Blood Oath (Book 2 of Alfireán age)


“Stop,” Drake said as Rex ran down the circular hallway.

The vice champion skidded to a halt as he rounded the bend and almost ran headlong into a crowd spanning the entire length of the hall. Sounding like a swarm of angry hornets, hundreds of people’s voices buzzed in the crowded corridor, and the overwhelming tension felt thick enough to cut with a knife.

Drake grabbed a doorknob to his right and yanked open a door. “In here,” he hissed, “before the mob sees us.” A bead of perspiration ran down his forehead and his senses came alert. He’d seen what angry crowds could do. If these people spotted them, they’d end up like an injured gazelle on the open plains surrounded by ravenous lions.

With nary a sound, Rex and the maid quickly shifted into the room, and Drake pulled the door shut as he slipped in.

Standing in a large training room filled with barbells and random equipment, Drake made his way over to the far wall.

“That was some crowd,” Rex whispered.

“Yes, and they are truly desperate as well,” the head maid said. “Their fifteen minutes is running out, and Dy’Ixion’s apparition will no doubt soon be back.”

“Can’t say I blame them,” Rex said as he peeled open the door and peeked out. “What are they doing anyway? There are way too many for me to see past them.”

Stopping at the farthest point in the room, Drake activated dragon Ra’avah and gazed through the wall and past the angry mob. From what he could tell, the crowd was five or six layers deep and every Tom, Dick, and Harry at the front was desperately trying to break down a shield spanning the width of the corridor, be it through physical force or magical methods.

Drake focused more energy into his eyes until he could see through the shield. “It would seem your father was able to establish a barricade and has fortified his position inside the infirmary. However, these people are doing their best to break through.”

“Well, that’s just peachy.” Rex closed the door and leaned back heavily against the doorframe. “How are we supposed to get to him?”

“I’m not sure yet. Give me a moment to think.” Drake closed his eyes and massaged his temples with his right hand as he listened to the frenzied mob. Dy’Ixion had made the perfect strategic move, and now Drake’s options were limited. Worse yet, until they were able to regroup with his uncle, there was no way he could plan their next step. Which meant they had to get through the peasants, and he had to do it now, before the blood oath reappeared. He took a deep breath, dropped his hand, and looked up at Rex.

The young man read his body language to a T and rolled his eyes. “You’ve lost your marbles if you think I’m going to hack my way through them.”

Drake nodded in understanding. So that was not an option. He closed his eyes again and visualized the arena. The main lower hallway made a complete circle around the entire coliseum. They could run to the other side, but he already knew there was a mob on that end of the infirmary, as well. He mentally went up a level. If he had someone who was good at earth magic, they could dig their way down to Mr. Havanger, but he didn’t. Rex had just opened his magic—he’d be more likely to stab himself with an earth spike than properly mold the earth.

“What about the slides in the pit. They lead down to the infirmary,” Rex offered.

The maid shook her head. “They were sealed when your father activated the infirmary’s lockdown.”

“I’ve got it,” Drake said standing to his feet. “But we’ll need a way to make the object invisible for my plan to work.”

Rex frowned, “Turn what invisible?”

“The device you’re holding,” Drake jutted his chin towards the white artifact in Rex’s hands.

“Oh yeah, duh.” Rex drummed his fingers on its metallic surface. “You know, we really should give it a name other than the object.”

“How about The Energizer,” the maid put forward.

Drake stared at her, and she smiled back with a mischievous grin. A part of him found it hard to believe she was the same mystical creature that had just been so poised and majestic a few moments ago.

“That’s good,” Rex exclaimed. “In fact, it’s perfect!” Rex held up the barbell shaped device to eye level and said, “From now on, I dub thee The Energizer.”

Drake gaped at the both of them. They couldn’t be serious; that wasn’t a good name at all. How could either of them even think of naming such an ancient, priceless artifact such a childish name. He opened his mouth to tell them exactly what he thought of their foolishness when a particular memory popped into his mind. Earlier that day, someone had found an invisibility blanket.

Pushing the current subject out of his mind, he focused on the event. The image blossomed to life, his eidetic memory bringing the sounds, smells, and imagery back to his remembrance. It was while he was looking for Zaphaniea’s name in that small changing room.

“Rex,” he said, “Take us to the dressing room by the servants’ quarters’ exit.”

“Why would you want to go… Ah, you’re after my invisibility blanket. Wait! How did you even know it’s there?”

“That is not important. For now, we need to retrieve it fast as possible,” Drake said as he and the maid moved directly behind the vice champion.

Rex shrugged, “Okay then. Follow me.” He crouched, swung the door open, and the world around them blurred once more as he took off.

Seconds later, they arrived at the aforementioned room. Entering the changing area, the maid walked to the left and grabbed at the nondescript wall. It blurred as it came off in her hand, revealing an open metal locker. “It seems the armor from before is missing.”

“That’s because I’m wearing it!”

“I see,” she said. “It appears it is a good thing we didn’t take it then.”

Rex’s masked face seemed to glare at her. “You bet it is! How did you even know it was there?”

“The maids can see invisible things,” Drake informed him.

“You can as well,” the silver-haired woman corrected him.

Drake was about to say, no I can’t, when she shook the blurry air in her hand, drawing his attention to it. With bewilderment, he realized he could indeed see the invisible blanket in the form of a hazy blue outline. This must be what she’d meant when she had said she was bequeathing upon him the ability to see the truth even when it was hidden.

She held the blanket out towards him and he gently took it from her. “Thank you. It is a great gift, and I will use it well,” he said with heartfelt gratitude.

“What in the world?! It’s my blanket. All she did is find it. Why are you thanking her?” Rex protested.

Drake turned to him and hefted the now stupidly named The Energizer from him. As he wrapped it in the invisibility blanket, he shrugged. “We need to go.”

Rex threw his hands up in the air in frustration. “Fine,” he mumbled. “Give her all the glory for stealing my blanket.” With a sigh, he turned around and dashed back out the door and down the hall.

Once more, they appeared in the training room a few seconds later and Rex peeked out the door before closing it. “Okay, we got the blanket. How do you plan to get us to my father?”

“First, let me make certain there is nothing that will interfere,” Drake said as he closed his right eye and channeled energy into his eye patch, activating the enchantments weaved into the material. The world flared orange and everything but the pulsating waves of the current active frequencies faded from view. Just as the maid had said, there was indeed a powerful anti-magic spell emanating from inside the infirmary. It would make things a bit more difficult, but if he used the device to overpower it, everything should be fine. “Alright, this is what I need you to do,” he said to Rex, then swiftly laid out the plan.

“Sounds good,” Rex nodded. “But are you sure you can do that? I mean, you’re pretty small. Even with The Energizer it’s going to be hard.”

“I can,” Drake assured him.

Drawing a deep breath, Rex said, “Okay then, here goes nothing.”

The vice champion sauntered out of the room and into the middle of the hallway. With large, grandiose movements, Rex performed a flourishing bow. “Are you gentleman looking for me?”

A hush fell over the crowd as they turned to see him. Expressions of confusion marred their angry faces, and Drake watched in amusement as they slowly morphed into ones of recognition. “It’s the vice champion!” a particularly dimwitted looking fellow shouted. “He’s the one that got us into this mess in the first place.”

A loud rumble rose from the crazed citizens. “Get him!” they screamed, and as one, the crowd charged towards Rex.

“Audios,” Rex saluted the oncoming horde, spun around, and casually started running away.

As the raging men thundered after Rex, Drake glanced back at the shield. As he’d suspected, a handful of people had stayed behind. Thankfully, though, there wasn’t as many left as he’d calculated. Of those remaining, he could see five men trying to channel a powerful beam of lightning against the shield; however, despite their best attempts, it kept sputtering out. Another three were endeavoring to charge a fireball, only to have it continuously pop out of existence.

On the other side of the shield, his uncle’s men kneeled with their hands placed against the barrier, keeping it stable. Drake smiled—apparently the magic suppression spell was oriented to affect mainly combat spells.

“Let’s go,” Drake said, motioning to the maid. The air blurred around them, and with nary a sound, they turned invisible. Cautiously, the two of them made their way out and down the hallway. Drake navigated his way through the remaining furious warriors, making sure not to touch them. He leaned backwards as a man’s substantial belly swung his way and then stepped to the left as a crazed woman’s scabbard almost poked him in the eye. Finally, as he neared the shield, he was forced to drop to the floor and crawl on his hands and knees. Clasping the heavy energizer close to his chest, he crammed his small body through the hulking figures and weaved in and out through their legs. As he crawled under a massive fellow wearing fur skins, and bellowing as if the end of the world was about to occur, his stench almost made Drake gag. The man smelled like he hadn’t taken a bath in weeks, or like he’d rolled in a pile of decomposing animal skins; either way, it was disgusting. Trying to breathe through his mouth instead of his nose, Drake crawled past the foul man and at last reached the shield. Pushing himself against the glowing blue barrier, he slid along it till he wedged his back between the inner wall of the hallway and the shield; then he scrunched down and made himself as small as possible.

Glancing back, Drake watched the hazy outline of the maid as she calmly made her way through the crowd, gracefully sidestepping from left to right as the people shifted out of her way. The prince pushed his hair out of his eyes in agitation. He had been forced to crawl while she simply danced her way through the crowd. It almost seemed as if she were mentally compelling the irate people to move aside, but Drake knew that was impossible. Then again, at this point, he wouldn’t put anything past her capabilities.

Finally, she arrived at the shield and reclined against the opposite side of the wall.

Drake nodded at her and positioned The Energizer onto his lap. Kneeling next to the shield, he placed his hand on the contraption and drew energy from it. Letting the power flood his body, he started to charge his own shield, then winced as the energy built up in his slender arms. His muscles tightened, and his fingers cramped till both of his limbs felt like they would snap under the pressure. As the tension grew, Drake curled forward and grit his teeth. “Alright Rex,” he hissed, pushing the pain aside as he focused on channeling the rest of the energy throughout his body in order to alleviate some of the pressure. “I’m ready,” he said through a sound warp.

In a blur of motion, Rex reappeared at the edge of the hallway, dashed through the crowd, and kicked off the shield. Spinning into a backflip, he brought his leg down on the man who stood too close to the barrier. With a resounding thwack! the foul-smelling fellow slammed against the ground, and Rex kicked him out of the way as he spun around and pressed his back against the shield.

With a gasp of relief, Drake released his charge and a second shield appeared, filling the hallway and wedging them between both shields like a two layered airlock.

“Let us in!” Rex commanded.

The man that Mr. Havanger had referred to as Soul Knight leaned against the wall, sharpening a knife on the other side of the shield. His dark skin blended into the area around him, and an air of danger clung to his lean, well-muscled frame. Sharp black eyes looked up in surprise at Rex’s sudden appearance. “Drop the shield!” he shouted as he shot to his feet.

The glowing barrier dropped and Drake and Rex tumbled into the open area while the maid elegantly stepped in.

Realizing their opportunity, the soldiers on the other side of Drake’s shield started attacking for all they were worth. Their bare hands lit up with fire, and lightning sizzled in the hall as they pounded on the thin blue barrier.

Drake rolled to his feet and blinked back into the visible spectrum. “Get it back up!” he yelled.

Soul Knight and Rex’s father’s men were already on it, and their shield flared back to life just as Drake’s temporary barrier shattered and winked out of existence.

Soul Knight smiled grimly at them. “Glad to see you made it through that insanity out there.”

“So am I,” Rex stated as he fixed his mask. “How’s Mr. Havanger?”

“The arena master is waiting for you in the infirmary,” he motioned towards the door with his head.

As Rex thanked him, Drake opened the door and walked into the infirmary. He swiftly observed the situation: Olivia and Zaphaniea laid on their beds, still unconscious; Alf was nowhere to be seen; Cretan was bound and gagged, along with a few other healers, and Rex’s father sat on one of the medical beds with his leg propped up. Most noticeable of all, Gerhard and Katerina were currently in the process of healing an uncomfortable looking burn on his lower calf.

Rex’s father’s eyes latched onto Drake. “Where did you and my son run off to?! While you were gone, that freak scared all common sense out of those idiots out there, and as you can see,” he said motioning towards his leg, “they won’t listen to any reasoning,” he spat in agitation.

Before Drake could respond, Rex burst in. “Are you okay?” he gasped looking at the burn mark on his father’s leg. He shot over to Mr. Havanger’s side so fast he literally disappeared and reappeared in a flash.

The anger in the older gentleman’s face faded away. “Yeah, I’m fine, but only thanks to your big friend over there. If he hadn’t helped me when he did, I’d probably be nothing more than a pile of ash right now.” He pointed to a hole in the floor on the far side of the infirmary, where the loud sounds of crushing rock and scraping metal echoed from as he spoke.

Drake made his way over to the hole and peered down. In the bottom of the earthen pit, Alf was hunched over and using what looked like the remains of a metal, medical instrument to break away rock and dirt while two others used earth magic on the loosened substance to shore up the walls of their makeshift tunnel.

Rex’s father hopped off the bed and hobbled over. “He’s trying to dig us a way out. We had tried using earth magic, but it has no effect on the wall. Well, not until it’s broken off that is. Must be some inlaid spell in the arena’s foundation.”

Alf turned around and nodded at them. His hands dripped blood, and dust covered him from head to toe. Other than that, he looked perfectly healthy, but something was off in his demeanor: his bright, friendly smile had disappeared. His clear blue eyes, usually brimming with life and fervor, appeared muddy and dimmed, and his once confident posture had vanished only to be replaced with downcast shoulders.

“Alf?” Drake asked in concern.

Deep sorrow crept into the young High Lord’s eyes as he said, “It looks like you were right this time Drakovian. I’ve made a mess of things. I wasn’t able to defeat the blood oath, and now, because of my arrogance, he is going to kill all these people. I thought I had heard from God. I thought I was supposed to go fight him, but… I was wrong.”

Mr. Havanger pulled his head back from the hole and whispered, “It’s taking all I can to convince him that if he turns himself in, the end result will be far worse than if he didn’t.” The older gentleman’s gnarled face darkened. “Unfortunately, it seems like our only viable option here is to run and let everyone die. If only the fools would listen to reason, we could at least evacuate them!”

Rex walked over and placed his arm under his father’s shoulder, supporting him as he said, “That might not be true. Drake and I just retrieved an object that he believes will enable us to take on the blood oath.”

“Really?” Alf asked, a hint of light returning to his eyes as he looked up at Drake.

Drake shifted the heavy weight of the object still hidden underneath the invisibility blanket as he stared down in the hole at Alf. He had two options. They could use The Energizer to enable them to dig their way through the wall and escape, or use it to try to assault the blood oath one last time. The latter option could save thousands of lives, but had a very low chance of success, while the former was likely to cause the death of thousands; however, if they ran, it guaranteed they would survive, meaning they would still have a chance of saving the Empire, and ultimately, they’d save more lives than they’d sacrificed.

Time crawled to a stop as he weighed his options. Assuming they could win, there was still the chance that Vackzilian himself would appear, capture the five of them, and kill everyone else. But if they fled, Alf would learn a valuable lesson. Undoubtedly, he would become less impulsive, and in the long run, this would increase their chances for defeating Vackzilian.

All of his years of training told him his best option was to call a retreat, but something inside him, which he had never felt before, fought for him to stay and fight, even though mathematically, and statistically speaking, it would be foolish to do so.

Outside the infirmary, he could hear the sound of fighting and the angry cries of the warriors desperate to break through and capture them so they could save their own hides. If given a chance, they would hand them over in a heartbeat. Blocking out the noise, he closed his eyes, and after wrestling with his decision, he decided … they had to retreat.

Out of nowhere, a still small voice said, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”

A chill ran down his spine and his eyes shot open. Frantically, he looked about, but he already knew none of the others had spoken.

“Drake?” Alf asked, his brow furled.

Drake didn’t answer. He knew he had heard that saying somewhere before, but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember where. What was worse, the voice was obviously telling him to stay and fight. Alf anxiously gazed up at him, waiting for his reply. He pushed the voice from his mind, and once again decided the best option was to flee. Alf needed to learn this lesson. However, as he opened his mouth, the words of a young man long ago echoed in his conscious.

“I know what is right and what is wrong, and I will do what is right, no matter what.”

His stomach dropped, and he swallowed hard. The memory of the man named Hadrika, and how he had risked his life to save Drake’s—and he what had gone through as a result—washed over him as vividly as if he were reliving it. It was a memory and a simple statement he had long suppressed, but the truth was, just like Hadrika, he knew what was right and what was wrong and… He sighed, leaving these people here to die to make Alf more obedient wasn’t just wrong, it was evil.

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