Harard ran into the great hall. He turned quickly and looked for the ball sailing through the air.
It was closer, and higher then he had expected. He jumped of his feet into the air, his fingers outstretched. He felt the ball as it grazed his fingers, sending it higher yet.
When he felt something crash into his back, he realized that he wasn't going to catch it. He could feel himself falling back to the ground. He hit the ground, his balance lost as the ball hit the ground in front of him.
He felt the hands grab onto his arms and keep him steady before he saw them. He looked down as the ball bounced, and saw the large pale hands wrapped around his thin arms. Rough with years of work, he turned as a voice spoke behind him.
"Careful little lord," the rasp yet quiet voice came from behind him.
Harald turned his head, and body, feeling the hands slip off his arms. His eyes widen at the sight of One Eye Hyrum standing over him. His mechanical eye twisting and rotating as it peered at him.
Harald shallowed the lump In his throat before speaking. "Thanks Hyrum." Out of all his father's guard, Hyrum scared him the most.
He bend down and picked up the ball.
"What have you been told?" his mothers voice ring out from across the hall.
Her voice carried over the chorus of chatter as the people of Stonehill Hold, and their guest from the royal court found their seats in the large hall filled with rows of massive dining tables.
He forced himself to stand straight, but fought his neck as it tried to fight him, and retreat into his chest.
"Good luck little lord," Hyrun said, walking passed him before his mother could arrive.
"I'm sorry mother," he sang out as his mother neared, his eyes on his feet. The words were an all too familiar taste on his mouth.
He felt her hand on his chin before she lifted his face to look at him. "No catch in the great hall, how many times do I have to tell you?"
"I'm sorry," Harald said again. "We just got carried away."
"Mmhmm," he heard, and watched her eyes shift from him to behind him. "Jae, Winnifred, Gwen, get to your seats," she said firmly, her hand falling from Haralds face.
"Yes my lady," Harald heard from behind him from each of the girls in union.
"Your father is entertaining one of King Stanley's favorite. I need you on your best behavior."
"Come on," She said, taking the ball from his hands, and handing it to Nena, his mother's shadow. "You get to sit at the High table tonight, the whole family does," his mother informed him.
He could feel the spread of his lips as they smiled. He couldn't control it. It wasn't everyday that they got to sit at the high table for evening meals. Normally he was stuck at one of the children's tables as his father and mother dealt with business, and invited though of the House to dine with them and express their concerns.
"Yes mother," he finally managed to get out, holding back as much excitement in his voice that he could.
He felt her hand on his shoulder as they walked down the main aisle leading to the high table. The room was already packed. There were more people then normal, and he didn't recognize many of them, but it also wasn't common for the king's representative to come to the borderlands of Horn Drift.
He could already smell Quincey's feast coming from the kitchens. Table already had fresh and hot food set before the main meal arrived. He enjoyed feasts, no standing in lines to select food from the counters.
Harald could finally see the high table as he and his mother continued on their way. It was build slightly higher then the rest in the great hall.
His father already sat in his chair, most the seats filled with important members of the House. His fathers neatly trimmed beard didn't match the long hair which hung down.
His eyes with brought to the man on his left. Younger then his father he guessed. His tightly cut blonde hair was matched by the mustache he sported. Harald had heard he was a fearsome warrior, but his slender frame next to his fathers put doubts in his mind.
All but two of the seats at the high table were filled by the time Harald and his mother arrived.
"Go on, take your seat," he heard his mothers tell him, and he turned his head to look at her. She nodded towards the empty seat on his fathers right hand side. His eyes widen, and he smiled once again as his mother slide into her seat across from his father.
Harald rushed passed the four seats next to his mother, where his brother and sisters sat. Rounded the table where the captain of his father guard sat, and the other three seats which filled the other side, until he reach the chair next to his father.
Harald pulled the wooden chair from the table, and took his seat. His father looked at him with a gentle smile before turning back to his guest.
"I just don't get it," he heard an unfamiliar voice come from the other side of his father. "I mean yes, the king is impressed with what you have done, the border and this region of Drala has never been more quiet and peaceful. Fifteen years of peace and increased revenue."
Harald looked to the man as he reached out with his hand and grabbed a fresh roll of beard, breaking it with his hands, and taking a bite.
"And what don't you get lord?" his mother asked.
"This!" he ask, turning his gaze to her, his arms in the air, bread in each one as he gestured around the great hall. He took a second bite from one half of his roll, and then continued speaking. "And please, Edwin will do, I'm no lord, just a humble servant."
Harald tried to listen carefully as his mother tilted her head. "This?" she asked again, copying his gesture. "I'm sorry but you will have to explain, or I might think you are insulting my home."
Harald looked back to his father, who sat quietly with what looked like a sly look. He had often seen that look when his father knew not to challenge his mother.
The king's representative finished his mouth full of food before putting the bread down on the plate in front of him.
"Lady Frost, I do apologize if I offended. It was not my intent. You have a very beautiful home," Edwin said smiling as he bowed his head towards his mother. "I meant the people. It's like a school dining hall in here. You wouldn't see the king dining with his servants."
As Edwin finished, the staff of the great hall for that night began to set the main dishes of food on their table. The smells filled his nostrils, and wet his mouth.
"That is where you are wrong lord Edwin," his mother responded. She reached out and grabbed one of the plates holding large razorback boar ribs. She placed some on her plate, before continuing. "We are all servants to the Commonwealth. It is only fitting that we all dine together."
His mother finished placing the savoy meat on his younger brother and sisters plates, before offering the largest on the platter to Edwin.
"Thank you," Edwin said, a smile on his lips as he raised his plate, accepting the glazed rack.
"Lets eat," his father finally cut in.
"Here here," a few of Edwin's men shouted from their spots on the left hand side of the the high table.
Harald grabbed his own set of ribs from a second platter. He scooped green and yellow sides onto his plate as they were passed around the table. The smell from his plate made him excited. He found it hard to listen as his father continued to talk with Edwin and his men, but his mind kept drifting.
He found himself looking down the great hall to where the other kids his age sat near the back of the hall. It looked like Gwen was holding court. Everyone was listening to her as she likely regaled the table with one of her new stories.
Harald sighed, and then looked back to his father. His plate was already nearly empty.
"How is the king doing? I hear rumours there might be a wedding soon." His father asked the younger man.
"Yes, the terms of the new alliance with the Furmen seem to be coming along nicely," Edwin replied. His hand wiping at the side of his mouth just beneath his mustache with red cloth. "You should come see Bastion when the marriage takes place, beautiful this time of year."
"Bastion!" Harald blurted out.
"Indeed," Edwin replied, his head sticking out further over the table to look at him, a smirk upon his face.
"I've never been there," he said excited. "Never been off world that is, but I want to see it one day. I've read that Bastion was once a Fabian world long ago, and before that the one of the main worlds of the Tutha of the twelfth fleet."
Edwin nodded. "Conquered by the Fabians, and abandoned when their empire collapsed. Rebuilt by the Drala Commonwealth." Edwin said.
"Abandoned by some," his father cut in.
Edwin laughed. "Yes, some remained. Said to have been turned into wild savages." He looked from his father and back to him. Harald could feel his eyes on him. His face was hard, yet seemed to hide a smile. "If you believe that," he said, and laughed again.
Harald shallowed another bite as his father and Edwin continued to talk. He lost interest quickly as the conversation turned to taxes, and incomes.
Once his plate was cleaned of his meal, he chatted with his siblings. He answered questions from the other guests at the table as respectfully as he could, but kept glancing over to his friends.
It seemed like hours had passed since the meal started. He had long ago grown bored. He looked to his mother who already held her eyes on him.
"Go ahead," she said softly.
Harald smiled, and jumped out of his chair, and then realized his mistake. He pulled himself together, and stood at the table calmly.
"Thanks mom," he told her, and then quickly moved to push his chair back into the table. He made his way around the table. He wanted to run, but forced himself to walk. Each step felt like it took forever.
He was half way to the table with his friends when Jae spotted him, and waved with a smile. Her long brown hair matching her brown eyes.
He reached the table just as chef Quincey brought a fresh tray of dessert. The small pies he could smell from across the table. The cream on top hiding the sweet jell inside.
"Hey Harald," Jae said, welcoming him as he reached the table.
"Hey," he responded, taking a seat on the bench next to her.
"Young master Harald," the chef said, his soft voice always on the verge of a laugh. "Come to try my famous pies, just couldn't wait I see."
Harald smiled. "Best this side of the Dralian Expanse," he teased.
"You wound me young master," the cook said, mock holding his heart in his chest.
The shouts of loud voices filled the great hall. Harald noticed Quincey turn his head towards the front. He licked his lips, and smiled. "I think I'll take a Dewberry…" he started but stopped and shrink into himself as the loud blast erupted, silencing the great hall.
He stood up and looked to the High table. Edwin stood on his feet, his one arm outreached. Pistol in hand, aimed at his mother. He could see his father bent over the table. The blast and flash from the end filled the air, he jumped again as a second blast filled the room.
His mother fell backwards in her chair, landing on the floor with outward arms. He saw mouth move, but couldn't hear anything so far away. Others already stood at the other tables of the great hall, weapons in hand. The sounds of railgun after railgun blast fall on his ears.
The table moved, and Harald turned to look to his left, and saw Quincey as he threw the table sideways, and drop to the floor. He grabbed kids as they screamed and shouted. It took a moment for Harald to realize that the old chef was yelling at him.
"Harald, Come on," he said, as he beckoned him towards him.
The sounds of the screams finally filled his years, and he shrank in his skin. He looked away from the chef, and back towards the high table, where his mother lay. Her arm stretched out, each finger reached for him, and he could see her eyes upon him. Her mouth was full of blood as she tried to scream out to him.
"Nooo," Harald yelled, and then rushed forward.
He ran as fast as his legs would carry him, but lost his balance when someone crashed into him. He fell to the floor, and stopped under one of the tables. A body lay next to him with a uniform of the king's bodyguard. Blood pouring out of the hole in his chest.
Harald looked up towards his mother. She wasn't trying to yell any longer he noticed, but her eyes were upon him. He looked to where his brother and sisters had sat, but couldn't see them, their chairs still upright.
Harald pushed himself up off the ground, and stepped over the body to get back into the aisle. He started to run again until he was hit again, and felt the air leave his guts.
He wasn't knocked to the ground this time. He realized that he was off his feet as someone rushed through the great hall. Their arm wrapped around him, squeezing him tightly.
"Noooo," he shouted, and slammed his fist down on his attacker again and again.
His attacker continued to run with him, his attacks unnoticed. He tried to flail about as he tried to escape the hold.
He reached out o grab Gwen's hand before he even realized. Their eyes locked for a moment, and her eyes blinked as she was pulled off balance, and run behind Harald and his attacker.
The great hall was lost to sight, and Harald could see the kitchen stove. They slammed into a wall, and crashed to the floor once again. He lost vision for a moment as he tumbled about.
"Harry, it's me," he heard but couldn't make out the voice.
"Close it," he heard another voice as he grasp for air, trying not to choke.
"No," Harald said when he noticed Nena, his mothers head of security.
She grabbed him by the shoulder as she helped him sit up against the wall. He tried to shake free on her grasp, but her small hand held him still.
"Their gone," he finally heard, and realized he had been pulled in tightly to her embrace.
"No, No, No," he replied again, tears welling in his eyes.
"We have to go, we have to get you to safety," Nena told him as she pulled back from him, and then stood.
"No," Harald said again and pushed himself up off the floor. He tried to move towards the door to the great hall but was stopped by a single large hand. He tried to push it aside but he couldn't. He struggled before the hand pushed him, and his balance was lost yet again, and he hit the floor with his ass.
"Damnit Hyrum," Nena's voice called out.
Harald looked up as Old Eye Hyrum looked down on him. He turned away from the robotic glaze. Next to him stood a second woman in the same uniform as Hyrum and Nena.
"Door wont hold long," Iris spoke up. The woman had blood covering the side of her face.
"We have to go," Hyrum said.
Harald stood, "We have to go back, we have to rescue my mom and dad. My brother and sisters."
One Eye Hyrum looked pass Harald to Nena, refusing to acknowledge him. "We should knock him out, and carry him."
"We got to go," Iris said as well.
"What about us?" Quincey asked, and Harald was forced to look behind himself.
Quincey and his friends were huddled together. Quincey in front holding a butchers knife.
Nena stepped forward. The sounds of railgun fire had begun to die down. She dropped to one knee, and grabbed Harald by the shoulder.
"They are gone now." She said sternly.
"No," Harald said again, shaking his head. "Your wrong! My mother and father are great warrior. No." He said, feeling the tears as they fell down his cheek.
"Look at me," he heard Nena say, but refused.
"This isn't a security door, we don't have time for this," Hyrum complained.
He felt Nena grab his face in her hand, and forced him to look back to Quincey and the kids.
"You are Lord Frost, Lord of these people," she said. She pointed to the kids behind Quincey. "It is your duty to get them to safety," she finished.
"Fuck sakes," Hyrum grumbled.
Harald looked at the kids, his friends. He could see them huddled together around Quincey. Jae, Winnie, and Gwen. All of them. Most the faces looked at him, fear, dread, and tears in their faces. The sounds of sobbing came from them.
Harald tried to wipe the tears from his face, and then looked at Nena, and nodded.
"Good," Nena said, and stood. "Listen to me and we will get everyone to safety."
Harald nodded once again, but was unable to speak. Nena turned from him and walked away.
"Iris with me," Nena said as she moved across the room. "Hyrum bring up the rear, and Quincey," she said stopping. "Keep the kids in the middle, and keep the young lord close."
The chef nodded, and then waved Harald towards him. "Come on young master," he said.
Harald rushed forward, and embraced his friends for a moment. No one spoke, but Harald pushed back fresh tears.
"Come on, we need to reach the tunnels" Nena told them as she waved everyone close to her next to one of the doors leading out of the kitchen.
The kids stayed behind Quincey, and moved closer to the soldier. Harald pushed himself forward over the protests of Quincey. He felt his hand reach out and grab him, but shook it free.
Before he could reach Nena, she slipped out of the kitchen and into the hallway. She was followed closely by Iris. He reached the door, and stopped. He looked back, to Quincey and the kids. Locked together with hands and arms. Hyrum stood behind them, his head turned towards the closed door to the great hall.
He to where Nena and Iris disappeared into the west hall. He heard Quincey protest once again, but paid him no mind and followed after his mother's bodyguard.
They were already moving down the hall when Harald stepped out to follow them. They each moved in the shadows against the walls, their pistols aimed at the ready. He watched as they stepped over two objects in the middle of the hallway, and then stop on the other side, bending down.
He stopped himself from moving when he noticed they were bodies. He knew that they were dead before Nena and Iris made it into the hall.
"Harald," he heard Quincey whisper. He looked back. The group was close to him, a few meters away. Hyrum kept his back to them as they slowly walked.
He told himself to be brave. He turned back towards the bodies that Nena and Iris were crouched next to. He continued to walk down the hall. When he finally reached Nena she gave him a quick glance, but said nothing.
When Quincey arrived with the children, Nena finally looked away from him, and to the aging cook.
"Here," Nena said, handing him a pistol from one of the dead guard. "Don't point it at us."
Harald reached down, and grabbed the pistol from the holster of the body closest him. His head was a bloody mess, where his face had once been, was a bloody hole. He could hear some of the kids mutter and try to stay quiet at the horror of the sight. It was one of Stonehill Hold's guards he realized.
He looked back to Nen. She turned away without a word, and then moved again, continuing down the hall.
The sun had already gone done as it often did this time of year. Moonlight flowed through the windows, casting shadows where the inside lights didn't light.
He clutched the pistol in his hand as they moved forward down the hall behind Nena and Iris. It felt heavier then the one his father would let him shoot on the range.
They made it down to the end, the sound of shoots going off in the distance. Each time it made someone jump. To their left Harald knew were the stairs to the basements, and upstairs. To the right the hall went back and linked up with the great hall.
Harald watched as Nena poked her head around the corner, and then back in. She looked at Iris, and raised her hand showing four fingers, followed by other movements of her hand and wrist that he didn't understand.
"Keep your eyes behind us," Hyrum whispered as he passed by Quincey.
Hyrum took up position next to Nena, and Harald watched as the three of them looked at each other and nodded their heads, and then again. On the third time they moved. Nena and Iris ran across the tee section of the Hallway, and out of sight as Hyrum opened fire with pistol down the hall on unseen enemies.
Haralds eyes darted behind him on the sound of a door sliding open. He raised his pistol and pulled the trigger as someone stepped out.
The first shot hit the corner of the door, sparks exploding. The second shot went wide again, but forced the woman to shield her face. The third made contact with her chest. Harald could see blood fell out and land on the wall behind her.
The unknown enemy fell to the ground, and Harald continued to fire. Another blast ripped through the body, blood painting the floor. When the fifth and final blast hit it's target, it no longer moved.
He stood there shaking, his pistol move wilding about. He looked to his side, Quincey was staring at him, mouth ajar. The others held themselves together, small shouts of fear escaping them. He felt a hand on his, pushing them down, and jerked towards them, and relaxed as much as one could at the sight of Nena.
She held his glaze for a moment before nodding behind her. "Quick," she said. She kept her hand on his shoulder as they walked down the hall.
They rounded the corner to the left. Iris faced them as she looked down the hall behind them. Hyrum was busy wrapping some sort of medical device on his arm, blood running to his hand. Between them, three bodies lay on the floor, pools of blood coming from each body.
"Come on," Nena said, and then descended the stairs. Her hand no longer on his shoulder, and pistol pushed in front of her. It was the stairs that Harald saw the fourth body, riddled with small holes, and blood pouring down the stone steps.
They continued their way down one flight of stairs, and then a second, and finally a third. Once on the third basement they pushed their way through the doors, and followed the hallway to the to the last room.
The family library filled the room. Harald had been in it many times. It was often used for school work by all the kids of Stonehill Hold. They made their way through the main library and into one of the back rooms filled with displays of objects from Isca's past.
His father and mother had taken him down here once when he was young. They had showed him the hidden tunnels. Old mining tunnels from centuries ago, which had been converted to hidden passages when Stonehill Hold had been built.
Nena made her way over to an old object. She pushed it out of the way, which revealed a hidden keypad. Harald was thinking what the code was, and readied to tell her when she entered one herself.
One of the displays shifted and moved, and stairs filled the void. A large door blocked the way at the bottle. Nena walked down the stairs, and placed her hand on a scanner next to the door. The light blinked green, and slide upwards, granting access.
She motioned them forward, and Harald rushed down behind Iris, and tap tap of foot steps filled his ears behind him. It was dark inside, but small lights lined the floor, giving enough to see where they were going. When Hyrum made it inside, Nena slammed her fist against the wall, and the door slide shut.
Nena tapped the pad next to the door again. The sounds of the display moving back in position could be heard on the other side of the door. She didn't linger, but moved next to another door which Harald had never been inside.
The door opened when Nena input the code, and motioned everyone to follow her as she walked in.
Harald was the first to follow her. The door led to what appeared to be a single room. Along the sides filled weapon racks and armour stands. Other supplies were laid out in the room, boxes full of items.
Nena pulled down several backpacks, and tossed them towards the kids. "Fill it with supplies," she said. "Water, and food are what is most important," she said pointing to one section of the wall with supplies.
Harald picked up several packs from the floor, and started to hand them out. He looked to Hyrum and Iris who were fitting themselves with Battle Armour.
"Hurry," he head Nena say. "We don't have alot of time."
He grabbed a pack as Nena turned to grab her own armour, and made his way to the other kids. Prepackaged meals were being shoved into open bags. He grabbed a few, before moving onto another section.
A row of small knives filled it. He grabbed one, and placed it in his bag before grabbing battery packs for his stolen pistol. Next to the knives he saw different grenades. He looked over his shoulder and saw Nena getting into armour. Iris was looking down the sights of a rifle as Hyrum stepped next to him, and grabbed a techno-blade.
"Come here," the old soldier said.
Harald stepped closer to him as he pulled a small vest off the wall. He knelt down and placed it over him. It was too large for him, and heavy, but he felt thankful. It wasn't the power armour of the three guards, but a light armour.
Hyrum strapped the armour on him as best he could, but it still felt loose. "Here," Hyrum said grabbing several more. "Help some of the other kids which can wear them."
Harald nodded and grabbed them, and made his way over to the other. Seventeen, he thought to himself. There were seventeen of them. Was anyone else alive? Stonehill Hold was home to close to five hundred.
He helped several kids strap up as Hyrum brought more over. There were only a few who couldn't fit them, but one of them was Gwen.
"Stay close to me," he told her. Her face almost as red as her hair.
She didn't say anything, few of them did. Most of them had their packs on already.
Harald finished gathering supplies into his pack before he slung it over his shoulders. It was heavy, but he could carry it, his mother or father would have been able too.
"Alright," Nena said, forcing himself to turn. She stood with Hyrum, Iris and Quincey. The three of them looked like warriors in their armour. It looked like a second skin. Quincey looked out of place, his armour matching that of the kids, and too small in spots on him.
"Time to go. Everyone stay close to Quincey. No talking, no stopping." Nena said, and then walked passed them and into the corridor they had just been in.