Davin stormed through the halls of the castle, Andrew at his heels. “Davin, you must clear you mind, this is important you cannot keep your thoughts muffled by this woman,” he said.
He whipped around, Andrew nearly running into him. “You do not understand, so I advise you to keep your mouth shut and your thoughts to yourself,” he growled. He inhaled deeply, rubbing his eyes with his fingers. “Stella and Torin are to go get aid from the Armogot while you get everyone here ready.”
“What of you?” he questioned.
“I am going to Rishana to find Walter.”
“What? That is dangerous. Murdock is mad and you will surely be found and killed.”
“I will handle him,” he said sternly.
“Do not act hastily,” Andrew warned. “You are too close to this; it is dangerous.”
“I am aware,” Davin said as he walked away. Without looking over his shoulder, he commanded, “We march in at sunrise, Andrew. Tomorrow.”
“Yes, sir,” he nodded.
He neared the doors that led outside where most of the riding dragons awaited their riders. Cyrin stood with Ruthianna, stroking her neck. She looked to Davin and he followed her gaze.
“Cyrin,” Davin said sternly, “I need your assistance.”
“What is it?” he replied.
“I need you to take me to Rishana tonight,” he said. “I need to find an ally.”
“Alright,” he nodded, “sounds simple enough.” As Davin began to leave, he added, “However, I would like to talk to you about Kiaran first.”
“What?” he huffed.
“She has an entirely new set of emotions now,” he explained.
“Yes, that is what I caught,” Davin mumbled.
“She may not be with Kriettor forever,” he said. Davin watched him closely. “She was bonded with him once before, but only until now she is changed. Perhaps she will return to us.”
“Perhaps,” he nodded. Walking away, he added, “We will leave here at night fall.”
The sun had just disappeared behind the mountains, black bleeding over the orange sky. Davin made his way across the flat field where Cyrin and his dragon waited. His eyes nearly smoldered purple against the faint light. “Are you ready, Davin?” he questioned.
“I’ll never be more so,” he replied.
They climbed onto the dragon and she took off. The awkwardness of the flight did not bother Davin. His mind was wrapped on one thing alone: Murdock. Perhaps, if he were to become king, he could get his thoughts off everything.
Whether or not Kiaran was joined with Kriettor, he was leaving her by herself. Yet, she was not alone, for she had the Zeil, and all of Avestitia. She simply did not have him, and she could survive with that. Maybe it wasn't just his heart which was hurt, but his pride also.
He shook his head, feeling guilty for ever even suggesting such a thought to her. She would never want such a thing, and yet he asked her anyway.
He forced his thoughts to move to Murdock, the power-crazed king whose desires were as fatal as a blade. His cravings were making it impossible to focus on his country--worrying too much on his own prestige. Just like his father, the king before him, he was too absorbed in riches and power.
Finally, Ruthianna glided over Rishana once again. Landing in the same arena as with Kiaran. Ruthianna padded her feet on the dirt ground, toiling it like a garden.
Davin leaped off the dragon, stretching his legs slightly. Looking to Cyrin, he said, “In the desert to the east is a clan of people called the Chastin. Find them. I am sure they will be of use. Ask them for assistance for Kiaran.”
He nodded and the dragon shot into the sky, her underbelly hiding her among the stars. Davin rushed up the stairs and out of the building. His legs carried him quickly, but he kept at a walk. He began to pass Cotton Pub, but backed up. Through the small window, he could see familiar faces. They were all so clean, and happy, and unaware of the disturbed king they lived for. Facing forward again, he found two guards ahead of him.
“You have returned, Holloway,” one of them said.
“Aye,” he nodded.
“How was your search for the fugitives?”
“Undetermined,” he grunted. “I had found them, but they escaped before I had the opportunity to apprehend them.”
“Well,” the other said, “that seems convenient.”
“Who may you be searching for here?” the first man asked.
“It does not concern you,” he barked. It was uncommon for anyone to speak to Davin in such a manner. He was a high ranked soldier and very respectable.
“Ah, but it does,” the second retorted.
They drew their weapons and Davin pulled out his sword as well. One of them shouted, the guards lining the top of the wall watching closely.
Before he had the chance to defend himself, a large man kicked one guard into the other. The guards fell and lost their swords. A massive ax swung through the air and the one man lost his legs. The other scrambled to escape, but lost an arm in the process.
Davin’s wide eyes moved to his rescuer. Bells rang loudly through the air as other guards were alerted.
“That escalated quickly,” Davin gasped.
Brick stood strong, his ax dripping with blood. “Come, Davin,” he said over the panic of the two, bleeding soldiers. Quickly, they raced away.
Armed men littered the streets as Brick led him up a flight of wooden stairs onto the roof of an old building. Crouching down against the ledge, Brick spoke softly. “Walter has been captured and imprisoned. So have my brothers and nearly every rebel. They tried to arrest me, but I refused and slaughtered them.”
Davin cursed beneath his breath. “We have many allies on their way to help us,” he reassured him.
“Where is Alana?” Brick asked.
He sighed heavily and dragged a hand over his face, saying, “She has died. Didn’t Walter tell you this?”
“Oh,” he breathed, “No, we haven’t seen each other in a few nights...We had received a letter saying she was going to take the throne. Do you know who will now?”
“I know who she wanted to take her place…She had left a note with Kiaran saying if she were to die...”
Brick stared at him and finally nodded his head in acceptance. “I suppose I shall keep you alive then, eh?”
“I suppose,” he grinned.
Davin hesitated, then asked, "Have you heard anything of my parents?"
"...No," he admitted.
"Good. No news likely means they're fine," he replied quietly.
Torin led Stella up the familiar mountains, the air thick with fog and the sky lit by a small moon and several stars. His hands gripped the trees as he hoisted himself up. Stella slid slightly and he reached back for her. She gripped his wrist as he yanked her up.
“The Armogot,” Stella began slowly, “So you said they were slain by King Murdock the First?”
“Yes,” he nodded.
“Then how are they to aid us?” she questioned. “If they are all dead…”
“They are more powerful than you and I,” he replied. “Even without bodies.”
Her skin crawled, the thought of spirits helping her seemed…strange. She had heard many stories about several kinds of souls, and none of them seemed safe. Looking up, she found Torin to be several feet ahead of her. She was too lost in thought to keep up. Rushing, she caught up with him, her legs growing weak.
Soon, they reached flat ground near where Torin and Kiaran had camped the night they had met them. Torin looked over the area, tree limbs still littering the forest floor.
“Emmet,” Torin said loudly. “I am here for assistance.”
The fog thickened around them, the air seeming to have life in it, moving freely about. Their spirited bodies slowly appeared ahead of them. Emmet stepped ahead of his people, watching Torin curiously. “What sort of assistance might you be asking for?” his voice carried hundreds of others in it.
“We are overthrowing Murdock once the sun rises. I need your army to flood the castle and battle once more,” he answered him.
“I understand your concern,” he nodded. “Why must you need our help in taking over a single city?”
“The king has gone mad and the city is littered with soldiers. It has become a fort,” he replied. “I will be just on the south side of the wall in the forest. I will give you a signal on when to head in.”
“So be it,” he nodded once more. Thus, they vanished.
“That was rather simple,” Stella said at a whisper.
“Aye,” Torin nodded. “Off to our post, shall we?”
They climbed back down the mountain and rode their horses across the fields toward the forest. He looked to Stella as she held her reigns tightly. She looked ready enough, and appeared more like a Zeil that morning than any other day he had known her. Her fighting abilities were nearly as powerful as Kiaran’s. Yet, somehow, he felt as though she was not completely ready for this battle. Perhaps, he was also unready, but very willing. This battle, it seemed to knot up his insides.
Their horses were simply trotting as they neared the castle walls. The faint sounds of alarms filling the air sank Torin’s heart. Stella looked to him quickly and asked, “Did your brother not go over there tonight to find some allies?”
“He did,” he nodded.
“Perhaps…he is in trouble?” she continued.
“Most likely,” he grunted.
“Why would they sound the alarms for only one man?”
“Murdock is as paranoid as he is evil,” he answered. “Any threat is considered dead within his walls.”
“He cannot surely survive on his own in there,” she grew anxious.
“We have many friends in there, I am sure they have found him by now,” he reassured her…reassured himself.
“Are you certain?” she questioned.
No, he was not. His eyes continuously lingered around the top of the wall, remembering his escape with Kiaran.
They built a small fire, sitting around it, worry filling them. The sounds from within the walls of the city never hushed. Growing all the more anxious, he stood, pacing his camp. His post was there, in the woods to guide the spirits. He could not leave it.
Looking to Stella, he said, “Whenever you see fit, build up the fire and throw this in it.” He handed her a small, copper rod with etchings and a colorful powder inside, saying, “This will signal the Armogot.”
“Yes,” she nodded. As he turned his horse around, she said, “Be careful, Torin.”
“Always,” he nodded, climbing onto the saddle.
Ruthianna and Cyrin flew over the vast sand. It was not hard to spot the buildings etched into the side of the cliffs, stretching out from the entrance of the caverns. Lights within the windows and across the streets set them out upon the bleakness of the desert twilight.
The dragon lowered closer to the ground. Most of the people were still awake and outside, dancing with their fires. He leaned in, feeling the apprehension that Ruthianna felt. His heart thudded and his ears rang. Something was wrong.
Suddenly, there was a commotion among the people. Many ran inside their homes while others ran into the streets, gazing at the dragon. Ruthianna thrust herself higher as arrows zipped through the air at her.
Wrapping his arms around her slender, powerful neck, he buried his face into her scales as arrows ripped through his clothes. Arrows frayed her wings, and bounced off her scales.
Spiraling through the sky, she avoided a few large spears that were launched into the air. She darted through the sky, attempting to dodge the other projectiles. However, one spear lodged straight into her chest just beneath her front leg.
As she fell, Cyrin's heart was thrust into his throat. He held on tightly, knowing that they were falling to their deaths.
She crashed to the ground, dirt and sand exploding about them. Cyrin was pinned beneath his dragon, his leg shooting with pain. Ruthianna batted her wings and tried to stand up as she roared in fear. The people surrounded the dragon, tossing ropes over her to keep her still. Cyrin shouted, but was unheard over the groans of the dragon and the shouting of the Chastins.
As they dragged the dragon in a large net, Cyrin, too, was dragged along. The pain in his leg caused him to cry out, still remaining to be unheard. Looking over the ropes and the dragon, he came across the spear head jetting out of her back. He touched his hands to the sharp stone, hot blood running over his hands. He spoke to her softly, “Ruthianna, keep calm. I will free us.”
With that, her groans and growls seized. Whispering, “I am sorry,” he broke the spearhead from the wood, ripping at her flesh further. She cried in agony as she flexed her wings, batting Cyrin with them. Using one arm, he held her wings beneath his chest, keeping her still. With the spear, he cut through the ropes enough for him to climb through.
Falling out of the nets, he instantly drew his sword aiming it at the men. He was unable to stand, his leg too wounded, so he was stuck half-lying in the sand.
They froze, looking down at the man they did not notice from the beginning. “What are you doing with the Nightshade?” one man asked.
“Nightshade?” he questioned. “This is my dragon.”
There was a long silence. “You shall speak to our leader.”
Davin and Brick sneaked through the poverty stricken alleys of the city. The beggars stared at them, mostly at Davin with his bright, well known armor. Not a sound was made, afraid for their lives. They simply kept against the walls, their eyes wide and cautious.
“What are we to do now?” Brick questioned. “Must we escape these walls and find help?” His voice was low as he kept a close eye on the beggars.
“No,” Davin shook his head. “Soon enough, the sun will rise, and our armies will attack this city.”
“What do we do in the meantime?” he asked.
“Survive,” he replied.
“That is generally easier said than done,” Brick let out an uneasy chuckle.
“I believe we should find Walter and free him and his men,” Davin said.
They made their way toward the prison door at the base of the castle. There were only a small number of men they had to fight and kill on their way. However, once they reached the doors to the dungeon, they laid eyes on nearly twenty soldiers standing outside.
They leaped into the bushes nearby, watching them carefully. The soldiers talked to one another, seeming bored. Davin pondered on what to do next. His hand gripped the hilt of his sword tightly, his eyes darting between the several men.
Suddenly, just down the street there were shouting and scraping of swords as they were pulled from their scabbards. Davin looked around the corner of the building as several soldiers raced toward them. Brick and Davin stood to leave, but they wouldn't get far.
Looking over his shoulder, he saw a surprising sight. Atop the back of a horse sat his brother, aiming down each man in his path. Arrows shot through their shoulders, pinning some of them to walls or doors. Others, he simply shot through the head.
The rest of the soldiers charged, but were shot down easily. Davin’s eyes narrowed as he noticed his quiver was growing very low on arrows. The horse bounded through the men. Several of them swarmed Torin, one yanking him off the horse and slamming him to the road.
Davin bolted after them, drawing his sword. He slammed men to the ground, thrusting his blade through their necks. Reaching his brother, he lifted him by the arm, saying, “What are you doing here?”
“Nice welcoming, brother. I came to see if you needed help.” He looked around, “It appears as though you do.” Brick slain the last few soldiers and faced them, breathing heavily and wiping blood from his stout face.
Brick walked to them, saying, “Walter and the others were captured.”
“Murdock did not kill them?” Torin asked. They watched him curiously, wondering the same thing. “Well, off to rescue them as well,” he grinned.
They got to the door, now surrounded by a few bodies. Davin shoved them out of the way with his feet as he pulled open the door. He held it open while Brick entered. As Torin walked in, Davin held a hand to his chest, keeping his voice low, “Brother, you must be careful. You are nearly out of arrows and you are horrid with any other combat.”
“I have been working on that,” he retorted.
“I do not want to lose you today,” Davin pressed. “And you cannot be leaving all these men alive. That will be our downfall. We are in a war--”
“We do not kill--”
“Yes, I understand,” he snapped, “The Zeil do not kill under any circumstances, but this could be the end of us if we don’t play it right. The Zeil do not have armies for war, they are generally peacekeepers. And, brother, you are at war.”
Torin glared at him, understanding what he meant, but unwilling to give in so easily. Finally, Davin removed his hand and they moved forward.