Chapter 3 - The Mysterious Archer
King Draxus led the way through the darkened underground tunnel, followed closely by his General and a company of around thirty or so darkly-dressed soldiers who had been rounded up last minute as they marched along in an effort to assist retrieving the Queen from the enemy invaders who had kidnapped her.
Several soldiers carried flame torches, as did both King Draxus and General Shasharan leading the group. The tunnel was damp and the air extremely thick as they moved along quickly to reach the end.
As he sprinted along the puddle-ridden floor Draxus prayed that no harm had come to his wife. Thoughts of what could be happening to her at that very moment began flooding his mind but he fought to hold them back as he continued along, vowing instead to reap horrific vengeance upon Rathman and his men when he found them.
He would make Rathman pay for daring to touching his Queen.
“My King, the tunnel goes on for about another thirty meters or so before we enter the outskirts of Bryre Forest.” General Shasharan reported as they ran side by side now, “Sire I should warn you, they may have an ambush waiting for us up ahead. This could be extremely risky.”
Draxus did not seem phased, though his General would not have been able to see if he was, due to the large helmet that sat over the King’s head.
“Noted...” Draxus replied dryly.
His voice was deep and authoritative as he panted loudly, his armour clinking with each of his movements as his long sword wobbled up and down inside of its sheath.
“All of you, keep moving! They can’t have gotten far.”
By now King Rathman and his soldiers had moved their search deeper into the forest, the majority of them having headed off in the opposite direction to where Lillian had actually hidden herself. They had no idea that one of their own currently had Lillian retrieved only several metres away.
“There’s no trace of her, King Rathman.” one of the soldiers reported hesitantly with his head bowed, “We’ve searched all over the forest, she’s just... gone.”
“She can’t have just disappeared!” he snapped angrily, causing the soldier to step back in fear upon hearing his tone.
Rathman gritted his teeth with frustration. They had let her slip right through their fingers; she was practically gift-wrapped for them and she had still managed to escape.
“I fear the sorceress will not be pleased.” he said sternly as he looked back in the direction of the tunnel they had come from.
From where he was standing he could see the movement of flame torches beyond the treeline and knew it had to be Westorian soldiers. He had no choice. They would have to flee without what they had come for; he couldn’t afford being taken captive by the Dragon King and his men. Draxus was well known for his merciless nature when it came to imprisoning his enemies and Rathman didn’t intend on finding out what that was like.
“What are your orders, my King?” the soldier asked impatiently.
King Rathman let out a long sigh, then turned to the soldier as he commanded angrily.
“Order the retreat. Our soldiers are to call of the search and return to Castle Shayde immediately.” Rathman ordered.
The guard queried, “And the sorceress? What will you tell her?”
Rathman’s brown eyes narrowed as he replied.
“I’ll deal with her.”
As Rathman and his men began to retreat, heading back through the dense forest on their way to the nearby road where their carriage awaited, the brutish King had no idea of just how close he had actually come to being successful in kidnapping the Queen.
Back at the clearing now, Lillian kicked and screamed as loud as her lungs would allow her to, but to no avail as the soldier holding onto her began to drag her back in the direction of where his King had been searching with the others.
“Come on... move it!” he hissed at her as she continued to fight against his grasp, determined not to be taken, “Stop struggling you little...”
He paused, deciding this was too difficult as he suddenly threw her to the ground roughly. Lillian landed face down with a loud groan; her arms luckily there to help soften her landing on the rocky dirt below. She turned her head to look up at him as he loomed over her.
“Now don’t make this difficult. Queen or not, I’ll have no problem cutting you…” he warned with a vicious expression, “Now get the fuck up!”
With a snarl he reached down and grabbed a handful of her long golden hair, pulling her up to stand as she cried out loudly in pain. She held at her head as he pulled her close to him.
“Ah, let go of me!”
“Move it!” he barked his last breath.
Suddenly Lillian heard a swift ‘zip’ sound whiz by her face as an arrow came hurtling through the air and hit the soldier right in the middle of his head. Square between the eyes… an impossible shot!
She gasped in surprise. The soldier’s eyes were wide with shock as his body became limp and his hand released her hair. Lillian watched as he fell lifelessly down to the ground below her, panicked and in an apparent state of shock herself.
She had never seen someone die before, not like this!
Her heart was racing as she stood staring at the body for a moment, then thinking to turn and look in the direction that the fired arrow had originated from. Her emerald eyes met a pair of glowing purple eyes as she noticed the hooded figure standing off in the shadows of the tree line, the bow in his hand lowering slowly.
Too terrified to say or do anything after what she had just witnessed, Lillian suddenly felt her legs begin to topple beneath her as everything quickly faded into black and she collapsed to the ground, having fainted.
Opening her eyes slowly only moments later she caught a glimpse of a figure now standing over her with brilliant purple eyes that seemed to glow from beneath the shadow of his large hood. His gaze was intense.
He stood over her, just staring… silently.
Before she could say anything Lillian thought she could hear the faint sounds of familiar voices calling out to her. She wondered if she was perhaps hearing things; that it wasn’t possible...
Or was it?
The hooded figure turned to glance in the direction that the voices were coming from and then swiftly darted back into the shadows of the neighbouring forest without a sound. Lillian felt herself slipping in and out of consciousness as she fought to stay awake.
Then the voices began to grow louder and louder.
“King Draxus, over here...” one of the familiar voices called out. She recognized it to be that of General Shasharan, “I’ve found her!”
The next time she opened her eyes she was more than relieved to see her husband, King Draxus kneeling over her as he scooped her up into his strong arms and lifted her up off the ground. She felt her entire body levitate up off the rocky floor and then the welcome warmth of his body as he pressed her in against his chest, his armoured arms wrapped around her tightly.
“You’re safe now, Lillian... I’m here.” he spoke softly to her from beneath his large horned helmet as he began to walk; his amber eyes were fixed on hers as they slowly opened and closed.
“I’ve got you.”