Somewhere, in the Darkness. Something stirred. The years since its imprisonment had made its bonds weak. Not weak enough to break free, but weak enough to allow it to command its minions once more. A great eye opened in the darkness, glowing with a baleful light. The light struck the rocky ground, and from the edges of shadow Things emerged. Like liquid night formed into misshapen ape like beings.
The being bound in the Darkness issued wordless commands to Its minions. The place where their eyes should be glowed with the same sickening light as their creator. Their arms ended in wicked, scythe-like claws that clicked as they jostled around their master.
Its orders were clear. The eye closed as the Knife Respers clambered out of the chamber that contained their Master.
Their hunt had begun.
The imprisoned one slept once again. It’s time was coming. Soon.
“Hold your horses!” said Kael in exasperation. Kindle had once again flitted away around a bend in the narrow path in the woods. She buzzed back into view, her hands on her hips.
“It’s your horses that are holding us up!” Her frustration at his decision to bring pack horses as well as a riding horse for himself shown in her every movement.
“Tell me again why you couldn’t just fly to this Mage’s house with your magic?”
Kael sighed. Kindle had given him no end of grief when he explained that, while he was a mage, this was not common knowledge. His success as an informant as well as his reputation would be ruined if everyone knew he could perform spells.
“We’re still more than a day’s journey to the heart of the forest. We should probably set up camp soon. Shall you go collect firewood?” he quipped.
“Cute” she responded.
In their short time together Kindle had realized that her first impression of Kael had been a mistake, one that Kael carefully crafted to appear as a bored dilettante not worthy of a second glance. Instead - she found - he was a clever, sharp-witted pain in the neck. Especially so because she knew he was right. Kael could hardly have carried supplies herself for such a journey and Kael seemed to be acting more like a friendly older brother than some sneaky bar-hopper. She realized that the ArchKnight must have known about Kael all along, and wanted him to help offset her own impetuousness.
*Knowing you, you probably would have just flown off into the forest, without a thought as to what you might eat or use for shelter.* Cirrus admonished.
“Pipe down you overgrown toothpick!” she muttered. Kael raised an eyebrow.
“Talking to yourself again?”
Kindle wasn’t sure why the ArchKnight had failed to mention Cirrus to Kael, but Kindle wasn’t about to volunteer anything herself. Perhaps the ArchKnight truly did not trust this many layered man. Kindle was about to fire off another retort when she saw Kael’s eyes widen as he looked over her shoulder. Instantly she spun in midair, drawing her sword.
Speeding toward them, careening left and right like swallow fleeing a hawk was another fairy. Its wings were tattered from flying, and its hands were over its face. The fairy was barely missing tree trunks and branches as it raced headlong.
“Wait!” yelled Kindle as the other fairy buzzed by without seeing them.
He turned to her, his face red with tears. “Flick? Flick what’s wrong? What are you doing here?”
“Kindle! Kindle!” he flew up and grabbed her shoulders violently. “They’re dead! ”
“What are you talking about” Kindle answered, her eyes wide.
Flick was a fairy from Kindle’s own village. She had been hoping to stop by the village on the way to this Mage.
“The village! They are all dead! It was the middle of the night. These - these things came They started destroying everything! Everyone! We didn’t even have a chance to run.” he sobbed.
Kindle glanced at Kael.
“How did you survive?” he asked.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Flick put his face in his hands. “They said I’d be spared if I showed them how to find you. Kindle! I’m just a fairy! They are horrible. I - I -”
Suddenly, the forest grew very quiet. The air grew empty and cold. Kael stepped down from his horse, drawing his own sword. It was broad and grey, with glowing runes along each side.
“Kindle! come closer!”
Kindle, still holding the sobbing fairy, flew behind Kael. The horses began whinnying in fear. Their eyes bulging. Kael swept his sword in the air, bringing it down to touch the tip to the ground in one fluid motion. Concentric circles of light appeared on the ground around them from the point of contact with the ground.
“Stay in the circle if you can Kindle. It will hopefully weaken whatever atrocity is about to pay us a visit.” said Kael in a tight voice.
Kindle lowered Flick to the ground behind Kael. She brought his face to hers.
“It’s ok, Flick. You did what you had to to survive. I just hope you haven’t killed us all.”
Dark figures emerged from the forest all around them. They were silent except for the odd clicking sound of their oversized claws grasping the air.
“Knife Respers! I hope they taught you how to use that little sword of yours back at Knight School. ” he quipped.
Kindle set her jaw. “I hope so to...”
*You’re not alone, Kindle. This is what I was made to do.* Cirrus said in her mind.
The first Knife Resper leaped directly for Kindle, surprising everyone with it’s speed and ferocity. Kael stepped in front of Kindle and slashed with his own sword, sparks flying from the contact between sword and claws. Kindle arc’d around and slashed downward with Cirrus toward the creature’s head. A harsh keening ripped through the air as the sword connected. Light erupted from the wound and the creature convulsed to the ground, turning into oily smoke. Kindle looked at her blade in wonder.
*Told you, Kindle. Now let’s stop these things!*
The other Knife Respers attacked at once. Kindle’s experience became a nightmare of flashing claws, narrowly missed strikes, and bursts of light as either she or Kael connected with their swords.
After what seemed an eternity Kindle was growing very tired, and they had only managed to take out 3 or 4 of the beasts. Suddenly, the Knife Respers turned away from Kael and leapt at Kindle as one. Their claws ripped through her wings as she spun to the round, her sword acting more as a shield.
“Kindle!” Kael yelled.
As one, the Knife Respers raised their claws for the final strike. A deafening roar from the forest threw everyone to the ground with the force of wind. A brilliant light shot to the sky from the horizon, in the same direction as the roar, like a comet of light. The Knife Respers began to flee as they saw the comet plummet toward them.
They were not fast enough.
The comet exploded into shards of light that ripped through each Resper. In a moment there was only oily smoke in the air. Kael rushed to the broken form of Kindle on the ground.
A figure appeared from the forest.
“Come, Kael. Bring her.” the figure said in a voice deep with age. “We must hurry if we are to save her life.”
Kael stared. “Is it you?” he gaped.