The little farming settlement never stood a chance against the wrath of the heavens.
The Halgian Empire’s valkyries came down upon the tiny hamlet like the divine fist of the One, crushing the feeble resistance of the Fallen sympathizers on the little village, which had committed the grave crime of housing a wounded Fallen - a Halgian that had turned away from the Light via heresy and blasphemy.
Aragonius watched the burning village. His face was surprisingly frozen and stiff in contrast to the ravenous, roaring inferno. The armored seraph donned in gold-lined divine metal plate had long since be numbed to the guilt that serving the Light brought upon his heart. It was for the peace to be heralded by the Light, and there could be nothing that would slow his pursuit of that peace. If blood had to be spilled so that more would be preserved, then so be it.
His righteous anger was all the more justified since the Darkness had taken both of the only things he held dear to his heart closer than his crusade.
He had tasked his daughter with the task of taking captive what intel said was a low-ranking demon. He believed she was up to the task, and had faith she would make them all proud - him, the Halgian Empire, and the Light.
Then came the news. It was widely assumed the demons had taken her - to what end, he dared not imagine. Perhaps to be eaten, to be raped, or to be sacrificed in some depraved ritual that he dared not imagine
Shortly after receiving the news, his wife fell ill, and shortly thereafter died - the autopsy had credited it to grief. In sending their daughter on a single mission, he had lost nearly everything.
So Valkyrie commander dedicated himself to the only passion he had left: condemning the enemies of the Light.
“We found her, commander!”
The exclamation roused Aragonius from his thoughts. Two Halgian paladins each tugged on the arms of a woman, covered in bandages, quite clearly in the early stages of healing, the wounds still soaked with bleeding.
“The hunting hounds of the Empress…,” the Fallen wheezed, and spat at Aragonius, still held up by the two paladins. “ I would have died peacefully even if you hadn’t shown up...these farmers committed no sin except attempting to ease my pain. And yet, here you are...to slaughter the helpless innocent in the name of your forsaken Light.”
Aragonius narrowed his eyes underneath the visor of his helmet, his heart feeling like it was twisting in his chest, his cheeks flushing ever so slightly. It was scum like this witch that had taken everything from him. Whether she had a hand personally in the death of his daughter, or whether she was just part of the cabal of sin that were demons and Fallen, all of them would share in the judgment he would dispense with no mercy, no hesitation, no salvation.
“No.” He answered simply with his booming, deep voice. He unsheathed the Institoris - the gold-hilted, divine blazing bastard sword, which he used to render fiery condemnation upon the wretched and corrupt, the blade ablaze He held up his infamous sword to honor the Light above, allowing the sun’s light to reflect off the blade. “I do not slaughter innocents in the name of the Light.”
The seraph then glanced at the wounded Fallen as he gripped the blade’s hilt tightly. “Only the guilty.”
“Of what am I guil-”
Before she could finish her question, her head was rolling, spraying blood on the silver-white divine metal plate of the paladins and the Valkyrie Commander. With a snort, he started to wipe the tainted blood off of his blessed blade with the back of his gauntlet.
It was then a single cry echoed through the settlement, piercing the sounds of razing and murder.
It was then a winged knight with tarnished Valkyrie armor touched down, wielding a polearm that looked to be tainted by demonic influence. The blade was shaped in a distinctly naginata style - a form which originated from the demon realm of Kurai.
And something about that voice plucked at the worn heartstrings of nostalgia. Something familiar. Something which he had lost.
‘Karitia’ remained silent, as she removed her helmet, allowing her snow white ponytailed hair to fall. “...I go by ‘Kari’ now. I was the one who brought that soldier here. They were dying. I had hoped to give them Daama’s peace.”
“You brought a tainted abomination to our pure citizens, forcing my blade upon them!?” The rage that seeped into his voice forced his Valkyries to back off in alarm.
Aragonius stared at her defiant word. His head swam with a raging storm of thoughts - doctrine and emotion clashing against each other within the confines of his head. This was his daughter. One of the things that he cared about was now back within his grasp.
No. No no no. Love of the Light. That came before all else. All. Else.
She was tainted with sin. He had to save her. Perhaps if he corrected this mistake himself, he would still save her soul. He would do it. He would purge her.
He looked to the two Valkyries. “Go. Find the survivors. Leave none standing.” As they left, Aragonius turned to Kari. His tone dropped, and his volume lowered as he spoke - almost defeatedly. “You side with the Dark. So be it. I will not sheath my blade when it thirsts for justice. Not even for you.”
“Justice…” Kari’s whole body seemed to recoil at the misnomer. “This is not Lady Daama’s justice! Your justice is a perversion of her will! An abortion, an abomination!” Kari barked back, pointing sharply between his eyes across from the other side of the decapitated corpse.
“I will hear no words from your lips, so tainted and twisted by the dark. Heresy and blasphemy drip from them, and I cannot bare to see the beauty which I had sired befouled by such sinful rhetoric! I will save you by purging you! En garde!”
As if to punctuate the challenge, Aragonius’s eight wings flew open. He then charged forward, gripping the hilt of Institoris with both hands, eyes burning with reiatsu and stinging, salty vapor, and brought down his flaming blade upon Kari’s head.
Her eyes were steely, calm in their gaze. She had expected this. She knew what her father would do, how he would react upon seeing his daughter’s beliefs as they were, unfiltered and unclouded by rank, filial ties, and doubt. Without flinching, she brought up her naginata to block the blade, and thrust forth with a swift knee to Aragonius gut, before throwing her wings forward and flying back to get some distance between herself and father.
“For the sake of Lady Daama’s justice, I will stop your sacrilege!” She ignited her naginata with light reiatsu, preparing her attack.
“Heresy from a heretic!” Once again, the Blade of Institoris lit ablaze with the fires of Aragonius’s conviction.
The delicately framed, white-furred, draconian lightbeast looked up to the starry sky. A bittersweet smile scorned her face as she shook her head gently.
She could feel two of her worshippers fighting. And it would seem that her futile dream of a day without pointless conflict would not come true today.
It was bad enough that they worshipped her. She was no goddess. She did not deserve their worship. But then to kill in her name, as if she would want it, condone it as a goddess? Contemplating this was like being stabbed, the dagger then twisted as it was wrenched free.
“It is so ridiculous,” she mused, her voice choking as the words left her draconic maw. “Utterly ridiculous. Why? Why do they always do this?”
Try as hard as she might, Kari, the one known among some in Vystriana as “The Winged Knight,” simply was outmatched in experience, speed, and strength against her more grizzled seraph father, who still stood upright, his breathing only slightly accelerated. Her naginata felt heavy. As she gazed up into the sky at her father, flying above with all eight wings, her naginata only grew heavier as she realized the futility of her struggle.
“I’m sorry, Lady Daama,” she whispered in desperate prayer. “I couldn’t stop him. Forgive him, for he knows not what he does.”
He dove, his blade ablaze. Like a falling star, right at Kari, who could only barely muster the strength to bring up her naginata’s shaft to defend herself.
As he did, a raging, pained cry resounded throughout the Evylonian sky.
The shaft was cleaved in two - and Institoris buried itself deep into Kari’s shoulder, all the way to the middle of her chest.
With a brief, pained whimper, she managed a tired smile at her father. “...Amen.”
The winged knight slumped as consciousness and life left her, blood still dripping down the blade, over Aragonius’s gauntlet and down his arm until the droplets fell off his plate. Both pieces of her naginata clattered from her hands onto the blood-stained soil.
Aragonius caught her, cradled her close to his breast, and whispered into her ear.
“Lady Daama, forgive her, for being so foolish. Forgive me, for being so weak. Amen.”
It was then that the Halgian Paladins returned, gasping for air, leaning on their haunches as they attempted to catch their breaths. They took a step back at the gruesome scene before them, but quickly composed themselves, knowing it suicide to even ask.
“Did you get all the survivors?”
“No sir. One escaped. The others are currently searching for her.”
A thought crossed his mind. He looked at his daughter, the color still flush in her cheeks, though fading, following the life that had already left her body. She would want him to spare the heretics, no doubt. But he served the Light, not his daughter, nor his guilt.
He looked to his men, his eyes like cold, unfeeling steel. “We do not leave until we find every. Single. One of them.” Each word dripped with the weight of his convictions, punctuated with his intent of rendering swift judgment “That is the duty of the Valkyries. We have our duty. Go.”