Vallarie had opened her eyes slowly. The sky was bright blue and looked like a beautiful painting. She smiled to herself. Her body still hurt. They had hammered thick iron nails into her hands and feet. It had hurt so much. She could not scream when they did it. She had already torn her throat screaming when the soldiers had their way with her in the barracks. She had just suffered in silence when they nailed her to the wooden contraption.
She did not care what fate had in store for her now. She only wished for death’s sweet embrace. She smiled up at the sky as a tear rolled down her cheek. ‘I will see you soon mamma’
Keon stopped to take a breath. He had been carrying Azzara on his back for a day and a half with little rest. She had not regained consciousness since collapsing after killing the blue demon. He was worried. He needed to get her to a healer as fast as possible. They were also slowed down by Farron. The young swordsman was severely injured and could not walk on his own. After Keon had patched him up the best that he could, Farron had made use of Azzara’s chair to travel with them.
“Hurry up Farron! We need to get Azzara to a healer soon.”
Farron shook his head as he struggled to push on the wheels of the chair “Still can’t believe she’s actually Princess Azzara! And the way she killed that demon? What is she?”
“Someone who needs help. Now come on! It can’t be far now.”
As the sun set, the boys had caught a view of a large castle surrounded by high walls. As they reached the top of a hill, they could see two armies facing off against each other.
“Fort Arlcliff,” Farron said suddenly “The Imperials have already made it this far. A huge battle is going to take place. We must work our away around it so as to not get caught up in the fighting.”
A platform was erected that stood above the two armies. A slender man climbed on to it and bowed toward the Fiondan army.
“Hear me! Great warriors of Fiondan!”
The armies were quite a ways away from them, yet Keon could hear him as though he were standing right in front of them. Was that magic?
“I applaud your bravery! But do you truly wish to die here? You need not! We have what we came for! And you all will witness justice being served to the criminal who has brought war and strife to your lands!”
Azzara had begun to stir on Keon’s back. She moaned incoherently. Keon had only managed to pick one word, however: Marcus.
The man raised his hand, and Keon watched as the imperial soldiers worked to erect a high wooden board. There seemed to be a woman attached to it. The wooden board rose up high into the air, and the woman hung several feet above the heads of the armies. Keon had to strain his eyes to get a better look.
A woman was nailed onto the board. She was covered in blood and was completely naked. She had light yellow hair that was caked with dry blood. Keon would have thought she was dead if he didn’t notice her twitching.
“You might know the woman before you. This is Vallarie! Knight-commander of Fiondan’s Rune Knights!”
Wails of anguish and angry cries could be heard from the Fiondan camp. Keon’s heart at dropped. It was her, the woman who saved his life. There she was, battered and bruised, her hands and feet nailed to a wooden board. Her dignity was stripped away, and she was helpless. All Keon could do was watch. Tears rolled down his cheeks. A mixture of fury, frustration, and heartbreak had swelled up in his chest. Azzara still moaned but remained unconscious.
“As you can see, she has been punished quite severely for her crimes. It is now time for the execution. But before that,”
The man raised his hand at Vallarie. It looked as though he were casting some sort of magic spell on her.
“Knight-Commander Vallarie!” the man shouted “Before you die, beg for mercy from whatever Gods you believe in and beg for forgiveness from the mighty Empire! Tell your countrymen to stand down as you accept your punishment!”
A pin drop could have been heard. Silence had fallen on the field. Even the warhorses stopped neighing and stamping their hooves to listen.
Vallarie raised her head. It looked like she was saying something, but no sound came out. Only her lips moved.
“You will need to be louder than that my dear.”
Vallarie was still for a moment. And then she screamed at the top of her lungs “GLORY TO FIONDAN!!”
The Fiondan army Roared. An Imperial soldier picked up a crossbow and shot a bolt into Vallarie’s head, pinning it to the board. Azzara screamed, but no one would hear. The fiondan army roared in unison and charged at the Imperials. The battle for Fort Arlcliff had begun.