A guard walks the grounds of the castle on a cold and quiet night. He fixes the vest of his royal court guard armor, and shines the silver chest plate with his long black sleeve. Boredom was starting set in and he caught himself yawing again as he looked around to make sure the commander or the general were nowhere in sight. The elegant and lavish garden grounds were all but entirely silent besides the footsteps of the other guards not too far from him.
Until he started hearing more footsteps. Many more footsteps. Running footsteps that seemed to be all around him. He turned around and readied his silver spear when the running sound stopped and he saw no one around. Slowly turning away, the guard started his patrol again and from nowhere heard the running start back up. But just as he spun around the mysterious stampede stopped again.
As the guard, hesitantly, disregarded the sound and returned to his patrol once more, he decided to take the running as his mind playing tricks on him. But when it started again, he turned around and slammed into something he couldn’t see followed by a distinctive “shh.” The guard looked around confused and then noticed something right before his eyes shift in and out of his vision. He shutters and prepares to attack when the shifting image grabs him and subdues him.
Two other figures move over and help another as the illusion started to fade, dozens of people stood in front of the passing out guard. They all look at themselves and realized this fact as well. The group was composed of many freed slaves and their saviors, five members of the Romban Mission. They were dressed in long brown cloaks wrapped around them and black masks over their face.
“Aso!" The leader whispered, as he laid down the now unconscious guard. His muscular frame and silhouette under his cloak suggested leadership and strength in its own right.
“I’m sorry Tohsan, the spell wore off.” A tall muscular man replied through his mask.
“We would’ve been fine if Yons didn’t bump into that guard.” A shorter, slender man said as he helped his fallen comrade.
“Well I didn’t know he was going to turn around at the last minute.” Replied the fallen man. He had a small frame with gangly arms and legs but had lots of youthful energy.
“Be quiet! We don’t have time for this!” The leader interrupted, “We have to move! Kair, pick up as many of the wounded as you can.”
The larger member of the freedom group nodded and laughed as he started picking up the slaves, putting some on his back. The leader turned around and surveyed the area. The wall was at least sixty yards away and he wasn’t sure they all would be able to scale it while trying to avoid being caught.
But just as they started to run, four other guards stepped out and cut off their path. Spears in hand, three of the guards charged at the group as one hung back and prepared to alert the other guards with his black and gold horn. The leader and his two other companions, Aso and the stout man, all ran to meet the guards and attempt to stop them from bringing more attention to the break out in the large open garden area.
The leader rushed past the attacking guards and focused on the one with the horn. Aso and the other Romban member took on the three guardsmen and disarmed them all quickly.
“Saerol! Here!” Aso called as he tossed the stout man the two spears he stole from the guards.
The other freedom fighter, Saerol, took the two long handled weapons as he casted aside the others, neutralizing the other two bewildered castle soldiers. Being only somewhat skilled with the spear, he thought how Yons would’ve been the better choice for these weapons. But since the slinky young man was helping the giant Kair escort the slaves to the wall, he had to use the spears to take down the two enemies in front of him.
Aso on the other hand had already immobilized both his opponents as he was continuing on to assist their leader, Tohsan. The last guard brought up his horn and time seemed to move slowly as he watched the Romban members approach him. He began to lurch backwards to avoid the leader but knew that he wouldn’t be able to place the horn to his lips and blow before he was stopped.
But from nowhere, the blaring horn of the guards alarm rang out and everyone stopped looking over at the first guardsmen who spotted the fleeing freedom fighters. He had somehow managed enough strength to blow his alarm horn and collapsed back to the ground as more horns began to ring out, alerting more and more guards.
Tohsan looked around saw guards rushing out from the castle behind him, pointing and calling more comrades. He took down his previous enemy and whistled twice, signaling his men to all take off to the wall in front of him. Kair and Yons were both out in front leading the charge as they dodged arrows and took down a few enemies themselves.
“It’s about time we saw some action!” The giant Kair shouted through his mask.
“No one wants this much action Kair!” Yons shouted back.
A massive soldier of the king’s guard marched the quiet halls of the castle as he patrolled past the king’s study and down the hall past the prince’s quarters. He scratched his scruffy beard with one hand as he held the hilt of his broadsword with the other. He held the ball at the end of his sixteen inch long hilt, always at the ready for a fight with his giant bladed sword at his side.
The Romban Mission had become more aggressive lately, attacking castle facilities in the nearby city. To the general of the king’s guard, it was too close for comfort. He stopped looked over his broad shoulders, thinking he heard something faintly. Waiting in the empty hall, he finally recognized the distant blare of the guards’ horn on the other side of the castle. At the same time a fellow guard member came running down the hall and turned a corner in front of the general.
“General Ungar! We’re been- -” the guard started, until he was cut short by the general rushing past him.
“I know! Ready up the men and move! I’m on my way there!”Ungar shouted back as he charged down the hall, stomping in his large boots. “And find Tzu!”
“Uh, yes sir!” The guard saluted with a fist to his chest plate and took off down the opposite way.
Tohsan and all the other Romban members charged for the wall, full tilt, as dozens of guards chased after them; with even more pouring out of the castle. Aso stopped and the let the others pass him as he prepared a spell. Tohsan stopped as well helping the other slaves to keep moving. Once they were all clear, Tohsan put a hand on his comrade’s shoulder to give him the go ahead. With that, Aso spread his hands out as his spell activated.
“He’s about to use an iMage spell!” one of the guards yelled.
Aso used the Ozoak native magix known as iMage. It centered around the mage arts of using one element type as well as combining unnatural elements. iMage was the element wind and the unnatural element of illusions. Aso used his spell to blast a strong gust of wind at the pursing guards and knocked many of them off their feet while tossing others aside like ragdolls.
“Let’s go Aso!” Tohsan called back, as Kair reached a large camouflaged tarp that he pulled back to reveal a waiting hovercraft. “Everyone get on now!”
All the slaves clambered through the gate of the vehicle trying to hurry and get onto the circular aircraft. Saerol moved to towers the nose of the ship where the controls came to life as he flipped and turned knobs and switches. The engine roared as lights from the undercarriage came on and the ship began to rise up slowly from the ground. Yons helped the civilians get strapped up to the hand rails and made sure everyone stayed low to avoid arrow fire.
Many of the Romban hovercrafts had open space for many members to gather on broad and move freely with worrying about sits. The hand rails were used as positions to secure Romban members in as the vehicle was in motion but right now, Yons and the others were sacrificing their positions for the civilians who needed it more.
Yons turned and gave Kair a thumbs up when he finished strapping in the last person. The giant did the same after tying down a thankful woman. Yons then turned to the hovercraft gate where Aso and Tohsan were still running to reach. “C’mon bro, we gotta get goin’ don’t we?”
“Yeah, doesn’t look like we’re welcome here any longer.” Tohsan replied, looking over his shoulder to see all the guards still chasing after them through the garden. He also noticed a small woman stumbling and falling over as she tried her best to keep up with the others but was being left behind. Tohsan stopped and turned around to immediately go and assist. “Aso keep going. If you have to, leave me!”
“Right!” Aso jumped onto the ship and moved quickly over to the control station next to Saerol. “Let’s get ready to push.”
Tohsan charged through the waves of guards who coming after him. He pushed through and continued to the aid of the woman, dodging and evading the advances of the guardsmen. He reached the woman and swooped her up on his shoulder as a large soldier dropped down in front of him. Without looking, Tohsan knew who it was and leapt backwards just as the general’s giant blade came down in front of him. “Ungar.” Tohsan whispered to himself.
“End of the line, Romban!” The general lifted his sword and charged as the freedom fighter turned and started running. Even with his massive size, Ungar was still able to keep up with the smaller man and stay within two strides behind him.
“Take off now!” Tohsan shouted as he raced to the hovercraft. It slowly began to climb and he noticed other guards beginning to gather at the top of the castle wall. Not risking looking back to see how far the general was behind him, Tohsan prepared to toss the woman on to the ship as it began taking off. He stopped and bent his knees as he jumped and held the woman above his head. As she left his hands and Yons grabbed her, Ungar grabbed Tohsan out of the air and slammed him on the ground.
“As I already said, ‘end of the line.’ You won’t be escaping.” Ungar drew back his sword and brought it down just as Tohsan revealed his hidden weapon. The general tried to follow up with another attack, but Tohsan managed to get away.
“It’s not important whether I escape or not. What’s most important is freeing those slaves!” Tohsan swung his brilliant and majestic sword and planted it into the ground. It gleamed in the moonlight and Tohsan jumped up and stepped onto the weapon’s wrapped hilt. “Though it would be nice to escape as well.”
Suddenly an arced see through bridge appeared behind the Romban leader and he turned around and ran over the link from General Ungar to the waiting hovercraft. Ungar chased after him and as he leapt for the bridge made of magix, it vanished under his feet. He dropped to the ground and could only watch as the aircraft rose higher and the Romban leader jumped on board. Tohsan pointed to his sword and Aso nodded as his made a gesture and a spell launched the sword up into Tohsan’s waiting hand.
The Romban Mission began to climb out and over the castle walls while the guardsman on the wall tried to grab onto the ship or jump for it. Many of them missed and the freedom group believed they were home free as they reached the zenith of the wall. But dozens of magnetic hooks flew up and clasped onto the bottom of the hovercraft. Ungar tossed one up and once his came into contact with the ship, he gave it one good tug and nearly brought the whole thing down.
“Raahh! Tohsan, let me go down there!” The giant, Kair shouted. “I’ll take down the general!”
“We don’t have time for that giant! Saerol, turn up all the thrusters!” Tohsan called out orders and his men obeyed them.
Yons went to make sure at all the former prisoners were ok while Kair went to the port of the craft and removed as many hooks as he could. Aso was already busy protecting everyone from the incoming arrows with a dome over the top of the hovercraft. But with each deflected shot, Aso’s spell was becoming weaker.
Tohsan ran to the stern and with his sword he began removing hooks as the ship jerked and jumped. With each anchor removed, the hovercraft become lighter and jumped trying to flee from their pursuers. But with the general still having his hook firmly on the base of the ship, he was able to keep the ship right where it was.
Neither Kair nor Tohsan could reach the hook and if they didn’t get to it fast, they would be on the ground surrounded by guards. Ungar used his massive size and strength to reel in the hovercraft and Kair could only beg Tohsan to let him go down to stop him. But Tohsan knew that wasn’t an option and instead threw his sword down at as angle sending it through the general’s rope. The blade cut through the air like a boomerang and curved back up and to its owner.
Ungar watched in disbelief as the aircraft began lifting again and there was little else he could do. Then suddenly a burning arrow came flying from one of the open arch windows and struck the hovercraft. Another blazing arrow cut across the night’s sky and Tohsan barely dodged the fire streak that hit his mask.
The Romban leader pulled off his now burning mask and saw with his own eyes, the king peering through the shadows as he slowly stepped out of hiding holding a bow in one hand a torch in the other. His stark gray skin gave him even more of a muted expression as flame from the torch illuminated his face. Tohsan’s more lively bronze face also turned somber at the sight of his true enemy. He touched his face and his goatee to check for any injuries from the arrow as the hovercraft coasted over the wall out of sight.
“Ready the hovercrafts! And where is Tzu?” Ungar shouted to his soldiers as they all immediately began moving.
“UNGAR!!” The king’s booming voice called from the nearby hallway.
The general looked to where his king was leering after the fleeing hovercraft. He finished relaying his orders and went to meet with Laory.
The king marched down the hallway, his long purple and white fur cloak draped down from his shoulders and flowed behind him. He stomped down the hall in his large black boots with his fist balled at his sides. His long black hair flowed down his shoulders, both ragged and full in texture as while as ink black with streaks of gray form behind his head.
The same patches though were absent on his short stubby beard. It may have been due to his age or the stress from dealing with the Romban Mission. This freedom group had been plaguing the king and his kingdom for some time now and it was getting to be too much for Laory’s taste.
A guard ran up to him from an opposite hall, “Sire, the Romban managed to free more than twelve prisoners from the dungeons. We’re still working on finding out the exact… number…” The guard trailed off, noticing the serious look on the king’s face. The guard stopped following the king and instead decided to return to his previous task.
The general rushed past him and caught up with his king, reluctant to meet with him after the embarrassment in the garden. “My king, we’re--”
“Ungar… how long have I ruled these lands?” Laory asked, cutting the general.
“For the past five years my lord.” Ungar replied.
“And in that span of time, how long have the Romban opposed me?”
“Sire, do not worry--”
“Four years.” Laory stopped and turned to the general. “They have been a nuisance to the kingdom for FOUR years! Four years! After twenty years fighting to keep my crown, it seems I may lose it to a peasant freedom group on some barren desert world!”
Ungar had no words. He simply gripped his hilt tightly and tilted his head away slightly.
“Go General Ungar! Find them!” The king shouted as he turned down a hall.
Ungar quickly reacted and saluted as he turned and marched down the hall towards the castles dockyards where many other guards were preparing and taking off in hovercrafts. The general stepped onto an all black, beast shaped hovercraft which was known as the Fang Lance; the lead aircraft of the king’s guardsman. “We’ll head to the city to cut off them off. If we lose them, search the city for anyone who even knows of the Romban Mission!” Ungar shouted as all the guards shouted back in agreement. “And where is the commander? Someone find him and tell him to meet me in the city!”
Tohsan looked back and noticed the two castle aircrafts chasing after them. Saerol was an expert pilot but he still was finding it hard to shake the tails they had since leaving the wall. “Saerol, aim towards the city!” Tohsan ordered, “We’ll lose ‘em in the city!”
“Everybody hold on!” Saerol pulled the ships nose up causing the hovercraft to be caught in the gust and stop on a dime. He then yanked on the wheel to turn the craft to the right and head towards the nearby city.
The two guardsman ships turned and continued their pursuit as they began opening fire with their ship’s burst canons. They both fired blasts of condensed air that Saerol managed to dodge and evade for the most part, though the rushing air could be felt by the ducking former slaves. Yons went to check on everyone and make sure they were all still safely secured. Kair went to their own canon and started firing back as he laughed while Aso put up a shield to protect the hovercraft.
They reached the city and began zipping through the residential buildings they were coming up on. One of the guard ships went down instantly after not being able to maneuver quite as well as Saerol. The other did it’s best to keep up but the Romban hovercraft was still able to give them the slip and land behind a small building in an alley. Saerol cut the engines just as the guard ship passed by overhead and continue off deeper into the city.
Tohsan instructed everyone to move towards the building. When he opened a door to a small room, Aso ran in and opened a panel on the floor to reveal a hidden tunnel. The Romban all started ushering the former prisoners to follow Kair as he led the way through the dark cave. Many of the slaves thanked them on their way down and when the last one went down, Saerol and Yons both followed them down and Aso closed it up.
Both Tohsan and Aso nodded to each other as they closed the door to the building and took off in opposite directions. Tohsan removed the cloak he was wearing and tossed it, along with his torn mask, into a dumpster in the alley.
Stepping out into the streets of the bustling city of Mazora, he shoved his hands into the pockets of his cargo pants. Now dressed in normal clothes, Tohsan wandered the streets aimlessly in just dark pants, a tee shirt and vest. He looked up and saw the few hovercrafts passing overhead as city folk traveled to and fro.
He passed dozens of men, women and everything in between. Though the planet Ozoak was small and Mazora was even smaller, the city was still very diverse with humanoid and alien creatures from neighboring planets. It wasn’t anything new to Tohsan, who greeted one tall strange individual with three arms; two at that side and one small arm coming from the abdomen. He also passed a female creature walking on long gawky bent legs with much shorter and stubby arms.
Tohsan continued down the busy dirt streets passing small venders peddling assorted goods from their carts and stands. He also looked in to the small shops doing the same from buildings along with restaurants and bars lining the block. Two guards stepped out from the corner in front of him and Tohsan turned and made his way in one of the open bars.
The loud music and people talking flooded the same room as Tohsan made his way to the back and sat at a table. The two guards walked in looking around and Tohsan turned away to keep from calling attention to himself. Though the searching guards were getting their share of unwanted sneers from the already not so welcoming bar patrons.
The kingsguard received little to no love in the city, so in a place like this, their authority had no weight. Three men even approached the searching the guards and the obvious leader slammed his hand down on a table in front of him.
“Hey… wat is it you want?” the pale, loose skinned man said with a threatening tone.
“Move along citizen.” One guard spoke, feeling the animosity from the crowd.
“Has anyone come running in here? Anyone wearing a mask?” The other guard tried appealing to the brash room, though wasn’t fairing well. Still, Tohsan watched them carefully while waiting for a chance to slip out an exit.
“You castle guards aren’t welcome here!” A voice shouted up from a nearby table.
“Get out of Romban!” Cried another.
The three men around the guards soon turned to ten. Then twenty. Then the whole room was spurring the kingsguard out of their local drinking hole. The larger of the two sentinels tried policing the forming mob but the other knew their chances were better if they left now. This was the best opportunity the rebel fighter could hope for.
Tohsan pushed through the crowd knowing he had to start moving fast and made his way to the back of the room. He went through the dark back alleyway and out to the street where he dodged and weaved through passing people and small vehicles.
Ungar along with four other guard ships landed in the center of the city residential area and began raiding homes along as dozens of guards jumped out of their hovercrafts. The rushed in, knocking down doors searching apartment homes as well as nearby shops and bars where the Romban Mission members were rumored to consort. Many citizens pleaded and begged for their property to be left alone but the guards paid them no mind invading everywhere. Ungar looked around holding his sword at his side.
“General, we haven’t found any of the suspects who were at the castle, but we have detained other Romban affiliates from a local bar.” A guard said, saluting the general as he ran up to report.
Ungar watched as the other guards drug out restrained men and some women who were wearing clothing with the Romban symbol on it. They were all forced to kneel in front of the general who started pacing back and forth in front of them. He held out his sword and stopped in front of a man. “If you value your life, you will tell me what you know about the attack on the castle this night.”
The captives did not reply and the general raised his sword. One of the guards held the man down and Ungar brought his sword down behind his head, stopping just short of a kill stroke. The man began pleading in distress and begging to be spared.
Ungar kicked him back and stepped to another of the suspects. One at the end began shouting how he wasn’t a member of the Romban Mission as another said they did not know anything about the attack. But Ungar only lifted his sword again as a guard held down the next suspect.
“Please! Please!” The man pleaded. “I have a family!”
“Then it would be in your best interest to tell me what I want to know.” The general lifted his sword once more.
“Wait!” A woman yelled at the end of the line. “There… there’s a psychic… a psychic named Shix who lives nearby. Maybe he can help you. So please… let us go!”
Ungar walked over to the woman and sheathed his sword. “Let them go.” He instructed the guards and they began doing so, but he grabbed the woman and stood her up. “Come!”
“Wait, why do I--”
“You say this psychic lives nearby? Take me to him.”
A guard came riding up to the general on top of a lizard like beast most similar to a horse. The guard jumped down and Ungar climbed onto the large beast with the woman sitting in front of him. “General, what should we do with the others?” A guardsman asked.
“Send them to the mines.” The general said, with icy regard.
They took off immediately, the woman pointing and trying to remain balanced on the bucking monster. Dozens of other guards followed after the general riding other “lizhards” themselves. They all raced through the streets rushing past fleeing civilians and other complaining natives who had their paths cut off by the castle guard. Ungar led them as they cut around corners and traveled quickly towards this supposed psychic’s home.
“It’s straight ahead!” The woman called over the sound of the thundering hooves.
General heard the woman, but turned his animal towards the right and called for it to move even faster. The woman repeated herself, but Ungar was too busy preparing his sword as she now noticed a man being chased by two guards who were now jumping over a wooden fence. The man continued running and dodging past the citizens as the general and his men were gaining on him on top their lizhards. The fleeing man barely evaded the general and leapt through a window and into the home of the suspected psychic.
“Surround the house!” Ungar shouted to his men as he jumped down from his animal and cut the woman free.
Tohsan was in trouble now. Who would’ve thought running from those two guards would lead him to the general and end up trapped in this back room of someone’s home.
“Tohsan? Is that you?” An old man whispered, as he and an old woman entered the room.
“Please! I mean you no harm, I just…” Tohsan paused as the old man came closer. “Wait… how do you know my name?”
“Shhh.” The old man whispered, “There’s no time for that. We must hurry and get you out of here.”
Tohsan looked at him and then to the woman who was now heading to a closet to open the door. She pulled up a small compartment and revealed a staircase leading down into a secret tunnel. Tohsan made his way to the closet and the old man followed him. The old woman stepped aside giving the younger fighter room to start making his way down and out of danger.
“How… how do you have something like this?” Tohsan asked.
“There is no time to ask questions, just go.” The old man said. “We’ll be fine; I’ll tell them you snuck out before we could see you.”
Tohsan hesitated for only a moment before agreeing that he had to move now and took down the stairs. The old woman closed the compartment and the door to the closet. She made her way across the room and opened another hidden floor in the floor.
“Tal’a, I’m more than able to lift that door myself.” The old man said, slowly making his way over.
“I’m sure you could sweetheart.” She turned to him and looked at him with those beautiful brown eyes that were still bright to him besides the pale hue they were beginning to exhibit. But all the wrinkles and the white hair was still amazing to the old fool across the room.
The man shook his head and snapped out of the trance her beauty had put him under. “You have to hurry! Go before they see you.”
Tal’a began to head out the room and stopped to turn back. She wiped her now watering eyes and swallowed hard. “I… feel like I should say something more.” She whispered.
The old man made his way to her rubbing his weathered hands together. He looked up and his own listless eyes were beginning to tear up. “We’ve said our goodbyes… and we’ve prepared for this moment for what seems like forever. If anymore words are said… I’m may lose my nerve.”
Tal’a smiled through her tears and kissed him on both his forehead and his lips. “I love you Shix.”
The old man, Shix, hugged his wife and returned the love, whispered into her ear. He turned around headed to the now open compartment and told Tal’a to hurry. She turned and walked away, and Shix watched her for what would be the last time. The cursed fate of having visions of what will be; knowing the day of your own death made leaving loved ones even more difficult. The window behind his exploded as a heavy built man tore through the small opening.
He readied his sword and headed for Shix as he yelled for someone to hurry and slammed shut the door on the floor. The general approach and ripped the door up as he shoved the old man away. More guards entered through the window and Ungar instructed them to head down the passageway. He himself went over to the old man now down on the floor.
“You must be Shix. Where does that tunnel lead… psychic?” Ungar asked, picking the old man up by his arm.
“I’ll never tell you anything! Restore Romban!” Shix shouted, proudly.
Restore Romban. It was a chant uttered by many members of this rebellion group. A group fighting to defeat the king and take back the city, once called Romban and now under King Laory’s rule as Mazora. A fool’s last words to Ungar. And here was another fool.