“Uzair… Uzair, come quickly. I need you,” D’ArtAnna called, sprinting under the pergola. It was encased with gnarled, twining wisteria vines.
Ralph ran behind her. The dense stems, thicker than his thigh, created an impenetrable wall forcing them to follow the flagstones laid in intricate patterns on the path’s floor. A hundred yards further, the tunnel ended in a circular courtyard bathed in sunlight. Ralph slowed, blinking, surprised by the size and the light, the fortress was larger than he had expected. Overhead a cheerful, cloudless blue sky greeted them. Along the perimeter were stone structures that towered four stories up the side of the constricting mountain. They gave the appearance of being carved from the black granite cliff by a brilliant stonemason.
D’ArtAnna’s pace had not slowed. She led them left, crossing the yard toward a shorter structure that seemed separated from the rest of the buildings.
“Uzair, help me,” she called.
To Ralph’s right, a door opened, and a massive, bulking figure ducked under a low lintel.
“I’m coming. What’s the…” his voice trailed off as he straightened, taking in the scene unfolding in front of him. Without thinking, he pivoted and charged at Ralph.
Standing tall, Uzair reached his full height. He was a giant. Ralph froze in his tracks to face him head-on. Uzair’s eyes burned with rage, his long, coal-black hair fanning out behind him as he ran. He stretched his arms wide revealing a broad well-muscled chest with strange tattoos. Ralph guessed this guy could squash his skull with a single massive hand.
“Great, this monster means to kill me,” Ralph muttered. The space between them was closing fast. Ralph held his ground, quelling his instinct to run, he knew he faced certain death. The earth shook with Uzair approach, his intention to protect D’ArtAnna was clear. Ralph’s calculations told him he had only one advantage.
A moment before they collided, Ralph danced sideways, ducking under the giant’s outstretched arms, he extended his foot to catch the man’s ankle in mid-stride. The palms of Ralph’s hands kissed the stones, and he tumbled past Uzair. Off-balance, grasping at thin air, Uzair stumbled, landing hard on his face, he howled. The noise echoed through the complex.
Ralph jumped to his feet, his gaze never leaving Uzair, he peddled backward, inching closer to the prince.
“Hey. Wanna call off your dog?” Ralph yelled as the big man began to rise from the pavement.
D’ArtAnna had reached the entrance and unbolted the door. She swung to look at them, groaning when she realized what had happened.
“Damm it, Uzair. Leave him alone, he won’t hurt anyone. I require your help to get him inside. Now Uzair,” she commanded, and she returned to access the prince’s condition.
Confused, Uzair stood motionless, his eyes darting from his mistress to Ralph.
Ralph raised his arms, both palms facing Uzair, he continued moving in the prince’s direction.
“Uzair, if Prince Kennward dies, it will be your fault,” she said over her shoulder.
The name prodded Uzair to action, he sprinted to D’ArtAnna, pushing her out of his way. He grabbed the prince and in a fluid movement, rolled him off the horse. He cradled the limp prince against his chest like a small child.
“The cot in the middle of the infirmary,” she said, pointing at the opening. Uzair strode past her, stooped down and twisted his body sideways, making sure he didn’t bang the prince’s head against the doorjamb, he disappeared inside. D’ArtAnna followed. Pausing in the doorway, she glanced back at Ralph.
“Sire, I will need your services too,” she said then vanished. The scent of gardenias remained.
Looking around the empty courtyard, Ralph heard birds singing, the stallion moved, shifting his weight. He patted the animal’s neck.
“I’m not sure who she thinks she’s talking to, but I’ll see to you soon, boy. Thanks for getting us to safety. Pray he lives. Okay?”
The stallion bobbed his head as Ralph stepped through another doorway.
Keep on writing.
Jo Hawk The Writer