She flew into the saddle as a hawk would lunge for prey. Securing her feet in the stirrups as she took hold of the reigns, Raidan let out one fierce, ‘Hyah!’ and propelled her steed forward.
The dappled stallion charged past the battalions of soldiers, all forming rank and rile before their Lieutenants as orders barked and called across the courtyard. The threat of spring rain loomed overhead, and their faces echoed the encroaching downpour in grimaces of determined loyalty.
The guardsmen at the gates flew to throw the great gates open as Raidan approached, neither stopping nor slowing at the wall. She ducked her head to avoid a great tooth of the portcullis as it clanked swiftly upwards at her haste.
Once free of the fortress and it’s protective walls, Raidan pulled the stallion quickly east, hugging the great wall as it curved along the hillside, pulling her away from the distant fires that were camped on their doorstep.
She only had one chance.
The night sky was dark – the moon hindered by the thick cloud cover that roiled above. Raidan knew that the path before her would not be an easy one; be it marred by the scourges of war or pocked with bandits or scouts. She also knew that she would be the only hope for the city of Rinadrian.
The demons had begun their march far south – tales of their coming led by the fears and terrors of farmers and townspeople who fled their fires. Many of them spoke of the great beasts that accompanied them, others of the magic they wielded with a careless ease; others still called for justice from their Fae protectors, only to be quieted by their fellows in hushed tones.
Raidan pressed her stallion further on. When she reached the east tower, she pulled away from the wall and sent her prayers to Therus:
“Dearest Father, keep their sharp eyes from my flight. May your sons and daughters protect me this night.”
Tracing a hand around her face she called upon his salute – beginning above her blue right eye and over the left eye, circling down the left side of her face over the knotted scar on her cheek there, and ceasing as it passed her sharp chin.
Raiden cast her eyes over her shoulder back at the fortress. It sat like a great stone sentry at the base of the city of Rinadrian, its wall stretching out and around like stone arms holding the silver city back from the sights of war. Her eyes scanned the great grasslands that stretched before it, and as the road led South, it ran into the seemingly endless garden of campfires gleaming in docile wait of the morning’s unstoppable events.
I must make it to Delora.
Raiden clasped the thought close to her heart, and pulled her eyes from the scene to scan for any evidence of similar eyes watching for her. She knew next to nothing of demons or their scouts, and she even cast her eyes towards the sky, in fear of darkened wings would descend upon her without warning.
Another dozen deep breaths and she would be engulfed in the relative safety of the forests of the coast – even now she could hear the waves of the sea beyond the city as they crashed along the thundering cliffs due North of her.
“It must be you, Raiden. Only you know the woods of this coast better then any man here.” A man in a Rinadrian Officer’s uniform had said, already almost a lifetime ago. “I cannot spare the men to make such a dangerous trip.”
Raiden felt her cheeks redden with the thought. She remembered her initial reaction. She had wanted to spit in his face for such words; he could not spare the men? Did he think she had nothing to lose in this? Did he think she was nothing worth sparing?
His name was Commander Alirrin. He was one of the Fae elders, a man who advised the human king of Rinadrian and the lands of Zyrconia.
Looking back in this moment of reflection, Raiden was relieved at the intrusion of the next speaker, a man she called King. Ederon Hukreath, the human who led these people now against demons.
“We also cannot trust any other man here to accomplish this task, not as quickly as we trust you can.”
Raiden fixed her eyes on the forest’s edge, willing it to come nearer. She should have said no. She should have asked before she agreed. Flattery was hard earned for her, and it made her soft to it. A ghost of a smile formed on her lips, stretching the scar on her cheek.
She did not usually accept such responsibilities, especially given from Fae lords and Kings.
“In this satchel are treaties. They must be brought to Delora. From there we have someone waiting for them who can bring them South to Lord Sactu of the Demonic Legions in Kaleroch. He must be made aware of this, and stop it. We… cannot stop this on our own.”
Commander Alirrin had looked old to her for the first time in that moment. Raiden shivered now in the chill spring evening, as she thought of his long, elegant face in a frown. The lightness of his skin betrayed darkness beneath his eyes and lines that gouged his worried brow. She had no head for these beings and their powers, and seeing one look so frighteningly mortal must have touched something within her.
Something that made her accept the satchel and embark on this fool’s errand.
Raiden allowed herself a calming exhale as her mount slipped into the forest. From here it might take her two days of hard travel over land if not met with any obstacles or detours. If she was met with resistance… it would more likely be longer still.
She wondered then, if the Gods were watching her as she fled Rinadrian. Was Therus in the air about her as she breathed? Was Araia in the stillness around her? She hoped very much that they were.
She would need the Gods help for this.