Chapter 13: United We Stand
Aka lands in a clearing near Pal’swa. It’s too dangerous to land directly in the village when they don’t know what to expect.
Aka flattens her wings so her passengers can dismount. Stalia slides down the feathered appendage, landing on her feet with ease.
Amsyn, with Sinnion wrapped around her neck stands up and makes her way down the Thunderbird’s wing. Her breathing quickens as she staggers down. Sniggering, Stalia loops an arm around the Elf to keep her from falling. Sinnion whines, unhappy about being jostled around. Amsyn mumbles an apology.
Once the others dismount Aka, she is engulfed in lightning and reverted back to her original form.
“Let’s go. There is a chance I was spotted.” She commands. Aka makes her species proud. Thunderbirds are known to be a warlike and feared species of unmatched warriors.
Amsyn doesn’t want to imagine how they fell to Quvania.
Aka draws her spear from her back. Stalia follows her example and unsheathes her two, curved daggers. Amsyn pulls the dagger Avdon gave her from her boot.
Sinnion uncoils from Amsyn’s neck. He hovers above her head; his eyes peeled for any potential threats.
Stalia stalks through the woods like the hunter she is. Her hooves quash the grass and leaves spread over the forest floor. Sinnion soars overhead. She pauses. “Where is your Wyvern going?”
Knowing Sinnion, she replies, “To scout ahead.”
Amsyn’s steady heartbeat accelerates. The hand wrapped around the dagger trembles. She wishes Avdon was here. Amsyn misses a step. She clings to a tree to stop her fall. Stalia glances back, silently asking if she’s okay. She nods.
The thought startles her. Has she come to think of Avdon as her protector? Like Helio. She has no right to rely on him or desire his protection when she is betraying him.
The beating of wings draws her from her thoughts. Sinnion lands on her shoulders, his claws digging into the fabric of her jacket. As he nuzzles her cheek she realizes he is the only thing that truly makes her feel safe.
As the tree line becomes visible, Amsyn’s body tenses. The seven Children of Tevata stop at the tree line. They stand shoulder to shoulder and look out at the destroyed village. Pal’swa is a small, wealthy village, only a half days’ ride from the shore-the source of it’s wealth. Quvania’s tyranny has hindered Pal’swa’s prosperity, but the village remains lucrative.
The air is silent, dead. Not even the crowing of birds can be heard, only the breathing of rebels and the flapping of a Wyvern’s wings.
“Divide into two group, find the Children and free any villagers. Slaughter all Quvanians that you meet.” Aka’s bellow is as strong as a general’s and as final. Though Amsyn objects to the part about killing, she doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t believe in killing; it leaves only heartbreak and pain behind. She is a healer, not a killer or even a warrior. Avdon promised her she wouldn’t have to.
“Let’s go.” Stalia snags Amsyn’s elbow and drags her towards Pal’swa. Amsyn walks beside her, keeping a tight grip on her dagger. Sinnion hovers between them.
“Stalia-” She begins. The Fauness glances at her. Swallowing, she looks away. “Nevermind.” Stalia gives her an odd look, but doesn’t press. This isn’t the time or place. Amsyn has already decided she won’t kill. Stalia, however doesn’t seem like a creature that has qualms about killing. She hopes she can understand why.
“Stay behind me.” Before Amsyn can question why, Stalia adds: “Avdon ordered me to keep you safe and as far away from the fight as possible.” Amsyn’s eyes widen. Avdon kept his promise. Unwittingly, she smiles and retreats behind her.
The two approach a cabin surrounded by a wooden fence that stands as tall as Amsyn’s waist. The weathered gate and several of the fence posts have been torn off and smashed. Stalia creeps up the dirt pathway. Sinnion flies ahead of Amsyn, who keeps Avdon’s dagger close to her chest, poised to attack.
As Stalia crosses over the threshold, she swirls around to check behind the door. She checks the other room and then returns, having found no sign of life. “You can come in.” She calls.
The cabin is destroyed. The shards of the delicate glasswork lie scattered across the floor and the remnants of the meal they held splattered over the worn wood. Between the smashed dining table and chairs is a pool of blood with a trail of droplets leading to the door where they vanish.
“Someone was harmed.” Amsyn observes, cutting through the sound of Sinnion’s beating wings. Stalia follows her gaze.
“That is not enough to be fatal. Likely only a broken nose.” Though Stalia’s words are honest, beneath them lurks uncertainty.
“Where do you think the villagers are being held.” Amsyn inquires. Pal’swa is dead. No screams, no shouts, no pleas, just silence. Stalia shrugs. “Elsewhere.” Her calmness chills Amsyn to the bone.
“Does this not strike you as strange? Listen. There are no cries, no shouting for help. This is not right. You have to see that.” Amsyn implores.
Stalia regards her sharply. “We are not cowards and we will free the villages. If you don’t think you can handle that wait in the forest.” She snarls.
Amsyn staggers back as if she’s been physically struck. The shock dies in a wave of hurt and anger. How dare she? She is not a coward. She may not fight on the front lines or lead an army, but she is no coward. She is also smart enough to know when something is not right.
“I am not a coward, but something is off here. You have to at least see that Stalia.” Amsyn pleads. Stalia stares at her.
“We should focus on searching the town.” She says finally. Amsyn knows her efforts are lost. Stalia bumps her shoulder on the way out shoving her into the doorway. Sinnion growls at her. The Fauness doesn’t acknowledge him. After a moment Amsyn follows her, trying to quell the uneasiness in her gut.
They cross the defined road to the house across from the one they just left. Amsyn glances around. Aside from the Children weaving in and out of houses, there is no movement. The uneasy feeling doubles.
Stalia kicks in the front door and searches the home. She finds nothing. The house has been pillaged and there is no sign of a creature, living or dead.
“Come.” Stalia barks. The Fauness storms past her. Sinnion, sensing Amsyn’s hurt, lands on her shoulder and attempts to comfort her. The action warms her heart and she rewards him with a caress.
They search three more homes and come up empty. Amsyn bites her tongue to refrain from shouting ‘I told you so’ at the Fauness. Sinnion circles above Amsyn’s head. She leans against the wall of a clay house with her arms folded over her chest and her blade tucked under her arm. It brushes against her jacket, but the jacket’s material renders the blade null.
Stalia slams her palm into the wall. A sharp violent gust of wind gathers Amsyn’s braid. “They have to be here somewhere.” She rages. Aka and the others haven’t found anything either or they would have alerted the trio.
“How do we know they are here?” Amsyn quizzes. The Fauness raises her head; her brows knotted.
“A source informed Avdon.” She replies.
“Only Avdon knows the identity of our informants. It is how they remain protected.”
Amsyn paces in front of the broken down door, obstructing the panel of light. Either the source was given false information or was paid or more likely, threatened to pass along bad information. The question remains: were they trying to lure Avdon into a trap or anyone?
The Quvanians have established this elaborate ruse for a reason. It can’t be easy to lure the Children of Tevata. “We need to get out of here.” Amsyn demands. She opens her mouth to speak but Amsyn silences her. “This is a trap. We must leave now.”
She doesn’t wait for a response; instead she grabs her hand and drags her from the home. She paves her way through the village, searching for the others. Sinnion flies behind them.
A ferocious roar fills the air. Every muscle in Amsyn’s body seizes. She knows that roar. The roar of a Dragon. She looks up to find a silver Dragon circling the village. Amsyn turns her gaze to the forest where a score of Quvania soldiers emerge, all clad in silver armor, engraved with the Quvanian crest.
“Run!” Amsyn screams. She pushes Stalia in the opposite direction, deeper into the village.
The Dragon above fires a beam of ice, it misses Amsyn and Stalia by mere feet.
Amsyn’s pounding heartbeat blocks out all other sounds. Fear unlike any she has ever felt grips grips her arm, even Udor pales in comparison. There she had Helio. No one is here to save her now. She could die at their hands and Helio would never know. No one would ever know. She will have failed Helio. Amsyn grits her teeth. No. She wouldn’t fail him. He’s put him faith in her. She will prove to him, to Avdon, to Aka, to Stalia that she is strong enough. She stops running and turns to face the oncoming soldiers.
“What are you doing?” Stalia screams, sheer panic in her voice.
“I’m buying time. Get the others and run. Go back to Ta’floon. I will hold them off.” She commands. Sinnion lands on her shoulder as if to say ‘we’ll hold them off’.
“You can’t. Amsyn they will kill you.”
“I can do this. Trust me.” Stalia doesn’t know what it is about Amsyn that makes her believe, but she does. She stares at the Elf and her faithful companion for a moment before turning and bolting, screaming for the others.
Amsyn clutches the dagger in her wooden hand, pretending for a moment it is Avdon’s hand. She outstretches her flesh hand, firing orange streams of lightning. Most are evaded, but a few hit their mark. Sinnion swoops down and unleashes his fiery breath upon them. Archers fire, the arrows aimed at the elusive Wyvern. Amsyn summons her lightning to deflect the elemental attacks fired at her. The shield takes hit after hit. She can feel it weaken with every strike. Amsyn forces himself to hold the magic as it struggles to dissipates.
A blast of ice shatters the shield and throws Amsyn onto her back. She rolls over groaning as her body hits debris and rock. The ground hums with the approach of the soldiers. Sinnion roars as loudly as he can and unleashes a fresh wave of fire. Amsyn scrambles to her feet, ignoring the pain and dizziness. Her body sags with the day’s fatigue. She can’t give up. The others haven’t made it out. They haven’t made it past the Ice Dragon circling above.
Amsyn slips the dagger into her boot and pulls out her bow. Instead of drawing arrows from her quiver she summons lightning arrows. The orange magic courses up and down her bow, engulfing it in a light aura. She pulls the bowstring to her cheek and releases. The lightning arrow flies through the air at supernatural speeds. It pierces a soldier’s shoulder. He crumbles to the ground with a loud cry of pain.
Amsyn tries her best not to react to it. She is breaking her vows. Guilt washes over her. She pushes it away. It doesn’t matter. The survival of the Children is all that matters.
She summons and fires another arrow. She repeats the process, summoning and firing arrow after arrow. Each arrow eliminates a soldier from the fight. Her vision starts to blur as her magic drains from her body. Her arms fall slack, the bow slipping from her grip. She staggers backwards.
A Quvanian soldier draws vines from the ground and snatches the Wyvern from the sky. Sinnion struggles against the bonds to no avail. Another soldier tackles an already kneeling Wyvern. Sinnion growls fiercely. The soldiers forces her to her feet. He rips the quiver from her back and sets it on fire. Amsyn watches the ashes rain down. Another soldier roughly binds her wrists with coarse rope.
A flute-like call echoes through the air. Amsyn glances up, through blurred vision she can see the faint outline of a sapphire Thunderbird. She smiles. She did it. They’ve made it out.
A soldier wraps his hand around her throat, lifting her off the ground. “You find this funny. Let’s see how funny you find the Helix. Take her away.” He barks, releasing her. Amsyn’s eyes widen, but the overexertion of her magic claims her and she fades into unconsciousness.