Blood shot forth and dribbled down the king’s beautifully embroidered red and gold cloak, like ice melting quickly on the first hot day of spring. He loved that cloak. Elias knelt before his father, and tried to staunch his wounds with pieces of cloth ripped from the clothes of the nearby dead. Crying like a boy, Elias delicately picked up his father’s insides and tried to stuff them back inside his body. There was too much, the king looked as though he had been doused in spring wine. If only it were wine.
Elias sat helplessly, cradling his dying father. Tears dripped from Elias’ face, dripping onto his father, willing him to live on.
Never had he expected to be holding his father like this. Kings were supposed to be away from the action, merely overseeing combat. Elias had failed his father. The Deimos were too strong, unnaturally so. They could do nothing to stop them. The way the bodies had flown… it had to be some black magic. Elias shuddered to think of it. There was nothing he could do now, save for comforting his father as he lay dying.
Elias’ father, King Mark, coughed and sputtered suddenly, gasping desperately to extend his life, “Elias….Elias…..”
Elias drew closer to his father’s breast, arterial blood spurting onto his dented and dulled armor.
“What is it father? Tell me what I must do!” Elias sobbed at him, choking on his words.
“The Deimos. You must defeat them. They cannot rule…” the king whispered, his eyes lolled dangerously. He was fading.
“Father!” Elias shook him, distressed, “No! There must be a secret. How do I defeat them?”
“The only way to destroy their evil power is through magic, the same evil magic they themselves possess. Find the hermit Vye.”
Vye. The kingdom’s outcast hermit. What could he possibly know about the Deimos? Elias thought.
“Son,” King Mark’s arms yearned for Elias. “Don’t make the same stupid mistakes I did. I love you.”
Elias croaked a laugh, suppressed by his grief. He hugged his father tightly, ignorant of the mass amounts of blood and internal organs spilling out from his father’s torso.
The battle raged on around the king and his son, cradled alone in the middle of a copse of burning trees. Ash fell softly around them, blown by gentle breezes. Battle cries bellowed out in the distance, above the ring of married steel. Fallen enemies and comrades decorated the forest floor, their dull empty eyes staring infinitely at the brooding grey sky. All was lost.
Stunned, Elias rose, allowing his father’s corpse to gently fall from his tired arms. He chose a huge oak tree, untouched by the madness of battle, and laid his father under a small outcrop of roots on a soft bed of heavy grass and moss. Elias knew that his father had often walked solitary in these woods. It was fitting that he would lay here forever.
Elias unsheathed his sword and buried it in the earth beside his father’s head, above his right shoulder. His helm had already been placed above his left shoulder to honor the king’s death. A knight always left his helm with his king or lord to signify his shame in his inability to protect. Such a great knight Elias had turned out to be.
Elias picked up a burning branch and paused for a long time, reflecting upon his father’s life. Many kings were cold and informal, but King Mark was a warm, family man. It was Mark that taught Elias to wield his steel and inspired him to don the armor of knighthood. Finally, Elias set alight the bed in which his father lay. His body slowly smoldered and caught fire, but Elias couldn’t bear to watch. Enough was enough.
A grey warhorse limped into the copse, causing Elias to turn. The horse was painted with the blood of others, which was splattered down the beast’s sides and flanks. Perfect. Elias thought, now to find this hermit wizard.
Elias rubbed down the horse with his hands, shushing and calming the animal. He led it away from the now peaceful forest by the remaining pieces of the horse’s destroyed reins. Together, Elias and the horse slowly walked back towards the King’s castle and the life that was waiting within.
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