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Vol.3, Ch.6, P.5


Onward he arced through the air, his limbs limp as he went. Neither grace nor glory found him at his landing; slamming into the ground, Theodor’s body thudded air and earth both like a dying thunderbolt.

Further on he tumbled, a violent brushstroke drawing across the dirt a long streak of red, till at last, he stopped. Wisps of dust dangled in his wake. A lull fell. Yet the feeling lingered.

In my fingers. In my arms.

The sensation of having severed flesh. Of cutting bone.

Of landing the lethal blow.

Certain, I then set my eyes upon him.

There Theodor laid, like a thing crushed thin. Moments passed. Distant battle rumbled. Blood seeped in silence. By the end, his hands finally flinched. His body followed, quietly, quiveringly dragging itself back to its feet. With frightful effort, he turned my way, revealing a wound I dare not describe.



At me he stared. Through a face steeped in sanguine soil, he stared. Without a word. Without a stir. I returned the look, equally quiet, never leaving his eyes.

A muffled thump next murmured. Dust sprang again. His spear had fallen. The proud polearm, caked crimson with ungraced blood, now freed from its master’s fingers. Then did that same master begin to move. A slow and shivering shamble, step after unsteady step, each made with the last of his strength. I but watched on, silent still.

He seemed in approach towards me, eyes intent upon mine as they were. But I knew better.

For betwixt us laid Viola.

Nearer and nearer still he came, hauling his feet across the blood-damp dirt. Only, at a few strides from his sister, his legs failed, and to the ground he foundered.

But before long, up from the dust rose his face.

And straining, striving, his arms further assayed.

To crawl closer to his cold sister.

I dared not lend him aid. This was his moment. Their moment. Their world. Theirs, and theirs alone, never to suffer any other soul—not least one who had wrought upon them this very fate.

In time, Theodor gained Viola, and there clambered up to her side. Then, taking her hand, his fingers caressed and curled about hers. His other hand reached around her nape, and bringing her close…


…the brother embraced his dead sister.


Theodor’s eyes then faded to a close. I felt next the last of his life lifting into the air, and in that still and sighing expanse, dissipating from all perception.

To depart to paths unknown.

And join again his beloved sister.


Alone, I left my eyes to linger upon the two, entwined as they were, and pondered them. Their lives, their lot—none of which I knew, and could scarce guess. Only one thing was certain, and in fixing upon it, a rosey-red thought then glimmered in my mind.

A maiden of deep-ruby eyes.

My one and only sister.

…With whom on this day I did not embrace, but battled to a bitter end.


The Östberg siblings. Foes felled, but never to be forgotten. Not as they were afore me, fast in each other’s touch.

Long must they have braved this too-wicked world—together. A mountainous struggle, mildened only by the strength and solace of their sibling bond. A warmth shared till the ultimate cold.

Aface their enfolded forms as I was, I suffered then a spear of another sort, one stabbing clear through my bosom and moving my lips to a whisper.

“Begotten by the same belly… sharing the same days… only to…”


I closed my eyes.

Behind the half-lit lids, I saw her again.

The face of my fair Felicia.

There did she look back, yet not with any gladness.

But a gaze of many tears.


“…Theodor. Viola. This victory… it is yours,” I uttered, “…more than you shall ever know.”

Triumph. Tragedy.

Wagers won. Lives lost.

Sweetly was never savoured the wine celebrating the bitter victory.

Such was the scar left upon my conscience.



For what seemed too long did we make battle.

Felling Men, being felled in turn—on and on, the fires burnt and our hale seemed soon to flag. Yet still we strove and kept lit the torch of purpose, for there was anticipation amongst our number: a victory, near at hand.

Yes, victory—our aim here at Arbel. The day promised it to us, and with all care had we made plans, that it might be pleased and make good on it. But the long struggle mayhaps has muddied my eyes, as when this scene afore me unfolded, it seemed more a dream than aught.

A scene of Men halting and quelling.

A scene of their sudden surrender.

“Fräulein…” called a brave of mine, “…could it be…?”

Wide-eyed, I let drop my wearied hands. “It… it could,” I stammered out an answer.

So ‘twas no dream at all, or otherwise one shared by my comrades all: looking about, I found them each dazed with disbelief for this new silence.

After Ulrik, that ogre of a Man, had perished, we fought on to great advantage. Yet even then the Fiefguard’s mettle held strong: dogged and more dogged still the Men resisted, as though death were a sweeter end than defeat.

We had thought then that foul winds were soon to blow upon this pitched battle, that a wasting and wasteful strife would be ours to wage. But the thought was sooner allayed. What we had next gleaned was a queerness amongst our enemies: orders running through their ranks, meeting stunned ears.

Click-click. Clank-clank.

Now resounded many Mennish swords and spears, all of them clamouring to the earth. Some of their wielders fell with them—to the knees, anguished and lost. Peering up were some others, searching the clouds for some never-coming answer.

To my comrades, ‘twas clear then: the Fiefguard were defeated, having cast their arms and chosen surrender.

“Word was sent to them,” another brave wondered aloud. “But what…?”

“Word of their masters’ fall, mayhaps?” I guessed, as in my mind was lit an image of another Man. “He’s done it…” I said, “…Rolf has slain the Östbergs…!”

No other course could there be. Dead was their lord; this we knew. Yielding here, then, meant but one thing: the commanders of Zaharte were no more. And with them, the Fiefguard’s will for war and the fastness of Arbel both.

Long have we Vílungen vied with the House of Ström for this land of our breeding. A great many battles, waged by my father, his predecessor, and more uncounted jarlar there on. Such has it ever been. Such shall it ever be. This we had always thought.

But even over so enduring a stage could fall the proverbial curtains. And drawing them were not the hands of one of ours… but a Man’s. So asudden had he appeared in our midst. So keen had he guided our blades through this battle. So decisive did he end in days what generations could not.

That’s not to say the war was won. Vast and dark yet loomed the shadow of Londosius; ‘twas only a patch of it that we had managed to illumine as our own. And for what end but some peace of mind for our long-suffering brethren—one that might endure for a fleeting moment, as from far yonder was doubtless the march of Londosius’ answer.

We had to muster our own, and swift. Every effort, every thought bent to this single enterprise, if with any dearness did we long for a lasting victory and silence to this war.

…A “silence to this war”.

Till not a week ago had I believed such a thing possible. But now in my bosom was hope, small but brave against the shadow. A candle enkindled…


‘…Londosius shall fall…’


…by these very words, uttered resolute from whose mouth but that beacon of a Man.

“Hh… khh…!”

Beside me so wept a fellow brave.

…Nay. ‘Twas not just he.

We were all of us moved to tears. Sniffling, snivelling above smiles and frowns both. Recalling our dear lost. Glad for our friends and family yet alive. For alive would they remain.



Why, we ought rejoice.

From tomorrow and on would the battles endure, true, but for today…

…today, we can rejoice.

For we have won.


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Comment (1)

  1. howardplaza2

    Thanks for the chapter.

    Rolf is too good a person. He actually feels guilty despite the fact his sister tried to kill him.

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