AOH – Chapter 62

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CHAPTER 62: TERRIBLE NEWS

ARIAL

1015 SEEDMONTH

WAR TENT

The winds and the breeze of spring enter the tent and I take a breath as the healer is looking at the blackened veins around my heart. I hope it is no that.

His face is grim.

‘What ills me?’ I asked looking hard at the healer, hoping that my guesses are wrong, and he would tell me this is a minor injury that I will be fine and healthy.

‘My lord…..’he hesitated and his face was full with conflicting emotions.

I can understand his position. If it’s good news he will not hesitated but if it’s bad news maybe I would blame him and execute him.

It’s not the first time it ever happens and I don’t think it would be the last time. He fears retribution while I fear what he would say.

Then he takes a breath and musters his courage to spoke with me.

‘I do not know how to say this to you, my lord, but after examining your wounds and …I.. ‘

‘Say it’

‘You…. you have been poisoned by the Seven Black Worms.’ And the healer cast his head down. I could see his hand trembling in fear.

 I grinned. I even almost laughed. Heaven! Heaven! So that’s how it is.

‘What is my time?’

‘My lord!’ he said shocked and quickly he raised his head upwards looking at me in disbelief at how calm I am.

‘You knew.’ He said looking at my calm expression. I nodded

‘I knew….By Light, I knew. I just pretended not to. I try to deny it, refuse it. But alas, fate it seems never to go the way you want.’ I smiled a little and this only increase the healer worries.

‘You have check my pulse, examine my wounds so, tell me what is your estimation and how much has the poison penetrated my body?’

‘The poisons have penetrated around your heart, my lord.’ And as he said that I looked at my chest again.

‘The symptoms?’ I asked

‘Sometimes your heart will go out, and sometimes you will feel as if you’re about to faint, irregular heartbeats, your lungs may also feel pressure, the heart muscle will enlarge itself sometimes preventing you from breathing, and the occasional loss of energy. But it seems your internal energy has lessened the effect of the poison. Almost like holding back the pain momentarily’

‘All good variety isn’t it?’ I joked.

‘My lord…this is serious.’

‘It is, isn’t it?’

He nodded.

‘And your estimation?’

‘In most of those who contracted such poison, weak in internal energy, they would die in a week, if not two but I have never in my whole life, encountered someone with such reserve of internal energy as you. In my estimation, two years my lord before the poison takes over you completely. I presume that the one who wanted to poison you didn’t even expect this to happen. I heard of such cases but never thought I could see one. Someone strong enough to held back the pain with pure energy and you do it unconsciously. This means you have quite possibly a very high level of internal energy.’ He said looking at me amazed and bewildered.

‘Then I will meet the Light, wont I?’

‘I do not k-‘

‘Though we tremble before uncertain futures

May we meet illness, death, the darkness and adversity with our unconquerable strength

May we dance and sing in the face of our fears.

I spoke of the poem by Gloria.

‘Say for what it is, healer. I am a dying man, burdened with great responsibility, young and at my prime but I shall taste the Death kiss.’

‘It is unfair, yes, my lord’ he said trying to console me perhaps, giving some kind words.

I laughed at him.

‘When have life ever been fair, healer. Life gives. Life takes. There is no fairness. Only illusions of fairness. Which is why people fought for fairness healer, but to expect it from the world for life, is unreasonable. Life does what it does and so does the world. It will keep living caring not about its inhabitants.’

He stands in silence. I looked at my chest. A black vein can be seen like a vine strangling my heart.

Black Worms disrupts the internal energy, and the more you have, the more you suffer. Is it my punishment, I wonder?

Punishment for breaking laws of time? For saving people who should have died? For changing so many things out of the intended course of history?

Then I smiled again.

If even I knew that this would happen I would do it all over again and gladly and with pride. I have saved Lisa and Kyle.

Both of them are…magnificent, honorable human beings. I am proud to accept this punishments if it’s for the price of the lives I saved.

But if it’s just bad luck, then I’ll accept it too.

Because who can shouts to the world that they were given a second chance of life, seeing the people they love, just once more.

I have lived two lives when people just live once.

I did not live a full life in my previous timeline. I was plagued by fear, paralyzed by my own doubts, hindered by my cowardice.

And I have lived there for thirty and eleven miserable years.

Regretting.

It seems in this timeline, I would only live to reach ten and seven. Yet I experienced more in this years than I have ever experienced in my other life.

I regret most things, but not everything. Not the important things.

‘A cure?’ I asked knowing the answer.

‘My lord….’ He said and he looked at me nervously ‘you seem to be knowledgeable about what afflicts you and you have diagnosed your own illness so you kno-‘

‘There is no cure.’ I said with a resignation.

 I looked at the healer and I smile again and I said to him

‘Who would have thought that the poison that claimed me would be the same poison that weakens Levitia? What am I? Am I related to him or something?’ I said joking.

The healer stands in silence. And he looked me with sympathy in his eyes.

‘Ah, healer, we are all going to die. I, it seems will be leaving my friend a little earlier that I planned. I need to find some humour in my death, because my noble lords will surely not think so, healer. The moment they knew, as young as I am, they will doubt not only my leadership but my commands and that….that can never happen. Not if I meant to rule over them and secure my family safety. My family have many friends but also many enemies. Do you understand?’ I said to the healer

He nodded. Then I decided. My voice turned hard. The healer knows what will come next

‘You may ask 5 thousand gold and you can live whenever you want but not in Alan. Go somewhere else where no one can find you. If you have family brought them too. Use the money. Squander it. Invest it. It is yours to do away. But if you return without my expressed permission, I will descend you with my wrath and you will die a meaningless death, a painful death. Now, you will spoke of this to no one, not your wife, children or any relatives or I will hunt them down. Are my warning clear!’ the healer nodded in understanding

‘Yes, my lord.’

‘Now go.’

He looked at me and said

‘Don’t strain yourself my lord’

Thinking of the war and my diminishing time I replied

‘That will be hard to do, kind healer’

He went out of the tent while instead of grieving I smile. I am not worried about myself but I do worry about the people I will left behind.

My father.

The man who without any doubt supported me, my pillar, that gives me assurance. The one who always believe in me and the good in the people hearts.

My mother.

A sophisticated woman who cares about the family, a smart woman, the woman I love first, that bear the pain of bringing me to the world, wise, and she nags at me but I knew she do it because she loves me.

The duty of love she said.

Looking after me, loving me, giving me affection, that, is a duty of love.

Not many people have that kind of strength to love unreservedly for others and I have never been more proud to be my mother son.

My younger sister, my cute sister with her tiny hands and tiny feet, which I rarely meet, and which I wish I spend more time with her as his brother.

A duty of love my mother would say. To meet her and give her a brothers love.

It is not easy to love and at the same time not pamper them. Because by Light, I want to give her everything in the world.

After this war ends I will spend more time with my family. All of them.

My father who is growing old every day, and my busy mother who have to handle the matter of the household finance, and my sister.

And my Helia?

What should I do about her?

I could not marry her. Not the way I am .I will not make her a widow. I did not love her to make her a widow!

And suddenly I remembered a portion of a happy memories.

I remember the sandy beaches near her castles and the season that passed by there, the cheerful voice of true love that whispers me song, Helia lustrous voice, that sounds like an angel singing, the dazzling sun I spend with Helia with the sun beating on our skin, holding her smooth hand under the blue sky as we talk and talk for hours, talking about nothing.

It was when we are not yet spoken to each other, when we are in the Academy, when we have to stop around Seaworth, but Helia did not return to the castle, because at that time she did not yet reconcile with her father, but we did play around the castle.

The way she ask me What are you thinking? at the end of the day.

The summer that feels like the sun will never set, as I rest myself on her lap and she kissed my forehead.

I grin. The signs were all there that she loved me.

I couldn’t believe I was that dense. I thought it was a kiss of friendship but…..maybe I should have known by then.

Waves of memories washed over me and before I knew it, I found myself crying without a voice. A silent cry not for fear of death, but the fear of leaving these people that I have known and love.

I will remember it till my dying days as I decided what I must do.

As I stand in my tent all alone, grabbing the goblet and pour some water to quench my sudden thirst, while outside cheerful atmosphere can be felt, rejoicing in my revival but me?

What I felt was utter loneliness, more than I felt when I died in the basement of the Library. And the pain strikes but not the pain of the poison.

Loneliness.

Utter, desolate loneliness. The kind of loneliness that breaks people, that brings them into the brink of insanity.

Because this loneliness that I felt can only be achieved because of the bonds I make. I could not share my affliction else they are made public.

And I couldn’t risk that. My family safety. I have to fight this alone.

The knowledge of the Invasion and the knowledge that I’m about to die in 2 years. And this makes my loneliness unbearable.

Can such burden be carried alone? And knowing that only makes it harder. The two most important secret of my life……and I couldn’t share it with anyone.

The loneliness that suffocates, secrets that demand sacrifice.

I could not describe why I felt such loneliness? This is not solitude. This is loneliness of the most awful kind.

The most awful of them. Is it because what I decided to do?

For a moment thoughts of war did not enter my mind. For one moment, I strayed. For one moment, my misery takes priority.

For a moment, I’m aware of my own existence, the form of a monstrous selfishness. I said it to myself.

This pain and loneliness is mine. This nerve that winces and writhed under my skins belongs to me and no other.

Beginning and ends. And the darkness that blankets over me. And the only thing I could do is press on and march, all the while wiping my tears and overcome my fears.

It is already a miracle that I am here, living another life, being what I am today.

Then I step with all the burdens, the pain and the torment, opening the curtain as I walked outside hoping, praying that at least, if I was destined to have a short life, let it be a glorious one.

******************************************************************************

The stage is still there waiting for me.

But I’m not intending to use the stage today.

Lord Summersill hurrily approached me.

‘My lord, all is ready to hear you’ he gestured me to the podium.

‘Bring me my horse!’ I yelled to the stable master.

He was shocked because he did not expect to be called.

‘My lord,’ Lord Paris come and advises me.

‘You have just woken up. There is no need to strain yourself. Do the speech at the podium’

But the horse has been brought in front of me. They don’t understand. I need to show the troops I’m capable.

That I am alright. That my injury is nothing of concern. That their lord is invincible. Reputation means something.

I jumped to the horse.

‘Sssh, FireBringer’ I stroke my faithful horse.

The horse that shared many of my adventure.

The troops realize I was riding the horse and their face turns to joy and elation. They cheered as I ride around the gathering, displaying to them no discomfort.

‘Our lord, is alright’ they cheered.

‘Our lord is fine’ they cheered.

Then after a full round I stopped and jump. The cheering doesn’t stop, so I held my hand up and slowly they stooped.

‘MY TROOPS!’

They listen again. They have known from their stern face that tomorrow they will battle again. And this time it will truly be a decisive battle.

I will put my guard tomorrow. And I doubt Alderam will delay any more time.

‘I WOKE UP!’ I yelled to them and they cheered

‘HAHAHA’ I laughed

Then once again I make a calming gesture to the crowd.

‘As I woke, my Knights and my lords, my troops even the messenger wish me to rest, and get well. And I am choked.’ I said.

‘Why!’ one of the soldiers yelled from the crowd. I looked at the crowds and convey my gratitude.

‘No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such words of kindness. It fills me with an emotion I could not express.’

Now for me to ease their hearts.

‘You have known I suppose that tomorrow we will once again take to battle?’

They all nodded. I bowed my head slightly to the troops.

‘MY LORD!’ Some of the noble’s screamed to me of shock

‘My lord!’ Even the troops gasped and looked in disbelief. Surely it is hard for them to see a great noble bowing heads to them.

It is the least of humility I can show them, for the friends thy lost in the battle, of their personal suffering that they endure and for everything else.

I then looked straight back at them again.

‘You have served me with unyielding loyalty, and the people that I love and respect, every one of my troops a personality of honor, everyone serving a great moral code, even those who are not a Knight, I offered my bow to you for all the hardship’

And I could see some of them have tears on their eyes when they realize the meaning of my words. They must have…….suffered

‘You who symbolize conduct of chivalry, who guard me when I was unconscious and those who have kept their faith in me. It arouses in me with a great sense of pride and yet of humility which will be with me always. I have been thinking about this when I was awake. What would be a rallying cry for our new nation? What will be our creed? Our words? We are at stalemate. Morale is low. And even though we are not in such a bad condition that we need to retreat….truthfully we are in a crisis. I…promise you a few days ago that I will bring you victory. I fail. When I should prevail’

‘It is not your fault my lord!’ a voice from the crowd yell to me trying to console me.

I held up my hand.

‘Maybe. But I have blame in part. But should I retreat now? Now we are at the precipice? Victory….victory is so close. Change is so close, so near that I can feel it in my hands. So I woke up from my slumber, determined. I will not wallow in my miseries. DUTY,HONOR,CROWN!’ I yelled and they were stunned

‘Those three words. Those three hallowed words will reverently dictate what you ought to be my fellow countrymen, what you can aspire, what you will be. They are your code, your chant, your prayers to create courage when courage seems to fail you, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to give hope when hope become nonexistent, to give light when darkness is all you can see.’

Then I take a breath as I let that thought sink down.

They will listen now. I can see colours returning to their face, the fire in their eyes kindled again.

A spark.

Now I need to turn it into a flame.

‘Unfortunately’ I yelled ‘I possess neither that eloquence of diction, poetry of the illustrious imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor, words that can convey the sacred meaning of these words.’

Another pause. Waiting to see if they are listening. The spark is beginning to show some fire, a flame is in the making.

‘The unbelievers will say that they are but words, and we all know words are winds, they will say it is a flamboyant phrase concocted to march you to battle for my own nefarious reason, they will undoubtedly say. Every unbelievers, pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, will try to tell you my word, is pure wind, smear it with mockery and their cynical ridicule. What will you think I should do to them?’ I ask the troops

‘Punish them.’

‘Kill them’ they shouted.

‘NO. I WILL THANK THEM!’

They looked each other in confusion. I continue

‘Why? You may ask. Because they build you. Your character. Your personality. They build you as you prepare to be the guardian, the vanguard of the country defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak and brave enough to know to face your fears when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending, unyielding in honest failure but they also teach you to be humble and gentle in your success, not to replace words for actions, not to seek the easier path, but to face the horrors, the darkness and the challenge and difficulty. They teach you to stand up in the most unrelenting storms but to also have compassion on those who fall in the storms, to conquer your own self before you conquer others, to have a pure heart, an ambition that reach to the stars, to learn to laugh unrestrained, yet never forget to weep and cry, to reach into the new future but not neglecting the past. Should we not thank them? Should we not be grateful even for our enemies? They will remind you, teach you, to be of modest stature so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. They give you a temper of the will, a great quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, freshness of the deep springs of life and a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity. Should we thank them?’ I ask again

And this time they answered with a resounding yes.

I smile.

‘YES! WHY NOT WE THANK THE UNBELIEVERS FOR MOLDING OUR SUFFERING AND DETERMINATION? They teach you to be a soldier worthy of this country culture an wealth and all of its greatness. You all regarded me as your lord, of noble stature and kind and forgiving to his allies. But not once any of you dared asked me my estimate of the men that fight for me, that die for me, sacrifice their lives for me? My opinion of all of you was formed when we went to the battlefield together.’

And I began walking among the crowd and they all parted to give way as I walk but their eyes never leave me as their ear perked up to listen to what I have to say.

‘I regard all of you’ and I point my finger to the troops, ‘as one of the noblest figures, one of the finest characters, and one of the most stainless. Your name, and fame will be remembered by the next generation. They will say, in his prime youth and strength, he gave his country his love and loyalty, he gave all…..that mortality can give. That is what they will say for all of you that stand beside me tomorrow with bravery in their hearts. ‘

And the cheers turn to a deafening roar.

Now, the ember is already there. Now, a fire.

‘In life, you may find some need in people giving you compliments but in death, he will need none of that. None from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy scars. I am filled with admiration that I cannot put it into words. I am oblivious to the dignity of your birth, nobles or common, but if you die in the battlefield tomorrow I will know the glory of your death.’

And they cheered yet, this time with tears in their eyes and laughter in their hearts. A great fire has started.

‘AND KNOW THIS MY TROOPS! TOMORROW I WILL BE WITH YOU. FOLLOW ME IF I ADVANCE. KILL ME IF I RETREAT. AVENGE ME IF I DIE!’

And with that the camp cheer so loud that I could swear even the people in Dented Shield can hear it.

I will kill you Alderam. For poisoning me. And everything you have done. I will take your head. You have anger the dragon.

And you shall learn what happen when you wake the sleeping dragon from his slumber!

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