How Journeys End by Pineapple | Content Warnings
Finding the hideout of the insurrection was not the problem simply because General Helianthus was leading them. There was not a doubt in Camellia’s mind that her general would lead them to the correct place—to the rebels that had dared to abduct the princess of their own country.
His troops followed dutifully on their horses, all of them armored and prepared for battle, as he led them across the river and towards the mountains. He had told them the situation the day before, and they packed up their camp, and their medic patched up small injuries accrued from scuffles with rebels or overzealous sparring matches while the others created a rough plan. The baseline was simple: it didn’t matter how many lives were lost so long as Princess Siana was safe. The finer details would be hammered out once they saw the base. They hadn’t survived this long without improvising and learning how to fight alongside each other well, with General Helianthus leading them and Chrysan at their backs.
The problem was when the general sent Chrysan and Camellia forward to scope out the enemy.
Yarrow, the medic, stopped them. “Be careful,” he said. He looked at them with dark eyes from behind his messy bangs. His hair was the same shade of white that Chrysan’s was, but longer and tied at the back of his head. “Chrysan, the general is sending you and Camellia instead of Cori because you two are faster and know rebel strategies better. Don’t strain your eyes trying to see the impossible and don’t get caught.”
“Strain my eyes?” Chrysan echoed incredulously. “I’m fine.”
“I know you got a headache after the Battle of the Green Bed and that was how you tipped off Camellia about what we’d be up against,” he chided. “Get close enough to see into the cave, but don’t let them see you.”
“I know how to infiltrate and spy, Yarrow,” Chrysan shot back with a scowl. “Don’t lecture me.”
Yarrow rolled his eyes. “Camellia, please watch over this idiot.”
She laughed lightly, nodding her head. “Yes, of course, Yarrow.”
Before Chrysan could protest more, Camellia dragged him away towards the caves.
There were few fortifications. Nothing to give away any hints that anything other than wildlife had ever taken up residence there.
“They weren’t meant to be here for long,” Camellia noted. “It’s a temporary hideout, not a main base of operations.”
Chrysan hummed in reply at her side. “Should we return to the general? Or should you and I pretend to want to join the insurrection to get information?”
She shot him a look and was about to retort, but the sudden far-off look in Chrysan’s eyes stopped her. It was the same look he had when he’d pinpointed an enemy on the battlefield and was about to shoot them. His eyes were sharp and focused, following something she couldn’t see, without blinking. She waited for him to speak.
After a moment, he opened his mouth. “We’ve been spotted.” Another pause. “I doubt just us, either.”
Camellia saw no threat, but she knew better than to doubt her comrade. “We should return to the others.”
They kept low, hid in the grass, and hurried back to the rest of their unit. The general looked at them from atop his horse, waiting for their reports.
“They’ll be expecting us,” Chrysan announced. “I saw a scout coming from your direction. She spotted us as well. Surprise is no longer an option.”
“We can’t wait,” Camellia said. “If they know we’re here, they may kill the princess before we get to her.”
“She’s a valuable hostage,” the general countered. “She’s a bargaining chip for them, not useless baggage.”
“Maybe so, but if it were me heading into a battle with the leader of a country I was rebelling against?” Camellia raised her eyes, brows furrowed as she looked at her general. “Traitors aren’t forgiven. I’d know I wasn’t getting out of it alive regardless. I’d lessen the load and try to escape.”
From her horse, a small girl spoke up. “Where’s their escape route?” Her eyes were a pretty pink color, and she blinked widely at the returning two. Her hair was brown and cut into a short, cropped style.
“We had little time before returning, Cori,” Chrysan answered lightly. “We figured we needed to act quickly.”
Cori was a master of infiltration. Both she and Chrysan were aware that she’d have done a better job at checking their status, but Camellia was more familiar with how the rebels worked than either of them, and Chrysan had such good vision it was nearly magic. She seemed miffed, if Camellia and Chrysan had to guess, but it was the best decision and all of them knew it.
General Helianthus hummed shortly before nodding. “I hate going into this battle with so little information, but I trust you all to find the princess and protect her. Let’s go.”
Camellia moved around her leader to her horse and mounted, and to her right, Chrysan mounted his. With a firm kick to the side of his ride, the general led them forward to the cave. The horses would be a disadvantage in the space the cavern offered. They were seasoned enough to know this.
But before they could even get close enough to dismount and make a forward attack, rocks were being hurled out of the mouth of the opponent’s base.
Horses scared and bucked some riders off before running to a safer distance. The shieldsmen in the unit recovered quickly and moved to the front, covering the rest of their fallen comrades. Chrysan hopped off his horse and behind a shield, drawing his bow and an arrow. He was already aiming carefully into the darkness when Camellia chanced a look at him.
The rocks stalled, just enough to give time for everyone to dismount. For the horses to trot away, armored, safe from harm. Enough time for everyone to get into formation.
The other archers followed Chrysan’s lead, holding position, waiting for his signal to shoot.
A girl with yellow hair tied up in a ponytail glanced behind her, glaring at Chrysan. “You should have waited for the general’s signal!” she scolded.
He grimaced at her. “Give me a break,” he said. “Didn’t I give you enough time to recover after your horse bucked you off?”
She huffed, kicking backwards to hit him in the shin.
“Tarra!” he shouted at her, nearly doubling over.
She smiled to herself.
“Behave,” the general said with a fond sigh.
Chrysan rolled his eyes, drawing his bow again. Tarra nodded, her ponytail bouncing as she did, a determination in her eyes at her commander’s words.
“We’ll move forward like this,” the general said. “Camellia, Tarra, Cori, Yarrow. When the archers shoot again, break off and move forward apart from us. We’ll divert their attention.”
Tarra looked back behind her, glancing at the people she was covering with her shield. “But, sir…”
“They’ll need cover in case they’re seen. You’re the best. The others will watch us.”
She gritted her teeth. “Yes, sir.”
On the count of three, she shifted back and the other shieldsmen covered the gap created with her gone. She looked to find the others at her side already.
“We’ll see you there, General.”
He nodded. Looked forward. “On my mark. One…”
Chrysan and the others drew their bows.
They held. Camellia and the others got ready to sprint.
The twang of the bowstrings, the sound of air splitting for their arrows. Feet on dirt. Tarra panting at her side.
Soon it was sounds of panic. Of reformations. Sounds of dying.
With the distraction of their first line of defense being shot, the rebels hadn’t seen their small group break away. Cori had them pause at the mouth of the cave, listening.
“Now or never,” Cori announced. She turned to look back at Tarra. “Are you leading us in?”
“Where do you think the princess is?”
“If she isn’t dead? Towards the back.”
Camellia agreed. “It’s what I’d do. They’ll hold onto her as long as they can before risking such a valuable hostage. They still think they might win.”
Hunched behind Cori was Yarrow, and he stifled a laugh. “Poor fools,” he said. “I could throw a poison in there.”
“Too risky,” Camellia said.
“She’s right.” Tarra nodded. “I’ll lead us in.”
She took a frontal position and led them in with her shield blocking any rocks or projectiles that might come their way.
The clang of rocks on metal stopped.
It was the sound of footsteps. Shouting.
Camellia grabbed Tarra’s waist as she stumbled backwards. She’d caught the brunt of four swords with her shield and—
Camellia drew her sword as an arrow from the back of the cave shot towards them. Tarra fell back and Camellia took the front, hitting the arrow away, into the crowd of enemies approaching them.
Yarrow slid out and stabbed two of the swordsmen quickly in succession. Deadly precision. They fell, bleeding, screaming, cursing. Cori stabbed the other two.
Camellia barely saw Tarra push herself up before she was fighting another of the rebels. She recognized a desperation in them—a frantic and passionate way of fighting. A lost youth in the person she was facing.
She heard Yarrow’s yelling echoing throughout the cave. Heard banging on Tarra’s shield. Heard Cori panting with exhaustion somewhere behind her. She heard the rest of her unit, her general, arriving at the front of the cave. How far back had she come? The kids were screaming. Yelling. Fighting and dying. All of it for their lives and for lost lives and a life they could never have.
The boy in front of her spit in her eyes.
She’d been fighting long enough to move. To dodge even when her eyes shut.
The sting of a dulled blade in her arm reminded her that she wouldn’t die here. She couldn’t. She hadn’t survived this long for nothing. She caught the sword in one hand and headbutted forward until she felt her head connect with her attacker’s. She felt him stumble. She dropped the blade and felt him fall.
She kicked away his sword. Camellia took the chance to wipe her face and eyes, wipe her cut hand on her pants. As he tried to grab for his weapon, Camellia stabbed him in the thigh. Enough to hurt, not enough to kill. Yet.
The boy looked up at her with fiery, fierce determination.
She pointed her blade to his neck.
He had no fear. And…
The boy’s head snapped to look at the side.
Camellia didn’t move.
The boy’s face paled. “How did you get out?” he shouted. “Did someone—”
She turned to look, following the boy’s gaze.
Running towards her was Princess Siana. Her dress was stained, tattered but not torn. Her hair was clumped and had some dirt and grass in it. There were a few smudges on her face and arms. A thin trail of blood on her neck. But she looked mostly unharmed.
Princess Siana grabbed her arm, lowering her sword. Camellia let her.
“I am unharmed,” Siana said. Her eyes were filled with concern—with… disdain? Reprimand? Was she begging or chastising? Camellia didn’t know. “Do not hurt him.”
“I need information from him!” she shouted. “He’s the leader of this group!”
Camellia looked down at him.
“I’d rather die,” he answered.
The sound of air splitting.
Camellia shoved the princess to the side, diving out of the way of an arrow. She looked up from her spot on top of the princess to see a young girl at the boy’s side. She was helping him up.
“Celan!” she called him.
The girl hoisted the boy’s arms into her arms, becoming a crutch for him. She had one hand around the boy’s waist, and in the other an empty bow. Her arrows were attached at her hip. Camellia saw the look of relief on the girl’s face.
He uttered her name. “Holly…”
“We have to get out of here.”
Their voices were quiet, Camellia realized. And she could hear them. Behind her, the battle must be finished. These two were harmless. They only wanted each other and to leave alive.
She pushed herself off Siana, offering a hand to the princess. The princess took it gratefully, but Camellia was looking for her comrades. The general was pacing towards her, glancing at the casualties as he passed them.
Past her. Towards the rebels.
“General Helianthus—” Princess Siana started.
He held up a hand to quiet her. “Princess Siana, I am glad to see you unharmed. The battle is not yet over. We will speak afterwards. Camellia, please take the princess out and have Yarrow look over her.”
Siana huffed next to Camellia.
“Sir, the princess has requested we take them prisoner for information.”
He shook his head. “You and I both know the damage this group has done. Go.”
Camellia pressed her lips together and held back a sigh. She grabbed ahold of Princess Siana’s hand and led her back to the mouth of the cavern, to her comrades.
“He is considerably less polite on the battlefield than he is in a dining hall,” Siana commented.
Camellia stifled a laugh.
“Will he kill them?” Siana asked then. Camellia felt Siana turn around, searching behind her.
“Don’t look, Princess,” she said, tugging on Siana’s hand.
Camellia shook her head, and when she looked back, Siana was resigned to looking over the rest of the unit. Everyone had survived, and Yarrow was patching up the wounds everybody sustained. Chrysan was unusually quiet, watching as Camellia and Siana came out of the cavern.
When Camellia followed Chrysan’s gaze back behind her, she saw General Helianthus talking with the rebel boy. The girl was lying on the ground, in a puddle of blood.
He didn’t have the same fiery glare he’d had when fighting with Camellia. His—Celan, the girl had called him—face was pale, his eyes shaking. It wasn’t the blood loss. It was a look of fear.
“Camellia?” Siana called.
The general raised his sword.
Camellia tugged her hand again, to keep her focus forward. She shook her head and smiled. “Yes, Princess?”
“Will all of you be returning me to the castle? Or just you?”
Camellia shrugged. “More people would be slower. A few of us should be sufficient to protect you from any bandits or rebels that may approach. I’m sure your father would like to have you back at home, safe and sound as soon as possible. We will await my general’s orders. Yarrow can take a look at your injuries…”
She guided the princess to Yarrow. He looked much friendlier as a medic than he did on the battlefield, just a few moments ago. His dark eyes were soft as he took Siana’s hand and sat her down next to Tarra, bowing his head.
“Your Highness,” he said, his head down. “Glad you’re mostly unharmed. I’ve heard much about you from Chrysan.”
Tarra inclined her head in her own bow. “Princess Siana,” she greeted. “I’m glad we made it in time.”
“Tarra Dracul,” Siana said back. “I hope your family is well.”
Tarra smiled, blushing lightly at the recognition. “They are, last time I’ve heard from them. Thank you, Princess. I apologize for not attending the banquet you arranged. Only a few soldiers were invited, and some of the others wanted very badly to see the castle.”
“Ah,” Siana drawled, good-natured. “Rest assured, I take no offense. Your family shares a long history with mine. We always welcome you to my home, whenever you wish to call on us.”
Camellia internally sighed at the decorum. She’d hoped to avoid it on the battlefield, but saving a princess, being in the same unit as Tarra, who was of a noble birth, meant she would never be completely apart from it. She knew that now.
Yarrow was examining Siana’s wrists, turning her hands over in his. “They had your hands bound?” he asked.
“They didn’t hurt me,” she said.
He looked up, a brow raised. “How did you escape?”
A smile crept onto her face. “Nobody was watching me. I am one of the best magic users in the country. It took a bit of time, but I burned through the rope and bag.”
He gave out a low whistle.
There was a change in the air as Chrysan finally joined the group. “Hello, Princess Siana,” he greeted, barely bowing his head. “Lovely to see you again.”
Siana smiled, nodding right back at him. “It seems you’ve done well on the battlefield,” she said cordially. “I do wish you’d return to us at the castle, however. Viola misses you, too.”
“Well, I’ve spoken with the general,” he said. “Unfortunately, I will not be accompanying you all. Camellia and Tarra will be escorting you back to your father, the king.”
Camellia glanced up. “You spoke to him?”
Chrysan nodded, a glassy look in his eyes. So it was done, Camellia realized with a profound sadness. The rebel group was finished, until they found the next one to track. He smiled despite it. “You three should go,” he said. “Before the princess sees something she shouldn’t.”
“Yes,” she agreed slowly. “We’ll leave now. Thank you, Chrysan. Please be careful. I’ll have them send a message when we arrive to get your location.”
He nodded again.
It would be a few days’ ride to the castle.
1 thought on “How Journeys End Chapter Three: Rescue”
Good story. Can’t wait to read what happens nxt.