Brightvale History: The Two Kings - Part Eight
“Brother,” Vienna pleaded, “you can stop this.”
Milan shook his head. “It's too late for that; the order has already gone out. As soon as Nicolas says we're ready, the attack will begin.”
“It's not too late,” the Royal Acara insisted. “You're the king; if you give the word, this will all stop.”
“But I can't give the word,” Milan snapped. “Those people in that village are starving, Vienna!” The Royal Eyrie pointed at the imposing stone walls of Seville. “They only have a couple of days worth of water left, and for all we know, their food is already gone! Innocent men, women, and children that Lucca is torturing, just to get to me. I can't stand here and let him do this.” He reached out and wiped a tear from her cheek. “Return to your tent, sister,” he said in a gentle voice. “You shouldn't be here for this.”
Vienna bit her lip. She'd failed. Dublin was silent as he followed up back to the tent, his face grim. “Will you be fighting?” she asked.
“Only to protect you,” the yellow Zafara replied. “And I fear by sending you to your tent, your brother might have just accidentally insured that I will be.”
“You think the fighting will reach here?”
“Only if something goes wrong,” he admitted. “But it's my job to worry about things like that.”
“Stay in the tent with me?” she asked, as they reached the safety of her tent. “For some reason being alone makes me feel rather vulnerable.”
“After last night,” Dublin said, “I don't blame you. I know I'm going to have a hard time sleeping. I'll be jumping at every sound.”
Vienna managed a smile. “That actually makes me feel better.” Feeling the need to do something – anything – than just sit and listen for the battle to begin, she asked, “Would you like some coffee?”
“Oh, yes please. After last night, I need it.”
“You like sugar, right?”
“Two scoops.” The yellow Zafara set himself down on a chair near the door.
Vienna paused when she heard the ragged yell of her brother's troops.
“It's starting,” Dublin said, sliding his sword so he could reach the hilt easier.
Vienna nodded, not trusting herself to speak. Her hands shook as she handed Dublin his coffee, but he didn't seem to notice. Either that or he was too polite to notice. She sat down next to him, drawing a blanket up around her shoulders. “So...” Vienna stuttered. “After all this... what are you going to do?”
“I suppose it depends on how this all ends. If, Fortunes forbid, Lucca defeats Milan, I'll probably have to lie low for a while. And if Milan secures the throne to himself, I'll probably try to get a job in the Royal Guard.”
“Either way,” Vienna offered, “after we get out of this mess, I still need someone to run the castle security in Verdun. If you want it, just say so.”
The Zafara's jaw dropped. “Princess, there's no way I'm qualified for that job.”
Reaching up with a small lilac furred hand, Vienna patted his cheek. “You've done more to protect me than anyone else here, Dublin. You've already saved my life once. You're the most qualified person there is, as far as I'm concerned.”
He cocked his head and gave her a long look. “You're serious.” At her nod, he grinned. “Fine then, I want it. No matter who wins this.” He stopped suddenly, cocking his head. “What's that?”
“Vienna!” a voice shouted from the outside. “Vienna!”
“That's William!” Vienna gasped, moving toward the door. The blanket fell to the ground unnoticed. William was alive! He'd made it out of the palace, and somehow managed to get though two armies to find her.
Dublin's arm shot out, grabbing her. “It may be a trap, Princess.”
“It's William, I know it is!”
“I believe you, but we don't know who else could be with him.”
Vienna turned to look at the Zafara, eyes wide. She hadn't thought of that. “William is a brown Blumaroo, he should be with an elderly orange Draik.”
Dublin peeked though the tent flap, then made some sort of motion that Vienna guessed signaled William to come to the tent. It was only a few minutes before the Blumaroo slipped though the tent door, but it felt like an eternity for Vienna. “William!” she cried, flinging her arms around him. “I was so worried!”
His returning hug was no less heartfelt. “Sorry we took so long. We had to take the long way around to get around all the fighting.”
“Your Highness,” Darius pressed, “we have to get you out of here. The battle is moving towards the tent, and is already between us and the road. Milan's plan seems to have been to pull Lucca's troops away from the city, but it means they're falling back onto their own encampment. We could be in the middle of things very quickly.”
Dublin was already in motion. “Princess, put this on,” he said, handing her a stout grey and green mottled cloak. “Once you're in the trees, it'll help break out your outline and make you harder to see.” Turning to the Blumaroo, he continued, “William, wasn't it?” At William's nod, he asked, “do you need any weapons?”
William shook his head. “While it would make me feel better, ambassadors aren't allowed to carry weapons.”
At the yellow Zafara's surprised face, William introduced himself. “William Warwick, the Meridellian ambassador to Brightvale.”
“Dublin,” Darius said. “We've got a safe place not far from here, but it's on the other side of the road and much further away from the fighting. We need to get Vienna there. And while we're speaking of such things, I wouldn't mind a weapon. Got any short swords available?”
“No problem.” Reaching though the door of the tent, he pulled a study looking short sword from underneath his cot. “Now which way is this safe place of yours?”
“That way,” Darius pointed. “We'll have to circle around, there's fighting between there and us.”
Dublin nodded. “Put on your cloak, My Lady, and let's go.”
Darius took up the lead, weaving through the tents, Vienna guessed that he was trying to provide as much shelter as possible. William and Vienna stuck close to him, while Dublin came up behind, keeping a watchful eye out. They made it though the camp without seeing anyone, much to the Acara's relief. Reaching the woods, however, they heard shouting.
“Hurry,” Dublin grunted.
“It's the princess!” a rough voice shouted. “We've found her!”
“We've got a promise of 100 gold coins for her, lads!”
Dublin said a dirty word. “Run for it,” he snapped. Seeing Vienna about to argue, he gave her a rough shove towards William. “Go! Run, I'll be right behind you!”
Vienna ran, keeping her eyes on Darius. Bushes slapped at her legs, threatening to trip her and send her tumbling to the ground. Branches tangled in her hair, slowing her down. One armed Kyrii in leather armor almost caught up with her, but Dublin slammed into him and both the Kyrii and the Zafara tumbled to the ground. She heard footsteps behind her, but didn't look back. Her lungs burned, and she felt dizzy. Finally, Darius slowed.
“In here,” he urged, opening the rickety door to an old hut. Vienna stumbled inside and collapsed onto the dirty bed in relief. William was right behind her, breathing heavily. It was his footsteps that had scared her so at the end.
Vienna paused, looking at the door. “Where's Dublin?” He had been right behind them, there was no way he could have gotten lost. She saw Darius send a quick look to William, who shook his head.
“Where is he?” She got up to look out the door.
William caught her arm. “Vienna,” he said, speaking curiously slow. “Dublin's not coming.”
“But...” She didn't understand. “He promised he'd stay with me. That he'd come back with me and be in charge of Verdun's security.”
William's voice was very gentle. “He promised to protect you.”
“So why isn't he here!”
“Because... he did.”
A cold and heavy ball of lead settled into her stomach as she realized what William was saying. “No. Not Dublin,” she choked. “He couldn't... he can't... can't be....” With a wail, she buried her face into William's chest, sobbing.
“Vienna, listen to me,” Darius interrupted. “I know he was your friend, but you have to use this time he bought you.”
Her head jerked up, twisting to look at the Draik in incomprehension with tearful eyes.
“You have to stop your brothers, before anyone else suffers Dublin's fate,” Darius insisted.
“I tried!” Vienna wailed. “I've been trying, and trying, and look at how I've failed!” She would have fallen had William not held her up.
“No, Vienna,” Darius said. “You tried to reunite them. You tried to bring them to reason. And those are very admirable things.”
“What else am I supposed to do?” she argued.
“Vienna, I need you to stop them.”
To be continued...