My NaNoWriMo story

 

Anger and Hate

He wants to hold her, even as she coughs up blood; he wants to shush her and wipe away her tears, be the warrior that chases the nightmares away and illuminates her life but her cannot be that. He cannot hold her, cannot shush her, cannot so much as breath the same air as her without dying by the wicked sickness plaguing his people. He closes his eyes and turns “Da…” she calls weakly, guilt rushes thought him as he walks away from the scene within the healer’s tent. She cries softly as the tent flap closes, he stands outside listening, biting his bottom lip and praying his child, his sweet Lana, lives, even if he must die.

Collecting his resolve and shoving aside his guilt he strides to his tent, the small space colder and lonelier without his daughter’s smile and voice greeting him. He looks to his left and frowns “Feeling better?”

“Yes sir.” his guest rasps, his frown deepens. He walks further in and tosses a few sticks into the fire before glancing back at the man. He almost wishes they never left their barren home but the few months of prosperity are nearly worth the man and his men bearing down on them but this horrid gift left by the fleeing men is devastating to his people and he hates his guest with a passion but tradition dictates that one does not slaughter an enemy surrendered “I’m sorry…” The raspy voice of his guest cuts through the turmoil of Urzoth’s inner mind.

“What?”

“I’m sorry… I didn’t know my men were sick… I didn’t mean to-” his words are cut short and much to the chief’s annoyance he finds himself offering the suffering king water “Forgive me… If I could change what happen I would. I would so quickly.”

“I… forgive you.” The words are bitter but true. The men sit in silence, Urzoth sitting by the fire back to his guest.

“James…” Urzoth looks over his shoulder “James Gordon Hayden, the third.” The chief nods and looks back to the fire.

“Why haven’t your people come for you, James Gordon Hayden?”

“That I don’t know…” Again silence, Urzoth moves and sites across the fire from the visitor.

“Tell me about your people and your place among them. You’re metal clothing was finer then theirs.”

“I… I am the king of many people, a chief of many divided tribes.”

“If they are divided you are bad chief.” James smiles and nods.

“Yeah, I know. I haven’t doing to good a job ruling… I left my wife in charge while I came out here in search of barbarians that I still have not found.” Urzoth frowns.

“I assume we are the barbarians that you’re people were fleeing from?”

“Yes, you caused quite the panic among the people of the river valley.” James laughs softly and lets out a soft sigh.

“I actually laughed, you know.” He lays on his back “To think we had barbarians, I made the people wait three days so I could mourn my father’s passing and then nearly walked into the fight you gave us without any armor at all.”

“You were not expecting to find us?”

“Not at all, I mean did I know there were people in the high desert? Yes, but did I think they’d come down here? No.” James clears his throat and takes another drink of water.

“I brought these people down here for a better life… A better life, more chances to grow but now… Now I wish I stayed up there, found a way to survive the drought and the warfare.” There is silence, James looking into the fire while Urzoth pulls Black Flame onto his lap, fingers idly touching the rough forged black blade, fingers following the shallow dip of the fuller running from the elaborate guard down two thirds of the blade’s spine.

“Its a beautiful sword.” James whispers, pulling the chief from his daydreams.

“It is. Its been decades since it was last wielded, there hasn’t been a worthy warrior to hold it. But now… Well now I fear I will be the last wielder.”

“Is that why the men all look to you?”

“One reason, yes. I am the chief of this tribe. A good one at that.” They share smiles and for a moment the hate vanishes, for a moment the anger is forgotten, for a moment there is no reason for either to want the other harmed.

“The wielder and the chief? That is impressive.”

“Do you have a position such as that?”

“I have a champion, for fights I don’t want to fight.” Urzoth nods.

“Fights you do not want to fight… I wish I had a champion. There are many fights I have no energy to fight.” The silence returns, the fire snaps and pops while Urzoth stares at it, seeing a different life in the dancing flames. James stares at the man for a moment, really taking in the chief of the people from the highlands, he eyes are dark and intense, his body muscled and taunt, always ready for something, and his hair long, braided to keep t out of his face; but he looks peaceful even sitting there blade across his lap, he looks like a fixture of nature- a man that sits in the rain simply to feel the rain on his skin. Urzoth looks up and frowns.

“You stare too much.” James blinks and blushes.

“Uh, sorry. You’re just nothing like anyone I’ve seen before.” The blush remains as the chief seemingly stops his shifting to let the man stare.

“You mean you’ve never seen someone strong? Scarred?”

“No, I’ve never seen a man look like you but still seem so at peace with the world around him. I know many men that are strong, scarred, and battle hardened that wouldn’t be able to sit in silence listening to the wind howl outside while a fire burns inside. It would drive them mad.” Urzoth examines the king laying across from him, James fights to maintain eye contact with his intense gaze that seems to go straight to his core and learn all of his secrets.

“I’ve never seen a man like you. Skin like milk, rosy cheeks,” Urzoth shakes his head “You are no barbarian.”

“Neither are you.” James supplies quickly making the chief raise an eyebrow.

“But you came in search of me.”

“No, I came to see if my people were going to be pillaged, raped, and slaughtered by beasts, not people looking for a peaceful way of life.”

“Your… Your people thought we were hear to murder, torment, and thieve?” James nods. “We… We are not like that, there are some in the high lands that are but the Sparrows have always avoided conflict with others. We only took what we thought was surrendered to us by your people. They fled so quickly it is not like we could have asked them.” James laughs.

“That’s true! I had people knocking on my door days after you must have arrived where as word of the sickness took months to reach us, what does that say about my people.” He sighs, seeing his companion’s mood shift back to sadness and anger. “Urzoth, I have people working on this sickness, I’m sure they’ve found a way to save your people.”

“But you will not share it. You are our captive…” Urzoth hangs his head.

“I would. Yes I am your captive, yes you shot me with an arrow, but you have taken care of me, allowed me into your home, and you have not killed me for my part in the sickness coming here.” James rolls onto his back “Truth be told, I’ve never met a more honorable people. Men like me when we fight, we don’t care if some one has surrendered they are probably still going to die if captured, we don’t keep out enemies in our homes, and we certainly don’t give them medical attention when they need it.” Urzoth looks up at James “Me and my people are far more the barbarians when compared to you and your Sparrows.” James yawns and Urzoth does the same.

“I think its time to sleep.” James nods in agreement and while Urzoth stokes the flames and readies his bed roll, James falls asleep acutely aware of what has been said that night and knowing he has only told the truth to the chief. The people of Adderdale, by comparison, seem more “barbaric” then a tribe of barbarians from the highlands.

With the dawning of a new day a new round of pyres are built and the bodies of the fallen are placed on them to burn away, Urzoth attempts to visit Lana but through the night her condition has worsen to the point of delusional screaming and while he watches over her from the door she screams and strains against the healers, her angry and terrified words tugging at his heart as she calls for him and begs to be let go. Finally he turns away from the scene, Tullo greets him, his usual smile long gone, replaced with an emotionless nod and wave. “Urzoth, the visitor is well.”

“I haven’t noticed.” Urzoth sighs.

“Open your eyes friend, see?” Tullo points down the slight hill to James, wrapped in his blankets, gathering sticks in his arms. Urzoth’s eyebrows come together in confusion and he saunters down to the man with Tullo close behind.

“What are you doing?” Urzoth asks, James looks up and then down at his small gathering of sticks.

“Gathering small wood.”

“Well I can see that, but why?”

“We ran out last night, I’m getting more.” Urzoth sighs “What? Should I not?”

“It is not that, do not exhaust yourself, if you need help call on Tullo.” James looks at Tullo and narrows his eyes.

“Nice to see you walking.” He offers weakly.

“You’re one of the men that found me.” Tullo nods. “How did you hear me?”

“I have great hearing. When I need it.” James smiles some and nods.

“Then I will not have to shout loudly if I need your help.” Tullo returns the soft smile.

“Indeed, I’ll not be far. I’m tending the pyres.”

“Isn’t it hard to do that?”

“Not really no. The body is a vessel for the energy, when we die the energy must be released and thus burning the body releases the energy and permits us to join our gods and loved ones in the stars.”

“That is a beautiful sentiment.” James sighs.

“What do your people do with bodies after death?”

“Bury them in holy ground so that they may one day be resurrected and brought to paradise.” Tullo laughs.

“Well to each their own but I prefer ours.” Urzoth nods in agreement.

“So do I.” James sighs and returns to picking up more sticks under Tullo’s watchful eye while Urzoth goes from tent to tent checking on everyone and helping where he can, be it holding a sobbing mother, or watching the little ones for a few minutes so a man can sleep. Every tent he enters presents the risk of him getting sick but still he carries on, waiting to find someone coughing or already dead, but today he is lucky, today he does not stumble onto anyone sick or dead, just many, many sad people.

He steps out of the last tent and looks to the east, seeing a man standing awkwardly holding something in his hand, attempting to see into the camp. Urzoth runs over to him, practically making the man cower in fear “Who are you? What do you want?” He demands, using his considerable size to block the man’s view.

“I-I come from Adderdale Keep,” He manages, thrusting the letter into Urzoth’s hands “A-An invitation from the queen to meet.” And with that, before the chief can respond he runs off, hurrying back to his people as fast as he can while Urzoth dumbly holds the letter, the wind tugging at its edges, threatening to rip it out of his grasp if he is not careful. He looks down at the letter before turning and taking it to his tent, entering he finds James asleep, a small stack of wood beside the small fire. He sits down and breaks the seal before reading the beautifully written letter to himself.

Dearest sir or madam,

You have taken my husband, and I would like him back. I wish to avoid warfare and extend an invitation to you to meet with me at Adderdale Keep as soon as you can. I extend this invitation to any amount of people you see fit to surround yourself with as well. I have instructed my men to wait for you where the rivers meet, to escort you to my home.

Yours,

Queen Alexandria Hayden

He looks at the letter before looking at James, contemplating just sending the man home with the letter and his word that the Sparrows can stay. As he is about to wake the sleeping king his tent flap opens revealing Tullo. “Urzoth, I… You need… Its Lana.” Is all the man can manage before vanishing into the cold wind, Urzoth shoots up and rushes out of the tent, looking to the healer’s tent where he sees four men carrying her lifeless body. The letter falls, forgotten by the chief as he runs to his child.

“NO!” He screams, pushing away the men and taking her body in his strong arms before falling to the ground holding her tightly, rocking slightly as tears roll down his cheeks and sobs rock his body. “No… please gods no. Take me leave her… please…”

“Urzoth,” Tullo softly touches his shoulder, the man shies away holding the body closer.

“I can’t… I can’t…”

“I know, my friend, but we must.” the chief shakes his head, Tullo kneels down and helps lift the lifeless body and the chief.

“She gets her own.” His voice is pained, Tullo nods and motions for the other healthy, relatively speaking, men to go ahead of them. The men trip over each other and themselves as they rush to build the fallen girl her own pyre, Tullo carefully places her atop the pyre once it is finished while Urzoth takes a torch from one of his men.

He lites the flame, it consumes the dry grass and twigs before engulfing the larger logs and eventually Lana. His baby lay there, lips still tinted with her own blood, face pale, eyes sunken in. Not days before she smiled as a butterfly landed on her arm but so quickly her body and mind became toxic. His fists clench as he fights the tears welling up, the flames consume his child, devouring her tainted body happily as he watches, unable to tear his gaze away from the gruesome scene. As the fire dies away the anger takes the place of his grief, his dark eye goes to the over cast sky and he makes a silent vow to the gods above to wreck the people that destroyed his child.

He turns and snatches the letter from the ground, the dampness making the words run. “Tullo with me, Elders you’re in charge. If I do not return in two week, slaughter the visitor. Traditions be damned, they have wrecked us and I want to destroy them. Our guest does not leave, do not mistreat him but show him the kindness you think he and his barbarians deserve.”

Tullo follows close behind the seething chief, they pack little and head out, Black Flame at Urzoth’s side while Tullo has his matching short swords with ancient runes carved onto the blade and amber from far off lands in the guard. The two men cross the land quickly, making for the meeting place with speed, Urzoth using his hate and anger to fuel him as he goes while Tullo struggles to keep up with him. Night falls but they march on, torches lighting their way, by dawn they can hear the rushing of rivers and by sunrise they are in their enemies camp. Urzoth throws the letter at the commander’s feet. “I grant your whore queen’s request. You have two weeks before your king is slaughtered without mercy or hesitation.” The man nods.

“Best be getting to the Keep then.” He escorts Urzoth and Tullo to a carriage and while the chief scoffs at the idea he and his companion clamber in to be rushed off. Tullo sleeps for half the journey while Urzoth keeps watch and when he awakens the chief sleeps, the carriage travels through the night to the city gates where they make camp and wait for day. With the rising of the sun the gates open and they are off, rushed through the empty city streets while the men within the carriage gape at the size and density of the stone buildings, the gates of the Keep creak open and slam shut, Tullo and Urzoth share uneasy glances.

“I don’t like this, Urzoth.”

“I don’t either… Stay close, no matter what they do not separate us.” Tullo nods, the carriage comes to a halt and without waiting Urzoth opens the door and steps out followed by his friend, the doors open and without waiting he marches into the cathedral-esque throne room where Alexandria stands waiting.

“Good morning, sirs,” She speaks pleasantly “Do you come representing the Barbarians.”

“We are not barbarians child,” Urzoth growls “I come in the name of my peaceful people.”

“Who are you to address me as child?” Alexandria demands, getting very tired of being looked down on. “I am the queen of Adderdale.”

“I am Urzoth, wielder of the Black Flame, sword and shield of the Sparrows. Who are you to speak to me, little queen?” Rage tints his voice, Tullo touches his shoulder.

“Urzoth, please. We want peace, recall?” he whispers softly, Urzoth sighs.

“Yes I recall, thank you Tullo.” He looks back at Alexandria “We have come to your keep as guests, and I am very tired. Perhaps some rest then we can speak.”

“Of course, please allow me to personally show you to guest bed rooms.” Alexandria smiled, the false niceness noticed by the two men.

“One room.” Urzoth corrects, “We only need one room.” Alexandria’s eyes widen in shock and horror while unsettled whispers rise from the observers.

“Oh, of course. One room.” She smiles “I’ll show you to your rooms, sirs.” She manages to hold back the disgust and judgment that floods her mind and heart with the request. The walk to the room is tense and silent, no one willing to break it with more words. Alexandria motions to a lone door and smiles at them “Here you are, sirs. Please rest, you may call upon me if you wish. I’ll send word to you when dinner is ready.”

“Thank you, queen.” Tullo reaches out and opens the door, letting himself in before Urzoth follows, slamming the door shut and locking it behind him. The entrance is a small room with a large round table with a large bouquet in the center, the men look at it and shrug, Tullo goes to the door on the right while Urzoth goes to the door on the left, at the same time the men open their doors.

Tullo’s door reveals an elaborate bathing chamber with a massive copper tub and plenty of scented soaps, plush towels, and two robes; Urzoth’s door on the other hand reveals one large bed with a small fire place. The earthy room is welcoming and warm, the bed calling to them. Urzoth sighs. “So Tullo…” The other man turns and walks over to his companion “Guess we get to share.”

“For the love of the gods!” Tullo curses “I can’t believe this!” He glares at Urzoth who offers him an apologetic half smile.

“Sorry, my friend. But the bed is very large.”

“Oh joy, more room for you to take up.” He rolls his eyes and walks away.

“Where are you going?”

“To the room of stone, I want to see what it does.” Urzoth’s eyebrows come together in confusion and he follows closely. They enter the room and look around, out of the wall is a spigot and two knobs, they look at each other and turn a knob; water flows out, startling the men who quickly turn it off, sharing glances again this time they turn the other and the water flows again. Confused Tullo reaches and let the water run over his hand, “Cold…” He turns it off and turns the other, waiting a moment he sticks his hand under the water before jerking his hand back with a pained gasp “Hot.”

“What is the point of this?” Tullo turns the water off and shakes his head.

“I don’t know… Odd people we’ve found, Urzoth.” The chief nods and looks around the room, finding a plug.

“Look,” he grabs it and drops it in the drain. “Turn on the water now.” Tullo nods and turns on the hot water, the tub begins to fill, steam rising off of it. “Oh, perhaps this is how they bathe?”

“Oh that could be, I haven’t seen a river or anything since we entered the walls.” He sticks his hand in the water and frowns “Too hot.” He turns the cold water on and lets the waters mix filling the tub with warm water. They watch the water fill till just about over flowing before turning the taps and halting the flow, with shared looks of confusion and shrugs they strip down and step into the tub, water spilling over the sides and sloshing onto the floor. They groan and lean against the edges, letting the warm water wash away aches and pains along with dirt and grime. “This is wonderful.”

“Indeed,” Urzoth sighs closing his eyes and relaxing “So much better then river water.” Tullo hums in agreement following his friend’s lead and relaxing.

They stay in the water till it cools and even then they are unwilling to leave it, slowly they stand and climb out, drying off before pulling their clothing back on, leaving the water in the tub and going to their room. The fire has died away to embers and Urzoth crosses the room quickly turning it back into a roaring fire while Tullo goes to investigate the bed, arching an eyebrow at the bed curtains before flopping down on the mattress. “Urzoth.” He speaks into the mattress muffling his voice “Come here and lay down on the bed.”

“What?”

“Come here and lay down!” Tullo yells into the mattress unwilling to adjust the way he is laying down. Urzoth stands and walks over to the bed before following Tullo’s lead and laying down.

“Gods above this is nice.”

“No wonder these people are so self centered, if I had to defend things like this I would be took.” Urzoth chuckles and but the joy is short lived as the memory of he and his child laughing and laying around the in the sun crash into his heart leaving him sad and angry.

“Enough, let us sleep. Tullo do you want first watch?”

“Yeah, you took it in the wheely thing.” Tullo stands up and pulls a chair closer to the fire while Urzoth lays down, pulling the bed curtains shut for some privacy. He is asleep for hours while Tullo attempts not to doze off in the warm, dimly lit room, when he finally awakens he smiles finding his friend sleeping in the chair.

“Tullo,” The man nearly jumps out of his skin “Sleep, my friend.”

“Oh, yeah, thanks Urzoth.” The chief nods while his friend crawls into bed to sleep, but before Tullo could even close his eyes a knock echos in the room, Urzoth opens the door, revealing a young maid.

“Her Grace asked me to inform you that dinner is being served. If you would like I can escort you to her dinning chambers.” The men exchang glances before nodding and allowing the woman to escort them through the twisting keep to the small personal dinning chamber of the queen, she leaves them standing outside the door and the two men quietly debate about knocking or entering before Urzoth disregards Tullo’s suggestion of knocking and barges in, startling Alexandria and making her drop her spoon back into her bowl with a loud clang.

“Welcome, sirs.” She smiles and stands “Please come join me. The soup was just served.” The two men quickly join her, sitting at her dinning table allowing the servants to place delicate looking bowls in front of them. “I trust the room is to your liking?” She sits down and returns to eating.

“Yes, though it only has one bed.” Alexandria gives them a puzzled look before realization dawns on her.

“Oh! Forgive I assumed…” Her face goes red when the men gave her questioning glances “Forgive me, would you like another room?”

“No, we will not stay long.” Alexandria nods “Let us discus what you asked us here to discuss.”

“Of course, if you desire that.” Urzoth gives her a look suggesting she is trying his patience. “I would like you to return my husband and leave these lands.”

“And what would I get in return of him?” Urzoth leans back in his chair.

“I will not send an army to massacre your people.” Alexandria shoots back coolly.

“What more can you do to my people.” Urzoth snaps, Alexandria raises an eyebrow.

“Your husband brought a sickness to my people that has killed most of us.”

“God punishes the sinful.” Tullo’s gaze shoots to Urzoth, the man’s face turns bright red and he stands quickly,so fast he knocks the chair backwards.

“Your god would kill innocent women, innocent children! Your-”

“God punishes those that do not follow his teachings!” Alexandria screams back.

“Your god, your god stole the life of my child! Your god stole the life of the innocent! He is just as barbaric as you! Bring your war, I’ll not falter. I will slaughter anyone you send for your king.” Urzoth rises followed by Tullo and Alexandria.

“Guards!” The queen shouts and well armed men begin to pour into the room, both barbarians draw their weapons but both recognize that it will be a losing fight as more and more men fill the small room. “To the dungeons with these barbarians.”

“Two week.” Tullo hastily throws out there while trying to come up with an escape plan for he and his friend, the guards slow and exchange confused glances.

“Eleven days.” Urzoth corrects, locking eyes with Alexandria “eleven days before your husband dies.”

“What?”

“If I and Tullo are not returned to our people in eleven days they will slaughter your husband and vanish into the highlands.” Alexandria grits her teeth but relents.

“Let them go.”

“But Your Gr-”

“I said let them go!” She screams “Know this Urzoth wielder of the Black Flame, sword and shield of the Sparrows, you are standing in the way of my happily ever after and I will not stand for it.”

“Send your army, child. I will send them to the gods.” Urzoth sheaths the serpentine blade and Tullo hides away his silver short swords. The guards part and allow them to leave, the two men making great haste out of the keep and walled city.

“Urzoth you fool!” Tullo screams shoving his friend hard, nearly toppling the man. “How stupid are you? We could have just returned that fucking man and been done with this! He would have given us sanctuary! Gods damn you to misery, you idiot!”

“I’m trying t-”

“To do whats best for the people? Then send him home!” Urzoth sighs and hangs his head “You let your anger get the best of you, and now we will all perish.”

“Maybe that’s what I wanted…” He mumbles, Tullo does a double take.

“You are not my friend, you are not my chief, and you are not my sword and shield.” Urzoth looks up, hurt and fearful “You are a sad, angry impostor thinking of no one but himself. Lana is gone, so many of us are gone, you are not the only one who lost something Urzoth. That was our chance, our way to mourn and bring peace to our people.”

“We can still have that.”

“How, Urzoth? How! You told that woman to send her army! Told you, you’d slay her husband! There is no going back!” Tullo sighs and closes his eyes, taking a deep breath.

“I’ll send him home.” Tullo opens his eyes, “but first I need to send her a message.”

“Let’s return to the city gates, perhaps the guard will be willing.” The chief nods and they quickly run up to the guard house, knocking on the door and drawing out a squire.

“We need your help, I have made a grave mistake.” Urzoth reaches through the door and takes a piece of paper and a pencil, then clumsily scrawles out his message. “Please take this to the queen, with all haste.” The boy takes it hesitantly but runs off toward Adderdale Keep, note in hand while the men again began to jog home.

The boy enters the throne room just as Alexandria is dismissing everyone, he runs up to her note in hand “Your Grace! Your Grace! The barbarians send word to you from the gate!” She snatches the note from his hand and opens it, reading the scrawl with great difficulty:

Queen of the land,

I, Urzoth chief of the Sparrows, have made a grave mistake. I will return your king promptly as I have not the men or money for a war with a kingdom such as yours.

The wielder and guardian of the Sparrows

She frowns and crumples the letter, tossing it into a brass brazier letting it burn away. “Call Sir Eastland! The crown is under threat!” She sounds panicked and scared, the men scramble and soon Sir Eastland is back in the walls of Adderdale Keep after having his plans to return home squashed by a mysterious note. “Sir Eastland, thank you for returning.”

“Your Grace,” He nods to her, so suddenly allies “What is it the note said?”

“Well meeting with him he said he’d slaughter James,” She sniffles, holding back tears “Then he leaves and sends word that when he returns to his barbarians in the west that James will die! Oh Sir Eastland,” She cries, throwing herself into his hesitant arms “You must save him! You must save James from that man!”

“I will Your Grace.” He offers awkwardly while pushing her away before they can get caught in what could appear to be an intimate embrace. “I will take my men and leave this night, we will crush them and save the king.”

“Thank you, thank you Sir Eastland!” He nods again and takes a step away from her “How can we ever thank you?”

“You, personally, can thank me by never laying a hand upon me.” He grumbles “I am a happily married man.”

“Oh,” Her face turns red “F-forgive me, Sir Eastland. I had heard that-”

“You heard wrong.” He snaps, “My wife is a beautiful woman and I’ll not risk her love over you. Keep yourself to your king.” She nods, hanging her head sadly.

“Y-You won’t mention my desperation to James will you?” She asks, looking up at him with wet eyes.

“I will, because I will not have secrets between me and my king.” He turns on his heels and walks out the door, letting it slam behind him.

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