Eight years previously, at the Skandian Battle.
The trees where close and thick, but there was no cover, the Temujai where closing in on Will, Horace, Evanlyn and their small force of what was left of the archers. It had now come down to hand-to-hand fighting, and unfortunately there was no convenient cliff, but a mess of bodies, blood and swords.
"Keep Evanlyn safe at all costs!" yelled Will.
"No, we protect each other!" replied the girl.
Will pulled her out of the way on an oncoming arrow, it missed her by an inch. Will pulled her ear to his lips so she could hear over the sounds of war,
"No. You remember our conversation on Skorghijl." It wasn't a question, it was a statement. He pulled them out of the way of more arrows and slammed her into a tree, his back to the oncoming army. A risk, but he needed to force the point home.
"You are more valuable and important to our country. That's what we are fighting for. For you to be Queen, so you can keep others safe. OK."
His deep brown eyes never faltered, they bore into hers, forcing her to nod in agreement, but that didn't mean that she couldn't fight now. Horace pulled them from this with a yell, there was only about ten of their archers left, and about thirty of theirs. They would surly die. Fortunate Halt and Erak came from the main clump of their army to help. Halt had five down even before they had reached the force that where attacking Will.
He had seen the last few seconds of Wills encounter with Evanlyn, then he turned around and in a fluid movement, had his saxe out of its leather casing and in an enermies gut. The knife had quickly been removed from one corpse and put into another one, then a second and third. He turned to face Halt, though Halt was ten meters away, he could see into the boy's eyes and could see that he was a changed man.
Will had observed that the enemy was starting to retreat, but on leaving they where still fighting, firing volleys of arrows as they ran. As the last of them filtered through the narrow spaces in the trees Halt walked up to Will and placed a comforting had on his shoulder, the boy had done a good job, and he was in shock. It was to be expected, this was his first taste of real war, his first one where he wasn't dragged of to another country, another continent.
"Good job Will, you commanded the archers well." The boy was still in shock and had yet to blink, but Halt could see the shock drip from his eyes and tears started to well in the brown depths. Halt pulled Will into a tight hug and motioned for his two friends to go, they obeyed.
Five minutes later all ruminants of the small force had melted away and Will began to cry. More minutes past and a sharp thud alerted Halt to the fact that Wills small body had now needed full support of Halt. He opened his eyes and saw the arrow buried in to boy's back. Tears flooded Halts eyes, he slowly let his friends body slump onto the ground. He took up Will's small bow and two arrows from the dirt covered quiver and waited. His grief spent time was rewarded, a movement. He sent one arrow after the cold-blooded murderer. The first took away the monsters life, but Halt wasn't satisfied until the second arrow was firmly planted an inch away from the killing shot, dead centre in the mans chest.
Halt ran back to where he had left Will, he dropped the bow and pushed through the small crowd that had crowded around the boy. He saw Horaces face, stone cold and his muscled arms where wrapped around Evanlyn, her face buried in Horaces cheat, crying for her lost friend. A small pain filled mumble broke the otherwise grief swamped noise, it came from the small body on the ground.
A healer had removed the arrow from Will's shoulder and was making a concoction in a small bowl. He mixed some ground green leaves and water together. The leaves releasing a yellowy substance that coloured the water.
"What are you giving him?" Halt asked. The healer looked up and regarded the short man.
"A substance designed to lower the heart rate, numb the body and mind to make ... passing easier."
"HE'S NOT PASSING ANYWHERE!" Halt replied. The small mumble came again and Halt dropped onto his knees and placed an ear over Wills lips so he could hear him. His voice was low, painful and barely understandable.
"Please Halt ... I'm too put a face to the man got me through my childhood. Don't ... don't take it away from me. Don't forget me, and goodbye, Father."
"Give it to me." His hand was held out for the bowl, when he received no response, he hit the healer and took the bowl from his hands and said,
"I won't deny you this. I won't forget you Will. You are my son." With that, Halt poured some of the mixture down his Will's throat. The yellow substance was mixed with Halts falling tears. When the liquid was gone, he picked up Will's body and carried him to his horse on the hill which he, Erak and Ragnak had watched the Temujai battle the Skandians. But neither his companions where there. Halt got up onto his horse to go back to Hallasholm, all the while holding Will's body close to his heart.