Chapter 39 - Deadly Courage
"Lycans. The rarest of their kind." The Moon Princess finished.
Werewolf is the term I had in mind. Not that I'd seen one in real life, but I'd definitely seen one in movies, read them in books. Ancient monsters, man-like creatures covered with fur, running deep in the woods after nightfall. Their senses, reaching its peak at the height of a full moon, making them absolutely lethal.
But they're suppose to be just folklore, or myth. Stories that elders use to scare children from roaming around the neighborhood after sunset. Nothing more. So, I can't believe that I'm actually watching a real one right now, moving just several feet from me.
While some accounts say they're the beast of the midnight, untamed, flesh eating, night stalking, and feared by ancient human race, others believe the otherwise. Like the ones portrayed in movies, where werewolves stand as the protector of the people, guarding them at night, discreetly. They're described as warm, secretive, capable of giving affection, and receiving one in return.
Of those two description, I'd like to believe in the latter one.
I'd like to think that these lycans attacked the castle for a reason. Maybe their habitat was disturbed first, and they only seek explanation that's why they came here, but the elves were too threatened to listen, that's why they sent out a batallion of their soldiers to faced them. The same reason why these lycans felt they needed to defend themselves.
I don't know which of the two narrative these lycans belong, but one thing is clear, there's a gigantic full moon out here. If the stories were right, these lycans were probably at their most powerful form right now, making them utterly dangerous for the soldiers.
I shook my head, trying to shove the negative thought that suddenly popped up in my mind, as I stared at the two races in the battlefield.
I don't like to think that the lycans have the upper hand.
They're standing up like a man. Higher than the already tall soldiers. They're just silhouette given my distance but the moonlight is giving away the fur and mane, covering their heads and bodies. Their dark figures in front of the moon defines their long claws—almost shining with the right amount of light hitting its surface—shaking my knees once more.
The irony. Despite the beauty of the moon, the serene purple and twinkling skynight, the soothing sound of the water flowing somewhere around us, and the fireflies all over the dark foggy forest, these magical beings paid no attention to any of these of beauty for they're all in the middle of a complete mayhem. Swords are clashing with claws, axes, shields, and arrows are flying, even fire covered rocks. Something liquid-like is splashing everywhere, and most of the trees were brought down or crushed.
The lycans howled all at once. The fog on their feet thickened, adding horror to the magical battlefield.
This is suicide I'm doing. I'm only human, no superpowers, no super strength nor super speed. I only have a bow and arrow, and a couple hours of training. What chance do I stand against their body mass and claws?
I glanced at the princess to asked if it's still smart to pursue this course, but to my surprise, she's already two boulders away from me, no traces of hesitation, nor fear can be seen in her.
Her escort's already on the farthest boulder, securing our path.
I can't believe at the distance they managed to step away from me. Did I paused too long? Or are they really just in a hurry to get closer to the fight? I certainly am not.
Our location right now might be good for a watcher, but the princess' purpose in coming here is to offer aid, so our current distance won't sit well with her. And I'm hoping that our lives will be spared as we move along with her intent.
I took a step out of my rock, to transfer closer to the princess, but a huge trunk came flying, in front of my face.
I froze. All my blood rushed down to my feet. My mind went blank.
The princess and her escort were startled and frozen too in their post. He gestured at me to stay immobile, as he tried to peak from his side of the boulder to see where the trunk came from, or if it's deliberately thrown to me.
I'm not even breathing. And it's clear that the princess is tensed too, waiting for his instruction.
I can clearly hear my heart, beating chaotically.
I hope no one has seen us yet. I hope it was just an accident that the trunk was thrown at my direction. I'm hoping I wasn't really the target, especially that I can hear heavy stuff being thrown everywhere as we get closer to them.
I am holding my breath for dear life, as I wait for his instruction. My hands, rigidly holding the bow and arrow in place.
When I decided to follow the princess out earlier, maybe I didn't think this through. I was just focused on assuring she'll be safe, and keeping my promise to Macforth, that I forgot I also have my own life to look after. And now that my life is skating on a thin ice, my bravery, once again is shaking.
The escort finally glanced back at me, no longer alarmed. He then gestured me to continue moving forward, sending relief all over me,
I leaned my body on the boulder, exhaling finally.
I'm still alive! I have to keep it that way.
"Stay on thy post."
"Oh no, Your Highness, where are you going?" I whisper-shouted, but I was too late.
She'd swiftly transferred to another rock, further away from me, hidding herself for few seconds. Her black cloak played a huge part in concealing her illuminating existence from the dark night. If it wasn't for that, there's no doubt that we're already seen by others because her luminescent skin is hard to miss.
The princess glanced side by side before jumping to another rock, but she didn't stop there. The princess continue running from one rock to another, giving me a heart attack at her each move, but she managed to crossed that distance unnoticed.
She should be more careful now than ever, because she's getting closer to the battlefield, and I'm literally sweating in fear for her life.
I wasted no time, and climb over the trunk that's blocking my way. I'm more than determined to follow her. If those lycans didn't scare her, I shouldn't let them scare me too. After all, I don't have to be in the battlefield, all I have to do is maintain a safe distance from the princess and make sure she remains unharmed. That way I can secure both of our safety.
Quickly, I transferred to the next rock, only two boulders away from them. I'm not even thinking about my safety anymore.
I positioned myself in a way that I'm safe, and that the princess won't get lost in my sight radius. And then, I prepared the bow and arrow once more, remembering all the pointers that Eric taught me.
My resolve is that, I will use my arrows to whomever lycan step closer to the princess. My goal tonight, make sure no one gets near her. Her escort's also guarding her, so I'm a little relieved that I wasn't alone in this mission.
The princess has reached the location of her escort. Their location is probably the ideal one for they'd stop there. So I figured, I will just stay here, three rocks from them, and consider this my outpost.
From my location, I can see if anyone is walking close to the princess. I will be an effective protector from here. So I kneeled on the ground, and made sure I was perfectly hidden—even my shadow—before holding the bow and arrow in place.
I stayed very still, watching her next move. My guardian duty officially begins.
I tried so hard to unhear the anguish of the elves and the howling of the lycans as I watch the princess.
Her eyes lightened up, so does her wand. It scares me because her light can easily be seen from the darkness. I only hope that the lycans are too busy to take notice of their surrounding.
"Aaahh!" I heard the cries, followed by the sound of something being torn apart. I don't want to figure out what is what, that's why my eyes remained on the princess.
She moved her wand, but before I could process what her next step is, I was caught off guard at the sound of crashing on the other side of the rock that's hidding me. Something heavy has been thrown onto it, I felt it vibrated from behind.
I noticed that princess and her escort saw that too. They're staring at the mess on the other side of my boulder. Given their distance, they have a good viewpoint of what landed on the other side of my rock. And while they both seem shocked with what they saw, none of them looked threatened nor alarmed so I'd like to think that's a good sign. We're still hidden.
I'm still alive.
I'm still alive. I tried to calm myself.
She nodded at me, assuring me that everything's okay, before peaking through their rock. Her eyes, illuminating again as she gazes back to the battlefield.
She lifted her wand, and gestured it like she'd hit something. But before I can see what she did next, my attention was diverted, for something had landed on the tree in front of me, splashing liquid all over me at the same time.
My mind went blank at the picture before my eyes.
A huge lycan lying on the ground. It's head, cut open, something squishy is coming out of it.
It's gigantic body's like vegetable on the ground, but its long, narrowed, bloody eyes remained awake. Dark mane around it's head. Long claws and canines, both stained with blood.
The lycan is nothing like I'd seen in the movies. This one in front of me didn't look friendly at all. No traces of human at all. Bulky arms. Huge paws that could definitely, and effortlesly tear my face in one blow. It's body's so long I probably wouldn't reach the heigh of it's waist if we're standing side by side.
I can't believe I'm still staring at the flesh from its open head, still watching the blood squirting from the cut. I just lost it. The fluid from my stomach wanted to come up, but I no longer have the energy to react at horror in front of me. I just found myself slumping on the ground, leaning on the boulder, still staring at the very carcass that make my knees and elbows jelly.
"Mortal." I heard the princess call.
I glanced at her, worry is evident on her face. She must've seen how the sight of a dead lycan took its toll on me. And I appreciate the concern, but my mind is somewhere else.
It made me thinking... If the attack tonight never happened, and Eric's plan was actually rolled out, and we managed to convinced them to take us outside the borders in search for Ali, won't we find ourselves in a situation as we are in right now? Won't I be hidding behind a boulder in fear, waiting if the need to draw an arrow would arise or not? Won't I be staring face to face with another magical but deadly creature? Will the situation be any different?
Then I suddenly remember what brought Ali, Terra, Cirga, and Rade to this kingdom in the first place. The very reason why our paths had crossed. They're seeking help from my friends because their kingdom's being attacked at the time. If I'm not mistaken, one of them said that their first line of defense has been brought down.
My irises flickered back to the battlefield. And it made me wonder, was the attack they're talking about then is the same as what I'm witnessing right now? Will that be the same faith of this castle?
I could only hope not.
And I'm praying that Ali and the rest had returned home safely. I'm praying that their kingdom managed to defeat the enemy and defend their people. How many hours or days has it been since we parted ways? My promised to them had been hanging long enough, they'd probably already considered me as a failure for not delivering the help they desperately seek.
I'm hoping they're all okay.
"I'm okay, Your Highness." I have to be, because she shouldn't be worrying about me. She came here for a greater purpose, help my friends, look after their people. I should be one less burden. The promises that weren't met, the messages I failed to deliver. I'd been disappointing a lot of people lately.
The princess nodded before aiming her focus back to the battlefield.
I have to get myself together.
I removed my cloak, wiped the blood from my face and hands, before covering the lycan's body with it. It's the least thing I can do for its eternal repose.
I put my guard back up, shivering. I don't know if it's because of the cold or fear. I can't tell anymore. I got my eyes back on the princess.
She lifted her wand again. This time, I watched closely. She pointed it to a nearby lycan, who towered over a soldier, tearing his armor apart as he struggle to get free beneath the lycan.
My fingers, curling into a fist, for I can't do anything to help. I feel stupid, useless, coward, and stupid yet again, for only watching a soldier struggle for his life, while I'm perfectly hidden. I wanted to hurt myself for not being able fo help, but my eyes widen the following seconds when the lycan went flying in the air, across the battlefield. It's as if the princess hit the lycan with her wand, saving the soldier.
So that what she does.
The soldier immediately stood up, picked up his shield and axe. He glanced around, eager to find the one that offered him help, but found no one, for the princess was quick to hide.
Apparently she doesn't want to be seen. She doesn't need any recognition for her act. She only wanted to help without anyone knowing. The princess just moved on, like nothing happened. She pulled her dark cloak tighter to her body. Her eyes, busy searching for another soldier to help. She found one, and started weilding her wand again, unafraid.
My respect for the Moon Princess shoots up higher.
I held myself together. I need to be useful too.
Since it's a safe place we're currently hiding right now, and that the escort is next to the princess, I figured I could extend some help to the soldiers too. So I changed my surveillance to the battlefield.
It's chaotic, but if I'm thankful for anything, it's the moonlight that turns everything into silhouette, hiding us in the process. It also makes it easier for me to stare at all the movement, without seeing what's actually happening there, even though the yelling and the cries are hard to disregard.
This isn't the first time I'd seen a deadly creature in real life, but I'm still scared. Goosebumps, spread through my arms and neck at the thought of the monsters that first threatened my life, I can't even think of it's name.
I can't help but check my sides from time to time, especially that we're out in the forest. Petrified that they'd suddenly jump out somewhere here and join the battlefield.
Why does it feel like my life is still on the line when that scene from the coliseum happened a long time ago? Or maybe because for me, it's just really a few hours since that happened?
I wonder, if there's an enough number of monster that I should come face to face with, in order for me to get use to them. But it makes me shiver thinking there's still more to see out there.
I'm overthinking again, I should stop.
I watched closely to the battlefield. My arrow's aiming towards it too. Everyone is running to and from every possible direction, stuff are getting thrown, trunks, and even living things.
But I suddenly remember that not all fighters in the battlefield were elves and lycans. Five of them were once human.
Where are they?
My eyes immediately darted around, looking for particular faces. Self-serving though, but I couldn't help it, I need to know they're safe.
But it's hard to find someone when everything is just a dark figure, against the blinding moon.
Right, I forgot about their gems. That would be the fastest way to find my friends, if they didn't remove it before going to the fight. I just need to find the five tiny colors, in the middle of the flying fire balls and fireflies.
My eyes twinkled at the sight of a green microscopic gem.
"Eric!" I gasped, almost clapping at the sight of him by the side of the battlefield. Awed at the battle skills he's exhibiting.
Eric's braver in the field, helping the soldiers near him, wielding his sword exactly where it's needed. He's transferring from one lycan to another, unruffled, knowing exactly what to do, where to step and which way to turn. He fights like a movie star in an action film.
The sight of him calmed me a little. Eric's been sticking to his words, keeping himself safe. He's right, he definitely got this.
I'm happy to see Eric right now. I think our other friends are nearby him, I only need to search for the tiny lights their gems represent, but my gaze immediately went back to Eric the moment I realized his exact situation.
My heart beats tripple time.
The lycans had probably seen Eric's bravery in the field, that two of them decided to join forces in attacking him. They're so fast, they managed to tower over Eric in a split second. The lycans were huge, they made Eric look like a child between them.
But that didn't intimidate him. He's weilding his swords to the other. The other one is bitting the armor off his chest. Eric needs help! But the soldiers around could offer none for they're being attack too.
"Your Highness!" I tried to call for help, but she's busy too, saving other soldier that's being attack by more lycans at once. She probably hasn't seen Eric yet, because if she does, she would immediately help him, but on the other hand, that would only put the soldier she's currently helping in a dangerous situation, because the only reason why that soldier is still alive, is the princess' interference.
We need to be careful too, because once our location is revealed, there'll be no hiding for us, running won't even be an option. We'll sure to be the next target until we're completely eliminated. And I don't think our armorless body could withstand even their first attack. That means I couldn't get out of my hiding spot and ran to Eric. That will instantly kill us both, without a doubt.
So I did the only rational thing I can offer at the moment, positioned my arrow towards his radius.
My hands are shaking, knowing exactly that I'm actually about to hurt a living thing. I don't want to but Eric's life is on the line.
Won't anybody else going to offer him help? Eric says there's no way he's getting out here lifeless tonight so there's got to be a way for him to be alive, without me having to step in. There's got to be a way for him to escape from those two lycans. But I couldn't just wait here and watch.
What am I doing wasting time again?!
I targetted one of them, just on the foot, I can't find the will to injure the lycan, especially that I'm not sure what they're fighting for. What if they're really good and this battle is just a product of a misunderstanding? I don't want to live the rest of my life thinking I ended someone with a good heart.
So I only aimed for a non fatal spot. I released my arrow, but immediately realized I'm too far, when my arrow didn't reach anything.
There's only one thing left to do.
I step out of my hiding spot, leaving all my logical reasoning behind the boulder I'd been hiding. I need to do something. I need to take this risk for Eric. He needs help, and he needs it now.
Carefully I rushed towards the open field, suicidal, but at the moment, I don't care. I'd been a coward and a liablity to my friends all this time, I want to be brave now. I'm more than willing to gamble my life for Eric, he and any of them would do it for me if the situation is reverse.
I just have to get a little closer, not too close, just enough so my arrows could reach the target.
I'm so expose at the moment. Idiocy at its finest, but I'm counting on to the dark skynight to hide me.
I believe I even heard the princess calling me to retreat, but I have to do it for Eric. She will definitely do the same bold move for them.
I stop the moment I considered my location enough to make an impact.
I wasted no time, aiming my arrow to the foot of the larger lycan, remembering all the pointers that Eric taught me. I won't let him down.
Then I released it, watching the arrow fly straight and sharp to the target. I'd put the right amount of strength and calculation on that aim, that'll make Eric proud.
So it didn't surprise me that my arrow arrived to the target. Only that not in the way I anticipated.
I celebrated too early.
The lycan had caught my arrow, before it can do any damage.
How is that possible? The lycan wasn't even looking at it. How could one caught a flying arrow? Eric didn't mention anything about that.
The horror I felt, when the lycan started sniffing it, before deeply inhaling the air around him.
Quickly, I positioned another arrow, aiming, taking advantage of the lycan's distraction. But my soul left my body before I could let go of the next arrow.
I found myself frozen again in my position, staring at the lycan, eye to eye.