Chapter 24:

The Tides of War

Reverie's End: Blades of Malice

Day: 7/18/991; Time: 7th hourBookmark here

The city of Balassar was in flames, and the ground was covered in blood. The Blades of Malice and the joint Balassar-Northgate army fought valiantly. But it was time for the madness to stop and make way for an even greater chaos.Bookmark here

The Bells rang and the trumpets sounded. Everyone stopped and looked up at the castle. Admiral Wallace walked outside onto a balcony on the 5th floor, raised his arms in the air, and announced, "The king has fallen! I claim the kingdom of Shima for Northgate!" The men of Balassar and Northgate both cheered; their morale increased. Nobody wanted to fight for the old king, but Wallace was charismatic. He had the support of the people.Bookmark here

Dart and his men were going to be a sacrifice for Wallace's regime. Defeating the Blades of Malice would only solidify his position. Killing King Shima was not enough. The system would keep rebuilding itself; it needed to be completely rooted out. New leaders would arise when others fell. "No!" yelled Dart. He was not about to quit. He continued to fight and urged his men to not waver.Bookmark here

The fight lasted for another hour, but then even more reinforcements came from the north. Dart knew that they had lost. "Retreat!" he yelled, as he threw a potion into the air, creating a red flare. Commander Dart had never lost a battle until today. There was a first time for everything. He swallowed his pride and led his men away from the battle.Bookmark here

Outrunning the cavalry was going to be tough. Dart, as well as many of his men had sustained major wounds. Just when all hope was lost, a breath of fire came from the sky and scorched the land. Balmung had not yet given up; he was injured, but was still in the fight. He continued to breathe, creating a wall of fire, protecting the Blades from the Northgate troops. Dart, not usually the emotional type, nearly cried.Bookmark here

"Don't stop!" yelled Dart. His men obeyed and ran away as fast as possible. The Blades of Malice had lost this round, but Balassar had sustained grave wounds as well. The war was not over.Bookmark here

Meanwhile, on a different part of the battlefield, Sieg and Era were exiting the city as well. Era's wound was beginning to open up again and she was breathing heavily. They found a nearby tree and took a short rest; this was their intention. Unfortunately, they were not allowed that luxury. They were soon spotted by a group of 10 Northgate knights that came as reinforcements. Sieg and Era's awareness of their surroundings was non-existent. They would never have blundered like this on a good day.Bookmark here

Sieg pulled out his lance and took a defensive stance. Era was on the ground next to him. She could barely get up in her condition. The knights in front of them seemed to be well-rested and joined in the battle for the first time.Bookmark here

"I'll protect you," said Sieg as he wobbled around a bit. Era looked at him with doubt in her eyes.Bookmark here

"I love you, " she said, looking at him with hope-filled eyes.Bookmark here

"I love you too, " he responded. Sieg sighed and continued to stand there, trying not to fall.Bookmark here

They did not get too much time to rest; several weapons were swung at him in the next moment. He dodged some slashes and stabs, and managed to land a strike through the chest. He was running on adrenaline and hoping it would last long enough for him to take out nine more enemies.Bookmark here

Several more knights attacked him, and he almost got hit on the right side, but it was deflected at the last minute by a sword. Era had finally gotten up. She could still fight. The two stood back-to-back now. "Let's do this," she said quietly. Sieg nodded and the fight continued.Bookmark here

Swords and spears came at them, but they deflected them all. The two lovers protected each other from all harm. But such a fierce and fiery passion could only hold on for so long. There were only two knights left now, but that was too many. One managed to strike Era on the right leg; she fell to the ground. Sieg in a fit of rage swung at the knight, but was stabbed in the right shoulder by his partner.Bookmark here

Sieg and Era did not have time to examine their wounds, they both quickly regained their stances and faced their foes with weapons drawn. However, this did not last long. Era plummeted to the ground, and before Sieg could do anything, she was impaled to the ground with a lance. Sieg could see nothing but blood in that moment. He swung his lance wildly and slew the attacker by piercing his throat and immediately stabbed the other through the eye. Their assailants were all dead, but that no longer mattered. The damage done was permanent.Bookmark here

Era lay on the ground, and Sieg could only watch on in horror, at the outcome. He fell on his knees; he didn't know what to do. Sieg's mind had entered a state of shock. Era looked at him with her gentle eyes, "We all knew this could happen one day… Don't bother getting help. I'm not going to make it," she said in a raspy voice.Bookmark here

Sieg looked at Era, with tears in his eyes. He felt like screaming, but no words came out.Bookmark here

"I have only one request. Sieg… Do you see that cemetery nearby? I want you to bury me over there." He nodded and picked her up gently. Sieg walked towards the appointed location slowly, perhaps hoping that in doing so he could extend Era's life. But time continued to flow, regardless of his wishes.Bookmark here

When they got closer, Era pointed her finger in the direction that they should go. It didn't take a lot more walking before they arrived at two gray tombstones. They were the graves of Era's parents. King Shima had burned Chakra Castle ten years earlier; it was during this purge that Era's parents were exiled. They died shortly afterwards. Perhaps it was fate that Era could die here with the rest of the exiles.Bookmark here

She grabbed Sieg's neck, and looked him in the eye. "Don't forget your anger. Kill the king… this ground… is filled… with the bones... of those… crying for justice," she said as her hands dropped to the ground. Her final words were ones of anger.Bookmark here

Sieg screamed for the space of a full minute. His hoarse throat prevented him from continuing. He could only stare blankly at the ground before him. This continued for several minutes, before he finally decided to bury his former lover. The ring he kept had never reached her fingers. It was useless to him now. He buried it along with her.Bookmark here

He dropped the shovel that he had been using and stared at her grave. There was no tombstone. He swore to give her a proper warrior's burial after the fighting was over. He walked away from the cemetery and limped towards the woods to the east of Balassar. Sieg's part in this fight was over.Bookmark here

He looked back at the city, and saw a red flare. "Could Commander Dart have lost?" he thought to himself. At this moment in time, he didn't care who won. He continued to stumble as he walked away from the city. Several minutes later, he heard the sound of galloping hooves approaching him. He looked over and saw a red banner with a sword and wings on it. Up in the sky, he could see an injured Balmung flying away. The Blades of Malice had suffered a defeat. "This is unacceptable! What did Era die for?!" thought Sieg to himself. He followed behind the fleeing Blades and tried to keep up.Bookmark here

The Northgate troops were no longer following them. Balmung had successfully deterred them from coming closer. They traveled for several hours before finally stopping and setting up camp. Their forces were down to a mere 500, 200 of which were heavily injured. They were going to need to call for reinforcements. Dart was bitter, but he needed to stay strong to maintain morale.Bookmark here

Those that could still stand helped those that couldn't. The healers were busy for the rest of the day. It was around sunset that Sieg approached the camp, and fell to the ground from exhaustion. The guards spotted him and brought him to the healers. When he was finally healed, he went to speak with Commander Dart.Bookmark here

He went inside the tent and saw Dart sitting at a table, writing a letter. Dart looked up at his right-hand man and noticed a different countenance than the one he was used to seeing. Ordinarily, Sieg had fierce eyes that showed determination. But now he faced a man who appeared to have lost his soul.Bookmark here

"So, she didn't make it," said Dart emotionlessly. Lives meant nothing to him, but he had lost a valuable asset. Sieg didn't say anything, but the answer was clear to Dart. "At least the king is dead," said Dart, as he smirked.Bookmark here

"But now there's a new king in power," replied Lita as she walked inside the tent, surprising both Sieg and Dart.Bookmark here

"So, the assassin returns. Perhaps you can tell us what happened up in that castle? I thought you were supposed to kill the king?" snapped Dart.Bookmark here

"And I fulfilled my mission. This knife in my hand slit his throat. However, a new king has taken his place. Northgate used us to weaken the king's army. They had been planning a takeover for a long time now," retorted Lita.Bookmark here

Dart's expression became an angry one. He hastily finished his letter and rolled it up. "It's just as I thought. We will need more men," he responded. Dart sealed the letter and tied it to the carrier pigeon's leg.Bookmark here

Sieg finally spoke up, "The great commander does not tolerate failure. He might not be willing to send aid from the Kildar Base."Bookmark here

Dart paused for a moment and responded, "If the reward exceeds the risk, then I'm sure he'll consider it. He is more forgiving than you would think."Bookmark here

Lita broke up the dialogue between the two and said, "My job is done here. What happens from here on out is none of my business… unless you have the gold to pay me."Bookmark here

Dart sighed and replied, "Very well. You can collect your payment from Lanis as usual. If we have need of your services again, then I will call upon you."Bookmark here

Lita left the tent hastily, obtained her gold, and rode eastward once more. Her family was waiting for her to come back.Bookmark here

Back in the tent, Sieg and Dart, continued to discuss their plans for the future. "King Shima is dead, but this avails me nothing! Era is gone…" Sieg's voice shook as he spoke.Bookmark here

"Era and the other fallen need to be avenged even further! We must purge all of the royalty. Only then can Ethos know true peace," replied Dart. Sieg could only nod in agreement. The Blades of Malice was the only thing he had left. He had no choice, but to fight till his dying breath.Bookmark here

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