The Flight of The Draykes
It was after we had drawn a fair distance away from our pursuers and once their ships had become a dot on the horizon that we finally relaxed.
The civilians and all the non-sailors had been clustered together in two groups near the aft and bow, with a few holding onto the railings while the sailors, divided into three decks, rowed furiously and untiringly.
Finally, as the sun’s rays hit us from the port side, and a breeze began blowing windward, we unfurled the sails and took advantage of it to let the rowers relax.
Then we began organizing ourselves.
I had already checked on Faust and, apart from a few bruises; he was no worse for the wear than he was before, which I was grateful for, except that his heartbeat was even fainter.
Worried, I watched over him, but the conversations that took place all around me on the narrow ship cued me in to what was happening.
Still, I ignored them until Sir Galen and the Teacher came to check on Faust, and then after he was done with his examination, I tried asking them what had happened. Only for them to shush me and then, with a tired expression, look at the refugees.
Nodding in understanding, I watched as Sir Galen crouched and then, with a smooth motion, picked up Faust before carrying him to the hold of the ship as Teacher and I followed.
In the small cramped space, I stepped forward and laid out a cloak on which Sir Galen placed Faust’s head before laying him down as gently as he could.
Then he let out a sigh and looked at me, motioning me to speak while the Teacher stood silently beside him.
Gathering my thoughts, I asked a simple question, “What happened?”
Wanting to spit but thinking better on it, Sir Galen chewed his lip before responding bitterly, “Went to Bal is what happened. We sneaked in right and proper and got everyone together and we were sneaking out - also right and proper - before who should show up but the messenger of that Baling Alastor who was hot-footing it behind us.”
He hawked and then continued on to say, “The soldiers all turned out after that and we had to fight our way through the gates. I presume you saw what happened after that?”
I nodded, and he paused for a moment before saying, “So now we’re on the flagship of that Balakash Jacob - though I suppose he isn’t that much of a Balakash now - and we’re heading toward the nearest island for supplies since we don’t have much given that we’re suddenly near 200 people more now.”
Gasping out, I exclaimed, “200?”
“Aye lass, 200. Most of them are rowers, and most of them are also none too happy that they’re here. But they’re in this together with us and they’ll do as we say.” Sir Galen said, grimly.
Hushed, I whispered, “But why? This is Viscount Draykes ship, right? So why would they-?” I trailed off.
Barking out a short laugh, Sir Galen replied, “Why don’t you ask your teacher over here that question.”
Expectantly, I looked at the teacher, who ran a hand over his face before he sighed and looked at me. “Most are loyal to the Viscount. Some, however, aren’t and they’re a problem. In a small ship like this, any problem is a major problem - especially considering how we’re being chased.”
At that moment, we were joined by Ares and Damon, who were both bandaged up pretty heavily.
Stepping in, they bowed to the Knights before Damon cleared his throat and spoke, “90 or so sailors at half complement, 10 deck crew, 40 civilians, 10 marines, 20 soldiers of ours, 15 soldiers of the Viscounts, and 9 knights remaining with the addition of the new gold-ranked Knight and including you two Sirs. “
“Supplies?” Sir Galen asked tersely.
“Only what we’re carrying and a bit of water in the hold, apparently.”
Sir Galen paled as he cursed profusely.
“The good part is that since we’re slightly under-manned - we have more space for supplies and the wounded,” Said Teacher rationally.
Groaning out, Sir Galen said, “Out with the bad part. There’s always a bad part.”
“The bad part is that with a half complement of sailors, the time that we can row for is going to be much, much shorter.” The teacher finished his words with a grim look.
Hesitating, Damon opened his mouth before he closed it, and then as Sir Galen waved his hand impatiently at him, he spoke, “All the sailors are awakened at the very least and there’s a few that I feel are iron ranked and above.”
“You felt it too, huh,” Sir Galen said as he ran his fingers across his jaw.
“You knew, Sir?” Damon asked in surprise.
“Aye, that’s why I have the rest on the deck observing them, but we have no choice but to use their full strength to get away from the other warships.”
Falling silent, we looked at each other before I quietly asked, “What happened to Viscount Drayke, and who are these civilians?”
Looking at each other, Sir Galen and Teacher grimaced before Teacher spoke, “I don’t know what exactly happened but something about ‘hope for House Drayke’ and such was spoken and as for the civilians, they’re all part of his family household - both his direct lineage and his Knight’s lineage.”
Falling silent again for a long moment, a silence that was broken by Sir Galen sighing as he said, “Bring all the critically wounded to the hold and - Bal, I’ll come myself,” and shaking his head, he went back up to the deck accompanied by a silent limping Damon.
Sitting beside Faust, I gently ran my hand over his cheek and gazed down at his face that seemed as if he was sleeping, if not for the unnatural paleness.
Teacher and Ares watched beside me with pained expressions on their faces before they too departed for the deck.
A long while later, the sound of heavy footsteps came and a towering figure who was bent almost double made his way next to me.
Looking up, I smiled as Sir Aaron grinned at me.
“Thank you for keeping him safe,” he said in a low voice.
Shaking my head, I kept quiet as I turned my attention back to Faust.
Sitting on his haunches, Sir Aaron accompanied me in taking care of Faust for a long time before he heaved a tired sigh and, with hunched shoulders, said, “Mother would kill me if she knew what happened to you, Faust. Come back soon.”
Pausing, I reached out and gently patted the giant’s shoulder as I said, “Lady Drayke would have been proud of him for what he did.”
Nodding his head, Sir Aaron was about to agree when I continued to say, “Though she would kill you, regardless.”
Choking, he looked at me before he laughed and flicked my head with a finger. “You’re not worried?”
“Oh, I am worried. I’m worried sick, but I have faith. Faith that he’ll be back.”
“Faith…” Sir Aaron mused.
Then he got up and clanked his head against a beam and let out a yelp before he went back to being bent double and then smiling at me sheepishly. He left me alone with Faust and my thoughts.
It wasn’t long before my thoughts were interrupted as they brought our wounded soldiers below to the hold, many of whom I recognized.
Looking at Faust, I whispered a quick, “I’ll be back,” and then I moved to help the soldiers settle down comfortably in the uncomfortable hold.
Making small talk as I worked, I was soon joined by Ares, who wordlessly rolled up his sleeves and did the same as I was.
Much later, everything was settled and the two of us sat beside Faust, exhausted.
Then my stomach rumbled and with a red face, I watched as Ares went above deck and got me a biscuit, which I bit into with a muffled thanks.
Swallowing the last of it, I asked Ares, “What’s the plan now?”
“We don’t have any supplies, so we’re heading to a nearby island to stock up. The only problem is that the warships after us will probably know that too.”
“So what do we do?” I asked frustratedly.
“We put on a burst of speed and then go to a different island that’s much further away and stretch our supplies.”
Guiltily, I looked at the crumbs of the biscuit and then at Ares, who waved his hand and said, “We’re not that bad off. Yet.”
But we were. And both of us knew it and yet said nothing.
“How long till we reach there?” I asked in a small voice.
“3 days…” Said Ares with a grim smile.
“3 days!” I exclaimed before saying, “Weren’t these warships built for only a day’s travel at a time?”
“They are... But we have no other choice.” Ares replied dully.
Looking down at my feet, I sucked in a deep breath before saying, “Faith…”
In a stronger voice, I repeated, “Faith! We will make it!” and then looking at Faust, I whispered, “We will all make it.”