The wind howled as if in anger, bending the thick, lush grass of the valley. The sun beamed down, which made the grass warm and allowed the trees to cast shadows. In the shadows of the trees were the twins Trystan and Syam, on either side of the wood. They were scouts for Prince Merrick, peering into their spyglasses every so often. The face of Trystan read fear with each glance in his spyglass. He looked beside him, Syam held his ground and his face unreadable.

“How can you be so calm, brother?”

Syam looked over, “I’m not. But the prince is correct about liberty. He gives me hope.”

“Hope or not, look at them,” he motioned to across the valley.

Syam didn’t need to look into his spyglass to know what his brother meant. Across from them, which was not even a league in length, was an advancing horde of Knights. It wasn’t an army, maybe a small legion, but the gleam of their armor struck fear into the heart of Trystan. Two officers were on two white horses.

One was a man of all dark features, with a somber expression. The other had fierce red hair that flowed with each wind gust with a distant look on his face; a look of purpose.

The small legion paused. Syam stole a glance again and saw another scout from across the way, a scout for the Knights! He jerked back and realized they were spotted. He quickly looked at his twin, sweat forming at his brow.

“What?”

“We are spotted. I just saw one of their scouts looking at me.”

His brother gulped loudly, but said nothing.

“Should we run?” Syam whispered.

Trystan didn’t answer, he just pressed against the tree.

“Trystan,” he hissed. “Now’s not the time to be scared.”

“Now’s the perfect time to be scared,” Trystan snapped. “The Knights of the Last Days are on the island! They are right over there and they have spotted us.”

“There is hope. They don’t know we are with Prince Merrick.”

“Prince Merrick? The traitor of Hazar-Shual?” asked a new voice with a cool air to it.

The twins’ eyes widen in fear. They slowly turned and realized the red haired officer on the horse sneaked up on them! He dismounted his horse and took out his sword.

“Tell me where he is. Or I won’t even bother torturing your hides.”

“Then why would we tell you?” Syam squeaked.

Captain Romulus cut his sword into the air, catching Syam in the chest. The young man fell to the ground, holding the bleeding wound. Trystan let out a yell. Romulus looked back at the unwounded twin. “I’m in no mood for games, little boy.”

“Tell… him… nothing,” Syam breathed.

Romulus growled and pointed the tip of his sword at Syam. His eyes locked on Trystan. “I am Captain Romulus of the Knights of The Last Days. I command you to tell me where Prince Merrick is hiding. Or else my sword will meet your brothers’ heart.”

Syam groaned on the ground, Trystan’s eyes shifted from the captain to his brother and back again. Romulus grew impatient and swung his sword downward. A slight slash was audible, along with a small gargle. The blood of Syam oozed from his wound; moisten the dirt of the tree. Trystan fell to his knees, eyes filled with tears. He lunged forward, shielding the body of his dead twin.

“He’s in the woods! In the woods!” Trystan yelled, tears streaming down his face. “Prince Merrick and his rebellion are in the woods, waiting my signal to come forth and slaughter you heartless bastards!”

Romulus’s face was unreadable. “Then signal him. I wish to take the Golden Sword of Hazar-Shaul after I have his head.”

———————————————————————-

In the woods, Prince Merrick sat on a log, his eyes transfixed on his golden sword. The Golden Sword of Hazar-Shaul had been in his family for countless generations; legend says that only the true ruler of Hazar-Shaul could wield and use it. The prince took a deep breath, something felt different about the air. He knew blood was going to be spilt because of his vision; because of his uncle’s dreams of a free realm.

He grinned to himself, if this battle goes successful and he is proclaimed the champion of liberty as he had hoped for ages, he would no longer just be a spoiled prince. He’d finally be King Merrick, Merrick the Heroic. He closed his eyes and smiled inwardly, he could see it already. He would sit on the throne of his forefathers; eat the divine fruit, his pick of many maiden.

What if you fail, boy? His cynical grandfather’s voice rang into his head. His eyes shot open in anger. He would still be just a prince, a spoiled, arrogant little brat who has no place for the world he sought to create. Another deep breath and the wind changed directions. He rose to his feet, his eyes shifting. He did not want to lose; he did not want to be another grave. His eyes flared, he was going to be King Merrick the Heroic!

Or he would have been, if he hadn’t felt the sting of a blade in his back. His eyes widen as the blade seeped into his back, slowly twisting. A large, armored hand covered his mouth. Merrick went limp and fell forward. The Golden Sword fell with a soft thud of the grass and leaves. He fell face first into the same ground. He never saw it was his own trusted Ethelwulf who drove the blade into him.

The large man didn’t grin, because he didn’t enjoy it. He bent over and picked up the Golden Sword and tilted his head. He scanned the fine details of the blade and the wolves of the handle. A soft rustle from the bushes and Captain Romulus emerged, his armor bloodied.

Ethelwulf bowed and presented the Golden Sword of Hazar-Shaul to its former peasant. Romulus took hold of the sword and placed its sharp tip on the shoulder of Ethelwulf.

“Rise,” Romulus breathed. “Fellow Knight of the Last Days.”

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