It’s bittersweet that this story ends, but I look forward to working on other things.

 

War and Aftermath

At dawn the drums of war beat loudly, impatient foot soldiers shift and wait for Sir Eastland’s command while mounted knights steady their beasts and prepare for the charge. Across the cold foggy field stands the Sparrow’s camp, quiet with the stench of the dead, the dying, and the burned wafting through the thick morning air. Urzoth sits in his tent, head against his breast, Black Flame on his lap, face grave, eyes shut as he listens to the drums outside. “They’re coming for you, you know.” He looks up at James who still has his eyes closed but has been awake for a few minutes “They’re coming and they wont leave till we’re dead.”

“No,” James rasps, startling the chief “Just return me and-” War cries ring out and Urzoth stands swiftly, exiting the tent ignoring the cries from his guest “Urzoth! Urzoth wait!”

The battle is short and bloody, war cries turn to the death moans as the drums fall silent once again, by night fall the few remaining Sparrows are hidden within the camp, only short bursts of movements to give them away for the short amount of time they move. The night is tense, but as dawn reaches the river valley Sir Eastland is in no mood to wait. “Forward, march!” He screams out, his men begin a fast approach and quickly over come the chief, and his few fighters left, slaughtering them with ease. Blades sinking in and withdrawing repeatedly while Urzoth fights to take as many with him as he can, Tullo screams but it turns into a gurgle as a blade slides across his throat and Margon’s voice is cut short with a blow to the side of his head, scattering bone and brain everywhere. Three cheers rise up as James hobbles out of his tent, too late to save the few remaining Sparrows. Blood stains the earth a dark brown, bodies lay with eyes frozen in fear, mouths gaping in screams cut short; James falls to his knees and shakes his head “No.” he whispers “No. No! NO!” He screams, pounding the ground in anger.

The action and screaming quickly draw Sir Eastland to him “Your Grace! Thank god!”

“What…” James looks up at him shaking his head “Why? Why did you do this? They… They were going to let me leave!” His voice is sad and desperate.

“For you.” The blunt answer cuts deeper then any knife.

“For… For me…” James looks at the dead, tears rolling down his cheeks he begins to laugh. “This wasn’t for me.” He finally whispers.

He men give him little time, they pull him to his feet and quickly escort him to a waiting horse, his wounds are tender but the seemingly haphazard, mead soaked bandages hold fast. Two of his knights ride up, one taking the reigns and the other waiting patiently “Take him back to our camp quickly.” Sir Eastland orders, they nods and the three horses take off, kicking up blood soaked earth and trampling the dead.

“Don’t!” James calls but it does not matter as they stampede from the horrible massacre. As they leave the camp James looks over his shoulder and hangs his head seeing Urzoth’s freshly severed head piked before the Sparrow’s camp while his soldiers are beginning to pile up bodies and set them ablaze. “Stop! I order you to stop!” The horses slow to a stop.

“What is it Your Grace?” One knight asks, watching as James attempte to slide from the horse.

“This-This!” James manages to slide from the horse, hitting the ground with a loud snap and scream of agony, yet he still manages to stand, balancing on one foot to keep the pain at bay. “Who ordered this!” He screams looking at the camp slowly burning to ash as Sir Eastland and his men begin to collect and log everything for the royal library.

“Queen Alexandria, Your Grace.” The knight answers simply.

“My wife?” He turns, disbelief scrawled on his features. “Why?”

“For you.”

“For me. For me.” he shakes his head and looks back at the man “This was not done for me. She didn’t ask for this for me.”

“Your Grace, please get back on the horse,” The second knight sighs “You’re safe now, you can get the medical attention you need.”

“Safe? SAFE?” He looks at the camp “They just wanted a home, they wanted to live, my safety? I was in no danger with them.”

“Your Grace, they were barbarians, they would have killed you.”

“You call them barbarians, but aren’t we the ones that killed them all?” James sighs, knowing this conversation will go no where. “They’re all dead, so why rush back to our camp…”

“Your Grace?”

“I want to see the camp one more time.” James insists.

“But Sire, its up in flames, it would-”

“I want to see!” James snaps, losing his patience. The two knights exchange glances “I am your king and I order you to escort me back to the camp!” He turns and looks at them, they slowly nod before sliding from their horses and helping James back into his saddle before guiding his horse back to the village. The scene is grave, tents are sliced open, body parts lay scattered about, weapons are already being logged in Sir Eastland’s journal as they are found, one soldier lifts Urzoth’s sword, his severed hand still gripping the hilt. “You there!” The soldier flinches and drops the blade, sending it to the ground with a dull thud, shaking the hand free. “Hand that to me.”

“But Your-”

“Give me the fucking sword you insufferable fool!” James screams.

“It belongs to Sir Eastland, Your Grace!” The man yells back out of desperation.

“Eastland can live without this sword. Hand it here.” The soldier looks to Eastland who just nods before leaning down and lifting the blade to his king, James takes it and looks to the knights with him. “Now we may return to camp.” The knights nod and escort James back to the low wooden walls of the Adderdale camp, James keeps the sword close the whole time, unable to find reason to part with it even when Eastland requests to see it. The medics and healers come to his aid as the two knights help from the horse, supporting his weight on their shoulders and carrying him into a large tent with healers following. James lays down and sighs as the weight is taken completely off his legs and arms, a healer kneels down an examines the bandaging before pulling a small silver knife and running it under the rags and pealing them way “Remarkable…” The man whispers as he sets the knife aside to examine the gashes and bruises.

“Remarkable?” Eastland scoffs stepping into the tent “Nothing those barbarians did was remarkable.” The healer remains silent as he cuts away the other set of rags revealing James’s broken leg.

“You say that but Urzoth told me you met with him, Tullo and Margon.” James grits out through clenched teeth as the healer prods at the bruising.

“Of course I did, what kind of man would I be if I didn’t?” Eastland shrugs off the king’s words.

“You call them unremarkable, but the craftsmen ship they show in everything is beyond even the more seasoned men we have.” James shoots back, glaring at the military commander who just shrugs.

“To each their own, you can call them remarkable, I for one do not agree but that doesn’t make you or I wrong.”

“His leg is broken.” The two knights exchange worried glances

“How did you break your leg?” Eastland arches an eyebrow.

“I jumped off my horse.” The commander sighs and shakes his head.

“Get him patched up, we stay put till you say we can safely move him.” The medic goes to work, carefully setting the bone before bracing the leg with wood and wrapping it with more rags. Within three days the camp stops burning, James see to it that all Sparrow bodies are burned and while some of his men think it is an act of vengeance James holds the secret hope that the spirits of his greatest teachers are free to be in the stars with their loved ones.

When all is said and done they march back to Adderdale Keep, Black Flame wrapped in leather and safely kept with James the whole ride. The keepias a sight for sore eyes though the woman standing before the door waiting for him is like a stranger. She smiles as he rides up, waits patiently as his men help him from his horse, and is horrified as the hobbled James shrugs off her attempts to be affectionate; glaring at Sir Eastland before following him into the throne room, sword still held in his hands. “James?”

“Leave me.” He mutters, glaring at her.

“What’s wrong, James?” She walks up and places a delicate hand on his shoulder only to have him pull away.

“You are not who you pretend to be.” He looks her up and down and gives a disgusted snort “How could I have ever loved a woman such as you.” She takes a step back, lower lip trembling.

“What are you saying James? I’m me,” She looks into his eyes trying to decipher the true meaning of his words but all she finds is cold hate and distrust “James?”

“I said leave me.” He turns from her, unable to take her tears even after everything her actions and words caused.

“Where should I go?”

“Go back to Breadon’s Sanctuary, you are not welcome here, war monger.”

“James please don’t do this!” she begs, tears rolling down her pale cheeks “I’m your wife.”

“And you will remain with that title but I am out of love for you.”

“You’re tearing me apart, James, please!” She grabs his arm and shakes him, attempting to force him to look at her “please tell me what’s going on!” He jerks away and steps out of her reach.

“I’ll tell you whats going on! You instigated a war that lead to massacre of good people!” He roars.

“They were godless barbarians! Invaders to our lands, they couldn’t be trusted! James please, see it from my side.” She steps toward him.

“I can’t see it from your side if you can’t see it from mine.” He turns away from her again. “Guards! Escort my wife to our rooms, help her pack, and send her away. I can’t bring myself to look at her.”

“This isn’t how its supposed to go!” Alexandria screams, recoiling from the guards touch “You’re supposed to love me, we’re supposed to be happy!Why are you doing this James!”

“Because you killed people! You killed them even though you knew they would return me!”

“That was Sir Eastland’s call!” She yells back, feigning innocence.

“Sir Eastland awaited your orders, and even after learning of the state of their camp you still ordered six hundred men to invade, wipe them out, and bring me home.”

“I did it for you!”

“For me, for me, for me! Is that all anyone can say anymore! Get her out of my sight!” This time the guards do not let the woman escape them, they grab her upper arms and pull her from the throne kicking and screaming through the halls to her bedroom, there they pack her belongings and escort her and Ella out of the keep, into an awaiting carriage and rush her back to her home. Her last view of the Keep features James watching the carriage pull away with a deep set frown on his handsome features and the over whelming sense of dread at the idea of being returned to her parents.

The return journey is no shorter then the ones she took as a child, only this time when she reaches her home her stomach has begun to swell, urgent letters are sent to Adderdale Keep but all are returned unopened with a message scrawled across them reading The great king, James Gordon Hayden the third, has politely refused your letter. Bills and the like are to be sent to Lord Markus Sinclair of the treasury. No further contact will be allowed. The king is good to his word, all of her letters, her pleas for forgiveness, her requests for him to see his child go unopened and are returned without comment, soon the letters dwindle then stop altogether. Her every whim is taken care of, her child wants for nothing, and she smiles at him for the child is her last little peace of the family she always wanted.

In the halls of Adderdale keep, the serpentine sword hangs on a marble wall, the last relic of a people no longer within the realm of the living and the last testament to a marriage devoid of love and understanding; above the sword of the great and peaceful people its name- Black Flame -and behind the great sword of a great man, carved by experts, the story of how the sword came to rest in the halls of Adderdale Keep as it will be told by future generations:

Once upon a time two countries were locked in fierce warfare, Adderdale to the west and Breadon to the east; these two kingdoms fought for generations till an oracle foretold of a son and daughter, bonded in marriage and bringing peace to the war weary lands. For two years the prediction went unheeded till a prince was born in Adderdale’s royal halls and just a few months later a princess was born in Breadon’s royal sanctuary, immediately the swords and shields were set aside and plans were made for the countries to become one nation under the rule of their children.

Over the years the two children grew close, sharing many precious moments and other not so precious moments, while the kingdoms fawned over the handsome Prince James and the lovely Princess Alexandria. Finally on the eve of the lovely princess’s twenty-first birthday they were wed in a beautiful ceremony hosted in the royal sanctuary in Breadon with a large, happy feast following. At dawn on her birthday the newly weds climbed into an opulent carriage, paraded through a celebrating city, and began the return journey to the halls of Adderdale Keep for their honey moon.

The few months before everything crumbled around them were sweet, full of loving touches and happy smiled but with the king’s death and an invasion from the west the smiles faded and true natures were revealed. After the body count stopped rising, after the great King James the third recovered; the marriage, long foretold to bring peace, did just that. The two kingdoms never saw a war between them again though a rift formed between the once loving couple that could not be repaired. The princess with her child were sent back to the sanctuary from whence she came, never to feel the love of her husband again.

The family line of the Haydens died away the throne fell to the great king’s bastard daughter, born to a tavern wench. The Haydens, who burst into the pages of history with a loud battle cry, fell from the memory of mortal man with not but a whisper.

The End

Advertisements