The Phoenix Knight hit the ground like a brick as Garrick punched him across the jaw with one massive fist. Bodies of over thirty of his soldiers littered the ground around his unconscious form in a rough circle, some dead, others screaming in pain clutching their bloodied limbs as their blood poured out onto the blood stained ground. 'Why spare him my lord?' asked the girl as she sheathed her blade.
'You know why Elia.' he said tapping the deep black wolf burn etched into the leather of her armour, the sygil of their house. I saw a black wolf nuzzle a fallen phoenix.
'You can't be serious!' she said mutedly as his men set about tending to the wounded and moving the dead.
'I don't like it anymore than you do! But Father wishes it. If it doesn't work out you can kill him then.' Garrick joined them as they stopped talking, Elia's hard blue eyes burning as she looked up at him. 'How many have we lost?'
'Fifty at the most...' that wasn't so bad...but still. Fifty sons I ordered to their deaths...fifty husbands...fathers...'Don't beat yourself up old friend, they died defending their Isle, each one will be reborn another hunter in the next life.' nodding his sheathed Brighthowl, watching as two mammoth riders picked up the boy in their arms and set off in a slow jog towards the castle, taking him to the ice dungeons.
'We're with you you bloody inbred sons of whores!' a deep voice boomed by the slowly opening portcullis. Sixty or more men were stood with their hands in the air, weapons at their feet completely surrounded, the one shouting was tall and broad as a doorway with thick muscled arms and a bushy gray beard. He knew a sailor with a beard like that once many years ago.
'Blackbeard?' he breathed moving through the field of the kings dead soldiers. As he neared the more certain he was. 'Lower your weapons!' he bellowed breaking into a run. His men turned to look at him, begrudgingly lowering their swords and spears. 'Blackbeard?' breathed Cannis stopping in front of the tall sailor.
'Known by a slightly diff'rent name know ma'lord.' The captain laughed.
'Rickard Thunderson...' locking forearms in a strong handshake Rickard smiled.
'Ma'lord Cannis, last time I saw you you still practiced with a wooden sword. You've grown big.'
'You've grown gray.' Rickard boomed a laugh as his sailors moved through the city gate into the main street, all with bloodied knives and swords.
'Aye, my men call me Greybeard behind my back when they think I can't 'ear the bastards.' he muttered picking up his starsteel axe and slipping it through the loop on his belt.
'How did you get here?'
'Brought the boy,' he said pointing to the keep. 'Got lucky enough to be charged wi' bringing 'im 'ere. My men killed the soldiers left on the ships in God Stream and the others off Black Reach by now.'
'Very good, the less the king knows the better. You know the boy well?'
'Well enough over the last weeks, he's a good lad...brave, strong...but...' Rickard looked to be fighting himself.
'What my friend?'
'He’s...he's tormented. My men said he screamed in his sleep, he's self destructive, I heard 'im screaming for you to kill 'im from back 'ere.' Hard footsteps thundered up his legs as the mammoth riders walked towards the portcullis. Their huge hairy mounts flicking their trunks from side to side as if they were distressed by the strong irony smell of fresh blood. Lady Siren jumped from her grand male mammoth called Broken Tusk, for obvious reasons, and strode towards them. Her heavy leather armour seeming to engulf her small slender frame.
'I'm glad to see you plan worked Lord Cannis,' she said removing her small half-helm. 'Any word yet from Black Reach?'
'None yet but we have the Phoenix Knight.'
'Alive?' she asked, eyes narrowing to small black slits. 'Is that wise?'
'Your ice dungeons have never had an escapee, there are things my Father wishes to know about the king, the defences of Valaria and Dragon Fort.' he lied.
'Ah I see, I will make sure to have a constant guard at his door at all times.'
'Can you also send your best Apothecary to tend his wounds?'
'Of course Sister Ameanel and her apprentices will fix him well enough.' she nodded with a small smile.
'Any losses?' Cannis asked as she stared inquisitively at Rickard. She won't know...
'No, they saw my mammoths and ran back to their ships and were promptly killed by their own sailors.'
'My men ma'lady,' Rickard bowed his head. 'Captain Rickard Thunderson.'
'Pleasure...so your men killed the king's soldiers?'
'Aye, was stationed in Valaria to keep an eye on...'
'The king!' Cannis interrupted making both of them look to him. 'Father wanted someone he trusted to spy on the king.'
'Ah you know Harrad?' she smiled being polite. Rickard shot Cannis an odd look before returning to Lady Siren.
'Aye ma'lady, grew up together in the Fang. How is the old wolf?' he asked with a smile across his blood smeared face.
'Cannis!' Elia's voice yelled down the wide street. Glad to avoid the question Cannis turned, Elia was stood at the crossroads waving her arms, beckoning him towards her. Sprinting up the street with Brighthowl banging against his leg, dancing around the fallen bodies she quickly disappeared down the street, speeding up to keep up with her he eventually found her kneeling beside the delirious Phoenix Knight. Two huge soldiers pinning his thrashing limbs to the floor.
'Alaina...Alaina,' he said over and over again each time more weakly than the last. Dropping down beside Elia he held the boys head in his hands. His eyes cracked open, gorgeous golden irises filled with panic.
'My names Cannis you're safe now.'
'No...Alaina...save her...king...kill...her...save her...save her.' he pleaded, staring so deep into Canni's eyes he felt like he was going to fall into those great molten pools of gold. With a last great shudder he fell once more into sleep. Sweat covering his brow with tiny droplets glistening like diamonds as the sun shone down from a tiny gap in the clouds.
'Who do you think Alaina is?' asked Elia holding the young warriors hand.
'No idea. Take him directly to Sister Ameanel for treatment.'
'Yes me'lord.' said the soldiers as they swiftly lifted him up and hurried him down the wide streets into the distance.
'You really think he'll fight with us?' asked Elia quietly.
'I don't know...' he admitted.
'I saw him fighting, you didn't. We can't beat him Cannis, none of us. I've never seen anything like that in my entire life, one man fighting off thirty men before being brought to his knees by exhaustion! And still he fought!'
'I know I've seen him fight before.' staring down at her painted face Cannis barely remembered the girl that his father had brought home from the wreckage of the village all those years ago. 'Father thought it was me in his dream, but it was you.'
'I'm no Wolfborn,' she said shyly.
'Maybe not in blood but my father raised you as much as he raised me, your family Elia, my sister, and heir to the Fang after Me.' he smiled lifting her chin with a finger. 'I want you there with me whenever I see him; word from Jade Isle is he's quite the hound.' She laughed slightly.
'So you want me to win him over by lying on my back and spreading my legs?' she grinned wickedly.
'By the Hunter no! I'd crack his neck...it might be his tongue might loosen more around you,'
'Wine will do that for you.'
'Wine can't talk back,' he said with a smile. 'You fought well today, I'm proud of you.'
'Thanks...I always did show you up.'