The streets were empty and I had no trouble navigating them. The silence of the market square was eerie, and the buildings on either side seemed as deserted as a cemetery. I wagered that everyone was either hiding or storming the Preemphis building.
Help was only a few blocks away, yet every step felt far too slow. Eventually I spotted a the gates and rushed to a walled building. Two men flanked the entrance and reached for their weapons upon my approach.
“I’ve come from the Preemphis building, and the Commons Guard have been overtaken!” I said.
They hesitated, regarding me with suspicion.
“You have to listen, the mob has taken Empariver hostage as I speak.” I was shocked to think that no word had gotten to the Yusarde Guard .
“People are being held hostage!” I shouted and one of the guards finally moved.
“I’ll talk to the captain.” He disappeared inside and the other man kept an eye on me.
I was disappointed that they didn’t take the situation more urgently. Moments passed and I looked back nervously. I thought back to similar events in other cities in the past six months. Casualties had been high and I feared the worst. It wasn’t a secret that the people were unhappy, but no one had actually considered that the people would go so far in the capital itself.
Suddenly the gates swung open and a line of men streamed out. What I presumed to be the captain rode out in front of his men giving orders. “
They have hostages.” I walked over to the captain and his centered on me. “What’s this girl doing on these premises alone?”
His manner was agitated and he looked down at me in disapproval. “Remove her at once.”
Two men came up behind me and grabbed my arms. “Get your hands off me!” I yanked away from them, jerking free from their grasp. “I know what’s happened!” I tried to get the captain’s attention, but he ignored me. It was no use, they wouldn’t listen.
This time, someone grabbed me from behind and I was forced down the street, where they shoved me to the ground. I jumped to my feet but one of them drew his sword.
“Go home, klystiv,” He spat.
I watched them move off, one glancing back with scowl of disgust. Fine, if that’s how it was going to be. Once I was sure they were out of sigh, I sprinted back towards the Preemphis. I turned the corner, right into a rider’s path. My eyes widened as the man yanked back on the reins. The horse reared and I dashed out of the way. The horse’s hooves slammed down onto the road sending clouds of dust billowing into the air.
I backed away as the rider dismounted. A sliver of fear made its way into my mind. I was alone and I had run straight into his path. If this man was as spiteful as the guards, then I there would certainly be trouble.
I tensed when he said my name. “Syrena?” I didn’t answer, suspicious of how he knew who I was. Then he pulled away his scarf. The tension evaporated and gave him a wary smile.
“Arturo, what are you doing here? I thought you were on leave.” I was surprised to see my old friend. Something seemed different though, and I couldn’t quite place it.
He smiled and embraced me. “I was on leave, but I was told to return promptly. There’s been unrest in the city.”
I nodded, feeling some comfort that I was not alone. The I glanced over my shoulder.
“Oh, Arturo,” I gasped at the smoke billowing into the sky. “It’s from the building.”
Arturo’s expression turned hard and he swung into his saddle. I grabbed his hand. “I’m coming too.” He hesitated for a moment and then pulled me up.
“I should’ve said no, but you’d just find another way,” he said and slapped the reigns.
As we approached, the smoke reached us and it burned my lungs. “Hurry!” I leaned forward, trying to see how much of the building was burning.
Arturo urged the horse faster, and I could now see the Yusarde Guard in front as hundreds of people fled the fire. Large flames engulfed the building and sections were blackened and caving in. We reached the site and people pushed past while others fell to the ground covered in burns.
The place was full of chaos as maneuvered through the current of fleeing protesters. I’d cleared most of the crowd as I approached, but stopped short because of the scalding heat. I searched around hoping to spot Father among the crowd. I examined each face but didn’t see him anywhere. Someone slammed into me, sending me reeling to the ground.
I glimpsed a black jewel before my head hit the ground. I sat up in a daze and watched the flames wreak havoc. Arturo grabbed me, pulling me to my feet.
“It’s not safe around here,” he shouted over the noise. I fought him but he kept a tight hold on me.
“Arturo, I have to do something!”
He held on, whispering, “You can’t.”
I stopped struggling and slumped against him. My eyes watered from the smoke and my skin was burned from the heat. No one inside the building could still be alive. The Yusarde Guard were no longer trying to put out the fire. Instead, they were now concentrating on keeping it contained. As the fire grew, the rest of the building collapsed.
The fire took days to die and even then, the smoke produced a gray haze over the city. A few other buildings had caught fire, but it had mostly stayed contained. Rubble littered the ground and fallen pillars lay broken. The public had been blocked from the area and I returned home after searching for Father among the injured.
About a few days short of a week, Arturo came by. He told me that he did some searching and hadn’t found any trace of my father. For all I knew, he was buried under a pile of rubble beneath the ruins of the Preemphis. Like a good friend, Arturo encouraged me not to give up, but the odds were a thousand to one.
I sat outside and stared at the city from my home. The smoke hadn’t reached here thankfully, but I could still see the ruins from here. The remains were like a scar upon the land. I couldn’t believe he was gone. There was so much that hadn’t been shared with the public. No one had spoken to me about Father or whether he was dead.
Everything was a mess. Several members of Empariver had been executed before the fire and dozens of others were in critical condition. Although the Yusarde Guard had already begun a manhunt for all those involved, it wasn’t likely that they would catch the leader or those who’d been specifically involved.
The sound of hoof beats registered and I looked down the hill to see Arturo. He wore a serious expression and I feared that they’d found a body. I descended the stairs and met him outside the gates.
“What is it? Did you find a-” I couldn’t finish the sentence.
Arturo dismounted and grabbed my hands. “He’s not dead.”
I felt like I’d taken a blow. “What? Are you sure? Where is he?”
Arturo’s expression grew grim. “Witnesses say they saw him being taken by some radicals before the fire.” I exhaled a trembling breath.
“What?” I shook my head.
Arturo held my hand, “But don’t you see? We have a chance to get him back!”
I pulled my hand from his. “You don’t understand,”
He just shook his head, confused.
“Arturo, if he was taken by them, then they’re going to make him wish he’d died in that fire.”
Hey! I hope you all enjoyed the snippets from Veiled in Lies! Hopefully I’ll be able to post some poetry or some new story snippets from my writing soon. So, keep an eye out for more content in the future!