Part 2 - Found Her!
Denar left the Palace and quickly blend with the shadows of the night. It had been quite a few years since he had last needed to resort to that kind of stealthy technique. His steps became light and silent, his body moving fast from shadow to shadow. Peace was such a beautiful thing, he thought bitterly as the dark sky became stained with the blood red of flames. It almost made one forget that war was in reality the natural state of things. The night wind smelled of burning wood and dark smoke rose in heavy clouds towards the heavens.
He decided to retrace Elipson’s footsteps, following in the same direction he had seen her leave. Instinct came back to him, sharp and clear, as if he had never stopped being the small, scrawny boy that had wandered the streets in search of something to eat or, better yet, something to steal. Back then all he had was a hard wire, his work tool and only partner, with which he had managed to open any door or window in town. Now, however, he was a Royal Knight, and his work tool had grown heavier and deadlier, he mused as the red of the flames made his blade come ablaze.
From time to time he could hear savage shouts, some giving orders, others of pure amusement. The sound of a house crumbling made him choose a different path, thinking the road would be filled with ruble and burning ash. A group of men turning his way forced him to take refuge behind a garden wall. The men were laughing, walking with ease while carrying huge, heavy looking maces carved with sharp and deathly metal nails. The armor they used didn’t look any lighter, covering their bodies from neck to toe in plates of steel. And still they marched and moved as if the weight was nothing to them, and as if they hadn’t been on the road since daybreak.
Once the group had passed by, Denar stood up and went back to the street, just in time to see a shadow running towards him. Muttering a curse, he lightly jumped over the wall and crouched back into hiding, keeping watch. However, as the shadow turned the corner, he recognized him immediately and, standing up once more, held his arm as he ran past him. Apparently unable to see him even though he had made his presence noticed, Heric stopped abruptly, his eyes filled with terror darting towards his captor, and he would have stumbled and fallen if not for Denar holding him up.
“Oh my God!!” he practically shouted and the Knight squeezed his arm with all his strength, looking down the road towards the direction the other group had just taken.
“If you won’t shut up right now I’ll slit your throat myself!” he whispered, threateningly, and Heric swallowed hard, his pale face covered in droplets of sweat that streamed down his neck. “What happened?”
“Men … Dozens of men …” he answered in a low, frightened voice, trying to get free from the Knight’s grasp, but Denar squeezed his arm even harder.
“Let me go! We have to get out of here as soon as possible!”
“Where’s Elipson!” Denar insisted, his voice growing even colder, and Heric looked back, as if he were afraid that someone might still be chasing him.
“You don’t understand! These are not ordinary men! They’re animals, destroying everything on their way! Let’s just leave here and escape while we can!”
The Knight raised his sword, his expression bleak as he pointed the blade at Heric’s chest, and all the man’s urgency seemed to drain from him, as he was faced with eminent death here as well.
“Either you answer my question or I’ll end your pathetic life right here!”
“She … she’s back there …” he finally replied, pointing the direction with a trembling hand that made Denar’s fury come alight.
“What do you mean, she’s back there?!”
“She … she was … fighting … They caught us by surprise …” Heric tried to explain, stammering as fear made his throat dry, and Denar suddenly just couldn’t understand what was stopping him from just impaling that worthless piece of shit from front to back, right there and then.
“And you left her there?! Alone?” he demanded but Heric had lost his ability to speak, more scared of that crazed Knight than he’d been of the men he had escaped from. “Where! Just tell me where!”
“That way … then right …” he managed to say in hopes he’d let him go, and he almost fell back when Denar released him, running towards the direction he’d just pointed to him.
Silence greeted him as he turned the corner and the bitter, choking smell of burning wood filled the air. A few steps from him houses were still burning, the bright flames illuminating the street where countless bodies laid like dead.
Denar forced himself to go back to his cold and rational self as he advanced, trying as hard as he could to ignore the anxiety that made his heart beat hard against his chest. He walked in silence, checking the bodies he passed by, making sure they were really dead, keeping his eyes and ears wide alert, in search of other sounds that might mean that reinforces were on their way. The sweet smell of blood told him that the battle had ended not long ago. A fierce battle, he mused as he looked down at the empty eyes of a black painted faced man, his blood draining onto the floor stones, gashing out of wild, savage cuts on his torso and arms. When he couldn’t be sure just by looking he used his blade to guarantee that no one stayed alive to attack him from behind.
Finally he found what he’d been looking for; the silver symbol of the Black Knights glowing tenuously by the crimson light of the flames. She was sitting against a wall, bent over herself, half covered by her black cloak. From where he stood he couldn’t see her face, her head pending forward resting on her knees. For an instant he almost ran straight to her but them stopped himself again, taking control over his own emotions as he steadily advanced, checking all the dead bodies at his feet. His throat grew tighter when he noticed by the corner of his eye that she wasn’t moving, that she seemed … He took a deep breath. For a moment he had forgotten he had to breathe.
When he finally reached her, he looked both sides to make sure they were safe, and knelt beside her, parting her cloak, trying to get a better look of her face.
Bright silver flashed in front of his eyes, so fast that only a trained warrior’s reflexes would have been able to avoid. The frail wrist he grabbed midair trembled slightly and the small dagger she held fell to the ground.
“Elipson! It’s me! Denar!” he told her, his whole body warming up at the sight of that movement, and he couldn’t help but smile as he understood how the man lying beside her had lost his life.
The dark curly tangle that was her hair moved when she raised her head, leaning back against the wall, opening her eyes to look at him, her face dirtied by ash and blood.
“Are you alright?” he asked, releasing her, trying to check if she was injured, and her hand fell inert by her side.
“That bastard … He … left me!”
Denar opened her cloak and his heart jumped as he saw how her tunic was soaked in blood.
“You’re hurt! Your injury reopened.”
“He … just used me … and left me … to fend for myself …”
“Hush! Don’t talk so much!” he scolded looking down the road. No one. No sign of enemies. “I have to take you out of here.” he decided, sheathing his sword, and held her as gently as he could, pulling her to him and raising her from the ground, holding her in his arms. Elipson muffled a scream and breathed hard as the pain slowly subsided until it was bearable again.
“No … just leave me … you won’t be able to fight like this …” she finally managed to protest, his wide strides making her clench her teeth to keep her voice under control, and he looked down at her, his green eyes seeming alight as he frowned angrily.
“Just keep quiet, will you? You know I’m not leaving you!”
“But the rules …”
“To hell with that! Besides, I’m partially responsible for this!”
Elipson sighed, too tired to argue, and her head fell against his chest as she fought to keep her eyes opened.
“It’s useless … I can’t even … fell my legs … anymore …”
Denar’s throat grew tighter once again. Her voice sounded so frail and distant that it felt like it might break at any moment.
“Can it be that even in your state you can’t stop spitting nonsense?”
“Listen … I have to tell you …”
“And I don’t want to hear any of that! Besides, I’m sure you’ll regret it like hell afterwords, if you start with that sentimental crap right now! Just shut up and keep breathing! We’re almost there!”
He felt as her body grew number and heavier, and finally even her head lost all strength, sliding over his arm to rest by the curve of his elbow. He thought his sight had somehow become blurred as he practically ran back to the Palace. He was going to take her to Elian!, even if it were the last thing he’d do.