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[Crowslayer's Vow] The Bitter End

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Meanwhile Back in The Dungeon...





Bralt’s army stood on the hills near Metterden, watching Reza as the sun set.


The air smelled of smoke, and was noisily filled with the distant sounds of siege preparations as defenders bustled atop Reza’s walls. Not just Haeseni stood atop those walls, but also the scant surviving Voliks from the Great Battle of the North after they’d sworn their fealty to Haense in return to land. There were Scyflings on those walls, too, and a good number of them. Scyflings who had once stood beside Bralt; Scyflings who had once set this land ablaze in belief that Bralt would fulfill the Crowslayer’s Vow and become eternal king of the Scyflings.


Scyflings who had believed in him.


They had left in droves, at first with Yva after the Moonfire Massacre, and then once Bralt had pretended to have gone mad. Over the past few weeks, he had slaughtered friends outright just because they questioned his command and  thoughtlessly murdered those who had tried to leave him, all in an attempt to appear to the world that he had gone insane, and drive away a significant portion of his army. It had worked. As Bralt glanced down his battle-lines, it was a mere husk of the army he had first led to Arcas.


He smiled softly. It felt like a lifetime ago when he led his fleet of longships here, the Scyflings united for the first time, to kill the Haeseni king to secure peace for his people and to end their violent ways. A lifetime ago, he had believed he would actually fulfill the Crowslayer’s Vow and become a great king of the Scyfling people. He didn’t believe that anymore. He didn’t believe in that rotting prophecy, and he didn’t believe he could fulfill it. But he would not relinquish his dream of peace for the Scyfling people. Every decision, every death, every drop of blood shed, had been in devotion to that goal, and now it had almost come to fruition.


The eyes that stared out from the visors of Scyfling helmets were terrified, scared, hateful. They did not revere Bralt anymore. They feared him. 


He sighed wearily, and turned back towards Reza. They feared him. Good. That was it should be, for that was what he needed for his final plan to come to fruition – for him to do what the Crow King could never do, and give everything he had to save his people. No matter the cost.


No matter the cost. Those words rang in his head. The cost had been steep indeed. As he glanced back to the Scyfling lines, they suddenly appeared much larger. Long-dead and long-deserted soldiers stood there, not staring hatefully, but smiling pridefully. Luvir, Taro, Qeun, Segn … Yva, and countless others. They all smiled. When Bralt blinked, the dead and gone had disappeared once more, and he was left with that scared, broken husk of an army.


The last of his doubts were expunged as he turned back to Reza for the final time. He had become the monster he needed to be, and now these years of fighting would finally come to a close.


One way or another, the war would ended tonight.


One way or another, the fate of the Scyfling people would be decided tonight.


One way or another, Bralt would fulfill the duty he had always expected kings to fulfill.


With a slow exhale, he began to walk down towards Reza. No battle cry, no speech, barely a whisper. The only sound were boots marching after him. Yes, he would fulfill that duty.


He would see it through to the bitter end.

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