Chapter Nineteen: Knight Fall.
The Knights pursued their enemy into the west leaving the Seminary behind accepting that they may never return. On their way west they picked up a group of Nuns from Sister Ann Marie’s convent who will be assisting her. The understanding was that this war will take them away from their home because this war not one for land, money or anything else materialistic. This war was being fought for the freedom of all souls on earth and that cannot be done by staying in one place. They made camp in the northern badlands because their scouts determined the enemy camp was to the south. The camp was in the lowlands just north of a large ravine that extended south to the Death Knights camp. They setup regular patrols around the camp and in the bluffs surrounding the ravine.
Kelly, as it turned out, was the field commander because the organizational structure of the Order was to follow St. Michael’s Legion. Kelly organized their camp with the Command tent in the center; the Nun’s around them and the outer perimeter were the regular Knights including their Squires. Kelly felt a little uncomfortable with the whole thing because his highest rank in the Army was Staff Sergeant. He was thrust into the responsibilities of a General but with the extra duties of running his Legion. However, everyone thought he did the best anyone could in his position and never questioned his decisions.
Anthony and Amanda were both very concerned about leaving the Seminary with her pregnancy not being very far along. The good news was she young and in good health so the rugged lifestyle shouldn’t affect her too much. The bad news was they were very far away from the nearest hospital so if an emergency did happen it probably would have to be dealt with there. Sister Ann Marie offered service as a mid wife because she once volunteered in the Nursery and Birth Center at St. Alexis Medical Center. This gave them a little less worry while they were out in the wilderness.
Anthony busied himself during the days there training his Legion’s new recruits. This helped to keep his mind off his pregnant wife. He also found a fondness for training that he never thought he would have. The formation of the new Knights was one of his highest duties as Legion Commander. He took their training very personally and tried to connect with them in a way that wasn’t just as their commander. He was young and maybe a little naïve but he wanted them all to care about their fellow Knights as brothers.
“In the trenches there is no one you can trust except the man next to you. There is nothing more important that I can teach you than that.” Anthony said as he paced around the recruits. He saw a few of exceptional quality, a couple which were doing ok and one that would need a lot of work. Overall he was satisfied with the Knights under his command. He felt like a figure head at times except when he was training the new recruits. The older Knights knew exactly what to do without having to be told and so he felt rather useless at times.
The day following their arrival the decision was made to send their scouts further south to determine the condition of the enemy forces because the battle was imminent. As soon as the scouts returned they will make their final assessment but the odds are likely that they will march pretty soon after. The plan includes leaving the squires and a few chosen Knights behind to guard the camp while the rest went into battle. The Council had a plan to isolate Charles and defeat him.
Anthony always found waiting for an imminent event to be almost unbearable. He found himself pacing around his tent with Amanda watching him. She knew her part in the battle to come which made her a little nervous as well. He didn’t even try to talk her out of what she volunteered to do because it would have been futile. He tried to not let it bother as much as it does but as things tend to go it was easier said than done. He noticed that Amanda was very calm on the outside.
“How do you do that?” he asked.
“Do what?” She asked sheepishly.
“Sit there so calmly. Aren’t you nervous at all?”
“Very. I just don’t see the point in freaking out about it.”
He nodded his understanding considering the life she has led so far. “I wish I had that ability. Sure beats working myself up, huh?”
“Yeah. Sit down and relax. Let’s just enjoy each other’s company.”
He stopped pacing and sat down next to her. His armor lightly clanged as he did so. He wrapped his arm around her and said with a smile, “You’re right as usual.”
“So….we should probably talk about it. We may never have another chance.” She said while rubbing her stomach.
“I would like if you will allow it. That if the baby is a ‘he’ that he be named after me. I don’t know why but I always wanted a junior.”
Amanda nodded then said, “As long as you agree if it’s a girl that I name her after my mother, Jennifer.”
“Agreed. Guess that wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.” He said with an even wider smile but then his smile faded as he realized the activity was picking up outside the tent. “I think we only have a few more minutes left here….I need to tell you something.” He said and dropped his arm to the bunk behind her.
Her face immediately showed concern, “What is it?”
“If I should not return from this battle….if this is the last time we are together….” He paused and closed his eyes, “I want you to know that in this moment I am happier than I ever thought possible. I have no regrets about being with you. I love you Amanda Sanders with all my heart and soul. God granted me the most happiness any man can ask for.”
Her eyes did not tear up as she expected them to. If this truly was goodbye she did not want him to see her in pain. “Thank you for saving me. I want you to know that if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have experienced the joy of Faith.”
His smile returned quickly, “I didn’t do that. You did. You found the gift of Faith all on your own. I just showed you the good it can do.”
At that moment Marcus poked his head inside and yelled, “Its time boss man, let’s roll.” Anthony kissed her quickly and reached for his helm but she grabbed it first. She stood up, faced him and slowly lowered it onto his head. He stood up and embraced her one last time breathing in her scent. The last thought he had before walking out was that she still smelled as good as the first time they met. He took his place among his Knights and Amanda took hers with the Sisters. Anthony quickly confirmed with Kelly that the plan was still a go and got the go ahead. He turned one last time to see Amanda then gave the order to move out.
The 7th Legion’s approach for the battle was to go straight down the ravine leading south. The other Legion’s approaches were spread out around the ravine. As Anthony got closer to the ravine he decided it would be better if he took the path along the eastern cliff and took Jonathan with him. He commanded Marcus to take the lead as his Knight’s made their way into the ravine. Anthony figured the view from on top would be of more benefit than walking down in the ravine. He kept pace with his men while the rest of the Legion’s advanced in a staggered pattern. Anthony felt his heart beating faster and faster as they got closer to the Death Knight’s encampment.
He looked to his right and saw that St. Gabe’s Legion was moving away from him. At first he could not tell why but then he saw them. Death Knights were charging recklessly into battle without any sense of direction. They were like rabid animals fighting on pure instinct. He wanted to order his men to move for the assist but couldn’t. They were in the Ravine and it would expose the camp to attack to order them out. He called his Legion to halt. He watched without any worry as Sir Gabe’s Legion quickly dispatched their enemy but it would be a fleeting victory.
Chaos soon fell upon them as Death Knights sprang out of the ground in their very midst like zombies rising from the grave. Anthony watched as the Knights of every Legion except his own become overwhelmed with enemies. The enemy had their own trap in mind this day and the Knights walked right into it. Anthony turned to Jonathan and said, “I need to ask a very special favor of you my friend.”
“Sure, how can I be of service?”
“Go back to camp with the men. I have a bad feeling our little ploy to capture Charles isn’t going to work today. My wife is in danger and I need you to protect her.”
Jonathan was instantly confused, “Where are you going to be?”
“I have unfinished business with an old friend. Trust me on this. I need you to go now.” Anthony said then extended his hand to Jonathan, “I need to know that I have valued your friendship beyond measure. Thank you for always being there for me.”
Jonathan was more confused than ever but said, “You’re welcome.” Jonathan turned to leave not knowing that this was the last he would see his friend again.
Anthony watched Jonathan run down the shallowest part of the cliff in the area and join the rest of the troops. Anthony stood on the edge of the cliff and signaled Marcus to return to camp. He watched as they marched back the way they came. He felt the hairs on the back of his head stand up and remembered a dream he had a long time ago now. He turned around to see Charles standing there and he drew his sword standing ready. His mind was racing to remember the exact details of that dream. Charles lunged forward driving his shoulder into Anthony’s midsection causing them both to fall head first off the cliff.
Anthony’s screamed as he fell and the scream triggered his memory of the dream he once had. He rolled forward just as he hit ground landing on his back. It still hurt more than he wanted it to. The impact was enough to aggravate his barely mended ribs. He knew he didn’t have time to worry about that and struggled to his feet. Charles was doing the same but when he realized Anthony was still in fighting form he turned and ran. Anthony decided it was now or never so he gave chase. He was about fifteen to twenty strides behind Charles who was the faster runner.
The sun was setting as they approached the south end of the ravine. Anthony could see the torches from the enemy camp but could not see any Death Knights. Charles finally stopped out of exhaustion and figured Anthony would be pretty tired too. Charles turned to face his opponent breathing heavy but ready to fight. Anthony slowed down to a stop and was even more exhausted than Charles. He lifted his sword to the ready position and held his ground.
“What no speech? Aren’t you going to try and help me again?” Charles bellowed.
“You know the offer is on the table and I don’t like beating a dead horse.” Anthony said between deep breaths.
Charles nodded and said, “Let’s finish it then old friend.”
Anthony quickly scanned the surrounding camp. He saw several hundred small tents that could have housed 2 or 3 people comfortably and one really huge tent in the center. He figured that was their command center similar to the one that was set up at his camp. He had a feel for his environment so he pressed forth in attack. He decided to attack Charles sideways to throw him off balance. His first swing was a side to side coming from left to right. Charles parried the attack and countered with an uppercut slice which Anthony dodged.
Anthony kicked Charles in the gut causing him to bend forward slightly and then Anthony simply pushed him back. Charles stumbled backwards barely able to regain his footing. He desperately swung his sword side to side in an attempt to get Anthony to back up. Anthony instead pushed aside Charles’s sword with his own and stepped forward to stab Charles. Charles saw the attack coming so he turned to run away. Anthony gave chase once again hoping he would not get too tired in the process. Charles stopped once again this time right in front of the large tent. Anthony pressed forth in an unrelenting attack not allowing Charles to counter just parry or dodge.
Anthony slowed his attack to try a power swing over head but missed Charles slicing through the tents ropes. The wind came up and blew the tent back revealing the sacrificial pit hidden inside. Anthony pulled his sword back but too late as Charles kicked him causing him to fly into the pit. Anthony landed on his right side hurting his ribs even more. He stood up just as Charles landed in front of him on his feet. Charles pressed the attack missing wide to his right and Anthony stepped sideways swinging for Charles’s arm. The feeling of slicing it off felt odd to Anthony and he saw the arm fall to the ground. Charles would join his arm on the ground squirming around shouting obscenities at Anthony.
Anthony stood there watching just like in his dream Charles cauterizing his wound and returning to the battle. Anthony knew what was about to happen so he chose caution instead of recklessness. He started swinging side to side not allowing Charles a chance to recover. He soon realized the only opening he would have is to try the overhead swing. He fought the temptation and took a step back. He didn’t want to die and wouldn’t die the way he was shown he would.
He whispered to himself, “I can change the future.”
“What? This isn’t how it was supposed to happen.” Charles said almost yelling.
“Knowing how something might happen doesn’t mean you have to allow it to happen that way.” Anthony replied.
“FIGHT ME!” Charles yelled and lunged for Anthony who simply side stepped him.
“I am not going to attack you. You’re not worth it.” Anthony said and started looking for a way out of the pit.
“NO, YOU CAN’T DENY ME MY VICTORY!” Charles was clearly furious and charged Anthony again.
Anthony did not have time to dodge so he parried to the attack. Charles started swinging his sword wildly throwing Anthony off balance. Anthony tried to pivot away but Charles stepped towards him and kept up the attack. Instinct took over and Anthony started fighting back. He started to press the advantage on Charles as he was only one handed now. Anthony swung as hard as he could at Charles’s sword hitting it causing it to fly out of Charles’s hand landing on the opposite side of the pit. Anthony stood there with his sword extended towards Charles throat.
Between deep breaths Anthony said, “Give up man. You can’t beat me.”
Charles’s face contorted as he grabbed for Anthony’s sword. He pulled as hard as he could, and then pushed the sword into the muddy wall which swallowed the sword pretty easily. Charles ran for his sword leaving Anthony struggling to get his sword out of the wall. Charles grabbed his sword and charged for Anthony. Anthony saw him coming as he finally got his sword out but just a second too late. Anthony jerked to the side as Charles’s sword pierced his side. Anthony yelled as the pain shot through his entire body. He looked down and noticed the sword was in a different place than it was in his dream. He fell to knees as the pain overwhelmed him.
Charles laughed then said, “Some things are inevitable.”
Anthony shook his head and said, “Not really, this isn’t the same thing.” Anthony grabbed Charles sword and tried to pull it out of his side. Charles pressed the sword down further into Anthony’s side. Anthony smiled as he firmly grasped Charles’s hand on the hilt of his sword.
“You smile when you are beaten? What’s wrong with you?” Charles blurted out.
Anthony called upon the last measure of strength that he could and forced his sword through Charles’s cuirass. Charles’ eyes went wide as Anthony pressed as hard as he could. The sword pierced Charles’s heart as he was unable to avoid the fatal blow. Anthony watched as Charles tried to say something but instead fell over in a heap. Anthony stayed there on his knees for what seemed like forever unable to move. He felt his energy slipping away and the darkness coming down around him. He gave the sword one final pull and it slipped out of his side.
He looked up and saw that night was had now fallen everywhere. His world started to go dark as he struggled to move. A shadowy figure appeared before him and he was unsure how it got there. He tried to crawl away but felt a kick land right on his open wound. He instantly rolled into a ball protecting his side. He looked up to see the face of Remus staring down at him. Remus’s face was void of all emotion. Although when he spoke Anthony thought he detected a bit of anger.
“You had to go and screw it all up huh? All of my carefully laid plans for you were all for naught.”
“What do you want with me?” Anthony asked as he tried to fight off the darkness.
“I thought that would be rather obvious by now. I chose you to lead my army and take Charles’s place at my side. Your wound is not as severe as it should have been making what comes next more difficult for me but not impossible.”
“I will never serve you. I would rather die.” Anthony spoke with a fierceness that even surprised him.
This did spark an emotion inside Remus and it was disgust as he kicked Anthony again. “Arrogant fool. You don’t even know what you are talking about.”
“I serve only one master and he even said that I am not any greater than him. If I have to suffer because of my belief in him then so BE IT.” And with those final words the darkness took hold of him and he lost consciousness.