It was another week and a half before the Flames finally came. The Frosts didn’t push forward as the iron-makers took their sweet time with the daggers. Only nearly half the camp were armed with them even now.
Renner was feeling himself, for the first time in forever. It was ironic that he was his most unlikely version at the time.
He had been fighting like he actually wanted to. He held his head high up, made eye contact, smiled a lot more and even found Saint funny.
John had noticed it too. He inquired whether Ren was okay at least one-and-not times a day. He had gotten even more worried when Ren said he actually was – as it had never been his usual answer.
His dreams though, had widened their scope and gotten weirder and more cryptic. Just two days prior, he dreamt he was flying. He wasn’t mounted on anything, he wasn’t just flying, no. He had to flap his hands to stay up. If his hands slowed, his altitude decreased. He was like a featherless skinny bird.
He had flew all over the land of Voluntas. There was no war, no camps, no barren lands; just stretches of green, blue and beauty. As he flapped and flapped, the green faded. He wanted to stop but doing so would result in certain death. So he kept flapping. Then the battles started.
Clusters of men ran up and down the land of Voluntas. Then the very center of the land cracked and drifted apart. He was falling to the ground, he realized; and tried to gain momentum again but found that he had no hands. The ground came closer and closer. His last sight before he fell face first into a sword’s golden lion head pommel was the beautiful woman sobbing next to it, both lying on the ground.
‘AAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUU,’ the horn cut through the air.
The camps charged at each other. Saint was right beside him. They had positioned themselves in line with their target – the Hero. All they had to do was wish for their own Hero to die, selfish as it may be and then put their practice to work. Both of them were one of the ones who had gotten their daggers.
The first several minutes were always tiresome for the Swordsmen. They had to stand behind a wall of Spearman and try to look over them at the ones who’ve already gotten to fight. Renner had actually cherished this portion of the battle, but now looked as anxious(read: mad) as Saint.
Nearly three-and-not minutes in, one of their own Spearman nearly broke Ren’s mouth with the spear’s back when he pulled it out of a Flames’face. Saint had a good, long, loud laugh about it. Heads turned and turned back as quickly when the Spearman finally gave way and they went flooding out.
Renner shouted like a madman like all the rest. Their Hero had died, like they wished. He never stood a chance though, he was all about offense. That was easy for Xavi.
They ran towards him. Renner was intercepted by a Flame. Saint came to his aid but Renner’s sword quickly found its way to the guy’s throat. Saint looked taken aback and proud at the same time. Xavi was just done with a too-brave-for-his-own-good skinny Spearman who had gone up against him, solo.
His eyes caught sight of Ren. He grinned stupidly and came straight at him. Nothing’s gonna happen to you. Nothing.
The Hero launched himself at Ren. He spun to his right and hit him hard on his pad-less shoulder. Xavi barely flinched. “We seem to just find each other randomly. There’s something here, huh? You feel it?” he teased instead and laughed at his own words. Could he be any more worse?
Saint had gotten behind him and struck his head. The barbuta trembled and ringed. This time, he did wince. He quickly regained himself, the big man, and slapped Saint with the back of his hand, hard on his ribs. Saint fell over and rolled. The Hero turned to him.
Renner pulled out his dagger and went for his knee. Only, another Frost being pushed back hard bumped into the big man. He turned and thrust his enormous sword into the Frost’s neck. His sight turned onto Renner again, who quickly hid the dagger behind his back. That was their secret weapon, to startle him at the right moment. One such moment had been just ruined by the now dead Frost. Good riddance.
All of the training jumped out of his head then, looking at the Hero charging at him with the most vile look on his face. He went back to dodging. He dodged and circled him, again and again.
The Hero grunted and panted every time he had to turn to find the evaded Renner again. Saint had gotten occupied with some other guy and was just gaining the upper hand.
The turning had made the Hero slip. He stumbled to his knee. Ren hit the edge of Xavi’s sword with all his might. The sword went flying. He plucked his dagger back and plunged it into his knee.
The dagger penetrated smoothly through the chain mail and his bone. He gave out a scream of pain. Saint killed his Flame and turned at the sound.
“Well, what are you standing there for? Finish him!” he shouted at Ren.
Ren looked back at the kneeling man, and raised his sword, ready to slash at his neck. He couldn’t…
He had felt happy, satisfied looking at the fallen Hero. He didn’t… want to, suddenly. Saint’s shouts dissolved into incomprehensible noise. He was already busy with someone else. The sounds of clangs, thrungs and thuds dissipated into nothing. All that remained was his upraised hand holding his sword, which seemed to weigh twice as normal, and the Hero.
The Hero quickly got up and grabbed Ren by his neck. He couldn’t get up completely, with the dagger still lodged in his knee, but he managed to get up enough to lift Ren off the ground.
Ren wasn’t sure what he was trying to say but the words were choked. He couldn’t breath, and his vision slowly tunneled. Nothing… Can… Happe-
Saint came from behind and opened the Hero’s throat from ear to ear. Ren fell to the ground, clutching his throat and coughing up blood.
“NOOOOOOO,” the Hero’s apprentice came running.
“Renner, I think it’s time we left,” Saint said and pulled Ren to his feet and started running. Running back…
“What? Where are we runni- This is back-” Renner managed to get in between rough fits if coughing. “But we won.”
“We won, Ren. But apparently, we are losing another battle it seems,” Saint said. Half of Camp Frost were running with them. Flames were there too. They had managed to get deep through their army. Even archers were running.
“But the dagger-the daggers worked,” he croaked.
“Well not everyone has one, Ren. Now just run,” Saint replied.
“What? That’s-That’s stupid. Echo me,” Ren said and shouted, as loud as he could, which wasn’t very much.
“Everyone! Soldiers, Frosts! STOP! STOP!”
Saint echoed him, surprisingly loudly. Ren heard the same words a couple more times. Turned out, the spokesperson were among them at all times with their pedestals. The soldiers never attacked them as they were off-limits. Three or four men were standing on their pedestal, higher than the rest of them.
Soldiers stopped too, probably just because it was something they’d never seen before. The spokesperson were usually jobless in the field. Renner himself had just learned that such a group existed.
A large number of them were also looking at him. He considered just retreating, but he didn’t.
“Men! We’ve been running and running and running! Might as well just run into the southern sea our self already,” a rising pain in his chest made him stop for breath.
The spokespersons echoed him, including Saint who would make a good one himself if given the job, it seemed.
“They had an advantage these last two battles. Now we have the solution! So what if you don’t got daggers? Another one next to you might,” he shouted, his sound gradually decreasing.
The spokespersons(and Saint) finished echoing him.
The men exchanged puzzled, but almost-enlightened looks. That wasn’t enough. “Keep going. Something’s happenin’,” Saint prompted out of the corner of his mouth.
“Um-And I know this isn’t just about the physical disadvantage. I can see men, our men, still standing. Still fighting. We just don’t have a reason to give a damn. Well here’s one,” he stopped, letting the spokesperson(and Saint) catch up. It was also to think of something to say next.
“Well why are we running? To save our lives. We keep running, and it will be taken from us anyway, sooner or later. No, we can’t allow that. So today, we stand. We fight. For nothing but our own life. And if not for your life, for the reward you could get, come Mating Day again. And if that isn’t enough. Guess what, you still have to. No one’s asking you to do anything. You just have to ’cause it is just how it is. You fight, or you die.”
“If you don’t have something, then you just go with what everyone else does. And if you still die. Better dying on your face, pushing back than on your ass, running away. So we fight! For our friends; for our women; for the Frosts!”
That seemed to have done it. “For the Frosts!” cried a hundred men. “Well damn, that was enough for these suckers? I could’ve done better, Runner,” Saint teased but took up the cry still. They ran back to the thick of the battle.
A couple men died immediately, screaming. Because of my words. He couldn’t decide whether he was proud or terrified by it.
More of the Flames went down too. Daggers were jumping from hand to hand. The corpses had the most confused and shocked looks on their faces, it was almost funny.
“Ren! The dagger, now!” shouted Saint with his left arm outstretched. He had shared his with another guy who had left it lodged in a Flame’s arm pit and died. Ren pulled out his dagger out from his current foe and tossed it towards him.
Saint spun away from his Flame, caught the dagger, thrust the dagger in his throat and tore it open – all in one clean spin.
“Retreat!” boomed the voice of a spokesperson. It was one of the Flames’ ones this time though. The Frosts whooped and roared triumphantly. Men even threw the light-weight daggers at the running Flames, but made sure to retrieve it, after. It was the gem that had won them the battle.
Men were pulling out the daggers from the corpses lying around everywhere. The archers came to pluck their arrows back. A smile crept up onto everyone’s face, after a long time.
To think that I had something to do with this…