ten years Leuran had been in service to the queen as part of the Obsidian
Guardians. He had served with unwavering love and loyalty.
In his earlier years Leuran had
spent every waking moment training in many martial arts to serve her. He
perfected every single style and then he improved upon that perfection. Such
devotion had attracted attention from his superiors. He won every duel and
every championship. In no time, he was among the youngest in the queen’s personal
In even less time the queen had
given him an unofficial promotion to her bed chambers for many delightful nights.
She was as unstable as she breathtaking. She would go into fits of rage one
second and the next swear undying love for Leuran. He was sent away and
summoned back at a whim. Her words would shower him and lash at him, caress and
her had been the happiest times of his life. She was his only woman and he
ignored what all the servants and soldiers said behind his back. He didn’t
care, he was madly in love. Eventually he became Guardian Commander and he
excelled at that as well due to his obsession with keeping his queen, his love,
safe from all harm.
During the Peasant Conflict, when nearly
all commoners had risen to take down the nobility, Leuran had sniffed out spies
and watched them all hang. Once they had been ambushed in the dead of night while
the queen was being moved from her quarters to avoid a well-planned assassination
attempt. He wore the scars from those arrows from that night proudly. He had
been hit four times and would do it again if it meant his queen would live for
as time passed she called for him less and less. During these years his queen
had become very bitter; consequence of constant scheming to maintain power. It
was then that he was promoted unofficially yet again (or was it demoted?)
His queen began to ask him to first
spy on, then sabotage, her rivals. She even tried to get him to seduce some of
her female enemies but quickly found that that was one thing the Guardian
Commander did not excel at.
night she asked him to murder someone.
invited him to her chamber and as always, he responded immediately. His heart
beat as rapidly as it had the first time she had called to him. It had been
months that she had shown any interest and his soul ached to be with his love
again. Once there his queen was too nice. Too willing to please him. She never
once stopped kissing him and then, once exhausted, even proceeded to massage
his back. He felt a knot in his stomach. She was rarely nice to him. Not even
in the beginning had she been half so generous as she had that night. The knot
soon turned into a physical pain as she whispered to him what he was to do for
Leuran to murder a king’s nephew, a prince. The king was sick and had no heir
and so the nephew was to be the next king. Leuran had heard, and tried to
ignore, that his queen had attempted to seduce the nephew and had been refused.
Apparently, the price for turning down the queen was death.
She had sat still, as if waiting
for him to say yes. Leuran stayed quite for a long time and finally stood up.
He dressed himself slowly and refused to look at her face.
killed men before. In the arena, in defending himself and in defending his
queen. Some of the times had been accidental and some had not. But he had never
killed anyone who did not deserve it. There were risks in the arena and every
man there had been a battle-hardened soldier who knew they were fighting one of
the toughest men in the realm. They knew the risks and Leuran showed restraint
when he could and tried not to kill them. If they were difficult opponents, he
could not hold back and sometimes they would be slain but he would not feel
guilt. They had died with honor. There had been times he had been close to
death, usually in ambush. Any coward willing to stoop to such levels deserved
to die and their lives had no value to anyone. Killing in defense of his queen
was as easy as breathing. There was no option during those times. They had dared
to lift a finger against her and it was obvious there was only one outcome.
had struggled to decide to explain this to her but words failed him. A part of
him said it was an outrage that she should think so lowly of him. Assassins
were cowards and had no honor. He thought that after knowing him for so long,
sharing the same bed for so many years, she would know he was a better person
than that. Another part of him wanted to cry out and explain to her why he
could not do such a thing. How he would not be able to live with himself if he
killed an innocent. After all, turning someone down was in no way evil,
especially turning down an offer like that.
end, he whispered that he would not. It was more difficult than he ever thought
possible. He had never turned down his queen and, now that he had, he felt like
the knot in his stomach was going to claw its way up his throat. They both sat in
the dark bedchamber, quiet and stunned. He was half-dressed and she was
completely naked. Then, with great effort it seemed, she managed to make her
lips pull back in what she thought would pass as a smile. Her lips quivered
slightly and then stilled. Once that was done she spoke as sweetly and as
convincingly as she could.
spoke of his duty to obey her every command. Of how he swore to protect her
from every danger. She spoke of how this prince would strike at her realm and
cast her down from her throne. When none of this swayed Leuran she narrowed her
eyes into slits and hissed and spat, “You do not love me! Be gone, liar!
Oath-breaker! If you loved your queen you would need not be asked twice. Be
gone from my side and from my kingdom.”
all Leuran could take. He fell to his knees and hissed her feet and begged for
forgiveness. He would do anything if he was allowed to stay with her.
nights later he slipped through the prince’s window. Sneaking in had been much
too easy and he yearned to shout at the sentries for being so lax in their
duties. There was a single lit candle on a desk and the prince was writing
something, with his back to the open window. Awake, asleep, it mattered little
what someone was doing right before dying. Leuran pulled out a blackened blade
and slid it through the back and into the heart, clamping his hand over the
mouth. When the struggling stopped he gently placed the head down on the desk and
slipped back out as quietly as before.
been exactly twenty-three days ago. When the inquiries became more insistent
and the neighboring realm clamored for justice his queen turned Leuran in. His
love, his life, his reason for existing, turned him in, knowing full well what
the punishment would be.
was locked away. He was starved. He was tortured. He was publicly humiliated. Spit,
struck, kicked and yelled at. He felt none of these things. There was a hollow
in his being, a place where the body registered both pain and joy. A place that
gave a person energy and purpose. That place was gone and all was numb. Time
blurred and he never cried out, never complained nor pleaded nor questioned nor
accused. He was dead in every sense of the word. The only difference was that
his heart still beat, mechanically and involuntarily.
he was taken out to in front of hundreds of angry people he did not flinch
either at the bright sun or at the cacophony of people clamoring for his death.
He stared ahead, bound and chained, as his crimes were read by a fat man with a
bright purple gown and a ridiculously tall fur hat. It seemed questions were
being asked and then answered by different people. Everything was fuzzy. It
seemed he was at trial, or a pretense of a trial. He cared little. That was
until he heard his queen’s voice.
he felt the usual fluttering in his chest and the pulling on his lips as he
smiled involuntarily. It was for a fraction of a moment only, and then his
sluggish mind remembered what had happened. He had been betrayed by the only
person he valued in life. Feelings and emotions that he thought had died weeks ago,
resurfaced with every syllable uttered by her perfect lips. She was telling
everyone how he had acted on his own in blind passion although she had begged
him not to.
betrayed. The woman he loved was gone. His position of Guardian Commander was
gone. Soon his life would be gone as well. He had accepted this. At first, he
had hurt and had cried and he only wanted the pain to go. If his queen did not
want him then there was no point in going on. But as she continued to confidently
spew those venomous lies Leuran’s emotions refused to stay dead.
given his queen everything he could give and only wanted her love in return. He
had settled for her scraps less and less and still he had jumped around happily
when one was given to him. Now he was being discarded for obeying dutifully.
To multiply his roiling emotions,
there, beside his queen, stood another man, dressed in the Obsidian Guardians
Commander’s garb. The man was young, handsome, and strong. The only time the
man, boy, stopped looking around the
area for threats was to gaze lovingly at the queen. Leuran might as well be
staring at himself just a decades earlier.
Anger at the injustice boiled
within his empty stomach. It invigorated his weakened body.
His mind sparked and informed him
of things he needed to know.
in a castle courtyard, presumably in the sick king’s castle. There were exactly
ten archers posted on the walls. None of them was paying the kind of attention
soldiers are supposed to pay. They were up there because they had to; they
would watch the execution with passing interest and no more. There were two
soldiers holding spears standing on either side of the contraption that would
pull Leuran’s arms and legs from their sockets. They were not paying attention
to the emaciated prisoner either. Between the crowd and the raised stage there
were four soldiers looking decidedly bored as well. Sixteen soldiers in such a
crowded place and only two who could reach him quickly. Pitiful. There were
also two men who would be working the cranks and ropes.
The fat man who had started reading
from a scroll again and was working the crowd into a rage now. That worm
enjoyed his job. Leuran’s mind registered that as well. Leuran moved his head
to look at the sick king, the venomous queen and a few other royal persons. The
balcony overseeing the courtyard was far, but not too far. He let his eyes
linger on the queen. The source of his anger and of his power. He would need
the fuel that her sneering face was giving him.
guards untied him, first his arms, then his legs. He was completely free to
move. Fools, you never completely untie a
prisoner like this. He saw the spearmen tense slightly and then go back to
their normal uncaring positions as the two executioners slipped the ropes onto
both of his hands.
waited until the last moment, just before the ropes were pulled tight. He
closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Now.
He slipped his left hand out and brought it across as fast as he could. It
caught the executioner squarely across the temple and he dropped like a stone.
It had barely registered to the other man that the prisoner had moved when he
got a foot in the gut followed by a head-butt that shattered his nose and sent
a spray of blood everywhere.
Move, move, move! Lauren ducked and spun
to his left. He found the first spearman just as he expected, gawking in
disbelief. He kicked at the spear and sent it flying out of his hands and into
the other guard. He had his left hand on the pommel of the guard’s sword as he
jabbed his other hand into the spearman’s exposed face. He spun and pulled out
the sword in one fluid motion and did not stop moving. A dull thunk into the wood he had been standing
on let him know he had timed everything right. He raced past the spearman who
clutched at his face and slashed at the back of his knees as he passed. He gave
a hoarse yell and raised his sword over his head as if he would try to split
the remaining spearman’s head in half. The man’s spear came up but Leuran skid
to a stop, dropped low and ran the man through the gut with his sword. He
grabbed a hold of the spear and from his crouching position rolled to the
right. Another arrow struck where he had been standing. Thank the gods for
predictable archers. He came out of his roll facing the balcony in perfect
form, all weight on the knee on the floor and the other leg bent for balance
and the spear held far back over his shoulder.
There she was.
Unlike those around her she did not
have the stupid look of disbelief. On the contrary, there was nothing but full
understanding in her big blue eyes. Understanding and fear. She had seen him
fight many times; in the beginning, she never missed his bouts in the arena.
Now she saw everything from his victim’s point of view and she was horrified.
He felt little satisfaction. He threw the spear. He willed it to strike true
with all his pain and anger. He could tell from years of experience which one
of those pretty eyes the spear would impale.
not give himself the luxury of watching the spear, though, because both guards
and would-be executioners were either off the platform or out of the way now
and the archers would show no restraint. He turned and rolled forward and heard,
barely audible at this distance, a slight crunching sound followed by shrieking
from the balcony.
He picked up the sword he had
dropped, as well as the other spear he had kicked. He quickly changed direction
and dove out of the way of several more arrows. He rolled first to the left
then to the right narrowly avoiding more. That would be all the arrows he would
have to worry about. The four soldiers were coming up to the platform now, two
on each side. He leapt to his feet and the world turned dark slightly as he
almost passed out. Having spent so much time in the dungeons, underfed with no
exercise, was not good. He was getting tired.
guards circled him with bared steel and stopped a few feet away rather than
charge directly at him. Apparently, these guards were not complete fools. How unfortunate for me, he thought. He
scanned for options and saw the fat man screaming and pumping his fists in the
air at the front of the watching crowd. You
think you’re safe down there, buzzard. Leuran pivoted and sent his spear
flying. It flew true once again and caught the man in in the chest, lifting him
slightly off the ground and into the people behind him.
worked. Seeing him with one less weapon the soldiers grew more confident and
charged. He crouched and at the last minute he rose to the tips of his toes and
turned sideways and watched as one guard impaled another. He brought his sword
down and sliced at a wrist. He kicked at the guard who was now missing a hand
and tangled the whole lot up. He had practiced such maneuvers for years but was
still amazed at how they moved exactly how he needed them to. He ran and jumped
off the platform and landed hard on the dirt below. By now the crowd was
panicked as those at the front tried to get away from the murderous prisoner.
He ran at them and hacked with abandon, never aiming to kill, just trying to get
them through the gates quicker. Guards were now streaming in from everywhere,
but the crowd was preventing them from getting to Leuran and the guards at the
gates couldn’t close the gates anymore because of the people blocking the way.
stupid beasts people started trampling each other and didn’t even bother
looking around anymore. Leuran was forgotten amongst the crowd and he went
along patiently. He felt pain at his back and discovered a long gash all the
way from his left shoulder down to his right hip. Apparently he had gotten
nicked by an arrow. But when? He would see to it once he found a place to hide.
need for vengeance simmered down the desire to live spread through his tired
body and gave him focus. Perhaps he had been dead. But now he was very much
alive. He had been raised from the dead and such a miracle would not go to waste.