Chapter 14 - The Sleeping Angel
King Draxus and his men had reached the top of the large hill leading down toward the burning remains of the Greedy Pig Tavern and they sat staring at the horrific scene before them in terror.
"That can't be good." Zaar spoke as they sat in silence, watching the thick black smoke rising up from what remained of the tavern.
The mighty Dragon King's amber eyes were wide with panic as he suddenly kicked the sides of his horse and galloped off down the hill toward the scene, intent on finding Lillian.
"My lord, wait..." the General warned as he galloped after him.
"It's not yet secure!" Zaar added, doing the same.
Before his giant black stallion had come to a complete halt, Draxus swung his leg over the side and dismounted, landing with a loud 'crunch' on the dirt below as he began to run toward the burning building. Reaching up he removed the helmet from his head and threw it to to the ground as he continued along on foot.
He could feel as his heart thumped powerfully over and over, almost bursting to come out of his chest as he ran, panting loudly along the way.
General Shasharan was the first to reach Draxus before he managed to get too close to the building's flames. Shasharan roughly grabbed his King around both arms, pulling him back from daring to try entering the blazing building.
"No, my King you can't." he shouted as Draxus pushed his General away with ease and went to continue towards the building. "King Draxus, It's not safe!"
"Get off me." he demanded angrily. "Lillian!"
By now Zaar and five more of the soldiers had all reached Draxus and they too joined in attempting to hold the panicked King back from the incredibly intense heat of the massive flames, as he struggled to fight them off with his incredible strength. They had to surround him to stop him from moving forward.
"Lillian!" he shouted out at the top of his lungs as they held him back as a combined force. "NO, RELEASE ME... Lillian!"
"King Draxus, YOU MUST STOP!" Zaar almost commanded him now, having to shout to get through to the panic-stricken King. "Please sire... it's too late."
"You can't go in there." the General added as the Dragon King finally began to cease his attempts at freeing himself and stood there locked in the arms of at least four men surrounding him.
Draxus was panting as his brows furrowed in despair, the realization hitting him harder than he could have ever imagined.
He was too late - she was gone.
"Lillian..." his voice was a mere whisper now as tears began to prick at the back of his amber eyes and his entire body went limp.
The mighty King fell to his knees as the soldiers released their grasp on him and stepped back to give him some space.
General Shasharan and Zaar shared Draxus' look of horror as they too turned their heads to stare at he burning flames as they tore through the crumbled mass before them.
Shasharan looked down to see something he never thought he would ever witness from the mighty Dragon King; a single tear emerged from the corner of his amber eye and rolled down his cheek as he blinked slowly.
His heart began to tear within his heaving chest.
"I'm so sorry..." Zaar said softly to his King.
Draxus didn't respond, nor did he move. He was frozen with despair as he knelt on the rocky ground before the flames.
"General, we have a survivor!" came the sudden voice of one of the soldiers standing nearby.
Draxus' amber eyes lit up suddenly as he sucked in a sharp breath and forced himself to stand upon hearing this new information.
Shasharan turned his head to face the soldier as he spoke.
"This way, my lord." the soldier gestured with a wave of his hand.
Not bothering to wait, King Draxus, General Shasharan and Zaar all began to run across in the direction he had gestured toward, a tiny slither of hope beginning to form.
"Down here." the soldier pointed as they all came to stand over a small child wrapped in a soldier's cloak; a young boy who wouldn't have been any older than ten. He had dirty blonde hair and his brown eyes were now red from crying.
The King stepped forward and knelt down to meet the child's eyes, which were filled with salty tears as he stood there shaking in terror and sobbing quietly.
As his small eyes met Draxus' he seemed to hesitate, taking a step backward in fear from him.
"No, it's alright, you're safe now..." Draxus spoke softly, meeting his eyes. "We're not here to harm you."
The boy swallowed nervously, still unbelieving as he continued to visibly shake.
"They're all dead! Those men... they killed everyone!" he sobbed.
General Shasharan knelt down to join them as he spoke comfortingly to the young boy.
"It's going to be alright now, we're here to keep you safe. Where are your parents? Do you perhaps live around here?" Shasharan questioned him.
The boy shook his head. "I don't know... I can't find them anywhere..."
The General decided to change the subject, to try and calm the boy instead. "Tell me your name."
The boy looked to the General and then spoke, his voice shaky.
Shasharan gave him a warm smile in response.
"Ah, William... A strong name!" he complimented, attempting to steady the boy before he asked his next question. "Tell me William, did you see what happened here?"
The boy hesitated as he looked toward the burning tavern behind them for a moment. He was completely terrified!
After a moment, Draxus reached out his hand and placed it gently on the boy's shoulder as he spoke surprisingly softly.
"It's alright. No harm will come to you, you have my word."
The boy seemed to calm again, although he frowned as he looked at Draxus.
"You have strange coloured eyes... Who are you?"
Draxus smiled. "My name is Draxus and I'm looking for someone very special to me... Do you think you can help me with that William? I'd really appreciate it!"
Zaar was surprised; his King was handling the situation quite well, considering how he had been only moments before! Surprisingly, the mighty Dragon King had a way with children; who would have thought?
The boy looked between Draxus and Shasharan now, then nodded toward the King.
"You're looking for someone?" William asked.
"I am." the King replied.
"A beautiful woman. She has long hair as gold as the sun, and eyes that sparkle like green gemstones. She may have come through here recently on her own. Did you happen to see her by any chance?" Draxus explained.
"You mean the sleeping angel?"
The child's strange comment caught everyone off guard suddenly as they looked between each other with expressions of concern.
Draxus narrowed his eyes as he asked his next question.
"The sleeping angel? What do you mean by that?"
William nodded his head.
"She was sleeping when the bad man carried her out of the tavern and rode off with her. I think she was really tired or something."
"William, tell me about the bad man." Shasharan queried. "What did he look like?"
William's brown eyes looked up as he tried remembering.
"Um... he... had strange markings all over his neck... Oh, and he had a long beard."
Shasharan looked to Draxus as he spoke. "Strange markings?"
"Tattoos." Draxus agreed with a nod.
Draxus felt instantaneous dread upon hearing this information; he knew the 'bad man' that little William was trying to describe - King Rathman!
Holding back on his new-found rage, Draxus remained calm as he questioned William one last time.
"William, this is very important. Do you know which way the bad man went?"
William pointed in a Westerly direction, confirming the Dragon King's deepest, darkest fears. It was indeed King Rathman who was responsible for this massacre and possibly the kidnapping of his wife for a second time.
He only hoped that Lillian was still alive.
Giving the child a smile, Draxus squeezed his shoulder softly as he spoke again.
"My thanks to you, master William. You've done very well here today." he turned and gestured for his soldier to come forward as he continued, "These men here will help locate your parents and see you safely home."
With that he stood back up and began to make his way across to where the horses stood waiting for them. Shasharan followed along closely behind him, as did Zaar and several soldiers.
"It's Rathman. The bastard has Lillian, I know he does." Draxus snapped angrily as they walked.
"What are your orders, my King?" Zaar asked.
"It's time I put an end to that son of a bitch, once and for all..." Draxus announced as they finally reached their horses and the King pulled himself up to mount his stallion with ease.
"I'm taking the fight to him."