Passage Chapter 6


“Oh...welcome back, Richard,” Lymsleia greeted the young commander, who was reentering the audience chamber alongside Kyle.

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” Richard said as he approached.

“So have you had your moment or are you simply here to waste more time?” Mueller asked impatiently.

“Of course not, Mueller,” Richard responded casually. “I needed time to gather my thoughts so that I could come up with a plan and properly carry it out.”


“And...I’m sure he has a most brilliant plan,” Galleon answered for the teenage commander, giving Mueller a dirty look. “With all due respect, Sir Mueller, I know he’s a subordinate in the Mercenaries, but please stop insulting the competence of our commander.”

“It’s all right,” insisted Richard before the infuriated Mueller could even open his mouth. “I’m used to it, and besides, when you’re in a position of authority, you might as well get used to criticism. If you can’t handle something like that, then how can you handle a bigger conflict, such as this?” Not even stopping to notice that he had completely silenced his own critic with that comment, he went on as the warm smile returned to his face. “Anyway, I wouldn’t call it brilliant, but it is a plan. And I need everyone’s cooperation.”

“Of course!” Miakis said enthusiastically.

“Yes, sir!” Galleon told him.

“And you already know where I stand,” Kyle chimed in.

“And you have our cooperation, of course,” Wilhelm said, briefly glancing over at Mueller. “Even if certain hard-asses who shall remain nameless don’t like to admit it.”

The knights’ commander let out a short chuckle. “All right, then. Sir Kyle, I’d like to revisit your earlier suggestion of meeting the Nether Gate along the way. I realize with the timing and all, it’s cutting it terribly close. But every little bit helps.”

“Now you’re talkin’,” Kyle said with a grin. “So who’s gonna lead this unit?”

“Well...” Richard turned to the other members of Lindwurm. “Mueller...Wilhelm...I’d like you to do it.”

“What?!” Mueller exclaimed in disbelief. “Are you insane?! What of the townspeople?!”

Wilhelm held up a hand to silence the first officer. “We’ll be glad to.”

“Wilhelm, you--”

“Hey, hey, hey,” the scruffy man interrupted, his tone stern. “We were given an assignment to defend Sol-Falena and its queen, and that’s what we’re gonna do. Oh, and don’t even try threatening me with that damn rod of yours. You can prod me all you want, but in the end, I’m the one commanding this unit.”

“Hmph.” Mueller lowered the rod and turned away.

“Don’t worry, Mueller,” Richard told him. “I’m not suggesting we leave the town completely defenseless. Just intercept the assassins. Wear them down, defeat as many as you can, but...please be careful, too. If they push you back too far, then meet us at the palace and we’ll fight them together. Meanwhile, we’ll put as many guards and soldiers as we can at the entrances and around the town.”

“What if some of them try to approach from the water?” asked Galleon.

“Well, we know they’ll be approaching from one general direction, but in case they don’t, we’ll post soldiers along the docks as well, and bring in all our boats. We won’t let any other boats dock. Please make a point of this. No one is to leave or enter the city except for authorized soldiers and messengers.”

“So I guess that leaves us in the palace,” Miakis said.

Richard nodded. “Right. But also inform the soldiers in town to head for the palace if any Nether Gate slips past them.”

“Of course.”

“Anything else, kid?” Wilhelm asked, and then became aware of the blunder. “Er, I mean...Commander Richard?”

“Not right now,” the teen responded, looking straight ahead with a serious look. “Just stick to that. I’ll inform you of any changes, but given the timing, I’m not expecting a whole lot of that.”

* * * * *

Some hours later, soldiers, knights, and mercenaries had all taken on their respective assignments, in different parts of the area. In the palace were the Queen’s Knights and a few select guards, all of whom were on patrol or standing at an assigned post, save for the commander himself.

“Thank you,” Richard said to the maid as she let him into the dining room.

“It’s no problem,” the maid responded. “Well, I’ll just be down the hall, preparing Her Majesty’s room. It may be a long night, but I believe she is in good hands.” Giving an appreciative glance to the commander, she exited the room, closing the door behind her.

Lymsleia, the only other occupant of the room, looked up from where she sat. “So...Wilhelm and Mueller are at their assigned positions?”

“According to the messenger, yes,” Richard replied, approaching her. “Nothing has happened so far, though...hmm?” He turned his head toward the table.

“What?” the young queen asked, noting his confusion.

“Well...I just noticed you haven’t touched anything on your plate since I left you half an hour ago.”

“Who can eat at a time like this?”

“I understand, but...I don’t think your brother would appreciate it if we let you go without eating. You may be Queen, but you’re still a child.”

“Oh.” Lymsleia briefly turned away with what sounded like an annoyed groan. “Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?”

This only made Richard chuckle. “I suppose you’re right,” he said, crossing over to the window. “But I’m closer to being an adult than you are. Furthermore, I have a duty to protect and ensure your well-being. I think that making sure you have good meal fits in there somewhere.”

“Er...maybe.” She reached forward with her fork, pushing the soft vegetables around. “But...I just hate being cooped up in here while everyone else does all the work.”

“Your Majesty, they’re doing all the work so that you’ll be able to do your work,” the young commander pointed out. “I don’t know much about rulers, but being Queen sounds like a big responsibility.”

“It can be,” she admitted, looking depressed as she sat back again. “But right now, I’m just not feeling very useful. I’m no soldier, and none of the runes in the Sealed Room have responded to me yet, so I can’t even use them.”

“Are you worried someone will try to steal the runes again?”

“No. But just in case, Miss Jeane is up there with a few guards and scholars. I’m just...frustrated, is all. I’m the center of all this attention...but sometimes, I feel like a burden.”

“Your Majesty...” Richard turned toward the window, gazing outside to the clear night sky. “Your Majesty,” he repeated, his tone a little stronger. “I...can’t presume to know exactly how you feel. But I do know what it’s like to want to be useful. And...I will say this.” He turned back around to face her. “You’re not a burden. Everyone out there, including me, made the choice to fight for you, and to defend you. To anyone who’s willingly made that kind of choice, you can never be a burden. Believe me, Your Majesty, we are happy to do this for you.”

“Oh...” The queen stared at him, wide-eyed, stunned by the words. “I...I, uh...I-I know. Thank you, Richard...”

“No problem, Your Majesty.”

“Richard...” Lymsleia sat for a moment with her head bowed, her hands in her lap. “Richard.”

“Yes, Your Majesty?”

“Feel free to call me ‘Lymsleia’.”

“Lym--” Richard stopped. “Y-Your Majesty!” he stammered, somehow embarrassed. “I-I couldn’t. That would be disrespectful.”

His awkwardness only made her giggle. “It’s not disrespectful at all, silly,” she said. “The Queen and the Commander of the Queen’s Knights should be on familiar terms...which...usually happens when the two get married. But even though you’re not my husband, for the time being, you are Commander, and we are working closely together. I think we’re allowed some familiarity.”

“Err...I suppose you do have a point...”

“If it makes you uncomfortable, you don’t have to do it all the time. Just whenever it feels natural. All I that you don’t think of it as a crime.”

“Ah...” Richard brought his head down, his cheeks still slightly red. “I’ll...I’ll keep that in mind, but...uh...for someone little more than a stranger to you, you seem to trust me quite a bit.”

“Yes, well...” The queen became quiet for a few moments. “I learned the true value of someone’s character when Gizel was around,” she explained. “Compared to him, most men are trustworthy. But don’t get me wrong...that’s not the only reason I trust you.” When she looked up, she was gazing at him with both admiration and appreciation. “You...were one of the people who supported my brother when he needed it. It isn’t just that you’re good with a blade, but that you really stuck by him. But...most of all...I’ve sensed a kindness inside of you that never leaves or’s...the sort of kindness that has made me feel safe since these murders began. You’re not just a soldier; you’re a true gentleman.”

“Y-Your Majesty...” The teen was struck by the deep, sudden sorrow reflected in her expression; it was to a degree he had not seen her reveal to anyone else during his stay.

“Richard, I...I really want to thank you,” Lymsleia finished, her countenance finally softening. “You really aren’t under any obligation to do this, so I appreciate you being here.”

“Your Majesty...” Richard grew lost in thought for a moment, revisiting the fear he had confessed to Kyle earlier that day. “Don’t you worry. To ensure your safety, I’ll do whatever it takes.”

* * * * *

Outside Sol-Falena, some distance to the east, battles commenced on the plain, harshly illuminated by torches and faint moonlight. The assassins were first encountered by Wilhelm’s group, which defeated two of them with medium difficulty. With the skill levels of the Nether Gate, however, escaping injury was next to impossible.

“Damn these bastards!” cursed Wilhelm as he swung his sword, delivering a smashing blow to the skull of an assassin. The enemy spun around in a half-pirouette and collapsed, death quickly setting upon him.

“Ugh!” Wilhelm ran forward a bit but then stopped, noticing two mercenaries sitting on the ground. “Huh? Johnson! Serge! What the hell are you doing? Now’s not the time to slack off!”

“We’re not slacking off!” protested Serge, an unkempt young man who was rummaging through a sack. “We’re stocking up!”

“Well, whatever! Just hurry up and follow me! There are two more just ahead! We can’t let them past!”

“Yes, sir!”

Not too far away, the group led by Mueller had also run into several assassins, and were now fighting them off. Mueller himself stood commanding them, his rod tucked away and instead, a saber in his grasp. Not one to expend his soldiers wastefully, he would frequently join the battles. Toward the end, he had counted five enemy casualties and two of his own, as well as a few dozen injuries. The results alone were proof that the skills of the Nether Gate hadn’t at all rusted.

This would not discourage the ones defending Sol-Falena that night, however. Together, under the guidance of their determined leaders, they fought on valiantly throughout the evening hours.

Chapter 7

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