Percival Dur'Abarshan was a dead man.
It was all I could do to keep myself from ordering a thousand crossbow bolts to be shot through his skull as I stormed across the battlements, heading for the stairs that would lead me down to the gatehouse. The guards knew better than to get in my way as I stood just behind the gate, pressing my palms against the cold steel ribs of the doorframe, trying to calm myself.
But my blood was up, and the urge to annihilate the prattling wretch of a king would not be sated. How dare he, I thought to myself, nails digging into the door, how dare he threaten my family? How dare he threaten me? I should have had him crushed under a catapult stone the moment I saw his face beneath the walls. My hands were thrumming as my magic surged like a tidal wave inside me, itching to be released, to blast my foe to ashes and scatter him to the four winds.
No. I screwed my eyes shut and forced the magic down. I could not afford any mistakes here. Not while they had my daughter.
Ella. How had she ended up in their posession? I had seen her the very night before the duel was proposed. I cursed myself for my foolishness. For all my precautions, I had not managed to keep the one thing I treasured above all else from the hands of my enemies. I had thought it was me they wanted. Fool.
If they had hurt her... I had to stop myself at that thought. If I let my thoughts wander there, I would never be able to control myself. And I wouldn't want to.
Taking another deep breath, I shoved my way out of the side-gate and strode out onto the open space between Percival's camp and the fortress walls. I felt hot and uncomfortable inside my armour - I had chosen mostly leather, to allow for greater speed, but had taken the precaution of a chainmail vest and a pair of mis-matched steel greaves, in case the snivelling worm decided to try for my legs. The sword was my own, though, a length of dark grey steel notched with age. But sharp. Sharper than any blade Percival could ever hope to wield.
I smiled, and rubbed the inside of my left wrist guard. The sword would do its work, but it wasn't the only blade waiting for its taste of king flesh. I could almost feel the poison hissing delightedly in the hidden edges. The dagger was Ella's own, left behind the night she disappeared. How fitting that I would leave her captor screaming in agony with poison delivered from the blade of the very woman he thought he could use against me.
I raised my head and looked out towards the enemy camp. My people were up on the walls - young and old, men and women and children all. They looked harmless. Then again, a high fortress wall makes lovely concealment for about four-hundred loaded crossbows. Not to mention the trebuchets. And every strong sorceror among them was ready to loose their worst on my order.
A smirk wriggled onto my lips. Percival would have his duel. But he would be playing by my rules.
Come out, come out, little king. Your death awaits you.