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Authors: Dan O'Sullivan

The Fallen (Book 1) (55 page)

BOOK: The Fallen (Book 1)
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‘I know who you are Sergeant,’ said General Marnol. ‘Ensure you change your uniform vest immediately so everyone else knows.’

‘Thank you, sir!’ Sergeant Leonard exclaimed as he dashed from the room.

‘You’re welcome,’ said General Marnol drily, to the empty doorway.

‘Isn’t there supposed to be some kind of ceremony when a soldier is promoted?’  Lady Sophie asked, staring bemusedly at her husband.

He nodded. ‘When all this is over... Where was I? Ah yes. So the King, Princess and Duke were somewhere between here and the city gates, surrounded by King’s Knights of course, when we heard the alarm bells from the harbor watchtower. Next thing there were three ships in the harbor, but they were our ships! They’d taken our ships! So as you know, our vessels are all armed with massive crossbows fitted to the ship’s bulwarks. And they weren’t just firing arrows. They were shooting out massive flaming bolts, and they sat out in
the middle of the harbor and what didn’t sink outright ended up burned down to the water line.’ He leaned forward and rested his head in his hand for a moment. ‘It was terrible. The entire crew of each ship was gone.’ General Marnol stared sadly down as the table, lost in memories. ‘We managed to sink one of the boats.’

‘Really?’
Dale was impressed. ‘How?’

‘The ballistae on the harbor side of the outer curtain wall were able to reach the nearest ship. We decided to send a few of our own flaming bolts back at them, and down it went. Unfortunately we couldn’t even get close to the other two ships. Meanwhile we were being invaded from the southern side of the city. What’s really strange is that no-one saw them coming. One moment everything’s going along as per normal, then suddenly all hell breaks loose and we have a city full of murdering pyromaniacs.’

‘And we have no idea who they are?’ asked Dale. ‘What did they look like? How were they dressed? Did anyone hear them speak?’

‘They were about the same size as humans, but very pale like they’d never been in the sun, white hair and almost colorless eyes,’ Evan answered. ‘I think I was one of the few who actually saw one and lived to tell the tale.’

‘You got that close?’ General Marnol asked incredulously.

Evan nodded grimly. ‘They were quick,’ he said. ‘They managed to kill a lot of people in a short time just because they moved so fast, maybe not as fast as the Guardians, but a lot faster than us.’

‘What else did you notice?’ asked Dale.

‘Well, you asked if we heard them speak. That one’s easy! No. They didn’t speak. They didn’t shout. They didn’t make the slightest sound at any point of the battle. It was kind of eerie actually.’

‘And their clothing? Uniforms?’

‘The one I saw was wearing a kind of brown leather skirt, and I heard that a few were wearing clothing I think they had stolen, probably from people they killed. No shoes, nothing on their heads.’

‘Weapons?’

‘Swords.
Nothing else that I saw, apart from using
our
cross bows on the ships of course,’ said Evan grumpily.

‘And no-one knows where the King, Princess and Duke disappeared to?’

‘No trace of them. The carriage was burned, but there were no bodies. There was one other thing,’ Evan added hesitantly. ‘They seemed to sort of…’ He stopped, wondering if he was about to sound foolish. ‘It was as if they could disappear like leaf tailed geckos. One moment you could see them, and then the next second it was like they melted into the surroundings.’

Dale frowned as his eyes fell on Lias. The warrior was leaning forward in his chair with his palms flat on the table and his lips pressed together in a hard line. He was staring straight at Callian with a look of fear on his face. During the time they had spent escaping from Nyinaku, the warrior had shown calm composure in even the direst situations, but now he appeared anything but calm.

Chapter 5

Fallen Warrior

 

Louisa sighed gratefully as she knelt in the darkness beside her bed. Peta had collected mounds of straw and made tidy little beds for each person, covering the straw neatly with their own blankets. Araas and Borgulnay were taking the first watch and Timbul and Milgorry were to take the second. Louisa was glad she could sleep. She slid between the blankets and stifled a scream as a pair of arms wrapped around her. Milgorry drew her close to his body and held her tightly.

‘When all this is over, we should hold a marriage ceremony,’ he said quietly.

‘But that’s a human custom,’ Louisa objected. ‘Neither of us is human.’

‘That is true, and I suppose so far we done things in the order the Guardians require of their people.’

‘Which is?’

‘If Guardians fall in love they may bond. Only then are they permitted to declare themselves as married partners, because bonding
is
marriage. Once they bond they are inseparably bound for eternity. And it’s a physical tie. It cannot be undone or broken.’

‘I like the sound of that,’ Louisa murmured, snuggling against Milgorry’s chest. ‘Do the same rules apply to the free?’

‘No. They once did, but this was taken from us. I imagine we could bond with a human, as is now required of us, but...well, you know how my people feel about humans.’

‘But
we
are bonded,’ Louisa said confidently. ‘That night on the Ice coast…I know you felt it too Mil.’

‘Yes,’ Milgorry confirmed. ‘Perhaps this happened because you are a Guardian. Whatever the reason, we are bonded forever.’

She sighed as comfort and love filled her heart. When she woke he was not beside her. He was standing slightly back from the window wearing trousers and boots and he was armed. He had left his shirt on the end of the bed for Louisa’s use. He frowned as he peered into the darkness.  Louisa pulled the shirt over her head and dressed in her borrowed trousers before joining him. Without looking away from the window he reached out and held her hand. They stood together in silence.

‘Something’s not right,’ he muttered. ‘No birds!’

‘What about birds?’ said Louisa, feeling confused.

‘I can’t hear any. It’s almost dawn. The kookaburras should be laughing by now,’ he said uneasily as Timbul appeared beside them.

‘Araas and Borg will be here shortly. It’s our watch,’ said Timbul.

‘Something’s wrong,’ Milgorry replied.

‘Should we wake everyone? Do you think we should get them away from here?’

‘Not yet. I’m going outside for a look around.’

‘I’ll come with you,’ said Timbul, but Milgorry shook his head.

‘No. If something happens you’ll be needed here. I won’t be long.’ Milgorry slid through the window and melted into the darkness. Louisa didn’t say anything as she watched him go. He saw no-one as he slipped into the bushes beside the farmer’s barn. The barn was built with a peaked roof supported by beams which led down to three-quarter walls, allowing a gap at the top for air circulation. Milgorry leaned up against the wall, listening intently, and then he turned and caught hold of the top of the wall and pulled himself up. There was no-one inside, and no animals, so he lowered himself to the ground. With remarkable stealth, he made his way around the perimeter of the house yard, keeping as invisible as he possibly could whilst taking in every detail of his surroundings until he was back at the barn. He had seen no-one, but he did not for an
instant believe there was no-one hiding in the darkness. He slipped back towards the window and then changed his mind and made for the front door. Louisa nearly leapt through the ceiling in fright when Milgorry knocked loudly. She rushed to the door and opened it and Milgorry walked casually inside as if deliberately calling attention to his presence.

‘What’s happening?’ she whispered in alarm. He closed the door firmly and then held his finger to his lips and beckoned for her to follow him. He darted back into the room in which they had been sleeping and handed his sword to Louisa, then he climbed partway through the window. ‘Give me a leg up,’ he said quietly, adjusting his bow and quiver so they would not hinder his climb. Louisa grabbed his foot and pushed him upwards. He caught the edge of the roof and disappeared from sight.

He lay flat against the roof, hoping no-one had seen him, and then he rolled onto his chest and stared around. All was still. For ten minutes he lay listening and staring downwards and around into the trees. His gaze was caught by a momentary flick of light, like someone striking steel against flint. He crawled across the roof, keeping as low as possible, and peered down towards the corner of the house. A dark shape slid from beneath the house and moved towards the forest. Without hesitation he rolled into a crouch and nocked an arrow. The sound of the bow seemed unnaturally loud in the darkness, as did the thud of the man’s body as it hit the ground. Only the creaking of the roof saved Milgorry as a second person slid down the thatch towards him, holding a very large and wicked looking knife. The man’s face registered disbelief as Milgorry appeared to be preparing to launch his body backwards from the roof, whilst drawing his knife. At the last second Milgorry’s arm shot out and he grabbed the man’s knife arm by the wrist and dragged him over the edge as he fell.

Milgorry gave a shout of pain as he hit the ground and his attacker landed heavily on him. He lay still, too stunned from the fall to contemplate moving. He sighed with relief when Araas appeared. Araas rolled the body away from Milgorry and removed Milgorry’s knife from the man’s chest. He wiped it clean and crouched and handed it back to Milgorry who was still lying unmoving on the ground. Milgorry reached up and grabbed Araas’ arm.

‘They were doing something under the house. Check there’s no fire!’ Milgorry exclaimed and Araas disappeared.

‘There was a fire,’ said Araas grimly when he returned. ‘It was very well hidden. It might have been completely out of control if we hadn’t checked,’ he said, sounding horrified.

‘Araas, this won’t be the end of it. You might have stopped one little fire, but this will only make them more determined to burn the place to the ground, preferably with everyone in it,’ said Milgorry bluntly.

Araas’ face hardened. ‘We need to get everyone out of here. The sooner we get to Tarlique the better. Let’s hope Gil is well enough to be moved. Are you coming inside?’

‘No,’ said Milgorry weakly. ‘Araas, could you ask Louisa to come out here please?’ Araas glanced back curiously towards Milgorry as he went into the house. Louisa appeared within seconds flanked by Timbul and Araas and followed by Kelian, Borgulnay, Gilgarry, Elena and Immosey.

Louisa knelt beside Milgorry looking frightened. ‘What happened to you Mil?’ she asked nervously.

‘I fell from the roof. Kiss me Louisa.’

She leaned down and kissed his lips gently and then sat back and gazed at him. Tears sprang from her eyes and ran down her cheeks.

‘Can’t you get up?’ she cried.

Milgorry shook his head. ‘No,’ he said sadly. He lifted his hand and touched her face. ‘My beautiful Guardian, no, I can’t sit up.’

‘Oh Mil!’ Louisa shook her head frantically.

Araas and Timbul exchanged vexed glances and the two men knelt beside Milgorry. Milgorry reached up and grabbed Timbul’s sleeve.

‘Please,’ he whispered. ‘Can we get this over with?’

‘What do you want me to do, Mil?’ said Timbul hesitantly.

‘Return me, Tim. I can’t walk. I can’t even move. I can’t live like this. I won’t live like this. I couldn’t bear it.’

Kelian crouched. ‘Tell me what happened,’ he ordered.

‘I was on the roof and one of them came from behind me with a knife and I wasn’t quick enough. I thought I might be able to drag him from the roof without falling off, but it didn’t work,’ Milgorry explained. ‘When I hit the ground, he landed right on top of me – well, on top of my knife actually, but I landed awkwardly and my back…’ His voice trailed away and he grimaced. ‘I can still move my legs but only slightly.’

Kelian looked at Araas in alarm. ‘Is there nothing we can do?’ he asked aghast.

‘Araas?’ Timbul watched his brother intently. ‘What do you think?’

‘We can try,’ said Araas, nodding. ‘Mil, if it’s just your spine there’s a good chance we can make it right, but if anything else has been damaged…’ He shook his head.

‘No!’ Milgorry’s voice was a hoarse shout as he hit Araas’ hand away. ‘Not this time Araas. You’d be unconscious afterwards and that would leave everyone else more than vulnerable.’ He glanced towards Elena and Immosey and sighed as he watched them openly crying. ‘I’m not prepared to take the risk.’

‘You have to let me try!’ Araas exclaimed.

‘No,’ said Milgorry firmly. ‘I don’t
have
to do anything, Araas. I’m free.’ He groaned and closed his eyes for a few seconds. ‘I don’t have to do anything,’ he repeated.

‘You’re being ridiculous!’ Timbul said crossly. ‘Why?’

‘There’s no point, Tim. My history isn’t good. Your father is going to return me the split second he sees me.’

‘You can’t be sure of that,’ Timbul protested.

‘Yes, I can! And so can you! You know what would have happened the moment I set foot within the Dwellings!’ Milgorry snorted. ‘I’d rather
you
did it and I’d rather it happened now.’

‘So you want me to
murder
you, just to get it over with?’ said Timbul, and his voice was filled with angry sarcasm.

‘You won’t be murdering me Tim.’ Milgorry said sadly. ‘You’ll just be speeding up the inevitable.’

‘You
are
being ridiculous!’ Araas agreed.

‘I’ve been called ridiculous before,’ Milgorry managed a half smile as he glanced at Gilgarry who was only standing upright because Borgulnay had hold of him.

‘I’ve heard enough of this rubbish! Let’s just fix him up, Araas!’ said Timbul obstinately.

‘You’d better not even try, Timbul Tiernanson!’ said Milgorry, looking infuriated. ‘You’d be wasting your energy and making yourself completely useless as Guardians to everyone else. You know the second you’re unconscious my people will close in on this place and burn it to the ground. They’ll kill everyone in seconds.’

‘Tim, we need to make sure everyone knows what will happen when we do this,’ said Araas firmly, ignoring Milgorry.

‘You’re not doing this Araas!’ Milgorry growled.
‘Ná bain dom!’

‘I’m not touching you! Will you stop interrupting?’ said Araas crossly.

‘What will happen?’ Louisa asked fearfully.

‘Nothing’s going to happen!’ Milgorry interrupted again.

‘Tim and I will be either weak or unconscious for quite a while. That’s not a problem in itself, but we don’t want to leave you unable to defend yourselves.’

‘Just one minute!’ Milgorry’s voice rose ominously. ‘Don’t even think about putting yourself in a position where you can’t do your duty! If you weaken to the point that you become useless, who will look after everyone when you’re attacked again?’

‘I will!’ a voice stated adamantly from the doorway. Everyone turned to see Farmer Mulgrew standing in the doorway. He was dressed in a soldier’s uniform which was outdated by about ten years and he wore a sword slung across his back. His wife Peta stood beside him, with a proud light shining in her eyes.

‘Thank you Colonel,’ said Kelian and Borgulnay and Gilgarry stared in amazement at the farmer.

‘I wondered if you remembered me. You were just a little lad when I met you in Castle, before I left to take up farming,’ said Mulgrew, smiling at Kelian.

‘Actually, I couldn’t work out where I’d seen you, until I saw you in that uniform,’ Kelian admitted.

‘Colonel Mulgrew!’ Borgulnay exclaimed. He smiled at the old farmer. ‘You know Colonel, you are quite a legend in Castle,’ he said. ‘Your son Mulber is also a fine soldier. Well Araas, are you willing to put your trust in Colonel Mulgrew, Gilgarry and myself?’

‘No!’ Milgorry said vehemently. ‘I won’t allow this! Who knows how many warriors might attack next time?’

‘Oh thank you so much Mil for your overwhelming vote of confidence,’ said Gilgarry grumpily, trying to choke back his sadness.

‘I know you’re a good soldier Gil, but you need the Guardians. If they’re incapacitated everyone else here is as good as dead, and you’re not exactly at your best at the moment!’

‘Would someone just shut him up?’ asked Kelian crossly.

Milgorry ignored him. ‘You have to get everyone out of here and if you weaken yourselves, you won’t be able to travel. You’ll be stuck here for days! Anything could happen. There absolutely no
way I will allow you to even think about-’ His tirade ended abruptly as Araas brushed his hand over his face. He gave Araas one final glare, outraged by the Guardian’s audacity, then he lost consciousness.

‘Well, what do you think?’ Timbul asked Araas once again.

‘Tim, we have to do this,’ said Araas. ‘At least, we have to try! I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try. Besides, it’s our duty.’

‘Is it your duty to help one of the fallen?’ Colonel Mulgrew asked curiously. ‘I was under the impression it was your duty to return them.’

BOOK: The Fallen (Book 1)
7.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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