Roland gazed out from the battlements as his second in command gave his report. The town of Antonius had been emptied of civilians and most everything that could prove useful to the oncoming army. The list went on for some time though Roland only feigned interest as he tried to imagine how the battle would play out. He’d always hated the eve of a fight. No swords yet drawn nor arrows fired, in a way the feeling of helplessness, knowing he could not avoid the conflict to come, nor the lives that would undoubtedly be spent, was worse than the battle itself.
It was times like these he loathed his command. He’d spent all his life trying to avoid conflict where possible, nothing he felt was as much a proof of failure. The last five years of his career were spent avoiding conflict with his Sevaris neighbors to the south. A lamentable task if ever there was one. Not that he cherished his neighbors to the south overly much, but given the events that led up to this day, he didn’t see his efforts as anything other than an exercise in futility.
Roland slammed his fist on the parapet in anger.
“Sir? I’m sorry should I have turned the melon merchants away?” Roland turned to his second realizing suddenly that he was still giving his report.
“Melon merchants? No you did the right thing allowing them shelter. I had my mind on other matters. Please, spare me the details of the rest of it; I trust you have things well in hand.” Roland glanced back once more out to the horizon beyond which the Sevaris army drew ever closer before turning away.
“Come, the day grows short and we’ve much to do.”
Roland marched from the parapet with his command in tow. His men cast about issuing orders in his wake. He could feel the tension in the air and the men around him. He knew it was not fear but rather that nervous professionalism of confident men still concerned about the duty that lie ahead.
Upon reaching the inner courtyard Roland, drew up short and motioned to a nearby captain.
“See to the third onager on the western ramparts. It was repaired recently and I want to be sure it will work tomorrow. Also I …” Roland was cut off as an arrow took his captain from behind, his throat erupting in a spray of blood.
A cry came from behind as he was knocked to the ground by one of his guards, shield raised to ward off any more attempts. Shouts rose and blades were drawn all around the fort as soldiers immediately took to the walls to search out the assassin. A priest rushed over to the fallen captain but Roland knew such a wound was immediately fatal without having to see the slump of the priest’s shoulders as he crouched over the fallen officer.
A bodyguards started to help Roland to his feet when he saw blood covering his face and gasped.
“It’s alright Merick, it’s not mine. I… Have they found him?”
His question answered by shouts from the front gate, Roland finished wiping off his face and pushed past his guards. The assassin was being drug into the courtyard by his soldiers. Already he bled from his chest though it looked to be a minor wound.
The soldier dragging the man was the first to speak, “He tried to escape through the gate, failing that he started to fall on his sword but I managed to kick it out from under him in time.”
The assassin kept his head down, looking no more the part of a laborer, most likely helping to deliver grain before stealing away to find a chance at an attempt on an officer’s life. It wasn’t unheard of for Sevaris to send those condemned by their laws to attempt to redeem themselves by assassinating enemies of state. If they survived, they were rewarded and their crimes forgotten.
Silence fell over the courtyard as Roland stood before the assassin. Waiting until he finally brought his head up to make eye contact. Roland’s gaze remained emotionless, his hand pointing to the south, the question unspoken. The man simply nodded, nothing more needing to be said.
“Release him. Centurion your sword, if you please,” Roland ordered his nearest officer. The officer drew his sword and passed it to Roland, who then threw it down at the assassin’s feet. A nervous whisper passed through the onlooking soldiers as they crowded away from the two, clearing a space between the would be assassin and their own Commander.
“Your name?” Roland asked of the Sevarian.
“Mikkah,” was his short reply as he stood staring at the blade lying on the ground in front of him. “My family was going to be told I died for… If I did this thing, they would not know about her. I never meant for it to happen. I would be a hero if I…”
Roland nodded, “you may still lad, you may still. Though you're the second to try in as many days, you got closer than the last man they sent," he continued as he began discarding bits of armor and passing them to a waiting officer. Roland rubbed his hands through his graying hair, tying it back.
Mikkah stood without moving, glancing between the man he was sent to kill and his chance for redemption lying before him on the ground.
"The last one they sent fell from the privy window as he tried to draw his dagger. Though I do thank your nation for troubling themselves with helping to breakup the monotony of my day. Nothing like having your trip to the privy interrupted by a dumb shit falling from the window."
A chorus of laughter and jeers went up from the soldiers around. Mikkah suddenly dove for the sword then sprang back up to his feet with the blade in hand, afraid the chance might soon be lost. Roland just smiled as he clasped his hands together in front of him and began a low whisper. Though short, the words were powerful as a flicker of light cast forth from the ring on his right hand.
Mikkah stood transfixed and a hush fell upon the crowd as they watched Roland draw his hands back removing Miramis from its sheath in the void. A sword summoned through the ring he wore, it's blade a faint distortion in the air as it moved and near invisible if it was held motionless, but sharper and stronger than the fiercest of metals. A blade from the days of the ancients long before, when the gods themselves walked the land and waged war against the demons of their Father Betrayer.
"Pretty ain't it?" Roland asked as he stepped forward to seal Mikkah's fate.