Weeping Knight continued

Chapter Two

When I die, there will be no one to take up the throne, my young ward. This will leave Tragea divided and in a prime position to be taken over. And taken over it shall be, by vile men. They will pillage our villages and plunder our cities,” she said shakily, her eyes clearly showing the pain these thoughts brought to her. He watched her, wishing that there was anything that he could do for her.
I have made preparations, contingencies for these events. Our orchard masters shall be secreted away, to wait for you to call them back. They will bear the secrets of the famed Tragean orchards with them, thus denying our conquerors our most coveted national treasure. When the time comes, you will fly our colors upon the field of battle and the coat of arms of the Tragean royal house will live once more,” she said, obviously fighting back tears.
He stood upon the hill overlooking the capital city of his once great home, Ballicroy. After two weeks of nearly constant fighting, the brutes that had conquered his homeland had retreated back to this last bastion of their waning strength. Tonight he would see it crushed. He had in his possession maps and blueprints detailing a secret tunnel system that honeycombed the underneath of Ballicroy. He planned to use these to his advantage, secreting much of his force within the city, enabling him to end the fight before too much innocent blood was shed.
These last two weeks had been hard on him because twenty years had caused the usurpers to feel entitled to a land that bore only the barest resemblance to the kingdom he so lovingly remembered. Even the heavens seemed to feel the oppression that these men had brought to his land. Everything that once was green and vibrant was now dull and gray The beautiful apple and pear orchards that were the pride and fame of Tragea had been given over to the wild. Much of the crop was left to rot upon the limb. It had become apparent that the conquerors had let most of the land return to forest, much of the arable land abandoned. He noted that animals seemed unusually skittish and were few in number due to chronic over-hunting.
The tears that had burn hot these last two weeks had only been partly mournful. Rage had burned trails down his cheeks as he looked upon the depredations the land had suffered under these would-be men. Roads had been overgrown and fallen to disrepair. Farmhouses were left abandoned or served only as hovels for those homeless that made it out of city and village, seeking better fortune by living off the land. Cages were found occasionally, strung up at crossroads and the like, with men, more often than not dead, obviously tortured beyond human endurance.
His men had watched in awe every time he entered the fray. His was a dance of Death that none could copy, beautiful and horrifyingly deadly all at once. His blade was sanctified in a veritable river of blood. Men died crying for mercy but even mercy had fled away from this man, this man with tears falling hotly down his cheeks. His was the hand of justice that this land had so long awaited, the cleansing fire that would remake the land anew.
“M’lord,” Galon said, clearing his throat, “We are ready.”
“Are we ever ready?” he said, suddenly feeling very weary. Before him was the culmination of something that had consumed most of his life, so he didn’t know why he would be weary. This should be the time when he found renewed vigor to last him this last scant distance to his goal. Yet he could not deny the weariness that did not sit on his bones so much as his soul. It was said that a man’s shadow filled with the spirits of those the man had given death. His shadow felt like an iron ball chained to his ankle and he tired of dragging it around.
"My friend," the knight started, "this was once a great city. Its bells used to toll with such gaiety! Now look at it. You ask if I am ready? I am ready to hear those bells once more.
"Signal the men. We will attack when the sun peaks at midday. It will be at our backs and so they will not know our numbers are limited. Let those whose task is infiltration go now. Stealth be their cloak! The blessing of the Divines be with them."
Galen bowed to his lord. "Is there any words I should give them, m'lord?"
The knight looked up with solemn eyes. He sighed heavily, knowing that more of his men would be dying this day. "Tell them, that no matter the outcome of this day, all are truly Trageans!"
As Galen left to give his orders, a tear fell down his cheeks. How much more blood would be the price of freeing his home?