Kingdom : Chapter 1 – Failure
“He doesn’t look so dangerous. We never saw him the whole time we were invading their puny kingdom.”
“He took out half of my forces in the East while you were burning down houses in the West. The only threat you probably faced there might have been scared ladies throwing pots. ”
“How couldn’t you handle him? My men managed to bring him here pretty easily.”
“Just praise your luck that you didn’t confront him then.”
I finally decided to look at the two conversing. I opened my eyes and took in the scene from the floor. The man who started the conversation was scrawny; his overconfident voice didn’t suit his tiny body. That made me snicker a little too loudly.
“Oh! Look who’s awake now, are you comfortable?” he asked sarcastically, as he pointed at the bonds that tied my wrists and ankles. “You know, I can put an end to all this right now.”
“Simon you idiot. Put that knife away.” I turned my head to the other man. He was well built and his aging face held an expression of seriousness. “You know we must wait for her.”
They continued to bicker and I looked around the tent I was trapped in, ignoring them. Drops of water leaked in through small holes in the canvas. The rain outside was hitting hard. Petrichor wafted through in waves. There was a small lamp on the muddy ground that was struggling to stay alight against the wind rushing through the tent door. There was nothing else in the tent. Suddenly, the noise of discussion ceased. I turned my head towards the two, only to find a visitor. She was drenched, but that didn’t seem to bother her. She stood still for a second before approaching me and kneeling down.
As she came closer I could make out a couple more features in the dim light. She was very pretty, her eyes reflected the lamp’s light dully. She then raised her fist and brought it down on my cheek, hard. After the sharp pain quelled a little, I looked back at her. Thorn in the rose.
“Simon, Alfred, well done capturing this man,” she said.
“That would be just me, ma’am,” Simon insisted as the other man, who I now know as Alfred, rolled his eyes in disgust.
“The people we’ve captured were the sick that you left behind while evacuating,” she said to me, completely ignoring Simon. “What are you looking for here?”
The pouring outside halted. The wind stopped and the little fire within the lamp started growing in confidence.
“I wonder how your pitiful king is covering up the disappearance of so many people. He’s a really good liar. We wouldn’t have stormed in like we did if your king hadn’t lied about our missing shipment of gold,” she continued.
Something outside the tent caught my eye. Really long hair with a streak of violet. I knew only one person with that hairstyle. My expression must’ve been apparent, because the lady in front of me noticed and chuckled, “Natasha has been a real help for us. She’s done her work remarkably well, considering you’re here right now.”
The confident attitude I had slightly withered as my eye twitched in dismay. Natasha was the reason I let myself get caught in the first place. When did she side with them? A whole lot of suspicions were resolved at that moment.
Out of curiosity I asked, “So what did you threaten her with?”
“So you do have a mouth!” shouted Simon from behind the lady. He was silenced with one quick glare from her.
“There’s someone important here, you wouldn’t be here otherwise,” she speculated. My question was left unanswered. “Don’t worry. Whoever that is, you’re going to see that person soon.”
She turned to the two men and ordered, “Toss him with the others. We’ll make him spill the beans later.”
They weren’t trying to keep the hostages alive. They were outside throughout the whole storm. Most of the sick lay motionless, the others were sitting in puddles in the mud, heaving for breath. They were herded in by a makeshift fence, into which I was promptly thrown. I looked around to find five archers guarding the hostages. With a quick judgement, I decided they must be pretty accurate with their bows, and that escaping would not be easy. I looked down and inspected myself. I was covered in wet earth. While my ankles were free from its previous bondages, my wrists weren’t.
I look back at the people we had abandoned. They were miserable, the place looked like an open asylum. Some were moaning through hallucinations, others just decided to give up on staying alive. An old woman staggered up to me and clutched my shirt. “Curse the King… CURSE THE KING!” she cried before collapsing in front of me. I stepped over her and began my search, the reason why I came to the enemy camp at all. I needed to find her, and fast.
She was easy to find. I found her slender figure leaning on a fence, her eyes trained on the starry sky. She was the only hope for our kingdom.
I walked up to her and addressed her. “Princess, we must escape from here as soon as possible. All you need to do is foll-”
“Is he lying again?” she interrupted. “Papa can do anything he wants and lie about it like nothing ever happened. Is he?”
I think for a second before choosing to ignore her. “At my signal, we rush out the fence gate, steal that horse there and get out of here.”
“Pitiful,” she murmured, completely disregarding my words. “Just disgusting.”
“Princess, there’s no time. You must coope-”
“So that’s who it is!” a familiar voice shrieked in the distance. I looked in that direction and felt my confidence dropping another notch. Simon was skipping alongside Natasha and the lady who punched me in the face. As they came to a halt outside the fence where the Princess sat, I searched Natasha’s face for a sign of remorse.
It was full of it. Guilt was dripping down in streams of tears. She didn’t look me in the face. Her usual positive character was overridden by one of pure hopelessness.
She avoided my gaze and looked at the lady, crying. “I’ve done all that you asked! You wanted him,” she said pointing at me, “I brought him here. You wanted to know our mission,” she pointed at the Princess, “now you know. What more do you want? What more can you want? Let me see my parents!”
With that, she jumped the fence and rushed to an elderly couple on the far side of the temporary boundary. The lady was seated back to fence, staring listlessly at the old man shivering with fits. I glanced at the Princess; she was aloof to everything, staring at the sky. I turn back to Natasha. Those were who the enemy were using to blackmail Natasha, her parents. I stood silent, waiting for the inevitable to happen.
And so it did. As Natasha ran to her parents, an arrow sprouted from her mother’s head just as she reached them. Her blood splashed on Natasha’s unmoving body and she slumped to the floor, lifeless. Her father, shaking with his fits, noticed nothing.
“One parent is good enough, I th-” I stopped the lady short by jumping over the fence to her side and seizing Simon’s knife from his belt. With one swift motion I slashed at his throat, watching his surprised face lose emotion.
I took a quick glance at Natasha crouching over her dead mother’s body. I couldn’t be of any help to her, priority of the mission was greatest, and she very well knew that. Abandon all to seize victory, the words of the late King Arthur rung in my head. Rules were rules. My pride as a knight was on the line.
I didn’t wait. Before Simon’s carcass could fall to the mud, I launched myself at the lady, but something cut into my flesh and stuck to it. I was thrown to the side and the other guards circled around me, pointing their swords at my neck.
Alfred appeared through the circle of guards. I couldn’t remove the arrow sticking out of my shoulder with my hands tied. The circle mended itself behind the man approaching me. He brought his face close to mine before whispering, “Now, about my men, who you slaughtered…” Through gaps in my barrier of guards, I saw the Princess being gagged and blindfolded. My confidence vanished, the price was paid. Soon after Natasha was thrown by my side.
We were done for. That was it. Our kingdom… was doomed.