Chapter Twenty-Five- VERA
The Violet Guard waits for our movement with thousands of arrows, all with sharpened points, ready to be unleashed. Silent Watchers stand in formation behind me, the bright sky illuminating their red masks. Today’s the day blood will be shed.
Silence fills the horizon where thousands of assassins transform the silence to fear. I attempt to grab the minds of the enemy’s archers across the distance that separates us, but it’s too far. Bringing my fist up in the air, I signal thousands of shields up, a crisp coordinated motion creating a sound that echoes off into the distance. With a slight rotation of my fist, we move.
We move as one, a sea of red and black, as if we are one mind instead of many. Right legs move in unison, and then left legs. With each step the sound of boots on the frozen ground is like the warning thunder of a coming storm. Their masks block the frigid wind from the grim faces I know are behind them.
I grab hold of my Warriors Necklace, and kiss the grey stones for encouragement. After I talked with my sister, I realized how important this mission will be. Bringing her to Kgar could very well give me the chance to escape with Zyrik and leave the king’s crudeness far behind. If he’s going to war for her, then her gift is obviously stronger than mine.
As I predicted, a rain of arrows showers over us. I hear their thuds as they bounce off assassin shields. I’ve brought mine up in time to catch the force of arrow after arrow.
“Ladders!” I yell. “Catapults!
The assassins part, revealing large barbaric siege weapons. It takes many assassins to push them forward.
The scaling ladders run ahead of us and Violet Guards take aim. Arrows pierce assassins, but others readily take their place, and our force continues strong.
My gift rumbles beneath my skin, eager to be unleashed. As we march closer, I feel my mind beginning to lock onto theirs. Not wasting a single second, I latch onto those heartbeats that wear the silver tree emblem, and crush them.
Hundreds of men drop like flies, dead before they hit the ground. I center my energy quickly when more archers take their place, and I lash out again. This time, it’s the sound of bones cracking that fills the cold silent air.
Massive stones soar through the air and shake their walls. The catapults creak under the pressure, and assassins quickly place the next stones. There’s still more to be done.
The battering ram is assembled, and I send it to the gate. I prevent the Violet Guard from taking the men down. This moment is the test of my reborn magic. It has yet to waver against my continuous use. They hit strong, then retrace their steps to repeat.
“Release the Keppers!”
Captain Leech whistles a high-pitched tone, and the ferocious birds of prey echo back in a matching pitch. Soon, Keppers are casting shadows over us as they fly over and sweep through those archers yet out of my range. The Kepper’s talons are outstretched, inflicting damage. Painful cries confirm they’ve hit their mark.
Men rush up the ladders and battle ensues atop the wall. It’s only a matter of time before it continues on down the other side.
Nate points to a large crack in the wooden gate. We wait in anticipation, until under pressure the gate gives way. Their guards are ready on the other side, slicing through our men. I push them back with my gift and let my men tear down the rest of the gate.
Thousands of Silent Watchers pour into the city. I maneuver Provena through them, casting my gift out, blinding their guards. My men cut them down quickly, and move on. I finally get ahead of my men and the sound of Provena’s hooves hitting the cobblestones is like hammers on an anvil. My friends follow close behind me.
Violet Guards are everywhere; I keep my mind in constant motion to hold them off. We hurry past them, and are long gone before my gift releases them.
More soldiers await us at the bridge’s gate. I reach down inside myself again and grab hold of my gift. But something’s wrong with my store of energy. The amount I used earlier must have depleted me.
“I don’t know how many I can hold,” I yell. “We’ll have to fight our way through!”
We draw our swords and prepare to face their men. Arrows fly through the air, and our shields come up.
I try again to ignite my gift, and it faintly comes back to surface, enough to snap the archer’s arms. The rest of them charge, swords drawn, unafraid of us--just four riders coming their way.
Our horses knock them to the ground. I swing my sword, steel meeting steel, trying to clear a path to the gate. A loud shriek shoots through the sky, announcing a Kepper. Their men shout, and duck for cover. Not all of the men are lucky, as the large, sleek bird dives towards the ground, scooping one up. He screams in pain as sharp black talon pierces his body.
The Kepper throws dead remains aside and swoops again. The beastly bird’s talons extend out, and slice through a line of men, whose sinew and flesh gives way. Inner contents splatter to the ground, staining the white snow beneath.
“Watch it, Vera!” Murrow throws a knife, and it whizzes past me, sticking into the throat of a Violet Guard behind me. Murrow gives me a curt nod, before turning to attack another soldier. Finally, my gift comes roaring back in full force, and I demolish the rest.
“Oh, come on!” Karl shouts. “I almost had him!” He looks down at his opponent, now dead.
“We don’t have time to play around,” I say. “Let’s get in and get out.”
We race across the bridge towards the ornate architecture of the white palace that towers ahead of us. To think, this is where I once longed to live. I swallow the bitter taste of regret.
I look back over my shoulder and see a mass of Silent Watchers coming up behind us. I smile. This is our time.
I pull on Provena’s reins, stopping us inches from the edge where the drawbridge is raised. I try to peer under my shield as arrows rain down on us. I grab hold of enemies I see and cast them aside. I spot a man in the tower next to the gate. I reach inside his mind to make him take his sword and begin to cut away the chain holding up the bridge. It takes time and I control a few other men to help him. Finally, I manage to orchestrate success.
The last chain is cut and the bridge comes crashing down. I face my assassins. “Bring the battering ram. Now!”
Minutes go by before the assassins begin running the ram into the last gate. I continue blocking the Violet Guard until all of them place their focus on me. I hide underneath my shield, along with some assassins who place theirs up with mine. The arrows never cease, continuing on in a steady rhythm, some even puncturing partly through.
We have to be almost through the gate. Why is it taking so long? I begin counting massive hits, until I hear the crunch of the gate breaking away.
We rush through, and soon enough we’ve infiltrated the castle. My small group breaks away, hurrying towards the dungeon.
I was told where the winding staircase would be, and we follow it down. Nate pulls back a heavy door, and we rush into a large, circular, domed room. There’s a soft glow of light circling above us, and I notice a single chain hanging from its center.
“There are too many doors in here,” Karl says. “Which one is it?”
“It’s that one.” I point across the room to a barred door. Rushing over, I yank on it, but it doesn’t budge.
“You’ll need a key to get inside.”
A scrawny man in long grey robes appears behind us, a large ring of keys hanging at his waist. I immobilize him and take them.
“Thanks for letting us know,” I sneer.
I throw them at Murrow, who catches them and immediately starts on the lock. He tries the keys one by one until one catches. It’s amazing how things are going my way.
I suddenly fall to the ground, clasping my hands over my ears. The sound of a thousand cries roars inside my head. I look over to the strange man, and he’s pulling on the chain in the center of the room. Whatever he’s just done, I know we’re screwed. In my overconfidence, I released him, not knowing what he could do.
His strange half-smile infuriates me, and I burst his heart inside his chest. He crumbles to the floor to become a heaping pile of rags. The release of the chain silences the bell.
“Hurry, let’s go!” I scream.
The bell ringing is still echoing in my head as we run down a long narrow corridor. We pause at every door to look inside, and it isn’t long before I hear Nate yell from up ahead. “He’s here!”
Murrow tries the keys again until we hear the familiar click. I push open the door.
“It’s about time,” Bellek says, as he steps out from the shadows.
Bruises lie fresh on his face and down his neck into the simple robes he wears. I watch his eyes shift to my necklace and his grim expression falters.
“We need to hurry,′ I say, “before we get trapped down here.”
Bellek steps forward. “Vera.”
“Don’t,” I interrupt. “I came here planning to yell at you. But we don’t have time. You’ll have to wait to receive my wrath.” I pin him with a frosty glare and his mouth sets into a hard line.
We run swiftly through the damp hall and into the circular chamber where we sidestep the limp body; we bound up the stairs and into the main hall.
A hundred men with drawn swords greet us. From the corner of my eye I see an archer release an arrow. My eyes widen as I watch the arrow pierce Bellek’s chest. He stumbles back and drops to the floor.
In that moment, my vision turns violet, and the hairs on my arm stand on end. The Violet Guards aren’t prepared for my reaction. I cast out my hands, and scream, crushing their bones. These bastards will never be my family.