There was no time for relief. There was no time for the culmination of nearly four years of work to wash over him like a fresh stream of cold water, and no time for him to feel the burden of his task lifting off his shoulders.
There was only time to defend himself from the flurry of blows that assaulted him from every direction as Stahll's loyal subjects threw themselves at him like rabid wolves.
Melchior's mobility advantage was neutralized by the sheer onslaught of the decapitated General's personal guard. He parried what he could, evaded others, and felt the sharp sting from those of which he could do neither. In only a few moments, he found himself on the trampled soil. One hand was behind his back attempting to push himself to his feet, while the other swung wildly in desperate defense. He slid back further as he knocked a few more blades from crashing against his legs and hips; the situation was beginning to look dire.
Then he heard it.
He heard the bittersweet sound of salvation; sweet for the salvation, bitter for the source of it. Peering behind him, the thundering charge of Mastiff's bore down on the remnants of Stahll's guard. They too had noticed the gigantic dogs, and given Melchior reprieve enough, in their shock, for him to regain his footing. In the mounting panic, Melchior broke from the engagement and began to do what any smart man would soon be doing; he ran.
His chest burned with every breath, his legs seared with every lunging stride and his body cried for him to stop. The banshee screams of the men behind him only served as motivation for him to ignore his aching muscles. Fear urged him forward, with every step he moved further into the unknown, for he had no plan or direction. His only goal at this point was to put as many bodies between him and the war dogs that drove through the melee like a tsunami engulfing a seaside village.
Suddenly he broke through the far side of the melee and found himself in open ground. The realization snapped him out of his panic and the logical processes of his mind began to grind into motion. The sound of a horse riding nearby caught his attention. “Les.” He thought, turning toward the pounding on the earth.
His heart sank.
Charging toward him was one of Lorick's cavalry, a javelin already mid flight.
Melchior lurched to avoid the incoming projectile. It coursed past him, missing by a hair as it slashed through his cloak. To the ground he went. Prone, and staring up at the oncoming rider, Melchior was making his peace. He closed his eyes, and tried in vain to gain his footing even though he very well knew that he would be trampled before he had the time to do so.
The collision was catastrophic.
For the brief time he was still conscious, he felt his body thrown into the air to crash down onto the bodies of fallen soldiers and slide to a halt amongst the dead.
Then came darkness.
It's winter, a boy drags his eldest brother helplessly through the deep snow, tears freezing against his cheeks.
There was a muted clash of steel; a red haze of sky. He sucked in a panicked breath and pain raced through his ribs.
Then came darkness.
It's late fall, a young man holds a girl against his chest. He peers into her green eyes, brushing away her sadness and red strands of hair. He tries to enjoy what time is left while her life is sapped by disease.
His eyes rolled back. In a fleeting moment of consciousness he saw Lorick's rider, not far from him; dehorsed with an Endry blade rising from his chest. An armored foot clanked down and blocked his waning view before he felt himself lifted from the blood soaked soil.
“Consider the favor returned.” Came an oddly familiar voice.