Chapter 27 - Assassin's Ambush
King Draxus had been cautiously searching through rubble and debris for just short of an hour now and he had finally made his way inside the remains of the blackened castle, now nothing but a structure with large holes all through it and smoke billowing out. By now the flames had begun to die down significantly and it was safer to venture inside of the still-dangerous structure.
“Is there anyone in here?” he called out with his deep and husky voice as he took another step inside of the open corridor; the sky visible through a gaping overhead hole caused by the attack. “Hello, can anyone hear me?”
His large black boot crunched over a large clump of burned debris as his amber eyes glanced around, searching desperately for any signs of movement. There was none. A feeling of uneasiness consumed him as he ventured further inside of the unsteady structure, knowing full well that at any second the entire castle could collapse and crush him to death.
As he stepped inside the next room which was much larger than the others his eyes caught sight of movement off to the right, through a large hole made in one of the castle walls. The movement sparked his interest as he headed in its direction silently.
Carefully manoeuvring around the misshapen stone wall he continued to march along until he reached the edge of the room which lead out onto a large balcony overlooking a small indoor courtyard. Peering over the edge of the balcony he suddenly froze upon sighting a middle-aged woman wearing a golden crown who was tied to one of the supporting pillars of the courtyard.
It was Queen Katherine; battered, bruised, gagged and tied to a large stone pillar down in the courtyard below!
He needed to get down there and help her, but he also needed to be highly cautious; no doubt this was a trap set specifically for him to fall into.
After finding his way down to the courtyard where the dazed Queen was being forced to stand against the pole with her hands tied behind her back, Draxus silently made his way across the large open space towards her. As he met her gaze she immediately began to move about in a sudden panic, grunting and speaking muffled words to him with her eyes wide open. She shook her head vigorously, as if warning him of something while he stepped up before her.
Signalling her to remain silent with the movement of his gloved finger over his lips, he reached behind the older woman’s head and untied her gag, pulling the material out from her mouth and allowing her to speak.
“It’s a trap! Leave me, you must go now!” she warned him with a frantic whispered voice.
“I know.” he whispered in return as he quickly unsheathed a small golden dagger and cut away at the knotted rope binding her to the pillar. “Where is your husband?”
Katherine looked around the courtyard in a search for danger as she replied, once again in a whispered voice. “I don’t know… He was taken after they breached the castle walls. I haven’t seen him since.”
While he worked Draxus would quickly glance around the room every now and then to make sure no one was sneaking up on him from behind. Luckily for them his dagger was making short work of the rope and slicing through it easily. As it slid through the last piece of rope the Queen’s hands were finally freed as she pulled them out of the loosened rope and stepped up beside him.
“What now?” she asked, but Draxus clearly had other things on his mind as he peered around the darkened courtyard, seemingly sensing that something was wrong.
Just as his gloved hand gripped the handle of his sword firmly a series of tiny silver knifes zipped swiftly through the air one by one and headed in his direction. Like lightning Draxus had unsheathed his sword and used it to deflect each of the blades from hitting him, one after the other until there was a sudden pause.
Then he noticed the same movement out the corner of his eye again; just as he had seen earlier.
Someone else was in there with them.
“Come out and face me, you coward!” he commanded sternly while his narrowed amber eyes scanned the surrounding area for more signs of movement. “Unless you don’t have the guts…”
Another sudden barrage of silver knives hurtled out from the darkness toward him and once again he skilfully deflected each one; all except for the last one which slipped by the sword and sliced a shallow cut across his upper arm. He grunted as crimson blood began seeping at the area around the wound.
“Enough of this!” he bellowed, throwing his arm outward and using his powers to send out a magical shockwave of glowing golden light.
As the shockwave widened quickly it bounced off of the figure hiding in the shadows, revealing him to the Dragon King who jumped on this opportunity to even the score.
Reaching down with his left hand he unsheathed his own dagger and hurtled it at the figure who only just managed to deflect it with his own blade, but in so doing caused himself to be seen as he stepped out into the moonlight.
It was Salid, the Bounty Hunter assassin who had been hired by King Xytsis. He wore a black hood over his head with a black mask covering his face and an entire outfit in a matching shade. The assassin held a slim, curved steel sword in his hand as he slowly stalked through the shadows and began to circle his enemy.
“Where’s King Greggory?” Draxus demanded sternly. “What have you done with him?”
“The King is alive… for now.” the masked assassin replied, still moving slowly through the shadows around them. “Which is more than I can say for you...”
Draxus turned his head to the side, still keeping his eyes fixed on their enemy as he spoke to warn the Queen, “Your majesty, stay back.”
With that, the Dragon King advanced upon the darkly-dressed masked assassin, initiating their fight with a swift swing of his long sword. The sounds of steel clashing against steel and grunting was all Katherine could hear as she stood back and watched helplessly as the two darkly-dressed figures continued to duel before her.
Salid was shorter by quite a margin of difference, but made up for it with his swift movements and deadly precision. Draxus on the other hand was also swift and precise but used his strength to his advantage, darting in and out from between the pillars in an effort to catch his opponent off guard and make the fatal strike.
Truth be told, Queen Katherine wasn’t sure who she would have preferred win the fight. On one side was a masked maniac who had kidnapped her and her husband and destroyed her castle and on the other was her dangerous and powerful son-in-law, hell-bent on conquering his enemy Kingdoms! How could she possibly think to choose a winner between the pair of them?
As Draxus continued to slash and thrust his sword his vision suddenly began to blur, causing him to see double of his opponent as he shook his head to rid himself of the sensation as it was becoming stronger and stronger by the second.
Salid noticed as Draxus began swaying and shaking his head.
“I see the sting of my blade has already begun to take effect. How unfortunate for you…” he announced, twirling his sword around tauntingly.
“What the hell did you do to me?” Draxus demanded.
“The venom of the Kray Snake works fast Dragon King. Soon you will begin to see double and lose the majority of your strength.” Salid replied moving to his right suddenly and causing himself to double in Draxus’ blurred view.
Panicked by the sight of two masked assassins standing before him now, Draxus knew that he needed to control himself in order to remain focused and not panic. The assassin had said that he would see double and lose most of his strength, so he would have to simply use that to his advantage and think of a new way to strike.
Salid continued monologing, believing that he was the one in control now.
“You know, we weren’t initially tasked to take you out when Xytsis hired us to locate and capture your wife... but how could I turn down such a unique opportunity? To defeat the mighty Dragon King? I will be the envy of many.”
“Don’t get too excited, I’m not dead yet.” Draxus reminded his opponent as he suddenly did something surprising. He closed his eyes.
“Well let’s see if we can fix that then, hmm?” Salid taunted, moving into a fighting stance and beginning to advance forward with his sword at the ready.
As soon as Draxus closed his eyes and stood perfectly still with his sword in hand, the entire world seemed to drop away from his thoughts leaving nothing but silent darkness. Focusing his mind, body and soul as one, the Dragon King began summoning up all of his most powerful senses; in particular the one to sense movement. Knowing that his sight was failing him he decided to look at it from a different perspective, literally. He would use his powers to sense his opponent’s strike.
Also knowing that he was not as strong as he would normally be, he would have to make his strike swift and precise, and time it just right.
Once his powers were at their peak he could hear every little vibration around him, including his own heart thumping loudly inside of his head over and over. He could hear the sound of the wind sweeping through his untamed hair, the distant crackling and roar of the remaining fire as it continued to burn and finally, the crunches of footsteps as Salid began to move in on him from the cover of darkness.
Draxus’ gloved hand squeezed firmly around the handle of his sword as time appeared to slow to a crawl for him. He forced himself to wait for the right moment before making his move. This was his only chance to use the element of surprise on his attacker.
One more step closer, then another, and another…
Draxus could practically sense how far away Salid was, even with his eyes closed and he continued to wait patiently for his time to strike.
As the masked assassin lifted his sword up and went to slash sideways, aiming to decapitate the Dragon King where he stood Draxus reacted instantaneously, dropping to one knee and spinning around in a single smooth action. His sword was held firmly in his opposite hand as he spun around and used his opponent’s speed against him, slicing through Salid with one fatal strike and splitting his chest wide open as the assassin ran toward him.
Coming to a sudden halt and realising what had happened to him as he looked down to see the damage, Salid lifted his hand up to meet his gaping wound which reached right across his chest, then looked back up at Draxus with a hidden expression of both shock and disbelief.
“How…” was all he managed to get out before he collapsed in a heap to the floor and began to bleed out, slipping helplessly into death’s grasp. A large pool of warm blood spilled out around his body as his heart slowly began to cease beating.
Opening his eyes again, Draxus turned and looked down behind him where the masked assassin lay lifelessly on the ground, in a pool of his own blood.
Yet another fallen foe had underestimated him.