough with this nonsense!! Look around you! What do you see? Can't you see that there is no 'supervisor'!! So, why in god's name are doing this??! You. Are. A. Cainshiren. Christoff!!!"
Christoff grimaced a little and replied, "Why should I, old man!!? What have you ever done for me or for my family?!! Hmph!! Ever since Colonel Reggie came, you've been trying to kiss his a*s and now you preach me on loyalty. I'm sorry, Mr. Roberts, but I've already sold it to Colonel Reggie and I'm not changing it, ever again. I was born here and that is my wrong."
Everyone stared astonished at his words. It was true that they had an intense hatred towards the Dean family for ignoring them for these three years and at Lady Faye but it still wasn't to the point where they would willingly stand against them. they still remembered all the benefits and happiness that family brought to them.
Lyon frowned and spat at him, "You've gone insane, Christoff. Colonel Reggie is nothing but a crook and he will discard you like any other pawns, he has under his arms. You will get nothing by fighting by his side, Christoff."
"I spit on your face, Roberts. I don't care whether I get anything or not. At least, I will be able to live without the fea-"
"RUNN!! RUN!! DEMON!! THERE'S A DEMON HERE!!!"
All of a sudden, screams of fear and terror erupted out from the street ahead of them. Christoff frowned and looked out to see, scores of Cainshiren conscript running away from in terror. His frowned deepened as he recognized the squad, it was the squad of his friend, Marlett, a fellow conscript and as he knew it, his squad was ranked higher than his.
"Follow me!" he ordered his team and marched slowly towards them. He spotted Marlett among the group of fleeing soldiers. He, like all Cainshiren have fair skin and brown eyes and on an average, his entire face was pretty daunting and heroic, but right now it was covered with nothing but fright. Christoff saw him running frantically, trying to outrun all his subordinates, but then he tripped and nearly fell down. Thankfully, Christoff was there and he caught him just in time.
"What's the matter, brother?!" he asked in a concerned voice but it was far from enough to calm his chaotic feelings.
"Run! Brother, turn around and run like hell!! The Demon of the Dean family is here and he is taking revenge against all who sided with Colonel Reggie!! Brother, run! Run!"
Christoff's facial expression changed, but he still didn't let Marlett go. "Don't be afraid, brother. Colonel Reggie is still there!! He will save us!!"
"NO!!" cried Marlett in an enraged voice. "He's dead, Christoff. He's dead!! Sir Reggie is long dead!!! I know it, brother! I feel it. Now, run or... Argh! Grrm!!" Marlett grunted in anger and shook Christof's hold. The moment, he was free, he started running like mad. Christof looked foolishly at him and the other soldiers in amazement.
"Cowards!" he cried but, in his heart, he was also frightened himself. Even many of his own soldiers ran away when they saw a chance and Christof couldn't do a thing to stop them.
Fear is like a wildfire.
He turned back and marched along with the few of his soldiers, who still had some mettle in their hearts, but it wasn't long.
Christof only marched to the next street and the intersection before he finally noticed some soldiers who were actually from Hendrickson's army. They were a small contingent of pikemen and were led by none other than Captain Pickle, his superior.
"Sir!! Sir Pickle!!" Christof cried in delight but it was completely ignored by the small contingent. He was further confused and marched only a few steps, when he saw something strange.
A single Knight walked slowly out of a corner and came into his vision. At first, he seemed very insignificant and small, but when looked closely, Christof's entire body froze.
The seeming un-assuming Knight, had a terrible Murderous Aura surrounding him, instinctively making him fear him. He wore a complete black armor with a wolf pauldron on his left shoulder. A large blood red cape flowed down his back and pitch black armet covered his entire face. Black flames erupted out from the gaps of his armor and darkened the air around him. He was only 1.6 meters tall, which was a bit smaller than even a Common Knight, the lowest ranked Knight, and he held a Greatsword, which was near about his full length, on his shoulder. Even his Greatsword blazed with black flames and occasionally, a few sparks of ancient letters would emerge out, giving it an archaic image.
Christof stared at the Knight for an entire minute before snapping out.
"With me!" he commanded his soldiers and dashed towards Captain Pickle to support him, but the battle was over before it even began.
The black armored Knight suddenly dashed towards Captain Pickle and his men, into the dense array of pikes. The pikemen sluggishly thrusted their pikes at the black shadow.
All of a sudden, a dense mass of black flames erupted out and enveloped the entire contingent of pikemen. Christof was astounded. He saw Captain Pickle dash towards the opposite direction, dodging the flames as he did so. He looked a bit relieved at saving his life but suddenly, a black hand erupted out from the flames and clutched his throat tightly.
Christof looked horrified as his superior was dragged backed into the flames.
His heart was beating like a drum and his mind called him to run, but his feet couldn't move. He was completely frozen. The flames subsided slowly and he was shocked to see what lied after it.
The black Knight was safe and sound, without a single scratch on his fine armor. Beside him, lied the dead and burnt corpses of the contingent of Hendrickson's soldiers. He held his Greatsword with one hand and Sir Pickle's head, dangling on his broken neck, on the other. Sir Pickle had a terror-struck expression on his face before he died, clearly showing how much he suffered before dying.
The black Knight threw the lifeless body away and walked slowly towards them, dragging his Greatsword on the ground making a metallic sound with it.
"R-run!! Run!!" cried one of his soldiers and like a wildfire, fear spread among all his remaining soldiers. They ran away at the fastest speed their legs could support and if it couldn't, they scrambled to the nearest shed they could find. Christof looked frantically at all his 'trusted' subordinates and didn't find a single one who even looked back at him. Despair and fear raged inside his heart but his body was frozen solid.
The black Knight stopped once to stare at Christof for a few moments before resuming his slow walking. Christof stood like a statue the entire time and when the Knight was about to pass him, a light whisper was heard in his ear.
"Drop your weapon. You're not one of them."
Tak... tak... tak... tak...
Christof plopped on the ground lifelessly. His face was bloodlessly pale and he huffed for air like a nearly-drowned man. He had unconsciously dropped his sword and now, when he looked at it, a single thought floated in his mind. 'I will be killed if ... I pick it up.'