Alexandros: Ch. 25-26byJoeBarnosky©
Alexandros Manuscript Page 103
I burst from the opening of the keep with the sunlight stinging my eyes. I brought up my hand to cut the glare and looked to where I left my horse. I let out a curse at not seeing it. I scanned the area even though I didn't have much in the way of time. I could feel the creatures riding my heels the entire way up the stairs to the exit.
There! The reins had come loose and it was just a short distance away. I was about to run for it when a snarl rose up behind me. I turned just in time to catch the beast with my hands preventing it from closing its fangs around me. Gaijin slipped from my grasp and at the moment I didn't have the option to worry about it.
The creature struggled trying to free itself of my grip and clamp down upon my face. I used all the strength to keep the foul beast from doing so. Slowly in what seemed minutes I was able to stretch its mouth inch by inch further open until finely with a firm snap its jaw ripped clean from its head.
The body instantly went limp. I could now here the howls from the other beats filtering up from the catacombs and knew I needed to be moving. Pushing the body off me I scrambled to my feet spotting my sword just a few feet from me. I grabbed it and ran for my horse.
I leapt on my horse commanding it to go and galloped quickly from the city. I looked back to see if the beasts had exited the catacombs yet but instead of seeing a pursuit over land I saw sand being kicked up into the air as if they were burrowing underneath the earth. I urged the horse to go faster and it did. Even with the horse running as fast as its stamina would let it, the burrowing creatures still gained. The attack came sooner than expected and not from behind.
The ground exploded just feet ahead of me. The surprise gave the horse a startle, causing it to rear back. Not even my reflexes were fast enough to hold on and I fell from the horse. I was quick to my feet, grabbing the reins to control the frightened animal. Before the creature could set down from its burst out of the ground, I was there dispatching it. It quickly fell into a bloody heap.
As I turned two more burst forth. I somehow anticipated the attack and found myself in the air in a preemptive strike against one. The creature didn't stand a chance against Gaijin. When all three of us landed, the creature I attacked fell in two pieces.
Without falter I was already striking down the second before it had a chance to grasp the situation. I stood over the carnage expecting another attack but none came. Slowly I sheathed my sword carried myself to my horse. I was tired but I could not afford to rest. The ride ahead was long and I still had a mission to carry out.
The saddle felt comforting at a normal stride and it offered a slight comfort. Twilight was closely in like fingers reaching down to cover sky from the Earth. It was going to be a long night.
Report! Khaldun said sternly to the soldier standing at attention.
"We are receiving advanced reports from the messengers now sir," the man said trying to calm his nerves. He wasn't very enthused with having to deliver news other than good news. "All cities except Xios managed to evacuate."
"Any report from Commander Suoi?"
"None sir and no messengers either."
"Very well. Unless you receive a report we will consider it a failed operation." Khaldun's grip on his emotions wavered. His voice didn't fully carry the loss as acceptable as he would have liked it. If the soldier picked up on it, it really would not matter. Any loss was unacceptable to Khaldun and any loss he considered a failure on his part. "Carry on," he said with a gesture of his hand.
"Each of the reporting cities tells the same story. Our soldiers were hideously outnumbered and practically overrun. Their commanders all fought to the death. The on—"
"We can assume Commander Suoi and his men fell the same way," Khaldun remarked.
"Yes sir. Second in Command Badru seems to have escaped with a number of men and now provide protection for the fleeing citizens," the man said with a smile hoping this news would lighten the situation.
"At least there is a bit of good news in there," Khaldun said returning the smile. "Good job," he said reaching out and squeezing the man's shoulder. "When you have something to report on Xios, do so. Also, send out a messenger to intercept Badru and direct him and his force here. The people will be fine in reaching Memphis and his help will be greatly appreciated here."
"Very well sir," the soldier said with a bow, and then he turned and left.
Khaldun stared at the tent entrance long after the man left. His thoughts swirled around the reported events. He trembled slightly as if a cold chill suddenly appeared and just as quickly left. He wasn't afraid of war or battle. He was afraid to fail miserably and most of all, fail his king."
Rashida stayed hidden from anyone able to potentially recognize her. She rode in ahead of Khaldun's army and took up shelter in an empty house overlooking the command portion of his camp. Luckily the general had the city well under evacuation before his arrival. It made it incredibly easier to slip into the city unnoticed.
Khaldun would be angry at her, but he would get over it. Her father, Pharaoh, would be furious. She figured he would just have to deal with it though. She had an ability that she knew if given the opportunity could be put to a beneficial use.
The hard part was the wait. She didn't care to have to do it, but revealing herself would only ensure Khaldun would have her escorted back to Memphis. At least in the midst of battle he would have no choice but accept her help. She settled against the wall with the window just above her head and gazed off into the streams of sunlight the pieced the darkened room. Her thoughts drifted to her brother Ako and how he sought to follow in Khaldun's footsteps.
She was glad he was still too young to join Pharaoh's army. The thought of him in trouble and dying would be too much to bear. But she knew deep down in just a few more years learning from Khaldun he would become a fine warrior and one day take her father's throne.
Khaldun on the other hand.
Just what was she going to do about that man? He wanted her hand in marriage and she just couldn't do it. Not just because they grew up together and she felt more like a sister than anything else. She felt she journeyed on a different path. Her heart told her there was someone in this world she was meant for.
As long as she embraced the thought she would wait for that someone. The hard part was the wait. And she really didn't like the waiting.