Can Blind, Can Burn

Gabriel, a doomed king, is waiting for his demise. His castle is under siege, and he only has a few soldiers left. Not long goes before the enemy is at his doorstep. Inside his throneroom comes a Templar, hell-bent on stopping Gabriel's reign.

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1. Chapter 1

Gabriel started impatiently tapping the table. He was waiting for his opponent to make the next move. The flickering candle could barely illuminate the whole table and Gabriel's facial features were hard to see, though his long, wavy and brown hair was not easily overlooked. The opponent moved almost constantly but despite that, most of the time was spent waiting. The table looked out of place, being pressed up against the wall, even though there was a lot of space in the middle. The candle placed on the table made it even more obvious.

Gabriel planned his next move, but no matter how much he concentrated, he could not find a way around the inevitable fate. Few torches were hanging at the wall but it was not enough to brighten the whole room. This was the throne room where Gabriel spent the most of his time, sitting, planning, reigning. In the back of the room was the throne, which looked like nothing special in the gloomy room. At the throne was two statues of knights standing ready. There were two of those at the entrance, too. Around the walls hung several portraits of past lords of the castle. There had been other interesting things too but Gabriel had them removed to have more space to be free in. He had enough space to move freely in even before he had removed the other things but without them being there, it just felt bigger.

Gabriel's attention was caught by the rumbling sound of his castle getting crushed by giant stones fired from catapults.

His attention returned to his game of chess once again. Black and white pieces of wood carved as soldiers were scattered all over the board, which was also a perfect map of Gabriel's gigantic castle. The black pieces were abundant and there were very few white pieces. One particularly interesting black piece resembled an overturned crucifix. The mark of the Templars.

Out of nowhere, a black piece moved toward, what on the map was the throne room. Other pieces moved, too, they moved all the time, but this one was close to being able to eliminate one of his white pieces. It was no ordinary game of chess. Gabriel was the only one sitting in the room. Nobody to move around the black pieces but they moved anyway. He had no opponent in front of him, yet he was still losing.

Gabriel was in a bad situation, he could not win the fight with this few pieces. He lifted his hand, as if ready to move a piece but the same black piece which moved before interrupted him and moved again. It moved right into one of the white pieces and they both started shaking violently and getting small cracks all over. After several minutes of shaking, the white piece flew with great velocity away from the board into a wall.

Gabriel put his hand on his forehead, touching both his temples and covering his eyes. He had an incredible urge to smash the chess board but he knew that was impossible. He did not want it to be over, not after everything that had happened, after everything he had worked hard for. There was no way out, he was surrounded, he knew he was going to die.

The sound of marching soldiers and war cries drew closer. Gabriel, a doomed king, could feel his end coming towards him with every step he heard, with every cry he heard. A tear rolled down his cheek. The only thing he could do now was drowning in self-pity, thinking about all the mistakes he had made, about everything that he wanted, like it was something noble. He knew nobody was going to pity him, yet he kept thinking about how pathetic he was, as if everybody else would feel sympathy towards him and thinking, 'He just wanted peace, we can't blame him'. Of course, this was ridiculous, nobody would see the truth, especially not his opponent.

Gabriel gently threw the remaining white pieces off the board and got up violently from his chair and started pacing back and forth. He could not stand the feeling. He was restless, anxious and most of all, he was scared. He noticed his sword leaning against his throne, the metal shining in the dim light. He could feel his hand twitching. He went towards it and picked it up. He pressed the cold steel against his throat, ready to end everything in one, painless second. But he couldn't do it. He wanted to die but not by his own hand.

He slowly lowered his sword and put it back in place. He felt a strong urge to hit something but reconsidered after thinking about the damages it would cause to his hand.

Gabriel heard the enormous entrance gate to the throne room getting opened and a moment of fear struck Gabriel, but he was confused since the marching soldiers were still not that close. The small figure of a young, beautiful woman with long, golden hair appeared. Only half of her was visible, the other half was hidden behind the wooden gate. Gabriel hurried to wipe his eyes in his sleeves.

"Ummm" She began, almost whispering "Master Gabriel, I-"

"Sa-" He interrupted, but waited until she had completely stopped speaking before continuing what he was about to say. "Sarah, what are you doing here? I told you to escape, did I not?" Gabriel stood upright with his chest thrust out, hands behind his back and looked up towards the ceiling, looking away from the young woman.

Sarah walked into the room. "You did, Master Gabriel, but I just..." She stopped speaking and looked down at the floor in a reserved manner.

"N-n-n-n” He had to stop speaking for a moment. After a while, he began speaking again, ”Not that it matters now, the enemy has blocked off all the potential escape routes, you and I are both going to get captured now" Gabriel hurried to say, before she could continue her sentence.

Her expression saddened, "Do you plan to die here, Master Gabriel?".

Gabriel remained silent for a prolonged time, then turned his head to face Sarah,

"It is not my plan to arrange, that honor belongs to someone else. Right now, I can only watch as events unfold" his face had no expression, just as it usually didn't have. "And I am your master no more, Sarah, surrender to the enemy".

Sarah raised her voice, "What do you mean by surre-"

Gabriel interrupted, "I-I-I-I” again, he had to stop speaking,” I know the Templars and their code of honor: Castle inhabitants may leave unharmed if they wish to do so." His voice was as monotone as ever. "You are dismissed". He hated to interrupt like that, but he needed to get his point across quickly.

Tears started forming in her eyes and Gabriel looked away, wondering whether he should have put that in a nicer way, even though he did not think it was particularly oppressive, but looking at the sad woman made him feel guilty. He heard the noise from the soldiers drawing closer. Sarah then walked away without saying a word.

 Gabriel sighed and walked slowly towards his throne. The throne looked like nothing in particular, nothing fancy. Once, in its place, was another throne. It looked magnificent, it was made of massive silver with decorations of gold and big, shining stones. Gabriel discarded it because it was uncomfortable to sit in, and he planned to sit in that chair a lot. Besides, Gabriel did not care much about appearances. In its stead was a bland chair with wool to sit on, it was not much, but it was soft and comfortable.

Leaning up against the chair was his sword, long enough to be used with two hands, but it was fairly small for a two-handed weapon. Small enough to be used together with a shield, in one hand. Gabriel picked it up and gave it a few test-swings. He would fight with this and he would kill them all with it, he was sure of that. Nobody was better than him at fighting. He had not tried to fight many people in his past, but how hard could it be? In every scenario, he came up with, he would always win, he was confident. He did not wear any armor, because he was much faster without it. He would be faster than any of them and he would hit the right places so that they all would die before even drawing their swords. Big armors would only slow people down, so Gabriel had no idea how people were stupid enough to wear them. He sat on his throne, leaning his head on his fist and waited.

 

Gabriel's attention focused on the gates when he heard loud banging, they were clearly trying to force the door open. They were probably under the illusion that Gabriel had barred the door up, but he hadn't bothered. The door was simply locked, waiting to be unlocked by some simple hand movements, though that did not seem to have occurred to them. Someone tried to force the gate open. With what, was a question Gabriel could not answer. There was no way they could get a siege tool all the way up to the throne room. With every hit, splinters flew away from the door and the wood cracked. It was a pretty solid door, so it took them some time to get it open.

The lock broke in the end and they walked straight in. A confident smile showed on Gabriel's lips as soldiers moved in. Three soldiers fully armored came in with shields and swords standing ready. Several lightly armored men with crossbows came in after, with their crossbows all pointing toward Gabriel. Gabriel only needed to turn their attention away for a second so everything could go as planned. Pushing everybody to the sides, a tall knight appeared.

Not just any knight, but a Templar, a paladin. His armor looked gracious, protecting every part of his body. They didn't fight on horses like normal knights did, they had different adversaries, completely different. On his torso, a giant, golden overturned crucifix was painted on. That had not gone as Gabriel planned. Templars were different than normal soldiers, they were.... just different. Judging by how elegant his armor looked, Gabriel assumed that he was of high rank. But Gabriel did not waver. He arose confidently and just stood there. The paladin raised his arm and pointed toward Gabriel.

"You are Gabriel." He said, half question, half a statement. He lowered his arm.

"You" Gabriel started, raising his arm and pointed toward the paladin in the same manner the paladin had used just before, "ar-ar-ar-ar” Gabriel sighed,” you are not daf- Oh damn it all, this has completely ruined my- Oh what is called now?" Gabriel was so disappointed, he wanted to give a great impression before he died.

A sarcastic laugh was heard from beneath the Templar’s helmet, which covered his entire face. After a while he walked towards Gabriel.

"You can choose to follow quietly and face the king’s punishment for your crimes or I can just kill you here right now” short and concise.

Gabriel smiled confidently, "Crimes? I have done no such thing, I just do not have the same outlook on life as you do".

The paladin walked Gabriel in a frustrated manner, pointed aggressively towards the ground and raised his voice, "The way you came to power, the way you stayed in power, is most definitely a crime! People suffer becau-" he silenced, as if trying to figure out what to say next, as if he had it on the tip of his tongue but did not make any sense.

Gabriel's smile dropped. He was angry at how he insulted Gabriel's ways and beliefs like that, but he kept up his calm and collected manner, "And what about those you have hunted down and burn to death? Do they not suffer?"

The paladin lowered his sword and spoke in a lower, almost sympathetic voice, "None of us likes violence, Gabriel. I think you have misjudged us. We don't kill innocent people, Gabriel. We hunt demons and we will kill those who're colluding with them." His voice hardened again, "And YOU, Gabriel, are colluding with them and so is the rest of your kingdom. None of this would have happened to begin if you just-". He silenced again, clenching his fist and holding it up to his mouth.

Gabriel had gotten tired of speaking to the paladin. He spoke as if he knew everything about him, as if Gabriel knew nothing about the outside world, as if he didn't know anything about his own war. This was no longer war as it was in the beginning, it was genocide, it was foolish. Gabriel had his own beliefs, his own way of doing things and that was labeled as wrong just because it was different from what everybody else believed in.

Gabriel walked towards the paladin with his sword in his hand. The soldiers and the crossbowmen readied to act.

He looked straight into the paladin’s helmet, concentrating deeply. "Let us fight, you and me and if I win, your ruler will let me go".

The paladin stared blankly for a short time, "Very well" he said shortly. The soldiers behind him protested, but the paladin told them to stand down and let him handle it, after all, he was a knight and could not refuse a challenge from an opponent. Both Gabriel and the paladin readied to fight. Now, Gabriel had no chance of losing, he only had to fight against one person and then, he would be free. Though, he did not know if his friends would agree to letting him go after the paladin died, but he would take care of it when the time came.

 

Nobody had said anything, but they both knew that the fight had begun and Gabriel intended to end it quickly, so he readied his sword for a thrust and charged forward. The tip of Gabriel’s sword collided with the paladin’s armor. Gabriel smiled. But it was too soon. He quickly realized that his sword had not even made a dent in the paladin’s armor. In that moment, Gabriel's confident expression changed to one of frustration. The paladin headbutted Gabriel right on the nose and he fell to the ground with big pains in his face. He dropped his sword the moment he hit the ground. The paladin planted a foot on Gabriel's chest, so that he could not get up.

"I win." the paladin whispered. Gabriel could not see his expression through his helmet, but he was sure he was smiling. But he could not say anything more before Gabriel had found a dagger and shoved it into his knee as hard as he could, where the armor did not cover. Blood poured out from the wound and the paladin let out a short scream and fell to the ground while gasping for air and groaning in pain, trying hard not to scream loudly. Gabriel got up, his confidence clearly radiating off him. He spread out his arms, palms up and started walking in a circle around the wounded paladin.

"Seems that I win” he picked up his sword was and ready to stab the paladin, giving the final blow that would end his life. He held it with both hands and was just about kill him, but something suddenly came flying at him. It was fast, Gabriel had not seen it coming. He dropped his sword, which was crimson red. His hands had the same color. But it did not hurt, not at all. He could not feel anything. Metal was sticking out of it. Gabriel was confused. It all went so fast and it seemed as if it didn't even happen at all, like it was some hazy dream. It was not long before more projectiles came flying at him, completely covering him with crossbow bolts. It still didn't feel real, none of it did. Everything was happening before he could react to it and he didn't know what was happening until it was over. Completely covered in blood, Gabriel fell to the ground, feeling every bit of life draining out of him. In his last moments, only one sentence resounded in his mind: You lost, Gabriel.

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