Chapter 11 = Liberty or Death
Disclaimer: Although all characters here are of my own invention, the original Yoshi is copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
After waiting a few moments to allow their eyes to adjust to the bright light, the four escapees began to make their way forward, towards the gate of the castle’s perimeter wall. As they rounded a circular tower, they caught sight of the portcullis, which was closed tightly and firmly guarded.
“Damn it.” Manny cursed, clenching his left hand into a fist. “How are we going to get out?”
“Maybe if we got up on these battlements…” Laen began, waving to the wall next to them, “We could get over the walls somehow.”
“That’s an idea, but how do we get inside?” Karin said.
There was a pause while they thought hard, when Manny said, “Surely there’s a back entrance here. Like a storeroom door or something. Stables, maybe.”
“Could be…” Marcus mused, “I suppose there’s only one way to find out.” And with that, they ran off in the direction they came, looking along the walls for a door or some way to get in.
Past two more towers, they found what they were looking for; a ground-level window leading into what looked like a kitchen, which Marcus attempted to push open. It was locked and fastened shut, so Marcus smashed the single pane of glass with his flail, sending glass shards into the room. He quickly scrambled inside, careful not to cut himself on the fragments of glass around the edges of the frame, and jumped down onto a granite floor.
The kitchen was only occupied by a single human servant, who immediately ran into the next room and slammed the door shut as he took off. Karin jumped in behind Marcus, followed closely by Laen and Manny. Manny, however, accidentally cut open his left arm on a shard of glass in the frame and cursed as he landed, and began licking the wound with the ball of his tongue.
“Manny, are you okay?” Karin asked, taking his arm and looking at the injury.
He replied, “Yeah, I’m fine, it just stings a little…”
“You’ve got a bit of glass in that cut… I don’t know if I can get it out…” Karin said, as she began to look around the room. She grabbed a pair of scissors off a nearby table, and carefully used the very end of the scissor points to grab hold of the glass fragment and extricate it from the wound, making Manny wince in pain. Manny thanked her as she put the scissors back down, and declined further help.
As they began to leave, Manny took a roll of bread off one of the counters and ate it. Marcus was about to chide him when he realised that he too was extremely hungry, and after looking around for a moment he spotted a whole melon on one of the far tables. He stepped forward a few feet until he was in range, then plucked it off the plate it was on with his tongue, and ate it whole, savouring the taste. Karin had already found a plate of grilled meat of some kind, and gratefully wolfed it down, before tagging along again as the group left the kitchens.
They found themselves in a small corridor, with two guards down the hall with their backs turned to them. Quietly taking a flight of stairs on their left, the group scaled the stairway as far as it led, up three floors to the top of the castle, before opening a steel door and getting onto the battlements.
They were greeted by two armoured human guards, and Marcus and Manny ran forward to attack, leaving Karin and Laen behind for their own safety. Before Marcus could even attack, the guard he was engaging was brought down as an arrow pierced his neck and his the chainmail covering the back of his neck. Manny was deftly knocking aside the blows dealt to him by the guard, and Marcus quickly ran up and hit the guard’s sword arm with his flail, making him cry out from the injury. Manny took his chance and made an upthrust, sending his sword point in just underneath the breast plate and up into the guard’s stomach, and pulled his sword out again as the guard fell to the floor.
They ran along the battlements, looking for somewhere close enough to the walls for them to escape. As they reached one corner of the square design castle, they passed a large set of double doors, and Laen cried out for the others to stop.
The Yoshies turned around to look at her and gasped in awe; she had taken out her necklace and the rune on it was glowing brightly, casting a light blue light over Laen’s face and upper body. She gave a nervous look up to the Yoshies, and muttered, “This isn’t good…”
“What? Why, what’s happening?” Karin asked.
Laen explained, “This is a symbol of life, and it’s reacting adversely to some powerful dark magic… some great force is in this chamber,” she said, pointing to the double doors, “and it’s very, very dangerous.”
“What sort of force?” Manny inquired.
“Some dark magic is at work.” Laen replied. “Either a powerful wizard is inside this chamber, or some magic spell cast by a wizard is at work inside here.”
Manny went up to the door and began to push at it. Laen hissed a command at him to get away, but he ignored her and pushed the door open a crack so that he could look inside the room. After standing at the door for a moment, he slowly stepped back, and whispered to them, “That’s the Baron’s chamber… I can see a red Yoshi sitting on what looks like a small throne, and he’s surrounded by human guards…”
Manny suddenly became very quiet, and his eyes were looking over Marcus’s shoulder. Karin noticed this and looked in the direction of Manny’s gaze, and jumped backwards with a yelp of surprise, startling Marcus. The brown Yoshi looked over his shoulder to find at least five armoured soldiers almost on top of him, and he scrambled away as fast as he could.
But it was worthless; coming at them from the other direction was en equally large group of soldiers, and in the lead was the jailer that had been stealing their possessions earlier. He cackled as he came close to them, and barked, “Right! Put your weapons away, now, or we’ll kill you! You’re outnumbered, outarmoured, and basically in very, very deep trouble.”
Marcus grudgingly put his flail back in the three leather rings on his saddlebags, and Manny sheathed his sword, watching Laen laboriously strap her bow to her back. Marcus felt a sword at his back, and a gruff voice behind him commanded, “Hands up”, which Marcus reluctantly obeyed.
The jailer motioned to his soldiers and said, “Right, you six, stay here in case they make a run for it. You five,” he said, turning around to address those behind him, “come with me and we’ll take these lowlifes to the baron…”
“You’re pretty full of yourself for a lowly jailer.” One of the soldiers said as they surrounded the unarmed party. The jailer responded with an expletive-laced command, before pushing open the double doors and leading the prisoners into the chamber.
It was a very large and ornate throne room of sorts; even for a baron it was fairly luxurious. Many large marble columns stretched up to the ceiling, and polished tiles reflected the images of the soldiers, Laen, and the Yoshies as they were brought forward. On an elevated platform, sitting on a large throne, was a red Yoshi draped in a blue silk cape, with his head resting in his left hand, and as they got closer the rune on Laen’s necklace began to shine brighter. They came to a halt just inside, illuminated not only by the midmorning daylight streaming in through the windows, but by several torches burning away on all sides.
The red Yoshi, evidently the baron of the city, slowly rose from his seat, grabbed a pear from a nearby fruit bowl, and ate it whole as he stepped down to speak to the jailer. The human saluted him before breaking into an explanation.
“My lord, these criminals were found outside the city. We brought them to the jail but they managed to escape. However, they didn’t get far, and we’ve got them here now. There are no others.”
The baron chuckled to himself. “Excellent work. This will make interesting news to report back to… hello there, who’s that?” he said, pointing to Marcus. “Bring that one forward to me.” He commanded, and the soldiers in front opened up to allow Marcus to be pushed forward in front of the baron.
After studying Marcus for a moment, the baron reached beneath his robe and draw a large, two-handed sword with great flourish. Marcus was gripped with fear; he wanted to grab his flail, but the other soldiers would either kill him or attack his defenceless friends. The baron gave a laugh as he put the point into the floor and leaned on his sword.
“Ah, yes, my superior mentioned such a Yoshi… you have done very well, my men, to capture this young troublemaker. Foryo will be most pleased.”
“What?” Marcus burst out, “You know him?”
The baron stuck Marcus across the face with the back of his hand, saying, “Treat your superiors with a little respect, whelp.” The soldiers behind Marcus laughed for a moment, but Marcus stepped forward again.
“Fine then, my lord, who is Foryo and how do you know him?”
“I work for him now… the best decision I ever made. Granted, I needed a little persuasion, but still it’s been worked out. I heard he was looking for you… Marcus.”
“How do you know my name?”
The baron opened his mouth and used his tongue like a whip, striking Marcus across the side of his head with a solid blow and knocking him to the floor. He got to his feet again, and spat at the baron’s feet in a sign of disrespect.
Nonchalantly, the baron looked down, before taking his sword in his hands and making a broad swing at Marcus. The sword was a good six feet long, and the guards stepped back and left the pair of blue Yoshies along with Laen right in front. Marcus barely managed to duck the high slice, and while the baron recovered from the swing he prepared to draw his flail.
But suddenly, he heard several shouts of pain, and spared a glance over his shoulder to see three of the five soldiers on the floor, the other two just clutching their stomachs, and the jailer running away to a far side of the room. As the fifth soldier fell to the ground, a figure stood behind it with a pair of bloodied swords.
The pure white Yoshi effortlessly ran forward after the jailer and killed him with a single sword stroke. Both Marcus and the baron looked, awestruck, as the Yoshi skidded to a stop and made a sudden turn, before running back towards the red Yoshi.
“Xenly!” Marcus cried out, leaping backwards as she jumped into the air and struck the baron’s massive sword with both her blades. He retaliated with a vertical swipe, cracking one of the floor tiles as Xenly nimbly sidestepped the attack. As repeated clangs of steel sounded from behind him, Marcus ran back to his friends who had drawn their weapons, with the exception of Karin.
After turning around and watching the fight for a few moments, Manny suggested, “Shouldn’t we help her?”. Xenly made two rapid attacks, both of which the baron parried, and she jumped up and over a low slash. Laen looked at her necklace for a moment, which was shining a bright blue, and said, “I think I’ve worked it out…”
“What was that?” Manny said, not taking his eyes away as Xenly’s arm was nearly cut off by a counterattack.
“The baron’s possessed… he’s not a magic user, and there aren’t any in this room. You can tell from his actions that he’s being controlled.”
“Well,” Karin asked as Xenly moved both her swords to her left hand and reached into her saddlebags, “How do we… uh… un-possess him?”
“To exorcise him, we’ll need a magic spell… I can’t quite remember the incantation…”
Karin grabbed a sword from a fallen guard and aimed the point at the baron. “It doesn’t matter… just tell me what you think it is!”
“I… I can’t remember…” Laen muttered, closing her eyes in thought. Xenly withdrew three ninja stars from her saddlebag and threw them all at once, but one missed the baron and the other two struck his blade. “You two try and defeat him while I attempt to remember. Don’t kill him, just subdue him…”
“Easier said than done!” Marcus cried as he and Manny ran to the aid of Xenly. Manny moved around to the front to help Xenly directly, while Marcus ran around behind the baron and swung at his back. The spiked steel balls on his flail struck solid armour concealed under the robe, and the baron let go of his sword for a moment to take a swing at Marcus with his fist. The brown Yoshi dodged, and the baron resumed fighting his two opponents, but Marcus went up behind him again and swung at the back of the baron’s head.
He ducked, and Marcus’s swing went clear, but while he was recovering from the swing the baron finally made a successful swipe and slashed a huge gash in Marcus’s chest. He cried out in pain as he was knocked back a little, and he fell to the floor, his vision blurring as the sounds of battle reached him.
He heard the pit-pat of Yoshi boots, and a blurry Karin stepped into his field of vision. She healed the wound on Marcus’s chest, and while he was catching his breath she turned around and cast the shield spell on Manny and Xenly.
Almost instantly, they had the upper hand, and the baron was beaten back towards his throne as his attacks proved ineffective, striking sparks on the shimmering half-shields. Marcus got to his feet but had to hold onto Karin to stay upright, and they watched the battle unfold from their vantage point. Sweat was almost pouring off of Xenly and was clearly visible on Manny, but the baron didn’t seem to be showing signs of tiredness. Xenly’s shield was jumping all over the place as she swung with her left sword, and crackling sounds could be heard as the two shields kept being brought close to each other.
Then, Laen’s voice called out to Karin, loudly and clearly. “I’ve got it! Lefenna Exorcisina!”
“Lefenna Exorcisina!” Karin repeated, and an electric blue bolt shot out of the end of her sword and struck the baron in the back. There was a shrill, otherworldly shriek, and what looked like some sort of shade rose up from the baron, who was paralysed in midair. The shade began to dissipate, before breaking away and disintegrating into nothingness. The baron resumed his fall and slammed into the floor, skidding on the polished tiles before coming to rest.
Slowly, he opened his eyes and looked up; as soon as he saw Manny and Xenly with their swords drawn he scrabbled back against a column and cried, “Don’t kill me! I don’t know what I’ve been doing; that damned wizard from Sansata cast some sort of spell on me and I can’t remember what happened next!”
“It’s alright now, we’ve exorcised you, and you’re fine.” Xenly said, sheathing her swords and helping the baron to his feet. Manny also sheathed his sword, taking a moment to catch his breath and wipe the sweat from his brow.
The baron’s eyes darted around the room as he saw the slain humans, and he mumbled, “What in all the names of the gods are humans doing in my castle?”
“You… uh… employed them, it seems.” Marcus explained, coming up from behind. “They caught us and imprisoned us simply for being Yoshies, and they’re all over the city as guards.”
“Ridiculous!” the baron cried, “I’ll have them all killed! My elite guards must still be out there somewhere, I’ll go find them and purge Lince of all those damned humans…”
“No need.” Xenly said, “There’s already a rebellion going on. Or at least there was when I arrived here about an hour ago.”
The baron smiled, and picked his sword up off the floor and sheathed it. “Well then, I’ll go sort that out… you can wait in the guest rooms until I’ve come back, they’re just over there. They’ll make a good change from the dungeons, I can tell you that. I’ll pick it up from here, and you have my eternal thanks.”
Xenly nodded. “Thanks accepted. We shall see you later, your lordship.”
They parted ways, and after disposing of the lone guard in the guest rooms the five of them collapsed on the beds. The rooms were very comfortable, with pictures on the walls and six beds to a room, and all kinds of extravagant furnishings and comforts. He was reluctant to fall asleep again, but as he lay on the soft bed he began to feel drowsy, and he managed to remove his saddle and boots before getting under the covers and falling asleep. The final thing he noticed before he slipped into dreams was that Manny and Karin were sitting next to each other on a sofa, snoring away in each other’s arms.
I miss Alziana’s companionship… Marcus thought, before becoming oblivious to the world around him.
To be continued…