The Duel of Narath

Heraldas and his brother Haral stood upon the Mount, gazing out upon the magnificent kingdom of Narathar. It was around midday and the sun was high, casting a beautiful rich light across the lush Valley. The two boys were standing next to a tall sycamore tree. As its seeds fluttered down, the brothers turned their gaze back to their home, the glorious city of Narath.

Narath was spread before them, set astride the two faces of the Valley; its silver walls lying defiantly across the front and back of the city, and the legendary gates stood magnificently, shimmering in the mid-morning sun. Statues of ancient kings stood erected upon the ramparts of the walls, like sentinels, their accurately carved faces stern and watchful. And in the centre of the town was the great Palace with its many turrets and battlements, flags and banners fluttering in the slight breeze, uniformed guards striding slowly, back and forth, across the parapets.

Heraldas let out a sigh.

“To think, Haral,” he said quietly, “that someday, all of this will be ours. The town, the forests, the fields…”

“All this will be yours, brother.” Haral said, smiling, “you are first in line to the throne.”

“And I would happily share it with you, brother!” said Heraldas, squeezing his brother’s shoulder, “you know I would be hopeless at ruling an entire land like this. Your head is better suited to that sort of thing. Imagine me, on the throne! I would look like a fool.”

“But you are a much better knight than me,” said Haral, “I can hardly tell one end of a sword from the other.”

Heraldas laughed.

“Do you remember when our father was teaching us combat, and you threw a spear through the kitchen window?” Heraldas said happily.

“How could I forget?” said Haral.

“But brawn is not everything.” Heraldas said.

“True, but neither are brains,” replied his brother.

“It would help in battle.”

“As would brawn.”

“Stop speaking backwards, Haral, you’re always doing that. Well, whatever happens, it will be a good while before either of us take the crown.” said Heraldas, a hint of sadness in his voice, “we are only fourteen, and far too young to become a king.”

Haral made no reply, and simply nodded, absent-mindedly brushing a sycamore seed out of his long, black hair. They sat in silence for a few more minutes, each imagining what it would be like to sit upon a great silver throne, the flawless crown of Narathar seated upon their brow, and all the knights of the court bowing to them with utmost respect …

A small merchant cart trundled past them, full of spices, beams of mahogany and many other wonderful and expensive things from distant lands. The driver nodded in respect to the two boys and slapped the old horse pulling the cart on its hindquarters. It whinnied in an exasperated sort of way, but didn’t seem to be in the mood to speed up at all. The cart went over the crest of the hill and out of sight.

“We should be getting back soon,” Heraldas said suddenly, getting to his feet.

“A few more minutes, Heraldas,” Haral said lazily, who was now sprawled upon the grass.

“Well, on your own head be it…” sighed Heraldas.

Slinging his pack over his shoulder he started to walk off back towards the town, when a mad neighing filled the air.

“What’s that?” said Haral, scrambling up.

A scream rang out and more neighing followed.

“What on earth…” began Heraldas, and he ran to look over the summit of the hill.

Breathing shakily, Heraldas stared down the hill and saw the merchant again, but his cart had been overturned, its contents strewn across the path and the horse was kicking and flicking its head as if possessed. The merchant had a small knife in his hand and was desperately trying to ward off someone - something. From what Heraldas had seen, it looked like a common bandit or marauder, but it was much worse.

The creature had dirty grey skin, covered in scabs and cuts. It had terrifyingly white, round eyes, a large and misshapen nose and a mouth at a strange angle. There were large, long and broken teeth protruding from its disgusting black gums and its lips looked cracked and diseased. The monster was wearing a strange assortment of ripped clothing and was brandishing a short, curved sword, which appeared to be very poorly crafted.

The creature was slashing and stabbing madly, its awful teeth bared and it was snarling almost as earnestly as the horse was neighing. The thing, whatever it was, was savage, even insane, thought Heraldas, but there was an innocent man in danger and he had to do something. Haral had just come over the hill, carrying what was left of what they had brought with them.

“Haral, where’s my sword?” Heraldas cried, grabbing his brother by the shoulders.

“I-in the bag somewhere, I’ll find it!”

The boys dropped to their knees and started rummaging through the pack like scavengers, the cries of anguish of the poor merchant growing louder.

“Got it!” Haral said.

No sooner had he said the words, Heraldas grabbed it and sprinted towards the minion.

“What’re you…”

Heraldas did not quite know what he was doing, but some kind of instinct must have taken control of him. The blood of the kings pounding in ears in anger, Heraldas charged.

The End

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