Tristan pulled back hard on the bow string as he sighted in on the priest. He took several breathes as he took careful aim, pushing aside everything around him and focusing on the shot.
He pushed aside Berwyn’s cries of agony.
He pushed aside the battle raging below.
He pushed aside the constant cannon fire thundering around him.
He pushed everything away so only the arrow and his target was his focus. He knew that he had to make this shot or everyone would be overrun by Dakkas and then the scrolls would be lost.
Not here, not now, Tristan closed his eyes and took another breath.
Father give me strength…
Eschua give me courage…
Make my aim straight and true…
The medallion began to glow brightly, the light giving warmth and strength to Tristan as it washed over him. The wave of light flowed across his body until it reached his bow and seeped into the arrow. The arrow turned a bright white color and when it was possible to see again from the brightness of the light, the arrow still glowed.
“Thank you Father,” he whispered.
With those words he let loose the arrow, flying through the air, picking up speed with each meter.
Berwyn ran from up behind, across the deck to where the priest stood on the bowsprit high above everyone. Blades raised he ran as fast as he could, he saw a shimmering field in front of him and he understood then why no one could get to him. He began to slow down until he saw Tristan take aim and fire a glowing arrow. Berwyn smiled for he knew then that the field would be destroyed.
Berwyn leapt into the air from behind as the arrow soared toward the priest from the front. The priest gave it no mind, thinking his magical shield would hold. The arrow slammed into the shield, a light from a thousand exploding stars erupted as it hit. The power of the light shattered it like a rock blasting through a glass window.
Time seemed to slow down…
Berwyn soared through the air, his two blades raised high above him ready to strike. He closed his eyes as the explosion of light enveloped him blocking out all sight. The priest reared back from the light as it burned his skin and seared his eyes. Berwyn came down hard with both blades, but since the priest had moved, the blades sliced through his shoulders blades. The dark acolyte and Berwyn fell forward on the forecastle, the priest’s staff skidding away. Instantly two things happened; first the waves of nausea ceased and Brother Thomas could turn toward the pool, but secondly, since the priest no longer had control, the pool began to dry up and collapse in on itself. There were still well over two dozen Dakkas to deal with, but they were soon dispatched by the others.
Tristan hurried toward the ship but it began to move away, “Berwyn! Berwyn!” he yelled as he ran across the rooftop.
Lord Orin jerked away from the battle as he heard his brother’s name called. He looked around frantically until he saw Tristan chasing after the slowly moving ship. It seemed as if it was limping away, as if they had deeply hurt the abomination. He began to run toward the ship realizing where his brother had gone. Dakkas rose up in front of him as he rushed across the courtyard, but he chopped them down like chaff. He filled with fear as well as anger and he used it to give him speed. He found an exterior stairwell around the side of the nearest building and climbed the steps 2 and 3 at a time. Tristan raced past him as he reached the top and he quickly hurried after, his axe in one hand as hurried on.
The ship began to glide faster over the rooftops, though it listed to one side and blood rained down on the streets below causing chaos and fear to reign. Tristan pushed himself harder, fueling himself with the power of the medallion, “Berwyn! Hurry, you must get off the ship!”
“No, no this can’t happen. I can’t,” Orin took a breath, “I can’t lose you, brother.” He breathed heavily from the exertion as he used every ounce of strength he had to keep up.
Berwyn groaned as he slowly blinked his eyes open. He was on the deck of the forecastle lying prone near the fallen priest. Focusing on the priest he could see his back rise and fall as he breathed, albeit raggedly. Berwyn’s blades protruded from just below the shoulder blades on his back, not a killing blow but enough he could tell to stop the spells. Rolling over to his left he used one hand to push himself up until he could finally lift himself off the deck. He staggered and tripped as he moved toward the priest, his breathing ragged. He noticed then that his hands felt as if they were on fire. He looked down and almost fainted as he saw that both hands were burnt and blistered, a shadowy viscous dripping from his fingertips. He looked toward his blades and saw that they were also covered in the same fluid and that they were actually smoking. Reaching the acolyte, Berwyn fell to his knees and grabbed the hilts of his blades. He cried out as he tore his hands away from the searing hot temperature of the weapons.
The blood is smoking as well, could that be what burned me? He thought as he looked over the body. The priest groaned again and but didn’t move other than breathing. “well I need my blades back,” so Berwyn grabbed hold of both weapons firmly, his hand on fire. Growling under the pain he pulled back with all the strength he could muster, ripping the blades out of the back. Blood sprayed outward from the move, covering the deck in more gore.
Blessed Eschua, that was nasty, he looked around as he wiped the blades on his pants. “I’ve got to get off this boat,” he realized then that it was slowly moving. He stumbled forward across the deck toward the railing and saw that they were picking up speed. He looked up and down the railing and the deck to find some sort of rope but there was none to be found. “Berwyn!” he heard called out below him and he spun around, the move sending a wave of nausea through him, to Tristan and his brother chasing the airship.
“There is no way down, there isn’t any rope up here.” Berwyn clasped both hands over his mouth so they could hear him.
Tristan without slowing reached behind him and grabbed hold of a rope that was tied to hi belt. He began to stretch it out enough so he could throw it up for Berwyn to catch. After the 3rd attempt Berwyn caught hold and quickly secured it to the railing. Looking once more around the deck, he saw that the dark acolyte was still lying on the forecastle. He turned once more toward the battle off in the distance, shaking his head at what could possibly be next. He launched over the side of the railing, rappelling down the side as he watched out for any other enemies.
Lord Orin and Tristan slowed as Berwyn jumped onto a rooftop as the ship sailed off toward the edge of the city where the Kraxus battled the cities’ defenses.
Lord Orin bent over and grabbed his knees for stability as he took several deep breathes. “Are...you…insane?” he huffed between breathes. “What were… you thinking?”
Berwyn shook his head, “It worked didn’t it?” scoffing at the idea. “I was just slowed down while trying to escape, that’s all.” A big grin lit up from ear to ear.
“Well if you are well enough to travel,” Tristan chimed in, finally, “we need to get back. I am sure everyone is wondering what happened.”
“Yeah, agreed, just give me a second to process the last few hours.” Berwyn checked himself over before turning back around to watch the airship sail off.
Cristiana, I pray you are safe love. I pray that Eschua watches over you and the others, beloved. With that he turned back around and began to follow the others back toward the vault.
• • •
Captain Fulco paced back and forth across the forecastle deck near the wheel as he casually watched the battle from afar. A million things ran through his mind as he thought over the message from Hudmo and the fact that Ferasi was so brazenly attacking the city by herself. If it was indeed a ‘day of days’ as the professor had put it many times in the past then that meant that where ever they were going was going to be the most dangerous venture he and his ship had ever faced. He couldn’t take crew with him into that kind of peril without first giving them the choice to leave.
Every man should be free to choose his own fate. He thought as he glanced over at the main deck below that was quickly filling with crew members. He had never put anyone blindly at risk before and he wasn’t about to start now with this crew. Most members were veterans; humans and dwarves who had seen several voyages with Fulco. Some, like Bartolio have been with the captain since the Vindictive Hunter was transformed from a sailing vessel to an airship by Hudmo’s engineering. And yes there were some new faces as well, but he knew he could count on Bartolio to only hire crew with past experience with either sailing on water or through the air.
Sometimes he missed gliding over the waters of the sea, the salty spray splashing his face and the wind whipping the sails about as they pushed through a storm. He loved sailing in the air as well, but it was a different sensation; and after all, he did have his sea legs first.
Oh well, he looked up to see Bartolio making his way up the steps, signaling that all were gathered now. Cannon fire thundered off the rock columns holding up the upper city once more and caused most of the new crew to jump. The seasoned ones kept their calm but even Fulco could tell that just under the surface they were all a bit nervous. For they knew all too well what Captain Ferasi and her precious Kraxus were capable of. They had fought on only 3 other occasions and all were bitter sweet victories with the Hunter limping back to port.
He shook the thoughts from his mind and straightening his overcoat he put on his most confident look and turned towards the group. One by one they settled down and looked his way as silence reigned other than the battle beyond.
“Many of you have seen or heard by now the battle that rages in the lower level of the city of Abydos.” He let his eyes encompass everyone before continuing, “Now some of you also know that a message has come from our good friend Hudmo Grimbolt, for those of you who are knew, Hudmo is a professor at the university below and the creator of the fine ship you stand on now.” Some looked at one other and the around at the ship taking it all in.
“A mission has been laid before us, one of the upmost paramount and the most dangerous. I am serious when I say that many very well may perish on this voyage, but I also know that if someone doesn’t go, the fate of Anoria is at stake.” Murmurs raced around the crew and a few looked toward the gang plank leading back to the dock.
“Now know this, I, Bartolio, and the Hunter are going and I pray that each and every one of you will hold tight to your oaths, your courage, and your valor. But I also know that I cannot and will not send a man to such peril that he may lose his life without first giving him the choice to walk away and find a life anew somewhere else.” The murmurs rose a little higher in volume and Captain Fulco looked to Bartolio.
He unfolded his arms, raising them up as he spoke, “Settle down lads, settle down, those of you who know the captain knows that he means no ill will toward anyone that leaves.” The volume lowered a bit over the deck, “Every man is free to do as he chooses, the captain has always respected that. So hear him out.” He stepped back then, folding his arms once more to give the reigns back over to the captain.
“Thank you Bartolio,” he turned to the crew, “he speaks the truth, for know this,” he raised a finger at the last part to draw them closer. “We know not yet where we go or for how long we will be gone, but we most likely will face the Kraxus and who knows what else out in the open skies above Anoria. So make your choice within the hour and I will personally see off any who choose not to go with no bitterness or condemnation.”
“Thank you,” with that he turned and headed down the steps toward the captain’s quarters.
Bartolio barked off several orders and then hurried after the captain, “Fine speech, capt’n,” he chuckled as he slapped a hand on the captain’s shoulder. “Now what?”
Fulco smiled at the innocent jab, “Now?” he thought for a moment, “Now we wait, we wait and we prepare as best we can while watching the skies before us and the roads below us.”
Coming to the door of his quarters he stopped for a moment and turned back to Bartolio, “We need to be ready for anything and we need to be ready to fly out of here at the fastest possible speed to whatever destination Hudmo points us to.”
Bartolio nodded and then quickly turned and hurried off down the hall back to the main deck, leaving Fulco alone in the hall as he turned back to the door. He pulled out a silver key, unlocked the door and stepped through. He found Adalia sitting by the window sill, he assumed to watch the battle from a far. He studied her a moment from behind the table that was littered with his many charts and maps of Anoria. Her hair was long and black, flowing down to her waist that moved lazily as if constantly on an invisible breeze. That was the thing with Elementalists; they weren’t like other people, or other magi for that matter. She wore a salmon colored robe over pearl white pants and blouse that held tight to her figure.
He had found her imprisoned by pirates, ages ago it felt like, and from that day forward he had loved her with all of his heart. After a decade of sailing together she had finally agreed to marry him and the ceremony had been at sea two years ago. He watched her now as she pressed her fingers together, quietly snapping them. A small cloud appeared from her fingertips and she lazily played with it, molding it, until she had created a unicorn. She blew on it and he came to life, rearing back and then galloping through the air on an invisible field before disappearing as quickly as she had conjured it.
“I know what you will say beloved,” she never even looked his way but she had known he had entered earlier. “But you will need my powers, and truth be told that if what the dwarf has said all these years is true about what is to come to pass,” she paused, allowing it to sink in, “then to be by your side would be the safest place in Anoria.”
“You know I don’t want any harm to come to you, Adalia,” he moved around the table, making his way toward her with his hands clasped behind him.
She snapped the fingers of her other hand, creating a miniature flamed horse. It reared back on her hand, whinnying, before galloping up her arm and disappearing in a puff of smoke. Adalia’s eyes sparkled like diamonds as she turned toward him, watching his every step as he walked across the cabin toward her.
Captain Fulco silently chuckled as he thought about her magical antics. She was so full of energy and life; it was what first attracted him to Adalia. For 12 years they have fought side by side on the water and in the air. He wouldn’t trade any of that time for all the treasures in the world, because before she came along he had felt incomplete. He had sailed the oceans for years hunting pirates and the like, seeking one adventure after another in hopes of finding contentment, fulfillment. But it never came; at least not until he had found her and rescued her.
In truth, she rescued me, he thought as he stopped a few feet away.
“What are you thinking about my love?” she rose swiftly, gliding into his embrace as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
Fulco looked deeply into her eyes as more memories washed over him. The eyes were changing again, shifting away from diamonds just like other Elementalists did. Like her eyes things were changing in the world, they were used to the danger but this was something different. He could feel it deep beyond his bones; deep into his soul. “I am thinking about how much I love you,” Fulco brings her tight and kisses her passionately. When they breath once more he adds, “and I am thinking about what’s happening here and abroad as well.” He holds her tightly in his arms as he looks once more into those eyes, now liquid pools of jade, that captured his heart so long ago.
Adalia leans in close, her head on one shoulder as she slides her left hand across his other. Her fingers play with the golden buttons of his shoulder strap as she took a deep breath, “I know my love that things are bad out there,” she stopped and looked into his eyes, “But I wouldn’t be anywhere else than here, by your side.”
Fulco smiled for the briefest of moments before they kissed once more. It was long, passionate and full of life. Something they both wanted to hold onto for eternity and only their breath broke them apart. Adalia sighed as she leaned against his shoulder once more.
Fulco put his chin on her head as he looked out through the windows, “Neither would I love.”
• • •
With everyone together once more and the gunship moored near the entrance with several of the soldiers manning the cannons, Othelia raised her hand for silence. “Now that that is over with, Hudmo I believe it is time to gather what you came for.” She turned toward Brother Thomas, “Hudmo can find his own way to his vault, Brother Thomas would you and Tristan please follow me to Father Alban’s?”
The men looked at one another for a moment and then around the group, Brother Thomas spoke up, “Berwyn would you please go with our new friends, Kothar and Mish’Ka, to their vault and help in any ways that they might need?” Berwyn nodded and the 3 began to move off through the corridors deep into the rock.
Turning to Lord Orin, he continued, “Please would you and Halfgrim accompany Hudmo to his vault to make sure everything is ok? We will do the ceremony of the conjoining of the scrolls once we are aboard Captain Fulco’s ship.” The trio was soon lost from sight down one of the many corridors and caverns below.
Othelia and 4 guards began to head down a different corridor hopefully, Thomas thought, to Father Alban’s vault. Tristan followed close behind, holding onto the medallion as if he needed to protect it from some unseen evil. Brother Thomas had already searched the area magically and could find no enemies close enough to be a problem. So they soldiered on into the deep of the underdark passage toward their goal.