As Tharon continues his adventure, Talius’ proposition finds him against the very officers that keep the peace at the city. An officer, Robard, has been letting thugs into the city. Someone has to stop this man’s actions. And this someone, is Tharon!
June 5, 1266 CE, Praven, Late at night
A strange vision
I couldn’t sleep that night. It was maybe the things that could happen the next day? We could end up in jail, locked up in chains… Or we could be dead. Or it was Catelyn? Man, Fendrel was right… A woman like this… The perfect match. The worst part was that in either of these cases, there was nothing I could do. Since sleep couldn’t get me, I decided to take a walk. I took my cloak and a small dagger just in case. I stepped outside. A cold booze made me chill a little. A started walking. There were no stars in the sky.
“There were no clouds today…” I thought to myself. “Why can’t I see the stars?”
Suddenly, I saw a figure kneeling beside the road examining something. I came closer.
“Who are you?” I shouted when I approached.
The man stood and looked at me with a face that I was not going to forget.
His eyes were from pure gold, glowing. His beard was white, and he was wearing pitch black cloak. He came close to me. For an unknown reason, I could do nothing when he came near me. I couldn’t move. He showed me his hands, covered in blood. There was nobody around. The man looked at me right in the eye. With terror, I saw him opening his cloak, showing me his chest. He was bleeding from a wound, right in his heart. But his face did not betray fear nor pain.
His look was… emotionless. He kept looking me, his wound still pouring blood, spilling it to the ground. Voices in my head started calling my name. Some were familiar. I heard my mother and father… I heard Talius calling me and the voice of Fendrel. But something was off.
“Tharon!” I heard the imperative voice of Fendrel.
I looked to the man again, but he vanished, nowhere to be seen and now, I was alone in the middle of the city.
“Tharon! It’s getting late!” I heard his voice again. A force knocked me off and I lied on the ground hitting my back. My eyes closed from the pain. When I opened them, I was in my room? I saw Fendrel above me, looking me with a strange look on his face.
“I just had a really bad dream” I explained, although I couldn’t believe it.
“So, why are you dressed and why is there blood in your dagger?” I stood and looked at myself… Fendrel was right, I was wearing the same clothes as last night and I was holding my dagger, which was covered in blood.
I didn’t have any wound on my body, so I was certain it was not mine.
“I will explain” I said to him, while he was still looking suspiciously at me.
“As you said we are going to be late. Are the men up?” I asked.
“Yes, they are getting ready”.
“We are not going to use any plate armor. We need to be swift and silent. And short swords only”.
Fendrel nodded and left. I tried to occupy my mind with other things from this dream or whatever it was. I had to focus. My father always used to say to me, when he trained me, that I had to always focus at one thing at a time, especially in battle, or I could end up with a knife in my back, both metaphorically and literately.
June 5, 1266 CE, Praven, Before Dawn
I met the men in the entrance of the inn. The sun was about to rise behind the mountains. We had to move quickly, before the people of Praven wake up. I looked at them. This was our first actual battle, against real soldiers, not bandits. We soon arrived at the North Gate, where Talius and his men were waiting. He had equipped them the way I did. Short swords and light armor. Talius himself was about to join the battle. Together our men were exactly twenty two.
“One of my men reported that the captain is meeting right now some bandits. If we catch him red handed, we will have an excuse for his death”.
We marched there, going from a route that led to the city walls, in order to be able to spy from there, just above the barracks, we couldn’t afford to raise the alarm, because if we did, the whole garrison would be upon us. We spotted the crooked captain Robard, just outside the city gate, talking to some of the bandits. He had with him some soldiers and some others, maybe officers of Praven’s army. Around thirty men, all together.
“The collaborators” I said to Talius, pointing at the men beneath us.
Robard and his collaborators
He didn’t say anything. As it seems, the problem was much bigger than he expected. If the crooked captain was one guy only, we could handle this, but other officers too? This could easily get out of hand.
“On my signal” he said. “I’ll move downstairs with my men. Did you bring the rope?”.
I showed the rope and the hooks.
“Very good. You will climb down the walls, as we will approach from the ground”.
He looked around. The sun rays were visible from the east, but there was still darkness around us.
“The dark will prevent you from being spotted. Good luck Tharon. May the Heavens grant us victory”.
Soon, Talius was in position. Most of my men had climbed down the wall.
“So far so good” I thought to myself.
After everyone was on the ground, we silently approached them. For our good luck, a morning mist covered the whole city. This could make our work a lot easier.
“Oliver” I said.
“Take Merek, Carac and Ulric and run ahead. They must not escape at the plain. We must have them completely surrounded. No one must survive”.
He smiled, in a way of a naive man would smile when they are told to kill people and he run ahead with the men. We moved more, until we could hear the conversation between Robard and the bandit. It appears that he was a chief, ready to make a big job into town. The bank of Praven maybe, I am not sure about what I heard. But Robard was about to help him and in return a huge amount of gold would fall into his hands.
“Spread out” I told Fendrel, Quintin and Hadrian, the men who were with me.
“And pick your targets. Before the battle begins, we must even the odds”.
We had the time to spot them in the mist. They didn’t notice anything about us being there. We waited. We didn’t know what the signal would be, but Talius was the one to order the attack. Suddenly, an arrow was shot, hitting the chief bandit at the back of his head, dropping him down in the ground pouring blood from his mouth.
“Now men!” I shouted. The men sneaked behind the enemy soldiers and cut their throats. Several men dropped dead. Robard took out his longsword. His men took defensive positions. Some of them had spears and some others, shields. We appeared from the mist, like ghosts, like spirits from the dead. We saw them tremble in fear. Robard, however, managed to identify Talius.
“You! You always sneak in my business! I was wondering when you will appear from the shadows, to face me like a man. But truth to be told, you were never a warrior”.
“That’s right” Talius answered. “That’s why I brought some help”.
Oliver and the men appeared behind them, as I was stepping forward too.
“So, how it’s going to be, Robard? Easy or hard way?”.
“Screw you, you son of a whore. You have no idea why I do this! When you and the League of Merchants swim in your pools of gold, what is left for us, for the protectors of this realm? We never asked for anything, but for some bloody gratitude! But as it seems, our good king Harlaus, does not seem to even care about us!”.
“That does not mean that you have the right to betray your people, go behind their back, collaborating with the worst of its enemy” I said to Robard.
“How can you know? I do not know you, and I imagine you are not even from here. Calradia was meant to be a just land. But with this corruption, the disputes between the realms… You know Harlaus used to be a good king. But power and gold, make people corrupt. I had no choice Talius! And now you give no choice but kill you too! Men get them!”.
Oliver, let out a scream and rushed to the enemy, slashing and hacking, with the men behind him. Talius and his men charged too. Because Robard was surrounded, he would try to find a way out. I was there to hold him. Several men came towards us, pointing their swords and spears. We were engaged in battle now. I pierced one through the stomach and opened in two some other’s skulls. Fendrel was handling the situation really well. I turned to Robard, looking for him on the battlefield. We were winning the battle, but some men had gained some wounds. One of ours was lying dead too. I spotted Robard. He was slashing through one of our men. He then turned and looked at me. Looking around him, he saw the desperate situation of his men. He then turned and started running. I chased him immediately.
“Talius! Talius! We must stop him!” I shouted. Talius had two archers with him.
“Get him boys! Shoot him down! Shoot!”.
They started firing at him. One arrow hit him in the knee.
“I am Tharon! Do not shoot!” I shouted.
“We got him at the knee! He is wounded” they said to me as I surpassed them.
I nodded. I passed the city gates, searching for Robard. Suddenly, I sensed danger from my side. I ducked, just in time, as a javelin was passing over my head. I turned and saw the wounded Robard, with three of his men covering him. Scouting my surroundings, I saw a spear nearby and took it.
Robard ‘s Last Stand
“Hm, I like the odds” I said to Robard, taunting him. He barked a command at his soldiers, and they attacked. As the first was charging, I threw my spear piercing all the way through his torso, which send him flying backwards. The other two stood stunned for a second, which proven to be fatal for them. Moving rapidly forward, I slashed the one’s neck and opening, with a second blow, the others stomach. He fell on the ground, holding his insides from coming out. I turned to Robard. His breath was heavy, as he was losing a lot of blood from the arrow wound. I let my sword to the ground.
“I do not kill unarmed men” said Robard.
“There is a first time for everything” I said sarcastically. With fury, in a last desperate attempt, he charged, with his longsword raised. I moved to the right, avoiding his attack. I hit him right in his wound. He screamed in pain and went to his knees. His longsword fell from his hand. He looked at me.
“You are good” he said. I picked up my sword.
“So I’ve been told”.
“Give me a clean death. A death fit to a soldier” he requested.
“Although you do not deserve it…” I replied and went behind him. “May you find peace now, though you never found it in this world”.
I plunged my sword in his neck and his back. I managed to hear his last words.“Thank you…” he said.
“Rest in peace”.
June 5, 1266 CE, Praven, Morning
The battle was over. All our foes were lying dead. Well, some of them were just wounded, but Oliver made a quick job with them. I lost one man to the fight, while three were injured. Two of Talius’ men died in the fight, while several of his men, including him, took some nasty wounds. But the job was done. Because soon the people of Praven would wake up, we took the bodies in a place just outside of the city and burned them. Our men were buried in a place elsewhere, nearby the town’s cemetery. After all that, we returned to the city.
“It is done” I said to Talius. He was sitting down on the street, tired. His clothes and sword were covered in blood.
“I had ten years to grab a sword and fight. Gods, I am getting old” he said, smiling, at me. I sat down beside him.
“What are you going to do now?”
“Well, I will report my actions to King Harlaus. I didn’t act on his command, but I pray that he will listen to reason” he said. “What will you do?”
That was a good question which I had no answer, so I raised my shoulders.
“I do not know. I didn’t have a plan, when I set foot on Calradia. Maybe I will become a mercenary, who knows”.
“Whatever is that you do” said Talius standing up, “I wish you good luck”.
He opened his arms. I stood up and gave him a firm hug.
“Thank you, son, for everything”.
Then Talius gathered his men and left. I was left alone, with my men, in the middle of the street. We heard the people of the city waking up.
“Alright, break is over. Let’s get the hell out of here”.
June 5, 1266 CE, Praven, Night
As I once wrote, I am an agnostic. This things with religions, did not really get on me. But after that… This is the first time I encounter something like that… I broke my head to explain it. I couldn’t handle it myself. If it were a dream everything would be alright. But why I was wearing my cloak? Why I was holding my dagger, and more especially, why it was covered in blood? I was wondering around the city. At some point I stopped. A temple was in front of me, dedicated to some god of the region. I climbed up the stairs. Once I was in, I was amazed by the marvelous architecture. All these well-crafted sculpts and statues, the lively paintings on the walls. All so perfect, so well formed. It inspired balance, stability.
My thoughts were interrupted by a man, and as I correctly thought a priest of this temple.
“It is your first time here, isn’t it?” he asked me. I tried to see his face, but it was well-hidden under his big hood. I could not read his expressions.
“Yes, it is” I answered.
“What is that you seek from Hefratha, the god of wisdom, whom his mind is great?” he asked me, pointing out every single word that he said.“Nice propaganda over there” I thought in my mind.
“I am haunted by a nightmare. I hope that you may help me” I said at last.
“Do you believe?” he asked me, catching me off guard.
“I believe in myself” I answered, satisfied with my answer. The priest laughed silently, but I was able to tell. Then he opened a door behind him.
“Come” he said. “The Seer awaits”.
I stepped inside. Once I saw the man who were the Seer, I said to myself that I would never be involved to a religion again. What a gruesome site! A mutilated man, with no eyes, more bone than skin… He was more dead than alive. The Seer pointed a chair. I sat in front of him.
“What is that you want?”
“An answer” I said.
I told him about my dream and the peculiar bleeding man. He was seemed to be thinking. After a short period of silence, he spoke.
“You encountered the Angel of Death” said the Seer. I was stunned by the revelation.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“That he travels with you, he accompanies you to your journeys. You, my boy… You will bring death to Calradia…”.