Beddigan rounded the corner into the alley, barely slowing his speed. A quick glance over his shoulder confirmed that William was still right behind him as the ducked and dodged through the streets of Fort Alline, desperately trying to make their way to the perimeter.
“How far behind are they?” Beddigan asked, gasping for breath. They were fast, but so were the Wolves.
“Not far enough.” William growled. “What’s the plan, Beddigan?” Beddigan rushed to the end of the alley peering around the corner before dashing across the lane.
“Don’t really have a plan, old friend. Just get to the woods, lose them, and make for the tunnel to the border.” William grunted.
“What use was rescuing me if the only plan you had was such a foolish one?” the Bear growled. “I went through a lot not to give you up and now you’ve gotten us both all but captured!” Beddigan cast a sharp look at the Bear over his shoulder,
“We aren’t caught yet. Now hustle, we are near the perimeter but those bells clanging will have the guards on high alert.” Just then they heard the shouts of Wolves closing in on their position.
Dashing down the alley, Beddigan gestured to William to hang a sharp right, then left into another alley. Tucked against the wall behind a pile of crates, they listened as a group of soldiers passed the alley. Beddigan let out a sigh of relief.
“We’re almost there!” he whispered excitedly, climbing out from behind the pile of rubbish.
“HALT!” Beddigan felt his elation plummet to disappointment at the sound, as two perimeter guards entered the mouth of the alley closest to the forest. William shoved past him, barreling towards the guards. Before the guards could fend off the attack, the Bear had knocked them against the brick wall of a building. One of the guards scrambled out into the lane and Beddigan leapt upon him, knocking the guard’s patrol whistle and sword free.
“Wouldn’t do that if I were you, or I’ll let the bear have you.” he said with a feral grin into the Wolves face. With a swift thump of the hilt of his sword to the guard’s head, he knocked the soldier out and drug his body to lay next to his fellow soldier in the alley.
“Quick, make for the trees!” Beddigan yelped to William. The Bear nodded brusquely and crashed through the trees, deeper into the forest. Beddigan followed, feeling a brief moment of victory before he realized the forest was already crawling with Wolves.
Cracking through the trees with the Bear leading the way, they raced in the direction of the Losley Deadwoods. Beddigan swung his sword at a nearby guard, barely missing the Wolf, and took a slice to the back of his jacket. Before he could turn back to fight the soldier he heard a loud thump behind him. Whirling around he saw the soldier face down on the ground with a familiar figure kneeling on his back. Shianne snarled at him,
“GO! Move it, mouse. I’ll do what I can.” Beddigan didn’t even nod his thanks and took off at a dead run.
It was to their benefit that the Wolves didn’t know about the secret tunnel leading back to Illensdar, and soon they were working through the forest without any pursuers. The Wolves had spread to cover the ground leading directly to the border, thinking that would be how the prisoners would try and escape, which would buy him and William a bit of time before the soldiers realized their error.
Angling through the trees toward their destination, their pace slowed as they both kept ears sharp, listening for any sounds of soldiers headed towards them. Once they had crossed the Lichelle River, they huddled behind a clump of trees to catch their breath and steal a moments rest.
“Are you alright?” Beddigan asked, leaning his back against a damp tree trunk, noticing his friend’s bedraggled appearance. William blew out a deep breath and nodded slowly. When the Bear met his eyes though, Beddigan was surprised to see tears in them.
“You shouldn’t have come for me, Beddigan.” William said, “But I will be forever grateful that you did.” Beddigan clasped a hand on William’s shoulder with a small smile.
“It was nothing, old friend.” William grunted, climbing to his feet.
“I find that hard to believe.” Beddigan tried to hide the worry that popped up onto his face when he thought of his sister, deep in the heart of the Losley Deadwoods with a powerful sorceress and beasts beyond imagining. William caught his pained expression and reached down to help Beddigan to his feet. “I want the whole story as to how you stole that Wolves face, but for now, we best get a move on.” Beddigan nodded, brushing the leaves and sticks from his clothes. “I’ll not go back to that prison camp.” the Bear added with a growl, as they began picking their way through the trees again.
Before long they reached the hidden tunnel and Beddigan blew out a sigh of relief. They had heard no sounds of Wolves following since their rest stop. Slipping beneath the bush cover and into the tunnel, Beddigan silently thanked the Royal Brigade again for imbedding the light crystals in the walls to help guide their way through the darkness. As they made their way underground and across the border, William whistled softly,
“A tunnel like this kept hidden for so long.” Beddigan turned back and grinned at his partner,
“We mice are crafty!” They started up the slope that lead to the exit and Beddigan felt another wave of relief wash over him. Safety lay just beyond the cover of bushes: home. Well done, he thought to himself with a grin.
“Here we are, old friend.” he said to William. He pushed through the bushes and out into the sunlight. “Safety. Welcome to Illensdar, my ho-” he stopped mid-welcome as two sets of firm claws closed around his upper arms, dragging him out into the airy Birch forest. Their grip’s faltered a moment as a roar burst forth from the tunnel, startling the mice that held him. With practiced grace, the mice soldiers quickly drug him away from the tunnel, removing his sword and crystals, while three others stepped forward, swords brandished, to take on the bear who was now standing and snarling a few feet away from them.
“No…” Beddigan whispered, as he looked over the soldiers, recognizing the Sapphire sashes over their tan uniforms.
“We’ve no qualm with you Bear, and wish no violence upon you. But we will be taking this treasonous mouse either way.” William unsheathed his daggers and roared but Beddigan fought against the grip on the soldiers and cried out,
“No, William! Stop! They’ll kill you.” William met his eyes, still brandishing his daggers. He watched the Bear assess the situation, knowing that William would be calculating his odds against the five soldiers despite Beddigan’s warning. He persisted, “Please, old friend. I’ve only just saved your life. Don’t sacrifice it now that you’re free.” An uncertain look was shared between them before William nodded slowly and sheathed his weapons.
The mice stepped back slowly, putting a bit more distance between themselves and the Bear. Beddigan tried to shake off his handlers.
“I can walk, you know.” he snapped as they drug him through the brush. One soldier gave him a cold stare as he wrapped rope tightly around Beddigan’s wrists.
“You can’t be trusted.” the mouse said simply. Beddigan felt a pit yawn wide in his stomach. William was still in earshot, so he took a chance.
“Come to Yroebrage by way of Shillingdell! Ask for the Mouze family farm for supp-” One of the mice hit him, choking off the last of his words. William let out an angry growl in response. A soldier leaned close and hissed,
“One more word, traitor, and you’ll be travelling to the capital by way of a coffin.” Beddigan gulped, feeling blood trickle from his nose. William crashed through the trees towards them, stopping just short of sword point,
“What will become of him when you reach the capital?” he snarled at the soldiers. The one who had punched Beddigan assessed the bear with cold eyes.
“He is to be put on trial for treason. A long time coming, I’ll add.” said the mouse, anger slicing through his words. “And if the Royal Sapphire Brigade has anything to say about it, he’ll be executed for it.” Beddigan gulped again, fear racing through him. In that moment, all he could think about was Clottie, despite the concern he should have for himself.
He opened his mouth to speak, to let William know about his sisters plight, but shut it before uttering a word when the guards holding him gave him a knowing look. The soldiers continued through the forest, half dragging him as blood dripped down his chin.
“I’ll be coming for you, Beddigan.” he heard William call from a distance, before he slipped off into oblivion.
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