Chapter 39:

Chapter 39 - Aaron Drayke (Part 3)

The Flight of The Draykes


Moving faster into the tunnels of the Labyrinth, we fought a few skirmishes of enemies - as surprised by our presence as I was at the speed that they were dispatched as Galen and his men knifed through them.

Finally, after changing our directions multiple times to confuse the enemy as to our overall plan of escape, we reached a point where we halted while Master checked the wall.

Grunting, He pulled an innocuous brick out and reached his hand inside the crevice left behind, he pulled out a letter.

Examining it closely, he opened it and didn’t bother reading the writing on it but rather, turned it over and sprinkled powder over it which revealed the sigil of the Draykes.

Relieved, he placed the brick back in place before walking a hundred steps to the right carefully and twisting a torch that was lit.

With a subdued rumble, the wall opened up and another tunnel appeared.

Following inside and shutting the path behind us, we reached a large underground space.

Looking at us, Master said, This place is not marked on any map and is only told to the Knights of the Draykes once they reach gold rank.

“Not even the members of House Drayke can know before they reach gold rank,” said Master clearly, dispelling my doubt as to why I was not told as part of the family.

Nodding, I moved further inside only to be greeted warmly and subduedly by the seedlings that House Drayke was nurturing alongside a company of castle guards who stood steely-eyed.

Saluting, the company commander walked forward and I recognized him as Knight Egon, a fellow silver ranked knight that I got along well with.

Seeing me, Egon broke into a smile and after he greeted the senior Knights, he pulled me into a bear hug that I returned, both of us trying to crack each other's bones.

Letting go, I filled him in on what all had happened as Master did the same for Galen and his men.

Face drooping now, Egon looked at me and Damon with pain in his eyes before hugging Damon tightly and saying, “Your father was like a father to me. After tonight, if you’re ever in trouble, you can always count on me. As for tonight? Don’t move too far away from me and you’ll be fine.”

Smiling a bit sadly, Damon nodded his head before resolutely looking at Egon and exclaiming, “You don’t need to look after me. I’ll join your company as a soldier and not baggage!”

Grinning, Egon thumped the boy on the back and said, “Of course you shall.” - Turning around to his men - he softly shouted, “You hear that lads? We have ourselves a new comrade!”

The steely-eyed soldiers nodded friendlily at Damon before turning back to their posts and pricking their ears for the next orders.

Meanwhile, Galen and Master had just finished their conversation and were walking toward me and Egon.

“Plan’s simple,” said Galen while Master looked disgruntled behind him.

“Me, Patrick, and three of my men will cause havoc alongside two of the soldiers from the guards. Even better if they’re silver ranked,” Pausing, He looked at Egon who barked out two names.

Jerking his head at the two, he said, “You both are good soldiers, I can tell. But the five of us will be the point and you both just have to mop up the ones we leave behind.”

The two agreed to the plan and all traces of unwillingness were extinguished as Galen continued, “Me and the men I'm taking are all gold ranks. Which means 5 gold ranks and you both as the rearguard.”

“We’ll be the distraction and we’ll lead them away from you all and then circle back to join you.”

“Meanwhile, you both,” pointing at me and Egon, “will have to follow the map to the meeting spot. 50 in the back, 50 in the front, and 20 as point. Is that understood?”

Nodding, Egon agreed but I asked doubtfully, “Why only 20 as point?”

“Space. My men will lead the charge alongside you two, and 20 should be enough for three lines deep and a line four-wide that will sweep in front while the 50 should be enough to handle any situation. Further doubts?”

“None,” I responded quickly as he had indeed explained everything thoroughly.

Pausing, Galen kindly said, “Soldiers must follow orders and not question them and on this mission, my men are the leaders. I do not mean any disrespect toward you, it’s just that they are not used to working with others and they are used to men following their orders.”

Beating his fist on the chest, Egon replied, “That will not be an issue. My men will follow them unconditionally as long as they do what you say they will do.”

Blushing, I nodded at the side, face stinging from the implied rebuke.

Clapping his hands softly, Galen called over one of his men, a grizzly bearded man who had a huge bow on his back.

“Chase, you’re in charge of them. Remember, quick and efficient. Leave none alive.”

Chuckling, the man ducked his head in affirmation before fixing his small eyes that turned sharp as he looked at the company of soldiers carefully.

“10 more silver ranks and 110 iron ranks. Quite impressive. Company system of 4 platoons?”

“Aye, 10 men to a section, 3 sections to a platoon, 4 platoons to a company,” replied Egon with pride in his voice.

“Not bad at all” Praised Chase before saying, “Every platoon will select 5 men to form the point sections. The section leaders cannot be part of the point sections.”

Continuing, he said, “Platoon 1 and 2 after selection will take rearguard, Platoon 3 and 4 after selection will take front-guard. Are we clear?”

Jerking his head at the silver rank section leaders who had gathered around, Egon asked, “Everyone clear?”

Sounds of assent came all-around before they split off and headed to their respective platoons before re-organizing themselves.

Soon twenty men stood in front of Chase, Egon, and the rest - including me.

Critically examining them, I nodded along with Chase as he appreciatively whistled softly, “all iron rank 5 stars. Not bad at all.”

Rousing the seedlings who had been observing in silence, Chase nodded at them and gently spoke, “We’ll be doing the protecting and you just need to maintain formation and above all, do not leave it.”

Then suddenly turning severe, he said, “You’re the best that the Draykes have and they’re putting everything on the line to save you. So you better cooperate to the best of your abilities or don’t you blame me for being harsh!”

Then Egon stepped in and with a soft voice said, “We will make sure all of you reach safety securely. Trust us!”

Wishing them good luck, we looked on as the distraction team walked out with a purpose in their step.

Grasping my sword hilt tightly, I locked eyes with Master who looked reassuringly at me before walking away.

He never looked back.

Clenching my teeth and stifling the uneasy feeling I felt, I breathed out deeply before putting on my helmet and combat ready again, I fell in with the point team.

Smiling at Egon who was practically bouncing on his feet, I grinned as the familiar rush of adrenaline hit me.

Escaping from under the noses of practically all the soldiers in the Kingdom of Leon. It filled me with a fire that burned brightly inside.

The fire extinguished itself quickly by the fourth skirmish that we ran into involving different noble groups fighting each other desperately in the tunnels.

It burnt out completely the very next skirmish when Egon and I were cornered by a baling gold rank level ferocious beast.

Cursing the beast tamer who had already fallen with all my heart, I blocked yet again before being flung against the wall which shook.

Yelling, Egon charged at the beast while saying, “Don’t bring the baling ceiling down on us!”

Shaking my head groggily, I watched as Egon suddenly became bigger in my vision before with a grunt, he crashed into me - knocking me back against the wall again.

The beast, sensing victory, snarled and jumped but in mid-air, a golden arrow sprouted from its eyes and the beast howled in agony and fell to the side.

Another golden arrow followed swiftly, pinning the beast to the ground before the final golden arrow pierced through its heart - ending its struggles.

Raising my head in thanks, I saw Chase taking in ragged breaths while counting his arrows.

The man had saved us more times than we could count in these skirmishes.

Most of the surviving soldiers of the point sections, or section now - were men who owed their lives to the archer who nocked and fired his huge bow with such ease, ending lives as easily as drinking water.

Gathering ourselves, We quickly passed the wounded back inside the formation before taking stock of the situation.

17 dead.

11 of them were from the point sections.

6 from the rearguard who were ambushed by stragglers from previous noble fights.

Many more wounded.

Grunting with the pain, I bitterly thought to myself as to how the world had gone mad what with the enemy being unidentifiable and conflicts breaking out everywhere within the tunnels that all the noble’s knew of - though not as well as we Drayke’s did.

Just then, the sound of running footsteps came before Master, with a broken arrow in his shoulder, rounded the corner - followed shortly by two gold ranks carrying a silver rank between them - and then Galen and the last gold rank conducting a fighting retreat.

Roaring, we charged to their aid - only to come to a stop as the entire corridor was filled from one end to the other.

Looking at each other in stupefaction, I mumbled to myself, “I know you were going to serve as the distraction but isn’t this too exaggerated?”

Chase behind me bellowed out,

“Rearguard becomes vanguard, form up and reinforce them!”

“Frontguard joins up with the point section and becomes the vanguard. Push through forward to the end!”

“Hooah!” came the shout from the soldiers before they efficiently reorganized.

Meanwhile, Egon and I braced ourselves for the incoming horde and formed a shield wall with Galen and the rest who sucked in deep breaths rapidly.

Then they were upon us.

The crash of combat echoed in the tunnels and the men and women fell by the tens.

We fought fiercely in a fighting retreat that left broken bodies behind as a gory trail led to us.

Egon, blade in hand, was engaged in close combat with an enemy knight who was taller than him by half but Egon’s blade flashed blindingly and the enemy Knight was forced back.

Then an arrow shot by Egon and into the eye socket of the enemy Knights Helmet as Chase lowered his bow trembling with the effort.

Reeling, the Knight stumbled back into his own ranks - causing a disruption.

Taking advantage, I bellowed and barrelled into the gap.

Exchanging the Sword of the Drayke for my broadsword that gave me better range and cleaving abilities, I swung it mightily and lost myself to the battle haze.

With a roar, the allied line surged forward after me and suddenly, it was all over.

As wounded soldiers stalked purposefully amongst the carnage, executing those enemies who still had breath in them, I slid down the wall and lifted up my helmet visor, and panted like a dog.

Then a hand appeared in front of me and locking arms with it, I was pulled up to face Egon who grinned bloodily at me.

Spitting, I grinned back before looking around and falling silent.

Of the 60 something men that we had engaged with - there were barely half that remaining.

But it was over and we were safe.

I hoped.

I prayed.