A Short Story by Ehtisham Rizvi
“This is bad.” The blood dripping from his brow had somehow found its way to his mouth. The cold night air was penetrating through his skin, chilling his very bones. He had already lost both his shoes, his clothes were torn, and he was pretty sure his feet were bleeding profusely, leaving a crimson trail on the rocky road behind him.
If his pursuers had been ordinary human beings, the bloody trail would have led them straight to him. Yet he wished they had been human. If they had been ordinary humans he would have stood a chance, a minor chance, but a chance none the less. He envied those pursued by humans. “This is bad.” The thought kept crawling back into his mind.
He knew they had his scent, his sweat, his blood, they could smell it miles away, and they were on his trail.
The messenger had news to deliver. Important news. The fate of a whole regime depended on it. The insurgents could not afford for him to deliver the scroll. He could not afford to fail. The queen had written the message in her own blood, and had trusted him to deliver it to the garrison.
He had barely escaped the skirmish outside the castle, and was on his way to the garrison when the insurgents intercepted him. He fought as well as he could, he fought as well as anyone could in his predicament, but they just kept coming at him. He managed to kill most of them, and then ran for it. His horse had already been mauled by the hairy beasts during the fight, but the garrison wasn’t far away, “I can make it in an hour,” he had initially thought.
His armor was weighing him down, so he had to remove most of it. The chainmail which saved his life on numerous occasions now seemed like a burden that would ultimately be his undoing. Yet he kept running. The sun was about to rise, and he could see the well-lit towers of the garrison from the distance. The sight gave him hope, he was about to make it, he was about to save the Queendom, but something halted him in his tracks.
The rocky road leading to the garrison was blocked by insurgents. They had not seen him yet, it was a miracle they had not smelled him, they were too busy sinking their teeth in the dead corpses of the patrol guards. There were five of them, and there was no way around them.
“I would sneak up to them. They are busy eating, I will get the one closest to me, and then, and then…” He played many scenarios in his mind, none of them ended up with him being victorious over five crossbreeds. “If I only had a bow and arrow” he could have shot the scroll in the direction of the gate, someone would have surely found it.
He knew that while he was standing there indecisively, the crossbreeds on his trail were getting closer. He started sneaking up to the beasts who were still feasting on the corpses. With clenched jaws and tightened grip on the hilt of his sword; he tried to breathe quietly, afraid that the beasts would hear him. He knew they would smell him before they would hear him, but some things he had no control over, and those things he never worried about.
He was true in judging their sense of smell. The crossbreeds attacked him before he could sneak anywhere near them. He had his sword, they had their claws, and teeth, and horns. He was one, they were five. He was a knight of Placentia, they were Myali’s twisted experiment. He had faith on his side, they had hunger. He had the goddess looking over him, and they served the god of all gods.
The battle was as bloody as there is blood in one human and five crossbreeds. He lost a few fingers and an ear, but the crossbreeds lost their heads. He overcame them, but he lost everything he had in him to do so. There was no way he could walk to the garrison now. The sun had already risen half way through, and he could see the drawbridge being lowered over the moat.
“Praise the goddess, praise the queen.” He forgot all about the pain in his wide open wounds pushing him towards the darkness. The lowering of the drawbridge meant only one thing. The garrison had sent someone to check on the night patrols. “The scroll would make it to its intended destination, the Queendom will survive.” His last thought set his mind at peace.
“He killed five of them, unbelievable!” The general was in awe. The sun had risen, and the general stood over the knight’s dead body, surrounded by those of the crossbreeds. The scroll, written in Silvia’s blood, has reached the hands it was meant for.
“Send a message to Myali.” The general ordered one of his subordinates. “Tell him, the queen had a daughter. She hid her away in a secret chamber and dressed her as a commoner. Her very existence was undisclosed till now.” He smirked.
“Tell him, the throne of Placentia has an heiress. His animals may have killed the queen, but there is another to take her place.” His voice grew cold. “This scroll contains directions to the chamber.” He handed the scroll to the subordinate. “Tell him to find the girl and finish the job.”
“And what about the knight?” The subordinate inquired about the dead knight.
“Leave him for the crossbreeds.”