"Your Majesty, the pin refuses."
Jeörg's hands trembled on the rim of his war board. Purple markers for his own knights drowned in a sea of red enemies. They had understood his own vulnerabilities and marched to the point where their forces converged like a noose around Jeörg's over-gorged castle, filled with refugees. Piles of ash signified where his knights had lost. With so few men remaining, he could not lead them to a win. He needed the mirror's gamble.
"He must. The life of the one sacrificed for the many."
"Your Majesty, he cannot be forced."
"Do not lecture us." Jeörg swallowed. His captain meant the best and would mourn his own soldiers soon. "You must convince the pin."
Sweat poured down the captain's brow. "He will not listen. Manic. He talks over me. Demands your audience."
Jeörg pounded his war board, lifting ash into the air. "You have not removed his tongue."
The captain's mouth opened and closed before he retreated a step. "No use, your Majesty. A man can make noise without a tongue."
"Find his family, find his loves."
"Majesty, he has none."
The ermine mantle on Jeörg's shoulders grew heavy. The pin must make the choice to sacrifice of his own volition. He must find the core value the pin believed that was worth more than the pin's life. One's family was an easy value, but not the only one.
He pondered possibilities on his route to the Mirror's Gallery. Loyalty to King, loyalty to beauty, desires for wealth. Although, the last would be hard, no time for the pin to savor them before the sacrifice. In the end, it would depend on what Jeörg found inside the man. He had never been enough of a planner, his knights had learned that lesson the hard way.
The Mirror's Gallery was a nightmare. The pin sat propped against a column, his head slumped, his shoulders slumped, his arms leading to pools of blood beside his slit wrists. Each of the mirrors propped on easel's caught a mixture of the pin's blood along with the fragment of the future they caught in their frame.
Without the pin, they could not force the future favorable to his knights surprise tactic. The odds were innumerable, only one of the hundred mirrors depicted success.
Jeörg strode forward, his mantle billowing in his wake, to kick the knife from the pin's grasp. It was a soldier's knife. He turned on his captain. "What have you done?"
The captain gripped his hilt with a mailed fist. "A calculated gamble."
"But, why would he do this?" Weakness washed over Jeörg and he braced himself against the mirror showing the only favorable outcome. The image in it, flickered, welcomed him. "Suicide is sure defeat. No one understands what happens to the pin once they merge with the mirror and secure the future."
"I convinced him it was eternal pain."
"Why?" This was madness. "When the mirrors were constructed, they were keyed to the pin. Only he could secure our future. Why would you deny us?"
"You are wrong." The captain no longer addressed his liege with the proper honorific. "Along with a drop of the pin's blood, a speck of your hair was added to the mirror's tincture. The mirrors are keyed to you as well."
"I see." Jeörg's mouth was dry.
"You must sacrifice for the land, for --"
"Shut up. We understand." Jeörg confronted the mirror. He had been too easy on his knights, hoping to inculcate loyalty through example. Too easy on the Kingdom, allowing every refugee into the castle's walls even though it weakened them. He understood who would be king in his absence. The captain would not have it any easier. This sacrifice, a last noble example, would not be forgotten, would provide his people hope. Or so he prayed as he knelt before the mirror and leaned his body into its surface to pin the future.