Chapter Twenty-Seven: The Race Against Time
“Kaydence can we slow down?” Mayfel’s breathless, panting voice called from behind Kaydences galloping horse.
Mayfel and his own steed slowly fell behind during the time it took Kaydence to hear and react to his question.
“Is everything alright?” Kaydence called to him coming to a stop.
“Yes I’m just getting tired and I don’t feel too good” he replied
“Okay well, we covered a lot of distance in the last hour and thanks to that short-cut we found so we should be getting close to Salatia”.
Kaydence observed Mayfel carefully in the moonlight.
A silver gleam clung to his dark locks as it did to his grave facial expressions, pain etched into the corners of his eyes and lips.
He noticed the left side of Mayfel’s body slumped more than his right, no doubt from some sort of damage he’d sustained from the fall but nonetheless it worried him as to what extent the injury went.
He wasn’t sure if it was the dew reflecting the moonlight from the grass or if his sight was being truthful, but the usual light tan of Mayfel’s skin was now looking on the more sickly side between the smudges of earth and grass on his porcelain skin.
Not that he could say he looked any better let alone felt better, everything hurt and ached including his eyes that fought against the strain of exhaustion and tried their best to see in the dark.
As the inclination of the road evened out and they found themselves on an open plane, the lights like bright orange stars twinkled in the distance.
Salatia, the capital of the water clan and their one hope to getting the help that they so desperately needed.
Plodding on the lights got brighter, bigger and more welcoming, beacons of hope and relief calling to them to save them from the night.
Uneven breaths filtered into the air in clouds of mist-like vapour.
Closer and closer they got, the expansive ring of oak trees surrounding the buildings grew thicker stretching up to collect the stars.
Through the trunks, you could see the beautifully lit blocks of the stone creating the elegant structure.
Multiple buildings, round, square or a bit of both all assembled together around the centrepiece.
A huge balcony of stone with its magnificent stone railings, stood tall and proud with the gushing of waterfalls echoed off the stone below.
The whole city had been built over the river and now growing lake, the waterfalls acting as diversions for directing the streams of water into multiple pond-like pools made by the occupants within the city.
The theme of Nirvariten’s blue ran through the entire city, rounded, peaked and precisely crafted roofs, waving banners including those hanging from the balcony itself, blue with the upside-down, white and triangular crest of the Aqua Clan.
Plantation of all kinds lined the brick and gaps within the pathways they could see ahead as well as the trees that somehow worked between buildings adding the natural and coo-existing feeling to the already mystical setting.
Considering the Aer clan had always been depicted as the fair folk, the most elegant and knowledgeable compared to the others, Salatia in his mind was deemed fairest, he’d go as far to say it held a higher air of mystery and charm than their own capital.
A wide but shallow stream lay between them and the entrance to the city, like the entrance of Crestfold and Evangelis, arching overhead stood a silver, woven gateway with the clan crest.
All gleaming and glinting because of the torches fasted on either side.
“We can get help here” he said breathlessly taking in the wondrous views.
A tremendous splash from behind alerted him to his companion, his head whipped around to see the horse stood seemingly confused as to what happened, its saddle empty.
Amongst the calming ripples of the stream lay Mayfel’s body, heaped and soaked but most noticeably unmoving.
Kaydence was quick to dismount the saddle and made a dash for him kicking through the shallow waters.
Mayfel lay wrapped in twists of the blanket, his face submerged in water and seemingly unconscious with the way his survival instincts to get up hadn’t kicked in.
“Mayfel? Mayfel wake up” he called to him lifting him painfully out the water and putting him down on the solid dry ground.
He unwrapped the blanket from around him trying to get the wet fabric off of him, the second he peeled back the blanket he noticed the dark stain of an unknown source plastering the left side of his green shirt.
Pulling the strap of Mayfel’s backpack, that too was red, off his left shoulder he allowed his fingers to tenderly feel over the stain Looking them to his fingertips he recognised the crimson and velvety liquid accompanied with the stench of iron and infection.
Dread ran through him, there was so much blood and more kept trickling, he tore Mayfel’s shirt apart and looked at the wound that seemed to be a puncture straight through his shoulder just below the collarbone.
He could hear Mayfel’s rapid and wheezing breaths, feel the weak pulse in his chest and see the crimson falls soaking into the fabric.
Kaydence didn’t know what to do and his only hope now was to get him to a healer.
He collected him into a bundle in his arms after placing the bag strap back, in the hopes to slow down the bleeding and began trudging out of the water leaving the horses behind to do as they wish with his mind focused solely on Mayfel.
“Help! Someone, please help!” he called out to the empty, stone-paved streets.
Stone walls on either side of him strangled by ivy and riddled with fern.
He heard no one, no footfalls or calls back.
“Please someone, anyone!” he continued to call out, his pace slowed against his will as his body drained of adrenaline and the pain kicked back in.
After going through a tunnel-like section the street opened up into an open square, trees in each corner, grass sections surrounding them and the walls lined with benches and flaming torches.
A shadow cast on the far off wall, two or maybe even more figures of people loomed at the opposite entrance.
“Hello? Please can you help me!? My friend’s hurt!” he called out heading in their direction.
Either they didn’t hear his cries of despair or simply didn’t care because no one moved, not one of the shadows made a gesture or movement in their direction.
“Kaydence?” Rena asked from behind as he slumped to the floor, Mayfel in his lap.
The voice was familiar, he had grown to know it well, but what was she doing in the capital?
“Rena, it’s me, it’s us. Please help” he begged looking at her with pure desperation.
“Kaydence what happened to him? To both of you?” she asked kneeling in front of him.
“We went to Evangelis, I was looking for my family. We found them but my fathers crazy. We got thrown from the summit, I thought I protected him during the fall but he got hit” he said keeping a clamped hand around Mayfel’s own.
“Did you have to drag him into it? It wasn’t his place to go he should be home right now not dying” she snapped.
“I told him to go home but you know what he’s like Rena, he’s stubborn and wasn’t taking no for an answer. I tried to make him go home” he muttered.
“You should have tried harder” she said while dabbing Mayfel’s pale and feverish forehead with the wet blanket.
“Can you both stop arguing?” a hoarse whisper replied from none other than Mayfel himself.
“Mayfel you’re awake” Kaydence sighed.
“Where are we?” he croaked
“Salatia, and Rena’s here too just please hold on and try to stay awake.” he begged holding Mayfel’s hand a little tighter.
Mayfel nodded, his eyelids already creeping closed again.
“Mayfel I need to see those eyes, please I want to see the purple”
Relief bloomed In his chest as he stared into purple whirlpool’s.
“Kaydence we need to get him to a heal-” she began but was cut off by a group of people that marched over.
“Rena what are you doing near these two?” the man at the front who seemed to hold the title of the leader of the group spoke up.
“They’re my friends and one of them needs medical attention can you get the healer quickly?” she replied, applying pressure to Mayfel’s wound forcing a groan and gasps for air out his mouth.
“You shouldn’t be around the Fallen and definitely not those of Terra Clan right now Rena unless you haven’t heard. Our Council released a letter sent to them by the King from Crestfold, the Terra Clan have betrayed us just like his kind. They slaughtered most of the citizens at the capital. They’re working with the humans” he spat pointing at Kaydence spitefully. “We don’t help traitors here we prosecute them, we can’t trust them, for all we know they’re working with the High Council”
“Slaughtered? When?” Kaydence exclaimed
“This morning, only a few survivors were found and it’s all because of their own High Council”
“I know them, they’re not working with the High Council, Wren. You can trust them so please just help them” Rena pleaded, something unfamiliar for her.
“I have a family Rena you don’t know what’s it’s like to have children, you don’t know how much I’d do to protect them. How do you know you can trust them completely? I can’t risk them getting hurt” Wren said
“You’re right Wren I don’t know what it’s like but I share the same concerns and I too would be ready to do anything to protect my friends because they’re like my family”
He fell silent seemingly thinking what she said over before he looked to the others and back tot Rena.
“Fine we’ll help” he muttered as he and his friends lifted Mayfel up before grasping Kaydences hands pinning them behind his back.
Two hands secured Rena as they were all pushed out of the main square and down a street.
Mayfel fought with the little strength he had but to no avail, Kaydence twisted and shoved to get to the boy ahead but It was useless, he had no weapon to defend himself them all being left with the horses, nor did he possess the energy to fight.
Trees came into view, the opposite section of the ring of trees they passed through on the way in, they’d reached the other edge of the city.
“Please he needs medical help, he’s losing too much blood please do what you want with me just save him, please” Kaydence begged before getting pushed into the trunk of a tree, his arms pulled around it almost as if he was giving it a hug but against his will as his hands were tied together stopping any attempts to run.
He watched in horror as Mayfel was positioned on the tree next to him, hands tied as he cried out in distress.
Blood oozed grimly from beneath his shirt staining the very bark of the tree.
“Stop it you’re hurting him!” Kaydence yelled trying to tear his bonds causing them to burn and tear at his wrists, the bark also brutally scoring his skin, his wings flapped fruitlessly trying to at least hit one of them.
“Kaydence” Mayfel whispered, his body had slid from under him leaving kneeling against the tree.
His face was ghostly pale, eyes hooded and dark and his chest heaving but barely rising enough for him to be healthy like he was trying to hang on to the last thread connecting him to the land of the living.
“You’ll be okay” Kaydence promised, his voice breaking.
“Thanks for the adventure” he replied tiresomely
“It’s not over yet Mayfel don’t be like that”
“I’m sorry” he said
“Don’t be sorry” he replied.
Kaydence felt his shirt tear at the back and watched helplessly as Mayfel’s too was torn open displaying the stark white, sweat-covered skin beneath.
Even if his toned and slightly muscular frame looked strong, at that moment it couldn’t have looked more beaten and bruised.
Massive patches of discoloured flesh scratches and grazes along with trails of fresh blood working their way down his torso.
“Don’t touch us, just stay back!” Kaydence barked
“Quiet Fallen, you don’t get to speak. Both of you are a risk to our lives as far as I’m concerned and you are to be prosecuted and dealt with”
“I promise you we are not working for the High Council, we went to the King, we were the ones that told him about our High Council and their plans, Mayfel saw them he’s half seer he’s part Aqua Clan. Please stop this” he begged
“Enough! I don’t believe a word that comes out of any of your mouths, seers are a myth. When do your lies end?”
“They’re not lies I’m begging you just let us go at least let him go, he’s ill and needs medical attention”
Searing pain tore through his side as the cool kiss of a blade sliced his side, not deep enough to cause horrific bleeding but enough the scar.
“Both of you will go through this trial, questions will be asked if we feel that you answer them truthfully then we ask you then next, if not then you receive the consequence,” he said ignoring the pleads and ultimately any word that came out of his mouth. “So the first question, are you in league with the High Council of Crestfold?”
“No, I swear on my life we are not in league with them, we personally went to King Solon” he said with desperation.
Wren looked to his friends who all nodded, silently agreeing on whatever he was suggesting to them.
“How did you know of their plans?”
“My friend is a half seer, Rena can tell you too” he said.
“Lie” he sneered, motioning to a friend standing above Mayfel’s still body.
“No please not him, hurt me not him” Kaydence implored
“I take no pleasure in causing pain but if it’s either of your pain instead of my family then you have to understand that I haven’t got a choice”
Mayfel’s piercing scream cut through the still air surrounding them, the silver blade glided through the contused skin down his over the sensitive skin on his back, beads of crimson collected along the gash.
The wheezing and rough rising and falling of his chest worried Kaydence beyond anything else.
Rena’s cries of despair and aggressive shouts split the night as she tried tearing her limbs from those restraining her.
“I promise it’s the truth!” he yelled.
“Seers aren’t real and as for a half seer, I know that’s a joke. Now next question, are you here on behalf of the Air Clan?”
“No my fathers Air Clan but my mother was Terra Clan, I have the Terra birthmark on my chest. That’s the truth I swear” he said
“What are Braylen’s plans?”
“Mayfel told me from what he saw, she’s working with a human rebel group to overthrow Evangelis and take their land and power. That’s all we kn-” he began but got cut off by another of Mayfel’s cries willing tears of his own to slip down his cheeks.
“That’s all we know!” he screamed
“You seem to care a lot for your companion, maybe he’ll be enough to persuade you to tell us what we want to know” Wren said
“We’ve done nothing to you and he’s losing life while you stand there watching it happen when you have the ability to save him. You say the High Council is traitorous and murderers and yet you are no better than them!” he yelled at them, his eyes not leaving Mayfel for a second, obsessed with making sure he was still breathing.
“There are families that live here who are scared, I’m scared for them all. If I let you go and you hurt anyone then I couldn’t forgive myself for letting you go” Wren explained
“Take us to the healers, you can hold a knife to my throat the whole time if it makes you feel better, or better yet get your friends to take him and we can stay here. It’s your call but one way or another he’s getting to a healer” Kaydence demanded
“One last question” Wren said.
“Okay just make it quick” Kaydence sighed.
“What’s your name? And don’t try to lie to me”
“Kaydence Harkhallow. Now let him go” he recited not liking the last name replacing the one he grew up with even if it was his true name.
Wren seemed to take a moment for himself as if there weren’t two of his own kind tied to trees one of which was slowly bleeding out.
Kaydence could see the cogs in his head turning, processing everything he’d been told and letting his mind argue for an answer.
“Wren you have your answer, untie them!” Rena yelled, still struggling against the now doubled number of people holding her.
Kaydence fixed his gaze on Mayfel’s slumped body.
As pale as the face of the moon in the night sky, head hanging low and resting against the coarse bark, his bound wrists the only thing stopping him from collapsing to the tree roots.
“Mayfel” Kaydence called out in a hushed voice hoping his voice and words alone would be enough to raise his head so he could gaze into the purple irises possibly for the last time.
A chesty fit of coughs shook his frail body as his chest heaved to just breath, but Kaydence could see it was getting harder to breathe by the second and he didn’t want to think about how long he had left he wasn’t ready to lose anyone else so soon.
“Wren!” Kaydence hollered just as a whip of wind cut through the boughs and branches of the trees, and tearing around the trunks of the trees yanking Kaydences hair back as well as sprinkling him with fallen leaves and blades of grass.
He heard a few people behind him stumble back with the sudden gust of air, and looked to Mayfel who’s hair was cleared from his eyes showing his pale lips slightly parted as well as the grazes from the tree trunk.
Another gust tore through the trees but this time became harsh and slashed downwards accompanied with a thud and a bunch of falling leaves seemingly pried and yanked from the trees.
And just like that the air was still again, questions and demands still left unanswered with the thudding of feet and dying out calls.
With no warning, his binds fell to the ground and his hands fell to his sides, he observed his lacerated and raw wrists before looking up to find an answer as to who cut his binds and why.
“Kaydence! Get Mayfel!” Rena yelled running for Mayfel who, when Kaydence spun around to see, was being picked up by a member of the Aer Clan.
Confused and lost for words, he started running for him.
Another gust of wind from his right caused his balance to waver but not fail him completely, he kept going until a firm hand grabbed him from behind.
Tumbling around he was met with the sight of Dalamis who’s wings were outstretched showing his impressive wingspan, that of a descendant of the High Council.
On some random but very persuading impulse, Kaydences fist raised and swung at Dalamis, connecting solidly with his set jaw.
“Don’t touch me and tell your friend over there to put him down” he said through gritted teeth, his fist tensed ready to deliver another blow.
“What was that for? I’m here to help, we all are” Dalamis groaned back rubbing the sore spot.
“You did nothing to save us, we were thrown off of a mountain and you didn’t try and stop it! Mayfel is hurt because of you! This is all your fault!”
“I tried talking father out of the idea, he’s stubborn. Much like you” Dalamis replied.
“He’s not my father and you’re not my brother, my only family member, the man I called father died back in Graylow Village along with my home. So go home to your mountain and hide away because I don’t need you now and I definitely won’t need you in the future” Kaydence spat and began storming towards Mayfel who’s carrier seemed to be awaiting instructions and ignoring Rena who was applying pressure to Mayfel’s wounds and trying to get a response from him.
“He won’t survive Kaydence.” Dalamis called out him making Kaydence halt his motion. “No healer here can save him, he’s beyond their aid”
“Then what do you suppose I do? Leave him to die slowly? There’s a chance he will survive, besides you don’t know what healers can do nowadays since you’ve been hiding away for so long” he replied, studying the situation before him.
“Let us take him, we have medicine ad healers that are much more knowledge than healers here, w can save him”
“I don’t trust you, you’ll probably let that deranged man throw him off Heaven’s descent again and this time I won’t be there to save him” he said coldly.
“Father won’t be an issue anymore put it that way, now will you let me save your friend?”
“You killed him?” he exclaimed in disbelief
“No I didn’t kill him, I may be his son but I’m no savage. Now, will you let me save your friend?”
“Are you positive you can save him and that he can’t be helped here?” he asked
“If we don’t leave now no one will be able to save him but yes I’m positive we are the only ones that can save him at this point”
“Take him, but if any harm comes to him I’m holding you responsible and I will not hesitate to avenge his life” he said
Dalamis gives an understanding nods, taking Mayfel’s limp body from his friend’s arms he turns back to Kaydence.
“Are you coming with us?” Dalamis asked
“No I need to get to the capital, the King is there but Crestfold has fallen, he might need all the help he can get.”
“Good luck brother and please be safe. I would, after all these years, like to get to know you since the only memories I carry are that of our younger years” he replied.
“One step at a time, I don’t completely trust you but if you save him then I will be forever in your debt now go, time is falling short” he pressed.
“It is I who is indebted to you little brother, after all, you spoke the truth to which I knew but neglected to believe.”
“Sure yes what you said now go, please and take Rena with you” he clarified stepping back to avoid the spread of the wings surrounding him.
Rena held by an Evangelian fae and Mayfel cradled by Dalamis, one by one they took off into the air, the gale-force winds reignited for a split second until all he could see was the peaceful gliding of his people.
Kaydence took off running, adrenaline pumping through his veins as he leapt and glided into the saddle of his steed collected anything important from Mayfel’s things secured to his saddle including his bow and quivers and took off galloping across the open countryside towards Crestfold with unmatchable speed.