"Let us to the boat," Edmund said, glancing warily at the trees. "Though I think that our enemy is vanquished, I do not wish to remain here any longer."
"Nor I. Comrades, will you disarm him?" Peter nodded at Jaer and Jaerin.
Both stepped quickly forward to do their king's bidding. Jaer knelt down and took Alman's sword and then began searching the man for hidden weapons
"Odd. I didn't notice that before."
Jaer looked up sharply at his brother's vacant tone. The younger youth had only taken one step and now stood staring down at his leg. A large gash was cut through his leather boot and crimson line stretched across his exposed calf. Blood trickled across his boot and to the trampled grass. Jaerin smiled weakly and then his eyes went blank.
Hissing sharply, Jaer flung Alman's weapons aside and leaped to catch his brother before he collapsed. Edmund caught Jaerin's other side and helped him ease the fair-haired youth to the ground.
"He breathes still," Jaer said softly. "He must suffer from loss of blood."
"All the more need to get swiftly back to the Cair," Peter said.
"Do you need help?" Edmund asked as Jaer slid his arms under his brother.
Jaer shook his head. "No," he lifted Jaerin up and cradled his head against his shoulder, "I can carry him."
Edmund nodded and turned away. "Get up," he snapped at Alman, accompanying the order with a jerk to the bandit's arm. Alman needed no further persuasion.
As Peter escorted the prisoner at sword point and Edmund gathered their shields together again, Jaer walked silently through the trees. Ever wary for a stray bandit who might have stayed for a secret shot, he scanned the woods carefully in every direction. But his eyes always moved back to his brother's still face. This was not the first battle in which the Peridanson brothers had fought side-by-side but it was the first in which one had been seriously wounded. Jaer could feel the warm wetness of his brother's blood staining his own tunic and gritted his teeth. This was why he wanted Jaerin to be an archer and not a swordsman in the armies. The archers were supposed to stay back, out of the press of battle, and only engage in hand-to-hand combat if necessary. But Jaerin loved the thrill of a swordfight too much to stay back and always managed to find his way to Jaer's side, no matter how thick the press. Even to himself, Jaer had to admit that he liked fighting with his brother at his side. He did not like it when the younger youth was wounded.
The instant he broke free from the trees, Jaer lengthened his stride. Though no healer, he knew enough about treating battle wounds to help. In the small boat in which they came to shore, there were bandages and ointments for injuries. He would use those to bind the wound and keep it from further bleeding until they got back to the Cair and the healers there.
"Hold here, Jaer. I can run faster than you." Edmund's voice startled Jaer out of his thoughts.
"The risk is too great. We need to stay together," Jaer managed to protest though he longed to accept the king's offer.
"There is more risk to your brother's life. If there is aught amiss I can hold on until you arrive."
"Thank you." The gratefulness that Jaer felt shone in his worried eyes.
Edmund nodded and sped across the sandy beach, darting behind the sand dunes toward their boat. Jaer sank slowly to the ground. The weariness of battle was creeping up on him and Jaerin's dead weight was hard to bear. Worriedly, he brushed a piece of hair away from Jaerin's face.
"Not so brave now, are you little lordling." Alman sneered. "I hope he dies. He never liked me anyway."
Clear eyes turned stormy as Jaer's gaze jerked to meet Alman's. "Watch your tongue traitor. You risk your life with each insolent word you speak." Alman's mount shut with a snap and Peter's opened but Jaer cut him off. "You needn't say anything, Peter. You feel the same way every time Edmund is injured."
Peter grimaced. "Right." Blue eyes flicked toward the dunes. "I hope he doesn't run into anyone."
"I can take care of myself, Peter." Edmund's welcome voice was breathless as he ran toward the waiting warriors. "Here," the younger king said as he dropped to the ground beside Jaerin. "I found these. And some cordial. Not Lucy's but it should help."
Jaer shifted his unconscious brother out of his lap and to the ground. Gingerly he pulled off the ruined boot, wincing at the sight of the deep gash in Jaerin's leg. The wound seemed to reach to the bone. Quickly, Jaer wrapped the bandages around the younger boy's leg and wiped away the worst of the blood. Edmund poured a trickle of the cordial down Jaerin's throat.
"That should do for the moment." The dark-haired youth stood and dusted off his hands. "Now," cool brown eyes turned to stone, "we deal with you. Here and now or at the Cair?" Solemn eyes flicked to the High King.
"Here and now. The sentence is just. Here are the witnesses. To take him to the Cair would but delay the inevitable." One hand shifted to Rhindon's hilt.
"Agreed. Kneel Alman."
Only then did the hard façade tremble. Alman tried to keep his feet under him but the strength of the High King's arm and sheer terror made his knees collapse under him.
"Please, your majesties, please, I beg you. Don't kill me! I'll do anything you ask, anything! Just don't kill me. I couldn't bear it." Fear radiated off of the cringing man in waves and all three conscious men stared at him in shock. "Please. Don't kill me." Tears leaked out of Alman's eyes.
Jaer's eyes narrowed and he looked up at the two kings. Both young men seemed slightly taken aback but hid it well.
"Why should we pardon you again?" Peter asked after a long silence. "You have betrayed our trust many more times than we should care to count."
"This time will be different, I swear it! I'll do anything you ask of me. Just let me live."
Brown eyes met blue in a silent look of understanding and meaning and then Peter looked back at the cringing man. "Our sentence stands."
In a split second, Alman's face changed. A snarl replaced the fear and pure hatred flashed from his eyes. "Blast you! You measly little kings think you can condemn me? I'll show you!"
Silver flashed in the light of the setting sun and something crashed into Jaer. Snarling like a dumb beast, Alman shoved Peter away from him and charged toward the trees. Three steps later, a scream rent the air and the traitor collapsed to the ground and lay still.
Jaer stared at the still form of the man who had once tried to assassinate his father and sister in silence. Peter walked over and pulled a small knife from where it was imbedded in the base of his skull. Jaer shuddered and looked away. Only then did he realize that the weight on top of him was that of a body. The body of King Edmund.
"Edmund!" Jaer jerked out from underneath the king.
"Oof. Seriously, Jaer, did you have to move that fast?" Edmund pushed himself off the ground. "I was about to get off you."
Relief washed over Jaer like a flood. "You're alive?"
"Of course. I'm not that careless. You almost weren't. He threw that." Edmund nodded to a small knife buried in the sand.
"Oh. Thank you."
Edmund nodded and stood. "Is he dead, Peter?"
"Quite." The golden-haired king glanced briefly over his shoulder. "It is sad, but I am glad it happened that way. Traitor thrice proved though he was, it went against my heart to kill a man in cold blood."
"Mine as well," Edmund said. "Let us be gone from this tainted place. I like it not and Jaerin is in need of better care." The Just King nodded to Jaer as he picked his brother up again, staggering slightly as his muscles protested.
"Right." Rhindon slid into its sheath with a metallic hiss and a soft snap. The two kings gathered up the remaining weapons and the Peridanson brothers' shields and strode down the beach in Jaer's wake. Not many minutes later, they reached the two boats and placed their burdens inside one. Tired muscles strained as the three pushed the boat out into the water and scrambled in. Edmund took the helm while Peter and Jaer manned the oars. Soon, the sandy shore was far behind and the three slowly relaxed.
"Well now," Peter said, shattering the silence like a stone in a still pond. "That was far more of an adventure than we bargained for."
One dark eyebrow arched. "Indeed. That is one way of putting it."
"At least we no longer need fear Alman," Jaer said as he shoved an errant lock of hair from his face. "Since his last attempt on us, we have been rather edgy. I just wish…" Jaer trailed off and looked to his brother.
At that moment, Jaerin stirred and opened his eyes. The oars stilled. Blinking several times in confusion, Jaerin shoved himself upright.
"Oh. Hullo. How'd we get here?" The other three just stared at him. "What?" Jaerin said.
A crushing embrace was his only answer as Jaer dropped the oar. Jaerin gulped in surprise but returned the hug cordially. After Jaer released him, the younger knight glanced down at his bandaged leg in confusion.
"I say." He looked up. "Did I miss something?"
Laughter answered him and it was to that joyous sound that the two pairs of brothers, one pair kings, one lords, both friends and knights, rowed off to their home. The past was sorrowful and the future would bring more trials, but for now, all was well. By the Lion's might, they had prevailed.
A/N—There. I've finally managed to write a short story. The story really wasn't happy with that idea but I made it do what I wanted. I have every intention of allowing you to have a better understanding of Alman's misdeeds eventually. I just have to get to them first.
sorry that this chapter is more than a week late. I didn't have
the internet access to post it when I thought I would and then with
Christmas and all, I never got around to it. I beg your
forgiveness. Those that recognized the quote by John Paul
Jones "I have not yet begun to fight" in some form or fashion and
noted it in their reviews include
Those that recognized the quote by John Paul Jones "I have not yet begun to fight" in some form or fashion and noted it in their reviews includethe1hobbit, lightsabermaster and JackGirl. Starsy Skye and lightsabermaster also belatedly found the Bible verse from chapter 1.
Thanks for reading and reviewing!