Chapter 25: Battle for Freedom
Zak began to concentrate on some spell he hoped would obliterate one of the groups heading towards his position when a thunderous dong rippled through the castle. It rang out twice more, flooding the air with vibrating noise that seemed to take an age to fade.
Both groups had halted and Zak listened intently to see what was happening. He heard running feet from the corridor the lord occupied and for a moment thought he had been discovered. He relaxed fractionally as whoever it was stopped and began to speak to his leader.
“Sir, reports say that someone has invaded the castle and has broken into your bed chamber,” a man’s voice reported.
At first, Zak thought they were talking about him but he had not gone into the Lord’s room. Either the fat man had been passing the Lord’s room off as his own or someone else had invaded the castle as well.
“Hunter! He’s gone too far this time,” growled a man, who Zak guessed was the lord.
Brisk footsteps led away from Zak’s position. He popped his head around the corner and saw all the men disappear around the next bend. He tugged Kelly around the corner to avoid the Forukk that were still heading towards them, then ran down the corridor, retracing his steps to the exit.
Guards swarmed everywhere now but with a mixture of stealth and unquestionable confidence, they made it through most of the castle unhindered. They were about to turn onto the last corridor before the exit when Zak heard another scream. He sighed then ran down a spiral staircase that they had just passed. It led into what Zak supposed was a dungeon. The very air had the feel of death and pain upon it and the smell was a mixture of blood and rot.
Kelly huddled closer to Zak. She was visibly terrified by the place. Zak released her hand and motioned for her to be still. He slowly eased open the rusty gate and slipped into the room beyond. It was a dungeon. There were old chains on the wall, several stone beds with thick leather straps and numerous sharp, painful looking tools lying on shelves. There was even a rack at the far end of the room.
There were six people in the room, two on the stone beds, one in the rack, two hung up on the wall and one stood in a white coat with a hot iron in his hand. On closer inspection, one of the figures on the wall was nothing but a skeleton.
“It hurts you so why not him?” screeched the white coated man.
He pressed the glowing red bar against one of the men on the stones and elected a curdling scream from him. He then pressed in onto the arm of a person Zak could not fully see. This man did not make a sound.
The torturer screeched in frustration and moved to a shelf to grab a corkscrew like device. As he moved Zak got a view of the man on the second slab. His face was badly bruised and cuts and burns covered his chest and arms but he was still recognisable. It was Liam.
Zak walked up to the torturer and tapped him on the shoulder. The man whirled around and received Zak’s fist in his face. He flew through the air and crashed into a shelf full of jars that contained fat leeches.
Untying the straps from Liam, he helped the other teen to his feet then began to free the other men of their restraints. Most could barely stand and Liam did not look too stable either but they could not wait there until they had recovered.
“You all think you can make it just outside then we’ll steal a cart or something to get you to the store house,” said Zak. They all nodded weakly.
Zak supported the two weakest men while Liam and the last man helped each other out. The climb up the stairs was nearly too much for them all except Zak. By the time they reached the top Zak was more or less dragging them along. Kelly clung to Zak’s side making his task harder than necessary but he did not mind. There was only one Forukk guarding the exit and Zak easily defeated it with a blast of Nimula.
It only took a few minutes to find a cart. They emptied the rocks from it then the slaves climbed inside. Liam, despite the pain he must have been in, came to the front and helped Zak and Kelly to pull the cart to the storehouse.
The slaves ran. Black Rain’s attention was solely fixed on Dawn, her knife close enough to Dawn’s neck to draw a single bead of crimson blood. She positioned the second knife so the point dug into her chest right where her heart was.
Dawn knew it was all or nothing now. Bracing against the pain she swung her legs up and kicked out at the assassin. The force of the kick ripped the shuriken from her flesh and she fell painfully to the floor.
Black Rain recovered quickest and lunged at the girl still sprawled out on the ground. Dawn managed to grab her scimitar and manoeuvre it so the metal head took the blow. It shattered as the two blades made contact.
Dawn had to roll to the side as Black Rain stabbed down at her. The knife pierced the ground like it was nothing but water. In the split second Black Rain took to pull the weapon from the ground, Dawn kicked out again; aiming to trip the woman over but it was a useless attempt. The assassin jumped over the attack and landed on Dawn, her legs pinning down the girl’s legs, one arm squeezing Dawns throat, the other holding a knife to her side.
Dawn struggled to release herself but the older woman was far stronger than she looked. Dawn had been raised as a princess, unaccustomed to manual labour; this woman was a trained killer. The power and skill difference was a gap too far for Dawn to cross.
Lashing out with her fist, Dawn smacked Black Rain in the face but in that same instant the woman had slipped the knife through Dawn’s skin and slid it between two of her ribs. Dawn cried out in agony while Black Rain just smiled, unfazed by the blood that ran down her chin. She licked away some of the blood and her smile grew in size.
“Time to leave this world,” said the assassin with deliberate slowness.
Dawn sighed. “You’re right. It is the end.”
There was a sound to match that of a tsunami followed by a bone shattering crunch mixed into a blood curdling scream. Then there was silence.
Billy cursed repeatedly as he rolled out of the way of the Nis’Forukk’s spiked gauntlet. Fighting a beast such as this was near impossible to start with but with an unfamiliar and heavy weapon and no backup the situation was unwinnable.
The Nis’Forukk struck again and Billy rolled to the side a second too late. The monster’s huge fist clipped the boy’s foot, sending him flying into the water. Before he even had chance to move, the Nis’Forukk wrapped its hand around Billy’s body and lifted the boy up to its eye level. Its hellfire eyes burned into Billy’s mind. Foul air hit Billy’s face as the Nis’Forukk opened its maw and its stale breath oozed out. Its teeth were large and flat like hammerheads, designed for breaking bones rather than ripping flesh.
The heavy blade fell from Billy’s hand as the Nis’Forukk tightened its grip. He would have cried out but he could not draw breath into his lungs. As his vision began to fade into darkness he saw those yellow teeth moving towards him. He was glad he would be unconscious when his bones were ground to dust.
A distant sounding shout of “Chew on this!” was the last thing his brain registered before he passed out.
A metal barrel shot past Billy’s head and smashed into the Nis’Forukk’s mouth, cracking several of its teeth. Upon impact the barrel exploded, spraying grey gloop onto the beasts face. It roared out in pain, dropping Billy as it flailed its arms.
Billy hit the ground with a splash of water and an “Oof” as the sudden pain woke him. It would have knocked the breath from his lungs if there had been any to knock out. He looked around as his vision began to clear and saw Trey stood a few feet away.
The Nis’Forukk struck out at Billy again but the grey slop had run into its eyes, temporarily blinding it. The fist landed short. Trey dashed in and pulled Billy out of the creature’s range.
“What the hell did you do to it?” asked Billy as he staggered to his feet and examined the semi-liquid that drenched the Nis’Forukk.
“I had a little visit to the kitchens. That stuff was what the slaves were forced to eat. I figured that he might like to try some,” replied Trey.
“Yeah, but you couldn’t carry that barrel, let alone launch it at that thing’s face.”
“Magnetism. I used some spells to make my hand magnetic, made sure that it and the barrel were both positive. When I got it here I propped it up on a rock, aimed up then punched the barrel. The two positive forces repelled against each other and fired the barrel at the Nis’Forukk.” Trey informed, taking up a teacher-like tone.
Billy stared blankly at him. Trey sighed. “Nimula, Billy. I used Nimula.” Billy’s face lit up as he understood. Usually he would have understood the first explanation but his brain had been deprived of too much oxygen.
The last of the gruel was cleared from the Nis’Forukk’s eyes and it charged. It leapt into the air, planning to crush the boys beneath its massive bulk. Trey swivelled his arm to face left and Billy’s discarded Forukk sword flew towards him. The second it touched his hand he shot it off in the Nis’Forukks direction. The combined force of gravity pulling the Nis’Forukk down and the velocity sending the blade up was enough to make the blade pierce the Nis’Forukk’s black hide. The attack caused the Nis’Forukk to go off target, crashing to the ground a few feet in front of the boys.
Trey and Billy made eye contact and nodded at the unsaid decision. Trey passed his sword to Billy who then ran off into the surrounding mists. Unsheathing a combat knife from its place on his leg, Trey rushed forward while the Nis’Forukk was still recovering. It whipped out its arm and Trey leapt to the side, not faltering as he charged. He ducked low under a second attack then drove his knife into the beast’s thigh.
The Nis’Forukk laughed as a small flow of black blood bubbled from the wound, burning Trey’s hand like acid. The creature stopped laughing when Trey began to chuckle to himself.
From behind the monster came Billy from the mists. Trey had been an excellent distraction and now it was his turn. He bounded onto the gigantic Forukk’s back, using its spine as steps, then plunged Trey’s sword through the top of the beast’s head.
Trey watched the blade enter the Nis’Forukk’s skull. The creature made a strange sound like distressed metal then collapsed with a thunderous thud to the ground.
“Piece of cake,” stated Billy boldly.
“Don’t talk about cake,” moaned Trey as they both headed to the storehouse to meet up with the others.
Sneaking in was always the easy part, mused Blake Hunter as he strolled through the castle in a stolen guard uniform. He had done this more times than the guards would like to think possible yet each time was as easy as the last. This time was different though, he had a valid reason to be here and the guards were on edge because of the two man assault on the gate. He had heard that the warriors had been defeated but at a disgusting cost of lives.
Blake was glad he had done this before when there was nothing to lose as he now knew the place like the back of his hand and could get in and out without fuss. He had found the Lord’s private chamber on his second exploration of the castle and was deeply relieved as that was his current destination.
There was a single guard on duty but Blake had timed it so that he arrived at the change of guards. The burly man nodded to him then left his post, thinking Blake to be his replacement. The door was locked and far too thick to break down.
“He seems to forget that force isn’t the only way to open a locked door,” smirked Blake as he removed a lock-pick from his sleeve. The pick clanked around inside the lock and Blake began to get frustrated when there was no satisfying click signalling it had worked.
“Maybe he didn’t forget then.”
Changing his tactic he lit a torch on the wall and held it against the thick door hinge. Several minutes passed and the metal began to glow a dull red. When it was as hot as it would get, he dropped the torch then hacked at the glowing metal with a stolen sword. Within seconds only scrap metal remained. He repeated the process with the second hinge then noticed an additional third one which was destroyed soon afterwards.
With one last quick look around him, Blake pulled on the elegant ring knocker and the door fell forwards with a mournful groan like a felled tree. Blake stepped onto the great slab of mahogany then hopped into the room.
The room was a vast chamber of stone, much akin to the secret room under Zendek’s old house back in Pastrino. Shelf after shelf of books lined the walls and a large four poster bed sat on a slightly raised platform in the centre. There were a few other items of furniture in the ring between the bed and shelves like desks and cupboards.
Tucked into the bed was Sarah. Blake ran to the bedside and called out the woman’s name but she did not stir. He tried to shake her awake but still she gave no response. Her body was limp like a corpse but her chest still rose and fell as she breathed. Knocking the small bedside table, Blake noticed a bottle of tablets. She had been drugged.
From his belt Blake took a small water flask and splashed its contents onto her face. As the water ran into her mouth she began to choke. Her eyes shot open and her fist shot out, punching Blake in the face.
“Hey, it’s only me, Blake, don’t worry,” Blake said softly, soothing his reddening cheek.
“I know,” replied Sarah as she punched him again.
“Did he do anything to you?” asked Blake, suddenly turning very serious.
“No. He brought me here, gave me some tablets that he said would take away the pain from my ankle then I woke up just now,” she replied.
“Can you walk?” Blake said, glancing around him again.
Sarah made a huffing sound, her face flushed with anger. “Is that all your going to ask? You haven’t seen me in fifteen years, a week after our wedding, and all you want to ask is if I can walk.”
“It was hardly my choice. Being captured by giant demons was hardly my choice of honeymoons. Now is not the time for that though,” interrupted Blake. “We need to get out of here before someone finds us. We’ll discuss pleasantries later.”
Sarah swung her feet over the side of the bed then stood up, immediately falling back onto the bed as pain shot through her ankle. Blake picked her up and slung her over his shoulder. She shouted out in protest and hammered at his back with her fists but Blake ignored her and exited the room.
He stopped in his tracks as he walked right into a guard as he stepped over the door. He probably should have propped the door back into place to avoid suspicion, he thought wearily to himself. Before Blake could react, the guard had grabbed a black horn from his side and blew a deep, violent note from it that echoed through the corridors. Blake ran him through before the guard could draw his blade but the damage was already done. In the distance sounded the heavy dong of the security bell and he knew that guards would be swarming his location any second.
Cursing loudly, Blake broke into a run, taking a back route away from the main areas of the castle. There were a few moments of calm as he thought the enemy would not find him but that was soon shattered as he heard rapid footsteps closing in behind him. While in full armour and carrying Sarah he could not outrun them but neither could he fight his way out.
Just keep running forwards, he told himself. He laughed in irony as he heard voices further along the narrow corridor before him. His laugh faded as he saw it was Zendek himself leading the second group. His old friend smiled evilly as he spotted Blake and Sarah, knowing they had no chance of escape.
“Stuff this!”muttered Blake. He grabbed at a coil of rope that hung from his belt. He made a sudden turn even though there was no corner and dived through an arched gap in the wall that served as a window.
They had been several floors high and the ground looked a long way away. After a few seconds of terrifying freefall, Blake threw the rope, its end tied to a grappling hook and hoped to the Sprites that it would connect to something. The small metal cross landed on a balcony, latching onto the railing. The sudden halt of the rope ripped through Blake’s hands but he did not let go. They were still a fair way from the ground and just dangled from the rope uselessly with nowhere to go.
The rope suddenly became loose and Blake and Sarah fell once more. Someone had found the hook and cut the rope from it, wanting them to fall to their deaths. Blake turned in mid air and embraced Sarah from behind; making sure that he took the brunt of the impact.
The fall seemed to take forever despite the fact it was mere seconds. Finally Blake hit something but it gave way underneath him, fell a split second longer then landed hard onto an unyielding surface. Sarah opened up her eyes and looked up at the grey sky through a large hole in the wooden roof above them. Slowly, like a dream, her eyes floated around the room, taking in its details.
They had landed in a stable. The Sprites must have been with them as out of every place they could have landed, it had been a large straw pile. She glanced to her side and found Blake’s hand sticking out of the greyish straw. The rest of him was not visible.
She dug through the straw and found her husband’s unconscious form at the very base of the pile. She slapped him across the cheek, reminiscing of the past when she woke him up like this. He had passed on his heavy sleeping gene to Trey, another thing to moan at him for when they had time.
“Five more minutes,” groaned Blake as he snuggled deeper into the straw.
“Now,” snapped Sarah as she slapped his other cheek. He grumbled some more then winced as he fully awoke and the pain from the impact hit him.
“Couldn’t you have left me asleep, it was less painful,” he whined while rubbing his back.
“No. Like you said, now is not the time.” She climbed to her feet, keeping her weight off of her hurt ankle.
Blake rose to his feet too and motioned for Sarah to climb onto his back. He staggered out of the stable, remembering he was not as strong as he used to be because of this place.
The couple gasped as they stepped out onto the street. It looked like a sandstorm had passed through that area. Rather than the hard soil, sand covered the ground and coated the buildings. In the middle of the street was a deep crater. The only sign of life was a black cloaked girl who lay next to the crater. Jogging to the girl’s side, Blake knelt down allowing Sarah to get down and check her condition. She moved aside the girl’s fiery red hair to check her pulse.
“She’s alive and seemingly in perfect health other than some minor wounds and major fatigue. As long as we patch up her shoulders and side she’ll be as good as new in no time,” stated Sarah. At hearing the voices, the girl’s eyes shot open and she tried to jump to her feet.
“Don’t worry. We’re going to help you, okay,” soothed Sarah.
“T-Trey?” asked the girl groggily, her eyes trying to focus on Blake.
“You know Trey?” asked Sarah, excitement and concern growing in her voice.
“Yes. He’s here somewhere. We came to free you all,” answered the girl, regaining some of her strength.
Blake interrupted Sarah before she could begin speaking again. “Who is this Trey guy?”
Sarah was silent.
“Whoa. Is he your new partner? I disappear for fifteen years and another guy just waltzes in,” sighed Blake.
“He is not my partner,” Sarah replied in a quiet voice.
“Who then?” demanded Blake.
“Trey is…he is your son,” she answered softly.
Trey had arrived at the storehouse to be greeted by hundreds of people. There were so many that even the bottom floor was nearly filled with slaves. He greeted a few faces he recognised while he and Billy shuffled through the crowd to try and find Zak, Dawn and Liam.
On the second floor they were met by Zak and Liam who had created a little platform from the crates where they could escape the people who filled the room to the brim. Liam looked to be just finishing off healing himself. He still looked rough though. Trey did not want to imagine how he had looked before.
“Took your time,” laughed Zak, clapping them both on the back.
“We’ve been here for fifteen minutes already.”
“Any sign of Dawn?” asked Trey as he scanned the nearby faces. Both Zak and Liam shook their heads. “Haven’t seen her since we left here,” Liam answered.
“While we were waiting we realised a few things. Like how do we get out? These people are all malnourished and weak. They cannot go the way we came, they’d all fall to their deaths,” said Zak.
“True. We could-” his idea was interrupted as someone below screamed “Sarah!” catching Trey’s attention. The teens clambered down to the lower level and forced their way to the door.
Trey’s mother stood there, half supported by a man he did not know but who looked vaguely familiar. On the man’s back sat Dawn. All three looked battered but otherwise fine. Trey ran through the crowd of people and without hesitation embraced his mother. He was supposed to be a man now, he was looked upon as a leader to the people around him but he did not care in the slightest. She was safe, that was his only concern. He only let go when Sarah gasped and he noticed her injured ankle. The man crouched down so Dawn could slide off and greet her friends; a strange look was on his face.
“Billy, its good to see you,” said Sarah once her attention strayed from her son.
“You too, Mrs Sted,” replied Billy his voice seeming troubled.
“Have you seen my mum and dad?” he managed to force out after a moment of hesitation.
Sarah did not know what to say. “Billy… I’m so sorry.”
The boy’s eyes glazed over as Sarah’s words sunk into his head. He was trying to keep a brave face in front of the crowd but it was a losing battle.
“T-they’re… they’re b-both… dead,” Billy said. He crashed onto his knees, his hands cupping his face, pulling at his hair. He began to shake as he repeated “Dead” in a whisper over and over again.
Sarah threw herself down at his side and pulled his head onto her shoulder. The emptiness within him took over and he openly sobbed into Sarah’s hair. Silent tears streamed down Sarah’s face too as she grieved for her lost friends.
“There will be plenty of time to grieve later. We have an escape to plan now and everything else needs to be forgotten until we are all safe. For now we have to content ourselves with paying these monsters back,” announced the man who had entered with Dawn.
“He is right,” said Trey as he held out a hand to Billy. “We can all grieve after we have taken revenge on those who cause us to grieve.”
Billy nodded, wiped the tears from his eyes then took Trey’s hand. Once he was up he held out his hand and Sarah took it graciously. The stranger stepped forwards to grab the crowd’s attention.
“Not that they haven’t done a great job so far but I think that a group of teenagers shouldn’t be responsible for our lives. Unless anyone has any complaints, I will take command until the threat is behind us.”
There were plenty of murmurs in the crowd but no one spoke out openly against the man. From the crowd, Lieutenant Gapon stepped up to the man. They stood face to face, looking ready to trade blows. Gapon grabbed the man’s shoulder roughly. To Trey’s surprise, he did not throw a punch though. Instead he broke into a joyous laugh.
“Damn it, but it is good to see you, Blake. I stand with you, just as I did in the war.”
Trey stepped forward. “Who are you?”
The man seemed to hesitate for a moment but then his loud confidence returned. “I am Blake Hunter, ex-sergeant of the Pastrino City Guards. A former soldier and the longest surviving slave extraordinaire. Any other questions?”
The name sounded familiar but Trey could not think where he knew it from. Too much had happened and much more was to come for Trey to worry over something so small. There were just too many thoughts to process at the moment. Trey shook his head, content with Blake taking control. After all, Trey was no leader; he did not want the responsibility. Blake cleared his throat.
“Right then, time for a plan.”
The Lanstiro guards were not stupid. They knew that the only way for the slaves to escape was through the front gates so they had assembled in force to await the slaves exit. All of the slaves that had not managed to escape were already safely locked within the castle. Over three quarters of the guards in the city, both human and Forukk, were ready to give the ungrateful scum a leaving party they would never forget.
The guards’ mood was light as they were expecting a massacre. The slaves would come in a disorganised rabble, hardly armed and so starved that they could not run. They would come like sheep to the slaughter. The rumble of stamping feet reached the ears of the guards and to their surprise, a large wooden shield was heading towards them at speed. Dirty feet could just be seen under the barrier.
“Fire!” bellowed the lead guard. It took precious seconds to ready their ranged weapons.
Hundreds of projectiles shot forwards, embedding into the barricade. A few made it through the thick wood but the guards could not see if any damage had been dealt. There was barely time for a second volley before the mobile barricade was upon them.
The barrier suddenly dropped to reveal nine dakdaks, man sized, three legged birds without wings, kept for their rich eggs. The livestock awkwardly galloped towards the guards’ ranks, rode by slaves with makeshift lances and shields. There was a crash instantly followed by screams. The dakdaks did not slow to attempt to make additional kills. The guards hacked at the mounts and the riders. Three animals fell, the others continued forwards.
Several of the guards turned to follow the dakdaks when arrows twanged from behind the fallen barrier to hit them from behind. Hundreds of slaves were charging to the exit, all armed with knives. A few had swords or bows while others just had metal bars or stones. They had formed a square with the men on the outside and the women and children in the core.
“Kill the men! The women and spawnlings will be defenceless then,” barked a grizzled Forukk with horns jutting out of its skull that were twice the size of those on the surrounding beasts.
The Lanstirian warriors charged to engage the ragtag slaves. The two forces met with a clash of weapons, shields and screams. The slaves did not stop to fight but continued to push forwards, struggling to carve a path through their heavily armoured opponents.
It felt good to have a weapon in his hands again, Gapon thought to himself as he swung a hammer into a Forrukk’s throat. The heavy blacksmith hammer was no match for his mace but it would do. He made a wide sweep that knocked a beast over to be stabbed by the woman behind him. Blake’s orders to him had been simple: protect Sarah and Trey at all costs.
Sarah was well protected already and certainly was not defenceless. As for the boy, Trey, watching him fight left Gapon with no doubt that the boy could hold his own. Another few years and he would surpass both Blake and himself at their peaks.
A blade nicked his wrist. The battle was hopeless at these odds. It didn’t matter how many skulls that he cracked, more just kept coming. Dying in an unwinnable battle still beat living as a slave though. Gapon calmed his mind. He just had to keep swinging. Trying to keep his wards in sight, he let out a battle cry and raised his hammer up high.
Blake chopped at a Forukk that ventured too close to him as he took another hard earned step forward. Despite all the effort, the slaves were simply too weak to fight against trained warriors. He ducked as a guard flew over his head. Risking a glance at where the man had come from he saw Zak had broken rank and was cutting his own bloody path through the blockade. He was doing a good job of distracting a few enemies but it was not enough.
As Blake dodged a mace he looked over to the left side of the column. Trey fought valiantly, stopping the enemy from overwhelming the other slaves around him. A pang of regret hit Blake as he realised he may never get a chance to get to know his son or even let the boy know that he was his father.
The column came to a halt, unable to push any further forwards. The enemy fully surrounded them. Blake blew on a horn and all the men crouched. The women and children darted out, struck at the guards with their knives then leapt back into the centre. The men were back up and hacking at the surprised enemy without pause. It was still not enough.
Just when the enemies were on the verge of engulfing the slaves, several guards began to scream from in front of the fighting. Blake was about to be cut in two by a twisted looking Forukk when a huge blade ripped through its chest. As the beast fell it revealed a giant of a man, scarred beyond belief. At his side span a young woman with purple hair and two flower chakram.
“Nice timing, Htaed, Lily,” shouted Zak over the din of the battle. After the two strange warriors killed another handful of guards and Forukks each, the remaining enemies fled in terror, leaving the slaves to stagger away from the fortress and towards freedom.
“Sorry we had to leave earlier but those Forukks are tougher than the normal rabble,” chirped Lily happily. “This was too easy though, I was looking forward to another good fight,” she pouted.
“Do not worry,” said Htaed softly. “You will get your fight.” He motioned through the thinning mist at an army of Forukks that marched towards them.
Blake cursed. “We can’t fight them.”
“You either fight and die like warriors or surrender and die like dogs,” said Htaed as he eyed the enemy. “They only outnumber us five to one, its still good odds.”
“The last lot had less than us yet we still would have died if not for you!” shouted Blake.
Htaed answered slowly, as if caught in a memory. “You will one day learn that odds and numbers mean little in battle. Pray to your Sprites and do not falter, then accept whatever fate is destined for you.”
A battle cry broke out behind them and they turned to face a second army flooding through the fortress’ door. It numbered far less than the army on their other side but it was still enough to pincer the slaves from the very start of the battle.“See you all on the other side,” roared Blake as he tightened his grip on the blade he held and offered up a prayer to every Sprite he could name.