Friends Forever: Part One
Part One: Escape from the Citadel
Her pawsteps pounded the icy earth. The Darigan Gelert’s heart throbbed as she sped through the chilled streets of the Kass Citadel. The Draik chasing her screamed, “Halt, in the name of Lord Kass of the Kass Citadel!”
She chose not to answer him, instead turning into a dark alley off Winter Path. If she remembered correctly, this would take her to Synodic Way. The people doing their shopping on Synodic Way looked up in surprise as she shot by.
A Darigan Kyrii gasped. “Grace!”
He hastily covered his mouth, looking around frantically for fear that the guards had seen him. After the incident, everyone went back to shopping but the Kyrii. Gripping his basket tightly, he headed home. After dropping the basket off, he walked to the edge of the citadel.
Checking to make sure that no guards were around, he jumped off the edge of the citadel.
His wings beating rapidly, the Kyrii flew toward the Meridell Rubbish Dump. He landed gently on the ground before a rude hut just as the sun set, blanketing the land with night. Stepping up to the door, he knocked carefully. A yellow Zafara pulled it open.
She screamed. “Adro! Get the pitchfork!”
“No, please don’t,” the Kyrii said quietly. “I’m not here for you. I’m here for General Galgrarrath.”
A dark red Grarrl appeared behind the yellow Zafara. “What do you want with me?” he asked coldly.
The Kyrii took a deep breath. “Do you remember Grace?”
Galgrarrath blinked. “The Gelert. She was part of the Potentials, wasn’t she? The Cyodrakes.”
“Yes,” the Kyrii whispered. “I’m Temer, her best friend. She’s left the Cyodrakes. Now she steals food for those who can’t afford it. And I think she’s gotten caught.”
A yellow Zafara raced in with a pitchfork. “What is it, Jaen?” he asked sharply.
Jaen looked across at her brother. “This Kyrii came for Galgrarrath. Says a Potential got caught stealing food for the poor.”
Adro shuddered. “Well, I can’t really help with that . . . do you want me for anything else?”
Jaen glared at her brother. “Yes. Dinner. It’s time.”
Adro snapped back, “Well, you could have said something!”
“I tried,” Jaen retorted. “You wouldn’t listen!”
General Galgrarrath interrupted the argument with a simple statement. “I am going with Temer to rescue Grace. If you wish to come, I’m sure we can arrange that. If not, I’ll leave you here. However, I would appreciate a good dinner first. Can you arrange that?”
Jaen and Adro looked up from their argument, somewhat embarrassed. “Yes,” Jaen muttered.
After dinner (a filling meal of marrow, pumpkin, and carrot soup) the Zafara siblings declared their intent to come and rescue Grace. Temer blinked.
“Well, I’m sure we can do it, but we’re going to have to disguise you,” he finally said. “Darigan Zafaras are red. Can you do that?”
Adro paused. “There’s a red mud patch about half a mile out. Why don’t you fly General Galgrarrath up while we’re dealing with that, then take us up?”
Temer nodded. “Yeah, I think that would work. I’ll need to take you up one by one, though. And your lack of wings will be very conspicuous. Darigan Zafaras do have wings.”
Jaen hesitated before speaking up. “I think I can rig us some fake wings. As long as nobody looks too closely, we should be fine.”
Galgrarrath smiled, showing many large teeth. “Excellent. Now, Temer. Let us go save Grace.”
The dark red Grarrl did indeed make it up and to Temer’s house successfully, where he hid in the bathroom. The quartet had decided that it would be one of the few places a house search wouldn’t check.
Temer returned to discover two Zafaras, almost Dariganian in appearance. It was only on close inspection that the wings would be revealed to be made of wire and hay.
“Okay,” he said quietly, ushering Jaen onto his back. “Hop on.”
After an uneventful trip, save a few heart-pounding moments where they walked right past a guard on patrol, Jaen joined General Galgrarrath in the bathroom.
Adro’s journey was also successful, and the foursome gathered in Temer’s bathroom.
They decided as a group that Galgrarrath should, in disguise, go find information; Temer would do the same. Jaen and Adro would wait in Temer’s bathroom to take in information on Grace’s location inside the castle and plug it into the map General Galgrarrath had drawn.
Galgrarrath knocked on the door of Aranea, his former neighbor. The Kougra gasped in shock at the sight of the dark red Grarrl.
“Galgrarrath, what are you doing here?” she spat after inviting him calmly inside. “The entire Citadel is looking for you!”
The Grarrl, however, appeared completely unfazed by his neighbor’s anger. “Has a Darigan Gelert passed through here?” he mildly inquired. Aranea paused for a moment to think.
“Yes,” she said finally. “Four guards, and she was out cold. I thought it was odd, because most of the time only the guard who captured the prisoner takes them to the castle.”
Galgrarrath grimaced. “I was afraid of that. Do you know anything about where they’re keeping her?”
Aranea smiled - or at least, as close as the Kougra ever got to smiling. “As a matter of fact, I believe I do. The guards carrying her paused at the gate to talk to the guard there. I heard something like “Put her . . . - I couldn’t distinguish this bit,” the Kougra added, “Maximum security . . . (I couldn’t figure out this bit either) . . . double guards.”
The dark red Dariganian grinned darkly, revealing a mouth full of sharp white teeth. “Thank you, Aranea. You’ve been most helpful.”
He hurried back to Temer’s house to find Jaen and Adro. “I’ve found her,” he said quietly.
“Where?” Jaen asked, pulling out the map.
“She’s in the maximum security cell. It’s right here,” he added, seeing Adro beginning to search for it and pointing to a small square.
“Personally, I’m a bit surprised,” the Grarrl added. “I would think Kass would use that cell for prisoners of war. But then again, what do I know?”
Temer walked in. “General Galgrarrath,” he whispered, “I’ve found out what they intend to do to her.”
Galgrarrath’s head jerked up and around. “Really? What?”
Temer’s face went pale just thinking about it; this resulted in his face turning an interesting shade of milky blue. “They’re going to strap her wings down, tie her to some scrap metal, and throw her off the side of the citadel.”
“We have to rescue her,” Adro murmured.
Temer nodded grimly, and his face went back to its normal color. “Yeah. You two-“ he beckoned to the two Zafaras- “come here. I need to touch up the colors on your wings.” Pulling out a paint set, he began painting the siblings’ wings. “Lady Tia will only employ Darigan Zafaras as her spies, so you two just have to act like you have the right to be there. Everyone will be deferential to you, because they don’t want to get in trouble with Lady Tia.”
“Who’s Lady Tia?” Jaen asked as Temer moved on to her wings.
“The captain of Lord Kass’s guard. Also, she’s the spy master. She’s famous for only employing Zafaras - her own species - as her spies.” Temer finished and shoved the paint set under the toilet.
“An excellent job,” the general praised. “You are a skilled artist.”
“Practice,” the Kyrii said in the quiet voice of one who would like nothing more than to pursue their art, but cannot. “Now, we need to get a plan.”
Fifteen minutes later, they had a plan. Jaen and Adro would pretend to be spies for Lady Tia who had caught some conspirators planning to overthrow Lord Kass - namely, General Galgrarrath and Temer. They would take Galgrarrath and Temer to the interrogation area, which was conveniently located right next to the maximum security area and had a door between them. The guards would not question their orders to guard the door to the maximum security cell room, instead of the cell proper, when coming from a Darigan Zafara.
Jaen and Adro held the two tightly. Adro held the General, and Jaen held Temer by the wing. “We have found some conspirators,” Jaen declared to the guards, “and we must take them to our lady.” The guard at the gate, clearly almost frozen with fear, swung the gate open.
The quartet proceeded into the castle.
Without challenge, they made their way to the interrogation room. “Will you need guards, sir and lady?” a petrified Wocky outside the door asked politely.
Jaen threw a scorning look at him. “No. I believe that we can deal with two petty conspirators alone.”
Adro stuck his head into the maximum security cell room. A Darigan Gelert lay slumped on the floor; four guards surrounded the cage she was held in. “Outside,” the Zafara snapped. “We will require use of this room.”
The four guards obeyed, stepping outside to guard the door. Adro, Jaen, Temer, and Galgrarrath entered the interrogation room.
As soon as they were inside and the door to the passageway outside was closed, Temer noticed the door leading to the maximum security cell room. Jerking it open, he gasped in shock. Grace was slumped on the floor of the cage. A deep gash across her head belied the gentle rise and fall of her chest, suggesting that she still breathed. Galgrarrath stepped through the door behind him.
“Let me through,” the Grarrl said quietly. “I can get her out.” Temer stepped to one side and watched as the dark red Grarrl pulled a key from his pocket. Slipping it into the lock, he twisted it and pulled. The door slid smoothly open.
With a strangled cry, Temer dove into the cage and began to lift his friend. “Stop!” Jaen’s voice cracked.
“Why?” Temer snapped.
Jaen entered the cage and crouched next to the Gelert. “I need your jacket,” she said quietly. Temer pulled the jacket off and handed it to her.
The young Zafara wrapped the jacket around Grace’s head as a makeshift bandage. “It’ll do until we get her home,” she said, looking critically at her handiwork.
Lifting Grace’s limp body, Temer stood. “Okay. Let’s pretend that you and Adro were overwhelmed by us. I stole your security key and broke into this cell, fixed Grace’s head, and escaped. That way you can chase us and get home.”
The door to the maximum security cell room banged open. A Kyrii raced through with a Darigan Gelert in his arms; a Grarrl followed, running. Two Zafaras chased the duo, screaming “Stop in the name of Lady Tia!”
The five guards gave chase.
Temer, Galgrarrath, Adro, and Jaen quickly outdistanced the others due to their lack of heavy armor. As they shot through the streets of the Kass Citadel, Adro and Jaen still shouting for them to stop, the guards joined the chase but were also outdistanced. Finally, they reached the edge of the citadel. The four jumped. Temer spread his wings; the others, having no wings, did not.
And Temer glided down to Meridell; the others hoped to land in the Rubbish Dump.
The light blue Kyrii walked over to the Rubbish Dump after dropping Grace off at Jaen and Adro’s house. A dark red Grarrl stood beside it, apparently trying to fish a pair of Zafaras out. Just as Temer arrived, he succeeded. Remembering something, the Kyrii looked up at the moon. It was almost directly overhead.
Jaen raced home as soon as possible, Adro, Temer, and Galgrarrath following. Sending Adro for her medicinal supplies, she cleaned the gash on Grace’s head. When her brother returned, she applied some healing salve and bandaged the wound neatly.
Grace woke up some five hours later. Temer was sitting on the floor beside her bed. Where was she? the Gelert wondered. She shifted and groaned; Temer’s head shot around.
“You’re awake,” he whispered.
Before she could reply, he had left. Walking over to a muddy yellow Zafara who was sleeping on the floor, the Kyrii shook her. “Jaen,” he whispered. “She’s awake.” The Zafara’s head shot up, and she jumped up.
“Hello,” she whispered, approaching Grace. “You’re in Meridell. At my house. Actually, it’s mine and my brother’s, but anyway. How’s your head?”
“It hurts,” Grace answered quietly.
Jaen grimaced. “Yes, I should have guessed. Anyway, you’re awake and conscious, so I can’t have messed it up too badly. Tomorrow, I’ll take you to Illusen; she knows me and Adro, so she might be willing to help.”
Grace closed her eyes, tuning out the rest of the Zafara’s quiet babble.
The next time she woke up, it was daylight. The Zafara - Jaen, she remembered - was making soup. “And now, I just heat it up in a few hours,” she finished, putting the last of some vegetables into a pot.
“Jaen,” Grace called quietly. The yellow Zafara - now not so muddy - jerked around.
“You’re awake!” She stuck her head out the door and called out, “Adro! She’s awake!” A voice drifted back in the door.
“Okay, I’ll get the wagon.”
“Can you walk?” Jaen asked. Grace tried to sit up, and succeeded. Swinging her legs over the edge of the bed, she tried to stand. Jaen caught her as she fell.
“Okay, you can’t walk. That’s why we’re using the wagon.”
The voice from before called again. “Jaen, the wagon’s ready.”
Temer walked in. “Grace!” he cried, dashing toward her. With the two of them supporting her, she walked slowly to the small wagon. Another yellow Zafara sat on the seat. General Galgrarrath stood behind it, apparently ready to push the wagon to Illusen’s Glade.
Grace sat against the back wall; Temer and Jaen sat next to her, one on each side. “Ready,” Adro called. Galgrarrath shoved hard, and the wagon began to move.
“It’s just downhill to Illusen’s Glade,” Jaen confided. “That’s why we’re not bothering with steering. At the border, you must continue on foot.”
Sure enough, at the borderline of the trees the wagon came to an abrupt halt. Temer prepared to support Grace, and Adro joined him. General Galgrarrath waited with the wagon, while Jaen went ahead to ask Illusen.
“Illusen,” she said quietly, “I have a friend who was injured by Lord Kass’s citadel guards. Can you heal her?” The earth faerie smiled.
“Well, I’ll have to see her wound first. Is she here?”
“Yes,” Jaen murmured. “Grace!” she called in an abruptly loud voice.
The trio moved slowly forward. Grace’s paw caught on a tree root and she stumbled, crying out in pain.
Illusen was there in a flash. Shock appeared on her face as she saw the Darigan Gelert. “How dare you?” she whispered, not noticing Temer or Adro. “How dare you invade my home?” A light green bolt of magic gathered in her hand. Grace waited, frozen with fear, for the bolt to strike.
Jaen’s voice cut from behind the trees, and the Zafara shot into view. “Wait - don’t hurt her!” Jaen screamed. “She’s my friend!”
Illusen paused. “Your friend, Jaen?” she asked, her voice deadly calm. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Jaen cried. “She was training to be part of the citadel guard, and then Lord Kass took over, and she couldn’t deal with what he was doing, so she quit and started stealing food for people who couldn’t buy any, and yesterday she got caught, and the guard had to knock her out so they could get her to the castle, and that’s how they did it. Please, don’t hurt her.” The Zafara paused, gasping for air. “Please, Illusen.”
The earth faerie lowered the bolt of magic. “And the Kyrii, too?” she asked, noticing Temer for the first time.
Jaen hung her head in shame. “Yes.”
Illusen laughed unexpectedly, dissipating the bolt of magic. “Well, Jaen, you do pick the oddest friends. Anyway, I think I can fix the gash in her head.” The faerie looked across at Jaen. “That is what you want me to fix, correct?”
Adro’s voice broke in. “Yeah, it is.” The yellow Zafara was standing a few feet away from the earth faerie.
The faerie smiled. “Hello, Adro.” Laying her hands upon the gash in Grace’s head, a flare of emerald light flowed from her hands and covered the slash. When the flow receded, there was only a light scar where the deep wound had been.
“Thank you,” Grace said, smiling at Illusen.
“My pleasure,” the faerie said politely.
They returned to the farm uneventfully and lived there for a few weeks. Temer would occasionally make flights to the citadel for the latest word. One day, he returned with news: Lord Kass knew that the knights of Meridell intended to make a surprise attack on the citadel.
The five prepared to go help them. General Galgrarrath stayed at the farm in case some Dariganian soldiers decided to raid it, but the others left for the citadel on the night of the surprise attack.
To be continued...