Alton and Revanth enter the camp where Revanth’s uncle is laying siege to Astrid’s castle. They meet his uncle Olster, who appears to be wounded.
“Revanth!” He tried to stand, but pain shot through him. Falling back onto the cushions, he gasped for breath. “Leave us!” he told the sentry. “Send word to his mother.”
“Yes, sire.” The man bowed and left.
Alton knelt by his uncle’s side. “You’ve had a bad time of it, My Lord.”
The prince’s glance would have withered the ears of a lesser fae. “Do you think so, boy? Who is this, Revanth?”
“My friend, Alton. He’s hardly a boy, Uncle. He’s older than both of us together.” He knelt by the bed. “And he’s a good healer, despite what he says to the contrary.”
“May I, Highness?” Alton asked, holding up his hands.
“Why not? I’m dying in any case.”
“I beg to differ. Even without my help, you are not. But I imagine you wish you were, just to make the pain stop.”
The prince snorted, but it hurt him. Gasping, he held his side. “Do what you must.”
“Give me some wine,” he ordered Revanth.
“You really think that’s wise? Won’t it hamper your powers?”
“It’s for your uncle. Drink it all, sire. Then get him something to bite down on. This is not gentle, but it’s quick.”
When the wine was gone, Revanth got a strip of leather for his uncle to bite on.
“Hold him down,” he ordered his friend.
Doing as he was told, Revanth held onto his uncle. He was stronger than he’d been a few months ago, partly from being a horse, and partly from living rough. When he had his uncle pinned, Alton put one hand on the wound, the other on the man’s head. Forcing the healing energy from him, he felt it flow into the prince.
Back arched, Prince Olster screamed, writhing in his nephew’s grip. Guards came in, but stood watching as red and gold flames danced over their leader’s body, flickering over his wounds as they healed. When it was over, Alton fell to the floor, landing in a heap. The guards helped him lie down on a nearby cot and got food and water. Revanth knelt by his uncle’s side, amazed to see the wounds almost completely healed. Prince Olster and Alton slept a long time.
When he woke, Olster talked extensively with his nephew. Alton continued to sleep unimpeded. Revanth checked on him from time to time, but he was in a deep slumber.
Revanth told his uncle of his adventures, glossing over Alton’s powers. He wanted his uncle to believe that the wood sprite’s skills lay in healing, not in destroying. For some reason, that was very important to him. Though he loved his uncle, he was not above using Alton, if he thought it would help him win.
“I think that Astrid and I should approach the castle tomorrow….”
“No. They’d kill you on sight,” Olster warned.
“Then you should retreat.”
“Uncle, there is no need for this war. Astrid and I are married. Whatever argument there is between you, it can end. We won’t be marrying anyone else. I love her more than my own life.”
“You’re a spoiled princeling,” his uncle grumbled. “You’re hardly old enough to make up your own mind.”
“I’m twenty years old. I’ve been a man, by every standard, for five years now. I have loved women, killed men, probably sired a son or two.” He didn’t mention that this last was probably with naiads. “I’m fully capable of deciding who I want to marry, and I have done so. Tomorrow, you need to decamp and head home. This war is over nothing.”
“We have been insulted!”
“Is our honor worth so many lives? We saw a soldier, hardly more than a boy, in the medical tent, his guts dangling from his body. Alton couldn’t save him, so he gave him a peaceful death. Is honor worth that boy’s life? He could not have been more than fifteen.”
Olster puffed out his cheeks, pouting and frowning. “Give the order,” he muttered.
Revanth ducked through the door to give the order, but saw a glimmer of light from the castle wall. Raised on a motte, it was easy to see. The glimmer grew brighter, ducked and disappeared.
“Did you see that?” he asked a guard.
“See what, Your Highness?”
“That! By the gods!”
The flicker grew even bigger, rising rapidly as it shot in to the air.
“Take cover!” He ran back into the tent, yanking his uncle onto the floor. He pulled Alton down with them. “Wake him!” he commanded.
Olster did what he could to wake the sleeping wood sprite. As Revanth got up, Olster was slapping Alton in the face, bellowing his name.
Dashing out into the camp, Revanth saw the missile hit near the latrines. Exploding when it landed, it sent men and tents flying. Not long after, another thudded nearby, scaring the horses. Those who could wrench free, did, screaming as they ran away. Desperate and worried, Revanth watched as yet another flaming missile came their way. This one stopped at the height of its arc and went out, falling harmlessly to the ground. It bounced and lay still. A flurry o f activity at the castle, showed that this had been noticed. The next burning missile met the same fate.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
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