I glared at Wiegraf defensively. "Why are you telling me this?"
"I want you to SEE it, Miluda!" Wiegraf clasped my shoulders underneath his strong hands and gave a rough shake. "They are not indestructible and that is the only way we are the same!"
"God will not show mercy on those who do not show mercy to others!" I was furious now, but biting my lip I contained my anger. My older brother had a way of building an argument in his favor easily. A plus to him, it was the bane of my existence in the Knights of Death. He could always oust my ideas and strategies.
I pulled away from him and turned my back. "Did you bring me here just so I could witness you murder someone? Really Wiegraf....has it gotten that bad?" He said nothing in reply and I heard him sheath his sword again.
"You're to move your brigades from the Thieves Fort south of Igros. My troops will meet yours at an abandoned windmill on the Favoham Plains in seven days. I'll send a messenger to you in four days with more information on this matter. Move that next morning."
"If I don't make it on time?" I brushed a strand of hair from my eyes and crossed my arms over my chest.
"Then you're either incompetent or dead."
I glared. "See you in Hell, Wiegraf."
The floating Thieves Fort was already an undesirable place without the rain. Igros was no longer safe for the 'Death Corps' (or so we were newly dubbed) and our supply line was thin and waning. The abandoned fort was in disrepair as it was and I hadn't entertained the thought of fighting there.
Making it worse was the growing tide of tenseness internally. The messenger was fully a week late. Our spirits were lowered and now soaked by the unrelenting downpour. To say that we were in despair might be an understatement. While a few of us tried to keep the morale high, it was met with a wall of cynicism.
Finally, my second in commands called for a meeting. I agreed. We met behind a pile of rotting wooden crates and thought it grand that they were mostly out of the rain. "Now," began Clarence, the Priest in control of the Magic forces. "We need to do something, Miluda! We can't just sit here waiting for Wiegraf's messenger! Mayhap he was killed....at any rate-!" I sighed and cut him off in mid-sentence by waving my hand.
"Even a blind man could see it. Communication with the main unit's been cut off. It's over." I muttered, kicking a rock with the toe of my shoe.
Clarence jumped up from his squatting position, irate. "No way! It's not over yet!" His blue eyes stewed with fury at the admit of our defeat. I shrugged my shoulders.
Brenden the Sage cast me an evil glare as well "I agree. It continues until the nobles apologize to us!" He too had committed himself to complete freedom.
Their dedication was refreshing, but nowhere near realistic. I had known the Death Corps were in trouble before the Battle of Sand Rat Cellar. Damning myself for pride that hadn't let me see earlier, I spoke my thoughts aloud. "My brother... His views are too optimistic."
In the midst of a heated argument, we were not ready for the cry Jezebel sounded. "Enemy attack!" She shouted, pointing to the front of the Fort. "Forgive me for not being able to see earlier! It was the rain...." She wiped the water from her face and readied her knives. Everyone else seemed to come alive at her call. shouting war-cries and shrieking the name of "Freedom".
I cursed. Nobles. What were they doing here now? The crests on some shields looked familiar, but I couldn't place it. Perhaps it was the rain. Perhaps it was all my frustration inside. Whatever it was, I struck out at them in a furious rage, hating them and their world. It was their fault that we lived miserable lives. It was their fault..EVERYTHING WAS THEIR FAULT!!!
"They aren't like us," Wiegraf said.
"You're just animals," the blonde Noble taunted.
"Help me!" cried a White Wizard.
"You aren't like us!" I screamed at them, slashing an overhead sweep at the group's Leader. He seemed almost off-guard, but then regained his battleface and countered my blow with his shoulderblade. It sent me back a few steps, having knocked the wind clear out of me.
My despair of the last week disappeared as I locked in combat with Leader. Blow after blow we exchanged, sometimes he had the upper hand, sometimes I. Finally, I felt a painful slash across my back. I turned to see the Haughty boy that had called us animals. An attack from behind. How honorable of him. I crumpled to the ground in pain.
The Leader leveled his blade to my face. "Lay down your swords. Surrender and we'll spare you." He spoke calmly with no malice or pride in his voice. Still, my defeat was bitter.
I spat and rose to my knees. Clasping my bleeding side and stomach, I grimaced in pain and rose to my knees. "Go ahead," I began sharply. "Kill us then. We're just animals," Leader stared at me with no expression in his eyes. He did not move. "Kill us!!" I repeated.
Leader looked at me in disbelief. "You hate us that much...?" He trailed off, looking down his sword at me. His voice seemed to give clue that he could not fathom the rage inside me.
The Haughty One sheathed his sword and gestured to me. "Ramza, kill her, now! She's your enemy! An enemy of the Beoulves! Understand?" Ah, so Leader was Ramza Beoulve. I thought it a pity I hadn't killed him now. He had quite the Noble name.
"Your enemy! She's a loser, who's lost sight of life! Losers cannot remain alive! If we don't kill her, she'll kill us! We can't coexist! Kill her, Ramza! With your own hands!!" Haughty tiraded, flailing his arms about. Would it have not been for the Code of Honor, I might have run him through right then and there.
A sigh came from behind them. Taller and darker, another Noble leaned against a dilapidated wall. He spoke in the same even manner as Ramza, but with a deeper voice and more emotion. "Ramza, I don't see why she's our enemy..."
He moved slowly and ran a hand over his brown hair. This rain had not seemed to touch him; he appeared apart from it all, detached from it all. Haughty turned in a full fury to him. "What did you say? Are you mad, Delita?" Now brown-hair had a name.
"She's not an animal..." he shrugged. "She's human just like us..." I felt humiliation welling up inside. Was this a game to them? Was I their prey to play with before slaughtering? Surely they would stop taunting and kill me.
"Are you betraying us!? You, too...!?"
I could stand no more. Rising to my feet and meeting with no opposition to my action, I bit back bitter tears as I said in a gravely tone, "Oh, sympathy, is it? Despicable creatures. You're my enemy as long as you belong to the Beoulves. Don't forget it..."
With all the pride I could muster, I turned my back and limped away, ready to fight again and win revenge.
A chance at revenge we would have. When I met up with the battle-weary remainder of my unit, they all agreed that no matter what the situation was with Wiegraf's forces, as long as we were alive the Death Corps and revolution were alive also. Our wounds were barely tended to and our stomachs only half-full when a scout informed us that we were being pursued. Hastily we set off to Favoham as a last-ditch effort to maybe, by some chance, meet troops of my brother's.
The spirit of revolution that had been lacking in me after the War returned in full regalia. My men noticed. No longer was I simply "Miluda," or "Ma'am." I was "Commander Folles." I gained so much more confidence in that short time than I had for nearly two years.
The troops were long and hard-pressed for three days straight with little time to sleep, eat or much else of anything in between. They didn't seem to mind until we reached the rocky terrain of Lenalia and consequently the Lenalia Plateau. Only then did fatigue begin to pick us off one by one. Eventually, even I succumbed to it. With no alternative to the excessive weariness, I announced that we would set camp there for the night.
Looking back, I see what an err that was on my part. I hadn't realized how close Beoulve's band was to us. The geography wasn't helping either; the area of the Plateau was open. There was little natural defense against an ambush, save a small knoll and a short ridge. By morning, we were only mildly refreshed, but anxious to leave (since Favoham was only a day or so away).
It was not be our fate to escape them for they caught us in the morning. A short spar and we fled as fast as we could across the rocky fields and cold winds. The Nobles were smaller and better-rested than we, and as we came to a river I had to face the grim reality of what was happening. "It's blocked here, too..." I murmured, gazing at the churning water that surrounded us. "There is no way out." My heart sank. Not here! Not now! We were so close!
One of the soldiers coughed. "Forget it. We might as well surrender..."
I lashed out verbally at him, tears streaming down my face in anger and fear. "I'd rather die here than get taken prisoner!! Besides, if we get caught, we'll be executed! Fighting is the only way out!" I shivered at the thought of myself dangling from the gallows by a rope. It would not be a heroic death, it would be a death of a criminal, and that I was not. I drew my sword and charged, meeting with the blade of Delita. "You'll never take me alive, so I swear!!"
Delita parried my blow easily and stepped back. "Where is Wiegraf?!" he roared. "Where did you hide Teta!?"
"Teta? You mean that Beoulve, Golagros took hostage?"
"Teta's my sister! She has nothing to do with them! It's pointless to hold her hostage! Please, return my sister!" His voice cracked for a moment as Ramza came to his side.
I clenched my fist in anger. How dare he ask for his precious sister!! War was war! "And what about you? Will you Nobles give back all you took from us? We're only asking you to return what you took from us in the first place. But no -- you just keep taking! Forcing us to retaliate! Just give up! There's no reason to return her!!" I bit my lip, fearing I had said too much. My intentions had not been to say that, I was trying to keep a level head, but the memories of how I had risked my life during the War, and in turn been given nothing for it afterwards stung. Some things must just be said, I suppose..... Delita stuttered and staggered backwards like I'd struck him.
This time, there was no mercy shown to anyone. The killing was brutal on both ends . Comrade of mine after comrade fell to the ground, dead or dying. It was almost systematic in the way they were cut down. I slashed and parried but to no avail. They were winning by a wide margin.
Delita savagely went after me, tearing into my armor and hitting flesh. He wasn't so much mad at me personally; he was upset with everything, and I was his scapegoat. As his sword came down over my arm, I screamed. "I can't die now! Not during the revolution!"
Ramza turned from the corner of the battlefield to look at me. His solemn eyes dug deep into mine. "You say revolution..." he began slowly. "Is a revolution necessary? Is it our fault? Are we making you suffer? What's the problem?"
I had enough of his naivete. Wiegraf was right, they were all the same. None of them knew what plagued us, none cared. They were ignorant to everything they stood for. "Ignorance itself is a crime! What you think is right is only what you can see. But, that's not everything. It's not your fault. But I'll keep blaming you until there's a change! As long as you're a Beoulve, you're my enemy!"
Now Delita fought me with a sullen reluctance. Twice, three times he had a killing blow open and he did not take it. Finally, he jumped away. "I can't kill you," he growled. "You're just telling the truth." Ramza looked stunned as Delita shook his head and turned his back to me. Another knight was all to eager to finish the job.
The sword buried itself in my stomach. I gasped as it was pulled from me, the cold steel sliding through my torso. Feeling the warm blood run over my hands, I lowered to my knees. "B...brother... I'm sorry..." came a whimper in a voice that was hardly my own. I landed on my back to see the face of Ramza Beoulve stare down at me in regret. He kneeled down. "Are they so not like us?" I thought.
Do they not feel pain like us?
Do they not die like us?