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 “Take the child to the High Place. Now!”  Without hesitation, Byron tossed the wailing baby to the cloaked rider on the brown stallion and slapped the horse’s rear end sending him off toward the forest.

“Sir, please help us!”  A woman came running up to him and he recognized her as one of the palace servants.  A heavy cloak was wrapped around her shoulder shielding her entire body.  She was limping and her left cheek had already begun to swell. 

“I’m sorry, woman.” Byron replied as he mounted his horse. “But there is not much I can do here; I must get to the palace immediately.”  Byron turned his horse to the direction of the castle and dug his feet in so hard that the horse lurched immediately. 

In the distance he could hear screaming and the unmistakable sounds of metal clashing against metal.  He knew as he approached the gates and maneuvered his horse around the bodies that lay at the gate and throughout the courtyard that he was too late.  Suddenly, a voice that he knew all too well had drawn his attention up to the top of the castle.  Between the columns he had seen it.  And if he had not witnessed what lay before him with his own eyes, he would have never believed it.

“Brother.” Byron spoke silently in his disbelief.   

Byron pulled back on his horse so hard that the horse reared upward nearly depositing him onto to the brick floor.  Byron leapt off his horse and ran into the castle swerving around clashing swords and sliding, more than once, in the slick red substance leaking from the cold bodies strewn across the castle hall.  He took the stairs two at time with fierce determination trying desperately to get to the scene he had witnessed on the roof moments before. Finally, after his thighs had just begun to burn, he saw the large wooden door and crashed through it with all his strength. 

The sound of the crashing door caused the players in the scene before him to halt mid-swing.

“Anthony.” The muscular man wielding the sword spoke softly in antithesis to his actions. He was broad, tall and menacing. His wild hair flapped in the wind as he expertly moved his sword toward his opponent without looking.  One eye narrowed on his brother as the other was covered by a black patch.

“How nice of you to join us.  I was just about finished here.  Would you care to join me for a drink in the tavern afterward?”  His smirk drew Byron from his reverie and at once, Byron started toward them sword raised.  Before Byron could reach him however, the man jabbed his sword into the chest of his present opponent before pulling back and swinging it toward Byron’s head.  A beheading was what he had planned.

“Tristan, Noooo!” Byron screamed and jumped backward skidding into the palace wall. 

Tristan advanced on him, his sword raised with the intent on finishing what he had started.

“Why do you interfere?  This is our rightful place.  Who better to carry the scepter than those who protect it?  Why should we not be Kings?” Tristan yelled and his sword caught with the very tip of Byron’s. 

“Little Brother, you have been practicing. A likely opponent you are indeed.  However, you are too late as the battle is already won.  They are all no more.  Come, let’s stop this fight and claim our rightful place.” 

Byron saw that his brother’s eyes had become a cold steel grey-a color they had never been.  It was then that he knew his brother’s mutinous actions changed the lives of the inhabitants of Laramour forever. 

Knowing that he could do more for the kingdom alive rather than dead, Byron threw himself off the edge of the roof and landed a half story below onto the bridge that  lead to the palace tower.  As he landed, he felt pain shooting up his arm but did not waste time to inspect it. He leapt off the bridge onto the hay carriage below and rolled off.  He looked up towards the roof where he had left the man he would no longer call his brother and saw him grinning triumphantly. 

Byron whistled and his horse came galloping from around the palace wall.  He didn’t wait for the stallion to halt as he threw himself into the horse only managing to grasp onto the stirrup.  The horse didn’t falter or slow as it ran headlong toward the lowering gate.  Knowing he wouldn’t fit if he were seated, Byron hung from the side of his horse as it narrowly missed the gate’s spindles. 

Byron rode on not slowing until he had reached the town below the castle.  As he approached, he saw the same woman he had encountered earlier weeping against the side of a small cottage. Everywhere, inhabitants ran trying desperately to evacuate. She stood out as she was the only person not moving. 

Byron came up to the woman and slowly dismounted his horse.  “Excuse me, Miss.  Is there anything I can do for you?” He asked tenderly, knowing all too well that this woman was now without occupation or home. 

Looking up at him with sadness in her eyes, the woman looked at him shaking her head not in answer but in disbelief.  Byron had to steel himself so as not to look away.  He had not done his job and now the kingdom, the dynasty, and their future lay in ruins. He stepped closer to her and put his good arm on her shoulder.

“I’m sorry, Miss. I did what I could. But, they…”  Struggling to finish the sentence, Byron hung his head lower touching the woman’s forehead with his own.  “They are all gone.” 

The woman pulled back at stared at Byron tears leaving clean tracks down her dirty face. Lips quivering, the woman backed up further and opened her cloak revealing a sleeping infant.  “Not all of them, my Lord.”



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