Nightfall

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Chapter 10

“Nypre,” a voice called from the darkness. It was his mother’s. She appeared in the distant void standing before Nypre in a glowing light. She was smiling. “Nypre, my son. You are destined to continue my role in the world.” Her voice echoed through the darkness, creating ripples of light as it traveled through the shadows.

“How, what role?” Nypre shouted out. She was so far away from him.

“To kill. Lumin threatens everything we hold dear. You have to kill them. You must kill Norris and Lina. You were trying to before, why did you stop? They’re just waiting for a chance to kill you.” Wonik’s ethereal voice was strange.

“No, they’re different. I know that now,” Nypre argued.

“If you don’t do it, then I will,” she cackled loudly. The shadows began to flare all around Nypre, in rhythm with her laughter. The ground shook as her laughter grew louder until it was deafening.

Nypre gasped for air as he opened his eyes. Lina had been shaking him awake the entire time. He looked at her with shock.

“Nypre, we have to go. The Night Land is expanding!” Lina’s voice was nervous. They had made their camp in Falkner’s territory. Norris had insisted they stop for the night in a small clearing in the woods that grew in the territory. He had explained that stopping in a town was too dangerous, in case any pursuit from Lumin should overtake them. They were dangerously close to the Night Land. Nypre looked up in the sky, where the morning sun was rising. The darkness of the Night Land slowly crept over the light of dawn like water spreading through clothing.

“Norris is getting the horses ready,” Lina explained. She then turned to Deren who was sleeping nearby, giving him a rough shake to wake him, just as she had Nypre. “Deren you wake up too, we need to move or we’ll be caught!” She insisted. Deren too woke up with a jolt, just as Nypre had. He turned to Nypre with a worried look.

“What’s going on?” He asked. Nypre pointed to the sky where the darkness was slowly creeping overhead. “Those who wander into the Night Land never return,” he repeated the words Nypre himself had once said.

“Don’t worry, Norris is getting the horses. We’ll be able to outrun it once we’re mounted.” Nypre calmed him. As if he had tempted fate, the three horses they had ridden out of Lumin the previous day came stampeding past them, straight towards the Night Land. Norris was chasing hard after them, and reached the others just as the horses passed the border, disappearing into the shadows.

“The horses were acting strange, like something had spooked them,” Norris tried to explain. “Those were well trained horses. It makes no sense that they would act this way.”

“Never mind that, we need to get moving right away!” Nypre shouted, jumping to his feet. Deren did the same. Lina and Norris weren’t about to argue, and the four of them began to sprint in the opposite direction of the night. Norris ran next to Lina, grabbing her arm and pulling her along so she could keep up with the others.

“I’m lucky Lina woke me up when she did. I felt trapped within that dream,” Nypre spoke between breaths to Deren. The two of them ran ahead while Norris assisted Lina.

“You’re not the only one. I had the weirdest dream about mom, telling me bad things about Norris and Lina. I didn’t buy it for a second though,” Deren replied.

“That’s the same dream I had. It was definitely unnatural!” Nypre wanted to keep talking, but couldn’t waste his breath. He looked behind him and saw the shadows of the Night Land slowly gaining on Lina and Norris. Trees they had passed only seconds ago were being consumed by the darkness, and the night was still spreading faster.

Eventually they broke through the tree line, and ran along a cobblestone road. Nypre was very grateful that they had come upon one of Falkner’s roads, as it made running a lot easier, allowing them to move faster. They ran through farmland that Nypre recognized as the same farmland they had passed when escaping the capital. People from the farms were running away from the night also, but they were very far ahead. It was getting difficult to run now, Nypre’s legs were tiring and he was now breathing in ragged gasps. Deren wasn’t struggling quite as much as Nypre, but Lina was staggering very badly. Norris stopped and picked up Lina, carrying her unceremoniously over his shoulder as they ran. Lina held Norris’s neck tightly, still trying to catch her breath. If any of them weren’t used to running, it was her. The expansion of the Night Land showed no sign of slowing, much less stopping, and the road was the easiest way to escape. Nypre knew it led into the capital, a place where he and Deren were wanted for disrupting the execution. There was no choice. They would have to enter the capital.

As if it were luck, or simply less bad luck, the Night Land stopped spreading just at edge of the capital. Still, all of the farmland they had just run through was completely consumed. The people from the farms still ran on, but Nypre, Deren, and Norris all stopped, gasping for air, trying to catch their breath. Lina was kind enough to climb down from Norris’s shoulder. She did her best to make them breathe easier by patting them on the back. After catching their breath, all four of them looked back into the darkness.

“We are lucky Lina woke us when she did,” Norris explained. “I was stuck in a fairly bad dream that made me glad to wake up.”

“You aren’t the only one. Deren and I were having that same dream.” Nypre replied. He left out the part about their mother telling them to kill Norris and Lina.

“I wasn’t dreaming at all,” Lina murmured silently. “I just remember waking up to the sound of movement. I thought I saw someone watching us, which frightened me, but once my vision cleared I saw no one. You three were all in a deep sleep. I called out to all three of you once I saw the Night Land spreading, but none of you responded. I had to shake each of you awake. I’m sorry I wasn’t faster. I’m still very sore from riding with Norris. I had never ridden a horse before, it hurt more than I anticipated.”

“Well thank you Lina, we owe you our lives.” Nypre bowed to Lina. She smiled, which made him feel happier.

“We can’t relax yet,” Deren said to Nypre, reminding him of where they were.

“Right, the capital.” Nypre let out a heavy sigh. It felt like so long ago since they were last here, but it had only been a couple of days.

“You two have history here?” Norris asked, looking to the two of them.

“Yeah, when we were here last they were hosting an execution in the town square. They had planned to kill an elf child, but another elf intervened and saved her. We kind of helped out too,” Deren explained. Nypre took the opportunity to go into more detail of exactly what had happened, including how Ryan had saved them using his finesse with a weapon.

“I see,” Norris mused. For some reason Nypre felt a bit ashamed of what he had done, explaining it to Norris like this, much like a child confessing some wrongdoing.

“I think what you two did was right. As Nypre said, she clearly wasn’t a soldier, and was trying to negotiate.” Lina’s saying this made Nypre feel a lot better about it.

“If we follow the main road we’ll get to the town square. We should probably see what’s happening in the town,” Norris suggested.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea? If we’re spotted they could kill us on the spot,” Deren argued.

“They are probably much too worried about the Night Land to worry about you. We need to see if any of the people are hurt, and maybe even help out if we can,” Lina responded. Nypre and Deren felt like they had no choice but to follow Norris and Lina down the main road and into the town square.

Walking down the main road made the city look magnificent. Lina looked around at all the buildings in awe. It felt out of place to Nypre and Deren, given what had just happened, but Lina was excited about being in a town other than Lumin for the very first time. She smiled, glancing up and down at all the different buildings which grew more marvelous as they got closer to the town square.

“What should we do now? Do you think people from Lumin will be in the city looking for us too?” Nypre asked.

“I’m worried about Lumin, actually. With the Night Land expanding that far, it’s completely cut off the road entering and exiting the mountain pass. We can’t return at all now.” Norris seemed solemn with that thought. “Are you okay with that Lina?” He turned his sight to her.

“It’s okay. I made my choice, and that’s to help people, like any priestess should. Helping the people in the Tawarln Territory and stopping those soldiers will be my first real job as priestess.” She smiled at the two boys.

Nypre figured out then why she always had to smile. It was just another part of her job as a priestess, remaining happy and excited even in the darkest of times. It made him feel sorry for her, but at the same time, he admired her.

“Look!” Nypre pointed straight ahead. The town square was full of people. More people than Lina had ever seen gathered in one place before.

“They are likely having a meeting in the town square, similar to what they were doing when the elf was going to be executed.” Nypre explained.

“We should go check it out!” Deren suggested.

“No, we should just sneak through and head south on the main road out of this capital.” Nypre disagreed. Nypre too was fairly curious about what the people were doing, but he felt the risk was just too much.

“I might be able to help these people,” Lina replied calmly, “even if it’s just offering comforting words, or praying with them. The people of this town must be very frightened.”

Nypre let out a heavy sigh, but he couldn’t argue with Lina. The four of them made for the town square.

Nypre, Deren, Lina, and Norris stood in the back of the crowd, unnoticed by the villagers, who were looking up at the stand where the soldiers had previously intended to murder the elf girl. There was another soldier addressing the people. He was in the middle of his speech when Nypre and friends arrived.

“The elves continue to expand their dark magic more and more into our territory. Now they have cut us off from the farms that supply this city with food. We have no choice but to attack now. The weapons from Telkis are already enroute to the forest. We will burn the forest down. If they want to push us further east toward them, then further east we will go!” The soldier shouted. The crowd cheered “We ask that any of you willing to fight will join us. They may have cut off our trade route with the Telkis Territory, but it is too late. We already have what we need. Tonight, the forest burns!”

“I’ll fight!” one man yelled loudly, joined by another and another. Some female voices were heard as well. One boy who couldn’t have been more than nine climbed up on the raised wooden platform.

“I’ll fight as well. The elves must die!” he yelled loudly before being pulled back by his mother.

“I don’t think they need words of comfort. They seem to have pretty high morale,” Norris said to Lina, who nodded in agreement.

“They’re striking out of fear, not courage. They think they have no other option.” Lina’s words were weighted with sadness.

“They don’t though. If the elves created the Night Land, then I can understand why they feel this way,” Deren explained.

“Come on. Let’s just get out of here. We need to get back home anyway,” Nypre tried soothing Lina. He patted her on the shoulder, causing her to turn and reveal another false smile. The four of them made their way to the main road leading the south while the soldier continued to rally the crowd.

“Do you really think the elves are behind the Night Land?” Lina asked Nypre and Deren.

They gave her a simultaneous shrug.

“I think Lumin has been worrying about the mages for too long when we should have been worrying about the Night Land.” Norris shook his head. “Whether the elves did it to invade Falkner’s Territory or not, it’s becoming a problem for all of us.”

“I think ‘problem’ is an understatement. If the Night Land continues expanding it won’t be long before all of the human territories are taken over.” Nypre brought up a disturbing point.

“If only there were a way to talk to the elves. If they created the Night Land, maybe there’s a way we can negotiate peace,” Lina suggested.

“The elves kill any humans that enter their forest,” Deren explained, shaking his head.

“We’re being followed,” Norris interrupted the conversation, looking back. The other three looked back as well, and saw soldiers from Falkner’s army following them. All of the soldiers wore full steel armor with sheathed crossbows and swords. There were far too many to take by force. They turned back to continue down the road. There were more soldiers up ahead too. They stopped walking, and the two groups of soldiers began to converge on them quickly.

One of the soldiers from the group ahead of them walked forward.

“You are wanted for crimes against Lord Falkner. Do not resist, or we’ll be forced to kill you here.” The soldier held his crossbow pointing at Norris’s head.

“There must be a mistake,” Norris replied, as calmly as possible.

“There is no mistake. You think I wouldn’t recognize you in that armor? You’re the man these two boys were with before, the one who killed my comrade,” the soldier replied. Soldiers from behind them grabbed Norris’s, Nypre’s, and Deren’s hands and bound them with rope.

“What about the girl? She looks like a priestess of Lumin,” another soldier asked.

“You don’t know these people like I do. They help elves, and are probably conspiring with them to bring this nation down. It’s not likely a real Lumin priestess would be in their company. It must be part of some trick they are playing, and we are lucky enough to stop them before they enact their treacherous plans. Take her with the rest. They’ll prove to be quite the morale booster before tonight,” the soldier said. With that the soldier began to bind Lina just as the others were.

“Stop, I am a priestess of Lumin. In the name of Ana, unhand me at once,” Lina ordered struggling as much as she could. The soldiers all laughed as the lead soldier walked over to stand in front of her.

“Ana? She’s not here. You priestesses just live happily in your perfect mountain town, ignorant of the suffering in the rest of the world. Ana hasn’t helped us like you promise she will. Ana doesn’t care when the elves kill soldier after soldier. Ana hasn’t stopped the unnatural evil magic that’s created the Night Land,” the soldier mocked her. Then, with one quick hit, he smacked her hard across the face, still wearing his steel gauntlet. Norris struggled to break free, but another soldier hit him from behind, knocking him unconscious. Nypre and Deren saw Norris fall and they too tried to break free, only to suffer the same fate.

Nypre woke to the sound of consistent creaking. Everything was dark. He tried to move, but his hands and legs were tightly bound. It was difficult to breathe. There was just the sound of loud creaking and shaking. It felt much like he was in the cart going to Lumin again. He thought about calling out to the others, but wasn’t sure what to say. He remembered what had happened, being hit in the back of the head. The memory brought back the pain. He had been knocked out too often these last couple of days. He couldn’t cast magic since he was bound, well, he could but then he couldn’t control it. Even if he were able to control it, it still wouldn’t have done him much good in this situation.

“Deren?” He decided to call out. There was no response. He tried calling out to Norris and Lina too, but received the same answer. He felt worried for them, what if they hadn’t survived. He lay there for what felt like hours, listening to the creaking of what he assumed was a cart. Every once and awhile he would try struggling to see if he could loosen whatever was binding him. Each time he tried, he only succeeded in hurting his wrists against the material that held him. Finally, the creaking and shaking stopped. For a moment, everything was quiet.

Suddenly Nypre felt his arms and legs being untied, he felt someone grab him and pick him up. He was being hurled around like a doll and a wave of nausea hit him. Everything was black, but as he was being moved he could see an occasional glimmer of light. He could feel it now, there was a very smooth, very thin, black cloth covering his face. Nypre was placed down on the ground. He quickly adjusted to stand on his own feet. His hands were immediately tied together behind him once again, and the hood that covered his face was lifted off.

It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the blinded light once the hood was removed. It was a bright sunny day. He was standing at the edge of a cliff. At the bottom of the rocky cliff was a small, barren field of dirt. At the edge of the dirt field was a very dense, very dark, line of trees. Nypre could see over the tree line, and saw that this forest extended as far as he could see. He knew this must be the forest where the elves lived. Why had they brought him here? He turned to his left and saw Deren looking at him. He too stood at the edge of the cliff, his hands tied by rope. Deren had a confused look on his face, just like Nypre. He turned to his right and saw Lina and Norris in a similar situation. Lina’s face looked solemn, while Norris’s looked angry. Norris had been completely stripped of his armor, and wore only a thin white shirt and breeches. None of them had a weapon.

“What’s going on?” Nypre asked. “Why are we here?” He looked to Norris for an answer, but was instead given one by a voice from behind. He recognized it as the lead soldier that had brought them here in the first place.

“You elf supporters were brought here for execution. You will raise the morale of our troops before we invade the forest. Look behind you, see our machines. The technology we were able to create with materials given to us by Telkis,” the soldier explained with a sinister voice. Nypre turned his head. He saw the soldier who spoke to them, as well as many others. There were soldiers sparring with each other, or training some of the new recruits they had rallied from the capital. Others were setting up tents, and some were even cooking makeshift meals on campfires. Far in the back were five large wooden machines. The machine looked like a large bow attached to a cart. The bow stretched from left to right, wider than Nypre, Deren, and Norris all standing side by side. The bowstring of this machine was much thicker than the average bowstring, and instead of arrows it connected to a small pouch of thick cloth. Along the sides of the carts were large rocks, to be used as ammunition. It was unlike anything Nypre had ever seen before, and there were five of them.

“What are those things?” Deren asked. He didn’t ask out of fear like the soldier expected, but out of curiosity.

“They are Falkner’s own design. Inspired by his previous crossbow design, he’s created a large siege machine more advanced than catapults to hurl boulders long distances at forts and other such dwellings, like the forest you see before you.” The soldier didn’t seem angry that Deren wasn’t afraid. He instead talked like he had wanted to show this stuff off for a while.

“So wait, you expect to destroy the forest by shooting rocks at it?” Deren mocked with a laugh. Nypre looked to Deren, how could he act like that in this situation? The soldier simply shook his head.

“These are no ordinary boulders. The Telkis Territory controls fire magic. Each of these boulders is packed with volatile crystallized fire magic created by Foran himself. With the help from Telkis and Foran, we will rid the world of elves and the Night Land once and for all,” the soldier shouted. “Now, come with me, your execution awaits.”

The lead soldier, along with many others, led the four of them through the camp. The soldiers all booed and jeered at them as they walked. It was a horrible feeling. Nypre looked back to Lina and Norris and couldn’t help but feel guilty. It was his actions that had doomed them, his actions that had doomed his brother as well. If any of them should be executed, it should be him. The others were innocent in this matter.

They were led to a wooden stand in the center of camp, just like the one in the town. This stand, however, had several posts for hanging people instead of just one. They were placed in front of the four center posts, and almost on cue soldiers began to swarm around to watch.

“I’m sorry, this is my fault,” Nypre sighed, turning to Norris and Lina, then back to Deren.

“This world is not what I was expecting it to be,” Lina spoke softly.

“There has to be something we can do. Some way to escape.” Deren remained confident, or more in denial of what was about to happen. Norris didn’t say anything. Nypre found his silence the worst.

“I just wish things could have been different,” Nypre whispered to himself looking down at the stand which was about to open underneath him. He closed his eyes thinking of Deren’s words. If any of them were to be able to do something, it would be Nypre. He was the only one able to fight without a weapon. He remembered his mother’s words about magic.

“The greatest ally to magic is a creative mind.” She had told him early on in his training. It hadn’t meant much to him back then, a creative mind. Now he understood what she meant. He had very limited powers of wind. With his hands bound, the power would surge through his body, hurting him. He remembered what he had done to Deren, surging lightning through his hand by coming in contact with him. He would have to do the same thing here. He would be a conductor and be able to shock any that came in direct contact with him. He just had to wait for the right moment. He opened his eyes, a determined look on his face.

“Today, we take the forest!” The lead soldier was now the only one on the stand with the four of them. Nypre scanned the audience. All the soldiers were wearing full metal plate armor, with sheathed crossbows and swords. He knew they kept the crossbows already loaded. They could get off one quick shot before taking the time to reload. “We shall burn the forest with Falkner’s wonderful siege machines. Men, take up arms. Once we fire upon the forest, the elves will charge us. They will try to climb the cliff, that’s where we come in. We cannot let them scale the cliff. Do not worry, we have the high ground. Their arrows will not be able to reach us up here, but we’ll be able to reach them down there,” he laughed. “It will be easier than shooting a target on a range. The elves will be defenseless against us. We’ll smoke them out, and then take them out!”

The crowd cheered loudly. Nypre looked at the others, all still wearing the same expressions as before. Nypre knew he had to do something. He couldn’t let it end here.

“First, we have a surprise. Remember the elf girl who was to be executed in the capital? Remember how she escaped? These four are the same elf supporters who helped her escape! Not only will we be able to kill them, we’ll get to see the look on their face as we burn down their favorite forest,” the soldier guffawed.

“You think we care about the forest? You sound crazy,” Deren ridiculed. The lead soldier ignored him.

“Fire the first shot, let the elves burn!” He commanded. Several guards grabbed one of the machines and rolled it to the edge of the cliff. They loaded a boulder from the side of the machine into the pouch. Then one soldier began twisting a handle in a circular motion. With a loud clinking noise a mechanism began pulling the rock backwards until it locked in position ready to be fired. Finally, the soldier pulled the handle a different way, and the boulder was sent soaring through the sky. It flew into the horizon hitting the forest with a very loud explosion. Erupting from the impact, liquid flames shot up into the air over the forest, spreading out and raining fire down upon a large area, igniting many trees. Birds emerged from the trees and flew quickly away from the flames and smoke. Soon smoke polluted the skies above the forest. The density of the forest made it easy for the fire to spread.

The crowd cheered, erupting with laughter, and rejoicing at the sight of the flames. Nypre couldn’t look at them, it was disgusting. He turned his head away only for a moment before the laughter died out and everything went quiet. He turned to the crowd and saw them all standing dumbstruck, then turned his sight back to the forest. Right where the fire boulder had hit, it had begun raining a very heavy rain. Water poured from a single dark cloud over the area, extinguishing the flames unnaturally fast. Nypre knew it had to be water magic. He wasn’t the only one.

“The elves, they know water magic. Our fears have been realized, Aqnis has been assisting the elves after all!” the lead soldier shouted.

“You’re pathetic, you humans know nothing. This is why we worship the elves. They are clearly the superior race.” Nypre made up his insults as he went. Berating all humans in general and praising elves. The soldier walked in front of him and drew his hands backward, just like he had done to Lina.

“Wonik-E!” Nypre shouted before the blow fell. He felt a sharp pain throughout his body. It was the opposite of feeling weak, he felt energetic, so much that it hurt him. Lightning was surging through his limbs as the soldier hit him. He could feel the lightning in his body immediately surge to the soldier’s metal gauntlet. His hand was stuck to Nypre now as the electricity surged through the soldier’s steel armor, amplifying his original power. After only a few moments, the soldier fell to the ground, smoke rising from his body. It didn’t take long for the soldiers in the audience to react. They each pulled out their crossbows. Nypre and the others reacted quickly too. Only their hands were tied, they were able to move freely. The four of them quickly took cover behind the posts meant to hang them as the crossbows fired.

“Run!” Norris yelled. The four of them jumped from the stand on the other side, running through the camp as fast as they could, as the soldiers pursued. Nypre still couldn’t control his magic with his hands tied like this. He looked back and saw the soldiers standing on the stand, rearming their crossbows. There were too many of them, it was going to be over soon. He turned back toward where he was running and saw a robed figure standing in front of them. He hadn’t been there a moment ago. The hooded man wore dark green leafy clothing much like the elf Nypre had seen back in the capital. He had a bow as tall as Norris planted in the ground with the string pulled back, pointing at the army of soldiers. There was no arrow armed on the string, they were all still in the quiver on his back.

“Wonik,” The elf spoke quickly as he let the bowstring go. Nypre, Deren, Norris, and Lina were all blown backwards falling over helplessly as they were hit by a very powerful gust of wind that knocked the sense out of them for a moment. There was loud crashing from behind them. It was the sound of the soldiers falling over. Tents around them collapsed from the large blast of wind. The elf bounded forward, dark green cloak flowing behind him. He reached down and untied Nypre first. Nypre in turn freed Deren, as the elf untied Norris. Finally Lina’s bonds were removed as well.

“Who are you?” Nypre asked the elf.

“My name is Torrent. You assisted me in the past. All debts have been repaid,” he responded with an unflustered voice. All five of them stood side by side, facing the army, which pointed their crossbows forward again. It was Nypre’s turn to use wind magic to save them. The soldiers fired.

“Wonik-E,” Nypre yelled aiming a gust of wind to misdirect as many of the bolts as possible. Seeing they weren’t going to get anywhere with ranged attacks the soldiers all drew their swords and charged. Deren and Norris took a step back, as they were still unarmed. Lina ducked behind Norris unsure what to do. Nypre and Torrent took a step forward. Torrent held his massive bow in his hand.

“Quin,” Torrent spoke another spell. The bow shaft straightened into a staff and the bowstring was absorbed into the wood. Nypre recognized the incantation as earth magic. The elf had shown the ability to use two different elements. The first soldier charged Torrent, waving his sword wildly. Torrent stepped back, and then, with a powerful thrust, he slammed the staff into the soldier’s helmet knocking him to the ground. Another guard charged Nypre.

“Wonik-E.” Nypre didn’t shout his spell this time and instead spoke quieter, much like Torrent had. He jumped backwards away from the guard as lightning shot from his hands, electrifying the soldier. With another quick spell, he used a gust of wind to blow the two swords from the defeated soldiers toward Norris and Deren. They quickly grabbed the weapons, arming themselves.

“Lina, take cover.” Norris ordered with a serious voice, nodding towards one of the collapsed tents. Lina did as she was told and ducked behind the canvas. Norris and Deren jumped into the fray. Because there were tents on either side of the group, the guards were unable to swarm around the four of them. Instead they fought in a much smaller group, only about three or four guards engaging them at a time.

“Nypre, they’re firing from behind the line,” Norris yelled. Nypre wasn’t sure what line Norris meant. Then he looked up and saw crossbow bolts raining down on them. The line was the soldiers that Norris, Deren, and Torrent were currently battling.

“Wonik-E,” Nypre chanted, tossing the bolts aside. Then, he held his hand forward, levitating one of the bolts and twisting it back to face the army. “Wonik-E,” Nypre spoke another spell, shooting lightning forward to the metal bolt tip before throwing his arm down, the bolt shooting backwards into the clump of soldiers. He couldn’t see through the line of fighters in front of him, but he knew he hit at least one of them.

Nypre grabbed another sword from a fallen soldier and joined Norris, Deren, and Torrent in melee combat. “Wonik-E” Nypre couldn’t help but feel confident now. Lightning surged from his hands through the blade he now wielded. He clashed his sword against another soldier’s, lightning arcing from him to the soldiers sword, and into the soldier’s armor. The metal they used conducted electricity so well.

Deren was having a much more difficult time than his brother. The soldier’s armor was difficult to pierce. He was faster than the soldiers, being unencumbered, but even when he did hit he couldn’t do much damage. It would only take one successful hit for his foes to take him out. Still, he fed off of Nypre’s confidence. These soldiers were not nearly as well trained as he had thought they would be. It was a lot like sparring people in class back in town. They knew how to fight with a sword, they just weren’t as good.

Norris was having no problem taking out soldier after soldier. These people were very untrained and clumsy in comparison to the soldiers from Lumin. He used their own momentum against them, often times resorting to grappling them as the metal the sword was made of was not enough to break through their armor. He could use his brute strength to disarm and trip them, waiting for Nypre to finish them off with his lightning.

Torrent danced between their blows with his staff a blur, wielding it with both of his hands, spinning and thrusting with precision. He smacked targets with both ends of the staff, a loud clang resounded with every blow. He was able to knock them unconscious or stagger them, but not kill the armored soldiers like this. He would have to use arrows to do that. While others parried and blocked their blows with their own weapons, Torrent moved so quickly he simply dodged them altogether.

“Fall back!” one of the soldiers yelled. The soldiers all took steps backwards, holding out their swords and crossbows in a threatening matter. Nypre, Deren, Norris, and Torrent all stood their ground as the soldiers retreated. More and more elves were now showing up from seemingly out of nowhere.

“Keep firing the siege weapons!” another soldier yelled. Torrent heard this and ran off, casting another spell and turning his staff into a short portable bow. He jumped over the collapsed tents and ducked through the ones still standing using them as cover as he made his way to the siege machines. Nypre looked to Deren, and then to Norris.

“We’re lucky to be alive.” Norris still seemed angry. “I was expecting to meet Ana today, but perhaps that will wait.”

“I don’t think luck has anything to do with it. Those soldiers are very poorly trained.” Deren laughed.

“Don’t get cocky, overconfidence leads to mistakes, mistakes lead to death. I require my armor, we must find it,” Norris ordered with a harsh voice. “You two take Lina away from here. Head south and keep walking. I will catch up to you.” As if reading Nypre’s mind, Norris pointed to which way was south. Nypre could never remember if the sun rose or set in the east, and it was practically mid day. He looked back to the forest. More sections of it were on fire. The one dark rain cloud had grown into several, but the fire was taking longer and longer to extinguish with each shot. Norris broke away from them, following the elf’s example of hiding and moving between the still standing tents. Lina appeared near the two boys, a look of horror on her face. It was clear she was very afraid.

“We have to stop those siege weapons, they’ll destroy the forest,” Nypre insisted.

“Why do you care? We need to get out of here. Norris is insane to go back for that equipment,” Deren replied sternly.

“He has to,” Lina sniffled. She took a deep breath, recovering her stature. “He can’t let dragon metal fall into their hands. If they discover what it is, they’ll want to replicate it. Then they’ll attack the mining town. I’m sure he’ll be okay. Norris is very strong,” she explained with a clearer voice.

“Come on, let’s get out of here,” Deren said stubbornly.

“You two go, I’m going to help the elves and Norris.” Nypre was adamant in staying.

“Fine, let’s go Lina,” Deren told Lina. Lina was quick to obey. She followed Deren out of the camp. Nypre couldn’t help but to be worried for them, but he knew that the soldiers wouldn’t pursue while they were under attack.

Nypre followed after Norris by moving between the tents. The camp had become an all-out battlefield now. The soldiers who did notice him paid him no mind; as they were too busy protecting the siege weapons from the elves. The elves all wielded bows, even in melee range. They were able to avoid the attacks from the soldiers with ease, then fire at them point blank. While most arrows were deflected by their armor, some were able to pierce through. It was difficult to see which side had the advantage. Nypre approached one of the two remaining siege engines slowly. Ten soldiers were surrounding it, fighting off the elves that danced and wove between their attacks, while two other soldiers worked on loading and firing the device. They were keeping up their assault on the forest as long as possible.

The easiest solution that kept coming to Nypre’s mind was to hit one of the explosive boulders with lightning in hopes to set it off. He feared this would cause a chain reaction and end up killing him, the elves, and possibly Norris, if he was close by. He remained hidden behind the cover of a tent, eyeing the pouch the boulders were being loaded in. A well placed lightning bolt could set it aflame, if it was flammable. It was worth a shot.

“Wonik-E,” Nypre whispered. With a quick flash, he shot a small strike of lightning straight to the pouch when it wasn’t loaded. The pouch was lit aflame by the spell. The soldiers nearby took a step back, hesitant now to reload it. They never even saw him. Nypre turned his attention to the other siege weapon in the distance. This one was even better guarded and had less elves fighting to destroy it. He moved within range ready to try his lightning to pouch trick again when it fired another destructive shot.

“Wonik-E,” Nypre whispered again, shooting another lightning bolt. This time instead of hitting the pouch, he aimed it at the already fired boulder that was well in the air. The boulder immediately erupted with a very loud bang. The shockwave from the blast knocked the soldiers and Nypre to the ground. Fire from the explosion began to rain down over the camp. The shot had been far too close when Nypre destroyed it! The tents that Nypre had been taking cover behind were lit with flames which spread quickly through the camp. The final siege weapon was also lit aflame. If the fire got to the remaining boulders, it would cause massive destruction.

Suddenly all thought left Nypre’s mind about protecting the elves and doing the right thing. It would not be long before several of those fire boulders exploded destroying the entire camp. He didn’t have time to feel the guilt of his actions as he turned away and started running as fast as he could out of the camp. He looked for Norris when he ran, but never saw him. He just ran as far to the south as he could hopeful to overtake Deren and Lina. Given his speed, it did not take long for him to catch up to them. He was relieved when he saw Norris, already rearmed with his spear and armor, waiting there as well.

“Run run run run run!” Nypre yelled, not stopping to explain as he ran right by them. Deren and Lina gave each other confused looks. Norris turned back and saw the camp on fire. He understood the situation immediately. Norris began running alongside Nypre, signaling back for Deren and Lina to do the same. The four of them ran south as fast as they could. There was a loud roar, and the four of them were hit by the shockwave of the incredibly powerful explosion and sent flying forward several feet in the air despite the distance they had managed to gain.

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