Chapter 81:

Chapter 81 - Sia! (Part 8)

The Flight of The Draykes


This time, we directly jumped off the ship and joined the ranks of Marines, who stood bewildered for a moment before they formed a quick line and sprinted towards our allies.

Sir Chase and the two archers kept up a steady rain of arrows that slowed the enemy's pursuit slightly, giving our men the chance to regroup with us.

Regrouped, we were now twenty men strong, and we dug our shields into the sand before we pushed back mightily.

The three knights in the front also split up and took the left, middle, and right of our formation, respectively, anchoring it in place.

Sir Chase shifted his target to harrying whichever was the free gold rank and prevented him from doing any actual damage, though he was tiring fast as the arrows grew lesser and lesser in his quiver.

The good thing was that the marines were heavily armored soldiers, and we had weight on our side, which we used to slowly begin pushing back against the much more numerous enemy.

This stalemate continued for a few moments as men and women screamed, cut, and hacked at each other - while the bitter tang of salt mixed with the metallic tang of blood and sweat.

Then the treeline to our right where our men had gone to chase the enemy quivered and a few men walked out, carrying a person in between them.

Shocked as they saw the scene, they hesitated before they dropped the person and rushed into battle with us.

The sparse two-three people made little difference, but as the stragglers kept coming back, our numbers were slowly evening out.

At that moment, a wedge of a dozen people, all dressed luxuriously and brandishing bloodstained weapons, came crashing into the enemy from their flank.

Astonished, I watched as the refugees fought tooth and nail in the file of battle - without armor, with no food for Bal’s sake for the past 2 days, and yet, they fought.

Biting back a ‘finally’, I shouted out with renewed vigor, “For The Draykes”

“For the Draykes,” came the call back, and the melee turned even more brutal as men and women fell down - never to rise again.

Tough Balakashes, incredibly tough Balakashes these enemies.

Sir Leonidas took a wound to the side of the head and fell to his knees but his blade had already found the gaps between his opponent's armor and with a savage smile, Sir Leonidas pushed up from the ground and kicked his opponent free from the sword.

Sir Galen seeing this, exploded with his spear dancing in the air creating rippling shadows that forced his opponent back step by step, and then an arrow came, catching the retreating gold rank in the knee and as he cried out, Sir Galen stepped forward and decapitated him.

The remaining two gold ranks didn’t flee, but they grimly fought on until they too fell at the hands of Sir Faaris and the rest of the Knights combined, and then it was over.

Heaving, we fell to our knees in the sand that had turned red and a few of the remaining refugees began vomiting as they stood, legs trembling. Others turned pale-faced and collapsed, drained of the energy to move. But they survived their baptism of war, and they would only grow stronger.

However, our forces had grown weaker. Incredibly so.

As we slowly regrouped, we began understanding what had happened, and we cursed our luck, for four of the enemy warships had apparently landed on the other side of the Island and they had come together by accident and found us, again entirely by accident.

So many coincidences had me thinking of Ares' words, “I feel death stalking us,” and I felt anger course through me.

For what had we done to deserve this?

One battle after the other, one skirmish after the other, one life after the other.

We have fought for nearly the past two weeks continuously and now we were spent.

We started with nearly 200 men and then were whittled down to barely 25.

Then we boarded the ship and gained another 200 men, only to lose half of them or more in this battle. Perhaps less. I don’t know.

What I do know is.

We are in trouble.

No food.

No water.

No energy.

Wounds galore.

And an enemy that was after our lives and would not stop.

Painfully making my way back to the ship, I gazed at Faust, who lay unaware of everything.

Reaching out to stroke his face, I paused as I saw the thick blood that gummed my gauntlets to my hands.

Taking my hand back, I contented myself with looking at him for a long moment, and then I left to join the meeting.

For we were too few for any of us to be missing.

How few?

That was what I was going to find out, and I suspected I wouldn't like what I would hear.

On the deck near the steering oars, were gathered all of our original people, along with a few representatives of the soldiers and sailors.

Joining them, I stood silently as I looked at their faces.

Most of them sported dried blood that had congealed on their eyebrows and beards. The women looked like witches that bathed in blood to keep young. The young men looked like aged veterans, with eyes that had seen far too much.

For a moment, no one spoke.

Then the unknown gold-rank Knight cleared his throat and said in a hoarse voice, “My name is Dustin. I was the Viscount's aide and because of injuries, I cannot use my gold rank warforce for more than a few minutes, and as such, I am a pseudo-gold rank.”

Nodding at him, many of the people shot grateful looks at him, for he had fought with valor in the previous battles and had saved many of the people who fought beside him.

Sir Dustin continued on to say, “I speak for Viscount Draykes’ household. We have 26 women, and 14 children of whom-” his voice broke here, and he started again, “Of whom 21 women and 7 children remain,”

A heavy silence fell upon us.

We had not been too happy with how they had been keeping aloof from the rest of us. But when it came down to it, they had paid the price of acceptance and they had paid it in blood that was priceless.

You didn’t have to prick your ears to hear the sobbing of the women as they mourned the deaths of their loved ones.

At that moment, a young girl stepped forth from the circle and took off her veil that was stained with blood.

Mouth agape, I stared at the familiar girl, for it was Celine - Viscount Draykes’ only child and daughter.

She was a vision of beauty even amidst the situation that we were in. Blonde hair perfectly combed and falling in ringlets down to her shoulders, a pert nose, and eyes that were electric blue.

Self-conscious, I touched my own blonde hair that was dirty and ragged from weeks of fighting without cleaning up before I focussed on her words.

Celine curtsied and addressed everyone in a sweet, melodious voice, saying, “I understand my father is to blame for the situation that we find ourselves in. I do not stand here to defend him, nor to hurl accusations, but to ask you - what is our plan moving forward.”

This time the silence was deafening before Captain Saylor cleared his throat and, with a gruff voice, said, “As the little princess has said. We need a plan. Now I’ll be frank with you. The enemy ships would definitely have more men on them and they are tough men who won’t surrender easily.”

Frowning, Sir Galen said, “Your point?”

“My point is, we need supplies. They might have supplies. Or they might not. But they have four ships’ worth of people, and we have half a ship worth remaining. If we try pillaging them, they will die and they will take us down with them.”

Frowning even harder, Sir Galen narrowed his eyes at the Captain, who looked back evenly.

Then Sir Leonidas with a bandaged head said, “You mean to say we should go to another Island, do you not?”

Nodding his head, Captain Saylor said in a low voice, “My marines are but 4 left, my deck crew is whole, and my rowers are barely 70. I’ll have you know that a full complement on this ship needs 170 rowers. A hundred more!”

Sir Galen threw his hands up and said, “we’ll help you row! How about that?”

Dismissively, Captain Saylor spoke, “You’ll just foul the oars and we’ll be sitting dead in the water. No, what we need is for you all to give all the supplies to my rowers and they’ll get you to the next island, come what may!”

Dangerously, Sir Galen looked at Captain Saylor before saying, “You want all the supplies?”

“Yes,” the Captain replied as he gazed back unflinchingly.

Intervening, Sir Chase held up his hands placatingly and said, “How about we take a few minutes to cool down and think about this? Then we all gather and decide, yes?”

At that moment, a voice broke the air as it screamed out, “look to the horizon! More ships!”

And so they were.

Two marks on the distant horizon heading toward us.

“Why is this happening to us,” was the thought everyone had.

But that didn’t make the ships or the problems we faced go away.

It made them even more urgent.

More pressing.

And for some of us, our decisions…

Became even more violent.