EmberVale - Chapt. 2 - "A Strongholds Weakness"
Written by: KyAuna Alonzo
Four and a half days and passed and already Ethland’s camp was ripe and flowing with intel from the village. Guards from the towers and the walls would go to the Saber Tavern & Inn to unwind after their shifts and often enough they’d drunkenly share too much information with trusted neighbors. Though, drunken men tend to speak too loudly as well as freely, lending valuable information to greedy ears. Had their lord and King known of such loose tongues, he would have had them ripped from their mouths, leaving them to bleed until they died, if fortunate.
Rain poured, turning the snow to ice and slush. The rain sunk the cold to the bones of anyone caught out in it. The weather only spurred Ethlands impatience further, “Tonight,” he told the men, “tonight we will take the stronghold and we shall rest our heads under a true roof once more.” He was answered by eager cheers. It had been all the motivation the men had needed.
The sun had fallen away to slumber and her sister’s silver face barely peeked through the ebony velvet of the sky. Oswin Redman slipped inside the gate, with the three others of his small group, as it clanged shut. Dagda Reamoinn pulled a bloated wine skin from the ties at his hip. The dark eyed man took a swig from it, swishing it around in his mouth before swallowing. It wasn’t wine but rather something far stronger and much more offensive to the nose, he dribbled some down the front of him and doing well not to waste any. He handed it to Eogan Niadh who then passed it off to Leigh Siorain once he’d imitated the action. Each coating themselves in the stench of alcohol, leaving Oswin for last. The four men split into groups of two and slipped off into opposite directions. Oswin and Eogan waited in the shadows near the stairs to the wall; Dagda and Leigh draped their arms around one another and began to sing loudly down the street.
When I was a lad
Me dear ol’ dad said,
I’ll drink till I’m dead
They tell me, ‘go off to war
Or stay in me bed,
And get drunk instead’
I’ll drink till I’m dead
I met a fine lass
Me Lady love I did wed
I’ll drink till I’m dead
Had me a son
For him I stole a pig,
Thee old farmer said
I’ll drink till I’m dead
Me lady wanted a horse
I’ve no coin so I stole it instead
I’ll drink till I’m dead
I make me a thief
So they cut off me head
I’ll drink till I’m dead
“Halt,” a guard called down the street. The two men he approached were merrily drunk, slouched over on one another and tripping over their own feet. “I said halt,” he tried again, deepening his voice, an attempt at intimidation. Dagda and Leigh staggered to a wavering stop, grinning foolishly and stinking off heavy intoxication. “You shouldn’t be out in the streets at this hour,” the guard informed sternly, he stepped closer and cursed, “By Eesis’s wine, you reek.”
“Thank you,” Leigh said laughing as he swayed.
The guard frowned, “You’re not from here,” it was rhetorical, their accents were too different from those of the locals.
“No,” Dagda said taking, what looked like, another large drink from the skin. He slipped his tongue over the opening, it was impossible to tell in the dark, blocking the fluid and swallowed the saliva to be further convincing, “I am a merchant from Bren.” He smacked Leigh overly enthusiastically on the back, “My young friend is learning my trade.”
“I need you two to accompany me,” the guard said, taking the wine skin and gesturing for the drunkards to follow him. Dagda nodded and the two men willing went with the guard, stumbling all the way. Although, Dagda’s dark eyes were keen in committing the route to memory, the armory was in the same direction as the cells in which he knew they were headed. The rain continued to pour down on them and he noticed that Leigh was already beginning to shiver. “Through here please,” the guard said opening a short wooden door which opened into a room with cells. Dagda had to duck down so as not to hit his head on the door frame, “I’ll need to see the paperwork for your trade sir.” The guard added as he shut the door behind him and tried to shake free some of the water that clung to his cloak and clothes.
“Of course,” Dagda said nodding and let go of Leigh and took a couple steps forward into the room. He bent over, appearing to be searching through a small satchel he had with him, but seemed to be leaning too far forward and toppled over.
Leigh swayed and blinked hard at his fallen companion, “Are you alright?” He clutched to the bars of one of the cells, as though it were the only thing keeping him on his feet.
“I am fine,” Dagda said mottled.
The guard rolled his eyes and crossed the room to Dagda, “On your feet,” he said as he leaned down to aid him to his feet. Leigh straightened, all humor evaporated from his youthful face, and he grabbed the guard around the mouth and tucked his other arm around his chest, holding him in place. Dagda stood, sliding a dagger from his boot and slid it across the guard’s throat. The man flailed briefly as he struggled to breathe, crimson cascaded down his body to pool at his feet as he gurgled in the short minutes before finally passing.
Leigh let the body crumple to the floor, prisoners sat silent in their cells, hopeful they would not follow the same fate. “Keys,” he said to himself as he turned to a plain wooden desk at center of the back wall. He approached it but the keys weren’t in it, instead they sat in a hole in the wall. He pulled them out, “Typical,” he said, with either humor or disgust Dagda couldn’t tell, “keeping all the keys in one place. It’s as though they tempt fortune to steal them.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Dagda said indifferent, “Lets carry on.”
“What of them?” Leigh gestured to the prisoners.
Dagda shook his head, “Leave them be, their lives are short enough as it is.”
“They could give us away, raise the alarm,” Leigh said with a frown.
“We won’t,” a prisoner answered quickly, “Just spare us, please.”
“Spare you?” Leigh scoffed, “It’s obvious you don’t know why we are here.”
Dagda sighed, “And we haven’t the time for you to give them all the details. We need to leave now; the others are waiting.” He took the keys from Leigh’s hand and made his way to the short door. There were dungeons somewhere else, he knew it, there weren’t enough cells in this room to be a prison and it was too close to the people. Screams would be impossible to miss if one of the prisoners were subject to torture. No doubt the people in these cells were no worse than a couple of men singing drunk in the streets late at night. Leigh silently followed him out of the room, closing the door tightly behind him. Dagda smiled out of the corner of his mouth, “Soon there will more blood than you can handle and it will be honorable death, not killing unarmed people in cells.”
“Or I could have given them an easy death now instead of a harsh one later,” Leigh said with annoyance.
Silence followed as Dagda navigated the roads to the armory; two men stood outside the armory door, bracing against the cold. They were just two figures in the dark now, no point in feigning drunkenness. The weary guards watched the men approach and called out for them to halt, but they did not. Leigh skipped forward, pulling the dagger from its sheath at his lower back and threw it. The blade sunk deep into one guard’s sternum before he could cry out. The other, stood stunned a moment as he watched his companions lifeless body crumple to the solid ground. Mere seconds ticked by and the situation registered on his face, he opened his mouth to sound the alarm and call for aid, but he failed to notice Dagda move behind him and when he felt the large frigid hands place around his head it was already too late…his body too fell to the saturated dirt, his neck broken. Leigh chuckled into the night but Dagda’s face remained expressionless as he pulled out the keys and tried each one. After the sixth one failed to open the door Dagda could feel Leigh’s annoyance growing. “Where is the patrol?” He asked, he hadn’t heard anyone approaching and it made him more nervous than if he had heard someone. Seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven…click. The door unlocked and swung open with the eleventh key. The two stepped inside but left the door open as they took in the room. The armory was nearly fully stocked, though void of life. They shut the door and armed themselves with swords, bows, quivers of arrows, spears and multiple of anything they could still carry. “Let’s get these to Oswin and Eogan,” he ordered, once they were weighed down enough with armor and weaponry.
The dark and rain made it difficult to make out who was approaching, Oswin signaled to Eogan to hide in the shadow of the stairs and he would hide around the corner. Each were armed with daggers but nothing more, they had to rely on their companions getting into the armory and returning to them with the weapons that they needed for battle. Oswin crouched, readying himself to attack. Whoever approached were either large or well-armed for their steps were heavy. The waited as the figures drew closer, and closer, “Cross not my path…”
“…But my sword,” Dagda finished the phrase and watched as Oswin and Eogan materialized from their hidden places in the shadows. “Though you have none, allow me to remedy that,” he added with some humor coloring his tone. Dagda and Leigh lessened their burden and soon Oswin and Eogan were as well armed as their companions.
Wordlessly, Eogan and Oswin moved up the stairs as Dagda and Leigh returned to the armory, to defend their horde and arm further any of their own people to pass through the gate. Shouts rang out in the night as steel clashed against steel on the wall, the sounds of tearing flesh and breaking of armor as well as the breaking of bones, followed shortly by the pained cries of dying men. It was an orchestra of death and the heavens looked down holding its breath. Eogan, outnumbered three to one, his blade slick with red met with the sword of the first man to his right. The sound rang out like a bell and he threw his body forward and elbowed the man in the face, as the first man staggered backward Eogan raised his sword to meet with the second man’s sword. He twisted in the same instance and kicked the first man over the side of the wall, his screams echoed in the night until abruptly silenced by the earth and ice below. Anger and fear masked the remaining men’s’ faces and they attacked aggressively, steel and blood flew wildly in the blindness of dark and rain. Eogan stood quietly, breathing heavily, over the bodies of the two men laying at his feet.
Oswin pushed forward, slicing his sword deep into any place remotely vulnerable, refusing to linger he threw his weight into theirs and sending them over sides. Arrows flew around, grabbing a man quickly by his collar, he turned him around in time for the arrows to find their mark…only in the wrong body. Over the edge of the wall he could see Ethland riding at the head of the army, his white metal armored form upon the armored horse made him look eerily ghost like. Oswin looked below and the gates had been pressed open, he smiled at the panic below as he watched men race to the armory only to be shot down in the street by the two who guarded it. A man raced toward him, thundering and screaming wildly, with his sword raised; Oswin lifted the spear at his feet and took a few quick steps forward before twisting and arching his back and arm before finally sending the spear sailing through the darkness to tear through the man. Oswin watched him stumble forward, determination held steady on his face as he continued to stare at him and slowly he fell to his knees, unable to fall further forward for the shaft of the spear held him propped.
There were screams in the village as the sounds of battle nearby drew people from their slumbers and coaxed them to investigate, only to find the invading army so close. Men from Ethland’s army hurried their way through the village, to the wide and welcoming gate, “Close the gate,” reinforcements’ to the wall screamed to the men below, but in vain for none of them could reach it. The army began to pour into the strong walls, their war cries combining and drowning out nearly all other sounds.
The brave men of the stronghold raced to meet the invaders, though soon found they only their deaths. Ethland rode through the gate casually, a sly grin upon his face as the plan executed itself soundly. Roars of men sang out as a symphony of coming victory to him and he made his way confidently to the very doors of the castle that would soon be his own. Bells rang out in alarm and men scrambled to pull any weapons available from their fallen brethren. The sound that staked fear into the hearts of the attacked men more than the dying cries of their friends, more than the sounds of metal crunching bone or arrows loosed from their bow strings, or the ferocious war cries of the endless pour of men that raced in through the gaping mouth of the gate, was the sound of Ethland’s laugh. But he did laugh as he rode his horse through the ruby stained streets, and the deeper in he trotted, the more menacing his laughter became, “Tonight, fortune is mine,” he breathed out, gazing up at the pillars of the castle itself, “…and why should I share it?”
“Please, your majesty,” Knight Aalot Prevost encouraged eagerly, he extended a hand to Princess Valra, “Take haste.”
Her frown deepened, “Where do you intend to take me?” her amber eyes narrowing with defiance. Her long dark curls bounced down her back as she shook her head stubbornly.
“To the Silver Sanctuary my Lady,” Aalot said, hardening his voice, it was the cathedral whose catacombs were adjoining to those under the stronghold. He was not yet adorning his armor and his sandy hair was mussed from his rushed rise from slumber, yet his peacock green eyes were sober of sleep and flickered over corners of the hallways to either side of her chamber, “The king has ordered it.”
“You will take me to the war room,” she insisted, “I will not be cut from their discussions of this attack.” The twenty-year-old woman pressed her pale pink lips together in a hard line, “I will not be moved otherwise.”
The knight sighed then made an apologetic face, “Forgive me Princess.” He leaned down and scooped her up into his arm. Immediately, she began pounding on him with her fists and yelling for him to put her down. The thin frost blue fabric of her night gown fluttered around her flailing legs like weightless clouds on swirling wind.
Aalot turned the corner and was confronted by a tall man, not much older than himself, with a long coffee dark braid reaching to the middle of his upper back and angry burned sienna eyes that were speckled with flakes of gold in the hues, “What in creation,” he demanded, hand on the hilt of his sword.
“Captain Edwin Easom,” Aalot said respectfully, though without putting down the squirming woman, “She has refused to take shelter in the cathedral. I am carrying out my orders, sir.”
The Captains eyes fell on the woman in Aalot’s arms, his eyes became weary, “Princess Valra, you will achieve nothing but wasting his time by behaving so childish.”
“Childish,” Valra exclaimed, enraged by the accusation, “I am your future queen and you will speak to me with more respect.”
“That is assuming you still have a kingdom to rule after tonight, your majesty,” Captain Edwin retorted with annoyance. “This is not a game my Lady, we are under attack. This is not the time to argue.”
“I belong in that war room,” She insisted with defiance, “I have the right to discuss the course of action that will save this kingdom.”
Edwin flexed his jaw, he knew she wanted to be thought of as a strong and independent ruler but in the moment he wanted to enlighten her on just how foolish, selfish and childish she was truly being, “Very well, if she will not stand to hear reason from us then perhaps between the General, Lord Commander and the King, she will find sense at last.” He gestured for Aalot to follow him.
“Put me down,” she barked, “I am not so helpless I cannot walk upon my own two legs.”
Aalot hesitantly placed set her down, part of him believed that she would take off sprinting down the halls on her own. Edwin gestured with reluctance, for the two to follow after him through the stone halls of the castle, turning this way and that as armed men hurried past them with weapons in hand. When they reached the war room Edwin didn’t hesitate, he pushed open the doors, allowing them to crash loudly on either side of the frame.
A loud curse followed as two men looked up from the table, the king did not bother to look in the direction of the sound, “What is she doing here?” Commander Malcolm Bosroke demanded, his silver eyes flashing a warning, “Captain, why is she not in the Cathedral?”
“She refused to listen to reason,” Edwin stated as a matter of fact, “I came upon her refusal when Aalot was attempting to carry her there. I am hopeful that one of you may speak some sense to her.”
General Gilliard Prior ran a hand through his mahogany chestnut hair, his olivine eyes focused on the princess. He’d often referred to her as spirited, and admired the trait in her but now was a perfect example of what he had tried to explain to the king, “We are nearly out of time…”
“And I shall not be moved from this room,” Valra stated firmly, “You may as well accept me, or go on wasting time trying to remove me,” she added smugly.
“Valra,” the king’s face fell in disapproval.
“Gentlemen,” General Gilliard said with a defeated sigh, “We are nearly out of time. Ethland’s forces have made it past the outer and inner gates with little effort at all and killed a substantial percentage of our own forces,” he rubbed the back of his neck, feeling the soft short hairs resting against his neck there, “We haven’t the resources to wait them out and frankly there isn’t anything keeping them from breaking down the front door and entering. And…” He could feel the despair growing in the room, “If we were to somehow reach an ally, they would never reach us in time.”
“We had begun with roughly five thousand men, between the barracks and the village, but I could not fathom a guess as to what we have in numbers now,” Commander Malcolm added after a moment, “What men we do have, have been scattered about in the confusion and Ethland’s forces have had an easy enough time picking them off in the confusion of the chaos.”
“What are our assets?” Valra asked.
The room was silent, “For the moment,” Gilliard said disheartened, “…we are it.”
Valra gaped in disbelief, “What about our forces?”
“They are fighting as they’ve been trained to but in the midst of this chaos they’ve had no time to find their regiment, let alone fall into fighting formation.” Edwin said, “Have you looked out a window Princess? This isn’t a battlefield, it is our front porch and they may as well have been invited in with how easily they’ve gotten this far.”
“My home that has kept us safe for generations,” The king said solemnly.
Malcolm placed his fists on the table, “All that can be done now is to keep you safe, alive and free.” He turned took look at them all, “We were taken before we were awake.”
“Our best chance is to keep this royal house alive, we may have lost today but as long as this house prevails then there is hope for the future,” Edwin stated with optimism.
“Then we shall live,” King Tanean said matter of fact like, nodding his head firmly. Valra moved to the window, pressing it open slightly with her hand, random fires had been set and faint figures of men hacking at one another with their weapons filled her vision. Ethland’s laughter reached their ears through the window, over the sound of the screams and battle, and the room fell deathly quiet. “To the catacombs,” King Tanean ordered.
They moved into the hall and could hear the sounds of uniform marching drawing near, Valra felt the cold clammy hand of fear trace its fingers up her spine. Her ears filled with the racing pounds of her heart, she wanted to believe that it was their own soldiers approaching, that she and her father were safe but deep in her gut she knew that it was not. Her hurried steps were awkward in the loose fur slippers, she felt foolish for not heeding Aalot’s words sooner and for not going with him when she had a greater chance for escape. She looked to her left and found him near, sword drawn like the others and with his eyes searching ahead.
The door to the war room was smashed and splintered, the sound echoing loudly in every direction, “They’ve moved on,” called a voice, “Spread out.”
Gilliard gestured for the others to follow him into a room off to the left of the hall, once inside he barred the door behind them, “There is an entrance to the hidden passage ways through this door,” he pressed on part of the stone wall and watched it give way under his hand to open into another hall as dark as pitch.
“Gilliard and I will remain behind, better your chances to get away,” Malcolm stated calmly, Gilliard met his gaze and nodded his consent. “Take them now Edwin,” he urged as annoyed muffled voices appeared on the other side of the barred door, one of the men requested the tool used to splinter the war room doors.
“Please come with us,” Valra pleaded, separating made her fear all the greater.
Malcolm’s face grew hard, “Go.” He placed a gloved hand upon her shoulder and pushed her roughly inside the narrow passage within the wall. Aalot and the King followed, Edwin lingered only a brief moment before pushing the stone door shut and locking it securely from the inside.
The barred door burst open in splinters and ten men filed into the room, and one more. Aside from the four that were of elven heritage, Ethland gracefully stepped over the broken threshold and into the room, “Ahh,” he said casually, “This room fails to produce me a King and Princess as well,” his indigo eyes slid over the two battle ready men standing in stances in front of him, “Though this particular room is not completely a waste, a general and a commander. I could have use of you.”
“Not interested,” Malcolm grumbled.
A faint smirk tugged at the corners of Ethland’s lips, “I’ve not told you in which way you would be useful.”
“Don’t care,” He said gruffly, “Not interested.”
“If only that mattered,” Ethland said indifferently.
Malcolm’s silver eyes narrowed, the lines deepening on his aged worn face, he was merely fifty-four but the stresses of his work had aged him further. Strands of his gray-brown hair had pulled free of their tie, at the base of his skull, and fell in front of his face. He lunged forward with his sword sweeping at Ethland, hoping to catch deep into the prince’s armor. A sharp clang rang out in the small room, Malcolm blinked as one of the elven blades blocked his less than a foot away from Ethland. He growled and attacked again, only to be blocked again, though this time the soldier kicked him backward with so much force that it nearly knocked him down.
Rage flashed in Gilliard’s olivine eyes, though only twelve years younger than Malcolm he’d aged more gently. He pulled a dagger from the sheath at the small of his back and threw it, sinking into the eye of one of the human soldiers and killing him instantly. He hurried forward with his own sword and with each blow he delivered he was blocked. Ethland stood behind his men, smugly smiling at their efforts as the men fought relentlessly. Gilliard kicked one of the men in the knee, snapping it and dropping the man to the floor. He ducked as a glinting blade flowed over his head, kneeling, he pulled another dagger from his boot and stabbed the fallen man three times in the chest and a fourth time in the neck in rapid succession. He looked up in time to feel an armor plated fist make contact with his face twice, then the gloved hand grabbed a fist full of his short hair; his eyes focused at the moment a man’s knee collided hard with his jaw. The force snapped his head back harshly and Gilliard fell backward limp and unconscious upon the cold stone floor.
Malcolm cried out as Gilliard’s limp body collapsed, a frenzied rage over came him and he rushed the collection of soldiers again. He spun on his heel, as one of the men stuck at him, and counter struck and succeeding in cutting deep into the man’s throat. The stones were slick with blood and the lifeless bodies made maneuvering in the small room awkward and hinder some, Malcolm studied the men remaining and already knew the outcome. Three men rushed him and he swung at them fiercely with his blade, exhaustion was setting in and his arms were beginning to feel like jelly, his sword quickly felt heavy in his hand but he fought on. A fist struck out and caught him in the nose, his head flew back and he staggered backward a couple steps as his vision blurred. Another caught him in the ribs, another in the cheek, one to his stomach, he dropped to his knees and felt a heavy boot to his back and another in his side. He coughed and sputtered, he lashed out but his vision was unreliable and he repeatedly missed his mark. More blows made contact on his body and he could feel a clouded fuzziness start to shroud his consciousness.
“Hold,” Malcolm was barely aware that the distant sounding voice was Ethland’s. He was pulled upright, his head too heavy to hold up on his own was lifted roughly up by his hair. Ethland approached on lighter boots, or perhaps he was simply more graceful than his soldiers, he knelt down and softly spoke, “Where are King Tanaen and Princess Valra?” Malcolm spit blood, the best he could, at Ethland. Ethland smiled, “We will find them, what happens to them when we do will depend on your cooperation. So I ask again, where are they?”
Malcolm’s left eye was swelling shut but he glared stubbornly at the Prince with his right, “Just kill me and have it over. I won’t ever say.”
“No,” Ethland said standing, the smile abandoning his face, “No, I think not. Not yet.” He stepped aside and a hazy fist flew at Malcolm’s face once more, this time sending him completely to a state of unconsciousness.
Commander Malcolm Bosroke
In the flickering lights of the burning lanterns, mounted on the walls of the catacombs, Valra’s pale blue night gown was nearly all the way translucent. Her voluptuous form was highlighted by both light and shadow, she fidgeted nervously as the minutes ticked by. Nearly twenty minutes had passed while they stood surrounded by dead, and Aalot and Edwin had spent most of the time arguing in hushed tones. Though their attempts to be quiet made no difference for everything echoed and their bickering only made Valra more nervous. Her father clutched her hands in an attempt to comfort her, his hands were warm and soft and roughly half a hand larger than her own, she didn’t want to ever let them go.
“We should have left through the tunnels once we got here,” Aalot insisted, “The chaos would have been our cover.”
Edwin shook his head, “They are up there slaughtering anything and everyone that moves, it would likely have been the death of all of us,” he asserted with annoyance.
“I don’t believe that,” Aalot continued, “They are far more likely to be discovered now because they’ve had a chance to overcome us and search the castle. They are being hunted this very moment, I say that confidently and the longer we stay the more likely we all are of being discovered.”
“If we do not do this intelligently then Commander Malcolm and General Gilliard will have died in vain,” Edwin growled with frustration.
“You cannot know for certain that they are dead,” Aalot argued.
Edwin glared at the knight, “How naive you are. I will attest that both are great swordsman, great warriors, but they cannot win a battle when so grievously outnumbered.”
“Perhaps they are captives,” Aalot stated defiantly, “a commander and a general would be good sources of information.” He paused only to take a shallow breath, “Tell me truly, how did you ever manage to become Captain?” Tanean opened his mouth to speak as Edwin raised a fist in retaliation.
“Indeed,” came a voice from the darkness.
A stillness overcame the four standing there in the flickering light of the torches. All breath seemed to be stolen from their lungs. Surprisingly light steps advanced in shimmering armored boots, and the light finally danced its way across Ethland’s face, a wolfish smile pressed thickly across his lips. “Ethland,” the king said, breaking the breathless pause.
“Ahh it is true that the blind king is no fool,” Ethland stated with sly humor, “How unfortunate that your captain is.” He took another step forward, “The knight was right, you should have fled while there still was a chance.”
“Aalot, take them and run,” Edwin ordered as he drew his sword.
The knight swept up the blind king in his arms and began to move hastily down the dark halls. A startled cry escaped Valra’s lips, and the knight’s footsteps stopped and then slowly returned. Back up the hall they moved, followed by more of Ethland’s soldiers, “I am afraid that it’s a bit too late for that.”
“How did you find us?” Valra asked, turning to face Ethland. Shoulders back and chin high, she forced annoyance into her tone. She could feel the sting of threatening tears burning in her eyes as she refused to release them. Her hands were trembling so she clasped them in front of her, in hopes to hide her fear. She told herself if she were to die then she would not die giving them the satisfaction of her fear.
Ethland’s eyes focused on her, and her near translucent night dress, “It wasn’t difficult, your plan to escape through the catacombs wasn’t clever or even original,” he said stepping closer, “it was as though you wished to be captured,” his eyes flickered to Edwin a moment, “the only thing that caught me by surprise was passing up the opportunity to escape. One should ask, whose side your dutiful captain is truly on?” His eyes flickered back to Valra and he winked.
Impulsively she turned and punched Edwin in the jaw, “Damn it,” she shook her hand and winced. Then quickly she and pulled her hand back into a fist, “Did you do it?” she demanded, “Did you betray us?”
“No,” Edwin snapped, rubbing his jaw where her boney fingers had driven into it.
“Do not lie to me, the general and commander may be dead. Do not disgrace their memory with a lie,” She growled back, the tears cascading down her cheeks.
“On my life,” Edwin calmed, “I did not betray you.”
The frown did not leave her face, “Then why did we wait in this death trap for them to find us?”
Edwin opened his mouth to defend himself but was abruptly cut off, “I’d love for you two to straighten this out and analyze why he made such a monstrously moronic decision but unfortunately you don’t have the time,” Ethland said.
“Get it done with then,” Valra snapped angrily.
Edwin held up a hand, “Wait. We surrender to you, no one has to die.”
“Prince Ethland has come to over throw us,” King Tanean finally spoke, “He does not mean to keep us alive.” The old king was calm and relaxed. It came with the knowledge of knowing what would come next.
“True,” Ethland agreed, “I could ask for knowledge but your captain seems less than likely an intelligent source and I already have knights of my own so this one is no use to me. The old man may be useful in one last matter and the girl,” he gestured to Valra, “we may not kill right away, all women have their uses.”
“You will not touch her,” Edwin growled.
Ethland made a disgusted face, “human women are a far cry from quality, even those that are princesses.” He fiddled with the hilt of his dagger, tucked into his belt, “No, she would not be for me but rather for those of my men who care too little to mind. Though I doubt the number of them would not surprise you.”
“I will kill you,” Edwin hissed between his teeth.
“In the spirit of fairness, I will allow you to try,” Ethland said, his voice condescending. “Whenever you’re ready, my time is limitless.”
Edwin frowned, “Not a great deal longer.” He ran toward Ethland, sword raised and swooped it toward the prince’s head. Ethland ducked and stepped around Edwin, pulling the dagger from his belt and planted it hilt deep into the back of the captain’s skull and Valra’s scream echoed through the vast hall. Edwin stood convulsing in place as his body frantically tried to understand what had just happened before he fell forward, the front of his head smashing hard into the stone floor. His head cracked open and small bits of brain smeared the floor that was quickly growing more red by the second.
“Bastard,” Valra cried.
“No,” Ethland stated plainly, he knew she didn’t mean it literally but he cared very little. “I have no use for the knight.” He said as he turned to one of his men. The man stepped forward and in three fluid movements he had three arrows laced to the bow string and then released. The knight opened his mouth to cry out, one arrow stuck through his eye; the second stuck straight out of his open mouth and stuck out the back of his head; and the third went through the front of his throat to the backside.
Aalot staggered, choking on the blood that raced down his throat and into his lungs. He swayed, reaching out for stability, he grabbed Valra’s arm but only succeeded in pulling her down with him. Tears escaped his eyes as he lay on the grown drowning in crimson, “I am so sorry,” she whispered through her own tears, she covered her mouth to trap the pain inside. In only a few more seconds he was gone and she regained her footing, covered in the blood of the young knight who would have saved her. Her eyes met with Ethland’s, “You’re so beautiful that I could believe you are a dream but I would be mistaken, you are a thing of nightmares,” Valra said uncovering her mouth with her hands and crying.
Ethland’s face became gravely serious and he closed the distance between them in a few quick strides, leaning close enough to feel her breath on his face he said, “No, nightmares have an end.”
Chapter 3 - Fae'ierVale
- EmberVale - Chapt. 3 - "Fae'ierVale"
As the EmberVale Empire continues to grow, sacrifices are made that pull at the fragile threads of family.