Subject 15: Ch 27

Subject 15: Legend of the Bai, book 2 by Chapel Orahamm, ring with green glow and tentacles against storm

TW: Death

There had not been as much improvement with the regiment in the past month as Fane had hoped. Running speed and shot accuracy had improved; however, many social and cultural traditions impeded progress at every turn.

Fane rolled in bed, burying his face in his pillow. His brain refused to let him sleep no matter how much he begged for it to shut up. It had been a long day for the Prince, which in turn made for a long day for him. He sighed heavily. The exams had not progressed well. Half the regiment failed to show up for the early morning run because of some religious thing. There was that. He should have consulted with one of the aides about his calendar before setting it up. That was all on him for having forgotten the culture. 

Then there was the meeting after lunch where he had to guard the Prince. It wouldn’t have been all that bad. Most of the meetings the Prince had were very passive. This one, though. They were facing down the Baron that the Prince had kissed him over. A seething boil at the indignity and the slow burn along his side rode his body hard for the five hours he stood behind his Prince’s chair.

More than once, the Prince had glanced back at him. Fane masked all traces of emotion with his deadpan gaze of indifference, but he could only assume the Prince was aware of how awkward the situation was.

He flopped again. The skylight in his new room allowed him to marvel at the starry sky. Every time he closed his eyes, the grey tentacles reached for him. He finally rolled out of bed. He couldn’t take the clinging material another minute. He paced the new room he had moved into the week before. 

The Prince had commissioned the old conference room to be remodelled into a massive studio apartment. A tiny bathroom and a minimal kitchen had been what took up the month of renovations. The plumbing and electrical had been challenging to run. Now, though, the unit could have looked like any Neo-York or Post London studio. An actual fridge, tiny two-burner range, and microwave gave Fane the luxury of cooking for himself.

The bathroom held a shower, toilet and sink. It had all been done with high-end materials. It would be an excellent contribution to the palace when he was no longer a bodyguard there.

He paced to the wall of bookshelves the Prince had seen fit to install at his request. Fane pressed a hidden switch, and the doubled-up thickness of the shelves dropped to reveal clam-hinged cases that held guns, knives, swords, throwing stars, and ammunition. Most of the books were fakes with varying types of ammo stashed inside of them.

Pulling a rifle off its mount, he took it over to the large dining table that dominated the space. He particularly liked the table. He could set up several projects at once on it and still have room to sit and eat. He got out his cleaning kit and sat down to begin a late-night cleaning session of his arsenal.

Halfway through dismantling, a loud bang rattled the building. Sirens shrieked. He was on his feet, grabbing his knife holster and a pair of Glocks before dashing out the door.

Picking up his speaker, he shoved the earbud in his ear, clicking it onto frequency. It was a bunch of chatter already. Ajay and the Prince were looking out the Prince’s door, trying to see what was happening. “Get him back inside!” Fane commanded Ajay as he dashed to the stairs. The sound had come from outside. The wailing alarm issued from the back compound. He took the stairs two at a time and threw himself around the corners.

The palace staff rushed through the first-floor halls. Dust and plaster fell in flecks. He caught crying words, saying the heir apparent had been shot. Fane dashed through the back to find the regiment with the palace fire brigade fighting to put out a fire taking over the heir-apparent’s compound. He tapped his speaker and tried to get someone to answer him calmly. No dice. 

“What happened?” Fane grabbed one of the men rushing past him. The man spoke too fast for Fane to catch what was happening. He turned in desperation, spotting Abhi and Orpita with Fateh in her arms, all appearing distraught. They were guardless, huddled under a tree, watching their home burn. Where were Tamasi and Tamira? He pushed through the torrent of personnel to them to find out what was happening.

Orpita started balling when Fane approached, pointed to the building. “Where’s Zahar?” he pressed the heir.

“He’s in there. He was with the girls,” Abhi tried to answer through choking sobs. Tears spilt in rivers as he held his wife and son tight to him.

Fane tapped the button on his mic. “Ajay, get in contact with the bodyguards. Have one sent out. Zahar and the girls are stuck in the compound and Abhi is guardless. Over.”

“Copy that.”

Abhi, chewing his lip, nodded at the arrangement. Fane took it for what it was and made for the fire brigade.

Pulling open a door of the fire engine and rummaged through the contents, he slipped into a suit and breathing system. He took a deep breath, checking the regulator. Then he faced down the maw of a door. Flames overtook the back of the two-story building.

Inside, the smoke clung thick and claustrophobic to the rooms. Even with the fire at the other end of the building, the air was clogged and hot. Fane ducked low, shimmying his way through to join the rest of the fire brigade. They were sweeping what they could of the upstairs. He signalled to the lead he would go through the bottom with a couple of the men.

Near the back, he found the bedrooms. What he discovered inside made his stomach drop, and his skin crawl. Zahar, his battered monstrous frame, was collapsed on the floor, curled around a body. A little foot stuck out from under him. Fane ran to the big man. Part of the back of his head was missing. Blood had swamped the floor under him. Fane rolled the guard over to reveal one of the twins. He wasn’t sure which it was. Her glassy eyes stared aimlessly at the ceiling, and her slack jaw made his heart ache. 

He hefted the little girl into his arms. Zahar would be too heavy, but he knew the twin’s parents would want their little girl back. As he turned to make his way out of the smoke-filled room, writing on the wall, simple enough for even him to read, caught his eye. The flowing script, written in red paint or blood, read Down with the royals

He glanced around once more as the ceiling cracked and the heat in the room went up. Where was the other girl? Her bed was rumpled, stuffed animals scattered around. He checked under the frames of the bed and the wardrobe, not seeing the girl. A beam above him rumbled, and the walls bowed. The ceiling was going to come down.

He pulled out and took the body to the crowd. A whizzing slash of the air brushed his ear. Fane ducked with the body as the bullet hit the ground, and the ricochet echoed in the compound. Gunfire raged as chaos erupted, sending the crowd into a scattered panic. A woman in black camo fell from the palm trees. A third of Fane’s fire team dismantled their gear and took on point to search the compound, proceeding to round up eight more snipers throughout. He lost two men to the firefights.

A medical van parked close to the main palace was much-needed relief for the firefighters suffering smoke inhalation. There, he placed the tiny body on an open gurney. He tried his best to explain what he had seen to the medic, but his grasp on New Punjabi was evaporating with the rapid beat of his heart. Abhi rushed to the medical van. He stumbled back, shocked. His wife wailed, throwing herself across her daughter’s body.

“What happened?” Prince Orlov clapped Fane on the shoulder, stopping him from rushing back into the building. The bodyguard grabbed his prince by the back of his neck and forced him down on his knees to put him between the gurney and the ambulance. Fane gave him the run down, clipped and frustrated in manner.

“Dammit! We’ve had threats before, but this!” the Prince cursed.

“I have to go back in, Prince. The other girl is still missing, and my men are falling like flies out here.” Fane tapped the glass on his regulator to check the dial. A blast had him wrapped around the Prince, taking the man to the ground. Chunks of masonry and metal flew in all directions. It took almost half a minute before debris stopped raining down. Fane, ever aware of the Prince’s body pressed against his, the Prince’s head pushed against his chest, the man’s breathing, his heart thumping against him, waited for the calm within the storm. His own heart pounded hard enough to leave him vibrating.

Debris settled. The roar of the fire subsided. Smoke. The smell of masonry, grout, burst water pipes, saw dust, and leaking gaslines collided with dirt, leaving a disturbed sense of war in the air. Fane carefully unwrapped himself from the Prince, keeping the man down while he took in surveillance of the dark grounds. Masonry ash smudged the Prince’s face. Rubble flecked in his flaxen hair. Fane’s chest tightened and gut twisted. Someone had threatened the people who had been nice to him. They had killed an innocent child, if not both of the twins.

“Are you all right, Mr Orlov?” Fane growled, finally allowing the man to sit up, putting his body in direct line of sight if someone was occupying a sniping point. Firefighters outside the building rushed to the smouldering wreckage for their lost comrades caught up in the destruction. A hard pit settled in Fane’s stomach. He had lost at least twenty trained men in that blast.

“I think so; thank you, Anson.” Orlov glanced at the charred rubble that used to be his brother’s house. Blood dripped from a gash to his forehead, and his face had gone pale. The man shivered beneath Fane.

“We need to get you to a safe place until the palace grounds have been secured, Mr Orlov.” Fane helped the man to his feet. The Prince was shaking and the gash needed to be seen by a proper medic. Ajay and Shelley rushed to them, filthy and dishevelled. “Ajay, take the Prince to a safe house. I need to start securing the palace.” Fane placed the responsibility of the Prince’s safety with the man’s old bodyguard. 

“We have the main palace secured already. Dismantled a bomb placed in the kitchens. We found a ransom note in the foyer.” Ajay handed Fane an envelope. It was high-quality linen, stiff and formal. He pulled the thin rice paper sheet from inside. The calligraphy was meticulous and tediously executed. Not rushed. Premeditated. He made slow progress with it before Orlov glanced over his shoulder and provided a translation.

“Do we have your attention now? Pain and humiliation are what you deserve. Tomorrow, you will suffer, like I have suffered. Watch the news.” The Prince eased the sheet from Fane’s fingers. The envelope and paper smelled heavily. It was a strange odour that convinced the redhead he had smelled it before.

“I recognise the handwriting.” The Prince tapped on a squiggly letter. He glanced at Fane, his amber eyes chipped and clear. 

“The Baron?” Fane asked, the floral fragrance under gas and explosives finally coming to him. The Prince nodded mutely. “You humiliated him at the party?” Fane swallowed hard. Had he led to the death of the Prince’s niece and her bodyguard?

“The man is looking at bankruptcy and has not been able to pay his land taxes in several years. He’s looking at losing his empire next month. I told him as such this afternoon at the meeting. This is the act of a desperate man trying not to lose his position,” the Prince explained, his voice brittle and cracked.

“Are you certain?” Fane growled, cold anger sliding ice through his veins.

“Absolutely.” The Prince met Fane’s glower. His bodyguard’s eyes flashed frozen mercury. He sucked in his breath as hairs rose on the back of his neck.

“I serve you, Prince. It would be wise to order me because if I have my way right now, he won’t go like Zahar,” Fane promised retribution.

“Save my niece, whatever you have to do,” the Prince commanded, leaving the rest to Fane. At this point, he didn’t care. His family was under attack.

“Sir!” Fane yelled as he melted into the crowd.

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

If you would like to tip the author, check out the following buttons:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s