Nicholas Browne & the Kobalos King – Ciarán Laverty

The snowy battlefield had been painted scarlet with the blood of slain soldiers, Kobalos and human alike. Slashing steel clanged all about and filled the air with such a din that I could only act on pure instinct. I struck out in winding arcs with my staff of rowan wood and pierced the armour of a Shaiksa assassin with my silver blade. As the beast-man gurgled blood I found myself beside the King, his royal armour of gilded steel glinting greyly in the cold Winter light.

We shared a silent conciliation, for it was my warning that had brought this battle about. Had I not come across the plot of the three wicked mages then perhaps the King would be dead even now, and the Northern realm would be forfeit to the evildoers. His sword hacked and slashed and sprayed blood in all directions as we stood back-to-back and watched the thinning of his forces and the pressing of the lethal wolfish assassins.

The fighting was spasmodic, and any sign of purpose was sure to jump out to me; Eblis, the greatest of the Shaiksa assassins, approached through the throng. In his hand he held a spear, and his pace was quickening with every step that drew him nearer. I sensed the danger of his attack, what may come if his strike were true, and so I departed from the King and wound about in a flanking manoeuvre to come at Eblis from the side. So singular was his purpose that he caught sight of me too late.

His hand struggled to unsheathe his blade as he faltered from the weight of the spear on his other side. I plunged the tip of my staff, blade extended, into his gullet and he howled in agony as blood spat onto my face. He whirled in a lethal swing and brought the spear’s edge past my nose. The force of it shattered my staff, and he reared with ferocious vigour, ready to kill me. I was unarmed, and certain of his accomplishing his goal.

Eblis’s eyes flared as if in defiant panic. I glanced to his side and saw the King had plunged his sword through the assassin’s back, and his grip was full of twisted malice and his fangs were trapped in a tight grimace. The assassin slouched and drooped forward, and as he tumbled to the ground his felling became like that of a thousand-year-old oak tree, for silence fell across the battlefield. Eblis slumped into the snow, mouth first, his final steamy breath melting the crimson slush between his fangs. I looked about at all the soldiers, the shaven faces of the Kobalos warriors. At the field’s edge were the three mages; Balkai, Lenklewth, and Meljann, and even at such a distance I could see the bewildered defeat in their expressions. The King raised his sword high and bellowed to his soldiers:

“I have slain the greatest of you!” He yelled in the Losta tongue. “Dare you fulfil your blood oath?” Silence continued to reign across the range. “Turn your blades to those who have dishonoured me.” No further command was given, as every man bent his sword to the mages, and the three tried in vain to flee the throng, but such was the multitude that their escape was beyond the realm of possibility. The King placed a weary hand upon my shoulder.

“Thank you for all you have done here today, Nicholas Browne.” He sighed. “We Kobalos owe you a debt we cannot repay.”

“The end to their evil schemes is recompense enough, Your Highness.” I reassured him. The next few days were spent in revelry, and the King made promises to me from the bottom of his wine cups that he would set his people on a righteous path. Much as I am averse to magic in all its forms, he had some fanciful notion of restoring the Slarinda, the female branch of his folk. I wish him well in that and all his endeavours, whether they bear ripe fruit or not.

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