“Here, take this medicine.”
“I told you, I'm fine.”
“No, you're not, and stop trying to move! You need to stay still!”
“What are you my mother? I'm fine!”
This was the conversation, or rather argument, that Kali and Stanford had been having since they'd finally set up camp. Thanks to the cavalry arriving, the two were finally able to relax after a day filled with running and fighting. The large man that Kali had referred to as Mackrell assured the princess that his men, which numbered at about seventy five at the moment, would survey the area for any other potential assassins.
Kali immediately decided to treat Stanford's wounds with their newfound free time, however the young warrior was being as cooperative as a cat taking a bath.
“Look, either you take the medicine willingly, or I'm going to force you!” Kali growled, finally fed up with Stanford's foolishness.
That statement elicited an obnoxious snort from the raven haired boy. “You, force me? I'd like to see you tr-”
Before he could finish his sentence, the princess had forcefully shoved Stanford in the chest, causing him to topple onto his backside with ease.
“Why you.....” Stanford attempted to get up and retaliate, but there was no strength left in his body to do so and he merely fell back onto the hard ground.
“Well look at that, seems like I can force you,” Kali gave the boy a smug grin. “Now stay still so I can-”
“Your Highness!” A voice interrupted him, revealing to be Mackrell, who had immediately gotten down on his knee. “My men have returned from scouring the area and have reported that all threats have been dealt with.”
“Good work, Mackrell.”
“I am honored by your praise,” Mackrell looked up at Kali, before his eyes turned toward Stanford. “My lady, you do not have to treat him. I'll call over the physician to-”
“He's busy treating your men, right?” Kali asked. “I noticed that a lot of them had severe wounds, its best to leave him to take care of them.” The princess eyes then darkened a bit. “I assume things did not go well on your end?”
Mackrell hung his head in shame and merely nodded.
“Tell me everything.”
“But shouldn't we-”
“It's fine, Stanford is acting as my sword,” Kali interrupted. “He shall know everything I do, understand?”
“Yes my lady,” Mackrell then sat up on both knees. “To begin, as you instructed we took your body double to the outskirts of the city, hoping to lead Talphagoron's troops away while you headed in the opposite direction. Everything had gone according to plan, however, once we arrived at our location there was an unexpected enemy awaiting us.”
“Yes,” the middle-aged man clenched his fist. “It was the Divine General, Randall Maxwell.”
That named shocked not only Kali, but Stanford was well who sat straight up after hearing that. Anyone would have been equally as shocked at hearing the name of the most legendary general in all of Godvia. The greatest fighter to have ever lived, a man that could take down an entire country. The great Randall Maxwell. Any warrior worth their salt knew this name very well.
“Randall?!” Kali asked incredulously. “What the hell was he doing there?!”
“I'm not sure,” Mackrell admitted. “However, he did have a message for you, my lady.”
He ran. It was the only thing he could do in this situation, run as fast as the horse would carry him.
He'd thought they had been out of the woods, after evading Talphagoron's forces and reaching the edge of the kingdoms borders, Mackrell believed their plan to be successful. However, he hadn't considered the possibility of stone being thrown in their path.
Scratch that, this was no stone. A mountain was was stood in their way now.
“Randall,” Mackrell spoke through his teeth. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Randall Maxwell, known as the Great Divine General, stood before Mackrell and his troops. Though he was one man, he towered over everyone as if he were a giant. His long, black hair flowed in the wind as he looked down upon his opponents as if they were nothing more than insects. And truthfully, compared to the might of this man, they might as well be.
“Is that a way to address your Divine General?” The deep, intimidating voice of Randall spoke. Though he wore a somewhat kind smile on his face, they could feel the murderous intent oozing off his aura. If they didn't turn around and flee now, they were all going to die.
“All troops, retreat now!” Mackrell shouted. “Protect the princess at all costs!” And with that, the entire force turned heel first and began fleeing in the opposite direction.
Almost immediately, the screams of men filled the night, as Mackrell dared not to look back. He knew it was futile, and his men were likely being slaughtered behind him, but he refused to give up and accept his death. Not before he saw the princess take the throne.
Quickly, Mackrell guided his steed to the carriage that was carrying the princess, or rather her body double. “Forgive me,” Mackrell spoke to the carriage. “I know I did not guarantee your safety, but I truly thought you'd make it out of this alive. I had no idea that man would show up.”
“It is alright,” the voice inside spoke. “This is my duty, I understand that.”
“You honor me, madam,” Mackrell spoke. “I swear I shall-”
Mackrell's words were cut off at the sound of his horse wailing in pain before stopping its movements, the sudden stop forced Mackrell off his steed and onto the ground with a hard thud.
“I got 'im! Didja see that boss?!”
Mackrell looked up to see an ugly, pudgy man wearing animal skin as clothing and holding a crossbow. His face wore a disturbing smile, showing off several missing teeth.
“Well done, Gumbo,” came Randall's voice as he strode up to Mackrell, his sword covered in the blood of his men. “Hello again, old friend.”
“Why?” Mackrell asked, slowly getting to his feet. “You said you had no interest in the battle for the throne, so why have you chosen to side Talphagoron?!”
The general gave Mackrell a knowing smile. “You should know better than anyone,” he stated. “It's conflict, my friend. I enjoy any and all battles, especially ones that end in bloodshed. I believe that if that bratty second child succeeds the throne, it will lead to many more battles for me to enjoy myself.”
“What you say doesn't make any sense!”
“But of course it does!” Randall sneered, kneeling down to face Mackrell. “You understand my feelings, Mackrell. Though you have aged, you still have the spirit of a warrior within you. Even you must feel how boring things have become, ever since the previous king took the throne.”
Randall stabbed is sword into the ground, looking up at the night sky. “I long for those days when I did not know if I would live to see the sun rise. When every day I was putting my life on the line, enjoying the euphoria of battle. I want to live in a world filled with blood and guts, where I hear nothing but the sounds of war.”
“And the best way for me to live in that world is through Talphagoron's rule,” Randall sighed blissfully. “Though hunting down traitors isn't the most exhilarating of battles, it will suffice for now.” He then eyed the older warrior beneath him. “Especially now that my target is someone as prestigious as you.”
Mackrell couldn't help but bark out a laugh as he finally got to his feet and drew his sword. “An old fossil like me won't satisfy your perverted lust, Randall.”
“We'll see about that,” Randall retorted. “Shall we begin?”
“I see,” Kali spoke, taking a good look at Mackrell. “I couldn't help but wonder why you had those wounds on you, there aren't many people out there that can cross swords with you.”
“You humble me,” Mackrell bowed once more. “However, I must confess that I did not put up much of a fight. Maybe if I were a few centuries younger, but as of now the gap between Randall and I is as wide as the ocean.”
“So how did you escape?” Stanford suddenly chimed in, earning a somewhat harsh glare from the elder warrior.
When it didn't appear Mackrell was going to answer Stanford's question, Kali stated “I'd like to know as well.”
“Yes,” Mackrell nodded. “Despite my best efforts, Randall easily defeated me in our duel. I was prepared to die, happy that at the very least you managed to escape. But then, I was saved....”
“Gah!” Was the sound Mackrell made as he was thrown backwards by the force of Randall's blade, landing several feet away from him.
“Hm, you really have lost quite a few steps in your advanced age,” Randall commented as Mackrell struggled to his feet. “At one point, you held the title of Divine General for nearly seven hundred years, by far the longest ever.” He stopped just a few feet in front of him. “You were a one man army, not even the strongest warriors or the most powerful magic casters could best you.”
Randall pointed his sword at Mackrell's neck, digging into it and drawing a bit of blood. “Now here you are, old and decrepit, at the mercy of the person you once called a student. How does it feel?”
“My time has come and gone,” Mackrell responded. “I've made peace with that, no one remains atop forever. My role to this kingdom is to protect the princess and ensure that she takes her birthright, nothing more. I'll leave the fighting to you brats still searching for your place in this world, I have found my purpose.”
“Well said,” Randall smiled. “However, you have one thing wrong, Mackrell. I too have found my purpose, and that is to fight and die a glorious death on the battlefield.”
Mackrell made a face of disapproval. “Is that so? I wonder if Shayna would agree with your sentiment.”
For the first time that night, Randall's face changed from the smug confident look he wore once he heard that name. Now, he was frowning and his brows furrowed as an angry vein appeared on the side of his head.
“Old man,” Randall spoke slowly. “Those were your last words.”
The great warrior then prepared to behead the older warrior in front of him, however just before his sword touched the nape of Mackrell's neck, he was stopped by an unfamiliar voice shouting at him.
Both Randall and Mackrell froze in place, their heads simultaneously turned to see the princess standing several feet away from them, a desperate look on her face.
“P-Princess!” Mackrell shouted. “Why have you left the carriage?!”
Randall snorted and lowered his sword. “Enough with this charade, Mackrell,” he glared at the young girl. “I've known this entire time that this is not Princess Kali.”
Mackrell and the “princess” were shocked to hear that. “You knew?!”
“I am an observant man,” Randall explained. “I've watched over the princess ever since she was a baby, I can tell the difference between her and a double.”
“Then why did you chase us?”
“Like I said, I was craving a battle,” Randall sneered. “I didn't care whether or not the princess was there, I wanted to fight you Mackrell.” The warrior then sighed and turned his attention toward the double. “Now, young miss, for what reason did you interrupt our duel?”
The body double nervously took a few steps forward, swallowing a lump in her throat. “I overheard your conversation with Mackrell,” she stated. “About how you lived for conflict.”
“And what of it?”
“Are you sure that taking Talphagoron's side will lead you to the path you seek?”
While Randall looked a bit confused, a look of realization struck Mackrell's face as he shouted “My lady, don't! You swore to keep that a secret!”
“It's the only way I can save your life, Mackrell,” the double stated. “You must live to ensure that Princess Kali takes the throne and achieves her dream, she needs you by her side.”
“Enough of this!” Randall interrupted. “I want to know what you meant, girl!”
“I'll tell you,” the double stated. “The truth is.....”
“I could not stop her,” Mackrell bowed his head in apology. “I was too weak to do anything, now Randall knows of your plans.”
“I see,” Kali looked at the ground a bit downtrodden. “What happened after that? How did Randall react?”
“Well, after learning the truth, he just started....”
“Heh heh heh,” Randall chuckled, bringing a hand to cover his face. “Ha ha ha! Ahahahahahahaha!”
His somewhat maniacal laughter filled the night air as Mackrell and the “princess” looked at him warily. Eventually, the laughter died down and Randall sat down on a boulder.
“You're serious? That's the plan of our great leader?” Randall asked, a large smile on his face. “Can you believe this Gumbo?”
“Crazy as hell!”
“That's right!” Randall pointed at Mackrell. “And you had the audacity to lecture me about finding purpose?! Your “purpose” is going to throw this entire world into chaos, you know that right?!”
“I stand by the princess,” Mackrell spoke. “Her dreams are my dreams.”
“Well this dream is going to be quite the nightmare for most people!” Randall cackled. “But I am intrigued! You're right, the prince wouldn't have the guts to go through with what the princess is planning, he's far too much of a coward for that! So you've won me over! If I side with the princess, there will be endless battles for me to enjoy!”
Randall began laughing again along with Gumbo, however, he then suddenly pointed his sword at Mackrell once more. “Although,” he began. “I was ordered to bring back the head of the traitors, and unfortunately I cannot return to the kingdom empty handed. You understand I'm sure.”
Mackrell closed his eyes in acceptance, however, the “princess” suddenly stepped in between them.
you must take a life, then take mine,” she stated. “While I am
not the princess, I'm sure my head will at least give you a good enough excuse to return.”
Randall's smile twisted into one of terrifying glee. “Aren't you the noble one? Willing to lay down your life for your princess,” he laughed. “It's almost enough to make me shed a tear.” He then turned his gaze to Mackrell. “Well, do you accept this? Are you going to let this young, beautiful girl die for you to live a bit longer old man?”
“There's no way-”
“Mackrell! I won't repeat myself!” the “princess” interrupted. “Princess Kali told you to follow my orders as if she were giving them to you, so you must obey!” She turned to face him, a smile on her face. “Please.”
“I.....but....” Mackrell grit his teeth, realizing that there was nothing he could do, so he settled for getting down on his knee and bowing. “My lady, your final orders?”
“Find the princess and take back our kingdom,” the double stated. “And give my apologies for revealing her plan.”
“I shall convey your message,” the elder warrior stated. “The entire kingdom will know your sacrifice and you will be honored as a hero.”
As Randall slowly raised his sword, the double turned to face him and presented her neck. “The honor was all mine.”
Those were the last words she spoke as Randall swung his sword down.