Kinghood: Book One of The Fourpointe Chronicles

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Chapter 5

He moves . . . something about his motion is so familiar, Symon told himself.

From a hillock, Symon watched Everitt weave through brush and past boulders in nothing but his wool long shirts and trousers. He had discarded his boots so his feet made nary a sound. Within moments, Symon had to strain to see him through the leaves and branches he rounded. A moment more, and he disappeared from sight altogether.

I should have gone myself, Symon thought. Everitt had spoken against it though, convincing the prince that it was too risky. His argument had been sound: Symon removing his armor to stalk and slay the Lewmarian watchmen would have put the men in a state of unease. Too many would have protested, and more would have grown anxious while waiting for Symon to complete the task, anxiety the whole of the army could ill afford given that their numbers mirrored their enemy’s too closely. No, it was too much to gamble. Symon - in full armor and arms, remaining in the rear – knew he had to keep up the appearances of his princehood. Still, the nagging feeling that he should be doing more remained.

Four chirps sounded from the brush. At that, Symon motioned the four at his side forward. Like Everitt, they were barefoot and without armor, armed only with daggers. They crept in Everitt’s direction in single file, each as quiet as the one before them.

Time slogged on, each minute a lifetime. The waiting only intensified Symon’s resolve to lead from the front, to climb the next hillock and present himself in full view of the Lewmarians. To demonstrate his fearlessness. To see the fear on their faces. To challenge the best of them as he had always dreamed.

Everitt’s return put an end to Symon’s heroic fantasy. The knight came back with the other four, each with blood on their blades and steely looks in their eyes.

“You well?” Symon inquired.

“We are, Your Highness,” Everitt answered as he wiped his blade on the grass.

“And the oil?”

“On the ship furthest from the camp. Once the fire we set catches it, it will turn the whole of the ship into a cook fire, mark my words.”

Good, Symon told himself. Everything is as it should be. Still . . .

“Change of plans,” Symon announced. He caught Everitt’s wide-eyed look, along with the quizzical stares of the rest of his men, both the four who had returned and the dozen in armor behind him and by his side. “I will return to the battlefield, to take my place there.”

“Your Highness, the soldiers there are set. They are at the ready.”

“Yes, I suspect they are,” Symon stated as he turned his back and hiked back through the dense brush, to where their horses were corralled.

He heard Everitt hurry alongside him. “What is the meaning of this?!” Everitt insisted, his voice hushed but his tone anything but.

“Careful, knight.”

“No disrespect, Your Highness. But this sudden turn of events unsettles the men.”

“As it should.”

“My Liege?”

“This is too easy. Something is amiss.”

“Such as . . .?”

“Their commander. Where is their warlord at a time like this?”

“Your Highness, I do not know. But I do know that if you abandon your men now—”

“I’m not abandoning them.”

“If you—”

“I’m merely fine-tuning our plans. That is all.” Symon leaned towards Everitt. “Do you have faith in me?”

“Always,” replied Everitt, without a hint of hesitation.

Symon peered over his shoulder, back to his men. “And them?”

“Your Highness, this sudden suspicion is unlike you. Why do you ask?”

Symon hesitated to reveal his concerns, but upon seeing the honest sense of worry on Everitt’s face, he relented. “I know of the rumors swirling about the Court. There has been talk from the barons. Do you know of what I speak?”

Now Everitt displayed his own form of hesitation. He pulled back a bit, his gaze averting Symon’s. “I, I have heard. Some tales. All unfounded, I assure you.”

“Then no doubt you have heard the moniker I have supposedly earned.”

“Yes. Your Highness.”

“Say it.”

“Your–”

“I command you.”

“Prince Fool,” Everitt stated, flatly. “They call you Prince Fool.”

Behind my back, of course, Symon thought. The name made him seethe with anger. And not just at his countrymen. He knew his brother Ely’s most recent antics had secured the embarrassing brand upon their noble family name. Only a month prior he had caused a furor in Court when Lady Cecily, daughter of Baron Dederic of Har-Kin Hamage, chanced upon Ely with Lady Elyscia, second cousin to Baron Gale of Har-Kin Mallory. On her way to view the sunset from the battlements with other women of the Court, Lady Cecily had found the two making love in one of the bartizans. The fact that Ely had danced and kissed Lady Cecily the night before, going on to profess his interest in her to Baron Gale, certainly did not help matters. Cecily went so far as to slap the both of them before storming from the battlements in tears. That incident – as well as others Ely was responsible for within the past year – gave rise to talk of the heir to the throne not being of sound mind. Thus the name Prince Fool was coined.

Though it had been a few weeks since Symon had heard the nefarious label, the sting of it was still fresh, for he had worked too hard to secure the trust of his men. A few antics by his brother had nearly undone all that. And if his own men could not trust him . . .

Symon shuddered at the thought. His mind returned to Everitt, who remained loyally waiting. “The men need an example of leadership,” Symon started again. “One that will put that moniker out of their minds. If even one thinks me a fool, then I have lost the whole of them. Understood?”

“Your intent is unquestionable. I know that all you do, you do for Marland.”

Symon turned to leave.

“But what will you do?” Everitt asked. “At the battlefield?”

Symon glanced over his shoulder, smiling. “Rest.”

Over an hour passed before Symon saw Everitt again. By then, Symon had certainly rested. He had even gone about admiring the plume of smoke rising from the Lewmarian ship that his men had set afire.

When Everitt entered the battlefield, however, he was anything but relaxed. He rode in at full gallop, both he and his horse appearing nearly spent. The rest of his company trailed behind, in much the same condition. The whole of them rallied to Everitt, on a rise overlooking the very spot from where they had pulled the dead. Many, to Everitt’s surprise, still laid about, in scarred and disheveled armor.

“My Liege,” one of the riders addressed Everitt. “To where do we ride next?”

Everitt scanned the field. He’s searching for me, Symon saw. Come on, come on, Symon thought but dared not shout. I altered the plan but a little. Look about, you can piece together the changes. I’m right here. Look in my direction. Look at me.

“To our prince,” Everitt replied to the man. “He must be close.”

Everitt continued to search in vain, finding no sign of Symon or the rest.

“Perhaps he rode onward,” said another.

“He said he’d be here,” barked Everitt. “With the others . . . Damn it, where are they?”

“They turned coward! All of them! Even the prince . . .”

An arrow poked through the back and front of the babbling rider’s throat, putting an end to his traitorous utterance. More bolts followed, from all directions.

“They got ahead of us,” Everitt shouted, as he looked about.

“They’re on all sides,” said another rider, before he too fell, bloodied by an arrow.

Those Marlish riders who weren’t struck found themselves falling nonetheless, as their horses endured arrow after arrow. Everitt’s mount almost threw him before collapsing under the onslaught of five bolts. Sir Everitt scrambled from the flailing beast, ushering his troops to the cover of the nearest trees.

Symon fought the urge to rise to their aid. He knew the moment was too soon, the timing not quite right. Please Mar, Symon prayed. Provide them with cover. Shield them. Save them!

Six Marlish men, including Everitt, managed to make it to the tree line before the arrows stopped. The six searched the surrounding field and forest. As did Symon, unawares to them.

Symon scanned the same areas five times over. Only on the sixth did he spot an irregularity. A single bush – or what he thought a bush – seemed out of place. He considered what might be amiss before realizing that it was not where it was before.

The bush moved. It rose from the ground. From beneath, Symon caught a glimpse of boots and deerskin pant legs.

The movement of that one bush was mirrored by another. Then one more. Suddenly, the whole forest floor across from him seemed to wake from its slumber. Symon, marveling at the single act of camouflage, watched Lewmarians stepped out from hiding to approach the rise where Everitt and his men laid trapped.

The enemy’s motion presented some disturbing possibilities to Symon. What if they saw my men and I hide? What if our own concealment came too late? They could have stood by and watched it all. Our surprise – our entire advantage – could be for naught.

Symon hated this ruse. Only moments before, a handful of his own men had been slaughtered. Now, he and the rest potentially faced the same fate. And there was nothing he could do about it, for any apt movement would for sure give him and his soldiers away.

All I can do, Symon realized, is to pray to Mar. For patience. For myself. And my men.

The Lewmarians, with sticks and leaves applied to their clothing of leather and animal hides, spread out from their position. In a semi-circle, they descended on the six, who remained hunched behind a line of thick-trunk pines. Everitt, his eyes never leaving the advancing enemy, remained the most focused and tranquil of his men, who exhibited a range of fear and anticipation.

One Lewmarian of slender build inched toward Symon’s position. Though he could practically reach out and touch the prince, he had somehow not taken notice. Symon held his breath nonetheless. This could work, he told himself. If they only keep going, I can give the word, my men can flank . . .

A horn blow shook all from their concentration. Symon himself fought the urge to turn, lest he make any move that could be noticed. The men, both Lewmarians and Marlish, looked to the northeast, from whence the noise came.

Though out of his viewpoint, Symon suspected their attention was on the crest behind him. His suspicions were confirmed when the Lewmarians raised their weapons in unison and cheered, their eyes vibrant and hopeful, their screams setting off another blow of the horn. Through their shouts and war cries Symon managed to pick out the distinct clop of horse hooves. Sturdy mounts, he supposed. From Lewmar.

The beasts nearly trampled him where he laid but still he dared not move. He stared up at the riders, the first of which rode ahead of the column, alone.

Warlord Konradt.

The Lewmarians were nothing if not braggarts. Tales of their warlords reached the harbors of Arcporte as easily as ships carrying grain and fish. From sailors’ lips, news came to the Court of the sons of Vice Warlord Videl, who had risen through the ranks to command their own small fleets of raiding ships.

The one in Symon’s sight was easily identifiable, if only by the tattoos alone. Markings of an unknown language wrapped the whole of his bald head, standing in for where hair should have been. Rings of iron pierced the lobes of his ears, six on each, supposedly one for each Har-Kin he had conquered on the shores of Afari. The hair of his brows and beard was blond, or at least it would have been had the warlord washed recently. Aside from his head and his hands, the whole of Konradt was covered in animal skins. The bearskin cloak around his shoulders, a thick fur dull brown in color, stood out as particularly impressive. Legend had it that the bear had dared to venture into one of his camps at night, thus waking the warlord, who responded by slaying the beast with a hatchet to its throat.

From below, Symon could not see the whole of Konradt’s eyes, for his gaze shifted from left to right as he rode. He did not know if the man possessed any doubt or fear. Perhaps by the grace of Mar it is best I don’t know, Symon considered. I need not focus on the warlord or his musings. I must direct my attention to the battle at hand. To its strategy. By Mar, I pray our plan works.

Konradt rode on until the trees that Everitt and the five hunkered behind were a stone’s throw away. He dismounted from his steed, a move that brought further cheers from the Lewmarians. Konradt turned full circle – both to search the landscape and to soak in the praise – before resting his sights on the Marlish Right Captain.

The warlord uttered a few brusque words. Upon seeing that the Marlish did not understand, he drew a dagger from his belt. He held it out in the palm of his hands, for Everitt to see. He dropped the blade at his feet and pointed at it. Then he waved the Captain and his men forward.

Everitt, understanding, nodded. He leaned against the trunk of a pine, to make eye contact with his men. All the Marlish stayed huddled behind the trunks of other trees, fearful of being seen and even more afraid of what was to come.

“Your Highness . . . fellow Marlish . . . if any of you can hear me, now is the time to act.”

Everitt’s plea was loud and strong. Konradt, hearing it, looked to the skies, to the forest and field around him. Finding no response, he laughed. His men joined suit.

I hear you, Everitt. Symon’s eyes shifted from under the visor. He spied the Lewmarian nearest to him, only two feet away. I want to respond, he said to himself as much as he wanted to tell Everitt. But not yet. Our men’s positions are too close. If the Lewmarians would only inch closer, and group together . . .

Konradt, his laughter spent, barked another phrase. When Everitt failed to respond, Konradt pulled his broadsword. He stabbed the air a number of times and shouted an incoherent chorus, each thrust and cry rallying more men to his side.

That’s it. Keep on, you bastard.

Everitt, with sword in hand, pushed himself up from the trunk. A look of acceptance came over his face. He scanned the forest around him. Concluding that his spot was the most defensible, he motioned his men to join him. He switched his sword to his left hand, so as to place his right fist over his heart.

“For Marland,” Symon heard his Right Captain whisper.

You are not done yet, my friend. Just stay as you are . . .

Everitt, always the hero, began to beat his chest. The thumping drew the attention of the Lewmarians. Soon, the knight was spewing his own incoherent war cry, as were the Marlish around him.

Konradt, a tad impressed, urged the Marlish forward. Everitt, perhaps wanting his last moments to lead to a glorious death, answered the taunt. He emerged from the tree line, racing straight for the warlord.

Bloody hell. We move now.

From under the matted brush by his side, Symon lifted a crossbow. He fired a bolt straight at the largest Lewmarian in range. The one closest to him, only feet away, swung around. By then it was too late. Symon had jumped to his feet and planted the tip of his dagger just under the base of the man’s chin. Blood spewed from his mouth. Symon pulled the blade from his victim, allowing the fresh corpse to fall.

Konradt turned his full attention to Symon. Symon raised his helm’s visor so the enemy could see his eyes. And so that he could fully see Konradt’s.

The orbs of the warlord were a deep, dark blue. Almost black. Brilliant and fierce. Staring into them, Symon felt as though he was looking into the soul of a wild beast, one without fear of death, let alone man.

The rest of the Lewmarians stared on as well. As did Everitt. And those Marlish still at the tree line. Suspended in their movements they were, with time having slowed to a trot, every moment languid.

Now. This has to happen now.

Symon kneeled. He reached over to his left side, pulling his sword from under the cover of a length of moss. He raised the blade above his head, the polished metal glinting in the light of the late morning.

From all around the Lewmarians, the dead rose. Fallen knights grabbed crossbows from their own hiding spots and fired. Many more bolts joined them from the cover of brush and earthen mounds. The projectiles streamed in on the barbaric horde, with steel-tips piercing leather armor and animal skins alike.

Everitt dove to the ground. He, along with the other Marlish, frantically crawled from the line of fire. Some of the Lewmarians tried to follow suit but their hesitation cost them dearly. With their comrades they fell as Konradt looked on.

Symon, seeing his opportunity, reloaded with expert skill. He lifted his crossbow and aimed. He fired at Konradt.

The warlord scarcely had time to react. Had one of Kondradt’s own men not crossed his path, the bolt would have found its mark, a fact that did not go unnoticed by him.

Among his injured and dying army, Konradt pointed his broadsword at Symon. He uttered a primal war cry and charged.

The scream from their commander inspired the rest of the Lewmarians. Even the bloody and broken raised their weapons as high as their limbs would allow before rushing towards every Marlish soldier in sight.

The Marlish dropped their crossbows to reach for their weapons. The pole-men grabbed their halberds from under cover while the pavisers reached for their poleaxes. The light cavalrymen armed themselves with their short swords and spears while the knights picked up their broadswords and shields. All the Marlish collected in small units, bracing themselves for the onslaught that was to come.

The Lewmarians crashed into the soldiers in haphazard fashion, their ranks having fanned out in all directions. They sliced and swung at the Marlish men-at-arms, their attacks as wild as their eyes. Their battleaxes and swords battered steel armor and shields. For their part, the Marlish remained firm. The Marlish held steady, their training apparent with every blow they deflected and counterattack they made. The Lewmarians had scarcely spent the better part of their energy before Symon noticed his forces were driving them back, propelling their wide circle of troops further in, the lines of their warriors contracting.

All except for Konradt. The warlord, along with his retinue, made quick work of the first line of Marlish that met him on the field of battle. With sweeping strokes of his broadsword the Marlish had little recourse but to scatter and retreat. The second line – the only one between him and Symon – endured his wrath as well. Only those men met a bloodier fate, one that stirred Symon to his core.

Symon marched forward. A Lewmarian spotted his approach and blitzed forward. Symon’s blade met the combatant’s not once but twice, before finding the weak spot in his armor, in the left shoulder. The man grimaced, arching his neck as though inviting a fatal blow. Symon complied.

Two more Lewmarians rushed forward. They spread out and descended on Symon at once. Symon, though, was prepared. His training at the castle had included scenarios uncommon in fencing yet normal in battle: two-or-three-on-one, fighting with one’s back to a corner or battling left-handed. This charge proved no different in start or result. Symon, seeing the hubris in the men’s faces, responded with a lesson all his own. His blade met that of the right assailant, then the one to his left. Each blow well-placed and powerful, much more than the Lewmarians expected. Symon took advantage of their momentary shock. He plunged his sword in the crevice of the right assailant’s belly, where the man’s short leather tasset had been flapping wildly. The man used borrowed leather armor, Symon considered. Ill-fitted it was, a poor choice.

The assailant to his left responded with a cry and an overhead stroke. This one overextends himself, Symon thought as he stepped out of the way. The man stumbled forward, allowing Symon the moment to pull his sword from the other’s stomach. As that man fell, the left assailant regained his composure, swung around and lunged at Symon.

Blade danced off blade as steel sung with steel. Symon quickly realized the Lewmarian was far from a novice. He lunged and swung at every opening Symon had to offer: his groin, his shoulders and knees, and most importantly, his visor. However, though strong, the Lewmarian’s moves were predictable. With one overextended lunge, Symon stepped aside and swung his sword in a wide arch, the latter half of his blade spilling open the Lewmarian’s throat.

The third assailant dropped to his knees before falling face forward into the dirt. That left Symon with one challenger.

Konradt.

The warlord spat on the ground and pointed the tip of his broadsword at Symon, all the while screaming incoherent curses. Symon, undeterred by his words or motions, continued forward, each step faster than the one before until he broke out into a full charge.

Sword met sword. Again. Again. Then Again. The strikes were fierce. Neither swordsman allowed an opportunity for mistake.

Perhaps seconds went by. Or minutes. Symon was not sure. While the grasp of time evaded him, the appreciation of his surroundings did not. The field of battle had shrunk, with a ring of corpses strewn about the edge of the forest and into the neighboring meadow from whence it had started. The engagement had grown more intimate, as one enemy crashed into another, each trying the drive the other back. At some point he heard his Right Captain yell, “Defend your Prince,” as he saw a glimpse of Everitt before a slew of Lewmarians came between the knight and himself. Yet with every passing moment, the tide favored the Marlish, who managed to encircle the Lewmarians.

In reaching back to raise his sword, Symon grazed a Lewmarian behind him. The warrior turned, fuming, but had no chance to respond as the Marlish he was fighting slit his throat. Symon, seeing his movements restricted, gripped the center of his blade to begin half-swording.

In doing so, Symon saw something in the warlord he had not hoped for - a grin.

This cannot possibly bode well, he thought.

Konradt, acknowledging the close quarters, took to half-swording as well. The two of them circled for a bit before Konradt made the first move. The tip of his sword snapped at the crease of Symon’s left shoulder. Symon deflected it, just barely. In doing so, he felt the power behind the warlord’s lunge. He fought off another advance, then a third, all the while mindful of how well Konradt was closing the gap between them.

The last lunge was little more than a feint. Symon deflected it, then found the bulk of the warlord before him, as Konradt shoved the length of the sword toward his neck. Symon, struggling against the momentum, took a few steps back before his retreat was hampered by the trunk of a pine.

The warlord pressured his blade forward. Symon, his blade crossing Konradt’s held his own.

Then warlord relented his pressure, only long enough for Symon to see his left fist - wrapped in a steel gauntlet – draw back and slam into Symon’s helm.

Vibrations rang through Symon’s head. His vision blurred. His mind clouded. He fell to one knee.

A burst of light fell upon his eyes as he visor flew open. Symon blinked, furious and desperate, as his sight returned just in time to see the tip of Konradt’s sword.

With his gauntlet extended Symon tried to stop the blade. He nearly succeeded, as his steel-encased hand wrapped around the steel shaft inches from his eyes. Yet the blade wiggled through his grip. It advanced forward into the helm.

Symon turned his head. A surge of pain erupted on his cheek, just under his left eye. Symon grimaced as the warlord shrieked, his war cry rising to an ear-piercing pitch.

Symon opened his eyes. He could see. Though the cut was close, it had not blinded him. It had, however, made him mad.

His fingers gripped the blade tighter than ever before. He dropped his sword, thus freeing his other hand. Now both wrapped around Konradt’s broadsword as Symon rose, his footing once again secure.

Konradt, seeing his advantage spent, spat in Symon’s face. He fingers clenched his sword with renewed vigor. With that, both men began their dance.

Push answered push. The two swayed and leaned in all directions. Both bore their teeth, as sweat soon dotted their brows. From beyond Konradt, Symon could see several of the fighters - both Lewmarians and Marlish - throw glances their way, even as they continued to battle.

Konradt shifted his weight, throwing his momentum toward Symon. Symon staggered back, bracing himself against the additional force. The two paused, neither giving an inch as they stood locked in place.

Symon searched the whole of Konradt for an opening, a flaw he could exploit. He found none.

Though wearing his gauntlets, Symon’s hands grew weary, as the continuous gripping took its toll on his strength. His thighs and calves burned. His arms and back ached with each shove and pull.

Dear Mar, Symon prayed. Dear Mar . . .

Symon looked past Konradt once more. Suddenly, those soldiers in battle he had admired closely, in what seemed only moments before, fought in the distance.

He glanced to his sides. The two had fought their way deeper into the woods. Where Symon expected to find soldiers, he saw trees.

The earth beneath him had changed too. He could feel the crunch of twigs and tree needles under his boots, along with the rise and depressions of the uneven ground.

The patch of dirt behind him slanted upward unexpectedly. Symon’s knee buckled for a moment. Konradt, seeing his opportunity, shoved the sword forward.

Symon, though, regained his composure. He stepped back in quick succession, his hands still firmly around the broadsword.

Konradt, now, stumbled forward, his momentum having the better of him.

That’s it, Symon thought. Let’s finish this.

Symon back-stepped further up the rise. He pulled the sword, and Konradt with it. Then, as the rise leveled, he threw himself into Konradt.

The warlord buckled and fell back. Symon, with sword in hand, drew his arms in close as he rolled over Konradt. The two trundled onto the forest floor. Symon gave the sword a heavy yank. It collapsed into his chest, finally breaking free.

Symon hurried to his feet. As did Konradt, who searched the forest floor. Seeing him temporarily thrown off guard, Symon tightened his grip around the sword. In the course of the grappling, the broadsword had spun around, so that the hilt was upright and the blade pointed downward. Just as Symon wanted.

He bent the hilt toward Konradt. He swung the sword in a wide arc, in much the way one would expect a barbarian to swing a club. But with Symon, there was more purpose and precision to the application of his force. And instead of an aged piece of hardwood serving as the point of impact, there was the hilt – the cross guard, grip and pommel – careening toward its victim.

With a strong and definitive thwack, metal crunched upon cartilage. Symon watched Konradt’s legs go out from under him, his head craned back as a spiral of blood etched the air above. Slow and glorious the sight appeared, one that would have satisfied the most seasoned of warriors. Still, Symon, not wanting to take chances, readied the broadsword for another blow.

Konradt collapsed to the forest floor with a mighty thud. Blood gushed from his nostrils as his limbs laid out spread-eagle, seemingly lifeless. His eyes, however, conveyed a different reality. One not of pain, but rage.

The warlord lifted his head, seemingly able to rise and fight until the death.

Then, with another act of accuracy, the hilt came upon his face again.

More streams of blood ran wild from his nose. His limbs laid limp. But this time, the wrath of his eyes quieted, as his eyelids shut.

Symon stood over him. He lifted the visor of his helm to gather a proper look.

The warlord’s face was a mess. His chest struggled to heave. Symon, wanting to ensure it wasn’t a ruse, nudged his legs and hands with his sword. He even went so far as to point it into his neck, driving the tip in until blood trickled. Nonetheless, the warlord remained limp. Convinced that the warlord was unconscious, Symon pondered his next move.

Do I end him? For all of the Marlish he has killed? My countrymen. So many. How many more would he have killed had my men and I not stopped him? Hundreds? Thousands?

The rustle of pine needles beneath boots broke Symon’s concentration. He gripped his sword once more.

Everitt, his breastplate splattered with blood, rushed forward. Seeing Konradt on the ground, and Symon in defensive stance, he slowed.

“Sire,” he said, panting. “Your Highness. It’s me.”

With the edge of his battle lust waning, Symon eased his disposition and softened his stare. Everitt, looked over his shoulder, nodding to that behind him.

“We won, my Prince. The battle is ours.”

Symon looked past his Right Captain to spot the remaining Lewmarians encircled by Marlish, who outnumbered the standing enemy five to one. Reluctantly, the adversaries dropped their weapons as the Marlish men-at-arms closed in.

“Well done, Captain,” Symon offered.

“You as well,” Everitt said as he looked to the warlord and sheathed his sword.

“I was fortunate, that was all.”

“You were fortunate? With all due respect, Your Highness, those Marlish bolts provided quite the close shave.”

Symon raised his brow, surprised by Everitt’s candor. “I said that I was going to join the others at the battlefield, to take my place among them. And rest.”

“In a dead man’s armor?”

“It worked, did it not?”

Everitt, both relieved and exasperated, relented. “All I ask is for a little more . . . clarification. Next time. Your Highness.”

“Of course,” Symon assured as he handed him the broadsword before turning back to Konradt. “Now gather some men. We need to secure this one. He has a long journey back to Arcporte with us.”
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