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Prologue

  "LAND HO!"

  A ghost of a ship lit up with life as hundreds of soldiers frantically ran to their positions.

  One scraggly soldier quickly ran towards the helm only to be quickly met by a large man.

  "Cormick! You took your time getting up here."

  "I'm sure you could handle another minute or so of making sure we don't wreck the ship." Cormick replied.

  "Perhaps, but would you want me to be the one to dock this behemoth?"

  "I don't know Oron, ain't sounding that bad to me. Less work I have to do."

  Oron stepped away from the helm, chuckling.

  "Guess I have to do work after all." Cormick said as he grabbed the helm.

  The sixteen story ship brushed the water slowly approaching the land at half sail. The metal letters on the side spelling The Courier.

Chapter 1

  Oron and Cormick walked off the ship onto the dock. A man dressed in blue clothes walked up.

  "Welcome to Villa Solvaris, the King Abor will be most pleased to see you." The man said formally.

  "We're gonna need a campsite, we got about three hundred soldiers in there." Oron said without a hint of formality.

  "Ah yes, civilians in the slums will be more than happy to accommodate…"

  "I don't know what y'all do around here but I'll be damned if we're going to put three hundred soldiers in civilian homes." Cormick snapped at the man.

  "I agree with the captain." A voice called from behind Oron and Cormick. Both of the captains stepped to the side and stood at attention.

  "You must be General Kaza. We didn't realize you would take issue with that."

  "We do, do you have anywhere we can set up an actual camp?" The general said with a commanding voice.

  "I don't know, you'll have to speak with the king about that."

  "Of course I do." He turned towards Oron and Cormick. "As for you two. Outstanding job on getting us here. You've both earned a place as lieutenants." He grabbed some money from his uniform pocket and gave some to both of them. "Take these rillers and get you both something to drink. You've earned it."

  "What about our brothers and sisters?" Oron queried.

  "Rusnil will be here soon and he'll start the unloading." He walked a few steps towards the titan of a city then turned around. "Oh remember to congratulate Rusnil, he got a promotion as well."

  "Tiven? What are they doing supporting the Domain? You'd figure they'd help the rebels."

  "I don't know" Oron replied to the bartender, "I'm sure there's some political stuff behind it but who has time for that?"

  "Not me, I have my bar and unless something affects that, not much sense in paying mind to it. You boys heading out to Soich and Kor?"

  "Are those the front lines?"

  "Yeah, the poor territories have been ruined from the war."

  "No, I don't think so, at least not yet."

  "Waste of your army, I've heard of some of the things you guys have done."

  "I hear you there."

  The bartender looked over Oron's shoulder. "Watch this, your friend there is about to get what's coming to him."

  Oron turned to see Cormick standing in front of a beautiful woman. Oron watched as the woman's face turned to disgust, and then laughed as she slapped Cormick across the face. Cormick walked back to the bar in shame.

  "What did you say?" Oron said with a chuckle

  "I asked if she'd take me upstairs and I gave her my money."

  Oron and the bartender bursted out in laughter.

  "Let me guess, she kept the money." Oron asked, still laughing.

  "Yep, I ain't getting that back."

  "Here," the bartender poured Cormick a glass of wine. "This is on the house."

  "Might help with the pain too." Oron said.

  "Ain't nothin' gonna heal my broken heart my brother."

  "What about your wife and kids back home?"

  Cormick's smile turned to a face of shock. "I can't believe I just did that." He whispered.

  "Yeah neither can I, but you got what you deserved."

  Cormick looked at Oron with a slight smile on his face. "I guess so." Then he put down his now empty cup, "We should go wait for Harn."

  "Agreed," Oron put a couple of coins on the counter. "Here's this, I'll be coming back here, that was some fine wine."

  Cormick and Oron walked out the door, and then looked around the city.

  The buildings were tall and sturdy, painted in red and blue, the colors of the Domain. A blue mountain stood in the distance covered in snow. In the dead center of the city, The Palace of Solvaris stood proudly, towering over every building in the city. The gates made of smooth steel, surrounded by soldiers with heavy armor, longswords and crossbows. The triangular wall surrounding the palace had three watchtowers characterized by the large red flags with a blue fist punching the air. The flags of the Domain.

  After a few minutes the gates began to slowly open as the general walked out of them. He looked around and then caught sight of the two soldiers. He walked towards them as the gate behind him closed at a snail's pace.

  "Lieutenants, I have spoken with the King."

  "How was he?" Oron asked.

  "Delightful" he replied with gritted teeth.

  "So where are we staying Harn?" Cormick asked with a touch of eagerness.

  "A plateau overlooking the main road, it's past the western wall. Since you sound so eager, go run and tell Rusnil." Harn declared.

  "Of course I get to be the messenger." Cormick complained. He then ran off towards the port.

  "So Harn, what is the plan with our army? Oron questioned.

  "They don't know, they're getting us to be the city guard for now."

  "Oh what fun, chasing petty thieves and breaking up drunken brawls."

  "I know, it's a waste, but we'll get a chance to shine, don't you worry my friend."

  "Let's hope so."

Chapter 2

  "...Three!"

  Cormick and Oron pushed a large support beam up. Cormick rushed to the other side to balance it. They took a mutual second to prepare, then lifted the beam and moved it to a hole they dug.

  "And drop!"

  With a loud boom the beam fell in the hole.

  "How many?" Cormick asked out of breath.

  "How many?" Oron asked, visibly confused.

  "How many splinters?"

  Oron took a minute to count them then said, "Twenty-two, how bout you?"

  "Twenty-five!" He exclaimed with pride.

  Oron grabbed Cormick's wrist and started counting. "You liar! That's hardly twenty."

  "Well I ought to get a few more." Cormick smiled then walked off to continue working.

  Oron walked over to the end of the plateau, and then sat on the edge. The land was relatively flat, only made exciting by the massive mountain far in the distance.

  Boom

  Oron jumped then drew his sword.

  "A paranoid stargazer? Figure someone of your skill wouldn't stoop so low."

  Oron sheathed his sword. "Can't disagree with you there Rusnil."

  "I don't blame you. You wanted your tent here right?"

  "Yes, can't beat that view."

  "Not much different than the rest of the cliff"

  "Perhaps, depends on who you ask."

  "I prefer being in a tent with my brothers and sisters than sitting cozy in my own, but I guess you lieutenants are too good for us now."

  "Now Rus you know that's not the case, I'm just enjoying a comfortable cot instead of the ground."

  "The ground ain't all bad. I'm going to get back to work, I'll see ya around Oron." Rusnil waved and walked back into the camp being set up.

  Oron turned to look at the city. The wall around the city had a large gap in it, and it looked like it was being worked on.

  The size of that wall the war will be long over by the time they're done, Oron thought.

  The wall that was there was comparable to the palace in it's height, towering over any miniscule building in the city.

  "It's a sight to behold isn't it?"

  Oron turned his head to see Harn. "It's a sight until you see the fine details. If you're a riller short of getting out of the slums you're stuck quartering soldiers against your will. You think that's a sight to behold?"

  "Perhaps not, but at least the people are safe from the war."

  "How do we know that? Who's to say they won't send an army right here?"

  "Me, you, and everyone else in this army. We might not agree with this Domain but we have to put in our all for it."

  Oron sighed and looked at the city again. "I know." He looked down at the ground. He then smiled and looked at Harn. "We should have a party."

  "What? Are you out of your mind?"

  "Think about it, we're not getting any important assignments, why not offer everyone a chance to get a drink, and just spend time with our brothers and sisters in arms. It might be the last time we see some of them."

  "We have three hundred soldiers…"

  "And about half of them don't even drink, we still have wine left on The Courier."

  "You know you have a point. I'll make the arrangements, you make the announcement."

  Oron walked towards the middle of the camp and rang the bell. The soldiers all gathered around and went quiet.

  "Thanks everyone. Today may be the last day we're all together. We all know this. So I have convinced the General to let us all drink to our heart's content, together. This Domain might not be what we wanted, but I'll be damned if they don't have great wine!"

  Everyone cheered and started towards the bar.

The empty bar was filled with soldiers swiftly after an hour, the massive bar had ten bartenders working hard. All rushing to get drinks for the servicemen. Some drank themselves drunk, some had a few shots, some just talked to their friends. Oron and Cormick even got Harn to take a few shots. Drinking games and beer pong ruled the bar. The streets were filled with drunken men getting slapped by women, and horses kicking idiots in the face. Inside of it all was a good time. A final memory before a war breaks out. Friends sharing stories of their plans after the war. Telling of the families they have waiting. Oron saw this over the chaos. And he decided to enjoy himself too.

Chapter 3

  "Get that man!"

  A man stumbled out of a store and began darting forward. Oron busted out of the store to see a fellow Tivenian.

  "You, come on!" Oron yelled at him while running full speed after the thief. The soldier quickly followed suit.

  The criminal looked back to see Oron and the other soldier quickly catching up. He looked ahead and spotted a wagon parked next to a building with an open window. He jumped onto the wagon and scurried his way into the building.

  "Lieutenant, go to the other side I'll follow him!" The soldier commanded as he effortlessly replicated the same movements as the thief.

  The criminal stopped to breathe, but his momentary break was interrupted by a thud. He looked back to see the soldier coming right for him. Having little time to think the man charged towards the soldier coming in quickly. Both men collided and wrestled for control for a minute. After a few seconds the man kneed the soldier in the gut, freeing himself from the bind, then proceeded to run towards the window on the opposite side of the one he came in from. He dived through the window and grabbed on to a ledge of a nearby building. He climbed down onto solid ground only to be met by Oron, now with another two soldiers. Without thinking he tackled one of the two soldiers. He took the man's blade and pointed it at Oron and the other soldier. Oron and the other man drew their weapons.

  "Stand down thief, if you strike at us you'll never see daylight again." The soldier said.

  "I just want to feed my daughter, this God damned war is starving us."

  "If you keep running you'll never see your daughter again. But if you stand down now your sentence will be much more forgiving." Oron pitched in.

  The man slowly let his guard down as he realized what he was doing. He started breathing heavily then pointed his blade again. "Liar! I've lived in this city all my life, I know what happens to thieves. I'll never see my daughter again if I surrender."

  Before the man could continue the soldier he tackled stabbed the thief in the leg. He yelled in pain as Oron seized the moment and tackled the thief.

  Oron and the three other soldiers turned the thief over to the city guard. Oron turned to his fellow Tivenians.

  "Well, might as well introduce myself. I'm Lieutenant Oron Bau, may I ask who you guys are?"

  The smallest of the three spoke first. "I am Scout Corporal Ragir Kona."

  "What about you two?"

  The two were large brutes, one visibly older than the other. The older of the two introduced the both of them, "I'm Sergeant Goskr Debak, and this is Corporal Kald Nado."

  "Alrighty, well thank you all for helping, I'll make sure to put in a good word with General Kaza for all of you. Until then, dismissed soldiers!" Oron saluted the three and they saluted back before walking away back to their patrols.

  "What in the hell was he trying to steal?"

  Oron put down the cup he just finished drinking from. "Some kind of jewel, I think it was worth about a hundred rillers."

  "And what did he mean when he said 'he knows what they do with thieves?'"

  "The Domain drafts them into the war. But with his wounded leg he managed to land a simple jail sentence. Thankfully he'll see his daughter again."

  "But how many others have been in his situation? How many parents never get to see their children again just because they tried to feed them?"

  Oron looked down and thought. He then looked up and said, "we should head out. We still have a job to do." Oron put the drink tab on the bar and headed for the door, followed soon by Cormick.

  Oron stepped outside and took a big whiff of the warm air.

  "Don't you just love this air?" Oron asked his friend.

  "I prefer the cold air back home, it's too warm here."

  "Thirty-six years of cool air and nothing else taints my view."

  "I'm not that far behind you Oron. I think you just have bad taste."

  "Bad taste, in air?"

  "Yep."

  Oron rolled his eyes. Him and Cormick's banter was interrupted as the gates to the palace creaked open. Both men looked over to see a child running out of the gates towards them.

  "Lieutenants! I have a message!" The kid yelled, as he ran as fast as he could.

  Oron and Cormick stood in place as the boy finally made his way to them.

  "Lieutenants, General Kaza needs you at the war room."

  "Thanks kid, here," Oron reached in his pocket and pulled out a small bag. "Take these rillers."

  The kid looked at the bag with amazement. "You sure? I'd hate to take money you'd need sir." The boy said nervously.

  "You ran all the way over here just to tell us to go somewhere, and now you gotta go back. I think you deserve something kid, you're a hard worker and in my book that should be rewarded." Oron dropped the bag in the kids hands.

  "Thank you thank you thank you!" The little boy jumped around with joy.

  "Don't mention it kid." Oron said as he and Cormick walked towards the palace.

  The gates of steel closed slowly behind them as they walked into the courtyard. The courtyard alone was huge, but it looked so small compared to the palace. The Palace of Solvaris stood proudly, nearly twice the size of the largest buildings in the city. Painted in purple, the royal colors of the Domain.

  "As much as I hate them, you gotta give them credit for this palace. This thing is beautiful."

  "Say what you will, Cormick, but this ain't got anything on The White Palace."

  "Everything is better back home, no denying that."

  The palace door opened. Two servants greeted the soldiers.

  "We were summoned?" Cormick inquiried.

  "Ah yes, follow us to the war room."

  The two followed closely. The indoors was stunning. The palace walls were blue on the right side and red on the left. With the ceiling and the floor being a beautiful purple color. The long hall ended at a small doorway presumably to the throne room. But before Oron could confirm his theory the servant turned towards a door on the right.

  "Right in here sirs." The servant motioned towards the door.

  Cormick and Oron looked at each other then walked in.

  "Ah, lieutenants. Please take a seat." The foreboding man motioned to the seats next to the other two men.

  The two took a seat.

  "Lieutenants, this is General Antog Romir," Harn motioned towards the man sitting in front of him, then motioned at the king. "And this is King Abor."

  "Pleasure to meet you both." The king said in an almost sinister voice.

  "You summoned us?" Cormick inquiried.

  "Ah yes. General Kaza here should be the one to explain."

  "A scholar reported that they've found the tomb of King Toric the Fourth. I'm assuming you two know what that means?"

  "Assuming the legends are true then yes." Oron said.

  "I believe that if we can retrieve the shield of legend we can end this war quickly. The king doesn't agree with my plan. I was hoping one of you would lead an operation to retrieve it.

  "General Kaza, I said I recommend sending both of them. It would be a dangerous mission."

  "With all due respect, your majesty, I need a lieutenant to help me lead the troops."

  "We have lieutenants Kaza, I advise you don't underestimate our army." Antog pitched in condensingly.

  "And I advise you stop working your army in circles like you've been doing for years." Harn aggressively replied.

  "General Kaza that's enough!" Abor boomed. "If you're going to launch this operation you have to send both of them, and that's an order."

  Oron and Cormick looked at each other. "You up for it Oron?" Cormick asked, trying not to stutter out of fear.

  "If it'll win the war then I feel it should be done." He looked at Harn and said, "we'll do it."

  "Well now that that's settled we can move on to more pressing matters. Lieutenants, leave us." Abor said.

  Cormick and Oron nodded then walked out.

  "I'll go too, I need to help them get the supplies ready." Harn said.

  "As you wish." Abor motioned at the door.

  Once Harn left Antog looked at Abor. "Kaza was right sir, how much longer are we going to go in circles before we squash this rebellion?"

  "I don't know yet General, but I assure you the plan is moving along almost perfectly."

Chapter 4

  "Don't you worry Harn, me and Cormick have this under control." Oron put the last bit of supplies on the wagon.

  "I know but you're going straight to the capital territory of the Kingsblood Rebels, if you're caught it could be detrimental to this effort."

  Cormick punched Harm on the shoulder from behind him. "You forget, you're sending Cormick Lon on this mission. If we're caught they won't stand a chance."

  Harn glared at Cormick. "That helps me very little."

  "Harn I chose Ragir for a reason. He'll be scouting ahead of us the whole time. If he sees anything we know what to do."

  Harn sighed, "don't you die on me, either of you."

  "As long as you don't either, the front lines are a dangerous place to be." Cormick pitched in.

  "You have my word."

  Oron walked over to the right side of the wagon to meet Rusnil.

  "Well Rus, are the others ready?"

  "Yep, we're ready to head out when you are."

  "Alrighty." Oron walked back to Harn and Cormick. "General Kaza, we are going to head out."

  Harn nodded, then stood to attention and saluted. "victoria erit vobiscum."

  Oron and Cormick saluted back and replied in unison, "victoria edit vobiscum"

A few hours later…

  "Come on, Cormick, how hard is it to set up temporary tents?"

  Oron pushed Cormick aside and set up the tent for him. "There."

  The orange sky slowly turned black as the soldiers unloaded their sleeping bags into their tents. Once finished they started up a campfire and pulled up a couple logs and stumps around it.

  "Well I think it's about time we had a good bonding moment." Oron said jokingly when everyone was seated around the fire. "Anyone here have family back home?"

  Everyone looked around to see who would speak first then Cormick spoke. "I got my wife and three kids."

  "Oh Cormick, tell them how you met your wife." Rusnil pitched in.

  "Of course you want me to share it." Cormick stood to recite the story. "It was back during the Dominion War," he pointed at Ragir Kald and Goskr, "you three were probably wee lads. We were in the snowy lands of Extabachon. We set up a camp next to an old inn so a lot of the guys were getting drinks. And I saw the most beautiful woman in the world sitting there with a friend of hers, so I, naturally, walked over and said to her…"

  "You forgot the part where you tried to hug her because you were drunk out of your mind." Rusnil interrupted.

  "Ok maybe I tried to hug her because I was drunk, but after that I looked her in the eyes and said…"

  "Youuuu and meeee… we belooong together." Oron said, mocking a drunk slur. "And then you fell over and poor Ava had to pick you up."

  "If you two were going to tell the best part why didn't you tell the story?" Cormick complained.

  "We didn't work together, it just happened that way." Rusnil replied."

  "Sure you didn't."

  "Kald, tell them about your family, I know you take pride in them." Goskr chipped in.

  "Well me and my wife have a daughter who's top of her class in her school. And we have an older son who's top of his class in his sword dueling courses."

  "Sword dueling you say?" Rusnil smirked and looked at Oron. "Should we?"

  Oron smiled and then walked over to an open area. "Come on Rus, let's show these boys how it's done.

  Rusnil walked over to the opposite side of Oron. He then drew his blade and pointed it towards Oron. "En garde"

  Oron drew his blade and assumed a guard position. The two stood there for a minute, faking strikes to test their opponents guard. The first to strike was Rusnil. He jabbed forward at Oron's chest, but Oron parried his strike. Rusnil then swung his blade towards Oron's side, which Oron blocked. The two had their blades locked together for a second before Oron pushed away Rusnil's sword and threw himself forward to knock Rusnil off balance. Oron then swung at Rusnil's neck. Rusnil quickly parried the strike before he tripped over his feet that were struggling to get balanced. He fell backwards but managed to roll, and then jumped back up and almost immediately jabbed forward at Oron. Oron jumped back as he was taken by surprise by the swiftness of Rusnil. They paused in combat to assess each other for any weaknesses. Oron faked a strike towards Rusnil's head, causing him to lift his guard towards the upper half of his body. Oron took advantage of this and performed an undersweep that knocked Rusnil to the ground. He pointed his blade at Rusnil and said, "amittas."

  Rusnil took a moment to catch his breath before saying "lucror."

  The group of soldiers applauded the showcase. Oron sheathed his blade and bowed.

  "We should get to bed, we have a long journey ahead." Cormick said to everyone.

  "Agreed," Rusnil said now standing again. "Inferna is a long way away."

 A few days later…

  The vast desert stretched out far. Oron felt a pit feeling in his stomach, the road was the only thing stopping him from getting lost in the desert.

  "Hey Goskr, does Ragir still have the map?" Oron asked towards the back.

  "When we were at camp he did."

  "Ok, hey Cormick!" Oron turned his attention towards Cormick on horseback next to the wagon.

  Cormick rode up closer to Oron.

  "Go up ahead and ask Ragir how far we are from the next town."

  "Gotcha." Cormick slapped the reins on his horse as he went into the distance.

  The next minute or so was silent. No one spoke a word. The only sound was the clopping of horse feet on the brick mostly covered by sand. It drove Oron nuts.

  "So Oron, how's your family fairing?" Rusnil asked knowing how much Oron despised the silence.

  "Good, I bet my wife has given birth to our second child by now." Oron replied, with a sense of melancholy to his voice.

  "Not happy to have missed that I presume?" Kald asked.

  "I've missed both of my childrens' birth now because I'm enlisted in this army, many times I wish I would have requested a discharge after the Dominion War."

  Rusnil looked down in sadness.

  "Do you have a similar story?" Goskr asked.

  "Yes and no. I'd rather not get into details."

  "I think perhaps a change in subject would be best." Oron stated.

  "I couldn't agree more." Rusnil replied quickly.

  Oron looked ahead to see Ragir and Cormick riding up to them.

  "Lieutenant, there's a situation up the road!" Ragir turned his horse to block the path ahead. The two horses pulling the wagon stopped.

  "What's wrong?" Oron queried.

  "Remember how the bartender said the front lines of the war are in Kor?" Cormick recounted.

  "Yes why?"

  "This is Kor, Soich is where the next town is and that's just past the front lines."

  "Lieutenants, if I may?" Ragir chimed in.

  "Go ahead Ragir." Oron acknowledged.

  "When we were getting supplies at the last village I asked about secondary paths, I actually have every time in case for something like this, one of the village elders talked about an old path used by the Domain years ago to get to Soich without drawing attention. Some kind of hostage situation or something. We may be able to use that."

  "We may get lost in there." Goskr warned.

  "It may be our only option if we're to be undetected by the rebels." Kald objected.

  "Ragir, how much information do you have on this road?" Cormick asked.

  "I have a rough idea of where it is, but I'll have to stay close to guide you. So you'll have nobody to warn you if something is waiting for us.

  Oron sighed, "we'll have to take the risk, if we're spotted by the rebels we're done for."

  "Oron think about this!" Rusnil said almost pleadingly, "surely there's a Domain camp up ahead, we can ask them to get us through."

  "Captain Rimi, I already asked the Domain about help, they can't risk putting resources into helping us, they're predicting the rebels are to attack them soon." Ragir concurred. "We have no other option if we're to not be spotted."

  "Oron, if we do this we'll get lost in this endless desert for sure. Remember what happened to the one hundred fourth?" Rusnil counseled.

  "The one hundred fourth were led astray by a fool, and I don't think Ragir here is a fool considering that he has been preparing for this already. I trust him."

  "I agree with Oron." Cormick pitched in.

  Rusnil looked down in defeat.

  "Captain, even if we die, at least it's with our brothers." Goskr reassured.

  Rusnil looked at Goskr and slightly smiled. "Fine, Ragir, lead the way!"

  "You must be mad!"

  "General Kaza, if we're to make any progress we need to make a circle and cut them off…"

  "Working in circles is a terrible idea Lieutenant, this is why I wanted Bau and Lon to stick around."

  The Domain lieutenant threw up his hands. "It's not working in circles, we're circling the rebels then…"

  "Losing all progress because you've tried this exact tactic fifteen times over two years. And how many times did it actually work?"

  The lieutenant looked down.

  "That's what I thought. Now how about listening to your general?"

  "With all due respect the strategies you're using are unlikely to work like they did during your civil war. Even if they are legendary."

  "The legendary part is just using mountains to my advantage, I doubt that's gonna work here. No this is a simple distraction tactic. What is the issue here?"

  "I still think it's a terrible idea."

  Harn smiled, "that's why you're not the general."

  The sand beat on Oron's face. He squinted trying to see ahead of him.

  "Don't lose sight of Ragir! I don't think you'd want to lose your friends!" Oron shouted over the loud storm.

  "I'm trying my best, now let me focus, it's hard enough with this storm!"

  The ground rumbled.

  "What was that?" Goskr called from the back.

  "I don't know, but we have to keep going."

  The sand continued to beat on Oron, he winced in pain.

  "I'm beginning to miss the cold back home!" Kald yelled towards Goskr.

  Goskr stared off in the distance, not even acknowledging Kald.

  "Sarge are you in there?" Kald asked, yelling louder.

  "Captain," Goskr tugged Rusnil's arm.

  "What is it, Goskr?"

  "I think there's something out there."

  The ground rumbled, more violently this time.

  "Lieutenant there's something out there!" Goskr shouted at Oron.

  "What do you mean?" Oron asked.

  "There's some kind of giant thing in the…"

  A worm shaped beast leaped out of the sand, sending the cart everyone was in, flying in the air.

  "Remember lieutenant, your job is to reroute the rebel forces. Don't push any further than necessary."

  "Yessir, best of luck to you." The lieutenant saluted and then walked off.

  A Tivenian walked up to Harn.

  "What is it private?"

  "Scout Sergeant Dere reported back, the rebels are moving out to attack this position."

  Harn's hands balled into fists. "Damnit! Get the archers, tell them to ready for a defensive!"

  Oron opened his eyes. He gasped for air but started choking on sand. He turned to his side and coughed up the sand.

  "Oron!"

  Oron looked over to see Ragir running towards him.

  "Ragir! Help me up!"

  The small man ran up to Oron and assisted him.

  Oron dusted himself off and looked around. "Where are the others?"

  "Cormick has them on the trail, Sarge has a broken arm but Cormick is taking care of that."

  "Ok, what about that beast?"

  "I… I don't know, let's get you on your feet so we don't have to find out."

  Ragir reached out to Oron. Oron took his hand and was up on his feet again.

  "We're using the horses that were pulling the cart so nobody has to go on foot," Ragir said as they started running back towards the group, "take your pick and I'll hop on with you."

  An arrow zipped by Harn's head. He ducked down to avoid any other arrows.

  "General, they're going to overrun us, we have to abandon this position!"

  "How many men do we have left?" Harn shouted back at the sergeant.

  "About seventy!"

  "Then get us some shields, we're pushing an offensive!"

  "Excuse me sir have you gone mad?!"

  "The Domain would never do this, they expect an easy victory, let's not give that to them!"

  "Very well sir." The man ran forward, weaving through soldiers as best he could. He reached the middle of the battle line and turned to another man. "Captain Cere, bring your men to the front of the battle and raise your shields, we're pushing back!"

  "General's orders?"

  "Yessir!"

  "As he wishes," the man took a shield from his back and raised it in the air. The line of men with Cere raised their shields as well. The lines in front of them slowly retreated to the back of the army. Once the line of shield men were at the front they positioned their shields to defend from incoming arrows.

  Harn reached for the horn on his waist. He put it to his mouth and played the notes of The General's Charge.

  Oron slapped the reins of his horse continuously. "Faster you daft creature!"

  The ground rumbled more and more violently as the beast slowly caught up to the group.

  "Cormick are you done yet?!" Rusnil yelled at his friend.

  Cormick said nothing.

  The head of the beast peaked out of the ground from behind Oron.

  "Cormick it's now or never!"

  The beast kept from the ground. It's shadow covered the entire team.

  Cormick jumped off the back of the horse he was riding on. While in the air he reached out with his hand. The beast almost crushed the soldiers before a surge blasted from Cormick's hand, sending the beast flying across the skies.

  Harn kicked away another opponent. A soldier twice his size approached him. Harn eyed the man. The man took his warhammer and swung at Harn. Harn threw up his shield to block the attack. The hammer stuck itself into Harn's shield. The man used his warhammer to take Harn's shield from his hands. He swung at Harn's side to break the shield on him, but Harn rolled forward and quickly swung his sword right through the man's arm, and then, in quick succession, sliced through the man's neck.

  Many soldiers around Harn noticed the bloody scene. One rebel soldier gasped in shock. Harn looked the comparably small soldiers in his eyes and pointed his blade at him.

  "You want to be next?" Harn taunted.

  The soldier reacted by slowly backing away before running for the hills.

  The sounds of a horn played in the distance. The rebel soldiers slowly began to fall back, before they had all left entirely.

  "Does that mean we've won?" A soldier said from behind Harn.

  "No, it means that lieutenant is actually doing his job."

  Harn sheathed his blade then walked to the middle of his battalion. "Alright men, we held up a good defense now it's time to push the offensive! Their camp is not far from here, it is time we march on them and send them running!"

  Cormick mounted the back of Rusnil's horse.

  "Well done, mage, your delay almost got us killed." Rusnil complained.

  "Lay off of him Rus," Oron warned, "he still saved our skins."

  Rusnil scoffed before riding up closer to Oron and Ragir. "How much further does this trail go?"

  "Not far, the next village should only be a few more minutes ahead." Ragir replied.

  "Thank the gods."

Chapter 5

A few days later…

  "The scouts are dead?!"

  Harn threw down the wadded up paper he was holding.

  "Sir I recommend we reconsider our strategy, they know that we plan an attack now." The lieutenant said.

  "Yeah no shit Bodel." Harm snapped, "any bright ideas other than retreat?"

  "That's not necessarily a bad idea sir."

  "You Igneans might think that retreat is acceptable, but in Treshev we don't back down."

  "And look how many died in your civil war. How many of your friends did you lose because of that mentality?"

  Harn's face changed from infuriation to shock, then to sorrow within seconds. "Perhaps you have a point."

  "You're tactical genius is unmatched General Kaza, use it and realize what the best course of action here is."

  Harn thought for a second. "What if we lured them to the main camps?"

  "Are you insane?!" Bodel screamed.

  "Lieutenant, your general said those camps are constantly attacked by those sand things right?"

  "Sanddyrs, yes."

  "They're supposedly triggered by activity and that's why the main camps aren't ever attacked if I'm not mistaken."

  "Are you proposing we risk our main camp to maybe get a Sanddyr to attack the Kingsblood camp?"

  "The risk is there but it's better than letting this war go in yet another circle."

  "Perhaps you're correct. I'll admit you've taught me far more than the Domain ever has."

  "Round up the men, let's lure out some Sanddyrs." Harn said with enthusiasm.

  Oron pulled the reins on his horse.

  "Oron, I hate to break it to you but, there's nothing in Tiven, or even all of Treshev, that tops this."

  The massive entry was carved into a cliff face, which almost looked like a mountain at the bottom of it. It had two statues that acted as supports to the cliff itself, with another massive statue in the middle, wearing royal attire and bearing a greatsword.

  "That must be the ancient king." Kald stated.

  "How the Domain has fallen." Cormick remarked.

  Oron dismounted his horse. "Gotta love that cold water."

  "It's a ravine, I don't know what you expected." Rusnil replied.

  "Neither do I Rus."

  The men walked towards the entryway. Kald and Ragir marvelled at the statues.

  "You know Oron," Kald said, "I think Cormick was right. Nothing in all of Treshev rivals this."

  Oron rolled his eyes. "Cut the chatter, we need to be looking out for any traps. Cormick, take point, and give us some light. Ragir, stay here and keep watch."

  Cormick walked to the front of the group and summoned a ball of light from his hand.

  Oron looked around. The massive place seemed empty, which likely meant there was something lurking in the shadows. He kept one hand on his sword waiting for the moment when something struck at them.

  Harn shot another bolt from his crossbow. "Don't let them stop chasing us, keep up the fire!"

  Bolts and arrows flew back and forth as the two armies ran further and further into the desert.

  "General Kaza!" Lieutenant Bodel called from up the front of the group, "the Kingsblood camp is dead ahead!"

  "Let's make some noise, Bodel!"

  Bodel nodded and drew his battle-axe. He held it up in the air and yelled "charge on that camp!"

  Harn looked at the soldiers around him. "We're in the middle, we need to split and attack the people who've been chasing us.

  The soldiers nodded and turned around. The soldiers that were in the back took note and turned around. Harn picked up his horn and once again played The General's Charge.

  Oron looked around cautiously, he had been walking in this entry hall for minutes and it still seemed to be never ending.

  "This just doesn't seem right, surely these tombs are crawling with the undead. We've been walking this hall for a while now and nothing."

  "Are you complaining about this Oron?" Kald questioned.

  "No, I'm more suspicious of it."

  "Perhaps we have not alerted them because their coffins are against the walls." Rusnil suggested.

  Oron thought for a second. "Cormick, you can throw light can't you?"

  "Do you have a stick?"

  "I mean I have this torch in case…"

  Cormick snatched the torch from Oron's hands. He switched his ball of light to a flame. He used it to light the torch, then threw it across the hall.

  The light from the torch revealed seemingly hundreds of coffins, lined up side-by-side.

  "Let's keep moving." Cormick said as he pulled the torch back to him.

  "Yeah, l-l-let's do that." Kald mumbled in fear.

  The ground rumbled violently. Many soldiers fell to the ground, losing balance.

  "Sanddyr!" A rebel soldier yelled.

  A sanddyr jumped from the middle of the Kingsblood camp, followed by another where Harn was fighting the group of rebels away from the camp.

  Bodel took his waraxe out of his opponent's chest. He looked over to see the sanddyr devouring everything in its path, including Domain soldiers.

  "Fall back to camp!" Bodel shouted.

  Domain soldiers began running out of the Kingsblood camp. Bodel noticed a Domain soldier on his knees in defeat, about to be finished by a rebel. Bodel quickly drew his crossbow and fired it at the rebel. The man fell to the ground and the Domain soldier turned around and ran to Bodel.

  "We need to get out of here soldier, Bodel commanded, "come on!"

  Time seemingly froze. Bodel fell to the ground in agony. He looked down to see an arrow in his chest. The soldier he just saved kneeled down and tried to help Bodel get back to his feet."

  "Come on lieutenant! You still got fight left in you."

  Bodel took a deep breath and tried to get to his feet but merely fell down. "Soldier, save yourself, run!"

  "No, I can't leave…"

  "There's no time." Bodel ripped off a patch from his armor and gave it to him." "Run!"

  The man took a second to think, before slowly letting Bodel go.

  Bodel fell to his back and looked up at the sky. He thought about how his story would be told, before closing his eyes to rest.

  Kald nervously plodded along, following Oron and Cormick closely.

  "Don't worry Kald, if they attack us they'll go for Goskr first. He's in the back."

  "I heard that." Goskr said.

  "Heard what?" Oron remarked.

  Goskr said nothing.

  "Exactly." Oron chuckled before running into a support beam.

  "There's a beam there Oron." Cormick snarked.

  "Oh is that so?" Oron retorted.

  "Hey look at this!" Rusnil chimed in, running past everyone. "It's one of these ancient puzzle doors. They usually keep the puzzle itself on the king's advisor in Tiven, you reckon they did the same here?"

  "Perhaps," Cormick replied. He held up his light towards the door and examined it. "Look at this though," he pointed at one of the artworks engraved on the door. "It's two ancient king's forging a shield."

  "Ionlaborer, that must be it!" Oron happily exclaimed.

  "We came all this way for a shield?" Kald stammered.

  "Not just any shield, it's a shield of legends." Rusnil replied. "Ionlaborer was forged out of steels of Hell, which were retrieved when the king of Treshev and the king of Ignea both journeyed to that unbearable place in honor of their meeting."

  "Wait so Hell is not just a place of legend?" Goskr asked.

  "Why do you think it gets hotter the closer you get to the Sea of Hell?"

  "Wait so why is this shield buried and not still being used?" Kald questioned nervously.

  "Rusnil, Kald, I know you're having fun but we didn't come all this way for a history lesson. We need to figure out how to open this door." Oron interrupted. "Now look around and try to find something."

  "Yessir!"

  "General Kaza!"

  Harn turned around to see a Domain soldier running towards him.

  "General Kaza, sir!" The soldier reached in his pocket and handed him a patch.

  "What's this?"

  "That's Lieutenant Bodel's patch. He gave it to me before he died."

  "Lieutenant Bodel's dead?!" Antog yelled at the soldier. "Harn what did you do?!"

  "I've explained this, we led an attack on their main camp."

  "And you left my top lieutenant to die?!"

  "I wouldn't have left him, the kid had a heart of gold, we worked together quite well."

  "Then you left him!" Antog pointed at the soldier.

  "I tried to help him get here but he wouldn't let me, he told me to leave him."

  "Antog, this man has no reason to lie about this. Just lay off of him."

  Antog clenched his fist. "Fine! Get out of my sight soldier!"

  The man quickly ran off.

  "And as for you, Kaza. Using those sanddyrs was reckless and now we can't advance forward at all."

  "But once they clear out it'll be ten times easier."

  "That is if they clear out. As many dead there are, they may not clear out until the war is long gone. You're messing with things you don't understand Kaza, if I had the authority you'd lose your rank of general here and now."

  "At least now with the main camp gone it'll be easier to take out the smaller ones. With enough time we can take the desert into Domain hands."

  "Yay we have the desert, not worth much."

  "You're impossible to please Antog."

  "I have to report to the king. Try not to lose this…"

  The ground rumbled.

  "Sanddyrs, in the distance!"

  Oron cautiously removed the top of a coffin. He silently put it on the ground, then grabbed his torch from the ground. He put the light up to the dead to examine it. In its hands laid a stone tablet. Oron grabbed his dagger and swiftly put it into the corpse's neck. He then grabbed the tablet and ran towards the door.

  "Rusnil," Oron said, still running towards his friend who was examining the door. "I found this tablet, can you translate it?"

  "I didn't go to classes on the ancient tongue for no reason. Lemme see it."

  Oron handed Rusnil the tablet. Rusnil looked at it curiously, as if examining a new weapon.

  "Whatcha find Oron?" Cormick asked, walking up with everyone else.

  "He found a riddle." Rusnil replied, almost sounding excited.

  "Is that so?" Goskr queried.

  "Yes. It reads; 'hunted by many, consumed by few. I am a challenge to any hunter, and a trophy to the best ones.' On this door they're four buttons correlating to an animal. Two of which fit the description."

  "The eagle and bear." Oron pitched in. "Let's just try both."

  "No," Rusnil pointed out a large row of small  holes in the ground. "Guess wrong you get killed by a barrage of arrows."

  The group was silent for a solid minute. Finally Cormick spoke up, "is there anything indicating one or the other?"

  "I know only one of those were hunted during the ancient times." Rusnil said hesitantly, "I believe it was the bear but I'm unsure."

  "So what you m-mean is one of us may have to s-s-sacrifice ours-selves to move forward?" Kald nervously stuttered.

  Rusnil looked down solemnly.

  "I'll do it." Goskr stated. He looked around to see if anyone would stop him.

  "As long as we have the gods in our favor you'll be fine Goskr." Oron reassured.

  Goskr smiled slightly, then walked towards the door. Everyone stepped back and watched. Goskr reached out his hand, and put it on the symbol of the bear. He took a deep breath before slowly pushing it in.

  The door slowly began to open. Goskr let out a sigh of relief then looked back at his friends.

  "Thank the gods," Cormick happily stated, "now come on brothers…"

  "Goskr!"

  Goskr looked down at his chest to see the head of an arrow sticking out from it. He looked up to see Kald running towards him. He tried to cling on to what was left in him but it was futile. He fell to his knees, before finally letting go and falling over.

  Oron reached for his sword as ten rebel soldiers spilled out of the room which the door protected. One woman walked out, seemingly in charge of them.

  "Perhaps not all of the Domain is uneducated." She remarked.

  "We're not Domain." Cormick snarled.

  "Oh? We have some feisty ones here." The woman taunted. She looked over at Kald, crying over his comrades body. She walked towards him and kneeled.

  "Get away from me you monster!" Kald snapped.

  She looked down before getting up again. "Surrender, I don't want to have to make you suffer like your friend has."

  Oron thought for a minute before speaking. "What is your name?"

  "Excuse me?"

  Oron took a step forward and introduced himself. "I am Lieutenant Bau of the Tivenian army. I fight for Tiven but have no love for the Domain. Despite Tiven's dutchess supporting them. I propose an exchange of some sort, perhaps information for our lives?"

  The woman was stunned and took a moment to think.

  "Now!"

  Cormick reached out his hand and pulled Kald toward him. Oron threw a dagger towards the group of rebel soldiers before taking off with the rest of his squad.

  "After them you fools!" The woman screamed.

  "Keep running! We have to get to the City of Kor!"

  The army ran through the desert, slowly losing the people in the back to sanddyrs that were catching up.

  "How far is this city?!" Harn shouted.

  "It's just up ahead, we'll be there soon!" Antog specified.

  "They'll have ways to help?!"

  "Yes don't worry!"

  "Ragir we gotta go!" Rusnil yelled as the group neared the massive entrance.

  Ragir joined the group as they ran past him. They ran towards the horses and everyone mounted up. Oron, Rusnil and Cormick on their own, Kald and Ragir sharing the other one.

  "Hya!"

  The horses reacted to the reins being slapped and began to take off. Before they got far an arrow went through the leg of Kald and Ragir's horse, sending them tumbling forward.

  "We can't go back, we have to move!" Oron commanded.

  "Oron those are our brothers we can't just…"

  "We have no choices, if we go back we all die!"

  "Rusnil, you can't stand for this!"

  "Oron's right, we need to keep moving."

  Cormick had visible shock on his face.

  "We have to get to the City of Kor Cormick, that's our rendezvous with Harn."

  Cormick looked down then finally said through gritted teeth, "fine, we'll keep moving."

  Harn shot a bolt at a sanddyr to attempt and scare it off. He guided soldiers into the city gates as they all flooded in. Once most of the soldiers were in he ran inside and yelled, "close the gates!"

  The gates lifted up to a closed position as a sanddyr pounded against the door.

  Antog marched towards Harn and shoved him, causing him to lose balance and fall.

  "You caused all of this death! You had the simple task of taking over the smaller camp they had to the east but you had to be a hero and lure out sanddyrs! Now we don't even have half of the Kor Territory."

  Harn picked himself up and looked Antog in his eyes. "Your lieutenant cleared this course of action without thinking about it. And he was raised in Ignea all his life! It's obvious you're making this up and have no idea what's actually going to happen with these sanddyrs!"

  Antog pointed his finger in Harn's face. "You're in no position to accuse me of such things. Once your stupid squadron comes back empty handed you're in charge of reporting this mess to King Abor."

  Harn stared at Antog angrily, before silently walking away.

Chapter 6

  "So how are we doing this?"

  Oron and Harn stood in front of the giant door to the throne room. It had been a week since they had both failed, now they finally stood in front of the door to reckoning.

  "I'm the general, I'll speak on both of our behalf."

  "No, I should speak on my own failure, it's only fair."

  "Are you sure? I have no issue speaking for you Oron."

  "I'm sure," Oron took a deep breath, "let's do this."

  The doors creaked open as Harn and Oron walked towards the throne.

  "General Kaza, Lieutenant Bau, I'm glad to finally see you both." King Abor said in a friendly voice, before saying, "report!" In a more foreboding voice.

  "We lost our positions in the Desert of Kor, and the City of Kor. Sanddyrs attacked both positions and we were forced out of them. We believe this is due to me and Lieutenant Bodel's plan to use them to attack the Kingsblood main camp."

  "And what of your endeavors, Lieutenant Bau?"

  "We managed to find the tomb of King Toric, but we were ambushed by Kingsblood soldiers. Sergeant Debak was killed, and Corporal Nado alongside Scout Corporal Kona are MIA and presumed dead. We also fear that Ionlaborer is in Kingsblood hands."

  Abor sat back in his throne. "So Dutchess Berue's prized army has set us back rather than pushing us forth. Clearly there should be repercussions."

  Oron clenched his fist and stepped forward. Harn grabbed his arm and looked him in the eye. Oron stepped back.

  The king thought for a minute, then said, "General Kaza, as ruler of the Domain I hereby demote you to the rank of lieutenant, your army is now under the command of General Antog Romir."

  Oron stepped forward, "you have no authority! The right to demote a general of the Tivenian Military is reserved for Dutchess Berue and her alone!"

  The king looked at Oron grimly, then stood up and walked in front of him. He calmly replied, "you are currently soldiers of the Domain and are under my control. The right is mine."

  Oron snarled at Abor before being pulled back by Harn.

  "For your insolence, Bau, I hereby relieve you of your ranking of lieutenant."

  Harn stepped up, "your majesty please, I've fought with this man for twenty years, he is my most trusted soldier and friend."

  Abor glared at Harn, before replying, "did I stutter, Lieutenant Kaza?"

  Harn stepped back.

  "Harn you can't possibly stand for this…" Oron pleaded.

  "Captain Bau, you have no authority to be in this room. Leave immediately." Antog said calmly.

  Oron turned around and stormed out of the room.

  Cormick rubbed his sword clean. He examined the blade to conclude it was sharp enough. Never going to use it anyway, he thought before sheathing the blade. He looked up to see Oron walking out of the palace courtyard alone. He ran up to him.

  "Oron, where's Harn? What the hell happened?"

  Oron stopped dead in his tracks, then looked at Cormick with a face of dread.

  "King Abor demoted Harn to lieutenant, we're now under the authority of General Romir."

  "That's insane! He can't do that can he?!"

  "He did. I objected of course and merely landed myself at the rank of captain."

  Cormick stood there in shock. Neither said a thing for minutes while they both processed what was happening.

  "Is Rusnil and everyone else back?"

  Cormick slowly recovered from his shock, then followed up, "yes, they're at the old permanent camp we built."

  "Let's go gather the troops for Harn, I'm sure he's going to want to speak."

  One hour later…

  The group of two hundred men murmured amongst themselves before slowly going quiet at the sight of Harn. Cormick and Oron stood next to him and waited.

  "Brothers and sisters, I regret to inform you that due to my failure at Kor, I've been demoted to the rank of lieutenant. General Romir has commanded us to march towards Hanterbin, the territory east of Kor. There we will go around the desert of Kor and attack the Kingsblood Rebels to push forward."

  The group began talking loudly. Oron's mind ran at a breakneck pace. He knew what to say but he couldn't find the courage to say it. Harn began to walk away when finally Oron snapped.

  "Gen… I mean, Lieutenant Kaza, if I may?"

  Harn looked at Oron and said, "you may speak, Captain Bau."

  Oron walked towards the place where Harn was.

  "Eighteen years ago, me and you served in the Dominion as sergeants, correct?"

  Harn nodded.

  "But we knew that the Dominion were abusive with their power and did not deserve their power. So what did we do?"

  "Well, me, you, Lieutenant Lon, and many others all got together to form a rebellion in Tiven."

  "And what was our oath for the rebellion?"

  Harn looked down in sorrow.

  "The oath we spoke states that we swear to fight injustice, no matter what the cost." Cormick replied for Harn.

  "And yet here we are, fighting for injustice."

  "Oron stop!"

  Rusnil stepped forward from the crowd.

  "We fight for Tiven now, and we all want to see our family's again. If we fight for the Domain more of us will be able to then if we committed treason."

  "Rusnil you took that oath too! And so did many of the others here." Oron looked at Harn, then back at the crowd. "Harn lost everything to fight the injustice that the Dominion stood for. His wife, his children, his home. But he kept going. He fought in two different wars within eight years. And it's because of him not only Tiven, but all of Treshev, is free to rule themselves."

  "Oron please." Rusnil pleaded.

  "I'm sorry but no, it's time we stopped standing for hypocrisy, it's time we rose up and fought to see the blood of the king. We all had something to lose in the Dominion wars, that didn't stop us nor should it now!"

  "God dammit Oron no we didn't!" Rusnil snapped. "Me, Cormick, and many others fought for the glory of battle. We had nothing to lose, but now we do."

  "Don't let your selfish desires cloud your judgement!" Oron boomed.

  "I have a son Oron!"

  "And so do I! I want to do that kid right just as much as any father would! But I will not stand idly by and allow countless other children to lose their parents who are simply stealing to survive, because they're a riller short of getting out of the slums! Cormick knows what I mean. If you don't believe me why don't you wander the slums and see how many starving orphans beg you for food."

  Rusnil stepped towards Oron, but was stopped by Harn.

  "Captain Rimi, stand down! Oron is right. We need to fight for what's right."

  "Harn don't do this…"

  "That's an order Rusnil!"

  Rusnil sheepishly stepped back.

  "What are your orders, General Kaza?" Cormick asked.

  Harn looked at Cormick and Oron.

  "Lieutenant Lon, Lieutenant Bau, I need you both to rally the men. We march on the Palace of Solvaris at noon tomorrow."

  "So you served with General Kaza in the Dominion Wars?" A young private asked Oron from the other side of a campfire.

  "Yes, me, Rusnil, Cormick, and Lieutenant Kell from back home."

  "Do you two have any good stories? Maybe one that would help us with the thing tomorrow?"

  Cormick looked at Oron. "What about the storm on The White Palace?"

  Oron chuckled. "Of course you want to talk about that one. No we used a secret entrance this next time is going to be a full frontal storm, like with the attack on Capitol."

  "Both of you are just trying to brag about your own achievements." Harn interjected, then stood up. "Lieutenant Kell led an attack on the Palace of Hertil, similar to what we want to do here. He simply walked in with a massive army and discussed terms of surrender with the Dutch. It was more of a display of power than anything."

  "Who's to say this will even stop the Domain?" A random soldier asked from the other side of the campfire.

  "It won't, but it will cripple them." Harn answered.

  "What about Dutchess Berue?" Someone else queried.

  Harn was silent.

  "We'll cross that bridge when we get there." Oron answered, "for now let's get sleep, we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.

  The next day, high noon...

  The army marched forward through the main road of Villa Solvaris, led by Harn, Oron, and Cormick. Onlookers watched the show of power with awe and fear. They approached the gates before halting.

  "We demand a word with King Abor and General Romir!" Harn commanded.

  The guards looked at each other then looked at Harn.

  "Is he expecting an entire battalion?"

  "Open these gates." Harn bluntly replied.

  "I'm afraid we can't…"

  Harn pinned the man against the gate with his forearm.

  "I said, open these gates."

  The other guard opened one side of the gate slowly. Harn let go of the man he pinned and he stumbled to open the gate.

  The battalion began to enter the courtyard. The guards along the walls and in front of the palace door merely observed the two hundred soldiers.

  The palace doors creaked open, the synchronized steps of the march ringed throughout the entire palace hall. Servants gathered in the hall to watch. Finally they reached the throne room and entered.

  Harn stepped forward with Oron and Cormick. The army poured into the room and stood behind them. He drew his blade and pointed it at the king.

  "King Abor, as General of the army of Tiven, and representative of the people of Tiven, you have been relieved of your position. If you stand down now we will discuss terms for your life to be spared."

  The king stood up. "Do you honestly think you have the upper hand?"

  Before Harn could respond, hundreds of Domain soldiers spilled into the room from all sides, they surrounded Harn's army and there raised their crossbows.

  "Surrender, Kaza, and we will spare your soldiers." The king boomed.

  Cormick looked around, the army was surrounded, but there was a direct line of fire from him to the King. If he killed the king the army would attack, but they would also slowly crumble without proper leadership. He weighed his options.

  "How did you know?" Oron asked.

  Cormick put one arm behind his back and summoned a dagger. He took in a deep breath.

  "Not all of your siblings in arms are as loyal as you think." Antog snarkily replied from beside the throne.

After a second of preparing himself, Cormick dashed towards the king.

  "Cormick no!"

  Cormick dropped his summoned dagger, he looked down to see a bolt stuck in his chest. He put a hand on his wound and fell to his knees. He looked up to see his attacker. At the sight of him he smirked, then said, "I always said you'd be the death of me."

  Oron ran towards Cormick's limp body.

  "Stop or you will suffer the same fate!" Abor boomed.

  Oron slowly stepped back to his former position and looked at Cormick's attacker.

  "Rusnil? H-how could you?" Oron said on the verge of tears.

  Rusnil didn't reply, he just looked at Cormick's body in shock.

  "Answer me you coward!"

  "Enough! I grow tired of your games! Surrender now, Kaza, or suffer the consequences!" Abor's loud command silenced the room entirely.

  Harn didn't speak a word. He simply dropped his sword, then slowly kneeled in front of the king.

  Oron slowly stepped towards Cormick.

  "Romir, take Kaza and Bau to death row. I want their heads. As for the rest, send them back to Tiven."

  By the time the king finished Oron made it to Cormick. He kneeled next to him.

  "Come on you fool wake up." Oron pleaded, shaking Cormick more and more intensely.

  Two Domain soldiers tried to grab Oron but the king stopped them. "No, let him have his moment. I'm not that heartless."

  Oron slowly stopped shaking Cormick and eventually started crying. He took Cormick's hand and softly said, "victoria edit vobiscum."

  Oron looked around the prison. He saw many thieves snickering at him.

  A guard opened a cell and pointed into the inside. Harn and Oron entered to be met by a female prisoner.

  "Fancy that, it's the mighty Oron Bau."

  Oron recognized the woman immediately and pinned her against a wall.

  "Hey wait a minute now I never meant for your poor friend to die."

  "You and your squadron killed half of my own," Oron punched her in the gut. "And now you want forgiveness?" He then threw her aside.

  "Oron, what the hell are you doing?"

  "This is the one who killed everyone at that tomb. She needs to pay."

  "Come to your senses now. How many times have you put people in that exact situation?"

  Oron almost argued, but simply looked down.

  "I didn't kill half of your squad Oron, the two, Ragir and Kald I think is their names, they're alive."

  Oron's eyes widened. "How the hell are they alive? That was quite a tumble."

  "The bigger one is a cripple now, but that little guy is built like a brick."

  "She's not wrong, Ragir is a tough guy, despite his smaller stature." Harn added. "I am Harn Kaza, this is my closest friend Oron Bau."

  "Pleased to meet you, I am Zama Romir."

  Harn looked at her skeptically. "Romir?"

  "Believe me I have no love for my father. I would gladly take my mother's name if I could."

  "Glad to hear that."

  "So, how the hell did you end up getting a death sentence? I thought you were helping the Domain."

  "I grew tired of Abor." Harn said bluntly.

  "That's all?"

  "That's all you're getting."

  "Oh, fair enough."

  "I guess you're getting executed with us?" Oron asked.

  "If tomorrow then yes.""

  "Well, let's get some sleep so we can get it over with."

The next day…

  Harn stepped up to the execution platform, followed by Oron, then Zama. On that platform were two soldiers and an executioner. In front of the platform were hundreds of people, seemingly the entire city.

  The executioner walked to the front of the platform. He drank something from a bottle, then his voice boomed "silence!" loud enough to shake the ground. Then he said in a quieter, yet still extremely loud voice, "the execution will now begin." He then pointed at Harn.

  Harn walked up to the stone block. A soldier walked up next to him.

  "Our traditions determine you may make a speech before your execution, do you wish to?"

  Harn nodded. The soldier reached into a bag he had and took out a glass bottle with a mysterious liquid in it.

  "This will help project your voice, try not to yell."

  Harn put his mouth up to the bottle and drank the liquid in it. He then took a minute to think before speaking.

  "Eighteen years ago," he began, "I fought in a war against the Dominion of Treshev. The war was to free Tiven from the grasp of the Dominion. They abused their power, and ignored the people of Tiven. After three years we beat the Dominion, and inspired the entirety of Treshev to rebel against the Dominion, and they asked me to lead. Fighting in those wars cost me everything I loved, but it freed millions of people from an abusive government.

  "My army was not made from highly trained soldiers, it was made from the people, farmers, merchants, simple commoners." Harn motioned to the crowd, "everyone here can fight against your abusive government, all you need is courage to rise up. So people of Solvaris, remember my last words, and rise up!"

  The booming voice finally silenced, the crowd had no reaction.

  Harn closed his eyes and breathed in the warm air one last time. A soldier walked behind him, then put Harn to his knees. The soldier put his foot against Harn's back and brought him to the stone block. The executioner raised his axe in the air, and then swung it to the ground.

  Harn's body went limp, the soldier behind him kicked it aside.

  Mere seconds later an arrow flew into the soldier's head. The crowd went crazy and the remaining soldier drew his sword.

  "Oron!" Zama barked, "follow me!"

  Zama proceeded to jump off the back of the platform and darted for the large gap in the wall. Oron followed suit.

  "You have any idea how to parkour through scaffolding?" Zama questioned.

  "Couldn't be harder than mountain climbing!"

  "Speaking from experience, you'll be fine."

  Zama then ran up a diagonal cart, and jumped into a hanging garden. She ran along it until it ended and then jumped into a lower sitting building's roof. She looked back to see Oron still following closely. Now close enough to the city wall, she jumped into the ground, and made a dash towards the scaffolding. Once there, she quickly shimmied up the scaffolding, then weaved through it to get to the other side. Once to the end of the wall she dived off the scaffolding and rolled on the ground to break her fall. Seconds later Oron landed next to her.

  "What took you so long?" She joked.

  "What's the plan now? We're at the capital territory of the Domain, we won't get far…"

  "Don't worry, this is a rescue not an escape."

  "Then where are the rescuers?"

  "On the wall making sure they don't die, we have a rendezvous at the bottom of the plateau your old camp is on."

  "Let's hurry then."

  Zama and Oron finished the climb to see two horses, and one rebel soldier.

  "Zama who the hell is this?" The soldier questioned.

  "Friend, where is Agnar?" She replied.

  "He's escaping his own way, they didn't say anything about rescuing two people."

  "He's not a part of the plan, he's just my plus one now."

  "Ornwyn…"

  "Can keep his mouth shut, let's quit with this interrogation and get a move on." Zama said impatiently.

  "Can I at least get a name first?"

  "Oron Bau, I can just ride on the back with Zama." Oron answered.

  "Pleased to meet you Oron, I'm Carafas."

  "Enough!" Zama barked, "let's get out of here!"

  The three mounted the two horses and took off towards rebel territory.

Chapter 7