"Lord Anaer!" shouted a bloodied soldier in a deep voice. He was the thinnest thing Count Anaer had seen. But then again, he had seen little. Anaer gritted his teeth. Ymira had sewn up his leg. She wasn't very good at it and it had been in a hurry. He looked back. The crashing of axes and swords, the screams of men, Swadian and Vaegir alike filled the night. The Swadians he left behind were his friends. His countrymen who had come to save him. They had walked into a trapp. Clais was wounded in the back, tredian was on his heels, and Ryis was surronded.
The soldier ran next to his horse: "We can't keep up this pace! My brother is wounded, my father is hobbling on his good leg. And we aren't the only ones." Anaer looked at this mans face. He was haggard and torn, with a bloody axe at his side.
"Your a nord?" asked Anaer. "Ambean I think." The man nodded:
"Born and raised," he said. "I'm going to be married there next June. My father was an old soldier though and Swadian too. Wanted to go on one more before he died." Anaer smiled with his mouth but couldn't with his eyes.
"We are glad to have you with us," he said. "I'll see what I can do." The soldier saluted him and headed back in line. Bunduk rode up beside him.
"Sir, We can't keep this up," he said. "The Vaegirs are gaining."
Anaer sighed, "I know..."
"Sir! Vaegirs are riding fast on us!" said an old knight. "They are under banner of truce." Anaer sat up. He saw dust up the road a little. His saw the heraldry of Boyar Valishan. Anaer had fought him less then an hour ago. The Boyar rode up to him.
"Anaer de Amai!" he shouted. "The day isn't yours, you may have beaten me, but up this road, the King awaits you! I also know that you are running from my men down the road! Surrender!"
Anaer felt something he hadn't felt since boyhood. Fear. He and his men were in no condition to fight.
"Surrender and you will be well treated," he said. Anaer looked back at his men. They were broken from the defeat. They had left their kin's corpses behind. He had never said these words till today.
"Is there any way you can let me pass." The boyar had known Anaer as a worthy adversary who never backed down from a fight. Until now. For a moment he sat in his saddle stunned. "I beg you on behalf of every man I command, let me pass."
The Boyar cleared his throat: "I can't let you pass Anaer. I can't let my feeling on this decide the matter. You must surrender. It is the only honorable thing to do." Anaer dismounted, gritting his teeth. He walked up to the Boyar...and kneeled.
"I beg you to let me pass," he said. Tearsfilled his eyes.
"I can't Anaer..."
As the Vaegirs departed Anaer. His mind raced. He remembered his wife ten miles down the road at their halls in Sargoth. He remembered he promised he would return to her. He remembered her kiss, and his lips ached. He rembered Ryis down the road. He remembered clapping hand with him on his wedding day. He remembered Harleus and his haggard eyes, Clais and his brokeb eyes, Tredian and his angry leer. He remembered the men hobbling behind him. he remember the innocents in Sargoth, how if they didn't return what the Vaegirs would do. They would burn the homes, raping the women in them. They would slit the childrens throats, and make the garrision watch before they slit their throats. How they would break into the great hall and see Lady Elys...lovely Elys. He thought of the ragged soldier's filthy hands on his wifes body.
He screamed out. He saw his only path.
"Bunduk!' he shouted. "Gather the men, and get the lots..."
The soldier watched him come. He wanted to spare them this. He wanted to tell them they could win. They couldn't.
"Men of Swadia,' he said. "We can't escape at the pace we are going. In two hours the Vaegirs will slay us all, and they will raze Sargoth." The men shouted out. Some wanted to fight. Some wanted to run. "We can't all make it home. Draw lots, whoever draw the short will stay behind and hold them...when the rest escape." Shouts of horror filled the air. Bunduk was able to quiet them and the lots were drawn. Howls of terror, sighs of relief, and sobbing rang about. Anaer's heart was breaking when he saw the young soldier who talked to. His hands were shaking. He had picked a short. He looked up at Anaer. Some had cursed him. Some had begged him. But this one smiled at him.
"I suppose Elly will be waiting a long time for me,' he said. "Milord," he said looking up at him. "Tell 'er I love 'er if you ever see her." Anaer howled inside. "It was my honor to serve you milord."
Anaer clasped the shaking hand. "I am the one who was honored."
In fifteen minutes, the chosen were left to die as the rest escaped. Anaer made it to Sargoth but the other Swadians were not as lucky. Most of them weren't...