By Terumune O'Kennedy
Flight through the Dark
Another painful breath pushes Gen of Azariah through the pitch black maze of the forest, moving fast as he dares along forgotten paths that go deeper into the mysterious and forgotten dark. Were it not for the adrenaline coursing through his veins and his fear for his precious cargo driving him harder through the terror of a seemingly endless void, Gen might just have a better idea of where he was going, but the only light to guide his way came from the burning castle behind him.
The death cries of King Graham and the final whispered command of Princess Yvette rang in Gens memory yet again. “Save them Gen. Keep them safe!”
Gen spares a quick look to the children protectively cradled beneath his arms: the wide eyed and terrified six year old Prince Narius, elder of the two children who fusses again at being handled so roughly by Gen’s sword arm. Instead of his blade, Gen keeps the child in a protective hold that kept the boy from being whipped by the branches Gen rushes past.
The more he thought about it the more Gen realizes just how much of a disadvantage he was at should his suspicions prove correct and the murderers still close at hand. Gen wishes again he could draw his blood covered blade resting in its sheath but found his hands full with Narius under one arm and beneath his other arm the crying infant Princess Odette he kept cradled close to his chest.
Gen’s ignores Narius fidgeting in his grasp. Frightened and confused about where his guardian was taking them through the dark forest, once again Narius asks where his parents were. Gen could only answer Narius’ questions with pained breaths as the blood flowing from the agonizing gash in his back pushed Gen on like a madman possessed by duty.
Gen stops for a brief moment to listen for pursuers, the assassins wearing robes of black and bearing the warrior masks of a nation of people that as far as Gen knew should have been dead. Gen curses aloud, “Damn cowards.” Their brutality flashes yet again in his mind, a memory of the last he saw anyone related to the royal family trapped in a fight for their lives, save for the two children with whom Gen was able to pull from fire and death.
The faint echo of footfalls belonging to what could only be the assassins came crashing fast through the forest hot on his heels, leaving Gen without choice but to fight his way through. Adjusting Narius to a position that would allow him to fight with his sword arm, Gen moves Narius to be carried on his back before swiftly unsheathing his sword in the same motion, prepared as well as he could be for the inevitable fight.
Gen breaks the silence of the night by shouting to Narius, “Hold tight lad, things are about to get bumpy!”
The killers in black move with practiced precision through the dark faster than Gen could actually see, only their silver blades and pale masks catching the light could be made out. The stains of blood along their blades from their earlier victims caught Gen’s eyes as the villainous figures made their way closer to finish their bloody work.
Without warning his cargo, Gen surges down a random path, running as fast as he could manage with Narius clinging desperately to Gen’s neck, and could feel as the blood from his wound was making Narius slip around from the sudden shift in movements. Gen held Odette tight to his chest in a protective grasp as he slashes about blindly at where he could feel the dark figures were, their lethal intentions screamed out to his senses and allowed the old warrior to fight as though they were fighting during the day.
With practiced form and skills learned from a lifetime of war and fighting across countless different fields in the dark and the light, Gen was able to hit several of them with lightning speed and lethal precision. The figures in black ran alongside Gen, striking back at the Gen with his skill and speed being the only things keeping him and the children alive.
With a drive and desperation he didn’t know he still had in him, Gen fights desperately while he runs, slaying some and injuring others, but above all he continues running, doing his best to keep Narius from slipping from his back as he held the infant Odette in a grasp that almost fails several times with all the movements of Gen fighting as he ran.
Gen wasn’t sure of the exact moment but he could feel Narius’ grip fail. The boy tumbles from his back, crashing to the ground with only a pained yell escaping the prince’s lips. Noting his charge’s sudden absence, Gen turns back to pick up Narius but stops dead when seven of the assassins still chasing him encircle the prince and cut off any chance for Gen to reach Narius.
A pained rage surges through Gens very soul when he realizes the unfortunate choice he must make between Narius, trapped between the assassins bearing down for the kill, or Odette, where all he would have to do was leave and save the infant princess safely cradled in his arm. Looking to Narius’ and hearing his cries is impossible for Gen to ignore, but he does so, turning and leaving quickly as a deep well of sorrow and regret grips his very soul.
Running at full speed once again with his sword drawn, Gen listened for the whimpers of Narius as long as he could until there came a blood curdling scream followed by the swift horrific sound of an explosion of energy familiar to Gen as magic, a magic belonging to the people that Gen believed to be gone from this world as he was personally responsible for sending a countless number of them to Hell, when his king commanded that he lead the armies of Azariah to slaughter them.
Running along ancient forest paths until he spotted familiar ones, Gen takes a moment to look at the face of a crying Odette he held desperately in his arms. At least a piece of his sworn battle brother would live on, so leaving the royal family behind as Princess Yvette commanded Gen to do in their time of need wouldn’t have all been in vain.