The Demon Wolf (Book 1 of The Devil and the Huntsman)

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Chapter 71: Lament for the Past

“I have failed them. I have failed my people. My city is gone... along with my reputation,” Julius said.

“The earl of Loftain is now a corrupted king of Midland. Pride and envy led him to take a sample of my power and use it for his benefit. He shall pay dearly for this,” Mephiles said.

“He will pay with his life. Harald will taste my blade and shall be cut to pieces. I will make King Lancelot wish he never brought me into his family.”

“The king never knew your intentions, Julius. You’ve always been a quiet one in his court. Yet, among others, you have been a powerful knight compared to others. Before you take your place as king, you must sacrifice something and someone to take that title for yourself. You must fight against the kings of Hell and sit on the throne to lead you to your kingdom. A kingdom that shall never die in the eyes of the world.”

“Harald won’t even return to his wife. He won’t leave the castle to tell her he lives. This must be some sadistic game that he’s playing. And when I go back to that castle, he’s going to wish he killed me when he had the chance. He is no longer the man I once knew. I disown him in every way.”

“Harald will answer for his treacherous act against us. But we need to gather an army and dominate an entire legion of those who will follow you to the end. You must find those who will lay down their lives for you and still obey your every command. And if I’m right, word is already spreading about you, and the new king is spreading falsehoods against you. Harald, son of Lancelot, is now a king of a fallen kingdom. Having dominion over your army may somehow bring an end to his tyranny.”

If there is anything that Mephiles knew about kings and queens, it is the fact that most of them become tyrants and make slaves with their people. From a considerable distance, Julius could see every person in Loftain lamenting and mourning the last city of Midland. He wondered where they will go and where they should end up now that the night creatures have control over the region. Julius walks over to his front door and starts thinking about other things as the sun is rising. He turns back around, and he looks at the devastation of the forest and the footprints that the demons left behind.

“I must find Erica and tell her everything. She needs to know. She must know what her husband has become,” Julius said.

“Finding her will not be easy. She and her son could be anywhere after wandering off in the night. Last night may have just traumatized her for life,” Mephiles said.

“My wife gets traumatized, too. But she’s more on the dramatic side than Erica for wondering where I am. Nothing has changed about our relationship. She and I swore to protect each other and look out for one another against the demons, but my daughter still lives with me. There’s nothing I can do about that because the night creatures may come for her at an unexpected time. Today, I’m taking my family somewhere safer than here.”

“There is nowhere else in Midland that will keep them safe. We’ll just have to go to the mountains, just like you said. I hope they can keep up after you, especially in killing demonic beasts. You even said so yourself that you will give your own life to save your family and protect your people. But are Midland’s people your people to keep?”

“If Midland becomes my enemy, then I will fight like I always have. I will not back down if they wish to end my life. As far as I can tell, I’m already betrayed by a man I swore to stand beside. I need all the help I can get if I’m going back to that castle. I will either save him from the darkness or give him an honorable death. There is no escape from such a tragedy that Harald will have to endure.”

“We must stay clear of what the new king is planning to do with his nation. If we refuse to go back, then chances are that you will never receive your place as king of the earth. You must continue protecting your family, yet you will have to sacrifice that privilege to drive the demons away. The next power-hungry demon that you fight must be dominated so that his army may become yours. But for now, you must rest yourself and heal the wounds that the earl gave you. You must get stronger if you wish to settle against Harald.”

Then, Julius and Mephiles had nothing else to say to each other because the sun has already risen, and a new day has started. He did not want to go to the remains of Loftain by himself and watch the look on everyone’s faces. He refused to see the disparity in their eyes as they had a hard time trying to figure out where to go. Julius instead walks to the front door of his house and sees how his wife and daughter are doing. He wanted to make sure that they are kept safe and still alive to tell about what just happened.

Julius slowly opened the door and felt the fresh air as he took only a few steps inside the house. Luckily, everything that belonged to both him and his wife was still standing on their shelves. He also walks forward and sees Lagertha sleeping on the couch and notices she slept here all night long. He wondered if the event that took place yesterday was enough to keep her awake and unable to sleep in her room. Julius slowly walks to her, and he shook her shoulder to wake her up and tell her to get ready.

“Hey, Lagertha. Wake up,” he said. He rubs her shoulder again and tells her to wake up a second time before she makes a harsh noise.

A few seconds later, Lagertha opened her eyes and looked up to her father as he came home from the long battle. Her eyes watered at his presence, and she was glad he returned to his family after being away to fight the demons. Then, she gets herself up from the couch and hugs her father as he stands before her. Lagertha was proud that her father did not get himself killed by his enemies; she was happy enough to see him home.

“Father, you came home. I didn’t think you’d ever return,” Lagertha said.

“I’m home, Lagertha. I see that you took care of the house for me. But there are many things I have to tell you. Where is your mother?” Julius asked. But as he asked her that, Lagertha trembled and be afraid of what kind of answer she might give him.

She looked down at herself and shivered as she felt fearful of how her father will react when she tells him what happened.

“Lagertha, where... is your mother? What happened here when I was gone? Please, tell me,” Julius said. His daughter started squinting her eyes and looking away from him as he needed to know how his wife is doing.

Then, Lagertha no longer relented as she knew it would not turn out to be fair, and Julius got even closer to her face and got on his knees.

“Father, mother... she had a heart attack. She’s in bed, but I don’t know if she’ll make it to the mountains. I don’t think she can walk straight,” Lagertha said. Julius stood in front of her and felt distressed and heartbroken about what happened to his wife.

Lucy’s reaction to Loftain burning down was terrible and made her worry too much about her husband, and all the things he went through. Julius promised her that such an event would never happen again, but it seems as if he has broken that one promise. Then Julius leaves Lagertha alone and runs to his bedroom to see if Lucy can talk to him. He knew neither his daughter nor his wife could survive any longer in Midland. Julius quickly opens the door, and he watches Lucy look up to him; she feels glad that he is still alive.

Lucy slowly gets herself up from the bed as Julius dashes to her to show her some love before they start a new day. Julius hugs her and stays beside her as they both try to feel much better.

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