The night's breeze carried the forest's will, breathing a refreshing scent of pine and bark through the lands. The moon's radiance, beautifying all in its glow, perfectly matched the majesty that was Veronica von Schwert.
A carriage leisurely rolled along a man-made road, typical of roads laid for ease of access between cities, carrying four siblings of noble lineage. Two armoured horses trotted in front, a dignified coachman at the reins. From the lack of shaking and rocking, one could easily confuse the vehicle for having built-in suspension - if you're from Earth, that is. In truth, it was a magic spell from the School of Wind that created a pocket of air that would surround the wheels in likeness of a cushion.
Veronica von Schwert sat with her eyes closed, her thoughts regretting not having a maid to serve her warm tea on their journey to Alexandria's capital. Tristan von Schwert, seated opposite her, also had his eyes closed. His arms were crossed, and it looked like he had fallen asleep. David and Eric von Schwert sat opposite each other as well, both chatting quietly about their own exploits in battle.
"Grenthora's elite troops disappointed me," David remarked with a smirk. "I alone sent over 60 of them to the afterlife."
"Only 60?" Eric scoffed at him. "That pales in comparison to achievements like mine own, brother."
"Surely you jest," David replied in doubt. "You, Eric 'the Dagger', could outdo me in the battlefield?"
"I'll have you forget that joke of a name, brother! It has been years since I used such toys last."
"Then tell me, young brother, how many did you fell in your clash against Grenthora's army?"
"At least 100!"
"'100' you say? My, what power you posses, Young Master of the von Schwert house."
"Spare me your banalities, brother. Whether or not one believes me, my words ring true in my heart."
"No doubt, young brother. They must ring true in the hearts of a fair bar maiden or two also, no?"
"Brother! You dog!"
"Was I mistaken? Then it must be their fair bar maiden bosoms you truly wanted to ring?"
Eric fumed, threatening the laughing David with a tightly clenched fist. On the side, even the eldest of the brothers could not hold back from chuckling at their banter. Veronica's eyes reflected the moonlight, making her beauty feel out of place inside the carriage.
The coachman, shielding himself from the cold of the night with a leather coat, snacked on jerky as he rode. It could be said that the old coachman had lived his entire life behind the reins. His father was a coachman, and his father before him.
The coachman's worth, widely thought only for their ability to hold the reins, actually lay in their ability to scout; to use their eyes. They, alone, could watch over the horizon, the forests and the roads. In a world where horses prevailed as the mainstream mode of transport, just about any young boy or handmaiden could hold the reins. Only a sentryman, a veteran at that, could be under the employ of important individuals such as the von Schwerts.
A casual knocking sounded through the carriage's wall, a signal previously agreed upon inform the brothers of impending dangers. Tristan von Schwert opened his eyes, a look of discontent evident on his face, and he knocked back.
The carriage came to a slow stop, the horses whinnied as if to say "thank God for the rest."
The coachman lifted himself off his seat, his actions telling of his nonchalant attitude toward the men bearing swords he had spotted earlier running in their direction. He opened the carriage door, bowing to his Lords, Tristan, David and Eric von Schwert stepping off in turn.
Finishing off the last bandit, and wiping the blood off his sword, Tristan returns the blade to its sheath. The ornamental gem at the end of the handle shone in the late afternoon sun.
"Trist," an adrenaline filled Eric came to a stop in front of him. "We're finished over there."
"Yes," David chimed in. "The knaves sorely miscalculated when they chose to attack our carriage."
"I'm glad to see you both healthy. What of our sister?"
"Is there a need to worry for her?"
"You're right, Second Brother."
"Dave, you worry for naught! Haha!"
At that moment, with low-pitched rumbling echoing off the rock walls, a flaming arrow flew past the von Schwert brothers and glued itself to the carriage. The impact of the arrow caused the carriage to rock from side to side, testament to just how strong the archer was.
The tar-fueled fire spread to the rest of the carriage, eating at the varnish and longing for the wooden frames.
The brothers shouted and lunged at the carriage. Before they could take a second step, the fire's life had already been extinguished. Veronica von Schwert opened the door and floated out of the carriage, as though she were a fairy, her every action showing a level of grace rivaling Queens.
"Dearest Eric," a soft voice said. "You have spent much time with those of lower class. You have learned their words."
"D-d-dearest sister!" Eric stammered, a feeling of goosebumps shooting up his spine. "I was only worried for your safety!"
"No," David interjected. "He's been fooling around those bar maidens, recently."
"You shut your mouth!" Eric retorted, his rage being shrugged off by David's casual attitude.
"Veronica," Tristan finally said. "Are you alright?"
"Yes, Eldest brother," she replied nonchalantly. "A fire of that caliber is but child's play."
"'Child's play', you say?"
Standing ahead of the carriage, surrounded by ten men aiming at them with drawn bows, a man wearing a bandana ridiculed the von Schwerts.
"Young Masters and Miss of the von Schwert house," the man smirked. "It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance on this lovely eve."
"Knave! State your n--" Eric was cut off by his sister's hand.
"Dear brother," she said, with a trace of displeasure. "Let us hear what these men have to say."
"Yes, 'Dear brother'," the man mocked. "You must know that we aren't the only bowmen with our sights trained on you, no?"
"Speak," Veronica said. "We of the von Schwert house have no time for society's stragglers nor vagrants. Say what you will, and be off."
The eleven men looked at each other, grinning broadly, and broke out in laughter.
"Young Miss," the man said, wiping a tear from his eye. "You must be mistaken. You four are to become our most valued guests. There are people who would see you all dead, you know?"
"..." the von Schwerts remained silent, following their sister's lead.
"Ptui!" the man spat. "You nobles are all just a bunch-a haughty bitches - always hiding behind your family's name! MEN! Take them hostage. Tie them up."
Jumping down from the rock wall's ledge, and leaving the cover of the trees on the forest outskirts, men dressed in typical bandit attire casually made their way over to the four siblings and their carriage.
Just as one man walked within three metres of the Young Miss of the house, a cool air caused him to shiver on the spot. More men, further away, also stopped and shivered.
"Boss!" one of them shouted. "There's something weird goin' on!"
"It's real cold all'uv a sudden!" another man added.
"You bunch-a bitches! Just do your job and tie them up!"
Wide-eyed, and clutching at the huge icicle running through his abdomen, one of the bandits dropped to the floor - his life was no longer. Not three seconds later, more bandits fell to the ground, their bellies were all pierced by the same kind of icicle. The man had watched, his eyes nearly popping out of their sockets, as Veronica's hand spawned icicle after icicle to shoot at his comrades.
"Boss!" one of the bowmen shouted. "This bitch is a mage!"
"She's already killed all our fighters!" another bowman said.
"What d'we do, boss?!"
"Shoot her! Use all your Bow Skills!" the boss roared. "Kill this bitch!"
Ten arrows released at nearly the same time, flying toward the von Schwerts at a speed that normal eyes would not be able to follow. Without making it even half way to the targets, as though time had stopped, all ten arrows were frozen over. They dropped to the ground, one by one, and shattered into dust.
The bandit bowmen lost all will to fight, when they realised that their attacks had no effect, and started to run away. Unfortunately, in but a split second, all ten of the bowmen were frozen over and encased in crystal-like ice. This level of magic was simply too strong for any of them to face up against.
"Now, peasant," a sweet voice whispered. "What do you have to say for yourself?"
"I.. I... I...." the man was scared out of his wits. Veronica slowly walked towards him.
"Won't you tell this Young Lady who it is that wants us dead?"
Veronica's gentle and seductive voice tickled the man's ears, but 'pleasure' would be the last word you'd use to describe look on the man's face. His irises shook violently, his mind thinking only of his impending death. He looked behind Veronica, towards the three brothers, with eyes that pleaded for help.
Without warning, Veronica's ice magic ran through the man from bottom to top, tearing him into two. Behind her, the three brothers grimaced at the scene. They all stood with stiff bodies, their heads pulled back, as though each had a dagger against their throats.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Veronica von Schwert made her way back into the carriage, not sparing a glance for any of her brothers. Released from their sister's ridiculous level of bloodlust, the brothers finally remembered to breathe. Eric gulped audibly, and loosened his collar to relieve his anxiety. Even Tristan had to wipe his brow of sweat.
"Shall we be off, then?" Tristan von Schwert managed to ask in a calm and collected tone.
Jun Long stood there, mouth ajar, as he looked at a group of veteran adventurers grinning stupidly. What the hell does "We're flying" mean? James Tarker walked up to Jun Long, as the other three pushed the horde of undead back. The blonde haired adventurer had yet to do him wrong, Jun thought, and so he could easily listen to any suggestion raised. He could be trusted.
"Jun," James said, his hand landing on Jun's shoulder. "That aunty over there is gonna throw you into the air."
He couldn't be trusted.
What "listen to any suggestion"? Jun Long thought that he must've been watching the world through rose-coloured glasses all day!
"I must have heard wrong," Jun said in denial. "Did you say that aunty's going to 'throw me into the air'?"
"That's what I sa-"
"'Aunty' this! 'Aunty' that! I'm not even that old!"
Jun and James were left half-dead on the ground, a huge bump on each of their heads. A muscular aunty: the delinquent's worst enemy; James Tarker's worst enemy.
"How did I get caught up in the crossfire?" Jun felt his soul leaving his body.
"..." James was hit hard enough to leave him with dizzy eyes.
"You two need to learn how to respect your elders!" Bathora's eyes showed the fury of a thousand tigers.
"..." this time, even James could feel his soul leaving him.
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