#21 Morn o’the Saints
Word count: 5,474
Characters: literally everyone
Notes: this- this was too fun. also sad. but fun
He watched from his throne, it was better that way. It would keep him from sneezing and scaring Imogen’s cream colored cat.
Jaron stretched his arms above his head, his mind lingering on Renlyn Karise. She’d been escorted on a stroll outside. Lieutenant Alistair was under strict orders not to let her talk to anybody.
Especially not Jolly.
Truth be told, Jaron wasn’t entirely sure that Jolly was as innocent as he pretended to be. He knew something, and his stubborn adoration of Mireldis Thay was ruining Jaron’s plans.
And Jaron really didn’t want Jolly knowing he was the one to accuse Renlyn of being Mireldis Thay.
“I finally named her,” Imogen said, dangling a ribbon above the cat’s head. “I’m going to call her-”
“Please say Beanstalk,” Jaron said, leaning against the arm of his throne and kicking his feet up on the other.
“Why would I name her Beanstalk?”
“Because it’s funny.”
Imogen rolled her eyes, “I was going to say Edelweiss like the flower.”
“Beanstalk is better.”
“No it’s not!”
Jaron sat up, “We’ll have a contest then. If the cat answers to Beanstalk, that’s her name. If she answers to Edelweiss, then that’s what we’ll call her.”
“I don’t want to play this game,” Imogen said, pulling the cat onto her lap. “You probably have a treat and you’re going to trick her into coming to you.”
“That’s not true!”
Except that it was. He’d begged the cook to try a recipe specifically for the cat, and then he stole one of the treats as they cooled before Imogen could have them brought up to her. It made his pocket smell like fish and catmint.
He hated it, but he’d let his pockets reek like fish if it meant almost being able to name Imogen’s cat Beanstalk.
“Here Beanstalk! Here kitty!” Jaron pulled the treat from his pocket, and threw it to the cat. “I did have a little something extra up my sleeves, sorry Imogen. But she does answer to Beanstalk, so I think she likes it.”
“I’m not naming my cat Beanstalk,” said Imogen.
Imogen’s cat, deemed Beanstalk Edelweiss, pawed the treat around. Her huge eyes seemed to grow when she brushed the treat away. Beanstalk Edelweiss dropped to a crouch, and launched herself at the treat.
“Oh, Beanstalk Edelweiss, what I wouldn’t give to be able to hold you without sneezing.”
“Stop calling her Beanstalk!”
“Good job catching that imaginary mouse, Beanstalk.”
“Jaron!” Imogen scowled.
“Yes, my wondrous sunbeam?” He forced himself to look innocent, and leapt off of his throne.
Imogen wasn’t having it.
She glared at Jaron as he stepped over the cat, and held both of his hands out to her.
Though she hated the teasing, Jaron enjoyed it. Her face often scrunched up when she grew annoyed, but would ultimately soften after a few moments. Imogen couldn’t stay mad at him, and he couldn’t stay mad at her.
Her hands were shy as butterfly wings. Jaron broke into a smile when she finally accepted his invitation.
However, the smile left when Imogen pulled him from his feet, catching him in her lap before his head could hit the ground. She smirked, and tucked his head into the cook of her arm.
“We’re not calling the cat Beanstalk,” Imogen tapped his nose.
Jaron tapped his cheek, “Give me a kiss right here, and maybe I’ll think about it.”
He set his hand down on the floor, and when Imogen moved to kiss his cheek, pushed himself up to meet her halfway.
Imogen’s fingers tangled in his hair, threatening to knock his circlet from his head. Not that it mattered, hardly anybody came in to speak to the king during this time of night. Normal people would be in bed. Normal people would’ve been exhausted from market day.
Though Jaron and Imogen were hardly normal people.
He wrapped his arms around Imogen’s waist, pulling her closer to him. Closer and closer and-
The throne room doors slammed open.
That was how Oberson saw them when he stomped in with his lieutenant at his side; Jaron and Imogen locked in a kiss.
“Your Majesty!” Oberson’s voice was the equivalent of a hammer against stone. “I have important news!”
“Please be that he’s leaving,” Imogen murmured to Jaron as he sat up.
“What is it, King Oberson?” asked Jaron. “I was clearly busy.”
Oberson clapped his hands, and stepped aside as ten of his guards marched in. Their clattering metal boots alarmed Beanstalk Edelweiss, leading to her bolting for cover beneath Jaron’s throne. An echo bounced through the throne room the moment they stopped marching.
The doors slammed shut, only for the doors on the opposite side of the room to slam open. Commander Regar stood in the middle, his hands chained together and Roden lingering behind him.
“Commander Regar requested an audience with you, your Majesty,” Roden declared. He frowned at Oberson, “I would suggest talking to him first regarding his fate.”
“I am a king, I hold precedence over a captain of a guard,” Oberson growled.
Jaron stood up, pulling Imogen to her feet with him. “Nonsense, I think I’ll listen to Roden first, he was more polite than you, King Oberson.”
The spluttering Oberson made was laughable. “Excuse me?”
There was something about Oberson’s manicured goatee and pompous desire to be heard first that triggered an instant desire to punch him in the face.
If there wasn’t a threat of war behind that action, Jaron would’ve done it. He hadn’t bashed somebody’s nose in for several months. Humbling an arrogant man was something long overdue.
“You’re excused. Roden, bring Commander Regar forward, I will listen to his-”
“What I have to say carries the utmost importance!”
“And you will speak in due time!” Jaron snapped. He slipped an arm around Imogen’s waist, and turned to Roden. “What makes you think I’ll give you what you want?”
“Because, your Majesty, I’ve had a lot of time to think for myself,” Regar stood taller. “Is Lord Branch nearby?”
“Lord Branch is-.”
He never had the chance to finish his sentence.
“Lord Branch is conspiring against the crown!” Oberson bellowed. He reached for one of his soldiers, and dragged him to the front. “Look what he and his allies did to one of my soldiers!”
The man, who was tall and fair, held his hand to his heart. A large foot-shaped bruise covered the side of his face. “It’s true, your Majesty. There was a situation in the square by your vendors, and we were attacked by a young woman and another masked assailant. Lord Branch interfered.”
“Tobias got in the way of a fight?” Imogen’s brow furrowed together. “What did you do to him!?”
“Call him in,” the fair soldier rolled his shoulders back. “He won’t be here, last we saw him he was running off into the night with five others.”
Jaron could feel Imogen’s eyes on him. The choice was his. He could appease Oberson and have Tobias brought to the throne room, or brush Oberson’s accusations off.
It was impossible to think of. Impossible to imagine Tobias worming his way into a matter of hand-to-hand combat so casually. Tobias did what he could to seal breaches. He was a peacemaker.
But Tobias would throw himself into the hands of danger if he knew a person was depending on him.
A silent agreement passed between Jaron and Imogen. They would go to check on Tobias themselves.
He called for Mott, no man in his right mind would go into any situation without somebody like him at their side.
Every ally was needed. Jaron stared at Oberson, and tightened his grip at Imogen’s waist. There were too many things going on at once. Now Tobias was involved, or at least that’s what Oberson was insisting on.
Really? Tobias fighting off an armed soldier?
“We’ll go and look for him ourselves,” Jaron stood tall. He looked to Mott, who nodded and took Roden’s position by Regar, “I’ll make sure my right hand man is here to make you feel comfortable, King Oberson.”
“Ah, that won’t be necessary, your Majesty. My men and I will accompany you. If Tobias returned, he will be with a young woman with a mark on her hand, restraining her is the highest priority,” said Oberson.
“What’s her name?” Regar growled, his beard was almost bristling. He shrugged forward after Mott set a hand on his shoulder.
“Mireldis Thay, Commander Regar.”
“That’s impossible, she’s-”
“Finally within the grasp of justice.”
Mott cleared his throat, “What will we do with Commander Regar?”
“Leave him here, Mott, with you,” Jaron set his jaw forward. “So help me Saints, Regar, if you try anything it will be your last attempt.”
He was bluffing, Jaron had no intention of carelessly tossing out executions. What he needed was an incentive for Regar to hold still.
A fear of death often prompted people to hold still.
Another feeling lingered in Jaron’s mind; he’d be getting at least one answer before the night was over.
“Take my hand,” Imogen murmured. She’d taken a few steps forward, probably preparing herself for the worst.
Jaron didn’t need to be told twice. With Imogen’s hand in his, he left the throne room, Oberson and his men trailing behind them.
The walk to Tobias’s chamber was longer than Jaron was used to. He blamed it on the fact that something sour was crawling up his throat. The mask he’d plastered on his face couldn’t fail him. If it did, Oberson would surely use it against him.
He paused, staring up the curving staircase that would take them to Tobias.
Each step he took was like walking through mud.
They made it halfway up the stairs before Regar came crashing through the throne room doors. His face was almost as red as his beard. Mott was leaning against the throne room door with his arms crossed.
“I think Regar holds precedence in this situation,” Mott called.
“We’ve established that-!” Jaron jerked his attention back up the stairs.
There stood Tobias, Jolly, Alistair, Renlyn, and Ayvar.
Ayvar waved a hand, her other was strapped into a sling. She realized her mistake, and bowed, “Sorry to disturb you, your Highness.”
Too many things were happening at once. Jaron’s attention was torn between Regar and Tobias. He held onto Imogen’s hand a little tighter than before.
It felt like he’d drift away if he let go of her.
“Tobias,” said Jaron. “King Oberson had me convinced that you’d assaulted one of his men.”
“Oh! It wasn’t me who did the assaulting,” Tobias’s eyes flicked left and right, like he was looking for somebody to swing out of nowhere in order to box his ears. “But I did catch Oberson’s men trying to beat Ayvar.”
“It’s true,” Alistair gestured to Ayvar. “Look what they did to her hand.”
When he was a child, Jaron faked his fair share of injuries. He’d perfected the art, but it took several years to do so. His flaw when using a sling was always putting his hand a little too far forwards.
Ayvar was making the exact same mistake.
“And they tried to use Tobias as a hostage,” Jolly pointed out.
Tobias made a face, “Forgot about that.”
Everyone in his small band looked at him with varying levels of concern. Renlyn frowned, “You- you forgot about somebody holding a sword to your throat?”
“It’s been a busy night!”
Oberson stomped his foot, “This is a farce! The woman we’re looking for has a brand upon her hand, not a scratch made by a fingernail!”
“You didn’t say the mark on her hand was a brand,” said Jaron, turning to look at Oberson. “That kind of physical attack is prohibited on Carthyan soil.”
“You have no laws-”
“I do, actually. In Carthya, we do our best to treat people as human beings. Not every kingdom does the same, but I expect my guests to follow our rules. King or not.”
“My men found Mireldis Thay, she attacked them, and they fought back,” Oberson said. “I know she’s here.”
“Tobias has nothing to hide,” said Alistair.
Did they really think Jaron wouldn’t hear the hissing shushes they all gave?
He looked directly at Alistair. “Tell me then, Alistair, is Mireldis Thay in Drylliad?”
The large room, often filled with noise, became so quiet, Jaron could hear Beanstalk Edelweiss’s tiny mews. Alistair’s cheeks colored.
“I can tell you where she’s not,” Alistair’s toes turned toward each other. “She’s not in Avenia, and she’s not in Eberstein.”
“Did you see Mireldis Thay enter the castle?”
Renlyn shoved an elbow between Alistair’s ribs, and he forced a tiny smile. “No, no I didn’t.”
“There’s your answer, Oberson,” Jaron tucked his arm around Imogen’s waist. “Alistair didn’t see Mireldis enter the castle.”
“Then where’s your captain?” Oberson said. “Is he smuggling her out?”
“Quite the contrary, you placed a high charge against a regent of my court and the husband of Bymar’s princess. Captain Harlowe left to get Princess Amarinda, she deserves to know that a lesser king of Bymar is accusing her husband of treason.”
A wide ‘O’ formed in Oberson’s face.
Which made Jaron smirk.
He’d managed to stump Oberson. Mott had tried telling Jaron multiple times to pick his battles, but he rarely heeded Mott’s advice. Until tonight, that is. He was going to fight every battle he could for now.
But that didn’t mean some didn’t hold priority.
Wiping that smug look off of Oberson’s face would’ve satisfied Jaron at one point, although, times had changed. He’d had answers dangled in front of him for far too long. It wasn’t fair for them to be kept from him any longer.
“What is it you needed to say, Regar?” Jaron called down.
“My lord, I-,” Regar began.
However, Oberson didn’t accept his defeat. He ordered two of his men up the stairs. “I know she’s here! I found her myself, running around wearing a mask! She fights with a saber and hides during the day at-!”
“You’ve been looking for the wrong Thay!” Bellowed Regar, his voice threatening to shake the castle. “It’s me! It’s been me the entire time! My name is Graer Thay, and you will stop this hunt for Mireldis at once!”
Regar’s confession rang through the staircase, echoing out of the windows.
Nobody could’ve missed it.
Jaron heaved in a breath, resisting the urge to make a comment. He struggled to hide a triumphant smirk as he looked at Mott.
After all, he’d been right despite his inner circle trying to shut down his idea. It was outlandish, yes, but incredibly clever. Jaron hadn’t suspected Regar’s identity until he began reading letters late at night.
When rearranged, Regar spelled Graer. It was difficult to catch. Not many people looked to rearrange names.
“Don’t say it,” Tobias rubbed his temples. “Jaron, don’t-”
“I told you so,” he said. “You should’ve listened. ‘Oh, Jaron, we’re having a serious meeting, don’t say things like that’, serves you all right.”
“What are you going to do with him?” Oberson demanded. “He’s a war criminal, and he helped his daughter escape after attempting to kill you!”
“Oberson, this is-”
“No! I demand Graer’s head! His crimes occurred in my home, not yours!”
“This is my kingdom!” Jaron roared. “You listen to me while you’re in my home!”
Unfortunately, Oberson didn’t. He pointed at Graer Thay, “Guards! Arrest that man and take him to the courtyard! I’ll-”
“King Oberson, King Jaron, I do hate to interrupt your argument, but as of now, Graer Thay and his men work for me,” Renlyn said, her voice as level as Falstan lake when it froze. “Which means, King Oberson, you will not only be killing a man who hasn’t directly harmed you, but you will be killing an employee of mine.”
Renlyn took a step forward, her long blonde hair drifting across her face, “Do not underestimate the lengths I will go to in order to protect those who work for me. The repercussions will affect your kingdom for generations to come, I will promise you that.”
Graer held his hands together and bowed his head for a moment.
Jaron looked to Oberson, resisting the urge to dismiss him. He had every right to kick Oberson out of the castle, he’d overstayed his welcome.
He’d probably leave on his own.
The urge for an answer was almost quelled. It wasn’t what Jaron wanted. He wanted to know where Mireldis Thay was, and he suspected that Alistair, Tobias, Renlyn, Jolly, and Ayvar all knew more than they let on.
But now wasn’t the time to push it.
Not with Oberson barking for somebody’s head.
Jaron wouldn’t cave into the demands of another arrogant king. He wouldn’t bow. It wasn’t in him. He knew what he stood for, and the moment he faltered, his example would crumble.
“By the Saints,” said Amarinda, her dressing gown wrapped around her. “It’s madness out here!”
“That it is! But, we’ve found a Thay,” Jaron pressed a kiss to Imogen’s cheek. “I’d say it’s worth it.”
“You’re telling me that Commander Regar is indeed Graer Thay?” Amarinda left Roden’s side to stand by Tobias.
“It’s the beard,” Graer said, gesturing to the mass of red hair shooting out of the lower half of his face.
“Yes, I suppose it is.”
“Get this man a bed,” Jaron stood a little taller. “He has many answers to give, and I doubt he’ll give them without a good night’s rest. Do you have any other fingers to point, Oberson? There are other things I need to tend to rather than a young woman you’re obsessed with chasing.”
Oberson stiffened, “That is all, your Majesty.”
“And will you be staying for our observance of the Morning of the Saints?”
“I will-,” Oberson scowled, but relaxed into a placid expression. “I will be leaving tomorrow, actually, if that’s permissible.”
“Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help,” Jaron said.
He sincerely hoped that Oberson would leave him alone.
The Morning of the Saints always occurred on a church day, and often followed market day. To Jaron, it meant being able to sleep in snuggled up to Imogen. He’d put on his crown and some ridiculous coat and lead his regents to the chapel, where they’d pray and sing before leaving for a grand feast.
Because he knelt at the front of the chapel, terrorizing Roden and Tobias was out of the question.
But it would give him time to think of every question he had for Graer Thay. Jaron would get the answers he needed, and possibly talk Graer into helping him search for Mireldis.
It was going to be a long day.
When he woke up, Imogen was at her vanity, brushing her hair. Beanstalk Edelweiss was curled up at her feet.
“Good morning, Beanstalk,” Jaron yawned, sitting up in his bed. A slight breeze brushed across his shoulders, and he tugged a blanket over himself to keep warm. “Any wild, prophetic dreams, Imogen?”
She set the hairbrush down, “Yes, actually. I had a dream where you stopped calling my cat Beanstalk.”
“That’s never going to happen.”
“Oh yes it is,” Imogen insisted. She reached back, and began to braid her hair, “I was thinking about having the walls painted again.”
Ah, the walls of their room. Always blank and always covered in plaster. Jaron scratched his head, “I like the chips, it’s very decorative.”
“I want to employ an artist to paint after the plaster has been redone. I’ve been talking with Renlyn-”
“Renlyn wants all of my money.”
“-and she’s told me how important it is to promote artistry. Really, Jaron, I think it’s a good idea.”
“So long as you do it of your own free will and not because Renlyn made an offhand comment about how the queen of Mendenwal has every wall in her castle painted with different scenes,” Jaron said.
“She does have every wall in her castle painted,” Imogen waved her hand. “I think it would look nice.”
“It would, but I’d like to see at least one dragon. Please, that’s all I ask.”
“I can work with a dragon.”
Jaron nearly rolled off the bed, but managed to catch himself at the last minute. His nose began to tickle. He could risk a few sneezes if it meant being closer to Imogen.
A loud knock caught Beanstalk Edelweiss off guard. She jumped to her feet.
“A moment!” Jaron called, tossing the blanket back to the bed.
The knocking turned into pounding. Roden’s voice was muffled by the door, “We don’t have a moment!”
“It better be important,” said Jaron as he opened the door.
Roden was dressed head to toe in chain mail, his right side entirely protected with plates of armor. His helmet was tucked under his arm.
“Get dressed,” Roden ordered. “Oberson’s decided he’s going to go out with a fight. Take a look out the window.”
Sure enough, the last of Oberson’s guards were marching out of the courtyard with their halberds held high.
Just over the castle walls, Jaron could see a line of people.
“Get down there as quickly as you can,” he barked, racing over to his dresser. He wouldn’t have time for armor, he’d have to settle for a tunic and a mail shirt. “Keep a defensive line up, keep as many people alive as you can, do you know why he did this?”
“He claims he saw an assassin fleeing the castle,” Roden frowned. “Said Mireldis Thay tried to kill him.”
“I’m sick of the lies, take as many men as you can and stop Oberson. I’ll bring the others. Roden, we can’t let this turn into a massacre. Imogen, I need you to-”
“Find the answers, I’m on it,” she said, tugging a long tunic over her head. She reached for a gold rope from her vanity, and tied it around her waist. “Be careful, Jaron, please.”
The mail shirt in his hand was heavy. Jaron leaned in, and kissed Imogen’s cheek. “I will, I promise. Can you help me with the shirt?”
A new weight fell onto his shoulders, and it wasn’t just the chain mail shirt hanging from his frame.
He should’ve seen this coming.
He should’ve been able to guess that Oberson would do whatever he had to in order to get his way. It was what almost everyone in a position of power did. They stepped on people’s lives and families, not caring who was damaged so long as they got what they wanted.
Oberson would stop at nothing to get somebody’s head on a stake, and with Graer under Renlyn’s protection, Mireldis was the only option.
Jaron pulled Imogen in for another kiss. “Good luck, and I trust you’ll know where to look.”
“I know how to catch little truths,” she flashed a smile. “Promise me you’ll come back?”
“Only if you let me call your cat Beanstalk.”
“We’ll discuss it upon your return, love.”
With his heart in his throat, Jaron fled his room. The castle walls blurred together, he took the steps two at a time.
Ingrithay’s lines and lines of bloody walls and kitchens rang through Jaron’s head as he dodged maids.
The words changed. Changed to fit Oberson’s final strike at Mireldis Thay.
Mott must’ve heard the news. He was waiting outside the castle doors with Jaron’s sword in his hand, lines and lines of soldiers marching into their places.
“Thank you,” Jaron panted. He strapped his sword around his waist, and pushed his hair back. “Where’s Mystic, where’s-?”
“Mystic is being saddled as we speak, he’ll be out soon,” Mott tilted his chin up. “I think it’s best if we skip flowery speeches and get right into helping Roden.”
“Do you know anything?”
“I know that there’s going to be a lot of trouble waiting for us, and that Oberson needs to leave as soon as possible.”
A pair of pages brought out Mystic and a speckled mare for Mott. Both horses wore armor on their chests and heads.
The pounding of Jaron’s heart served as his drumbeat. He swung into Mystic’s saddle, ignoring the pain in his leg that reminded him of what happened in his last fight. Looking over the soldiers for one last time, Jaron forced himself to take a breath.
He prayed that the Saints would guide his sword and guide Oberson out of the city.
They didn’t deserve a massacre on their holy day.
“Our plan is to subdue and defend!” Jaron drew his sword. “A single drop of blood spilled is too much, the Saints will be with us.”
But it didn’t feel like it. Not as Jaron pointed his sword to the gate, and led his soldiers and Mott down into the streets of Drylliad.
If there was anyone walking the cobblestones, Jaron didn’t see them. He kept his eyes glued to the middle of the road, looking for any sign of Oberson’s men.
He could hear the fight long before he could see it.
Cries for assistance, the ringing of swords hitting against each other.
A woman shouting to get back. To form a line.
Feet pounding against the stones.
Jaron didn’t say a word as he urged Mystic to hurry, the soldiers behind him marching faster as well.
They passed the masked corpse of a Faola, and not far from the fallen bandit lay one of Oberson’s men, soaked in his own blood with a dagger in his back.
There would be more corpses.
Half of Oberson’s men were standing in rows across the square, just outside of the Dragon’s Keep. There were too many to count without taking time away from reaching a peaceful end. They were too far away to see. Jaron couldn’t find a trace of King Oberson anywhere.
The other half were fighting against Carthyan soldiers and-
And bandits. Both masked and unmasked.
“Give up your arms, or die!” Roden barked, the clashing swords fading. “You’re surrounded and outmatched!”
“You can see the brand on her hand!” Roared one of Oberson’s soldiers. “Give us Mireldis Thay and no one else has to suffer!”
One of the Faola stood out. The right sleeve had been torn off, and the left one had been sewn back on. She fought with her left hand, the right was bandaged up to her elbow.
Mireldis kicked at a soldier running toward her, and when he swiped at her head, she ducked. With her dagger, she cut the back of the man’s thigh, and moved on.
She ran and reached for Roden with her right hand, he swung her over to a trio of Oberson's soldiers ganging up on a Faola. Her dagger cut through the man’s tunic.
Other Faola weren’t so lucky. Blood splattered against Mystic’s hooves and stained Jaron’s boot.
The leftover rain puddles were dark and red.
Some of them were covered with the masked corpses of fallen Faola.
Jaron moved to dismount, but Mott held out a hand. He was scowling, “Stay on your horse, send your men forward.”
“Find a Carthyan and fight beside him!” Jaron ordered, holding Mystic’s reins in one hand and his sword in the left.
The first two lines of soldiers poured through Oberson’s men, rushing to help their brothers in arms. Those who remained charged forward, holding their blades against Oberson’s other men.
A Faola, trapped between three of Oberson’s men, twirled into one, using him as a shield. The Faola managed to take down another man, but didn’t check behind him, falling as another soldier ran them through.
“Get back!” Mireldis shouted, waving her bandaged hand. “Ulspierre! We have to cut our losses!”
A young man with ginger hair only laughed, “I’m just getting started!”
Several of the Faola caught onto Mireldis’s order, and many of them turned and ran. Oberson’s men would’ve followed if it weren’t for a new thundering sound.
“Your men too, Captain!” She ordered.
Roden called for a retreat, and stood back to back with Mireldis as both of their warriors fled to safety. Oberson’s men would’ve followed if it weren’t for a new thundering sound.
Men and women carrying all sorts of weapons poured out of the Dragon’s keep. They wore no uniform, only the clothes they’d brought with them. As more Faola heeded Mireldis’s warning, Graer’s men moved together, forming a line across the street.
One of Oberson’s men got too close to a mercenary, and was clubbed out of the way.
Graer’s mercenary army was holding a line of defense.
“You can’t win!” Roden declared. “You’re surrounded!”
“Give us Mireldis Thay!” Countered one of Oberson’s men. “That’s all we ask! Nobody else will be punished, I give you my word!”
“Quite the contrary,” called Jaron. “I have every intention of charging everyone involved here with treason.”
He leapt off of Mystic, ignoring Mott’s quiet plea to keep a safe distance from the fight. Jaron had seen enough.
“Who ordered this attack?” He asked, his sword growing heavy.
Something hateful and fiery reared up in his chest. Jaron couldn’t ignore it, “Tell me who ordered this attack!”
“Oberson sent his men after me,” Mireldis called. “I ran, my friends came to help, and Oberson’s buffoons slaughtered us.”
“You won’t find him here, Jaron,” Roden added. He stepped forward, sword trained on a soldier. “He left the city hours ago.”
If he arrested each one of Oberson’s soldiers, he’d have no room in the dungeons. If he sent them on to regroup with Oberson, he’d be giving an enemy more power.
He couldn’t just execute them all.
Jaron walked to the middle of the battleground, and stood beside Roden. Mireldis had stepped back, joining the line of mercenaries.
“Surrender now,” Jaron ordered. “Your king left you for dead.”
The man he was addressing swallowed, his eyes flicking to the side. “King Jaron, I-”
“Surrender and I’ll be willing to listen to your excuses.”
An idea was forming in the back of his mind.
There was a mercenary commander who’d jump at the thought of expanding his army.
“I don’t have all day,” said Jaron, pointing his sword at the man. “I’ll give you to the count of-”
“We surrender, we surrender,” the man held his hands above his head. “I’ll tell you everything, I promise, King Oberson insisted that we were doing him a favor, he claimed that you weren’t doing anything to help him and that Mireldis Thay attempted to kill him last night, we were only doing as we were told, I swear it!”
One matter was out of the way.
And now he’d finally cornered the Faola responsible for the mess.
He’d finally managed to corner Mireldis Thay.
Sheathing his sword, Jaron turned around. “Lady Thay, I can promise you safety if you- where did she go?”
“Where did who go?” Roden arched an eyebrow.
There was a trick Jaron taught himself in order to keep himself from speaking without thinking. He counted to ten over and over again until he could think of a comment that didn’t include cursing somebody’s mother’s grave.
He counted to ten once, twice, three times. Four times.
“How do you lose,” Jaron pinched the bridge of his nose. “A woman?”
“You forget to give her food?” Tried the ginger young man, Ulspierre.
Jaron spun around, and pointed at Ulspierre, “Funny joke, but I’m not in a good mood. Tell me, Roden, did you let Mireldis Thay escape? Did she get away from me for a second time?!”
“Mireldis is a slipper girl, King Jaron, you can’t blame your captain,” Ulspierre yawned. “Ask the line of mercenaries, they’ve been oddly quiet.”
Bodies lingered on the cobblestones, their glassy eyes staring, never to be closed again.
It was hard to focus.
A massacre happened on a holy day.
“Forget it,” Jaron growled. “We’ll discuss this later.”
One body was too much, and there was at least a dozen spread across the square.
Too much, too much.
Blood stained his boots.
Mireldis Thay escaped, but her father was in the castle. Jaron traded one for the other. She wouldn’t come back. Not unless she had a reason to stay that was more attainable than killing Feall.
No, she’d regroup and try again.
Just like Jaron would try to find her.
“Mott?” He rubbed his eyes, his voice quiet. “I’m ready to go home.”
“As you should be,” Mott said.
“Don’t let Tobias see, he’ll blame this on himself.”
It all traced back to that summer day so long ago, when Mireldis Thay first launched her attack on Feall and Oberson.
Roden had the chance to kill her, to end it before it began.
But Tobias had interfered.
And now the square was littered with corpses.