When the World Falls to Darkness

A kingdom at war, a web of truth and lies, a vicious game of friendship and betrayal, and a world that will kill you, whatever path you take.
When the World Falls to Darkness, nobody is safe.
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Beautiful cover by River_Summers.

(I also promise much more frequent updates starting July, when exams are over. :D)

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11. Rescue

She arrived the day after, tired, exhausted, weary. Her mind, however, was burning with emotions. What if Louki had been killed? What if she was too late? Quickly dismissing the thoughts, Avalon ensured her mask was secured to her face and landed at the base - a stone building built far into the ground, much unlike the usual angel structures built high above it.

The second her feet touched the ground below her, she was surrounded by guards. Evading the patrols had been simple for her - these people were an entirely different matter. Too quickly for them to even register, Avalon had raised her hands, and the guards slammed backwards into the walls of the prison, knocked out instantly. Powerful magic was rare, and feared. But more than that, she thought with determination, it was useful.

Stepping past them, and plucking the keys from the belt of one, she approached the metal door, unlocking it easily with her newly acquired keys. Avalon pushed it open, the muscles in her arms straining to move the weight of it.

She slipped inside the corridor, ducking down and darting across the first room before the second line of defence - half-drunk sentries - could notice her.

Entering a long corridor, Avalon narrowed her eyes in concentration. She had to find Louki. There was no other choice. Very little light touched these corridors, though many spider webs had accumulated along the ceilings over time. It gave the whole place a threatening aura, not entirely pleasant for the angels working here. But even less so for the Guardians, who knew this place would be their last should they not succumb to slavery.

Sprinting lightly along the corridor, she ignored the webs and the near-darkness, allowing the faint glow of the closest torch to guide her as she ran. Quickly her eyes became accustomed to the dark, and she could find her way with greater ease. The corridor opened up to a smaller room, round and uncomfortably humid. There were another three routes for her to take - and at least ten prison guards. The magic pulsed through her palms.

She was ready.

The second she exploded from the shadows, an intensely powerful gust of wind threw the guards from their feet, smashing them into the ceiling. Any who still possessed consciousness when they hit the ceiling were robbed of it the second their bodies were left to fall to the floor. Some had quite possibly been killed, but, as Avalon reminded herself, they were the people willing to torture beings like Louki. And that, as far as she was concerned, was unforgivable.

She rounded on the last angel sentry, the only one she'd left standing.

"Tell me," she growled, her anger seeping into her voice. "Where can I find the newest Guardian?"

He whimpered, pressing himself against the wall. His pale green wings twitched in horror as Avalon raised her fist before her. If this was another time, she might have thought how it was strange to see a grown angel cowering before her, but Avalon  had more important matters on her mind.

"I will kill you," she spat, "If you don't tell me where to find him. So take me there."

He managed to move slightly, his eyes wide with terror. Taking a few steps down the left passage, the guard suddenly opened his wings and tried to surge forwards in a feeble attempt at escape. The next second, he was lying on the floor, barely breathing and certainly not conscious. Fighting down the growl in her throat, Avalon continued down that tunnel, praying he'd gone in the right way.

She had to save Louki. And if the sentry had started leading her to him, then he must be alive. Surely.

 

 

She heard the screams before she saw the Guardian. Racing down the long passage, she followed the sounds of agony as they echoed through the walls of the massive prison.

At least he was alive. She had to focus on that. Not on the fact that he would hate her, and everybody else besides her. Another scream ripped through the air, piercing her ears with guilt. Why? Why had she simply allowed them to take him away? He'd saved Ryuu! And what had she done? Nothing. And now, Louki was dying. 

Avalon burst into the cell she'd been told Louki was in, seeing first the broken figure and then the glowing metal rod. By now, she should know to go for Louki's attacker, but she couldn't think. There was only one thing that crossed her mind: to put herself between the burning metal and the Guardian.

The searing heat hit her only a few seconds after the infliction. Shock came first, as the metal seared a hole through her tunic, the burning agony only grasping her as the torturer withdrew the weapon, alarmed. A gasp of pain escaped her lips, as she clasped a gloved hand to her side.

"Intruder!" the angel screamed, as she sunk to her knees in pain. There were no conscious guards to hear him, but the man didn't need to know that as he staggered back, dropping the metal rod and unsheathing a knife. Somehow, Avalon's spare hand shot out before her face, smashing the angel back into the stone cell wall. She gasped for breath, tried to ignore the pain. Louki had been enduring this for a week at least, she told herself. Her own pain was nothing.

Forcing herself to stand, Avalon stretched out to grasp the keys at the torturer's belt, her shaky fingertips closing around them. She turned to face Louki.

He had been shackled to the wall, countless chains preventing any attempts at escape, and a layer of blood and grime covered his burnt, gashed, neglected flesh. No doubt his body - when rid of the dry, cracked blood and dirt - would be layered with ugly bruises.

But she didn't care. There was a faint rise and fall in his bare, bloody chest, indicating breathing. Indicating life. All that was left was to carry him out and heal him.

Clumsily pushing the fitting key into the shackles, she managed to unclasp the chains around his wrists, arms and ankles. He fell down, unable to hold himself up, and Avalon surged forwards to catch him. Almost instantly, pain flared through her side, but she forced it down, pushed herself to ignore it. Louki slumped in her arms, his eyes fluttering briefly and his lips trying to form speech. Barely a whisper escaped.

"I'll get you somewhere safe," she muttered. "I promise."

Avalon heaved the Guardian over her shoulder, managing to drag herself out of the cell with gritted teeth and narrowed eyes. Agony shot through her with each movement; she suspected willpower was one of the most important allies in this mission. Without it, she'd be nowhere right now.

Louki gasped in pain as she stumbled, and Avalon realised her shoulder was damp and warm with blood. Louki's blood.

"I won't let you die," she whispered, both to herself and to Louki. "I won't..."

 

 

It was when she reached the entrance to the prison did Avalon realise: she hadn't knocked out the guards who stood here. And now, they could prove a deadly threat.

Avalon managed to set Louki down against the stone wall without dropping him heavily to the floor. Briefly, his eyes flickered up to meet hers, but she looked away before the blame could seep from his expression into hers. Right now, Avalon could not be dealing with both the guilt and the agony caused by the torturer.

Gritting her teeth, she surged forwards into the entrance room, intensely powerful magic bursting from her palms and throwing the guards against the stone walls of the fortress. There was a cracking sound, the noise that signalled the snapping of a man's neck. Another victim of Avalon's magic.

She returned for Louki, lifting him over her shoulder once more. Each step she took was a pained stumble; using so much magic had drained her energy and strength. Besides, the newly acquired wound wasn't helping, either. Pushing forwards, Avalon shut her mind to the agony, to the guilt, to the fatigue. She had to focus on saving Louki, because it was so very foolish of her to allow him to go through this in the first place. Why hadn't she intervened before he'd been hurt? Why hadn't she stopped the Alliance Guard when they'd first arrived?

Carrying the Guardian through the entrance room, Avalon pushed open the huge, metal door that had remained unlocked after her breaching of the prison. She emerged into the sunlight, squinting at first as Louki managed a gasp. She should have warned him, of the sun that he had been so heartlessly deprived of. It had blinded him, no doubt.

"Hold on, I'm going to fly," she told him. But of course, Louki couldn't hold on - his fingers were too bloodied and bruised for that. Instead, she tightened her grip, opening her wings and taking to the sky.

Triumphance swallowed her as she left the prison behind her. Louki was alive. He was away from the tortures of that spiteful place, and he was alive.

Avalon allowed herself to breathe.

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