The land of Alatrade is protected by a elite band of warriors named the Masares....
The hooded man waited uneasily in the dark garden, he jumped when he heard the scuffing of a foot, then relaxed, realizing it was just his accomplice.
“Rather jumpy, aren’t we Leinard?” They asked, sliding next to him.
He tried to look at the person’s face, but it was covered by a hood.
“Well why shouldn’t I be?” He demanded, “you send me a missive, saying you can bring about the downfall of the Masares. Then after asking for the help of my renegades, you demand I meet you here, in the heart of Malina. How do I not know this isn’t a trap, one to send me to a hangman’s noose for treason?”
The figure laughed quietly, then pulled back the hood.
Leinard gasped when he saw the face of Salina, the leader of the women’s guild and the wife of Kronis, lead warrior of the Masares.
“I have my reasons of betraying the Masares,” she said quietly, “none which concern you. All you must know is that they are raiding a warehouse in Patrile tomorrow. I want you and your renegades to be there, but I will come as well. I want to make sure my husband dies.”
“I want to know why,” Leinard said with a crafty look in his eyes.
Salina leaned toward him, “because of power, “she hissed. “I want more then they will allow me to have. After the Masares are gone, I will seize the power of Alatrade out of the governor’s hand.”
“How will you know I will not betray you?” Leinard asked slyly.
“Because you know as well as I that if you show your face to any member of the Masares that you’re a dead man.” She answered calmly, “side with me and I will heed your rise to power. You will answer to no one ever again.”
“Except for you,” he said sullenly.
She smiled at him, “of course. You don’t think I would allow a weasel like you to be the most powerful?”
She stood quickly, pulling the hood back over her head, “remember wipe out the Masares and you will get your reward.”
Salina turned quickly and walked out of the garden, leaving Leinard frowning thoughtfully. Finally he rose and left the dark quiet garden too. He had plans to make and not much time to do it in.
Salina quickly walked into the townhouse she shared with her husband and he looked up from the plans he was perusing to smile softly at her.
“I was wondering where you had gone off to my love,” he said, rising away from the table and walking toward her.
“I had business to complete, but I am here now.” She said smiling.
He hugged her gently, stroking her honey-colored hair. “I was about ready to leave, my warriors and I have planning to do, before the raid tomorrow.”
“I will pray for you my husband,” she said smoothing a lock of his black hair away from his face, before breaking away from him. “Promise me you will stay safe.”
He smiled at her, then gathered her back into his arms. “As long as I know you think of me, I stay safe from harm.” He softly whispered in her ear.
Finally he stepped away from her, “I must go now, the others are already gathered in the council hall.”
She kissed him softly, “fare thee well my lord,” she called as he walked out the door.
Quickly she crossed the room and stood at the window that faced the main courtyard.
“Enjoy your night my husband,” she said quietly, as she watched him mount his horse and ride away. “For soon you and your warriors will see the fields of paradise.”
Laughing wickedly, she turned and left the room, intent on completing her own plans for the next day.
“I don’t like it Kronis,” his second in command said, “it seems to quiet, to be a renegade lair.”
“I received an official notice from the governor, Daun.” Kronis said, “this is where the renegades have been making weapons.”
He signaled to two of his warriors to break down the door, then they all swarmed in, but as soon as they did, renegades began to swarm upon them.
“It’s a trap,” Daun yelled, pulling out his sword.
Soon the Masares were heavy in a battle with the renegades. Kronis had just hacked the head off one renegade, when he saw another, this one hooded in a black cape, run away from the fighting. Quickly he ran after the figure, not noticing that they were leading him farther and farther away from the fight. Finally the figure turned a corner, Kronis stopped and cautiously leapt out into the hall. The figure dashed at him with a sword, which he took easily throwing it to the ground. He grabbed a hold of the figure’s wrists roughly with one hand.
“Let’s see who you are, traitorous renegade,” he said, pulling off the hood. He gasped and stepped back when he realized it was his wife.
“Salina, why?” He asked brokenly and she began to sob.
“I’m so sorry my love,” she sobbed, “I was blackmailed into leading you from the battle. I could never hurt you.”
Still sobbing, she threw herself into Kronis’ arms.
“It’s ok,” he said soothingly, “I promise no one will find out about this.”
Slowly Salina put a hand behind her back, and pulled a long dagger out of her belt. She sobbed loudly, distracting her husband. Then moving swiftly, she pushed away from her husband and brought the dagger down, cutting deep into his chest. He fell heavily to the ground, staring up at her in disbelief.
“Why?” He gasped, clutching desperately at his chest, trying to stop the steady flow of blood.
She stared down at him in contempt, “why you ask,” she said softly. “I want power and the Masares were in my way. Now nothing will stop me from ruling Alatrade.”
She began to kneel beside him, so she could slit his throat, when a voice calling Kronis’ name drifted down the hall. Quickly she turned and ran, knowing that she was no match for another warrior.
Daun and two other warriors burst around the corner, stopping abruptly when they saw Kronis lying on the floor in his own blood. Quickly Daun knelt beside him, taking off his own cloak and tearing it, so he could bandage Kronis’ wound.
“Get a healer,” he said frantically to one of the warriors, who ran off to do his bidding.
He turned back to Kronis, saying softly “it’ll be ok, I promise.”
Kronis tried to warn Daun about Salina’s plans, but suddenly a black void swooped down on him and he fell into darkness.
A year passed and Kronis recovered from his wound slowly. After she had wounded her husband, Salina had escaped from the city. He assumed, that she had found sanctuary and had allied herself with the renegades.
As soon as he was able, Kronis had the Aeltirad, which was the ritual for divorce, performed and had Salina declared a renegade. The he retreated into himself, becoming harder and meaner then he had been before. The warriors began to complain at the rough treatment they often got during sword practice and finally Daun confronted Kronis about it.
“What Salina did to you was despicable, but you can’t let it eat away at you.” He said as they sat in a tavern drinking.
Kronis glared at him, “don’t ever mention that bitch’s name to me again.” He growled, bringing his fist down onto the table.
Quickly he rose and began to stalk out of the tavern.
“You can’t run away from your problems,” Daun yelled at Kronis’ retreating back, then shrugged and picked up his tanker, frowning thoughtfully.
Kronis stomped out of the tavern, and ran immediately into a young woman, knocking the baskets out of her hands. He bent over automatically to help her pick them up. Then glanced into the bluest eyes he had ever seen.
“I-,” he began then stopped not sure what to say.
“I’m so clumsy,” the young woman said, pushing a lock of red hair out of her eyes.
“It was my fault,” he said, then straightened, handing the baskets he had rescued from the ground to her.
Just then Daun came out of the tavern, stopping when he saw Kronis.
“Well whose your friend?” He asked Kronis, staring appreciatively at the woman.
She blushed, “I’m Hana,” she said, “my father and I just arrived in Malina.”
Daun smiled and held out his hand, “I’m Daun and this is my friend Kronis.”
“You’re the leader of the Masares,” Hana said, staring up at Kronis in awe.
Suddenly Kronis scowled, “I have to go.” He said abruptly, then walked away from them quickly.
Daun glared at his friend’s retreating back, before turned to Hana.
“You’ll have to forgive my friend. He was raised by wolves.” He drawled, then held out his hands. “Let me help you with those.”
With a grateful look, Hana gave him some of the baskets and they began to walk down the street, Daun learning everything he could about the woman he knew could soften his friend’s heart again.
Kronis slammed into his house, then leaned against the door. He closed his eyes and tried to breathe normally, but the look of awe that Hana had given him had reminded him of the way Salina used to look at him. Turning he slammed his fist against the door, cursing at the pain. He knew women couldn’t be trusted. That’s why he didn’t understand the feelings he had felt when he laid eyes on Hana. He shook his head, promising himself he would stay away from her. No woman was ever going to get their claws into him again.
Despite his vow to stay away from Hana, he found himself drawn to the basket shop she ran with her father. He tried to keep himself busy, pushing himself and his men harder then before. But invariably he would find himself back in front of Hana’s shop, watching the doorway, hoping to catch a glimpse of her.
By chance if they did happen to meet anywhere else in Malina, he would growl and grumble, trying to chase her away. But she would always smile, wishing him a happy morrow, before going on her way. He knew he had feelings for her, but he tried to deny them, not willing to be hurt again.
“You’re being an arse you know,” Daun said, as they sat in the tavern, drinking mead.
Kronis raised his head and looked at him, “I don’t know what you mean,” he mumbled sharply.
Daun gave him a look, “you know exactly what I mean. It’s clear that Hana likes you, although I have no idea why, and even plainer that you feel the same about her. What I would like to know is when you’re going to stop wallowing in self pity and do something about it.”
“I don’t care anything about Hana,” Kronis growled.
Daun hooted with laughter, “then why do you practically swallow your tongue every time you see her?” He asked tauntingly. “But if you don’t care, then I’m sure you won’t mind if I pay court to her.”
Kronis stood up quickly and punched Daun knocking him out of his chair, then flushed when he realized what he had done. Daun lay on the floor, laughing hard, as Kronis turned quickly, and walked out of the tavern.
He strode quickly down the street, then stopped short when he saw Hana coming his way. He glared at her, when she smiled at him, then stomped over to her. Grabbing her by a wrist, he practically dragged her into a sheltered alcove.
Hana gave him a startled look, and rubbed her wrist. “What’s wrong?” She asked bewildered by his behavior.
He stared at her hard for a second. “I don’t have feelings for you,” he finally blurted out.
She looked at him like he had grown another head, “who said I wanted you too?” she snapped.
They stood glaring at each other, then she suddenly started laughing.
“This isn’t funny,” he growled.
“You are a complete arse,” she said finally.
He scowled and started to push past her, but stopped when she put a hand on his arm, turning to look at her.
“Before you decide what you do and don’t feel, remember this,” she said. Then pulling his face down she kissed him hard on the lips.
She pushed him away, then smiled at him sweetly, before walking out of the alcove. Kronis just stared after her in shock, and by the time he had recovered enough to go after her, she had already disappeared down the street.
Kronis was sitting in his house, deep in thought, when he heard shouts from outside. Quickly he got up and ran to the door, and went outside. A young boy had galloped into Malina, blood running down his face from a deep cut.
He dismounted from his horse, and bowed in front of Kronis, then suddenly collapsed.
Kronis moved quickly, grabbing the boy and gently placing him on the ground, kneeling next to him.
“What happened,” he asked, as a crowd began to gather around them.
“My hunting party was attacked,” the boy whispered, “by renegades. They killed everyone but me, giving me this missive to give to you.”
He slowly gave a rolled up lambskin to Kronis, then passed out from exhaustion and pain.
Two of the town’s healers quickly pushed through the crowd, and knelt before the boy, examining him for other wounds.
Kronis stood up, opened up the missive and began to read.
“What does it say?” Daun asked, pushing through the crowd to stand by Kronis’ side.
Kronis frowned, “it’s from the renegade leader Leinard,” he said. “They gather outside our gates and will attack in three days, unless we surrender the city and the governor to them.”
Daun swore angrily, “they know that once they have Malina, the rest of Alatrade will follow easily. What are we going to do?”
“We will fight,” Kronis said, “as long as I have a breath left in my body, I will not allow Malina to fall into renegade hands. Gather up all the warriors. We won’t let Malina go without a fight.”
Daun nodded his head and left quickly, the healers carefully picked up the boy, carrying him to the hospice and the crowd dispersed. Kronis stood there for a moment, staring at the missive in his hand, then with an angry curse, he tore it in half and tossed it onto the ground.
“Kronis,” a soft voice said and he turned around.
Hana stood there, looking like a vision, dressed in a green gown, her red hair pulled back into a braid.
“What’s going on?” She asked, concern and fear in her voice.
He walked toward her and without a word, gathered her up into his arms, breathing in the clean smell of her hair.
They stood there motionless for a moment, then reluctantly Kronis finally pulled away.
“We are going to war with the renegades,” he told her, “they want Malina and we will not allow that to take place without a fight.”
Gently he grasped her shoulders, “if anything is to happen to me, I need you to know one thing. I was a big fool, trying to fight what was meant to be.”
Hana looked up at him, and he lowered his head, kissing her softly on the lips.
“When this is all over, I want to pay court to you,” he said, holding her gently against him.
Finally he pulled away, “I have to have counsel with my warriors,” he said, before kissing her again.
He started to walk away, then looked back, the picture of Hana standing there, watching him. With love shining in her eyes, was one he would carry with him into battle.
The citizens of Malina spent the next three days, getting ready for a siege, as their warriors spent them planning their defense.
The sun had just risen on the day of the battle, when the thunderous cries of the renegades broke through the morning quiet. Kronis and Daun stood on the wall staring down at the hundreds of renegades that practically shook the walls with their shouts.
Kronis looked at Daun, who was smiling, “what are you so happy about?” He growled.
“There’s not as many as I had thought,” Daun said, then descended the stairs to prepare the troops for the coming battle.
Kronis shook his head, before following him down the stairs.
He faced his warriors, “I’m not going to lie to you men,” he said. “We are vastly outnumbered, but remember we have something they don’t, the courage of the Masares. Today we will fight and we will win, because every warrior here, is worth ten of those renegades.”
Daun raised his sword, and let out a Masares battle cry, the rest of the warriors following suit, until the ground shook with their cries.
Kronis donned his helmet and nodded at the two warriors manning the gates. Slowly they were swung back, until the Masares faced the renegades.
“Ready men,” he yelled as the renegades began to bear down upon them, “Charge!”
They met with a clash of swords and armor, as soon as the last Masares was free from the gate, they were swung shut so no renegades could enter. Kronis swung around, as one of the renegades dashed toward him, he brought his sword and decapitated the man quickly. Over and over again he swung his sword, until it was red with the blood of renegades. Suddenly he saw Leinard coming at him on a large white steed, he rolled out of the way, then threw a knife, catching him in the shoulder and knocking him out of the saddle. He strode over to Leinard and stood over him. Leinard stared up at him with hatred, breathing heavily.
“This ends now,” Kronis snarled, and thrust his sword through Leinard’s heart.
“Retreat. Our lord is dead!” One of the renegades yelled frantically.
Kronis and the Masares chased them over the hilltop, intending to finish off the survivors. Suddenly out of the corner of his eye, Kronis saw a Salina run into the forest.
Whistling he signaled to Daun, who nodded his head, then Kronis and three of the warriors, broke off, following the figure.
Salina tried to run faster through the forest, but Kronis and his men soon caught up with her and she halted, turning around and throwing back her hood.
“Hello Kronis,” she said smiling at him and for a moment he felt a familiar twinge. Then he saw Hana and the love that shone in her eyes when she looked at him.
“You were going to let the renegades kill your own people,” he said to her and for a moment her eyes clouded with rage.
“Oh Kronis, let’s not talk about such unpleasantness,” she said, as tears replaced the rage in her green eyes.
He stared at her, and all he felt was contempt.
“We can be together,” she said softly, “ and rule Alatrade. As the leader of the Masares, you can overthrow the governor and become king. I of course would be your queen, and we would reign side by side for a lifetime.”
Slowly she held out her hand, “take my hand Kronis, and ally yourself with me. You would be the most powerful man in Alatrade.”
Kronis reached out, grasping Salina’s hand and she smiled in triumph.
“I want you to know that from this moment on, I will never think of you again.” He said and her smile faltered, “but you will think of me every day for the rest of your life.”
Dragging her toward one of his warriors, Kronis practically threw her into his arms.
“Find the first ship going out of Alatrade and make sure she is on it.” He said, “she is cast out forever.”
Turning, he walked away toward Malina, as Salina screamed his name.
“Don’t do this Kronis, I beg you,” she cried, “I love you, I want us to be together.”
Kronis continued walking, ignoring her cries and soon they faded as the warrior dragged her toward the harbor.
As Kronis neared the gates, Daun caught his eye, without a word Kronis nodded and continued on. The gates swung open as he approached, and the citizens of Malina cheered his victory.
“Well-done Lord Kronis,” Elij, governor of Alatrade said, “you have saved your people and my leadership. All of Alatrade will hear of your brave deeds.”
The citizens began to cheer again as the warriors returned to the city and soon a celebration was set in motion.
Kronis pushed through the crowd, looking for Hana, finally he found her standing at the edge. For a moment they stopped and stared, then almost in one movement, they came together and kissed each other hard.
Finally he broke away, “I love you,” he said quietly and for a moment she stared at him.
“I love you too,” she said, and he kissed her again, then held her tightly.
“Marry me,” he said suddenly.
“Yes,” she said, “when?”
“Tomorrow, today, right now, whenever you want,” he answered.
Then grabbed her by the hand leading her through the crowd.
“Governor Elij,” he shouted over the noise, “will you marry us?”
The governor nodded, then raised his hands, causing the celebration to quiet immediately.
Then he proceeded to marry them, in front of God and all the citizens of Alatrade, creating even more joy and gaiety.
In the harbor, Salina stared at Malina, through a tiny porthole, seething in anger. “I will make you pay Kronis,” she whispered in malice, “you haven’t seen the last of me.”
Inside the city, Daun turned, almost as if he had heard her words. A quiver went down his spine, and he knew that it wasn’t over yet. Slowly he turned and looked toward the happy newly wedded couple.
“I will protect you both, no matter what I have to do,” he whispered, “she will never hurt you again.”