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Frozen Heart

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50 years ago, the seven nations were ushered into an era of peace. For as long as anyone could remember, they were constantly at war with each other, their views and ideals too different to fully accept the others. It had been King Ulf of Bremen who first proposed the treaty. And after months of deliberation, they all came to an agreement. King Marziano of Sardinia, King William of Leinster, King Paul of Northumbria, King Charles of Dominion, King Crisanto of Lawan, King Heinrich of Bavaria, and King Ulf of Bremen were the leaders of the new world, the men their subjects looked up to for protection. But it was not something they could serve. 

One fateful day, an armored man hailing from the lands to the North appeared before King Ulf. It was clear this man could not be trusted, nor was he really a man. He was adorned in black armor head to toe, his eyes a glowing blue that wasn’t human, and clutched in his hand was a sword of black metal with blue engravings along the blade. An eerie blue mist covered his sword and it was clear this man would be no normal foe. His guards stood by his throne, King Ulf himself unsheathing his own weapon. 

The man only introduced himself as the Dark One, his voice had a sort of distortion to it, though he could recognize an accent to it from one of the seven kingdoms. ‘Bow down to your new master.’ were the first words he spoke, lifting the blade to point it directly at the king himself. 

‘I will never kneel to you, devil!’ King Ulf declared, letting out an order to charge before his knights rushed the being before them. The Dark One didn’t flinch nor did he turn back, only lowering his arm so his sword hung by his side. In his free hand, icy blue magic swirled in his palm as they approached. 

‘Then you will perish.’ he slammed his hand to the ground, the floor of the palace beneath their feet splitting as spikes of ice emerged. King Ulf could only watch as his knights were taken out one by one, their bodies hanging limply about a foot off the floor. The armored man approached him, but the King couldn’t back down now. His kingdom needed him. But as he rose his weapon to strike, the Dark One took the chance to counter his attack, swinging his blade up to slice at his arm. The limb fell to the ground, King Ulf dropping to his knees. 

‘You will learn the true meaning of fear.’ The bodies of his fallen soldiers became enshrouded in green mist, pulling them off of the spikes that impaled them. The Dark One arms were covered with the same magic, imbuing themselves in the essence of what was left of the knights. King Ulf stared in horror as they all came back to life, rotted corpses that were barely holding together. They equipped the multitude of weapons that were dropped from the fight. Bending down, the grabbed the King by his neck and lifted him off the ground, his glowing blue eyes narrowing. 

‘How does it feel to know your failure cost the lives of your people?’ He chuckled darkly, throwing his body into one of the many pillars holding up the castle. With a flick of the Dark One’s wrist, the living cadavers roared, swarming the streets of his kingdom to create more soldiers for his undead army. The screams of his subjects soon filled the sky, King Ulf unable to come to aid of the people he promised to protect. ‘Bremen’s light will be drowned out by darkness.’ 

And he succeeded. 

Sykkuno has heard this story a million times before. He was 9 when this all happened, and while he wasn’t a resident of Bremen, the word of the Dark One spread quickly. Over half of King Ulf’s army was wiped out, only to be revived as monsters to serve in an army of the damned. It was still unsure how many innocents were massacred but the brunette had no doubt it was a lot. But despite attacking the Kingdom of Bremen first, the Dark One left it still standing. For an unknown reason, King Ulf’s life was spared and they refrained from burning down the entire kingdom. 

The Kingdom of Lawan, the next victim of this dark magic, was not so lucky. The royal family, King Crisanto and Queen Marian along with the two princes were murder, as well as their entire army. The villages and castle were burned to the ground and only a seldom few managed to escape with their lives. Sykkuno and his mom were included in this group, fleeing to the still recovering kingdom of Bremen. The Dark One’s attack left a permanent scar on Bremen, but with the help of the other kingdoms, they were recovering swiftly. 

They welcomed the refugees with open arms, giving them shelter that wasn’t destroyed in the battle. His mother became a servant for the nobles living within the castle, and she would often have to take Sykkuno to work with her. He didn’t mind, there were many things he could do to entertain himself in such a big palace. But, he also met his best friend doing with his mom to work. He was a year older than him and was training to become a knight for the Bremen army. His name was Toast and the two of them bonded fast. 

Because Sykkuno wasn’t much of a fighter, he spent a year trying to figure out what he wanted. He wanted to help the cause, fight the Dark One, but he knew he wouldn’t make it as a knight. He found his answer in the palace’s garden, watching one of the many medics helping an injured dog. He had been so entranced he hadn’t even noticed her approaching him. But at his request, she took him under his wing. Now, his days were spent studying herbal remedies and emergency procedures for wounds inflicted on the battlefield. 

A month later, Bavaria was attacked and destroyed. Bremen took in any refugees that fled to their kingdom and many of them ended up joining their army. Sykkuno knew it was fueled by the need to avenge what happened to their friends and family. And after Bavaria came Northumbria. However, something peculiar happened in that battle. Sykkuno was 15 at the time, sitting in the courtyard reading one of the books his mentor had given him. A courier charged in on his horse, pulling at the reins to stop the animal. The insignia on his shoulder identified him as a citizen of Northumbria. By then, the news had already spread of the Dark One striking that kingdom so for there to be a courier piqued everyone’s interest. Soon enough, a crowd had formed around the man who was kneeling in front of King Ulf. 

“King Ulf, your highness, I come with a message from King Paul.” The man waited for confirmation from the King before rising to his feet. “The Dark One stroke Northumbria the Friday before last, and when all was lost, a savior appeared on a black steed. As the undead army approached, this stranger let loose a wave of magic that broke the Dark One’s hold on the damned.” Murmurs broke out amongst the crowd of people, only silencing when King Ulf raised his hand. 

“What do you mean ‘broke the hold’?” He asked, the courier never once breaking eye contact. 

“The undead no longer followed the orders of the Dark One. The one who freed them offered them a safe haven at a kingdom to the North that he called Nordmøre. Upon further investigation, we have uncovered that many smaller villagers have reported someone coming to their aide while they were under attack but the Dark One’s army, breaking his soldiers free and taking them to this kingdom.” A small glimmer of hope flickered in his mind, if someone was able to override the Dark One’s magic then they could put an end to this nightmare. However, when he looked at his majesty, his face showed he did not share the same sentiment. 

“While this could be good news, why would this man be taking the monsters he freed to his kingdom? Why wouldn’t he destroy them? What does he want with them?” He met the eyes of the courier who immediately knelt down in courtesy. “The motives of this stranger are unknown and he cannot be trusted. You would think if he had good intentions he would’ve offered his services to us sooner.” The man from Northumbria cleared his throat, the crowd quieting down to hear what he had to say.

“Your majesty, while I would usually agree, the person who saved us was not a man. He was a child, no more than 10 years old.” It was eerily silent, no one really able to believe what was coming from the courier’s mouth. For 8 years, the Dark One destroyed kingdoms, took countless lives only to revive them to serve him, all for a plan that no one knew of. And yet this man from Northumbria was telling them that it was all brought down by a young boy. 

“Commander Bosse, arrange a small party to scout out the area to the North. See if this Nordmøre truly exists.” Commander Bosse Berghult was King Ulf’s right-hand man and most trusted knight. Sykkuno looked up to the man so much, not only was he kind, noble, and resolute but compared to other men in the same profession, he was an amazing father to his son Joel. Bowing, the man chose about 4 other knights to accompany him on this journey before the group disappeared into the palace to prepare for what is to come. 

King Ulf dismissed the courier, offering him a night in the palace and supper, which he declined, stating he needed to return to Northumbria and report back to King Paul. Sykkuno watched the crowd disperse shortly after, chatter either filled with hope or fear. He could get where they were coming from, who knew what this mysterious person wanted to do with the undead army. At the same time, Sykkuno found it hard to believe a 10-year-old boy could have any bad intentions. But he couldn’t help but wonder how such a young child learned that magic to such a level that he could face the Dark One. 

Magic in humans was rare but not unheard of. Typically, you would only find them in nobles and their power would be pulled from the elements. The Dark One himself was an oddity in the fact that he could revive the dead however, the basis of his power was rooted in the element of ice. Just from what he heard, this boy didn’t rely on the elements for his magic, which means he had to pull it from some other source. But it also begged the question on if the Dark One and this child were nobles, what kingdoms did they hail from. The first human to ever possess magic was a king hundreds of years ago. It was from his blood that the ability to use magic spread, however it was something that remained within the royal and noble families as they tended to only reproduce with the best options for their lineage. 

“Hey ‘Kuno, what are you reading?” Sykkuno jumped at the sudden sound of the prince next to him. Prince Felix was three years older than him, but they became friends after this mom started working as a servant in the castle. He was far nicer than he thought he would be and was probably the funniest person he had ever met. The brunette offered him a smile, letting Felix get comfortable next to him before answering. 

“Just a book Miss Petunia gave me.” He closed the piece of writing, setting it off the side next to him. His head lolled to the side so he could look at his friend completely. He was wearing the typical silver and gold armor that comes with being the prince, his helmet was resting on the grass as well as his sword. Sykkuno couldn’t imagine that the armor was comfortable. “But to be honest, I’ve been thinking about what that courier said. What do you make of it?” Felix sighed, looking just as conflicted as he felt. 

“I don’t know. It's promising, we could use that kind of power on our side, but my father does have a point. Even if it is just a child, we can never know the intentions behind his actions. For all we know, someone could be manipulating him into convincing the damned army to fight for them.” Sykkuno supposed he had a point, and he definitely took after King Ulf. Part of him wanted to have faith that they had a knight in shining armor that can defeat the tyranny of the Dark One. But King Ulf was right, he could not be trusted. 

A year later, King Ulf passed away. Felix was of age and shortly after, he was crowned as King. In that time, Sardinia was nearly destroyed and momentarily, the King, Queen, and their daughter took refuge in Bremen until it was safe to return home. It didn’t take long for the newly crowned King Felix to fall in love with their daughter, Princess Marzia. After gaining the blessing of King Marziano, the two were married. It was a joyous occasion in such a devastating war. 

The Dark One tried to attack both Leinster and Dominion however, both attempts were thwarted by a new army. Their soldiers were covered head to toe in black armor, their blades serrated and engraved with runes of magic. That magic followed the elements, runes of red for fire, blue for ice, and green for earth. However, it was clear that someone else was enchanting their weapons for them as none of the soldiers showed any magical prowess. And Sykkuno knew all this because of Sir Sean McLoughlin, a noble from Leinster that moved to Bremen shortly after the attack. He and Felix were childhood friends as their families were very close and often visited each other. 

After those failed battles, the Dark One seemingly vanished. No more attacks resurfaced and what was left of his army had gone with him. Bremen, Leinster, Dominion, Sardinia, and Northumbria were the only kingdoms that stood, Lawan and Bavaria were too far gone to be repaired. Not long after the war ended, the five kingdoms held a meeting to discuss the residents of Nordmøre. Commander Bosse was successful in locating the kingdom despite the winter terrain of the land to the North. However, they were unable to infiltrate it because, as King Ulf had initially suspected, those broken from the Dark One’s hold were forced into the army of this new kingdom. They were dressed just as Sean had described them to be.  

The meeting ruled, with King Felix being the one to suggest this, that any contact with Nordmøre was strictly prohibited, punishable by death, and that if any knights of this kingdom were spotted to kill them on sight. The wounds were too fresh for any of the remaining lands to trust the undead. As time passed, Nordmøre became known as the Kingdom of the Dead and living creatures had never set foot inside of its boundaries, terrified of being turned into a pawn for their King. 

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Thirteen years had passed since the Dark One last showed his face. The five remaining kingdoms had fully recovered from his attack by now, rebuilding their armies and ensuring peace between the five of their lands. In Bremen, now becoming the most diverse out of them all, recently welcomed their next heir, Prince Elias. He was three now, a lively toddler who definitely caused too much trouble around the palace. But their handmaid, Poki, took wonderful care of the young prince when his parents were too busy. 

Sykkuno was a full fledged healer now, surpassing his mentor 5 years ago in ability. King Felix named him the Head of Medics and if they went to battle, it was his decision which medics would go, how long they would be gone, and if they were fit enough. It was a lot of responsibility but Sykkuno loved it nonetheless. Toast moved up the ranks of the Bremenian army quickly, earning himself the spot of King Felix’s personal knight at 29, the youngest to ever earn that position. While he was not the strongest, he made up for it with his incredible intelligence. 

The day they were mourning the 14th anniversary of King Ulf’s death was the day the Dark One resurfaced. No one was expecting it, and he struck the Kingdom of Sardinia first. Sykkuno suspected it was because they were furthest from Nordmøre, but the survivors that fled to Bremen and Northumbria shared the same story. While he still had an army of the undead, he had other creatures on his side. They suspected they were failed experiments on both humans and animals alike that he brought back to life, turning them into monstrosities. But the experiments that survived were far more dangerous than anything in the Dark One’s arsenal. Queen Marzia was understandably devastated and the four Kings came together to form an alliance, an army that would hold soldiers from all four of their lands. But even with the largest army anyone has seen, it wasn’t enough. That was clear when they failed to protect Leinster. 

“We have no choice.” King Felix was standing at the head of the round table, four of the seven seats now empty. He was the youngest of the kings yet he was able to garner much respect from the more experienced rulers. “We must seek out help from Nordmøre.” This caused an uproar, King Paul rising from his seat with such anger. He was the eldest of the three Kings, white hair that curled around his ears and a beard covering the lower half of his face. He wore silver and red armor, the colors that symbolized his kingdom. 

“We shall do no such thing! It was those monsters who took my dear son away from me!” He growled, King Charles simply sitting calmly in his chair as he watched the scene unfold. His son, Prince Charles II was standing against the wall behind him. “There is no way in hell I am going to make an alliance with those bastards.” 

“With all due respect, King Paul, we do not have a choice. We need their army and their King to defeat the Dark One.” Felix argued, running a hand through his blonde hair. Sykkuno exchanged a glance with Toast, the two of them standing slightly off to the side. The two continued to bicker, before King Charles cleared his throat to get their attention. 

“King Felix is right. We must.” His hair was brown, white streaks found its way into his locks. He too had a beard but it was shorter than that of King Paul’s and instead of red, his kingdom’s armor was adorned with deep blue markings. “Besides, it gives us a chance to analyze their army. Find out their weaknesses.” At this, King Paul seemed to finally consider the suggestion. Eventually, he conceded.

“Very well. But I cannot promise I will be civil.” He spat, returning to his seat with a huff. King Felix sighed, following suit as he folded his hands neatly on the table in front of him. He didn’t blame him for being opposed to the idea, in fact he expected it. It was because of the undead army that King Paul’s son, Prince Dave, was slain in battle. 

“Myself, Commander Toast, and High Medic Sykkuno shall travel to Nordmøre to negotiate with their King.” Felix announced, and Sykkuno had to hold in the surprise noise he wanted to make. This was definitely news to him and he was downright terrified. He felt safe knowing that two highly skilled fighters would be with him but there was also very little known about the King of the North. All they knew about him was that he was the child that was able to fight the Dark One and that he was an undead as well. To be honest, that last ‘fact’ was just an assumption as the Dark One was a living lich so many just figured the only other person known to be able to have control over the dead would be too. 

“Please, take my son with you. He knows much about the undead’s weaknesses should you need it.” King Charles offered, Prince Charles II bowing towards Felix to show that he was willing. The father and son looked a lot like each other, though the prince’s hair was much longer than that of the king’s. Felix agreed, and the meeting soon ended after, Paul and Charles leaving for their own kingdoms. 

Felix, Toast, and Prince Charles spent the rest of the day strategizing while Sykkuno packed up any medical supplies he might need. They were to embark on their journey early tomorrow morning, it was about a day’s horse ride to Nordmøre, the longest one Sykkuno will ever be on but he knew that no matter how hard he tried, he wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight anyway. 

“You sure you’re okay with coming, Sykkuno?” Toast had appeared next to him, a hand on his shoulder in a way that was comforting. The brunette offered a smile up at his friend, closing the bag after feeling like he had everything he would need. They couldn’t pack too heavy after all. 

“Yeah, I’m honored Felix chose me.” The pair walked to their rooms that were adjacent to each other, bidding each other a good night’s rest. Sykkuno didn’t get any sleep that night, and by the time the sun started rising above the horizon, he found that he wasn’t quite tired either. So, he double checked to make sure that he had absolutely everything he needed, grabbing his two bags and making his way down to the stables. He made sure to actually wear his suit of armor (he hated it, it was uncomfortable but he felt it would be necessary), plates of gold and green cover him from his shoulders down. 

He found his horse, a lovely cream colored mare he named Anastasia, and began fastening the saddle to her back. He hooked up the bags to the sides and brought her over to make sure she had plenty of water and hay. She began munching happily and Sykkuno decided to pass the time by brushing out her mane. Toast walked in at one point, preparing his horse Disguise while a servant came to prepare Edgar, King Felix’s horse. Soon enough, the three of them were joined by Prince Charles and they disembarked on what was most definitely a death wish. 

Sykkuno didn’t know when they reached their destination, the last thing he remembered was stopping at a lake to let their horse’s eat, hydrate, and just rest their legs. From there it was supposed to be another couple hours but the brunette must’ve spaced out because the next thing he knew, they were in front of the frozen gates of Nordmøre. Commander Bosse wasn’t kidding when he said the lands up in the North were cold. 

“Stay alert.” King Felix straightened on the back of Edgar, edging the stallion forward who was a little hesitant. Sykkuno understood why because the two knights stationed in front of the gates were putting him on edge as well. Just as Sean said, they were dressed in all black armor though up close, he could make out fur sticking out at certain parts, either for style or warmth. Though he didn’t think undead had to stay warm. 

What was off putting about them the most was how...human they looked. From the countless stories he’s heard, from seeing part of the Dark One’s army, they always looked like walking decomposing corpses. However, these two standing in front of them had skin that was intact, the only hint that they weren’t alive were their extremely pale skin and inhuman icy blue eyes. Their helmets lay in the snow next to their feet and neither made a move to grab them, instead resting their hands on the hilt of their sheathed swords. 

“State your business.” Even their voices were human. Sykkuno felt lost but he just had to remind himself that these two probably have their fair share of innocent blood on their hands. Most of the residents in Nordmøre were released from the control of the Dark One. Felix was the one to speak, fitting because he was the authority figure after all. 

“I am King Felix of Bremen and I wish to speak with the King of Nordmøre regarding the Dark One.” The two undead knights exchanged a glance, the female opening her mouth to answer but the gate creaked open, revealing another knight fully covered in black armor this time. Unlike the other two that held blades of blue runes, his were red and it was clear by their reaction that he was a higher rank than him. He was mounted on a black steed, though that wasn’t alive either as its hooves were covered in blue flames that didn’t seem to melt the show beneath it. Behind him were several other knights. 

“The King saw your coming. Follow.” He pulled at the reins turning his horse around to head towards the palace looming over everything else. Felix led the way, Toast and Sykkuno following suit as Charles took his place behind them. The other undead knights surrounded their group to make sure they didn’t try to pull any tricks. He felt uneasy but at the same time, he wasn’t worried they would pull something. At least he hoped. 

As they reached the courtyard of the castle, the one to address them dismounted, waiting patiently for them to do the same. Begrudgingly, they did and watched their horses get whisked off to what he assumed as the stables. The other nights didn’t follow them inside the castle and he assumed it was because the place was lined in guards. The undead they were following, which Sykkuno learned was their Commander, was ever silent. He led them down a long hallway before descending a flight of stairs. The castle itself was not bad, though Sykkuno found its interior to be rather gloomy. It was filled with colors of black, gray, and occasionally blue or red. There were no pictures hung on the walls nor were there any plants to liven up the place. The only decoration was a single long carpet cover the length of the floor. Soon enough, they were pushing through a large set of double doors that revealed the throne room. 

“Your Highness, I have brought them.” Sykkuno was able to pinpoint his accent as that of Northumbria. Many of those that lived here in Nordmøre were knights from the seven kingdoms so it didn’t come as a surprise. Vaguely, the brunette wondered if their King hailed from any of the lands. The Commander led them further into the room, two guards stopping them at a certain point and forcing them to their knees. Sykkuno watched the Northumbrian undead take his place to the right of the King and he finally allowed himself to look up at the mysterious ruler. Just like his knights, his armor was all black, a fading wine red cape attached to his shoulder pieces. His sword was leaning against the throne and Sykkuno realized that while their King wasn’t bigger than him, his blade most certainly was. His engravings were not only different but that magic that was infused into his held a deep purple hue. The brunette could not make out any other features, skin and eye color alike. King Felix held his kneeling position, though Sykkuno could tell it upset him off to an extent. 

“I am King Felix of Bremen. The Dark One has made his return and threatens to haunt the remaining kingdoms. I ask for Nordmøre to join the alliance aimed towards bringing an end to his tyranny.” The only sound that filled the room was the crackling fire on the side of the room and the occasional clinking of metal armor. The King of the Dead adjusted in his throne, his elbows coming to rest upon his knees as his fingers interlaced before him. 

“And why would I help you?” His voice was deep, a sound that shook Sykkuno to his core. He should be terrified, he knows that, but the sound of their King speaking had a certain soothing aspect to it. It seems his voice had as much as an affect on the others as well. “It was you who ordered the death of my people, right, Felix.” There was so much venom dripping from his words, the person whom it was directed towards, lifting his head to give him an equally loathing glare. 

“Because he’ll be coming after Nordmøre. You know just as well as I do that we need each other in this battle.” Felix sneered, no longer caring about faking respect because it was clear neither carried that for the other. “The last thing I want to do is make an alliance with you mongrels.” The grips of the guards visibly tightened and Sykkuno subconsciously scooted closer to Toast, whose hand had carefully moved towards his blade. The tension was thick in the room and the undead King stood from his throne, grabbing his sword and spinning it in his grip with perfect precision. 

“I think you forget that these mongrels were once denizens of your kingdoms. Soldiers that died to save your people.” He stopped only a few inches away from where Felix kneeled, his blade coming to rest under the King’s chin. Sykkuno held his breath, expecting Toast to lunge at any moment. “Perhaps if you had done better, they wouldn’t be here, your majesty .” Felix growled but didn’t say anything, the man before them sheathing his weapon as he turned to address the guard who led them to the throne room. 

“Commander, ready the Knights of the Ebon Blade. It is time to bring the Dark One to his knees.”