“Deren. You should get down below deck with the others. I’ll keep watch here,” Norris ordered.
“I’ll be fine here, just make sure my brother gets taken care of,” Deren replied angrily. He stood on the deck of the boat that had saved them. They were in the ocean now, but Deren could still see the coast of the Tawarln territory. The Night Land was still visible in the distance, as if mocking him.
“Lina is taking care of him the best she can. She has some training in dealing with illness that she learned as a priestess. While she’s never dealt with wounded soldiers before, she can hopefully help the others who are tending to the wounded,” Norris told him, trying to comfort him.
“When I know he’s safe I will go down there.” Deren knew there were limited amounts of people who could help take care of the wounded. If he went below deck with the rest, he’d just be taking attention away from someone who really needed it, someone like Nypre. He had been hit across the chest by an axe which had cut through his leathers and his skin. He held his hand to the wound. It was still bleeding, but only a little. If he hadn’t been wearing the leather armor he would have died. If it weren’t for Nypre he would have died, of course Deren didn’t feel too guilty about that since he had saved Nypre plenty of times during the battle. Aside from the axe wound he had a few bites from claw beasts and spiders that weren’t too serious.
“You were very brave in that battle, Deren,” Norris complimented him.
“Nypre and I both were, you could say,” Deren sighed, still worried about his brother. Nypre had looked fine from the outside, but for him to collapse like that. What had happened to him?
Tawarln stood in the bow of the ship with Meni glancing over the seas.
“I saw you out on the battlefield. I heard your magic was broken,” He stated in a concerned voice.
“It is broken. I was using my artifact,” Meni countered, moving her bow, signaling its importance.
“You were, but the mages that defended this ship used plenty of water magic,” Tawarln replied snidely. “So tell me the truth! Why didn’t you come to our aid?”
“The truth has been told. The water magic is broken. We are unable to create water anymore, and can only manipulate water that already exists on this layer. Why would we lie to you about this?”
“I don’t know. I just feel there’s something going on in the Aqnis territory that isn’t being told to me,” Tawarln explained.
“What you feel is correct. All I will say is that our city is not doing very well right now. You will have to talk with Aqnis if you wish to learn more. It is my job to find and fix what is wrong with the water magic,” Meni’s voice remained serious, as if unbothered by any of Tawarln’s accusations. Her thoughts were on the man who had saved her, the man who gave his life for her. She didn’t even know him. He was just a sailor. To see Wonik, one of her most trusted friends, do that. It wasn’t supposed to be like that.
Meni let out a heavy sigh, recalling Wonik’s words. They were both children then. Wonik told her that they’d be true friends forever, no matter what. Meni joined the battle to see Wonik, to see if the rumors were true. The Wonik that killed that man, the Wonik that nearly killed her, she was not the Wonik Meni knew. Wonik had always been like a sister to Meni. How could this happen?
Ryan stood calmly in the crow’s nest high atop the mast. The scout there was kind enough to share it with him after Ryan explained that he liked being in high places. Ryan watched the coast sink away from his field of vision. It had been a long time for him since he had participated in a battle that large. He gazed downward, looking at the people on the deck of the ship. All who had participated in the battle had suffered some injury, either minor or major, all except for Ryan. He sighed to himself, looking back toward the Night Land. The Night Land was the only thing Ryan feared. He knew that if he stepped into the Night Land, even for only a second, the world itself would end.
Nypre floated in darkness. He could feel no pain, hear no sounds. Everything was calm, peaceful, and tranquil. Images of the battle ran through his mind. He had killed so many. He could feel himself crying, but there were no tears. The people he had killed, they were being controlled just like his mother. They were innocent. He wondered if they could see what they were being forced to do. He couldn’t move, he could only think. He knew what had happened. He had used too much magic and was unconscious because of it. Or he was dead. Either way, he was happy. It was nice here. Everything was quiet, which is what he needed.
“You are different Nypre, you will be my greatest asset,” an emotionless voice echoed all around him. As it spoke, the darkness shook, like ripples on once calm water.
“Who are you?” Nypre asked. To his surprise, he could talk, or maybe he could just think. He decided not to try to figure out exactly how things worked at the moment.
“I am death,” the voice responded. Despite hearing this, Nypre didn’t feel afraid. He still felt at peace. “The night spreads, it consumes all, it must be stopped.” the voice continued.
“Why would death care about that?′ Nypre asked cynically.
“It is the one thing we gods fear, aside from each other,” the voice answered. Nypre then understood.
“You’re Letum.” Normally he would have been surprised. And while the news was shocking, Nypre couldn’t feel any emotions at the moment.
“That is the name mortals have granted me. I am feared by them, worshipped by others. None of them understand the truth.”
“How exactly am I your greatest asset? I hear you gain power when people die, do you expect me to kill more? I’m through killing.” Nypre wanted to feel anger, just like he wanted to feel surprise. Still, there was nothing, no emotions. He hardly felt human at the moment.
“You must stop the night,” the voice trailed off, leaving Nypre alone once more.
All at once color returned to Nypre’s vision. Sounds of pain and agony reached his ears. He could feel the pain of the wounds he had received. He realized now that he was still alive. He was in what looked to be the inside of a building, but through deduction he knew it was the inside of the ship. Shadows created by torchlight flickered along the ceiling and walls. He tried sitting up, but moving made his head ache with severe pain. He laid there, his eyes open, listening to the others around him suffering. He couldn’t stay like this, so, with one final push, he managed to lever himself into a sitting position. Ignoring his pain, he looked around. The room was full of beds. Each one had a wounded soldier in it. People wearing white robes moved around with bandages and other supplies, taking care of each person’s wounds as best they could. One of these people approached him.
“Nypre, you’re awake.” It was a woman, she smiled. Nypre stared back at her, not saying anything at first. He found it hard to believe where he was, hard to believe he had survived.
“What happened?” Nypre asked. Talking made him hurt even more. His throat was singed from the smoke that had nearly suffocated him on the battlefield.
“Lina took good care of you. All you need to know is that you’re safe,” the woman answered, still smiling.
“Lina, where is she?” Nypre coughed. He tried standing up but the woman stopped him.
“Just lay here. Lina has returned to her quarters just across the hall. She is safe,” the woman told him. Another person called out, and the woman left Nypre alone, rushing to help another. Nypre struggled to stand up. He couldn’t stay in that room. He used his arms to push himself out of bed and was able to stand. To his surprise, he found he could walk. It was his chest that hurt worst of all, from when that pillar of stone had slammed into him. He was beginning to dislike battling other mages.
It was difficult moving through the room. While walking itself was easy enough and only hurt him a little with each step, the room was very crowded. People were shoulder to shoulder with each other moving around the beds of wounded. Still, Nypre pressed on and made it out. He opened the doorway leading out to a thin passageway. To make him feel more claustrophobic, the hall was packed with people moving back and forth as well. The ship had more people on it than it was built for. He saw a door right in front of him, and, if what the woman said was correct, behind that door he would find Lina. He walked forward, and opened the door slowly. His eyes widened at what he saw. A man wearing leather armor held Lina forcefully against the back wall by her neck. In his hand was a large knife.
“There is no escape from the night,” the man laughed. Lina tried to scream but couldn’t breathe with the man choking her like this. Nypre leaped forward, grabbing the man’s arm just as he went to stab Lina. He pulled the man backward, away from Lina. She fell to the ground, coughing for air, as the man turned to face Nypre. He attacked Nypre with the dagger. Nypre barely avoided his attack, and with one fast punch, he hit the man across the face, knocking him backward unconscious.
Another soldier heard the sound of fighting and ran into the room. He held his sword against the attacker’s neck. Another soldier was with him, and held a sword pointed at Nypre.
“What happened?” one of the soldiers asked Lina.
“That man, he attacked me. He is under control of the night,” Lina coughed pointing to the man who had the dagger. “Nypre saved me.”
“I understand. We’ll take him,” the soldiers told Lina. The soldier who held his sword pointed at Nypre sheathed his sword and nodded appreciatively at him. Nypre relaxed for a moment as the two soldiers carried the attacker off. Lina stood up from the floor, massaging her neck. She walked calmly over to the door, shutting it behind them, and let out a heavy sigh.
“Thank you Nypre,” she smiled at him. “I’m so glad you’re safe. Why have you come here?”
“I hear you are the one who helped me?” Nypre asked. Lina nodded, still smiling her usual priestess smile. “I just wanted to thank you, and to get away from the noise. Is this your personal room?” Nypre looked around. It was a small room with nothing but a bed in it.
“Yes. I feel bad having a room all to myself. They say it’s because I’m a priestess,” Lina replied. She walked towards Nypre and hugged him tightly. Nypre groaned with pain and she pulled away immediately.
“I’m sorry, forgive me,” Lina quickly said nervously.
“Don’t worry about it,” Nypre answered, forcing a grin through the pain.
“I shouldn’t be hugging you anyway. I am a priestess, after all,” Lina murmured to herself. She was still standing very close to Nypre. “We’ve just been through a lot. I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for you.” Her words started to make Nypre feel very nervous.
“I can say the same for you. It’s what friends are for,” Nypre replied, starting to feel uneasy. He looked down to Lina who looked back up to him. Their eyes met. She looked so unsure, as if conflicted on the inside. Nypre felt the same way, knowing that what was about to happen couldn’t happen. It did anyway. For only a moment Lina leaned upwards and Nypre downwards. For only a brief moment they kissed.
Almost as quickly as the kiss happened, Lina pulled away. Nypre took a step back, as unsure as her as to what had just happened.
“Thank you, Nypre.” she whispered.
“I should probably be going,” Nypre responded.
“You really should,” Lina agreed. Nypre made his way out the door quickly, closing it behind him and leaving Lina standing in the room alone. She sat down on the bed thinking of what had just happened. She had always been good at controlling her emotions. While she did enjoy the kiss very much, she felt guilty. She was a priestess, and being with someone like that went against everything she had been taught.
Lina sighed, trying to calm her mind. After all they had been through together in the Night Land, with her taking care of him, and him saving her life again just now, she realized that she had allowed herself to be caught up in the moment. She hadn’t been acting very priestess like for a while now. It was time for her to be more like the priestess she was and less like a young, scared, teenage girl with all of these emotions running through her. The only thing she could be grateful for was that Nypre himself felt the same way. He too seemed to have been swept up in the moment, and understood how she felt. Things would be okay. She just had to control herself. But, why did the thought of doing so make her so sad?
Nypre climbed up to the deck of the ship and was greeted by a breath for fresh air. For the first time since he awoke he didn’t feel claustrophobic. He noticed Deren and Norris standing near the ships railing. He had to do something to get the thoughts of Lina out of his head.
“Nypre!” Deren called out excitedly. Nypre walked to Deren and they hugged each other, and, just like they had done in the dock town, they pulled away from each other the moment they noticed. “Glad to see you’re alive.”
“Thanks to you,” Nypre replied with a smirk.
“That is true, I did save you way more than you saved me!” Deren laughed. “I’m just glad we’re both still alive.”
“Me too. I thought I was going to die,” Nypre sighed. The Tawarln territory was very far away now, but Deren and Nypre still looked back at it.
“We’ll save her you know. We’ll recover, get stronger, and rescue mom,” Deren spoke seriously.
“I know we will. It’s really up to us.” Nypre replied.
“You will not be alone. Lina and I will assist you however possible. The Night Land is something that affects all of us,” Norris told the two. Nypre and Deren smiled, looking up at Norris.
Sitting in the crow’s nest Ryan looked down upon them. It was nice to see them happy. Ryan knew of Nypre’s responsibilities, and, much like Norris, he would help Nypre as best he could. Nypre’s journey was still just beginning, and out of all the people Ryan had assisted throughout the years Nypre was proving to be the most difficult.
“The end of days has begun. Soon there will only be night. They have lived this long because of the human will to survive. I will crush that will, and the girl will die.”
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