For all that the blasphemous traitors had taken from him, they had not taken his sword, and that meant something.
It was the only thing that meant anything. This told him he did still have something to fight for.
Anthony questioned not why they let him keep it. Even if they would answer, he wouldn't care to hear it. They were less than men. Many of them, quite on the face of it, weren't and had never been men. Before he'd achieved his new resolve, he'd speculated out of self-pity - out of his own pain in the face of all of the loss. He'd speculated it was to give him illusion of a fighting chance.
(Charlemagne had already been dead.)
To mock him, when they came in with clubs to stow and remove the gemstone where he'd once had a deep green eye, then a fog-and-glass gray one, and now none.
(They'd called him a fool.)
He no longer had room for self-pity.
They'd called him a fool, but he'd grown wise. Strong. Resolute. He was not worth pitying, because he had not lost everything. He counted his one sole blessing. He was neither hopeless, nor helpless.
He had no time to pity himself.
With the one thing that they would never take from him and that he would never let go of, he still had the grace, still had the power, to continue his mission.
He had failed to race the traitors before he had even began.
But now, he had all the time in the world to fight them, one by one.
Whenever the robed devils-of-men entered, he rose from where he would lie vigilantly in the place where he had fallen, biding his time, praying, now, that this secondary life would not fail him - that the spell wouldn't fade and drop his body a still corpse and take his soul with it yet, no, not when he still had means to work with. He took the two-edged sword with him as if his hands had turned to stone around the grip, hanging from rotted and ropelike arms. The two, or three, or four at a time, depending, it seemed, on the arms available, would brandish steel maces.
He would make the first move, shuffling toward them, hissing the name of the king who this battle was for.
Rarely, he would land swings before they would best him.
They always would. This body had grown so slow. So thin. So unprotected. Even with the sword, he was not concerned with defense.
But they would leave. As ever, not taking his weapon from him.
And his consciousness would flicker awake again.
And he knew they'd be back.
As long as they lived, they would fight again.
One day, he would cut the traitors down.
He had not been able to save Charlemagne in either of their lives.
But in both their deaths, one day he would come to collect payment for His Holy Majesty's spirit.
It was the very smallest penance he could pay.
He was duty-bound to pay it.