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Serafina’s Crown

I thought it was time to officially announce the upcoming release of Serafina’s Crown, the sequel to Serafina’s Saga!

The sequel takes place seven years after the end of the Serafina’s Saga visual novel. Grand Prince Robil Feldren dies of illness, and a few weeks later, Queen Belatrix Grandil dies in in the midst of a “hunting accident.”  Serafina Elborn and her husband Reuben Jeridar are posed to take the throne, except for one big problem: many nobles suspect Reuben Jeridar arranged the assassination of Belatrix Grandil.

You play as a new character, Odell Perin, who is unwittingly thrust into a position of power amidst the chaos of court. Due to her neutral stance, Odell Perin is elected to serve as Regent long enough to settle the ongoing disputes, and therefore determine who will become the next King or Queen of Darzia. The gameplay will feature a dynamic debate system that allows Odell to argue certain points in court based on her accumulated stats.

Planned features:

  • Voice acting
  • Court debate system with Divinity Dial mini-game
  • Limited costume system

You’ll see many familiar faces in Serafina’s Crown, including Reuben, Kallias, Arken, Nikolaos, and–of course–Serafina. You’ll also meet many new characters, as well as Picard, a major character from the Ashes of Dearen novels.

newCharacters

I’m hoping to complete and release the game by Spring 2015, if all goes according to plan. Time will tell! I’m still pretty much creating this content completely on my own, though I’m still looking for collaborators, especially other artists!

Please contact me if you’re interested in getting involved, post here if you have any suggestions or requests of things you want to see in Serafina’s Crown, and/or donate below to help feed me while I keep working on this game.

And if you’re feeling impatient, read this little scene between Reuben and Serafina just before the events of Serafina’s Crown unfold.

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For updates on the project, please subscribe to the Woodsy Studio blog!

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Story

Before Serafina’s birth, Nadia Elborn rules the kingdom of Darzia.

The story of Serafina truly begins before her birth. When Queen Nadia Elborn spurns the devotion of her unlikely suitor, Arken Jeridar, Serafina’s turbulent fate is set in motion. Nadia’s choice to prioritize political stability over the love she feels for Arken wounds both their hearts forever.

Grand Traitor

The key to the kingdom unlocks only chaos.

Arken grows bitter and reclusive while Nadia becomes Queen alongside Grand Prince Gerald Feldren. Then a strange foreigner appears in Castle Krondolee, claiming to possess the key to a room that has remained closed for centuries, its contents unknown.

Arken schemes to win the key for himself and the queen’s love all at once. But success may come at a far greater cost than he ever expected. Read the novella, “Grand Traitor,” to learn the full story.

 

 

Arken raises the Queen’s daughter in secrecy, while the rest of the kingdom believes she is dead.

Serafina grows up in a jungle full of ferocious predators and crafty prey. She knows little of the world outside the jungle, and nothing of her past. Her only human contact has been with Arken, whom she looks to as a father.

By the age of seventeen, Serafina’s desire to explore the world outside the jungle grows daily. And eventually, her curiosity may get the better of her…

The truth cannot hide forever.

When a group of royal soldiers captures Arken, Serafina must venture beyond the jungle to save him. On her journey to the heart of the kingdom, Serafina discovers a whole new world beyond the shadows of the jungle. She will also learn the dark truth of Arken’s past and thus her own. How she chooses to use this knowledge will change the fate of the entire kingdom.

The story concludes in the form of a visual novel, in which the reader/player can choose the nature of Serafina’s fate.

 Serafina's Saga

 


Beyond Darzia, more of the world awaits discovery.

Serafina’s Saga is but a small piece in a much larger story. In other countries on the same world, the gods create all manner of chaos, and struggles for power surround many thrones. Read more about the setting of Serafina’s Saga, or read other novels set in Serafina’s world.

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Characters

Below is a list and summary of the most significant characters from Serafina’s Saga. Click on the picture of a character to learn even more and read excerpts/backstory.

arken

Arken Jeridar

In appearance, Arken is a kind guardian to Serafina who has protected her from the perils of the Darzian jungle and, more importantly, taught her how to overcome them herself.

But Arken staunchly refuses to let Serafina leave the boundaries of the jungle, and will tell her nothing of his former life, nor of Serafina’s own origins.

Learn the full truth of Arken’s past in the free novella, “Grand Traitor.”

belatrix

Belatrix Grandil

The Grandil family is well respected for its long history of honorable and trustworthy members. Belatrix is no exception.

Fierce, noble, and beautiful, Belatrix is only a hairsbreadth away from taking the throne herself. The Royal Duma will likely elect her to rule after Kallias. But Belatrix values her honor to a fault. Nothing matters to her so much as keeping her word and serving Kallias faithfully.

jezu

 

Jezu Grandil

Jezu proudly serves as General of the Royal Guard under his sister, Belatrix. He’s also known to be the best swordsman in Castle Krondolee.

Like most members of the Grandil family, Jezu is highly dignified and values his honor above his life. However, he’s known to make unorothodox decisions from time to time due to his senstive temperament. He has a strong sense of compassion and is more forgiving than Belatrix. Anyone on his bad list, adversely, should run as far from his path as possible.

Kallias Jeridarkallias

A close descendent of Mallion, a god of chaos, Kallias can change any metal substance into gold. This ability empowered him to take the throne at a young age when his father died.

Unfortunately, Kallias’s useful ability is now an obsession. No matter how much gold Kallias acquires, he wants more. Since he took the throne, Darzia has become the wealthiest nation in the world, but drained of important natural resources.

nikolaos

Nikolaos Perin

Nikolaos worships Lokke, the god of guile. He views politics as a wearisome game to play and little more. He views power as being more trouble than it’s worth.

Nikolaos does what he must to live a comfortable life, but comfort grows increasingly difficult to find under the rule of King Kallias. If he could think of a way to improve his situation, he would happily take it.

reuben

Reuben “Jeridar”

A frequent wanderer of Castle Krondolee hallways, Reuben claims to be the bastard son of Tristan Jeridar, and thus King Kallias’s very own brother. Unfortunately, no one seems to believe him.

Reuben puts on a good act as a friendly and charming fellow, so King Kallias and other nobles of Krondolee tolerate his presence. But in truth, Reuben is ready to seize any and every opportunity to gain power.

valerie

Valerie Sweelu

Valerie lives alone on a Darzian plantation where she harvests wheat and a small variety of fruits. Most people who meet her would describe her as “strange.” And she would be proud to hear it.

Valerie helps Serafina on her journey to Castle Krondolee. She would happily play a large role in the events to come, if only Serafina would let her…

Xavier Wolxavierven

Descended from the god of wrath, Wolvens are the most efficient assassins in the world.

Years after killing the former monarchs of Darzia, Xavier continues to lurk around Castle Krondolee. No one is brave enough to oppose him–at least until the return of Arken and Serafina, who know the full extent of Xavier’s crimes all too well.

Xavier Wolven

Descended from the god of wrath, Wolvens are the most efficient assassins in the world.

Years after killing the former monarchs of Darzia, Xavier continues to lurk around Castle Krondolee. No one is brave enough to oppose him–at least until the return of Arken and Serafina, who know the full extent of Xavier’s crimes all too well.

xaviersketch

 

Story excerpt
(bonus content set before the visual novel)

A wiry young man sat alone in large room of stone next to a table piled with gold. He was sixteen years old, and the bejeweled crown upon his head had been so recently placed that his mop of short, candy yellow hair still struggled to hold it upright.

Kallias tapped his fingers upon the table, causing the gold coins on top of it to jingle incessantly. He didn’t mind the sound. In fact, he found it reassuring, and he needed all the reassurance he could get right now. He liked every physical indication of the gold piled in front of him, especially the bright golden glow it cast throughout the dull room of stone, or the sparkles that ignited where beams of sunlight from the window struck the coins directly. He formed a rhythm with the tapping of his fingers and the jingle of the coins, then started to hum a little melody with it.

When the door of his room opened, the melody died in Kallias’s throat with a whimper. His fingers stopped tapping and his body stiffened like a block of stone. His big amber eyes stared at the swinging entrance until the pupils widened into gaping black holes. He watched and waited, his tense body unable to move except to tremble, as a dark figure slipped through the opening.

The man before Kallias was tall and slender, and he seemed to move more gracefully than his own shadow. A long hooded cloak hung from his shoulders, covering most of his body in undulating swaths of black fabric. His soft leather boots barely whispered as he walked across the stones, and as his cloak billowed around him like wings unfolding, Kallias wondered if the stranger secretly flew. Then, just as quietly, he came to a stop in the middle of the room. His hands reached up—two appendages of pale, skeletal white flesh against the dark clothing—and grabbed the edge of his hood.

Kallias struggled to keep breathing as he watched the hood fall back. The shadows retreated to reveal a long, gaunt face with an ashy white complexion. Most startling against his pale skin was his deep black hair which flowed past his shoulders, and eye sockets so dark that Kallias suspected the use of powder to accentuate their sunken appearance. Little emphasis needed to be added to such eyes, however, the irises of which peered forward with sizzling red brilliance.

Just as Kallias began to wonder if he would ever overcome his awe in time to welcome his guest, the Wolven flinched and recoiled, reaching up to cover his eyes.

“Belazar’s blazes,” hissed the stranger. The god of wrath’s name, when spoken aloud, sent chills down Kallias’s body. “That gold is going to blind me.”

“Oh… you don’t like gold?” Kallias’s heart fell to his stomach. Goldons were his only leverage with a man like this. If the Wolven did not want them…

“I like goldons well enough,” grumbled the assassin. “But I prefer them in storage.”

“Ah, yes, of course.” At long last, Kallias found the strength to rise from his seat. He rushed to a window and grabbed the curtains, yanking them across the aperture. Darkness poured over the gold, extinguishing the lustrous glow from the room. Kallias sighed at the loss. But when he saw the Wolven relax, he decided the gesture had been worth it.

“So… you’re Xavier?” asked Kallias at last. “A Wolven assassin?”

The Wolven answered with a nod, so small it was almost imperceptible. But then he tilted his head and narrowed his red eyes at Kallias. “And you’re the new king?”

Kallias puffed up a little, feeling a surge of pride feed his confidence. In this Wolven’s presence, he had almost forgotten his own authority. When he lifted his head, the weight of his golden crown seemed to increase. “Obviously.”

Xavier should have bowed before him—but he did not. “How old are you?”

Kallias’s chest deflated again. “Sixteen.”

“I thought monarchs had to be seventeen years of age in this country.”

“Usually, yes. But Father’s death…” His throat constricted and his breath faltered. Then he planted his fists on his hips, glowering with all the strength of his thin golden eyes. “No matter. I am special enough to be an exception. One way or another I am the king, and you are in no place to question that.”

Xavier grew very still. Then the edges of his thin lips pulled up with a smirk. “You’re very brave to summon me in this fashion, with no guards to protect you. You must want me to kill someone quite important, yes?”

Kallias forced a swallow down his throat. “I don’t need you to kill anyone… at present.”

The Wolven’s smile quickly turned downward. His red eyes narrowed until Kallias thought he felt heat emanating from them. He moved forward ever so slightly, just one foot shifting while his body started to lean, yet Kallias fought the urge to turn and flee the room. “Then why am I here?”

“To… to… establish our friendship.”

Xavier’s eyes blinked and opened wide again. He drew back and studied the young king in silence for a short while. At long last he said, “Friendship?” and his tongue seemed to struggle with the word.

“Naturally.” Kallias didn’t know whether to feel better or worse about the fact he had caught the Wolven off guard. “I understand who and what you are. I know that you’ve killed monarchs before. I know that for the right price, you’ll kill anyone. And though most people around here are happy with me on the throne because I keep the treasury overrunning, I suspect there are those who might tire of me anyway, or become so greedy they want the throne regardless.”

Xavier’s face contorted, and then he began to chuckle. A genuine smile looked strange on the Wolven’s face, as if his muscles were not accustomed to moving in such directions.

“What’s so funny?” asked Kallias, purely curious.

“Only a Jeridar would be so greedy, and you’re the only left in Castle Krondolee. Isn’t that so?”

The words struck Kallias like a bucket of icy water. He bristled and turned away, hoping to hide his pain and discomfort.

He could still feel Xavier’s hot red eyes crawling over him. “I’ve upset you. I didn’t expect to. I thought Jeridars liked being on their own. Less competition that way.”

Kallias remained silent, his heart a frustrating lump in his chest that ached with every beat.

After another long silence, Xavier sighed. “Just tell me what you what you want from me. I didn’t mean to… prattle on. I haven’t talked this much in awhile, so I’m out of practice. Let’s just get to business.”

For one small moment, Kallias sensed something in Xavier that he had not expected from a Wolven, either. Something that no one else might have noticed, but Kallias saw it as pure as golden daylight, for he knew the emotion all too well. Loneliness.

The revelation finally gave Kallias the strength to straighten back up and look at the Wolven once more. This time, Xavier was the one who avoided his gaze. “Right: business. I summoned you here to give you this gold.”

The Wolven shifted uncomfortably. “Payment to a Wolven should only be given upon a job’s completion. And if you don’t want anyone dead, you have nothing to pay me for, anyway. My services are quite… limited.”

“I understand that. This gold is to ensure my own safety. If anyone else tries to hire you to kill me, then you can refuse them, because I’ve already paid you more. And if by Mallion’s miracles they can pay you more than I’m offering now—then I’ll pay you the difference.”

Xavier did not move or speak for a while. Kallias tried to read the Wolven’s face, but failed. Perhaps the Wolven himself did not know how to feel about this.

“I can’t accept it,” said Xavier at last. “It is not the Wolven way.”

Panic fluttered through Kallias’s stomach. “But… but… it seems like it should be. If someone can pay you for death, shouldn’t someone also be able to pay you for life?”

Once again Xavier blinked and stared at the king with wide open eyes. Then even his mouth started to gape open. “I… that’s…”

Seeing the Wolven so taken aback made Kallias hopeful. “Perhaps I can pay you to make an oath to Belazar? One ensuring my safety?”

Xavier bristled. His face twisted, his lips pulling back into a snarl. “Out of the question. Belazar barters in blood, and blood only.”

Kallias considered this. He reached up and twiddled his fingers against his chin as his mind raced for a solution. “Ah, I have it!” he cried out, face beaming with a smile. “I’ll hire you with this money to kill anyone who ever asks you to kill me.”

Xavier’s scowl dissipated. His red eyes flicked from Kallias, to the money, and back to Kallias again. Finally, a smile wound back up his face. “Now that… I can work with.”

***

Valerie Sweelu

Valerie lives alone on a Darzian plantation where she harvests wheat and a small variety of fruits. Most people who meet her would describe her as “strange.” And she would be proud to hear it.

Valerie helps Serafina on her journey to Castle Krondolee. She would happily play a large role in the events to come, if only Serafina would let her…

valeriesketch

Story excerpt
from the visual novel

“I… I think that’s her house up ahead!” cries Nikolaos, just as I think I will crumple to the earth and never get up again.

“Your friend is a she?” I blink through the glaring daylight and spot the small wooden structure in the distance. My curiosity renews my strength. I’ve never met another woman before, except for my frightening encounter with Belatrix. The prospect would be exciting if I hadn’t already had enough excitement to last me for months.

“Yeah. And I suppose I should warn you.” He rakes a hand through his choppy black hair. “Valerie can be a little… strange.”

“Strange?” I laugh at the notion. “Any person is ‘strange’ to me. I don’t really know what ‘normal’ is.”

“True.” Nikolaos manages to smirk at me, even though his dry lips crackle from the effort. “You really don’t get out much, do you?”

“NIKOLAOS!” A shrill but mildly pleasant voice, like an excited bird waking me up in the morning, flutters across the landscape. “You arrive like medicine after several days of illness.”

She comes skipping through the grass, her dress so vibrant and pink that for a moment my eyes ache. But I force them to adjust so I can continue to study her in a state of pure wonder. She has a small frame, but she seems so full of life and energy, like the Polisk flowers of the deep jungle that can survive any turn of the weather. She has short, curly blonde hair that falls in wisps around plump, rosy cheeks. Her bright blue eyes are like windows to the sky as she returns my curious stare.

“And what have you brought me?” she asks Nikolaos.

“Valerie, this is Elsa. Elsa, Valerie.”

Valerie’s pink lips curl with a smile. “Does she come from beyond the horizon, where laws break and dreams fly?”

“Er… yes?”

I grab Nikolaos’s cloak and dart behind him. It’s not a conscious decision. But I don’t know what to say or do around Valerie, so hiding from her seems like my only option. Nikolaos forces a smile on my behalf. “She’s, uh… she’s had a rough few days.”

“Pity,” says Valerie, lifting one of her thin silver eyebrows. “I would have loved to sift through her memories.”

What is that supposed to mean?

“I’m afraid we’re both exhausted. And… hungry.” Nikolaos’s stomach growls with perfect timing. “So if we could stay with you tonight…”

“And what will I get in return?” asks Valerie.

“Um… I have some money. And gold…”

Valerie rolls her eyes. “Yes, of course, the hillsides are drowning in money and gold. Can you give me joy? Can you give me sustenance?”

Valerie is, indeed, a strange woman—as far as I can tell. But as I look around her large plot of land, I see that she is in need of assistance. Her crops whither and die under the glaring sun. Whatever she is trying to grow, she is certainly not succeeding.

Before I fully think it through, I step away from Nikolaos and raise my voice. “I can help you with your crops.”

Nikolaos seems surprised by my offer, but Valerie’s eyes just glitter at me. “Can you now?”

“I’m very good at tending plants. That’s what Papa tells me, anyway.” I glance at the land around us. “By the look of your field, you need to sift the soil. Maybe throw in a few larzi worms.”

“You want me to put worms in my soil?” Her nose wrinkles with disgust. “Those things eat roots!”

“Yes. They eat dead roots, or rotting ones, like those in your field right now,” I explain. “After the larzi digest the rot, they excrete useful nutrients. They also ward off other parasites.”

Valerie’s frown shifts slowly into a smile. “You bring me knowledge. I like knowledge. But how did you acquire it?”

“I just… learned, I suppose. I’ve grown many plants in the jungle.”

“In the jungle, you say?”

Nikolaos jumps back in front of me, beaming at Valerie with a grin that feigns innocence, but looks the farthest thing from it. “So then, do you have room at your hearth for two weary souls?”

“I suppose something can be arranged.” Valerie’s eyes linger on me a moment longer, but finally she turns and leads us towards her little wooden house on the horizon.

***

Play the visual novel

Reuben “Jeridar”

A frequent wanderer of Castle Krondolee hallways, Reuben claims to be the bastard son of Tristan Jeridar, and thus King Kallias’s very own brother. Unfortunately, no one seems to believe him.

Reuben puts on a good act as a friendly and charming fellow, so King Kallias and other nobles of Krondolee tolerate his presence. But in truth, Reuben is ready to seize any and every opportunity to gain power.

Reuben Sketch

Story excerpt
(bonus content set after the visual novel)

Click here to read an extra scene taking place after the end of the visual novel. SPOILER ALERT!

Nikolaos Perin

Nikolaos worships Lokke, the god of guile. He views politics as a wearisome game to play and little more. He views power as being more trouble than it’s worth.

Nikolaos does what he must to live a comfortable life, but comfort grows increasingly difficult to find under the rule of King Kallias. If he could think of a way to improve his situation, he would happily take it.

nikolaossketch


Story excerpt
(bonus content)

Nikolaos expected to collapse into the grass at any given moment.

Yesterday, he had intended to scout only a brief distance—perhaps fifteen miles from camp. He planned to have plenty of time to return to base and sleep snugly in a tent with a belly full of warm stew. Camp rations were low, but at least at night he could usually expect a big slosh of watery soup full of scraps from the daily gathering. After adding a dash of chili powder, Nikolaos could almost imagine the stew delighting his senses with exotic spices. Then he would have sat next to a campfire and shared his scouting adventures with his fellow soldiers. He liked to narrate his wanderings in such a way that captured peoples’ interest and inspired them, rather than just reporting his work as a scout. Doing so made his own job seem more glamorous, and he rather enjoyed the attention. Finally he would return to his tent, throw off his grubby clothes, stretch his limbs over his blanket, and sleep like a baby.

That’s how he would have liked last night to play out. Instead, he had lost his way—a grave sin for a scout like himself.

Scouts should never get lost. They should be capable of distinguishing slight changes in the landscape, tracing every slope and plant into memory, so they could describe it in detail to their superiors or even draw out a map. Nikolaos should be able to guide his comrades into new terrain with confidence and reliability. More than that, he should be able to look beyond the superficial appearance of the landscape enough to assess its potential as a source of security, supplies, or strategic placement.

Not Nikolaos. Not yesterday.

He blamed his hunger. The large servings of stew every night usually satisfied him enough to grant a good night’s sleep. But the night before this fateful outing, he’d felt the first ache of hunger before tasting sweet slumber. Breakfast did nothing to satiate him, like a weak puff of air against a ravenous flame. His hunger had consumed him by midday, making his limbs drag and his thoughts tangle. The fact that the damn savanna looked the same in every direction didn’t help matters—just endless yellow grass and occasional trees stretching into a circle of sky. He had tried to return to camp, only to wander further into strange territory. When the sun started falling, he focused on finding shelter instead.

Now, after another day of wandering, he still had no idea where he was, and his hunger had become a monster possessing his faculties. He could concentrate on nothing but food, yet he couldn’t think clearly about how to obtain it. He only knew that when he saw a blur of green foliage in the distance, promising water and wildlife, he moved fervently towards it. What other hope did he have of finding food?

He ignored all the warnings he had ever heard about the jungles of Darzia. The darkness beneath the canopy harbored incredible danger, he knew, including a wide variety of animals and plants in every shape and size imaginable. Meanwhile, every single one of those strange plants and animals possessed its own unique way of killing enemies. Poisonous plants mimicked safe ones. Small creatures with frail bodies compensated with quick cleverness and sharp memory. An animal wearing the guise of prey could easily lead him into a maze of foliage from which he’d never escape. And as for the larger beasts, such as bears of griffins… well, they could just kill him with one blow.

But starvation worried him now more than any conceivable creature. So he continued moving towards the jungle, one heavy step at a time, heaving slow breaths of air through his leathery mouth. Everything exhausted him—even breathing, even holding his eyes open. The sword hanging from his hip felt like it tried to pull him into the soil below. His blue cloak, draped over one shoulder in the old Elborn fashion, yanked at his torso as it flapped in the wind. His ear-length black hair slapped his face and open eyes. He wanted to fling off his burdens and maybe chop off his lashing locks. But even doing all that would require too much effort.

So he stared vacantly ahead, watching the dark entrance of the jungle yawn wider. Even through the fog of his weary mind, he wondered briefly what he intended to do once he got inside. Hunt for an animal? In his current state, he’d never catch one. Search for water? That was a start. Surely the water of the jungle wasn’t poisonous, was it? He would have to take his chances. Maybe then, at least, he would feel good enough to hunt. If not, he would have to try eating a plant. He had no idea which ones were safe, but he had a feeling it wouldn’t matter. Even people who spent years studying botany struggled to analyze the plant-life of Darzian’s jungles, which were full of tricks and surprises. Once again, he would just have to try his luck.

He looked briefly towards the heavens and thought of his god, the mysterious Lokke, lord of mischief. Normally, Nikolaos didn’t bother praying, even though he worshiped Lokke devoutly. He didn’t think Lokke appreciated typical prayers the way other gods did. Even so, he whispered hoarsely, “Please Lokke, lend me some luck, would you?”

He dropped his head again, for it felt too heavy to tilt skyward. He watched his boots crunching through the dry yellow grass.

He noticed something shift on the top edge of his vision, towards the mouth of the jungle. He looked up reluctantly. Then he froze in his tracks.

A girl. No… a young woman. Or someone caught directly between the two stages. But not awkwardly, he thought. On the contrary, she seemed to embody the brilliance of youth and adulthood. She moved with incredible speed, even as she came to a sudden halt at the edge of the forest. An aura of wildness surrounded her as solidly as the jungle itself; she had bright red hair that tangled around her face and shoulders like a lion’s mane. She wore a small brown tunic, tattered and dirty, leaving most her arms and legs bare. But she seemed neither scantily clad or fully-dressed: merely a girl in her natural state. Her body was small altogether, but even from a distance he could see the firm flow of her muscles, and the steadiness of her grip as she twirled a spear at her side.

Then she stopped and saw him, too.

He felt stricken with a lightning bolt. Her big green eyes affixed him as surely as if she had thrown her spear into his stomach. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t move. Just stare straight back at her and wonder what she would do next.

She turned around and darted back into the jungle.

“Hey, wait!” he cried hoarsely. But it was already too late, and he knew without a doubt he had no chance of catching her.

***

Watch the animated episode

Jezu Grandil

Jezu proudly serves as General of the Royal Guard under his sister, Belatrix. He’s also known to be the best swordsman in Castle Krondolee.

Like most members of the Grandil family, Jezu is highly dignified and values his honor above his life. However, he’s known to make unorothodox decisions from time to time due to his senstive temperament. He has a strong sense of compassion and is more forgiving than Belatrix. Anyone on his bad list, adversely, should run as far from his path as possible.

Jezu Sketch


Story excerpt
from the Visual Novel

As General Jezu and I prepare, I can’t help but wonder if Nikolaos was right to warn me against sparring. I am physically weary from days of traveling, and emotionally exhausted by my new surroundings. In any case, there’s no turning back now.

Jezu stands on the open field, holding his broadsword high before him. Muscles ripple up his arms as he firmly grips the weapon. His stance is perfect, his feet planted in such a way that he looks as difficult to topple as a large tree in the jungle.

“BEGIN!” shouts General Jezu, his voice booming across the courtyard.

I lift my spear. I do not hesitate. I can’t afford to. Against Jezu, my only advantage is my unpredictability. “Haaaaa!”

My feet dash over the churned soil and I feel the breeze carry me forward. Here, without trees or vines to impede me, I feel as free as a bird in flight. I soar across the field and thrust my spear towards Jezu’s chest. His sword knocks my spear aside just in time, but I might have still landed a blow if he didn’t stagger backwards.

He takes a moment to catch his breath. The surprise in his eyes rewards me for my efforts. “By the gods, you move quickly! But you desperately lack technique.” Swiftly he shifts in place, returning one more into a strong and balanced stance. “Let me DEMONSTRATE!”

He rushes forward, swiping his blade in an arc. I feel the wind from the weapon like the flap of a griffin’s wings. Only my nimble feet save me as I quickly dash backwards.

The swipe of his sword brushes my tunic and leaves my heart racing. If I’d moved just a little bit slower, that blade could have slashed deeply.

On the sidelines, Nikolaos wrings his hair anxiously. “Easy, General, please! Are you trying to kill her?”

“Stay out of it, Nikolaos!” Any kindness I previously perceived in Jezu is gone, replaced now by the sheer will to defeat me. “You’re the one who vouched for her abilities. Now let’s see what she can do!” His teeth flash brightly with a snarl, which curls slightly into a grin. “Well then, Elsa? Are you finished already? Or will you come back for more?”

My arm still hurts from the first time I tried to strike him. But I grit my teeth to the pain and rush forward again. “Haaaaa!”

The world blurs around me. Everything melts away but Jezu, who grows larger and larger before me. I aim all my efforts towards striking one point of his armor. I notice the slight adjustments he makes in order to fend off my blow. And at the last second, I aim for a new spot.

“Umph!” The strike knocks Jezu backwards, and he stumbles across the dirt.

The echo of the impact slaps the wall of the fortress. I fall back, recovering my senses, and remember to breathe. Pain throbs in my arm from the impact of my spear against his armor. But I can’t resist a small smile. Already, I have managed to get past Jezu’s guard and strike him. If that doesn’t impress him, what will?

After a moment, though, I start to worry. He remains on the sidelines, huddled in pain. Did I hit him too hard?

“Lokke’s luck be with us!” cries Nikolaos. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think the two of you were trying to kill each other!”

“And who says we aren’t?” With a coarse groan, Jezu heaves himself back up. “Worry not, Nikolaos. I can control myself well enough to keep my blows from killing your companion.” His eyes blaze up at me from within his dark complexion. “But I wish to see her full potential. She should come at me with every fiber of her strength. After all, if an untrained novice can get the better of me, then what right have I to call myself General?”

He swings his sword back up. He leans slightly forward. And before I have time to prepare myself, he lunges towards me.

“Yaaa!”

It happens so hard that I don’t comprehend it until later, when I find myself sprawled in the dirt, head spinning and shoulder aching. I tried to fend off Jezu’s attack, but it happened too fast, and he struck me with the flat of his blade. Truly enough, he could have killed me just now if that had been his intention. He moved with such grace and calculation that I saw no chance of escape.

Now he falls back again, hefting his sword back up, looming over me with a somber expression. “Well then, Elsa, I have proven my superiority. You now face a decision every soldier must make. Will you admit defeat while you still have your life? Or will you keep fighting, no matter what the chances of failure?”

I don’t even think about it. I know I lack experience and “technique” in Jezu’s style of fighting. I only know how to fight for my survival, and that means trusting my instincts, and pouring all of my strength into whatever action I make—as if my very life depends on it.

“Haaaaa!”

I don’t aim at all this time. I don’t have a plan. I just attack. And for just a moment—for one, fleeting moment before the impact—I see the fear flash in Jezu’s eyes.

“Umph!”

My spear sinks into his neck—almost. I can already imagine it happening as the metal tip nears his flesh. Then sparks fly and the tip of my spear ricochets against his sword. The collision knocks both our weapons aside. Reacting quickly, I use my remaining momentum to kick him deep in the abdomen with my knee. I hear the breath knocked from his chest as he folds inwards, then collapses.

I step back and recover. A veil of red seems to lift from my eyes. I see Jezu, curled over the ground and struggling to breathe.

“General!” squeals Nikolaos, rushing forward. “General! Are you all right?”

At long last, Jezu looks up with a smile. “I’m quite well, Nikolaos. And I think I’ve seen enough of Elsa’s fighting.” The general’s dark brown gaze meets mine, and suddenly, I feel as if I am flooded with warmth. His anger is gone now, replaced by… I don’t know what to call the emotion I sense anymore. It suggests satisfaction and pride, but also a deep hunger for more—if such a thing is possible. “Well done, Elsa,” he says softly. “Well done indeed.”

I can’t resist smiling back at him. I feel bad for ignoring Nikolaos’s advice today. But in the end, I don’t regret it. I know that I’ve won Jezu’s respect. And that pleases me even more than I expected.

***

Belatrix Grandil

The Grandil family is well respected for its long history of honorable and trustworthy members. Belatrix is no exception.

Fierce, noble, and beautiful, Belatrix is only a hairsbreadth away from taking the throne herself. The Royal Duma will likely elect her to rule after Kallias. But Belatrix values her honor to a fault. Nothing matters to her so much as keeping her word and serving Kallias faithfully.

Belatrix Sketch

Story excerpt
from the visual novel

Nikolaos turns to his companion. I hold back another gasp, this time of dismay. The woman next to him is large and muscular, her body draped with armor, her eyes so fierce they seem to burn me from afar. She has deep brown skin which contrasts strangely—and beautifully—with the bright red hair spiraling down her shoulders. I am reminded of one of my few encounters with a large cat in the jungle, the beauty of which is rivaled only by its ferocity. In the presence of such beings I never knew whether to bow my head in adoration or flee in utter terror.

“No one else but the god of greed himself, I imagine,” says Belatrix. Her voice is both deep and sonorous, as strong and graceful as her body.

Even Nikolaos seems intimidated by the woman’s presence. He shifts about nervously.

“So … do you want to talk to him? I imagine that’s why you came all this way from Castle Krondolee.”

The name “Castle Krondolee” makes my heart leap with excitement. I have read stories of the royal seat of Darzia in Papa’s precious books. I have imagined it so many times: its large stone towers, its cobblestone courtyards. But Krondolee has always seemed like a distant dream to me. The thought that it is real, and that someone in my presence actually traveled here from that castle, makes me dizzy.

“Talk to Arken Jeridar?” snaps Commander Belatrix. “The Grand Traitor? And let him fill my head with lies? You must be as stupid as you look!”

A flush of red goes across Nikolaos’s face. I might actually feel sorry for the fellow, if I wasn’t so distracted by Belatrix’s words.

Arken Jeridar? Grand traitor? She couldn’t possibly be talking about Papa? These people must be mistaken. His name is Arken, that is true. But I had never heard the name “Jeridar” before. And he is certainly no “traitor!”

“Traitors are the worst scum on the planet,” snarls Belatrix, her teeth flashing white in the darkness. “They have no honor. No loyalty. No principles. A traitor cannot be ‘talked’ to. The truth must be wrested out of him, but carefully, like pulling the heart from an animal before it stops beating.”

I grip my spear so tightly, my fingers ache. This woman looks strong and ferocious, but if she tries to harm Papa, I will do whatever I must to stop her.

“What sort of truth are you hoping to ‘wrest’ out of him?” asks Nikolaos.

Belatrix looks around, as if afraid someone might be listening. I resist the urge to flee as her gaze sweeps over my hiding spot. Fortunately, the shadows protect me. Belatrix turns back to Nikolaos, lowering her voice so I must strain to listen.

“If you were anyone else, Nikolaos, I would not speak of it. But you already know about her, don’t you? You know about the former queen’s daughter. You know that the heir of House Elborn might still be alive.”

They are both quiet for a moment. I don’t hear anything but the pounding of my own heart. I don’t know who this “heir of House Elborn” might be, but whoever she is, she must be important.

Nikolaos crosses his arms and looks away from the Commander. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Belatrix blinks with surprise. “But you must. Your mother was the one who saw Arken take the baby away.”

“Oh, she might have said something like that a long time ago to impress the other maids,” shrugs Nikolaos. “Then the story got passed around and exaggerated. Servants’ gossip. That’s all it was. As you may recall, when the king questioned her about it later, she denied the story completely.”

“Yes, but…” Belatrix studies him carefully. She seems to doubt his sincerity. But Nikolaos avoids her gaze.

After a moment, Belatrix gives up. Her puzzlement shifts into anger. “Is your mother a liar, then? Or are you the liar, Nikolaos?”

***

Read more in the free Visual Novel

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Animation

Episode 1 (Animation)

Serafina has grown up in a harsh jungle full of ferocious predators and crafty prey. She knows little of the world outside the jungle, and her only human contact has been with Arken, whom she looks to as a father.

But by the age of seventeen, Serafina’s desire to explore the world outside the jungle grows daily. And eventually, her curiosity may get the better of her…


ANIMATION PROCESS

Jenny does most of the animation using Adobe Photoshop CS6, Extended Edition. She draws each frame in a separate layer and uses the Timeline to string the frames together. After that, she brings the animated clips into After Effects for special effects, or Premiere Pro for editing. More details can be found on her Tumblr.

ANIMATION CREDITS

VOICE CAST
Serafina ~ Rebecca Gomez
Arken ~ David Dixon
Nikolaos ~ Andrew Graffham
Belatrix ~ Claire Ragusin
King Kallias ~ Andrew Graffham

Music by Jenny Gibbons
Sound design by Joshua Young
Some guards/extras drawn by Bettina Selsor

Jenny has been working entirely from out-of-pocket funds. To support her work, or maybe even an animated “Episode 2,” you may donate money using the Paypal button below.