Knights Bleed Red and Blue
by Auron Belmont
The captain of the Red Knights folded his gauntlets in his lap and sat upon a
crude chair of canvas stretched on a wooden frame. Above him, a tiny flame
encased in a thick glass lantern gave feeble illumination. It was enough light
to bathe the hourglass sitting on the wooden plank table and highlight the
surgeon's tools adjacent. Tiny grains of sand sished through the bottleneck
opening and piled one on top of many, slowly diminishing the top pile and adding
to the bottom.
Five times Camus had flipped the hourglass. He hadn't sat here for all five,
going on six, hours. There were times when he found it necessary to move about,
check his troops, report on casualties and help out whenever possible. He'd
successfully managed to stave off his impending dread.
He said he'd be here.
That he wasn't here at nearly midnight said much. His companion of good and
bad times had always kept these meetings before. Even if detained by distance,
he always always came back, apologizing for his lateness and was swift to begin
putting the troops to right. His troops. Their troops. Their team.
Although, to be fair, this time the battlegrounds were beyond expanse and the
death toll substantial. It had taken hours to set up the field hospital and to
coordinate all the different squads to regroup. Lord Jarreth had gone on with a
group of five hand-picked members of his army. No word on his progress, but
with most of the Highland army in retreat, there was little doubt their leader
would be successful.
What did remain in doubt was the whereabouts of another leader. The Blue
Knights had temporarily given their command to Camus until Miklotov could be
located. One possibility was Miklotov was one of the five traveling with Lord
Jarreth and he simply didn't have the time to send a message because of the need
for alacrity. It made sense, for Lord Jarreth had taken Miklotov on a few
missions in the ongoing struggle against the Highland empire.
Well, then I shall just have to berate Mik when he returns. He decided then to
get up and inform the rest of the knights of the possibilities surrounding the
He had gotten as far as the tent entrance when Stallion, the fastest elf alive,
skid to a halt in front of him. The elf whipped his blue ponytail over his
shoulder and had to lean over, hands braced to his calves, breathing hard. It
was little wonder. With a need for rapid messages in a setting this convoluted,
an archer was needed less than someone who could run.
"Stallion, what is it?" Camus asked him.
"I'm sorry...would've...told you...earlier...but so many...messages..."
"I realize that. Tell me what it is when you regain your wind."
For a few minutes, Stallion did just that. But soon, the elf stood upright and
sighed sadly. "Lord Camus, I...I scarce know how to begin. I wasn't sure when
I saw it, but it was confirmed by several others."
"What was confirmed?" Why was his tone so sharp? Stallion was merely going to
tell him something important...what was wrong?
"At the front of the army, where Lord Jarreth had his band of followers, he was
nearing the castle when in a last desperate attempt, the archers sent their last
volley of arrows. The magician, Luc, tried to cast a spell to avert the attack,
but it wasn't far enough and the arrows kept coming.
"In the midst of the battle, Lord Miklotov had momentarily gone on ahead to
check the progress of the front squadrons when he saw the arrows fall. He...he
roared and he charged for Lord Jarreth. I'm not sure how it happened, but the
Lord was pushed away to safety. And Miklotov...the arrows cut down his horse
and they both went down, he being crushed by the weight of his steed. Because
of some of the spells of water, it's turned the outside of the castle into a
muddy quagmire. We're still searching but..."
Camus, a knight proud his training, was used to hearing about men dying. And
in the back of his mind, he knew it was likely one or the other could die. But
not like this. Not when they were so close to the end. "Mik," he whispered.
His training seemed to vanish and the devil-may-care attitude was supplanted by
an awful tightness in his chest and the burning in his eyes.
"I'm so sorry," Stallion murmured. "I'll let you recover and give the news to
the men. The knights will need their orders from you."
"I...I know. Give me but a few minutes and I'll tell them myself."
Camus didn't see the elf runner leave. Nor did he care. Although knights had
to put others before themselves, for once Camus was going to be a selfish man
and weep for his friend.
The memories, they ran fast and thick. He and Miklotov had started at the
academy in Rockaxe at the same time and had become fast friends despite their
difference in personalities. Miklotov had been his best friend and was probably
the ideal that knights through Rockaxe strove to be. Stoic, brave, not afraid
to go against even his lord if it meant that he would be helping the oppressed
versus the establishment and unflinchingly did all that was required of him,
even if it meant to die...
Clasping a hand to his breast, Camus swallowed a sob and left the tent, trying
to form the words he'd need to say to his now two-company squad of knights. But
somehow the words eluded his grasp. And his chest hurt so much. And everyone
in the camp seemed to slow down all sinking under the weight of war and
sloooooowly goooooiiiinnnnng innnnntoooo daaaaaaarrrrrrkkkkknnnnneeeesssss
uuuuunnnndeeeer eeeeaaaaaarrrrrtttthhhhhh ...
Miklotov jerked to conscious abruptly as he breathed in wet viscous mud. His
scream burbled into bubbles of air caught in the swampy ooze of the battlefield.
Unadulterated panic translated into pure adrenaline and he heaved his face free
of the mud to cough it out of his lungs and suck in pure night air. One pure
breath was all he got before a crushing weight pushed him back into the mud.
What the...my horse! The dead equine had his body pinned to the ground and with
the field a mess of mud with water spells, eventually the weight had slowly
pushed his face from solid ground into the mud.
Idon'twannadieIdon'twannadiedon'twannadiehere! Bracing his arms into the murk,
he heaved himself up and forward, trying to slop onto more solid ground. It
worked for only a moment, but the crushing weight of the horse began pulling him
Miklotov could only laugh in sheer incredulity that he was going to die, not by
the enemy, but by his horse. After he had pushed Lord Jarreth to safety, the
rain of arrows had cut into his horse. He must have been thrown and the horse
vainly tried to protect his master by shielding him with his body.
Then I dreamed all that...Camus...I'm sorry, I was supposed to meet you and I'm
so very late... He screamed again as he was taken under.
Not five seconds later, someone lifted his head from death helped him to retch
up mud. The dead horse was lifted from his shoulders by the claws of a griffin.
A wolf's jaws and an archer's hands pulled his battered body to safety.
Miklotov tried to form the words to name his rescuer, but was caught up in a fit
of helpless coughing.
Shiro whined and licked the mud from the knight's face, helping him to breathe.
Kinnison pounded on his back. "Thank all the gods you're alive! We've passed
over here before, but you must have been hidden by that great lump of horse."
The young archer's eyes shone. "Lord Jarreth has won. We've won. He is well
and there have been deaths here and there, but most have survived. Lord Camus
has taken temporary control of both squadrons, but has refused to announce you
were dead. He said you had until midnight. Something about a meeting?"
"No, you've got about a quarter of an hour."
Miklotov's split and swollen lips pulled together in an approximation of a
smile. "Give...Shiro...message...tell Camus...I'm sorry...I'm late."
"Of course. Feather went to get the doctors and the field surgeons will take
care of you."
As Miklotov watched the wolf race back to the camp, the adrenaline rush of
battle and near death stilled in his body and he wept unashamedly at being alive
and being able to fight and stand at his best friend's side once more.