Pyralis didn’t think, he just ran. He didn’t take a minute to let what just happened sink in.
He didn’t take a moment to mourn the loss of his new friend.
Pyralis wanted to stop. He wanted to stop, to sink down to the ground and cry and sob and curse everyone and everything, but he couldn’t. They had to keep moving or they’d end up like Kane. And Kane wouldn’t want that.
They road that he and Cian were following suddenly began to twist and slope upwards towards the huge, intimidating Black Castle. There were guards at the front door, and Pyralis glanced at Cian worriedly. Cian didn’t look afraid, or even the slightest bit concerned about the guards. His face was set in a blank mask, but his eyes burned with an anger Pyralis had never seen before. He looked positively deadly with his black armor, black hair, black eyes.
Pyralis almost said something to him, but then thought better of it. One word might cause him to snap. They charged the front doors of the castle, but Pyralis couldn’t do much to help. His hands were still shackled behind him, but he had decided to wait until Cian had released part of his anger upon the guards to ask for the key.
The guards paused their spears to block the way, but Cian paid no heed. He drew his katana, a long, thin blade with a hilt of silver and took them down in three strikes. Cian towered over the guards’ lifeless bodies, radiating a terrifying calm. He stepped right past them and into the castle.
Finally Pyralis gathered the nerve to speak, “Uh, Cian?” Cian turned to look at him silently, as if just remembering that he was there. “Do you have the key for my shackles?” Cian nodded, pulling it out of his pocket and sliding it into the slot between Pyralis’s wrists. “Thank you.”
Without speaking, Cian handed him a long dagger. Pyralis gripped it and they set off down the dark corridors of the Black Castle. Cian walked like he knew where he was going, and made his stride radiate confidence. Any Black Soldier or guard who passed them simply kept going, no questions asked. Cian made it seem like he belonged.
Apparently, he was familiar with the castle, for in minutes, they came to a stop in front of a barred door with two separate locks, one on the bar and one on the door. Cian stopped in front of it and frowned.
“Stay here. I’m going to find the person with the keys,” Cian stated flatly. “If anyone comes, either take care of them or make up some story as to why you’re here.”
Pyralis nodded and Cian dashed off. Take care of them. Pyralis stood, tense, and dearly hoped that no one would show up.
Naida reached the front doors of the Castle just as her targets disappeared inside. The guards lay on the floor, one massive bloody mess. It was sickening. The fact that he killed without remorse wasn’t surprising to Naida in the least. He was a killer, that was what he did.
Then a thought struck her. That was what she did. The faces of the archers swam in her vision, threatening to make her sick. Naida pushed them away. She didn’t have time for that. Not now. There would be time for guilt later. Naida stepped over the bodies and into the castle, where she hesitated. There were guards roaming the place, and she was certain that she stood out against the black in her brown and green clothes, stained with blood. Glancing to her right, Naida saw nothing but Black Guards, but when she looked to her left, she saw the elf disappear around a corner. Ignoring the guards, she sprinted that way.
“Hey!” one of the guards called, but she ignored him and kept running. Naida skidded around the corner just as the elf disappeared again. She cursed as footsteps sounded behind her. The guards were catching up. “Stop her!”
The one with the loud mouth was flanked by two more guards who were lagging slightly behind, so she took him out first. Naida ran at him and slammed her mace into his elbow and then kneed him in the face. He didn’t even have time to cry out. The other two drew their weapons, but Naida was ready. She ran straight at them and slid low, right between the two. On the way, she caught her mace on the knee of the one to right, and he crumpled with a strangled cry.
Jumping up, Naida kicked him in the back of the neck and he face planted onto the hard marble floor. He didn’t move. The last guard raised his sword as she came at him, and their weapons connected. It was a long sword, and Grayson’s words rang in her ears, Long swords need room to swing. Get in close with your short little mace and hit at the hands, make him drop it.
Naida spun, coming in as close as she could to the guard, letting her back turn to the sword. She hit his upper arm with her weapon and he gasped, pulling away. Before he could recover, she knocked the sword from his hand and swept her leg up into a kick to the jaw which knocked snapped his head back. He fell with his friends.
Breathing heavily, Naida stood there for a second, looking at what she had done. There was blood, so much blood. She threw up, adding the contents of her stomach to the mess of red on the floor. Wiping her mouth in disgust, Naida ran off to the end of the corridor. She peeked around the corner and found the next hallway empty, save for the elf. He stood by a door, looking scared and nervous. His eyes kept darting around, watching for someone to approach.
Naida knew what was going on here. The other man was in that room for whatever reason, and he’d left the elf outside as a guard. If she could just knock the elf out, she could lie in wait, and catch the knight off guard when he stepped out of the room. The elf had only a dagger; it wouldn’t be much of a fight. Naida raised her mace and charged.
Cian strode purposefully towards the center of the castle, heading for the Salvatore’s planning room. No one knew quite what he planned there, but Cian knew that he only left the room when he had to. He also knew that he would have the keys, and wouldn’t give them up without protest.
And that was just fine by him.
The door to Salvatore’s room was open until Cian strode in and slammed it closed. Salvatore looked up in alarm. “Sir Cian, I thought you were-”
Cian strode forward, his sword in his hand. Salvatore glanced at it, saw the blood and his eyes went wide. “Give me the keys to the Black Queen’s room.”
“No,” Salvatore said, shaking his head. His ample chin wobbled. Cian flicked his sword up to Salvatore’s throat. Salvatore looked at him, and he must have seen the seriousness in Cian’s eyes. If he refused, Cian could and most certainly would kill him. “A-alright.”
That was easier than Cian thought it would be. Salvatore pulled out a key ring and threaded off two small golden keys. With shaking hands, he passed them to Cian. Cian grasped the cold metal tight in his fist and lowered the sword.
“From now on, there will be two sides. You can either go against the White Queen” Cian said, giving his darkest, most intimidating look, “or go against me. Choose wisely.”
Salvatore’s mouth hung open limply as Cian turned and strode from the room, heading back towards Pyralis. The guards he passed on the way didn’t give him a second glance. If only Kane had survived, their plan would have been perfect.
Pyralis saw the girl fly at him a moment before they collided. He felt something slice his side and he cried out in pain, thrusting the dagger forward, but it met only air. The girl had jumped back, snarling. Pyralis winced, holding the dagger protectively in front of him with one hand and pressing the other to his side. She circled him like a feral beast, lunging forward with her mace, but Pyralis managed to jump back and avoid it.
He hopped forward, slashed with his knife, and then darted back, only to realize he missed. The girl smiled rather prettily, and Pyralis was distracted for half a second while she swung at his dagger arm. She missed by inches.
Pyralis let out a breath of relief, but the girl followed up on her miss with a swift kick to his chest. Pyralis stumbled back, smacking his head off of the wall. The world spun and he fell, trying to focus his blurry vision on the figure looming over him. The girl raised her mace, and Pyralis’s world faded to black.
Cian came into the corridor just as the girl with the braid kicked Pyralis in the chest. Pyralis crumpled and Cian’s anger flared. Pyralis was Kane’s friend. He was about the only person left connecting Cian to his brother, and he wasn’t about to let this random girl plunge a mace into his head. She raised her weapon just as Cian stepped quietly up behind her and slammed his fist into the back of her neck.
The mace clattered from her fingers and hit the floor. She fell beside it. Cian knelt down next to Pyralis, slapping his face gently. “Pyralis. Pyralis, wake up.” He looked over his shoulder nervously. Salvatore would have called the guards by now, assuming he had chosen the White Queen’s side. They didn’t have long. “Pyralis!”
Pyralis’s eyes fluttered open. “Wha-”
“Are you alright?” Cian asked, noticing for the first time the blood staining his shirt. “Are you hurt?”
“I’m fine,” he said, pushing himself up. Pyralis swayed a little, but his eyes cleared.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m fine,” he insisted. “Worry about me after we get out of here.”
Cian nodded, standing and fitting the key into the lock. He twisted it and pushed the door open. Pyralis stood shakily and followed Cian in. The room was dark. The bed posts were draped in black silk, and Cian half expected to part the curtains and find a pale, dead body laying peacefully on the bed.
Instead, there was a growl, and hands closed around Cian’s throat, knocking him back and off balance. His sword was sheathed, but he wouldn’t have used it anyway. Nails clawed at Cian’s throat, and his vision was blocked by a cloud of curly black hair. Cian’s hands closed around the Black Queen’s emaciated arms and shoved her off of him. She growled and went to lunge at him again, but he merely tightened his grip. The Black Queen glared at him.
“We’re not your enemies. We’re here to break you out. To help you escape,” Cian said firmly. “This is Pyralis. He knows someone who needs to see you. We need your help to defeat the White Queen.”
The Black Queen still glared. Pyralis stepped forward and said, “He saw you in his dreams. He called you the Silent One.”
The Black Queen’s eyes snapped to Pyralis and her mouth opened, but she didn’t say anything.
Pyralis pulled the chord around his neck out, and showed her a ring that hung next to a golden leaf. “He said you might have a counterpart to this ring.”
She stared at him for a moment, then shook her head, but stopped straining against Cian’s grip. Pyralis frowned. The Black Queen looked at the floor in submission. Slowly, Cian let go of her hands. “Please don’t try to run. There’s a much lesser chance of getting killed if we all stick together.”
Cian led the way out, stepping casually over the girl’s body in the hall. He idly wondered who she was, but didn’t devote much time to dwelling on it. Pyralis limped behind as they hurried through the corridors. “There’s a back door this way,” he said and turned down another passageway. Shouts echoed off of the walls behind them, so Cian put on an extra burst of speed.
The Black Queen was thin, underfed, but fast. Her tattered black dress was full and looked cumbersome, but she held it up and ran as fast as Cian. Pyralis struggled, but pushed through, a look of determination on his face. They burst through a metal door and out into the courtyard in back of the castle. It was empty. Cian turned to Pyralis.
“Do you need to rest? It’s a ten minute walk to camp, where we can steal horses and supplies, and get you bandaged up,” he said.
Pyralis took his hand away from his side with a wince. “I’m fine. Let’s keep going.”
Cian didn’t argue. It was Pyralis’s choice after all. They took off again, running from the Black Castle and off into the forest. Cian had paid close attention to the way, and they weaved in and out of the trees until they arrived at the camp. Four men had been left to guard it, but they were easily dispatched. Cian snuck up behind two of them and knocked their heads together, then punched the third in the face. The fourth took one look at him and ran, and Cian let him. He didn’t care if the White Queen knew of his treachery; she would find out soon enough anyway.
Part of him hoped that she took it personally.