It has been a long delay to get this final installment written. Two weeks ago I was determined to get it done but failed to do more than start the first 100 words of it. I have slowly chipped away at it since then, adding a few lines here and there, but never really making progress. It was frustrating to be so busy, because I have had this mapped out in my mind for nearly two months. I just wanted to be done.
So this morning I sat down and decided it was time to finish. No more excuses. And now I have fourteen complete installments in my serial novel. 13,500 words of a first draft that I can now edit and revise. A solid ending spot to this that leads directly into where I want to take the story next as I turn this into a full novel. I feel good about it all.
If you haven’t read the entire series yet, you can find all fourteen of them here, and each page links to the next one in the series. Just a reminder that Part One on there is the second draft, which has added some new things as well as is written in the past tense instead of the present. I am still torn on which one to go with, but I will be making my entire second draft of this be in the past tense to see how it flows.
I would love to hear feedback of any kind. Suggestions for things you would like to see, things that didn’t work or make sense, and all of that are helpful. You can find ways to contact me here.
So without further rambling, here is the final installment in the Curse of Fierabras:
Part Fourteen – The Escape
“We were almost killed,” Dante says to Jerek, who is caught up in conversation with his men. Jerek looks up at Dante for a moment and shakes his head.
“I was expecting some sort of assassination attempt,” he says, “and I was ready for the attack.”
“It sure seemed like you were sleeping to me,” Dante says in return, a slight frown on his face.
Jerek and his men all laugh and Jerek flashes a broad grin. “I wanted them to think I was defenseless. It was noble of you to try and protect me, but completely unnecessary. Had they sent more than one, we would have at least been able to hold them off long enough for my men to arrive.”
“You were expecting your men to come tonight?”
“Aye, they signaled me last night about it,” Jerek says. He takes out the scrap of papyrus that has the words “three days” scribbled on it and shows it to Dante.
“It hasn’t been three days since last night,” Dante says as he scratches his head.
“It was highly likely that the code would be intercepted by the Emperor, so the three days was written for his benefit only,” Jerek answers. “We had it all worked out before I was brought in here.”
“So this is the one?” asks one of Jerek’s men. Dante scratches his head in confusion and looks at Jerek, a confused expression on his face.
“Aye,” Jerek says, “this is the one we have been seeking.”
The three men grin and take a closer look at Dante, who shifts uncomfortably under the intense scrutiny. “Why have you been seeking me?” Dante asks.
“Because you are the Restoration’s only hope of defeating the Emperor,” says Jerek. He pauses and the words echo in Dante’s mind, creating more questions than he had before this answer. “You possess a power that has not existed since the last Necromancer walked among the seven kingdoms.”
“How do you know that” Dante asks, “and how did you find me here?”
“Prophecy,” Jerek answers. “Your life has been written in the scrolls of prophecy for generations. According to prophecy you are the first one in centuries to be born with the power of the Paladin. Once you learn to tap into this power, it will give you the ability to fight off the Emperor’s armies of the undead. You possess the power to change the fate of the seven kingdoms and to restore balance and prosperity once more to the land.
“Our prophets have studied the scrolls of prophecy for years to determine when and where to find you. I allowed myself to be captured a few days before you arrived, arranging for my men to come and break us out. Tonight you will walk out of here as a free man once more.”
Dante shakes his head. “How can you be sure that I am really this Paladin you are looking for?”
“Because you have shown some of that power in the arena,” Jerek answers with a grin. “Remember the griffin? You created a sort of magical shield to protect me from harm. And then in another instance, when you picked up a shield against the fake peasants, you moved with it as though it was an extension of your body. The shield is a trademark of the Paladin, begun by the first Paladin, Fierabras. If you come with us we will be traveling north to Alexandria, the home land of Fierabras, to learn more about how to develop your skills as a Paladin. It has been a long time since one was needed, and many recent historians have labeled the power of the Paladin as the curse of Fierabras, because all Paladins die on the field of battle at some point.”
Dante looks at the four men, a slight frown flashing across his face. “Why are you telling me this?” he asks.
“Because you will soon have a decision to make,” Jerek answers, “one that will affect you for the rest of your life. The Emperor exists on lies and half-truths, and we do not want to deceive you like he would. We will have time for any questions you may have once we reach safety outside of the capital. We should make our escape now, before the changing of the guards.”
Jerek’s men lead them through the winding corridors of the dungeon. They move swiftly and silently through the darkness, the sound of snoring prisoners masking their footsteps. The light of torches nearly blinds them as they emerge from the depths of the dungeon. Jerek’s men look around and then signal for Dante and Jerek to follow after them. They leave the coliseum behind them as they enter the city courtyard. Several merchants are already setting up carts full of various goods in preparation of the next day, glancing up at Dante and the others before turning back to their work.
They navigate through the city, keeping to the shadows of dark alleys and poorly-lit streets. They reach the outer limits of the city when the sound of galloping horses fills the air. Jerek glances back and sees a dozen of the Emperor’s guards riding through the city at full speed, heading toward the gate of the town. Jerek tells them to run and the group sprints through the streets, leaving caution behind. The open gate looms ahead and they head toward it, knowing they need to reach it before the Emperor’s guards catch them. One of the guards stationed at the gate sees them and goes to shut the gate, but one of Jerek’s men throws a knife that lodges itself into the guard’s spine. The gap closes quickly, and Jerek urges them all to keep running past the gate. He stops at the gate and pulls the lever that drops the portcullis. The metal door starts to drop to the ground and Jerek rolls underneath as it comes crashing down. The Emperor’s guards pull up short of the gate and the Emperor himself is heard shouting orders for his men to get the gate open again.
Jerek’s men lead them out toward the woods just beyond the town as a volley of arrows rains down around them. One of the men is struck in the arm, but they press on.
“Don’t just stand there like a bunch of bumbling brownies,” the Emperor shouts to his men as they reach the closed gate. “Shoot them!”
The soldiers drop their reins and pick up their bows, notching long arrows before loosing them over the castle walls. They rain down around the escaping prisoners, hitting one of them in the arm. The Emperor watches them running further away, drawing closer to the woods. “Did I not make it clear,” the Emperor says, “that your lives are on the line here? Felicia, do you have a clear shot?”
“No, Excellency,” Felicia answers as she holds an arrow notched in her long bow. Her target, Jerek, is surrounded by the others. She sees a small opening and hesitates, losing the opportunity to strike him down.
The Emperor watches as they disappear into the woods. He grabs his sword and lashes out, slitting the throat of one of his men. “Don’t just stand there, get this gate open and follow them!” The guards go to work, straining to raise the portcullis. The Emperor turns to Felicia, noting her complexion is far more pale than usual. “Why didn’t you shoot him?”
“I didn’t have a shot, Excellency,” she answers.
“You will have plenty of opportunities to get your next shot, Felicia. You are not to return until you can bring me Jerek’s head. If you try to come back without it, you will take his place in the arena.”
“As you wish,” Felicia says as she bows slightly. The Emperor rides back up toward his palace, leaving her with this group of soldiers. They get the gate raised and take off in pursuit of the fugitives. As she rides into the forest, Felicia contemplates why she didn’t take the shot when she had the chance and now is facing banishment because of her moment of hesitation. She vows that there will be no hesitation next time. She will hunt these men down and drag their corpses back to the Emperor, even if she has to chase them through all seven kingdoms.