Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence.
Author's Notes: 1,879 words. Edited on request; still written around November 2016. I want to invent a time machine and hit my past self in the back of the head for calling a horse a "vehicle" - that's been edited too, fyi.
"Who is he?" questioned the tired man, who was most likely the leader. He gestured towards Aquila, but didn't seem to be addressing the question to anyone in particular.
"He appears to be one of Exedor's messengers, Alarick," the woman replied calmly, looking weaker and paler and struggling to take a few steps. Eremia ran over and tried to help her, but the woman softly pushed her aside. "Perhaps a reconnaissance man? Either way, he looks young and harmless."
Alarick shuffled in his seat. "I'm not willing to take any chances," he concluded. "Tie him up and bring him with you."
Jonah accept the leader's hand and was hoisted onto the horse. Eremia, however, crossed her arms and glared at him. "What do you think you're doing?" she demanded. "If you are allied with the Confederacy, you support Exedor. Why are you tying up its - my - soldiers? Your friend even said he was not a threat, and he only appeared when that damned prince tried to kill us. He saved the life of my servant. Is that not enough for you?"
Alarick sighed as he pulled a long amount of rope from a bag attached to the horse and handed it to the woman. "I'm going to be honest with you. If what I've heard is true, you, and your allies, snuck out from under the King of Exedor's nose, instigated a country-wide manhunt, and fought a brash group of thugs. As I've been informed, you managed to kill the leader of an Eimhin procession of crooks that has made a living antagonizing Exedor and using its position by the border and the Eimhin army to evade arrest. After all that, you somehow managed to hold off the Prince's army long enough for us to arrive, though we had expected you would come here and had moved as quickly as possible."
"Yes, I appreciate the flattery," said an acerbic Eremia, taking a step back as he extended his arm, while she watched the woman tie up the soldier and drag him towards her horse. As much as she wanted to stop the ginger-haired woman, Eremia knew that she was too tired and weak to do so. Eremia had spent herself thoroughly, and now she only wanted rest.
"What I'm saying is that it's a miracle you're still alive," said Alarick forcefully, catching and pulling in Eremia's attention. "You have been reckless beyond belief, but were brilliant about it. That earns my respect. So, if you want to know, we distrust your country, as hard as that is to believe. We feel that they are hiding more than they let on. They did send us to keep an eye on the border before your escape, and we came, but only out of loyalty to the Confederacy. We needed to make sure everything was secure, and that Ailean would not attempt one of his ploys. It was easy enough to find you when Jonathan told us about what had happened, but I do not think we can merely return you to Exedor."
Eremia sighed. By now, the woman had lifted the unconscious Aquila onto the horse, and was now helping Yorew stand up and bringing him to where she'd just left Aquila. They were having a hushed conversation, but the sweat dripping down his face indicated it was some serious matter. "So, after this lengthy and verbose explanation, what makes you think that I'll come with you?"
She already knew the answer. Alarick gestured around him and replied, "Do you have any other choice?"
Eremia looked down at the ground, mumbled, and accepted his hand, he pulling her up and behind Jonah. "I think not."
Alarick laughed, yet it was a light and hollow one. "We never do. Good girl."
And then, Alarick locked eyes with each of his fellow soldiers and nodded. The elaborate gathering then departed, horses running gently across the fields as they began to make their way through the hills and landscape towards their destination, which Eremia guessed she would see quickly enough.
Something was wrong.
Alarick restrained his horse suddenly, his followers stopped behind a hill. Eremia, half asleep by then, was suddenly awoken by the sight of Alarick cupping his ear with one hand and gesturing for the others to quiet their horses. After a few seconds, he breathed a few curse words under his ears, and cracked the reins of the horse in one quick motion. Now Eremia found herself suddenly responsible for keeping her sleeping brother from falling off of the horse as they galloped around the hill, grabbing onto him as she tried to listen in between the sounds of horses dashing and spotting briefly the grim faces of their riders.
After a few seconds, it was then that she heard the familiar rumble of cavalry in the distance, and groaned. She had hoped that her troubles had concluded for the day, but such luck was not to come her way.
By now, she could see a series of tents arranged in the distance, next to an expansive farmland. It would've been easier to see if it wasn't being covered in dust.
As they rapidly neared, she could see the silhouettes of men on horseback firing arrows at arrangements of guards and soldiers who tried their best to fight back. Given what she could see, there was the impression of a large number of fighters on both sides, trying their best to strike down or repulse whatever foe was most available. As such, the conflict looked disorganized and maddening, and the clouds of dust and sounds of screaming and warfare didn't help. Then, of course, Eremia remembered that she was being carried right into the midst of the crisis.
"Jonathan! Terasu! To the right! Gather as many fighters as you can and build a line around your tents!" called Alarick, brandishing a sword. The teen with the bow and the blue-haired girl dashed off in that direction. Eremia hastily realized that it would be a bad idea to try and leap off of the horse when they were so close to the battlefield, and so held on to Jonah as hard as he could. "Rowland! Madeleine! Look for Ceinen and defend the general's tent!" The red-haired boy and ginger-haired lady followed his instructions.
With the sounds of war now a massive din, and the other generals lost to the fog and dust, Alarick turned his back to face Jonah and Eremia, his face contorted in silent, seething rage. "I apologize for what might happen next. I had no intention to drag you into battle, but I have no other choice. I must keep us all alive, and if that means invoking war, so be it. Brace yourselves!"
And, with that, they jumped in to the carnage.
It was a bizarre experience for Eremia. She had never seen a battle on this scope before. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as they dashed past tents dotted with arrow holes, some aflame. Soldiers wearing dark gray outfits and chain-mail armor shouted commands and rushed their attackers, who wove those sickeningly orange and brown flags that Eremia had seen earlier. She wasn't surprised, but horrified as individuals dashed to and from the dust and were shot down within it, landing upon the ground. In turn, spooked horses without riders scattered about, people jumping aside as they charged heedlessly. In the distance, blasts of magic cast lights through the landscape, and she could see healing energy beginning to pour its way through the air.
And then came a rider, with his bow stretched taught and prepared to snipe at them. Eremia's eyes widened as Alarick calmly plunged his sword into the man's chest while riding past, and her mouth fell open as Alarick let go of the weapon and the man fell dead onto the ground. He merely sighed and pulled out a second sword from another scabbard.
Now she was rather glad to be with him. In this scene of madness and screaming, she was fairly happy to be close to the one individual who seemed to have some sort of sense.
However, he appeared to be searching for something. Alarick scanned his surroundings while jumping past fireplaces and dodging the arrows that flew all around him, as though a frenzy of bees. It was hard to ignore the blood on the ground, but Eremia squinted and allowed Alarick to do his job. By now, they were close to one particular set of magic attacks, which waved fire into the air. As it dispelled some of the ambient dust particles, Eremia realized that it belonged to a series of mages surrounding a particularly large and fortified tent. At the front was Madeleine and a strange-looking man. In the interplay of light and shadows, he looked like a bipedal deer with large antlers and robes that shook, small glass vials dancing upon them. This man cast beams of ice that stabbed at a parade of archers racing each other in a circle around them.
Alarick sighted something, however, and dashed off, leaving the scene behind. A few seconds passed by before a large blur appeared on the other end of a still blazing campfire a short distance away, and it was then that the girl recognized an eerily familiar impression.
The mysterious rider came to the same conclusion about them, and his horse began to gallop frantically off. This only dogged Alarick on, and so he followed. Now it came down to a race, which might've been exhilarating if they weren't doing it in the midst of a battlefield, and if Eremia had to grip the horses's sides with her legs as powerfully as her weak frame could muster so that she didn't fall off in the process. Jonah, who somehow managed to be a brilliant sleeper, began to shake and yawn. Eremia hoped that he wouldn't have to see this carnage, although a small part of her was more than happy to rub in his face just what his plans had caused.
Whoever Alarick's opponent was, and however skilled they might be on horseback, Alarick was still more capable. He was now almost parallel to the individual in question, and Eremia could see his long, flowing blonde hair dance as the impressions of a proud and handsome looking gentleman appeared. Her heart froze in fear for a second, as she assumed it was the crook that had almost killed Jonah, but she then remembered that he looked like her distant impressions of the cavalry commander. This had to be the prince, Ailean. Were Ailean and crook related? Now that she thought about it - or, what little thought she could devote to it - that made sense. Only, Ailean had a far thinner frame, and his hair was partly tied up in dreadlocks.
"I hope you're good at improvisation," called out Alarick before handing the reins to Eremia with his non-sword hand. She clasped them without a second thought or awareness why, they forming a neck-rest for Jonah. And then she screamed as Alarick stood up and leaped from his horse, falling down upon Ailean. They quickly vanished in a flurry of dust and the faint outlines of fists and swords.