The following morning Jellal and the Allies broke camp and began their ride out to the battlefield. Gildarts and Laxus advocated that the men stand on top of a hill to give themselves some sort of a advantage when the battle did begin. This way they had a better angle against archers, and if Duke's army did charge they had to run up the hill to reach Jellal's forces. They spread their troops out into three wings. The center wing, which Jellal commanded was the largest of the forces. It was comprised primarily of foot soldiers with a line of archers behind them. Laxus commanded the left wing, keeping at a slight angle toward the side to avoid any attempt at flanking them. Gildarts did the same with the right wings, but both of their regiments were comprised of foot soldiers with what little cavalry they had in the reserves.
As Gildarts sat on top of his horse he heard the sound of hooves gallopoing towards him. When he turned around to see who it was that was riding towards him, he saw the familiar face of a long time friend.
"Arcadios!" Gildarts cried as he saw the old knight ride towards him. He wore his old Konvern armor. "What are you doing here?" Gildarts asked as soon as Arcadios was in ear shot and trotted towards him.
"I heard there was a battle a foot and you were in need of men," he chuckled as he pulled on the reigns. "From the looks of it, the rumors weren't wrong."
"It's good to have you, but why aren't you watching over Jude? I thought that as the head of his guard you were sworn to protect him?"
"Jude is dead," Arcadios replied. "I received word of it the other day through a letter one of his maids sent me. "Now, I am sworn to protect and defend the house of Heartfilia, but I think that the best way for me to do that is right here. As long as that man," he gestured his head in Ivan's direction, "still lives, she will never be safe."
"Well I am happy you've come my old friend," Gildarts said clasping the other's hand.
Duke peered out through a telescope as he marched his army in a straight line of regiments. He was near the front, accompanied by Ivan, Zero and other generals. They marched forward to the beat of a loud drum, the front lines filled with soldiers wielding pikes and spears. Useful to deflect a charge, but not really needed if they were to go on the offensive.
Duke sat upon his white stallion smiling to himself. The Allies appeared to have less than half the forces that he did. They didn't seem to be re-enforced by any heavy cavalry, and the front lines were comprised of pikers. They were expecting Duke to launch a straight attack. Duke hoped that he could maneuver his forces in a way that would allow them to surround the enemy, but their location on top of the hill and their formations would have made the attempt trivial. It would only cause him to thin out his forces allowing for easier combat to his opponents. He wasn't about to allow that. The best thing for him to do, or at least he thought it was the best strategy, would be to use the sheer force and numbers at his disposal. He knew it, they knew it, even the simple minded foot soldier knew it.
"Ivan, what do you think about their formation?" Duke asked.
"Well, from my understanding they're waiting for you to charge. They've situated themselves in a position that puts them on the defensive with the chance of a counter attack." Ivan answered.
"Sire, considering their position, it would be very difficult to surround them, even in an open field. If I might suggest, I say we move our archers forward, and see if we can't weaken the front line," one of the generals suggested.
"How about a full on charge?" Duke asked. "Straight down the middle."
"My Lord that would be—" the general began to say but was cut off by Ivan.
"That would be foolish my Lord," he said. "You would allow their side wings to flank you on either side, squeezing you in. Even with superior numbers that would be a brash thing to do. You could suffer a great many losses."
"Well we should meet with them first before we make and decisions," the general stated.
"Very well," Duke sighed exasperated. "We might as well head out now then."
Duke rode down the field along with his generals. Upon seeing Duke ride out with his banner men, Jellal did the same. Gildarts and Laxus rode up next to him as the three of them made their way to the center of the field. Jellal felt a bit anxious in the pit of his stomach. He remained in the center as Laxus and Gildarts took their places beside him.
When they arrived at the middle of the field they came to a stand still. Duke sat upon his horse with a wide, arrogant smirk. Laxus glared over at his father who too carried a wide grin.
"Jellal?" Duke said jokingly. "You're the commander of the Allied forces? They must truly be desperate."
"Only cowards blow up good men to avoid the real fight," Gildarts grumbled.
"I don't have the faintest idea what you're talking about," Duke scoffed. "Now are we going to discuss the terms of surrender or do you plan on having us wipe out all your soldiers first. I promise that if you surrender we'll go lenient on your men, after all they're just doing their jobs. But I cannot say the same for you. You're crimes against the crown will be dealt with accordingly."
"Crimes against the crown? Says the man who betrayed the king he was promised to work with," Jellal snapped. "Or have you forgotten about Jude."
"Jude was a fool who didn't even know that his own whore of a daughter was fraternizing with a slave. How can such a pathetic man consider himself a king? Don't curse me Jellal, I did him and his kingdom a favor," Duke said.
"More like my father did," Laxus spat. Ivan just snickered to himself. "You're an even bigger fool than Jude if you think you can even trust that man. He betrayed his father and his king; do you really think that he will not betray you in the end? He's just using you too."
"Oh, my simple minded boy," Ivan chastised. "My dispute with my father is my own business. He couldn't see the bigger picture. He was just as simple minded and foolish as you. You see, I saw the best way to rule a kingdom. Even though Jude was my friend, I had to put the kingdom's best interest first. I don't think someone like you could ever understand."
"Enough bickering from the both of you," the general snapped. "We are here to negotiate any terms of surrender that you have. If you have none then we will prepare for battle promptly. What ever family differences that exist between any men here can be resolved on the battlefield, otherwise I think we're done here."
"We will not surrender," Jellal said promptly. "We will not leave our people to serve as slaves under Junelle and Mila. If we die, we die with honor."
"Then you shall die," Duke chuckled. "I will make sure to take your head, personally, my old friend."
"If it comes to a battle between the two of us, then the one thing that I can do for this world is kill you. If anything else, I can give the world that one last bit of hope for the future," Jellal retorted.
Duke leered at him with a sinister glower. Jellal just returned it with one of his own. The tensions were arising between the two groups that it was as though a fight could have broken out right there and then. It was only prevented by the interference of Gildarts and Duke's generals. The officers that rode with Duke were a startled to the point that they had almost unsheathed their own swords.
"The battle must commence on the field, as is custom," Gildarts said. "If you're going to kill each other, do it where it belongs."
"Very well," Duke said jerking his horse's reigns. "I will see you on the battlefield."
The two groups returned to their armies. None of the soldiers were surprised that the negotiations did not resolve a thing. The men prepared, and Jellal could see the worry in the eyes of his own troops. They weren't ready to fight, the site of the massive size of Junelle's forces would make men quiver. Though they needed to fight, and Jellal knew that he needed to live long enough to kill Duke. If he could at least do that, then maybe they can say that there was some success. But then again, what would happen if Duke was killed. Who would take control if the young king did die?
"Send in everyone, I want them mowed down!" Duke shouted when he returned to his own army.
"My liege that would be too brash," the general said. "That would allow them to pincer in our forces. I think it would be wiser to send in the first wave and then follow it with our infantry."
"Archers, shoot them down!" Duke shouted.
"Sire, their position on the hill would make it futile. If we draw them in close then we can shoot them," the general insisted.
"Fine, send in the first wave!" Duke ordered.
The first wave of the vanguard began their march towards the opposing army. Their spears raised high as the sound of battle drums beat loudly. A couple thousand men in all.
"Jellal, the best thing for us to do is stand our ground and let Duke's forces come to us," Gildarts repeated as the three of them returned to the lines. Much to the dismay of the noble.
"I agree with Gildarts," Arcadios said as he rode over. "That is the best strategy at the moment."
"Arcadios?" Jellal said perplexed. "When did you arrive?"
"Just now," the knight smiled. "I'm here to help you win this war."
"Well, if you can find a way to slay ten-thousand men I would be greatly in your debt," Jellal sighed.
"I'll see what I can do," Arcadios chortled.
Jellal knew that this was the best strategy, it had been their plan all along and Gildarts continued to mention it over and over again. Duke probably knew that as well, or at least his commanding officers did. But there was something else that the young noble could do. The men were afraid; their will to fight had all but diminished. There might be something, someway for the young noble to urge them to battle. He was infuriated with Duke and there was a burning desire in his heart to defeat him. Jellal wanted nothing more than to tear down that smug grin from that arrogant youth's face.
He thought of Erza. He missed dearly, and though he had only been gone for a period of several days he still wished to be with her.
"Men of Magnolia, and the other free states lend me your ears!" Jellal cried as soon as he arrived on the front line.
The men all turned their attention to him, a bit shocked to see the sudden spark that ignited in the young noble. Laxus and Gildarts turned their attention to him as well. Jellal had summoned the attention of every soldier in the military. They were all listening closely.
"What is he doing?" Gildarts muttered to himself.
"Today is the day that this war will come to an end. Whether in defeat or victory, it will all be decided here on this field. This is where we will decide if we, our families, our loved ones will continue to live in freedom, or if we will abandon them to a life of slavery under Junelle.
"You," Jellal said pointing his hand towards a soldier near the front. The man stared at him baffled. "Do you have anyone at home that you love and care for?"
"I have a wife and two small children; a boy and a girl," the soldier answered.
"And you," Jellal said pointing to the soldier next to him.
"My wife passed away several years ago. But I have a son, who is of nine years of age."
"And you?" Jellal pointed to the next man.
"A wife and three girls," he answered.
"Is there any man here who does not have at least one loved one back home let him speak," Jellal demanded. No one answered. "Then you all have someone to fight for. Now I ask you, three," he pointed at the three soldiers again, "will you fight for your family or will you leave them at Duke's mercy?"
"I do not ask you to fight for me, nor do I ask you to fight for your country. I ask for you to fight for your family! Fight for the ones you love. Duke believes that his army will slaughter you, make you beg for mercy! He believes that you are all cowards! But will you lay down and die while this man ransacks your cities and enslaves your families! Will you die?"
"NO!" the men cried out.
"Will you allow the forces of Junelle to enslave your loved ones?"
Again the men cried out no.
"Then let us fight for those we love! They think they're going to annihilate us here on this earth? It is them that shall be annihilated!"
The army cheered him on. Filled with excitement Jellal burst forward, charging towards Duke's men. His men, still yelled out cries of cheer as they immediately followed after him.
"What the hell is he doing?" Arcadios muttered out loud.
"Hell, you heard the man," Gildarts bellowed unsheathing his sword. "Let's kick some ass! And if any man dies with a clean blade, we'll burn his corpse!"
Gildarts kicked his steed and rode forward, his men charging from behind him. Arcadios shook his own head as he unsheathed his blade and followed after them. Laxus did the same, seeing how the other two were already on the charge. He raised his sword and swung it forward as he galloped towards the opposing army.
Jellal rode as fast as his horse could carry him, not realizing that he had already separated himself greatly from the men behind him. He rode with his sword high in the air, his heart beating rapidly. His adrenaline carried him forward at full speed. He saw the wall of bodies before him and yet there was no fear in his heart.
"What is he thinking?" Duke said baffled. "Never mind. Archers!" The archers stepped forward. "Prepare to fire!"
"Malay that order," the general snapped.
"What do you think you are doing?" Duke spat. "I am the king, how dare you defy my orders!"
"Our men are still out there. Firing arrows will only kill them as well. Our best option is to charge full strength at the present moment," the general replied.
"Get the archers ready to fire!" Duke ordered.
"Malay that order!" the general countered.
"You dare defy me?" Duke growled. "I will have your head."
"If you can find a man willing to take it," the general spat back.
Jellal rode forward only a few meters from the wall of soldiers that stand before him. A few ready spears, but he knocked them away with his sword as his horse broke through the line, running down any man that was unfortunate enough to stand in its path. Jallel hacked and swung his sword cutting down soldier after soldier until he was dragged down off of his horse. Jellal dropped his sword and tried to reach for it but found himself pinned down by three soldiers. One soldier raised his sword ready to stab Jellal. It was then that he heard the bellows of men as metal clashed against metal. Just before the soldier brought down his sword, he was hacked down from behind by Arcadios.
"Are you alright?" he asked holding out his hand.
Jellal picked up his sword before grasping Arcadios' hand. "Yeah," he said as he was lifted up to his feet.
"Well come on then," Arcadios chuckled as he deflected an on coming blow. He slid the blade away before he slicing through the man's abdomen. Jellal parried a sword himself before jamming his weapon into the opposing enemy.
The two of them swung madly, slaying enemy after enemy that stood before them. Their forces broke through, as they trampled through Duke's army. They were motivated, blood thirsty and filled with rage. Duke watched in shock and awe along with his companions. The young king seethed as he watched the Magnolian forces tear through his army while this archer were useless.
Jellal ran back to the back of the line hewing and slaying any Junelle soldier he passed. His armor was soaked in blood. Half his face drenched in the warm liquid.
"Archers!" Jellal shouted. Most of the archers had followed the rest of the army towards the battle field but remained in the back out of the combat. With no swords or any other weapons apart from their bows, they couldn't really fight. "Fire!" Jellal shouted as he waved his sword.
The men listened and launched a cloud of arrows filled the sky and began to rain down upon Duke's forces.
"Shields!" Duke's generals called out as the men raised their defenses. The arrows thumped loudly against the wood, some managed to slither in through gaps and strike the men in the open cracks between bodies.
"Send in everyone!" Duke shouted.
"Everyone?" Ivan asked.
"EVERYONE!" Duke roared as he charged forward on his own horse. The soldiers obeyed as they followed after their king. "Archers! Fire!"
This time the archers obeyed as they launched a storm of arrows. They poured down on the battlefield killing both Allied and Junelle soldiers. Though by now most of Duke's forces had already begun to retreat.
The battle raged on for over twenty minutes before Junelle's forces started to push the Allies back. Despite their desire and motivation the numbers were against them. Their numbers were dwindling, even though Jellal, Gildarts, Laxus and Arcadios attempted to press on. Jellal found himself in the middle of the field, as he ducked under the swing of an axe before lunging his sword into the soldier in front of him. He was panting heavily now, his body soaked in both his blood and the blood of the men he had slain. His armor was practically slashed apart, but he couldn't stop. Another soldier came barreling towards him, swinging his sword down upon the young noble as Jellal side stepped it and slashed his sword across this man's throat.
Eric was rather enjoying himself. He loved the thrill of a fight, he often found himself in them. He was raised in combat and for him, this was just another place he belonged. He hacked and slashed any enemy he could get his hands on. One man swung his sword, but Eric was able to grab him the wrist. Another soldier attempted to strike him from the side at the same time. He knocked the blade away before jamming his weapon into the man. He ripped it out and plunged it into the man who's hand he was still holding. He laughed happily as the two of them dropped into the dirt.
It was then that he noticed a familiar white mane off in the distance. A large battle axe that cut down man after man, regardless of who it was. Eric could see that it was Zero, as the older man cut down a knight who was already engage in a fight with a Junelle soldier. Eric licked his chops as he lunged over to where Zero was standing. Zero noticed his former compatriot as he slowly crept towards him.
"What are you doing here Eric?" Zero demanded as he held up his axe. "I thought I told you to find the traitor? Don't tell me, you've taken pity on the traitor. Or, there is something else about it?" He swung his axe down at Eric.
"Pity?" Eric spat as he side stepped the blow. "I pity no man. I've just remembered how much I've hated your guts!" He swung his sword only to have Zero knock it away with ease.
"No, you're not one to join a losing side," Zero spat as he thrust the handle of his axe forward knocking Eric backwards. "You're not one to grow a heart all of a sudden. Something must have changed your mind, or should I say someone. But who? You're not the one who originally betrayed me, but it must be someone special if you're willing to die for them." He spun around, allowing the propulsion of his body to carry his axe through Eric. The younger man raised his sword to defend himself but his sword was knocked through the air. He landed hard on the ground with a loud thump. "Tell me who he is and maybe I'll give you quick death."
"You think I'd tell you who she is?" Eric spat as he quickly picked himself back up to his feet.
"She?" Zero said interested.
'Shit,' Eric thought to himself as he realized his mistake.
Zero charged at him, swinging his axe. Eric dove to the side, reaching for his sword. He managed to pick it up just in time before Zero struck another blow. Eric managed to parry it, but he was knocked backwards. Zero reached down with the tip of his blade and swipe at Eric's leg. The younger man cried in pain as his calf was cut open and blood streamed from the gaping wound. He struggled just to stand, but he held his sword up as Zero smirked coyly at him.
"Oh, now I know," Zero laughed as he swung his axe again. The only thing Eric could do was parry it like he had been doing. He was thrown back, and tripped over his injured leg. He immediately stood back up to his feet, keeping his sword outstretched. "Now it all makes sense. There's only one person who could compel you to betray me. It must be that bitch Kinana. Well, when I'm done with you I'm going to find her, and I'm going to kill her: slowly and painfully. I'll make sure she pleads for death before I finally grant it to her."
Eric shouted in anger as he swung his sword violently as Zero knocked it away. Zero smacked Eric with the butt of the axe. Blood erupted from the corner of Eric's lip as he stumbled over. He attempted to swing his sword again but Zero grabbed him by the wrist and slammed his forehead hard into Eric's face shattering his nose.
"You're pathetic Eric," Zero mocked. Eric's vision was blurred as his entire face was caked in blood. "All of this for some stupid girl. You could have had any girl you wanted back in Mila. I took care of you. You could have had anything . . . everything!" Zero shrugged as he held up his axe. He ran his hand up and down the blade. "But you threw if all away, for some stupid girl."
"She's not some stupid girl," Eric said spitting blood. He stood back up and with a trembling hand he gripped his sword. "And I will kill you if you even attempt to harm her."
Zero burst into a roar of laughter as he spun around once more and hurled his axe at Eric. Once again Eric was struck with a fierce blow and thrown through the air. His sword flew from his hands as he collapsed hard onto the ground. He crawled away, his vision blinded from blood. He spotted an arrow piercing the ground. One of the ones shot by Duke's archers that didn't strike a body.
"Kill me?" Zero mocked. Eric reached over and grabbed the arrow. "You kill me? And how do you plan on doing that?"
Eric lifted himself to his knees, keeping the arrow in his hand. His gaze strayed over to where his sword had fallen. He got up and limped over towards it. Zero saw him and quickly glided over to it. He raised the axe and brought it down hard just in front of Eric's hand. He barely missed as Eric dove and rolled away. Zero took a step towards him, his axe raised in the air. Eric took out the arrow and jammed it into Zero's leg, just below the knee.
Zero let out a wail of pain as he fell to his knees. "You little piece of shit!" Zero roared.
Eric ran over and grabbed his sword as Zero slowly rose to his feet. Eric grabbed his weapon and swung it low, striking Zero in the calf of his good leg. Once more Zero was brought to knees. He raised his axe but Eric slashed at Zero's forearm causing him to drop his weapon. Eric grabbed Zero by the scruff of his hair and lifted his up.
"Like I said," Eric panted, "You're not going to harm her." He lifted up his sword and slid it through Zero's neck.
The battle commenced as Jellal slashed through another soldier. His arms ached and he was running out of breath. One Junelle knight leapt at Jellal knocking him to the ground. The man stood over Jellal as the noble kicked him off and slashed his sword across the man's face. His lifeless body dropped to the ground. Jellal rose to his feet and it was then that he spotted Duke off in the distance. The young king sat on his horse shouting orders to his men as he hacked through any Allied soldier he could reach.
"Duke!" Jellal bellowed. The young king did not hear him as Jellal ran forward. "Duke!" he cried again, this time he was close enough that Duke heard him.
"Jellal," Duke hissed as he galloped towards him.
Duke raised his sword ready to swipe down as he neared Jellal. The young noble made a wild dash and as soon as Duke was just about to swing his sword Jellal slid to his knees and slashed at the hooves of Duke's horse. The blow caused the horse to wail in pain as it flung Duke from the saddle. The king toppled over, landing hard on the ground as his sword went flying. He yelped in pain his legt arm shattered on impact.
Jellal slowly stood up to his feet while Duke rolled around in the grass in pain. Jellal didn't realize just how out of breath he was as he gasped for air. His lungs and legs radiated with a burning fire. He had to take a moment to regain himself. While Jellal did that Duke staggered up to his feet, looking about for his sword. When he found it, he picked it up with his good arm and held it out.
Jellal moved towards his former friend, both with their swords raised. The battle continued around them, but Jellal kept his focus on the man in front of him. Duke came dashing in, hurling his sword like a mad man. Jellal ducked under the first blow, and side stepped another. He had to parry the next three blows as he found himself being pushed back by the brunt of Duke's attacks. The young king may have had only one good arm, but he was determined to kill Jellal, and he was not nearly as worn out as his opponent. Jellal sidestepped another oncoming blow as Duke hit nothing but the ground. Jellal swung his own sword, but barley missed as Duke took a step back, allowing the blade to sweep over his head harmlessly.
The miss caused Duke to falter. Jellal raised his sword and sliced Duke just above his right hip: right in the soft flesh area next to the abdominals. The young king yelled in pain as he kicked Jellal away. Duke dropped his sword as he clenched his bleeding wound. Jellal regained his footing, but as he sauntered over to Duke he felt a sharp, piercing pain in the back of his thigh. He howled in pain as he fell over. He looked behind him and saw an arrow stuck in his leg. He raised his gaze and saw one of Duke's archers standing behind him. The man pulled out another arrow from his quiver as he readied to shoot.
Just then a loud screech was heard off in the distance. A thundering roar caused all the men to cease fighting. The archer dropped his bow an arrow as his face was struck with horror. Jellal's mouth went agape as he looked off into the distance in horror.