Coming back to the present, Azoloth shook his head vigorously. He would find the reason behind the Queen's betrayal of the Knighthood. For King, country, and most of all for Sir Gregory.

The decision set solidly in his mind, Azoloth hardened his heart. Swallowing back all the tears and pain that coursed through him. He buried it deep within his soul. There was no place for that type of weakness here and now. At this moment it could only get him killed, instead he would let it fester and cool deep within him. Soon it would become an icy rage that would curse through his blood. That hatred would serve him better than this heated, painful anger. A reckoning was coming, and he swore to himself he would move heaven and earth to see it through.

Through Azoloth's mind echoed one of Sir Gregory's first lessons to him. "Three things you must trust in above all else. The horse on which you ride, the beast whom guards your sleep, and the sword hanging on your side."

Already his sword rested upon his hip as befitted a squire. The lesson to always carry it had been beaten into him repeatedly. The sword was the birthright of a freeman. Beyond even that, a Knight of the Realm must always be ready to defend both the realm and himself. Unconsciously, he laid his hand upon the hilt of his sword as he lay there. In the stables now, if he was to escape he would need Stravos, the mighty steed he trained for the last few years. Stravos technically belonged to Sir Gregory, but he was meant to become Azoloth's when he received his rank of Knighthood. The old Knight would not begrudge him taking Stravos and Crimson early under the circumstances. Crimson was a mighty black and red Shepard. The mighty canine was one of the Keeps war dogs. Every Knight in his order kept such a companion to guard him.

From where he lay he saw the mighty gates leading out of the Keep stood open yet well guarded. It appeared they were trying to repair the mechanism to close the gates. Likely one of the Keeps valiant guards destroyed the mechanism once the Keep was breached; preventing them from trapping everyone inside. A last act of defiance towards the invaders before death. The gate standing open meant he could escape to the east if he could just get to Starvos and Crimson.

Azoloth's hand was soon forced as a group of guards made their way into the kennel area of the stables. They began searching among the canines for any who hid among them. Knowing the beasts' loyalty lay with their masters, they also slew the dogs as they went from kennel to kennel. The dogs growled and gnashed their teeth menacingly at the guards, these were not small domestic canines. Each of the full grown dogs stood waist high on a man and weighed at least one hundred fifty pounds, one hundred fifty pounds of muscles and teeth.

The soldiers approached Crimon's cage and Azoloth knew he was out of time. He rolled out from under the trough and came up to his feet in one smooth motion. Azoloth understood his timing would be critical. Just as one soldier reached out and unlocked Crimsons cage, he let out a sharp whistle. As the whistle echoed through the stables at almost the same instant, there came the sound of thunder and splintering wood. Starvos had reared back at the sound of his Masters' call and struck the wooden gate to his stall, splintering the wood.

There were five guards opening Crimson's kennel and all five of them spun around to face the commotion. This mistake two of them would not live to regret. Crimson lunged forward and sharp teeth flashed, followed by blood spurting 6 feet into the air and raining down on the gathered guards. One guard fell to the ground, thrashing and grasping at his throat, which was no longer attached to his body. As the blood splattered down, the four remaining guards turned to Crimson, who was streaking towards them. One guard stood between himself and Azoloth, moments later another fountain of blood erupted and the second guard joined the first in eternity as Crimson rushed to his master.

Meanwhile, Stravos had struck the splintering stall door again, causing the wood to break apart. The guards turned back just to see the massive war horse surge forward. Steel shod hooves flashed as he reared up, and one guard was nearly scalped as the metal creased his forehead and sent him spinning back into the darkness.

The only thing faster than the massive black Shepard racing to his master was the sable warhorse who reached him seconds sooner. Azoloth reached down and ruffled Crimsons head before grasping Stravos' saddle and hoisting himself on to his steeds back. He rode Stravos earlier in the day, and it seemed the stable boy had not yet taken the saddle and saddlebags from the back of the steed. Normally the stable boy would have received a severe scolding for not taking care of the horse promptly. Now, however, Azoloth felt relief Stravos was ready to ride.

Using his knee's Azoloth turned Stravos and urged him forward towards the open gates and freedom, Crimson running beside them. Stravos's steel shod hooves sparked as he broke into a gallop across the cobblestones, only slowing as they neared the line of men for Crimson to take the lead. This was the type of fighting the trio had trained for. Azoloth drew his falchion and leaned in against Stravos’ neck. All the soldiers held pikes out to stop the charge of the stallion. Their goal; to kill all witnesses to the atrocity that took place here this night.

Azoloth let out a low whistle and Crimson surged forward with greater speed. The soldiers all held their pikes high, all braced for the massive warhorse. They were unprepared when over one hundred fifty pounds of gnashing teeth and shredding claws tore into them. The men, taken by surprise, scattered to the side, most dropping their pikes to the stone. As they reached for their swords or scurried backward to escape the relentless onslaught of the beast, Stravos reached them.

Steel shod hooves gleamed in the moonlight and caught a soldier's sword raised to strike Crimson. A single soldier kept his wits about him and held his pike still. The soldier brought this blade up towards Stravos' exposed throat. Azoloth brought his sword up and with a motion of practiced ease turned the pike aside. These guards had not the training of the Kings Knights, nor the squires it seemed.

Shouts of pain, fear, and fury followed them into the night as they vanished into the darkness. No doubt existed in Azoloths mind that search parties would be dispatched to find them. He was not worried though; he knew the lands for miles around intimately. As they escaped, the silvery glow of the moon fell once more across the landscape. He realized it had stopped raining at some point. Yet he would travel many of the dark paths which they would not know and lose any pursuit. After a quarter of an hour he slowed the pace of Stravos from a gallop to a brisk trot. He did not wish to exhaust him. As they fled into the night, he pondered where they would go once the initial danger had passed. Best head towards Nezbin, he decided, they might watch for him on the road to the capital expecting he would go there first. Nezbin of course would be watched as well, yet it was a border town and if needed it would be easy to slip into the shattered Kingdom to the south.


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