The Last Stand (The Eleven Years War: Book One)

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Chapter Thirty-Nine

Elise stared up at the inky blackness above her, trying to calm her troubled mind enough to allow her to sleep. Even though she was as tired as she’s ever been, her mind wouldn’t let her sleep; since the Giskens told her that they were going to kill her if she didn’t give up Olrick, Eza or Silas, her mind had worked furiously, trying to decide whether or not she should give in. She hadn’t during the interrogation, but now that she’d had more time to think about it, she’d really began to consider it. She knew that none of them expected her to hold out through harsh Gisken interrogations, but she still couldn’t stomach the idea of betraying them; then again, she couldn’t seem to stomach the idea of being hanged, either. It was a hard position to be in, the hardest she’d ever been in.

After only the gods know how long of staring up at a ceiling she couldn’t see, Elise began to hear sounds coming from the hallway. It sounded like one of the Giskens was talking to someone a little ways away from the cell

She rolled over, wrapping her blanket tighter around herself. They were probably just changing the guard; it was around the right time for it.

However, something was wrong; that became apparent to her the second she heard Gisken soldiers shouting and screaming in the corridor.

Elise sat up and sat still, trying to figure out what was going on outside. It sounded like there was some sort of fight going on: she could hear the familiar sounds of swords clanging against each other and feet scuffling a little ways away. It got closer as the minutes passed, bringing whatever carnage was going on out there closer and closer to her cell.

Too close for comfort. Elise found herself lighting a fire in her hands, illuminating her cell, and stared at the cell door, waiting for the door to open. Whatever was going on out there, she didn’t want any part in it, and if someone tried to drag her into the raging fight… well, she was going to burn them, even worse than she’d burned Blair.

Much to Elise’s surprise, as the battle reached her door, the noise just… stopped. It seemed that whatever had happened was over, now.

Elise let her flame dwindle. It seemed that she had nothing to worry about, now.

There was a loud clang as her cell door unlocked and the door swung open.

Elise didn’t even wait to see who it was: she threw flames at them, praying to the gods that they would go away.

There was a loud shout as whomever it was backed out of the doorway and out of the flames, then someone cursing in… Caithian?

“Elise, it’s me!” The flames dwindled in her hand, again. She recognized that voice.

“Olrick?” She scrambled to her feet as he came back into the cell. He wasn’t wearing his usual gray cloak, but it was certainly him; just a little more cut and beat up than usual.

Elise could feel tears brewing in her eyes. He was here; he wasn’t going to let them kill her.

“How did you know where I was?” she asked as Olrick stuck two metal things into her shackles. He began to move them around, apparently trying to pick the lock.

“I’ll tell you all about it once we get out of here,” he said as the lock to the shackles came open. “How are you feeling? Can you run?”

Elise nodded. “I’m a little sore, but I’m alright.”

Olrick looked outside the cell, looking around for Giskens. “Stay close to me. If the Giskens get me, keep going.”

She bit her lip. It looked like she wasn’t quite out of the woods, yet.

After a few more seconds of Olrick scanning the corridor to make sure it was clear of Giskens, they began running down the hall.

At first, the corridor was surprisingly empty. It was lined with injured or dead Gisken soldiers, most of whom had deep sword wounds. Some groaned in pain, others cursed them as they went by, others simply stared up at them, their eyes begging for help. Elise found herself growing sick at the carnage; yes, they were Gisken soldiers, the same ones that were going to kill her the second they got back to their camp, but… well, as they lay in the corridor, dead or dying, they didn’t seem like monsters even she believed them to be. They seemed like mere children as they lay there in pain, and Olrick had been the one to do it, just to save her.

However, Elise didn’t have much time to feel sorry about the Giskens. After they’d turned a corner, entering another long corridor, Elise began to hear shouts coming from the other end of the hall. It sounded like more Giskens had arrived to keep Elise from escaping.

Despite herself, Elise found herself getting her fire at the ready. If they were about to get into a fight, she wasn’t going to let Olrick fend them off on his own; she couldn’t let anyone else get hurt because she couldn’t defend herself.

A few seconds later, she saw the Giskens running down the hall towards them. All of them held their swords up, ready to kill them.

Olrick stopped running and held up his sword, ready to fight. “Stay behind me-“

Elise allowed flames to lick her fingertips. “Olrick, let me help. There’s no way you can beat them all by yourself; you’ll just get yourself killed, and that isn’t going to help any of us.”

He looked back, with a look on his face that told her that he wanted to argue, but he didn’t; they didn’t have time to argue.

Olrick looked back at the Giskens. “Then stay close, and watch my back.”

The Giskens attacked.

Elise didn’t have time to think about what she was going to do when the first Gisken attacked her; her body just acted. As the Gisken swung his sword for her throat, she reached her hands out and let flames shoot from her palms.

The soldier didn’t have a chance to react, with them in such close quarters. The flames snatched at his leather breastplate and his cotton shirt, setting them on fire. He screamed as he fell, desperately trying to pat out the flames that were now consuming him.

Elise didn’t seem to care; she didn’t have the time to. By the time that Gisken was down, another one had taken his place, this one with a staff similar to Eza’s.

This Gisken was a lot faster than his comrade was. He smacked her on the back of her knees, hard enough that it sent Elise down on her back. Just as he raised his staff above her head to make the killing blow, she shot fire into his face. Unlike his comrade, that Gisken went down without much of a scream; she was fairly certain that he was dead before he even hit the ground.

Her blood ran cold as she sat there for a brief second. She’d just killed two people.

Olrick grabbed her by the back of her dress and pulled her to her feet as a Gisken sword tried to take off her leg. When she looked over at him, she could see a pile of corpses beginning to form at his feet. How could he do it? How could he kill people without seemingly batting an eye?

Suddenly, Olrick froze up in fear. When Elise looked up, she saw that General Raul had arrived. He was holding a massive broadsword, one that was bigger than she was.

“Run,” he said, getting ready for the fight of his life. Elise didn’t seem to hear him; she was too terrified at the thought of fighting Raul. He approached like an avenging angel, coming to send both of them to hell.

“Run!”

Elise heard what he was saying, that time. She shot flames in front of her at the Giskens and began running through the crowd of them, praying that her power would be enough to keep her safe.


“Leave her!”

The Giskens looked at their general, surprised. They were focusing so much on their escaping prisoner; they hadn’t even considered that Raul wouldn’t want them to give chase. Even Olrick was surprised; they’d seemed so intent on keeping her there, it was strange to watch them let Elise go just like that.

“Sir?” The soldiers were confused, and why shouldn’t they be, after watching their comrades die to keep Elise down there?

“The girl’s just a pawn,” Raul explained. He seemed calm, but Olrick could hear an impatient edge to his voice. “We have the one we want right here.”

Olrick’s grip on his sword tightened. “If I’m the one you wanted, then why didn’t you just arrest me?”

“Because Polain would never just hand over one of his officers, unless they did something threatening like this,” Raul said simply. “Just like how I had to wait until we actually caught Elise sneaking into my room before we arrested her. Your general has a very strong sense of justice about him; it’ll get him killed some day.”

Olrick could feel rage building inside him. Raul had played them all, and it seemed like he wasn’t done, yet.

“You bastard!” he swung his sword at Raul, but he parried with ease, using his massive sword as easily as a training sword. Raul’s soldiers closed in on them, preparing to defend their general, but he raised his hand to signal them to stop.

“Please, don’t bother,” he said. “This whelp in men’s clothing isn’t going to cause me much trouble.”

Whelp. Blair had called Milo that for begging for his life before he killed him, Bram had called Elise that earlier that night; he was sick and tired of hearing his friends called that just for being human.

Something inside him snapped. Damn Raul. Damn him to the darkest pit of hell!

Olrick lunged.

Raul parried the blow, just as easily as he had the first one, then lashed out with his own sword, meaning to take Olrick’s shoulder out. He stepped back, but not far enough: Raul’s sword sliced across his chest.

Olrick stumbled back and put a hand to the new cut on his chest. Thank the gods, it wasn’t too deep, but that didn’t keep it from hurtling like hell.

“Give up, boy,” Raul said as they began to circle, again. “You don’t have a prayer of winning this fight.”

“I know,” Olrick said. “I don’t give a damn about winning; I just don’t want to bow down to you like everyone else has!” He swung at Raul, who parried, again.

“You’re idealistic,” he said. “It’s going to get you killed, some day.”

Raul unleashed a flurry of attacks, fast enough that Olrick barely had time to register what was happening. He swung his sword left and right, with enough speed that Olrick was barely able to parry them. It was amazing how fast the general could move with that massive sword of his; Olrick didn’t even see the pommel of his sword coming for his head until it was too late.

The pommel landed on Olrick’s cheek, making his entire body snap to the side. He was fairly certain that he’d passed out on his way to the ground; he didn’t remember anything that happened between him getting hit and him landing on the floor on his stomach.

Someone grabbed him by the shoulder and rolled him over onto his back. Raul was standing over him, his sword back in its sheathe.

He gently stepped on Olrick’s throat, cutting him off from air without crushing his windpipe. He grabbed his foot and desperately tried to get it off his neck, but he couldn’t; that blow to the head had done too big of a number on him. He couldn’t even see straight, the world was spinning so much.

“I’m getting rather tired of these games,” Raul said as Olrick squirmed beneath his foot. “Now, it’s about time that you surrendered, before you truly begin to get on my nerves.”

Olrick looked over at his sword, which had ended on the floor next to him after Raul hit him with his sword’s pommel. He knew that it was out of his arm’s reach by just looking at it, and even if he tried, the Giskens would just take it. In fact, just by him looking at his sword, one of the soldiers picked it up, taking away that avenue of escape.

He looked back up at Raul and pulled his last knife from its sheathe, slow enough that he didn’t seem to notice. It looked like he would have to use a knife to defend himself against the most feared man in the world with a huge sword.

Just as Olrick went to stab him in the leg, something grabbed his arm and smacked it against the floor next to him hard enough that he let go of his knife. It felt like someone had put his entire arm in a vice and was slowly crushing the life out of it. He found himself screaming in pain, it hurt so badly.

Raul looked to the side and said something in Abunaki. The pressure in his arm disappeared and out of the corner of his eyes, Olrick could see someone – an Abunaki girl wearing a white dress and a red headscarf – stagger into the arms of one of the soldiers. It seemed that Nalia had finally gotten in control of her gift and could control people without crushing them to death.

Raul took his foot off of his neck. Two of his men rushed over and yanked him to his feet.

“Get him to a cell,” Raul said. “Make sure he’s chained up without any weapons on him.” The Giskens began to take him away, frog marching him back to the end of the corridor he’d just helped Elise escape from.


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