86 The Attack on Fountain Ridge*
All was quiet in the guard house that sat at the base of the ridge that had given Fountain Ridge its name. There was nothing peculiar about the night. The guards had taken in a prisoner earlier that day, gone about their patrols, eaten their evening meal, then changed their roster promptly for the first night shift. It was, for all intents and purposes, no different to any other night.
But it was always on nights that felt no different to any other that change occurred, whether for better or worse depended entirely on the participants. Unfortunately, the prisoner they'd dragged in earlier that day was not a good man.
As the guards went about their usual routine, a check on the prisoner was met with a surprised shout.
"Captain! It's the prisoner, he's unconscious sir!"
"Unconscious? He looks dead, like he was poisoned".
"What an awful way to go".
"Least we won't have to process or transport him".
The guards that congregated around the scene as the Captain appraised the prisoner's body were only partially sympathetic. Only wishing that they themselves would not share a similar fate, and annoyed by the fact that their list of chores had extended to digging a grave somewhere.
The Captain had knelt down beside the prisoner, some Doctor that had displeased the Kildares, and took a pulse promptly. After a moment, he withdrew his hand.
"Call a doctor, he's still alive," the Captain stated, "You there, help me get him up onto the cot".
The group moved to follow orders, and moved the prisoner to the cot at the side of the cell.
"Clear out, continue your patrols!" the Captain snapped. He'd kept order at the guard house for years, he wasn't about to slip up now. He turned to the guard that had helped him and ordered him to stay put while he sent out a note to the Kildares regarding their prisoner.
He doubted the Kildares would care since the man was pretty much dead regardless, but it was his duty to alert them to any changes in the state of their prisoners.
The room cleared, no one heard it when the guard who was watching over the prisoner had his arm bitten. Hard. The guard swore aloud and tried to fight against the ridiculous strength of the prisoner's jaw, but to no avail. The Prisoner lapped up the blood that poured down the guard's arm, so eagerly that he bit through his own lip, the Prisoner's blood mingling into the guard's wound. After a few seconds, the guard started to feel ill, and collapsed to his knees, then to the floor.
And just like that, the prisoner who had once been Doctor Sagen Zaroth stood to attention and submitted to his new enhanced senses. Hungry. He was so hungry.
Aegin looked impatiently at Phillip as the older man strapped on his saddle bags.
"Come on, this is a golden opportunity, the more time we have to get Rassa out, the better," Aegin insisted.
Phillip mounted his horse and sent a look to Aegin. A look that clearly said, 'as if I don't know that'.
Phillip had after all grown up amongst the Kildares, he knew how ruthless and efficient they could be. As they turned to leave, a screamed pierced the night. Phillip paused and turned back. This was a city, it wasn't uncommon to hear screams, especially in the slums, but that had sounded different.
Aegin turned back to look at Phillip.
"What's wrong now?"
Another scream pierced through the darkness.
"Something's not right," Phillip replied.
"Ah...you've lost me, what about this situation is right?" Aegin scoffed.
"No, really, that doesn't sound-"
Another scream, followed by a shout. Getting closer.
Phillip spurred his horse in the direction they were coming from. Back towards the base of the ridge.
Aegin rolled his eyes, "When did we even start caring about this city?"
Regardless, he followed Phillip. Over the last couple of years he'd started to learn where Rassa's ability to care about complete strangers had come from. Though that quality had been disintegrating pretty quickly the last time Aegin had seen him.
As Aegin rounded a corner on horseback that opened up into a market square, he found Phillip paused stopped on the side of the square and staring at the far corner that was only a couple of streets away from the edge of the city.
Aegin cut himself off in shock as he noticed the figures emerging into the square. There were a few people running across the square madly, but it wasn't this that had caused Aegin and Phillip to stop dead. It was what was chasing them. Human and yet...clearly not.
They were rabid, like wild dogs, and yet from the clear strength and speed they displayed, far more dangerous.
Phillip drew his sword.
Aegin took up his bow and nocked one of his arrows.
"No, get the Ridge Men," Phillip ordered.
Aegin turned to Phillip, "Are you insane? They'll kill me on sight".
"Their duty is to safeguard the Kildares and their city," Phillip replied, "Get them to mobilise. Now!"
Phillip charged off across the square, no doubt ready to do his best in keeping the monsters back from the general populace. Aegin knew that even with Phillip's prowess in battle, he wouldn't be able to do much.
Still, Aegin knew Phillip was right. The two of them would be of no use without backup.
Aegin only stayed put long enough to fire the arrow he'd nocked before he turned his horse and charged towards the Ridge Men's base, readying another arrow as he went.
It was the middle of the night, yet with the rising cacophony of screams and shouts of alarm, not to mention the growls and hisses of those rabid creatures, many were awakening to see what all the fuss was about.
They poured into the streets, and Aegin shouted.
"Move! Out of the way!"
People practically dived out of the way of his cantering horse, swearing at him for riding so recklessly through the city streets. Aegin didn't care. He had no love for the Kildares, but Fountain Ridge was different. It was the Eastern Capital of the Empire, if it fell...
It was merely a few minutes, but it seemed to be hours later when Aegin tugged heavily on the reins and his horse skidded to a stop in front of the Ridge Men Base.
"Attack!" he called at the top of his lungs, "Attack on the Capital originating from the base of the ridge! The city up to the River Market has fallen!"
Figures dressed in black appeared around the house and Aegin glared them down. They knew exactly who he was, "Your city is falling, believe me or not, but it is at least your duty to investigate my claim".
Aegin spun back around and cantered back to the square, hoping against hope that Phillip had managed to survive this long.