The remaining nobles of Vulkenthor sat around the table in their now seemingly dark and desolate meeting chamber. Banners and flags displaying the symbols of their great kingdom hung around the walls of the council room, waiting for the flames that were sure to turn them to ash in the coming hours. The boisterous arguing of the royal men within the chamber rivaled the noise of the increasingly violent battle outside the inner city gates; now quickly drawing nearer the congregational room.
A story below the nobles’ assembly, in the castle’s infirmary, laid a scarred and broken man. Evidence of the hardships and tortures this man had been through over the years lie scattered around his body. Anyone who had ever known this man never fully believed the rumors or whispers of the hardships and trials he had faced; though the scars that cover his torso, legs, and arms like road routes on a map tell a convincing tale that this man had never lived an easy day in his battle-tested life. To further add truth to the legend, the man’s left hand was no hand at all, but instead a steel contraption in the shape of a clawed, five fingered paw permanently ready to strike down any man, or beast, in his way. The weapon was attached by leather buckles at the forearm and wrist which lead to no true human hand any longer, lost in battle years before. Right hand had stayed loyal to the man for the thirty years he had lived and had not yet abandoned its master.
An infirmary maid now tended to four new arrow wounds that would add yet more points to the scarred map that was the man’s body. The patient of the infirmary nurses now lay in a cold sweat, murmuring speech so softly that the maidens cannot hear the whispers. Arguments amongst the nobles in the room above referred to this man. Every passing minute spent arguing, or nursing, brought the men, women, and children of Vulkenthor closer to death; the attacking hordes outside advanced swiftly, showing no mercy.
“I told you all we could not trust him! The moment he stepped through our gates, he doomed our kingdom! Now he lies in the infirmary ready to die. Whether he lead the goblins here or no, we should end him and send his head to their master. He is clearly the reason our kingdom now burns!” A blond-haired, green eyed, tall and slender noble shouted to his companions.
“Shadow was a broken man when he stumbled into our city, Andros! He was wounded, in need of care. It has never been our way to turn away those who are in need of aid we can supply them. He warned us of what might come by harboring him, and yet because of being the kind and generous people our kingdom is known for we saved his life anyway. The fault belongs to none other than ourselves! If we can awaken the man and bring him to health swiftly, Shadow may be just be what we need to turn the tide in this battle! Do not doubt so quickly, my friend!” A shorter, stockier, brown-haired man said in reply to the man known as Andros.
A third man, donned in steel armor enlaced with gold lining, stood and spoke in his deep, mellifluous voice saying, “Andros, Vilkus. I will hear no more talk of what shall be done with the man known as Shadow. Whether he can turn the tide in this fight or no, there is nothing that can be done as he lies unconscious in the infirmary below us. Nor will we slay a man, that none among us has even had a chance to make conversation with, in cold blood. That is not our way-”
“But, Your Majesty-” Andros interjected.
“Enough, I said! We must decide what our next move must be. The fight is lost and now we must get as many of our people out of the city as safely as possible. Time draws short and I fear if we dawdle any longer there may be no hope for any of us…” The armored man said with the look of man defeated, but courage quickly took its place.
Below, surrounded by seemingly countless other wounded in the infirmary, the one-handed man known by the name Shadow among the noblemen above, seemed to be fighting amongst something within his own mind. Unintelligible shouts crossed his lips as his body began to shake and convulse. Infirmary maids ran to restrain Shadow before he brought further injury to himself. One last scream of agony burst from the man’s throat. His eyes shot open and his right hand curled into a fist.