Unbreakable: Part Two
The meeting hall erupted with cries of shock and outrage. The air began to hum with the frantic wingbeats of the faeries and faerie pets that made up most of the council, and Rallon and Aethia both leapt up with indignant shouts.
Brynn grit her teeth and clenched the edge of the table, only relaxing her grip when she realized that her claws were digging into its wooden surface. Her head swam with the implications of this threat and what it would mean for her new home.
Finally, the outcry subsided enough for somebody's question to carry through the room. "But why? What does he want from us so much that he's going to start a war over it?"
Fyora's eyes were downcast. "The same thing he's always wanted: Glory Hollow. He believes that we have remained on this land long enough, and wishes to reclaim it for the Haunted Woods."
"But that's absolutely mad!" another councilmember shouted. "We can't move Faerieland until we've finished rebuilding. Doesn't he remember the treaty?!"
"Perhaps we could remind him of that," someone else suggested. "If we could make him see reason..."
Aethia frowned as she spoke up. "Unfortunately, I doubt that will work. Hirok may have listened before, but only begrudgingly. If he's already coming up here with an army, something tells me that he's beyond reasoning now."
Queen Fyora nodded. "We should still attempt to settle this matter diplomatically, but I too fear that it will have to come to battle. What do you think, Captain Brynn?"
Instantly, the Kougra felt all of the attention in the room shift to her. She exchanged a brief glance with Aethia and Rallon before saying, "If it's a fight they want, then we'll be ready for them." She turned to meet Fyora's gaze. "How much time do we have?"
"According to the scouts who confirmed Hirok's threat, his army should be here in about a week," the queen replied.
Brynn heard a sharp intake of breath beside her, all but confirming that Rallon's thoughts mirrored hers.
They would have to prepare quickly.
* * * * *
Rallon's hoofsteps echoed through the dim streets as he trotted through Faerie City.
Two days had passed since Fyora had called together the council, and the Uni and his rider had been working tirelessly to prepare their troops for Hirok's assault. Now, an hour or so past dusk, they were on patrol for any sorts of spies or assassins that the general may have sent ahead to stir up trouble. In a way, he considered this something of a relief – he'd had enough of arguments over strategy and strained whispers about the implications of failure, and the brisk walk and fresh air helped to clear his troubled mind.
Rallon stole a quick backwards glance at his captain. Brynn was scanning her surroundings attentively, her sharp feline eyes shining faintly as they pierced the darkness around her.
After a moment, her eyes met his and she frowned a little. He began to slow his pace. "What is it?"
Brynn's grip on the reigns tightened as she cast another look around. "I don't like this," she murmured.
Rallon raised an eyebrow. "I don't think anyone does, Captain. But it's coming, and all we can do is fight back."
Brynn shook her head. "No, I mean... I have a bad feeling about tonight." She stared intently ahead and continued at barely above a whisper. "Somebody's here, I can tell. But we're making too much noise, and they aren't going to come anywhere near where we can see them this way."
Rallon nodded and turned his attention back ahead. He slowed down to a walk, careful to step as quietly as possible. A moment later, though, he felt Brynn's hand on the back of his neck.
"We should split up," she muttered. "You take to the sky – you'll be able to see farther that way, and you'll be faster without a rider. I'll keep patrolling on the ground. Even with armour, I may be able to make less noise than hooves on stone."
Rallon hesitated, but Brynn was already slipping out of the saddle. She landed on the ground with a muted clank, and he turned to face her properly.
"Are you sure about this?" he asked. "If it's an assassin or even one of the more slippery thieves out tonight, it would be better for us to stick together."
Brynn drew her sword and gave it an experimental swing. "I can handle myself, and I know you can too. You can stay within earshot if you'd like, but the important thing now is to keep alert and cover as much ground as possible."
Rallon still hesitated, but seeing that her mind had been made up, he finally nodded and took off into the sky.
It wasn't just a concern for safety that had made him pause, he considered as he spread his wings to catch some of the lower air currents. The Uni was rather fond of having a proper rider, and to be honest, he felt in Brynn a sort of kindred spirit that gave him some comfort in this time of fear and uncertainty.
They were both level-minded and extremely passionate about their work, as was obvious by the way she had gained the highest position in the guard and he the second-highest. There was more to it as well, though he supposed that that was more coincidence than anything else.
Rallon levelled off as he reached a height that would allow him visibility over a large area without obscuring the details. The moon was bright and full tonight, so he had little trouble picking out the forms of his captain, the other guards that were out on patrol, and the occasional late-night straggler roaming about.
Yes, that coincidence was part of the reason that the Lieutenant and the Captain had managed to end up paired. Generally, when a Uni was admitted into the cavalry, they would be paired with whichever guard was most in need of one at the time; the nigh-unpredictable overturn of heads of guard and cavalry meant that it was unlikely for both to ride together.
In this case, however, the two had been placed together after both found themselves as more or less the first in their positions. Brynn was appointed Captain of Faerieland's guard largely in response to the events surrounding the Fall of Faerieland – Queen Fyora had seen the whole mess as a sign that the faeries and neopets had become too disconnected, and sought to mend relations in part by opening more positions and opportunities to Faerielander pets, including the captain's position (Until that point, it had been the Battle Faerie's sole job to head the guard; now, Aethia was considered more or less Brynn's co-captain). As for Rallon, the Faerieland cavalry had been existent but largely ignored and unorganized until the kingdom's new home on the surface necessitated a stronger form of protection. He had been appointed his position when it had become properly organized.
Rallon shook his head and mentally reprimanded himself for letting his mind wander. Focus on the task at hand, he thought as he scanned the city below. Brynn had disappeared from view at some point during his reverie, but he figured that she couldn't be too far away. Besides, she was right – the Captain could take care of herself.
* * * * *
Brynn slunk through the streets, wincing inwardly at every creak her armour made.
It was at times like this that she wished she had someone like Hanso with her – someone who could creep about in perfect silence as they scouted ahead. Really, whose idea had it been to make night guards so noisy? Anybody nearby who shouldn't have been was sure to catch on and do their best to avoid her while they slipped right past.
Brynn froze in the shadow of a nearby building and strained her eyes and ears. At least the moonlight and her keen night vision meant that she didn't have to draw more attention to herself by carrying a torch around. If she was still for a moment, she might be able to trace the sound that had alerted her a few minutes before.
Several seconds passed in which she could hear nothing but her own breath, but then a faint rustle caught her ear. She turned just in time to see a dark shape disappear around a corner about three streets away. Its fluid movement did not suggest the passing of a wandering civilian.
Clutching her sword, she darted after the stranger. As she rounded the alley, she again caught sight of the figure and cried out, "Stay where you are!"
The figure stopped and turned to regard her. A black cloak concealed most of his form, but Brynn was able to make out the face of another Kougra, sharp-featured and dark in colour.
The intruder said nothing, but after a moment he turned away and began a mad dash for the next street.
Brynn's eyes narrowed as she took off after the other Kougra. Definitely not a wandering civilian, she thought.
The chase went on, through the alley, around a bend, across the winding streets of Faerie City. Brynn's quarry was quick and agile, but her many years spent running down Brightvale's thieves had not been for nothing. Just as she was closing in, however, the intruder ground to a halt and threw off his cloak.
Brynn swore under her breath as a pair of Korbat-like wings revealed themselves – the Kougra was not coloured shadow as she had originally thought, but Halloween! With a single sweep of wings, he was in the air and out of her reach.
Idiot! Why did you have to send Rallon away? she growled inwardly as she scrambled for a way to climb up the nearby building, all the while calling out for her Uni. Just because he isn't a Faerielander never guaranteed that he wouldn't be able to fly!
Brynn had finally managed to hoist herself over a few ledges, but the intruder had an obvious advantage – if something didn't halt his progress soon, he would once again disappear into the night. Rallon, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found.
Brynn was about to give up hope of ever catching the intruder when another figure darted into view, drawing a sword as it slammed into the winged Kougra. It was another guard; in the midst of the night's chaos she couldn't place the identity of the faerie Techo, but she knew from the armour design that this was one of the lower-ranked guards, not yet experienced enough to have become a knight.
The intruder snarled and ducked away from the Techo's swinging blade, then came around and knocked his new adversary to the side. As short-lived as the conflict was, however, it had provided Brynn with enough time to catch up to their height. She twisted around on the ledge that dubiously supported her and sprang away, catching the intruder by the ankle and dragging them both to the ground in a tumbled heap.
To be continued...