The low drone of horns reverberated across the valley side. Those men within the Duke's ranks who had yet to move forward now began their descent onto the plateau.
Les looked on from horseback and knew that their final destination was not the center field. They marched to meet with Lorick's men within the melee he currently found himself in; the fight that still raged on the high ground of Stahll's former position. That too, was not the end of it. There were still several thousand men lined up along the river's edge, all now enemies of the Duke's men, still fending off the last of Stahll's forces. He would push forth, down into the low ground, and try to press the remainder of both the Blackguard Brigade and Stahll's Endry forces into the Bascan river. There was little time to act, and Les had not yet found Melchior among the fighting, or the fallen.
Another horn blast echoed over the clash of combat; Lorick's horse archers, accompanied by the Duke's cavalry, charged ahead of his reserve infantry.
This was the endgame.
Les' search became frantic. With each passing moment, time to escape unscathed grew shorter. He began taking the risk of being unhorsed and rushed for brief moments into the fray in search of Melchior.
His brother in arms, however, remained unseen.
From across the field, Les spotted Rook riding with only three dozen horse archers. His first thought was the fear that this was all that remained of his men. Les made his way to him, dodging small pockets of fighting men along the way.
“Have you seen him?”
“No, I'm sorry brother I have not. Though the time to move back is now. We cannot hold off the coming forces with what remains of our men along the river, let alone what remains of us here on the high ground. We lost too many when this became a three front fight.”
“Aye, I'm not going to argue with you on much other than the fact that I'm not leaving Melchior behind.”
“Les, he would not want you risking your life for him. Wait until the battle is done and they allow us time to retrieve the dead.”
“And if they don't? We're not exactly seen as the most righteous of combatants. They may not deem us deserving of such a privilege.”
Rook nodded. “Likely not to give us ransom either. Not with Melchior's actions on Stahll.”
“So he succeeded?”
“Yes I saw it happen from the far side. He may not be aware of it, for he was moving like an arrow to its target, but we covered his approach.”
“So it is done. I will search for him there. Perhaps he did not make it far from the site of Stahll's end.”
“I would not know, the dogs rushed in and we were forced to pull back. Not many of us made it as you can see.”
Les shook his head. “I had hoped that you split your force. Is this truly all that is left?”
“Yes.” Rook said, followed by a moment of silence before he sighed and looked into the eyes of his old friend. “You know that I am not choosing to desert you. There are -”
“Stop talking Rook, I know our responsibilities to the Irregulars. Likewise, I won't ever consider your choices as anything other than doing your duty. Melchior would probably want me to be more like you.”
“True, but your loyal character is one reason I'm sure, that he chose you as second in command.”
“Just as he chose you as third because of your unwavering allegiance to the code of our corps.”
“I will see you at the riverside.”
“I do so hope.” Les said, as he turned his horse around to face the dwindling number of fighting men.
“And if I don't.” Rook continued.
Les turned back. “If you don't?”
“I'll be sure to have your honors chronicled. No man will be subsumed within our ranks without the knowledge of your sacrifice.”
“For Heaven's sake, Rook.” Les began laughing. “I'm not quite dead yet.”
Rook remained serious. “I mean only for you to know that I think highly of you. There's little time, continue your search. I will make sure that we are ready to move out when you return with Melchior.”
Les nodded. “Good luck.”
“As much to you, my friend.”
Rook signaled his mounted archers, and they rode off.
Les was left alone at the edge of the battlefield at high ground, where he could see that the dominating force of the Duke's men was now washing over the center field below.
Les pushed forward and drove his rouncy into the fighting men on the high ground. He drew a warpick and swung the blunt end into those who would be his obstacles. With what fervor was left in his horse, he pushed into the fight where Stahll's entourage last stood, now decimated by the war dogs and Lorick's charging cavalry. Among the dead, he saw the headless body of the general who had been the holder of their contract for the last few years. A wave of hatred washed over him, soon overpowered by an inundating sense of satisfaction when his eyes finally met the blank stare of Stahll's severed head.
The Tyrant of Endry was finally dead.
“But where?” Asked Les aloud. “Where is his killer?”