Chapter 11: Wise Old Man

The Surprising Life and Death of Diggory Franklin

I slept fitfully, with unsettling dreams. They featured Sean Connery in a shootout with Don Corleone, with me stuck in the middle. I woke up thinking I’d watched too many action movies as a kid.

But, in daylight, my problems didn’t seem much smaller. I was caught in the middle of a vast web, with spiders all around me. The C.I.A., the F.B.I., a dangerous terrorist, and apparently the mob, all interested in me and my father’s company. The stakes kept getting higher in a game I didn’t really want to play.

Nemesis: Outcome

No Man an Island

Genevieve had held completely still throughout the duel, the only sign of her concern for Alex was in the tightness of her gripped fingers and the set of her jaw as she grit her teeth. She could not tear her eyes away, however.

Nemesis: Final Moments

No Man an Island

Time slowed to almost a standstill. Alex was dimly aware of hailstones pinging off his metal shell and his breath rising in falling in his chest. His muscles were already sore from the fighting, as the rough fall combined with his armour’s weight was putting an unexpected strain on his body. Alex was not used to full armour, having only worn light leather and chain mail on his scouting expeditions. They were more suited to the ambushes and skirmishes that had become his rebellion’s style of fighting.

Nemesis: The Duel

No Man an Island

As the sun rose over the eastern horizon it struck the gold-decorated helm on Neal Osborne’s head, making it shine in the light. He sat astride his golden stallion in his red and gold armour, cutting a noble figure as he rode towards the front lines. His troops parted in the ranks to create a path for their leader, and they were applauding and cheering as he paraded through their midst. Neal waved to either side like a triumphant king, as if he had already won this battle. In his mind, this was true. He saw no way for Alex to defeat him.


No Man an Island

Neal stared at the piece of parchment in disbelief. It lay on his map table beside the arrow that had delivered it. Neal sat down in the nearest chair, hardly seeing the candlelight flickering in his pavilion. He was lost in his own thoughts.

“Well?” Simon Lamb said expectantly. “What does it say?”

Neal came back from his reverie and gestured for Lamb to pick it up. Simon grabbed the paper and read for himself Alexander Rothrock’s challenge. As he did, he saw that Neal was shaking.

“Something wrong?” He asked.

Ethan: Envy

No Man an Island

We arose before dawn to find that it had snowed again in the night. Gwen cooked breakfast while Alexander began putting on his armour. This morning he was not wearing his riding armour from before, but a full set of elaborate design. In their preparations for war, the Outlanders had toyed with the idea of a fully armoured cavalry like that of the Middle Ages. They had not the time or resources to fulfill this vision, but a few suits of armour had been made. Now Alex was strapping on a set so that he could ride out to face his archenemy.

Ethan: The Challenge

No Man an Island

It seemed to happen in slow motion. We rushed forward in the torrents of rain, muscles springing into action. Alex called out to nearby soldiers to help defend the breach in the wall, hollering as loud as he could. Enemy troops began pouring through the gap as we splashed through mud and puddles towards them. I drew my sword, afire with white light, and plunged into the chaos.

Ethan: Siege Weapons

No Man an Island

A few hours after what would have been sunset, had we been able to see the sun, we heard new rumblings. Lower and less intense than the booms of thunder that still echoed through the sky, these sounded too regular.

“Wheels?” I asked. “Big heavy ones?” I whispered directly into Alex’s ear, not wanting to shout.

Ethan: Besieged

No Man an Island

They fell back for the day, staying outside arrow range. We watched from the ramparts as they camped out in clear view, just waiting. I guessed that they would attack at dark once again, but wondered what their plan was. So far as I could tell they had no means of breaching the walls.

Ethan: Reunited

No Man an Island

They ran forward with weapons bared, and we wearily readied ourselves for the attack. Men who could barely walk hefted heavy shields, drew their blades and stood ready to face the charge. I raised my blade to offer one last cheering cry to rouse them to battle, and my voice was joined by the groaning of the gates behind us.

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