The Gathering

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Chapter 32

Even in the shade, the heat from the storm could still be felt. Its burning sensation was still present. As the winds howled outside, Amyntas managed to stop the bleeding. With his wounds manageable, he sees Richard start to wake up.

His face was still badly hurt, and his eye still swollen. However, his body received the worst o the burns. Every silent movement he made sent a shock wave of pain throughout his body. In the end, he simply laid where he was to keep whatever strength he had left.

“How long was I out?” he asked softly.

“Not long,” replied Amyntas. Richard then noticed that, aside from his face, his body was covered in bandages.

“Did you do this?” asked Richard. Amyntas said nothing.

“You could have killed be and be done with it. Why?”

“Curiosity,” said the spartan. “Seeing as how we are stuck here and you in no condition to leave, I figured you could answer a few questions of mine.” Richard let out a sigh and allowed the Spartan to ask.

“Tell me who you were before you were chosen?” Richard straighten up as best he could so that he could talk directly at the Spartan. He cleared his throat before speaking.

“My real name is Albert Le Masson. I was born the son of an English Lord with Norman and Templar roots. At a young age, my childhood meant to groom me to become my father’s successor. I learned how to use a sword, ride from horseback, read and write Latin, and understand the politics of the time. But, I had no interest in being a lord or serving the king. I was young and headstrong, with a thirst for adventure. I often got into trouble with authority, and one time, I got into a fight with another lord’s son and killed him. I was brought to court, and I expected death. However, my life was spared...at a cost. I was banished from my home and was told never to return. Thus, I go on a ship bound for France and never looked back. On that day, I lost everything. All I had on me were a few coins and my sword.”

“How did you get the name Richard Hawk?” asked Amyntas.

“When I arrived in France, I experienced dark times. The two kingdoms were locked in a bitter war over the succession of the French throne. I wandered from town to town, begging for scraps. Then one day, I entered a tavern and ran into a couple of drunk soldiers. One spilled their drink; thus, they asked that I pay them back. I had no money, so I refused. Next thing I know, my head is slammed down on a wooden table. One of the soldiers went for my sword. I could not let them have it. Thus, I fought back, and in the process, I suffered a broken skull, few cracked ribs, and wound up flat on my back. I thought I was going to die there, but luck would have it that I was saved by a soldier of fortune a few seasons older.” Richard paused a moment.

“He was a Genoese man named Valtena Mascaro. I remember he had thick curly black hair with an equally thick beard. He wore heavy leather and chain armor and spoke in a heavy accent. Valtena was a leader to a company of Genoese mercenaries called The Falchi or Hawks. I cannot remember what he said to me, but all I remember was being hoisted up and dragged back to their camp. Several weeks go by, and I end up joining them. At first, I loved being a Falchi. I was able to travel and experience adventures. My skills with the sword improved and took part in numerous either for France of my native England. Soon I became second under Valtena and was seen as a son to him. He was the one that gave me the name Richard, in honor or the warrior king Richard the Lion Heart. For the first time, I thought I had it all.”

“Then what changed?” Richard let out a sigh.

“After the Siege of Orleans in 1429, the Falchi was hired to hunt down a woman for the Burgundian League. Valtena gave me the responsibility of seeing this through. When I accepted the job, many in the company knew who we were going after, Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans. For almost a year, we hunted for her, hoping to find her. At first, I thought it was a simple job. Then in May of that year, we helped the English and the Burgundians capture her after the Siege of Compiegne, I began to realize this was no ordinary job. She was then taken to trial and sentenced to death by the courts. What happened next... ”

Richard stopped himself. Amyntas could almost see a tear forming in his eye. The Spartan knew this troubled him.

“What happened during that trial.” Richard took in a deep breath before continuing.

“After we delivered her, the Burgundians asked that we stay and watch the trial. We all agree, though now I wished we did not. When we captured her, she was wearing her beautiful armor with her sword around her waist. Yet, as she was brought in, she was reduced to nothing more than a nineteen-year-old commoner. She wore a messy blue dress, and her once beautiful face was covered in cuts and dust. As she was brought forth, I knew that this was wrong in my heart, but I could not say the words to change their minds. The courts deemed that she was a heretic and conspired with the devil. Many in the crowds wanted her to confess and spare her life, yet she stayed true to her convictions.”

Richard let out a sigh. “The court then sentenced her to death by fire. Soon, everyone was moved outside the court and into the courtyard of the town. There, Joan was tied to a stake atop a pile of wood. Our clients then gave me the “splendor” of tying the last knot around her. As I.....approached, I could not look directly at her. Before I went back down, she spoke to me, her last conversation.

“What did she say?”

“She told me that....she forgives me. I quickly got down as fast as I could before the executioner set the fire ablaze. At this moment, the court officials thought that Joan would plead for her life. Instead, she did the opposite. She just looked into the sky and accepted her fate. Afterward, the Fulchi were paid, and I was given her sword for my help. I felt sick to my stomach. Three days after her execution, I left the Fulchi and became a loner once more. I still worked as a mercenary, but my services would only go the civilians, never the monarchy. Then I got word that the french kingdom was hunting down all Hawk members who assisted in Joan’s death. I became a wanted man, and mercenaries were now hunting me. The last thing I remember was running into a forest, french soldiers right behind me and looking into the cloudy sky, seeing a bright light cast over. I thought it was the Lord punishing me for my wicked deeds. Then, the rest is history,” said Richard.

Amyntas said nothing after Richard finished his tale. He sat in silence and reflected on what he heard. He took in a deep breath and looked at Richard.

“Thank you for sharing that,” said Amyntas.

“I was merely answering your question,” replied Richard.

“Then you won’t mind answering one more. What happened to your friends, the ones who are immortalized in the glass boxes back at the village.”

“You know the truth,” said Richard.

“Not good enough. I want to hear it from you. What happened.”

Richard cleared his throat and explained that when he and his friends were chosen, the world was different. The Chroni still lived in fear of Kairos; however, they were not the only clans. Clan Darius had given the Chroni support in dealing with the ruler. Besides, the Desmodus, Saurian, and Aetto clans have also openly rebelled against the ruler. For Richard and his group, they planned to steal the scepter and destroy it, hoping to eliminate Kairo’s power and weaken him. At first, they succeeded in taking the scepter. Realizing Kairos would fight to reclaim it, Richard and his friends went about to gather allies.

They managed to assemble a small army and make the ancient Saurian kingdom their stronghold. In their fortress, they held out for almost a year, and at first, they thought Kairos would yield as his powers were dialing. But the magic was not solely his source of strength. He and his friends vastly underestimated his intelligence. Kairos sent one of his warlords to cause chaos among’st Clan Darius. He sought a young usurper, a young Ursine. The warlord soon clouded the young wendigo’s mind and thus openly challenged Avalon’s father.

As a result, Ursine killed him and thus ordered the wendigos to abandon the fort. Even without their aide, morale was still high, until Kairos unleashed his trap. He called forth aide from the stars from his on again-off again ally. Soon dragons and Kairos’s forces covered on their fortification.

They tried to hold out, but it was futile. Richard, Mori, and Kanatakon: ha wanted to stay and fight, but Usuf, Aquila, Edgeekh, and Abn told them that if they stayed, then all is lost. Richard then said to Amyntas that a day does not go by that he regrets leaving his friends to die. After that, he and the others still managed to get captured in the end. Richards ends his conversation by saying that Kairos did some “persuasion” when they were locked up at Castle Olympus.

“Damn, you never had a break,” said Amyntas. Richard then lays back down on the sand.

“Now you know the truth,” said Richard. Amyntas did know the truth. After listening to Richard’s story, the Spartan began to see the veteran in a different light. While he is still heated about the betrayal, he can understand that, given the circumstances, Richard did not choose. As Amyntas rested his head, he noticed that the storm had died down.

“Richard, the storms gone.” Helping his friend up, Amyntas gathered their gear and went outside. As they left the comfort of their shelter, they then see a large shadow hover over them. Just then, A Wyvern lands in front of the two humans. It was Garston; the young dragon Avalon had saved only hours ago. The young serpent looked at the two before speaking.

“Richard, Amyntas, come with me. Your friends need you. I will take you to them.” The two humans were hesitant.

“Do not worry. I am under a life debt and must see it fulfilled. Please, there is not much time.” Looking at each other, they reluctantly got on the serpents back and held on as the young dragon lifted itself off the ground. Once they got into the air, the snake began to fly them back to the village.

With enough luck, they might be able to save this world still.

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