With a Smile
Having always prided himself on being selfless, Frey feels decidedly the opposite when he realizes he must make the biggest decision he has ever been faced with. A knight is, of course, expected to face perilous circumstances with a brave face, to honorably charge into battle on command, even when severely outnumbered, and to serve with every fiber of his or her being, and though he has known it for many years, from the moment he felt the sword lightly tap his shoulders, he finds it hard to face now.
He swallows, and looks to the others around him. Most, he realizes, are younger than him, and he wonders at the expressions on their faces.
A hopeless situation, they had been told, and Frey knows it is no exaggeration. Surely, surely one of them must sally forth into battle again, against insurmountable odds, to protect the lives of the others. There is no other way.
Everyone present is thinking, Prince Marth with his young face scrunched up in what must be terrible anxiousness.
"One should die for all?" his liege asks.
Marth's voice is strained, and Frey feels a pang in his chest. Why is it, he wonders, that a young man should have to hear of his father's death, lose his sister, and a breath later sacrifice one of his own retainers?
He notices Jagen's gaze on him, and he turns his grey eyes to regard his elder somberly. It is with horror that he notices the slight inclination of the paladin's head, and his heart thuds in his chest.
Jagen has known Marth always, he thinks, and as he looks around, he understands with startling clarity that they are all considering it. Hasn't the boy lost enough? Must he lose another? A mentor, a friend, a peer, this time?
He gently shakes his head, and before he can change his mind, before his heart is flooded with traitorous thoughts of self-preservation, he kneels before his liege lord. For fear of changing his mind, Frey does not dare look up to see Marth's expression. He knows that the prince of Altea does not wish to lose anyone, but there is no other way. He traces the grooves in the stone floor of the fortress with his eyes.
His voice is strong when he speaks, and clear, "Count this knight honored to die in the service of his prince," he says, and when he finally dares to look up again, he sees the clenched white-knuckled hands of all of the men around him.
Are you certain? Jagen's expression seems to say, and he gives a small, discreet nod as his unspoken answer.
The mood is somber as he quickly exchanges his horse's tack for that of Marth's own steed and takes his prince's cape, attaching it without a word, and without looking at the others. He knows they are questioning everything, now, from the meaning of life, to their own mortality.
The saddle feels strange beneath him, and he looks down to see the prince of Altea looking hopelessly lost. "Live, sire," he says with conviction, but lets his voice turn softer, gentler as he gives his liege a reassuring smile, "and grow strong…"
He clucks his tongue, and as his horse begins to walk forward, he refuses to let his smile fall.
He does not want to die, he thinks to himself as sunlight falls across his face. He urges his steed to go faster, and squints as the wind whips his hair back. The shouts of the enemy as they spot him and hurriedly begin their chase ring in his ears. His heart pounds in his throat.
But still, his smile remains.
No, he does not want to die.
But, he decides as his horse's hooves pound against the soft earth, and the army pursuing him draws ever closer, he will meet Death with a smile if it means saving not only Altea's beloved prince, but also those who would ensure his safety.
"Whoa!" he calls when he realizes the approaching army is on his heels. His horse comes to a nervous, prancing halt, and when he is ordered to dismount, he does, tossing his sword and spear to the grass below him first.
It will be quick, he thinks.
His smile wavers for just a moment as he raises his hands into the air, but as he turns around to greet his pursuers, he fastens it firmly back into place. He feels strangely peaceful as he observes the shocked and angry expressions as they realize he is not who they thought he was.
Surprise, he thinks, and feels his smile grow wider.
Frey is awesome. That is all.