Chapter 35:

Chapter 35 - Tunnels!

The Flight of The Draykes

We moved till the sounds of fighting had faded away before moving a little further still.

Pausing, I ground my teeth before asking helplessly, “Teacher, I know the situation is bad and everyone is fighting to survive. But there’s one person who is alone that I want to save…”

Shooting a glance back at me, the Teacher said comfortingly, “Don’t worry, Ares is much safer than we are and he should be outside the city by now.”

“How did you-, no what about Thomas? What about Sia’s avia?” I said happily at first before miserably continuing on.

“Thomas will be fine. He’s a cook and our enemies will need food too, so nothing will happen to him. As for the warmaiden of the hundred skies - if they want the soldiers to mutiny, they’ll go after her, so she’s safe too!”

By that account Edwin should be safe too I thought to myself in relief before worry for my family and loved ones - who had been left behind - surfaced again.

We moved deeper into the passage and all the while, the only light was from Teacher’s hands in which a weirdly shaped rectangular stone lay.

“Light stone,” the Teacher said, as he noticed my gaze.

Nodding, I remained silent.

In his other hand, the Teacher kept rubbing another stone that I couldn’t quite see and curious, I was finally going to ask him what it was when my Teacher paused and cursed.

Then he turned and solemnly drew his sword while summoning his warforce hoplite armor.

Then he raised the sword vertically in front of him, the tip extending beyond his head and his hands clasped around the hilt in front of his face.

The Knight Salute.

He stood there for a full minute before murmuring, “May Falka lead your soul to peace.”

Stunned, me and Sia stood there with tears running down our faces, for we knew what the salute meant.

It was for the ones who had fought and departed the world early.

Sighing, Sir Leonidas retracted his armor and put away his sword before bowing for a long moment in the direction that we came in from.

With a quivering voice, I asked Teacher, “Who was it?”

With a heavy voice, Teacher replied, “Sir James. He put this on me when he grabbed me and threw me.”.

He held out the stone that he had been holding in his other hand and I recognized it immediately as being a finite stone.

“I was going through the things inside and initially, I thought it was a treasury finite stone meant for emergencies. But then I saw this,”

Saying so, he pulled out a barrel that I recognized. It was rosewine. Sir James' favorite barrel of wine that he wouldn’t let anyone touch, including himself. He would caress it lovingly before sighing and putting it away each time.

“He didn’t intend to live,” I said, the realization striking me like a thunderbolt.

“But why?” Sia cried out.

“He was buying time for us. Time for us to do something. What is that thing, Teacher?”

Silently, Sir Leonidas looked at me before nodding and walking faster.

We walked in silence for close to 10 minutes before Sir Leonidas pressed a brick, one out of the hundreds and thousands in the passage.

The brick moved inward and the wall slid apart to form the entrance to another passage.

Motioning us to move inside, He came in last, and touching another brick on the inside, the passageway entrance shuddered to a close.

“If we had continued the way we were walking, another hour and we would have reached the Plaza.”

“Of course, if it was me alone, I would barely need a few minutes. Sir James knew that our pace would not be enough if nobody distracted the enemies. So he stayed back.”

He didn’t mention that our pace was so slow because of me and Sia, but we could read between the lines and understood immediately.

Eyes turning red and wet again, we looked at each other before saying with determination in our voices,

“Teacher, please don’t worry about us. We’ll keep up with whatever pace you set.”

Nodding, the Teacher reached out a hand and....flicked my chest.

I stumbled backward before heavily falling on the floor.

“No warforce, just an ordinary man’s strength, and yet you fell. Tell me, what pace can you keep up with?”

Red-faced, I looked at the ground in frustration.

In a gentler voice, the Teacher continued, “We may have many more battles to fight and it’s better for you to rest. Remember, you’re not awakened yet and the fact that you’ve been triggering your warforce and fighting foes beyond you is a miracle in itself. Don’t push your luck though!”

Sia then said in a small voice, “I can carry him,”

Swallowing audibly, I put aside my pride and said with my head lowered, “If that helps us reach where we’re heading faster, let’s do that.”

Smiling and shaking his head, Sir Leonidas said, “Don’t. I’m almost out of potions and I can’t protect the two of you if there’s a fight ahead with lots of enemies. So I need both of you in fighting shape, not just one of you.”

Reaching down, Teacher helped me to my feet before setting off into the darkness again, the glow of the light stone fading away slowly.

Sia and I looked ahead at the lonely man and heads lowered, we began walking as fast as we dared to in our present conditions.

We walked for another two hours before we stopped, breathless behind Sir Leonidas as he held up a hand.

Silently padding over to us, He whispered, “I am going to scout out what’s happening. Stay right here and don’t move, understand? No matter what happens, don’t move. If I’m not back in two days, then follow this map and choose your escape plan carefully. The plaza will be tracked so don’t go there. Wait for a few more days if you can and hopefully Alastor will leave to take control of the capital. That will be your chance.”

Then he handed us food and water enough for several days that I put into my finite stone, light stones, and a map that me and Sia began examining immediately.

Nodding approvingly, the Teacher disappeared around the corner.

Looking at the map, I saw that we were far beyond the south gate, even further than the fort that guarded it. Which meant that the passage through which we had walked just now passed underneath the guardian of the south.

Looking even more closely, I saw that there were three exits and the one we were at was the center one.

Calculating, I judged that the Teacher should have gone to the other entrance to circle around and see if ours was clear of enemies or not.

Sia and I pored over the map for the next few hours, committing each and every turn and twist to our memories.

Finally, with a sigh, I leaned back against a wall.

Sia joined me and sat hugging her knees.

Taking a deep breath, I said, “Go to sleep. I’ll take the first watch. When it’s time, I’ll wake you up.”

Seeing she was about to protest, I held her hand and squeezed it before saying, “I almost died fighting iron ranks that were poorly trained and then I got the crap beaten out of me by a silver rank. I’m not going to be of much help in the fights ahead, so sleep Sia, I’ll keep watch.”

Firmly, I looked at her in the eye until she nodded.

Then she tucked her head in, hand still in mine, and soon, rhythmic breaths began sounding out.

I gazed at our surroundings before chuckling soundlessly to myself.

My - no, our- entire world had been flipped upside down.

The rumors were true.

We were heading for a war against the Hagarians. A war that could break out at any moment.

But the war we were fighting right now was not a war at all but a coup!

Calling it a civil war would be a far stretch of the imagination considering the decapitation of the ‘rebel’ forces leaders and with the King hopefully on the run along with my loved ones.

Shaking my head, my gaze softened as I gazed at the cat-like form of Sia.

“Everything will be alright,” I reassured myself quietly.

I smiled as even in her sleep Sia tightened her hand around mine.

“Everything will be alright,” I said to myself with more certainty.

It has to be.