I’d never expected this kind of victory. Truth be told, I’d more than half expected to be killed during the battle. But Larick was dead instead. And he’d let me kill him.
That was the most puzzling part of the whole thing. He’d killed my father and elder brothers without showing any sign of remorse. But against me, he’d lowered his weapon and allowed himself to be run through. Why?
“Lyn!” I looked behind me. Callie had approached from behind, freed from Larick’s spell. She leaned down and held me tightly. “You really saved me. Thank you.”
It suddenly occurred to me that I probably looked a right fool leaning over the body and staring into space. I’d just have to figure out his motivations later.
“Let’s go rendezvous with the others,” I said.
“We should go quickly,” she agreed. “They may need us.”
We ran from the palace. “They were coming from that way,” Callie indicated.
It didn’t take us long to find where they had been. Blood adorned the alleyway and there were troll bodies strewn around. Some corpses, others wounded but breathing.
Callie picked out one who looked relatively lucid. “Where are they?” she demanded.
“Fled,” he answered, pointing a bloody finger back the way we’d come. “Rest of our unit pursued.”
“They must have fallen back to Strecner,” I said. “Let’s go join them.”
“If we encounter what’s left of their unit, I’ll protect you this time,” Callie said.
The falcon practically fell on top of Joseph, much to his surprise. He recognised her, Larick’s familiar. Her plummeting out of control into him was not an auspicious sign. She had a scroll tied to her talons.
He took the scroll carefully. She didn’t seem to be breathing.
He read the scroll. It was addressed very formally.
To his royal Highness, King Joseph Pinbol the first:
I trust you have heeded my warning and avoided the front lines. If Cassandra falls with this message, it means I have lost my battle. My apologies for being inadequate.
With that in mind, it is with heavy heart that I ask you to meet with the new Royal One and ask for peace. I realise it will be difficult for a warrior such as you, but you must remember that the enemy has free access to the palace at this point.
Let me assure you, if you step forward and request an audience with the Royal One under a flag of truce, it will be accepted. I can also promise that you will not be harmed in the process.
I know that this is less than ideal for you, Highness, but it must be done. For the safety of those trolls back at the capital and for the future prosperity of your kingdom.
- Former High Magi of Hecate Larick Rootwall, deceased
Nearby, he saw Selene finishing up her plan of attack.
“This should cause them some serious damage,” she muttered.
Joseph took a look at her written strategy. It was good. He was almost tempted to let her do it. But he couldn’t. Not with the innocent civilians in danger at the capital.
He grabbed the plan. “You’ve done well,” he said, commending Selene. “But alas, we can’t use this.”
“What do you mean by that?” she demanded. Joseph handed her Larick’s message.
“I will speak with the Royal One under a flag of truce,” he declared. “We will end this war peaceably.”
Callie scooped me up and carried me away from the road. A group of troll soldiers was heading back. They looked dejected. Hopefully, that was a good sign.
We continued on our way to Strecner. To my surprise, there was a group of ghoul and vampire soldiers gathered around. They were led by a very familiar face. It was Hetan Perom.
“Grandpa?” Callie asked.
“Ah, hello, Child,” he said. “I see you’re carrying your bride there.”
Callie set me down, she looked embarrassed. “What is all this?” she demanded.
“Simple,” Hetan said. “We received word that your friends would come through here being chased by trolls. So, we made it a point to be here for purely defensive purposes. I’m afraid the troll soldiers didn’t take it well. I rather suspect they’ll file a complaint.”
Callie and I looked at each other. I knew in that moment that she hadn’t sent any message. The carriage driver, maybe?
“Are they okay?” I asked.
“They’ll live,” Hetan stated. “The draconian was hurt quite badly. Looks like a spear hit him on the left of his stomach and an axe took a chunk out of his right shoulder. Strangely, something seems to have been working to stop the bleeding before the minotaur dragged him here. We’ve got clerics treating the three of them.”
“I’d like to see them,” I said.
“Certainly,” Hetan agreed. He gestured for a ghoul. “Vanessa, take our elven friend to the Cleric’s tent.”
I followed her. Behind me I heard Hetan ask Callie “So, when are you two going through Hera’s Ceremony?”