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Scalebound

Iron-beast Aug 6th, 2016 (edited) 6,573 Never
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  1. A scream was heard in the battlefield as a sword shaved off a chunk of succubus wing, the inhuman woman it belonged to scrambled away from the knight she thought she could take but might end up killing her if she carried on.
  2.  
  3. The knight gripped his weapon tight. “Come on, you blasted Monsters! My home is not for your taking!”
  4.  
  5. Captain Cyrus rose his longsword and threw himself into battle with a war cry. As far he could tell, the battle was even. The other soldiers had held their own against the monster horde. That wasn't to say he didn't get to see men dragged off by the monsters, but they were managing.
  6.  
  7. Cyrus was on the front lines of the fight, one of many men told by the king to become knights to defend the city. Being the head man of the northern unit he and his group were considered cannon fodder but it didn't matter to him, what mattered was doing his job and keeping the monsters from his home as long as he could, that fact he enjoy battle was a plus.
  8.  
  9. Besides he had heard that one of `heroes` of the land was here in the northeastern unit as a heavy hitter, the fight was in the knight's favor.
  10.  
  11. The knight assisted his men with their fights, taking out several succubi and a lower fox mage and until he had to duck as he dodged a swing from a Minotaur's axe and tagged her with a shield bash, the large woman stumbled and that gave him an opening to slash her. The Minotaur screamed and looked like she almost dropped her axe to clutch her wounded shoulder in pain.
  12.  
  13. Instead of retreating like he thought she would, the monster lets out a bellowing roar that seemed to freeze the surrounding fights as men and monster around were distracted by the shout.
  14.  
  15. “You think you can best me, human? When I'm done with you, all you'll know is pain!” She shouted as she rushed him in a frenzy. Cyrus stuck to blocking with his shield and dodging, not wanting to test his armor against the enraged Minotaur if his now mangled shield was anything to go by. Luck was on his side as his enemy put too much strength in a down chop and sank the axe into the ground. Wasting no time, he lunged at the woman and left a large wound on her chest that made her drop to her knees in pain. One well-placed boot to the face to follow-up and the Minotaur was out cold.
  16.  
  17. Cyrus let himself breath as he stood over the unconscious opponent. Taking a look around at the watchers of his fight the monsters that meet his gaze backed off in fear as his comrades both chased off the monsters with boosted morale and cheered on his victory and soon there were only knights in the area. Wiping his sword clean, sheathing it and ignoring the Minotaur being dragged away (he was too tired to run after them and finish her off). He was about to raise his voice in victory when a shout came towards them.
  18.  
  19. “The north-eastern unit has fallen!” a panicked scout said as he caught his breath.
  20.  
  21. That stopped any cheer dead in its tracks. Cyrus talked to the man.“What do you mean fallen, wasn't that hero with you?”
  22.  
  23. “Sir Harold was nowhere around when the reinforcements arrived. Without him, the men faltered and the formation crumbled fast.” The scout said.
  24.  
  25. “I assume they are heading this way?”
  26.  
  27. The scout was almost trembling so hard he almost missed the nod. “Their numbers are reduced, either by us defeating them or them pulling out of the fight with captured men. We were fine until those extra warriors and that ...thing came! It was horrible, our forces fell apart before we even knew it.” It was not unusual to see knights fall before the monsters, but this scout was clearly shaken by what he had seen.
  28.  
  29. “What's the force made of?” Cyrus asked.
  30.  
  31. “Lizardwomen and salamanders led by a powerful scalebound. Sir.” the scout said.
  32.  
  33. “Are you sure?” Cyrus asked
  34.  
  35. “Her armor was dragon themed and I saw the eyes, there is no doubt sir.” the scout said with certainty. Murmurs of worry rippled through the unit of knights and somewhere even whispering about a retreat.
  36.  
  37. They had good reason to be afraid. A scalebound was a corrupted female knight that both served the dragons and was blessed with their power. They were known for their strength in battle and few men came across one in a straight fight and won. The people thought of them as being just as monstrous as the ones they served.
  38.  
  39. Cyrus had little want to fight this new group so he had to make a plan. “How long will it take for them to get here?”
  40.  
  41. “They'll be over the hills and visible not long from now, no visible bows or magic items, so long ranged assault is unlikely.” The scout said.
  42.  
  43. The Captain swore to himself. If they were that fast then a retreat was out of the question. The best they could rest up as much as before the fight. Cyrus turned to the other knights “The battles's not over yet guys, that hero guy Harold is missing and if you didn't hear we have one more fight ahead of us. After we get this done we'll able to meet up with the Northwest unit and get home!” he shouted and his men responded with a cheer.
  44.  
  45. “But what about the scalebound?” A nervous knight asked.
  46.  
  47. “We'll do something when it comes to it. For now, assume defensive positions and hold this ground!” Cyrus ordered.
  48.  
  49. The knights got in formation and waited. Cyrus abandoned his wrecked shield, the fight with the Minotaur had made it all but useful to him. He and his men didn't have to wait long as the sound of marching was heard and soon enough they got to see the group of green to red scales that was their enemy.
  50.  
  51. As the scout hat said, they were few but these were no run of the mill monsters like most that didn't mind getting in a scrap for a man. Lizard variants were among those that lived for the fight, natural-born warriors that knew their way around battles like any knight worth something did. Cyrus noted that their condition mirrored his own men, they were roughed up and some had clearly seen better days, but they also shared the same look of determination to see this through.
  52.  
  53. What really got the men worried was the knight leading the group. She was almost six-foot tall from what he could see and she carried an imposing aura about her. She was clad in ruby-red armor with clawed gauntlets and sabatons and armed with a sword sheathed at her side. She didn't wear a helmet, allowing Cyrus to see her long black hair, tanned skin and gold reptilian eyes. This was the scalebound that the scout mentioned.
  54.  
  55. The Monster troop stopped marching as both sides stared each other down. Silence reigned on the field until the scalebound stepped forward and addressed Cyrus “I wish to speak with the leader of these men.” Her voice was gritty and stern.
  56.  
  57. The fact that she wanted to talk surprised Cyrus but he restrained himself from showing it. He decided to answer her. “I am Captain Cyrus. What is it that you want?” He said as he stepped out.
  58.  
  59. “I wish to have a duel with your strongest. One on one, no interference.” She said.
  60.  
  61. “Any reason why should I agree to that? Why would I want to make deals with those trying to take our land?” Cyrus said cautiously.
  62.  
  63. “Like what I can see in your men, we wore out from battle, I wish to enjoy a fight and end today's conflict without further bloodshed.” She said, “If you win I shall pull my forces back without incident.”
  64.  
  65. “And if you win?” he asked.
  66.  
  67. “You and your men are to surrender to me and my troop. They're free to resist if that happens, it'll be more fun that way.” she finishes with a feral grin and snickers were heard from the monsters
  68.  
  69. Cyrus looked back at his men, It was a mix between those looking ready for another fight and those ready to keel over, a full-on assault would ruin both groups no matter the victor. On the other hand, He didn't know how he would fare against a scalebound, the fact she tore apart a unit holding a hero didn't help matters.
  70.  
  71. Seeing no way out of this Cyrus sighed. “Very well, I want your name and for you to swear that you will follow your word.
  72.  
  73. The scalebound nodded and drew her sword, a fine black blade with a red hilt, and held it in front her in a reverse grip. “I, Enyo, swear on my life and honor as a scalebound that my words are the truth.” She turned to her warriors. “You heard me, Stay out of this until the battle is over, those who interfere will have mother's wrath.”
  74.  
  75. Cyrus did the same and dressed his men “No one is to interfere in our match. A knight never goes back on their word. This is the best way to come out of this in one piece.” He said. “Has anyone got an undamaged shield?”
  76.  
  77. “Here Captain.” A knight beside him said as he handed Cyrus a kite shield.
  78.  
  79. “We're behind you all the way Captain!” A knight shouted. The others joined him in a shout.
  80.  
  81. Moved by their cheers, Cyrus steeled his resolve and walked towards the enemy and meet Enyo halfway. The shouts of his men stopped when he drew his sword. The knight Captain and the monster knight stared each other down as tension filled the air.
  82.  
  83. Without warning, the two launched at each other. The only sound that could be heard was the clanging of metal as Cyrus and Enyo hacked at each over. Each strike from one was blocked or dodged by the other. Cyrus told himself to give the knight a reward if he got out of this, this shield was holding up better than the one the Minotaur destroyed.
  84.  
  85. Even so, the inhuman strength of a scalebound had been made clear. Blocking her strikes was numbing more than the minotaurs and were also leaving deep gashes in his shield and ripping his chain armor when she struck an opening. All this led to Cyrus's armor becoming misshapen like the blacksmith didn't care about quality, despite being in the best condition of his equipment, was a chipped mess.
  86.  
  87. The fight raged on and despite his efforts, it was becoming clear that the scalebound was winning and the Cyrus was repeatedly put on the defence. What scared Cyrus was the amount of enjoyment he was found in trying to match the Enyo's skill even though his strength was leaving him. It wasn't like the “Don't get taken” fight he had with other monsters. This was a real duel, the very thought of a getting a this complicated a fight flooded his veins with fire and he used that to persevere.
  88.  
  89. After one clash ended with knight blocking her slash and countered with slashing at her face, causing her to back off in pain and caution. Cyrus focused on Enyo as he gained his breath. She was definitely less damaged than he was but that wasn't to say she was fully functioning. But it was her eyes that almost froze him in wonder. Those golden eyes sparkled with life and enjoyment, it was clear she was having as much fun as he was. The cut under her eye bled, but it didn't look like one that'll scar.
  90.  
  91. He was so lost staring at her eyes that he almost missed the war horns sounding. That was the signal for victory! The northwestern unit had won! The knights broke out with roars of joy at the sound. As annoyance swept the faces of the monster warriors.
  92.  
  93. A Wyvern land in-between the fighters as she took a knee and addressed Enyo “Lady Enyo, our forces are in full retreat, orders from above are for you to join them before the rest of the knights reach here and reinforce this group.” She reported while not caring about the presence of Cyrus.
  94.  
  95. “Let them wait! My fight with this human hasn't ended yet!” The scale bound almost roared.
  96.  
  97. The Wyvern messenger didn't react. “Commander Bellona is waiting to see you at the retreat point, shall I tell her you dismissed her?”
  98.  
  99. “Dammit!” Enyo growled out and sheathed her sword. She turned around and bellowed orders “The battle is lost! Everyone to the retreat point to meet with our allies.” The Lizardwomen grumbled but complied and soon enough the unit was moving away along with the Wyvern messenger. Enyo stayed behind and talked to Cyrus.
  100.  
  101. “It appears this fight is over and my deal is void.” She told Cyrus without hiding her disappointment. “A shame, few have pushed me as far as you have, and fewer were human.”
  102.  
  103. Cyrus sheathed his sword and let out a breath “Orders are orders, I thank you for keeping your word, few Monsters know honor and the glory of battle.”
  104.  
  105. “True but still.” Enyo's eyes looked even more reptilian as they started to glow. “I desire to fight you again Sir Cyrus, whether it be the battled or a duel, I swear that I will find a way for us fight again.”
  106.  
  107. The knight Captain felt anticipation roll through him instead of what he thought should have been fear. “I look forward to it. Enyo.”
  108.  
  109. With a pleased smile. The scalebound turned around and walked away to meet with her army. With the danger passed, the knights swarmed their Captain with praise and questions until he spoke
  110.  
  111. “Guys, we need to head home, we can talk about it once I get patched up and were behind castle walls.” Everyone agreed and the unit was on the route home. While the men were conversing about their Captain's fight. Cyrus himself was in thought. He wanted to see that fight through to the end but he had men to look after as leader of sorts. Still, the look in those eyes as the battle went on, he had a growing urge to see it again
  112.  
  113. He had to check what went on with the northeastern unit. The heroes disappearance made them lose a decent chunk of guys to the monsters, something the king won't be happy about. Where did he go, did he even fight the enemy?
  114.  
  115. He also needed to get decked out with better gear, there was no way he was going up against anything like Enyo again with the same quality of stuff. He had hoped to get enough gold for this fight to do so.
  116.  
  117. With a plan in mind, Cyrus spent the rest of the march talking t his comrades, it was a long way to the medics and an even longer way to the tavern, and he really needed a drink in him after today.
  118.  
  119. [Part 2]
  120.  
  121.  
  122.  
  123. I had been two days since the battle against the monster forces. After taking account of the losses and Taking care of the injured. King Graham had called a council for reports of the battle. The council hall contained three tables, one for the king with his two royal advisers and the second for the Army commander, strategist and knight captains. The last was for the nobles and council members.
  124.  
  125. The knight captains were the last to enter the hall, Cyrus took his seat as the as the others made themselves comfortable. He looked around and saw that commander Nikolai was has his usual grim face. His right-hand woman, the strategist Elise was writing in that war book she always carried. And finally where is fellow captains conversing among themselves.
  126.  
  127. The king, sitting on his throne with a maid to the side, cleared his throat and got everyone's attention start the meeting. “Now then, we all know why we are all here, yes? What actually happened in that fight? We may have won, but losing a whole unit of men to the monsters is worrying.” he said.
  128.  
  129. “Indeed it is, but unforeseen circumstances pretty much shattered the eastern unit.” The knight commander said.
  130.  
  131. “And what may that be?” asked one of the advisers.
  132.  
  133. The strategist rose and produced a map. “As your majesty is aware we had experienced knights leading each unit and among them a leader for the three units for this battle,” she said as she started to show notes. “Commander Nikolai had the northwest and captain Cyrus had the northern frontline, the northeastern unit was meant for captain Oswald to lead, but he got traded at the last moment for the Hero Harold.” She finished
  134.  
  135. “How could one change do so much damage?” The other adviser asked, “Didn't you plan effectively?”
  136.  
  137. “My plan had in mind our captain's presence and not the hero being there. With him there, our men place faith in him to carry the battle and his disappearance ruined the morale structure.” Elise said coldly. Cyrus remembered she hated having her competence questioned. “its part of one of the unforeseen circumstances, a lizard woman unit led by a scalebound came in and wiped them out, I believe that Harold's not being there led to the unit thinking he got taken out easily.” Elise said.
  138.  
  139. The king rose his hand to stop the growing augment. “Now that you mention it where is the hero?”
  140.  
  141. “Sir Harold is resting in the guest quarters, your majesty.” The king's maid said.
  142.  
  143. “See to it that he's brought here at once, wake him if need be.” With a bow, the maid carried out the king's order.
  144.  
  145. A spindly councilman looked somewhat worried. “Your majesty, there is no need for such a thing.”
  146.  
  147. “Nonsense, he's involved in this as he was given part of my army to lead.” The king said sternly. He sad as a man wearing expensive clothes entered the room. A gaudy sword was strapped to his side and he didn't look like a man raised for war. Even so, this was supposedly one of the saviours of the land.
  148.  
  149. “Greetings your majesty, I didn't know I had to attend,” Harold said with a smile.
  150.  
  151. “We have things that need to know that need you here, tell me, where were you in the battle?” The king asked.
  152.  
  153. “What do you mean? I was in the heat of battle the time, I had helped take out the enemy leader and then retreated to patch myself up. I was a hell of a fight, almost got claimed by an ogre and let me tell you, that chick didn't understand when to stop.” this got a few of the council chuckling, the king, on the other hand, wasn't so happy.
  154.  
  155. “Did you see the scalebound unit?” The king questioned.
  156.  
  157. “Yes I did, I fought her alone after the fight with the leader and I had injured her and left her limping in retreat.” He said without a pause.
  158.  
  159. “What!” Cyrus shot out of his seat. “That's a lie and you know it! Scouts came to me and told me you had gone missing before the scalebound and her warriors attacked! She wasn't `limping` as you said, if she was I would not have fought her. I fought what woman with all my strength and I have my ruined gear and witness to prove it!” He raged at the hero.
  160.  
  161. “Captain Cyrus! You will sit down!” The king ordered. Cyrus obeyed but was still fuming.
  162.  
  163. The knight commander was not impressed. “What you said Harold was not in the report the knights gave me.”
  164.  
  165. “Yes, I read the reports about Cyrus's rubbish cooked up to gain fame.” The councillor said with a sneer.
  166.  
  167. “Are you calling my men and one of my captains a liar, councillor Richard?” Nikolai said with a frown.
  168.  
  169. “I fail to see how a mere knight captain could do something a hero could not.” Richard said. “Harold here is known to defeat some of the strongest monsters in this land. The only way a lowly knight captain like Cyrus had a shot was if this woman was hurt.” Other councilmen nodded at this.
  170.  
  171. “You seem to have faith in the heroes words over others who took part in the battle, councilman Richard, why is that?” Elise asked.
  172.  
  173. “I simply have more faith in those who have proven their worth as heroes of the land and not lying men who grasp at fame,” Richard growled.
  174.  
  175. “You can keep your fame, what good is fame when this place becomes a demon realm because men like us get taken down for idiocy while said fools you mentioned that you blindly support prance about on the battlefield in the name of glory, but are too afraid to do any effort!” Cyrus all but shouted.
  176.  
  177. “You have no right to talk about me like that,” Harold said with a glare.
  178.  
  179. Cyrus held no fear. “I have every right to defend myself, especially as you and the council are calling me, my commander and a unit's worth of men and women liars for your own goddamn benefit!”
  180.  
  181. “I'm blessed by the chief god herself! By that alone, you are below me!” The hero was turning red with rage.
  182.  
  183. “Enough!” The king shouted. The room went silent instantly. “I will not have this foolishness continue! A whole unit is gone and I have two different accounts of the battle. Nikolai, gather you those who were at the battle. I want to know-”
  184.  
  185. At that moment the main hall doors bust open and silenced the king, four brown cloaked figures marched into the room. Their hoods were off showing them as women with scaly fins for ears, proving their identity as lizardwomen. At once, the guards and knights drew their blades. The king himself stood up and as the royal guard took up place in front of him
  186.  
  187. “Tell your men to stand down, and no harm will come to them” A Strong woman's voice was heard from the outer hall as a fifth person entered the room. Unlike the others, she stood at least a head taller than the others and was dressed in a regal grey dress with red and gold highlights. Her head was covered shoulder length black hair and a stern fiery expression. But the humans in the room placed more focus (and fear) on her faded red scaled limbs, the half-folded wings on her back and large tail of the same colour, the golden reptilian eyes, the scales on her cheeks and the horns on her head that arched backwards.
  188.  
  189. She was a dragon, that fact alone put a pause in any action anyone wanted to do. Very few people had a chance at lasting long against one of her kind. Cyrus was sure commander Nikolai stood a chance to hold her, while he himself didn't have a sword on his person and was less inclined to try.
  190.  
  191. “If you mean no harm, where are my guards?” The king asked with nerves shaking him. Somebody should have raised the alarm about them heading here.
  192.  
  193. “They didn't heed my warning, so your men are taking an unconscious break from their duties. I would have donned my armor of I truly wanted battle today” her words made the armed men in the room tense even more.
  194.  
  195. “Who are you?” The king asked
  196.  
  197. “I am Bellona, Commander of the army belonging to our queen in the eastern mountains. We wish to discuss an offer with the king.
  198.  
  199. Cyrus remembered the messenger wyvern that stopped his fight. `So this is their commander. No wonder Enyo stopped, she doesn't look like a person to easily cross.` He thought to himself.
  200.  
  201. “One does not simply barge into a castle demanding to hear. Surely there were easier methods.” The king said annoyed.
  202.  
  203. “I like to deal with things personally, and messengers tend to annoy me,” Bellona said simply.
  204.  
  205. “Regardless, what is your `deal`?” The king asked as he warily sat back down.
  206.  
  207. “Your majesty, you cannot be serious!” Councilman Richard shouted. “Why should we listen to the words of monsters? Let the hero deal with these beasts.”
  208.  
  209. “How dare you human!” A lizardwoman guard growled as she reached for her sword but a raised hand from her superior stopped her.
  210.  
  211. “I have no want to spill blood today but... I'm more than happy to tear this room asunder before I carry on with what I came here for.” The dragon said with a fang-baring grin.
  212.  
  213. “Stand down.” The order came quietly and the soldiers were just as reluctant to follow the order as the king was in giving it. All who stood returned to their seats.
  214.  
  215. “Now that we're all settled again. We can get started.” Bellona looked around the hall and her gaze seemed to pause on the warriors in the room, notably Cyrus, Nikolai, and Harold before returning to the king. “One of our own wishes for a rematch with the man that she fought in the recent Battle.”
  216.  
  217. `So soon?` Cyrus thought as the fight with Enyo flashed through his mind. It had been one hell of a fight, but a rematch now with ruined gear did not sit well with him.
  218.  
  219. “A rematch?” Parroted the king.
  220.  
  221. “She was forced to retreat before the battle had a victor and has talked about her urge to fight this man again.” The dragon said.
  222.  
  223. “And what're the conditions in this? What would we get out of losing one of our men to you?” The king asked sternly.
  224.  
  225. “My queen will count your kingdom as part of her territory, this will limit the monster invasions into your land, and our own will no longer take part in these battles and may aid you. eventually, envoys will come to discuss trade and we can expand our cultures together, at least that's what she says.” It was clear Bellona was not sold on her own words.
  226.  
  227. “And that's if our fighter wins?” The king asked.
  228.  
  229. “That is if your fighter accepts, we do not like cowards. And as King, you would be seen in our eyes as encouraging such. Win or lose the plans to communicate continue. To refuse us is to continue this pointless war." The dragon said. “ as for the fighters, the winner decides the losers fate, simple as that.”
  230.  
  231. “Sounds like your queen wants diplomacy. Why the duel?” The king questioned.
  232.  
  233. “We want to see him fight without a meaningless battle. If this knight was so great in a battle against a scalebound when he had already spent the day fighting, how will he fare in top condition? We dragons enjoy might after all.”
  234.  
  235. “This duel would be seen as showing your kind what we could offer in terms of strength,” Elise said with cleaning her glasses. “And the fact that we accepted would be seen as goodwill.”
  236.  
  237. Bellona smiled “A smart one, you are. What is your name girl?” She asked.
  238.  
  239. “Elise, strategist for the knights.” She said. The dragon was examining her with great interest.
  240.  
  241. “Have you ever wielded a sword?” Bellona asked.
  242.  
  243. “Not seriously, why?” Elise looked confused.
  244.  
  245. “Ah, my apologies Now is not the time for such things. Now then.” She then took another look around the room. “Do you know of this Cyrus?”
  246.  
  247. The king grinned as Harold paled. “Why yes in fact. Cyrus, tell her yourself.”
  248.  
  249. At the king's request, the captain stood and addressed the Bellona. “I am captain Cyrus, I was the one to fight the scalebound.” He ignored the growl from Harold.
  250.  
  251. Bellona didn't say anything, except for staring into Cyrus's eyes for a moment. Pleased with whatever conclusion she came to she spoke. “Enyo mentioned you were willing to fight her again, is this true?”
  252.  
  253. “Yes, it is. our battle was cut short with no winner, Enyo almost ignored your retreat order to continue our match. She only stopped when she heard you gave the order.” Cyrus said.
  254.  
  255. “Really?” She said with both eyebrows raised.
  256.  
  257. “Yes but I'm going to need new armor and sword, she kinda destroyed them during the fight."
  258.  
  259. “No matter, we can wait for you to gain new ones, the only question is-” the dragon stopped as one of her guards tapped her on the shoulder. “Excuse me.” she fully turned her attention to the guard as hushed words were whispered. “I see,” Bellona said as she turned back to the hall and address Harold with narrowed eyes. “Care to repeat what you just said, human?”
  260.  
  261. Harold was startled. “What?”
  262.  
  263. “My guard has just told me you whispered “If they're impressed with him, they must be weak” to that man.” She gestured to councilman Richard. “Tell me, who are you to give such a remark?”
  264.  
  265. “I am Harold hero of the chief god, Slayer of beasts,” Harold stated proudly.
  266.  
  267. The dragon looked him up and down and had a look of displeasure. “You seem pretty confident in yourself.”
  268.  
  269. “Of course, I work for the better of man, something you won't understand,” Harold said puffing his chest. “Especially if a knight captain impresses you.”
  270.  
  271. “Is that so? You believe you could fight better than one who has our approval?” The dragon asked with a gleam in her eyes. It was like she knew something.
  272.  
  273. “Damn right I do, he wants to insult me, I will show him just how better I am!” Harold declared.
  274.  
  275. The king stood up. “Bellona, I have an Idea. How about we make a day of this?”
  276.  
  277. A questioning eyebrow rose “I'm listening, your majesty.”
  278.  
  279. “In my kingdom's eyes Harold needs to redeem himself, and Cyrus is already up to fight your scalebound. Is there a place for a second duel?” The king's idea made the hall become alive once more with murmurs.
  280.  
  281. Bellona put her clawed hand to her chin in thought. “I could work, having more than one fight would be better. Yes, it could work, though if we are to do this I want to request one thing.”
  282.  
  283. “And what is that?” The king asked.
  284.  
  285. The dragon raised a claw and pointed. “On the day of the contest, he is to fight me,” she said with a smile.
  286.  
  287. Nikolai's eyes widened a little while the king was disturbed “Why him?” He asked.
  288.  
  289. Bellona laughed loudly. “Come now your majesty, He is the most dangerous man in this room and what better way to show the youths how a fight is done, besides...” Her grin became predatory. “It's been so long since someone caught my interest.”
  290.  
  291. “I'll do it” Nikolai stated.
  292.  
  293. “Nickolai you don't have to do this.” The king said. What if you get taken by the monsters?”.
  294.  
  295. The knight commander stroked his chin. “Win or lose this will lower the battles and save lives, I will gladly support this. And personally...” Gasps were heard as Nikolai broke his usual grim expression and grinned. “I've always wondered how I would fare against a dragon.”
  296.  
  297. “Too many goddamn hotheads in this room.” The king grumbled. As he gestured for a maid to bring him some wine. After taking a long swig. He addressed Bellona again. “It appears we have an agreement it seems, tell your Queen about the changes to the plan and after some preparation, we will make a date for this contest of yours.
  298.  
  299. “Agreed, tell your lookouts to let in wyverns. They will be your way of communications, it is time for us to take our leave.” With that, she turned and headed for the doors. “And Cyrus,” she said with her back still turned.” Enyo has spoken praises of you and you seem like an honest boy, do not disappoint me.” she said before leaving, her lizardwomen guard following.
  300.  
  301. “Your majesty why did you allow this?” councilman Richard was livid.
  302.  
  303. “Simple, the added protection from monsters that would this land twisted, which reminds me,” he said turning to Harold. “Know this hero, we may have won that battle, but you lead a whole unit of my men to its demise and have insulted my knights, if you want to live outside of a cell, prove to me you are who you said you are, fight in the contest and win. I will assign guards to you and increase patrols, so you better have no plans of leaving this city anytime soon, are we clear?” The king said.
  304.  
  305. “Crystal” was all the hero said.
  306.  
  307. “Be ready when the time comes, that is all I ask. Cyrus, I want you to use money from the treasury to get the best materials for weapons and armor we can manage, you and Nikolai will be representing our kingdom, I want you at your best.”
  308.  
  309. “Yes, your majesty,” Cyrus said.
  310.  
  311. The king nodded and then addressed the crowd. “My people, In front of us, is a chance make our lives more peaceful, and I for one would rather deal with the dragons as opposed to the demons. I want what is best for this land if that means allying with monsters to protect it. I will not hesitate. But I ask you, keep your minds sharp, they are still monsters at the end of it all.”
  312.  
  313. “But you just handed them two of your best knights on a silver platter!” a councilman shouted. “What if they rob us blind of good men and then attack us!”
  314.  
  315. “Cyrus's match is against a scalebound he has fought before and held his own, Nikolai is a legend across the land. If I didn't have confidence in their abilities I would not have agreed.”
  316.  
  317. The council was split between satisfaction and anger, but the king appeared to pay it no mind. “I will have another meeting with the knights in two days time. Until then, this meeting is over. Councilman Richard, we will be talking alone. So stay behind.”
  318.  
  319. Cyrus sighed as he got up and left the hall along with his fellow knights. Now it was all but set in stone that his rematch with Enyo was going to happen. He had to get hold of the blacksmith and knuckle down on training, it was going to be a fun kind of hell. At least if he went at is own pace it should be fine.
  320.  
  321. “I hope you're ready boy because until this is over your training with me!” Nickolai said as the Knights reached the barracks. “I will personally make sure you are ready for this fight.”
  322.  
  323. Training no longer looked like it'd be fun.
  324.  
  325. Part 3
  326.  
  327. Time had flown by since the meeting. Wyvern messengers went back and forth between the two kingdom's rulers and soon an event was planned.
  328.  
  329. The plan was to create a fighting contest where several of the soldiers would duel. Word soon spread and soon quite a few men were training in order to prove themselves against the lizardfolk.
  330.  
  331. Being one of the three main events, Cyrus had thrown himself into training with Nikolai. The two sparred almost every day and the intensity of it all drove the other knights to train alongside them, each pushing their skills and strength to new heights.
  332.  
  333. One thing that stood out was Harold. While the hero did indeed train, it was considerably lax compared to the knight's daily brawls. As far as this king was concerned the hero didn't represent his land so he was far from caring. Hell, he made it clear not being able to imprison him was the only thing that annoyed him about his talks with the dragons.
  334.  
  335. Of course, Harold was never seen without the two knights assigned to keep an eye on him just in case he tried to leave. It was clear the man wasn't happy with that but he kept his mouth shut on the matter. Instead, he had tried to get the people's support, which he found challenging as the battle had shredded his reputation. Cyrus was sure he had found one of the few people he truly hated, a fact hammered home when the hero had tried everything to smear the name of the knights, but with few people on his side he never got that far
  336.  
  337. The was also rumours that Councilman Richard, being the one to have requested Harold involvement in the battle, was in danger of losing his position. The man had been more withdrawn and not seen much after the meeting but he still showed his hate for the knights when in public.
  338.  
  339. Now the battle contest was a week and so away and currently Cyrus was at the end of the day's spar with his commander. The other knights having finished and opting to watch the two trying to strike the other with wooden swords. Cheering both men as they fought. Villagers that passed the training grounds occasionally lingered to see the action.
  340.  
  341. Training with commander Nikolai was not as bad as Cyrus feared. It was still straining and physically painful, but years of fighting alongside the man had paid off and helped to shrink the skill gap.
  342.  
  343. The knight managed to dodge what could have been a heavy blow and took advantage by trying to punch Nikolai but the commander blocked with his free hand and went for an upward slash with his sword only for Cyrus to block it.
  344.  
  345. Both men stayed in the stalemate before backing off and catching their breath. Instead of assuming their stances the both stood straight and nodded. The spar was over.
  346.  
  347. “Good work, Cyrus.” The commander said with approval. I can honestly say skill-wise we are as prepared as well ever be. We will hold off on the sparring but keep the exercise and we should be in top condition for the contest.”
  348.  
  349. Cyrus sighed. “Fighting them is going to be tough,” he muttered to himself, but Nikolai still heard it.
  350.  
  351. “Good that you think that way. A good fight will serve as a reminder to keep our blades sharp. On top of that, the lizardfolk breathe fighting. Even if our livelihoods are not at stake, we will give it our all as always.” Nikolai said. “Think of it as a test to see how far you've truly come.”
  352.  
  353. “Yes, sir!” Cyrus said.
  354.  
  355. “Get some rest, you deserve it.” He said as he placed his wooden sword on the weapon rack and walked away from the grounds.
  356.  
  357. Cyrus acknowledged his cheering comrades as he put away his own sword. Turning around, he saw that captain Oswald was approaching. “You almost had him that time.”
  358.  
  359. “Maybe, Oswald, maybe, but even so it feels good to be able to match him after all the years since we were cadets,” Cyrus said smiling to himself. As the two headed towards the tavern.
  360.  
  361. “Don't remind me.” Oswald shivered. “Those days of Crawling to the bar as a battered wreck are long over for me.” The two knights shared a laugh at the memory.
  362.  
  363. The laughing slowed to a stop as they spotted a messenger wyvern flying by and landing at the lookout tower. No doubt to deliver another message from the dragon queen.
  364.  
  365. “Hey, Cyrus. How do you think we would do in the fights?” Oswald asked.
  366.  
  367. “I honestly don't know, Oswald. The commander's going to be up against an actual dragon. That's going to be a fight for the ages. As for me, I feel like this month of training has helped. But Enyo would probably have done her own training.”
  368.  
  369. “True, most of the knights are all waiting to see that rematch. With your own fight against a scalebound and the commander's against a dragon my fights not going to be that impressive.”
  370.  
  371. “Oh right, I forgot you were fighting too,” Cyrus said.
  372.  
  373. Oswald chuckled. “With your own fight, I don't blame you. The king recommended me as one of the people to fight. Apparently, I'm to fight a lizardgirl called Helena.”
  374.  
  375. “You ready for that?” Cyrus asked. “You have heard what happens when a lizard girl loses a fight right?”
  376.  
  377. His friend nodded. “It's not that bad, on one hand, I doubt she would be that interested in marrying a guy like me, the women around here aren't that fond of me, that's for sure. On the other hand, I get a wife that if this alliance works won't be hunted for what she is. I just hope she's nice.”
  378.  
  379. “Worried more about the woman than the fight? Commander wouldn't like that.” Cyrus joked.
  380.  
  381. “Good thing he's not here then.” Both men stopped when they the familiar voice behind them. The turned around to see Elise.
  382.  
  383. “I haven't you saw you around lately Elise, how have you been?” Oswald asked.
  384.  
  385. Elise sighed. “A little stressed. What with everyone preparing to set out to the battle contest along with working with the king's scribes with the letters sent to the Dragon Queen. I need a good break, so I'm heading straight to the tavern before I go to the blacksmith.”
  386.  
  387. “The new gear is done?” Cyrus asked. When he had told blacksmith Rolo about the upcoming fights and his funding from the king, the blacksmith had asked if he could take his time to forge `A true masterpiece`. Few had seen him outside his forge since but he seemed to get more excited as time went by.
  388.  
  389. “We were sent a message this morning from Rolo. He wants you and the commander to come round for fitting. There's also your new sword and buckler. It was just luck I found you here” Elise told him.
  390.  
  391. Cyrus turned to Oswald. “We should head there then, you want to come along for the ride?”
  392.  
  393. Oswald shrugged. “Might as well.”
  394.  
  395. The trio talked about trivial things till they got to Rolo's blacksmith store. When they entered, they were met with heat from the forge fires and the sound of hammering as the apprentice was busy hammering what looked like a spearhead.
  396.  
  397. Rolo himself was behind the counter cleaning a set of daggers as he notices them enter. “Ah, just the man I wanted to see!” He said putting down the dagger. “Come now! I need you see my work!” Before any of them could greet him, He was pulling Cyrus to the back room while the other two followed.
  398.  
  399. The back room was packed with weapons and armor in various levels of completion propped either on the work tables or racks along the walls. At the back of the room was an armor set covered by a white sheet. “Cyrus my man. This is the finest work I've done in years! You must see this!” he said with excitement as he walked over to the sheet covered stand and pulled the cloth down.
  400.  
  401. The armor was a bit bulkier then what Cyrus was used to. Despite the fact it looked like it was made of polished silver with red trimmings in inlays it didn't look that fancy, which was just the way he liked it. Mounted on its right arm was a shield with a simple white and red design.
  402.  
  403. “I was able to get rare steel for once with the king's money. Cost quite a lot to get as much as I did but it was more than worth it.” Rolo said as he knocked on the chest piece. “This stuff is lighter than the standard metal we normally use, but it can take most heavy blows without denting, can't say anything about Dragonfire though, so you may want to still be careful.” He finished with a laugh.
  404.  
  405. “It's awesome Rolo, I can't I would ever get to wear something like this,”  Cyrus said in awe.
  406.  
  407. “Not every day I get an order form the king to go nuts with the budget and effort.” Rolo laughed. “I was going to make one for Nikolai as well, but he said his armor hadn't failed him yet. So he felt there was no need. He did come round to reforge his sword though.”
  408.  
  409. “Does that mean you got some of the metal left?” Oswald asked.
  410.  
  411. Rolo stroked his chin. “I should, you want some armor out of it?”
  412.  
  413. “I was thinking more along the lines of a new sword, my current one is on the verge of breaking.” Oswald.
  414.  
  415. “Bring it to me tomorrow, and we'll talk, speaking of swords....” Rolo drifted off as he walked to he a weapon rack. “I believe you might be interested in seeing your new blade, Cyrus.”
  416.  
  417. He then pulled out a long sword that shined like his armour. The pommel had a ruby set in it and the blade had what looked like black wavy pattern engraved on it.
  418.  
  419. “By the gods. This looks amazing!” Cyrus said. Taking hold of it, he gave it a few careful swings. “It's a tad heavier than the normal blade, but nothing I can't get used to.”
  420.  
  421. “That you should, now Miss Elise, your spear should be done the day before we set out to the arena,” Rolo said. The strategist nodded as the two knights eyes widened. “Now if you excuse me I've got a batch of horseshoes that needs to be checked before I send them to the stables.” He walked out of the room and the other's did the same to leave the store.
  422.  
  423. “A spear? Elise, are you fighting too?” Oswald asked surprised as they walked.
  424.  
  425. Elise looked a bit embarrassed. “Remember the dragon the came here? Bellona?” Cyrus and Oswald nodded. “She apparently took interest in me and asked the king about me in her letters. So I'm going to fight in an exhibition match along with you two. It's been a while since I have fought but I shall do my best.” she explained.
  426.  
  427. “How many people are fighting in this thing?” Oswald asked. The strategist pulled out her notebook from her satchel and started to flick through notes
  428.  
  429. “To my knowledge about twelve fights planned. Various monsters and men in their kingdom are fighting on the 2 days we will be there, the day is exhibitions for volunteers and Harold's fight while the second day will be the main event which will be the fights the commander and Cyrus will have,” she told them.
  430.  
  431. “That means I'm one of the first fights, no pressure at all.” Oswald chuckled.
  432.  
  433. “What about me? I've got Enyo to fight, and let's not forget the dragon that wants a go at our commander.” Cyrus said a little frustrated.
  434.  
  435. Elise smiled. “You haven't let us down before and I'd doubt you'd do it now. Even if you lose, you're sure to be a crowd-pleaser.”
  436.  
  437. “And if the words from the guys that were under you during the battle are to go by, I will agree. Just don't make me look like a rookie OK?” Oswald said with a grin.
  438.  
  439. “Thanks, guys,” he said. “I guess I'm just thinking a bit too much.”
  440.  
  441. Oswald patted his friend on the back. “Your the strongest out of us here, second only to the commander. If you went down easily I'd be worried.” The three of them laughed as the got to the tavern doors. Getting inside they all sat at a table with Juice (Nikolai had stopped all those fighting in the exhibition from drinking ale until further notice) and were about to continue talking about minor matters when they heard an unwelcome voice.
  442.  
  443. “Well if it isn't the glory stealer and his friends.” The trio turned to see Harold approaching their table along with the watchman that was assigned to him. The look on the man's face made it clear he wanted to be nowhere near the hero.
  444.  
  445. “Glory stealer? Really?” Cyrus asked as he sipped his drink. “I told you in that room that I don't care for fame. Not my fault you were shortchanged by the truth.”
  446.  
  447. “Oh come on, we both know what's really going on here, don't we? A knight captain manages to do what a hero can't and fend off a powerful monster? How is that anything but going for glory?” Harold said. As people were starting to get interested in their argument.
  448.  
  449. “Why must we go through this again? Why don't you just leave us in peace? All you have to do is prove yourself at the contest and the king will not imprison you, that's all.” Cyrus said with a sigh. “It's amazing the king didn't just Ignore the dragons idea and imprison you for lying about the scalebound.”
  450.  
  451. “That scaled bitch doesn't know power. The might of a hero would have impressed her more than some weak knight.
  452.  
  453. “Didn't look like that at the meeting,” Oswald said. “If anything, she looked unimpressed. Hell, She took more notice of Elise here more than you.”
  454.  
  455. “And what do you know? You were not at the fight! You didn't see the fight!” Harold said starting to run red in anger.
  456.  
  457. “No, I was working with commander while you led my unit to ruin! I help route and scatter the monster forces and even forced a dark mage to retreat, there was not holy hand in that victory!” Oswald exclaimed. “Meanwhile you, Mr `I can do your job better` are nowhere to be seen and worse, you tried to lie to our faces about your actions as people went missing, if you ask me the real weak one is you!”
  458.  
  459. Harold growled and put his hand on his sword. “Then allow me to teach you just how wrong you are.”
  460.  
  461. “Enough of this!” Cyrus shouted when and he stood up. “How about we make a deal, Mr hero? After our respective matches against the lizardfolk, I will fight you. We will fight in the arena for all to see if you are as good as you say you are. When you win you can hold that petty victory and throw it around as you wish. That sounds good enough for you?”
  462.  
  463. Harold stepped back and almost lost his composure but coughed into his hand and striated himself. “It's a deal then. I will show you who is superior, first I'll beat my opponent and then I'm coming after you. Be warned, glory stealer.” he huffed as he left the tavern, the watchman rolling his eyes at the threat and walked out after him.
  464.  
  465. The three sat in silence for a few moments before Elise sighed. “You think that him being a hero would give him more manners. This is getting more annoying by the second.”
  466.  
  467. “Sorry, but he gets on my nerves too much,” Cyrus said. “I needed a way to get to him without ruining my duel, this will be the best way to do it.
  468.  
  469. “Better than starting a bar brawl, with the way most of us see that guy it would almost be organized murder.” Oswald shrugged.
  470.  
  471. “You do realize that this is more work for me right? Having to talk with the wyverns to add yet another fight to the roster.” Elise grumbled.
  472.  
  473. “I'm sure you'd find a way, just like your strategies.” Cyrus joked.
  474.  
  475. “Stratagems are important for our battles and war actions, this is just paperwork!” She complained.
  476.  
  477. “Note maker Elise afraid of some paper?” Oswald said chuckling.
  478.  
  479. “You'd be sick of it too if you were dealing with the same subject for a month made worse since the long distance messaging takes time.” She groaned as Cyrus started to laugh along with Oswald.
  480.  
  481. “So you decided to join the fighting for stress relief? Should we be afraid?” Cyrus said while he laughed.
  482.  
  483. “Y-No! I told you why already!” Elise shouted frustrated.
  484.  
  485. It took some time for them the knights no stop laughing at her expense. The three spent the rest of the time trading jokes and relaxing into the night. Knowing full well that soon they will all be busy in the next few days.
  486.  
  487. Part 4
  488.  
  489. The day of the fighting contest had arrived.
  490.  
  491. The arena was revealed to be a once abandoned Colosseum that over the last month the lizardfolk had spent repairing. It was certainly was an impressive step up from the ruins they once were, even more so when flags of the two nations were spotted on the rooftops.
  492.  
  493. It took a day for king Graham and those accompanying him (The knights, The hero and the council members along with civilians wanting to see the fights) to get to the Colosseum and all looked in wonder at the arena as they approached.
  494.  
  495. “I didn't think this place would be so close,” Cyrus said.
  496.  
  497. “Amazing, to have gotten all this done in under a month,” Elise said in awe.
  498.  
  499. “Well, it was more a repair job than a build from scratch job,” Oswald said looking around. “Still, to get this done in such short time means they must have had a lot of manpower at hand.”
  500.  
  501. “I wonder if we could restore some of the other nearby ruins? It would be nice to see the nearby lands alive again.” Cyrus asked.
  502.  
  503. “If this alliance goes though I will at least have the chance to consider it.” The king said as the others nodded. Before the talk could continue, the main doors to the Colosseum opened and out walked Bellona, followed by Enyo and a single lizard woman guard. Unlike how Cyrus had met her on the battlefield she was not clad in armor but rather red shirt and black shorts that looked like they were made of quality leather.
  504.  
  505. “Greetings king,” Bellona said with a nod and offered a handshake.
  506.  
  507. “Likewise general.” The king answered as he shook the dragons hand.
  508.  
  509. “My queen is inside making the last preparations for the first fights as they shall begin tonight. Enyo here shall show the warriors their rooms while Carla shall take the civilians to show the seating areas and bedrooms,” she said.
  510.  
  511. “Very well, Cyrus and Elise, you two are in charge of the warriors till further notice, Nickolai, you're with me. Let us meet this queen.” The king gave his orders and soon the now three groups were walking separately was inside the Colosseum.
  512.  
  513. The warrior group walked in silence till Enyo spoke. “It is good to meet you again, captain Cyrus,” she said as they walked. “It's also nice to see you didn't back down from settling our score.” she grinned.
  514.  
  515. “A knight does not break his word, and even then what could be the point of my training and getting new gear if I didn't want to fight you?” he said.
  516.  
  517. “True, though I wish we didn't need this contest, I want to fight you right now and see what you've become.” the eagerness in her voice scared some of the men following her.
  518.  
  519. Cyrus had a challenging smile on him. “Agreed, it annoys me that we have to put on a show instead of just getting on with it.”
  520.  
  521. “True, you have no idea how much I want to fight you again but mother would be against doing it now.” She said with an annoyed growl. As the group came to a staircase and started to ascend.
  522.  
  523. “Mother?” Cyrus asked.
  524.  
  525. “Don't worry about it. Just be ready for our match.” She then turned to the other female of the group “I take it you are the strategist Bellona mentioned?” she asked Elise. As the got off the stairs in and to a long curving hallway.
  526.  
  527. “Yes, I am Elise.” She said offering a handshake that Enyo took. “I must say you caused quite a stir by wanting to fight Cyrus again.” She said.
  528.  
  529. “Not every day you fight a man that fights like he does, he is strong...” she paused to look deep into Elise's eyes and smiled “...and so are you.”
  530.  
  531. Elise was a little taken aback. “Excuse me?”
  532.  
  533. “Your fighting tonight right? I will be watching, and so will Bellona.” She said but before Elise could question her, Enyo stopped and addressed all the warriors. “Alright, here we are! All rooms have your names on them so you should be able to find your own easily. If you are lost, we have servants dotted around, so you can ask them where to go. The servants will also come for you when the contest starts, taking you to either the warrior's booth or the arena itself.”
  534.  
  535. Most of the fighters gone to find their own rooms leaving Cyrus, Oswald, Elise and Enyo. In the hall. “So... Enyo was it?” The scalebound nodded. “Do you know Helena? She's meant to be my opponent tonight.”
  536.  
  537. Enyo's eyebrow rose before she started laughing. “You're Helena's opponent? Good luck with that,” she said.
  538.  
  539. “Why is that?” Oswald asked chuckling nervously.
  540.  
  541. “She has this thing about humans beings below her, she hasn't lost a battle as is a little uptight about it,” Enyo said. “Hell, my status as a scalebound is the only reason she tolerates me.”
  542.  
  543. Oswald pinched the bridge of his nose. “Dammit, I knew this was going to be annoying.”
  544.  
  545. “Don't worry about it, Oswald. Remember the commanders rule about a fight.” Cyrus said.
  546.  
  547. “If you go into a battle thinking you will lose, even the slightest chance of victory will be lost.”  Oswald quoted.
  548.  
  549. “Wise words,” Enyo commented.
  550.  
  551. “One of his better ones, that's for sure.” Cyrus nodded. “Granted not all of them are.”
  552.  
  553. Elise laughed. “Indeed, like `It's not the sword that's dull, it's your twiggy arms!` or `You can make any man or animal listen if you headbutt them enough.`”
  554.  
  555. “Wasn't he drunk when he said that?” Cyrus asked.
  556.  
  557. “pretty sure he was,” Elise said and the group broke into laughter.
  558.  
  559. Enyo was about to continue before something seemed to come to her mind. “I forgot there are things I must do before tonight, so if you'll excuse me,” she said as she walked down the hall. leaving the two nights and strategist.
  560.  
  561. “So that was the woman you fought in that battle?” Oswald whistled. “She has this intense feel to her, you know what I mean?”
  562.  
  563. “Pretty much, even out of her armor she is quite daunting,” Cyrus said.
  564.  
  565. Elise was confused “What I want to know, is why both she and Bellona took an interest in me?”
  566.  
  567. Cyrus shrugged. “I don't have a clue, best we could do is ask the queen after your match.”
  568.  
  569. “I guess... well, seeing as there's not much else to do I suggest we relax in one of the rooms till it starts,” Elise suggested.
  570.  
  571. With that, the three decided to rest and enjoy small talk in Cyrus room until Elise and Oswald were called to prepare for their fights. It wasn't long before one of the king's men came round to lead Cyrus to the arena proper.
  572.  
  573. The arena was just as grand on the inside as it was out of it. Freshly laid stone, a large seating for the audience, and banners holding both the crests of his kingdom and the lizardfolk's kingdom. The seats had already be filled with a variety of people, Men, women, and monsters (mostly lizardfolk, but others were there) all murmuring with excitement for the upcoming event. Though he could see that some of the monsters were staring at the male members of the audience with over plans in mind.
  574.  
  575. Cyrus let his guide take him to the warrior's seats, and he sat right next to commander Nickolai, looking around he saw the warrior booth for the lizardfolk and what he assumed was the royal booth as one of the king's maids that he brought along was setting up a throne. Next to him was a throne that had to be for the dragon queen.
  576.  
  577. Soon several horns blew, silencing the audience as a lizardwoman entered the middle of the arena.
  578.  
  579. “May I now present to you, the honourable human king Graham of Bluestone and the dragon queen of the jagged lands, Elvira!” all eye's focused on the entrance, and in entered the king, wearing his finest robes. Interestingly Cyrus did note the sword now resting on the king's hip. have to make an impression after all.
  580.  
  581. But his main focus was the one that entered along with the king. She was at least a head and a half taller than the king and had all the traits of a dragon. But unlike the faded red scales he saw in Bellona. The queen's scales was a dark red and looked a little rougher. Her hair went to her knees and was jet black with a single pure white stripe on the left side. Along with the robes, she was wearing. She met all the expectations Cyrus had thought about meeting a queen dragon.
  582.  
  583.  
  584. Queen Elvira smiled as she looked around at the audience and that smile grew when she glanced at Cyrus and Nikolai, but then her expression dulled when she looked to his right. Following her gaze, he saw she was looking at Harold, the hero paying no attention to the queen looking at him and was more busy trying to get the king's watchers to leave him alone.
  585.  
  586. “Greetings to all who have made it here.” the king's loud and clear voice made all focus on him. “We are gathered here today as part of an alliance between our nations, a chance to see if man and monster can get along beyond meaningless war.”
  587.  
  588. Elvira took over, her voice held none of the grittiness associated with Bellona and Enyo but it had a way about it that demanded respect. “As such, we celebrate this union with a friendly fight! We shall show that there is honour in both man and monster and the bonds of unity will be strengthened by that honor!”
  589.  
  590. The audience cheered till they were silenced by the king raising his hand. “With that, we declare this battle contest open! Call forth the participants!”
  591.  
  592. The fights were something, pitting the kingdom's top soldiers agitated the strongest of the lizardfolk  became one hell of a crowd pleaser, both sides took victories and defeats in stride (though defeated lizard women would shake  the hands of the victors with flushed faces) though things had to calm down a little when an excited salamander almost ran away with her defeated opponent.
  593.  
  594. After several fights, the first of the planned battles begun. Oswald came out in his armor and it was clear he was somewhat nervous. But he steeled himself and waited for his opponent who came out to meet him.
  595.  
  596. The lizardwoman that came forward was a bit more muscular than most, nothing that took away from her natural beauty. She was wearing a more decorated version of the standard lizardfolk armor, but what caught Cyrus's attention was the scowl she had on. To Cyrus and Oswald, it was familiar.
  597.  
  598. “...have we met before?” Oswald asked
  599.  
  600. “We have only met once human, but of course it hurts your lowly brain to remember.” The lizardwoman sneered.
  601.  
  602. “Now I remember you, you're the one that tried to attack at the council meeting!” He said aloud.
  603.  
  604. “Like that matters how one such as yourself remembers me.” She said with a huff. “All that matters is that I beat the stuffing out of you.”
  605.  
  606. The knight frowned. “Hey, I thought we were going to have a friendly fight? What gives?”
  607.  
  608. “None of your business! Now come! Let I, Helena, show you humans where your place is!” Helena shouted as she rose her sword.
  609.  
  610. Oswald seemed to be insulted as he pulled his sword it and assumed his stance. “Fine then! Oswald, captain of the knights is here for battle!” He declared as he launched into battle.
  611.  
  612. Nickolai rose an eyebrow as the duel started. “I don't think I've seen him this eager to start a fight in quite some time.”
  613.  
  614. Cyrus nodded “He doesn't like getting insulted when he feels he did do anything wrong. She must have really got under his skin.”
  615.  
  616. Oswald's anger showed in his strikes and keeping the lizardwoman on her guard with heavy blows. The prideful face of his opponent stayed, but is was clear she was somewhat shaken by his actions.
  617.  
  618. It was only after the knight stopped his assault to breathe was when the lizardwoman attacked. Oswald stuck to dodging and blocking, and it looked like every strike that didn't but the man down enraged Helena even more.
  619.  
  620. “Blasted human, take your defeat like a man!” She growls as the knight dodges another swing, her sword slamming into the ground and kicking up dirt.
  621.  
  622. “You know, maybe if you focus on actually me as an opponent instead of your hate of humans you might actually do more damage,” Oswald said trying to catch his breath.
  623.  
  624. “Shut up! I don't need your words!” she said as she pulled her blade out of the ground and assumed her stance. “I've never lost a battle against a human, and you will be no different!”
  625.  
  626. Cyrus could see Enyo in her warrior's booth rolling her eyes and shaking her head.
  627.  
  628. Oswald expression darkened “You know, I was actually a little afraid to fight you. A high ranked among the lizardfolk and all that but now I see... you are just a fool.” he said.
  629.  
  630. Helena stood still in shock “What?” she shouted.
  631.  
  632. “You've got a long victory streak against humans and your skill is to be recognized. But you've never swung your sword at captains like myself. And that's what makes you angry, you can't handle a `lowly human` being better than you and it's making you sloppy.” He said with a grin.
  633.  
  634. “I-I....” the lizardwoman was stuttering for a response. “I don't have to answer you!” she screamed as she ran at him.
  635.  
  636. The fight after that could be described as chaotic, both Oswald and Helena both gave and took heavy hits and it the duel was turning into a wild fight, but no one could shake the fact that the knight seemed to have more control in the fight.
  637.  
  638. And then just like that, it was over, Oswald parried a swing, sent her sword flying and pointed his sword at her throat. His opponent was lost in disbelief.
  639.  
  640. “How are you... this strong?” the asked almost quietly.
  641.  
  642. “I'm not strong, you are just complacent,” Oswald said. “If you were not so fixed on your anger. This fight would have been longer.”
  643.  
  644. Helena sank to her knees as the crowd went wild, Cyrus stood and clapped for his friend as Oswald bowed to the royals and then the crowd before leaving the arena to clean up. A different lizardwoman helped Helena do the same.
  645.  
  646. Nikolai chuckled. “That's a point in favour of the captains.”
  647.  
  648. Cyrus nodded “One of four, though I wonder what's going to happen next with those two. Elise's match is soon right?” he asked.
  649.  
  650. “Should be if I remember the lineup. I had no time to test her skills so I don't know how she'd fare.” The commander said with a bit of concern.
  651.  
  652. “I didn't even know she was fighting till I got my armour.” The captain shrugged as the announcements for the next fight was made.
  653.  
  654. It was time to see what the strategist of the knights could do in a fight.
  655.  
  656. [Part 5]
  657.  
  658. After a few more exhibition matches it was time for the strategist of the knights to fight.
  659.  
  660. Elise gripped her spear tightly as she walked out into the arena. The light armour she had on may not have looked that impressive, but it was a great change from the robes she usually wore. Whispers, rose she neared the centre of the arena, whether they were excited about the next fight or about Elise, Cyrus couldn't say.
  661.  
  662. Her opponent entered soon after she did, a lizardwoman that had short blond hair in a bob cut and was armed with a longsword. She had a bright smile on her face as she looked Elise over. “Pleased to meet you,” she said with a bow.
  663.  
  664. After a second of hesitation. Elise did the same. “Agreed. Let us have a fair match.”
  665.  
  666. The lizardwoman nodded. “Then let us begin! I am Diana, captain of Elvira's army!” she declared as she raised her sword. It turned out that Oswald's fight had started a trend where both fighters would declare their names and titles before beginning their duel.
  667.  
  668. Elise held her staff with both hands and made her own declaration. “And I am Elise! Strategist of Bluestone!” and with that, the two ran to each other to begin. Elise launched first, repeatedly thrusting her spear and keeping Diana on the defensive, dodging and blocking the spear with her claws or sword, smiling while doing so.
  669.  
  670. When Elise put too much strength into her thrust, the lizardwoman dodged the spear and swung aiming for Elise's head. The strategist went low to dodge only to be met with her opponent's knee meeting her chin. The attack made Elise stagger back but not fall and she kept her eyes on the monster as she re-assumed her starting stance.
  671.  
  672. A look of approval came across Diana's face, “Still standing after that knee? That's good, I can't remember the number of people I've taken out with that.” She says attacking with her sword. With Elise was now on the defensive. She seemed to wince from each strike she blocked but she held on and tried to counter when she saw an opening.
  673.  
  674. Cyrus watched his friend battle on with a smile. It was rare for Elise to join the knights in spars but it looked like the time she spent her days cooped up in the library and war room hadn't caused her to gain rust.
  675.  
  676. Nikolai was on the same page. “I didn't know just proficient she was with the spear. I can't remember the last time I've seen her use it.”
  677.  
  678. “She spars with Oswald and as a form of stress relief when the papers get to her, we gave her a spear to get some basic skill but it turned out she was a natural at it,” Cyrus explained.
  679.  
  680. “She may have talent, but it takes more than that to win a fight. Remind me to ask her later about her skill's, or at least ask the king to lighten her workload so she can spend time with the knights.” Nikolai said as they refocused on the battle.
  681.  
  682. Diana parried another spear thrust and went for a leg sweep. Elise jumped over her leg but then got tripped up as Diana had done a full spin, doing a second sweep with her tail. The strategist crashed to the floor and had to roll before the lizardwoman stabbed her in the chest. Getting up on one knee she thrust her spear forward in an attempt to hit her opponent in the chest, but Diana was ready for that and blocked the attack. What she wasn't expecting was a foot crashing into her face that made her stumble back.
  683.  
  684. The audience cheered as The lizardwoman regained her senses and Elise caught her breath. Daina still had a smile. “So you can fight. I had you pegged for one of those flimsy types that could only poke with a stick, I guess I was wrong.”
  685.  
  686. Elise grinned. “I will not shame the knights by not being able to fight myself. A good strategist must know the sword even if they live by the pen,” she said as she readied her spear.
  687.  
  688. Diana laughed and ready her sword “Well then, Miss `fighting strategist.`show me what else you've got!” she shouted as she charged forward, and the fight returned to high intensity. Both the women started taking heavy blows but neither of them was going to stop anytime soon.
  689.  
  690. “All of these fights make me want to swing my own sword around!” Nikolai said with a grin. He had become restless ever since he was given the chance to combat a dragon.
  691.  
  692. “I know the feeling commander. But we will have to wait.” Cyrus said with eagerness. Seeing his friends in combat had made the fact his fight was tomorrow all the more annoying.
  693.  
  694. “Did I miss anything?” both men turned to see Oswald settle down next to Cyrus.
  695.  
  696. “You miss a bunch of fights, including a lamia with a chain that was interesting. Elise has been fighting for some time now.” Cyrus explained. Oswald nodded as the three men looked back at the fight.
  697.  
  698. Both fighters were battered and Elise was taking major damage, but Diana seemed to be not that better off as far as her condition was concerned. The two were still in a dance of attacking and blocking until a lucky hit made Diana stumble back allowing for Elise to smack the lizardwoman in the face with the blunt end of the spear, almost staggering her and making her drop her sword.
  699.  
  700. With a growl, Diana grabbed Tthe spear when Elise went for another thrust and pulled it forward, making the strategist lose her footing and forcing her open to take a headbutt from the lizardwoman, making Elise let go of the spear in pain.
  701.  
  702. “This was a great fight.” Diana said as she threw the spear to the side, “But now it's over!” she said dashing forward and aiming a punch at Elise's face. Elise was snapped out her daze from the lizardwoman's words and went in for her own punch.  The end result was both fighters striking true, but the strategist didn't have the power that her monstrous opponent was packing, so while Diana fell to a knee, Elise collapsed into unconsciousness.
  703.  
  704. The crowd cheered at the fight's conclusion, both for Diana's victory and Elise's effort. The lizardwoman helped the medics take Elise out of the arena as the audience continued the cheering. Cyrus saw that the dragon queen was talking to the king, though what she was saying was beyond him.
  705.  
  706. “Dammit, she almost had her,” Oswald said.
  707.  
  708. “She may spar with us but she doesn't train regularly, she has a whole lot of skill but not the strength to back it. If she was stronger this fight would be even.” Cyrus said.
  709.  
  710. “It still was a close call,” Nikolai said. “We should be proud that she was able to last that long with what she had. Plus this gives me an excuse to whip her into shape.” He laughed as Cyrus and Oswald shivered. “But that's for later, who is next?”
  711.  
  712. “Harold's. he's scheduled to be the last fight of the day.” He said as the goodwill slowly drained from the three knights at the mention. The other two knights nodded at the acknowledgement. As the talk when more into Elise's and Oswald's fight until the next fight started.
  713.  
  714. Soon enough the hero came in, will little to no cheering from the human side and questioning whispers from the monster side, his opponent was a salamander, this one was armed with two short swords.
  715.  
  716. “How good do you think this fight will  go?” Oswald asked.
  717.  
  718. “I don't really care, all it means is that if he's in one piece at the end of it, I get a chance to crush the fool,” Cyrus said with a growl.
  719.  
  720. “Calm yourself,” Nikolai said. “Like you said earlier, we will have to wait for that, and you should be focusing on your first fight. For now, let us observe this hero's battle.” Cyrus listened to his commander's words and took a breather.
  721.  
  722. The salamander looked to be examining  Harold before she grinned. “Let's see you've got, hero!” she shouted drawing her swords and increasing the flame on her tail in a fearsome display. “I am Sofia, guard to the dragon queen!”
  723.  
  724. Harold looked worried for a second before he smirked be for drawing his own sword, it had gold inlays in it and looked more like an ornament than a weapon. “Listen well, monster, I am Harold, Hero of the chief god, And with my blade gold feather, I will be the one to end you!”
  725.  
  726. The salamander rushed forward, going for a relentless assault. Harold stuck to stuck to blocking one blade and dodging the other. The fight contained like this for some time. Almost carrying the two around the arena.
  727.  
  728. Until Sofia stopped attacking, it didn't look like she had taken a breather, but what was clear was that the grin on her face was long gone. She stared at the blade for a second before speaking. “How many monsters have you fought?”
  729.  
  730. “What?”  Harold was confused.
  731.  
  732. “you're a hero right? A warrior of the chief god, I ask you again, how many monsters have you fought? And I don't mean kill, anyone can kill, I'm asking how many times you've met one in combat?”
  733.  
  734. “Plenty of monsters, and you shall be one of them!” The knight shouted as he attacked. The fight when back and forth. With neither side landing a real hit.
  735.  
  736. “Something's wrong about this,” Cyrus said, watching the battle. “This feels more like a spar.”
  737.  
  738. “What do you mean? This fight looks pretty intense.” Oswald asked.
  739.  
  740. Cyrus shook his head. “Hero weapons are blessed by the chief god, whether he intends to kill with that blade or not, the spiritual strength of the sword should have made the salamander cautions regardless off how strong she is. Instead, she barrelling along without a care in the world.”
  741.  
  742. “And look at that tail.” Nikolai pointed out. The two focused on Sofia and the tail. The fire had diminished to a small streak instead of blaze she started out with. “You can gauge a salamander's excitement by her tail. As the saying goes `those who make the fire start, claim the fire lizards heart` it's why salamanders are to be avoided in battle or taken out quickly, it stops them from getting attached.” Nikolai explained.
  743.  
  744. The knight captains thought about the implications as the battle continued. Harold was barely holding on as Sofia got more and more aggressive, frustration seemingly growing with every successful strike she got on him until she just stopped attacking again, this time angrier than before. “I'm done,” she said, sheathing her swords
  745.  
  746. “Done? What do you mean you're done?” Harold asked.
  747.  
  748. “You can dodge and block a sword, I'll give you that, but I've seen human children with better offence than you and your speed is abysmal for a hero. It's all textbook stuff to the point where I thought you were luring me into a trap to take me down, but it turns out that's really all you have so you are just a simple fighter. That's boring... you bore me, And the fact that you're a faker makes it all the more insulting.” The salamander explained.
  749.  
  750. “Faker? I am no faker!” Harold shouted.
  751.  
  752. “I heard about you, from some of the knights that came here, you claimed you fought Enyo and sent her limping, what a joke! Enyo is stronger than I am, and you can't even take me!. And then there's the fact your lying about being a hero...”
  753.  
  754. The last sentence made the crowd rumble with questions.
  755.  
  756. “Miss... Sofia, was it? Can you please explain what you mean?” King Graham asked with interest.
  757.  
  758. “Simple, He is no hero, or at least he not in the holy sense as has never been blessed by the chief god.” the Crowd grew louder as Harold got angrier.
  759.  
  760. “And how would you know that? You are a monster that knows nothing of the church's ways!” he said as he jumped at her ready to take her head but the salamander caught the sword in her clawed hand, her blade cutting into both her hand and her neck.
  761.  
  762. “I've fought enough blessed warriors while defending my queen to know what holy power feels like. There is nothing special about this sword, to the point where I only smell human blood on it.” She said slow pushing the sword away.
  763.  
  764. “So that's why she questioned earlier about Harold beating monsters,” Oswald said in realization.
  765.  
  766. The king's face was slowly turning red. “Once more I find you lying to me!” he grouched.
  767.  
  768. “You majesty I can expla-” Harold started.
  769.  
  770. “No!” the King roared in anger, so much that the dragon queen next to him twitched. “I have heard you lie for the last time! I feared the church's anger by imprisoning you despite what you tried to pull in that battle! No more! Men!” the King bellowed. Knights that hadn't fought in the day's matches ran to the king's side. “Take this scum to whatever counts here as a cell and keep him there! He will be imprisoned for the rest of his miserable days when we get back to the city. Sent letters to the city and the neighbouring kingdoms of what we have learned. This falsehood ends!”
  771.  
  772. Harold then tried to run but the knights had jumped into the arena and caught him before he was able to reach the gates and make a break to escape. The last that was heard was him scheming obscenities as the knight's dragged the so-called hero away.
  773.  
  774. Elvira rose from her throne and spoke to spectators, “With that mess, we just witness sorted, I shall call an end to today's events. Please relax and socialize with your fellow man and monster within reason, and return tomorrow for the rest of the fights."
  775.  
  776. The audience either started to leave or sat where they were talking about the day's matches.
  777.  
  778. “Well least he got what he deserved,” Cyrus said as the knight's walked out of the seating area and into the corridors of the Colosseum, Nikolai had already separated to talk to the king
  779.  
  780. “You sound disappointed,” Oswald said.
  781.  
  782. “On one hand justice is served. On the other hand, I wanted to settle our problems in the fight.” Cyrus said. “Nothing I can do about it now I guess.”
  783.  
  784. “Excuse me, Sir Cyrus?” Cyrus turned to see a lizardwoman. “Queen Elvira would like to see you.”
  785.  
  786. Cyrus looked at Oswald, “Go check on Elise, Hopefully, this won't take long.” With a nod, Oswald continued to the med bay while Cyrus followed the attendant. Thinking about what the dragon queen would want.
  787.  
  788. [part 6]
  789.  
  790. Cyrus was seated at a table alongside king Graham and Nikolai. Seated opposite them was the dragon queen Elvira, along with Bellona and Enyo. Lead against the wall was the guard Sofia, seemingly more focused on a guard that the king brought with him then the meeting.
  791.  
  792. “Now that we are all seated, I've got a few questions for the three of you. First of which, what I the full story of that so-called `hero`?” Elvira asked. “I must admit, I had little caring for the events of the battle or the meeting you had with Bellona, only its outcome. I have also lost my touch it seems, as I had thought he was masking his energy for us to underestimate him.”
  793.  
  794. “He came to us around the time we caught wind of a monster horde invasion. Backed by his supposed track  record and hero status alongside the council's blind approval, he replaced Oswald as temporary captain for the upcoming battle.” The king explained. “Though I must ask if you were going to vouch for an alliance, why add your forces to the invasion?”
  795.  
  796. “I was considering the idea a while after Bellona had already left the troops. We saw a chance in that battle to get something out of it and we took it, after all, we too are monsters.” She said with a grin. “Continue the battle.”
  797.  
  798. Nikolai continued. “We managed to separate the enemy into three groups, I had the north-western unit and Cyrus here had the northern. The north-east was supposed to be lead by Harold. And that's where Enyo comes in.”
  799.  
  800. The scalebound perks up at her getting mentioned. “Me? I was fighting the knights that looked disorgan...oh!” she then nods in understanding.
  801.  
  802. “What is it?” The queen questioned.
  803.  
  804. “That group had no leader, they had managed to drive of their share of the horde but with my group turning up along with my own strength-”
  805.  
  806. “A full wipe-out.” Bellona nodded. “Not to mention Harold's disappearance would be crippling for morale.”
  807.  
  808. Cyrus saw it as his turn to speak. “I had beaten my share of the enemy too and right afterwards got a scout informing me of a scalebound coming my way. With fatigue making retreat impossible without disaster, we stood our ground and waited to meet them, I assume the rest of the battle you know?” the two dragons nodded. “So after that, we had a meeting with the council to discuss the battle, and that is where  Harold had laid claim to injuring Enyo in battle, him and councilman Richard calling me and my knights gloryhounds and liars. Bellona came in right after that and like the battle, you know the rest.”
  809.  
  810. “I see,” Elvira said. “There is something I still don't understand if he was a fraud hero that never got blessed, why was he so confident in his skills?”
  811.  
  812. Bellona huffed “Arrogance, I think. He was so sure that the gap between monsters and the average human humans was small enough that he didn't need advanced training. He may have taken out monsters with other means. But only fought humans as any kind of sword experience.”
  813.  
  814. “It would explain why I smelled human blood,” Sofia said from her place.
  815.  
  816. “What do you plan to do with him after the contest?” Elvira asked Graham.
  817.  
  818. “He will spend his days in the dungeon, with his lies coming to light I doubt anyone will protest this.” Nobody had anything to say to that end. “Is there anything else you wanted to know?”
  819.  
  820. “I wanted to see the man my daughter is so infatuated with.” She said with a smile. Cyrus looked at Enyo surprised while she looked away embarrassed.
  821.  
  822. “Your...daughter? But I thought...” Cyrus started.
  823.  
  824. “Scalebound's contain the magic and blood of the dragon that made them what they are. I consider her my daughter in every way.” Elvira explained. “She also thinks and acts worthy of any dragon, so that's what got me interested in you. So, tell me Cyrus, long have you been in a Knight?”
  825.  
  826. “Nine years, your majesty” Cyrus stated.
  827.  
  828. “And what do you think of this alliance?” The queen asked. “It must be sudden, battling monsters all your like to sting at the table with us, am I right?”
  829.  
  830. “I'll admit I never imagined having peace talks with any monster, let alone a dragon queen. But I'll gladly support peace talks if it means keeping the wild factions away, Integration is much better than war.” He said.
  831.  
  832. The queen nodded with a smile. “A fine answer. you act like the man of honour that was described to me. I look forward to seeing you prove your worth tomorrow.”
  833.  
  834. Nikolai scratched his beard. “About that. How are we doing the remaining fights?”
  835.  
  836. “We will fight first, followed by Cyrus and Enyo. I liked what I saw with your knights and strategist. I can only imagine what you would be like as their teacher.” Bellona said licking her lips with her tail twitching in the air.
  837.  
  838. Enyo growled “Hold on! This whole event was made so I could fight Cyrus, why do I have to fight last?”
  839.  
  840. “We decided to save the best till last. Though it would be great for the watchers to see what sort of potential you two have.” Bellona said as she made exaggerated stretching movements as she looked. “Also got to show the new blood that the old ones still got it. I'm sure you feel the same way, don't you commander?” She asked Nikolai
  841.  
  842. Nikolai hummed in agreement. “It's hard to sit still with all these warriors showing their strength.”
  843.  
  844. “But I-” Enyo was going to continue complaining, but she was cut off by Elvira.
  845.  
  846. “Enyo, what have I said about eagerness?” The dragon queen sounded like she was scolding a child.
  847.  
  848. The scalebound sighed. “Patience is a thing all dragons must learn,” she grumbled. She then looked at Cyrus with an expression he couldn't really read, so he just left it up to her being eager.
  849.  
  850. “A wise saying, I expect no less form a dragon,” Graham commented. “You must have years of wisdom.”
  851.  
  852. Elvira smiled and raised an eyebrow. “Why, King Graham, are you calling me old?” She asked sweetly. Tension seemed to fill the air and the rooms other occupants looked at each other. “I thought a ruler like your self would have more tact."
  853.  
  854. “I thought I was making a compliment, It's well known that dragons take pride in their power, and said power is based on experience, so what better experience is time?” The king said without a hint of fear in his voice. “Or are you so low as to take offence to having your age called out?” he finished with a grin.
  855.  
  856. The dragon queen stared at him for a second before she burst out laughing. “Oh my! Such fire in you, Graham! Few are willing to tell me such things!” she said through her laughing. Even Bellona gave a sigh of relief.
  857.  
  858. “What man could call himself a ruler if he could not see fellow rulers as equals?” Graham said simply.
  859.  
  860. “Very true” Elvira agreed. “Well then, with nothing else to really discuss, I shall be having dinner. Care to join me, Graham?” The king nodded and the two got up and made their way out the door. Sofia the guard silently following after them.
  861.  
  862. Bellona rose from her chair. “There are things I wish to talk with Enyo about if you will excuse us.” She said as she led Enyo out the room, leaving only Nikolai and Cyrus.
  863.  
  864. The commander sighed. “We should get some food ourselves. Its been a long day and we need to be in top form tomorrow,” he said as he got up.
  865.  
  866. “Urm... commander?” Cyrus got his attention as he stood up. “Do you even know where the eating area is?”
  867.  
  868. “Nikolai's eyes widened “...Dammit”
  869.  
  870. ~X~ (Sometime later)
  871.  
  872. Eventually, the two knights made it to the food hall. Nikolai went to eat with the other knights so he could get reports at the same time, while Cyrus had found Oswald and Elise among those seated and sat with his food and drink at their table.
  873.  
  874. “Hay, Cyrus.” Oswald greeted. “So what did the dragon queen want with you?”
  875.  
  876. “She had heard a lot from Enyo and Bellona and wanted to see me up close herself,” Cyrus said. Before turning to Elise “How you feeling?” He asked before taking a bite of his meal.
  877.  
  878. “A bit sore, but it's manageable,” she said. “I had head from Oswald that Harold had been imprisoned.”
  879.  
  880. “Yeah, he's going straight to the dungeons when we get back to Bluestone. So that means my deal with him is pointless now.” Cyrus said.
  881.  
  882. Oswald ate some bread and spoke up.“Think of it this way, with him out the way, you can put all your strength into the fight with Enyo.”
  883.  
  884. “How strong is she?” Elise asked.
  885.  
  886. “Very, she's the strongest opponent I've ever fought. Though it does give me confidence if the Queens guard said Enyo was stronger than she and I were evenly matched in the battle. Lizardfolk and dragonkin have earned the fear they get.” drinking fruit juice from his mug. (A knights custom was to never enter the battlefield drunk or hungover.)
  887.  
  888. “Well, it could be worse. You could have finished your fight and had to deal with the aftermath.” Oswald said before finishing his meal.
  889.  
  890. “What do you mean by worse?” Cyrus asked. Oswald pointed to the right and Cyrus followed it to a nearby table. At the table was Helena, who was looking away like she had just been caught doing something.
  891.  
  892. “She's been near me and doing that for some time. I don't know what's up. She as a pretty straightforward woman before.” Oswald said as Cyrus shrugged and continued eating.
  893.  
  894. “Maybe she just wants a rematch,” Elise said.
  895.  
  896. “Could be that. Though I wish she would just come forward and tell me.”  Oswald sighed.
  897.  
  898. “At least the two of you don't have to go through the paperwork. That's only thing waiting for me when we get back.” Elise started to lament before looking up to both her friends laughing. “What?”
  899.  
  900. “You didn't tell her?” Cyrus asked still chuckling.
  901.  
  902. “Nope, you needed to be here to see the look on her face.” Oswald said. Before turning to Elise “You might get some of your workload lifted.”
  903.  
  904. “Really? But that's great news for me! Do you know how long I've been waiting to hear something like that? What's wrong with that.” Elise Questioned.
  905.  
  906. “How about the fact that it's going to be a personal request from commander Nikolai in order for you to be training with him to refine your skills?” Cyrus said and grinned at Elise's shock. “You Impressed him with the way you handled yourself in that fight, so know he wants you to put more work into it, so good luck with that.”
  907.  
  908. Elise's face looked like her stomach had launched a full rebellion. The expression sent the two knights into a fit of laughter.
  909.  
  910. “I needed that,” Cyrus said as he calmed down. “It's going to be a be a long day tomorrow.”
  911.  
  912. The three spend their time talking until it was getting late, Cyrus left early to prepare for tomorrow.
  913.  
  914. ~X~ (Noon the next day)
  915.  
  916. The arena was filled to the brim like before. The audience rumbled in anticipation. Cyrus was seated where he was last time, only with Elise and Oswald at his sides. In the Lizardfolk's booth. He saw Enyo and Helena, the lizardwoman staring at is fellow captain, much to Oswald's growing agitation.
  917.  
  918. Nikolai and Bellona were already in the arena, bother armed with their, weapons; a large two-handed sword for Nikolai and a greatsword for Bellona.
  919.  
  920. The crowd became silent when Nikolai stepped forward and began to speak loudly for all to hear. “If the young ones and to prove themselves, they will have to match the strength of the old guard first.” He started swinging his blade as before getting into a stance and shouting. “Knights of Bluestone! Warriors of the Jagged lands! Witness us! Be prepared to see the generations finest, and hunger for that goal!” he said.
  921.  
  922. “Well said, Nikolai,” Bellona said before she let out a roar, that sent a rumble through the arena. Her wings flared and her tail slammed on the floor, kicking up dust. “I am Bellona! Commander of the jagged land warriors. Be proud, for I haven't had a true duel in years!”
  923.  
  924. Nikolai grinned. “I am Nickolai, Knight commander of Bluestone! Have at you!” Declarations out the way. Bellona flew at him and swung, only to be blocked by his sword.  The clang of that cash echoed throughout the arena.
  925.  
  926. The battle was intense right from the start, the two old warriors relentlessly slashing and stabbing at each over with speed that betrayed the knight commanders heavy build and the large weapons they both used.
  927.  
  928. The audience as on the edge of their seats as the commander's duel raged onwards, Ohs and ahs at every heavy hit taken or close call. Cyrus watched every swing closely, Observing the might of the two dragons.
  929.  
  930. “I... don't think I've ever seen the commander battle like this before. Was he holding back in the battles?” Oswald asked.
  931.  
  932. “He was. Think about it, In a battle, you have to divide your strength, just smashing through the enemy without a plan could leave you burnt out and open for attacks. Here, there's just one opponent, and he could but all his strength into taking a said opponent out.” Cyrus explained.
  933.  
  934. “Look at his face,” Elise said. Sure enough, the commander looked to be just short of laughing in battle-lust as he fought. “This is the happiest I've seen him.”
  935.  
  936. “This is his dream fight. He said he wanted to take on the best that the monster kind had to offer, and dragons fit the bill quite well. He knew that a dragon like Bellona wouldn't go down in one hit, and that got him excited long before the match.” Cyrus said.
  937.  
  938. Back in the fight, Bellona had taken to flying and using aerial attacks to throw Nikolai off, and it was doing a good job as claws ripped at his armour and blocking was making him stumble. The knights were worried that the battle was shifting in the dragon's favor when she took another dive and swung her sword, disarming Nikolai and forcing him to dodge and weave out of her attacks.
  939.  
  940. Then after a few times, Nickolai dodged a dive from Bellona like usual, but she gave a pained yelp and she stopped flying back up. The audience gasped at the site of Nikolai holding the dragon's tail in his hands. With a load, straining yell, He turned and pulled the tail down with all his might, swinging Bellona face first into the floor with a rumbling slam.
  941.  
  942. Everyone stayed quiet as Bellona stumbled to her feat in a semi-daze and Nikolai went to pick up his sword while panting. Even the dragon queen stared wide-eyed in surprise at such a move.
  943.  
  944. “You...” Bellona growled with smoke appearing to emerge from beneath her teeth. She then stomped the ground with her clawed toes digging into the floor. “Let's see you try this!” That was the only warning she gave before taking a deep breath and blowing out a blazing stream of fire.
  945.  
  946. “Holy crap!” Oswald shouted at the sight.
  947.  
  948. “Dragonfire... I never thought I would it first hand.” Elise said in awe
  949.  
  950. The next few minutes. were a testament to Nikolai's endurance and Bellona's fire-breathing. It turns out that dragons had two ways of breathing fire; In one long stream or in large balls. Nickolai was on the ropes, having to shed most of hs upper armour due to it slightly melting when he took a hit to the chest. And was getting slower with his dodging just like the dragon was with her flames.
  951.  
  952. “It's time to bring this to a close, Nikolai!” Bellona shouted with glee as flames flickered in her mouth, “You will have no room to dodge!”
  953.  
  954. Nikolai said nothing, he only grinned as he stepped towards her, getting faster until it turned into a full run.
  955.  
  956. “What is he crazy? If she fires now he's gonna take it to the face!” Oswald shouted.
  957.  
  958. “There's no tie to dodge our counter, what is he planning to do, go out with a bang?” Elise said worried.
  959.  
  960. Cyrus said nothing and looked on. He was sure his Commander had some form of plan.
  961.  
  962. Bellona let loose a stream of fire greater than any before, the blast looking to fully engulf Nikolai as he didn't stop his mad dash. Then he suddenly dropped down, sliding under the fire. His slide took him right under the dragon, who couldn't stop her fire in time to defend herself from Nikolai letting out a war cry and punching her in the stomach.
  963.  
  964. Bellona's fire stream cut off abruptly as she to choked out black smoke and swung her arm wildly as she fell back, hitting Nikolai in the face with both the smoke and the claw.  The two of them both ended up on their knees, each trying to deal with their own form of pain.
  965.  
  966. By the time they were on their feet, neither looked like they had the strength to continue. A fact made clear when Nikolai gestured for a handshake, and when Bellona took it, there was no surprise headbutt or attack from either of them. So the fight concluded in a draw.
  967.  
  968. The audience exploded into cheers when The two fighters bowed to their rulers and then helped each other to the oncoming medics, though it looked like they didn't get taken far. Cyrus's guess was that they wanted to see what was next.
  969.  
  970. And what was next was his fight. Right after the epic duel between the veterans was a duel between the new blood.
  971.  
  972. Cyrus didn't know whether his hands were shaking from worry or eagerness. It was finally time to face off against his opponent. He had no idea what kind of training she could have done in comparison to his own, how different this fight would be to the duel on the plains. So many things swam through his head he almost didn't notice Oswald's hand on his shoulder.
  973.  
  974. “You okay, Cyrus?” Oswald asked.
  975.  
  976. Cyrus sighed. “I'm honestly not sure, But I'll be better when I'm out there, It's much easier to get focused when the goal is right in front of me.” He said as he got up.
  977.  
  978. “Remember Cyrus. We will be cheering for you all the way. No matter what happens” Elise said.
  979.  
  980. Cyrus smiled and nodded. “Then I guess I better prove your faith in me.” He said as he went to put on his armour. “This may be a friendly fight, but I have no intention of losing.”
  981.  
  982. [Part 7]
  983.  
  984. If you told Cyrus he would be fighting not in defence of his home, but as a weird form of peace talks with a dragon-let kingdom, he would call you crazy. Yet here he was,, about to fight a scalebound to close of this contest.
  985.  
  986. Out of the leaders fighting, it was one win with Oswald, a loss with Elise and a draw with Nikolai. No matter if he won or lost, the strength of the knights had long since been proven as each had given it their all.
  987.  
  988. He fiddled with a gauntlet as he stepped onto the arena floor. He looked around at all the spectators that were rumbling with excitement, knights cheering and showing their support for their captain and the lizardfolk looking him over with excited curiosity. He could see a patched up Nickolai and Bellona in the crowd, both of them giving him appraising looks which sent a nervous chill down his spine that he hope he his well.
  989.  
  990. The doors on the other side of the arena opened and out marched Enyo in all her armoured glory. The cheers from the monster side increased as the scalebound stepped forward to meet her opponent.
  991.  
  992. Cyrus could see excitement dancing in her eyes. She was eager, more eager in some of the salamanders he had seen the previous day. The scalebound looked him over and grinned. “You look better than you did on the battlefield, I hope you're ready as now there is nothing to stop this fight,” she said.
  993.  
  994. “I'd say the same to you, but I've been waiting so long for this that I believe words are best left for when all is said and done,” Cyrus said.
  995.  
  996. “Agreed. Let us begin.” Enyo said as she drew her sword. “I am Enyo! Scalebound of Elvira! Let us fight with honour!” she Declared taking her stance.
  997.  
  998. Cyrus drew his long sword and followed her declaration. “I am Cyrus, knight captain of Bluestone! Let's do this!” He shouted.
  999.  
  1000. With a wild warcry, both combatants charged at each other and swung. The clang of metal rang almost loud enough to drown out the crowds cheering as the fight exploded into action.
  1001.  
  1002. The month of heavy training with the commander served Cyrus well. In their first fight, she was too fast for him, too tricky for him to counter. While Cyrus had indeed gotten stronger and faster it wasn't by much, but when combined with fresh skill and tactics what was one as a slow hold out until defeat was now a breath taking back and forth. Enyo actually looked surprised at first, probably not expecting the extent of his new-found might, but soon shook it off and got into it.
  1003.  
  1004. ~X~
  1005.  
  1006. In the royal booth, Queen Elvira watched intently as her daughter battled the knight captain, and she was getting excited for the first time in years. If she was to pin it, the last time she felt like this was when Enyo had first become a scalebound.
  1007.  
  1008. These humans were above the bandits and travellers she was used to seeing. To almost walk away a victor from fighting Bellona wasn't easy, the two dragons had laid waste to many a battlefield together and had years of war behind them. But it didn't matter, Nikolai hadn't won but he had proven his worth.
  1009.  
  1010. And now watching Enyo battle the man that had let to all of this happening stirred her. “Your knights are impressive, Graham. Their battles remind me of my younger days” she said to king Graham while keeping an eye on the fight.
  1011.  
  1012. The King hummed in agreement. “Indeed, all this fighting heats the old blood. Part of me wants to grab a sword and fight.”
  1013.  
  1014. “Oh?” The Dragon queen perked up, interested.
  1015.  
  1016. “I watch my Knights and I wonder if I've still got it, or has all the years of meat'n wine dulled my edge?” He said glancing and the sword in his belt. “I feel like becoming king slowed time.”
  1017.  
  1018. “I know the feeling, I can't remember when I last fought... The fights I got is as a youngling, the rush on the rise to being a ruler, what I would give to feel those days again.” Elvira reminisced.
  1019.  
  1020. “...I wonder... Maybe we should see just how much fight we have left?” Graham asked aloud. “Prove that the glory days aren't over yet.”
  1021.  
  1022. “...If I didn't know any better, that sounds like a challenge.” Elvira said.
  1023.  
  1024. He shrugged. “Just thinking aloud mostly. Besides, us rulers can't just get hands when we want to, that's what our warriors are for.” He said laughing.
  1025.  
  1026.  “Right...” she said with a chuckle,  the king was so caught up in his amusement that he missed the new spark in the dragon queen's eye. He also missed her soft whisper
  1027.  
  1028. “Even so, I might just hold you to that.”
  1029.  
  1030. ~X~
  1031.  
  1032. As the rulers talked about the past, the crowd was also hyped watching the match. The breath into skill the previous fight had was shining through clearly with the younger warriors as Enyo and Cyrus attacked each other ruthlessly.
  1033.  
  1034. Cyrus put too much strength into his stab and had paid for it by stumbling after Enyo parried and slashed at his face getting him across the nose. With her sword being made of demon silver he felt the draining sensation on his face, irritating him as he felt the numbness with every breath.
  1035.  
  1036. “First blood's mine, Cyrus!” Enyo shouted with glee as she became more aggressive, forcing Cyrus on the defensive with heavy swings.
  1037.  
  1038. The knight bared his teeth in a grin. “Happy over a small cut?”  He growled out. Internally the cut annoyed him, it was a sign he was slipping and needed to push himself harder. He kept stepping back and two the sides as he defended Enyo's assault, searching for an opening. He had to get back on the offensive soon or else he tire out by dodging.
  1039.  
  1040. Thinking fast, he dodged to the sided when Enyo stabbed forward and used a free hand to grab her arm, pulling her forward into a headbutt. It wasn't his best idea as they both reeled back in pain, Enyo grasping her nose as a small around of blood came out. Despite the pain he managed to grin “Eye for an eye.” he chuckled as he swayed a little. “Gods, how hard is your head?
  1041.  
  1042. “You...” Enyo growled before she launched forward again. The fight raged on with both opponents ending up fighting more brutally than most had seen; punches and kicks lashed out at odd moments,  sometimes stomaching a hit so they could attack and other things. It was turning to be a more wild brawl then the commander's duel.
  1043.  
  1044. Cyrus eventually got a pattern going, ever now and again he would he do something abnormal to catch her off guard, which in turn left her open to more attacks in her anger at getting caught with it. While it didn't always work (the injures on him were proof of that.) he was getting somewhere as she was starting to slow down, and her strikes had less strength in them.
  1045.  
  1046. After another heated exchange of blows, the backed away from each other, collecting their breath as they stared each other down. Respect was the greatest emotion between the two of them as they planed their next move, the one to recover first would be the one to attack.
  1047.  
  1048. Feeling ready, Cyrus charged forward the other's culture to strike. But he noticed Enyo hadn't raised her sword. He was about to prepare for a low hit if he hadn't caught the glint in her eyes that grin that made him stop... and he was thankful that he dad as he would have taken a fireball to the face.
  1049.  
  1050. Cyrus looked at where the fireball landed with a crash and then back at Enyo somewhat shaken. The `blessings of dragons` a  scalebound wielded as far as he knew was strength and reflexes, nothing about breathing fire!
  1051.  
  1052. He snapped out of his thoughts to dodge a couple of more fire balls, feeling the heat as one almost caught his arm. Cyrus had to think of a plan fast, He knows that monster energy stopped people from truly getting armed by it, but he still wanted to win the fight.
  1053.  
  1054. ~X~
  1055.  
  1056. “Holy crap!” Oswald shouted as he watched Cyrus dodge fireballs.
  1057.  
  1058. “Scalebounds using dragonfire, I didn't think it possible,” Elise said excitedly scribbling notes like a woman possessed. “I have to talk to Enyo after this fight, there's so much we could learn from her about it!”
  1059.  
  1060. “Focus on the fight, Elise,” Oswald said. “He's is in serious trouble, we didn't know their connection to the dragons went this far, he wasn't ready for this.”
  1061.  
  1062. “I'm not sure how he would get out of this one, maybe if he did something like what commander Nikolai did?” Elise put her hand to her chin in thought.
  1063.  
  1064. “That wouldn't work... look.” They watched as whenever Enyo tired from shooting fire and Cyrus got close, there was enough time to ready her sword and defend herself, and then after a short exchange made some distance and started her fire again. “There no way for him to stop it and we don't know if she can shoot streams like Bellona did. This could get ugly.”
  1065.  
  1066. Elise nodded. “It's jarring, but there must be some way around it were not seeing. Cyrus is down there, he might have a better idea than us.”
  1067.  
  1068. “We'll just have to see.” Oswald said.
  1069.  
  1070. ~X~
  1071.  
  1072. Cyrus growled n frustration he dodged another fireball, this was getting old quite fast. He had tried everything he could think of to get within Enyos defence but he was taking more damage then she was whenever he got close.
  1073.  
  1074. He grit his teeth and steeled himself, he refused to let himself lose by tiring out, he got this new sword for a reason dammit! Wait...
  1075.  
  1076. An idea came to Cyrus as he glanced had his sword. It was risky as hell, but it was better than nothing. He rose his longsword into his stance and got ready. When the next fireball came Cyrus put the flat of the blade in front of him just as the fireball hit. He felt the impact and took a step or two back as felt the searing heat, but the sword held.
  1077.  
  1078. Cyrus grinned, Rolo's forging stood up to dragonfire after all!
  1079.  
  1080. With almost reckless abandon, Cyrus moved forward, blocking the fireballs that came his way with his sword as a makeshift shield. Enyo looked annoyed and was putting more power into her shots. Cyrus broke into a run when he was close enough, hoping he was right.
  1081.  
  1082. He was at the range where Cyrus was running to fast to block it and too straight to dodge in time, even if he blocked t she would be close enough to attack with her sword afterwards. “It's over!” She roared as she let loose a large fireball.
  1083.  
  1084. Cyrus gave a fierce warcry as he swung his sword at the fireball, the was an explosion of smoke as the swing hit. Everyone thought he was down for the count, only for him to bust out the smoke looking no worse for wear.
  1085.  
  1086. Enyo shout a shocked “What?” as the once more yelling Knight held his sword by the blade in reverse and smashed the hilt across her face. Enyo, not prepared for such a strike, was knocked out cold.
  1087.  
  1088. Cyrus had won.
  1089.  
  1090. The crowd watched n silence as Cyrus stabbed his sword in to the ground and gave a victory shout. The whole arena exploded with cheers as he dropped to one knee. The pain of the fight catching up now that his battle high was leaving him.
  1091.  
  1092. Oswald and Elise rushed down to the arena floor to help him up. “I honestly didn't think you were going to win that!” Oswald said patting his friend on the back. “You're one of the craziest knights around pulling a stunt like that.
  1093.  
  1094. “I'm still in shock. To see that kind of power up close...” Elise said.
  1095.  
  1096. “She's strong... almost too strong, If I didn't gamble on the strength of my sword, I would have lost. To be pushed to my limits like that...” Cyrus wheezed out. He tried to walk but stumbled.
  1097.  
  1098. “Easy now, Cyrus. We'll help you to the medbay so they can check you over.” Oswald said as he and Elise helped him out of the arena and away for a crowd still applauding the match.
  1099.  
  1100. And soon the tired knight passed out on a medic bed, happy with his achievement.
  1101.  
  1102. ~X~
  1103.  
  1104. Elvira was restraining herself from visibly shaking with joy...
  1105.  
  1106. Such power... the might of these humans, Enyo may not have been a full dragon, but she was still her daughter, raised to stand at the top. And this man, a mere boy compared to her years, had triumphed!
  1107.  
  1108. Even if she had lost, she was proud of her daughter, she had not known Enyo had learnt dragonfire and to the extent she did. The display made her think, now was the time and maybe Enyo was ready to-
  1109.  
  1110. “Something on your mind, Elvira?” Graham's voice brought her out of her thoughts. The king of all these strong knights that didn't look that bad despite his inaction, if anything he was quite the man...  Still, she would have to make plans for later, for now, she had to wrap this up.
  1111.  
  1112. “Ah, sorry, this fight had given me things to think about. I'll discuss this later.” She said ass she rose from her seat.
  1113.  
  1114. The lizardwoman stepped forward and called out. “Her Highness Elvira wishes to speak!”
  1115.  
  1116. The audience slowly went quiet as the dragon queen cleared her throat. “On these two days, we have whiteness the hight of talent from knights, lizardfolk and monsters alike, let this day be known when we crossed sword not for plundering in search of men or invasions to purge in the name of God, but a show of strength that when used together, can protect peace!”
  1117.  
  1118. King Graham joined Elvira at her side. “As such, I, king Graham officially declare that the bluestone kingdom is in allegiance with the Jagged lands!
  1119.  
  1120. The audience erupted to cheers, Elvira waited for them to calm down before continuing. “In further Celebration, there will be a feast tonight and tomorrow before we head back to our respective kingdoms, for now, we would like you to get to know each other, as each of you will be seeing a lot of the others culture in the future.
  1121.  
  1122. After some applause, the crowds started to disperse and talk amongst each other. Elvira called one of her guards to her side. “Check on both Enyo and Bellona's conditions, tell Bellona to meet me in a few hours preferably before the feast. Then report back to me, I should be around the gardens.” The guard bowed and left, Leaving Elvira alone with Graham.
  1123.  
  1124. “So I guess this is the start of us working, I'll have to get the merchants to start planning trade deals and other things.” The king said, rubbing his temples to fend off the oncoming headache.
  1125.  
  1126. “There's no need for that now, our warriors have fought their all and done us proud and we have just launched a two-day party. Relax Graham, and enjoy the hospitality of the jagged lands.” The queen said. With a smile. “Why not walk with me, mingle with the common folk, tell me more about yourself and leave the important talk for later?”
  1127.  
  1128. King Graham hesitated but then nodded. Together, the two royals talked about trivial matters as he left the booth. The battle contest was over.
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