Amir trundled along beneath the rubicund gates, his hands now fidgeting at his side. The earth where he had bled not long ago remained tousled. Though she persisted in knocking him back, Amir refused to leave the captain’s side. She turned to him as they reached the Stockade.
“You’re quiet, even for a mute. Are you ready to bid your brother farewell?” Amir nodded. The captain stood at the portcullis, calling out to the guard to grant them entry.
“Ser? Captain? You’ve returned! The king has demanded your presence at once!” the guard called back. She squinted at the guard. “Our affairs do not concern you. Close your mouth and open the gate.”
Amir watched as the gate rose, and followed the captain into a field of stockades, stables, manure, and other less pleasant smelling things. They walked the line, passing a number of vagrants doing their best to keep out of the blocks.
Amir’s heart wrenched and fluttered as he recognized his brother’s weary head locked within a stockade. He ran to the block, feverishly tugging and pulling at it, trying to rip it open. He realized he was panting when he noticed the guards begin to close in. As they drew near, however, the guards turned about once they recognized Amir was escorted by no other than leather feathers and thorns.
“Back, farmer. Our agreement was specific. ‘No protest.’” The captain pulled Amir back.
“The guard captain? Amir? Amir, are—” violent coughing cut Wren short. Amir turned to the captain pleadingly. The captain rolled her eyes as she motioned for one of the guards to open the stockade. Breathing rapid-shallow breaths, Amir clutched at his swollen, injured abdomen as he awaited his brother’s freedom. His fingers crossed something cool, hard beneath the bandage. He slid a finger into the bandage to try and feel it. Moments later Amir fell back to the ground, tackled by the meager weight of his liberated brother.
“Amir, you dope! Are you alright?” Wren smiled through the tears seeping from his eyes as he scruffled his brother’s hair. Amir looked down for a moment before nodding, clasping his brother’s hands in his own. The pair smiled and entertained each other giddily, like kittens discovering their tails for the first time.
“Wren. Arise before us.” the captain spoke. Amir looked to her, terrified. She turned away. Wren looked at his brother, confused, before grabbing his brother’s shoulder to pull himself up.
“Wren, in the name of the King of the first Emarosan Dynasty, Lord of the House of Deas, we hereby banish you from the Dominion of Dragonfire forevermore. We forbid you return to this realm upon pain of death. Bid your brother farewell, and return never again.”
Amir locked eyes with his brother, no air left in his lungs. He clutched him close as his eyes burned, with his brother doing the same. He could no longer breathe, but he could cry.
After a moment, and a thunderous cough from somewhere behind him, Amir’s gaze moved passed his brother, to the guards surrounding them with weapons drawn. He turned back to the captain, surrounded by guards as well. In the center stood a wizened man with sickly hair too grandiose, too regal to be mistaken for any other. He spoke in a thunderous voice that commanded authority above all else.
“I hereby rescind the judgment my daughter has placed upon you, Wren. You and your brother will answer to the crown. Now.”
The king departed, with the brothers and the captain marched into the castle, to the throne room. As the main doors to the throne room were sealed, the captain forced her way through the guards to the throne.
“Father, what is the meaning of this!?” she shouted. The king addressed the captain.
“You are not princess regent, you are a bastard and agent of the throne. You will fulfill your duties as guard captain of the realm, not issue edicts in my name or any other. Yet you have the audacity to pardon men who have committed treason and theft against the crown! Against me! Most important, you do this knowing what they stole.”
“Father, it was a mistake and the flask was returned. End it here.”
The king rose from his throne. “My daughter, a guard, issuing orders to me? You will explain yourself shortly whelp. But first, you’ve orders of your own to carry out.”
The captain glared at her father. He scowled back. Steel wills skirmished through the air, so sharp eyes dare not glance at the scene for risk of being cut. The king stepped forward, stopping before and towering over his daughter. He looked down to her as he spoke: “Execute the prisoner.”
Amir’s chest tightened as his brother clutched him close. They clung to each other, but the guards were too many to overcome. They pulled the brothers apart. Amir turned to the captain as she turned to him, wincing at the pain in his stomach. Tears streamed down his face as he forced an awkward, helpless smile. For the first time, the captain smirked back. She turned to her father.
The captain received the full impact of the king’s backhand, sending her several feet in the opposite direction. She tried to shake it off as her head rang. She saw only enough from the corner of her eye to see the king nod to the guard standing behind Amir. A moment later, Amir was no longer Amir, but simply Amir’s corpse.