Will Battles: Chapter 41
Narissa held Eshi tightly to her chest, crammed in the small space between the single, shabby bed and the wall. The sounds of marching feet and numerous voices rang through the tight confines, making Narissa’s heart pound. She could barely breathe as she sat, hoping to Arkardia that the passing troops would be in too big of a hurry to check inside this small, abandoned looking shack.
Eshi was shaking, her eyes squeezed tightly shut.
The soldiers just kept coming.
The Mind Scythe were as ready as they could be for the assault. Jistan knew that they were vastly outnumbered. Only time would tell if their skill and Will could make up for the discrepancy.
Joree’s face was pale, his lips pulled into a hard line. Jistan understood his concern. That army was approaching from the direction of the little hut where Narissa and the child hid.
“Units ten through twenty,” acting Captain Brinval called out. “Move out.” A large group of men and women moved in unison, breaking off and moving in a somewhat circuitous motion, half to the left and the other half to the right. Their goal was to move around and get to the sides of the army, hemming them in on three sides. They didn’t have the numbers or the time to get people behind the army.
“It’s been nice knowing you all,” Karrin said, sounding far too cheerful. Jistan glared at her.
“That’s not helping,” he said irritably.
“What is that still doing here?” Aniah snapped, interrupting the argument. Jistan followed her gaze to where Lanae stood, bow and arrow held in a relaxed grip. He felt his irritation rise.
“We need all the help we can get, Aniah,” Joree said, his voice surprisingly gentle.
“We need help, not enemies!” she retorted.
Jistan’s blood grew warm. He was opening his mouth to tell her to back off. Hadn’t Lanae proven herself an ally more than once? Hadn’t she shown her usefulness and saved them all on multiple occasions?
But, to his utter shock, Lanae beat him to it. She turned towards Aniah and met her eyes. And said two words.
Jistan gaped. Aniah gaped. Joree laughed.
Lanae said nothing else, returning her gaze to the direction the army was coming from. They weren’t visible from the ground, but scouts posted on rooftops reported their progress and position.
“You ready?” Jistan muttered. Joree shrugged, absentmindedly rubbing his wrist as if it had been chaffed.
“I guess we’ll find out,” he replied.
When the call to move forward came, Jistan definitely did not feel ready. He moved with the instinctive muscle memory honed over months of training, even as his mind went into pure panic mode. This could very well by the end of the Mind Scythe. The end of Manicot as a country.
The enemy came into view. The Mind Scythe struck out with Will.
And then strange, black balls began to rain down from the sky.
Dennison woke up with a raging headache and the sensation of being out of his own body. It didn’t seem fair that he could feel so disconnected from himself and yet still feel the pain of a headache.
He tried to sit up, only to find his arms were tied down. His surroundings were dimly lit, and he squinted as his eyes adjusted.
A solitary figure stood at the foot of his bed. Well, ‘bed’ was a generous term. It was probably a table or a work bench.
“How many times are you going to try the same stupid plot before realizing it’s never going to work?”
Dennison nearly choked on the biting words he had been about to say. He knew that voice. He recovered quickly, forcing himself to sound unconcerned. “How did you get here? Did they finally get sick of your stench and banish you?”
The figure stepped forward, the smirk on his face becoming clear. “If I’d been banished, I wouldn’t have been able to knock you out earlier.”
Dennison scowled, memory returning. The strange sensation of something wheedling into his brain, twisting around in his thoughts, and then…nothing.
“What are you doing here, then?” he snapped, losing his nonchalant act.
“I’d love to say I’ve just come to check in on my dear little brother,” the intruder said dryly. “But we both know that’s not true. I’ve come for the girl.”
Dennison snorted. “You and me both, brother.”
The man, his older brother, who called himself ‘Horick’, raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t know where she is,” Dennison said, leaning his head back and staring at the ceiling. “I’ve been searching for longer than you can imagine.”
“Really?” came the sarcastic reply. “Because to me it looks like you’re just up to your usual games. The ones that got you banished in the first place.”
Dennison rolled his eyes. “Believe what you will. I didn’t come here to conquer. I came for my daughter.” That was sort of true. He had, of course, been searching for his daughter. But his plan to conquer Manicot was a completely separate endeavor. He’d only found out later, after thorough investigation and planning, that his daughter was being kept prisoner by the Highness.
“Right. Always the caring father. So caring that you sentenced your daughter to a life of eternal Damnation.”
Dennison bristled. “She wanted to be with me.”
“She had no idea what she was getting into! If you’d had any sort of true affection, you would have accepted the consequences of your stupidity and left her out of it.”
“Is there a purpose to this?” Dennison asked coolly.
“Yes, actually. Tell me where the girl is. I’m taking her home.”
Dennison let out a sharp bark of a laugh. “If only I knew. The Highness was, apparently, willing to let dozens die in order to hide the location of her secret prize.”
Silence for a moment, and then a curse. “I believe you,” his brother said grudgingly. After a few seconds, he continued. “I guess I’ll just find her on my own. Have fun rotting in prison.”
Dennison laughed again, this time a little crazed. “Prison?” he asked, feigning confusion. “What makes you think I’ll be staying here?”
His brother turned. “You have no power to escape. The Mind Scythe are going to deal with your pathetic army and then you’ll either be imprisoned or executed.”
Dennison shook his head, tsking softly. “Oh, my dear, naïve brother. It isn’t the army that the Mind Scythe should be worried about.”
The first black balls hit. The explosions began. Bodies went flying, chunks of dirt and debris were thrown into the air, blinding and suffocating any nearby. Joree watched in horror as a soldier was hit in the arm. The limb was blown free from his body.
This was like nothing he had ever seen before. Based on the panic around him, he assumed it was new to the rest of the Manicoti as well. People scrambled for cover while trying to maintain a semblance of order. It wasn’t working.
Joree thought, distantly, that the little balls reminded him of Pulse. Solid balls of energy that erupted upon contact.
Energy. He frantically scanned the faces around him. Blast, why did she have to be so short?
Then he saw her, dodging panicking soldiers and explosive balls. He ran to her and caught her by the arm.
“Lanae,” he practically yelled, “can you absorb the energy from those balls before they detonate?”
She looked up at the sky, her eyes narrowing briefly. Joree waited, tense. A dozen balls were coming in their direction, dangerously near. They hit. And did nothing.
She turned back to him and nodded once. He grinned. “Nice work. Keep it up.” But his victory was short-lived. Lanae’s reach only seemed to cover a twenty yard radius or so. Outside her pocket of energy sucking, soldiers continued to fall.
He needed to find the source of these weapons and take them out. “Come with me!” he yelled. Lanae followed him and they raced forward, explosive balls falling uselessly to the ground in their wake. They broke through the front lines of the Mind Scythe, who were trying to press forward despite the barrage. They were almost to the front line of Kriton soldiers, but their progress was slow and their casualties high.
As soon as Joree broke free of the Manicoti, he started to pull. Without the need to separate friend from foe, he didn’t need to focus on specific targets. He just grasped at all the energy in front of him and it flowed into his body. At that same time, a burst of air rushed out of Lanae, knocking a good dozen Kriton soldiers backwards into their companions. She must have been storing up the energy she’d pulled from the balls.
He kept pulling as they ran, and soldiers began to collapse. But the bombs kept coming. They were being shot from somewhere in the middle ranks, protected on all sides by Kritons.
Joree felt something slice into his arm and he stumbled. He glanced down and found his arm was bleeding badly. Then he noticed the archers. He cursed, immediately targeting them. They managed to let loose another round of arrows before he could stop them, forcing him to yelp and roll to the side, losing his concentration momentarily. Unfortunately, that meant that all the power he had been storing up shot out of him randomly. Flames burst from his body like sparks from a fireplace, going in all directions. He vaguely noticed some Manicoti leaping away and crying out. Fortunately, the Kritons were not unscathed. He rolled to his knees and stood, glancing around desperately. Where was-there! Lanae hadn’t stopped when he had, and was already crashing through the Kriton line, throwing fire and air currents haphazardly. She took a cut to her arm and stumbled. Joree cursed, pulling energy away from the soldiers nearest to her, trying to carve her a path as he dashed after her.
“Want some help?”
Joree whipped his head to the side. Jistan was there, running alongside him, hair plastered to his face with sweat.
“That would be greatly appreciated,” Joree replied breathlessly.
They followed Lanae’s trail, narrowly avoiding sloppy sword strikes from soldiers trying to close the gap Joree had carved for the Delani girl. Behind them, Joree heard the sounds of collision as the Manicoti finally reached the Kriton from line. He didn’t dare look back. His gaze was fixed on the point ahead, where he could now make out strange machines, somewhat like giant slingshots, letting loose wave after wave of destructive force.
Joree released a burst of energy directly ahead of him, clearing the path as soldiers trying to fill in the gap he had created for Lanae. He was growing tired, and his injured leg hurt along with his newly wounded arm. He could tell Jistan was holding back for his sake.
“Go ahead,” he gasped out. “Stop those machines!”
“Are you sure?” Jistan seemed concerned.
“I can take care of myself,” Joree said with a dry smile.
Jistan flashed him a brief grin. “Who said I was worried about you?” He dashed ahead. Joree could see people falling to his mental attacks as he went. He seemed to have an abnormally large reach of Will power, affecting people dozens of yards away.
Joree saw him breech through the center at nearly the same moment as Lanae. The soldiers rallied, trying to protect their deadly machines. Joree was almost there.
He stumbled, his injured leg not lifting high enough to clear the hulking body in his way. He tripped, catching himself on hands and knees. He let out a pained gasp as his already injured leg flared in pain. Worse, though, was the blinding flash of white hot agony that raced through his arm. It gave out from under him and he fell awkwardly to the side. With gritted teeth, he forced himself to stand, only to be forced to throw himself to the ground and roll away as a blade came swinging for his throat. He pulled at whatever energy he could grab and threw it at his attacker, sending him flying back a good six feet. He managed to get to his feet, but more soldiers were converging. He wouldn’t have time to incapacitate all of them. Desperately, he pulled at their energy sources as he began to limp towards the center again. They slowed, but not enough.
And then they started to scream, hands going to their heads. Joree looked up in time to see Jistan, face contorted in concentration. Lanae stood at his side, shooting off blasts of flame and wind at anyone who got close. Joree breathed out a sigh of relief and limped forward. Jistan immediately returned to his work, cutting at another of the machines. Lanae followed his lead, throwing fire at a different one. Although it was largely made of wood, it didn’t catch easily. The machine looked singed, but did not go up in flames. Joree pulled an enormous amount of energy from around him-careful to pull only from the Kriton soldiers ahead of him in order to avoid the Mind Scythe behind-and then released the energy as a massive blast of wind into one of the machines. It went flying, toppling into a group of soldiers and pinning one to the ground. Many of its wooden parts broke apart, leaving it, hopefully, useless.
Three machines left. Jistan breathed heavily, slashing out with sword and mind. At this point, he was too busy fending off attackers to help with the destruction of the slingshot devices. He focused on protecting Joree and Lanae, trusting them to take out the final machines. The Kriton soldiers were still determinedly firing off rounds of destruction into the Manicoti ranks. The Mind Scythe had not made much progress. A few had gotten through, but had quickly been surrounded and were trapped in small groups throughout the Kriton army, fighting for their lives without support. Support couldn’t come while everyone was being blown to bits. They had to destroy the machines.
Joree was beginning to drag. Jistan was fighting desperately, Lanae was trying to catch one of the final three machines on fire. And Joree was faltering.
He realized why he felt so exhausted. Taking Will was different from taking away calories. One was free for him to grab, the other had to be yanked away. It was the difference between being handed a bag of gold and ripping it from someone’s hand. In the end, you had the same thing, but one took far more energy to get.
And he had no energy left. His mind was growing bleary, his vision swam, and he felt as though he might vomit. He needed Will.
As if on cue, he collapsed to the ground, unable to do anything more than breathe. In, out, in, out.
A shadow fell over him. This was it. His death had finally come. But whoever it was just knelt beside him.
“Joree?” Jistan’s voice. He forced his eyes open.
“I…can’t…anymore,” he managed, voice catching. “No…more…strength.”
Jistan’s eyes narrowed and he pursed his lips. He nodded once, as if he understand completely. Then he placed a hand on Joree’s chest.
“Then take mine.”
A flood of Will burst from Jistan’s hand, running over Joree like water over stone. He grasped it and sucked it into him, gasping like a drowning man whose head has just broken the surface of the water. Power surged through him, infusing him with a buzzing energy, more powerful than anything he had ever felt before.
He sat up just enough to see the remaining machines. And then he attacked.
About the Creator
Hey all! I am a recent graduate from BYU in Provo with a masters in PE. I have a passion for the outdoors, physical activity, sports, and health, but I also love writing! I love my husband, parents, and all eleven of my siblings!
There are no comments for this story
Be the first to respond and start the conversation.