“Blackguard!” Rion cried, a smirk on his lips. Mind on the plan, nothing else. For a fleeting moment, he glimpsed Yakinos’ muscular shape, before he advanced in the midst of the pounding through his head. His quarry collapsed under the weight of the lead.

Two more men fell before Rion and Yakinos met hands. Yakinos grinned.

“Exhilarating, is it not?”

The yell from beyond made his body tremble. Yakinos threw his right arm forward – gasping as the sword brought him down. He sunk to his knees. Rion – though quite what he was thinking by such a move he didn’t know – parried once, swiped twice, slicing an arm off the one man and disembowelling another, and, thirdly, fell to Yakinos’s ascent.

“No, don’t…” he murmured.

“I must continue with my duty, Rion.” His voice echoed with some unsettling distress.

“You are injured. We should get you to the Med tent.”

Another enemy roared over the heads.  A pistol dropped his hand before it reached the two of them. Bodies crumpled around them, autumn leaves. The two of them, however, floated. His face a twisted picture of agony, Yakinos stretched upwards; his sword changed hands, and, back to back, they fought the next wave.

“What is it?” Rion called. His left hand spun a couple of shots into the air.

“Simply my right shoulder; it is still weak from where you popped it back into its socket.”

“Hmm.” With Phillip’s face in mind, each enemy he slew with greater vigour.

Yakinos swayed; Rion had caught a glimpse of the sweat-beads of pressure and pain on his hairline – he swung his sword, but in the wrong dance. Clumsily. Yakinos had applied a little pressure, had changed his familiar grip to accomodate – when he buckled. Yakinos’ sharp cry pierced the air.

They looked down at the same time. At first, a glint of silver sparkled above his navel; then, it became the peaked head of a blade.

The world moved in slow-motion. The sword retracted. And the blood pooled across Yakinos’ dull red jacket.

He dropped to his knees, hands fumbling over the wound. Yakinos spluttered as a slither of blood slid from the corner of his lips. His hand curled upwards. It wiped away the crimson, mystified.

The whole world mattered not. Rion hit the floor at the same velocity. He cradled Yakinos.

“Stay, my friend. Stay.”

Yakinos coughed. With a hand on his stomach, the other tried lining Rion’s lips. They pouted together, remembering the past days they had spent together, those private mornings and wonderful nights together. Rion ducked his head, seizing the small hand. He, tenderly, placed it to his lips. He closed his eyes, absent of glistening salt-tears. Never would he let death be his master.

Yakinos shuddered. His features slid into mute shapes, eyes glazing over, shimmering with every word he would not say to Rion at this last moment.

Yakinos coughed once more, and his breath exited his split lungs.

Rion moaned into the sound of the war, as glorious and untainted as it remained.

“No!” he screamed. He scraped the mess of curls from Yakinos’ forehead, but no light poured from those eyes. They stared, solid masses of death.

He cradled Yakinos for another second, and his vision blurred. Tears now pushed through. Rion lifted one hand to his chest – forever aching – but kept the other, his left, entwined with his friend. Louder was the pounding of his blood than the gunshots of the distance; more pain was here than— Rion jolted. He barely felt the tin bullet penetrate the flesh of his elbow – and wet eyes were no suitable witnesses.

How could that even begin to hurt when this man had gone? As the world around him faded to a bloody haze, Rion made sure to collapse beside Lysander Yakinos 'Hicky' Archer, as they had been in arms many times before.


The End

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