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A Battle For A Book

Urthen placed his hand on the door to his rooms once it had closed behind him, willing Hala into the wood and strengthening it to the point where even a battering ram would not be able to damage it. He had barely made it four steps from when Asher came running around the corner ahead, his face white except for the flush in his cheeks from exertion. He was holding one of the three Hunan the Aracum had been given by the Mage’s Circle, a small metal rod that amplified and focussed a Mage’s Hala for battle casting. These were only ever brought out in times of great need and as Asher handed one to him, the true danger of the situation began to settle in on him.

“What’s happening?” Urthen asked Asher. “I heard the Unnrayl and it sounded like there were people screaming about Unari in the grounds.”

“They came from the Summoner’s Room.” Asher replied breathlessly. “I think that book might have been some kind of beacon for them because the portal that opened to give them access was generated by the Hala of the same Mage who summoned the book. It drained her completely Urthen. She’s dead.”

“Dead!?” he exclaimed. “How is that possible? When her Chian was expended the portal should have closed.”

“It fed off her life-force, I don’t know exactly how.” Asher replied. “Once her Chian was drained, the connection sort of switched and you could see her body aging and wasting. It was slow at first but the longer it went on the quicker she faded.”

“Is the portal closed?” Urthen asked.

“Once she passed it closed but that took some time and at least three hundred Unari made it through according to Mistress Ora.” Asher shifted from foot to foot. “We need to get down there Urthen. I have no idea what they want but they have already killed a dozen of the Initiates that were in the room.”

Urthen nodded and they both took off at a run, headed for the central courtyard which the Summoner’s Room adjoined. Every student they passed wore the same look of confusion and fear but they did not have time to stop and answer the hundreds of questions thrown at them. When they reached the courtyard, Urthen was shocked to find the Unari standing in a tight, circular formation around a central point.

He had seen Unari before but he had never seen them armored and armed, their weapons carved from the bones of sea creatures and sharpened to nasty edges. Even their armor was made up of scale like bone plates overlapped to form impenetrable barriers. He had heard stories of the Unari who attacked ships but they were always half naked and carried small knives or short-swords they could strap to themselves to make swimming with the weapons easier.

“Why have you attacked us?” Urthen asked, his voice booming across the open space. “You have taken many lives tonight and you will be expected to answer for those crimes.”

There was a shuffling sound as the two lines of Unari in front of him shifted slight to allow someone to walk between them. It was an Unari male, tall for his kind, but a good head or two shorted than Urthen. He was completely without armor, the lower half of his body wrapped in single piece of pale white fur that sat just above his knees and was belted at the waist with a brilliant gold cord. His upper body was unadorned, his muscular physique glinting in the sunlight, and his hair was braided into an intricate pattern on the left side but fell free on the right.

Like all Unari his skin was pale with the slightest hint of blue and his eyes seemed slightly too big for his head but somehow on him it looked strong instead of doe like. He stared at Urthen through those large pale green eyes, his face unreadable and his stance somewhere between relaxed and poised to strike. His silence was beginning to wear on Urthen's patience when he finally spoke.

“I am Dol Finrey, Second Hand to King Ibram and Emissary of the Unari.” the creature’s accent was thick but melodious, as if he was trying to sing the words. “We are here to take back something that was stolen from us.”

“And what is it you think we have taken?” Urthen asked.

“A book.” he replied simply.

“You broke into my school and killed my students to retrieve a book!” Urthen roared, Hala rising up inside him.

“I would advise you not to attempt to attack me, human.” Finrey said, holding out his arm which had three black bands around it.

“Where did you get shadowstone?” Urthen asked.

“That is of no concern to you.” Finrey replied. “If you give me the book, the soldiers and I will withdraw.”

“And if we don’t have your book?” Asher asked from behind Urthen.

“We know it is here. It is what opened the portal we came through. One of your Weavers tampered with it and this reopened the portal. Do not think to lie to us, human.” he said the last word with disgust. “The book please.”

“We don’t have your precious book and even if we did, it would not excuse your actions." Urthen spat the words. "Leave now or we will dispose of your little army and take you into custody. I hear Unari start to shrivel like fruit in the sun after a few days without water. It might be interesting to watch.”

"Your threats are empty Weaver. We will take back what is ours by whatever means necessary" Finrey replied.

Suddenly, as if at some unspoken signal, all but the two Unari beside Finrey sprang into action. Their swords and spears might have been made of bone but the robes and tunics of the students and Guardians offered little protection from them. Urthen watched as one girl, no older than fourteen cycles, was lifted from the ground by a spear that was embedded in her chest. She flailed about, unable to concentrate enough to protect herself with Hala, and screamed as the weapon moved further inside her. Blood fountained from her mouth and her cries stopped abruptly as the blade broke free on the other side of her body, severing her spinal cord. She was still alive, her eyes wide, but the damage to her body was so great that she had gone into shock. The Unari gave hard shove, the force freeing the spear and leaving the girl to drop to ground with an audible thump. The courtyard became a battlefield filled sounds of the dying and the strange battle cries of the Unari.

As shock gave way to anger, Urthen reached out with his Hala, a thin but intense green line striking a nearby Unari and wrapping around him like a snake. Urthen willed the strand to tighten, cutting off the creature’s cries and causing audible cracks from within its body and along its armor. Leaving it to die slowly from its internal injuries, Urthen moved on to the next one and the next, a trail of broken or burned bodies behind him. He was not accustomed to using his power to deal out death so violently and quickly but his rage was absolute.

At one point he glanced over and saw Asher wielding the Hunan he had with deadly accuracy, single bursts of yellow light striking down Unari soldiers. Remembering the rod he had tucked into his robe, he pulled it out and stopped on the outer border of the courtyard, surveying the scene before him. Nullifying the area would just leave the students and Guardians defenceless, preventing them from accessing Hala for a long enough time that the Unari would overpower them. Urthen closed his eyes and raised the rod above his head, preparing to cast.

The hum that began to emanate from the Hunan was barely audible over the din, at first, but very quickly it escalated into a chest shaking vibration that seemed to pass through the body. He had to hold onto it with both hands, the force of the Hala he was drawing from within him almost more than he was able to handle. Whilst his Chian was unmatched here at the Aracum, the Hunan would take whatever he gave it and amplify its influence tenfold, which was dangerous for someone as gifted as Urthen.

It could not drain him as he was the one controlling the supply of Hala, unlike the portal that had killed the student which had been drawing from her without any control. Focussing on the Unari only, making his casting very specific, he gave a frightening cry that pierced all other sounds and then drove the Hunan into the ground in front of him, burying it almost completely.

Every single one of the Unari stopped dead, whether they were mid sword swing or bearing down on their victim with brute force. It was hard to tell what was going on at first and to an onlooker it may have seemed as if they had been frozen in place. Even their eyes were not moving when their human targets moved away from them. The students and Guardians alike rushed over to where Urthen stood, waiting to see what he had done and it didn’t take long for his intention to become clear.

One by one the Unari’s pale blue skin began dry out and crack, blood seeping from the breaks, even their eyes clouded and caved in. A smell of rot took over the entire area as bodies decomposed at an accelerated rate, all moisture being sucked out of them and drawn into the earth around their feet. Had they not been barefoot, Urthen wondered if his casting would have worked but he hadn’t had time to think about it, he had just acted. Eventually the only remaining Unari was Finrey who was protected by the shadowstone bracelets he wore. His eyes were impossibly wide as he watched his people being drained of life and crumbling like dirt around him.

“So, Dol Finrey.” Urthen said quietly when he reached him. “It seems as though you’re on your own now. Are you still concerned with the whereabouts of your book?”

“You will pay for this human.” he hissed, spitting on the ground at Urthen’s feet. “My death will bring the wrath of the Unari people down on all of you!”

“Who said anything about your death? I intend to send you home.” Urthen said with a cold smile. “I want you to return with a message for your king from the 'pitiful' humans.”

“You expect me to believe that you would just let me go?” Finrey asked.

“Oh I don’t care if you believe me or not, I am letting you go.” Urthen replied. “I don’t see any human messenger being welcomed into the Unari court with open arms.”

“What message would you have me deliver?” FInrey’s voice was steady but wary.

“You will tell your king that Weavers no longer exist. The Ishmah have been gone for some time and whilst we who remain are but shadows of the power they wielded, we are still capable of what you have seen here and more.” Urthen pointed to the Summoner’s Room door. “Go! I will have Master Asher reopen the portal for your return.”

“You will regret this human.” Finrey said.

“My name is Urthen Shenfellow and you are free to give my name to your king too if you wish. Please be sure to let him know that I may not speak for the leaders of our lands but he can be assured they will rally as one against him if he threatens us again.”

“Next time there will be no threat. We will just kill you where you stand.” Finrey snapped.

“I look forward to seeing you try.” Urthen replied, gesturing for Asher to take him.

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