The quiet sounds of the night forest path were shattered before the thunderous pounding of horses’ hooves. Three riders clung closely to their exhausted mounts before an onslaught of hooded Rath worshippers brandishing swords.
“How could they have found us again?” Julia cried.
“This has been the worst week ever!” yelled Kyte.
He clutched the Mage staff the Chancellor had entrusted him to give to Findar. His horse stumbled over a small root and he lurched to one side. “We can’t keep this up!”
“Cut the chatter! There’s a clearing up ahead! We face them there!” Rein yelled through gritted teeth.
“Face them?” Julia exclaimed.
She held closely to her horse and glanced backward. The night held a full moon high in the starry sky. Trees zipped by in a confused blur and a small gap revealed dozens of hooded riders following full out. Their swords glinted in the moonlight and Julia swallowed hard.
“How are we going to do that?”
“Ride!” Rein cried and pushed his horse faster.
They burst into the clearing and wheeled the horses about sharply. Their mounts whinnied in fear and paced about in confusion.
The Rath worshippers entered the clearing and immediately began to encircle the three exhausted travelers. Rein leapt from his horse with the grace of an acrobat, spun in the air while unsheathing his twin swords, and landed ready to fight.
Almost as one, the Rath worshippers dismounted and turned toward Julia, Kyte, and Rein.
“Ahh! This is bad!” Julia cried.
“Get behind me!” Answered Rein.
“Can you use that staff , boy?”
“I’m just a second year Mage , staffs aren’t taught for another year!” Kyte said with eyes wide with fear.
“Well then try to hit them with it!” Rein said, exasperated.
Julia gasped and held tightly to her amber gemstone. It was growing warmer by the second. With a terrifying yell the first Rath worshipper clashed swords with Rein. He deftly blocked the onslaught, abruptly dropped to the ground and cut down the worshiper from under his guard. The cloaked attacker gave a strangled cry and fell back, only to be replaced by two others.
Rein glanced around quickly and clenched his jaw. The Rath worshippers were closing the circle. Kyte looked scared but determined, holding the staff like a club. And the girl he was charged to protect cringed between them, with the horses adding scant protection.
Rein’s eyes narrowed.
*This isn’t going to end well.* He sighed inwardly and braced himself for a desperate assault. The hooded assailants began to swing their swords menacingly.
The air was cut by a tremendous boom from the sky.
“What?” said Julia looking up.
The air began to hum like the sound of a giant wasp.
“What now?” said Kyte as the Rath worshippers paused, confused. The edge of the clearing was suddenly lit up by the brilliant light of a fireball, casting crazy shadows and blinding the exhausted defenders.
WHOOMP! WHOOMP! WHOOMP!
With each burst of sound a Rath worshipper fell with an inhuman screech. The fireball made a slow arc around Julia and the others piercing the hooded attackers without losing any momentum.
In a few heartbeats, it was over. Every hooded assailant lie still on the ground with trails of smoke drifting from their lifeless bodies. The fireball lifted to the sky for a moment then abruptly dropped into the midst of the breathless trio.
Julia yelped and fell to the ground. As she looked up the fireball dimmed and formed into the shape of... a fairy?
Rein was staring in open mouthed wonder at the fairy, who hovered next to him with her arms on her hips.
“Kindle? Is that you?” he asked, lowering his blades.
Kindle flashed him a brilliant smile. She was still glowing in places, like the dying embers of a fire. The angry humming of her wings echoed off the forest. Kyte still held the staff like a club.
Kindle flitted up to Julia, staring at her face to face. She winked one of her catlike eyes.
“Hi! My name’s Kindle. I’m a FairyKnight!”