Everything happened too fast for Katherine to react. When she moved her eyes over, a body laid on the ground with blood pooling around him. The King! The King had fallen! Screams echoed in the hall and chaos broke out.
Suddenly, someone grabbed her hand and pulled her with him, away from Nathaniel, who rushed over to the fallen body with a horrified expression on his usually stony face.
"Stop! I can - " A wet hand covered her mouth before she could offer her help. She struggled against the arms that held her, bit into the fingers, and opened her eyes wide when blood entered her throat. That wasn't from the bite! There was blood on the person's hand!
The man behind her cursed, his voice familiar, not only because she heard it a minute before when he asked for her wedding vow. Though she had never seen the face under the blue priest robe, the image of a man with reddish hair entered her mind. Then she heard metal clink behind her and a shrill, poisonous voice: "They are fleeing! Arrest them! Hurry!"
Where was the Queen coming from?
Before she had the time to process, the man behind her pulled her along. When she fought against his grip, his fist hit her stomach. "Sorry, but you need to come with me."
She saw stars before her eyes and felt how the man heaved her over his shoulder before he started running.
When Nathaniel reached the King's side, he fell on his knees. "Father!"
Red. Everything was red with blood. In the chest of the King was a deep wound, gushing out more and more of the life essence. The King coughed and blood splattered over his chin. Fastly, Nathaniel pulled off his jacket, but when he wanted to press it on the wound, he saw it crumble in his hands that had halos of darkness around them. He cursed and backed away. Just why were emotions the trigger to magic? And why didn't this damn bracelet stop it? Useless!
While trying to calm down, he yelled with a thunderous voice over the chaos: "Aston! Aston, come here!"
The golden-haired Prince was by his side instantly. His young face was serious and pale with shock, but he used his cape to stop the bleeding.
"Katherine. Where is she?", Nathaniel asked and looked around. "We need her. He can still be saved."
"I don't know." Aston's voice was rough, he was fighting against the tears.
Just as Nathaniel was about to curse, a nonchalant female interrupted him: "Mother is taking care of her."
Alarm had Nathaniel run a shiver down his spine. He stood up and faced Princess Helmina. Next to her was Emilian, who had his sword in hand. A group of guards slowly surrounded Nathaniel, Aston, and the bleeding King. Nathaniel gritted his teeth as the puzzle parts fell in place. He cursed himself inside that whatever preparations he had made, hadn't been enough. How could the attacker infiltrate the palace? Well, obviously with much help from inside.
It was Helmina who spoke first. "Step back, traitor, or I will let the guards behead you."
Nathaniel snorted, and his hand automatically wandered to his side. But he had neither a sword nor his daggers with him. He needed more time. "Step back so that you can let the King bleed out? I don't think so."
"Now, why would I want my own father to die?", Helmina smiled harmlessly. "I just don't want you to kill him, after your first attempt failed. We all know how much you hate him."
"Ah", Nathaniel made, and over the Crown Prince's shoulder saw that the guests had mostly fled the hall. He didn't trust a word she said. She was just as fake as their mother, and maybe just as crazy.
Near the window side there was a fight. He could make out some of his own people in the servant's uniforms. Why were they fighting the palace guards? And who were those dark-skinned fighters in colorful clothes? Where did they come from? He couldn't even tell on which side they were, but while their weapons were strange, the movements outed them as elite warriors.
As his eyes turned back to his sister, he added: "I am not even at his side right now. Aston should be trustworthy, right?"
Her smile widened. "Of course not. He is your collaborator, how he always has been. Now, raise your hands and step aside."
Just when she said that, there was a crash, and one of the windows broke. Two figures fell through the glass, and Nathaniel saw the white and blue of a wedding dress. His heart jumped up in his throat. The hall was two floors above the ground!
With much efford, he suppressed the urge to rush through the mass of guards just to see what happened to Katherine. He couldn't be there in time anyway, and seconds after the crash of the window, he already saw the big, bearded figure of Jack jumping after them. Relieved, his attention turned back to his own mess.
Somehow, in the short time span everyone's attention had been on the window, a sword had slithered over the floor. Now it laid directly beside his boot. He didn't wonder where it came from, but picked it up and bellowed: "Aston, do it now!"
Out of nowhere, two walls of ice rushed up from the floor and formed a passage between the guards. Aston picked up the King, whose wound was glittering with red crystals, and he and Nathaniel made a run for it.
When the guards noticed their target's aim, they rushed after them, but outside their ring already waited Pete with half of Hymirhall's warriors. They had no choice but to come to a slithering halt and fight their way through them if they wanted to get a hold up the two Princes fleeing with their King.
"Let's see what you Youngsters are capable of", Pete muttered as his sword met his first opponent's.
Aston and Nathaniel meanwhile met Samantha Orchid. Her hair messy and the skirt of her servant's uniform gathered up, she urged: "Hurry, hurry! I locked every door leading to this corridor, but it won't take long for them to break through!"
The three rushed down the hallway, and Nathaniel prayed inwardly that Katherine would come out save out of this mess. At least she had Jack by her side. Right now, he couldn't even guarantee his own survival, much less anyone else's.
However, his survival was not as important as the King's today. If the kingdom lost its King, the consequences would be dire. The kingdom would fall in the upcoming war with Dragsa or any other kingdom that attacked them in this state, and the death count would soar to a high it had never been since the first years of the Icefall dynasty. He had to do anything he could to prevent this from happening. Not for the old man that was hanging weakly in his brother's grip, but for every woman, man, and child that would die if he didn't act.
"He won't make it! I - I can't run with him anymore, I think he's dying!" It was commendable that Aston didn't cry while calling out. The body of the King was already weak, and the only way Aston alone could carry him, wasn't easy on the King's wounds. Sweat had turned Aston's gold hair a shade darker. He also wouldn't hold out for long if he had to run with this burden.
"Put him in here, I think we can hide him as long as you two don't stay", Lady Orchid said, as she hastily opened the door to a chamber complex that was obviously prepared for a Lady. With Nathaniel's help, Aston laid the King into the changing room, on a bed of clothes.
"I will play the servant again and stay with him here", Lady Orchid explained while she ripped open the King's robe to have a better look at the wound. When she saw the brothers' skeptical looks, she added with a wry smile: "Don't worry, I know a bit of medicine. I can keep him alive for a bit. You two have to lure everyone away from here. When it is quiet again, I will bring him out in a concealed way. We'll meet at Waywarden's High when the sun sets. And you, groom in black, better have your bride with you by then or I doubt he will survive till the next sunrise!"
"Yes, Madam!", Aston said in Nathaniel's stead. The latter only nodded grimly.
"Well, what are you waiting for? Off you go!", the mistress of the King mumbled absentmindedly, followed by a worried glance. "And stay safe!"
"You, too." Aston shortly kissed her head before heading out with Nathaniel. The interlude didn't take much time, but they knew it couldn't be long before the guards would be on their heels again.