chapter ten;

346 31 23

TW: blood, injury, death

Nobody moved. Darryl had subconsciously reached behind him, fingers brushing against the fabric of Zak's jacket. This time they could not give in. If they did then it would be game over. The rebels would have gotten what they needed – a way to get to the King and Queen – and Darryl simply couldn't let that happen.  It seemed as though this had been accepted by his companions as well as Zak made no move towards the rebels.

"Are you the leader, then?" Darryl quipped, eyes narrowed as he glared at the girl. "You appear to be giving a lot of orders."

At that the girl actually laughed - a high pitched sound, almost verging on cruel. Darryl jolted. He wasn't certain what kind of reaction he had been expecting (confirmation, mostly, as most leaders liked to flex their power over others) but it certainly hadn't been this. 

Once the laughing had subsided a little, the girl straightened up. "Me? The leader? No." A pause as she let out a sharp breath, chest heaving with the force of holding back her laughter. "That's a funny joke. If I was the leader you wouldn't last two seconds against me, knight."

Behind Darryl, Zak moved, evading the knight's grip just by a fraction, the fabric of his sleeve brushing through Darryl's fingers before he could grasp onto him to hold him in place. Zak had always made reckless decisions - Darryl had to hope that he had a plan this time and that it was one that would get them out of what seemed like an impossible situation. 

"I'm not coming with you." Zak echoed quietly, voice low. "Kill them if you have to. I don't care."

For a second Darryl couldn't register what Zak had said, as though if he hoped enough he could will it to be some kind of bad dream that he'd wake up from just to find everything was completely okay. Unfortunately that seemed it wouldn't be the case from the way the girl's eyes had narrowed a fraction. 

Darryl drew his sword. If this was where they were ending, then they were not going down without a fight. The rebel woman stepped towards Zak, and everything became a blur. Shadows of people appeared within Darryl's line of vision and he narrowly avoided a blade to the shoulder, backing away just in time. Turning in the direction of where it had come from, Darryl could see Zak moving from the corner of his eye, running in the general direction of the upturned marketplace. 

How odd. 

Darryl didn't have much time to reflect on it, though, because the clash of metal on metal had broken him out of his stupor and he had to throw himself into the fight. He sidestepped the rebel's attack neatly before a knife nicked him across the hip, drawing a thin line of red on his skin. Driving the sword into the rebel's side, Darryl glanced around, before ducking under several rebels on his way to the marketplace. 

Narrowly avoiding any further attacks, Darryl rounded the corner into the marketplace, leaving Vincent to fend off the few last rebels. There hadn't been too many of them around - and Darryl soon understood why. The townspeople were fighting for them - each one had taken on a rebel or two in the middle of the marketplace, the clang of metal on metal ringing across the square. It seemed fitting in some way - the rebels had destroyed their wares and their livelihood after all. It was only fair that they were allowed to fight back after everything that had been done to them. 

Darryl spotted a flash of blue across the square, besides where Zak had been shot the last time and started there, weaving his way through the throng of fighting people to get to the prince. A few metres away he could see that Zak was standing just in front of the rebel lady, though he didn't seem to be fighting. Perhaps there was some form of negotiation going on? As he made to move towards them Zak looked up and caught his eye, holding his gaze for the briefest of seconds, before his hand slipped down to his boot. All Darryl saw was the glint of a blade before he heard the pained cry. 

It happened so quickly.

One moment everything seemed to be at least civil. The woman had taken a step towards Zak, one hand on his shoulder as though they knew each other well. The next second the briefest flicker of annoyance had pulled at Zak's features and he'd driven the knife up and into her chest. Darryl stopped dead, watching in what was almost horror as the woman fell to the cobblestone floor and Zak bent down to pull out the knife, wiping the blade clean on the end of his cloak. 

"Come on," Zak called over the din of the fighting. His hands were shaking, Darryl could see him tremble from here. "Get Vincent. Let's go."

Luckily Darryl didn't have to go far (he didn't think he'd be able to), Vincent had tailed them easily and was beside him in seconds, laying a reassuring hand on Darryl's arm.

"It had to happen," Vincent whispered lowly, though it offered no comfort. "You know it had to happen. She was a danger to us. It had to happen sooner or later."

Darryl swallowed. "I know."

He did know. He really did. But that didn't make it any easier to watch. Darryl may have been a knight, but the kingdom had always been peaceful, and he'd never been sent out on any of the deadlier missions, so it was all still very new to him in that regard. He wasn't desensitised just quite yet. Taking a moment to breathe in and out again, Darryl made his way to Zak, breath hitching as the prince took his wrist, all but dragging him out of the marketplace and into the surrounding woods. 

Only when they were far enough away that the fight had faded into background noise did Zak let him go. There were red smears left behind on his skin. 

Zak seemed shaken - trembling from head to toe as he slumped down next to a large oak tree. Nobody dared speak, as though speaking would shatter them into pieces and ruin it all. Breathing heavily, Darryl stayed well across the way from Zak, hanging back just in case. Eventually, the prince broke the silence.

"I had to." Zak said, voice quiet against the sound of the faraway fighting. "There was no other way. She wouldn't leave us alone. She would have killed you. I just got there first."

For once, Darryl wasn't jumping in to agree. He felt sick to his stomach. Of course something like this would have to happen - they were basically at war - but that hadn't meant he'd been prepared for it to happen now.  

Darryl only shook his head. "I know."

"I'm sorry," Zak whispered, standing up and all but stumbling over to the small pond that rested amongst the trees, moving to wash off the knife and his hands. "I couldn't think of any other way to get us all out of there alive."

"I know."

Darryl's words were void of emotion, his tone bleak. They couldn't sort through their complicated feelings about this right now. They had to get far enough away that nobody would be able to find them until they wanted to be found, and that meant getting Zak in an okay condition to fight again. At least none of them had gotten seriously injured, although Darryl would like to be able to patch up the wound on his side at some point. 

Kneeling down next to Zak, Darryl took the knife from his shaking hands, washing it off carefully before handing it back, watching as the prince slipped it into his boot again, looking almost sick at the idea of carrying it around. Gripping Zak by the shoulders, Darryl caught his attention and began to speak.

"Listen. You did what you could and got us out of a bad situation. You're okay. It's okay."

It wasn't okay. They weren't okay, but Darryl would have to mull it over later. There was no time now. Releasing Zak, Darryl could only watch as the prince began to follow Vincent through the woods, the blue on his cloak disappearing in between leaves and branches. Darryl sheathed his sword and began to follow, the last image of what had happened flickering through his mind.

Before she had been killed, the rebel girl's eyes had widened and her mouth had opened to speak. Even after everything, she had not been expecting the attack. How interesting. Deciding it was best to shelve that information for later, Darryl picked his way across logs and over branches. 

They had more important things to be thinking about, after all.

(you should) see me in a crownWhere stories live. Discover now