***NOTE*** -This is an unedited version. There shouldn't be any spelling mistakes and minimal grammar errors however in all other editing aspects it is still in the complete, indeniable rough. However, there's the first tidbit. I'll try and post more as soon as I can. It comes from a middle-aged based novel I'm working on called 'Of Love and Sacrifice'. Enjoy!- There was a time, long ago, when knights rode for the honor and glory of their land, of their people, of their king. War was a means of gaining more of this glory and honor that humans crave on such a grand scale. And many wars there were, for the greed of men is insatiable. Knights would don their armor for service of their people and king, and ride for the victory over their foes, all of whom they thought were inferior people. Many of these knights fought with so much bloodlust and greed for their power and glory that they became consumed with it. They began to fight with the only goal for victory of a selfish nature. War was beginning to become something that seemed to not be gruesome, vicious and dangerous as it should have been known as. Men were eager to join the ranks and ride to what they believed was right. And to their certain deaths… Before such times arose, a Knight was known as a most chivalrous being. His honor intact and preserved only through acts of justice and virtue through God. They were courteous yet zealous in their role as defenders of the people and the crown that ruled them. This breed of knight was all but extinct by the time of the great wars. There were few who could dare to call himself a true knight, and if they did, they were almost certain to not be. A knight was never previously known to brag about his skill. These knights rode to war only when they knew the reason was just, and with the sole purpose of protecting the ones they love… Love… A forgotten term among many in those days… It’s meaning becoming so perverse and demented it was more than sacrilege what the people were calling love. Tied up in their tyrannical acts and lust for power and dominion, few people could really know the meaning of love. However, redemption was not yet lost among the people. There were still those who understood quite well the value of love and the grave consequence in war. Knights who understood and lived well the life of the old knights. These men knew that in war, there is no real winner and there is no real victor. Each side will suffer its share of pointless pain, all for power mongering that is useless beyond the grave… This is the story about them… The knights who knew the value of love… This is a tale of love and sacrifice. Chapter One: A last sound of Joy Monarchy has been destroyed. There is no King in the lands of Aranor. Many Clans have risen to fame and glory. That is how the known world is run now: through the power of the clans and their fearless leaders. Some clans rule like an entire kingdom, while others exist in solitude in deep forests, high mountains or on islands off of the coast. The Dragon Clan has risen to great amounts of power over the last few years. Master Damon Crowsber the Tyrant has led his forces on many tactical campaigns, claiming more land in 10 years than any of its rival clans. Damon is bent on controlling the known world, and if he can gain governance of over half of the land on the continent Aranor, he will become powerful enough to name himself King of the lands, and restore the vanquished monarchy that fell over a century ago. However, two rival clans challenge him to this entitlement… The Maelstrom clan, hailing from the islands off of the coast controls nowhere near the same amount of land that the Dragon Clan does. However, their control of the eastern waters control much trade and they have much better weapons and equipment technology allowed to them by the vast amounts of resources on their land. They have become quite wealthy through trade with the Phoenix Clan. The Phoenix Clan controls less land than the Dragon Clan does in the interior of Aranor, but unlike the Dragon Clan, the Phoenix Clan controls much of the coastal regions of Aranor, prospering through trade with the Maelstrom. They are fearlessly led by Lord Gallorax Dorim. His lordship is a tactical genius that looks for the ability to read, understand and figure the best way to assault the battlefield when he looks for recruits. This contrasts Master Crowsber’s tastes in the most able bodied men, who are physically capable of just about anything. Gallorax has seen much pride in his own men, nonetheless, who are no less physically able. His own son has risen to great heights from the ranks of the Phoenix. He looks forward to the day that he can hand over the power of the Phoenix Clan to his well deserving son… * * * The night is coming fast… Lightning streaks across the desolate sky, save for the heavy drops of rain that endlessly pour from the bursting clouds above. All is dark and grim… People are lined up, dressed in brilliant gowns of red and gold that are quite visible as the lightning dances overhead. One man, a very largely built one is standing in front of a crow, all lined up in rows. The large man is weeping as he slowly turns around. His eyes grievously rest on a young man lying in a large, wooden coffin that is being lowered into a large whole in the ground. Just beyond the coffin stands a large, ivory crested cross over a grave reading, ‘Kinnario Dorim, son of Gallorax Dorim, Lord of the Phoenix Clan. May the light bear him swiftly to our God.’ The large man falls to the ground as two men dressed in the dazzling golden-crimson gowns begin to shovel large mounds of dirt over the coffin… Lightning flashes again… Then again… It is becoming faster and brighter… One Skai Lamaro’s eyes begin to glow with great weariness and fear, yet a sense of bold duty arises in his heart… He realizes now that the matter has stepped out of the realm of a game… Reality is true in this situation… Death draws near for them all… But then… Azalea… * * * Skai Lamaro slowly paces along the beach line as the sun’s rays spill forth over the sky, beginning to set over the vast sea before him. The waves of the water slowly caress the course sand of the shoreline. His eyes fixated at the ground, his arms crossed, he begins to reminisce about a dream he had last night. He doesn’t know why he has been dreaming it. He knows well enough what it was about. The young man in the coffin was the son of Lord Dorim, who had been killed by a hired assassin a week ago. Ever since the leader of his clan has been uneasy, still wallowing in his misery. Now, however, is not a time to be dwelling on something of the past. He received a secret letter from his beloved wife, Azalea a few days ago, saying that she was coming to bring him a great surprise. His heart was very curious as to what could have made his love so eager to come see him while he was on duty. The two of the them were normally very passionate with each other, but Azalea had never done anything like this before… The note he received told him to come 5 miles south of the Phoenix outpost he was stationed at, near a large boulder in the shape of a clam shell. He found it easy enough, and had been waiting for nigh on a half hour now. He knew he couldn’t be covered for much longer back at the outpost. A good friend of his was doing him a favor, since the clan wouldn’t have let him out like that normally. The time of the meeting was just as the sun began to set, and he had been watching the beautiful spectacle for quite a while now, and he began to grow worried for his love. Had something happened to her? He began to imagine horrible things. She would have had to travel from the inland, from her father’s farm in the valley, a day’s horseback ride from the outpost. Which meant she would have to trek through the dense forest behind him further inland unless she wanted to take a week to travel to the southern coastline and go up from there. He knew she wouldn’t do that, so there was only the first option. But then what was keeping her? He paced for a couple more seconds when suddenly he heard a twig crack some twenty feet behind him. He quickly wheeled around, where he saw a beautiful young woman with long, brilliant brown hair, full lips and a well curved figure. She was very beautiful. She smiled and came running down to Skai, who in turn smiled and welcomed her into his arms as she jumped towards him. He hugged her and grabbed her up, swinging her around once before setting her down. Her lips moved to his and they embraced for a few seconds before quickly withdrawing, smiles, still wide. Skai’s heart lifted as if taken by wind as he stared deep into his wife’s eyes. “Azalea, my love,” Skai breathed heavily, “I was so worried! You were taking so long, I thought that maybe something had happened!” “No need to fear my love!” she assured him quite warmly, “I had to stop to rest for a few minutes before I entered the forest. I knew once inside I wouldn’t be able to rest and I’m not physically as able as I used to be.” Skai looked at her worriedly. “What is the matter, my love?” he asked, gently grasping her shoulders. She looked deeply into his eyes for a few moments, then took one of his hands into her own. “Skai…” she said slowly, “the most wonderful thing has happened! When I found out I sent word to you as fast as I could!” “What is it, my love?” Skai asked eagerly. “Skai…” she said, “I’m pregnant.” She smiled. Skai’s eyes went wide and then he smiled widely, hugging her again and spinning her through the air once more. “Ha ha!” he smiled, “that’s wonderful news, my love! I can’t believe it! This is the most wonderful day of my life!” He hugged her, then they kissed once more. “How long have you known for?” “Two weeks now,” she said, “meaning I’ve probably been pregnant for about a month now.” “So you will be expecting by midwinter, then?” Skai said. “Yes,” she smiled, “I hope you can find a way to get off for a while around that time. Father would be so delighted to see you again.” Skai smiled as well. Azalea’s father was the closest thing that Skai had ever had for a father. His parents were killed in a war that happened when he was born, and he was taken in and raised by one Faulkner Halis, Azalea’s father. He had grown and been the best of friends with Azalea, Faulkner’s only child. Azalea’s mother had passed when they were still infants. Once adolesence came around, Azalea and Skai had been deeply in love, and in their young adulthood were wedded. It was during that same time that Skai had enrolled into the service of the Phoenix Clan forces as a marksman. “I will do my best, my love,” he said, “but doing so will be difficult. Lord Gallorax’ son has been killed by an assassin.” “What?” Azalea gasped, taking a step back. “His only son? By whom?” “We do not know yet,” he said, “our lord insists it was someone from the Dragon Clan, and since has sulked in his room, uttering countless death threats against Damon Crowsber. General Xavier is doing his best to calm our lord, but he cannot do so for much longer. There is a meeting tomorrow, during which our plan of action to save the honor of the late lord’s son will be decided.” “Please be careful, my love,” Azalea said, taking him into her arms once more, “this is all a very dangerous and scary business… Please take great care…” “I will, my love,” Skai said, bringing his lips close to hers once again, “I promise you that nothing will happen to me, and that I will come to see you.” He lowered his lips towards hers, but she drew up a finger to stop him. “My father wishes to see you for a small banquet for us. Can you find the time to escape for the end of the week?” “I make no promises, but I will do all I can with the powers I possess.” With that, Azalea brought her lips to his and they embraced once more.