The Legend of Vasnia: Part Three
The Trekkan leader Lias sat up in his massive four-poster bed, his Skeith ears twitching. Something was amiss.
“Bernard, wake your men!” Lias growled, heavily rising from his bed.
“Yes sir,” was the reply from behind the closed door. Bernard was a Maraquan Grarrl that served as Lias’ 24-hour bodyguard. Lias had a terrible fear of assassinations.
The Skeith quickly dressed and hurried into the dark palace corridor. He knew something was up, but he couldn’t place his finger on it.
Bernard and five other burly guards approached Lias dutifully.
“Explore the castle. Make sure nothing is awry. Make certain that every servant is asleep in his or her quarters. Check the dungeons, the dining halls, and outside the palace. Everything must be perfect, do you understand?”
Bernard nodded and swam off with his men.
Lias felt slightly better—there was probably nothing wrong. Most likely he simply had a mild fever. That would explain the mild shivers running down his spine.
Philon led the long line of inmates through his secret passageway with Isolde bringing up the rear. They moved slowly in the cramped quarters, but Philon knew it was safer than using the main route. Sure enough, soon after Isolde made sure all the prisoners were safely inside the tunnel and had replaced the trap door cover, Philon heard shouts overhead: the unconscious guard in the dungeon had been discovered.
Philon continued on in a steady pace until, long after the tunnel had begun to slope upward and increase in temperature, Philon spotted the end of the tunnel. He silently cheered as he opened it and swam enthusiastically into the open hallway. He was so excited that he didn’t bother to check the corridor for signs of Trekkans—and he rammed straight into Lias himself.
“Well, well, well!” Lias exclaimed, smiling menacingly down at Philon. “What have we here? A servant boy, sneaking about the castle during the night? Tsk tsk, child. You will be punished for this.”
The Skeith snatched Philon’s arm and held it firmly. The Gelert stayed completely silent; the prisoner who had been traveling right behind him hadn’t followed him into the hallway and had smartly closed the passageway door tightly as soon as Lias’ face was recognized. The entire line of prisoners was now, thankfully, completely hidden from the Trekkan’s view.
“Come on,” Lias continued. “Let’s make a little trip to the examination room, shall we?”
Philon trembled silently as he was dragged away by the enormous, terrifying Skeith.
Inside the tunnel the message was passed to Isolde about what had just occurred. She squeezed her way to the front of the line and listened at the door.
“He’s taken Philon!” she hissed worriedly. She took a deep breath and willed herself not to panic. Her first priority was still getting the prisoners out of this cursed castle. Then she could come back for Philon or seek help from the council—assuming they still existed at all. She had been out of touch for only a few days and yet she had no clue how the rebels were handling this turn of events. She could only hope for the best.
“Right,” she whispered to the prisoners (they would pass the message down the long line, one by one). “We continue as we were. We have to escape. Are you ready to slay some Trekkans?”
Several prisoners grinned excitedly. They had been waiting for this.
Philon sat upon a rickety stool, waiting for his interrogation. He knew that the process would be difficult and painful, but he was determined not to reveal any information of the whereabouts of the princess or the freed prisoners.
Lias opened the door of the tiny room and leered down at Philon.
“My sentries had informed me that all the prisoners have escaped,” he began. “So tell me: how did this happen without my notice?”
Philon said nothing. He refused to even look at the man he so despised.
“So you’re going to be difficult?” Lias’ grin had disappeared, and he now looked entirely furious. “I will ask you just once: where are the prisoners?”
Philon stared steadily at the floor, completely silent. He knew things were about to get much worse.
Lias wound up his arm, ready to strike Philon—then suddenly frenzied shouts came from outside in the corridor. A huge Maraquan Grarrl burst into the room, panting.
“Sir, we’ve found the prisoners—“
Philon cringed. It was all over.
“—But they’re fighting us! We can’t hold them off!”
Lias turned away from Philon to face his frightened guard.
“What did you say?” he asked slowly.
“The prisoners, sir. They’re—”
“You mean to tell me that a couple of paltry prisoners are defeating the strongest guards known to the entire ocean? Trekkans cannot be defeated, Bernard. We are much stronger than they are!”
“Yes, but there are almost a hundred of them—”
“And how many Trekkan guards are in the palace?”
“Just over thirty, sir. It’s simply not enough.”
Lias fell silent.
“Well, Lias,” Philon said, speaking to the Trekkan leader for the first time. “Looks like your imprisonment of innocent Vasnians has finally come back to haunt you.”
Lias, not knowing what else to do, turned back to Philon and slammed his fist into the Gelert’s skull. Philon fell onto the floor with a grunt and didn’t move.
“Now,” Lias said to Bernard, “let’s take care of these incastes.”
Lias followed his guard into the main hall where the fighting was taking place. The prisoners were certainly scrawny, but they were extremely vicious and three prisoners were fighting every one guard. There were clearly not enough Trekkans to hold them off. Several Trekkans had already been defeated and lay in heaps on the floor. Lias frantically looked around and spotted a radiant pale blue Peophin with a mane of thick, white hair. The princess. She was locked in combat with a particularly skillful Trekkan guard. She quickly defeated him and immediately glanced around for any other guards who needed to be conquered. She spotted Lias and approached him. She was panting; she had not eaten in over a day, nor had she slept.
“Lias,” she said, her hard eyes drilling into his. “We are clearly winning. Stop this nonsense and let us go—and then flee from Vasnia, for the rebellion will soon triumph. You have lost.”
Lias seemed undaunted, however; he was actually smirking.
“You underestimate me, Princess,” he said, chuckling a little. “You may have won this battle, but there are many more Trekkans to destroy the rebel incastes. Don’t get too full of yourself, Isolde. Don’t forget: I can have you killed just like I had your father killed years ago. I’d cooperate if I were you.”
Isolde’s body shook with anger. This oppressor had killed her father, King Phenes! But no, it was impossible: the Trekkans had not invaded until after her brother, Castor, had been in power for years.
“No you didn’t,” Isolde retorted. “You’re lying.”
“Oh, but I’m not,” Lias replied coolly. He was now whispering in her ear so no one else could hear. “I’ve had a plan for Vasnia for decades—ever since I became leader of my people. I knew that with Phenes as king Vasnia would never fall to our Trekkan forces. I had spies in the palace, though. They informed me that they predicted Castor, once crowned, would weaken his kingdom and succumb to petty bribery. So I simply sped up the process and killed Phenes myself. It played out quite nicely, yes?”
Isolde succumbed to her rage and hit Lias in the side of his head with all of her might, leaving an angry red welt where her hoof had struck.
Lias did nothing, but simply began commanding his men.
“Trekkans!” he called, catching the guards’ attention mid-fight. “Retreat! We will strike back soon!” He then turned to the princess. “We’ll get you, Isolde.”
The guards eagerly fled from the bloodthirsty prisoners.
“Vasnians,” Isolde commanded, her voice breaking. “It’s time to go home.”
But she knew that the war was far from over.
“Hektor, oh Hektor!” Isolde fell into the aged Elephante’s arms, tears streaming down her cheeks. “We succeeded in releasing the prisoners, but I fear the Trekkans will defeat us after all. There weren’t many in the palace last night, but Lias is surely assembling every last Trekkan to smother the rebellion. What will we do?”
Hektor patted the princess awkwardly on the back, unsure of how to react to this emotional Isolde. He had never seen her this way; she had always kept her feelings in line. She had never lost control before.
“Your Highness, things will work out. The rebel forces are almost ready to attack, and Alodia should be back soon with her Abovian troops. We have greater numbers. And better yet, we are passionate for our cause. We cannot lose.”
Isolde looked up at Hektor and smiled through her tears. Hektor was always so wise—much wiser than she was, anyway. She somehow felt childish and ignorant.
“And what about Philon? He saved my life; I refuse to leave him there in Lias’ clutches.”
“Well,” Hektor said, thinking it over. “I suppose that will be your responsibility. The council has already organized the battle plans, so you can focus on Philon.”
Isolde nodded. She was not at all insulted that they did not need her to win this war; she was simply grateful.
“As soon as Lias is distracted by your and Alodia’s armies I will sneak into the palace. Thank you, Hektor. You have been a great help.”
Isolde had fully composed herself now, and Hektor was appreciative.
“Take care of yourself, Your Highness.”
Within several hours the rebel forces began their seizure of the palace. The Trekkans were armed and ready—and in much larger numbers than before. It was an intense battle, and the Trekkans were certainly better trained than the rebels. But, as Hektor had predicted, the rebels were much more passionate about what they were fighting for, and they began to hold the advantage over Lias’ troops.
Meanwhile Isolde waited for the opportune moment before sneaking into the castle and rescuing Philon. She did so as soon as the Vasnians held the advantage. The two sides were locked in furious combat when she crossed the palace threshold, and no one noticed her as she snuck into the palace’s interior. Almost all the fighting was taking place in the antechamber or just outside of the palace, so Isolde had no trouble searching for Philon. The real nuisance was actually finding him. During her years in the castle when Phenes was still alive Isolde had never entered the examination room—a fact that she now fiercely regretted. Eventually, however, after almost an hour of opening countless doors, she discovered Philon, who was knocked out cold on the floor of the gloomy examination room.
“Oh, Philon,” she murmured. “What did they do to you?”
She gently patted his cheek a few times to wake him up. When he finally opened his eyes his face broke into a huge grin.
“Princess Isolde!” he cried happily. “You came back for me!”
“Of course, Philon,” Isolde replied, helping him up. “You saved my life, remember?”
Philon’s cheeks reddened at this, and he said nothing.
“Now c’mon,” Isolde continued. “We need to get out of the palace before the Trekkans strengthen. The rebels appear to hold the upper hand now, but it could change at any moment.”
The two quickly left the examination room, eager to escape the palace that housed so many dark memories.
To be continued...