5 min read
8 Hour War
“It’s never been done!” The Duke Oravalio shouts over the wind.
“That’s what they said about killing a god before Androx did it!” My cloak billows behind me, and I glance at Mortim.
The Knights Decadent shift nervously on the tower. Mercenaries, all I could find on short notice.
We are gathered on the tallest tower in the Oravalian estate.
“Mortim!” I shout over the wind. The boy stands behind the duke, and the duke jumps in surprise.
“Yes sir!?” The wind is picking up now, and the clouds swirl overhead.
“Will you be able to keep them?”
“We will hold them.” He addresses the duke. “We will have somewhere between thirty and forty thousand by the time day breaks!” He looks at the sky. “It’s time Iter!”
“Go now!” The duke shouts to the ‘knights’, and as one, five hundred men and one woman run screaming off the edge of the tower.
The lightning strikes the men in groups of two or three. A hundred bright hands of light streak across the sky, slapping soldiers down with a loud, base-filled scream of thunder. I am the last one. I close my eyes as the lightning hits me and my ribs vibrate in my chest.
I open my eyes in a dimly lit dining room. The Knights Decadent stood up with sheepish expressions, each pretending he had not seen the other fall out of the middle of the air and land hard on the ground. Mortim and I land on our feet, although he has not ever done a long-distance teleport as far as I know.
“Why the fall?”
"Curve of the planet, don’t want our conquest to end by ending up inside solid rock.”
The men gather their wits, and the lieutenant of the group gets them to form ranks. “Where are we?” One of them asks. I climb up onto the table.
“Welcome to Gresk. Castle Quraith to be specific.” I drink in the intoxicating sound of amazement from the men. Months of travel. Instantly. It's not possible. A small smirk escapes my lips.
“The entire castle will have heard that by now so it’s time to see if you are worth your price.” The men puff their chests out and put their hands on their swords. “Kill anyone that tries to stop you but bring us Lord and Lady Quraith alive!” My smirk turns into a grin. “Happy hunting.”
Harthor falls in a little under two hours. Mortim reports we have somewhere between 700 and 900 soldiers, although it is hard to be completely sure. The men gather in the ballroom again and the clouds send lightning through the hole in the ceiling at my command. The sound crawls up my spine and travels along my ribs to my heart. The sound of conquest. The sound of victory!
Jesirion and Eanon fall in an hour, and their lords and ladies are taken into our custody by Mortim's misted soldiers. We leave a unit behind in each Castle before we move on to the next one. I begin to feel tired after the second one. Not a normal tired, but a worse, more dangerous tired. My wards keep my body energized while my brain calls out and begs for sleep.
I oblige my brain for the entire run on Santriel, before being awoken by Mortim for the last run. The capital. Androx. We have somewhere between thirty-six and forty thousand soldiers in our army, and I can see that Mortim is starting to tire as well. He drinks wren from a flask. If he were to fall asleep, it would be all our heads.
The army appears in the final Castle at midnight. The room is brightly lit, not by candlelight or chandeliers, but by a deep blue mist coming off of our new soldiers. Light seems to refract throughout it in an impossible manner, causing some of the mist to be heavily light and other parts to be darkened and wispy.
The Knights gather in separate groups away from them, whispering to themselves. The soldiers move to take the castle, but the duke and duchess stay back.
“Look dear. Tapestries! It’s been so long since I’ve seen a good tapestry.” The Duchess Amare Oravalio says in a tired voice to her husband. They are thin for nobles, husband and wife. I could almost fit both in the palm of my hand and roll them around. Like a child playing with clay.
“It’s beautiful.” Fortuna says. The duke is breathless, as if seeing a furnished hall for the first time in his life.
“It’s yours, my duke,” I say. “And yours my lady. Your great, great, great grandfather would be proud.”
“These Gresk nobles are quite honorable fools, if any noble can challenge the throne.” Fortuna says. I smile slightly.
“Foolishness is a common trait in nobility, I find. Remind me again of your house debts?”
His expression sours. I need to watch my tongue more carefully.
“It’s not your fault of course. If your father had been more honorable perhaps he would not have made so many enemies and you would not have accumulated so many debts.” The Duchess nods.
“I never felt comfortable around that man. Gave me the creeps.”
“Me, too,” Mortim says. We all jump in surprise at his answer. I suppose we all assumed he had gone with the mists.
“Hmm...” Mortim says, hand to his head. “My presence is needed.”
“Trouble?” I ask.
“No, but not being able to see it makes my head hurt. Either that or the wren.” Wren, the wretched Sorvasan attempt for ale. Keeps the drinker awake instead of sending them to sleep. Everything the Sorvosans do is backward.
We follow him as he moves towards the blue trails of mist. When we arrive on the balcony, we witness firsthand the horror of the scene. All around the courtyard, Knights Decadent in the olive-colored livery of house Oravalio fight against men in the dark green of Androx. The individual blue lines of mist are impossible to differentiate now as they curl around Mortim in a thick slow-moving cloud. The lines lead to some of our soldiers on the field, and some past the battle to other parts of the castle. Mortim plays the battle like an expert conductor, his normally brown eyes glow softly blue, and he moves his hands in odd patterns through the mist.
One of the olive lines breaks suddenly, and Mortims eyes widen. The green-colored soldiers surge into the gap, stabbing and cutting into flesh along the line. There is blood everywhere, as if the field itself bleeds its misery.
When the line breaks the rhythm changes, it gets faster and it crescendos, and when it does, the mist creeps across the field to the areas filled with dead green and olive soldiers. Mortim lifts both hands, and as one, the corpses are covered in the blue mist.
And as one, the dead soldiers rise.
A man who a second before had been crying for his mother, now removes the spear from his chest and launches himself at the line. Another, whose helm had been cleaved in twain by an ax, moves forward, despite the open passageway to his brain. Several of the new soldiers are in worse shape, however. One in particular catches my eye. An Androxian soldier who had been beheaded convulses on the ground as if a disabled man prone to seizures. Morim notices him and others like him who resist his mists. He cuts them off as if an angry director cutting off a squeaking clarinet, or an angry parent cutting off their ranting child. The mist leading from him to the beheaded man is cut, and the man’s body disintegrates on the ground.
Blue mist bleeds from their wounds as they stumble toward the battle. The lines of green soldiers killing our olive soldiers suddenly break as they notice their fallen friends, as well as the fallen of our own, get up and attack them.
“Never have I seen such death. Not in a hundred battles.” Fortuna says.
“It’s beautiful,” Amare says. “The blue.” There is a tremor in her voice, as if she is about to break and must focus on something good.
As the sun rises, the people of the city rebel. Word leaked from the bailey that the castle was being taken by one of the nobles. The Knights Decadent had to be let loose on the street to round up the dissenters.
Later that morning the Gresk queen and king stood before Fortuna and Amare. They sit together on the throne, and the sun rises in the window behind it. Amare leans on Fortuna’s chest, but her eyes linger on the blue-cloaked figure in the back of the room, sipping his flask.
I nod to her, and she sits up in the duke's lap.
“I have challenged your right to the throne on the basis that my great, great, great grandfather was once a noble that sat at your table. I sent you the written note of my, and my husband’s challenge ahead of time and bested your army in battle. I have occupied your castle. Yield to me, and we will spare you.” The court is filled with nobles. The nobles from the other castles. They are surrounded by misted soldiers. They look at their queen and king with frightened blank eyes.
“It’s not possible.” The king says.
“Clearly it is,” I say. Fortuna gives me a sharp look and I quiet myself.
“We will not kneel to outsiders.” The former queen looks appalled. “You hide behind what you claim is honor, when in fact-”
I signal Mortim then, and the green-cloaked soldiers behead the king and queen so fast, that her mouth is still moving even after her head hits the floor.
And so, King Fortuna Oravalio now sits on the throne of Gresk; in the castle that I won him, with an army that is not his, and in the kingdom that now belongs to me.