Waiting. He couldn't pretend he liked it, and he saw no reason to. The only problem was that, if Vipera's men heard him talking to his griffin about waiting, they might just realise about the ambush, and that could cause a lot of problems.
He was already screwed for believing Krig, and for letting Lux and Skala attack the palace after swearing to protect them. Lux and Axel both also wanted him dead for realising that they were a cute couple, but that was besides the point.
Krig was the point.
Rubin had sworn - sworn on his life - that Krig would not betray them. He had no idea what he was meant to do now - was he supposed to take his own life? Because that sure as hell wasn't happening. Was he meant to forfeit his life to Axel? To serve him? Could servants tell their masters that they'd be cute with a certain prince?
He was still avoiding the point. He'd trusted Krig, and now look at him. The entire reason one hundred and fifty of their men were dead. The reason Axel was now recovering from near death. It just went to show how much more reliable money was than people, but still, Rubin should never have trusted Krig. It didn't matter if Krig had been the first person to work with him - the only one to do so with great success. It didn't matter that Krig had always been relied upon when he needed something done, it didn't matter that he'd called Krig his friend and meant it, and it didn't matter that Krig had saved his life several times.
Nope. Didn't matter. He'd still betrayed them, and Rubin should never have trusted him, so none of it should matter.
The light, reflected from the moon and shone straight at the ambush party, glinted, and Rubin grinned. Vipera's men were on their way, and so was revenge.
He unsheathed his swords.
The first of Vipera's griffins soared above the trees, and Rubin waited. Below him, his steed was tense, ready to launch them into the air.
Snow's screech cut through the air, and suddenly their enemies were being pushed down, ice forming swiftly on their wings to force them to the ground. Flicking the reins of his griffin, Rubin spurred him into the sky, and they instantly tore into the first, helplessly frozen-winged enemy, relentlessly attacking its throat with claws and beak and swords. The rider screamed as the griffin plummeted, and Rubin couldn't help but grin. Lux's idea of using Snow's ice power to weight down their enemies had certainly been useful - they could do little but try to break the forming ice that rendered them unable to fly.
They might have been outnumbered, but outskilled?
That was never going to happen.
Grinning, he turned the griffin, already urging it into another fight. Claws, beak, swords. It became a rapid onslaught of all three, from one opponent to the next, a rapid, violent flurry of death as they swept through the cloud of struggling enemies. Like flies, they fell, spiralling to the ground, to their deaths, away from Rubin as he steered the griffin through the sky, taking down enemy after enemy after enemy.
Around him, Vipera's men tried to flee, but the ice on their wings stopped them running, held them there for Rubin to destroy. They fell, as though they had been hanging from strings, and Rubin was the one to slice them all down.
"Too easy!" he laughed.
Something slammed into his griffin, locking it into a violent fall as both griffins fell, talons slicing at the other; beaks flashing sharply as Rubin tried to gain control. Around him, a storm of feathers, torn and shredded and ripped callously from his steed's hide.
At the last moment, his enemy's griffin seemed to realise that it was either to let go or snap its bones upon the ground below, and it detached from their hateful fluster of pain. Somehow, his griffin managed to stop itself from hitting the ground, twisting its body around and beating its wings. He sighed in relief, and, too late, spun around to meet the sudden weight upon his mount's back.
The enemy griffin's rider dragged them both to the ground, slicing through Rubin's flying harness and throwing him down. He hit the ground hard, gasping for breath and trying - failing - to push himself to his feet.
Above him, their griffins tore hatefully at one another, trying desperately to send the other crashing to the floor. Something moved beside him, and Rubin realised only too late that Vipera's soldier had landed to his left. He scrambled for a blade, but his enemy's boot was suddenly on his wrist, crushing it without mercy. He reached for a knife with his spare hand, but then the other man was pinning him down, refusing to let him move, and he caught a glimpse of the shaggy blonde hair of his opponent, and suddenly Rubin wanted to be anywhere, anywhere but here.
A swarm of emotions surged through him as the spy raised a blade above him. Their eyes met. Krig faltered.
It was all Rubin needed. He grasped a handful of leaves, flinging them in Krig's face and shoving him off. In the spy's confusion, Rubin tackled him, slamming his body mercilessly against a tree, twisting both of his arms behind his back and holding him there.
"It would be so easy to slit your throat, now," Rubin hissed. "So very, very easy. You don't know how much I want to do that, Krig. It would teach Vipera not to send her rats into fights any more, wouldn't it? Why did she send you out? Because she's used you? Because now that you've done your job, she can throw you away?" He was screaming, now, but he didn't care. Krig struggled against him, and Rubin twisted his wrist even more painfully.
Krig gasped in pain, and Rubin almost felt sorry for him, but no, he couldn't feel sorry for him, couldn't, wouldn't! Krig was a traitor. Less than vermin.
"Why did you do it, Krig? Why did you kill them?"
"I've always served Vipera," Krig replied, and his voice was still as emotionless as Rubin remembered it. He tightened his grasp on the spy's arms.
"Why?" he demanded.
"Because I owe her my life!" There was pain in his voice, now. Rubin tried to feel satisfied.
"No, you don't. She might have sent somebody to drag you from some slaver, but that was because she thought she could control you. Apparently, you're dumb enough to believe her," Rubin hissed. "I thought we could trust you. I was wrong. I swore it on my life, Krig, and then you lead us into an ambush and destroy your comrades!"
"They weren't my comrades."
"They were!" he screamed. "You fought beside them, Krig! They trusted you, and what did you do? You killed them!"
Krig winced as Rubin dug his fingers into his skin, his nails drawing tiny beads of blood.
"I'm a spy. It's my job," he managed to choke out.
"You were a spy for the Golden Flame! Not for her!" Rubin shouted. "You... I called you my friend, once! My friend!"
Rubin gripped both wrists in one hand, unsheathing a knife with the other.
"I don't want to do this, Krig. You haven't left me any choice."
He slid the knife beneath Krig's chin, holding it there. A tiny bead of crimson appeared, rolling down the blade and landing on the leaves beneath them. Rubin dug the blade into Krig's flesh, trying, trying desperately to force his hand to move, to end it all now.
For a long moment, he stood there, breathing heavily, before retracting the blade, stepping back.
"Go away, Krig."
Slowly, the spy inched away from the tree. "But-"
"Get away from me, Krig! Don't ever let me see you again!"
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Why hadn't be done it? Why couldn't he just kill him? Krig was a coward. A traitor. What had stopped him?
The spy turned around, and ran. Rubin sank the the floor, chest heaving, the knife sliding from his fingers. Friendship. Stupid, pathetic, revolting friendship.
It was still clinging on.