First Chapter Reveal: The Knights of Galaria: The Crystals of Power by O.S. Gill

The Knights of GalariaTitle: THE KNIGHTS OF GALARIA: THE CRYSTALS OF POWER
Author: O.S. Gill
Format: Paperback, ebook
Length: 310 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace

PURCHASE AT AMAZON

For Kaz Silverwynd, graduation from the Galarian Knight Academy begins normally, but an the attempt on the life of Xul Xandu, the newly-appointed head of the Confederation of Nations, pushes Kaz and his team into an epic and dangerous adventure. The action ranges from the floating city of Civitas to the underwater empire of Aequoria to the moon colony of Ourea. Kaz leads his band of knights on a perilous journey to stop a madman from achieving his ultimate goal – the conquest of the world of Galaria. Added to the already volatile mix are the legendary Crystals of Power, a collection of beautiful but deadly jewels that could tip the scales of power toward good or evil.

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CHAPTER 1

     Kaz fidgeted in his uniform. He hated these things, ceremonies, galas; reasons for people to dress up and endure longwinded speeches that lasted for hours. True, this was his day. He shined at the top of his class as valedictorian. The seven long years that he and his friends spent at the academy were finally coming to an end. He felt nostalgic; reminiscing on the first day he came to Civitas to join the academy. He was all of eleven then, and the grandeur of the big city was a far cry from the tiny island he used to call home.

It wasn’t even in the realm of his imagination then that he would be standing here, graduating at the head of his peers and about to enter the corps as a lieutenant first class. His father would have been so proud, after all this was his dream for Kaz. It saddened him that his father would never see the man he’s grown into, having passed away two years ago. But, being a Commander General in the Corp himself, Kal Silverwynd would have been overjoyed at his son following so closely in his footsteps.

Kaz was just putting the finishing touches on his uniform which he knew, outside of the air-conditioned comfort of his dorm room, would keep him at a slow broil in the afternoon sun. After all, the plaza in front of the building that housed Corp’s headquarters wasn’t exactly known for its cool breezes; located at the foot of the one hundred storied government building and surrounded by multiple high rise buildings. But he knew he would have to grin and bear it if he was going to make a career out of wearing this very same uniform, sans the ceremonial medals and sash.  He thought however, that the designer could have created a more humid friendly uniform for this time of year. Apart from that he thought that it was very well made.  It consisted of a long white trench coat over an undershirt and a white pair of slacks. The trench coat extended to the knees and flared at the bottom.  It was closed by folding the left side over the right and then buttoned by eight rather large buttons that ran from just below the right shoulder down to just above the right knee.  The sleek white made anyone wearing it look regal, and the naval blue stripes running down the sides of the arms and legs made even the lowest ranking officer look and feel important.

He was almost finished; the only thing left was his father’s sword. He reached into the closet and retrieved it. This was his sword now rather, as he would use it from today onwards because he was officially becoming a knight. He had spent the better part of the morning polishing it, making sure it was show worthy. It was the best designed and most formidable rapier in the Corps. The long sleek shaft was made of Incendian steel and marked with blue engravings that were in the ancestral language of his family who were from Vegrandis Terra. Or at least that’s what he was told. He himself never actually learned the language. The hilt was an intricate array of broad rings that protected the hand of the bearer. It was bejewelled with blue quanzanite.  The engravings were also lined with blue quanzanite. Kaz was an excellent swordsman and with this rapier he knew he would be the best in the corps.

He was now thinking about the day and the tenseness that had surrounded the academy over the last year. The newly formed Confederation of Nations had seen difficulties in the form of a power struggle between different factions. Although a leader was finally selected, there were still some underlying tensions. What would eventually become of the academy and the Corps remained to be seen.

Kaz put these issues out of his mind. There would be plenty of time to ponder such things after he was made a knight, he thought. Now he checked himself in the mirror. His dreadlocked hair was neatly fashioned in a ponytail. His uniform was neat and showed no sign of wrinkle. He was noting to himself how clear his dark tropical skin had become over the years of living in this cooler climate. He imagined that it would only take a week on his native island to return to his natural dark complexion.

Suddenly he had the sense of someone approaching him from behind. He spun around quickly on the intruder, only to be greeted with a kiss on the cheek. “Have I ever told you how dashing you look in this uniform?” The words came from Kara Ravenstorm, Kaz’s squad mate and girlfriend.  She was also one of the very few people who could sneak up on him.

“Well, you may have mentioned it once or twice” said Kaz, smiling as he gave her a hug. “You look beautiful,” he said eying her. Kara’s uniform suited her well. The female uniform was similar to the males’ except the coat buttoned down the middle and then separated at the waist so that their trousers were completely visible.

Kara herself was always ravishing Kaz found, even though he knew his opinion may have been a bit biased. She was about four inches shorter than he was, about 5’5 or so. Her complexion was olive and her eyes slanted. Her ears were also pointy, as was the typical feature for the elves of Zanru.  She was a princess of Zanru and as customary in the royal family she went to the academy to receive military training. Her father expects her to return home for her royal duties upon graduation, but she would much rather stay in Civitas and have a career in the Corps, especially since she had already attained the rank of second lieutenant. She wore her hair short with two long braided pony tails that extended from the hairline just above the neck, to her waist.

“Well, we need to be off, the ceremony will be starting in twenty minutes,” she reminded him.  “Yes, I’m ready,” said Kaz. And with that they hurried down the corridor to the stairs.

The cadet dormitory was across the courtyard from the administrative building of the academy, which was adjoined to the Corps headquarters. And it was through there that they would have to pass to get to the ceremony. As they walked through the immense halls of the administrative building, Kaz had flashbacks of when he was brought here on his first day at the academy. He remembered how in awe he was. The huge marble floor of the rotunda, the magnificent stairway that led to the upper level offices. The large seal of the Galarian Knight Corps embedded on the floor. And the statues erected in the main hall of the greatest knights that had gone before. He remembered being captivated by the entire sight.

They moved through the administrative building and were now headed down the corridor that connected with the bottom floor of the headquarters. The headquarters of the Galarian Knights was certainly something to behold. It was an immense structure one-hundred stories tall. It housed all of the high ranking officials of the Corps along with diplomatic offices for countries around the world and the offices of the Civitas government.  The building, along with the academy was founded some five-hundred years prior when the Knight Corp was established. At the end of the last Great War, the countries across the world decided that to keep the peace they would do away with their armies and form a global unit tasked with policing the nations and keeping the peace. The creation of which was led by the then Chancellor of Civitas, Duke Von Maelstrom and the leadership has been kept in the Von Maelstrom family for every generation since.

They were halfway through the ground floor of the headquarters, when someone ran past them. “Vogt!” Kara shouted out. The person stopped and turned around. It was their friend and squad mate Vogt Von Maelstrom.

Vogt was the nephew of the Supreme Commander Bishop Von Maelstrom, and his heir apparent. The Supreme Commander had adopted him after his father Baron, which was Bishop’s brother, had died. A lieutenant first class like Kaz, the two always had a friendly rivalry going and were always trying to outdo each other.

“Why are you two just standing around? We’re late,” Vogt said slightly alarmed. “We have a clear fifteen minutes before the start of the ceremony,” Kara said, looking at the time on her watch.  Vogt was always a stickler for punctuality and would prefer to be early rather than just making it in time. “Relax,” Kaz said reassuringly, “Today is all about us.” Vogt looked unconvinced as he removed his spectacles to clean them, and nervously brushed his short blonde hair with his hand. “Well then, we better get going before you start to hyperventilate,” Kara chuckled. And with that she held him by his right arm and Kaz by his left, and the three walked out in tandem.

The plaza was already full by the time they got there. Most of the graduation class was already seated.  “I can see my mother down there in the reserved section,” said Kaz. “Well there’s no mistaking uncle Bishop up on the stage,” chimed Vogt. “Can you see your parents Kara?” he asked. “No, my parents couldn’t make it,” said Kara. “They’re on official business in Tandoor, but I see my elder brother and sister.” Though she understood the responsibilities of heads of state, she couldn’t help but feel disheartened at her parents missing this day.  After all, she hadn’t seen them in the two years since she last was home.

“Zarak and the others are over there,” she said, pointing in the direction of their squad mates seated in the second row. They made their way up the aisle, Kaz stopping to kiss his mother on her cheek. She of course did not have far to travel to make it there. Being the ambassador of Vegrandis Terra, her office was just upstairs, so Kaz got to see her fairly often. “I’m so proud of you,” she whispered to him.

When they reached their seats they were greeted with hugs and handshakes from the others. Zarak, Remus, Tanu and the Vor de Leigh twins Eri and Evet.  They each were from different regions from across the world and they each were very talented at what they did, and Kaz was very happy to have had them on his team for the past few years, although they would soon be splitting up, going into their different special fields.

Zarak Tol, the six foot four inch tall Divi from the Divum islands in the north east of the continent was looking to have career in reconnaissance, where he would carry the rank of second lieutenant. He was winged as all Divi were, with about a twelve foot wingspan from tip to tip. He sat with his white wings tucked neatly behind him and his long blonde hair smoothed back.

Tanu Tanu was from Incendia and was looking to have a career in the sniper division.  He was a gunnery sergeant and there was none at the academy better than him with a photon rifle. There was no mistaking him as an Incendian, they were typically short, and he was five feet tall. Red skinned, with yellow irises and pointed ears. Their canines protruded more than the other races, making them look more like fangs.  His long jet black hair was braided into a ponytail that was almost to his waist. And he was wearing his customary white cowboy hat with the naval blue band around it that matched his uniform although it wasn’t actually part of it.

Remus Bane was seated next to Tanu. The sergeant major was the team covert and martial art specialist. He was from Ourea, one of Galaria’s four moons and the only one that was habitable. The Luna, as his people were called, were a warrior race, though a civilised one, and most were trained in Ourean martial arts from a very young age. They also looked more feral than normal humans, though Remus was only eighteen so his facial hair wasn’t as heavy as most Ourean men. He always liked to wear his hair short and spiked.

And then they were the Vor de Leigh twins, Evet and Eri. The brother and sister were born in the northern city of Quelos. The Quelians were a race of humans naturally susceptible to magic, as were the Vor de Leighs who were raised by their grandfather a Master Wizard. They were identical and had red hair, Eri’s long and curly and Evet’s short and cropped. They both had grey eyes and freckles.  They were going into the special abilities division in the Corp with the rank of junior sorcerer. Their uniform also differed slightly from the others. The knights in Special Abilities regiment wore hooded cloaks rather than trench coats although the colour scheme was the same.

“Wow, I can’t believe that even Tanu got here before you guys,” said Eri, intentionally trying to fret Vogt. “Well, we had to make an entrance didn’t we,” Kara quipped. “We’ve been here for a little while,” said Zarak, “I really wish they’d get on with it.” “Hold on, I think it’s starting,” interrupted Vogt. “Well then that’s my queue to take my seat,” said Kaz, who as valedictorian was to be seated on the stage along with the other speakers. He went up the steps and took his seat to the left of the podium on the very end.

Bishop Von Maelstrom was making his way up to the podium. Kaz was noting to himself, how in shape he looked for his forty-five years. He was six feet three inches tall and of sturdy build. His black hair was slicked back and greyed at the temples and his moustache thick and curled at the ends.

“My fellow knights, faculty, students and honoured guests…” his speech began. Kaz was already zoning out and looking around him. Some of his professors and drill commanders were sitting to his left. He noticed a distinguished looking older gentleman in a red robe sitting six seats away, right next to the podium. Kaz recognised him as Xul Xandu the newly selected General Secretary of the newly formed Confederation of Nations. He was a frail old man, with a pointy nose and white hair only at the sides and back of his head. But Kaz new that he was well loved and respected the world over.

”..let me present to you Mr. Xul Xandu,” said Von Maelstrom, finishing up his speech. Xul took the podium to a rousing applause and began speaking, what he said Kaz was unsure of because he had zoned out again. My, how he hated these things. He was now looking into the crowd. He looked at Kara and she gave him a wink. Tanu was making faces. He was now taking in the skyline around him on this bright beautiful day.

Then he felt something. He couldn’t quite explain it, but he felt as though something was wrong. Kaz, from very young had a unique skill of observation and also sensing peril. And right now peril was exactly what he was sensing. But why was he? Was it something he’d seen? And where was it? He scanned the skyline again and nothing. But there must have been something he was sure of it. He concentrated, looking and the buildings in front of him. Then he saw it, the glint of sunlight reflecting off of something at the top of the ten storey building at the opposite end of the plaza. It was a sniper, he was sure of it. And it looked like he was aiming at Xul. He didn’t think, he just reacted, and he sprang from his seat and darted toward the General Secretary. He caught him in a full on tackle and Xul buckled, tumbling towards the floor of the stage.

Kaz felt the projectile pass him before he heard it, the sound however was deafening as it exploded on the wall at the back of the stage. The assailant was using high charged photon blasts. The next three seconds felt like an hour. At first everything Kaz heard was muffled and he felt surreal.  Then everything became clear suddenly and sharply. He heard the screams of the crowd and people scampering for cover. He knew if the sniper was using high charged photon, then he wouldn’t be very safe behind the table where they had landed. He knew it would take the rifle five seconds to charge at that strength and he had maybe two left.

Suddenly he heard two shots ring out, but they weren’t directed at him. He peered over the table and saw that Tanu had drawn his photon rifle and fired upon the snipers position. The assailant took off. “Get after him!” Kaz shouted to Tanu.

#

      Tanu gave chase; first he leapt ten feet in the air. He could have done this of course because the force of gravity in Incendia was twice that of the rest of the world, because of the gravitational effect that Nyx the night moon had there. So his leap was four times that of any of the other races under normal gravity. While still in the air, Zarak grabbed him by both shoulders and they both flew off to the rooftop to apprehend the culprit.

The sniper had already cleared the building he was on and was running along the one behind it by the time they got there. He was fast. Tanu figured one good shot in the leg with his rifle set on stun should bring him down. He took aim. Before he could line up the shot however, the assailant looked back and fired several shots in their direction. His aim was uncanny. This caused Zarak to swerve to his right and hit a communications dish. They fell and rolled to a stop. “You alright?” asked Tanu. “I’m fine, just winded,” Zarak replied, “Don’t let him get away.” Tanu sprang into action. He ran to the end of the rooftop and took a giant leap over to the adjacent building. At the same time the sniper was clearing the chasm between roofs two buildings over. His jump rivalled that of Tanu’s.

Tanu knew at this rate he would never catch up to the assailant. He had as much range on his jump, and he was definitely faster, the distance between them was growing by the second. He got down on one knee and steadied his photon rifle. He centred the cross hairs on the assailant. He realised then that the quarry was about to take another leap. He changed his aim to where he judged the sniper to land. The sniper leapt, one long lingering leap, or so it felt to Tanu. Just as he was about to land, as his foot was about to touch down on the top of the roof, Tanu fired. Perfect! It caught him across the knee. Tanu watched as his legs buckled and gave way beneath him. With the speed he was travelling before he was hit, the velocity caused him to bounce once or twice, and then he slid about twenty feet and came to a stop.

At this time Zarak had caught his breath. He picked up Tanu and they made their way to the roof that the sniper was on. “Don’t move one muscle!” exclaimed Tanu as he and Zarak landed. They saw that his rifle had landed a good few feet from him so he posed no immediate threat.  He was wearing a black trench coat and black pants and combat boots, on his head a black wool hat. There was something plastic and strange looking about his face. He looked like he was devoid of any emotion. “Who are you?” asked Zarak. The sniper took a long glare at them and did not say a word, and then Tanu and Zarak saw something happen that took them by surprise and they had no time to stop it. The sniper brought his jaws to a clench, then his head moved sharply from side to side and his neck contorted. When he came to a stop his face had a blank look on it (well a bit more blank than it was before) and a metallic liquid was coming from his mouth. “He’s an android?” said Tanu quite puzzled. “Why would an android want to attack the General Secretary?” Zarak said in a most confused manner. “Let’s find out shall we,” said Kaz who was now landing next to them riding a hover cycle along with a team of knights who were patrolling the area.

#

     Kaz walked up to where the android lay. “I guess he would rather expire than divulge anything,” he said to the others, “Must have been programmed that way.” He knelt and turned the android’s head until he could see the back of his neck. The machine’s faceplate came off in his hand, revealing the true face of the machine. It was plain and ovular, with green glowing eyes that were fading out as the android lost power. “The serial number has been scratched off,” He said, “Whoever’s behind this was going to lengths not to be caught.” An android’s serial number is like a birth certificate. On Galaria, androids were once used as common house appliances and were regarded as such. About one hundred years ago they gained independence through a law that dictated that beings with artificial intelligence were free thinking and had a right to exist without master. These freed androids founded a city in the desert a few hundred miles north of Civitas called Andros. They have an android president and are a recognized member of the Confederation of Nations. This city was now an attractive tourist hotspot with many casinos and hotels and several forms of leisurely entertainment. There was also an industrial district where androids were continued to be made for the growing demand of a workforce on Galaria. They would be paid and allowed to live freely in whatever city they worked in. They were also stamped on the back of the neck with a serial number which would contain the factory information and date of creation.

Kaz checked the pockets of the android’s coat. “There’s nothing in here,” he said. “Nothing that can tell us who sent him and why he was trying to attack Xul Xandu.”  Zarak stepped up beside him. “How are we going to find out?” he asked. “Well all androids have a processor chip that they need to survive,” Kaz said. “It’s like their heart, and the information contained in the bios should tell us which factory made him.” “I’ll have the Corps analyst come over and retrieve him and get us that information,” he was saying this while paging forensics with the directive and coordinates for retrieval.

The analyst team arrived quickly, as they would have been just a few streets over at the headquarters. They gathered what remained of the android and took him to the lab. “Let’s get back to the others and report in,” said Kaz. Zarak and Tanu followed him and they made their way back to the plaza.

On their arrival, they saw that the once packed seating area of the graduation was now scant. The area had been secured by Knights and Xul Xandu had been removed, presumably to the headquarters for his safety.

The others were still in sitting in the plaza waiting for them to return and with them was Baron Von Maelstrom. “It apparently was a hired android assassin sir,” said Kaz, as he disembarked his sky cycle and he filled in the Supreme Commander on all of the details of what had happened on the rooftops. “I see,” said Von Maelstrom, pondering heavily. “Well, we’ll wait until the gents in analysis give us a report, until then there is little to go on at this point. You all should go and get ready for the graduation party.” “But sir!” Kaz protested, “We need to get on top of this, and find out who orchestrated the attempt on the Secretary.” Baron Von Maelstrom gave his subordinate and student a smile and spoke to him reassuringly. “Kaz, I understand your eagerness to get out into the field and do your job, you’re a Knight now and after all these years of training that would come natural.” “But,” Kaz interjected.  “No buts young man,” the Commander cut him off. “This is a day that you and your peers have earned. Also, there is absolutely very little any of us can do until we get that report. Go to your party, relish in your accomplishments and I expect you to report for duty first thing in the morning to start on this mission.” The Supreme Commander, ever the natural leader, gave Kaz a look that was as kind as it was firm. “Yes sir, I understand,” said Kaz, not daring to protest anymore.

And with that he, Zarak, Tanu, Vogt, Remus and Evet made their way to the grand ballroom on campus where the party was being held.  The girls were allowed to wear evening gowns to the ball and had gone off to change. The guys remained in uniform.

The grand ballroom of the academy was located on the north side of the campus. It was an old and opulent building, dedicated to the school a few hundred years prior by the Ravenstorm family from Zanru, Kara’s ancestors. It also bore their name. As the young men walked through the massive doorway into the foyer, they could see that the other students, family members and faculty had already gathered there. The atmosphere in the ballroom was tense, as people were discussing the events in the plaza. The entire setting had an uneasy feel to it as if the patrons feared something else might happen.

“Well if you need me I’ll be at the buffet table,” said Tanu, who was walking away from them and not distraught like the other patrons.  The perennial glutton, they knew not to expect to see him until it was time to leave. A waiter was passing with a tray of Tandoorian champagne, everyone but Zarak took a glass.  He had issues with items of intoxicating content in the past, particularly banga, a natural fermented fruit which was plentiful in his homeland of Divum. “I think I’ll just have water,” he told the others. They nodded understandingly. “Isn’t that Jade over there?” Evet said to Vogt, pointing in the direction of their classmate, who was chatting with some of her girlfriends. “Why so it is,” Vogt replied, eyeing the Aequorian beauty to whom he was trying to take out for the past two weeks but they could never get the timing right. “Let’s go over and say hi,” he said while cleaning his spectacles. Evet did not need to be convinced. He was more than happy to play wingman if it involved talking to a group of pretty girls. And off they went.

As Kaz looked around the room, he saw a myriad of faces belonging to people that he had befriended, conversed with or simply seen across the quad over the last seven years. Some of them he would see more often if they were stationed in Civitas. Others he may only see on certain ceremonial occasions. And some he may never see again as they took up stations across the world. Just then he noticed someone approaching from his left. It was his mother, looking very elegant in her long flowing blue gown. Her dreadlocks, usually almost to her knees were pinned up and styled on this occasion. “I’m so proud of you all,” she said kissing them each on the cheek. “Thank you Mrs. Silverwynd,” said Remus and Zarak almost in unison. “Thank you mother,” said Kaz. “I’m afraid I must cut this evening short however, I have some affairs of state to attend,” Ursula Silverwynd told her son and his friends. “I understand, I know how it is, I will see you later,” said Kaz to his mother. Indeed he did, when he was growing up, his mother was always engaged in her work. This was something he had grown accustomed to. And with that she was off.

“I think I’ll go get some fresh air,” said Remus. “Okay,” said Zarak and Kaz as they watched him head upstairs and out onto balcony. The others knew he was not the most social of people, in fact the only reason he probably showed up was because of the occasion. But parties and events on a whole were not usually frequented by Remus Bane.

“May I have this dance?” Kaz heard someone say as they tapped him on the shoulder. It was Kara; she was wearing what had to be the most beautiful red dress Kaz had ever seen (not that he often gave critique of dresses, red or otherwise). He had never seen her looking so radiant, probably because until now he had mostly seen her only in uniform. “Well if you insist,” he said smiling. An Aequorian waltz was playing and it was one of the very few formal dances he knew, so he was thankful for the timing.

This left Eri and a rather awkward looking Zarak. It was awkward probably because he has admired the young sorceress for a while now, but lacked the confidence to have ever expressed this to her.  Taking in how she looked in her yellow gown, and with her almost glowing red hair pinned up, he was totally in awe. “Well let’s not be outdone shall we?” Eri said extending her hand to Zarak. “I don’t know,” said Zarak, “Divi aren’t the best dancers, even with the wings tucked away. I guess we’re more coordinated in the sky.” Eri gave him a reassuring smile “Well we’ll figure it out together,” she said, “It’s not as though there’s a spell that I can caste to make us masters of the Aequorian waltz, at least I don’t think so. I would have to ask my grandfather about that sometime.”

Kaz was thinking about how graceful Kara looked dancing. This was another thing that came from her upbringing. Royalty was normally well trained in the arts, languages and social skills. Kara was more so that most. He had never met anyone so well rounded. She also had this look on her face, almost like it was the best night of her life. Or maybe he was thinking that because it was his. Whatever the reason it was something that he would have loved to have gone on forever.

The waltz came to an end much sooner that Kaz was hoping for. The crowd applauded. “Where are the others?” Kara asked, looking around for her friends. “Well Zarak and Eri are on the other end of the dance floor,” Kaz said pointing in the direction of their two friends. “Vogt and Evet are over by the base of the stairs talking to Jade and her friends. Remus is on the balcony. And I’ll give you three guesses as to where Tanu is,” he said with a smirk. “I’ll only need one,” she chuckled, “Let’s get the others and join Remus shall we? It’s such a lovely night; I think we should take in a view of the city.” Kaz agreed, signalling to Zarak and Eri to meet them over by the stairs.

“Sure Vogt is a pretty good sharp shooter, but I’m much more effective with my quanzanite orb,” they heard Evet bragging as they walked up to the small group.  He was trying to impress the girls with his tales of heroics. “You really must excuse my brother,” said Eri coming up from behind, “He’s not usually this modest,” the sarcasm was thick in her voice. “No but I thought I would tone it down a notch just for tonight,” said Evet unfettered. They all laughed.  “We were all thinking of going up to the balcony to take in the view,” Kara informed them, “You all are more than welcome to come.”

“Why that’s an excellent idea,” replied Jade, “It was starting to get a bit crowded in here.” Her two friends nodded in agreement. Kaz couldn’t quite remember their names, but he knew they were in a younger class and he could tell like Jade they were Aequorian. Which wasn’t hard to miss because Aequorians were easily identifiable by their slightly fin shaped ears which were also gills. Other than that they looked like humans in every way.  Jade herself was a tanned complexion with short brown hair. She had fine features and light-brown eyes. She had always had a pleasant demeanour about her as well; in fact Kaz could not remember ever seeing her without a smile.

They all headed up the wide winding stairway. Kaz looked over at the buffet table which was down and to his left. He saw Tanu was still making his rounds, obviously elated at the available feast. They made eye contact and Kaz signalled that they were headed outside. Tanu made a gesture indicating that he would join them in five minutes. Or at least that’s what Kaz thought. He could have easily been saying after five more servings. “I guess we would know in five minutes,” Kaz was thinking to himself.

They walked through the wide doorway leading to the massive balcony, which had a panoramic view of the city. They could see Remus was standing at the far end of the platform looking towards the sky. “Missing home?” Kaz asked approaching him. “I guess,” Remus replied, “It’s kind of hard not to at a time like this and when you can just look up in the sky and see your city’s lights.” Ourea of course could be seen very well from Galaria. It was one of the three moons visible during the day. On mornings it could be seen in the eastern skyline, but at this late hour in the evening, because of Galaria’s rotation, it was in the west heading towards the horizon. The lights in Lunar City, its capital were just beginning to come on and lit up that portion of the sky. “When was the last time you were home” asked Kaz as he arrived next to his long time friend. “Summer break, two years ago,” remarked Remus, “The space elevator was down last year, so I didn’t get a chance to go.” “Yes, I remember that, it was down for maintenance,” said Kaz. He could see that Remus was really missing his home.

“I’ve never seen the city from up here,” said Kara, “It’s absolutely marvellous.” They all agreed. The cityscape was stretched out before them on all sides. The financial district to the south had the highest concentration of tall buildings; a vast array of shadows and lights. The industrial district was to the west, a cluster of much smaller buildings, but spread out over a larger area. The massive tower of the Knight headquarters was obstructing their view of the east and the residential area that was located there. And over to the north, the Atlas Mountains, or at least the very summit of them.

The reason they could only see the tops of these mountains, was because Civitas was a floating metropolis, hovering over the site of the original city which was destroyed during the last Great War. Bombarded and left in ruin and radiation, the city as it were, was uninhabitable. But left unattended the site which was quanzanite rich would have been open to every pioneering industrialist the world over, to drain its reserves dry. A decision was made to create a second city on the site above the radiation. At first the idea of using massive pillars was introduced. But then it was argued by engineers that much weight over the course of time left to the elements would be too much for any known material. So the decision was made to create a massive carrier and build the city upon it. It was kept afloat by using solar powered quanzanite crystals. The energy was so renewable that they would never be without power and the city could remain in its state for as long as there were people to maintain it. This new city was now known as Civitas Tabernus, but people simply referred to it as Civitas.

It was totally dark now. Kaz was relishing in the glow of the city lights and wondering about the future. He was thinking of the apartment he would move into when he left the dorm, and of his new post as Lieutenant First Class, and that he already had his first mission. Never had the phrase ‘what will tomorrow bring’ had so much meaning to him until now. Kara came up beside him and took his hand. She gave him a smile, which he returned. The air was starting to chill now; Kaz could feel himself starting to get goose-bumps, and he could see Kara was as well. He put his arm around her. “Hey Eri,” he said, “What can you do about the temperature?” The young sorceress put her hand on her chin as if she was beginning to ponder. “Let me see….” she said. She paused for a moment, and then exclaimed “Okay, I got it!” She was always happy to be casting one spell or another. She muttered something from the ancient language of her native Quelos, Kaz couldn’t determine what, not that he would have understood even if he had heard it properly. At the end of her incantation, she put two fingers to the side of her lips and blew.

Then, as if protruding from her lips, a stream of golden mist formed. It got thicker as it flowed, and soon it was surrounding them all. All at once it felt warmer, like a summer’s morning. The feeling made Kaz think of lazier times, when he would visit his home and go sailing during long holidays from school. They were all embodied in the glow, and even though they could feel the wind picking up now it made no difference because they were kept warm by Eri’s spell.

“Aye, it’s freezing up here!” Tanu shrieked as he came onto the balcony, “Have you guys lost your minds?” “Oh, do be quiet and step inside the mist,” Eri said to him. “Oh ho, didn’t see that,” said Tanu as he dashed into the warm mist. “Civitas sure is pretty from up here,” he observed.

They continued to talk and reminisce of the days gone by at school. They laughed as they remembered how scared Tanu was his first time aerial training. Or when Remus, Vogt and Evet were in a training rescue mission and had to be rescued themselves.  They were solemn when they remembered the day they received the news that Kaz’s father had passed away, and how sad they all were, for he was a beloved vice principal.

It was getting late now; there were no more hints of sunlight in the western sky. Night was fully upon them.  “We should probably head back to the party,” said Vogt. “It probably looks like the valedictorian and his friends abandoned it,” he joked.  “Yes, we probably should,” said Kaz, agreeing with his friend.

All of a sudden the wide doors of the balcony swung open, and what would seem like the entire array of attendees poured out onto the large terrace. People were gushing out of the main hall seemingly trying to get an impressive vantage point.

“What’s going on?” Kaz asked one of students that were walking past them. “Why didn’t you hear the announcement just now?”The young knight replied. “They’re getting ready to set off the fireworks.”

Kaz had forgotten about this part of the graduation gala. Although he himself had never been to one, he had seen the fantastical display of lights on the night of the ceremony from his dorm room.  He and his group were still close to the edge of the balcony. They turned and walked back to the rail before that spot was taken up.

No sooner had they gotten to the rail, the light show began. They were two large rockets to start off, that exploded high above them and spread out over the sky in a massive white and blue light, the school colours. They lit the night sky and gave the illusion of daylight all around. They were followed by a series of rockets that exploded and made intricate designs across the sky. Some that spun like pin wheels and some that took the shapes of animals and objects.

This went on for a good few minutes and then it all settled down. Then they heard a rumbling. One last rocket, this one bigger than all the others that had gone before was racing through the sky. Kaz had seen this before, he knew what it was going to be and it was always breathtaking. The large rocket got to its apex and detonated. At first it wasn’t obvious what it was going to be, just a series of large explosions then smaller ones as light scattered across the sky. Then, a new series of explosions added colour and definition to the picture that was forming.

It was the seal of the Knights of Galaria. The massive shield, with two swords crisscrossed behind it; the picture of the world on the shield was in front of a massive ‘G’. The banner across the bottom read “For Honour and Galaria”; all of which was in vivid detail.

Kaz and everyone else were thoroughly impressed. They thought this was a magnificent way to finish the night.

“Well, I believe I’m off to bed,” said Kaz to the others. “We have an early start tomorrow.” “Yes, I believe I will turn in as well,” said Vogt. The others nodded in agreement, for they knew that tomorrow they would embark on their first official mission. And what a mission it was. Someone tried to assassinate the General Secretary of the Confederation of Nations and they were the ones assigned to find out whom. Oh what an adventure tomorrow would bring and they couldn’t wait.

They said their goodbyes to classmates, professors and training officers alike and one by one left the chilly balcony. Kaz walked Kara back to her dormitory. “Are you ready for tomorrow?” she asked, fixing the collar of his uniform.  “I hope so. But I can’t help but feel a little nervous,” he replied. “Don’t worry, you’ll be fantastic, we all think so,” she said. And with that she gave him a kiss. Now it certainly wasn’t the first time they’ve kissed, but it was particularly nice tonight because it seemingly alleviated whatever jitters Kaz was feeling about tomorrow’s mission.

“Good night Ms. Ravenstorm,” he said as he stroked her cheek. “Good night Mr. Silverwynd,” she said with a smile. And with that Kaz was off to his dormitory to receive a much welcomed rest. It had been a long day and he knew tomorrow would be filled with many uncertainties as he began his charge as a Knight of Galaria.

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