The Survivors (The Eleven Years War: Book Two)

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Chapter Two

Never, before, had Olrick thought that Silas was so insane.

And, yet, he was still participating in his crazy scheme to get Marion out of Gisken hands. He was hiding behind the wall of the medical core building, along with an injured Gisken whose loyalties only went as far as the money in his pockets. Olrick was wearing a coat with a hood and pants, both of which were a mottled gray in order to help him blend into the fog that had rolled in over the night, leather boots, and dark gray gloves. A quiver filled with arrows and his short sword sat on his hip, while a bow was slung over his shoulder. All of it – minus his sword and boots - had been stolen from the military intelligence building the previous night by Silas, while everyone else was asleep. He knew that Silas was wearing a similar fare, though he wasn’t in the alleyway with him and the Gisken; he was on the medical core’s roof, waiting for the convoy to come rolling down the street.

“Who are we busting out?” The Gisken he’d bribed was a little older than him, with dull brown hair, brown eyes, and pale, sickly skin. He hobbled around on crutches and had a bandage around his head. Judging by the white band on his forearm, he was a private, which, he supposed explained why he didn’t have much loyalty to the Gisken cause; if he did, he’d probably have a higher rank, by then.

“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” Olrick said. He spoke with a deeper voice than he normally did, just in case twenty gold drams wasn’t enough to keep him from talking to his comrades; he’d covered up every other aspect of his identity (he’d even started walking with a slight limp), so it made sense to change his voice, as well. It was better to be safe than sorry.

The Gisken seemed disappointed. “So, I can participate in this thing, but I can’t know why you’re doing it?”

“That’s exactly right.” The Gisken didn’t say anything else, thank the gods; if he had, the convoy might have heard them.

Marion’s execution convoy was large, though Olrick thought that it was because the street was more narrow there than in other parts of the city. The party, made up of twenty, heavily armed Giskens and an old, rickety, closed cart came lumbering through the fog. They seemed to be alert and focused, but they only stared straight down the road ahead of them, not even considering that, perhaps, danger lay in the alleys to the sides.

Olrick looked over at the Gisken and nodded. He nodded in return and began to hobble onto the street. Sure enough, the convoy took the bait: they slowed to a halt, right in front of the alleyway Olrick was hiding in, without even batting an eye. They didn’t seem to suspect that their injured comrade was a diversion.

Silently, Olrick pulled an arrow from his quiver, knocked it, and pulled the string back to his cheek.

However, he waited a few seconds before he took the shot. He took a few, deep breaths to calm his pounding heart. This was insane; why in the gods’ names did he and Silas really think this was going to work? This was pure suicide, fighting twenty men with just the two of them.

However, if they didn’t try, Marion was guaranteed death.

With a final, deep breath, Olrick fired the arrow.

Time seemed to slow down as the arrow sailed through the air, as if everything were moving through molasses. The arrow reached out to an unsuspecting private, taking him through the neck and snuffing his life out like a flame on a candle.

The second the private fell, Olrick’s instincts took over. He sprinted towards another alleyway, one that took him farther down the street without him being seen by the Giskens. Once he was there, he ran into the main street and began firing, again.

The second Olrick stepped out of the alleyway, the streets became chaotic. Soldiers began drawing their swords and backing up towards Marion’s cart, officers on horses began shouting orders at their men, and even a few began to run at Olrick with their swords drawn, trying to eliminate the threat only to receive arrows to the chest. All of them were focused on the mysterious archer that stood before them like a ghost in the fog; none of them even thought to look up.

That was what Silas had planned on. As the Giskens focused their attention on Olrick, he was repelling from the medical core building, onto the roof of the cart. Even the men behind the cart didn’t realize what was happening until the roof of the cart had a hole in it and Silas was climbing into it.

“Protect the prisoner!” The cry went out amongst the officers, but by then, it was too late; Silas had already come out of the cart and was pulling Marion out of it.

Olrick’s heart stopped when he saw the condition Marion was in. He knew better than most about the horrendous treatment Gisken prisoners of war faced, but he’d assumed that, because of her status and the fact that she was a woman, they would show her mercy; it seemed that that wasn’t the case. She looked sick, sick and frail; the very clothes on her back seemed to weigh her down. Her face was purple on one side from being hit in the face repeatedly and her arms were covered in red, scabbed cuts. And if it weren’t for Silas’ arm to steady herself, Olrick doubted that she would be able to stand upright

Anger boiled up inside him when he saw her condition. It made him sick, to think that anyone could treat another human being like that, let alone, a woman. For the first time in a long time, he allowed his anger to fuel his fighting, to allow him to duck under Gisken swords, shoot with more accuracy, stab with more accuracy. He hadn’t even realized just how many Giskens lay dead at his feet until Silas and Marion ran down the street and out of sight, leaving him with the members of the convoy who were still alive.

All of whom, he would come to realize, were mages.

The realization hadn’t come until ten Gisken soldiers began running toward him, swords drawn and ready to kill the man who’d killed their friends. Olrick began sprinting down the street, hoping that his being a distraction would keep most of the Giskens from going after Marion.

As he ran, be began feeling sharp pangs in his back as hard things hit him. When he looked behind him, he saw that one of the Giskens had large cobblestones hovering by his outstretched hands, torn up from the street by his power over stone. An Abunaki stood on one side of him, flames dancing between his fingers and a Jotiese man stood on the other side, a ball of water between his hands.

Shit. It seemed that Silas had missed an important piece of information while coming up with his half-assed plan to get Marion out of prison: half of the men guarding her were mages.

Olrick began to run faster as the mages chased him down the street, praying that the pyromancer was a terrible shot and that the terramancer wouldn’t think to aim for his head. More stones clattered against the street around his feet and smacked him in the back, bright flames turned the fog around him a brilliant orange, water snatched at his ankles in an effort to get him to fall. Despite all of that, he managed to remain on his feet, though the gods knew that it hurt like hell.

However, just before he reached the end of the street, he felt something collide with his back and set it on fire. A jolt of electricity shot through his body and sent him flying through the air, down the remainder of the street.

There was a loud crack as he collided with a building at the end of the street. Pain flared up in his arm and blood began streaming down from his nose as he sank to the ground, every inch of his body aching in pain.

Sind Er Töt?” One of the Giskens asked as footsteps raced toward Olrick. “Is he dead?”

“No,” another said. “But he will be, soon.”

Move, Olrick screamed at his body as the Giskens neared. Whatever they’d done to them had paralyzed his entire body; he couldn’t even move his fingers. Move, damn it!

However, it was too late for escape, even if he could move; two Giskens grabbed him by the forearms and yanked him to his feet. Every remaining Gisken surrounded him, anger burning in their eyes.

Olrick tried to keep his fear from showing. Gods, give him strength; he was going to need it for whatever they planned on doing to him.

“How are we going to kill him?” one of the Giskens asked.

“We aren’t.” The voice was familiar, enough so that it sent chills down his spine. The face that came with it was that of Bram, the traitor that had given Elise so much trouble. He had a smirk on his face, while Olrick’s face was creased in an angered frown. “We’re going to take this filthy rat to prison, where he belongs, and get him to squeal on his friend if we can’t find him.”

Olrick spat in his face. “Damn you, you turn coat!”

He doubled over and gasped as Bram’s fist went into his stomach.

“I’d be careful about how you speak to me, boy,” Bram growled. “It’s by my good graces that these men haven’t slit your throat, yet; I’d stay in them, if you wish to keep breathing.” Olrick didn’t say anything. Damn him; damn him and his traitorous ways. At least he had the solace of knowing that he would rot in hell for what he’d done.

“Stick him in the cart,” Bram said. “I think General Blair would like to see our prize.”

“Something isn’t right.” Elise looked up from her book at Kael. He was pacing back and forth in front of her, just as he had since Silas and Olrick had left to get Marion. “They should be back, by now.”

“Kael, you need to calm down,” Elise said, though she herself was starting to be worried about what was taking them so long. “They probably just took the long way home to keep the Giskens from finding the rest of us out, is all.” I hope.

Despite what Elise had said, Kael continued to pace, running his hand through his hair, rubbing the back of his neck; it was starting to worry her.

She stood up and gently put a hand on his shoulder. He looked over his shoulder at her. “You need to calm down; all this pacing and worrying isn’t going to bring them home any sooner.”

Kael gave her a pained look, then sighed, sitting down on a stool. “You’re right, of course.” He ran a hand through his hair, again. “I-It’s just that I can’t stand feeling so helpless, is all.”

Elise sat down next to him. “I understand, really. I felt the same way when I found out the Giskens killed my brother.”

“And how did you get over it?” he asked, looking up at him. Elise had forgotten how much like a boy that a man could look like before she saw the look on his face.

“I reminded myself that whether or not I’d been there for him, something bad would have happened,” she said. “It’s the same thing for you. If something bad happened to those two, it would’ve happened whether or not you were there.” Kael looked back down at his feet and sighed.

“Do you ever get sick of making people feel better?” he asked.

Before Elise could respond further than a smile, the door to the room opened and Silas staggered into the room. Marion was draped over his shoulder, barely able to stand on her own.

“What happened?” Elise asked as she ran over to them, taking Marion in her arms. She gently laid her down on the sofa. She was in awful shape: her skin was clammy, her body was frail, and her face was covered in bruises and small cuts.

Silas smirked, obviously proud of himself. “We busted Marion out, that’s what. Those Gisken bastards didn’t see it coming.” He began to look around the room. “Where’s Olrick? Did the lazy bastard send himself to bed?”

Elise could feel her heart beginning to sink. “He isn’t with you?”

Silas stared at her for a second, trying to decide whether or not she was joking. Then, he slammed his fist on a table, cursing, making Elise and Kael jump. She’d never seen him so upset, before.

Elise began to walk toward him, uncertain. “Silas, please calm down-“

“How the hell am I supposed to be calm?” he snapped. “This whole plan was my idea. If it weren’t for me, he’d still be here with us, right now!” He began pacing, just like Kael had before they showed up.

“Silas, you can’t blame yourself for this,” Elise said. “You couldn’t have known that this was going to happen.”

Silas plopped himself down on the chair and ran a hand through his hair. “We have to get him out of there; they’ll kill him if we don’t.”

“And if you go anywhere near those Giskens right now, you’ll get yourself killed,” Kael said. Elise nodded.

“He’s right,” she said. “If you go anywhere near that prison right now, both of you are going to get killed.” Silas didn’t respond for a few seconds: he just stared at his feet.

Finally, he stood back up and began to walk out, his hands shoved into his pockets. “I’m going out.”

Elise frowned as she folded her arms. “Where are you going? Please, don’t tell me that you’re going to get Olrick by yourself.”

“No,” he said. “I’ve got an errand I need to run.”

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