The world was asleep and almost silent outside, though guards lined the palace walls keeping watch. Kaleb sighed. The peace of the castle was almost unbearable with the knowledge hanging over his head that many of his comrades were out fighting on the battlefield, possibly even dying. The one thing that had kept him at the castle was the knowledge that outside of the palace walls he wouldn’t be allowed to wield a gun, which was the weapon he was best at. Well known throughout the battalion as the most skilled marksman, and having never missed a shot in years, Kaleb hadn’t been ready to give up his gun. Shifting his weight just slightly from one foot to another, Kaleb maintained ridged watchfulness over the landscape, though his mind was free to wander while he observed.Many, many years ago his race had split off from their original planet and spread throughout space, building different kingdoms as they established their territories. Much to their surprise, many of the planets were already inhabited by various life forms. Some looked just like humans, others more like beasts, and some even wielded magic. Times were peaceful, and the leaders of each of the races were able to gather together and establish territories to prevent future confusion. However, soon the magic users began raising superiority over those without magic, and distrust and hostility rose between those with magic and those without. War became imminent, and the non-magic users joined together to fight against the oppression the magic-users had placed upon them.
A light breeze fluttered through the trees, and Kaleb felt a brief moment of unease as he scanned the hillside carefully. Discontent with the complete peace he found there, he began moving along the wall walk slowly, continuing to scan the valley below tensely. The stillness continued, and he gradually allowed himself to relax. Settling back to his post, he allowed his mind to wander again, frowning as he thought of his friends serving at war.
All silence and peace was instantly shattered as a loud explosion resounded around the kingdom, the floor shaking slightly beneath his feet. Abandoning his post, Kaleb began sprinting towards the source of the sound. A brief second later, sirens began wailing, and Kaleb felt the hair raise at the nape of his neck as he realized how closely to the princess’ rooms the attack had taken place.
Smoke as dark as gunpowder coiled down the halls, obstructing the view of the guards like a thick cloud of smog. Chunks of cement and marbled statues were everywhere; shredded tapestries were fluttering in the air as they slowly fell. The halls buzzed with sudden activity, heavy with panic and ringing with the echo of the explosion. Kaleb rushed forward, only to have to catch his balance as he almost tripped over a fallen comrade.
“Jayden, what happened?” Kaleb demanded, his teeth clenched in fear as he attempted to help his friend rise. Jayden tightened his lips and grabbed at his ankle, his face paling slightly. Guards flooded past them, desperate to stop the invasion. Kneeling, Kaleb got a closer look at his friend’s ankle. Twisted grotesquely, Jayden would be unable to fight.
“I tripped,” Jayden admitted gruffly, trying to hide his pain and embarrassment. Kaleb stared blankly, his mind not comprehending. Panic dimmed for a moment as it gave room for confusion as he tried to wrap his mind around what was going on. Jayden was always sure on his feet, and he’d never have broken a bone from just tripping. That he had not only tripped but broken his bone while doing so was not a good sign. A few moments later, a couple of the other guards tripped on their way towards the smoke at the far end of the hall, slipping as easily as if the halls were coated in oil.
Cursing, Kaleb rose quickly and surged past the other guards, dodging past those that were falling and struggling to rise. Passing a doorway, he paused as he heard thudding and panicked voices on the other side. “My sword is stuck!” a guard near Kaleb called out in desperation, which was met with other voices calling out in confusion as they met equal challenges.
“Use your guns if you need to! Just start shooting!” Kaleb called out loudly in exasperation over his shoulder as he turned to the door. Futilely he pulled on the handle as hard as he could. “What happened?” he demanded loudly, calling to those on the other side.
There was a muffled oath from the other side of the door, and a familiar voice, tight with stress and fear, called back, “The door’s jammed! We can’t get it open! Don’t stop to help, just get to the princess!” Vahn. Why was Vahn on the other side of the door? He was supposed to be guarding the princess; he was their best soldier. If anyone would’ve had a chance it was him. Beginning to panic now, Kaleb sprinted towards the explosion as quickly as he could, just in time to see a dark figure emerging from the clearing smoke. Waiting expectantly, Kaleb was stunned as the man was the only one to emerge. It wasn’t an invasion from the magic kingdom… Who was this man to create such chaos completely unaided? The man was tall and wiry, with blood red eyes that met the chaos around him in complete satisfaction. A strange machine like contraption was on one of his arms, and Kaleb gazed for it at a moment, confused at what its purpose could be. As the man’s eyes passed over him, Kaleb felt a strange sense of despair, like all hope had just left him.
In horror, Kaleb watched as the man strolled forward, easily sweeping guards aside with his sword, stepping over each of the bodies as casually as if they were simply fallen trees over a pathway. Guards around him frantically shot at him, bullets missing by several inches. Leaning down nonchalantly, he removed the gun from one of the bodies and shot back at those around him, completely uncaring as soldiers fell down, bleeding or already dead. Certain he could hit his target, Kaleb raised his gun and aimed carefully. Pulling the trigger, Kaleb watched in disbelief as the shot missed.
“My gun isn’t working!” a guard called, clicking frantically as his gun refused to fire. Suddenly a bullet dislodged, and a severe pain struck Kaleb in the side. Crying out, he quickly applied pressure with his right hand to his side, doubling over. Trying to ignore the blood he knew he was losing, he struggled forward, intent on stopping the man despite his injury. His left hand going to his sheath, he tugged harshly on his sword handle. It remained firmly intact. Making his way forward, he slid a sword out of one of the sheaths of his fallen comrades.
From the corner of his eye, Kaleb watched as the man opened the princess’ doors with ease, as casually as if he had all the time in the world. Slumping to the floor, he gave way to the pain and loss of blood. Guards rushed forward, tripping and sliding back, stumbling over Kaleb’s and the other fallen guards’ bodies. Finally flooding into the rooms, they watched in confusion as the man, smiling and holding the princess’ unconscious body, pressed a button on the contraption on his arm and vanished into thin air.