Chapter 22

“It is time,” Isoldé took a long, sweeping stride into the cell. Morteus looked up, his expression dark. He’d locked himself in.

“We have to go now,” Her expression was frozen in a smile in a feeble attempt to conceal her desolation.

“Already?” Morteus feigned ignorance. His head was whirling as he planned out what he would do. Should I kill Isoldé? He balked, revolted at the very thought. She won’t harm me, though, until I’ve killed King Periphral. I’ll win her over.

Morteus nodded to himself and looked at Isoldé. “Are we heading towards the castle? How far is it?”

The corner of Isoldé’s mouth twitched. “Not very.”

“Where are we heading now?”

“The rest of the troops are in the tunnel. We’ll join them and head up into the castle,” Isoldé’s gaze faltered, unable to look Morteus in the eye. “Come with me.”

Morteus followed her as they meandered through the dark maze, coming upon the main tunnel in which he had overheard Isoldé and Von Mont conspiring against him. They turned left, and Morteus was shocked at the sight that met him.

“So many?” Morteus inhaled sharply.

They were in what appeared to be a vastly large pit, with an opening above to the light of the outside world. Morteus shielded his eyes from the piercing bright light. He had grown so accustomed to the darkness of the underground chambers that he was unused to the sunlight.

“We were underground all this time?” Morteus asked.

Isoldé inclined her head. “You figured that out.”

Morteus looked around, and felt an unusual combination of elation and dread. There were thousands of soldiers, perhaps even enough to match those of the king’s army. But… so many opposed King Periphral. He felt his stomach twist into a knot. Was it right for him to be fighting against the king whom had taken care of him, despite of what he did to his father?

This is what you were fated to do since your father died in the hands of Periphral. Morteus pushed away the tension which gnawing away at his nerves.

He scanned the thousands of troops, but couldn’t make out Count Von Mont. Was he disguised as one of these soldiers? Shouldn’t he be leading them?

“Where’s the count?” Morteus squinted.

“He’s not coming,” Isoldé’s voice betrayed her anxiety.

“He’s not coming?” Morteus repeated her words, incredulous.

“He’s not coming,” Isoldé said again.

“But… but why?” Morteus waited for her response, but none came. Isoldé strode up to the front of the sunlit pit and spoke, her voice enhanced by the walls of the pit.

“To all our brave soldiers that have dedicated their lives for the better,” She started, her voice trembling with emotion.

“Our day has come!” The previously silent troops raised their voices in unison, roaring in assent.

The voices died down at once when Isoldé raised her hand. “We will attack the castle at once, but not in haste. We have planned this for a decade, and our hard work will not be squandered away on any careless blunder. I will lead you all to victory, to the overthrowing of an empire, to a rebuilding of a better one! To Count Von Mont, our leader, our helper, our saviour!”

Morteus couldn’t help but hide a smile as everyone started cheering, the cacophony of voices echoing off the walls. They worship him like a god. He shook his head at their ignorance. He’s just a timorous boy pulling the strings, with Isoldé as a puppet. He won’t even join the fight!

Just as Morteus thought that, Count Von Mont walked in from the back of the hall. Silence fell as the soldiers gazed in apparent awe at their leader.

“My friends! I am happy to say that our dream has been realized after all these years!” He raised his hand, wordlessly motioning for them not to speak. “I am devastated to tell you that unfortunately I won’t be able to join you today. But I wish you all good fortune, and I will be eagerly awaiting your return!” With that, Von Mont retreated, leaving Isoldé to talk again.

“Right. In approximately twenty minutes, we will attack the castle. Your respective commanders will lead you into different parts of the castle. They will all report to me. I will be leading Command 1 in to the main building,” Isoldé looked pointedly at the menacing muscular men upfront.

“For the good of all mankind, we’ll overthrow King Periphral!” Isoldé shouted.

“Von Mont! Von Mont!” The soldiers threw themselves into the cheer with such enthusiasm.

“Now let us go!” Isoldé punched he fist into the air, tears shining in her eyes at the dedication they showed.

The troops fell silent and solemn as they were led out. Isoldé turned back to Morteus and pulled him along. “Let’s go.”

Count Von Mont, forgotten in the midst of it all, smiled as he watched Morteus and Isoldé take off.

His revenge would be taken. Not only would King Periphral be overthrown, Morteus would be killed. Alistair would watch hopelessly from above. And one more thing…

The daughter of his greatest enemy would perish in the attempt.

 
 

            King Periphral stood tall in the middle of the room, plated in polished mail, ready for battle. The entire army had been called up to protect the castle from intruders.

Queen Isabelle patted his shoulder. “What if it’s an empty threat?”

King Periphral’s hope rose when she mentioned that. “That would be the best scenario. But that would mean the entire army was mobilized for no reason at all. And we still have the threat on our hands.”

The queen nodded. “We’ll see.”

“Let’s hope for the best,” King Periphral fitted his coif on his head and then put on his solid gold helm. “Take care of yourself, dear,” He had evacuated all the women and children in the castle to the shelter. “Take this, and don’t go running off trying to aid in the battle,” He passed her a wrapped package.

“Periphr-” Isabelle fell silent when he put a finger to her lips.

“I already lost two children, including Morteus. Morteus is like a son to me. I don’t need to lose you,” Tears shone in his eyes. “And you know what’s in that brown package. Don’t lose it.”

“But-” Queen Periphral protested, but knew it was useless. King Periphral shot her a knowing look. “We’ve been through this a thousand times, Isabelle. We chanced our way through many battles, and so far none of them have gone too badly. I’ll be reunited with you in no time.”

Queen Isabelle looked at the floor, trying to hide her tears. “Alright. Don’t get hurt.”

“As always,” King Periphral smiled ruefully. He pointed at the guard waiting outside the door. “Escort the queen to the shelter, and make sure she gets there.”

“Yes, your highness,” The guard bowed his head in respect.

“Wait!” Queen Isabelle delicately picked up the hems of her skirt and hastened towards the large ornate dressing table, picking up a few sparkling pendants. King Periphral looked mildly amused. “I hardly think you’ll need that, dear.”

“Just for keepsake,” She smiled wanly, her eyes betraying nothing. Then she offered her hand to the guard and he led her away.  She glanced back again and again, unwillingness plain on her face.

King Periphral looked up at the bell tower as the bell tolled twelve times. He felt a strange sense of déjà vu.

It was time.

 

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