**********

Clive went rigid as he heard the Mage cry out. He had been captivated by the story his Father had just revealed about his past. He wanted to comfort the man; it had obviously been hard for him to talk about. But the Mage was warning them of something, the way he was shouting it was as if he expected an attack. He unshouldered his Longbow, carved by his Father, and quickly notched an arrow. His eyes swept the room but all he could see where his own men in a similar state of wariness.

Just then his eyes caught a movement in the shadows, or rather a movement of the shadow itself. In fact all the shadows in the room were moving, stretching across the roof and floor of the lodge house. “What sorcery is this?” he called at the man called Kulan Gath, swinging his bow to bear on the man.

“It is not my doing, those that wish to stop me have sent these creatures,” he shouted. His hands were moving in quick gestures his fingers flicking every now and then. He suddenly unleashed a ball of fire at the corner of the room and a wailing sound that chilled his bones rent the air. A flaming figure ran forward from the shadows, seemingly emerging from it, straight toward Kulan. Sir Whitman stepped forward and neatly severed the things head from its body and it dropped to the floor. A second later it was nothing but a small pile of ash.

“What the hell are those things,” he cried.

“Lesser demons,” shouted the Mage, “Summoned from the limbo between reality and the afterlife to stop us from completing our Quest”.

“Then let them come and taste a Rose’s thorns,” shouted Sir Robertson, brandishing his sword at a shadow. The two Squires were behind him, and the second Mage of their group was hurriedly pulling on a suit of armour, an unfinished suit of armour. He had never heard of a mage wearing armour, apparently it prevented them from casting their magiks. He glanced to his Father on the other side of the King’s men and saw his personal guards were forming up around them.

Then it seemed like hell broke loose. About a dozen black creatures broke loose from the shadows racing across the floors a ceiling as easily as they were across the floor. Two of his archers barely had time to cry out as they were gutted by sharp clawed hands. Smoke rose from their mouths as they fell dead to the ground. He loosed an arrow at one of the creatures, taking it square through an eye. It dropped to the ground and thrashed around before eventually going up in smoke and ash. He notched another arrow as balls of fire and bursts of magical energy flew past him to take out three of the creatures on the roof.

He turned to see the two Knights fending off two of the demons with their swords. They were extremely skilled but even so they were hand pushed to keep the monsters at bay. Kulan Gath was summoning another fireball it seemed and the other Mage was firing magical energy from his gauntlets it seemed. He loosed another arrow taking out another demon. Around him he could hear the screams of his men that the creatures managed to get to. He spun around only to see one of them bearing down at him at alarming speeds.

Its eyes burned like hot coals and its mouth was open, revealing several rows of sharp teeth. It leapt into the air toward him before he could draw another arrow and he flung his arms off to fend it off. All he felt though was light ash falling around him and he opened his eyes to see an arrow fall to the ground at his feet. He turned around to see he Father had drawn his own bow, and despite his old age, had killed the creature attacking his son.

Clive smiled and drew another arrow. Just then he saw a black arm snaking around the back of his Father’ chair and a demonic head followed it. Its hellish eyes were fixed on his Father. He drew the arrow onto the sting of his bow and loosed it at the creature. But it was ultimately too slow. In front of his eyes he saw the demon shoot out its arm, plunging it into the back of his Father. Blood spurted from Hawkeye’s mouth as his guards turned to witness their failure. A second later Clive’s arrow pierced the demon’s skull, turning it to ash instantly.

He cried out in anguish for his Father and ran forward. There was less noise around him now, most of the demons were dead, only one seemed to be left and it was quickly dispatched by a sword stroke from Sir Robertson.

As he got to his Father he threw his bow to the ground and fell by his knees beside him. He gathered his father to him, “Father are you okay, Gods let him be okay,” he cried.

“Listen to me son,” came the rasped voice of Hawkeye. “It is all you now my boy,” he whispered, “Make your own destiny, make me proud”

Through his tears Clive managed to get words out, “But you are Hawkeye,” he pleaded, “You cannot die”

“You are Hawkeye now Clive, bear the name proudly,” his Father raised his hand to Clive’s face, “I did”. A final shuddering breath escaped Devrim Barton’s body as he died in his son’s arms.

**********

Stephan watched as the funeral pyre burned, sending smoke high into the sky. He sent a silent prayer to Artoruis, the God of Honour and Justice, asking him to take his fallen warrior into his halls. The Magician had not wanted to stay after they had been attacked by hell-spawn but had caved when Sir Whiteman had refused to leave before giving Hawkeye the full burial rights of a Knight of the Rose.

He walked over to where the rest of his companions were saddling their horses.

“We need to be away from here quickly,” snapped Kulan, “We have already tarried too long; they will know their attack has failed, and will send something worse if we are not gone soon”.

“Who are they?” asked Antonius, as he packed away the intricate magical armour he wore into cases carried at the side of his horse. “And how do they know of our Quest?”

“‘They’ are those that were the cause of the fall of Arthadia in my visions. And they have many ways to find out things that should stay hidden from them. I should have thought they would spy on us, I will be taking better precautions in future,” explained Kulan.

“Then let us be away,” said Daniel, “Already this Quest has fallen on evil times and we inflict it on these people by being here. They may be bandits but even they do not deserve such horrors”.

Stephan mounted his horse and watched as Clive Barton walked toward them leading a horse of his own. “Master Barton, we again express out condolences at the loss of your Father and…”

“Hawkeye,” said the man, interrupting Stephan. “My name is Hawkeye now. And I want to join you, whoever killed my father was trying to stop you from what you are trying to do. Were it my Father he would have joined you anyway, if only to keep an eye on that snake,” he said, pointing at Kulan.

“Ridiculous,” raged Kulan, “We do not need an outlaw to help carry out the wishes of the King of Arthadia…”

“I will prove myself more than a bandit. By my actions I will seek a full pardon for myself and my Father. I will be a man he could be proud of,” interrupted Clive again. “Besides, I shoot better than he ever did anyway,” he added with a small grin.

“I accept your pledge of help Hawkeye,” said Daniel, reaching down to clasp forearms with the man. “And now we must be off, lest we bring more travesties to this place”.

As they began to ride from the bandit camp, Stephan watched the newly named Hawkeye. Not once did the young archer look back the place nor the funeral pyre that his Father rested on.

Next: Royal Guard #3 Quest –
Sword of day and sword of night,
Sword of dark and sword of light,
Freedom is gained by strength and might,
A need for both will break the lock,
A curse will ensure it was not for nought.