"Walking through the cobbled streets a boy carries the woman whom he loves. The sun has begun to set, casting the streets in a deep red glow. The boy was humming a lullaby, as he usually does when walking through these streets."
"However, this time it was different."
"The streets ran red like the setting sun with blood flowing freely through the cobblestone. The blood came partly from the dozens of bodies littering the streets and partly from the boys own wounds. He was covered with wounds, however the most troublesome was most likely the knife embedded deeply into his lower abdomen. It bled profusely and moving any amount must've caused great pain and yet, he walked on carrying his love."
"His love who was usually cheerful and happy was desperately trying to stem the flow of blood coming from the knife wound. Tears pouring from her eyes and with hands soaked with blood she cried out weakly to him, begging him to stop for she knew he was surely dying."
"The boy couldn't hear her though, he was just staring ahead with a soft smile and glazed eyes. All he could hear was the tune he was humming, all he could see was a memory."
"However at this moment, as the boy trudged slowly though streets of the dead, his favorite humming tune came out eerie and grim."
"Like a funeral song played for the dead, it was a tune no one wished to hear and yet we all eventually do."
"And so he kept on marching."
"And she kept on crying,"
"And the dead kept on being dead."
Blood kept spilling onto Nel from Yule's wound. She often tried to call out to him but he wouldn't respond. He just kept walking, looking ahead.
Nel looked around weakly, where was Yule taking her? Then she saw the building coming up around the corner.
Yule was taking her to the guardhouse, there must still be people there to help. In front of the guardhouse she saw a familiar figure clad in simple chainmail holding a straight sword.
She called out to Pontius but he only looked at us briefly before his attention was diverted as two scarfed soldiers attacked him.
Pontius quickly cut one across the chest then stabbed the other one through letting him fall to the ground. However, the one who was cut across the chest didn't back off, instead he kept on coming attacking Pontius scoring a shallow hit across his arm.
"Damn, just die already!"
Pontius stabbed through that man as well and finally he went down. Then he ran over to us.
"It's not safe out here, the town has been overrun, quickly come inside the Guardhouse."
Pontius turned to lead us but stopped when he noticed Yule wasn't moving or responding.
Pontius grabbed Yule's arm.
"Hey boy, this isn't any time to stand around. Boy?"
"I-I don't think he can hear you..."
Pontius looked all over Yule before his eyes rested on the bleeding stab wound in his abdomen, when he saw the wound his eyes narrowed. Pontius quickly took out a rag and placed it over the knife wound hiding it.
"Don't tell the others about this right now."
Nel looked concerned but nodded.
"Good, I will lead him then."
Pontius pulled Yule along by the arm and thankfully Yule allowed himself to be dragged along. Once inside the Guardhouse Nel saw two familiar faces, one was laying in a bed wounded while the other, a giant boy, sat on a chair with his face in his hands.
It was Omar and Uzair.
"Omar... Uzair... Thank goodness you guys are alive."
Omar and Uzair both went wide eyed when they saw Nel and Yule.
"Nel and Yule!"
"Are you hurt, Nel? Why is Yule carrying you."
"Yea, I got hurt by the arrows... Are you hurt Uzair?"
"Hmph, one of those bastards came into the bakery and started stabbing people. He had stabbed my p-parents.... Before I knew it I tackled him and started beating him. I-I hurt my leg when fighting him, Omar helped me get here."
"I was inside the town instead of at my parents logging camp due to an errand. Then the attack came, I heard the screaming... I went to your guys houses but nobody responded... Then I went to Uzairs and found him and carried him to the guardhouse."
"What about outside, your parents logging camp..."
I saw a pained look pass Omar's face.
"I had tried to rush out but.... Pontius intercepted us and told me everyone outside the town was already dead, even most of the guards."
"What about the Holy Knight who was stationed here?"
Pontius spit onto the ground in disgust.
"That 'Holy Knight' turned tail and ran the minute the arrows came down, last I saw he was hightailing it on his horse out of town, hope he died."
A moment of silence passed as everyone considered how hopeless their situation was.
"Nel you have a lot of blood on you, maybe you should lay down. Yule come put her down."
Uzair and Omar looked at Yule who wasn't moving. They hadn't noticed his state yet because Nel looked extremely wounded and bloody (even though most of the blood on her was from Yule).
But they were starting to realize something was off about Yule, why wasn't he speaking?
"Yule are you alright-"
Uzair was just about to ask what was up with Yule but Pontius cut him off.
"We cannot stay here any longer. The town is overrun by maniacs, most of the guard is dead and enemies have taken over the main entrance."
"How will we leave then?"
"Well use the secret entrance you four usually use, the one through the abandoned cellar, it's not too far from here. Night is falling, visibility is low, this is our chance to escape."
"Y-you knew about that?"
Pontius looked at the childrens shocked faces and laughed.
"Ha! Of course I did, I am a town guard after all."
"Then you must've known we were using it to bypass you?"
"Yup, It was my duty as a guard to stop you from going outside under my watch, but I knew you guys just wanted to have fun so I ignored it."
Pontius quickly motioned to Omar.
"Quickly Omar, pick up Uzair and lets go while we can."
Omar easily picked up Uzair from the bed and Pontius grabbed Yules arm to guide him. All five of them left the guardhouse to be greeted with hell.
In the distance the group could see various scarfed soldiers running around with crude knives. Many bodies littered the streets and screams could be heard coming from all directions.
"Stay close and stay silent."
Slowly the group made their way through the streets heading towards the area of town with the abandoned cellar route. Every so often the group would see some scarfed soldiers and they would hide in an alley to avoid contact.
One time they saw a man being chased by three scarfed soldiers only to be caught. The man screamed in horror as the three scarfed soldiers stabbed his legs then started to drag him away to who knows where. Omar looked furious and had made a move to jump out and help the man but Pontius had grabbed his arm shaking his head. The way the group was now, they could only look out for themselves.
And so the group painstakingly continued on slowly inching towards their only hope for escape. A trip that should've taken a few minutes at most had taken them an hour due to the detours and hiding they had to do. And even though they were staying still most of the time the group was mentally exhausted. Being put constantly in a state of fight or flight was draining.
But they had finally reached it, appearing before them was the boarded up cellar that the four friends knew well. Before it was just an escape from Pontius but now it would be an escape from hell.
The streets were lit by a soft moon glow now and Pontius gestured for Omar to remove the planks. Omar shifted Uzair onto one of his shoulders like a bag of grain then pulled off the planks. Just as Omar finished removing the final plank, the group saw the street fill with a flickering light, lots of flickering lights.
The group turned to the far end of the street where they saw a large group of scarfed soldiers carrying torches as well. There must've been over 50 of them!
And the worst part was the scarfed soldiers were staring directly at the group of friends.
A long moment of silence passed as the two groups stared at each other. Like predator meeting prey both instinctively knew which they were.
Then the scarfed soldier group started to sprint madly towards the group of friends.
Pontius quickly urged the four friends into the cellar. Very quickly, too quickly in fact, some scarfed soldiers literally dove head first in behind them. Pontius quickly slashed at them but more were coming.
"Into the tunnel, quickly!"
The group retreated swiftly into the narrow tunnel, looking back into the cellar they could see it had quickly filled up with scarfed soldiers, like a mass of ants they were pushing towards the tunnel opening, there was no way they could outrun them.
The group of friends saw that Pontius was standing at the tunnel entrance and had stopped dropping his sword.
Had he given up?
But then Pontius got onto one knee smacking one arm against his chest as he began a chant.
"God of Justice in this hour of need I beg of you to heed this old man's call.... Please be the shield of the innocent, Lesser Barrier!"
A dazzling thin translucent yellow wall sprung up in front of Pontius blocking the tunnel entrance just in time as a few scarfed soldiers slammed into it.
"Y-you did have lesser barrier, I knew it!"
'Lesser Barrier' was a skill that provided the spell caster a small strength and small sized shield. It was tied to the caster and would move with them. Since the group was in a tunnel the size was large enough to block the opening and since the scarfed soldiers didn't seem to have any training or good weapons it's strength was enough to hold, for a little bit at least.
Already cracks had begun to show on Pontius' 'Lesser Barrier' as the mass of scarfed soldiers pushed forward, literally crushing those in front against the barrier.
"Will this hold?"
"T-then will we die-"
"You lot will have to run on your own now. I can use 'Lesser Barrier' two more times only but I should be able to buy you enough time to escape into the forest, it's night so you should be able to slip away."
"Don't worry about me kiddies, I'm just an old man who couldn't become a full Holy Knight... you lot still have a chance to do big things."
The four friends stood silent for a brief moment resolving themselves. Just as they were about to leave Pontius dropped another bombshell on them.
"But you will have to leave Yule behind."
"Soon I'm sure he won't be able to move at all."
"Nonsense he's fine! Right Yule, tell him."
Omar reached out to shake Yule but he didn't respond, he just kept staring with a glazed look. The shaking did move off the rag Pontius had put to cover up the knife stabbed into Yule.
As the rag fell both Uzair and Omar's eyes went wide seeing the knife embedded into Yule up to the hilt. Nel closed her eyes sadly already suspecting what Pontius would say next.
"Yule is dying."
A deafening silence filled the room.
"That knife wound is a slow but fatal wound, he will die. I was already surprised he was able to carry Nel for so long but he will slow you down. Omar, take Nel from Yule, you will have to carry them both."
Omar's hand shook as he stared back and forth between Pontius and Yule unsure of what to do. Eventually he slowly reached out to pick up Nel.
Nel tried to push his hands away.
"No! No! Carry Yule instead, leave me, leave me! It's my fault, he got hurt protecting me!"
The group heard lots of cracking and saw the 'Lesser Barrier' had even more cracks propagating through it. Pontius shouted back at them.
"ENOUGH! Omar pick up Nel, she can still make it, Yule will die, don't let his sacrifice be in vain, quickly go!"
Omar realized Pontius was right, he solidified his gaze as he picked up Nel with his free hand while holding Uzair in the other. Omar was strong enough that this wouldn't slow him down, but at that moment he couldn't help but feel like the weakest man on earth since this was all he could do.
"Im sorry Nel... Im sorry Yule."
"Goodbye Yule... Goodbye Old Man."
"No.... NO! Yule!"
As Omar turned and began to run down the tunnel the cries of Nel could be heard echoing. They were cries filled with sadness and grief.
Eventually they were out of sight and it was just Yule and Pontius at the tunnel entrance.
Pontius first 'Lesser Barrier' was about to break so he had casted another 'Lesser Barrier' to take its place, however the scarfed soldiers kept pushing on. Cracks had already begun to emerge on the second one.
"I'm sorry that it had to end like this kid."
Pontius had been surprised Yule could make it this far. The stab wound was a slow kill for sure but it was also extremely painful. Walking should have felt like torture and yet Yule had marched on saving Nel.
"You did good kid."
There was no response but Pontius quietly gripped his chest in frustration.
If only, If only he was stronger, he could've saved more people, given them more time to escape, in the end out of a 1000 people in Border Town Itzes, he could only save a measly three, and who knows if they would make it.
Pontius hung his head.
No wonder he had never made Holy Knight.
In his depth of despair tears started to flow out of Pontius's eyes however a quiet voice broke his trance.
"Pontius is such a rule-stickler right guys."
Pontius looked back at Yule curiously.
Had he just spoken?
Pontius looked into Yule's eyes and saw that they were still glazed over.
Ah, Yule was probably reliving a memory.
Oftentimes the mind will retreat within itself to prevent harm in situations of trauma, this was probably that.
Yule continued to stare into the distance but he also continued to talk.
"Ha Ha, yea he is pretty stuck up..."
Pontius laughed a little bit thinking to himself 'what brats'.
"You think he was sent here because he is a failed Holy Knight trainee Uzair?"
Once again Pontius gripped his chest tightly.
They were right.
He was sent here because he was a failed Holy Knight trainee. All the other trainees in his cohort had gone on to become full Holy Knights and do great deeds. And only he had failed, he had become old, he had spent years of his life trying but never succeeding.
Finally the second 'Lesser Barrier' was near failing and Pontius cast his final 'Lesser Barrier'. He could only hope that this would give them enough time to escape.
What a failure, all he could do was hope. Pontius hung his head in shame.
"But you know I don't think he's that bad at all..."
Pontius tilted his head a bit, curious.
"You know, I think he cares a lot about the people of this town..."
Pontius remembered all the smiling faces coming to the gate town and all his fellow guardsmen dying, tears began to fall from his eyes.
They were dead now.
"I think he cares a lot more than the so-called full Holy Knight does..."
Pontius remembered the scene of the stationed Holy Knight fleeing and felt a string of anger fling up in his chest.
"I think in the end...."
More cracks were beginning to show on the 'Lesser Barrier', it wouldn't hold much longer.
"...Pontius was more than a full Holy Knight in my books... he was a hero."
When Pontius heard those words he stopped crying and the pain in his chest faded. He turned to look at Yule and his eyes opened wide.
Yule was staring right at him smiling. Then Yule spoke in a soft voice, a quiet voice, and yet it sounded so loud.
"Thank you... Holy Knight Pontius for saving them."
Pontius felt those words resonate inside him. Little did he know those were the words he had wished to hear his whole life.
Slowly Pontius stood up grabbing the sword he had dropped. He turned back to face the soon to break 'Lesser Barrier'.
Then the 'Lesser Barrier' broke and Pontius let out a scream brandishing his sword towards the oncoming enemies.
A scream letting out all the frustration, hopelessness and shame he had felt these past years.
A scream finally releasing him from his ambition he had chased for decades.
A scream that contained a happiness he had been chasing for so long.
He smiled as his foes swarmed in, unafraid.
He could die happy, because after all, he had been recognized not just as a full Holy Knight but as something more.