Lanval Equitan still recalled the first person he’d killed, a sullen twelve-year old boy who’d imagined himself a man. Lanval had shown him how wrong he was. He’d been eight.
If he thought on it harder, Lanval could even recall more of the circumstances of the killing--a typical Almatian feud, fought between the region’s Leonais armigers and their Eastern counterparts. The boy had killed Lanval’s guard as the man took a piss, and then gone after Lanval with his axe. Lanval had drawn the dirk his father had given him, and plunged into the boy’s stomach. The boy had screamed, dropping his axe, and then fell to the ground whimpering, and begging for mercy. Lanval had given it to him--he’d cut his throat. Afterwards, his father and uncles and elder brothers had found him, and praised him. His father had lifted him up in his arms, and told him he was now half a man.
He’d gotten the other half six years later. That had not quite stuck to his memory quite as well, though he suspected the wine he’d drunken that night had a great deal to do with that. Still, he recalled the fortunate girl’s name--Eleanor de Leon--while he could not recall the unfortunate boy’s. At least--not off the top of his head.
All that was behind him now. Eleanor was a happily married woman living in Almace, with five children, the eldest of whom had children of her own, while the boy was still dead, and lying under the Almatian ground. But Lanval Equitan had moved on with his life, and was now serving the Prince-Regent of Leonais as Serjeant-at-arms, after overlapping stints as a bandit, an archdeacon, and a general.
It could not be said of Lanval that he had lived a dull life. Even the quiet moments tended to be precursors to great disturbances. For example, right now, he was going to his men with a slip of paper. A very simple, commonplace occurrence. However, on this slip of paper were orders for a likely upcoming battle with a Dark Lord of the Lands of Night. If the battle occurred, it would be the first such battle in just over fifteen years.
The fact that he was involved in such momentous undertakings had ceased to be a wonder for Lanval quite some time ago. A fact he did occasionally find somewhat disturbing.
“Serjeant Equitan,” came a harsh voice.
Lanval stopped with a sigh. “Yes, Archon Seraphim,” he stated wearily. He was glad that the hawk-like Eremite was the only Archon there. Due to the blasted Rule of the Hermits, every Archon was ‘Archon Seraphim’, but they hated to be called by their first names.
Septimus Seraphim frowned. “I understand you have been with his Royal Highness.” Lanval debated his response, and decided to stick with a nod. “Has the Council agreed to his requests?”
Lanval smiled, and gave another nod. “The Stylites may stay, and the Prince may unseal the Sword of Light.”
“Excellent!” said Septimus, a thin smile spreading on his face. “I tell you, Serjeant--it is at moments like this one must avow the hands of the Seven in our present circumstance.”
Lanval gave a nod. “Indeed, Archon. Can any deny it? ‘For we are but little things, and may hope to see the ends of the Holy Light in reflection only’.” Lanval was the first to admit he had not been much of a priest--but he had a genuine talent for sermons that had remained with him through all the years. “Now, if you’ll pardon me, Eminence, I have orders for my men.”
“Of course,” said Septimus with a nod. “May you walk in the Holy Light of the Sacred Seven, Serjeant.”
“As may you,” agreed Lanval. He moved out as quickly as he could. Truth be told, he rather disliked the Archon. The feeling was, he was fairly certain, mutual, though to the Archon’s credit, he rarely showed it. For that matter, neither did Lanval. The Serjeant-at-arms was a professional, after all.
Most of his men were gathered in a circle when Lanval arrived. “What’s going on?” he asked Jernis.
“Gilly’s burning rats,” said the slender ex-bandit. He gestured to the little Prince’s “Man”, who as usual, went about her amusement with an utter absorption that was quite impressive, in an eerie way. “She’s pretty good at it,” finished Jernis.
Lanval nodded, and turned to Gilly. “And how was the young Nightlander?”
“All right,” said Gilly in a low monotone. “She’ll be fun to burn.”
Lanval nodded. “All right, people, the Prince’s orders have come in.”
“He want us at the Palace?” asked Razalic.
Lanval shook his head. “The Eremites and the Sacristants are guarding the Palace. We’re manning the walls and the docks.” Lanval took a deep breath, and began to enlarge on Amfortas’ design. As he did so, he had a sudden epiphany.
Demetrious. That had been the boy’s name.