Chapter 108 = Into the Night
Disclaimer: All characters here are of my own invention, but the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
2nd of Jallora, CD 2156; Near Londimay
The long march between cities had been uneventful and tiring, the army leaving its path marked in the lightly falling snow on the ground. Having crossed the border the day before – nothing more than a dotted line on most maps – the army had set itself up for the night within sight of the city.
Darkmark had ordered a few spies to be sent into the city, to see what was going on there. Londimay was unwalled; a city built on trade, many roads led in and out of the city, with many merchants and even schools of economics contained in it. The city was officially neutral; the powerful lords and merchants thought of themselves as autocratic, but Darkmark wanted to be sure…
Currently, it was the middle of the night. Salína was moving through the camp on her way to see Mikhail again, even though she had been met with silence over the last few nights. His refusals to speak only fuelled her desire to learn more about him, to find out where this mysterious human-raised anthro had come from, and what he knew.
Entering the tent where he was kept, his hands and feet bound to keep him where he was, she saw Vachez was sitting with Tamaroro, trying to get him to read from a book he had. The little Yoshi wasn’t cooperating though, and Mikhail was watching the pair in silence.
go outside!” Tamaroro pleaded in Yoshian.
“I know, Tammy, but I have to stay here…”
“’cause of him, right?” Tamaroro said, gesturing to Mikhail. Spotting Salína, he gave a little wave, wagging his stubby tail. “Hello!”
“Hi there, little one.” She replied, waving back to him.
“Ah, Salína, good timing.” Vachez mused, standing up. “Could you stay here for a few minutes?”
Without thinking, she nodded, and Vachez moved past her with the child, leaving her alone in the tent with Mikhail. Taking the priest’s vacated seat, she looked over at him. His gag was off, indicating he had been behaving, but he still had the expression on his face that told her he hadn’t revealed anything to anyone else.
“Mikhail…” she began, but he turned away from her. Moving over, she knelt beside him and grabbed his shoulder, forcing him to face her.
“Look at me!”
Grudgingly, he did so, his messy, silvery hair falling over one eye partially. “What do you want?”
Slightly startled at getting a verbal reply, she paused a moment, looking him in the eyes. “Why are you being so stubborn?”
“I’m not stubborn.” He retorted, glaring at her.
“Then why won’t you tell us anything?”
“Why should I?!” Mikhail snapped, trying to turn away, but she pulled him to face her again.
“Because I care! I want to know who you are. You’re a mystery to me! There aren’t very many anthro Yoshies left, and to find one who was raised in the human lands…” She trailed off, and shook her head once. “Are there more of you?”
Mikhail just stared at her for a moment. She gazed deeply into his eyes, seeing a momentary lapse of the wall he was putting up around himself, a twinkle of curiousness and care hiding behind his selfish motives. Softly, he said, “I’m not telling you anything while you treat me like some kind of prisoner.”
“Do you have any idea how uncomfortable these are?” he demanded, turning away and wriggling his bound hands. “They’re cutting into my skin!”
“Oh, I’m sorry…” she murmured, moving behind him and bending forwards, reaching out to the bonds. “Here, let me loosen them a little…”
There were three knots, and as soon as Salína undid the last one, Mikhail suddenly pulled his hands apart, the ropes falling free. Before she had a chance to react, he whirled around and struck her on the side of the head, in a specific spot he’d been shown during his training, sending her crumpling to the ground with a groan.
“Stupid bitch. I think I’ll kill you first.” He muttered, rubbing his wrists. They were only sore because he struggled against the ropes so often, but it didn’t matter any more. Quickly undoing the bonds around his ankles, he went to the pile of things where they had dropped his equipment, retrieving his armour and sword, quickly putting it on.
“Too bad that old guy and the brat are coming back soon. If I had more time I could have some fun with you first, but alas.” Turning back to Salína, he shifted his foot under her body and rolled her onto her back, holding his sword over her chest, the finely crafted blade glinting in the light of the lanterns illuminating the tent…
Why are my hands shaking?
He looked down at her, both hands holding the hilt of his weapon with the tip pointed straight downwards, aimed over her heart. Her eyes closed, mouth slightly open, red hair falling about her head and shoulders on the floor, her wings pinned under her back, sprawled helplessly after being knocked unconscious from his blow…
“Damn it…” he muttered, his hands shaking more.
Attempting to steady his hands, and regulate his breathing, he gripped the sword handle tighter, rising it up. He tried to thrust it downwards, to make sure she never bothered him again, but his hands wouldn’t move, the sword stationary…
“Damn it all… I… I can’t do it… you’re… you’re too… augh!”
Throwing his sword onto the ground in rage, he took a moment to recover, breathing heavily. “You… the moment I saw you… you looked so much like me, I…”
He shook his head, raising his gaze to look at her, clenching his fists. “I can’t be in love… not with one of you…!”
Swiftly picking up his sword and sheathing it, he closed the visor on his helmet, bending over her body. “They said there weren’t any more… any others like me… just them, the ones who abandoned me, who killed my parents. But you… you’re so caring, you… you even… trusted me.”
And I betrayed that trust in an instant!
“Damn it…” he muttered. He walked once around the tent and extinguished all but one of the lanterns, picking the last one up and taking it for himself. “I need… I need answers… something’s not right here. Why… you’re supposed to be merciless! Why did you take me prisoner? Why did you wait until the dead were buried to move on? I… I can’t have… did they lie to me…?”
Taking a final look down to Salína, squinting in the dark, he gave a sigh. “I… I’m sorry. I hope I get to see you again…”
And with that, he darted out of the tent, sneaking through the sleeping camp of Yoshies, stopping only to knock out another sentry, unable to bring himself to remove his blade to make his escape.
Vachez nodded. “I left Salína with him. When I came back, she was unconscious and he was gone.”
“Did he take his things?” Darkmark inquired.
“Yes. But he didn’t kill anyone, even though he had his sword. He left Salína where she was and knocked out a sentry as he fled. He took a lantern too. It looks like he’s headed for the city.”
Darkmark began pacing. He had been sleeping when the report came in that Mikhail was missing, not very long after the prisoner had fled, by Vachez’s reckoning. Salína had been almost in tears and apologizing almost constantly.
“We have to go after him.” Élloré said. Currently, he, Vachez, Darkmark, and the two vampires were together in what used to be the Baron’s tent. “He’s a threat to everyone around him. He might be trying to call reinforcements after us. The faster we go after him, the better. His tracks are still in the snow but if we wait too long, they won’t be.”
“I’m inclined to agree.” Skafria said. He was holding the egg, which over the course of the march to the city had begun to move on its own a little, rocking back and forth when its parents weren’t carrying it.
“As am I.” Vachez concurred. Darkmark looked around at the group, eliciting a nod from the silvery assassin.
“Very well. The five of us will have to follow him. We can’t just march into a neutral city with an army – we’ll have to leave them here until we find him. And probably split up once we’re inside, too…”
“Wait!” Came a voice, and the group turned to where it came from. Salína stood at the entrance to the crowded tent, her face streaked with tears. “This is all my fault… I’m going too. And… he might listen to me.”
“He lured you into a trap.” Tsi-Lau said sharply. “He’ll no doubt try to do it again. I should’ve killed him the first chance I had.”
Salína shook her head, looking to Darkmark pleadingly. “Please… he’s… he’s not evil… he’s confused.” Glancing to Tsi-Lau, she added, “Why would he leave me alive and use nonlethal force after what he threatened you with?”
After a moment of silence, Darkmark gave in. “Alright, you’re coming with us, but we’re moving out now. Don’t let him trick you again. If you find him, capture him.”
Salína nodded slowly, and left the tent with the others. Wherever you are, I’ll find you…
To be continued…