Chapter 13: Massacre
“This certainly complicates things,” Flagprim said slowly, rubbing his chin.
Kladspir grunted. “You’re telling me! And here I thought we’d cross the lake without hindrance. We certainly can’t take out the lot of them! They’ll have our heads on sticks in no time!”
Draden cringed as he pictured his severed head, face contorted in a scream, on a wooden shaft. He noticed Loran take a step closer to him and shiver. Before Draden could react, Flagprim spoke again, slightly irritated, “I said it complicates things. It does not make this situation impossible. For the Captain of the King’s Guard, you are remarkably dim-witted.”
Kladspir opened and closed his mouth, making strangled sounds.
Flagprim continued, “We can enter the city unnoticed with a spell…but it will greatly fatigue us. We must hurry or we won’t make it to the lake. The spell makes us invisible but does not mask our sounds. We will need to be quick and stealthy. Time is waning…are you ready?” He earned himself a nod from Kladspir.
“I don’t understand why we can’t skirt the edges of the town, or swim to a barge. Wouldn’t that be much simpler?” Draden stared intently at Flagprim.
Flagprim smiled boisterously. “Finally, someone is showing intelligence.” He glared pointedly at Kladspir. “It may not look it on the surface, but this village is better well off than you think. This town is a stopping point before Cradof. The ships come from a land across the ocean, Casterna, and they use Grigmire Village as a resting spot. If this village were harmed, as it has been, Cradof would lose its main means of profit. To protect it, the king had his magicians place a magical barrier around the town and the harbor. This allows entry only by the main road into the town, and only allows cleared ships to dock. That is why we must go through the town. Now, are we ready?” This time he received two nods.
Loran stood resolute, staring down at her feet.
Draden put his arm on her shoulder. “Are you okay, Loran?”
She showed no sign that she had heard, until she finally looked at him. “I’m fine…let’s go already.”
“Okay,” Flagprim pronounced, getting their attention. “The word you need to accomplish this task is ‘Iridalia.’ Enunciate clearly! Loran, I will cover you.”
Draden tested the spell, and Loran gasped as he disappeared from view. His disembodied voice caused her to jolt, “I guess it works!”
Kladspir activated his spell shortly after Draden. He grunted.
The annoying elf tagging along had not been part of his plan. But not to worry… plans could be adjusted. When the time was right, the elf would be taken care of. No sooner, no later.
He smiled as his mind began formulating a solution.
They ran down to the gate: time was of the essence. Draden realized how conspicuous it would look to gaze out from the village and see patches of grass get pounded down as invisible phantoms approached with ill intent.
Though, could it really be called ill intent when they were working against the enemy? He didn’t view the Fra’tsi as particularly bright, so even if they happened to see the mysterious flattening grass, they’d probably think nothing of it.
And so, the four of them proceeded to enter the unguarded town. Whatever the Fra’tsi’s orders had been, they certainly weren’t wary of attack. The village must have fallen easily, despite the king’s attempts at “protection.”
As Draden and the group walked cautiously down the cobblestone street, their minds registered the death that pervaded the town. A few Fra’tsi stood directly ahead of them, huddled over a splayed corpse, stomach split open in a bloody mess. The face was hidden by the tan leg of a Fra’tsi, but they could tell it was a woman for she was stripped of clothing. This alone was enough to make Draden wretch, but he held it in; if they were caught, this would all have been for nothing. Instead, a tear slid down his cheek.
They continued down a side alley. Even here, the stench of death was strong. They made it halfway down the passage when something collapsed on the ground behind Draden. He heard stifled crying. He glanced to either side, seeing no Fra’tsi, and dropped the spell. Flagprim and Kladspir did the same.
Loran appeared before him, knees bent beneath her, a hand on the wall for support. She bent over and heaved, and Draden turned away from the sight.
When the sounds receded, he knelt next to her, and she fell into his arms as she began to sob. He rubbed her back, whispering words of comfort.
A dark silhouette appeared at the end of the alley. They’d been found.
Flagprim seemed well-prepared, for a second after the Fra’tsi appeared he sent a bolt of energy at the creature. The Fra’tsi backflipped in the air, slamming into the side of a building and falling on his head with a crack. His body slumped limply onto the ground.
“Run!” Kladspir cried.
Draden helped Loran up and they raced out of the alley. A group of Fra’tsi was approaching at a lumbering sprint on their left. Draden’s party ran right, in the direction of the docks.
In the quick dash for their lives, Draden saw horrific images of intense violence: a gore-spattered door swung slowly on broken hinges; a little boy lay slumped against a wall, blood-slick arrow protruding from his neck; a man and a woman, not far from the boy, lay face-down in pools of crimson. He gulped down the bitter taste of bile as the docks quickly approached them.
As they approached, they could see that the way was barred by a large group of Fra’tsi, and more creatures were still in pursuit behind them.
“What do we do?” asked Draden breathlessly.
“We fight,” Flagprim answered. The elf produced a scimitar from his belt, and Draden took out Isliaz. Kladspir displayed a wand and an axe, and he handed Loran a dagger.
Draden was about to protest, but Loran said stubbornly, “I can handle myself.”
Draden didn’t doubt her, but instead placed his hand carefully on the dagger’s blade, saying, “Alektar.” The blade glowed blue with energy.
Now the Fra’tsi had them surrounded. ‘Do we wait for them to attack, or…’
Flagprim dashed forward, stabbing a Fra’tsi in the stomach and causing a burst of blood, then spun to avoid a different Fra’tsi’s mace.
‘I guess not.’
All at once, the Fra’tsi charged, Loran ducking defensively behind Draden. A flurry of weapons blurred in front of him, and a bloody gash sliced down his arm.
“Grangnir!” He blasted away a group of Fra’tsi in front of him, the ground charred in black streaks. He healed his arm then stabbed his sword through the back of a Fra’tsi who had been lunging for Loran. The creature thudded to the ground and Loran gave him a weak smile.
Her face quickly changed to terror and she screamed, “Behind you!”
He couldn’t turn in time. A blinding pain erupted in his back and he fell onto his face, unable to move.
“Behind you!” she screamed as a Fra’tsi slashed its sword down Draden’s spine. He collapsed in a bloody spray.
‘What do I do, what do I do?!’
She felt the dagger in her hands; saw the Fra’tsi in front of her.
The creature sliced the sword at her, and she screamed, dashing to the side.
Before the Fra’tsi could recover from the miss, Loran stabbed the dagger into the creature’s side, letting go of the hilt as blood spurted across her hand.
Electric blue tendrils snaked out from the dagger, spreading across the Fra’tsi’s body. It let out one last roar as the streams of electricity fried its organs, then buckled to the ground, face contorted in eternal agony.
‘I did it. I did it! I di-’
She was smacked across the head and fell unconsciously to the ground.
Flagprim crouched to the ground, slicing his sword across a Fra’tsi’s legs and causing the creature to fall to the ground. The elf stabbed his sword down, piercing the creature’s middle. He took a step back as he pulled the sword from the corpse, the action making him narrowly miss a swipe from another Fra’tsi.
The sudden attack caused him to tilt off-balance, and he attempted to regain equilibrium by planting his foot behind him. The only problem with this was maneuver was Draden lying resolutely in the pathway of his foot, causing him to fall backwards onto an also unconscious Loran. Flagprim’s scimitar skidded away to the side.
The Fra’tsi continued after him, sword held ready for attack.
Flagprim threw his hands up in front of him, “Ligrano!” A beam of pure, blinding white light blasted the Fra’tsi, drilling a large hole through its chest. The light continued to flow until the creature disintegrated into a cloud of ash and was carried off by a gust of wind.
On his left, Kladspir blasted the last Fra’tsi with his wand, turning it to ice. He smashed it with his axe, releasing a river of crimson blood.
Flagprim returned his focus to his two fallen companions. Loran had a minor gash on the back of her head. The elf placed his smooth hand on the wound and muttered, “Ditiri.” The cut closed, a wet patch of blood the only evidence that it had been there.
Now, for the more dire of the two. Draden had a deep gash directly down his spine, more than a foot long.
Kladspir peered over Flagprim’s shoulder. “Oh, that doesn’t look good. Is he dead?”
“No,” Flagprim replied flatly.
“He could be paralyzed.”
“He won’t.” Flagprim placed his hands along the gash and spoke the healing word.
Blood squeezed out as the skin closed like a zipper from the bottom to the top.
“He’ll be fine,” Flagprim declared. “Neither of them will be conscious for a while though. I suggest we get moving before more Fra’tsi swarm us; I fear this is not the last of our worries in this village.”
“How do you know?” asked Kladspir, picking up Loran.
“I am an elf,” was Flagprim’s answer.
Back and forth. Back and forth.
Draden opened his eyes, a sharp pain bursting behind them as the sun glared down on him. Clutching his head with a hand, he used the other to push himself to a wobbly stand. He swayed on his feet, then realized it was not an unbalanced equilibrium that was causing it, but rather the floor was literally rocking.
He lifted his eyes to the horizon and was surprised to see a seemingly infinite expanse of royal blue water. The sun sparkled dazzlingly on the small crests of ripples, leaving him in awe. He turned dazedly around, feet shuffling across the mist-sprayed wooden floor, and saw that the barge he was on was still docked.
Flagprim was crouched, undoing a bulging knot of a rope that secured the boat to a short, wooden pier.
Kladspir stood on the wharf, flourishing his wand in a professional display as he beat back a group of Fra’tsi advancing towards the boat.
Draden stood there confused. He wasn’t sure how they’d gotten here. And where was Loran?
This question was answered when he heard a moan come on his right, and he walked past a group of barrels and crates on deck to see Loran massaging the back of her head. He offered her his hand and she grasped it, allowing him to pull her to a stand. She put a hand on his arm to steady herself, eyes wide as she took in their surroundings.
“H-how’d we get here?” She spoke unevenly. “The last thing I remember was you were attacked and then I killed the Fra’tsi who did it.”
Draden’s eyes widened when he heard this, but his attention was diverted when Flagprim came running up the gangplank holding the rope. The elf dropped the thick cord onto the deck, then charged to the mast pole. He quickly raised the heavy cloth then jumped behind a giant wheel.
Kladspir blasted back another group of Fra’tsi, then froze the ground to hinder their progress. He charged onto the boat, pulling the thin wooden plank onto the deck.
However, with no wind they were going nowhere.
And the Fra’tsi were approaching, carrying crossbows loaded with flaming arrows.