We arose before dawn to find that it had snowed again in the night.  Gwen cooked breakfast while Alexander began putting on his armour.  This morning he was not wearing his riding armour from before, but a full set of elaborate design.  In their preparations for war, the Outlanders had toyed with the idea of a fully armoured cavalry like that of the Middle Ages.  They had not the time or resources to fulfill this vision, but a few suits of armour had been made.  Now Alex was strapping on a set so that he could ride out to face his archenemy.

            “You don’t have to do this.”  Genevieve said, standing by a window with her arms around herself, seeking the comfort Alex was not giving.  When he did not answer, she continued.  “There are other warriors.  There’s Ethan, with his sword…  Why does it have to be you?”

            With every point she made, Eve raised her voice a little and received only silence in return.  Alexander was staring into the distance as he sat in a sturdy chair, attaching greaves to his legs and tightening their straps.

            “We need your leadership, win or lose.  We can’t do this without you.  I can’t do this without you.”  Eve continued, getting frustrated with his continued obstinate refusal to acknowledge her.  Alex just picked up the plate for his chest.  He looked at me expectantly.

            “Don’t look at me.  I will not help you kill.”  I said firmly.  “I agree with my sister.”

            Alexander glared at me and walked out to the porch, and through the window Evie and I could see him gesturing for one of the men to come help him.  As the soldier rushed forward to assist, Genevieve ran out to the porch and grabbed Alex’s arm.  I followed slowly, shaking my head.

            “Please don’t do this!”  She said, tears forming in her eyes.  “You’ve got nothing to prove.  Neal isn’t worth this.  I picked you, I love you!  Why do you have to care about childhood rivalries?  Let it go!”

            Alexander glared at her.  “This has nothing to do with you.”  He held out his arms so his assistant could attach the front plate and tighten it.

            “Then why?”  Eve cried.

            “I have to know.  I have to know if I can beat him for once in our lives.  I’ve always been too afraid to try, and so I have lived in his shadow.  If I let someone else fight him and we won, and there was peace, I would always wonder whether I could have bested him.  I can’t live like that.  I have to be free of his shadow or die trying.”  Alex spoke slowly, still staring into the distance.  The weight of decades was in his words, the years where he had been forced to follow Neal’s lead at the cost of his own self-respect.

            “Damn your pride!”  Genevieve shouted at him.  “Damn yours and damn his!  You’re both alike!”  She stormed back into the house, tears streaming down her cheeks.

            Alexander did not even look in her direction.  He kept his eyes forward as he walked through the muddy street towards the stables for his horse, so that he could ride out to meet his fate.

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