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Henric and Alex XXII (v1.2)

Jul 25th, 2014
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  1. Tags: Villainous Male Knight/Virtuous Female Squire, oops it's a story chapter
  2.  
  3.  
  4. Henric got back in the early hours just before dawn and nearly fell on top of Alex when he stumbled into the tent. She flinched awake and shoved him off of her, but he moved like a sack filled with liquid lead--heavy and malleable.
  5.  
  6. Alex looked at him and wasn’t surprised that the aroma of alcohol on him was so thick that it was almost visible. It was a miracle that he’d made it back to his own tent, or a disaster depending on perspective. It meant work for Alex, who pulled him to a sitting position and handed his canteen to him.
  7.  
  8. “Drink as much water as you can,” she said, then yawned as she forced herself out of her sleeping bag.
  9.  
  10. “Put on my armor,” Henric told her.
  11.  
  12. “No, we’re traveling today. There are no armies here.”
  13.  
  14. Alex evaded his arm easily when he reached for her. She wondered what he thought of himself when he drank. Some people, like herself, felt invincible when they were drunk. When her head was buzzing and flighty Alex felt like the champion of the world, but Henric always seemed to be the opposite. He was just slow.
  15.  
  16. Alcohol made Henric sad because he drank to admit his own defeat. Alcohol was a remembrance of his savage father and childhood as the poorest of the poor. It was a ball and chain shackled to his ankle rolling towards a cliff. He didn’t even want to molest Alex when he was drunk.
  17.  
  18. “Listen,” he said, dwelling too long on the hissing s in the middle of the word. “I’m gonna need it today.”
  19.  
  20. “Why’s that?” Alex asked him.
  21.  
  22. “Kerran’s got his army,” Henric said, then cleared his throat. “They’re going to be moving. Gotta be ready. Wear your armor.”
  23.  
  24. “Kerran is far away.” Alex sighed, and left the tent to go to their cart.
  25.  
  26. Sir Isaac and Ellis were the only ones awake. She heard them talking in their tent, but couldn’t hear their words. Their mutterings were a calming background noise, better even than the overly cheerful songbirds who didn’t know there was a necromancer demon raising dead to worry about.
  27.  
  28. Her armor and Henric’s were stored at the bottom of the cart precisely where she’d stowed them herself a week or so ago, and she had to move others’ possessions to get at them. Her commotion was enough to bring out Isaac from his tent.
  29.  
  30. “Good morning, Alex,” he said, walking over and stretching. His approach to the cart implied his curiosity.
  31.  
  32. “Morning,” she replied, carefully omitting the adjective. “Henric wants his armor today.”
  33.  
  34. She sighed and pushed something out of the way, then stuttered and caught herself. “I mean, s-sir Henric wants his armor today.”
  35.  
  36. Isaac waved his arm to dismiss the importance of the title. “You’re two years a squire, you don’t have to worry about formalities around me.”
  37.  
  38. Alex, tired, smiled. She hauled the heavy trunk full of armor from the cart, and repacked all of the things that she had disturbed along the way digging to the bottom. She went back to the tent and found Henric standing, swaying slightly. He looked thoughtful, but in a drunken way where it was impossible to know if the things he was thinking about were actually complex or if he was just too inebriated to know better.
  39.  
  40. The girl threw open the trunk and grabbed the first few pieces of armor she could find, stepping into Henric’s personal space to adorn him with the battle-worn metal.
  41.  
  42. “You’re a gods damned slut, Alex,” he muttered to her. As out of place as the words were, they didn’t surprise her. “How long have you been fucking that miserable excuse for a squire?”
  43.  
  44. She wished he’d continued to ignore this subject as he had already. Or she wished that he’d brought it up last night when he’d been tied up. She could have summoned the courage then to speak her mind in full without having to worry about being overheard from another tent. Today would have been so much easier if she could have walked out of her tent with her eyes dry. “I didn’t,” she told him honestly.
  45.  
  46. “I practically caught you cheating on me,” he said. “In that loft. I bet you were lying with him.”
  47.  
  48. Cheating on him? There was no cheating. There was no relationship. Even Ellis had known going into things what it meant.
  49.  
  50. “Only kissing,” she told him softly. It felt like bragging, and she puffed out her chest like a bird when she affixed the next piece of armor to him. “And some… other touching.”
  51.  
  52. “If I wasn’t your knight,” Henric went on, still struggling to push out his words, “If it was Isaac. Or Cuthbert. You’d still be fucking them.”
  53.  
  54. “No, I wouldn't. They’re good men,” Alex told him defensively. She felt the need to stand up for them. “They would never act like you.”
  55.  
  56. “No,” Henric corrected her. He shifted his left arm when she finished armoring it for him, flexing his hand. “No, no. You’d like it. You’d go to them just like you went to Ellis eventually. You’d call it love, or whatever it is that helps you sleep at night, but we both know you’d just want to feel a warm, stiff cock in you.”
  57.  
  58. Alex was frankly offended by that implication. “You’re drunk and crazy. Knights and squires should be brothers,” she said sternly.
  59.  
  60. “And you’re a slut,” he repeated more viciously, grabbing at Alex by her upper arm to pull her off balance and against his body. “You’re a slut who ran off and cheated with that boy as soon as you could, didn’t you?”
  61.  
  62. There was real pain in his voice that Alex wasn’t used to hearing. It hurt Henric deeply, even if he didn’t want to acknowledge that pain, to imagine that Alex could ever be with anyone else. It wounded him to know that she was not devoted to him, not accepting that he was in charge of her and that he was the only one who deserved her. He was the only one to push her far enough to leave his handprint on her shoulder. She was the only one for him, the only girl he would ever want, the only one tough enough to still resist and subvert after he tortured her. She could never be anyone else’s, no one else could have possibly controlled her but Henric...
  63.  
  64. “I could never cheat on you, Henric,” she replied, standing still now with his gauntleted hand holding her bicep so hard that her hand started to turn purple. The girl’s teeth were grit against the pain. “Because I have never, I will never, I would never, willingly be 'with' you. There is no relationship, Let go of my arm so I can put your armor on. Just let me do my damn job.”
  65.  
  66. His hand let go of her gradually. “You were always mine,” he told her. It was a plea, but he didn’t hear it from himself.
  67.  
  68. Alex didn’t want to talk to him. The depth of his delusions made her shoulder ache, but her ears still tuned to him and had to listen to him wavering back to speak about other knights.
  69.  
  70. “If you were Isaac’s, he’s too gentle. He wouldn’t know how to handle you. He wouldn’t fuck you like you need to be fucked even if you told him you were a girl and begged for it. You’d fall for him. You’re a gods damn girl with a mushy heart. You’d suck his cock in a week.”
  71.  
  72. The squire finished armoring Henric’s shin and stormed out of the tent with red cheeks, thinking only of how infuriatingly wrong her knight was about everything.
  73.  
  74. She sat down next to Glenn at the fire pit where breakfast was being made by Sir Cuthbert.
  75.  
  76. “Are you okay?” he asked.
  77.  
  78. “Fine,” Alex lied. Her throat was scratchy with emotion, but Glenn probably saw that as a problem of the early morning.
  79.  
  80. “You don’t look fine,” he said quietly.
  81.  
  82. “I had some bad dreams last night. Thought it was gonna go well and then more bad shit fell on me,” she muttered. rubbing her eyes. “You ever have those?”
  83.  
  84. Glenn thought, and nodded. “Sometimes.”
  85.  
  86. “Alex!” Henric called. She flinched, and Cuthbert saw her reaction, despite it seeming as though he wasn’t even paying attention. Glenn missed it, but looked up at Henric.
  87.  
  88. Sir Cuthbert pointed at Henric with a skewer full of sausage. “You’re drunk!” he said. Alex’s emotions weren’t the only thing he noticed.
  89.  
  90. “I’ll be sober by noon,” Henric assured him, and turned his attention back to Alex, snapping his fingers to get her attention. She got up and looked back over her shoulder at Cuthbert and saw a graveness to him that was completely uncommon. He wanted to interfere, to tell Alex not to follow the orders of a drunken man.
  91.  
  92. But he held his tongue. Alex wondered if Henric still bragged about her to him, referring to her as some sweet girl from the town to make Cuthbert jealous. She stomped to her knight. “What?”
  93.  
  94. “Put on your armor,” he told her.
  95.  
  96. “Henric, we’re probably just going to get to Fierskeep City today. It’s a nice city, we don’t need to be in armor for the capital and the castle.”
  97.  
  98. Finally, Cuthbert cut in and caught them both by surprise. “I don’t think it’s possible for Kerran to be here yet, Henric.”
  99.  
  100. Alex saw a flinch in Henric’s right hand, a flexing. If he’d had his sword at his back, he might have drawn it. It was alarming to see--of all his brothers, Henric was closest to Cuthbert if only because they were the same age and had squired together for almost a year in the beginning of their training. Henric despised Cuthbert least, to see him so eager to attack him spoke volumes about his deteriorating mental state.
  101.  
  102. “I’ll wear the armor anyway,” she said quickly, not certain if Cuthbert had also seen the aggression. This situation needed to be diffused before Henric did anything stupid. He was out of character for his usual drunkenness and she didn’t want to risk him letting anyone know she was a girl in a fight.
  103.  
  104. With Isaac and Cyrus tending horses with Ellis and Micah probably catching a bit of extra sleep somewhere, Alex pulled her chain shirt over her tunic and put her tabard on over that, and started to affix each plate of metal to her. Henric kept an eye on her until he believed she could finish the job herself, and then sat down to eat food that Cuthbert passed to him.
  105.  
  106. “You really think we’ll need armor just getting to the city?” asked Glenn.
  107.  
  108. Henric wanted to slap the boy. He hated all of them for different reasons, and Glenn’s reason was that he cared too much about following rules. It was a tiny, simple thing, but out of his normal mind, it made Henric see red just looking at him. He nodded though, doing what he could to keep up appearances. “I’ve had a bad feeling.”
  109.  
  110. Yuya sat down next to him and clapped him on the shoulder. “You’re actually not the only one. I’ve been feeling off too.”
  111.  
  112. Henric glared at her as forcefully as possible.
  113.  
  114. Cuthbert offered Yuya food, but she politely refused. Yuya had met Cuthbert when she had met Henric, but at the time they’d had very little communication. It was still that way. Cuthbert was normally one to joke and laugh with women, but Yuya was an outlier that made him feel nervous.
  115.  
  116. Alex finished donning her armor and went into the tent to gather their things and roll up the beds. Her cheeks were red--she hadn’t thought that the victorious feelings of the night before could vanish and shatter so quickly.
  117.  
  118. But nothing good had really lasted for very long for Alex since she had met Henric. Even though she knew she’d done the knightly thing by not murdering him or letting Yuya do the deed, she wished he was dead.
  119.  
  120. Henric found her a few minutes later and hovered behind her as quietly as he could, but she knew he was there.
  121.  
  122. “What is it?” she asked him, straightening up with a bed under one arm and a bag slung over her other shoulder.
  123.  
  124. He reached around her head and pulled her close to him as he stepped in closer to her and pressed his forehead to hers. “I love you,” he said. He thought of her the night before, holding the sword while it poured acid into the ground and how much she had impressed him, how proud of her he had felt later when in the town’s tavern he had been able to reflect.
  125.  
  126. “No,” Alex said, immediately denying it. The mere thought that he might genuinely mean what he said made her head swim and her heartbeat rushed in her ears. “You think you do though. I believe you might think that… you can love. You’re so fucked up. You’re so sick.”
  127.  
  128. He stroked her hair against the grain and kept her in place, then shut his eyes.
  129.  
  130. “I hate you,” Alex said. She wanted him to understand.
  131.  
  132. He’d hated her in the beginning, too. For her nobility and her foolish desire to do good, her idiotic belief that she could actually change a world where he could get away with raping her for years. Drunkenly, Henric assured himself that if he could love her, then perhaps she could love him too.
  133.  
  134. Alex knew better, thank the gods.
  135.  
  136.  
  137. The main hall of the Fierskeep Castle was lavish to say the least. Several large, golden pillars sat on either side of a long, red carpet. The carpet let up to the throne. A golden chair with pearls and rubies set on nearly every flat surface of it. Above the throne, hung on the wall was a large sword of elven make. It’s metal was a strange sort of pinkish steel with wonderful scroll work and the name of the blade carved in elvish. A name that even it’s owner did not know.
  138.  
  139. “The Princess’ Lament”
  140.  
  141. The queen lounged about her throne, one leg tossed up over the gilded arm of the incredibly ostentatious chair. Tohru was never one for the semantics of royal life, but she understood her duties. Her dress was a red and gold fabric, that was loose yet unhindering. Along her arms were ribbons, tied like bracelets. Most of her bare leg fell from beneath her dress and bounced as she listened to the messengers from the surrounding towns drone on about their town’s specific problem.
  142.  
  143. “And so we’ve been rather short on supplies after the raid and-”
  144.  
  145. “Great, you’ll get all you need to start back up again.” The young queen’s eyes never even looked to the man, they merely eyed her nails nonchalantly.
  146.  
  147. “Thank you M’lady. Your gracious offer will surely get us on the right track before winter.” The old man was bowing profusely.
  148.  
  149. “Don’t mention it.” She waved him off. “I couldn’t use all this gold if I wanted to. It’s better that someone put it to good use.”
  150.  
  151. There was a kindness in her couldn’t-care-less attitude. As the man left and another entered she heaved a sigh of boredom.
  152.  
  153. Day in, day out. Same old shit. ‘M’lady we need more cattle on our farms!’ or ‘M’lady, we require a few more days to pay our taxes.’ In her youth, Tohru had wanted to be an adventurer, but being the only heir to her father, it was her duty to rule it in her stead. Luckily, she had appointed herself leading general for Fierskeep’s army. If her people hadn’t been in danger, she would have been even happier than she already was.
  154.  
  155. So, when the bell rang out to alert the castle of an incoming danger Tohru leaped from her seat with excitement. She moved so fast that the poor mayor of Tyrai nearly leaped from his skin. She pulled a ribbon from her wrist and worked her hands through her hair, pulling it back into a messy ponytail. She leaped up and grabbed her sword from the wall.
  156.  
  157. “I beg your pardon, sir.” She bowed to the confused mayor. “But, I’ll have to take up your problem another day.” Her previously bored frown was now an excited grin as she made her way to the barracks.
  158.  
  159. Her men were getting dressed in their own gilded armor and Tohru’s servants had helped her don her’s. Finally, a small golden tiara was set atop her head. Just because she was in battle, didn’t mean she wasn’t still queen.
  160.  
  161. Tohru and her men rushed out, expecting to see an army on the horizon, but there was nothing. Confusion filled the men’s faces. The guard’s in the tower would know not to ring the bell unless it was an emergency. Tohru hailed the tower and shouted upward.
  162.  
  163. “Who is it that rang that bell? I see no danger.” Then her rather unqueenly voice took over. “Seriously, what gives?”
  164.  
  165. “Oh, I’m sorry.” An unfamiliar voice called from above. “Perhaps I rang it a bit too soon.” When the man poked his head out of the tower, Tohru did not immediately recognize the man, and she stared at him incredulously before it clicked into place--that was Kerran Myar. Her biggest threat.
  166.  
  167. He let out a laugh and waved his hand about. “If you’re looking to the horizon, you’re looking a bit too far.”
  168.  
  169. Tohru cocked her head, but soon realized what he meant when thousands of hands rose from the ground beneath them. Her troops backed up as best they could, but with so many of them compressing backwards they were unable to all clear the area together, and the initial casualties were greater than anyone could have expected.
  170.  
  171. The dead rose from the ground with armor and weapons in hand. Their ghoulish hands rose from the ground, pulling on the feet and tabards of men before stabbing them viciously. The queen’s guard-army still held about two hundred strong, but the necromancer’s army was more than double that. The deadly seemed to rise all around the castle and they quickly began to swarm Tohru and her small band of knights. As the gilded knights clashed blades with the undead, there was little they could do.
  172.  
  173. With each step, the buried dead returned closer to life. Their skin returned to bone and filled out. Skin was the proper shade of pink or brown. Eyes were sharp, alert, as if there was a mind still in each body controlling them. The shambling horde persisted to fight regardless of what wounds they had suffered. The troop became smaller and smaller as they backed away from the relentless onslaught.
  174.  
  175. Tohru clashed swords with a dead man. The hulking zombie, not quite as repaired as its kin, swung so heavily at her that when her sword was brought up to block she was knocked to the ground. Her enemy raised his sword, ready to plunge it into her chest. Time stood still. She knew that there was nothing she could do to stop this blade. She took one last breath of air, as though it would be her last.
  176.  
  177. With an unmistakable thunk an arrow had been embedded into the dead’s skull and he crumbled to the ground, leaving Tohru unscathed. When the young queen looked up to the hill where the arrow had come from she saw one archer on horseback. It was hard to see him, but she was almost certain he had winked at her. Three more knights rode down the hill at full speed towards the battle.
  178.  
  179. There was no hesitation to draw another arrow, well except to give the bachelorette queen the ol’ Cuthbert charm, but a wink only takes a moment. The knight notched another arrow and flung it into the horde, this time sending it through one head and into the other.
  180.  
  181. The knights had heard the sound of battle of course--the ground hadn’t exactly rumbled, but they’d heard the bell in the distance and seen the devastation of the field in front of the castle.
  182.  
  183. After that it was a matter of getting armor on as fast as possible. Henric felt very smug, and would have been even more so if he hadn’t been grappling with a hangover. Isaac, Cyrus, and Henric charged down atop their steeds and into the fray. Being the only one with a lance, Isaac pushed into the center, skewering as many of the undead as he could. Cyrus ran defense, he braced his shield and forced himself between the troops of Fierskeep and the undead horde. With his head still pounding from a massive hangover, Henric wanted to be as far from his brother knights as possible, he ran the perimeter of the undead, swinging his sword at head level whenever lifeless hands got too close to him. No acid escaped his blade, its magic days seemed gone.
  184.  
  185. With the extra help, Tohru picked herself up off the ground and with it, she grabbed the blade held by her attacker. Her prefered style. She brandished both weapons, getting a feel for them both together. Then, she leaped into the horde to help Isaac. With a blade in both hands, Tohru’s fighting had become like a dance. She twirled and jumped all the while timing her blades spinning around her, carving into her enemies.
  186.  
  187. With the knight’s added tactics, the life-like ghouls had begun to dwindle. As Henric carved around the sides of the hoard, his grimace returned as he saw Yuya, sneaking around the fight and into the castle gates. He chased her.
  188.  
  189. Fighting was miserable for the squires, who kept together in a small knot at the edge of the fray. Alex was using her shield so much that the paint was already horribly chipped. Some undead had hit her with a sword on her upper arm that had dented her armor without slicing it. Micah was in the best shape, always running backwards and hitting anything that got too close with arrows. Glenn and Ellis were stronger than Alex and bigger, and they were doing better at keeping undead away because of their superior reach while bodies kept slamming into Alex’ shield.
  190.  
  191. When Henric and Ian ran past, bowling over bodies, Alex followed in his wake and picked off anything that still walked.
  192.  
  193.  
  194. Kerran was unconcerned for the state of his horde. Undead corpses could be repurposed if they were not intact. That came later. From the bell tower he watched the fight, watched his children rise from the dirt.
  195.  
  196. He did not regret spending years instructing his undead to burrow to the castle. Seeing them rise up was one of the most rewarding sights he’d ever seen, and a sharp-toothed grin stayed stuck on his face. He was the simple sort when it came to orchestrating and executing these kinds of military plans--it didn’t take much to please him the way that complicated magic and scientific problems did.
  197.  
  198. As Kerran descended the tower, he shed his human look one feature at a time and replaced them with the appearance that was more natural to him. By the base of the bell-tower, he had difficulty getting his blue wings through doorway as he crept forward on all fours.
  199.  
  200. It wasn’t a personal vendetta against Fierskeep that brought him back to the country where he’d fallen last time. It was just a more familiar country with a lazier military and a much more lax standard for knights. And there was much more gold than any neighboring nations. Who didn’t love gold?
  201.  
  202. Kerran kept that motive close to his chest, but it was true that at the end of the day he was a greedy fuck who needed gold to fund his magical research. There were no superiors who wanted to give him all of the complicated spell components he wanted. As far as most of his kin were concerned, the only thing they needed to know about souls was that they could be traded for favors. Kerran had higher aspirations, yearned to understand souls the way humans understood their gold. And he needed money for that.
  203.  
  204. He moved on, walking on all fours to be more comfortable with his long tail, and then he felt Henric, a weak little splotch on the map of souls he could sense around him.
  205.  
  206. The necromancer was pleased. He stopped walking. He wanted Henric back, loved him like a treasured hunting dog he’d raised from a pup--because he had. Kerran sat back on digitigrade legs to wait while his most favored human drew closer. He’d kept most of his wooden puzzle safe, waiting for the knight’s inevitable return and touching the tips of his foreclaws together.
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