Chapter Eighteen: The New Strategy
Anthony found himself in what appeared to be a pit with lit torches circling in it. He got the impression that it was some sort of ceremonial pit. He scanned the pit and saw there were skulls and other bones in the soft dirt. He saw someone jump into the pit and land a few feet from him. Charles didn’t waste any time lunging for Anthony who was able to side step and land a swing slicing off Charles left arm. Charles squirmed around on the ground for a minute then got up, stuck his sword into the fire of a nearby torch. Anthony watched with shock as Charles used his heated sword to cauterize the stump where his arm used to be.
Anthony felt he had the advantage now and pressed forth. Charles was able to parry Anthony’s swings but only barely. Anthony decided that in order to finish this fight he had to overpower Charles. He stepped forward with a powerful over head swing. Charles sidestepped causing Anthony to over extend himself. Charles stabbed Anthony in the side and Anthony fell to his knees. Charles was standing over Anthony as everything started to go dark. Anthony could swear he heard a lawn mower going perhaps just outside his window as his eyes opened to see Amanda shaking him.
“ANTHONY WAKE UP!” she yelled as she shook him.
Anthony quickly learned the noise was the sound of him screaming. “AHHHHhhhh….” He looked up at Amanda after his scream trailed off. He was breathing heavy but managed to say, “Oh dear God NO.”
Considering Amanda the fight they had the day before, she was more than a little irritable from being woke up in this manner. So her response was to be expected. “What’s the matter with you?”
He managed to slow down his breathing before he said, “I just saw my own death.”
“WHAT?” she exclaimed.
Anthony noticed his hands were covering his side where he was stabbed in his dream. “Charles will stab me right here.”
She made no effort to stay calm as she exclaimed, “Oh my God, when?”
“I have no idea but possibly soon.” Anthony stood up, grabbed his pants and started dressing himself.
“What are you gonna do hun?” Amanda asked with a voice so low it was almost a whisper.
Anthony realized that if he was going to die that he would need to make arrangements with the Council concerning Amanda and other things. “I have to tell the Council. If I am going to die soon they need to make arrangements.”
Amanda pushed him away as she stood up. “Always to the job huh?” She stormed out of the room in way that conveyed the old saying. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorn.
He immediately realized his error even though it was an easy mistake to make. He gave chase after her following her down the stairs and outside to his spot by the river. He called out to her several times but she just continued to run away from him. She stopped at the edge of the water and crossed her arms. Anthony caught up to her shortly and said, “Hey I’m sorry.”
“Are you really? To me being sorry and contrite means you will make an honest effort to not do it again. I really doubt you hold anything as high as you do the Order and your duty.” She started crying and covered her eyes with her hands.
“That’s not true. The only reason why I did any of this was to protect you. I knew I couldn’t protect you on my own.”
Amanda's disbelief was strong as she said, “So you did this all for me? Not because of Faith or anything like that?”
Anthony sighed deeply, “Yes. We came here right after seeing the devastation on the news about the cities that blew up. I knew that I needed to find a way to make sure you were safe. I rushed us here because I hoped whatever Jonathan and Father Byrnes knew would help. After they offered me membership in the Order I couldn’t help but take it.”
“So you saw the destruction of cities thousands of miles away and you thought of me? Yeah right.” She said and turned away from him again.
“It’s the truth. You have been the only thing in my life worth protecting, worth making the ultimate sacrifice for. I got a little freaked when I saw the aftermath of the destruction and I wanted to find some way of protecting you. That’s the truth whether you believe it or not.”
She snorted before saying, “Just leave me alone and go tell the Council what they need to know.”
“No. You are my first priority and I was thinking of you when I said I was going to the Council to make arrangements. I need to know that you’re taken care of in the case of my death. Honest.”
“I need time to think please just go away.” Amanda said as the tears dried on her cheeks.
“If that’s what you want. Fine, I’ll go.” Anthony turned to leave wondering if anything he just said made a difference. It was completely true what he told but that seemed to not matter much.
Amanda wanted nothing more than to believe him but couldn’t help the feelings surging inside of her. She knew it was possible that he was telling her the truth and as far as she knew he never lied to her. She didn’t even know why she was so upset. Acting in such a way felt so odd to her because she isn’t the emotional type. She had her suspicions as to why she might act this way but didn’t want to think about it. Her hands instinctively went down to her stomach and rubbed it lightly. She sat down and would remain there for a very long time before finally going back inside.
Anthony was bewildered by his conversation with Amanda. Her acting out like that was not in her nature and it wasn’t very pleasant. He made his to find Kelly who he figured was probably in the training center with the new recruits. As it turned out Alexander was very successful in recruiting new members and each Legion had about twenty new members now. It wasn’t a substantial overall growth but it was progress nevertheless. Anthony found Kelly just where he thought he would. He had hoped Kelly would be receptive to him considering the last time he saw him Kelly poured out his soul to him. Anthony encountered Kelly answering the question of one new recruit.
“So why are we learning to use the sword when there are guns and tanks in stuff like that in the world?”
Holding up his sword and pointing it at the new recruit he said, “This doesn’t run out of bullets.” Then noticed Anthony’s arrival, turned to him said, “Ah Sir Anthony welcome, everyone this is Sir Anthony, Commander of the 7th Legion.”
Anthony saluted the crowd and nodded to Kelly to go with him to the other room. “We have a problem that I need to bring before the Council. It’s a pretty serious issue that can’t be delayed.”
“Alright, I will summon everyone to the conference room in say fifteen minutes. Will that work?”
“Absolutely, thanks man.” Anthony turned to leave and without thinking looked very dejected.
Kelly noticed this and asked, “Are you ok Anthony?”
“No. I will tell you at the same time I tell everyone else.” Anthony turned and walked away leaving Kelly in a very worried state. Anthony distracted himself by coming up with a few suggestions for his successor, Jonathan being at the top of the list. He also had a few ideas as to what they should do about Amanda in his absence. He had hoped that above all they would allow her to stay here because she has nowhere else to go. He was so busy thinking about what to do after he dies that he wasn’t trying to figure out a way to prevent his own death, like it was unavoidable. Fifteen short minutes later all Council members were present in the conference room.
“I really have no idea how to politely say this, guys, but soon I will be dead. I just saw it last night.” They all just stared at him as if he had said nothing. Anthony felt more than a little uncomfortable standing there in silence so he spoke again. “I think Jonathan would be a good replacement for me and I would like to ask you guys to take care of Amanda for me.”
Kelly stood up and said, “Sir Anthony, please stop talking.”
“Ok.” Anthony replied indignantly.
“You’re talking about your death as if you’re already dead.” Kelly said while making his way to Anthony’s side.
Gabe shifted in chair and said, “This is something we are glad you shared with us but you aren’t dead yet. Tell us exactly what you saw and maybe we can find a way around this.”
Anthony went into great detail about his dream describing every sight, smell and sound he could remember. He even described the pain he felt when he was stabbed and how the world went dark before he woke up. Each of them looked at from one to another after Anthony had finished speaking. None of them wanted to admit that there was no way to save him. Anthony felt gratitude for this but also felt they should prepare for the worst anyway.
Kelly ceded the point and said, “If it does happen we will do as you ask and replace you with Jonathan. As far as taking care of Amanda, well, she is a pretty good assistant for Sister Ann Marie so as long as she can help out there is no reason for us not to keep her around.”
“Thanks guys. By the way have you spoken with Father Byrnes?” Anthony inquired.
Shawn replied, “Yes he gave us his official report and upon his recommendation you are fully reinstated.”
Anthony was a little confused by this and asked, “You guys know there is a chance I might betray you and you reinstated me anyway? Why?”
Gabe spoke next, “Because we believe this could be a ploy by Remus to make us think you would to create disloyalty towards you. We trust you as much today as we did the day we met you.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence. All right. If we have a limited amount of time left we need to get back to business. Charles may end up killing me but we must get to him. He is the key to the Death Knights, I know it.” Anthony said with a newfound confidence.
“Yeah, the weird thing is the chair we confiscated was being used in some way to control the Death Knights. We destroyed it by setting if afire so it will be useless to them anymore.” Gabe replied.
“Do we know where they are now?” Anthony asked.
Andrew replied, “Yeah they headed west after we routed them at the state hospital. We believe they set up camp out in the badlands.”
“So how do we get Charles? Do we have anything that he wants besides you, Anthony?” Shawn asked.
“Amanda. She was his price for selling his soul and I think he will do anything to get her back.” Anthony spoke without really thinking.
Alexander then asked the most obvious question. “How can we use his desire for her to our advantage?”
They discussed this for a few long hours before they came to a decision. Anthony wasn’t a huge fan of the decision that was made but realized that it must done. The new overall strategy they decided on was to target whoever the human leader of the Death Knights happens to be. If that person is so important to them it could at least cause them to be off balance and that would give the Knights of the Archangels the advantage needed in every battle. The current tactic they have chosen to employ is to dangle Amanda on a hook like a worm baiting a fish.
Anthony walked away from the meeting with a heavy heart. He had no idea how he was going to explain this to her. He wanted nothing more than to live with her for the rest of his life. Possibly even have kids if God allowed them to. The thought that his life was now on a shortened timer was aggravating. He didn’t want to tell her that she was to be used as bait and that he may end up dying or possibly betray everyone he loves. He knew that honesty at this point would probably be the best policy.
He found her inside the clinic tending to a new recruit who seemed to have a pretty nasty contusion on his forehead. She noticed him as he walked in and a huge smile came across her face. His heart lifted when he saw that smile, maybe she had forgiven him for his earlier faux pa. She finished setting the bandage around the new recruit’s head and motioned for Anthony to sit. “Alright all done. You guys should really take it easier on yourselves before someone gets really hurt.”
“We are just doing what we need to do.” The new recruit replied.
“These guys will soon be on the frontlines of the war. Pushing themselves is their own way to make sure that they are ready. These are the first new recruits to be trained during war so the necessity for them to ready is higher than it ever was before.” Anthony inserted.
“If you say so.” Amanda retorted.
The new recruit got up and saluted Anthony who realized that this was one of his men as he saluted him back. Anthony then leaned back on the bench the new recruit was just using. He winced a little as he stretched back which caused the muscles to pull over his ribs. He managed to place his hands under his head as he relaxed. “So, how ya doing there babe?”
“Better now that I have calmed down but we so need to talk.” She said with an almost giddy tone in her voice.
“Yes we do. The Council has come to a decision regarding a way to stop Charles and hopefully the Death Knights as well.” Anthony spoke slowly not wanting to convey that he was excited in any way. He explained the whole sorry mess to her including how they were going to be using her to get Charles. She didn’t respond or give any cue that she understood. She just stood there looking at him the whole time he talked. He finally stopped explaining things and just asked, “Are you ok?” The dry heaving started before she could respond so she rushed to the nearest garbage can just in time for the vomit to land inside it.
Anthony rushed over to her side and immediately started rubbing her back. He pulled back her hair as she finished the massive heaves. She looked up at him with a look of pure joy on her face as if her throwing up proved something. She looked at him intensely as if she was trying to convey something that words cannot do alone. He looked down at the garbage then back to her. Realization dawned on his face as the message finally got through to him.
A single tear formed in the corner of her eye causing Anthony to tear up as well. He wrapped his arms around her tightly. He felt a sudden rush of joy flow through him that he did not expect. He never thought much about being a father before but a part of him knew that it could happen. She held onto him as tight as her strength would allow. He placed a hand on her head and starting rubbing her hair. At that moment Sister Ann Marie walked in to the clinic catching them in their embrace. Anthony turned to her and said, “We got some good news.”
Sister Ann Marie looked at them and said, “Congratulations! This is a truly joyous day.”
“How did you know before I said anything?” Anthony asked with confusion readily apparent in his voice.
“Amanda just threw up and you guys were holding each other close. What else could it be?” Sister Ann Marie replied as she hugged them both.
They decided that day that even though they were in the middle of the war that was no excuse to not celebrate life’s simple joys. Anthony threw a huge celebration that night so that all of his friends and family could join them in their newfound joy. His brother, Jim, showed up with his new girlfriend which added to the good will. Jim came with another motive in mind and that was to join the Order. Upon Anthony’s suggestion Kelly took Jim under his wing and was immediately accepted. The following two weeks would be the sweetest of Anthony’s life. The anticipation of new life overshadowed the possibility of his own impending death.