Chapter 25: The Fort

You can read the first 24 chapters of “An Elusive Hero” here.

They didn’t let me out of their sight now that Tyler had managed to escape. Two guards were at my side at all times, even when I needed to relieve myself. Our captors didn’t want to take any chances at all. Drake and Michelle were still struggling with every step along the way, with their breathing short and irregular. My thoughts wandered to their pain often, but I kept my gaze straightforward most of the time. There was no need to let our enemies think we were up to any more shenanigans.

We traversed the forest surprisingly quickly, but because the sun was still hidden behind a thick wall of grey clouds, I couldn’t tell how close we were to the night. The only hints of how much time had passed were the frequent breaks we took to drink or eat. Most of our captors were not used to be away from civilization for such a long time. Their stamina left much to be desired. Drake coughed quietly. His eyes were barely open, but his wounds weren’t infected and he was able to keep up with our speed. Michelle was quiet, saving what remained of her considerable strength for the small steps she took.

Now, the landscape around us was filled with fields of growing wheat and corn. It didn’t match the beauty of the field of tulips, but then again, that hadn’t brought us any luck. The fields were far prettier than the depressing barren stretch of land we had passed earlier. Our captors still didn’t speak much, as especially the two guards on night duty still seemed to be very disturbed by their failure.

My thoughts wandered to Tyler. Where was he headed? Had he understood my subtle hints? Were my hints subtle enough? A wave of fear and despair washed over my body. What if he hadn’t made out of the forest? I tried to think positively and to channel some of the self-help wisdoms adored by one of my teachers back in the real world. It was no use. My brain refused to remember and so I couldn’t do anything but let the image of a lost and broken Tyler pass.

Just when I had succeeded in diverting my thoughts to the yellow colorof the corn, a massive structure came into sight. I squinted, trying to find out what we were looking at, when I heard the relieved sigh of one of my close guards.

“Finally, we’ve reached the fort.”

So that was our destination. From the distance, I could only make out a wooden palisade, which was at least four times my height tall, and two stone towers flanking it. The leader of the group was elated at having succeeded in getting me so close to their destination and our speed picked up considerably. The gasps of Michelle and Drake made me shiver.

I could tell that the evening was near. Temperatures were dropping and torches were being lit on the palisade. I counted ten of them and hoped that they wouldn’t be guarded by anyone. But as we got closer, I could tell that a soldier stood between each of the torches, each one equipped with a massive crossbow. If Seraphina and Tyler wanted to free us with force, they would need an army.

The shining torches finally let me see what was the palisade was guarding. In the background, I could make out a stone wall, which was once again higher than the palisade. The structure wasn’t flanked by towers, so for me, it just seemed like another wall which needed to be walked through.

We finally reached the palisade before I could give the wall another thought. Two soldiers clad in grey chain armor from head to toe guarded the gate. They were holding pikes and opened the gate with a nod as soon as we approached.  We passed through the gates and I immediately saw why they called it the fort. A scattering of wooden huts lay between us and the stonewall. But the wall was just the hull of a massive, impenetrable pentagon building. No towers flanked the structure, but that wasn’t necessary. Should attackers be able to overcome the palisade with its four towers, the pentagon on the inside would be strong enough to withstand an assault without siege weapons.

My heart fell as we were led inside the stone building. The walls of the pentagon were adorned with shields and sigils of powerful houses, torches provided the light and tiny slits tailor-made for crossbows provided the fresh air. It was nowhere as near as elegant as the Lion’s Den. This was a castle made for battle and not for living. Our captors lead us along a corridor, but made sure to obscure our path as often as possible, sometimes backtracking on purpose or using shortcuts through different rooms. They took no chances anymore. After a while, two of the our captors led Drake and Michelle in a away from me. I wanted to protest and just as I wanted to speak up, one of the guards struck the hilt of his sword across my face. It was clear that my opinion didn’t count on the inside of the fort and that I needed to face the next challenge alone.

Three of the guards remained with me: the leader, the sleepy guard from the night before and a woman with a black ponytail. The leader of the pack had short, scrappy brown hair and a clean-shaven face. He didn’t seem to be much older than 30, but judging by his movements and self-confidence this wasn’t his first mission. His colleagues on the other hand grew visibly nervous as we approached our destination. They tensed up, straightened their backs and made the effort of trying to fix up their hair. We came to a halt in front of a round, red door. The leader turned around and stared at me intently.

“You’re about to meet the Chosen One. Stand straight and show some respect.”

___________________________________________

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. Please also have a look at my other posts this week about Catching Fire and Swiss Politics. Enjoy your weekend!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

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