“Sire, hurry!” hissed Aurelian.
“I am coming!” Constantine Palaiologos hissed back.
Only three knew of the passageway they were rushing down – one was dead. Aurora had been caught.
The passageway forked, both passages shrouded in darkness. The men paused. They were wasting vital moments.
“Which way?” whispered Aurelian.
Palaiologos squeezed his eyes shut, trying to pull the palace blueprints from his mind.
“I need silence!” whispered Palaiologos venomously.
They hurried left. They had to get away from the monsters. The candle in Aurelian’s flickered and went out. The pair stopped in fear. And then sprinted down the corridor.
A faint glow of light came from around the corner. This pushed the men harder, made them speed up.
Eventually the glow faded and they slowed down to a walk again, panting. It was becoming harder to breathe; the oxygen was running out.
“Nearly... There...” wheezed Palaiologos.
Finally they reached the end of the passage. A ladder was stuck into the soil. Aurelian pushed his ruler up the ladder first. Palaiologos grabbed the cold metal and dragged himself up.
When he was halfway, Aurelian started climbing. The flickering glow had appeared again – and it was getting ever closer.
“Quickly!” bellowed Aurelian; there was no point being quiet anymore, the monsters had found them.
Palaiologos moved faster. He was right at the top but the monsters were almost on them. He banged on the grille as hard as he could and after several attempts it burst open, sunlight flooding part of the passageway.
He scrambled through the round hole, and emerged in the marketplace. People stared in confusion at their Emperor pulling himself out of a hole in the ground. Palaiologos ignored them and pulled Aurelian up.
Aurelian kicked the grille back into place and fell to his knees. He’d lost his sister to them and he didn’t know whether she was dead or... one of them. He was wishing ardently for the former.
Palaiologos placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder. He squeezed and pulled him up. He smiled wearily and looked around the marketplace. He needed to warn the people.
“Come on,” he said to Aurelian.
Aurelian nodded and followed Palaiologos over to the soldiers.
“Sire,” the two soldiers said simultaneously.
“Inform everyone to be in the Forum in one hour. Everybody, this is urgent,” said Palaiologos.