War was one of the few places that Alexandre could find solace. Though the battlefield was a chaotic zone of fear and darkness, Alex had developed the ability to fall into line with the ebb and flow of fighting with detached focus. Because war was a constant in his life, it provided some comfort. Though terror gripped him every time he had to fight – and he would argue that it was that way for everyone, every time, despite what they might say – it was also a chance to step outside of himself, and be a machine.
One day, we won’t have to do this anymore. I hope.
The noises of battle and bloodshed echoed all around him, a dull roar in his ears. There was a distinct kind of concentration that Alex could dive into which allowed him to pass through the crowds unphased by the brutality surrounding him and he was fully in it now. A stab to the right, a beheading to the left, Carl watching my back… its good to not think for a little while. Or rather, think only about staying alive minute by minute.
Over the course of five days, the scale of battle had dramatically increased. Alexandre and all his allies left the Capital to fend for itself, forming one wedge-shaped unit to pierce through the heart of the camps that surrounded the city. Initially, the enemy troops responded as Carlisle had predicted – they ramped up attacks within the city borders and took out their wrath upon civilians. Alex pushed forward rather than turning back to assist, much to Elsa Torne’s chagrin. He knew that the guerilla tactics were designed to separate his troops and wear him thin, and that he would lose if he were to continue to respond. Instead, he had made for the tents of the opposing generals.
Carl was right… but so was I. When the enemy generals realized that Alex was not diverging forces to deal with their distractions, they had also reconsolidated power. Not fast enough. Alex suspected that Davora and La Croix had thought him soft, unwilling to sacrifice the common people to win a fight. While it was true that Alex waged his war partially to end the mistreatment of the general populace, he was still raised to uphold the principles of being a Nabian. The citizens did also fight back, and there were less casualties than could ordinarily be expected for raids of a comparable size.
I abandoned the city… but I will do what it takes to win this war. He ducked a sword that had broken through the wall of soldiers surrounding him and Carl, and reached out with one of his own hooked blades. Placing the curve around the hilt of the sword, Alex yanked the blade towards himself in a surprise to its wielder. He let the blade launch to the other side of his body and helped its momentum along with a push – this slid the weapon between two allies to his left, and pushed it into the chest of a soldier that was giving them a difficult time. The man screamed horribly, and died dramatically. Alex moved on without a second glance.
There is always going to be a darkness in me. The sacrifices I have made… the people I’ve lost… even succumbing to this darkness will be worth victory. Black, for our fearlessness in the darkest of times, he recalled while mouthing the words of Nabius. Am I fearless? Truly?
Walls of shields surrounded Alex on three sides, and they were making progress slowly. Carl was there with him, and red and black uniforms mingled with blue and gold ones in one strong unit.
“We’re approaching Davora!” shouted a squadron leader.
Good, thought Alex as he continued to walk slowly. He and Carl shared a glance, and the silence hung grim between them. They were both exhausted – it had been almost a full day of fighting. They were given opportunities to rest, but the labor of the battle had worn them to their cores even with that.
“Now!” shouted the squadron leader. The men on their sides broke rank in swift unison, thrusting their spears between shields and thinning out the line of people before them. Swordsmen were next, and they passed between the frontline to engage in smaller skirmishes. Alex and Carl both picked up speed, and headed straight ahead. When the lines parted, Alex was amazed to see that Davora’s tent and banners were close. He hadn’t been able to see them until they were practically right in front of him, and he marveled at how far they had traveled to make it to the back line.
They had chosen to head towards him rather than General La Croix due to the fact that Fran La Croix likely wouldn’t engage in combat that was unsafe. She was famed as an archer, and was also too old to truly fight. Davora, on the other hand, could be expected to be found in the middle of the carnage. As Alex approached his bannermen, he knew that this assumption was right. Davora was there, and he bore his signature weapons.
Alex watched a Tomacian soldier get gutted with a horizontal swipe of Davora’s arm, and when the man fell to the ground with his entrails spilling out, the other general looked up to lock eyes with Alexandre.
It is now your time. Two heavily armored men with halberds ran at him first, but Alex stood completely still while Carl attacked from his right. He assumed that these were Davora’s personal guards or members of his staff – their positions and dress suggested that they would be capable fighters, and were there to keep enemies that Davora didn’t want to engage at a distance. When they charged, Alex didn’t even bother to pay them attention. Carl slammed his body into the nearest guard, and used a mighty swipe of his broadsword to disarm the second. Alex stepped around them, trusting his husband to keep them at bay. This cleared the distance between the two generals, and they stood observing each other for a moment.
“Finally,” General Davora growled. He stood wide-legged, and looked powerful in his set of leather armor. He wore his famed blades, which ran parallel to his forearms and were attached by a few mechanical contraptions and tight leather straps. His hands were in fists, and the length of the blades ran several inches past where his fingertips would end if he were to fan out his digits.
“Finally,” Alex agreed, drawing his two hook swords. He maneuvered them into blackthorn stance, posing to prepare to strike. Around the two generals, the crowd parted and formed a circle. Soldiers on all sides craned to get a look at the fight, sparing glances when they could. The fighting at the edges was half-hearted, most soldiers reluctant to miss the opportunity to see a showdown between two generals.
This is the kind of fight you read about in the history books at the academy. Alex recalled studying many a recorded battle between generals during his time as a student, and wondered if this one would make history too. Probably. The wave of people fighting around them slowed further, and Alex felt comfortable assuming that no one would interfere. There was an unspoken ideal that meant the two generals would be given an honorable fight. A victory would turn the tide decisively one way or another, and Alex sincerely hoped it would be in his favor. Pitor Davora gave a half-grin, and suddenly lunged.
Damn he’s fast!
Alex dodged out of the way just in time, deflecting Davora’s left arm with his right sword. The older general spun almost immediately, both arms wide in horizontal swipes that would be lethal if Alex were nearby. He met a thrust of Davora’s right blade with his left, and turned to the side to dodge the left-armed swing. Both Generals swung hard and fast, and each time their blades met Alex could feel reverberations up his arms.
Ugh, Alex thought has he narrowly avoided a swipe. He fights almost like he’s boxing. The older general held his hands in loose fists, raised in front of him, bouncing around on the balls of his feet. Stabs were thrown like punches, but the extended range on Davora’s weapons was throwing Alex off. He knew that just one mistake would end it, and he wasn’t doing as good a job keeping up as he would have hoped.
Davora lobbed a swipe after feigning moving right, and Alex caught it with a hook. He threw the arm to the side and yanked down, exposing Davora’s chest. With the other sword, Alex took a swing but had to back off when Davora took a stab of his own. Had Alex committed, the generals would have wounded each other at the same time. His fighting borders on suicidal – he’s banking on me not being willing to take a hit to win.
Both generals rotated out of immediate proximity to each other, and Alex used the momentum of his spin to launch another attack. He jumped and lifted his legs up, as if he were sitting in midair. Underneath him, his hook swords had been conjoined at the head to create one giant, sweeping blade. His range was greatly extended, and the strike landed just above the kneecap. Davora’s right thigh was gashed open, and he grimaced.
Alex used another loop of the conjoined blades to strike again, but this time Davora fell back to avoid the blow. He propped himself up on the tips of his blades looking skyward, and Alexandre’s slash swung just inches above his face. Alex made a third rotation, bringing the blades into a diagonal swipe, and Davora kicked off of the ground over and around it. Realizing that this tactic wouldn’t work, Alex slowed the rotating swords and returned to having one in each hand.
He’s got to have a weakness. The way that his blades are strapped to the outside of his arms…. Can he protect his back that way? It would require some flexibility, and Alex thought that he looked to be slightly too muscular to reach all the way behind himself for full coverage. That’s where I need to strike.
As if the cut that Alex had landed were a great insult, Davora launched into an angry frenzy of attacks. His swings were reckless, but even Alexandre’s finesse with swords did not afford him an opportunity to get in between them. Holy shit. The flurry of metal on metal was hard to keep up with, and sharp pinging noises rang out each time an attack was blocked. Alex circled Davora while fighting to keep his focus for half a minute or so before finally making his move.He caught one of Davora’s ankles by a hook, and yanked while dropping to the ground to roll sideways. Letting go of the lefthand blade, he was able to get behind Davora while he fell backwards towards the ground. Alex had planned to use his righthand sword to punch up and into the older general, but somehow the other man managed to spin to face the ground while he fell. Alex felt the impact of steel in his gut, and felt stunned as Davora pinned his sword hand down.
Davora’s blade stuck through Alex on the right side of his abdomen, exiting out his back and sticking into the dusty ground beneath it. Blood began to flow freely, mixing with the dirt and dust to form a murky black goo that would start to pool out soon.
“NO!” Alex heard Carl cry, but the scream was too far away for help. Davora looked over in the direction of Carl and smiled, raising his other arm to punch down through Alexandre’s chest. That brief moment of hesitation was all that Alex needed, and he sprung into action. Rubbing his boots together, Alex activated a spring-loaded lever that made one long spike protrude from the top of his left foot. He brought it up into Davora’s side hard, and this time it was Davora’s turn to be surprised. The pain made him falter, and Alex used every ounce of strength that he had to rotate the two around. Davora tried to sit up and strain the opposite direction, but his blade was stuck in Alexandre and he couldn’t wrench it free quickly enough. The two rolled to where Davora was laying on his back, Alex sitting on top of him with one blade sticking through him. Alex pushed off and continued rolling, letting the blade slide out of his stomach in one fluid motion. He knew that this would increase the blood flow and reduce his chances of survival, but he didn’t care.
Now you die.
Continuing the roll, Alex made it to where his righthanded sword had fallen, and grabbed it by the hilt in one fluid motion. He gave another rotation while pushing up off of the ground, and swung his blade like like a croquet bat towards where Davora was. The hooked sword scooped out a good chunk of his throat, and Alex fell onto the ground after having never made it back to standing.
He watched Davora flail and sputter while he bled out, and knew he had won. The battle surged back to life around them, and Alex felt red cloud the edges of his vision. He saw Carl approach him from above, and slowly felt his world fade into black.
Eamon entered Luca’s quarters slowly, trying not to catch the younger man off guard. He knew he would be jumpy after the attack by assassins, but luckily he did not scare him when he opened the door slowly. By the sounds he was making, Eamon could tell that Luca was collapsed on his bed exhausted. “Did we find all entrances?” he asked quietly. His tone was morose, and Eamon’s heart hurt to think of the clock on their lives ticking down.
“We think so,” Eamon replied, equally sullen. The assassins that had made it into the estate had been almost entirely dispatched, and Ysabel was able to find where they entered from. A tunnel through the sewers that hadn’t been on the schematics of the estate was overlooked, and many men had been sent through there. After the initial wave was fought off, Eamon and Ysabel had stationed additional units in the dungeons of the place to guard against covert entrances. They had held for a few hours, but this also meant that there were less people manning the walls above. The attack had also brought on heavy casualties, which included most of the house staff. Alfie, the head chef and friend to both Luca and Eamon, had died defending Luca and Eamon knew that it would weigh heavily on his mind. “Adrian and Kade are safe as well. They’ve gone to the west tower and are watching from there.”
“That’s good,” Luca said with a nod. “I’m glad that they made it. I can’t count on two hands how many friends I’ve lost today.” Eamon walked over to the edge of the bed, and sat down with his arm around Luca’s shoulders.
“I know,” he said solemnly. The silence hung thick in the air between them for a while, before Eamon felt Luca’s hand on his chin pull him into a kiss. It was sweet, and Eamon could feel the tears on Luca’s face. He grabbed the back of Luca’s head with both hands, and slowly laid him down to where he was on top of the younger man.
“Eamon…” Luca said quietly. “I know we haven’t… done everything yet. But I want you to know that it’s not – “
“Shhh,” Eamon hushed. “It’s okay. I understand.”
“No,” said Luca with intensity. “This may be our last night. The walls won’t hold much longer, and with our reduced capacity… we may only have a few hours left. Before I go, I want you to have me. Fully.”
Oh gods. This is exactly what Eamon had wanted since he had first seen Luca, but it was now tinged with sadness and the cold reality of mortality. After all this time, can I even bring myself to…? Now that it’s the end of the road for the both of us? Eamon hesitated, and Luca caught it immediately.
“Don’t falter. This isn’t just because of... what’s going on. And you aren’t taking advantage of my emotions, either.” Eamon briefly wondered if Luca could read minds. “I want this. And I have, for some time. At first… it was hard, because…. Well, you know.” Eamon nodded, indicating that he did know. “But I think we’ve both changed. Found ourselves. And the person that I am works well with the person that you are. We were meant for each other. If I go out of this life without giving you all of myself at least once, that would be my only regret.” Eamon felt himself getting aroused, and Luca pulled himself in closer.
“Okay,” Eamon breathed, so quiet it was almost a whisper. Their faces were millimeters apart, and their noses were so close that Eamon struggled to tell if they were touching or not. “If you’re ready.”
“I am. Make me yours.” The two dove into a passionate kiss, and their hands explored each other with desperate need. The fumbled with their clothing, and experienced each other fully for the first time.
“Fifty four dead. Twenty seven injured. Five caravans burnt to the ground, and over three hundred thousand in luxury commodities destroyed.” Jared read the numbers aloud, not daring to believe that the report could be true. “Is this a joke? This is outrageous!”
“I know,” said Marion softly. Prince Coyne could tell that his cousin was furious, and was mulling over who would pay the price for this assault.
“Why? This doesn’t even make sense.”
“I don’t know,” Marion said with a matter-of-fact intonation. “And yet the order has the gall to inform us that they’ve ‘taken care of the issue’ as if we should be appreciative. They’ve crossed the line.”
“I agree,” said Jared. “I just don’t understand this at all.” Jared thought over the details of the letter that Marion had just brought to his attention, wondering what had prompted the attack. The situation that had been explained to Coyne and Monciet leadership was simply that a few trading caravans were completing ancient, evil work and needed to be eradicated. The Hallowed Order had taken matters into their own hands, slaughtering Ironians that they deemed ‘agents of terror,’ and burning their wares to the ground. Jared couldn’t interpret these actions as anything other than an attempt to undermine the recently reestablished authority in the region. In truth the loss was not hugely substantial, but the fact that anyone would use the order to further potential enemies of Ironia irked him. It was against the principles of the order to take this kind of action, and Jared was disgusted.
“They’ve sought to hurt us by killing civilians. Innocent people.”
“Not innocent according to them,” Marion said with a motion to the letter. “Agents of terror.”
“You know what this means, Marion. Someone has taken control of the order to attack us. Or at the very least, they’ve infiltrated and have enough influence to damage allies.”
“I do,” Marion nodded. “And I agree. I will not allow my people to be slaughtered unjustly without retribution. These crimes will be answered for.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m still thinking on that. I wanted to loop you in so that when you see my revenge, you know what it’s motivated by. I just promised leadership to my citizens – I can’t just let this go.” Jared nodded, understanding completely.
“I support you. But keep in mind that you thirsted for revenge against the Di Coteaus long after their crimes were committed. Now, they are allies and are working to make reparations. Please just consider the consequences of your actions.”
“I will,” Marion snapped. “But there are some differences between then and now.” When Marion didn’t continue, Jared probed further.
“Those differences being…?”
“The Di Coteaus launched a military assault. They didn’t murder citizens just for the fun of it, and had a strategic goal of occupying territory. They also weren’t part of an order that was supposed to be apolitical.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
“I also wasn’t in a position to be able to do anything about it then.”
“And this time, you are.”
“Are we finished?” Luca asked calmly as he surveyed the battlefield from above. He was on the highest balcony of the estate with Eamon, Adrian, Kade, and Ysabel. They all watched as the outermost wall of the Di Coteau estate burned and began crumbling, large chunks of it falling off at a time. Luca’s eyes felt heavy, and he was sure that they probably looked blackened from exhaustion. There was an eerie calm about the place as each person in the palace surrendered to inevitability.
“Yes,” replied Ysabel coolly.
“What do we do now?” asked Kade.
“We die,” Ysabel responded again. No one spoke for some time after that. The group simply listened to the screams of the dying and the raging sounds of battle below them, and numbly accepted their fate. After a while, Eamon spoke up.
“You should all run. When the troops flood in, try to escape in the chaos. I’ll defend you,” he said while looking in Luca’s direction.
My sweet guard. Always trying to protect me.
“I don’t think so,” Luca said. “I committed to this. I will go down with this estate. It’s my duty.” Ysabel seemed to approve of that, but Kade frowned. “Don’t let me stop any of you, though. General Clarion, Adrian, Kade – you guys are strong. You could make it.”
“Not a chance, child,” said Ysabel dryly. “This is personal for Hadeaux, and General Lafeye does not take prisoners. We would be run down the moment we exited what is left of these walls.” That was a sullen thought, but Luca knew that it was probably true.
Please, Luca willed. Please come through. We only have minutes left. He poured all of his willpower into a desparate plea to the universe, for the chance that his last letter before the siege might pay off. He was banking on humanity, and the power of bonds between family. But no. If anyone was going to help, they would have come sooner.
Luca saw a procession of more orderly than normal troops encircling a few horse riders slowly make their way up to the front lines, with banners flying at the corners of a square that they formed. That would be Marie Lafeye, he recognized. She’ll be coming to partake in the raid of the estate. She’ll probably execute us all herself.
“And so it ends,” Adrian muttered quietly.
“So it does,” said Ysabel. As the general approached, a roaring noise accompanied the collapse of the inner wall. Stone crumbled in every direction as the great fortification fell in a few spots, and the plumes of dust it produced ballooned high enough to cloud the air around the tower. Luca had to squint his eyes as they watered from the dust that was formed. Enemy soldiers cheered, and the first few eager troops began to make their way through the rubble to clash with the Di Coteau estate’s last defenses. These were mostly made up of civilians from Mullansburg, who understandably began to flee into the recesses of the building.
Well. At least we held off for longer than expected. Armed citizens can be more effective than I had even hoped for.
A deep drumming began from the east, which caught Luca off guard. He allowed himself the smallest ray of hope, a pinprick of light through the shroud of despair that had settled over him. The drumming grew louder, and the rumbling of hooves on ground slowly started to build up.
Could it be?
Marie Lafeye and her entourage were still moving towards the break in the second wall, slowly and surely. It appeared that she and her men did not hear the approaching noise, or did not care.
“What is that?” Adrian asked sharply. “Do you all hear that?”
“It’s about fucking time,” Ysabel said with a growl.
“He did come,” Luca breathed, daring to hope for survival. As he watched, the woods to the east erupted into a mass of soldiers on horseback. They charged the main force of the opposing troops hard, slamming into the wall of bodies from the side. Soldiers on both sides fell, but banners waved proudly through the galloping mass.
“My father,” Kade breathed out in disbelief. The sigil of Devan Di Coteau waved ferociously, and the surprise attack from the east cut into Marie Lafeye’s troops faster than Luca would have expected. Luca looked over to Kade, who was spectating the battle below with wide eyes.
Thank all the gods that you were here. Luca wasn’t particularly proud of using Kade in his last effort plea for help, but still didn’t know if Devan would have come otherwise. The general was his last hope, and he had come through.
As battle raged on, Ysabel left the tower and began to head down its winding steps. Luca wondered if she was planning on joining in the battle, but he decided that he would watch the result from above. Roughly equal in size at this point, the two armies engaged each other with stunning ferocity. The major difference was that the enemy had been sieging for close to two days at this point while General Di Coteau’s army had just arrived, fully invigorated.
Yes. Over the course of the next twenty or so minutes, lines broke and reformed, and soldiers fell in large numbers. Once Marie Lafeye and her immediate guard turned east to engage the newcomers, they began to make progress more towards the origin of the allied troops. It was then that Luca saw Devan Di Coteau himself emerge from the woods, perched atop a massive black stallion. From the distance Luca couldn’t make out any distinct features, but he imagined the man as a carbon copy of his older brother Darion. Luca would never have wanted to face off with Darion Di Coteau, and imagined that Devan would be just as intimidating. It was hard to tell from this height, but Luca knew that Devan was probably just as large in stature, and just as dangerous.
Please save us.
“What’s the update?” Eamon asked. Luca gasped, sucking in air after realizing that he had been holding his breath. He had been narrating the course of the battle for Eamon, with contributions from Adrian and Kade as well.
“General Di Coteau is now engaging General Lafeye. Their personal guards have begun fighting and are slowly splitting to form a barrier around the two generals.” Eamon nodded, seeming to understand.
“The fight between them is beginning now,” said Adrian as Marie Lafeye drew her sword off her back. She used a sword and shield, and arranged herself in a formation that Luca was sure was probably a classic battle stance. Devan grabbed two enormous morning star flails from his horse as a response, and appeared not to adopt any stance. He simply walked forward, looking straight at the opposing general.
“They’ve drawn arms, and a circle of soldiers has formed around them.” It was what Luca had expected to see – he had heard about legendary showdowns between great warriors and the Nabian custom of observing them without interference, but now he was getting to see one for the first time.
“What weapons are they using?”
“Both of them are using what they are known for,” Kade said. “They’re taking this seriously. They intend to kill.”
“Lets hope our side wins,” Luca said. “I don’t think I could even lift one of General Devan’s weapons.
“You probably couldn’t,” Eamon agreed.
The battle began with General Lafeye striking first, a quick jab to test the waters. General Di Coteau deflected it easily, and began spinning his right handed weapon. The spiked ball at the end of the chain rotated faster than the eye could see, and Luca could just imagine the roar of the whooshing noise that it made once it got up to full speed. When General Lafeye struck again, Devan blocked her blow with the stationary flail and swung the spinning one at chest level. Lafeye didn’t struggle getting her shield up, but Luca was sure that the impact would have hurt the arm that bore the shield. Were it wood, it would have splintered into a thousand shards. Devan disengaged, pulling back on the embedded flail to pull his opponents shield away from her body. She held her ground, and fell back with a defensive thrust. The two separated, and Devan began spinning his flail again. This time, he began to rotate the one in his left hand.
“What’s happening?” Eamon asked.
“Neither has landed a hit yet,” said Adrian.
Eamon seemed unsatisfied with that explanation, but everyone atop the tower was too engrossed to provide a more detailed play by play. Marie Lafeye launched into a flurry of blows, each of which was dodged or fought off by Devan. He was now on the defensive but wove swings of his weapons in at unexpected times. Lafeye had a few narrow dodges herself, but the pair seemed equally matched. After a minute or so of constant battering by both generals, this secondary round of fighting culminated in a hit by Devan. His left flail was blocked by General Lafeye’s shield, but Luca realized he must have changed the grip mid-swing. The handle ricocheted off of the shield’s face, but the chain and ball looped around the side to impact the shoulder. Marie Lafeye was armored, but Luca had no doubt that probably punctured her protective gear. She drug her shield and sword down towards the sides where both of Devan’s weapons had her engaged, then kicked his exposed chest. This successfully put some separation between the two, and they began preparing for another cycle of fighting. Devan now swung both of his flails to the side, whirling metal in two circles that crossed over his body.
“Di Coteau landed a hit!” Adrian said excitedly. “They’re gearing up to fight again.”
“Good,” said Eamon with a grimace. Luca knew he was hopeful, but didn’t want to get raise any expectations while his fate still hung in the balance.
“Come on,” Luca heard Kade whisper. “You can do it.” He was hoping for the same thing, but didn’t want to jinx himself by vocalizing anything.
This time, it was Devan that attacked first. He ran straight at Lafeye, jumping into a spin that put his body parallel to the ground. The morning stars whipped around hard, giving Devan momentum that Luca would have thought impossible. Lafeye blocked both with her shield, but this time they hit hard enough to dent in the metal and stick. Luca could tell by the way that Lafeye moved that her shield arm was injured, and she was forced to bring it down after that blow. When she made to stab General Di Coteau, he spun around the shield side of her while still holding on to the handles of his weapons. The effect was that she was spun, and wasn’t able to catch him with her sword. Devan aimed a heavy kick at the side of one her knees, which collapsed sideways under the blow. As she knelt, she tried one last swing at General Di Coteau’s throat. He had clearly been expecting that, and caught her sword hand by the wrist. One hand still on an embedded flail, Devan ripped the weapon from Lafeye’s shield and swung it directly at her head. Luca looked away with a cringe and sharp intake of breath, only seeing the opposing general’s demise for a quick moment. He had watched her head begin to burst open like an overripe watermelon, and knew that he didn’t want to get too much of a look at the aftermath.
“What?” said Eamon panicked. “What is it?”
“We won,” Luca said quietly, relieved.
“Or at least General Di Coteau did. Marie Lafeye is dead,” said Prince Adrian.
Silence hung in the air for a few moments before the tension broke, and suddenly the noises of war sounded less like death to Luca. The rage of battle sounded like victory, and even as Luca watched he saw the people of the Di Coteau estate begin to return to their stations. A glorious uproar of cheers erupted from the Di Coteau army and what was left of the Mullansburg citizens. War horns sounded, and Luca knew that the melodies they played were northern, specific to Devan Di Coteau’s triumph.
“That will turn the tide of battle,” followed up Kade. He was right, though Luca felt that he was pointing out the obvious.
“Thank the saints,” Eamon breathed, his shoulders slumping in clear reprieve.
We may make it through this yet, thought Luca numbly. He saw Kade and Adrian embrace and kiss in celebration out of his peripheral vision, and felt Eamon’s arms wrap around him similarly.
“Oh gods,” Luca said. He had tears streaming down his face, and Eamon pressed his face into his neck.
“I’m so glad to have more time with you,” he whispered. The older man was squeezing him tightly, harder than Luca had ever been hugged before. Luca didn’t mind the contact despite the heat of the day, and leaned into Eamon, his strength completely sapped by what he had just witnessed. Eamon supported him instantly, seeming to know that Luca was at the brink of total exhaustion. The younger teen stayed like that for a few seconds, allowing himself to be held and carried by the strength of another. He reveled in the situation, finally feeling like he could breathe. Eamon was nurturing and protective, just as Luca needed him to be. After a minute or two, Luca regained his constitution and stood up straight. He kissed Eamon directly, and put two hands on the sides of his face.