The Epic Adventure of Haley Golden-Knight
Back when fire breathing dragons were a common sight and honor involved slaying cursed monsters, one particular kingdom took this as far as it could go. The king was a fair but tough leader, one who would actually fight his own planned battles if it weren't for the political demands that naturally burden any royalty. Thus, the task is charged to his most accomplished instrument of justice, valor, and glory by the sword: "The Golden Knight."
Unfortunately for the king, his Golden Knight recently achieved an entirely new prestige from his latest accomplishment as reflected in his newest title: Father. Before marriage and childbirth, he and his wife Heather endured grueling hardships together as partners for twenty years, which ranged the whole gauntlet from zombies to witches to dragons in the rare instances they directed threatened the castle and everything awkwardly in between. Now, both of them are too busy raising their own child, Haley, the daughter of clan Golden-Knight.
She was intimately raised by both her parents, each of which had vigorous backgrounds. The Golden Knight, her father who she admired with stars in her eyes, fought countless insurgents big and small, and when the wars were on the offensive, he plundered his foes like a Viking. One day, with an excess in gold ingots, he smelted them down and painted his armor with them, making his distinctive tempered steel outfit not only a trophy from his accumulated adventures, but also a metaphor for the family creed: "nobility, heroism, preeminence!" That is also how he earned his title "The Golden Knight," taking his role to literal planes. When he was free, which got rarer and rarer as Haley continuously grew, he spent every effort to play with her.
Likewise, Haley's mother Heather lived as an adventurer before the two parents met. Unlike the father, Heather was not anchored to the castle, so she was free to wander the lands as she pleased, whether lending a hand to abroad soldiers or dunking into zombie filled tombs, questing for both riches and experiences.
But now in the present, the center of attention is on young Haley, who herself was passionate about hunting, although she didn't bear the blood of the beast, nor did she want it. She had heard the tales of many empowering women warriors including her own Mom and she wanted to be amongst them, whether as a knight bound to the castle or as an adventuring explorer always looking for danger to test her mettle. Either way, so long as there was a crusade to empower, Haley could easily answer her calling.
Sixteen years went by since her birth, and Haley sighed while resting on her bed, staring at the stone ceiling. She has come to love her niche in life as a young squire and apprentice, where her carefree bliss cradled her mind so long as her devotion stayed the way it was, with passion in her hunger paving the way for serving the crown and the homeland it represented. She never had to worry about vanities of image or the dainty details of managing politics, yet the court wizard saw to her education personally, making sure she wouldn't fall victim to the stale idiom of sharpening all body and no brains, not to mention the smarts made both her parents proud.
Stomaching school was no easy challenge, as she continuously felt imprisoned. Haley still appreciated the class giving her more poise than the common rabble, which bolstered her self-esteem as expected with her noble blood and heritage. Sometimes, the lectures would drag every single waking minute it possibly could, and she'd be resisting the temptation to desperately claw the slotted window next to her. When the lesson was done and whatever 'practice' handed in, she'd fly to her Mom and/or Dad with a great big hug, snuggling with them to find relief for her aching morale.
The dreams ended as soon as she peered beyond the castle that sheltered her from the top of the North watchtower, where the lands beyond the castle walls are swept by floods of drudging commoners with their rags barely covering their genitals while they swam in filth to make sure as many people can remain fed as their physical muscles would allow. Haley gasped and felt her heart droop for these people, as a sense of helplessness consumed her. She turned around and slumped back against the tower's wall, cupping her face in her hands. She was alone, but she still bled grief into her palms from her sobs. She had it so swell with either living her dream or getting trained for the inevitable dawn of the day she'd earn the chance to do so, she couldn't recognize the groaning reality amongst the average and mediocre, struggling to "just get by" and with no room for ambition other than surviving until tomorrow.
Haley compared to them was sheltered, yet she was nurtured in an environment where she could be whatever she wanted. She wanted to 'fight the good fight' and take the battle to the damned, kicking down the doors of Oblivion with only the single intent to mock those that dwell within. Because of that attitude combined with the luxurious background she was lucky enough to be born and raised in, she was promised a slot in an occupation that potentially involves exactly that, giving her a chance to live her dream. That's something none of those commoners had, and she mourned for them because of it.
Haley hobbled down the tower unable to hide her disturbing revelation. After passing a few apathetic guards, she softly clutched around her Dad, who could easily pick up on her emotional distress. Even without his knack for detecting truths under face value, he knew she was troubled by her facial expression, including subtle details like her quivering lip and shivering eyelids. Of course, the long frown gave it away, but his talent picked up on deeper proof.
She snuggled her face into his then-unarmored abdomen, explaining her thoughts on why they're out there and barely able to afford time for sleep while she's here surrounded by entertainment and free to eat whenever her stomach growls. Her Dad's smirk thundered, then he pondered on not only the vital base of the hierarchy they maintain, but also even if they had the opportunity to prove themselves for a higher position, they wouldn't have the ambition or courage to seize the chance even if it charged at them. He concluded, "They would, quite literally, run away." With his mentality, in the end he felt luxury and greatness weren't theirs for a reason and the natural order is already in balance.
Haley wasn't satisfied. So he went into detail about this 'natural order' and why not everybody is as happy as she and her family were. The King, as the first example, contributes to their society in ways that would make the commoners cringe. From politics to the 'hard choices' during conflicts and crusades which act as the staples of defining a leader, such a job would make the average snap at the thought, never mind putting them in those royal boots. Second, he reminded Haley of himself and Heather, and what they do that separates them from the humble. They both fight wretched foes at every turn, risking their lives so those that plow the fields can live without fear of invasion or slavery. Yes their work is as laborious, but at least their contribution goes to feeding themselves instead of captors that always threaten with instant death or punish the slightest deviation in opinion. It's not perfect, but it certainly defeats the alternatives - just like school.
She slightly squirmed at the thought of school, but in application of this lesson, there was truth there, particularly since school was for her best, even if it wasn't the most pleasant feeling. Without it, she wondered if she'd be nothing more than a brute with a sword, with no class of swagger to endorse her position above and beyond the rank and file. Learning in the end did make her feel stronger - if not at times empowered. Part of the cunning instilled actually involved how to craft and sharpen such blades, so her tools would naturally prove superior to the typical grunt. Whether or not their martial skills were matched, this would definitely hold an advantage.
The night fell, and Heather was nowhere to be seen. Haley and father grew worried, but it was Haley who urged - more like pleaded - to venture out and attempt to retrace the tracks of her mother. The Golden Knight initially permitted it so long as Haley would be accompanied by a grizzled veteran, but two burdens: First, nobody of such outer experience was on hand, and two, the King directly objected to a minor wandering out and about. The King and The Golden Knight entered verbal debate, growing in heat as time waned on. By the end, The Golden Knight wasn't only shouting, he was "Shouting"! The entire hall rocked and rattled from the Shout, which was the defining moment to reveal the quarrel was growing out of hand. The Golden Knight finally returned to self-restraint, begrudgingly.
Haley did her best to contribute her opinion, which nobody could acknowledge until the King and The Golden Knight finally settled down enough to hear her firm voice. Inside she felt sheepish but she knew nobody else was up to the task and she was hell-bent on rescuing her beloved Mother. Haley screeched with hoarse strain, "This is my Mom we're talking about, not some pawn whose life was built to be thrown on a spear at the order." Under the impression that Heather was no more expendable than the elite knights - or THE Golden Knight, for that matter - Haley finally won permission to test her resolve and knowledge. The King was still bitterly grumbling to himself, the thought of a minor barely old enough to be a squire, thrust into her own destiny! Haley was equally valuable, although more as a long-term investment, but this is something nobody else could manage.
At dawn, Haley suited up with standard steel armor and shield, taking enchanted sword to hand, and hugging her Dad goodbye one last time. She finally left the castle and put her sheltered invulnerabilities behind. Her shiny gray armor and gear glistened with a halo in the rising sunlight, enough for the nobodies to take a moment's pause and admire someone clean from the castle trotting amongst them and their infested lives. She couldn't promise to uplift them, but she passed through, which was enough to spark an extra level of life into some of them. One or two workers even gave a hoot before she went down to the town which the castle overlooked.
Amongst the town were the merchants and the blacksmith, a gruff guy with a prickly beard. Seeing the forge and grindstone sitting outside, she politely asked if she could spend a moment with the tools. The blacksmith shrugged and got back to work, hammering away at his steel components for his own work. Now she put some of that school to good use, keeping the sword on the precise angle to optimize its cut without going too deep as to wear the blade off.
Done with the quick upgrade, she resumed her skip towards *Her adventure!* The thought rang in her head, "My Adventure!" It echoed, giving her an exhilarated bounce in her steps even despite the heavy armor tiring her out. She was trained for it, working her fortitude ever since she was a little girl even before becoming a page. Even then she knew this is what she wanted.
She finally exited the walls of the town, glaring around into the expanse of land stretching, from the river not too far in the distance to the towering mountain past it which looked like it could crush a giant if it could move, with the left and right stretching out into hilly meadows with flowers and butterflies. She knew how her mother thinks, and given the sense of thrills and excitement Haley's parents shared, it only seemed logical that the mountain, given its intimidating physique, would be the most probable direction Heather would've ventured off into first.
Haley sprinted across the few bumps that jutted from the ground until a huge crab tripped her into the river by grabbing her ankle with its pincher. She yelped from surprise and the pain on her ankle, then her other foot kicked the huge crab off and she bonked it with the shield. That was enough to squish it into itself, but she sat down and rubbed her sore ankle, still stinging from the biting claw. She moaned while wiggling her toes inside her boot, baffled at how people can actually enjoy this sensation inflicted upon them.
She crossed the river without incident, although with her armor so heavy, it felt more practical to just walk along the bottom instead of swimming. Either way, she made it to the foot of the mountain, and she started the steep ascent. From jumping around like a chimp to actually climbing rocks, her rise was daunting yet even this physical endeavor made her glow inside with pride. When she got to the same elevation as the castle behind her, she couldn't help but squeak each time she hoisted herself higher and higher. Yet she never felt so alive. Maybe it was the sense of danger involving what would happen if her hands slipped and fall hundreds of yards down to the base or if it was the sense of accomplishment that no training could ever inject into her, but for some reason or another, she was living on a natural high.
Around two-thirds up, there was a fair resting point with enough flat land for her to collapse and catch her breath. Too bad by then she was already so far above the ground, blankets of snow tucked her into the mountainside within only the first two minutes, barely enough time for her to recover her breath. She shook and rattled the snow off her, fighting to escape the storm cloud before the snow itself could consume her. She had to keep going up, and by now her arms and legs became sore. Her cries of torment echoed even against the howling winds of the storm as her muscles ripped inside her. Tears froze against her cheeks and mucus dangled from her nose, but in several minutes of cold purgatory, she finally prevailed. She was so far up the mountain, she was actually above the clouds.
She dropped to her knees, both exhausted from the climb and humbled by the awe in seeing half of the entire province from a single point. She sat at the peak of this wicked tower and was rewarded with a view that made her feel on top of the world - both figuratively and literally. She weakly squealed and fell splat on her back, crying as the aches from the muscles set in amongst the numb of the cold. She squirmed to try and make herself comfortable, but nothing would subside the misery. She then laid still, staring up into the afternoon sky. All she could do was breathe and reflect on this single achievement that defined the start of her adventure. "My Adventure" was still plenty to keep her spirit warm even despite the brutality, reveling in the fact she's now wild and free, like her mother and sometimes her father before her.
She sat up with a tight knot in all her abs in order to spin around and see where to go next. From here, anywhere had its own choice of opportunity. To her left was a dragon swooping around below the clouds off in the distance, patrolling for its own meal. She watched it dive down and spray a standing bear with fire, then the dragon landed with a thud that kicked up a cloud of dirt. She could see it even from her thousands of yards away. The legendary dragon threw the bear up with its mouth, then, in one fellow swoosh of the neck, gulped it whole.
To the right were some ruins, which included fire and rising smoke to the heavens. Little dots danced off in the distance, so she amused herself with the thought of a savage tribe chanting and hopping around in a way that seems goofy to her yet to them might as well be praying to their Gods in church. Off in the front, on the side of the mountain directly opposite of her start, was a cute little cottage out in the middle of nowhere, then past that was a small town, where in the center looked like a house with an overturned ark for a roof.
Haley chose the right, but as she stood up, she couldn't help but realize she's stuck on top of the mountain's peak and hiking down the same way she came up would be exhausting. She looked at her shield on her arm and hatched an idea that made her giddy. She took the disc shield off her arm, planted it in the snow, and sat on the inside of it. With a decisive push in her chosen direction, the shield - with her on it- went skiing down the steel mountainside. The shield bounced and slid around as she held onto the rim with both hands spread out, hooting and cheering with a childish holler from riding down with increasing speed, squealing, "WEE!"
The assembly skittered downward and around, hopping along jutting oddities along the way which slowed the pace some. The whole rig swooshed through the storm cloud lingering around the two-thirds mark and kept zooming downward with a face-peeling blur. Shooting past the clouds, rocketing beyond where the steepness ends and the mountain tapers off more shallowly, the shield carved a rut in the snow until the snow transitioned into grass and dirt. She finally bounced along the ground at the foot of the mountain, from a death-defying coast down with only a plate of metal between her and countless scuffs and bumps and cuts.
Not much has happened until she got to the creepy ruins, but when she was there, all she could hear was "HOO, H-UH, HEY" over and over. This choir got dramatically more powerful as she ascended the stairs, until by the time she got to the top, they exploded in an opera chant. She recognized the words but she couldn't chime in, not with her mission eating her conscious anyway. At the iron barred gate, she saw a piece of crimson cloth dangling, as if it had been snagged.
After plucking it off the spears that made the gate's base with the gate half open, she flipped it to see her family's emblem: The Blade of Gold. The symbol was a simplistic drawing of a sword with six lines around the blade to resemble a glow, as if it's a weapon directly endorsed by the Gods. Haley's breath hitched as she gushed, "MOM!" The chanting tribe shut up, their performance derailed by Haley's interruption which should've been left as a narration. In ancient tongues, they hushed her and warned her, but she didn't even think they were talking to her, much less warning her. They didn't approach her, so there was no cue to think they engaged a conversation.
In any case, she disregarded and bolted in head-first, desperately screaming deep in her heart from the longing for her mother. Inside the ruins, the ground was littered with bodies of fallen adventurers stripped of all their valuables, which involved everything except their underwear. They ranged from men and women, to even catlike and reptilian humanoids of foreign lands and races, all of which have fallen to either the undead denizens or the traps scattered about, most of them activated by trip plates on the ground. Haley knew if her mother were here, she would've already cleaned the loot, so no place for her eyes to wander except at the floor. She would've taken a moment to admire the aesthetic of the burial sites or the cultural meanings behind the many burial urns (many of which probably used to house a few gold coins each, until Heather no doubt looted them).
Deep within, Haley heard someone talking. The voice was too far to tell what was being said, nor was there a way for her to know if somebody else was there as well. At the end of the catacomb maze was one final room, which was split in two parts by a huge door with three wheels and a keyhole in the center. When Haley got to this huge expanse, she heard who was talking - and saw who it was. "Now where should that handle be?"
"MOM!" Haley zipped towards Heather and crashed into each others' arms. Heather scolded, "What are you doing here? Don't you know this is dangerous?!" Haley tried to explain how everybody got worried and wondered what became of her since she wasn't back within a day or two, so nobody could go looking for her and so Haley got herself an adventure, which made her incredibly proud of herself.
Both Haley and Heather warmly embraced and snuggled with each other, both overjoyed to see each other. They melted in affection until the tribe intruded, scratching both of them away from each other. They spoke in forerunner language but both Haley and Heather, being as researched and scholastic as they were, knew what they were saying. Their hoots involved defying the artifact that laid within, and it should stay there where it belongs, instead of with some treasure hunter. They referred to "treasure hunter" with a heavy load of profanity.
Heather swore this tribe wasn't there when she arrived, so she had no idea she was invading some spiritual sanctuary, believing she was taking from those that wouldn't need their tools anymore. When the two were about to leave, the tribe Chief whipped out the talon shaped key and swooshed it against the indentation within the wall. With a few whirls, the door opened. The Chief looked at Heather and Haley with suspicion, forcing them to swear not to take any relics under threat of fighting to the death.
Deep inside, at the very heart of the ruins, laid a statue of a Dragon and under it was an arched wall with carvings on it, written in the old language the tribe was speaking. According to myth, it was the same language used by dragons. As the explorers drew closer to it, the chanting echoed: "HOO, H-UH, H-EY" over and over again.
Haley and Heather looked at each other with eye contact, not sure how to interact with this. Nothing else was in the room, so it's strange to think the tribe would accuse them of possibly carting the huge wall like it were any other heirloom. Before any of them could leave, the catacomb in the center smashed open, the lid flying in the air then smashing the stone floor with a thud. The outside presence from both the explorers and the tribe disturbed the resting lich dwelling within. While the tribe scrambled from awe and terror after learning what they praised as holy actually turned out to house dark forces, Haley and Heather were in for a fight.
The lich cast a ward and fire cloak, magic powers that penetrate armor and burn even the skin under the plates of steel. Both Heather and Haley bravely teamed up on the lich, slicing away with swords at the cape and bones of the undead monster. It laughed as magic flames began to dance on their armor, soaking into deeper layers by the second. They managed to rip the lich's cape and sever a reanimated arm, but the fiend didn't slow down. On the other hand, Haley panicked when the fire finally seared a hole into her chest plate, screaming and swatting the fire until it sizzled down. Heather was cooking from first degree burns as well, but unlike the inexperienced Haley, Heather was more suited for taking physical punishment, and on top of that, the pain also thrilled her, maybe even pleasing her at times. Ironically, Haley charged through the fire cloak to cast the deathblow with one decisively decapitating chop, off with the lich's head.
As the skull thumped the ground, The two of them left the tribe to its drivel and drooling, not sure what's next. When the explorers finally stepped outside, Haley begged, "Come home, at least tell everyone where you've been." She promised to do so, while answering Haley's question there and then.
Before Heather went into the ruins where Haley found her, she trekked towards the nearest hold and uncovered a demonic shrine along her journey. She didn't bask in it and was originally going to pass it by since it was just too disturbing, but it ensnared her for a spell. Figuring out how to get out of a demon's figurative pocket proved confusing, which is what delayed her considerably. She finally solved the riddles, and on her way back home, she stopped at the temple Haley later entered, where Heather ultimately became stumped by the sealed door, defeated from not knowing where the right key could've been found. The tribe Chief answered that, so all is well.
In the end, Haley returned to her home with a small Hero's greeting, particularly by her inner circle of friends and family and castle peons. From presenting Heather to the King, Haley had been bestowed with honor and recognition by both the King and her own parents. Haley went to bed that night after a bath, which in the civilizations of the time was a serious treat and reward, where her cleaned orange hair cloaked the pillow from her laying on her side.
As Haley was about to wander off with her imagination and reflect on "My Adventure" until dreams pour onto her, Heather came in and asked, "Soon, in a few days from now, you want to go back out with me?" Haley perked up even despite her still sore body and softly squealed with zeal, "Seriously?! You want me to come with you?!" Heather nodded and winked, then before she could leave Haley to even consider, she burst, "Of course I would!"
Heather left Haley to peaceful sleep for the rest of the night, with itching anticipation throughout the rest of the night. "My Second Adventure!" She anxiously awaited the next coming days when she will have more stories to live through, more adventures to continuously grow from and show she can back up her talk about longing for greatness and fighting absurd dangers to earn it fair.
Thus ends the first epic adventure of Haley Golden-Knight.