Lavos and His Final Night, Part One

Lavos and his Final Night
A Story by Aaron Canton
-Part One-

 

When word came back that the elders’ terms had been accepted, Lavos abruptly stood and stormed towards the edge of the encampment. A few of the lagano’s friends tried to stop him, but he brushed them away like flies and said nothing to anyone until he was safely beyond the farthest tents and ensconced in the darkness of the surrounding woods. Then he finally allowed himself to clench his fists, slam them deep into the rotting wood of the nearest tree, and let out a scream that reverberated through the forest around him.

“So, our diplomatic efforts didn’t go well?”

Lavos spun on his heel just in time to see Illria, his best friend and personal bodyguard, stepping into the clearing. Her earrings and necklace, all taken from enemies she had personally felled, sparkled in the faint starlight and helped Lavos to see her despite the darkness. “No,” he growled. “The Hillslash tribe demanded compensation for ‘trespassing’ on their territory.”

“But we didn’t trespass,” said Illria as she slipped closer to Lavos. “They have to know that.”

Lavos’ mouth turned upwards in a thin smile. “Of course they know. Their tribe’s mage, Orayl, has spells to compel others to tell the truth. If they really thought our hunting parties had gone on their territory, they could have summoned the parties and interrogated them. But they didn’t, because whether we did it isn’t important. They only care so they have an excuse to attack us the other tribes will believe.”

Illria was silent for a long moment. “So what did they want?”

“Complete submission. Our magical artifacts, our hunting lands, tribute from our stored provisions. And, of course, my head on a pike.” Lavos was silent for a moment before his fist slammed into another tree. “That way I can’t lead a rebellion later on. I’m the chief’s son, after all. Lagano might listen to me.”

“And the elders…?”

“Agreed.” Lavos’ voice was low. “The Hillslash tribe is too powerful, especially with that mercenary group they hired. We can’t stand up to them. All we can do is roll over and hope they find a use for us. So why not?” His voice turned bitter. “It’s not like the Hillslashers want their heads on pikes.”

Illria said nothing for a long moment, and Lavos turned to stare into the woods. “There’s nothing I can do. If I run, hide, resist in any way, the peace deal is off and the Hillslash have the excuse they need to slaughter all of us. I can only wait until tomorrow morning, when their delegation gets here. And then…” He made a slicing motion with a hand. “That’s it.”

“I’m sorry,” murmured Illria, slipping her hand into his. “Lavos, I’m so sorry.”

Lavos grunted something inarticulate. “I didn’t think it’d end like this. I thought I’d die a lot older, doing something important. Leading our tribe to some glorious victory, defending us from ogres or gnolls or something. But now?” He raised a fist again, then slumped to the ground. “Now I’m going to die tomorrow. I won’t have done anything.”

Illria sat next to him. “I’m surprised the chief didn’t try to ambush the Hillslashers. That’s his style, isn’t it?”

“He considered it, but they have dozens of mercenaries protecting them… they’re too strong. And even if we somehow won, then what? The Hillslash tribe would lean on the other tribes to have us investigated, and Orayl could interview our warriors one by one and make all the ones that attacked their mercenaries confess. Then the other tribes would exterminate us for making an ‘unprovoked’ attack on Hillslash.”  Lavos shook his head. “We can’t fight them.”

Illria was silent for a long moment. “That’s not necessarily true. What if some warriors killed their mercenaries in a sneak attack but then weren’t around for interrogation? They couldn’t prove we’d done it. Plus, even though I know we can’t get out of the treaty we already swore with them because the other tribes would attack us for being oathbreakers, we’d still have more leverage over Hillslash in the future if we got rid of the mercenaries now.”

“I don’t think Hillslash would believe us if we said we’d coincidentally misplaced a dozen of our strongest warriors shortly after all their soldiers died,” snapped Lavos. “Or the other tribes.”

“If the warriors went missing, yes, but what if they died? There wouldn’t necessarily be anything suspicious about that.” Illria nodded. “For instance, what if they were executed as part of a tribe treaty?”

Lavos stared at her for a moment as his eyes widened. “Wait. You think I should attack the mercenaries?”

“You did say you wanted to do something important,” said Illria in a calm voice. “Weakening our tribe’s enemies is important. And because they’re the ones calling for your execution, they could hardly complain if you weren’t available to be interrogated afterwards.”

“How does that keep me alive?”

Illria shook her head. “You said yourself that was impossible.”

“That doesn’t mean I want to go on a suicide mission!” Lavos scowled. “It’s easy for you to say. Your life isn’t at stake—”

His words cut off as Illria stiffened and turned to him. “What exactly,” she asked in a quiet voice, “do you think will happen to your bodyguard once you are dead?”

Lavos was silent for several seconds. “They’ll kill you too?”

“Yes.”

“But it’s not your fault!”

“That doesn’t matter.”

“Nobody told me—”

“They didn’t want to burden you,” said Illria. “I myself was warned never to tell you. But, yes, our lives are one, as per tribe tradition. Whether you fall in combat because I fail to protect your body, or… or you get executed because I fail to protect you politically, I fall by your side.” She smiled sardonically. “The only difference is, nobody even bothered to tell me I was to die tomorrow. Had I not seen you storm out of camp, I may not have known until the executioner seized me.”

Lavos looked away. “I… Illria, I’m sorry. I didn’t think you would suffer as well.”

“I know, and I don’t blame you,” murmured Illria with a soft sigh. “And I don’t want to die either. Not after all the work I did trying to become one of our strongest warriors.” She brushed her earrings, which she’d taken from a powerful ogre bandit she’d slain the previous month, and managed a faint smile. “But it’s been decided. And I, for one, don’t want to lie down and die without a fight. Do you?”

“Of course not.” Lavos shook his head. “I don’t want to die at all.”

“We don’t have that option. You said yourself, we die tomorrow.” Illria gently cupped her hand under Lavos’ chin and turned his head towards her. “The only question is how. Do you want to spend your last night in your tent, feasting and partying and trying to cram in a life’s worth of enjoyments into a few final hours? Or do you want to spend your last night fighting for your tribe?”

Lavos squirmed. Death seemed so close and moved nearer every second. He wanted to curl up and hide, to scream and vent his rage in the woods, to gorge on the finest meats and wines he could get until he was completely insensate before the next day. But more than that…

He wanted to matter for his tribe. He’d always wanted that, ever since he’d known what it meant to be the chief’s son. He couldn’t lead his lagano to greater glory now, not when he would die the next day. But maybe he could defend them for the first—and last—time.

“Fighting,” he murmured. “I want to go down fighting.”

“Good,” said Illria, and as Lavos heard the pride in her voice, his skin grew warmer. “I’ll gather a few warriors I know who will be willing to help us. Get your weapons and armor and meet me back here—it’s a few hours’ march to the enemy camp.”

Lavos nodded and stood. “Of course. And Illria… thanks. For talking to me.”

A smile flickered across Illria’s face before she turned and vanished into the woods.

The following two tabs change content below.
Michael DeAngelo

Michael DeAngelo

Michael is the creator of the Tellest brand of fantasy novels and stories. He is actively seeking to expand the world of Tellest to be accessible to everyone.