He had promised never to pick up a sword again, but there he stood, sword in hand, as Horatio quivered to the ground; chest spewing blood.
“Forgive me,” Syndri gasped, backing away as he stared into the dulling eyes of the mustached man, “Forgive me!”
Dropping the rapier, he turned on his heel and ran as fast as he could. He didn’t know where he was going (or why for that matter) but he had to run. His heartbeat increased rapidly as the moment replayed over and over again in his mind. The sound of Horatio’s sword clanking against his own haunted him. He could hear it clearly as if it were still happening. He saw the glint of the sun’s rays dancing upon their shiny blades as they repeatedly clashed into each other. The towering forest around them stood still in silence holding its breath.
“Please, leave me be,” he heard his own voice quiver.
But Horatio paid him no mind, relentlessly striking away.
The vision abruptly stopped as Syndri tripped over a rock. Crashing to the ground, it felt to him DejaVu- for, just a few moments ago he had stumbled over Vance’s lifeless body. Horatio smirked at this and continued onward towards the fallen Syndri. Horatio stabbed his sword into the ground at the left of him, then stabbed at the right of him, but Syndri rolled in the opposite direction each time, finally landing next to Vance’s rapier. There was a lump in Syndri’s throat. He didn’t know why he’d picked it up. He knew that, just by holding the sword in his hand, he’d violated his vow to The Shining Lord.
Instinctually blocking what would have been Horatio’s final strike with the dead man’s weapon, he slashed with such a force causing his attacker to stumble back. This gave him enough time to roll backward and land on his feet.
“I’ve given you my gold, Horatio,” Syndri panted nervously, backing away, cautiously holding out Vance’s rapier towards the mustached man, “Please. Leave me be.”
“I shall not leave you be,” Horatio shouted, “For you have seen entirely too much. You witnessed me kill Vance, and you know that I have the gold. You’ll only tell your brother of this, and then you two will surely hunt me down.”
“Nonsense!” Syndri shivered, continuously backing up, “I-I- I will tell him not of this.”
“Then however will you explain why your share of the gold is missing?” Horatio slurred, steadily marching towards the lad, “And, how will you explain Vance’s death?”
“I’ll say that we were robbed!” Syndri blurted, thinking as quickly as his clever mind could (sometimes it worked best under pressure), “Yes. Yes. We were robbed, Vance was killed, and you fled for your life. I wouldn’t blame you and neither would Magnar.”
“I don’t buy it,” Horatio shook his head.
Syndri began to back up even faster.
“If you turn around and try to tun, just know that I have absolutely no problem with stabbing you in the back,” Horatio warned.
“Then I’ll carry on inching this way,” Syndri breathed.
Infuriated Horatio rushed towards him and the swordfight began.
Syndri fought hard to shake the memory and pick himself up off of the ground. Glancing up, he saw his brother in the distance walking towards him. This gave him the strength to run. As he ran, the sun shone brightly in his eyes, nearly blinding him. It reminded him of early that morning when that very sun had peeked through the green trees to awaken him.
He drew a deep breath of fresh air as he thanked The Shining Lord for allowing him to see another day; a day he thought would be wonderful. He quickly found out it would be anything but when he caught a glimpse of Horatio looming over Vance as he slept. The mustached man seemed to be feeling around for something, and Syndri knew exactly what. Nervously, he squinted his eyes again, peeping them open just enough to witness what the sneaky man was doing.
“Yes,” Horatio whispered as he retrieved the small sack of gold from Vance’s purse.
“Wha’ do you ‘hink you’re doin’?” Vance’s voice rang out, eyes barely cracking open. He had the kind of English accent where he didn’t quite pronounce his ’T’s. Syndri typically enjoyed the sound of his voice, but this time, it wasn’t as calm as usual (and for good reason).
“I think you know exactly what I’m doing,” Horatio smirked, backing away slowly, with the small sack clenched tightly in his fist.
Vance tensed, hand hovering over his rapier.
“I wouldn’t try that if I were you,” Horatio grinned, slowly pulling out his own sword.
By this time, Vance’s eyes were wide open.
“You aren’ gonna geh’ away wit this, takin’ my gold n’ all,” Vance frowned.
“It isn’t yours, my friend,” Horatio laughed.
“Isn’ yours ei’her, mate,” Vance gritted his teeth.
“Well, it is now, because I’m taking it,” Horatio said as he faced away from him.
“O’er my dead boh’y,” Vance growled as he drew his rapier and lifted up slightly.
Horatio, clearly expecting this, smiled and quickly turned on his heel, piercing clean through Vance’s heart with his sword easier than an old man squashing a bug with the tip of his cane.
“You couldn’t be more correct,” Horatio chortled as he sheathed his sword again.
Vance made a faint sound as he dropped his rapier into the grass beside him.
Syndri’s eyes could squint no longer. In fact, they opened wider than they ever had before. Knowing that he couldn’t pretend to be asleep anymore, Syndri started up and immediately untied the sack of gold coins from his belt and threw it at Horatio’s feet.
“Here! Have it! Take it all!” He sputtered, scrambling backward on his hands and feet as he frightfully stared into Horatio’s evil eyes.
Horatio only smiled and stepped over the sack. He steadfastly walked towards the terrified lad.
“I’ve given you my share!” Syndri panted, “You can take it!”
Horatio said nothing, but lifted his sword and brought it down on what would have been Syndri’s head if not for him blocking it with his RodStaff. Weapons interlocked, both breathing hard, they stared into each other’s eyes.
“Take it? I don’t think so,” Horatio growled, kicking the wooden rod from the lad’s grasp, “Not until after I’ve taken your life first.”
Syndri remembered when he and his brother Magnar had traveled to Cloddendale. They had accosted the bandit and were on the road to take the stolen coins back to their rightful owner when they decided to stop in the tavern (Magnar’s horrible idea). There, they saw three men seated at a table; Gunther, a brown-haired scruffy man, Vance, a young, blonde man, and Horatio, a slick, suave, black-haired, mustached man. The latter called the brothers over and offered to guide them through the mountains. He offered to teach them how to avoid bandits who make their lairs in the hills. He told them to leave their mounts at the bottom of the mountain as they camped so that any robbers who might pass by in the even wouldn’t hear the horses neigh. He told them to split the gold amongst themselves so that if one of them were robbed, not all of the gold would be lost.
He told them that they should camp in different spots- he with Syndri and Vance, Magnar with Gunther- so that it would be harder for them all to be found by attackers.
Magnar thought this man to be smart.
Syndri had his suspicions, but it was too late now.
He couldn’t take any of it back, and he couldn’t forget it either.
He would never forget it.
“There you are, Syndri!” Magnar chuckled as he walked towards his younger brother. His armor was missing, and so was his gold. He reasoned that Gunther had taken it while he was asleep. His notion was correct, and the scruffy little man was now long gone, “It appears we’ve been playe-- oof!” Syndri plowed his head into his brother’s chest and, had he not have been so muscular, Magnar surely would have been tackled to the ground.
“Forgive me! Forgive me!” was all he could hear Syndri mumble through the tears that now soaked through his white shirt, “I’M A MONSTER!”
“There, there, brother!” Magnar bellowed, “Whatever is the matter with you?”
As the young man sobbed, Magnar looked in the direction from which his brother had come and saw a body lying out in the clearing.
“Is that... Horatio?” he asked in surprise.
“Yes!” Syndri nodded through his crying.
“You--” Magnar smirked in pride, “I didn’t know you had the heart to do it.”
“I didn’t!” Syndri wailed, “I don’t!”
Magnar patted him on the shoulder, still smiling at the thought that his brother had finally manned up to kill someone.
“I broke my promise...” Syndri whimpered, face still buried in his brother’s chest, “I betrayed The Shining Lord...”
“I’m sure it was in self-defense, brother,” Magnar breathed, patting the lad’s dark head of curls, “The Shining Lord will understand.”
“Will He, really!?” Syndri cried rhetorically in anger, finally looking into his brother’s blue eyes.
“But of course,” Magnar smiled, trying not to laugh at his brother’s lamentation, “Certainly, had you not done whatever you did, you would have been the one over there lying on the ground.”
“But-” Syndri sniffled.
“And, then I, too would be on the ground, because father would end my life for taking you on adventures with me and getting you killed.”
This caused Syndri to exhale a faint laugh. He took a deep breath and wiped away as many tears as he could.
“I’ve killed several men myself,” Magnar bellowed, “Do you think me to be a monster?”
Syndri shook his head
“Alrighty then,” Magnar grinned, “Neither are you, brother. As The Shining Lord says, there is a time to be born, and a time to die. A time to heal, and a time to kill. Know ye not this?”
“Of course I know this. But, it’s a strange feeling... to take another’s life,” Syndri pondered, “How do you enjoy it?”
“I enjoy it not,” Magnar pouted, “But I consider it to be a necessary evil, so I’m at peace with it.”
Syndri nodded and looked away. Magnar put his arm around his brother’s shoulder and the pair walked off to the base of the mountain to see if their horses were still there.