Chapter 45: A Duel's Beginning

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The first rays of sunlight came riding over the horizon like death on horseback. Dux stood in the courtyard, Magus too his left, Regis to his right. Both standing tall and proud befitting to men of the Vangen. Lord Hallan and Lady Kent had joined them at the back. Much to Dux's distaste.

"You can't go through with this." Lord Hallan hissed in Dux's ear. "I will not bet the lives of my men over your crap shoot of a gamble!"

"It's too late to start badgering me now, my lord." Dux responded. "Daylights come. The rebellion will be here any minute."

"I swear to the Gods Dux," Lord Hallan moved as if to strike him, only for an intervening arm from Lady Kent to stop him in his tracks. Dux caught the wayward glance Hallan gave to the Lady, but there was something in her eyes that made him back down. "There will be a reckoning if this is allowed to continue."

"And will you be the one to give me such a reckoning, my Lord?" Dux asked. Lord Hallan's face turned a shade darker than what most tomatoes were capable of. In a huff he turned and stormed off back towards the Palace.

"It is unwise to anger the Lord, Captain." Lady Kent advised. "The rebellion has left him quite unhinged as of late. I worry that if things continue like this, he might do something rash."

Dux gave her a courteous bow. "Apologies, my Lady, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. Right now, my men have positioned themselves to make ready for the duel. I have the utmost confidence that we will soon see victory."

Lady Kent gave him a coy look. "What plans are you hiding from me behind those scheming eyes of yours?"

"You will know soon enough." Dux said. She smiled at that and turned to leave, giving Dux one more look over her shoulder before pacing off towards the palace. How strange, Dux thought, to gain the attention of a woman like Lady Kent. What could she even see in him? Dux shook his head. Not much, but then he was always a good actor. He'd been playing the role of the good Captain for twenty years now. Must have been some merit there.

Dux turned his attention back to the courtyard just as the rebels came pouring in from the hole in First Gate, led by Tyrannus, Custodia and that big bastard Jotan of theirs. Countless numbers of black cloaks and gold masks filed in until they'd nearly covered a third of the grounds.

The ground trembled as Aeturnus stepped ahead of the whole lot, those big dumb eyes of his lolling over Dux, then Regis, then Magus, then at the bowmen positioned in the surrounding parapet. Custodia looked on towards Dux. Mouth pressed hard into a frown but with eyes still soft. Was it pity? Dux couldn't tell, nor did it matter any longer.

"Captain Dux," Tyrannus called out, his voice withered by the distance between them. "I'm surprised you had the courage to show up. I half expected you and your Vangen to have packed up by now, running like frightened dogs with your tails between your legs."

Dux rolled his eyes. Marus was such a son of a bitch sometimes. Of course he'd stoop to name calling. Clearing his throat, Dux called out, "Likewise."

He could see Tyrannus physically trembling with anger at that one. Excellent. Let him get good and angry then. Angry folk never think straight after their plans go up in smoke.

"Am I too believe then that you're keeping to the deal?" Tyrannus yelled out.

"Ugh-huh. Your best versus mine. If I win, you surrender...,"

"And if I win," Tyrannus interrupted. "Your Vangen become mine!"

Magus and Regis turned to look at Dux. Well, that certainly had not been part of the deal, he thought. But why not entertain the fool. It would make the victory all the more sweeter. "All right then." Dux shrugged. "Why not? You've been wanting this for a good while now. Why not give them to you. If you win of course."

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