"no, araminta, no! do not leave us! " the crown princess cried in despair, as araminta descended the stairs of the tower. the courtiers and court ladies huddled on the edge of the tower, looking back at the still empty river.
but araminta's mind was made up. the spirit of her warrior ancestors filled her being. reaching the street, she scanned the ground for something that could be used as a weapon.
the sun had now climbed to its zenith, but was beginning to be obscured by the smoke of the battle which engulfed the capital.
hearing something behind her, araminta whirled. but it was only one of the younger ladies, who had followed her down the stairs.
"i am zamatha," she cried. "let me follow you!"
"follow as you wish," araminta replied. "but find a weapon and be prepared to use it."
"a weapon! but ---" but araminta had already had already strode ahead, toward the loudest sounds of battle. zamatha hesiatated, then followed.
turning the next corner, araminta searched the shadows desperately for a weapon.
they saw many weapons - in the hands of the rebels. a dozen rebel soldiers blocked their path.
araminta looked for a weapon, or anything that could be used as a weapon. seeing nothing, she turned to flee back to the tower, but stumbled and fell.
the last thing she saw as the soldiers fell upon her was the girl zamantha racing back in the direction of the tower and the south wall.
the city was in the hands of the rebels.
ferdirondo, despite his determination to fight to end and win immortal glory, had been overwhelmed by dozens of soldiers, who, risking almost certain death at the point of his mighty sword, were determined to win the reward promised by the rebel commander for his capture alive.
seeing their brave commander captured, the soldiers in his army - those few that still survived - made one last mad try to rescue him, but with no prices on their heads, they were quickly cut down.
with the victory of the rebels, the citizens who had been hiding in their homes came out and threw flowers at them. the more disciplined rebel cohorts fanned out and established headquarters and supply points in the city's wealthiest and well appointed homes.
on the west wall, the highest wall of the city that had not been destroyed by the fighting, the rebel commander, mardo - who had not seen fit to engage ferdirondo in single combat - had trumpets blown and his flag unfurled over the city to signal his victory.
a great victory feast had been promised the inhabitants of the city of adriatica by the victorious mardo.
the feast was to celebrate the conquest of the city by the rebels - and also the marriage of mardo to the princess persephone, who had been captured, with all her court by the barbarians who had stormed the tower from the river after araminta had gone in search of ferdirondo.
the elderly king, persephone's grandfather, had abdicated his throne to mardo and was being held hostage at the camp the barbarians maintained outside the city walls.
a high gallows had been erected in front of the west wall. prior to the marriage and the feast, ferdirondo was to be executed. but the exact manner of his demise had not been determined. mardo, the commander, was renowned for, and prided himself on, his extreme and inventive cruelty, which had struck fear, awe and consternation through the lands he had ravaged.
the sun was beginning its descent when mardo ascended to a high seat placed on the west wall, attended by his captains, and by various members of the adriatic nobility and citizenry who in defeat had pledged their fealty to him.
he looked out on the ravaged city and laughed.
ferdirondo was then brought up the steps of the gallows opposite by a dozen barbarian soldiers. he made no struggle against the tight bonds that held him, and kept his head high as they roughly shoved him up the steps.
mardo laughed even louder. he fixed his gaze on ferdirondo as reached the top steps.
a crew of executioners awaited on the gallows, with various instruments of torture. they had several braziers lit in front of them. the smoke from the coals drifted over the wall and over the water.
now one of mardo's lieutenants came up behind him and whispered in his ear.
"we have something here, my lord, which may amuse you even more than this."
"more than roasting the heart of my enemy and eating it? and what could that be?"
"this, my lord ! look!"
mardo turned and beheld, as tightly bound as ferdirondo and carried between two of his burliest and most brutal soldiers - araminta!
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