Damon groaned as he eased down next to the crackling campfire, waves of steam wafting from the bowl of thick stew he cradled in his callused hands. A stiff breeze stirred the flames and rattled a loose tent flap. He concentrated on the snapping sound, allowing it to drown out the screams of wounded horses and men being butchered or put down.
“Horse-meat stew again, eh?” Yallo pulled up a free log and perched next to Damon. “Wonder which poor bastard’s it was?”
Damon scooped a heap up with his fingers and plopped it in his mouth. “I try not to think about it,” he mumbled around a hunk of meat.
Yallo grinned and tapped his friend on the arm with his fist. “Manners, Forester. Your mother would be appalled right now. We’re not peasants.”
Damon glared at his friend and fellow Cavalier. “No, we’re not. They are on the front-lines without armor except for a few scraps of half-rotted leather scrounged from the dead, wielding swords not fit for the Barbarians of Klanda, and dying in droves as their spears are more worthy of a child’s toy than a warrior.”
The slightly older man’s lips furrowed beneath his bushy mustache and he studied the contents of his bowl, shoulders slumped. Damon flinched and opened his mouth to say something, but the words died like so many men during this war. The two battle-brothers sat in silence for several minutes, the shouts and bustle of the base camp fading before their insistent thoughts.
Yallo broke the silence first. “You have the right of it, my friend,” he clapped his hand on Damon’s shoulder, “and I apologize for my thoughtless words. Tremalaine blades care not if Talmarathian blood spilled is noble or base-born, and neither shall I.”
Damon glanced sharply at Yallo, who caught his gaze and held it. “Know this; any who may speak ill of brave Talmarath soldiers, whether they be high-born or low, shall deal with Yallo, son of Pelias, heir to the Earldom of WindFern Valley.” He nodded, eyes still holding Damon’s. “This I swear before Anais, Mother Protector of Talmarath.”
Damon’s throat tightened and he turned his head. “How long have you known?” he murmured.
Yallo’s grin resumed its normal place. “For certain? Not until now, but there have been hints.” He laughed as Damon’s head whipped around, eyes wide. “Peace, brother,” he said, holding up his hand. “Your secret is safe, I believe. It has only been since our friendship has grown to include the realm of social interaction that I have noticed.”
A ragged roar rose from the assembled men of the rear-area, echoed from the passing figures gliding overhead. The Drake-Knight squadron dipped their wings, a salute to their horse-riding brethern, as they flew to the front.
Damon craned his neck as they zipped by, watching their flight path far after the horizon took them, lips curved upwards hard enough his cheeks ached. Yallo chuckled when Damon returned to earth. “What?”
“You and I share the same dream,” Yallo said, eyes twinkling. “And I have every faith we shall make it.”
Damon downed more stew as the camp returned to its normal dull wave, his shoulders a bit more relaxed.
Click here for the preceding stories of Damon and his character sketch. Hope you enjoy!
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