Chapter 33 [The Battle of the Bridge]
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It was a calm night like any other night in Frozehaven. A fog had covered the precipice of the horizon. Not a single soul can peer through the thick cloud. Even a spotter equipped with a large telescope had trouble seeing through it. However, even if an enemy ship ever came to invade, they could signal the alarm even before the ships ever made it to shore.

Yet, this enemy hidden underneath the cloak of the fog had no intention to invade, no, their intention was more destructive, a complete wipe of their enemy. To achieve this specific goal had taken them years of planning and resources. The resources from a man who had lost everything and gained everything through it. He was waiting for this day to unveil his ultimate weapon.

A cannon that was so massive it had to be sailed by four battleships and crewed by a couple of dozen men. The weapon was kept steady by a complex gyroscope so it could precisely aim at its target, but due to its size, it had trouble maneuvering its aim.

A dark man in golden scale armor breathed in the salted sea air. Then calmly, he turned to his compatriot beside him, but the man he looked upon was wearing a humble robe, different from his attire. He had a pair of furrowed eyebrows, not out of anger, but deep regret as he gripped the wooden railing tightly.

“Gustav, aren't you excited to see your years of research in the field?”

“Not like this, my sultan.”

“It’s a shame then. While for me, I am excited because I have waited for this day for a long time. Too long perhaps. Now they will feel what I felt on that day.”

“Shouldn't we warn them?”

“What for?”

“There are children there.”

“And waste our element of surprise? No. You shouldn't worry yourself for them, Gustav. There are always casualties in war.”

“This isn't war, it’s a massacre,” mumbled Gustav.

“Prepare the cannon!” The sultan ordered his men and quickly they rushed to their battle stations.

The drums of war echoed throughout the sky as the cannon slowly turned its barrel at the castle. A small metal pod was loaded inside the cannon and the men began turning the twin wheels. The wheels spun the gears inside the cannon causing a spark of electricity to lick itself against the metal pod. The metal pod vibrated and hovered inside the barrel as the shock of electricity caused a sudden imbalance shift of energy inside the pod.

Such a small pod to pack such massive power as a burst of energy exploded from the pod. With no way to go, the energy poured out of the end of the barrel and traveled across the sky. Illuminating the heavens with a pure blue hue like a shooting star and cutting through the fog like a hot knife through butter. Creating a telescopic view of Snowholt.

The citizens of Snowholt were unaware of the light as they slept in their comfy beds, only a few drunkards and late-night strollers saw the shooting star and they thought nothing of it at first. Until it slowly dropped onto the castle.

Within a few seconds, the blue shooting star landed against the castle. The most destructive power in the history of the realm. The once strong Frozehaven’s castle that stood for over a dozen generations exploded into a ball of flame.

The flame expanded, anything it touched melted in an instant and the area near where the flame couldn't reach was unspared as a deafening shockwave shattered every brick, wood, and steel until it reached the port. It didn't end there as the aftershock created a vortex where the tides pulled the battleships back into the mainland and exploded once more, sending them flying back into the oceans.

The Sultan’s army cheered and applauded at their absolute victory over their enemy, but Gustav stood there, frigid as a statue while a heavy realization dawned on him. With the many horrid possibilities his research had, he had no idea the extent of the destruction he birthed. At that moment he saw not the end of Frozehaven, but something much worse.

 

***

 

True that the explosion had destroyed the city, but humans are resilient creatures, especially this one human who had endured it all. Victor pushed the rubbles off his face and chest. His body trembling and shaking to the core. He couldn't see and the only sound he could hear was a faint ringing in his eardrums.

However, as the ringing subsided and the thick dust dissipated from his sight. A sob in the distance replaced the ringing while the darkness was greeted by a devastated landscape of rubbles and ashes.

“K-Kiko?” Victor dragged his hand against his forehead, a sense of wetness was clear. When he pulled away, a red liquid can be seen dripping down his fingers. With gritted teeth, he pushed the wooden beam off his legs.

“Kenn? Kiko? Yemen?! Anyone?!”

“Gabriella?!”

“My lord?” A faint reply took Victor by surprise, he shambled and stumbled toward the feminine voice.

“Gabriella? No. No!” When Victor arrived at her side, he shook his head as an ugly frown and tears plagued him.

A wooden beam had impaled out of her stomach and her eyes were filled with broken glasses. It was a painful sight to see but despite the pain and horror, Gabriella was smiling and as she ran her hands against Victor's face, a trail of blood was left behind.

“No…Gabriella, your--”

“Sshhh, my lord. I know…”

“I’m here for you.” Victor clenched his fist.

“All my life has been about serving you, my lord. From young to old, I have had the pleasure of watching you grow. You were more than my prince, you were a family to me, and I had hope that you felt the same way I do.” She held Victor’s hands tightly, and he felt her shivering fears from her just her hands.

“I do, Gabriella.” His words managed to send relief to the poor woman.

The sound of screaming wasn't enough for Victor to turn his attention away. Even the sound of multiple cannon fire wasn't enough to snatch his attention. He held Gabriella’s hands as tight as he could and looked into her face. However, a man forcefully pulled him away from Gabriella.

Outraged by the act, Victor turned with his fist ready to strike, but he halted his anger when he saw his father. Fully dressed in melted and broken golden armor. Half his skin was burned to char, every single strand of hair on his body was scorched. There was no resemblance to the man that the people once revered as The King.

“Snap out of it,” ordered The King with gritted teeth.

“Gabriella? She’s…”

The King smacked his head to the side causing him to fall against the rubbles. He then took out his sword while Victor raised his hands in fear. However, that sword was not for him, it was for the enemy who had charged at them with a bayonet attached at the end of his rifle. The enemy was going to take out their life, but The King cut down his enemy with a single swing. The enemy’s head rolled off to the side as his body fell to the knees.

“She’s gone,” said The King with a painful gaze as he sheathed his sword slowly.

“The enemies had landed on our doorstep. A few of our people are still alive. You. No. We need to get them out of here. Away from the battle.”

“Battle? Have you not seen what just happened?! There is no battle! They are annihilating us! And we didn't even see it coming.”

The rows of gunfire echoed through the devastated city while the scream of every surviving child and woman haunted the alley as they were cut down without mercy. Victor looked around him with a trembling chin, but when he was about to turn to Gabriella’s body, The King placed his hand on his son’s shoulder.

With a determined gaze followed by a short sigh, he forced his son to stand, and afterward, unsheathed his sword. Gripping the handle, he shoved the pommel against his son’s stomach. His son fell to the ground, coughing and groaning.

“I did not raise a cowardly son. No matter how impossible it may seem, hopeless or not, Frozehaven must survive. We have to make sure of that or die trying. For that, the duty thrust upon us by our people.”

“Thrust upon you! Not me. I never asked for any of this.”

“Nobody did.”

“Your Highness! We are here to fight.” Julius appeared with a dozen loyal battle-ready men behind him. They were equipped with swords between their belt and armor that may seem broken but were still usable. They dropped a knee at The King.

“Julius? Are you mad, you should run. We can't win this fight.”

“And leave the people to die? Never, my prince.”

The King turned to Julius, unsheathed his sword, and tapped it on his friend’s shoulders.

“Once more, I grant you the title of Commander. For your service, may Gidona welcome you to her bosom with open arms.” Julius stood with his chest puffed, unshaken, and courageous beyond belief.

“The enemy has taken full control of the port. The streets are blocked by rubbles. There’s a single bridge to the north of here that is still standing. It’s the only way to cross the canal between the port and the inner city. We can buy our people time to escape if we block the bridge, but it will be suicide for us to face them head-on.”

“A small price to pay so we can give our people more time to get to safety.”

“A small price? Are you all mad?! You're throwing your life away!”

“My prince--” Julius was interrupted by The King.

Victor turned to the soldiers and knights, “Are you fine with throwing your life away? Not able to see your family ever again? Break their hearts with your so-called honorable sacrifice? Run. Run! You don't own your life to this land.”

The knight in front steps forward, “My apology, my prince, but I don't think I can.”

“You can't or you won't?”

“Won’t.” He replied quickly.

“Your Highness? Don't you dare force them to fight?”

The King turned to his soldiers, “You have my permission to leave.”

As expected, no one leaves.

“You all are mad. Mad! I tell you!”

“We aren't mad. Life has always been unfair, my prince, and we tried to make a good choice in this unfair world.” Julius lay his hand on Victor’s shoulder then turned away to march toward north alongside his men.

The King held Victor’s hand, “Leave, Victor. They need you. You must replace me.”

“Replace you? How about mom? Virgil?”

With a downcast gaze, The King had no choice but to tell Victor’s the truth, “My time in this world is nearing. The only one who’s going to be left is you, and you have our blood, and you are their hope.”

“No…”

The King pulled his hands away and followed his men, but he stopped for a moment and gazed at the ashen clouds. ”I am a terrible father, I know, but I am a good damn king, or at least I tried to be.” He let out a short chuckle before continuing his jog.

Victor tightened his grip over his hilt, shutting his eyelids together, he could see it. He stood there, unaware of the time that passed by. He heard the shouting of courageous men from the north. Their war of cry was feared upon by their enemy but was a cry of hope for the people.

 

The Battle of the Bridge.

The King turned Julius with a smile, surrounded by a hundred men with their honorable weapons. The knights and soldiers held the blade tightly and heaved their breath above the pile of dead bodies of their enemies. Unshaken by fear, courageous beyond belief, but they are still human, tired, and in pain. Lost so much, but never lost their hope. Fighting beside their ruler was enough for them. Protecting their people was enough for them.

This was enough for them.

“No matter what you had done in the past, today they will only remember us as heroes. Our sins are forgiven, our flaws are accepted, our broken souls are welcome. Let Gidona guide you to her bosom, and back to your family. Now we fight!” David raised his sword toward the sky. It was a miracle as the cloud disperse just enough to let a warm light shone upon them, parading them like legends.

“FOR FROZEHAVEN!” roared David with all his heart and caused his men’s heart to harden as they charged toward their enemy.

A barrage of metal balls was unleashed, piercing through the gaps of their steel armors like butter, ripping their flesh and bone. However, it wasn't enough as they kept charging, bloody, and roaring. A group of madmen, unstoppable as they may seem, but as the second row of a volley of gunfire caused them to drop like flies. One by one, they fell until the last one of them: The King, stood alone and riddled with holes.

“You lost, David.” The Sultan emerged from the crowd of men.

The King dropped to his knees with only his sword to hold his torso upward. “I...I don't deserve them.”

“Them?”

“Lillian. Virgil...Victor.” His eyes darted at the sky, glancing, searching, witnessing. He saw something, a flash of his life, the day he married his wife, the day he held his firstborn, the day he celebrated his second birthday with his family. No matter how much he told himself, it wasn't his duty that was his priority, it was always his family, and it was so foolish of him to realize it just now.

 

His chin lowered.

His sight darkened.

His body leaned against his sword as if he was praying for the last time.

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