Tonunda’s first impulse was to retrieve his axes. He picked them from the ground and thrust them into the holsters on his saddle. The pain of multiple wounds, began to sting, then evolve into persistent discomfort.
He dazedly stared at the lines of the southmen on the hills. Only moments before, they raised a cacophony in support of their king. Now they stood in disbelieving silence.
His legs threatened to buckle. Any weakness now on his part would result in the destruction of his army. Willing his legs to stand, he steadied himself a moment before walking towards Natas’ body. Unclasping his red cape, Tonunda wrapped it around himself. The action was meant to stem his wounds, but he hoped both armies would see the cape as trophy taken from Natas. He feigned a confident step back to his horse, and fought dizziness as he climbed into the saddle. Every set of eyes, Vindavian and Nusallean alike, watched his actions in silence.
Tonunda cast an eye back to his army, then ahead to the southmen. He took one axe from its holster and held it aloft. The action seemed to suspend sound and all movement on earth, then slowly… he lowered the axehead until it pointed at the Vindavian hordes.
Shouts arose among the Nusalleans, ensuing in a stampede across the fields…
“But he died, did he not?” queried a little girl.
Togullen blinked. Her voice brought him back to the present where eager faces of all ages waited for him to continue.
“There is more,” he said, unable just yet to admit to Tonunda’s demise. “He pursued the southmen back across the Pentraca river. I was a boy, cheering in the streets as he rode in victory along Caliet’s main road…”
Tonunda looked ashen, yet held a smile in place as he rode. His Blue River Guardsmen, marched behind him, followed by the rest of the army. Throngs cheered either side of the road, from balconies, and from rooftops. Girls danced before him, throwing petals on the cobbled street. Everyone, including his army, chanted his name.
Chants were interrupted with a deafening roar of cheers as he climbed down from his saddle. He swayed a moment beside his horse, then made a few unsteady steps, collapsing face down, in front of a fountain. The tumult abated; all waiting as a Blue River Guardsman crouched by the king’s side.
Andessa broke from the crowd and stood a few paces distant, staring hopefully at the guardsman through watery eyes. The Guardsman looked up, slowly shaking his head…
“At the time, I was just as shocked and broken as the rest of the city,” said Togullen. “Tonunda gave his life so that Nusalle could live. Love empowered him. It was love that made him live long enough to defeat Natas and drive his army over the river. But when he died, a part of every Nusallean died with him. We foolishly believed he could not die. As if love alone would sustain his life forever.
Andessa died within two years of a broken heart, and none felt the pain of Tonunda’s passing more than his son.
For years, I too lived a hollow existence. Apparently, love was not enough.”
“Can you imagine the joy I felt when I discovered how wrong I was? I learned of a greater king. He too bled and died to save others; not only a nation, but all mankind. Aye, he did so for love too, but unlike Tounda, love was enough. Jesus is the mightiest of warriors, the mightiest of kings, for He could conquer even death itself.
Today I rejoice, no longer living an empty life. Love made Him rise from the grave three days later; the same love which sustains me today.” (Romans 5:18)