The Sword Summoner: History Repeats

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Chapter 26: Out of the Flames, Zenbou Returns

The grey sky began to beat its own thunderous war drums as lightning forked down, lighting up the battlefield and dispelling the last of the tainted mist, replacing it with a wall of water.

As the rain cascaded down around them and they faced certain death, Trey could not help but chuckle. “Have you ever notice it always rains during the main battle in epic tales.”

“Yeah, but in those same tales, the good guys always win,” said Billy grimly.

“You never know, in decades to come our descendants might be telling of us to their children. We could be the main characters in our own epic tale,” smiled Trey despite the situation.

“We can live in hope,” sighed Billy.

The conversation ended as both enemy forces began a steady march ready to engage with the slave forces. Young children screamed and cried while the adults stood in morose silence.

Luckily for the slaves, both enemy forces thought the slaves so weak that they did not utilise their ranged weapons. If they had, the battle would have been over after one volley. Trey silently thanked the Sprites for the Forukks’ bloodthirsty nature and love of close combat.

“I’m not waiting for them,” shouted Lily.

“I’m with you,” agreed Zak. Both charged out to meet the larger of the two forces. Htaed shook his head with a sigh then followed them.

“Are they crazy?” asked Blake to no one in particular.

“Yes,” replied Trey and Billy in unison. They did not have time to worry about them though as seconds later blades met and the battle of the century began.

Zak’s mighty axe tore through the stomach of the first Forukk before decapitating another’s leg, causing it to collapse onto the ground. Lily span around with her arms held out at her sides lopping off the heads of any creatures near her. Htaed made a single cut through the air and felled two Forukks instantaneously.

For every beast that fell, two more took its place but it made no difference. It just meant more killing. Zak killed another and was surprised when another one did not jump out at him. Htaed and Lily had run out of opponents as well. The Forukks charged around the group, heading straight for the slaves.

Zak was about to head back to the others and help when he noticed one more Forukk stood in the circle of bodies. It was taller than normal Forukks with large muscles but built very different from the Nis’Forukk. It had the same kind of stature as Htaed. Its black armour was polished to a glass finish that even the rain could not dull and strapped to its back was a long jagged scythe.

“I am your opponent,” it snarled.

“Your funeral,” laughed Lily as she lunged at the Forukk.

Seemingly without moving the scythe appeared in its hand and he parried Lily’s attack with such force she crashed to the ground. Zak jumped in to defend her but was butted in the chest by the weapon’s handle. Htaed struck out with both his swords at once but the Forukk ducked under the first blade while parrying the second, closely followed by a sharp kick to the man’s gut causing him to stagger back.

The Forukk just stood and waited while the three humans regrouped. As one they attacked, surrounding the beast and delivering a flurry of blows that would have destroyed buildings. The only part of the Forukk that moved were his arms. They moved with such speed that they were just a blur. Somehow it managed to defend against all three warriors at once with narrow arcs of its weapon.

The scythe span with such speed that it disappeared from vision. Unable to defend against something that they could not see, all three were wounded by lightning quick slashes. Blood sprayed and the humans collapsed into the mud.

Htaed was the only one to rise to his feet. “This ends now,” he spat. The Forukk seemed amused. “Htaed is your name. Destroyer of armies, slayer of kin, enemy of the Klade and strongest manling in the world. Impressive titles but you are no match for the Alpha Forukk.”

“Shut up!” roared the man, his calm demeanour instantly disintegrating. He held both of his blades horizontally facing outwards and brought the two hilt ends together. Vicious wind shot out around him, knocking over many Forukks as they charged past. His blades joined together to form a double-ended sword that was taller even than him.

The two insanely powerful beings dived into combat, creating a maelstrom around them. The blades met with such force that sparks flew wildly around them making a fire rain effect as they fought. Zak was strong but even he was amazed by the sheer power that the two fighters were showing. Lily seemed amazed as well although a hint of terror glinted in her eyes. Zak was sure that if it was not for his enhanced vision he would not be able to follow the separate moves of the fight.

The Alpha Forukk lunged but the blow was not aimed at his opponent. Lily held up her chakram at the last second in defence. The scythe cut through the weapons like butter, barely slowing. It hit the woman and was back in the Forukk’s hands before Htaed had even finished his attack.

“You’re fighting me!” roared Htaed as he redoubled his efforts. The Forukk did not respond.

Zak rushed over to Lily’s side. Blood gushed from the wound across her stomach and Zak did not have the slightest medical knowledge. He stared helplessly for a few moments before an idea popped into his head. Jumping to his feet he ran towards the slaves, hardly pausing to kill in his haste.

A blade cut across her cheek but Dawn ignored it as she fought viciously with the Forukk before her. She had already killed two and now she had little strength remaining. She had tried to stay near Trey, Billy and Liam but in the chaos of the battle they had all been separated.

A moment’s lapse in concentration caused Dawn to react a split second too late as the Forukk’s sword rushed towards her head. The blade never made contact as the beast’s arm fell to the ground. Zak stood next to her, out of breath and looking beaten up. Without facing the Forukk he sliced its head off of its shoulders.

“Lily… injured…needs help,” he panted. Dawn nodded and Zak suddenly seemed revitalised. He ran off in the direction that he had come.

Dawn followed in his blood-soaked wake, glad that she had found one of her friends. The more rational part of her mind screamed ‘If something can injure that crazy woman you want to be as far away from it as possible.’

When they reached the woman, Dawn was almost knocked from her feet by the sheer power that the two fighters nearby were giving off. She turned her attention away from the blurs and focused upon the woman below her. The wound was deep. Dawn was trained to be a healer but this was out of her depth. She had to try though.

“Zak, I need bandages and fast,” she said as she tried to stop the bleeding.

Removing the shirt from the dead body of a slave, Zak tore it into one long ribbon with his axe then returned to Dawn.

“Make sure I don’t get attacked while I work,” she told Zak as she closed her mind to the battle around them, focusing solely on the task at hand.

Trey had formed a tight team with Billy, Liam, Sarah and Blake, keeping them all close together to avoid being separated. In their section of the battle things were looking relatively secure. He had lost sight of Dawn and worry for her wracked his mind but to be distracted for even a second meant death.

A horn sounded in the distance and Trey looked up to find its source. He cursed loudly as yet another enemy army came into view.

“We need to split into two teams, one group stay here, the other defend the far side,” announced Trey.

“Why bother?” said Liam.

Trey was about to snap at the depressive for a defeatist attitude when he saw what Liam was looking at. On the crest of a hill in the east stood a man. Trey looked harder and saw that it was Commander Mike Nakai. He blew his own horn and a varied army charged into view and engaged with the new enemy force.

Nakai’s army looked mixed and matched, having several different colours and armour types. There were Onlasarian soldiers in their brightly coloured leather armour, Heptalli warriors in flowing yellow robes and guards from the various small villages that dotted the eastern landscape of Farava.

In the ensuing chaos, all of the armies had mixed together, spreading out men all throughout the battlefield. Rivers of rainwater and blood flowed around the soldiers’ ankles and corpses littered the ground like leaves on an autumn day.

Billy and Trey had fought their way into a circle of allies, creating a lull in the fighting. “I’ve been practicing some stuff from Garvel’s old book,” said Billy. “It’ll make the enemy suffer for what they have done.” He waved his arms around while chanting some words then an orange light shot from his hand. It hit a Forukk but nothing happened.

“What? It should have blown that scum up!” shouted the boy in anger. A few seconds later the Forukk burst into thick smoke. Billy looked triumphant until the smoke cleared and the Forukk was still alive. The only difference was that the Forukk now had a large ginger afro that had replaced its helmet.

Trey could not help but smile. Billy on the other hand was distressed that that was all his spell had done. “Stuff this, I’ll do it the old fashioned way,” he yelled as he charged at the nearest enemy.

Men and Forukks alike catapulted through the air as a pair of Nis’Forukk stampeded through the battle, swinging huge weapons in wide arcs around them. If left to their own devices they would obliterate the forces of the east.

“Billy, Liam!” called Trey, motioning to the two marauding monsters. The two teens nodded, having no idea how to stop them but knowing that they somehow must.

“Out of the way. Clear the area!” hollered Billy at the people around him. No one needed telling twice. Even the lesser Forukks moved to form an empty ring around the colossal creatures before continuing their mindless slaughter.

“For the first time in my life I wish Zak was here,” said Billy as he sneered at the Forukks who had now stopped and were staring menacingly at the three teens.

“Any plans?” asked Trey.

“Just one,” shouted Billy as he charged forward and thrust his sword up into one of the monster’s groin. He was expecting something dramatic but he did not even receive a yelp.

“Lily might have mentioned that Nis’Forukk don’t physically breed so have no use for genitalia,” informed Liam.

“Thanks for that, Liam,” snarled Billy as he leapt back to avoid the Forukk’s fist. “Now what?”

“Now you fight,” barked Nakai as he leapt from out of nowhere and landed on the Forukk’s back. Dangling from his mouth by a lit fuse was a boom-ball.

The creature tried to pull the Commander from its back but its arms could not reach. The second one made to tug him off but Nakai leapt, grabbing its snout. As the Forukk opened its mouth to bite at the man he threw the boom-ball down its gullet, which seemed a hard task as the commander only had one arm. Nakai dived away as the Forukk exploded, sending chunks of flesh flying out, covering the nearby warriors.

Liam had used this time well. While Trey and Billy had watched the explosion, he had wrapped the remaining Nis’Forukk’s legs together with a thick rope that he had packed into his rucksack. When it sunk in that its companion was dead, the Forukk boomed in anger and attempted to charge the Commander. As it tried to move its legs it fell forwards like a falling tree. It’s head landed right where Liam had anticipated. He had stuck his halberd into the ground pointing to the heavens to mark this spot. The Forukk’s rock like head snapped his halberd but not before it had pierced the beast’s brain. It released a slow moan then died.

The commander approached them. “My Lieutenant is leading the battle against the new enemy army so you needn’t worry about the beasts here receiving reinforcements. The battle is far from over though so let’s get going.”

Blake’s face shone red with effort as he clove a Forukk’s skull in two. Dashing to the side he ripped open another’s chest with a mighty swing of his sword. His hands bled as his skin had begun to wear away with friction.

Somehow he had been separated from Sarah and the others and was now surrounded by enemies. Sweat ran into his eyes and dripped from his nose, chin and fingers, mixing in with the black blood that splattered his clothes and skin.

A strange aura caught his attention. He shivered at the feel of it. It was like emotions could physically hurt him, the hatred, anger and cold heartedness hitting him like paper cuts. Blake turned, already knowing what would be there. Zendek strode towards him, slitting his enemies’ throats one by one without missing a single step, his eyes focused only on Blake.

“Hey,” greeted Blake as though things were like they use to be and he was talking to his best friend Dill, not the maniacal and evil Zendek.

“Hey indeed,” answered Zendek blankly, revealing no emotion.

“Here we are again.”

“Looks like it,” said Blake as he flexed his hands.

Zendek stepped forwards. “If I remember correctly I won last time.”

“True,” sighed Blake.

“This time the gap in our power has greatly increased. While you spent fifteen years as a slave having no weapon practice and always half starved, I practiced constantly and learned the dark Nimula that is my birthright. Fighting you will hardly be worth the effort.”

Blake stepped forward as well. “We’ll see, my old friend.”

Both men raised their swords in the traditional sign of respect before a duel then crossed blades. There was a moment of calmness like a still lake in the eye of the storm then the serenity was broken by the sharp clash of steel as their final duel began.

Kelly whimpered as a terrifying Forukk towered over her. It bared its teeth in a show of enjoyment as it slowly placed the tip of a jagged blade against her neck. It growled softly to itself as it began to apply pressure.

The girl yelped as the blade cut across her throat leaving a shallow line of blood. Zak stood before her, his axe locked with the Forukk’s sword, his clothes tattered. He was panting, having just run as fast as he could after sensing a source of power nearby.

The Forukk looked akin to the Alpha Forukk that fought with Htaed but had a slightly smaller stature and less power flowed from its body. It was still by far the strongest creature Zak had ever fought alone. It wielded a long bladed sword and wore dark armour that appeared to constantly flow around its body like a sickly liquid.

“You dare to attack a Forukk Prince?” snarled the beast in an arrogant tone.

“You dare to attack a defenceless girl,” spat the teen venomously.

The Forukk broke the lock then lunged. Zak did not have enough time to dodge the attack completely so suffered a glancing wound to his side. Spinning on the ball of his foot, Zak swung his axe but the Forukk parried it as though it was nothing. They exchanged a few rapid attacks when Zak jumped back. His breathing was heavy and he had received many small cuts that sapped at his strength.

“Done already, mortal?” taunted the Forukk.

Zak swung his axe around with renewed energy. “You wish!” he roared as he put all his strength into a downwards chop.

The Forukk Prince parried with such force that the impact rippled through Zak’s arms and caused his axe to hurtle from his grasp. It embedded itself in the ground several dozen feet from Zak’s reach.

“You lose,” rumbled the Forukk cockily.

Zak stared deep into the creature’s eyes and laughed. “I’m only just getting started.” Drawing his twin katana from their sheaths he whirled them through the air, listening to the satisfying sound as they swished in graceful arcs.

With speed that defied logic, Zak slashed, chopped and lunged at the Forukk Prince, who struggled to block such high speed moves. Within moments it looked like Zak would defeat the beast when it roared out, abandoned its defence and slashed with all its might. Blood spurted out around them both. Zak’s blades dug deeply into the Forukk’s shoulders and the Forukk’s sword had ripped a gash through Zak’s chest, decimating his armour.

Both pulled back then re-engaged into the combat. The Forukk swung, catching Zak’s right hand. It opened up on reflex and his katana fell from his fingers. With his other hand, Zak had slashed at the Forukk, cutting into its gut. The Prince delivered a vicious kick to the teen’s stomach then broke his wrist. With a final punch to the face, Zak landed roughly on the ground with no weapons within his reach.

“You put up a valiant fight, for a mortal,” the Prince snarled. It lifted its sword and made to cleave the boy in two.

Before the sword struck the beast screamed in pain. Stood behind him was Kelly, a terrified but determined look on her young face. In her hands was a small, pin like dagger. She had impaled it into the Forukk’s leg using all of her strength. Her hands were covered in black blood that sizzled her skin.

With another roar the Forukk turned to face the girl. Its fist shot out and hit her with enough force to break bones. Her body flew through the air then landed sprawled out in the mud.

Before the monster could turn back to face Zak, the teen had leapt onto it’s shoulders and dug his katana blade into it’s throat. Spluttering blood, the Forukk Prince cursed in its own guttural tongue, then with a final slash from the sword, its head rolled from it’s shoulders.

Zak stumbled over to where Kelly lay and made to pick her up. Instead, the last of his strength drained from his body and he collapsed at her side.

“You’re kidding me,” spat Billy as he watched Mr Xion weave his way through the battle, staying clear of conflict. He was carrying a long item wrapped in cloth. “First he joins the enemy, now he is trying to run away from his comeuppance.”

“We should leave him. We have other things to worry about than that gutless worm,” reasoned Trey as he scoured the battle to see where they would provide the most help.

“I’m not letting him escape after everything he’s done. Why should traitors like him live while good people like my parents died?” Billy hissed through gritted teeth, holding back a fresh wave of tears as he ran after their former teacher.

Trey followed reluctantly. It was hard to keep track of the man in the chaos that enveloped them but Billy’s determination soon paid off when he was within swords reach. With a quick burst of speed, Billy caught up to Xion and grabbed his collar, swinging the man around to face him. A quick punch to the nose sent the man staggering back, his hands cupping his face.

“You really think that you can run without being punished for what you have done?” growled Billy.

“Ah, if it isn’t Billy Delb. You looking forwards to your family reunion?” smiled Xion cruelly.

“You scumbag!” snarled Billy as he leapt forwards to attack, rage overriding common sense.

Xion flicked his wrist and the cloth fell from whatever it was that he was carrying. His arm lashed out and before either teen could register what had happened, Billy crashed to the ground as blood began to soak his clothes.

In Xion’s hands was a large metal lance unlike anything Trey had ever seen before. It was a black metal like the usual Forukk weapons but it was smooth and glossy like glass and had fine golden inlay that made strange symbols and patterns. Along one side was a blade so that the lance could be used to slash as well as to lunge.

“So, once again we are at a face off, Trey,” spoke the man as he fixed Trey a death glare. Trey stared at the lance, mesmerised by the dancing flames that reflected off of its surface.

“You like this?” Xion asked, amusement evident on his face. “You see, I never joined these mindless brutes because I believed in their cause or feared for my life. No, I joined them because it was the only way to get hold of this. The Lance of Arkima, fabled slayer of Sprites. With it in my possession I can raise my own army and take over the world with minimal effort.”

“I will stop you,” stated Trey as he blanked his face of emotion.

Near ecstasy played across Xion’s features. “I have wanted to kill you for so long and now that time is finally here. I shall truly enjoy this.”

Grunting with the pain, Blake picked himself up off the ground as Zendek advanced towards him. “You can’t win,” said Zendek with a sigh.

“You took me away from my wife and kept me prisoner for fifteen long years. Because of you I missed my son’s birth and all of his childhood. My friends and relatives thought me a good for nothing traitor, all because of you. I will win you here even if it costs me my life!” shouted Blake between attacks.

“How touching,” sneered Zendek. He made a short strike that cut through Blake’s finger.

The finger was only kept attached to his hand by a thin string of skin. It hung uselessly, blood streamed down to its tip. Bracing against the pain, Blake ripped it fully off of his hand so as to not obstruct his sword control. He placed the digit into his pocket and tried to wipe away some of the blood from the leaking stump.

“It was not easy for me either,” scoffed Zendek. “I left everything I’d ever known behind to come here. Slowly, almost unnoticeably, I felt myself change. I truly am no longer your old friend Dill for he died many years ago. Take solace from the fact that it isn’t him that kills you.”

“You chose for all that to happen, I didn’t,” growled Blake.

Rushing forwards once again, he poured every ounce of energy he had into the attacks but it never seemed enough. Zendek swayed away from strikes as if he anticipated every move that Blake threw at him.

Shadows flickered around Zendek, rising to sway around his body like tendrils of darkness. He pointed a ringed hand at Blake and the shadows leapt to his command. Blake escaped the shadow spears by a single heartbeat after diving to the side. The tendrils continued past him and tore into two unfortunate Onlasarians who had happened to be fighting behind him. The black vines lashed through their flesh, their skin boiled and their veins filled with thick black liquid.

More shadows shot out from Zendek’s hand at the now prone Blake. Blake rolled and pushed himself to his feet. The ground was churned up around him. He broke into a shambling run to avoid the attacks, rushing straight for the enemy leader.

A single bolt of dark rushed straight for him. Blake slashed at it with his sword. The metal was sheared straight in two, the upper half of the blade flying through the air, slashing across Blake’s face before landing behind him. He had succeeded in deflecting the shadow spike though. With the remaining half of the weapon, Blake slashed at Zendek.

Zendek used a counter attack that threw Blake to the ground. Before he could pick himself up again, Zendek was above him. In a last bid attempt at survival, Blake struck out with a small combat knife from his belt. It bit into his opponent’s arm but it did not seem to faze him. Staring wildly down at Blake, Zendek’s eyes took on a less human look; his pupils dilated and became bloodshot, all emotion draining from their depth.

Forcing the pain back Blake kicked up at Zendek’s crotch. The man’s pupils shrivelled to tiny pinpoints before expanding larger than they ever were. The rest of his body showed no sign of being hurt in the slightest.

Claw-like fingers dug into Blake’s throat as Zendek lifted him from the dirt then threw him back down. Bones broke but all of Blake’s body hurt too much for him to decide which. Zendek moved to pick him up again when Blake smashed his head into the other man’s face. The enemy leader staggered back giving Blake enough time to stand.

“My head always was harder,” laughed Blake darkly as he booted Zendek’s shin.

All weapons lost, both men began to fight with their hands and feet. After a savage punch up both warriors fell to the ground but the fighting continued. They became more like beasts than men as vicious hatred took over their actions.

With a howl of mixed emotions, Blake punched at Zendek’s face again and again until blood drenched his knuckles. Zendek struggled and punched at his stomach but Blake no longer felt it. Tears streamed from his eyes as he struck down at his old friend. Zendek stopped struggling, his body going limp.

Blake stopped suddenly as he stared dumbly at Zendek’s body, shocked at what he had done. Coughing up blood, Zendek’s eyes eased open, humanity returning to the tear filled orbs.

“Good match, my old friend,” groaned the Lord. “I’m so sorry.” A single tear tried to roll down his face but mixed into the blood.

Blake did not know what to say. “You’ll be alright. You can come back and things will be like they use to be.”

“Things will never again be as they use to be. This place has changed me too much to live a peaceful life. The evil of this land has consumed my soul. I feel it clawing to the surface as we speak. It cries out to rip you to shreds. I either die here or continue to destroy the free world. I…that is Dill, doesn’t wish for that to happen.” Zendek’s eyes began to glaze over and he reached out a hand towards the heavens. Blake grasped his hand tightly, showing he was there.

“Thank you for being my friend, Blake. Despite all that I have done you still are by my side to the end.” Zendek tried to laugh but it turned into a blood spluttering cough. “Deep down I always regretted leaving Pastrino. Given the choice I would give up all this power to stay and live my life like I should have. I came here to reunite the three cities era and bring peace to the land but instead this place tainted me. I needed to make our people strong so that we could stand against the coming storm. Now, we are all dead. Please…forgive me.”

“I do forgive you,” sobbed Blake as the light faded from Zendek’s eyes and his arm went limp. “Rest in peace, Dill,” he said before positioning his friend’s body into a peaceful pose.

Slowly he rose to his tired feet. “Time to save my family,” Blake muttered to himself as he pulled himself together. He picked up Dills discarded blade and headed out to find the last things he cared about in the world; his wife and son.

As Trey dodged a lunge from Xion’s lance he saw Liam in the distance fighting with a guard. “Liam! Get Billy to safety,” he shouted as he rolled away from a high slash. Liam nodded and quickly finished off his opponent before running to Billy’s side.

“You can’t avoid my lance forever,” sneered Xion while he lunged at the boy again.

The very tip pricked Trey’s stomach and his nerves exploded in an outburst of pain. It was like being shot by a flaming arrow despite the fact that the wound was nothing more than a pin prick. Only with intense concentration did he not fall to the ground in agony.

Xion laughed like a mad man, upping the pace of his lunges until Trey could not see the individual thrusts. Unable to dodge the attacks, the teen tried to parry the blows but each time the blades connected chunks of Trey’s sword flew off as deadly shrapnel.

Xion’s grin could not have grown any more. His eyes shone feverously with glee. “Do you like the lance’s power? Only a truly evil being could create such a weapon but now that it exists, to not use it would be idiocy.”

After a second attack hit him, Trey was in too much pain to defend against the others. Dozens of small cuts and scratches appeared on his skin. Xion was only playing with him, causing him a world of pain without inflicting a single serious wound.

The attacks stopped and Trey just lay on the ground twitching in pain. “Time to end this!” screamed Xion in excitement. He lunged at Trey one final time, putting all of his strength into the attack.

Warm blood splashed Trey’s face and a pain like no other he could ever imagine ripped through his whole body. He felt his world disappear. The pain was not physical though.

Stood in front of him with arms stretched out was his mother. Xion’s lance protruded from her chest and blood covered her whole body. She was facing her son, her back to the enemy.

“T-Trey…” she gasped.

“It seems we have an uninvited guest,” cackled Xion. Keeping his eyes on Trey the whole time he swung the lance around, flinging Sarah’s body away into the chaos around them. An insane smile spread across his face.

Emotions cascaded through Trey’s mind but at the same time it was blank. No thoughts entered his head, just a swirl of riotous feelings with no meaning. Wind eddied around him as his body stood up without conscious thought.

He locked eyes with Xion, his muscles shaking and his hair lashing around his face as the wind became fiercer. “I…will…KILL YOU!” the teen screamed as all of his emotions burst from his soul.

A blinding light enveloped the battlefield, stunning every warrior present. A hurricane raged outwards like a ripple from where Trey stood, knocking down every person within a mile radius. As the light faded and the winds ebbed, Trey was once again revealed to the stunned Xion.

The man who stood before Xion was not Trey. That is to say, not the same Trey that had entered the battle. No vestiges of childhood remained on his person. His eyes were hard and his mouth was stern.

Xion hardly noticed these changes. His focus was on the sword in Trey’s hand. Its blade was pure energy that glowed azure and was double the length of common swords. Its guard looked as though it belonged on a lance, its conical shape curving down to protect the wielder’s hands. The metal was elegantly engraved like a king’s personal blade and small hollows suggested that jewels had once graced the hilt. Its handle was wrapped in dragon skin and what appeared to be a giant jagged tooth stuck out from the pommel.

A deep voice inside Trey’s mind told him what to say and the teen obeyed without conscious thought. “The scourge of the Klade has risen once again. Zenbou has returned!”

An internal nudge directed Trey to attack without warning. Xion managed to parry the blow but the recoil nearly sent the lance from his grip. Trey allowed his emotions and the rough voice to guide his actions, his own mind retreating into a deeper sanctuary.

Xion knew that if it was not for the Lance of Arkima he would be dead already. Since Trey had gained the strange sword the boy’s skill and power had increased tenfold. He had read about the mystical sword Zenbou and knew it was an even match with his lance if not superior.

Their battle raged on, creating as much carnage as the ongoing battle between Htaed and the Alpha Forukk. The black and blue energies clashed with their own hatred towards the other as did their bearers.

A bone in Xion’s arm shattered as Trey brought down Zenbou into a devastating counter attack. At that moment he knew that he could not win. From one of his pockets he grabbed several small balls and threw them at his feet. The balls exploded into fountains of black smoke, obscuring him from his opponent’s view.

As the smoke cleared Trey saw that Xion had ran for his life, already too far ahead to catch up with. On an impulse that Trey guessed came from the sword, he faced the blade behind him and poured all of his energy into it. The blade flared up then like a rocket propelled him forward. Everything immediately behind him was incinerated. Within seconds he had caught up to the coward.

With the blade still propelling him, Trey slashed at Xion’s back. The additional force shredded the man’s body and caused him to topple over. Xion rolled onto his back so that he faced Trey and made one last thrust at the teen. Trey yanked the lance from the man’s grip and cast it away in disgust.

“P-please don’t kill me,” whined Xion. He was already a bloody mess who looked on the verge of death. “Please, please-” his cries were cut off as Trey stabbed down with all his might, splitting the man’s heart into two. The blue energy burned at the man’s flesh, reducing his organs to ashes.

Trey watched Xion die instantly, then Zenbou disappeared. Without the sword’s power he collapsed to the ground. Unable to move he decided to look around him at the battle. A few foot to his side he noticed the body of his Mother. Even though he had no strength left he still managed to crawl to her side. She still breathed but only just.

“Mum?” he asked softly. One of her eyes half opened and she tried to smile.

“My beloved son,” was all she managed before stopping to regain her breath.

Unable to control himself he sobbed at her side, only stopping when someone else rushed towards them and knelt down next to him. It was Blake. Tears filled his eyes too and his clenched fists shook at his side.

“Go away,” muttered Trey to the man, anger and sorrow raging through his brain.

“Trey, I know it is hard but don’t let the anger take over you,” Blake tried to soothe him. His voice was strained and he too seemed on the verge of lashing out at the world.

“What would you know?” Trey snapped. “Why would you care? She is the only family I have. How could you possibly understand what I feel?”

“I understand all too well. She…she is my wife.

“Your w-wife. But that means… No you’re lying!” shouted Trey as he grabbed Blake around his already bruised throat.

“It is true, Trey,” whispered Sarah. “He is my husband, and your father.”

“My f-father?” stuttered Trey. He released Blake from his grip.

“Yeah. I was shocked too, son,” said Blake. It felt strange calling this kid son, he thought to himself.

Sarah coughed weakly. “I’m so sorry I cannot be here for you. Promise me you will look after him.”

“I will,” promised Blake.

“I was talking to Trey. It’s you who needs looking after,” she laughed. The laughs grew quieter and quieter until Sarah made no sound at all. Blake clasped one of her hands while Trey held the other, both shuddering as they tried to put on a brave face for the dying woman.

“Goodbye,” she breathed. “I will wait for you in the next life, but don’t try and rush there.”With her last breath the words “I love you,” escaped her lips.

After a long moment of silence Blake rose. “I suppose we should finish up this battle, son.”

“I suppose we must, Dad.”

Dawn struggled to heal Lily’s wound as man and beast fought within inches of where she knelt. Zak had warded the enemies off but then he had run off and had not returned. Without his support she doubted her ability to save the young woman.

She was deep into enemy lines and soon the last human was slain. Forukks formed a ring around her, readying themselves for an easy kill. Dawn knew that she could not fight them so instead she grabbed the amulet that hung from her neck. It had worked well on the assassin so she was sure it could deal with a few Forukks.

The ground around her shook as her amulet pulsed. From the earth lifted odd grains of sand. More and more rose from the soil, some churning the ground as they shot from several foot under the surface. The sand curved around her, floating in a spiral pattern as more and more grains joined the mass. Within moments there was so much sand that it fully encased Dawn. Then suddenly the sand shot out as a fearsome sandstorm, hitting the front Forukks with such force that it stripped their hides from their bones.

Her lungs caught when she tried to breathe. Dawn knew that that move was too powerful for her to use but it had been her only choice. Having done it twice in one day though left her doubts if she could survive the consequences.

“It appears that our caged bird needs our assistance,” said an old, ragged voice.

Dawn’s lungs began to let air in once more as a soothing sensation bathed her body. She looked up to see her grandmother, the Heptalli Elder, standing over her. Dawn gave a gasp when she saw who attended Lily. Her mother stood with one arm in a sling and a black eye but still very much alive. The Heptalli Matriarch smiled at her daughter and Dawn returned the smile, relieved beyond belief that her mother had not died in the explosion.

“Rest my little desert princess,” cooed the old woman. “Do you still have the same opinion of the princess life? Do you still want to live this life?” asked the Elder as she motioned at the death around them.

Dawn thought for a moment. She was terrified, her whole body ached and she had not had a good night’s sleep or a hearty meal since they left Onlasar. The answer became clear to her.

“Yes. This is the life I wish to lead.” Her mother looked shock but the Elder shook her head like she had expected that answer.

“We shall see where your path leads if we all survive this battle,” the old woman stated. “Anyway, you are fine, as is the young woman. We end this now.”

Htaed had not fought so hard in centuries, he noted dryly in the back of his mind as his duel with the Alpha Forukk continued. Both bled profoundly from hundreds of small cuts and dozens of life endangering wounds. Fatigue burned at their muscles yet still they fought like mad men.

The Alpha Forukk fired a green beam from its mouth that Htaed had not expected. The beam struck his chest and sent him hurtling to the ground. Somehow that attack had paralysed him so all he could do was glare angrily as the Forukk approached him.

“Time to die, mighty warrior,” hissed the Forukk with the faintest touch of respect in his voice.

“That’s what you think!” shouted a voice from behind the Forukk. It looked up to see that it was surrounded by humans.

Under normal circumstances he would have butchered them all but he was already drastically weakened. To make matters worse there were several notable foes. The two warriors that had fought at Htaed’s side were worthy opponents to all but himself, there were three generations of the Heptalli tribe leaders and most interesting of all was the boy who held in his hands a sword that the Alpha Forukk had hoped never to see again.

A wave of pressure hit the humans in front of him and they all crashed to the ground. The strange being known as Maklar stood with one hand out, straining to keep the humans down.

“It is time for us to leave, King of all Kings,” droned the humanoid in his usual bored, dull tone.

A black light shot up from the ground around the Forukk. It bared its fangs then disappeared. Maklar gave them all a creepy smile before stepping into the light and vanishing. Htaed roared in frustration at having his foe escape him. The others sighed in relief at not having to fight such a powerful creature.

After having both their leaders taken from the battle and their men vastly reduced in number, fear began to spread through the enemy armies. They still vastly outnumbered the human armies but after seeing one leader slain and the other flee, the moral fell drastically. The allies were severely weakened though and the fate of the battle still balanced on a knife edge.

Through the chaos sounded a single piercing howl. Human and Forukk alike turned to the east to see a large, white furred wolf standing proudly atop of a steep hill. Its fierce eyes glowed in the dim light and wicked fangs shone in the surrounding flames.

It howled again and the horizon burst into motion. Hundreds of forest wolves bounded down the slope, covering the distance before their appearance was fully registered. Wildcats danced among them and hulking bears thundered along at their rear. Even elegant stags flowed around the predators, their antlers lowered and ready to strike. A cacophony of bestial roars filled the air as the host of forest animals crashed into the Forukk ranks. Teeth and claws punctured leathery flesh while darkened metal hacked at fur-coated skin. Blood misted in the air and streamed across the craggy ground.

After initial resistance, the Forukks were swept up by the wrath of nature. Their lines shattered and panic spread through the remaining Lanstirian forces. Seeing no way to stand against the relentless hammer blows of the ravishing animals, the Forukks turned and fled back toward the protection of Lanstiro’s walls.

The enemy forces converged on the fortress city’s gates when the doors swung shut in their faces. From the walls, thousands of tiny pin sized arrows flew down at them. Volley after volley came down around them, leaving the terrified enemies looking like pin cushions. The remaining allied forces and the frenzied beasts of the forests obliterated the remaining enemies with ease.

From the wall flew a single bird. On its back was a tiny man the size of a man’s finger.

“Pux! Glad you could join us,” yelled Zak as he held out his hand for Bo-bo to land on.

“Welcome to the newly named castle Yuxa. You may rest in our many beds and may eat our wealth of food until your health is replenished,” greeted the small Captain.

“How the hell did you take this place over?” asked Billy.

“We Yuxova weren’t about to let you humans take all the glory. After dealing with our internal problems we gathered our army and set off to save your sorry hides. We mustered our woodland allies while we were at it as they too were eager for revenge upon their ancient enemies. Upon arrival we felt we would make a bigger impact by taking over their fortress so we swooped inside, killed the few guards that remained then began preparing a victory party,” laughed Pux as he took a bite from a small fruit.

“Amen to that little dude. We’re ready for some victory celebrations!” shouted Zak, followed by a vast cheer of agreement from the people behind him.
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