Battle’s Sorrow

The sounds of swords clashing echo across the valley as the battle wages on into its second day. The prince looks across the battlefield from the entrance of his command tent, disheartened by the massive loss of life. Bodies stacked on bodies, left to lie where they fell and died, sightless eyes staring out from bloody faces. He spits on the ground angrily. What a waste.

A messenger approaches, sprinting as fast as his legs can carry him, falling to a knee as he reaches the prince’s side. “Prince Cathal.”

“Speak. My brother?”

“Still missing, Highness.” The messenger pauses, knowing how difficult the absence of his twin was for the prince. “There’s news of the wizard getting near. Rumors have begun circulating that he’s bringing hordes of undead to do his bidding.”

The prince swears at this news. The idea that this magic user was bringing the dead to steal his father’s crown as he lay ill ignites the fire in his veins. The dark wizard had already summoned creatures to fight for him that no man would willingly associate with: orcs, goblins…and now he was practicing necromancy and raising the fallen to continue the fight. “Bring my hawk.”

The messenger rushes off to fetch what could be called the prince’s familiar, leaving the royal general to his thoughts. He soon returns, a thick leather glove on his hand to protect it from the hawk’s talons. Prince Cathal sits on the ground after staring into the bird’s eyes and chants a spell. “Your eyes are mine and mine are yours, on your wings I now shall soar, Find a weakness within our foe, to send him to his death below.”

The prince falls deep into meditation once the words are spoken, able to see everything within the hawk’s field of vision. The avian hunter stretches his wings and soars into the air, obeying commands given through the magical link with the prince. The scene before them is every bit as grim as the messenger reported. The fallen, living again by the wizard’s magic pick up weapons to fight, lacking the fluid movements of the living but more aware than a mindless reanimated corpse.

The wizard remains behind them, sitting on horseback and holding his staff. The lesser creatures he recruited to fight his battle for him were much less sure of their new comrades, knowing how unnatural their presence is. A commotion behind the lines draws the prince’s attention and draws the hawk closer. What he sees jars him from the trance and the connection with his familiar: his younger twin, being dragged by two of the largest orcs he ever saw and dropped at the feet of the wizard.

Cathal leaps to his feet. “They have Aiden. We must get him back before the wizard harms him.” Before he can take a step, he screams and clutches his side, falling to his knees.

“Highness! Are you injured?” The messenger rushes over, helping the prince to his feet. He doesn’t miss the pain and haunted expression in the ruler’s eyes.

“He’s dead. Aiden’s dead. I felt the wizard thrust a blade in his side.” Cathal had never devoted much time to the magic arts—that was Aiden’s specialty—though the power courses through his veins. Now, coupled with his anger, the air surrounding him very nearly crackles with energy. “Bring me my Knights. We ride in an hour.”

*****

Even with his best knights, the prince is slow to gain ground on the battlefield. The orcs are strong enemies, and the undead are relentless, only stopping their attacks upon being beheaded by a sharp blade. Cathal’s sword glows with his fury at the loss of his twin. He and his knights slaughter everything in their path as they ride to confront the wizard. Hours later, they stand facing him, Aiden’s body on the ground between them.

The wizard howls with laughter and strikes the ground with his staff, erecting a magical barrier between Cathal and his knights. The outside noises quiet, silenced by the same shield. “Little prince, come to join your brother in death? No? Then let him join you in life!” He points his staff at Aiden and unleashes a black shock of energy that surrounds the dead prince. As Cathal watches in horror, Aiden rises to his feet, an unnatural icy blue light in his eyes.

“Brother,” Prince Cathal whispers, and the corpse of his twin turns to face him. The expression on the risen’s face brings him pause, and he gets the feeling that the wizard has somehow trapped the younger man’s soul. “Aiden?”

“Cathal.” The lich’s voice is Aiden’s, but rough and layered as if speaking with many voices at once. “Help me,” he pleads, even as he conjures a stream of fire at his brother.

The wizard cackles again, overjoyed by the result of his necromancy. “History is made here, little prince. Undead, but aware. Conscious, but obedient to my commands!” He strides forward, his robes billowing around him. “Now…kill him!” he orders, pointing at Cathal.

The struggle to regain control is prominent on Aiden’s face, even as he throws more fire at his twin. His target jumps, dodges, circles. Anything to avoid lifting his sword to his brother.

“Aiden, listen to me. You’re stronger than he is. You have your own will—”

“His…is too strong.”

“No! Remember who you are, brother! Remember what you are!” He lays his sword on the ground and lifts his hands. “You won’t harm me, Aiden.”

“Finish him!” the wizard shrieks, clapping his hands in anticipated victory.

Cathal stares into his brother’s supernatural eyes with a calm he doesn’t feel, but he can sense Aiden’s invisible struggle with the wizard. With a hair-raising howl, the younger royal turns sharply; wresting control of his movements from the necromancer, he telekinetically throws his brother’s sword at the wizard’s chest, followed closely by a massive ball of fire.

The evil man stares down at the hilt of the sword in disbelief as blood begins to trickle from his mouth. “Not…possible.” The fire begins to consume him as he falls, and Cathal easily pulls his claymore from his ribs.

“Aiden,” he begins, but his brother interrupts.

“Help me, brother. You must…” His voice is slowly changing, becoming less his. “I can feel…myself going…losing my grip. The wizard…”

Cathal looks between the two of them, realizing that it was the wizard’s magic that kept his brother’s consciousness intact. “The lich is taking over,” he states sadly, meeting his brother’s eyes.

“Yes. Not long…I can feel it…” Aiden clenches his jaw as he wages an unseen war. He lurches forward and grabs his older brother’s arm. “You must….kill me. Put me to…rest.”

Cathal wants to deny him, tell him there’s another way to save him, but he knows he speaks the truth. “There’s only one way,” he whispers, his voice unable to push past the knot forming in his throat.

Aiden jerks a single nod. “I lo….I lo….”

The prince feels his tears spill as his cherished twin loses the ability to form words. “I love you too, little brother.” A shadow of gratitude and peace cross Aiden’s face before the lich takes over. Cathal grips the hilt of his broadsword with both hands as he steps back.

With a cry of anguish and sorrow that echoes throughout the valley, Cathal swings the blade with all his might.

(This is in response to a writing challenge put up by Kasim’s Korner. Sorry it took so long to finish it!)

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