“Strike me down, Knight, and there’ll be war.” – One of the Rebeus Manus leaders
“You know nothing of war, boy.” – Paere de Laerne’s reply.
His name is Paere Laerne. He stands taller then even most Farin men, and his skin is blacker then the best of them. But his Charali heritage is forever marked by those pale blue eyes of his, cutting through the windswept sand as he and his seven companions move through the valley. His face is covered in many fresh scars, and even older ones, a testament to his rather violent life in the city of Toolktal, overlooking a mass expanse of sand and ancient battlefields. Unsheathed is a sword, but his preferred weapon, a flail, hangs from his belt. He’s only sixteen years old.
They called it the Border March, those days. And them? They were the Thirteenth Battalion.
He isn’t even the leader of the group. It was Queron le Mikko who leads the company, a Knight Templar, bearing the Sword of the Isles, a gift from Tubor’s duchess. He’s of the islands himself, his own skin sunkissed enough that he could pass off as a Daravi. He wears his long hair back in braids, tied in a tail. His unblemished and smooth face is schooled into an emotionless mask, that the giant half Fariner tries to emulate. On his back is a longbow and a quiver with arrows, and his peircing green eyes stick to the skies, for a reason unknown to his companions.
With them is an Errant, not of Sir le Mikko’s. Jaafs Preston’s knight died a fortnight ago to a fever. The Farin is just as tall as Paere is, and just a little broader at the shoulders. Still, the man keeps an eye on Laerne’s blade as the other Fariner shows him sword techniques. He is quiet, reserved, and eventually his eyes leave the blue eyed giant to check on another of their companions, one of the Knights who lost an eye in a Daravi ambush just days before. A rapier is the weapon he favors.
Flanking Sir le Mikko is Krahmen Ohron. Another Farin, or at least he tells his friends that. They can’t know his Daravi heritage. They can’t know he’s been feeding information to the company’s scout, who in turn slinks back and informs the band of Daravi soldiers that’s been tracking them their future movements. They can’t know because one of them he actually cares about. Krahmen loves Paere the way a man loves a woman. He asked the Archmage Abaddon that the pale-eyed giant be spared. His spear rests on his shoulder as he watches his dearest of friends.
The other three in the company, the one eyed Sir Rythiel ab Shangril, known for his huge axe and his prowess in battle, Sir Rydell ab Rache, bearer of the Shield of Savir, and Sir Rythiel’s son and squire, Orion Shangril, trudge on to the right of the group, Orion singing an epic ballad of Sir le Mikko’s exploits. Any other Tubori man would be cheerfully modest, or a jovial boast. But the Lord Templar just flicks his gaze over, the only sign of appreciation or disapproval a single twitch of his lip. And then, he finally speaks, his words clipped and so toneless he lacks even an accent.
“Something is wrong.”
Krahmen’s heart stops at his words. The Tubori Templar’s keen eyes flick to the left, and then it happens. An arrow flies from somewhere in the distance, lifting up into the air. The group immediately seems to scatter, save for the one eyed giant of a Knight, Sir Rythiel. Standing even taller then Paere, he doesn’t notice the arrow at all until it enters his shoulder, and even then, his face remains in its perpetual scowl as his hand reaches up and crushes the shaft.
“Davless heathens,” the brute of a Knight growls, just before another arrow flies and catches his forearm. Still, his horse turns. “Lance!”
Orion is quick, dismounting his own horse and bringing his father a rather large and unwieldy lance, one with a flared shaft, the tip pointed with an exotic Vavardi herb often used as a poison. It must serve the brute well as he rides off, because all they hear over the dunes are screams.
Krahmen curses in Farin under his breath as his spear is unshouldered. He told them to save the ambush for another night. But now they attack. The Archmage will forgive him for doing what he will have to do.
“Sirr dsir! Sirr dsir arr!” Kill them. Kill them all. This Daravi warcry comes in the opposing direction of the arrows being fired, and Krahmen’s eyes trail that way. The Squire begins his dance. The arrows are deflected by him, one by one, a technique he mastered not by focusing on combat, but by watching the women in the village he was raised. His dance brings him closer to Paere, and he looks over to see if he’s — where is he?
And then he sees his fellow squire, already charging the ambushers. His flail is out, crushing them underneath him, the massive weapon wielded with such ease the Daravi boy can’t help but stop to admire.
“Krahmen, get your mind in the battle,” is the instruction from his master, the seasoned Templar that is Sir le Mikko. His mind snaps back to it, and he moves for the Templar’s back, turning to defend it from, well, nothing. Better that the clever Tubori think he’s trying to save him then he’s avoiding killing his comrades. His eyes flick over to Laerne, however. Sir ab Rache is there, knocking a blade away with his shield and then cutting through foes with his sword.
Jaafs had been overwhelmed by multiple foes, and he and Orion began smacking them away with their blades, but Krahmen watches as Rythiel’s son falls to a scimitar, that cuts through his shoulder and into his collarbone. Jaafs lets out a cry of anguish, but fells his fellow’s killer with a lunge of his blade. A roar in Paere’s direction. Kramen’s eyes draw over to see Sir Rydell stagger back blindly, a handaxe’s blade lodged in his skull. The Knight gurgles before he falls.
The air suddenly tastes like blood. Sir le Mikko is a brilliant swordsman, a dozen Daravi corpses in his wake, his features impassive, but his eyes draw over Krahmen a moment. It was then that Krahmen realized, when their eyes met, that in that moment, he was found out. His eyes are quick, as they flick over to where Rythiel makes his stand to see if he’s still busy. The brute is, still cutting through those in his way. The finest warrior Krahmen has ever seen. He’ll be an issue later. He shouldn’t have taken his eyes off Mikko, though. He barely parries the blow from the Templar’s sword.
It cuts his spear in half, the Blade of the Isles, so cleanly that it could only be Damascus steel. But Krahmen was taught well. He lunges at his teacher, using both ends of his now halved weapon. Sir le Mikko easily knocks the one capped with the steel blade away, but his pupil counted on that. The wooden jagged break of the other half flies down and meets it’s mark. The weapon is driven into the Tubori’s neck, at the collar.
The Lord Templar’s expression never changes, even as he twists to the side, and in a fluid motion draws his blade across Krahmen’s ribs. The Daravi boy jerks to the side to avoid the blow, but it connects. It won’t be fatal, but it knocks him down. He crawls quickly over to a Daravi felled by the better fighter’s famed sword, stealing up two of the handaxes from the corpse’s belt. He rolls on his back, throws one. Smacked from the air. Throws the other. This too, is deflected with ease. He shoves himself up to a seated position, but his master’s foot finds his chest and pins him.
Krahmen glances about. Jaafs is trying to save Orion, knelt down and pressing his mailed hands to the boy’s wound, to stop the bleeding. Rythiel is hacking away at the fallen Archmage. One master gone. Even as the brute chops the sorcerer to peices, Daravi zealots are behind him, stabbing him with their blades, desperately trying to end the last of the Shangril. And Paere. His sweet Paere is fighting off another Daravi soldier, struggling to keep up with the scimitar wielder’s agility. To look at Paere, though, was to look past Mikko’s side. Where he sees his salvation. Another of his race is charging at the Templar with a pike.
Still, one must admire Mikko’s skill. His wrist flicks once, and his blade removes the pike’s pointed edge. It flicks again, and the soldier is staggering back, holding his throat, having drawn his last breath and being sentenced to live the next few moments painfully before he expires. But the distraction is enough. Krahmen grabs up the corpse he’s been robbing’s blade, and he lifts it quickly, then, driving it through Mikko’s heart as the Tubori champion turns back towards him. They stare at each other in that last moment, before the Knight drops to one knee, Krahmen unable to hold the blade any longer.
“A lowa lo uulowaa.” Those are the last words that slip through Sir Queron le Mikko’s lips, as he falls to the side, onto his back.
“I am a Stone.”