The wind was stabbing him and he was bleeding again, this last assault was the worst, thousands of men lying dead and many others maimed. When prince Gianilos Rixucavelet called the retreat, half of his men were already routing. He was being carried again by his only friend in the whole world, a Knight by the name of sir Lengaret Aveginet.
— Our Mother give me strength, Gian, are you all right? You almost died there! —.
— Yet, I did not — Said the prince. — Get off me, Aveginet, I am not crippled yet —
— As my prince commands — said Gutsigan and got his hands off his liege.
He almost fell but managed to keep his feet using his right foot, yet when the other one touched the bleeding floor, the pain rose like a stab to the teeth. It did not matter; he was going to take that mud hut. Walking was torture, like a procession over a thousand knives but the pain did not slow down his march. Painful moans of dying men were turning into bells of defeat. He rushed to his tent with his foot breaking apart.
When he left behind the songs of those who were at death’s door, another song of a similar tune started. The siege was taking too long, and famine had hit the weakest. Luckily his tent appeared, the biggest of them all; his sigil flying at the top: an or feathered flying lizard crowned of sable on a silver field. His squire was waiting for him with a drink, but Gianilos Rixucavelet just wanted to wash his face.
He went straight to a tub at the side of the entrance, his armor clanking with every step, commanders yelling orders and men reorganizing themselves.
He was received by a disfigured version of himself created by the water dancing. Then he used both of his hands, and as if he wanted to empty the oceans, he started to violently wash the blood off his face.
He had lost his helmet in the midst of the battle; the cursed baron had hit it with his hammer, deforming it. He took it off after taking charge of him and sounded the retreat.
Then, the water was a lake, and Gianilos saw himself, his skin was like a leather glove and took the shape of his bones. His eyes were two pits of darkness and insomnia, yet his strength had not abandoned him, and inside his shadows, there was a violent burst of red-hot steel. He kicked the tub; the crimson water created a bloody stream that reeked of shame. His wounds were taken care of and he rushed to the war council.
He entered his tent, followed by Lucinet Aveginet, Grand Duke of Eastern Terr, his son sir Lengaret, Count Ferdenet Turuss and low ranked barons whose names the prince did not know.
— My mother commanded me to take that castle! — Said the third son of the Queen of Lances, Mel of House Rixucavelet. He was heir to nothing, a commander of the kingdom. The months besieging that fort those bastards dare to call a castle had left the prince famished, and the countless sleepless nights had made matters worse.
— Why do you all call yourselves proud and powerful lords when your men cannot take a mud hut from these wood dwellers! —.
— My prince — said the Grand Duke in his defense, his voice was more of a whisper, petty and pathetic, a defeated man.
— They have only one entrance and they have a moat. Our ram has not been able to reach the gates. They have enough men to got out their own gates and fight us. Baron Gifted is dead, as so his heir. We have lost good knights.
— Enough! Good knights? Have your knights ever fought on foot? Do they know how to use their shields? —
— They do! Responded the Duke rapidly, his face boiling up in shame and apparently offended by the prince's words. — But then their liege goes out, and there is rainstorm of arrows... —
— Excuses. And I spit on her, may she freeze in The Void. —
Then a Baron whose name Prince Gianilos ignored, and who ported a steel sword crossed with a steel rose on a field of sinople opened his mouth.
— The bitch is called The Temperedsword by their men; I spit on every member of house Longsword, if she dies, those men are going to lose their whore and they will break. We have to charge again and kill the hag.
— What? That is a terrible plan! It will cause us more casualties, our morale is low, your grace — objected sir Lengaret, placing his fist on the table.
<<Kill her, yes>> he said to himself, lost in thought,
— I have not had the pleasure of meting this Temperedsword on equal terms. Yes, we are going to charge and I am going to kill her —. <<Yes, then mother will make me heir as she promised: “the first to bring the Grey King to his knees will rule them all”, stepping on the birth rights the firstborn Vitrus had. He was always so sure of himself that he got lazy for so many years. I just have to take this damned castle!>>.
— Gian, you cannot be serious! Our men will not resist another —
Before the knight could keep on protesting, his father gave him a slap on the face; the sound made the prince look at him.
— Hold your mouth boy; he is your prince!— said his father with disgrace in his eyes
Anger and concern were born in the darkest corners of the prince’s soul. Gian did not understand why the man who he called a friend was acting like this. <<Len knows all too well what victory will mean!>> He thought in burst of inner rage. Gianilos would ascend to the throne and his best friend would receive a great deal of honors, that was their plan, their ultimate goal. He felt betrayed.
Then he thought of a way his friend could earn his trust once again.
— As your prince I command you to lead the vanguard — The shame on the knights' father disappeared and was replaced with a mask of concern.
— But my prince, the moat...— started the petty lord.
— Hold thou mouth, old man, I am thy prince — Said the prince soon to be crowned with a smile on his pale cadaveric face.
— It is decided. At First Light we will begin our final assault. Victory is the only option. You are all dismissed —. They went out making no reverence.
His friend gave him a long look before leaving, directly into his eyes, but prince Gianilos could not tell what they said.
Later in his tent he drank wine; his mouth was like an open wound receiving the blood that lulled the pain. Then his eyes turned heavy as raw iron and darkness kissed him with a killer passion.
Shouts had drag him out of his place of perpetual nothing he had called a sleep.
— your grace, your grace, dire news! — said his squire. He went out of his tent only to be received by a weakened darkness and a desperate boy. —They are gone! — the lad shouted — the Grand duke and his army, all gone! —
His friend was gone, abandoning him.
His vassal was gone, betraying him, but it did not matter. Once he was king, he was going to drag them out and charge them with treason.
The assault was postponed. Some of the routed soldiers had returned and the prince ordered them to be hanged; the rest of the army saw and they knew there was no way back.
Words were not said. He put his helmet on, and lowered the visor; only a fraction of the world was visible, the fraction that mattered, only forward.
He charged and his men were behind, he hoped. He felt all alone. A rainstorm of steel came down, yet, his armor was strong.
The gates opened and were flooding out Knights with halberds charging fast as if they were naked. And then she appeared: fair of hair, grey as rainclouds with a mace in one hand and a shield in the other. She was shouting fire and charging at him. Wearing a gracious dress made of steel, she got close and gave the first strike. His wood deflected, it but it was full of force, and he felt it throughout his arm. Not the first hit was done when a second one was coming, and the prince realized he was no match. His breastplate bent when the head of the mace kissed his heart, he fell back only seeing a fine line of the blue field of skies.
— This was a terrible idea, Len. What should I do? — He whispered, voiceless.
And then he saw a moon of steel falling to his face.