Just like the flash of lightning; one moment Ruby was at Cole's side, the next she had disappeared. He stretched forth his hand, and even called out to his companion, but the last glimpse of her was the picturesque way she turned back to look at Cole - one last time. Her eyes were not full of fear or concern, but a concrete determination concentrated itself in her expression.
Ruby was gone. Where she had been taken by Felgroth, the despicable Dragon King, was a guess Cole could not make. However, filled first with a wave of despair, then the determination reflected by Ruby, the young man sprang to his feet and rushed toward Malachai.
"Quick, we have to get some horses and save her!"
To the king's dismay, the loyal woodsman stood firm. "It's useless," he replied in a cold and meditative voice, "she has chosen her fate."
"What?! What are you saying?" Cole firmly grasped the collar of Malachai's garb, then shook him back and forth. His eyes were burning like embers. "Saving Ruby is not useless! You know, to hell with this! Come on Jace, I bet you'd like to see her returned."
The young fae was busy tending to his sister after her ordeal with the Leathered Winged Warriors. He placed his initial priority in ensuring her safety and wellness, then after she was cared for, he joined Cole's side.
Malachai waylaid them before they could mount any of the castle steeds. "My liege, I will not allow you to rush to your death, and I refuse to see Jace blindly follow. I said it is useless, and I meant it. If the enemy could penetrate our defenses to the very grounds of the castle, you are yet no match against his might. You will need aid."
"Then ride with us. Right now. We can save her, while there is still time!" Cole attempted to pass by Malachai, but he did not yield his ground, and stood defiantly in front of his king.
"You have my word, there is still time for rescuing the girl; if he wanted to, Felgroth could have slain her where she was standing. There is intention to his motive - unlike you, our enemy is more methodical. There is a grander scheme to this abduction-"
"All of the more reason to hurry!" Cole had lost his patience, and the ferocity of his spirit seemed to be boiling inside of him. He struggled to move Malachai yet agin, and near succeeded, much to the surprise of the woodsman.
"Enough, my liege. As I stated, you need aid. This being said, you have your own tasks ahead of you that you must face. We will need an army to stand against the power of Felgroth, because as of right now the army of Avelen is the lot of us that surrounds you. There is only one way to quickly gather an army these days - borrow someone else's. The fae are highly skilled warriors, when the time comes for war, but they will not fight alongside us if the nation is broken." Cole knew what Malachai was going to say next, but the woodsman continued regardless, "if you are in a hurry to save Ruby, you need the fae. If you want their numbers, and a clean chance to rescue the girl, as well as fulfill the role in which the prophecy describes, you must marry the princess."
Though the young man was filled with frantic sensations of harrowing rescues, he briefly paused his wild frenzy. Cole had all but forgotten the expectations of the royal community of Aura. Suddenly the image of matrimony passed through his mind, then a great terror seized him. It was certain to him that he was left with two options: stay and settle down, marrying the princess according to whatever customs they may have in Avelen, or mount one of the castle steeds and rush to an untimely and ill begotten demise.
He gulped, then endeavored to push passed Malachai again. "Out of my way!"
"I had hoped you would come to your senses, my liege, but it would appear that you still need more persuasion. For now, forgive me for this-" With unmatched speed the woodsman drew his sword from the scabbard near his hip, and using the hilt, he cracked Cole upon the head hard enough to rend the young man unconscious with one impressive blow.
"Grab his arms, Jace. I'll take the legs. Let's get inside the castle, and see what other damages have been done. We will also need to begin discussing strategy."
"Aye. Is what you said true?" They heaved, and commenced toward the castle, "is there time enough to save her?"
"What I said was sincere. Our enemy is plotting something, but exactly how sinister, I know not. Ruby made her choice, and she was right in doing so. She has spared your sister from tragedy, and thus one less must be counted among the dead, yet at the same time, she is now closer to our enemy then we could hope for - the only conjecture I am still unsure of is the corrupting power Felgroth. The girl is unlike any other I have seen."
Though the woodsman was referring to her sparring, Jace reminisced upon her stepping; the way she glided through the air, the magic of the lantern birds swirling around her, the sweetness of her kiss. "She sure is," he agreed with a nod and coy smile.
They placed Cole upon his bedding, after they had finally arrived to his bed chamber. He was out cold; no movement in his limbs, no speech on his lips. They both wiped the sweat from their brows, and Jace took a moment to catch his breath.
"That was quite the strike, Malachai. You'll have to demonstrate the form for me one day, I would like to learn how it is done."
"That day will be sooner than you think," he affirmed as he crossed the chamber, heading for the doorway, "if you want to help rescue Ruby, your training starts at sunrise. Until then, I have more work to do, so I take my leave."
Once Malachai had departed from the room, Jace took a moment in the silence to collect his thoughts. Staring down at the young man, paying special attention to the scarred cheek, he pondered the relationship between Cole and Ruby. After much deliberation, his jealousy succeeded in seeding the hope that their bond could be broken.
"There is one way I could steal her heart away," Jace thought to himself, exiting the room as well, another coy smile playing upon his face, "I will be the one who rescues Ruby!"