Riku stood back from a slain opponent and took in the surroundings. Chaos roamed all around, steel clashing against steel as the Incastans fought valiantly against the Empire’s soldiers. And from the amount of enemies now pouring through the front gate, there were still plenty more Imperial troops left to be dealt with.
An Imperial soldier stepped forward, swinging hi blade in a mighty overhead arc towards the Duke, but Riku sidestepped this and brought his sword up, slicing a deep wound into the wrists of the soldier. As his sword fell to the ground in a clatter, Riku’s blade found its mark in the soldiers’ stomach.
Another came from behind, but Riku blocked his sword and stood back as two Incastan Guards struck him down at once.
“You must fall back My Lord,” One said before blocking the halberd of an Imperial. “The Princess and Duchess must be made secure.” Riku looked around the battlefield, then to the Viceroy Building. His eyes widened when he saw Nikz preparing to exit her room through a window, a rope made out any fabric they had in her hands.
“You two,” Riku yelled at two nearby Guards, who immediately came close to hear his orders. “Come with me, for we must get to the Viceroy building at all costs.”
“Yes, My Lord,” They said in unison before the three of them set forth, slaying any Imperial soldiers that dared to get in their way.
“Nikz, this doesn’t seem like a good idea,” Stone said cautiously as Nikz fastened her makeshift rope tightly around the doorhandles.
“We don’t have much choice Stone,” Nikz replied, even now considering Stone’s feelings despite the circumstances. “We don’t know how long Miles and the others will last. We must get out of this room, find Midnight and Riku and get out of this city before it falls any further.”
“But what about the archers,” Stone questioned again. “At least inside this room we know we are safe.”
“But we also know that in here we won’t be safe for long,” The Princess shot back, now moving towards the window. Cautiously, Nikz opened the window to see the courtyard below had become a field of death. Even though they were outnumbered, the Incastan Guards never once faltered.
Nikz took a deep breath and turned around; tugging the cloth to make sure it was firmly secured. Looking at Stone once more, pulling a smile that neither felt calmed by.
“I’ll yell for you once I’m on the ground,” Nikz explained, and Stone nodded worriedly as she positioned herself on the window ledge, then started walking backwards one step at a time.
The scene below her reminded her of a bad dream, but enhanced beyond anything she dared to imagine. The sound of steel striking steel was heard all around and the sky was turning grey as if it was saddened over the loss of life.
Nikz then dared to look out beyond the walls of Authos, and she nearly lost her grip on her cloth rope in shock before regaining it. There was still at least half of the Imperial army out there, still waiting for the chance to enter the fray.
“Nikz, look out,” Stone’s voice yelled from above, and Nikz moved her head just in time to dodge an arrow, which bounced off the wall beside her.
But another connected with her rope, tearing it asunder in an eye-blink.
“NIKZ,” Stone practically screamed as she watched Nikz fall, her long black hair trailing behind her.
Nikz turned herself around, seeing the stone courtyard approaching at a rapid rate. The wind roared past her ears, drowning out Stone’s cries of fear. Nikz herself was in a paralysed panic. Her heart beat fiercely, yet fear barred her from moving her body any further than an inch. All sounds around her – those of the battle below or otherwise – seemed to be dampened somehow, sounding fuzzy and indecipherable.
“So,” Nikz thought as she closed her eyes, “This is where it ends?”
But instead of impacting into the ground, someone caught her, causing them both to roll forward, Nikz resting on-top of her saviour. Opening her emerald coloured eyes, Nikz saw Riku’s weary form lying beneath her.
“Riku,” she said, quickly getting off of him. “Are you okay?”
“Sure,” He moaned, propping himself onto his elbows, but wincing as he moved his left shoulder. “Catching falling Princesses is great for my health.”
“You don’t have to be rude about it,” Nikz said, pouting before seeing one of the soldiers who accompanied Riku struck down by an Imperial solder. Before she could react, Riku was on his feet and slit the Imperial’s throat, letting him fall limply to the ground.
“Come on Nikz,” Riku said, offering her his hand. “We need to get you safe. I have sent reinforcements inside to evacuate Stone. We’ll move further into the city and then I’ll have you two sent back to Astraea. I’ll stay behind to organise the defence of the city.”
“Oh no you don’t,” Nikz countered as he led her away from the gates of the wall, defeating anyone that dare cross them, “I’m not leaving this city unless we all leave. That means you, me, Stone and Midnight.”
“Nikz, now is not the best time for this argument.”
“Commander of Incasta,” An accented voice shouted out, forcing Riku and Nikz to stop in the alleyway they had escaped into at see their assailant.
He wore less armour than his fellow Imperials; nothing more than wrist and shin guards and black shoulder armour trimmed in gold. A brown cloak that ended in tatters hung down to his ankles and medals hung on his dark red shirt displayed him as a man of high military rank.
He had a head of black hair, a large scar trickling down the left side of his face like a river system. The tired stare of his dull brown eyes and the age lines underneath them told Riku this man had seen many a battle.
“You can speak our tongue?” Riku asked, turning to the stranger, sword at the ready.
“Yes,” The soldier replied, drawing his sword before holding it to his side. “All leaders of the Imperial army must know the languages of other nations for meetings like this. I am Mirco Krzysztof, Commander of the seventh division of the Imperial army.”
“Seventh division,” Nikz asked in astonishment. Riku’s eyes widened in surprise to this as well; seeing that massive army, only to find out that was one seventh of the Empire’s military strength, was mind-boggling.
“I am Duke Riku,” He said in response, taking a battle stance while trying to ignore the pain from catching Nikz, “Minister of Defence for Incasta. I assume you wish to kill us?”
“I am not my army,” Commander Krzysztof said, taking a step forward. “I would never harm a lady. You, an armed opponent on the battlefields of war, on the other hand...”
Riku barely had enough time to block the Commanders’ strike before being kicked in the stomach and punched in the face, sending Riku down to the ground. The Duke rolled out of the way of Krzysztof’s sword, rose to one knee before swinging hard.
The Imperial Commander blocked Riku’s slash as the Duke stood up, but forced the blocked blade up before slicing Riku’s right wrist.
Riku yelled in pain as he dropped his sword and fell to one knee, clutching his wrist which now bled furiously. The earlier injury to his shoulder now faded to a numbing ache compared to this new pain.
“Riku,” Nikz, shouted, instantly rushing to his side.
“Nikz,” Riku said through gritted teeth, “Run, safe yourself.”
“I already told you,” She said, smiling at his stubbornness, “I am not leaving this city without all of my family.”
“A noble sentiment,” Krzysztof said, now standing before the two, Riku’s blood dripping off the edge of his sword. “But, my lady, I must ask you to move aside.”
The trademark determined look returned across Nikz’s face as she stood up in-between Riku and the Commander, arms outstretched.
“I am Nikz, Princess of Incasta,” She proclaimed defiantly. “And if you want him, you must go through me first.”
Krzysztof scowled at her, indecision clearly rolling around behind those weary eyes of his.
“Narednik,” A rough voice called out, and all eyes turned to the entrance of another alleyway.
There, beside an Imperial soldier and two young commoners, stood Midnight.