The Siege Looms Heavy (Part Two)
rating: +12+x

On and on the struggle went, as Melbrecht cleaved through the multitudes of unprepared soldiers with his spear in his right hand.

The night was alive with the sounds of screams and the smell of burning tents and men. Each of his fellow Templars and neophytes had taken the liberty of splitting up and causing as much discord as possible, adding to the already substantial inferno caused by the High Priestess by setting fire to even more tents. Each man they saw they immediately took the liberty of killing- and it was in this slaughter that Melbrecht seemed to thrive.

Already, after seven minutes of pure battle, five men lay dead behind him. The five Templars and ten neophytes who had followed him to the fray had killed twenty-six more behind him- mostly D-Caste and groggy artillerymen, though a few Omega Guard and men-at-arms were scattered amongst them.

But already, more men had begun facing them armed and prepared- no match for the fury of Melbrecht and his Templars, but still harder to surround and kill compared to their unprepared companions.

Yet on and on the Grandmaster and his Templars fought- their pains and injuries forgotten, their fury and skill rediscovered.

“Grandmaster!” A distant voice shouted from the distance, and Melbrecht turned to the source of the voice, roaring with spear in hand.

A figure on a horse wielding a torch and a spear reared up in front of Melbrecht, and at once he recognized the man as none other than Marshal Garvin.

“Ploughing through these bastards, Grandmaster?” The Marshal said, a smile on his face. “You and your Templars look as if the battle fever has come upon you.”

Melbrecht greeted him with his own horrifying smile, his beard wet with the blood of his adversaries and his face splattered with gore. “How about your militia, eh Garvin? Done torching tents and running down camp followers and D-Caste?”

Garvin’s smile went from jesting to nervous in an instant. “Of course not!” He said back, his lip almost quivering. “We’ve killed our fair share, t-too you know.”

Melbrecht chuckled loudly at the Marshal’s distress. A coward as always, he thought. “Seen the Lady while you were riding around camp?”

Garvin slowly looked up at the sky, wincing as he saw another green explosion of fire in the distance. “I haven’t seen her, but I most certainly have Brightdamned heard her.”

“And our dear Doctor Cardinal?”

“We’ve heard him ring the bells to rouse all three parts of the army.” Garvin gulped. “It may be time to fall back, Melbrecht.”

Fall back?” Melbrecht laughed. “We aren’t falling back until the Lady says so, Marshal!”

Garvin began. “But the army-“

“So long as your horsemen do as they’re bid and set fire to the camps and the Lady does as she has planned and kills Cardinal Asser,” Melbrecht said, the thought of relishing in the battle plain in his face, “they will be in chaos long enough for us to retreat and for them to turn on each other.”

Garvin straightened up in the saddle. “Are you sure, Grandmaster?”

Melbrecht’s voice became a bellow. “Of course I am, Marshal! Trust in the Lady, why don’t you? This is her plan!”

Garvin instinctively reared back. “I…” his reply came in a low mutter, almost a whisper against the noises of the battlefield. “I hope you’re right, Grandmaster.”

Melbrecht stepped forward. “What?” He asked.

Without replying, Garvin rode away, shouting orders to his men in the militia as the bells in the camp finally rung.

“Spineless son of a whore,” Melbrecht said, tightening his grip on his spear.

Then, he started moving forward again, all thoughts of Marshal Garvin forgotten as he speared another unarmored Omega Guard through the throat.

Jaelen woke up on the bed of the High Priestess an hour after Melbrecht and Sigurrós left him.

Though the injuries on his face had long since healed, he still awoke with the feeling of a painful pulsing headache that threatened to split his skull open on both of his temples.

He lay in bed awake for a few minutes, as the agonizing headache slowly subsided and the events of the evening came rushing back to his head in an instant.

“Servant!” He shouted as he slowly got up from the bed, putting on the smallclothes laid out on the foot of the bed as hurried footsteps came running to the bedroom.

But who entered the bedroom wasn’t the small form of one of the servants, but instead the tall, thin figure of Guildmaster Raetor, his forehead beaded with sweat.

“Brother Jaelen,” Raetor began, gasping for air.

“What is it, Guildmaster?” Jaelen asked. “Where are the Lady and the other councilors?”

“Outside-“ Raetor answered, coming into the room. “The Grandmaster, the High Priestess and the Marshal have all sallied out of the west gate. Why, I do not know, but we-“

“What?” Jaelen exclaimed, his eyes wide. “I need my horse, we need to head outside, assist-“

“Brother Jaelen!” Raetor shouted sternly, gripping both of Jaelen’s shoulders in an effort to make him listen. “We have more pressing problems to deal with. I have not seen Lady Maera since before dusk, and the nobles…”

Raetor breathed in deeply. “The nobles have cast aside their allegiances to the High Priestess and are on the way to the Brightshome.”

Jaelen drew back, shocked. “What… what’s happened?”

“The nobles have demanded we give over the High Priestess to the Doctor Cardinal and are coming here to apprehend her.” Raetor turned away, pacing as he spoke. “They do not know that she’s outside, and will certainly turn the Brightshome on its head looking for her inside.”

“Can’t…” Jaelen let out a sigh of frustration. “Can’t you call the militia to block them on the Way of Ardam?”

“I can’t call the militia, brother monk,” Raetor replied, turning his head to answer Jaelen. “And even if I could, they’re too embattled on the walls to devote any more men to the pacification of five of the eight noble houses.”

“Then call the guildsmen, Raetor!” Jaelen said, anger and irritation plain in his tone.

“I may be able to do that, brother monk…” Raetor replied hesitantly.

Jaelen drew up close, keeping his eyes level with Raetor’s. “Then why will you not do it?”

All at once, the sullen and composed guildsman exploded with pent-up frustration. “Why will I not do it?!” He shouted, pointing in the direction of the Spirit Quarter behind them. “Because it will bring direct conflict between merchant and noble, destroying any harmony we’ve achieved between the affluent classes!”

“We cannot tell men to fight against their betters for the sake of ourselves, for the sake of the High Priestess! It is selfish, it is inviting chaos, and it is destructive to everything we’ve built and rebuilt, monk!”

At this last outburst, Raetor breathed in deeply, his composure returning to him as he straightened up and maintained his airs.

“Brother Jaelen,” he began. “We cannot afford a conflict between the merchants and the nobles. If the Lady Maera were here, she would be on hand to quell the dissent- but she is not.”

“We are the only two councilors left in the city,” Raetor continued. “We must strike for a solution that would keep harmony and peace within while keeping the enemy-“

“Where is your loyalty, Guildmaster?” Jaelen asked, his voice low.

Raetor took a step back, the question catching the old merchant off his guard. “Why,” he began. “To the city, of course.”

“And who leads the city, Guildmaster?”

“The…” Raetor let out an audible sigh. “The High Priestess.”

“Then do you know what to do when a group of dissenters, smallfolk, noble, merchant or outsider, rise up to depose the Lady?”

Raetor sat down on Sigurrós’ bed, resigned.

“I do.” His answer came, defeated and outmatched.

Jaelen took a nearby stool and sat opposite from the Guildmaster, making sure his eyes met his as he spoke.

“You were right when you said that we are the only two councilors left in the city, Raetor,” he began, his voice slow and low. “But it only makes our responsibilities all the more important. Melbrecht and Garvin are outside, fighting the enemy at the foot of our walls. Maera has gone, nowhere to be found.”

“We are the two last men in this city who could contain the fires that threaten to consume it from within and without. You hold considerable power as Guildmaster, able to direct the efforts of one entire quarter to the city. Now, the time to use that power is at hand.”

The young monk put his good hand on the shoulder of the Guildmaster.

“Can I count on you to keep the Lady’s peace?”

Raetor slowly stood up, his face drawn and dark.

Then, in an instant, he looked at Jaelen with renewed resolve.

“Yes, dear brother. You can.” He answered, his voice solemn yet full of purpose.

Jaelen smiled as he stood up. “Then do what you must. I shall join the battle outside in the meantime.”

On the roof of a rich boarding house in the Spirit Quarter, a cowled figure sat and waited, looking around nervously for any sign of the message she was waiting for.

Then, from up high, a raven landed in front of them, carrying a small piece of parchment tied to its leg.

The figure leaned down and took the small scroll from the raven’s leg, unraveling it to see the message contained within.

Open the doors to the churches, it said, written quickly and messily in pitch black ink. Call the clergy to gather and worship at the altar of the Almighty.

The figure quickly scrawled a reply into a small scroll of parchment with a quill and a bottle of ink and tied it to the raven’s leg. Then, they gestured for it to fly away, quickly securing their hood on their head as they made their exit from the establishment. They saddled their horse and rode for the Spirit Quarter, where a hundred nobles and their retainers were gathered and ready to strike at the heart of the city.

Lady Maera headed for the crowd awaiting her command, preparing to save her city from the enemies within and without.

Sigurrós had laid waste to a third of the camp, killing countless D-Caste, Omega Guard, men-at-arms and a few Templars as she combed the tents for a sign of her quarry, flying through the air looking for the distinctive white armor and helmet.

She had set fire to large tents and small tents, men young and old, soldiers who tried to face her, and all of the trebuchets which had wreaked so much havoc on the city that she led.

She had reduced a third of the siege camp to cinders, burning multitudes of soldiers and D-Caste as they slept and as they ran.

Yet for all her efforts, for all the slaughter and death, she had found not one sign of the man she was truly looking to kill.

She wanted Asser Clef- and Asser Clef alone.

She tried her best to not mind the fire, the smoke, the screams of pain and agony, the smell of burning flesh and fabric.

She set all her fears and memories aside as flames issued from her fingers, killing dozens with each burst as she flew down and set tents and pavilions alight in the dead of night.

After half an hour of killing, she was at her wit’s end.

She had slaughtered so many, yet found no sign of the Cardinals’ tantalizing white armor.

Then, in the distance, she found a figure standing amongst the flames, his cape billowing as the wind blew south. He was a tall man, clothed in white chainmail and steel, his helmet forged with dragon wings on either side- the helmet of Saint Ardam. In both of his gauntleted hands was a bastard sword made of a red steel that glinted in the firelight, its tip buried into the sodden ground as he waited for her.

“Have you had enough of slaughtering arrow fodder, witch?” Asser Clef called out, his voice cold and hard. “Are you ready to face down a true warrior of Bright and be destroyed for the heretic you are?”

Sigurrós slowly flew closer, her robes being blown by the air as she faced down the Doctor Cardinal from afar.

“I’m giving you a chance to flee, Doctor.” She called back, her tone barely concealing her veiled anger. “We both serve the same god, the same Foundation that He set down centuries ago. I am a priestess of His word, of His procedures. Lay down your arms and let us talk of peace within our church!”

Asser smiled within his helmet, amused. “You claim to serve the Lord Jack with all of your heart and mind, yet reject it with every part of your failing Expunged flesh. You are just one more Expunged to kill, one more abomination of the world to contain and imprison.” He relished every word as it came out from his mouth.

You are just another anomaly.

Sigurrós slowly closed the distance between them, hewing closer and closer with each moment that passed.

Then, she spoke, her voice amplified all around them as her form became clothed in malefic green fire.

“I. Am. Not.

Then in an instant, she flew down, her right arm quickly gathering her concentrated fury in the form of fire as she gathered it in a ball in front of her, making ready to obliterate the warrior in white with a single blow.

“I…” The fireball at her fingertips turned from orange and yellow to green.

“Am…” The surrounding area began to light up like the midday, as the ball burned hard and bright in her outstretched hand.


The fireball in her hand became a sun in miniature, burning hot as she let it fly towards Asser Clef, certain to connect with his form as he stood his ground.
Then, he jumped into the air, bringing his crimson bastard sword up with both hands as he lifted it above his head and brought it down on Sigurrós’ outstretched arm.

The blade severed her hand at the wrist with a sickening schlik, cleanly cutting through the flesh and bone as she flew through the air.

Then, everything happened in an instant.

The fireball flew into the distance, connecting with a tree and exploding with a flash that rivalled the sun.

Her severed hand fell, the stump where it used to be glowing with a red light as the Scrantonum blade cut through it cleanly and quickly.

The fire that clothed her body dissipated, leaving the camp around them in darkness.
The white-clad warrior landed on his feet, his crimson blade splashed with Sigurrós’ blood.

Then, suddenly, she fell- crumpling to the ground as her face met the soft soil.

Behind her, Clef laughed quietly- a mirthless sound of pure triumph as he held the sword in his right hand and admired the witch’s blood splattered on the cold metal blade.

She felt him take a few steps towards her fallen body, his steps heavy as his greaves crunched against the grass.

“What did I tell you, Sigurrós?” He said, his voice taunting and triumphant. “You are.

Sigurrós tried to crawl away, the stump of her right arm bleeding profusely on the grass as she used all her might to get away from the warrior closing in behind her.

She whispered an incantation, and turned up on her back as she desperately let loose another ball of green fire towards Asser Clef, which he casually absorbed with a flick of his crimson sword.

She let loose another, then another, then another, each blast ever more desperate as Asser Clef deflected the last and absorbed the next.

Then, he was on her, bringing his boot on top of her belly as he pinned her helplessly in place.

“By the grace of Jack Bright, our lord and savior,” he whispered. “I consign you, witch, to your rightful place.”

Then he raised his blade with both arms- and brought it down with force, tearing through her belly as the witch-sword cleaved through the middle of her torso with ease.

Then, he pulled it free, her blood going off in an arc as he tore the sword off her body.
Sigurrós’ head fell to the side as she struggled to breathe, her eyes staring off into the distance as she began to fall into the abyss.

She could hear her heart beat in her ears, impossibly loud against the fading light of the living world.

Then she heard the distant sound of hooves and a quiet crash! as she heard footsteps near her. A pair of arms gathered her up slowly, and lay her gently on the back of a saddle, as a familiar face came into view.

Jaelen, she thought, smiling to herself as she begun to taste iron in her mouth.
Then, the horse lurched, galloping quickly towards somewhere else as Jaelen drove the horse forward with all his might.

“Follow the horse!” A distant voice said, deep and cold and angry. “It has the witch!”

She smiled as the dull sounds of the portcullis began to close, taking her into the city limits as hundreds of people from the Altostown noticed her presence and began to stare at her as Jaelen took the horse down the main path, towards the beckoning light of the Brightshome.

Then, she closed her eyes, falling into the abyss as the darkness consumed her.

Meanwhile, in the Way of Ardam, two crowds gathered on opposite sides, led by two opposing members of what had been the city’s council.

“Maera,” Raetor said as he sat atop his horse, a shortsword at his side. “Don’t do this.”
The lady’s face was solemn, in contrast to the angered expression of the hundred armed nobles and retainers who sat behind her. “I must.” She answered simply, her blue eyes meeting his from across the space of the winding Way of Ardam.

“What do you hope to achieve?” Raetor said, his hands gripped tightly on the reins of his horse.

Maera sighed, her breath visible in the cold autumn air. “Peace, Raetor.”

“Do you honestly hope to achieve peace through this? Storming the Brightshome with the nobility backing you?” Raetor said, his tone angered yet still low and composed.

She was still composed. Tranquil. All too noble. “I do what I must, Raetor. If we hand over the High Priestess, we can-“

“Hand over the High Priestess?” Raetor grinned sardonically, looking away. “This is treason, Lady Maera. Do you understand?”

Lady Maera bit her lower lip. “This is for the city, Raetor. Do you hope to achieve the peace we all want through killing the army outside while they assault our walls?”

Raetor leaned forward on his horse, his teeth gnashed in anger as he fought to keep his frustration from coming to the surface. “Where is your loyalty, Maera? The Lady has fought to keep this city safe, to keep it alive and well. And now you strive to give her away to the Foundation? After everything she’s done for-”

“Yes!” Came Maera’s answer, her composure broken. “Yes, Raetor. That is all I want!”

Raetor’s reply came biting and cold.

Then you are lost.

Maera breathed in deeply, her anger lost and her face tranquil. “I’m done speaking to you, Raetor.” She said, her voice quiet.

Then a far-off explosion sounded in the distance, lighting up the night like a rising sun in the west.

Taking advantage of the distraction, Raetor drew his sword. “People of Arnven!” He shouted, thrusting his blade in the air. “Kill the traitors!”

At his command, the forces of the merchants of the Agathan Quarter surged, screaming their battlecry as they fell upon the surprised nobles and retainers.

The Battle of the Way had begun.

“Fall back!” Melbrecht shouted as the assembled forces of the enemy army surged. “Fall back!”

“Head to the gate!” shouted Garvin, rearing up in his horse to gather his horsemen to retreat.

Already, three hundred enemy Templars and men-at-arms had assembled, killing many of the defenders’ forces as they fell victim to the sudden charge of the Foundation’s army.

But as the soldiers of the militia and Templars fell back, even more gathered as the seconds passed- fully armored, prepared, and ready for battle.

At the top of the walls, the remaining archers of the militia harried the approach of the enemy forces, buying time for the remaining Templars and militia to gather near the gate in an orderly retreat.

Then, as the gate opened, a robed man on horseback rushed through the small opening of the rising portcullis, riding to the side of Garvin and Melbrecht as they stepped back towards the gate.

“Where’s Sigurrós?” Jaelen asked.

Melbrecht answered. “We saw her Asser head in her direction minutes ago!”
Jaelen’s eyes widened, turning to Melbrecht and Garvin. “She’s in peril, Melbrecht! I need to come to her aid, quickly!”

Garvin gestured to the assembled wall of shields being harried by arrowfire. “How are you going to get past that, then?” He said fearfully. “We can’t break through them on our own!”

A bead of sweat ran past Jaelen’s face. “Then…” His eyes landed on a gap in the line, and he pointed to it for the two men to see. “Create a distraction- charge them, keep them occupied.”

“You would have us fight?!” Melbrecht bellowed, his face red. “We are exhausted, Jaelen!”

Jaelen sighed. “Keep them embattled for a while longer! I’ll join you once the Lady and I kill Asser!”

Garvin leaned in, his normally small voice frustrated. “What guarantee do you have-“

Then, as if on cue, a large green fireball exploded in the distance, lighting the surrounding field with a bright light to rival the sun.

“Bright damn you!” Melbrecht shouted. He turned to Jaelen, then to Garvin. “We do it. For once, the monk is right.”

“Have your minds left the both of you?!” Garvin screamed.

“Just follow my damned lead, Marshal!” Melbrecht said, readying his spear.

“Templars! Neophytes! Militia!” The man bellowed. “Charge!”

Then, all at once, the force of one hundred fell upon the assembled line once more in a chaotic maelstrom of spears, swords, halberds, and shields.

“Shields down, Templars!” Melbrecht shouted. On cue, the remaining Templars lowered their shields and held their spears at the ready.

“One, two, three- GO!” Then, the Templars drove forward in a single wave of force, thrusting the forward line of the enemy back.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, Melbrecht saw Jaelen jump over the gap in the line, leaving him free to gallop past them on his horse.

I hope you’re right, monk. Melbrecht thought, as he bellowed out another order.

“Again!” He shouted. “One, two, three- GO!” All together, the gathered forces of the Templars drove the enemy back, pushing them down the approach towards the gate.

Behind them, Garvin and his forty remaining horsemen looked on as the Templars pushed the enemy lines back.

His lip quivering, Garvin looked back at the militia assembled behind him, and called out his order. “Charge on my order!”

At the front, Melbrecht stood ready to deliver another push. “One, two, three-“

“GO!” He shouted.

“CHARGE!” Garvin bellowed at almost the same time, drawing his lance down as he and his militia bore down on the enemy’s unguarded left flank.

Then, a horse jumped the same gap in the line it did earlier, bearing Jaelen and an unconscious Sigurrós on its back.

“We’re safe- open the gate!” Jaelen shouted from the top of his horse to the gate, and at his order, the portcullis began to shutter open once again.

Melbrecht turned back to look at him. “What has happened to the Lady?”

“No time!” Jaelen shouted, and he spurred the horse on, going past the gate into the city.

“Damn him,” Melbrecht muttered, raising his ruined hand for all to see. “Templars! We go back!”

At the order, the one hundred remaining Templars reformed and raised their shields, putting their spears on top as they prepared to fall back.

“One step!” Melbrecht shouted, and they retreated by one.

“Two steps!” Melbrecht shouted again, and again they retreated by another step.

Ahead of them, Garvin raised his spear to signal the militia to retreat.

But as the horsemen began to peel off the enemy formation and head back into the city past the western gate, Garvin felt someone strike his horse out from under him, causing him to fall to the ground.

Asser Clef stood over him, his helmet lost and his long silver hair flowing in the wind, a long crimson bastard sword held in both hands.

“Join your Lady, heretic.” He said as he raised his sword above his head and swung down, splitting Garvin’s head in two with a single strike.

He turned to the men around him and called out. “Destroy the heretics!” He shouted. “Let none of them escape!”

As the Templars steadily retreated into the gatehouse, the men on the opposite side threw themselves on their shields and spears, killing many as their suicidal charge pushed the Templars back inside and disrupted their formation.

But as the portcullis began to close, the Templars felt a reprieve quickly coming-
Before it stalled in place seven feet in the air, allowing the enemy army to flood inside.

At the top of the gatehouse, having narrowly escaped from the clash on Ardam’s Way, Lady Maera held the portcullis open, aided by the militiamen who were afraid to disobey her command.

Harried by the attacking soldiers streaming in from the gate, Melbrecht and the Templars held their shields down and spears up, their bodies exhausted by two endless hours of battle. Their knees were on the verge of buckling under them, their arms aching with old and new pains alike.

“Hold them!” Melbrecht shouted over the sounds of battle. “Earn your names, Templars! Prove yourselves, neophytes! HOLD!”

The guildsmen had won.

But Raetor did not feel that they had.

Forty men and women in all lay dead at the way- nobles and guildsmen alike. After their leader had abandoned them minutes into the battle, the nobles had been robbed of their resolve and quickly routed, running down the way and back into their homes in the Spirit Quarter, carrying their dead and their injured with them as they fled.

The guildsmen, meanwhile, had escaped with a relatively light toll, with only a dozen of them injured and three of them dead. Raetor delivered them to the Brightshome to be treated and blessed, though he could not say the same for the nobles and retainers that were on the opposite side.

As the fever of battle subsided and Raetor went back to the Brightshome, he sat back on the steps and heard the sounds of battle in the distance, as a single horseman galloped down the main way with a broken body perched on its back.

Jaelen had returned- and with the bleeding body of the High Priestess.

“What happened?” Raetor asked as he walked down the steps.

Jaelen gave no answer as he gently took Sigurrós’ body from the horse, cradling her in his arms as they ascended the steps to the Brightshome.

“Raetor,” He finally said as they passed the entrance, moving into the Hall of Saints and towards the inner sanctum. “Get me the healers. All of them.”

“We have wounded as well, Jaelen, I can send a few but not-“

Jaelen’s cold glare met him. “Send us everyone you can spare, Guildmaster.”

“Fine.” Raetor said as he turned the other way, walking towards the healers’ wing.

Jaelen, in the meantime, descended into the cryptlike inner sanctum, his steps hurried and urgent as he held Sigurrós’ body in his arms.

Passing into the cold, grey stone room, he laid her out on an ancient stone bed, beside an image of Lord Bright.

His arms aching and tired, Jaelen got to his knees in front of the High Priestess’ unconscious body, bringing his hands together as he started to pray.

They held for one more hour- unrelieved, thirsty, exhausted, and tired.

Of the two-hundred and fifty that came out of the gates in the middle of the night, only one hundred returned. Of the hundred that held the gatehouse, only fifty remained standing.

Those who were too injured to endure the never-ending press of the line were taken away by the good people of the Altostown, bandaging their wounds and handing them water, cheap ale, and food as the Templars held them at the gate.

Melbrecht stood for the entire grueling fight, always thrusting his spear forward and back with his good hand as they were slowly pushed back.

In front of them, a growing pile of the dead gathered as Asser Clef threw ever more of the fanatic D-Castes into the gatehouse, wearing down the Templars as the slaughter grew ever more costly.

No member of the militia came to relieve the embattled Templars. The portcullis stayed open even as ever more D-Castes streamed into the gatehouse, throwing their bodies on the Templars’ shields without any regard for their lives.

Then, suddenly, the portcullis of the east gate opened, with Asser Clef- their head armored in white with his crimson sword in hand.

Melbrecht looked back and forth, his mind racing as the enemy force closed in from both sides.

“We fall back!” He called out. “Down the main path, now!”

But the Templars gave no sign that they heard. With both sides compromised, many had turned tail and fled, running to the Brightshome and damning those who were left.

The indomitable Templars of the Order of the Horn, pushed into ceaseless battle, had started to break- and with them, all hope for the city to survive.

Sigurrós woke up on the cold stone bed an hour later, the stump of her right arm and the hole in her belly bandaged and treated with sanctified holy water.

Jaelen was at her side when she woke up, both of his hands tightly clasped with hers.

“Hey,” Jaelen began, his relief evident in his voice. “You’re finally awake.”

Sigurrós smiled weakly as she coughed. “You weren’t at my bedside when I woke up last.”

Jaelen brought his face close to her, their foreheads almost touching as he perched his chin on top of the stone bed. “Blame Melbrecht.” He said, smiling.

“You’re the one who saved me?” She said, staring off at the ceiling.

“Yes.” Jaelen said. “It was a close-run thing, but we managed it.”

She chuckled feebly. “I’m a fool, Jaelen.”

“You aren’t.”

She met her eyes with his, grey-green eyes to brown. “Three hundred men to three thousand. Ten-to-one odds… I was a fool to think it possible.”

She breathed in, closing her eyes as she did. It pained her even to do it, and the act caused her to wince. “Jaelen…” she began. “Can we talk?”

Jaelen sat back. “Talk about what?”

She smiled weakly, the very effort of smiling paining her as she did. “All… this. I should have talked to you more when I was still well.”

Jaelen’s tone immediately betrayed his concern. “No… no. Don’t worry about that, Sigurrós. We have all the time in the world now.”

“Do we?” She asked, almost like a child.

“We do.” He replied, his voice soft and comforting.

She chuckled. “I’m…” She breathed in again. “I think this is goodbye, Jaelen.”

Jaelen's eyes went wide. "What?"

She closed her eyes, the words she said paining her as she spoke them.

“I… I think I’m dying.”

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