Galen stood with the other novices near the Fortress, just off the tree line of the small forest that led to the palace. He could hear the sounds of horses’ whinnies and men crying out in the distance. The battle had been going on since the late morning, and it was now well past the fourth bell of the afternoon.
Galen had felt useless most of the day. He knew it was good news they had not seen any action. It meant the Sentinel had not been pushed back from the hills, but Galen wished he had something to do. He worried for his fellow members of the Sentinel, especially for Roderick. He found himself hoping the High Captain was safe as well. He knew how important she was to his brother and the princess. He had also come to respect and like the High Captain.
Galen looked up as he saw a few Elites coming in from the forest. There were four Elites on their feet. Each pair carried another Elite between them. Galen watched as they approached his group on their way to the Fortress.
“Did the healers from the Academy arrive at the Sentinel?” asked one of the Elites as they came close to the novices.
The Elite Edwin who was in charge of the novices nodded. The four Elites went on past the rest of them, carrying their fallen comrades with them. As they passed, Galen could see that one was bleeding heavily from his side. The other had a large gash in his leg. He thought they both could make it if they found help quickly. He itched to have them stop so he could close up their wounds, but he knew talented healers were awaiting in the Fortress.
“I suppose this is all we will do all day,” said Tomas as he stood next to Galen.
“It is a good thing if we do. It means the Elites in the hills have been successful,” said Galen.
“I know, but this is dreadfully dull. I had hoped to see a little action at least,” said Tomas.
“You say that now, but let’s see what you think once you are in the middle of a real fight,” said Cara, who stood on Tomas’s other side.
“We joined the Sentinel to defend the kingdom, didn’t we?” asked Tomas.
“We did, but I don’t know if any of us can imagine what the Elites in the hills must be experiencing right now. They have been fighting since the tenth bell, and it will be supper before long. Seeing that much death and pain changes a person,” said Cara looking at Tomas.
“Well, if you put it like that, then yes, I can see what you mean, but still, I would rather feel useful than standing here like some old stump,” said Tomas with a sigh.
Their conversation was interrupted by a couple of Elites galloping in from the Fortress’s left side towards the trees. They pulled up and stopped by the novices, addressing Elite Edwin
“What is it?” asked Edwin.
“Soldiers are coming across the river. We are being driven back to the palace. We have been asked to seek reinforcements. I am headed to find the High Captain, but Darron says you should take the novices and head to the palace,” said one of the Elites on horseback.
Edwin looked over at the novices and nodded his head. “We will leave immediately. Go find the High Captain, and bring all the help you can.”
The two Elites on horseback rode on, as Edwin turned to Galen and the others.
“We need to leave now. We will walk through the trees. You will all stay together and stay with me. You will stay behind any Elites who are fighting and only fight if it is necessary. Any order given by me or an Upper Elite will be followed immediately. Do all of you understand?”
“Yes, Elite,” Galen yelled with the others.
“Good, now follow me,” Edwin started walking towards the trees.
“It looks like you will get your wish, Tomas,” said Galen as they walked.
“This is bad isn’t it?” asked Tomas as they entered the trees.
“It sounds like it must be if the Elites at the river had been pushed back all the way to the palace. I wonder how so many enemies got across the river. The palace guard should be some help,” said Cara as she walked close to Galen and Tomas.
They walked through the trees as quickly as a group of over twenty could. As they exited the trees and made their way to the palace, Galen could see Elites on horseback, forming a line. Darron was riding back and forth in front of them, urging them to stand strong. The novices were led behind the Elites on horseback and were lined up straight across.
“Draw your swords, novices, and be ready,” said Elite Edwin.
Galen drew the sword from the scabbard at his side just as Tomas and Cara did as well. The palace guard came running out of the first wall and lined up alongside the Elites on horseback, forming a line with them and one behind them. Galen and the others stood behind the palace guard.
Galen watched as a large number of enemy soldiers came towards the palace, ready to face the Elites and palace guards. He lost his breath for a moment, seeing the hundreds of soldiers on horseback, followed by hundreds more on foot. Galen silently agreed with Cara as he wondered for a moment how so many fighters crossed the river.
They had seventy Elites lined up and at the most a hundred palace guards. Galen knew the Elites could fight as well as at least ten men, but they were vastly outnumbered until the High Captain showed up with reinforcements. He just hoped they could hold their ground until she could come.
Galen stood still in his line as the enemy soldiers clashed with the front line of Elites and palace guards. There were so much confusion and noise, and Galen was so far back that he could hardly know what was happening. From what he could tell, the Elites were holding the line well. He waited, ready to fight if needed.
He stood at the ready and watched as a few palace guards walked back to the line Galen was in. Some had deep cuts on their shoulders or sides. Others were carrying seriously wounded guards or Elites.
“We need to get them to our healers,” said one of the guards.
“How can we leave for so long while others are fighting?” asked another guard.
Galen hesitated for a moment before he walked forward to one of the injured on the ground by the guards.
“I have been training as a healer,” said Galen to one of the guards. “I am still new, but I can close cuts and help with other injuries.”
The guards looked at Galen skeptically, but Galen didn’t care. He bent down to the injured guard with a gash in his side, putting his hands over the injury. He imagined the blood running through the guard’s body. He felt the moisture on his skin. He could sense the vessels damaged, and he willed them to heal themselves. He closed his eyes and felt the familiar feeling of his water Mystic working to undo the damage that had been done. He muttered a few ancient magic words for healing that he knew. He concentrated and when he opened his eyes, the cut was almost completely closed.
The soldier gave a sigh of relief and sat up slowly. He looked at Galen and nodded.
“You should sit still for a moment and then get to the healers in the palace walls, so they can completely close it.” Galen took deep breaths to replenish his energy.
One of the guards standing looked at Galen. “Can you see to the other injured while we return to the fight?”
“Yes,” said Galen as he stood up. “Go back and help the others. I will see to these few and any others who need help.”
The guards turned and ran back to the fight as Galen went to the next guard, closing a deep wound on his shoulder. After he got the guard up and ready to see the healers in the palace, Galen looked over at the Elite to see someone else bent over him. He recognized the sandy blond hair that was tied back by a ribbon at the women’s neck. He walked over to her.
“What are you doing out here?” asked Galen as he watched her mostly close a wound on the Elites leg.
“I couldn’t just stay within the walls after seeing what was coming,” said Princess Lexine as she helped the Elite to stand.
“You need to get back to the palace,” said Galen forcefully. “How did you even get out of the inner rooms?”
“I never went. I stayed with my brother in the second-floor tower to watch. He was too anxious over the battle and Dracia to argue with me,” said Lexine. “He is out here somewhere as well.”
“This is madness, Lexine,” said Galen. “You are too vulnerable out here.”
Lexine looked up at Galen and smiled at him.
“What?” asked Galen confused by her wide smile.
“You just called me Lexine. That is the first time you have ever done it.”
Galen sighed. “It doesn’t change that you shouldn’t be out here.”
“But I am, and I will not leave, so you might as well let me help you. It looks like you are going to need it,” said Lexine as they watched two men stagger towards them.
“Fine, but you stay close to me, and if the fighting gets close back here, you will run to the palace gates.”
“Agreed,” said Lexine.
They worked together to help those who were carried back to them or walked back on their own. Some went back to the battle; others walked off to the palace to see the healers. It seemed like there was always someone else to help to once they were done working on one. Galen could hear the fighting getting closer and closer.
He looked up at Lexine. “You need to leave. The fighting is getting too close.”
“No, there are still people to help. You can’t do it alone, especially if you have to fight. I will not leave,” said Lexine as she bent over to help another Elite.
“Lexine,” said Galen pleadingly. “You have to leave.”
“No,” said Lexine forcefully. She finished healing the Elites leg. They both stood up and the Elite took off towards the fight
Galen grabbed her arm and pulled her close to him so he could reason with her when he noticed the novices in front of him were fighting with enemy soldiers. He pulled her behind him and drew his sword.
“You will need to run now,” said Galen.
“No, I can help you. “You don’t know about all my powers. I can protect myself, and maybe you as well. I won’t leave you.”
Galen groaned but didn’t know how to reason with her. He held out his sword and his hand, ready to send Mystics or swing his sword at any soldier who got close to him. Just as he was ready to move forward and join the fight, he heard a thunderous noise behind him.
“Galen,” said Lexine excitedly. “Look.”
Galen turned to see the High Captain riding her large black horse with her sword drawn. Her hair was loose and flying behind her. His brother, Lord Ethen, and more than three hundred other Elites on horseback followed her. Galen turned and grabbed Lexine, holding her close as the horses ran past them. He watched as they joined the fight, quickly pushing the enemy soldiers back.
He let go of Lexine and moved forward, keeping his eyes on his brother and the High Captain. They rode in the middle of the soldiers and jumped off their horses. He found himself momentarily transfixed as he watched them fight. The High Captain would send fire or wind in one direction, while Roderick would cover her by slashing his sword at soldiers around them. She would turn and take out a soldier with her sword while Roderick would bend in just the right direction.
At one point, Roderick placed his sword behind his back, and The High Captain took it. She stabbed two men in front of her with her sword and Roderick’s. Roderick pushed out both his hands and sent some wind to blast a few soldiers back. The High Captain circled around Roderick, placing his sword back in his hand. They kept fighting, moving together as though they had everything planned. It was like some beautiful dance of destruction, as they took out more soldiers than Galen would think possible for just two people.
“Come on, Galen, we have to help,” said Tomas as he ran past Galen with Cara at his side.
Galen looked back at the princess as she moved back to help an injured soldier.
“Go on; I will stay here and help where I can. I will be safe, I promise.”
Galen nodded and turned to run after Tomas. He stopped when they reached the fighting. He flung out his hand and sent a large gust of wind at a group of enemy soldiers, causing many to be flung backwards. He moved forward to face one of the soldiers who came up to him, swinging his sword at Galen. Galen blocked his attack and swung back with his sword. The soldier blocked his attack, but Galen struck again, and his sword hit the man’s arm, causing the soldier to drop his sword. Galen stabbed forward on instinct, hitting the man in the chest. The man stared at Galen with his mouth opened as Galen slid his sword out of the man’s chest. Galen watched as the men fell at his feet, dead.
He stared at the man for a second, realizing it was the first person he had ever killed. He shook his head and put his attention back on the fight in front of him, seeing other soldiers coming at him. Galen moved forward and met others with his sword. He stabbed and slashed his way through, not looking back as many fell around him. His training took over, and he worked his way to the middle of the fight.
He got to a place where he could see Roderick and the High Captain fighting. Lord Ethen had joined them as well. As Galen stabbed a man, throwing him to the side, he heard the High Captain tell Lord Ethen and Roderick to cover her as she sheathed her sword.
Galen pushed out his hand, sending a wave of fire at some nearby soldiers, clearing the area around him as he watched the High Captain. The High Captain closed her eyes, and Galen could see her lips move as she muttered. Her hair seemed to move around her as though she had summoned a light breeze. Galen felt someone push up against him. He turned to attack but stopped when he saw who it was. The Crown Prince stood next to Galen, watching the High Captain as she took deep breaths and muttered to herself.
A couple of soldiers ran towards Galen and Prince Leal. Galen raised his sword. Before Galen could strike, the prince turned his head, and the men were thrown back. They slammed into the ground where they lay still. Galen looked at the prince, who had already turned back to look at the High Captain.
Until that moment, Galen thought he understood all aspects of Mystics. He knew he could still improve his skills, but he thought he knew everything about how they worked and their limits. As he watched the High Captain, he saw just how wrong he was. He understood why she was known as the greatest user of Mystics in over one thousand years.
The High Captain as she opened her eyes and threw out her hands. The low stone wall that stood in front of the palace’s high first wall broke apart into hundreds of large pieces. The High Captain threw her hands down and all the pieces flew through the air, smashing and crushing only enemy soldiers.
Galen watched in wonder as no Elites, palace guards, novices, or any person of Lanoxan was hit by the large stones that took out soldier after soldier. The air was full of dust, causing a haze to hover all around them. Galen wiped his eyes and heard the Crown Prince gasp. Galen blinked his eyes to clear the dust and saw the High Captain had a knife lodged in her right shoulder. She paid it no mind as she manipulated the last of the stones to take out the rest of the soldiers.
When she was done, she put her hands to her side and swayed slightly. The prince moved forward towards her, and Galen followed. Roderick and Ethen were already at her side as she pulled the knife out of her soldier and looked at Roderick. The High Captains eyes went wide as she stumbled forward. She tried to straighten up and take a step, but she collapsed where she was, Roderick catching her before she hit the ground. He carefully sat down, holding on to her.
“Dracia, what is it?” asked Roderick.
She looked at him but seemed to not be able to speak. Prince Leal kneeled down at her side and took her hand.
“What is wrong?” he asked breathlessly, looking at Roderick and then Dracia.
“I don’t know,” answered Roderick. He looked up and seemed to notice Galen for the first time.
Galen looked down at where the High Captain had dropped the knife. It had lodged in the ground, and he could see the green grass it had fallen on had turned brown all around the knife. He looked down at the High Captain, and he knew what was wrong.
“Let me try something.” Galen kneeled in front of the High Captain. He held out his hands over her chest, trying to see if what he thought might be there was really there. He could sense the blood running through her body, but it was not as I should be; there was something foreign.
“Poison.” Galen looked at Roderick. “The knife must have been poisoned. It is in her blood. We need to get her inside somewhere so we can see if we can purge it.” He let a hint of the poison flow from his hand to through his arms and into his chest. He worked to taste it but couldn’t sense anything on his tongue.
“We can take her to the palace,” said the prince. He put his arms under the High Captain and picked her up as he and Roderick rose from the ground.
Prince Leal started walking quickly towards the palace gates with the High Captain in his arms. Roderick grabbed Galen and moved him forward as they walked with Lord Ethen after Prince Leal. Galen swallowed hard, his mouth feeling extremely dry and his throat scratchy.
As they entered the palace gates, Galen saw Princess Lexine was walking next to Leal, looking with concern at Dracia in his arms. She looked back and saw Galen. She fell back to wait for him.
“What is wrong with her?” she asked as she fell in step with Galen.
“It is some kind of poison,” said Galen in a raspy voice, wishing he had a glass of water. “She was hit with a knife, and I think it had some kind of poison on it. I could feel it in her blood, but it has no taste.”
“How did a knife hit her?” asked Lexine
“I don’t know. One of the soldiers must have thrown it before they were hit with the stones. I didn’t see any around, but there was a lot of dust.” Galen gave a dry cough.
“Are you alright, Galen?” asked Lexine.
“I am. I just need a glass of water or something,” said Galen trying to clear his throat. “I was trying to see what poison was in the Captain, and it left me thirsty.” Galen stopped walking for a moment after they entered the palace door. “Lexine, I think I know what the poison is.”
Lexine looked at him, and her eyes grew large as understanding seems to hit her. “No,” she said in a whisper. “It can’t be.”
“It has no taste, and my mouth is dryer than it ever has been. I only had a vague impression of the poison. It can only be one thing.”
“But that means there is no way to help her,” said Lexine as tears came to her eyes.
“I think I might know a way, actually. Come on, we need to get to her and see what we can do.” Galen grabbed Lexine and followed Roderick, who was almost to the top of the stairs and on the second-floor landing.
He knew there was only one possible way to help someone who had been poisoned by the dew of the nettle weed. He only hoped there was time.