Chapter 33: Kidnapping
The sky above Iliria was dark as fierce rain fell from the sky, the only light coming from the great lines of lightning that marked it every few seconds, with thundering sounds. Dark boiling clouds and cold strong winds raged, announcing the coming of winter. The large banners and flags of the empire, that were located on the walls and towers, made throbbing noises from the air, and almost snapped from the force of the wind. Common people walked the streets, their feet splashing in large puddles of water and mud, as those that could tried to find cover. On the northern, richer section of the city, near the Palace, nobles rode their horses, as their hooves made loud clacking sounds as they walked in the rock paved streets of the city. Smoke came from the chimneys of houses as the people tried to warm themselves lighting the fireplaces.
Malik’s soldiers kept silent as they looked upon their commander. They had entered the city secretly, within a merchant’s cart, hidden inside barrels and most were complaining about stiff backs and legs. They wore no armor, but they all wore dark cloaks to hide their faces, now that they were preparing for their mission. They had walked the streets as ordinary citizens. Only Malik wore a dark armor, masterly hidden by a red soldier’s cloak. His expression was dark and his blue eyes looked upon the house that they were about to attack. One of his muscular hands was on his sword, and the other was unconsciously scratching his chin as he thought the best way to complete the mission.
He could still listen to Orrin’s harsh command. The king of Surda had been in one of his legendary dark moods after the defeat from Roran’s army, shouting and raging and drinking wine to forget his troubles. He always killed a few soldiers when he was in such a mood, and Malik had been glad to find an excuse to leave the man. It would not be past Orrin to claim that Malik had been responsible for the Surdan defeat and find himself on the executioner’s block in less time than it took to close his eyes.
“I want them captured Malik. I want Roran’s family captured. I want him to beg for their release.” the man had said, with a cold voice, even though Malik doubted the man would release them once he had them captured. He would probably kill them, first chance he got in a public execution. He could not avoid that. He only wished he was on the right side, with the spectators, and not on the stage awaiting his death.
This was the reason that they were in the city, and this was why they had been looking at this particular house on the northern part of the city. They were too close to the palace for any comfort, and the house was guarded by five soldiers at all times. The house was richly decorated, with white circular columns and a large garden, and the white stone walls, matched those of the Palace. The richly decorated wooden door had a heavy metallic doorknob the shape of a hammer. The windows had light and sounds of shouting could be heard from the inside, but he could not really tell from whom.
“Dervin, report.” Malik ordered, to one of his men, as the man approached.
“Sir, the family is inside, as far as I can tell. There are eight guards, after all. They change every four hours. Two guard the gates at all times.
“Very good Dervin.” Malik stated and the soldeir beamed with pride. He was a skinny man, who liked causing people pain. Malik was sure, he would be a man Orrin liked. He did not really see a point for this mission, other than getting revenge on Roran, but a mission was a mission and he had to carry it out, even if he doubted it’s usefulness.
“We wait for darkness. Then we strike.” Malik ordered and the men around him nodded, showing they understood. They had to hide in a small alley as they did not want to draw attention to themselves before that. He had nothing to do other than wait, as his clothes got slowly soaked by the water from the rain.
Night came, and with it, the rain stopped. Everything was silent. With a slight hand motion, Malik ordered his men forward. They walked the dark stone streets silently, until they reached the house. The soldiers were still there, guarding the house. Silently, walking in shadow, Malik went near the gate of the house, to knock out one of the soldiers, while Dervin walked on the other side, to knock the second. With a sudden motion, he grabbed the soldier’s neck and a loud cracking sounded in the night. The man fell, and a few seconds later, the second guard followed. Malik opened the gate, and a guard pointed his spear toward him.
“Who goes there?” the man shouted. There was no point in stealth anymore.
With a quick motion, Malik stabbed the man, and the man shouted as he fell. More guards came from the side of the house, and his soldiers fought them. He blocked a spear with his sword and he was surprised when his sword found a shield as he counter attacked. Then with a surprise attack, he stabbed the guard below his neck. In a few seconds, none of the guards remained. They had lost three good men in the fighting.
They had wasted precious time. People had listened to the sound of fighting and would soon be there. He looked at the beautifully carved door and with a sigh he kicked it with all his strength. The door did not move. He kicked it again and again, until finally the door opened with a crash. An arrow passed above his shoulder, the moment the door crashed, and it killed another of his men. Before the girl could react he broke the bow with a swing from his sword.
“Don’t play with things you don’t understand little girl.” he told her.
A loud scream sounded from her and she ran. A flying toy hit him on the back, and a boy attacked him. Malik turned, and avoided the blow. More of his soldiers entered.
“Seize them”. Malik ordered. The boy had managed to get a kitchen knife.
“You’re too young to play with that, boy!” a soldier said and the young boy stepped back. He couldn’t be more than eight, yet a determined expression was on his face.
“My name is Garrow, son of Lord Stronghammer and you will leave this place at once!” the boy dared to command.
Malik laughed. The boy had courage.
“Where is your mother, boy?” he asked.
“She’s in the palace.” the boy said.
Malik cursed. Why was the woman in the palace? He would have Dervin’s hide.
A soldier attempted to grab the boy and he easily took the knife from him. Still, the boy resisted, as he bit the hand of the soldier.
“Leave me alone!” he said as the soldier shouted, surprised. Then with a strong slap, the boy fell on the floor, unconscious.
“Find the girl.” Malik ordered as he took the boy on his shoulder, hanging. Loud steps could be heard on the wooden floor, as the Surdans searched for the girl. She had killed one of his soldiers. A loud scream was heard as she was found, loud enough to be heard from two blocks away.
Mes shouted outside the house, as word spread that the house was attacked. They had a few minutes at most, before the whole city guard was upon them.
“Tie her and burn the house!” Malik ordered as with a motion he knocked a candle on a rug. His soldiers hurried to obey, and soon smoke filled the common room of the house, and a large flame had covered the beautifully decorated salon.
“Leave, quickly!” Malik ordered. They had planned their escape and his soldiers ran away from the house, carrying the two children. They turned a small alley and horses were waiting for them. Malik climbed his horse and put the still unconscious boy on his saddle in front of him.
“Move!” Malik shouted, his heart beating faster and faster. This was supposed to be a stealthy mission, but everything had gone to naught, an unexpected number of guards in the house, the children fighting and hiding and killing his men, and most importantly, Katrina missing. Orrin would not be pleased, even if they did manage to escape with their lives.
The horses ran, the loud sound of their hooves on the rocky road, echoing on the buildings. A city gate was close to this location and they ran towards it, as soldiers of the empire, cried alarmed. A loud horn sounded in the city, warning of an attack, and the guards ran to close the gates of the city.
“Move it damn you! Move or I’ll skin you alive and give your worthless hides to the dogs to feed from!“. He would have said more, but his breath was caught, as he could only watch as the guards started to lower the gates.
The gate grew closer and closer. The gate started to close. He ducked as his horse passed, a Surdan riding beside him, and two more riding behind him. They all managed to pass, the gates to freedom, except for the last man who shouted in frustration. Malik grimaced. He was a dead man.
“He was a good man.” Dervin said after he managed to control his emotions, happy to be free, and away from that city.
“Let’s see if this was worth all the trouble.” Malik stated. He had lost half his men in this mission. He looked at the small boy, hanging from his saddle and at the tied screaming girl, on Dervin’s, as she looked with eyes that looked like daggers. This better be worth it, Malik thought. He hated putting his soldiers in unnecessary danger, especially if it involved risking his precious life in worthless missions.
The horses neighed, as they ran faster, and disappeared in the night. Malik knew there would be city guards following them, in a few minutes. They had to move as fast as they could towards Dras Leona, but they also had to get rid of these pursuers, make them lose their tracks. He did not have the numbers to fight them.