“Fear to the fearless. Hope to the hopeless. Mercy to those who hate you. Death to those who love you. That is your destiny, Princess of Kale, Princess of Koloso, heir to both.” – Prophecy of the Kalian Twins
In the land of Kale there lies a delicate balance between the powerful Temples and the rulers from an ancient, royal bloodline. The Temples are ruled through combat, determined by a series of tournaments. Of these tournament champions, sixty are chosen to become Defendants, an elite team charged with protecting the realm from all enemies. Selection to this team is considered the highest of honours and leadership of the team is decided only once every thirteen years.
Princesses Mariana and Ameria, twin daughters of two such champions, are taken as children to separate, yet equally powerful Temples. Through years of rigorous training both are educated in the arts of combat, swordplay, and the ancient traditions of the Temple Gods. Both eventually obtain the rank of Kalian Champions with the expectation of one day serving upon the coveted Defendant Team.
Then, not long after their seventeenth birthday, the childless King declares that one of the sisters must succeed him as the future Queen. As the race for the throne begins, the sister’s long standing rivalry intensifies, leading both upon a dangerous path that threatens not only their lives, but the fate of the very kingdom.
Unbeknownst to the twins, this treacherous path to the throne is the elaborate collaboration of an ancient prophecy and two creatures charged by the Gods themselves ensure it comes to pass. As primeval powers awaken, the two sisters must struggle to learn the truth behind the prophesy and search for a way to change their inevitable fate.
The two equally ranked princesses entered the private section to find Mary’s longtime partner standing in the middle of the gold and silver mat on the left side of the room. Dressed in robes of silver, Marcus had served as the silver member of Kale for as long as Mary had served as gold. He was taller than the twins, standing over six feet. He was handsome with dark brown eyes and tawny blond hair. His skin, always pale, appeared even lighter within the silver robes. He was a descendent from the Kalian bloodline and the nephew of Master Leo, the Temple Master of Kale and a former Golden Defendant.
Seeing the two princesses, Marcus walked towards the center of the room to greet them. When he reached them, he gave a slight bow in acknowledgement of their royal status.
“Welcome back, Mary,” he said with a smile. “Greetings, Princess Ameria.”
“How was the palace?”
“Terrible,” Ameria replied. “Our uncle was his usual, ‘I’m the king so nothing else matters’ self.”
“Aw,” Marcus said. “What did he do this time?”
“Declared that she would marry some non-temple lord from a neighboring kingdom.”
Marcus’ face failed to hide his surprise. “And you said, no?”
“Of course I said no!” Mary exclaimed. “Then I invoked the oath of Blood and Arms.”
“Clever,” Marcus replied, “promising to marry the Champion of Kale.” He gave a sly smile. “So since I am planning to win that tournament, would you prefer a spring or summer wedding?”
“Strange,” Ameria interjected. “My partner, Kyle, said to ask you the same question.”
“A Kolosian king?” Marcus asked with a smirk. “Sure, that will be the day! Now seriously, Mary,” he turned to the elder of the twins, “spring or summer?”
Mary rolled her eyes at her longtime partner while Ameria moved to the side of the golden ring. “Care to put it to the test?” Ameria asked the silver clad Kalian. “I can’t remember the last time I had you in a round, Marcus.”
Marcus moved to meet her. “Are you challenging me, princess?”
“Unless you’re not up for it?” Ameria said in a teasing tone.
“As long as your sister doesn’t mind,” Marcus replied with a wink at Mary. “I wouldn’t want my future bride getting jealous.”
Mary groaned. “I know this breaks tradition, but,” she shifted her gaze to her sister, “kick his ass, Ameria.”
Marcus made a soft clicking sound with his tongue and shook his head playfully. “Cheering for a Kolosian. What will Leo think?”
“That someone finally taught you a lesson.” Ameria answered for her. “Shall we do this?”
“Let’s,” Marcus replied.
The two champions walked to the center of the gold and silver mat. Then turned to face each other. They exchanged soft smiles before entering into their respective bows, bending at the waist, heads down, trusting the other not to attack before they had risen. When they rose, Marcus, as the lower-ranked of the two, would be allowed to make the first offensive move.
Marcus raised his head in perfect unison with his golden opponent and immediately launched into a kick with his left leg towards Ameria’s right side. Ameria saw the movement and quickly moved to avoid the blow. Marcus hit only air.
Ameria spun around with a round kick of her own. Marcus raised his left arm and blocked, but was pushed several steps backwards from the strength of the blow. Ameria followed the kick with a series of three punches. Marcus blocked the first two with the sides of his arms, then summersaulted to his left to avoid the third altogether.
When Marcus stood on the far side of the ring, he drew a deep breath as he again turned to face the golden Kolosian.
Marcus threw two round kicks towards Ameria, neither of which came close to touching the ever-evading princess. He moved several steps forward, closing the distance between himself and Ameria.
Ameria switched to a defensive stance, raising both of her arms towards her upper body and transferring most of her weight to the back leg while slightly bending her knees. Marcus advanced closer. Ameria held her ground.
Marcus threw a powerful kick toward Ameria’s left hip. Ameria’s arm swept down, knocking away the blow with her left arm while throwing a punch with her right. She hit Marcus square in the stomach, knocking the breath from his lungs and causing him to take several steps back. Ameria used the moment to her advantage, following Marcus’ backwards movement. She twisted her right hip as she spun into a kick. Her leg crashed into Marcus’ side. His body twisted from the force of Ameria’s movement and he collapsed to the floor.
Ameria took another step forward in an attempt to further her advantage. Marcus recovered more quickly than she expected, flipping onto his back and jumping to his feet. He threw a punch towards Ameria which she easily avoided. Marcus then stepped back from the princess. Switching his weight to his back leg and bending his knee slightly, Marcus threw another kick towards Ameria’s right side. Ameria twisted to the side and brought her arm down on Marcus’ leg and drove him to the ground, forcing her weight down upon him.
There was a loud crack. Marcus screamed as his body collided with the floor. His hands flew to his leg, which was twisted beneath him, the bone broken cleanly in two. Marcus grit his teeth, managing to suppress his second scream into a moan. “Sutis!” he cursed in Kalian.
“That should teach you,” Ameria said. Marcus still lay on the floor, both hands clutched around his broken leg. Ameria gave a soft laugh then moved towards Marcus. “Come on, my friend. Let’s get you out of this ring.”
Mary moved into the ring. Together, the two sisters helped Marcus to stand, allowing him to put an arm around each of them. Balancing his weight between them, Marcus hobbled painfully towards the outer edge of the ring. “You know,” Marcus said through gritted teeth. “Under other circumstances I would consider myself a lucky guy standing here between the two of you.”
Both girls gave a soft laugh. “Don’t tell me that you can’t handle a little pain.”
“Yeah, Marcus.” Mary laughed. “Don’t complain in front of the Kolosian. You’ll ruin our reputation.”
Mary moved to unhook the silver ropes on the side of the ring. Marcus hissed at the jarring movement. “Sorry,” Mary said. She then moved back to Marcus, allowing him to re-balance himself between them. They hobbled forward and then stepped out of the ring.
Light surrounded the three fighters. At first, it seemed they were surrounded by tiny sparkles that danced in the light as though from a dozen crystals moving slowly in the air. The three stood still as the sparkles quickly became more clustered, moving past the two princesses to surround the injured fighter between them. The light lined Marcus’ skin, outlining his form until he was wearing a thin sheet of light. As the light surrounded him, it grew brighter until it filled the entire room with a blinding flash that forced all three to close their eyes.
When the light finally faded and the twins opened their eyes, it was to find Marcus standing tall between them, his leg completely healed. “Gods,” he said softly. “Sometimes I hate that we have to get all the way out of the ring for the healing power to work.”
“Don’t be a baby,” Ameria teased. “You should have seen what I did to Kyle a few weeks ago. His arm was torn to the point where the only thing keeping it attached to his body was a few thin threads of skin. A light gust of wind in the wrong direction and it would have been lying on the ground next to him. All you had was a little bone showing.”
“I hate how bright it gets,” Mary commented. “One of these days that flash is going to seriously destroy my vision.”
“I’m just grateful it works,” Marcus said.
“I second that,” Mary replied. Ameria nodded in agreement.
“Well, in the future I think I’ll stick with Kyle.” He motioned to Mary. “I’ll let my future bride take care of you.”
Mary rolled her eyes. Ameria said, “Deal.”
About the Author
K.L. Bone is the author of the dark fantasy series, Tales of the Black Rose Guard. The Rise of the Temple Gods fantasy series. And a stand-alone sci-fi novel, The Indoctrination.
Bone has a master’s degree in modern literary cultures. An American, she is currently living in Europe working toward her PhD in Gothic literature. She wrote her first short story at the age of fifteen and grew up with an equally great love of both classical literature and speculative fiction. Bone has spent the last few years as a bit of a world traveler, living in California, London, and most recently, Dublin. When not immersed in words, of her own creation or studies, you’ll find her traveling to mythical sites and Game of Thrones filming locations.