The Seven Regalia
The Seven Regalia
Author: Rei Asteria
Vol 1 Ch 1: The Damned

THE KINGDOM OF STYRKEIS was once the strongest land in Desmos which later on became the foundation of the Sovereign State of Nadia. Their weapons and armors were indestructible, their land grew vast each year, and they emerge victorious in countless wars.

King Viktor Invictus studied the large rectangular map sprawled on the council’s table. The red marks stand as the Styrkean camps and fortresses while the few blue ones are marked as the Phoebeans' territory according to their intel. It wouldn’t be difficult to understand which side was winning, the king made sure of that. Soon, the land will be purified and be rid of the Moon’s curse. His people will live freely and securely again.

“This will do.” He moved two red pieces towards the bridge to their enemy’s territory. “It is time for us to strike and take Minfrost Bridge. Ready the trebuchets and capture Fort Liemdahl. Make sure our soldiers have enough rations to survive the travel and assault. Pass these orders to General Corvinus. That would be all.”

“Your Majesty,” Counselor Halstein spoke from the other side of the table. “I believe our forces would grow stronger if we were to accept the Mercurian’s offer to trade Aitherite weaponry.”

“Aitherite weaponry? Have you forgotten that these rocks are part of Phoebe’s curse?” The other counselors agreed with the king, giving Halstein repulsive glances. “The Mercurians are also sending these Phoebean bastards the same weaponry they are offering us which is why some of them are still standing up till now. What we should do is cut off their trade routes and send them back to Mercurius.”

“But, Your Majesty—”

“Counselor Halstein, let’s forget you ever suggested such a deplorable proposal and your tongue will be left intact inside your mouth,” King Viktor threatened, a fierce aura around him. He had no idea how one of his counselors would ever consider advising him to conspire with the opportunistic Mercurians, much more with their Aitherite productions. Has their influence reached too far within his jurisdiction?

The meeting adjourned shortly as he ordered. It was a bit more awkward than usual likely due to the Aitherite subject. Viktor could understand if Halstein was merely doubting his capability to lead this war since he had always favored the first prince, the supposed heir to the throne until the former king’s will named Viktor as the next ruler. But to suggest using the said cursed mineral as materials for their weaponry production? He could only think about the counselor’s proposal as a ploy to charge him with treason if he were to accept it.

He sighed in exhaustion as he leaned on one of the pillars of the east palace garden. He was supposed to rest after the meeting, and yet he went to the garden to think about work still.

“Viktor, shouldn’t you be resting in your room?” Amund Corvinus approached him just as he entered the east wing. He is the general of the Styrkean army and Viktor’s childhood friend. “I heard you threatened to cut Halstein’s tongue. He’s been annoying us for the past days, yapping about how our weapons would be a lot stronger if it were Aitherite.”

“He said the same thing in today’s meeting. You think he’s scheming something?”

“Rubbish, an old yapper like him wouldn’t have the guts to concoct such grand plans. He’s all bark.” The knight general disregarded his worries, almost like it was foolish to be suspicious of the counselor in the first place. Halstein was not much of a threat if compared to the other counselors, being the least influential among them. “Don’t worry about him, Viktor. You should be out there having fun with beer and women.”

“Amund, we’re in the middle of a goddamn war.” Viktor glared at him, warning him not to randomly send another courtesan to his quarters again. “I expect you to be in your best condition for Liemdahl’s siege.”

“As you wished, my king.” The knight general scoffed in response. “Now, go rest in your quarters before you die of fatigue.”

For someone in his mid-twenties, Viktor did look significantly older than his actual age ever since he had become the ruling monarch of the kingdom. He never really cared about the lavish life of having a regal status. He could have all the women, jewelry, and other things to satisfy a man’s pleasure, instead, all he did was train, study, and work harder in order to surpass his two older brothers. Perhaps, his father, the former king, noticed his persistence in the end and saw him fit for the throne. Winning his favor, however, seemed to take its toll on his body. He only realized it when he looked at himself through the mirror in his chamber.

His raven hair had already reached his shoulders, the bags under his tired chestnut eyes turned darker than the last time he saw them, and his complexion have become paler. Perhaps, a short nap would indeed help. Any more work or he might just collapse or worse, die from fatigue as the knight general had warned.

Removing his cape and vest, he lied down on his bed, feeling the softness of the feather mattress. The pillow embraced the back of his bed as if enticing him to sleep. A long deep sleep.

* * * * *

“Your Majesty! Your Majesty! Please, wake up!” The royal courier continuously knocked on his door loudly. The tone of his voice implied that something horrible must have happened.

Viktor groggily opened the door with a grumpy expression. “This better be urgent or I’ll have the guards cut your head.”

“I’m very sorry to disrupt your sleep, my king. But I carry terrible news that must be urgently passed to you. The first prince has been assassinated in Fort Rivard.”

“Brother Vestein?” He couldn’t believe how someone would be able to do such a feat. The first prince was the most careful out of the three of them due to countless attempts on his life. “How was he killed? Who did this?”

“His throat was slit during his sleep last night. The knights believed this was done by the Phoebeans.” The courier refused to raise his head and continued staring at his own feet. He was aware of how furious the king was.

Last night? How long was he sleeping? It was afternoon when Viktor went to his chambers. Did a day pass already? “Prince Vigmund. Where is he?”

“Your Majesty, I don’t—”

“Call the counselors. I want all of them to be in the Conference Hall at once.” As told, the messenger quickly ran off either in urgency or in fear for his life. Maybe even both.

Viktor swore an oath to his father. He would not let them harm his family or people. He would not disappoint the former king. Whoever dared to attack the royal family would pay greatly. Whoever was the scum who killed Prince Vestein will die a horrible death.

The king managed his composure as he waited for the twelve counselors. He had recently lost a brother after all. He blamed himself for being careless, for allowing death befall to his family. Viktor kept the flames inside him at bay, calming the seething rage within. First, he must keep the queen and the second prince safe.

Silence covered the Conference Hall even when the counselors arrived. None wished to speak nor greet the king. They were already aware of the first prince’s death. Breaking the silence, Viktor said, “Counselor Hjalmar, I want your best soldiers be stationed to guard the queen and the second prince be brought here to the palace. You may leave.”

“It will be done, My King.” The counselor bowed his head before leaving the hall.

“Counselor Alvis.” Viktor ushered him forward, an edge to his voice. “I believe you are the one responsible for the first prince’s security. Perhaps, you could tell me how Prince Vestein died under your watch?”

“It was a servant, Your Majesty. The prince most trusted servant. She betrayed him.” The retired old knight groveled on the floor. begging for his forgiveness. “Forgive me, my King. We never knew she was with them.”

“And I believe you are aware asking for forgiveness wouldn’t save you from this mistake, Alvis?” He stared down at the cowering old man, his anger visible in his chestnut eyes. “Counselor Alvis Bergstrom, I will allow you to hold on to your title until death takes your breath.”

“Please! Your Majesty!” Alvis cried out as the guards dragged him away from where he stood.

“Silence him,” Viktor ordered before the guards knocked the man down. The younger him hated the capital punishment so much that he would probably resent himself if he saw the scene. However, the older him understood it as something necessary to set an example to people who would dare harm the safety of their own country. But what did Alvis do? His brother’s death was not the counselor’s doing. He wanted none of it to happen. It is his responsibility to protect the prince, certainly, but is it really fair to punish him with death? Failing to protect the prince would also mean conspiring with the enemy. The Styrkean law dictates so and the law is absolute.

“My King, is it really necessary for Al—”

“Halstein, another word from you questioning my actions and you’ll be following him to the gallows.” Counselor Halstein shut his mouth immediately as he was told. Viktor walk around the table, eyeing his men one by one as he spoke again, “I hope no one else will follow Counselor Alvis’s footsteps in the future. Do as you are told and I guarantee you that I will keep both you and your family safe. I do not want to lose any more of my men. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, Sir!” All of them answered without so much as a glance in his direction, the fear in their eyes was visible.

As they should.

“And Counselor Leif, I would like you to send a message to General Corvinus.”

“What is it, Your Majesty?”

“I will be joining their army to Fort Liemdahl.”

* * * * *

The Styrkean troops departed the palace at dawn. Wagons carried the army’s rations and trebuchets as soldiers on horsebacks pulled them. The sounds of their iron-clad armors synchronized with each other while they marched through the Valley of Brynhildr. Viktor rode on his armored steed, wearing the same armor as his knights. He refused to wear the royal armor as he claimed it was too conspicuous to use in wars, making him an obvious target for the enemy.

“So? Will you tell me why you came with us?” General Amund Corvinus rode beside him on his own horse.

“My brother’s killer. I figured she would head to Liemdahl first to escape, to cross the border.” He knew Vestein’s most trusted servant very well, Eloise. She grew up with the three of them and had always been on his brother’s side since then. He was almost sure the two of them were in love that he couldn’t believe she would kill his brother. In fact, Eloise was the reason why Prince Vestein did not want the throne. Was she framed? If so, why did she run?

Amund surveyed the young king’s expression. “You don’t believe Eloise killed him. Will you still send her to death if we caught her?”

Viktor couldn’t answer his question. Eloise was the older sister he never had. If only Vestein could marry her, maybe he wouldn’t have to be burdened by this decision. But what if she did kill him? What if she was with the Phoebeans from the start? A traitor the moment they met her. He shivered at the thought, knowing the possibility Eloise lied to them until she decided to stab them in the back.

The commander didn’t push the topic further and remained silent as they passed through the valley. Viktor was glad Amund understood he needed the time to mourn for the late prince despite his position as their king.

By the afternoon, they reached Sigurd’s Canyon, still miles away from Fort Liemdahl. It used to be a famous rendezvous point between the North and South Styrkeis until the war between them broke loose.

Suddenly the troops at the front halted without their authorization. Then, one of Amund’s men came running to them with a grim expression on his face. “Sir, Your Majesty, you have to see this.”

The general and the king both glanced at each other before dismounting from their horses. They followed the knight to the front, sensing a foul smell as they went nearer. Viktor was familiar with the scent, only realizing what it was when he saw it.

A body of a woman was pierced by a stake in the middle of the road. Fleas flew around her corpse The king recognized who she was in an instant, his rage growing even more. They killed his brother and now they killed Eloise. The Phobeans made him believe she betrayed them, then brandished her dead body on their way.

They knew we’d be here.

“Amund.” He called his knight general who looked back at him with the same suspicion. “It’s an ambush.”

“Soldiers! Testudo!” The soldiers immediately aligned and formed a packed formation, covering their heads and sides with shields. Viktor and Amund stayed in front of the formation as they hold their own shields.

Just in time, icicles fell on top of their heads and crashed on their shields. The attack continued for a few minutes more until it stopped, meaning the Phoebeans had run out of water to freeze. Shortly, their enemy flew down from the top of the canyon, brandishing their weapons as the wind carried them toward the Styrkean soldiers.

General Corvinus ordered his men to attack, leaving the tortoise formation. Steel clashed against each other as battle cries echoed through the narrow path between Sigurd’s Canyon.

Viktor held his spear while he cut down any Phoebean who flew over him until he found the wind summoner. Taking a deep breath, he raised his spear and aimed at her before throwing his weapon. The woman fell and so did the Phobeans carried by her wind. He found a sword on the body of a Styrkean soldier and picked it up, stabbing another Phoebean who had his Aitherite axe about to swing down to the king. He drew the sword from the man’s abdomen and held the axe before it fell from his grasp. He threw the axe toward another Phoebean sneaking behind General Corvinus while he walked through the battlefield, effortlessly killing his enemies before they could land a hit on him.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, King Viktor.” A feminine voice spoke from the hooded figure behind him.

“Who are you?” Viktor glared at her as he plucked his spear from the body of the wind summoner he killed earlier.

“Ah, my name is of no importance to someone as great as you are, Your Majesty.” She whispered through his ear while she floated like a ghost circling around him.

Viktor attempted to cut her with the blade of his spear, failing several times. His weapon merely passed her shadowy form as if she was made out of smoke. It annoyed him more when she started laughing to mock him.

“That’s no good. Your spear can never hit me. Maybe if it was Aitherite then—”

“I will never wield a cursed weapon!”

“Well, isn’t that a shame? To think a king would be as close-minded as you are.” She moved rapidly and grabbed him by his neck with one hand. Then, they soar above the canyon. “Look, it would very easy to kill you from here. All I would need to do is let go of your neck and gravity will do all the work.”

“What do you want from Styrkeis?” Viktor asked while glaring at her. He was sure that the lady before him was using her magic to make him float by touch, otherwise, his feet would be dangling right now.

“I do not want anything from this country. I’m here to stop the genocide your family did to my people.” Her grip on his neck became tighter, her long sharp nails dug into his skin.

He scoffed at her. “Genocide? Call it what you want. This land must be cleansed from Phoebe’s disease and your witchcraft. Your kind causes mayhem everywhere and I cannot allow that to spread in our land.”

“You...” Mercy washed over her pale face which was not an expression Viktor expected from his enemy. “You do not even realize how vile your actions are.”

Because they never were.

But the king couldn’t say those words. He knew he hesitated to answer it. How many lives had his bloodstained hands ended? Were they really innocent?

Am I really the villain?

The Phoebean mage saw that split second of hesitation as she loosened her hold on him. “You cannot die here. You have a bigger calling in the future. At least, that was what our seer told me. Therefore, I will not kill you but that does not mean you will not suffer for your actions.”

A dark portal opened a few meters below them. Viktor could not see anything beyond it but black smoke. His heart jumped when the mage’s wind magic suddenly didn’t work anymore. He watched his feet dangle while the portal swirled under them.

Before he fell, Viktor saw the smirk on her face. “I hope the prophecy is right about you, King Viktor Invictus.”

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