“We must hurry and escape. Run as far away as possible. We must not remain here, no matter what. We must escape!”
Shelise had never seen her brother speak so passionately or show such emotion before. She couldn’t speak for a moment due to the shock of seeing her brother’s strange actions.
“Are you listening to me!?”
Aleksandros shouted, probably the first time he had ever done so. This only perplexed his sister even more.
“Brother, what’s wrong? Do you know what is going on?”
Her voice was shaking. The words and actions of her brother were scaring her.
“A calamity is about to fall upon our heads. I…. don’t wish for you to be hurt by it. So please, we must run. Run away as fast as we can!”
Aleksandros words became calmer, and he returned to his usual demeanor which only confused Shelise more.
“Brother, you must be joking with me.”
Aleksandros shook his head and realized it wouldn’t be so simple to convince her.
“Let’s go, follow me.”
Aleksandros took Shelise’s hand and pulled her along. She was surprised by his touch and almost pulled herself free, but Aleksandros gripped her firmly and didn’t let go. Shelise had never seen her brother act as he was now doing. She couldn’t even remember the last time he took the initiative to actually touch her.
Her brother pulled her along, and they ran out of the library into the main castle hall where there was now a large commotion. Servants were running around chaotically to and fro. Brock finally noticed Aleksandros and rushed towards him.
“Young master, young lady, we must go! Quickly now!”
Shelise yanked her hand away from her brother and asked in a quivering voice, “What’s going on Brock? Can someone please explain to me what is going on?”
“The Dukedom is under attack. I don’t know much more than that. Let’s hurry to the Duchess.”
Brock led the way as the three hurriedly dashed through the castle to the assembly hall where the Duchess was sure to be. There were servants and soldiers everywhere running to complete their orders and objectives. Aleksandros wasn’t entirely sure of what was going on, but he could guess.
The enemy most likely had finally reached their home after so many years, and this meant that the armies of the kingdom at the battlefront had lost.
The Duke must be dead, and perhaps even the king for the enemy to have breached so far into this kingdom. Well, I knew this day would come sooner or later even if I didn’t know exactly how it would come.
Aleksandros was not surprised in the least. He had been preparing his heart for this day for a long time now. He was only surprised that it had taken so long. It was rare he was able to live as long as he had in this lifetime.
When they arrived in the assembly hall, Aleksandros could see his mother frantically giving out orders to the commanders left defending the castle. She was clearly preparing to abandon the castle and escape with as many people as possible.
“I don’t understand, what does this mean? Has my husband lost the war? How could the Republics and the Empire have broken through our battle lines?”
The Duchess was shouting at no one in particular. She was clearly perturbed and having difficulty composing herself.
“Mother, what is going on?” Shelise rushed towards her mother and asked frantically.
“Good, Aleks and Shelise, you are here. You must escape towards the capital. It is no longer safe here!”
“Mother I don’t understand. Where is father and the king? Aren’t our armies fighting the enemy at the border?”
The Duchess halted and calmed herself momentarily, “I don’t know. I don’t even want to imagine what this means. Do you understand Shelise? The only thing now we can do is escape. We do not have the manpower to hold this castle. It’s not safe here, and we must escape. Our soldiers and commanders will handle the defense, and we will retreat to the capital with the people.”
Shelise was about to speak but was stopped by Aleksandros who placed his hand on her shoulder.
“Just listen to mother.”
Shelise nodded and visibly calmed after hearing her brother’s words.
“We will only take the bare necessities and leave immediately. We don’t have time to take much. The people are already being gathered, and soldiers have been assigned to guard us on our escape to the capital.”
A small regiment was quickly put together to guard the citizens living in the castle and its surrounding areas, although it would be too difficult to gather everyone in such a short time. Those who could assemble quickly attempted to head towards the convoy which was set to head towards the capital.
Within an hour those who could be gathered had been, and the convoy left the castle with five hundred soldiers to escort them. It wasn’t a large force, but their scouts had reported the enemy still being a day away even if they marched quickly.
There were thousands of civilians among the convoy, all of those who could assemble within that time period. Unfortunately, there were many thousands who could not be assembled. The word had been spread regardless and they would still have the opportunity to escape if they so wished. Most of the people gathered here were maids and other servants as well as those living within the castle town itself.
The convoy left the castle and headed as quickly as it could in the direction of the capital. Despite their best efforts, the convoy creeped along slowly due to the sheer number of people on foot and the chaos of their situation. It was difficult to keep the people calm and moving along at a steady pace.
Aleksandros acted as if he were an observer watching the chaos unfold from atop his horse. He could only feel like none of this were real. It was as if he were just a passenger in someone’s life not his own.
His sister remained near at his side, but she was strangely quiet. Being near her brother calmed her nerves. She could see that nothing ever seemed to bother him and this gave her confidence. Their mother rode at the front of the convoy, she didn’t bother to look back, and one could easily see that her nerves were taut.
She had once been a great beauty, but the stress and worry visible in her bearing and face had marred that beauty. Nonetheless, she was a great noble with a proper upbringing and she wouldn’t allow any of her worry to hold her back. She still had the poise and charisma of the duchess that she was as she led the convoy.
A few hours after they had left the castle, the sound of horns blared from somewhere in the distance in the direction they had traveled from. The Duchess called a stop to the convoy and summoned one of her officers to her side and proceeded to discuss something with him in whispered tones. She suddenly turned to look at her son and daughter with a look of worry that spoke volumes.
It seems that the danger has caught up to us. I’m strangely calm. Is it because I have already accepted my fate?
Aleksandros was well aware of what those horns meant.
“Brother, do you know what is going on?”
Aleksandros turned to look at his sister, but he remained silent. She didn’t bother to say anything further and looked towards her mother discussing with the officer ahead. Their mother soon rode back towards their side.
“Aleks, Shelise. The two of you… I am going to send the two of you away from the convoy. You must travel quickly and keep yourselves well hidden. Aleks, do you understand my meaning? Brock will go with you and keep you safe.”
Aleksandros simply nodded, he was clear on what was going on and what his mother intended.
Brock, on the other hand, wore a grim expression. One might not be able to tell from his usually servile demeanor, but Brock was a powerful warrior in his own right. He had even achieved an advanced class and had some fame within the kingdom. With his experience and strength, he would be able to keep the two safe or so their mother hoped.
“Mother, I don’t understand. Won’t it be safer if we stay with the convoy? Why are you sending us away?”
Before her mother could respond the sudden sound of bangs could be heard somewhere in the distance.
“Those are the sound of gunshots from a magic-infused gun. These guns are newly invented magic guns from the republic. Their dragoneers are outfitted with these as standard equipment.”
They were surprised to hear that Aleksandros was so knowledgeable about the weapons of the republic and that he could tell just from the sound of those distant bangs.
“Are you certain of this?” Asked the Duchess with some doubt.
“Yes.” Replied Aleksandros firmly leaving little doubt that he was confident in his assessment.
A look of fear momentarily crossed his mother’s face but was replaced in the next moment with fierce determination.