A/N; Nothing really to say about this chapter except that it's the last of the story that I wrote before I started posting it and I hope you enjoy it. I'm hoping updates will pick up in frequency in the coming months.
Warnings; This story is SLASH but there's nothing too obvious in this chapter.
Chapter 7; Ambush
Three days later – The Angle
Annette stood in the hastily erected guard tower on the front edge of the Morchaint army and looked down over the vista. The western tributary of the river ran against their left flank down towards its eastern twin, joining together before reaching down across the grassy planes to the Gondorian Army and their Rohirrim Allies. Trollshaw stood in the distance to the north and the abandoned city of Rivendell harboured the majority of their supply column although they had travelled light and quickly to get out of Morchaint territories, including the Shire and the Freeman towns south of Edoc'sil to cut the Gondorian army off before it could reach their lands.
The Regent had only needed to confirm the Military Council's orders and their army had left fast out of Edoc'sil and Domia. Annette had invited herself on the march to try to see sense in all of this but everything they were doing was in reaction. The Gondorians had slaughtered their own Lamia soldiers for a crime they might have committed but had no motive to carry out. They'd had no trial and no chance to even prepare for their fate. Granted that wasn't reason to uproot the Morchaint Armies like this but to hunt for a child Lamia across such distance had enraged the general population so they'd made threats and ordered the Rohirrim to hand them over.
Then the Rohirrim had refused and sided with the Gondorians and the Morchaint people had demanded something be done. The final straw had been finding out that the Lamia child had escaped the Rohirrim before their own troops could reach them and they'd heard that the Gondorian Army was crossing Rohan to reach the western lands and marching on Morchaint territory.
Their army had been mobilizing within the hour and now almost forty thousand humans, vampire and Lamia stood poised to destroy each other. Annette knew though that if their army was defeated that the Gondorian Army would move north through the towns and cities of the country-less cities such as Bree that made up what was commonly known as the Morchaint Protectorates and they'd slaughter any Vampire or Lamia found there, adults or children. The Morchaint Army slowly forming further north would slam down on them like the end of days and blood would flow freely right down through Rohan and Gondor just like millennia ago. Only the Nuuruhuine remembered those days.
"They advance with no parley." Cyrus pointed out as he eyed the closing lines.
She looked out over the advancing foot soldiers, their cavalry was hanging back but would surely join the charge and try to hit wherever they were weak. They'd take serious losses to reach them however. Annette just wished they'd been able to bring down their larger equipment in time because that could have ended the battle without loss of life. Assuming the humans across from them valued their own lives.
She glanced up at the sky at the wheeling Lamia and then across. They'd never gone against the Gondorians or Rohirrim in her own lifetime but she already noticed the loss to the Gondorians after killing all of their aerial scouts. They had a perfect view down over their battle whereas their own front lines and their strategic position hid their own lines from view.
"What can you hear from them?" Annette asked her advisor and friend, relying on his telepathy to give them an edge, particularly over surprises.
"Much noise." Cyrus winced. "I have not yet come across such numbers in my lifetime. I struggle to find one out of the many but I sense all of them before us. There is nothing hidden from us."
A horn blared from above them and Annette snapped her head to look out just as the Gondorian line surged into motion. Horns rang out below. "My Lady." A Vampire turned to her. "It's time for you to fall back to the other Generals."
Annette glanced at him with narrowed eyes. "I think not." She told him.
Horns blew staccato within their front ranks just as the Gondorians came into range. Arrows flooded the sky from within their lines and fell rapidly within the approaching human army. Their front lines solidified behind shields at the answering volley but some still fell. Annette snapped out a hand and plucked an arrow from the sky which had been heading into their watchtower and probably would have hit the Vampire that had cautioned her to retreat to a safer place.
Cries of alarm leapt up from their far right seconds before a massive clamour erupted. Before Annette could find out what the problem was a shockwave blasted through the watchtower, making it almost teeter over. Debris erupted from their right flank with a massive blast of noise and heat. Annette smelt blood, burnt flesh and most importantly burnt Naptha. A bomb. Body parts of hundreds fell down amongst them and the entire army faltered.
"Undead on the right flank!" Cyrus screamed over the noise. "Thousands of them!"
"Where'd they come from!?" Annette yelled as the army got back under control and reformed to fill their loss and control both armies.
"Old dead, Gondorian clothing." Cyrus frowned. "They wouldn't!"
Annette frowned as she watched the armies clash together on two fronts. The Gondorian left flank were falling back away from the Undead but the abominations weren't going after them. They were definitely only after the Morchaint army. There had always been rumours of Undead emerging here and there but always in the Eastern lands and the Morchaint and Gondorians Marshalls were quick to stamp it down. Had the Gondorians really resorted to finding Necromancers to give them this edge and in that case taken the time to plan this and lay traps for them at that?
"Cyrus, call this back to the baggage train and then back to Edoc'sil." Annette ordered her friend who nodded and moved so that she could protect him while his mind drifted off. He came back with a start only ten seconds later and turned even paler features on Annette. "They're gone. There isn't a single life in Rivendell!"
She stared in horror for just a moment. "Report this to Dras Arget and the Military Council!" She turned back to the battle for a moment before leaping off of the watchtower to head for the Generals. They needed to change their plans. The Gondorians had gotten the upper hand but they wouldn't win this fight.
"Ietittar!" The voice sent him flying up in bed, his legs folding underneath him so he could move again. Every small movement of his body without any conscious thought of his own. He registered Lucus watching him from where he'd moved to sit against the headboard. "Ride west, Ietittar." Harry's voice, his ancestor's voice, thrummed through his mind, no longer as painful as it had once been before he'd gotten his wings.
"Granddad?" Calter gasped out.
"Find your Uncles and ride after Oliver, to Rivendell. Don't waste any time. His life is already in grave danger." Calter leapt up to his feet and grabbed for his clothes and Lucus scrambled up to do the same. Calter raised a hand when Lucus questioned him about what was going on.
"Granddad? What's happened to Oliver?" He tried not to sound panicked.
"They met up with the Morchaint Baggage Train in Rivendell but were ambushed." Harry told him as Calter rushed to dress, Lucus not needing to be told to do the same. "Your Uncles will meet you with horses for you and Lucus. Don't delay."
Then the presence was gone and Calter was rushing to get all their stuff packed and get out of the room. Lucus grabbed him in a hug before he could rush out though and held on when Calter struggled to get on their way. "You need to calm down for a moment or you'll get us caught." Lucus warned him. "Just focus, Cal. We'll get spotted if we just hurtle through the city."
Calter knew his best friend was talking sense and he drew in sharp breaths, trying to fight down the instinct to go to any length to protect Oliver and Melenade. He buried his face in Lucus' neck and drew in his scent. He was trying to tell himself it was his fault if they'd been killed or hurt because he shouldn't have let them out of his sight but he knew that he'd never have gotten away from the Elves and their escort would never have let them follow the two humans.
Eventually Calter led Lucus down through the wooden hallways and to the ground. They had a few close calls with sentries but they just headed away from the buildings knowing that Dalamy, George, Kentar and Peter would find them. He managed to be surprised when a white cat slipped out from behind a tree ahead of them. It glowed in the moonlight, broken up only by its black spots.
"Dalamy?" Calter checked rather needlessly and got a purr from the cat which led them out of the city. Calter heard nervous horses in the distance and realised the others would meet them there. There were four horses in all waiting in a clearing by the main highway that would take them west from Mirkwood and straight to Rivendell by the quickest and smoothest route. All four horses were loaded and Calter and Lucus quickly tied their own bags onto the saddles of two. The rest of the gear was for the Lamia and just as Calter was getting ready to get up onto one of the four Morchaint-raised horses he felt hands on his own and Peter was hugging him, regardless of the fact he was naked.
"We'll stay as cats unless we're needed to fight but this section is pretty safe." Peter paused. "Ignoring the normal trouble you seem to always come up with for us." Calter blushed before he could stop himself. "We'll just be following the highway all the way."
"Peter?" Calter begged. "Do you think Oli and Mel are okay?"
"Harry wouldn't send us running like this if they were dead." Peter told him. "Harry can't follow them personally though. We'll find them, don't worry about that."
"Thanks Peter." Calter whispered before jumping onto the saddle as Peter flowed back into his cat form. Calter checked the line leading to the second horse and then on Lucus who nodded to him in the dull light. They set off at a slow trot until they were comfortable and then pushed the horses to full speed along the smooth highway as the four cats darted through the trees on either side of them. Scouting far ahead for danger.
Fifty leagues west
Oliver stumbled as his legs gave way but a firm hand caught his right shoulder to balance him. He knew better than to try to thank Heni and pushed forwards but he did look to his left to check on his sister. The newly rising light did show her appearance for the first time and she looked absolutely frightful. Blood was splashed across her hair, face and down her travelling clothes and since he'd been right next to her when it had happened he imagined he didn't look that much better but at least the blood was no longer warm.
They'd travelled fast on Elvin horses along the well paved roads, stopping only briefly out of necessity when they'd come across an east-bound Highway Patrol but as soon as they'd seen the letter Heni had been carrying from King Legolas telling anyone who read it who exactly Oliver and Melenade were they'd turned right around with them and escorted them all the way to Rivendell, sending one of their Lamia ahead to announce their approach. They'd arrived in Rivendell after only having to stop for one night and even with twenty Morchaint Highway Patrolmen including two Lamia, three Vampires and fifteen Humans along with Heni and five more elves he and Melenade still hadn't felt safe and they knew it was because Calter was now so far away from them.
They'd reached Rivendell late the next day and met up with the First Morchaint Army's supply train and almost five hundred soldiers who had given Oliver and Melenade a Royal welcome after discovering who they were. The Captain left in command had fed them and organised the resupply of their small group and arranged for a fifty strong escort from his own troops and ten Lamia to guard them on the way down to the First Army but warned that it was unlikely that Annette Daroden could hold off the battle that long.
Oliver had known the name from his own lessons in foreign diplomacy. She had been the leader of the Nuru Noste that had awakened the Nuuruhuine at the end of The Isolation of Morchaint and triggered the wrath of Harry Corvil who had killed his own descendent as punishment for his tyranny. She'd then become a spy for Harry Corvil in Rohan when the traitorous Wizard called Saruman had taken over King Theoden's mind. She was now one of the oldest beings alive in Middle-Earth and governed Edoc'sil and had done since before Harry Corvil disappeared. As such she was the face of Morchaint when it came to other countries since most trade went through Edoc'sil.
But it was perhaps an hour before dark when it happened. Out of nowhere and with no warning the camp had exploded into activity. The long-vacant ruins of the once great Elvin Palace had come alive with horrors the like that Oliver could never have imagined even in his nightmares. The Elves had leapt to protect Oliver and Melenade but it was as if every dark corner of the deserted palace was attacking them. Decaying monsters had been everywhere and the slaughter had begun. With no enemy front to turn into the Morchaint troops had been scrambling to organise and attempt to turn some kind of defensive front against their enemy but the undead monsters had overwhelmed them in minutes.
Oliver and Melenade had been together when a spear had impaled one of their Elvin guard right through the chest and they'd been hit by so much blood that Melenade had panicked. The Captain had rallied everyone he could reach to protect Oliver and Melenade and Oliver was in no doubt that scores of the Morchaint soldiers and three of their own Elvin escort had died to ensure that Oliver and Melenade got out of the Palace. Oliver had had to hack at a few half decayed creatures as they ran through the trees and he had wounds he knew would need tending to but they'd been running all through the night just to get clear of the trees around the foothills and Oliver and Melenade where almost dead on their feet.
Their horses were gone, half of their Elvin escort and any of the Morchaint soldiers that had perhaps followed them in retreat had either turned to buy Oliver and Melenade time to escape or been overwhelmed in the darkness of the woods.
It was almost midday before Heni allowed them to stop and even as Oliver and Melenade collapsed to the ground Heni's two remaining Elves headed out a little to scout the rocky area. They had no horses, no water and no supplies but as Oliver turned to look at the towering mountains behind them he realised just how lucky they were. The palace had been one big trap and he doubted many of the Morchaint soldiers were still alive and if they were it would take them days to fully regroup.
"Oli?" Melenade wrapped herself around his waist and Oliver could feel her shaking. "What were they?"
"I think they were undead, Mel." Oliver whispered quietly and, spotting the look from Heni, he knew that their Elvin escort agreed.
"I thought the Necromancers were all killed?" Melenade asked rather than declared. It was quite obvious that there were still some alive. The numerous half decayed and even skeletal monsters that had attacked them were evidence of that.
"Somebody has decided to turn the powers of necromancy against Morchaint." Heni told them. "But the question is who? It is a fact that the Gondorian Army has decided to invade Morchaint in retribution for the death of your father and your own assumed deaths but it is more of a stretch to believe that they have used Necromancy to gain an advantage."
"We'd never use Necromancy!" Oliver shook his head. "My father detested the stories of them. He used to say that he'd hunt any Necromancer to the corners of Middle-Earth. That it was the only thing that would unite the armies of all countries once more."
"Your father is no longer in command of the Gondorian Army. Your Generals are and do you know them well enough to be sure they have not delved into the blackest of arts?" Heni asked. Oliver was forced to shake his head. "Manuscripts and tomes teaching Necromantic rituals were found across the Eastern lands and still show up now, a thousand years after the defeat of Nacraemeus. The Morchaint Council requires all to be destroyed on sight but who is to say that people have not kept or copied such documents and instructions?"
"It all seems too planned." Oliver pointed out. "My father's death to incriminate the Lamia and Morchaint. Our own attempted murders to anger Gondor and then the deaths of the Highway Patrol to put the Morchaint Military in arms. I realise that Calter's presence antagonised things and made Morchaint more aggressive but the wheels were turning as soon as father was killed."
"You are right." Heni nodded.
"And now an undead army lying in ambush to anyone that stops in Rivendell?" Oliver sighed. "It's as if a third party is pushing for war."
"War between Gondor and Morchaint would benefit neither party and Rohan would surely be devastated." Heni shook his head. "If somebody is pushing for war they want to weaken both sides."
"But who would gain from that?" Oliver asked but just as Heni was about to answer, if he even had an answer, the two Elves that had been scouting rushed into their small group.
"Undead approach!" Sia warned sharply. "Fast."
"On your feet, Mel." Oliver declared and pulled her up.
Heni shared a look with the other two Elves and then glanced at Oliver with a calm look but Oliver could read those looks easily. They couldn't outrun them, the elves could but not with Oliver and Melenade, and they weren't going to last long fighting them. Heni, Sia and Vanna braced themselves and Oliver pulled his sword from his waist and pulled Melenade behind him. The Elves were going to fight for them even if it cost them their lives and if Melenade and Oliver were going to die here then Oliver would make sure he died before his sister did. Nothing was going to harm her while he was still drawing breath.
"Sorry, Calter." Oliver muttered to himself and he knew what sort of pain his new friend would be in when he found out that Oliver and Melenade were dead. The same sort of pain he knew he'd feel if Calter died.
Melenade clutched at the back of his shirt but drew her own sword. She knew there was no point trying to fight at her brother's side but she'd watch his back and try to slow the monsters down.
Figures emerged all around them from the rocks and Heni pushed them all back against a solid rock to try to make things easier for them but already a dozen were creeping towards them, surrounding them on three sides and with a twitch from Vanna up behind them Calter knew there were undead sneaking around behind them to drop on them from above.
"Identify yourself!" Heni demanded sharply and Calter followed his gaze up to a figure standing almost thirty yards from them with no less than eight undead around him, protecting him. It wasn't until Heni had shouted at him that Calter had realised he was a living being and not just another undead monster. But he should have known one Necromancer would be here to control them. He was wearing simple travelling clothes and had a sword at his waist but other than that he could have been a sword for hirer from any of the human countries. The only thing vaguely of note about him was the golden chain around his neck that tucked down through the buttons of his shirt.
The man made no response but muttered something they couldn't hear and together all but his personal guard lurched forwards at them. The Elves swung swords, abandoning their bows as useless against the undead, and heads rolled. Oliver pushed Melenade back against the rock as the undead rushed at them, using numbers to overwhelm them even as their elven friends slashed and hacked but headless bodies and severed arms still crept at them and Oliver kicked and shoved at them, batting aside aimless swipes as he tried to keep them away and let the elves face the more deadly opponents.
A body dropped right in front of him, knocking the sword right out of his hand and he stumbled backwards in shock and ducked a mad swipe at his head from the monster than had come from the rocky ledge behind them. Melenade scrambled to help but Oliver shoved her back against the rock and tried to kick the monster back away from him so he could retrieve his sword but his foot missed and he almost lost his balance.
A strange peal of a horn made him flinch and he heard Melenade gasp as their ears hurt. It was strong and nearby and it was a complicated and painful noise but it hurt his undead opponent far more than him. It dropped its sword and scratched at its ears and that gave Oliver the chance to grab his sword from the floor and take its head off. Which was when he realised that perhaps he shouldn't have. The monsters with heads were almost completely incapacitated but the ones without heads, or specifically ears, could blindly slash at them. His own opponent was half decayed and without its head or sword Oliver shoved and hacked at it, taking off its arms and kicking it over before lopping off one of its legs so it couldn't get back up.
He kicked the thing's head like a ball and turned to defend himself from the next one but their Elven friends had managed to make better use of the time and push them back and he risked a glance to check on his sister just before hoof beats exploded around them. Two shapes darkened the sky close overhead and Oliver looked around as men in black armour appeared all around them and drove the undead away. The two Lamia slammed down onto the ground thirty or so yards away and together with a few of the black-armoured men took apart the half dozen undead protecting the necromancer and as Oliver watched they turned to disarm the man only to stop short when a spear erupted from his chest and a skeletal monster from behind him appeared, after killing its own necromancer.
With the death of the necromancer the other undead lost all sense of direction and with the help of a score of Morchaint soldiers on horseback they destroyed the rest.
Calter leaned back against the rocky outcropping next to his sister under the guard of his elven friends but kept up his guard until the still-moving pieces of undead were piled together and set alight. They went up with a roar and he watched as the writhing mass of body parts finally stilled and began to turn to dust.
In the sudden quiet Melenade flinched away from him and went down to her knees. He followed her down in concern but merely held her loosely as she emptied her rather empty stomach onto the ground. He felt a little nauseous himself after seeing so many dead or dying bodies but he held it together.
When they were finally approached Heni warned him and he stood with his sister as five of the figures came up to them with friendly smiles but it was the two Lamia that instantly drew his attention. They weren't wearing the armour or uniform of Morchaint but Gondorian scout uniform.
The other three were human by the looks of things but they wore a stylised Morchaint uniform with gold insignias. He was drawn away from studying them when the two Lamia gasped and the expressions that passed over their faces were too many to keep up with. Confusion, elation, concern, pain and many more within seconds before they fell to their knees and bowed their heads. "Your highnesses." They greeted in unison.
"Highnesses?" One of the three humans asked and looked them over. "Guy? Ben? You mean this is the Prince and Princess?"
The two Lamia stayed on their knees but looked up but first one and then the other pulled in their wings and Oliver frowned, seeing them really for the first time. He'd seen Lamia around Minas Tirith all throughout his life and he knew these two by face if not by name. The Lamia scouts had always kept their wings hidden but he now had an appreciation of their true love for their wings from his time with Calter. Neither of them could want to hide their wings but it was like they didn't think they should have them out in front of Oliver and Melenade.
Heni glanced at Oliver who nodded to show he was happy to tell them the truth rather than try to hide in anonymity. The two Lamia, Guy and Ben, had been around the Citadel since years before Oliver had been born, he couldn't expect them to believe any lies about their identity.
"You are correct." Oliver nodded. "I am Prince Oliver Telcontar and this is my sister, Princess Melenade Telcontar."
"We didn't expect to run into you." The same human mused. "Looks like we've got good timing. Ben and Guy spotted the undead and realised they were hunting something. You're lucky they were here with us."
Oliver frowned at the still kneeling scouts and glanced at his sister. Oliver turned back and moved forwards towards them. They were his scouts, loyal to the end but betrayed by their own army just because they were Lamia. Oliver knelt in front of them with a sigh and had the attention of the three humans. The Lamia looked up at him in shock. "For what they did to you and the other scouts I should be the one kneeling and begging your forgiveness." Oliver told them before moving to stand slowly. When they didn't follow him up he reached and grabbed one by the arm. The bigger being rose quickly so he wasn't being tugged up and the other quickly followed. "You are Ben and Guy?" He asked.
"I'm Ben, your Highness." The one on the right declared. "This is Guy."
"Calter will be glad to know you are safe." Oliver smiled at them and watched as they both breathed in sharply and swallowed.
"He is safe?" Ben begged.
"He is in Mirkwood, with my King." Heni announced.
"So it's true? You travelled with him, your Highness?" Guy pleaded for more information.
"Have you water for my sister and I? For our Elven friends?" Oliver turned to the three men who seemed to come alive at the request. They bowed at him, granting him rather delayed respect though that didn't concern Oliver, and one passed him a flask of water that he handed straight to his sister. Heni, Vanna and Sia were given water and when Oliver turned back Ben offered him a water bag. He took it and moved to sit himself down against the rock.
"We should not remain long." The human man, their leader, announced. "The fire will attract attention."
Oliver nodded. They'd just rest a little while. He turned to Ben and Guy who seemed to be wanting to remain near him and his sister but unwilling to repeat their question or demand attention. "Our escort was attacked and Melenade and I escaped but took aid from the wrong traveller. Calter and Lucus rescued us when they fell for the slaver's tricks and together we travelled to Rohan and were apprehended at the Southern Waystation." The two nodded so they clearly knew about what had happened in Rohan. "I got help from a Vampire in Edoras to free them and together we travelled north, aiming for the Domia pass to reach Morchaint but Calter started getting weak."
"He had his change?" Guy gasped before hanging his head in apology for interrupting.
Oliver felt like he should reassure the Lamia that he didn't mind the interruption but thought telling him more would be best for now. "He did. During the change we were attacked by a Rohirrim patrol but the Elves saved us just after Calter changed."
Ben looked at Oliver before biting his lip gingerly. He clearly had a question on his mind but wasn't willing to ask. "Ask if you wish." Oliver prompted.
"His wings? What colour are they?" Ben asked.
"Why does it matter?" Oliver frowned. "Is it a status thing?"
"No, Sire!" Ben gasped in denial. "It's just we were supposed to be with him and seeing the wings of a newly awakened Lamia under our care… It would have been something to celebrate and the colour of our wings is something that is really important to us."
"Knowing how much Calter loves his wings I think I can understand that." Oliver smiled and they smiled back at him, finally relaxing a little. "He has red wings but not just red really. It's hard to describe. They are like something burning, like blood if it could burn. They scatter the sunlight as if the light itself was a living thing. I have seen Lamia wings before but never before have I found myself staring at any more than I have stared at Calter's. His wings are a colour richer than anything I have ever seen."
"So, Calter is with the Elves?" Guy asked. "Lucus too?"
"We travelled with Heni up to the Elven City." Oliver nodded. "When war started we had to leave Calter behind when we tried to reach the battle to turn my army back away from Morchaint."
"He must have fed by now." Guy looked concerned. "Who has he fed from?" Guy suddenly looked scared of the implications of that and ashamed to even be talking of feeding.
"He fed first from one of the Rohirrim scouts that attacked us." Oliver sighed and Guy and Ben looked as if they'd been struck but Oliver saw not disgust at Calter's actions but at how Oliver would view such an act. "Calter was not responsible for that man's death. He was newly awake and had never drunk blood before. His body demanded it and I don't think ill of him for it."
"Thank you, Sire." Ben bowed his head. "We should have been with him after he turned, to help him control it. We failed in that."
"Calter does not see it like that." Oliver shook his head. "And neither do I. You have hunted for Calter for weeks, trying to uphold your duty to him. As for feeding, Calter has been feeding from Lucus." They looked up at him at that. "And from myself."
They gasped and looked worried but frowned at Oliver's peace at the words he'd just spoken. "I trust Calter with my life. He's my friend and I could not be happier to be able to feed him. He's fed from me twice since awakening and it's not something I feel badly about. Calter needs blood to survive and I feel that it is an honour to give him what he needs."
Tears broke across Ben's eyes and he bowed his head again. "Thank you, Sire." Guy told him.
"Gondor has treated you badly." Oliver sighed and he stood, they needed to get moving again. "I consider your service to me complete but I am in your debt, as is Gondor. You have the freedom to do as you will."
"We wish to find Calter." Guy told him
"As do I." Oliver nodded before turning to Heni and the human soldiers. "What do we know of this situation?"
"We were sent with Guy and Ben to Rohan when we received word of your arrival and the young Lamia's capture." The human stated. "Our orders were to free Calter depending on the situation but we received word from that Vampire that helped you, Leo, that he'd freed Calter and that you had joined him to travel north. So we followed."
"We received word that the Morchaint First was moving south to Rohan to face the Gondorians, begging my pardon your Highness." The man continued. "We decided that finding you and your sister might just avert war so we came north but we've been slowed along the way by Gondorian and Rohirrim patrols."
"What unit are you with?" Oliver frowned. "I was led to believe that Morchaint Patrols always had Lamia and Vampire members."
"We are the Evetoral Guard." The man declared. "Or at least one unit of it. I am Lieutenant Miles Tucker at your service, your Highness."
"Evetoral?" Oliver frowned.
"Elite human soldiers." Heni declared. "Trained to be the best of Morchaint's human ranks, on par with some of the best Vampire and Lamia fighters, disadvantaged only in their speed."
"But we know enough tricks to bring us up to par." Miles smirked. "We're what people like Annette Daroden send into the fray when they need something done but can't send Vampires and Lamia."
"You have been feeding Guy and Ben?" Oliver asked.
"Unlike the damn Gondorians, apologies your highness, we're not squeamish about lending them some of our blood." Miles laughed. "Not like my body can't make more of the stuff. What's been difficult with these two is getting them to ask for it before they really need to get the stuff but are too embarrassed to ask outright."
"That, Lieutenant, is the fault of my country and my people's unwarranted disgust at the notion." Oliver frowned and looked back at the two. "My time with Calter has proven one thing to me. You are no different to us. You just have different needs. Your hearts are just the same as mine." The two looked relieved to hear that.
"So I take it Rivendell is a no go then. You came from there?" Miles asked.
"We met the Morchaint First's supply train there but we were ambushed by undead just before sunset yesterday." Heni met Miles' gaze. "I expect that nobody survived that stayed."
"Well I can tell you one thing." Miles frowned. "They're short of Necromancer scum."
"Sorry, I don't understand." Oliver shook his head.
"That guy running these ones?" Miles prompted. "Wasn't their Necromancer."
"How do you know?" Oliver frowned.
"He is right." Heni nodded. "Although none of us are experts when you kill the Necromancer their creations die with them. That is well known."
"But these kept going after he was dead until they were burnt." Oliver realised. He felt a little daft actually, he knew the stories but it hadn't even occurred to him. "These followed his orders for some reason but he didn't power them."
"Exactly." Miles nodded. "As for moving I would say that west and south are out of the question."
"Shouldn't we still head for Rohan and try to avert war?" Oliver frowned.
"Your Highness, averting it is probably now out of the question." Miles sighed. "I imagine Morchaint, Gondor and Rohan met in battle late yesterday, around the time the supply train was ambushed in Rivendell and even if they didn't Morchaint will have to assume that Gondor has turned the undead on them to gain an advantage. If we're at war like I think we probably are going south is too dangerous. We must head north and get you safe."
"Or East to Mirkwood." Heni pointed out.
"Oli." Melenade caught his attention. "We should go find Calter and Lucus. It's not right to be without them."
"Adding Calter into the mix might not be a wise decision." Heni frowned. "He is best hidden in Mirkwood where he cannot antagonise the situation."
"Heading to Mirkwood might be too obvious." Miles frowned. "Whoever ambushed you in Rivendell will expect you to run to the nearest safe haven you have already been to. They'll hunt for you along the Eastern Highway."
"Oli…" Melenade stated more than asked and Oliver knew her thoughts on this.
"If there are Necromancers involved then we need more help." Oliver frowned before turning to Heni and then Miles and lastly to Guy and Ben. "I probably have no right to order you to do anything and Guy and Ben, I know I can order you but I don't feel right taking away your trust."
"Speak your mind, Prince Oliver." Heni nodded.
"I must head for Mirkwood and re-join with Calter." Oliver declared. "I know it was sound logic to leave him behind when there was only a possibility of war but now that war is upon us things have changed. I must head along the Eastern Highway and find Calter. I ask that you escort us." He turned to Guy and Ben. "My country… our country betrayed you so I can't ask you to escort us and require you to obey but if you wish to find Calter…"
"You are our Prince." Guy told him. "You will one day be our King."
"We stand with you." Ben nodded. "We are yours."
"You are my personal guard." Oliver declared. "Take no orders from another if they prevent you from protecting my sister and I."
"Or Calter." Melenade spoke up. Oliver nodded to agree.
"I think the young Prince is decided." Miles nodded. "My men will escort you."
"My King's orders are to not allow you to return for Calter." Heni frowned and he was obviously warring with himself.
Oliver looked around but noted that only Heni, Miles, Guy and Ben were anywhere near him. "This can go no further than the four of you." Oliver declared. "Not to your men or any others." They frowned at him. "If Necromancers have returned and if Morchaint, Rohan and Gondor are to go to war against one another then we require help from a being actually capable of making a difference. Especially against Necromancers."
"You can't mean Calter." Ben frowned.
"Not Calter." He shook his head. "But he is with the Royal Guard." Miles gasped in shock making Guy and Ben frown at him in confusion.
"What have those four got to do with him?" Miles frowned. Heni had known who they were but hadn't really understood their interest. He was about to find out.
"What four?" Guy asked.
"Four Lamia called Dalamy, George, Kentar and Peter." Miles explained. "Born a thousand years ago and adopted by Duke Harry Corvil. They were charged with guarding his most treasured possession but nobody knows what that is."
"Right now Harry Corvil's most treasured possession is Calter." Oliver announced after steadying his breath.
"That's…" Mile had gone shockingly pale. "You mean an orphaned Lamia boy raised in Gondor is…"
"Is what?" Guy frowned with a glance at Ben.
"Calter is the direct descendant of Harry Corvil." Oliver announced. "Melenade and I, as descendants of King Aragorn are charged with the duty of protecting Calter and he is charged with the same. He has the means to get a message to Harry Corvil so we must reach him."
"You mean the Duke is still around?" Miles looked like he was about to collapse. Ben and Guy didn't look much better.
"I don't know what he might be aware of apart from Calter but he's been able to reach Calter's mind a dozen times while we travelled together." Calter turned to Ben and Guy. "It was Harry's words that made him demand you leave him behind in Minas Tirith and helped him to overcome the guards in the city's dungeons and escape. We need his aid right now and we need Calter."
"The descendent of Duke Corvil taking a stand in this war might make a major difference." Miles nodded. "I never dreamed that Duke Corvil was still around. I believed he'd gone west with the Elves or something."
"Then it is decided." Heni nodded. "We return to the Highway and at all costs we must reach Mirkwood and get word to Calter and hope that Duke Corvil has a solution."
The next day
Calter and Lucus had learnt to ride horses in Osgiliath. The local army units based in the small city had taken it upon themselves to do something good for the community and took all the children out riding in the plains around the city. The only problem was that they really hadn't had much experience in riding for hours on end. The longest that Calter had ever ridden was on the way from Osgiliath to Minas Tirith before he'd started his training. The scouts never used horses so that was the last time he'd been on a horse unless you counted the ride as a prisoner from the Southern Waystation to Edoras.
In comparison to the horses he'd ridden before the four they had now were completely different. They were more sure of themselves and perfectly happy around Calter. Still Calter and Lucus had almost had enough of being on horseback and were desperate for a rest but knowing the danger that Oliver and Melenade were in they both knew they had to bare it.
They'd ridden hard through the last day and into the night until they'd had to stop for a few hours so that they could rest the horses and Calter and Lucus could get a few hours of sleep as well. They'd left again at daybreak and returned to the Eastern Highway with the four cats ranged around them for safety and to warn them of anything coming in the opposite direction.
It was almost midday when a loud yowl of a cat came from far ahead of them and the two cats nearby, Peter and Dalamy, came closer and put themselves in front of them as Calter and Lucus slowed to a light trot. A few minutes` later George appeared from ahead of them and shared a growl with the others but it was clear that it had been Kentar, even further ahead that had spotted something. It was another three minutes before he appeared at a fast run and flowed back into humanoid form as soon as he'd slid to a stop next to Calter's horse. The horse, even used to Lamia, shied away from the shift in form even though it had gotten used to the cats lately.
Lucus and Calter weren't really bothered by Kentar's naked appearance and the other three cats shifted form as well when they noticed Kentar pulling out his full set of clothing and starting to dress. "Found them." Kentar grinned up at Calter who gasped and glanced at a relieved looking Lucus.
"Oliver and Melenade?" Calter checked.
"They're on foot with three Elves including Heni, a score of human Morchaint soldiers, Evetoral Guard by the look of them and a couple of Lamia." Kentar explained before turning his back on Calter and drawing out his wings. Calter helped him feed his cotton shirt around his wings and then helped him with his armoured vest. Lucus was helping George while Peter and Dalamy had already helped one another. Kentar and George jumped up onto the spare horses before nodding to Peter and Dalamy who unfolded their wings and leapt up into the sky with powerful beats of their wings.
Calter was eager to get moving again and Kentar kept to the front as Lucus and George stayed with Calter but they were moving fast again quickly. He knew exactly when the oncoming group spotted Peter and Dalamy because there was a quick peal of one of the Morchaint horns that had Lucus wincing in distaste. Kentar pulled his own out of a saddle bag and blew a return note which would draw the Evetoral Guards' attention back along the road and it was only a few minutes before they spotted the large group of people on foot waiting on the road. They'd obviously pulled to a stop to allow the oncoming group to get passed them and they'd probably assumed they were a patrol but by the formation they'd taken it was obvious they weren't taking any chances.
As Calter approached he spotted Oliver and Melenade in the middle of the group with two Lamia and three Elves flanking them and then a score of human soldiers wearing black all around them. He focused on Oliver and Melenade's rather poor appearance before he was drawn to the two Lamia. He gasped as he recognised them and they recognised him in turn and flinched forwards.
"Lieutenant!" Oliver called as he grinned at Calter. "They're friends."
"How fortuitous." One of the humans nodded looking over the two Lamia just before Peter and Dalamy glided down and landed on either side of Calter and Lucus.
Calter scrambled off of his horse and in seconds found himself being latched onto by Melenade. She buried her head in his chest and he wrapped his arms around her and then his wings followed, surrounding her in the warmth his wings represented. "Hey, Mel." He muttered and heard Lucus moving up beside him. He opened his wings carefully so they didn't hit his best friend and then folded them behind him so he could see where Oliver was hugging his human friend gently.
"It's good to see you well, Prince Oliver." Lucus told him formally before Oliver and Melenade swapped and Calter found his arms around Oliver once more. Calter found himself growling without warning and his fangs were itching even though he'd fed from Oliver only days ago.
"Calm yourself, Calter." George muttered and rubbed the back of his neck.
"Calter, what's wrong?" Oliver asked as he pulled away from him with a concerned frown. "You don't need to feed do you?"
"You're one of his permanent donors." George informed the four of them quietly. "But you've got the scent of a half dozen different people's blood on you. It pulls at our protective instincts."
Calter nodded and reached up to pull at a piece of clumped hair on Oliver's head where blood and grime had matted it together. "You really need a good bath." Calter told him before letting him go. Calter turned to the two Lamia watching him with emotion clear on their faces. He moved closer to them before grinning and shifting quickly and hugging Guy tightly. He buried his head in Guy's neck and drew in his scent as his wings shifted against his back. Guy's wings unfurled from his back and wrapped around him, unable to resist showing themselves with Calter's wings so obvious.
"You've grown." Guy laughed as he held Calter tightly.
"It's been months." Calter laughed back but he realised as he held Guy that he'd gained a half foot in the last few months since he could tuck his head against his neck and relax. Eventually Guy let him go and Calter turned to Ben and gave him exactly the same embrace.
Ben said nothing until Calter turned back and they both studied his wings. "They are beautiful, Calter." Ben told him softly. "Just like we all knew they would be."
"You knew what they'd look like?" Calter asked in confusion.
Ben and Guy smiled but shook their heads. "But they suit you." Guy told him.
Calter looked around and noticed the humans all around. He greeted Heni and the other Elves with a smile while the humans obviously set about making a fire and setting up somewhere to take a break.
"We're sorry we left you, Calter." Ben told him.
"I told you to." Calter smiled at them. "And I was right."
"Oliver told us…" Guy paused as he glanced around. Nobody else was within earshot. Lucus, Oliver and Melenade were with Peter and Dalamy getting water together to heat on the fire so that Oliver and Melenade could wash as much as possible. George and Kentar had vanished but a glance up into the air found them wheeling around far above, obviously keeping watch.
"What?" Calter prompted before carefully sitting on a boulder by the side of the road. Guy and Ben pulled in their wings to sit comfortably on either side of him.
"That you've been hearing Duke Corvil's voice in your head." Guy whispered. "Are you really his descendent?"
"That's what the voice tells me." Calter nodded. "And Melenade thinks it's the truth."
"So Melenade does have a gift?" Ben asked before continuing when Calter looked at him with a frown. "We're old enough to have known the King's sister before she and the King's wife were killed in that landslide. She had a gift too. All of the females in their family have some sort of gift."
"Melenade dreams about the truth." Calter looked down at his lap for a moment. "She sees the truth about a situation by dreaming about it."
"Interesting." Guy mused before turning his attention to Peter and Dalamy. "Are they really the Royal Guard?"
"That's Peter and Dalamy." Calter nodded. "And George and Kentar are up there."
"How did they find you?" Ben asked with a frown, clearly not trusting them.
"Harry says that because they share a mental link and he knew them so well, raised them, that he can communicate with them from wherever he's sleeping." Calter explained. "So he told them where to find me. I suppose they're like my Uncles."
"Do you realise how old they are?" Ben asked.
"About a thousand." Calter nodded. "They were born during the isolation."
"Calter." Guy sighed. "I'm only eighty, Ben's seventy-two. Those four are so old and powerful Ben and I wouldn't stand a chance against them. We can't…"
"You can't what?" Calter frowned before his eyes widened and he leaned sideways into Ben. "You can't protect me from them. But you don't need to worry about that. I trust them. They want to protect me. They say I'm like family to them."
The two sat in silence for a while more before Guy sighed loudly. "You've been through a lot, kid." Guy chuckled. "And you've grown up since we first saw you that evening in the barracks."
"I haven't really had much of a choice." Calter laughed.
"Have you been alright feeding?" Ben asked.
"Oliver and Lucus have been donating for me. Alternating every week." Calter nodded. "Well until Oliver left but I fed from him less than a week ago. I'll feed from Lucus in a few days."
"And the reactions?" Ben asked quieter than before.
"Still working on that." Calter blushed a little. "Peter, Dalamy, George and Kentar have been letting me feed from them once in a while to try to work on it but until I have it under control I don't want to feed from Melenade and embarrass her."
"We know the feeling." Ben butted up against his shoulder. "It does get easier to control."
"How would I have learnt it in Gondor?" Calter asked curiously.
"We would have got you to feed a few days before your change since it helps you through it." Guy explained. "And then you would have fed from us until you could control the reaction."
"And what about human blood?" Calter frowned.
"From a canteen until you could control the reaction." Guy sighed. "That was the law."
"But Peter told me that's not good for somebody who's just gone through the change." Calter frowned.
"We all got quite weak for the first few months after our changes." Guy nodded. "But there weren't any other options for us."
"I'm lucky I have Oliver and Lucus." Calter nodded in realisation.
"I never thought the Prince would have offered to donate for a Lamia." Guy whispered looking across the camp to the fire where Lucus and Oliver were shoving each other playfully. "I've never seen him act this way before."
"Nobody ever really let him get to know one of us." Calter told them. "Oliver said they planned to make me his personal bodyguard so maybe he would have learned the truth regardless. But I trust him and he's a good Prince. When he reclaims his throne he'll change things."
"A little too late." Ben sighed. Calter nodded miserably.
"Are Duke Corvil and these four going to let us stick around?" Guy asked him after a few long moments.
"Harry says he owes you a debt." Calter nodded. "You've been trying to protect me all this time and he knows it."
"We have a duty to you and we care about you." Ben told him. "And we have a duty to the Prince and Princess too that we refuse to just put aside regardless of what has happened. He's made us his personal guard and we'll honour that and since you're probably planning to not leave his side again we can protect you and Lucus too."
"He's got somebody else's blood all over him." Calter growled. "I'm not letting him out of my sight ever again!"
Ben and Guy laughed and Calter stretched and stood up so he could go make sure that Oliver and Melenade got rid of all the grime and blood on them. He wanted to be able to smell their scents like they should be.