Warrior’s Bride (PT 29)

Chapter Twenty Nine

Cadell glared at the man before him, his body stiffening with the mention of his sister, before his eyes flit briefly to Tialla. She stood to the side, fighting in vain with one of Garel’s men, her aqua eyes filled with fear, not for herself but for him, as she tried to get to him.
Swallowing, he managed a small smile to her, before his look once more turned to the man he despised, his eyes now full of hatred. “You fight women Garel. Only a coward does that.” Letting his eyes move around the assembled warriors he growled out, “If you are any kind of warrior, then you will behave like one”, his look now focussing back onto Garel. “I challenge you for leadership of your realm and your armies.”
Garel barked out a laugh, though from her vantage point, even Tialla could see the way the other warriors shifted uncomfortably, their eyes narrowing at his refusal of the direct challenge. He however, only glowered at Cadell, his words spat out with distaste. “You do not have the right to challenge me Cadell. You are nothing but a commoner, and a traitorous one at that. Only royalty have the right to challenge a leader.” Turning, his features contorted into a snarl. “Hold him. Like all traitorous dogs. He will die at the end of my sword.”
Wordlessly, Cadell was grabbed by two warriors, his arms held securely, though he offered no resistance. Tialla screamed as Garel unsheathed a large sword, he stepping closer to where Cadell stood, he seeming at peace with his fate as he stood proudly, the thought of death something that seemed not to affect him. As the brutal warlord lifted his sword, Cadell turned to look at Tialla, the smallest of smiles on his lips as he mouthed ‘I love you’ to her, she feeling the tears slide down her face, pain ripping through her. Without him she would rather die herself.
Just as all seemed lost, Garel swinging the sword back to deliver the final blow, the two men holding Carell jerked forward, both falling to the ground dead, arrows in both their necks. All eyes flew to the man now marching towards them, his features solemn, the cross-bow in his hands held high as his eyes scoured the men for any sign of another ready to fight.
Garel staggered back a few steps, his mouth slack in disbelief, as he saw who was moving towards him before his lips pulled back in a snarl. “Zandria!”, the word filled with hatred and contempt.
Zandria stopped as he drew level with Cadell, his head bowing slightly, an equal hardness in his eyes. “Greetings father. I assure you I feel the same.”
Cadell groaned, his head turning slightly. “I thought I gave you an order”, his voice hard as Zandria beside him chuckled softly, his head nodding.
“Indeed you did my friend. And I believe that order was to do what was best for Tialla.” His lips quirked as his look flit briefly to the princess “However, a certain handmaiden, who is as stubborn as any mule I have ever met, persuaded me that what was best for her princess was to ensure that she remained with the man she loved”, he giving Cadell a humorous look. “She also informed me that whoever Tialla came out of this jungle with would be the man she married, and who would then control her lands and have Harbin as an ally.” Now his look became more sombre. “So, I decided that the little handmaiden might have a point.”
Beside him, Cadell groaned, the truth sinking in as he nodded, his hand moving ready to grab one of the many weapons he wore. “Well, I might not like our odds Zandria. But at least we will go down fighting. Though if one of us could take down your father, that would be much appreciated.”
Now Zandria chuckled again, his hand stalling his friend. “I believe there may be another way.”
Before Cadell could say anything, Zandria took a step forward, his voice raised so all could hear. “You may not have accepted Cadell’s challenge. But I am your son, and as such, royalty. Therefore, I challenge you to a fight to the death. The winner will take control of all.” His eyes fixed solemnly on his father. “Or are you too much of a coward old man?”
By now Garel seemed to have recovered from his shock at seeing his son, he pulling himself to his full, imposing height, his cruel mouth curving into a sneer as he guffawed loudly. “You! You dare to challenge me. You are a weak runt”, his eyes shining with expectancy. “I will take great pleasure in putting you down”, his look turning to Cadell, “Before I destroy this one.”
Tialla, sensing her chance, kicked the warrior holding her, the man releasing her as he cursed loudly, she taking off at a run to throw herself into Cadell’s arms. The warrior’s however, seemed to have momentarily lost interest in both Tialla and Cadell as they moved to form a circle around father and son. Cadell held her firmly to him, his mouth kissing the top of her head as he whispered words of love to her, before both grew silent along with the rest of the assembled group, though Tialla was aware as he slowly pulled a sword out and held it at his side.
She like all others, turned her attention to the men now at the centre of the circle. She clung to Cadel as Garel pulled out another sword, the two weapons glinting in the sun as Zandria did the same. Her eyes flipped between the two, her stomach diving as she took in the difference. Garel was a monster of a man, Zandria, while tall and muscular tiny compared to him. Swallowing she knew this was a David and Goliath moment, she praying that the kindly Zandria could win.

{Next installment 12th Dec}

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