Chapter 58 - Kidnapped
The kidnapped royals stared in horror down the escarpment as the very ground came alive with black shapes. They streamed from the forest, out of the water from the lake, they came down the cliff face and erupted from holes in the ground.
Finally, their moaning, their incessant demands, and threats were replaced by silence. The gamble that risked so many lives proved its worth.
Just like the nobles and the council members, the humans had no idea that beneath the castle lay a network of tunnels. A true labyrinth that could only be navigated by the castle keeper and his henchmen.
To get them all into the tunnels was a struggle. To get them the almost three miles to this point was a tedious and thankless chore that left their kidnappers weary and in bad humor.
The Eastern army streamed over the walls, broke open the gates, overpowered the few ‘guards’ who were actually traitors and murderers that aided the Eastern army in their atrocities.
These traitors were dressed in armor, barely armed, half drugged and utterly incapable of defending themselves or speaking in their defense. This sight made their troubles worth it.
There were so many more than they dared hope. To spread the rumors of this meeting without alerting the council was dangerous and arduous.
Getting Roman, the castle keeper, to assist them in using his armed guards to ‘kidnap’ nearly two hundred people was risky. It turned out Aldrich was a great judge of character and Roman was a wise old man, far smarter than his masters.
There were many more dark shapes outside the castle when the earth shook under their feet in a series of explosions. For a brief moment, it seemed as if the fire would consume the whole massive structure, but it was the caves underneath that collapsed in on themselves.
The weakened cliff face buckled under the weight of the massive structure. They all watched in awe as the outside walls and towers collapsed almost in slow motion. It slid and toppled over the edge, down the dizzying height of the cliff and into the lake.
Once the outside towers went, a whole side of the cliff detached with it. They all gasped in horror as the ancient castle collapsed. It left only the gated wall, a small part of the courtyard and half a tower, which precariously clung to the opposite cliff face.
What remained of the Eastern army streamed from the gates of the castle. Those on the outside milled around in confusion, some of those streaming out were on fire and or severely injured.
“Now, beloved,” Aldrich ordered, and Catherine nodded at him.
Without a word, Catherine and her men mounted their horses, the battle horn sounded. From five different sides, their army streamed down to meet the East.
Deafened from the explosions, still milling, the Eastern army only realized what was happening when the riders were almost upon them. The first charge cut a swathe through the dark-clad men before they rallied.
The riders, knowing the tricks of the east, swung from their horses and continued fighting on foot. The animals ran off as they were taught, protected by their armor and quilted gear from poison arrows. Still, some were horribly injured as they were cut and sliced about their vulnerable legs.
Catherine fought hard. Every time she felt fatigue or pity, she would remember what these men were capable of, and her arm would swing tirelessly.
She covered the ground with their blood, not caring that her armor, sword arm, face-plate and even her tunic was stained red.
Priest and Robert kept pace with her and Gillian was always between them. Despite the armor and her blade, she fought like an animal, she tore, maimed and killed with a raw hatred that was scary, but remarkably well controlled. She was no longer the terrified girl they found.
Robert was just as vicious in his attacks. It was as if every one of these men were a personal enemy. Priest on the other hand with his icy control was more frightening. He acted as if he was merely dispatching of stray wolves or mad dogs.
The sudden lull made her frown, and Catherine turned to look around her. The ground was littered with bodies. There were many maimed or dying, not all of them from the Eastern army, but nothing remained alive where they stood.
A noise made her turn, and she found herself surprised when she noted Dillon and Derrick had fought their way almost to her side.
Dillon was magnificent in his full battle gear. He fought fiercely with strength, pride and cunning. She could watch him all day, and pride filled her chest. Her love for him was almost painful at that moment.
Dillon grinned at her as he too came to a standstill. She put her foot forward to walk over to him and in horror, she watched as one of the seemingly dead Easterners rose from the ground.
With his dying breath, he plunged his sword right through Dillon’s armor from behind. She never even had a chance to warn him, too late, Dillon saw the fear and horror on her face.
The sword erupted from his chest in a spray of blood. He looked surprised, briefly, before Dillon stared down at the blade protruding from his chest with incomprehension. When his eyes lifted to look up at Catherine, she started to run.
Just then, something rammed her from the side and completely ran her off her feet. It took the breath from her body and even though she could feel her bones break, all that was in her head was Dillon. She had to go to Dillon.