Chapter Four

Avian reported to his watch captain in the morning. Squadron headquarters was in a bustle. Everyone was arguing until they noticed Avian in the room. All at once the room fell silent and everyone stopped what they were doing. The watch captain set down the papers that where in his hand and stepped towards Avian.

“Avian….” There was a long pause, “We stopped receiving reports from Seraph at around two o’clock last night. The last report came from outpost three. No one has seen or heard from him at any of the other airfields.”

Avian stood blank, but the shock soon turned to fear.

“That’s not all. The enemy is advancing and advancing fast. Word has been sent to the king and we’re waiting for the commander’s reply. I’m readying the squadron knights for war.”

Avian’s fear became a rush of determination.

“How many men have gone to look for him?”

“None have gone. I can’t afford to send to send anyone. Avian, we’re on the brink of a massive offensive!”

Avian was no longer listening. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

He pointed directly at the chief mechanic and said, “Get a two-seater ready. I’m going out there to find him.”

There was no hesitation from the chief mechanic. He was off preparing the plane before the watch captain could protest.

“Avian! You are not authorized to go! I know that he’s your friend, but it’s too dangerous out there!”

Avian looked to the other knights in the room.

“Anyone else going with me?”

Not a move. Not a sound. Everyone was frozen with shock and fear. The prospect of war can make the bravest of men question the strength within themselves. But not Avian, not today. His friend was out there and he was going to bring him back.

He didn’t wait a second. He raced to the plane. The engine was already running and before anyone could stop him he had the plane on the field. He quickly gained speed and lifted off into the air. Outpost three was the last place anyone saw Seraph before he disappeared, so that’s the direction that Avian headed in. Following the flight path from outpost three Avian kept an eye on the ground for any signs of a downed airplane. At last, just north of the flight path Avian spotted Seraph’s downed plane. A rush came over him. He was glad to have spotted him so quickly, but was he alive? All at once Avian noticed several drakes coming at him from the west. They were already so close. He spent so much of his focus looking towards the ground that he abandoned his better judgement of keeping a full view of the sky.

Before he could rescue his friend, he’d have to take down the beasts. He pulled up quickly to get some height and speed on the drakes. He was going to catch them on the dive. He was able to count their number. Three drakes in all. Avian readied his two machine guns and dove towards the oncoming drakes. His speed increased with the dive. His whole machine vibrated as if it were going to break apart at any minute from the speed. A rookie pilot might think to slow down. He might question the integrity of the machine. But Avian was no rookie and he knew just what his plane could handle. As soon as the beasts got within range Avian opened fire. Two of the drakes broke off, but the center one took the brunt of the lead. A drake’s weakest spot was the flesh running down the spine and Avian had his guns trained on him. Before the drake had a chance he was spinning lifeless to the ground.

Avian had to maneuver quickly if he wanted to maintain the advantage. The two remaining drakes were already coming in for the kill. As Avian pulled up to regain altitude a drake swooped in from behind and bellowed a stream of fire. His aim was too short and Avian was able to turn his plane away from the dragon’s fiery path.  Just then he spotted a drake coming straight at his left. Before he could maneuver his plane, he saw bursts of red coming from the drake’s side. The drake writhed in flight and changed its path downwards. Avian looked backwards to see what had placed the holes in the drake’s flesh. Four of his squadron’s knights come to his aid. Cheers could be heard from the other pilots. One of them gave Avian the signal to land and get Seraph. The incoming knights could handle the remaining drakes.

Seraph’s plane went down on a reasonably flat landscape making Avian’s ability to pick a landing spot easy. Avian brought his plane within yards of the wreckage. He hopped out the biplane ran towards Seraph. He could see Seraph lying on his back next to the remains of his aircraft. He got out. Avian thought. He must still be alive!

“Seraph!” shouted Avian as he ran towards his friend.

Seraph let out a weak cough and raised his hand ever so slightly as to greet his friend.

“I knew you would find me. Looks like they finally got good ol’ Seraph, eh?”

He looked very beat up. His plane looked even worse. A pile of charred sticks and twisted metal is all that remained. Avian knew that Seraph went out looking for a fight. He’d done it before but with greater success. He was lucky to be alive.

“You’re a fool, Seraph. A damned fool.”

They both laughed with relief. Seraph grimaced from the pain. It was good to laugh and to be alive, but maybe the laughing should wait. Avian got him loaded into the plane and headed back to the airfield with the rest of his knights. The medical team was already standing by when they arrived. Seraph was laid on a stretcher and taken to the infirmary to be cared after. All planes returned unscathed, but that didn’t stop the watch captain from calling Avian to his office and giving him a good talking to.

“I told you not to go out there. You could have gotten yourself, and everyone else killed!”

“You know that I couldn’t have just left him out there. He would have died!”

“I understand that. The life of one knight we can manage without, but we cannot win this war if we all start dying for stupid reasons.”

“Respectfully sir, if dying for one of our brothers isn’t worth the sacrifice, then what the hell are we all doing here? What the hell are we all fighting for?”

The captain did not respond. Avian had enough of him. He turned around and headed towards the infirmary to check up on Seraph’s condition.

“You know he’ll never fly again!” The captain yelled from a distance.

Avian turned around to face him.

“I’m grounding him. He’s become too much of liability. He can serve the kingdom in another capacity.”

Avian just turned around and walked away. He didn’t want to make the situation worse. He was angry though. We’re in the middle of a war and one of the best pilots in the squadron gets grounded. He thought. Now was not the time to be upset. For all he knew Seraph’s injuries could’ve been severe enough to bar him from ever flying again anyway. Avian refused to let his anger get to him until he knew for certain that Seraph was alright. Then and only then would he raise some hell.

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