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

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Chapter Forty-Eight

“Everyone needs to get out of here!” Elise looked up from the soldier that was about to lose his leg to see that one was standing in the doorway, panting. Since they’d set up shop in the tavern, they’d gotten quite a few messengers like this one from the wall. Most of them simply told them to prepare for even more injuries, but from the moment he set foot in the tavern, Elise knew that this one was different: he was covered in various cuts and bruises, and his eyes were wide with a combination of shock and sheer terror. “The Giskens have taken the outer wall; they’re coming this way!”

Elise could feel the blood drain from her face. How could they have taken the wall so quickly? They were all as good as dead, now; nothing was keeping them from storming the city and killing every single person in it.

She stood up and grabbed her bow; it looked like they might have to fight their way out of this mess.

“What do want us to do?” Elise asked as she turned toward Mathis. He was quickly putting a tourniquet on the hand of a man who’d lost it to a Gisken glaciomancer.

“We need to get these soldiers somewhere safe,” he said as he finished tying the tourniquet. He looked up at her, a serious look on his face. “Get some of the less injured men and head north for the castle; there might be room there for us to set up another field hospital.” Elise nodded and took one of the men – a private who had a minor injury on his head – out of the tavern to head for Castle Matisse.

Almost the second she left the makeshift hospital, she saw that the Giskens had, in fact, made their way from the wall and were heading for the castle, blood-covered swords in their hands. They seemed focused on chasing the retreating Caithian, enough so that Elise managed to duck into a back alley with the soldier before any of them saw her.

She took her bow off of her back and prayed to the gods that she wouldn’t end up having to use it. She had a nasty feeling that things were about to get even worse than they already were, but she couldn’t see how that was even possible.

“Look out!” The soldier grabbed her by the back of her dress and pulled her to the side, before a bolt of lightning hit the ground right where she’d been standing just a few seconds earlier.

Elise looked to the side. Standing at the end of the back alley was Bram, with two metal batons in his hand.

She grabbed an arrow from her quiver, knocked it, and pulled the string to her cheek. The soldier took off down the street, where his fellow soldiers were. It looked like things had just gotten much worse.

“Don’t get any closer!” Elise couldn’t seem to keep her hand from shaking as she held the bowstring by her cheek. Bram simply laughed, sending a chill down her spine.

“And what are you going to do about it?” he asked. “Are you going to shoot me? You don’t have enough of a spine to do something like that.” Bram slowly began to walk towards her and held his arms out.

“Go on, shoot me!” he said. “I’d love to see you try-“

Elise let the arrow loose.

It flew towards Bram, but it didn’t meet its mark: it grazed his arm, making him curse in pain. He put a hand to his bleeding arm and smiled.

Elise froze up in terror. Gods, what had she done?

Lightning began to crack up and down Bram’s batons. “You shouldn’t have done that, Elise. I was really thinking I was going to keep you alive after all this.”

Elise didn’t think she had time to reload her bow. She slung it back over her shoulder and shot flames at Bram.

He got out of their way fairly quickly, but she didn’t care; she just wanted to get out of there, and fast. While he was occupied with the flames, Elise ran past him and down the back alley-

And right into a dead end.

Bram laughed as he followed her into the closed-off back alley. “Oh, Elise; always trying to run away from your problems.” She turned around and let flames lick at her fingers, her heart pounding in fear. Gods, why was this happening to her? “When are you going to learn that that isn’t going to get you anywhere?” He began to walk towards her, again.

“S-stay away from me!” she stuttered as she backed away with her hands in front of her. Her back bumped against the wall; she didn’t have anywhere else to run.

“I suppose I should be afraid, now, shouldn’t I?” Bram asked as he folded his arms over his chest. The monster had a smug look on his face, as if he knew something she didn’t. “After all, that threat with the bow wasn’t empty; I guess this one won’t be, either.”

“Shut up, Bram!” Elise could feel tears beginning to brew in her eyes. Please, gods, could you hurry and help her? She really didn’t want to die. “Please, just leave me alone.” Once again, Bram just laughed at her.

“Why, look at you,” he said. “I never knew you could give someone orders like that.” Once again, sparks began to fly up and down his batons. “I really wish I could stay for a little longer, but I’m afraid that I’ve got a country to burn to the ground-“

“Bram, what’s going on, here?”

Elise’s stomach twisted into knots. It was Finn.

Run! Elise kept thinking. Please, Finn, run!

Bram turned around to face him, annoyed. “I was just about to kill an enemy combatant before you interrupted me.” Finn looked behind Bram at her. The second he saw her, his eyes grew as wide as dinner plates.

“She’s not a soldier,” Finn said quickly. “She’s a medic; she has a red band on her arm, for the gods’ sakes-“

Bram shot a bolt of lightning at Finn’s feet. Thank the gods, it was just a warning shot; it missed Finn by about a foot. “She’s an enemy soldier, captain; she has a weapon and tried to kill me.” He turned back around to face Elise, with one of his batons pointed at her. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a job to do-“

“No, you don’t,” Finn said. “I’m not going to let you hurt a civilian.” Bram pointed a baton at him, as well.

“I was being patient with you, before, but now you’re starting to get on my nerves,” he growled. “Now, you can get your sorry ass out of here and we can pretend this conversation never happened, or you can face a court marshal for aiding the enemy; you’re choice.”

For a few agonizing seconds, Finn just stared at them, trying to figure out what he was going to do. He looked back and forth between Bram and Elise, then held his sword up, ready to fight.

Bram sighed, annoyed, as he turned his attention completely on Finn. “You really shouldn’t have done that.” He swung his batons at him, ready to kill him.

Elise didn’t stay long enough to know if they met their mark. She ran past them and back down the alley, praying to the gods that Finn hadn’t just gotten himself killed for her.


“You really are an idiot, aren’t you?” Finn’s grip on his sword tightened at Bram’s words, but he didn’t say anything. Now that he was standing there, facing down an oraniomancer whose sadistic tendencies rivaled only Blair, he was starting to wonder what he’d been thinking when he did this. “You really should have picked a better time to turn traitor. Doing this now isn’t exactly profitable.”

Dear gods; he really had gone traitor, hadn’t he? For a few seconds, Finn’s thoughts went back to his family in Gishk. What would they do to them once news of his defection reached home? Would they send them to Kurzh to die because he made a rash decision? However, it was too late to be thinking about that, now; even if he were to claim his allegiances still laid with Gishk, they would probably still do awful things to them.

“I suppose you would know a lot about profitable treason, wouldn’t you?” Finn asked in an attempt to stall. He scanned Bram up and down in an attempt to find some sort of hole in his defense, but he couldn’t seem to find one that didn’t involve getting hit with one of the batons.

“Oh, don’t have such a holier-than-thou attitude,” Bram said as the sparks that zipped down his baton grew larger. “After all, I’m the one in the position to make your life a living hell.”

After that, there wasn’t any more conversation: there was only fighting. Bram continued to swing his batons at Finn, aiming for every exposed part of his body. Finn did his best to dodge them: he duck and wove through the blows, until he lost his footing on a loose cobblestone and fell on his back.

Finn didn’t have tie to dodge the next blow. He raised his sword over his head to keep the batons from hitting his head-

And felt the shock of lightning going through his body the second his sword and the batons met.

Finn’s body went limp the second Bram pulled back his lightning. He stared up at Bram as he put his batons back on his belt, confused. How had he been able to shock him? The batons hadn’t touched him, and the lightning hadn’t launched from them; he shouldn’t have been able to get hit.

“This is why you should have paid a little close attention while they were training me,” Bram said. Finn could hear quick, heavy footsteps coming towards them. “You would’ve known that all types of metals can take lightning in them if you had.” Hands grabbed Finn by his forearms and pulled him to his paralyzed, useless feet.

“Take him away,” Bram ordered the men that were holding Finn. “He needs to pay the price for treason.” The soldiers began to drag Finn away, leaving Bram to chase after Elise, again.


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