It’s almost midnight. The tall trees of Sharpwood have already turned silent and the wind grows colder by every passing moment. I ride with my brethren. On today’s mission, there’s four of us.
Sir Hoser, Lord Vakrol, Sir Pol, and me, Sir Jaroc.
We ride on the narrow forest path that leads us out from the woods. As I ride, I look at the men riding by my side. I’ve known them since I left my family since I was a boy. They’ve always been with me and now that I think about it, my mind starts flooding with memories. I feel like tearing up, but I suck my emotions back inside. This is not the time to get emotional.
We finally get out of the woods and start riding on the green hills. I can see a tall tower in the distance and countless branches of rivers travelling into the distant lands. Greystream is just ahead of us. It has been a long time since I got this close to the Valnorian border. I can feel my muscles tensing up and my mind building horrific predictions about the future, but I shake them off with ease.
Sir Hoser rides farther away from us. I can see him getting farther and farther until he gets on top of a high hill. He stops and seems to gaze upon the lands he sees. The rest of us slow down and I shout, “Can you see anything?”
Sir Hoser suddenly dismounts and waves at us. He gets down on the ground and brings his hand to his blade.
We glance at each other in confusion, but quickly realize what’s happening. I and Vakrol dismount and run to Hoser with our blades drawn, while Pol remains behind, keeping our horses safe.
I get down onto the ground and smell the wet grass and dirt. I crawl to Hoser and whisper, “What did you see?”
I crawl farther until I see over the hill. There’s a small building with a tower next to it. Torches are burning and I can see a man, dressed in white cloaks and armour, walking around.
Valnorians, I wonder.
“They must have gotten a hint of our past missions,” Vakrol suddenly speaks as he crawls next to me.
“Aye,” Hoser speaks as he stares at the guard with his glassy eyes, “how in the hell can we get past that? If we ride, they’ll hear us.”
I scrab my beard as I wonder the possible solutions. The night is turning darker, so much so that I can barely see Pol when I look back.
“We could speak to them and deal with them quickly and silently,” I say, “after that’s taken care of, we can continue to the city.”
They both nod in agreement and we stand up. Vakrol runs to Pol to tell him about our plan, while I and Hoser start crawling towards the tower.
My cloak turns wet as I drag it on the grass. I can feel the mud covering my clothes as the smell of shit gets into my nostrils. Hoser gets in front of me. He has a dagger in his mouth like the assassin he is.
We’re soon there. The guard that we saw is climbing the tower with a torch. I whistle quietly to Hoser and point at the tower. He nods and stands to crouch. He now skips to the tower and gazes around. He’s on the clear.
I finally get there and I quickly draw my blade. Hoser nods to me as he starts climbing the tower’s stairs. I remain behind, watching for possible reinforcements.
In a moment, I can hear the quiet collapse of the guard. Hoser took care of him. I gaze back at our starting point and see the vague silhouettes of Vakrol crawling towards me.
I sigh in relief and feel my tensed muscles relax a bit. Vakrol makes it to me and we shake hands.
I suddenly hear a whistle from the tower. Hoser looks down at us with a tense emotion on his face, waving towards the buildings near us.
I can hear armoured steps coming towards us and suddenly, all the relief vanishes and my body tenses up again. Vakrol draws his blade as we wait to see the possible foes.
From behind the building, two soldiers come in my view. They don’t seem to notice us at first, but soon, our eyes meet and they draw their blades. They share a look with one another before the other runs off. It’s over.
I sprint to the soldier as Vakrol follows my trail. I swiftly strike him from the right, he blocks my blow and kicks me down. I spit mud out of my mouth and quickly stand up. Vakrol too strikes at the man and manages to get him off his balance, but he too gets downed.
I leap to my foe and strike again, this time with such force he loses his footing. I beat his blade off his hands and place the end of my sword on his throat. I pull Vakrol from the ground as I stare at the man, now raising his hands to surrender.
“Please,” I can hear him cry, but I’m not here for mercy. I pierce his throat with my blade and hear how he coughs blood. His white armour slowly turns red as his blood spills from the wound. Vakrol sighs in relief, but I remain tensed up.
“Jaroc! RUN!”I hear Hoser scream from the tower. The sound of marching soldiers finds itself into my ears and in terror, I see at least ten fully armoured knights running at us.
“Run!” I shout to Vakrol as I grab his shoulder and push him forward. We run to the tower and I urge Vakrol to continue his way to the horses, while I remain behind, waiting for Hoser to get down from the tower.
“Quickly! Get down from there!” I scream, but Hoser doesn’t answer. I take my stand, making sure my feet are on stable ground, but then, I hear him scream,
“Go! I’ll hold them! You know I’m a fast runner!”
He’s right, no matter how much I hated his idea. I was in full armour, while he was wearing leather and cloth. I start running back to our horses, while I hear Hoser screaming his batteries. As I run, I glance back and see him jumping off the tower, onto one of the knights.
He seems hurt and I freeze. For a moment, I can’t move an inch. My body is frozen.
“HOSER!” I scream as I watch him getting stabbed by the knights, even when he jumps around them like the crazy warrior he is. Another stab and he goes down, my heart suddenly breaks into pieces.
I scream from the top of my lungs as I watch him fall onto the ground. My friend, gone because of our arrogant plan.
Hatred fills my body as I cream and run at my foes, but before I get far, I hear Pol shouting my name. I turn around and see him bringing my horse.
“Get on! We must get the hell out of here!”
I take one last glance at Hoser, but when I see some of the knights riding at us on their horses, I climb on mine and ride off.
Vakrol waits for us on the hill. I can see him staring blankly at the bottom of the tower. Pol rides by him and keeps going, while I stop and grab him by the shoulder.
“Come on!” I scream, shaking him with all my strength, “Darnation, he’s already dead! What are you waiting for?”
I can feel tears mixing up with my screams. My body starts feeling increasingly numb and my I feel like collapsing right here and now.
A moment passes and the knights are on us. At least five of them riding with armoured horses. Vakrol finally comes back into life and nods to me, without saying a word.
We ride off and back towards the Sharpwood. I can hear the clattering of their armour as they pursue us. I gaze around, looking for Pol, but I can’t find him. He must have gotten away, I reason as I speed up my mount.
We get into the cover of the tall trees, but our pursuers don’t give up. We ride on the narrowing path with incredible speed. I get increasingly worried about the path’s conditions, for I’ve never ridden this fast here.
A moment passes and I can hear a horse neighing. I glance back and I see a knight falling onto the ground as the horse cries out. One down, four to go.
We keep riding, Vakrol getting past me. I’ve gotten distance from my pursuers and I start feeling like I might survive this night, but then, I see an arrow flying past me. In horror, I glance back and see one of them firing a bow.
Darn archers, such cowards! I curse in my mind as I ride faster and faster.
I see the small river in front of us. I must slow down in order to cross it safely, but I know my pursuers will make use of it. Thus, I keep going as fast as I can.
But as I get to the water, my horse trips and I fly over and onto the ground, hitting my head on the dirt.
My vision turns blurry and the world around me starts twisting and turning in chaotic ways. I slowly get back on my feet and can see Vakrol riding to me, taking me by the hand.
“Come on, Jaroc. Get back on your damn feet!”
I glance back and see now three knights crossing the river. I climb on Vakrol’s horse and we keep going, but before we can get into full speed, an arrow hits our mount and it collapses onto the ground.
We fall off and Vakrol seems to hit his head badly. I quickly get on my feet and pull Vakrol up. I can see his lips being covered in blood and his face in the dirt. He’s not well.
I start walking with him into the forest as the knights close in.
“Are you alright?” I ask Vakrol as I walk with him deeper into the forest.
“I… I can’t… I can’t see a darn thing… Jaroc… I…” he mumbles.
I see a tall tree in front of me. I allow him to take a seat behind it.
After I helped him down, I hear a man saying, “End of the line, you filth!”
I turn and see the three knights with their blades drawn. I unsheath my own and take a defensive stance.
They charge me, striking against me with force. I barely block the blows and manage to redirect their force elsewhere. I swing my blade from the left and hit one of them in the side. He curses and falls on his knees, grabbing his rib.
The remaining two keep striking against me. I raise my blade, but it is too late. A blow comes directly at my core. I can feel my chest being split open and blood watering my cloths. I feel my legs collapsing and almost fall down.
I manage to keep my stand and keep fighting. Another blow comes and I block it before gathering all my strength to thrust my blade at my foe. I manage to stab him where he has no armour, thus, he falls down with a cry.
One left, but I can’t hold my blade anymore. I collapse on my knees, gasping for air as blood runs down my layers of clothing. The remaining knight kicks me down and laughs.
This is it, I think as I watch him stare at me.
But before he can strike me down, I see Vakrol stand up and draw his blade.
“Here, you filthy mongrel!”
The knight stares at him as do I. Vakrol seems unstable as he walks, but he manages to get to the knight. They share blows, but even when Vakrol tries his harders, he gets a slash on his leg.
But he doesn’t back down. He screams and leaps at his foe with all his strength and cuts him down. Blood covers his face as sweat runs on his skin. He glances at me, exhausted before he collapses onto the ground.
I let out a cry of pain and guilt. I try to move, but I can’t; the pain is too great. My entire body feels heavy like stone. I can see a small trail of blood-forming below me as I stare Vakrol and his now-dead eyes.
I have failed. I led my friends to this mission in search of glory. I thought we could do it. I thought I was strong enough, but now I see the truth. Now, I realize how foolish we were, but it doesn’t matter anymore. Now, I wait for y death as burning waves of pain journeys all over my body.
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