Chapter Twenty-Six: Madman
“Halda. Send word to the other clans” Solon announced still in a daze of horror and trauma.
“Yes sir” Halda replied utterly nauseated.
As they’d rode towards the city everything seemed normal, but if you looked just a little closer the oddities stood out.
The city was dark, no street-lamps or lights from houses hailed to them, beckoning them to follow and give in to their inviting aesthetic.
It was quiet, as the sun dies down the streets would too naturally but it wasn’t like that, no, the quietness seemed dark.
A formidable entity looming over the terracotta roof slates, its fingers dug into the very earth the city was built on, just waiting for the oddities to ensnare their prey and lure them in.
On arriving within the city walls the streets were completely and utterly empty, no shoppers of energetic children playing tag or some other made-up game.
They had proceeded cautiously through the streets, checking the other roads for assailants or threats but there was nothing.
Closer and closer they got to the stronghold of Crestfold and the stronger the scent of iron got until it was nauseating.
And that’s where they found the reasoning for the smell, like a painting of pure carnage, every brushstroke another streak of chaos and catastrophe.
Laying before the once magnificent structure were the numerous bodies of the capital.
Mothers, fathers, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents, all of them were dead.
The stench of gun powder hung heavily in the air, black powder sprinkled over the wounds and clothes of all victims.
The majority of the deceased looked to have been running from their attackers, some further up the streets or in doorways of shops and houses as they hopelessly ran for their lives.
Veterans of the Trinity War seemed both deeply sickened and calm, no one could blame them, it was like it was happening all over again but the fields of war had clearly taken their toll on the amount of death they could cope with.
“Search the grounds for the living, check every house, shop, street and every stable. Check this whole place top to bottom” Solon ordered.
The thoughts of his wife and child being amongst the bodies compressed his heart to the point it felt still, he knew they were safe but the idea of them being near danger and in harm’s way disturbed a feeling within that he hadn’t felt for a long while, he didn’t miss the feeling in the slightest.
“The letters are sent my king, what now?” Halda asked, returning with a slight loss of breath.
“Now we find the people responsible for this and present them with their fate”
“What of their fate my king?”
“Death, for Braylen former leader of the High Council, all human lives who broke the accords set in place by me following the reset and for anyone involved with this mass slaughter” he said as his eyes were drawn up to the balcony above.
“Will there be a trial?”
“There were no trials for these innocent lives, they were given no chance to speak. There will be no trials, they will feel the same terror these lives felt.” Solon said.
“I will ready Justo” Halda informed, turning to get the weapon from the king’s steed.
“Halda!” the king called over his shoulder.
“You don’t have to take part in this battle against your will, I will not look to you as any less of a protector or captain of the guard” he spoke sympathetically.
“I wish to fight alongside you, my king you protected and cared for me now it’s my time to return the favour”
“As you wish, but you will not be seen as a traitor if you choose to retreat, you are a valued member of my rule”
Halda nodded even though Solon could not see the gesture.
“My king!” called a guard from a split off-street. “We have found survivors”
“Take them to neighbouring villages!” he hollered back.
He watched on as a group of ten to fifteen citizens were brought out of their hiding places, cowering and trembling as a few held their children impossibly close.
“Provide them with food and water, I want three guards to be with them at all times, take the horses”
They left taking the surviving citizens along with them, Solon looked to the deceased before him, a head of silver hair tainted with red shimmered in the torchlight.
He felt his feet carry him closer, each step put the pieces of the puzzle closer together and when he was a step away he knew who it was.
To ensure his theory he gently rolled the cold lifeless body over.
Staring back at him were the eyes of an old friend, Salvia.
A ghost of a smile haunted her bloodless lips, the red bud-like rose spurting from beneath the skin of her forehead dripped down the pale skin like oozing candle wax now dried and pooled beneath her.
His hands- shaky with grief and rising rage- came to rest over her eyes as his lips whispered the binding words of their people:
Ut radices ligare nos
Ut sodales coniunger nobis
Ut ventos dux nobis
Ut fluctus ferre nobis homee
Slowly his fingers skimmed her eyelids drawing them closed as if she fell into a deep slumber.
* * *
He didn’t know how long he’d been lying on the rough bed of twigs and grass but he assumed it was a while.
Kaydence woke up disorientated, concussed, bruised and cut not to mention the excruciating ache of every muscle in his body and the more than likely broken rib or two.
As he lay, eyes open, staring up to the swirling and shifting canopy above, his ears rang and boy hurt but it wasn’t his main concern.
He had no clue where in Himiratia they were or where his companion was let alone the state of him.
Kaydence sat up trying to will his mind to ignore the burning sensation latching onto his spine and wings, he needed to find Mayfel, there was a fifty-fifty chance of him being alive or dead and he didn’t want the numbers tilting to a way that wasn’t in their favour.
Every muscle, bone, joint and nerve protested with every movement and step he took, he couldn’t call out.
He’d tried but his voice came out raspy and no louder than a choked whisper.
Hobbling through the bushes and thorns that only tore at his sore and beaten flesh more, he looked up seeing the disturbance of branches and sure enough, when he looked to the floor he saw the intermittent dug up earth where both bodies had made the first impact before breaking apart and dug up the earth in different directions.
As he followed Mayfel’s trail he heard a small, childlike voice call out to him.
It spoke his name over and over like it was stuck on repeat.
Kaydence pushed aside the bushes and surely enough, slumped against a tree with eyelids drooped half-closed and lips dryly parted was Mayfel.
A gash, although not being too deep, sat on the left side of Mayfel’s forehead a small drip of blood trailing to his cheek and partially smeared into his bruised and swollen eye.
Kaydence rushed over- not at his usual panicked pace- dropping to his knees next to him and took his one hand in both of his own.
Squinting Mayfel forced his one eye to open, a fleeting smile – although seemingly challenging and painful- displayed on his scratched face.
“I’m here, we’re alright” Kaydence whispered, running his thumb over Mayfel’s knuckles. “Are you hurt anywhere?”
Painfully Mayfel shook his head.
“Can you move?” Kaydence continued his evaluation.
“I haven’t tried” Mayfel replied tiredly.
“Well it’ll be getting dark soon we need to try getting back to the horses”
“Of course” he said holding on just a little tighter to Mayfel’s weak hand. “If anything hurts too much then you tell me and we take a break”.
He took both of Mayfel’s hand in his own and stood in front of him.
“1...2...3” he pulled Mayfel off of the floor, for a second Mayfel stood but swiftly after his legs gave out sending him slumping into Kaydence who even with his diminished strength, caught him with shaking legs.
He held him in his arms for as long as It took, as the blood circulated the younger one’s body his legs strengthened just enough to support his weight, but Kaydence didn’t let go.
Slowly they went, one foot in front of the other they followed the sinking sun.
Thankfully their bags were stumbled upon, torn and smeared with dirt but mostly intact nonetheless.
Their weapons were discarded not too far away, Mayfel’s bow was chipped and splintered, most likely of no use anymore save for an emergency, his quivers had been scattered and snapped leaving just a handful of half-decent ones to use.
Kaydences sword lay seemingly untouched, not a smear or dent on its polished blade and not even close to a scratch on the hilt.
Against Kaydences insistent behaviour, Mayfel fastened his own bag over his shoulders pulling the straps tighter, almost too tight.
They carried d on their trek, some type of nutritional seeded bar in one hand and dented canteens of lukewarm water in the other.
No words were spoken as they hobbled on for some miles.
By the time they finally reached a part of the dense woods they recognised, the sun had completely died out letting night reign.
The whinnying of their horses followed by rusting of the bushes in front of them told them they had a chance to get out alive.
Kaydence helped Mayfel up, who took out his blanket fastening it like a cape that draped around him and over his bag to keep out as much of the nippy air as possible, before he himself clambered with some difficulty into the saddle.
“We’ll go easy, no more than a trot. We’ll ride to Salatia it’s about a night away” he informed giving Mayfel an observing gaze.
“Alright let’s go”
* * *
“Everette, meet us at Crestfold we’re going for Helena and Rowan” Zachariah notified over the radio.
“Zack I’m already at Crestfold and things are a mess” she said back.
“What do you mean a mess? What’s going on?” he asked concerned, he let his finger slide off the button a beep ringing out after.
“The King is here with his guards, Braylen’s forces are here Zack and they’ve killed mostly everyone at Crestfold already. It’s too dangerous for you to be here right now”
“Well I can’t just leave Helena there Everette, we’re so close”
“I know but it’s tense here, you all showing up could spark an outright war. Just hang back until there’s a good enough distraction to get her out. I want her back to Zack but there’s a right way to do it so no one dies or gets hurt. Just trust me” she said.
Zack looked to the few team members who were sat around him in the van, he observed the looks on each individual’s face and committed it to memory.
“Ok, we’ll hang back. But if you get a chance, a clear shot to getting to her I want you to take it.”
“Trust me Zack I didn’t need your go-ahead to break into a valuable place and get my best friend back”
he smiled, for the first time in days Zack smiled, it proved infectious when his other teammates smiled along too.
It definitely lifted moral and proved to be the thing they needed on the eve of battle.
The startling boom of a gunshot resonated from further past the streets the king and his men were standing.
All attention directed to the noise including Everette’s, form where she was crouching behind the shop stand she could see a figure leaning against the opposite building, a barrel of a revolver pointed to the air.
As menacing as it was.
The silhouette laughed or rather cackled as the gun lowered to face the stone floor, finger still at the ready on the trigger.
“Show yourself, stranger!” Solon demanded and wrapped his own hand around the hilt of Justo which Halda had hurried to hand him.
“Well, I’m a stranger yes. But, I’d love to be your friend” Horatio mocked, stepping from the shade. “My king” he taunted giving a scornful curtsy.
“Drop your weapon and get on your knees”
“My king you’re a bit forward, I thought we were strangers” Horatio grinned maniacally.
“I won’t tell you again, mundane” Solon spat back.
“Wow pushy also the name’s Horatio so if you could use it instead of mundane that’d be great. How is your wife by the way?”
“Get on your knees and bite that forked tongue or so help me I will end you where you stand!”
“Fine, fine. So how have you been? I hope I haven’t been causing you too much grief, although looking at your hair colour I’d say I’ve done my job well”
“One more word and I will slit your throat” Solon growled.
“Can I at least say one more thing since you want to kill me so bad? You know just in case I do kick the bucket?” he pushed, taking to his knees but keeping the gun firmly between his fingers.
“What is it human?” the king asked through gritted teeth, his grasp on Justo incredibly tight to the point his hand and the sword shook with tension.
“Boys!” He yelled with the maniacal grin that always seemed to be lingering waiting to tug at his complacent lips.
Solon and his men took to a fighting stance raising their swords and staying vigilant, no one dared let their guard down for a second.
They expanded outwards as to not get circled and trapped, some hid behind buildings or bins in the streets others along with the king held their ground watching every street.
Footfall after footfall echoed down the stone avenues.
Hellish laughter like some form of supernatural soul collector resounded and mixed with the countless voices of chatter.
Shadows of distorted and oddly formed bodies spread up the walls, elongating to even more unnatural beings.
“Say hello to the King of Arravan boys”