40 - To the Death

After the king denies their request for a duel against the general that killed their master, a group of warriors enlists in the war effort to bring about the war's end and win the king's approval of their challenge.

WILMOT (22, male, rugged woodsman type), CUTHBERT (17, male, massive kid who fights with a mace), and GRISEL (29, female, covered in scars) meet with KING TYBALT (28, male, lion of a man) as he quarters in a small town near the battlefield he just came from. They petition him for satisfaction against GENERAL GODFREY (45, male, has a scowl that could curdle milk), who killed the knight who had given them a home and trained them for battle. The king is tired of them before they start talking - he's fighting a war, for god's sake - but at the end of their petition does acknowledge that they have standing. After making sure they had enough honor to choose a single one of them to fight, he honestly considers their request… but refuses. "I am sorry, or something like it, but Godfrey is my best general," he says. "I wouldn't want to let you try to kill him any time - but I absolutely will not in the middle of a fucking war."

The trio leaves fuming. Wilmot wants to go challenge Godfrey anyway ("He'll just refuse, and then the king will hate us," Cuthbert says), and Grisel wants to kill him in his sleep ("Obviously not doing that," Cuthbert says, but Grisel claims she was kidding). Cuthbert suggests a somewhat more roundabout method of getting satisfaction, and the trio barges back in before the king. "You know Sir Matthew was a fearsome warrior, and he trained us each in the art of battle," Cuthbert says. "Let us help you bring about the end of this war, such that General Godfrey is no longer necessary to you." The king laughs, but acknowledges that if they have half Sir Matthew's skill, they would be useful. He grants their request to enlist, and tells them to report to General Godfrey for their orders.

They are not amused, but now that they've pledged to serve, refusal to follow orders is tantamount to treason - and would be an embarassment to Sir Matthew's legacy besides. They do as they are told.

General Godfrey is less amused than they are - "Why would I let a group of miscreants who want me dead fight alongside me?" - but Wilmot is able to convince him that their sense of honor will not be satisfied if anyone other than them kills him. "You will find nobody else on the battlefield has half the motivation we do to keep you alive," he says, "…At least, for the time being." Shockingly, though, Godfrey orders them to stay behind and defend the camp during the battle, rather than joining the fray or in general being anywhere near him. But when the camp gets raided and the trio prove instrumental in saving their supplies, Godfrey is forced to admit that they may have more use than he'd like - and he's not going to waste them.

He still isn't comfortable fighting alongside them, but he keeps them active harassing the enemy - they go deep into enemy territory to disrupt supply lines, hunt down enemy knights and kill them off the field of battle, and in general engage in a little more skulduggery than they'd like. When they challenge him about this, he shrugs - "War is messy. Honor does much to keep the peace, but it has little place on the battlefield." Wilmot kind of gets his point, and Grisel, if she's honest, was never really too opposed to it anyway. Cuthbert is the most troubled, but he won't go against the other two, and they dive deep behind enemy lines to kidnap the enemy tactician PEREGRINE (22, female, noble in every sense of the word). Peregrine predicted their arrival, however, and they are caught and scheduled for execution.

Before they're executed, though, Peregrine taunts them. "How do you think I knew you were coming?" she asks. "It was Godfrey. I didn't understand why my enemy would warn me about an attempt on my life, but now that I see you are Matthew's disciples I understand. You fell right into his trap." Cuthbert is humiliated and outraged, moreso even than Wilmot and Grisel. Still, it's Grisel who makes the suggestion - "Send word we've been caught and killed, and set us free to kill him instead. If he's willing to fight without honor, so are we." Peregrine likes that idea, but needs assurance that this isn't a trick - so she keeps Cuthbert as collateral. "Once I hear Godfrey is dead, your friend will just happen to escape. But until then, his life belongs to me."

Wilmot and Grisel leave, discussing as they go how likely it is that Peregrine is playing them. "Do you think Godfrey would really betray us like that?" Wilmot asks, but Grisel responds emphatically: "Of course he would. He knows we want to kill him and he knows we're capable of it. He's afraid." Wilmot is still unconvinced - just because he would doesn't mean he did - and besides, this is right up Peregrine's alley. Grisel admits maybe Peregrine was lying, but this is what she's wanted to do from the beginning anyway. Besides, it's not like they have to kill him in his sleep, they can still challenge him to a fair fight.

Meanwhile, Peregrine keeps Cuthbert at her side at all times - he's even privy to some of her secret tactical meetings with the enemy generals. He doesn't understand why she's letting him see all of this - is it because she doesn't plan on releasing him? Nothing so sordid, she assures him: it's because she's confident in her position. "If your friends do kill the enemy's greatest general, and then you return to fully and honestly inform them that even with him they were losing the war, they'll be quick to come to terms."Cuthbert has doubts about their plan now that he realizes they're handing victory to the enemy, but Peregrine tells him he's helping his king - she was always going to win, so the sooner she does win, the fewer people have to die.

Wilmot and Grisel continue to argue over the best course of action, but eventually decide they have too much honor to work for the enemy, even if she's giving them what they want. They return to Godfrey and tell him everything. Godfrey refuses to admit to betraying them, but they aren't fully convinced. Still, he has no reason to doubt their honor or commitment any longer - they've all but sacrificed their friend, and proven their loyalty. He asks them to join him on the frontlines in the next major battle, where he's convinced he's going to break the back of the enemy. They reluctantly agree.

When there's still no word of Godfrey's death, Cuthbert grows increasingly worried - not just for his friends, but for his people. He knows the next battle is going to be a slaughter, and admits he was hoping his friends would succeed so he could return and warn them all. He begs Peregrine to let him go regardless - "Even if you're going to win this battle, wouldn't it be better to avoid the loss of life?" But she refuses - as long as Godfrey lives, they'll never surrender. He's too highly regarded - they need to lose hope. So Cuthbert suggests she let him try to kill Godfrey, but she shoots that down - "You'd warn them this battle can't be won, they'll retreat, and perhaps the next battle won't be so advantageous for me."

The battle grows near, and Wilmot and Grisel are assigned to Godfrey's personal honor guard. It's a position of great honor, and greater trust - if they did want to stab him in the back, they'd never get a better change. Especially on the field of battle, it'd be so hard for anyone to prove anything. Grisel is very aware of this, but Wilmot tries to focus on the honor that comes with the position. Both of them try not to think about Cuthbert and what Peregrine will do to him once she sees them serving Godfrey so publicly.

Cuthbert manages to slip away from Peregrine during a particularly intense strategy meeting - she raises the alarm, but he easily overpowers the few guards who manage to corner him, and he flees for Godfrey's lines.

Peregrine smiles - all according to plan.

Cuthbert reaches the battlefield later than he hoped - the lines have already been drawn. He hurries to them as quickly as he can, tells them he needs to speak with Godfrey immediately. He's too overjoyed to be surprised when he's ushered directly to the general - but is crestfallen to see Wilmot and Grisel at his side. He tries to tell Godfrey that the battle can't be won, Peregine has prepared better than he can imagine, but he waves off Cuthbert's claims - "You saw what she wanted you to see, nothing more." He pleads with the general to retreat, and when he orders Wilmot to remove Cuthbert from his presence, Cuthbert grabs a weapon and tells Wilmot and Grisel to stand aside - he's challenging Godfrey here and now - even if Godfrey wants to refuse, he can't with Wilmot and Grisel forcing him to stay.

But they don't force him to stay. Instead, Grisel stays at his side while Wilmot squares off against Cuthbert, apologizing all the while.

Then Peregrine's surprise attack launches, and Godfrey and Grisel charge out onto the battlefield.

They fight Peregrine's forces as Wilmot fights Cuthbert. Cuthbert bests Wilmot, wounds him severely, and apologizes as he leaves - "I didn't want to hurt you, but I need to save everyone." He charges at Godfrey, forcing Grisel to leap to his defense. Grisel is furious, (correctly) assuming Cuthbert killed Wilmot, and kills him herself. Peregrine's strategy proves to have depended on removing Godfrey from the field of battle one way or another, and because he's able to focus on things, he forces her to retreat with heavy losses.

Afterwards, Grisel corners Godfrey alone. The battle is won, she says, and it took both of her brothers from her. She will have satisfaction now - she'd prefer Godfrey defend himself, but she will kill him, armed or unarmed. He tries to dissuade her, but she attacks, and he fights back - she mortally wounds him, and then some aides come in and kill her. They both bleed out together.