The face of the Queen turned red as she gasped for air. Nathaniel had only eyes for her, his features twisted with a deep hatred. He didn't see the guards behind him, nor the sharp swords coming for his back.
The Queen's green snake eyes, though bulging in agony, were filled with gloating when she saw the guards attacking him. The wish to see him die was big enough to surpass her own pain for a few seconds. But it got disappointed.
Shortly before the swords hit him, someone jumped in between and a shield of ice deflected the blows.
"Stop!" The voice was young, but stern. Aston stood before Nathaniel's back, holding a sword in his right and a magically formed ice shield in his outstretched left. The authority he wanted to display, however, got undermined by his messy hair and clothes. He looked like he came straight out of bed. "Nobody touches him. I dare you to touch him and I will show you the consequences!"
The gleaming tip of his sword wandered over the row of stunned guards. Then one of them gritted his teeth and bellowed: "Revolt! They are revolting! Save the Queen!"
Again the guards attacked, and Aston had trouble protecting himself and Nathaniel from the four of them that fitted into the small pavilion. Outside, another seven guards stood, waiting for their turn.
"Dogshit!", Aston cursed when one of the blows cut off a strand of his blonde hair and left a scratch on his pretty-boy-face. "Nathan, let the Queen go! Help me!"
When his brother didn't react and he narrowly blocked another attack coming for him, he yelled: "I'm dying! Help!"
The Queen's face turned blue. Her fingers scratched the hands that held her neck, but she felt more triumph than pain. She was sure that if she got killed, the king would finally see how wrong he was about that monster in front of her. Even if the guards didn't manage to kill it, it would be chased till it died. And her children would be in peace. Finally, the body of her oldest son wouldn't be possessed by this demon anymore! A crazy happiness curled up her mouth till it looked like she was soundlessly laughing out loud.
Meanwhile, Nathaniel broke out of his hatred thanks to Aston's shouts. As he gazed at the hands on his mother's neck, rationality and regret fought with the wish to end the pain she caused once and for all. She was a madwomen not suited for ruling a country, a madwoman who tortured him for over a decade. It would be so easy.
But wouldn't it show that she was in the right? That he really was a monster that could strangle its own mother in cold blood?
With a sneer, he let go and grabbed her wrists instead.
"Catch!" He hurled her towards the guard on the side, who with a curse let his sword fall to catch his Queen. The other three also halted their attacks, but eyed Nathaniel and Aston warily. It was not that they were letting them go, as the seven other guards already surrounded the pavilion and blocked every exit. They waited for their Queen to recover and give them commands.
Aston, who had only defended himself, didn't lower his weapon as he sidestepped to give Nathaniel more room. Gazing at the Queen, who was struggling to breathe, he asked: "Are you sure that was a good idea?"
"Didn't you say to let her go?", Nathaniel asked back with a poker face. His gaze also laid on the Queen, but his thoughts were hidden behind a mask of indifference. "Give me your weapon."
"My weapon? But I only got one sword!" Though he trusted his brother with his life, Aston was still a bit reluctant to give up his only bigger weapon when there were so many enemies around them.
Nathaniel threw him an annoyed glare. "You are an ice-mage. Build yourself another one, or you can fight alone."
"Ah, right!", Aston laughed nervously. He only now realized that Nathaniel didn't have his own sword with him since he was just a guest in the palace. He might have daggers, but even they were actually forbidden property in here. "Here, here, please take my sword. I can go without one, really, no problem!"
As the sword changed the holder, the Queen finally regained a bit of her vitality and pointed a trembling finger at them, the other hand clutched over her throat. "K-kill him!"
The guard's postures tensed, but they didn't attack directly. Mind me, the Queen's trembling made it impossible to see at whom she was pointing. Still, they moved closer to the offenders like crouching tigers going for a kill.
Only the one who caught the Queen remained to support her. With a subserviently lowered head, he asked: "Which one do you want us to kill for you, my Queen?"
Most of the guards shifted nervously. Even with the command of the Queen, it would be a sacrilege to kill a prince of their kingdom. On the other hand, said prince just defended someone who tried to kill the Queen, making him an accomplice of a rebel, and effectively turning him into a rebel, too.
However, it seemed they didn't need to worry.
"The monster!", the Queen uttered, and this time her finger clearly pointed at Nathaniel. "Kill him, hurry!"
"You heard the Queen!", the one beside her shouted. "Kill the rebel! Kill the Earl of Hymirhall!"
With more vigor than before, they stormed forward. The one who held the Queen lifted her up in his arms. Under her weak protests, she was brought out of the danger zone. The guard felt like a lucky bastard when he carried her. He always admired the Queen's beauty and charm. Being so near to her now made him delirious.
The happiness of the guards didn't last long. Fighting one-against-four was a huge difference from two-against-four. The team made up of two brothers had an admirable coordination. When the first batch of guards was defeated, Aston laughed and pushed up his sleeves. "Next! C'mon, you can't all be such weaklings!"
"They aren't even fighting you for real. Don't get ahead of yourself", Nathaniel grumbled. The one the guards wanted to kill was him after all. And he felt his power dwindling rapidly, even though he thought he was nearly recovered now. Maybe it was because of the tension before.
The next batch of guards taught Aston a lesson. Seeing their comrades bleed on the floor and the opponents laughing, raised their anger to the next level. They fought their Prince with gritted teeth and managed to injure his upper left arm deeply. Aston couldn't hold up the ice shied anymore and dispersed it. Just at this moment, an arrow flew in through the window, aiming for the back of Nathaniel's head.
"Careful!", Aston screamed, but neither he nor Nathaniel were fast enough. The arrow had a frightening speed as it hurled towards Nathaniel's head. He didn't have the time to avoid, couldn't even see the danger behind him. Even if he called for his dark magic, it would be too late.
Ten centimeters before Nathaniel's head, the arrow was hit by another flying object and strayed off its path. Then it buried itself deeply in the wall of the pavilion. The pair was relieved, but had no time to think about it when the guards attacked again. Tentatively, they fought against their foes, only to realize that there were no guards following up when they fell. An eerie silence laid over the flower garden.
Cautiously, Aston and Nathaniel stepped over the bodies onto the green grass. The sun shone brightly from above. The three other guards - two of them with a bow in hand - , and the Queen were knocked out without any obvious signs of outer influence. Suddenly, a figure in black stepped forward and bowed lightly. "Milord, we found Lady Katherine. She is with the merchants of the Golden Cauldron outside the city walls."