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Chapter 36Edit

"High may have been the price of victory, but the low price of defeat was one we could not pay."
--Last sentence of "The Battle of Mount Haigan" play

The magical vortexes had stopped for some time now, the only lights in the sky were the dragon's breath of fire. The wizard must've been inside the tower. The battle was won. Hobenrûd was still holding her shoulders, Marin realized. Was it sweat or tears below his eyes?

The soldiers that went up the tower left it now, they were carrying a woman, three peasants, and four unarmed prisoners walked with them.

"The wizard wasn't...!" a soldier yelled, while running to Marin's position.

"Anita!" Marin yelled, and went to see her friend, "What happened to you?"

"Just...my knee. They took me as prisoner...after I fell and...ungh..." she was in pain, that was obvious, and her knee looked quite bad.

"Take her to a physician!" Marin ordered the soldiers, "And take care with that knee. Free the prisoners, but ask if they want to join us. Let the peasants go," the soldiers made a salute and went to look for a medic in the back of the front.

"I can't believe it," came the surprised voice of Hobenrûd, from behind her, a man, wearing a black hood was limping toward them, "Gilbert! What the hell are you doing!?"

"I did what I told you to do. The wizard is dead. I hope it's not too late," he said, not even looking at Marin.

"Then thanks for your help, sir Gilbert. This battle could not have been won without you," Marin tried to compliment him, but he didn't answer. Still looking at Hobenrûd, he told him:

"I don't want to be a larger burden to this movement. I did what I could when I was useful, now I will leave and try to find something better to do in the meantime." Hobenrûd tried to protest but was cut short, "They must be needing professors of military strategy in Sardina. Goodbye, old friend, if your stupidity doesn't kill you too soon, we might meet again," and chuckled.

Hobenrûd smiled wanly as Gilbert left, chaos visibly swirling within him, and as the chaos of the battle subsided, the people assembled around them saw Marin collapse onto a kneeling position before the strategist. "I...I uh, I am sorry. I--I don't know more I can say, but--I just don't want to bear the thought of your leaving--.... what I mean to say, is...uh, just please--give us one more chance. Will..will you? For my sake? Please?"

Gilbert stopped in his tracks as he heard those words, and looked at Marin with new eyes. For a split second, his eyes flared with renewed hope. But then, he realized the true face of the situation, and drooping his head, he passed through the crowd of soldiers which had formed around them, not even turning around to face her as the limping man said, "I... Sorry." Another delayed pause later, he stopped for a moment to say, "Oh, and your highness. By what I could see of your abilities, in the time I knew you...I believe you'll be a reasonable political asset to this kingdom." And this was the best compliment he could muster.

Marin remained on the ground even after the others had dispersed, deep in thought and remorse. As the sun set across the horizon under the darkening gloom, Hobenrûd finally helped the princess to her feet, and together they returned to their camp. Marin had a single glistening tear on her cheeks. With Gilbert gone, it seemed as if... a chunk of herself, however small, had also gone.

"I... understand what you're thinking, Priss, but it's time," noted Hobenrûd along the way.


"Are you... all right?" A concerned Marin appeared inside the makeshift hospital that had been established earlier that day.

Anita was sitting, on the ground, with her back against a nearby wall, the left leg of her pants was torn, and her leg was maintained immobile by a weird wooden contraption and bandages, "It itches," was her answer.

Marin smiled, at least it wasn't anything serious. The medic told her Anita would be walking perfectly fine in three weeks or less, but she couldn't move her leg much, or the healing could be imperfect. So Anita, together with many of the wounded, would have to be carried in carts to Bahemet, for the final assault to the king's castle.

The king's army was in disarray, badly positioned, and the Freedom Army wanted to use that opportunity to end this war. The only forces defending the walled city of Bahemet would be Sardinians, Inquisitors, and the royal guard itself. The three formed the elite military forces of Ruivoca, and were all incredibly difficult obstacles to surpass.

But the Freedom Army had many willing men and women, many dragons had survived the recent battle, and if they won, the forces loyal to the king would be no more. They were prepared to throw it all in a last strike.

"Let me see how yer doin' now, lass," Marin heard a familiar voice from her left side, Drindell went to where Anita was sitting and checked her knee, prodded it around, asked if she felt any pain, smiled, told her there was nothing to worry about, and went to the next wounded, carrying his bag of assorted ingredients, but not before telling Marin:

"Ye look awful lass. Let Anita rest and go wash yerself or sumthing."

Drindell had restocked his supply of magical ingredients from Filafannel's stash. He was fixing people's armour and healing the ones that had more serious wounds. He couldn't use it all up now though, he had to keep some for Bahemet.

Bahemet.

Bahemet was the name in all their minds. Everything was centred in Bahemet. The victory or the defeat of revolution would be decided in Bahemet. The future of every single living soul in Ruivoca depended on what happened in Bahemet. The lives of Marin, Hobenrûd, Anita, Drindell...they all could end in Bahemet. There was nothing but Bahemet to think about.

Bahemet, Bahemet.

Bahemet was the name echoing throughout the minds of all the battered victorious soldiers of the Freedom Army.

Chapter 37Edit

"Under the bright and luminous dark, / secrets known by all are whispered / in loud voice."
--La Serenatina

Two nights later, there was a party, and all the living soldiers that weren't too wounded to come by, came by. All except for Hobenrûd and Marin, that decided to stay in the temporary headquarters, in the third floor of the local hall of justice. Well, Marin decided to stay, and Hobenrûd, that wanted to speak with her, decided to "keep her guarded".

Marin went to the balcony, to look at the party in the distance.

"You...didn't tell him," Hobenrûd's voice came from behind her, he was standing in the doorway, with his shoulder against it.

"What?" she asked, confused, turning around to face him, with her hands still on the balcony's short stone walls.

"Gilbert. You didn't tell him you're not the king's daughter," he explained, eyes on the sky.

"I...didn't want to...I guess I don't want anyone to know that now," she answered to the floor.

"Why?" Hobenrûd asked a tad too loudly, and anxiously. He regained his composure, and tried again, "Why? I mean...that's a good thing."

Marin rose her left hand to her face and scratched her cheek, "I...I don't really want to have them all knowing...I think...I think it will be easier this way. Without them knowing I'm Rikerd's daughter...I...well, I, I don't... want things to change too fast."

Hobenrûd nodded, "I...guess I understand," he left the doorway and leaned against the short wall of the balcony, beside Marin.

"I hope Gilbert is okay though, I hope...he didn't leave because of me," Marin said, turning around to look at the lights of the party that was happening in the central plaza.

Hobenrûd patted her arm, lightly, "Don't worry, it wasn't your fault. He left because he actually considered assassinating that wizard. I think he felt remorse...besides, he's a guy with a limp, he can't do much more than he already did. I guess he wants to end the fight while he's winning," Hobenrûd said, smiling. He meant that as a joke, but Marin was still serious.

"Do you...", she hesitated, thinking of a good wording for her question, "do you think we really have a chance of winning? At Bahemet, I mean. It's the king's last stand, he'll give everything he has, from the Sardinians to the Inquisitors...do you think...I mean, honestly, do you really think we have a chance?" she said, he could tell she was anxious about it, and unsure, he thought of comforting her, but realized it was better to just tell the truth.

"I'm not sure...sometimes I think we can do it. We have many soldiers, many dragons...but...sometimes I just...don't know," he told her, and it was true. He was not sure if they could do it, before the other battles he just knew they would manage, but now...the odds were too high, a quick battle was the only way, but the losses would be huge, and there was no guarantee that they would win in the end.

Deep inside him, he thought that Gilbert had left because he thought they would fail in Bahemet, he thought that Gilbert had a pretty good idea of what would happen. And it was not good.

He noticed that she had her head lowered, with her chin pressed on her crossed arms, looking down. "But...don't worry..." he stopped, he didn't sound very sure of himself. Changing his inflexion, and forcing a smile, he tried again, "We'll manage it somehow. The Gods won't let us fail now that we're here, don't you think? Besides...I am fighting on our side, remember?"

She smiled, and looked at him; he was smirking. Hobenrûd took one of her hands, the smirk fading, "You should tell them. They need all morale they can get."

Her hand went stiff, and she pulled it back. She marched out of the balcony and inside the building, saying she would think about it. Hobenrûd stayed behind, leaning on the wall, looking at the fires of the party, and hearing the sounds of the party. He heard steps behind him, and turned his head.

"You need to give her time, I only told her yesterday," said Queen Eljabé. Hobenrûd quickly turned around and knelt:

"Your majesty," he said, and only stood when she told him to do so.

"I...know, your majesty, but...", she interrupted him, raising her finger.

"Call me Eljabé. I won't be Queen for long, and...frankly, these formalities bore me," she told him, smiling softly, "But that is a royal secret of course."

Hobenrûd smiled too, but only for a second, "Yes...Eljabé, I understand what you mean, but your daughter, she will be the one that shall lead us in the new era after the king...she must bear the pressures that come with her birthright. Believe me, I would want nothing but to leave her out of this, to keep her safe... but that was not what the Gods had in mind."

The queen sighed, "Yes, my child has grown more in the time she has spent with you than she did during all her earlier years. I fear that was partly my fault... Still, I know you want her best, I know you'll protect her," she told him, nostalgically.

"Yes, your daughter is a legitimate heir to the throne, which will squash any bids that the Lukavians may make, she also seems to be able as a leader, and I'm sure she will be good to the people of this kingdom. I want to help her reach the throne," Hobenrûd said, explaining to the queen the reasons her daughter was the best ruler they could have.

"I was not talking about that," she told him, still smiling softly, "I meant that you want her best as much as I do, maybe more. I know you'll protect her, not because she'll be a good queen, which I'm sure she will, but because I know you care about her. But don't worry, she will tell them, when she feels it is the time," and with those words, the queen departed, leaving Hobenrûd alone in the balcony, with his backs leaning on the low wall, looking at the moon.

Chapter 38Edit

"People say that you can feel that something terrible will happen in a given day. That there is a strange feeling of dread in the air. That is a lie. The most terrible of days start quite happily, and you cannot help it but to feel that it will turn out to be even better."
--Lord Gortinghan

Anita was in one of the carts that were taking the wounded soldiers to Bahemet, but she wasn't being carried, the wound did indeed heal before the end of the week, but she felt sorry for the people she shared the medical quarters with, and decided to drive one of the carriages. Marin and Hobenrûd also were driving theirs, but Anita couldn't see either of them.

"How much time'll it take 'till Bahemet, Ani? I've been in this carriage for days!" asked Gargenil, a blonde, usually tanned guy (not so much since he was wounded). The others had told her he always stopped whatever he was doing to stay one hour under the sun, they had told her he did that during the liberation of Pulti. But since he wasn't around at the time (he left to stay under the sun for the first time in days), she guessed it was a lie.

"Not much, we should reach a good place to camp in a few minutes, then we'll rest for a day or two and start the assault," she answered, looking at both sides; most of the "wounded" were already healed, but thought that the idea of getting a free ride instead of marching was a great one.

"Dung! At this rate, the king'll already've regrouped his forces by the time we get there," Gangee was one of them. He came from a poor village on the countryside, very far from the great cultivated fields they could see at both sides of the road. Corn, wheat, lettuce and beetroot. The fiefs of Bahemet were currently empty, as all peasants either escaped somewhere very far away or went to the capital for refuge.

It was an ominous silence, only broken by the occasional chirping of birds.

"So...Ani, they let girls fight in Lukavia, eh?" Bingabu asked.

"What are you talking about, Bing? We have chicks in our army... I know ten already," Gargenil told him, rolling his eyes.

"Yeah, but we didn't have them in the Ruivocan army. They only started letting the women to fight alongside us after they pressured the higher ups, with Marin being our leader and all," said Bingabu, Gangee, knowingly.

Bingabu suddenly snickered, as if he just remembered a joke, "I heard she kick Hoben's arse in a fight," he told the others.

Anita cut in, "I heard she cheated."

Bingabu shrugged it off, "But she still kicked his arse."

Anita snickered, "Can't argue with that."

"Of course you can't, but you should pay attention to the road, we're going left, one of the local lord's camp house will probably be perfect to house the troops without the hassle of making a camp," came Marin's voice from Anita's right side, she was driving one of the wooden carts, a clearly emptier one than Anita, they didn't seem to want her to carry much of a burden.

"Your highness!" most of the soldiers in Anita's cart yelled, quite shocked.

"Now, now, don't you just call me 'your highness' when I'm nearby. Either you call me that all the time, or you don't, understood?" the soldiers hesitated for a moment, looking one at the other.

"Yes, y...I mean...", they started in unison, but then, some hesitated, some said Marin, and some said your highness; some just kept silent.

"Why bother? We're just taking the power from a tyrant to give to the next...and his daughter no less," said one of the less shy of the soldiers Anita carried. The ominous silence came back, and it didn't go away, until they reached a large rural home, almost a small palace, abandoned, in the middle of the fields, on top of a small hill.

"He only joined us after the end of the siege, after he gets to know you, he will..." Anita started saying.

"Don't worry, I'm more concerned of what'll happen if the king finds out we're here. We would have to hurry the attack. I hope they can't see us from there," the princess answered, rubbing her forehead, "Where is my mother?" she asked, biting her lower lip.

Anita shrugged, and left the house. She found the man that had insulted Marin near the vines in the mansion's yard, plucking grapes, "Bastard. She isn't like the king at all."

"Yeah, that's what they all say, one after the other. But were we really so better off under Rikerd? And Lukavia...are you guys so better without a king like ours?" he asked.

"Well, there was a recent war, you wouldn't expect us to recover so easily...and I really can't say if Rikerd was much better. But still, she cares about you, unlike the king, so yes, she will be much better, you shouldn't treat her like that just because she's too soft to behead you," she told him, firmly.

"Of course. But she will still have absolute power over everyone of us, and she will still have to abide to the power of the lords, never too freedom-loving anyway. The monarchical system of government is inherently corrupt. And even if she really does care about us...how much will it last? My bet is until the first time she has to choose between keeping the throne and helping the people," he said, in a completely serious tone, but Anita couldn't yet believe he wasn't kidding.

Seeing that she wouldn't answer, the soldier continued speaking, "What we need is a way of limiting her power, and the lord's, establishing unbreakable rights of the powerless people. Not another monarchy. A kind tyranny is still tyranny...I will fight for her because I agree she's better than the king. But if we win, I'll fight against her, until I either die or am heard," he finished.

"You're wrong," was Anita's quick answer. The man snickered, and she left.

"I suppose we can't really be choosy on who can help us," Anita thought, surprised by the rudeness of that man.

Meanwhile, Marin found her mother in one of the rooms of the mansion, or rather, her mother found her, while she checked one of the bedrooms.

"So...are you alright?" her mother was an old lady already, and it probably wasn't good for her to travel so much.

"Oh, yes sweetie. But you shouldn't worry about that. These old bones of mine lived enough already...I think you should focus on bringing as many of those men and women back alive..." her smile faded, "They can see the capital from the roof, and it's an astounding sight, many soldiers...their morale is down, they think the king will manage to obtain reinforcements. They need your leadership," she said, with a nod.

Marin didn't think she was ready for it, but still, she climbed the stairs to the roof of palace, where some people watched the capital at a distance, amazed. And she did too. The tall stone walls of the city, circumscribed by the moat, looked unbreakable; there were great towers at regular intervals, and there was a line of archers stretching around the entire wall.

The large and heavy wooden gates could open at any moment, and an ocean of troops could spill out of it in a few seconds. It was the last obstacle to end the war, but it still seemed insurmountable. And there was no chance for them to have noticed their forces gathering outside the city. Still, Marin steeled herself and, looking at the depressed faces of the people that would fight the next day, she went to border of the roof, and called those in the courtyard to hear her.

When a sufficient crowd gathered, she started, "People of Ruivoca! Both those that have long resisted the oppression of the king and those that only recently joined us! You may think this is a dark day for us! But, I am afraid you are wrong at that! This is a day to rejoice, for this is the last day of the king's reign!" her eyes glanced around; not everyone was paying attention.

"It was a long journey until here! But by tomorrow, at this time, we will be in the capital, and I will be atop a tower, talking to you again! For tomorrow, we will have won this war, and by after tomorrow, you will be with your families as a new age will begin in Ruivoca!" some more eyes were focused on her.

"I will not lie to you all and say it will be easy, but we have won over many opponents to give up now! Our swords are sharp and the king is fated to fall! And I, Marin of Ruivoca, daughter of Rikerd of Ruivoca, and heir to the throne, will fight, and if needed, die! Alongside you!" all eyes were on her, but there was no response.

"Yes! The king has lied, and at many times! He did not kill me when I was a baby after the coup. I did not know that previously, but my mother, Eljabé of Ruivoca, has come to our side too, and told me all. And that is the proof that the king has no loyalty from anyone anymore! He is crumbling, and the enemy's morale is low! The Sardinians may have armours made of steel, but we have a will made of steel, and we shall not accept defeat! Today is the last day of a dark age in our past, and a new chapter in history books to come!" after she finished the speech, there was a beckoning silence, before all erupted into cheers.

Marin smiled, and hoped she had the strength to turn her words into reality.

Chapter 39Edit

"My enemies see the battlefield and they scream and cry. I do not understand why. Only through battle can true victory be reached, and only through true victory can one obtain true honour."
--King Ük, the red

It was the morning of the day after the speech, and most men and women of the Freedom Army had already woken up. At least half of them were already wearing any armour they had. One third was standing on the field, eager to end the war once and for all. The ones that brought their families with them, decided to stay what could be the last hours of their lives with their husbands, wives and children.

Young men and women, anxious to get themselves a better future, were anxiously practising their swordplay, their aim, their spears, their riding, making sure they were sharp enough for what would be the greatest battle of our times. Hobenrûd, Marin, Anita, Drindell, and the lieutenants from various townships, hamlets and villages from all over Ruivoca were on the front of the troops, checking them, and waiting for the right time. They wouldn't start the assault until noon, since the sun would be behind their backs the whole afternoon.

History books report that there were at least one hundred thousand people in the fields around Bahemet that day. Sixty thousand of those belonged to allies of the Freedom Army, which had a clear majority. But the enemy was better trained, better equipped, and better paid. And when the sun reached its highest point in the sky, it all started.

The troops of the Freedom Army advanced through the fields of wheat and corn around the city, in less than an hour the sun would be at their backs, which would make it impossible for archers to aim. While they advanced, with the front troops holding their shields over their heads, the three trebuchets they had built for the last siege were finishing being unpacked and mounted.

Orders were transmitted to the lieutenants by mounted messengers, and the order was to advance slowly, under the protection of the corn fields.

But the enemy was prepared for that.

Sardinian crossbowmen poured a flammable oil on their arrows and put fire on it, then they shot them at the fields. The fire quickly spread, and there was a momentary disarray of the Freedom Army troops, as they fled the fire. The battle was barely starting.

"Dammit!" Hobenrûd cursed, and did his best to rally the fleeing soldiers, "Can you put out the fire somehow!?" he asked Drindell and Anita, loud enough to be heard above the ensuing chaos. But their "of course" was barely heard, as arrows started raining over the running soldiers, fired by longbowmen on top of the city walls, and in less than an hour, the assault seemed lost.

It wasn't. Anita made two swift vertical flap with her great fan, and small twisters appeared out of thin air, which succeeded in creating a cloud of dust, putting out the fire, and plucking the corn out of the ground. Atop the walls, the commander of the defenses, Ruann Rovias, cursed. They couldn't see anything past the dust cloud.

The first thing they saw were three big boulders, two flew over them and destroyed buildings in the city, one hit a nearby tower, and debris fell everywhere. Far from there, a person around a trebuchet asked another if they hit the city, "I dunno, I can't see anything! How the hell can we aim if we can't see them!?"

The second thing the defenders of the city saw was a golem seemingly made of mud, rocks and pieces of plants carrying a woman in a purple outfit, the woman was holding a golden rod. The golem wasn't much more than a blob with legs, but it was much faster than you would expect a golem to be (later it was discovered that it was a personal spell discovered by Drindell, the arcane,) it ran quickly through the fields, zigzagging. The crossbowman tried to hit the woman on top of it, but were unsuccessful. She, on her part, pointed the rod at them, and lightning bolts were shot off its tip.

The third thing the defenders of the wall saw, when the dust cloud finally subsided, were thousands of men and women charging towards Bahemet, accompanied by dozens of siege machines. Ruann Rovias cursed again and ordered the gates to be opened, so that the infantry could meet the attackers in the ground, since it was hard for the crossbowmen to aim, as the sun was on their eyes. Now it had really began.

The gates fell down, over the moat, making a bridge. A bridge that vibrated as more and more as thousands ran over it. The charge of the Freedom Army became mired down as the steel-plated Sardinians and the white-armoured inquisitors grouped in front of the gates, presenting a formidable sight. Seeing that the soldiers were having doubts, Marin rose her sword, and then slowly lowered it, until it pointed directly at the city. It was the sign to charge, and she was the first to do so.

Just then, there was turmoil in the ranks of the defenders, Marin rose her sword, and kept it risen. It was the sign to stop, something was afoot. After some time, the turmoil continued, and since it seemed as if it wasn't ending anytime soon, Marin ordered the continuation of the assault, no matter the cause. After a long charge, the two armies met, and the archers on the wall could not help any more.

The cause, the Freedom army discovered soon, as the Sardinians and some Inquisitors retreated back into the city, was that hundreds, maybe thousands, of inquisitors started fighting against the defenders, quickly taking control of the gates and cutting the chains, making it impossible for them to be closed, and yelling "The king is a sinner! We fight for Sallund!"

It was a movement of rebel inquisitors, whose leader was the captain of the inquisitor ship that was excommunicated after fighting the Sardinians. The movement was non-violent until that very moment, but now, the inquisitors realized that their chance to end the despair brought upon Ruivoca by the wrath of Sallund was now, as these attackers came, probably guided by the Gods themselves to this very moment.

The confusion was quickly sorted out and the even greater army of rebels prepared to invade the city. A blonde inquisitor in full white plate armour, with a shield decorated with the symbol of the Holy Order, rose his sword the skies, and made a silent prayer, as he saw Hobenrûd. Seeing that, Hobenrûd remembered and nodded, rose his own sword, as did Marin and the other lieutenants, and ordered the final charge.

The attackers poured through the city streets, from the narrow paved ones between houses to the great arboured main avenues near the central market. The Sardinians were far too outnumbered and overwhelmed, but they had enough technology and tactics to resist fiercely against the invaders. And resist they did.

Hobenrûd led a division of soldiers to look for the palace of the capital, where the king was probably taking refuge. The many pikemen tried to block the streets, but were easily pincered and disposed of. Only thirty of the two hundred men and women following Hobenrûd died that day, as they navigated the streets of the city, while entire three-floored buildings fell down, victim of catapult projectiles.

As they closed on a plaza, they were ambushed by Sardinians that were hidden in a dead-end street to their right. Almost all the riders of their group, including Hobenrûd, quickly fell to the ground as their miers were incapacitated by the enemy polearms. Still, they stood and took advantage of the deficient short-range capabilities of the Sardinian pickaxe to strike. But enemy riders, coming from the transversal streets, forced them to fall back to the central markets of the city, where most attackers converged.

Seeing their predicament, Marin led a band of mier-riders in a charge against the pursuers. In the centre of the plaza, Drindell made entire buildings fall down on the defending troops, while Anita shot even more lightning bolts on the crossbowmen that stood on top of the constructions. Hobenrûd glanced at Marin one last time before ordering his division to defend three battering rams that were coming from the southern street.

The slow-moving covered wagons, about ten men inside, and a tree trunk with a piece of iron at the tip. They were used to break down gates, and those ones were going to break the gate to the king's castle. Hobenrûd's division fended off anyone trying to destroy those fundamental pieces of machinery. They managed to reach the outer gates of the castle with two rams intact, as a building, toppled by a trebuchet boulder, had crushed one of them.

Marin, on her mier, reached them while the gate was being rammed down. "Is everything going well? Do you need more people!?" she asked loudly.

"Princess!? Yeah! We need more people! They must have lots of soldiers defending the castle!" he yelled back, nodding.

"I will bring more people here, then! You hold out!" she said, pulling the reins of her mier to the left, and riding back to the city's centre. Before five minutes had passed, she almost fell out of the mier, as she violently shook, having been hit by something. Her mier was scared and started to run away, and she barely managed to take her feet off the harness and jump off the crazed beast.

A crossbow bolt had hit her, having been fired by a crossbowman that seconds later was pushed out of a rooftop by one of the Freedom Army soldiers, falling to his death. Hobenrûd ran to where she lay on the ground, the bolt half-embedded on her abdomen, but far from any lethal spot, Hobenrûd thought, and hoped. Thanks to her armour, the damage seemed to not be too serious, but blood could be seen on her side.

"Dammit! Dammit!" he cursed loudly. He didn't want to touch her, for he could make matters worse. "Not now! Marin? Marin...?" she groaned in response "Marin, you can't do that now! Marin, remember you told everyone you would make a speech once we won? Well, we're winning, you have to keep your end of the deal," but her eyes were unfocused.

He looked around, but there was no rider in sight, mentally cursing, he unsnapped one of the pads of his leg, rose her head a bit from the ground and put the pad under it to support her head. He tried again, holding head, "Marin...you'll be all right, someone is bound to reach us soon."

And as he said that, her eyes focused on him, still a bit closed, "Hoben..."

He was exultant, he thanked the Gods and kissed her forehead. "Hoben..." she continued, "They need you...in the castle, call some other ...ungh...person to get me to a medic,"

"Marin... I got a hint for you: keep your mind focused. We can't lose now."

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