Will Battles: Chapter 40
Lanae pulled Jistan to his feet roughly. He felt as though her hand should be hot, seeing as she had just sent a fireball out of her palm. But it felt merely warm. Human.
He stumbled for a second, trying to regain his balance and composure. That patrol had seemed to materialize out of nowhere, five soldiers attacking without hesitation. He and Lanae had injured two and sent another two running. One of them, the one who had first lunged at Jistan, was dead. Jistan had instinctively stabbed him right in the chest, a fatal blow.
“Flames,” he muttered. “Just, Flames.” Lanae didn’t respond, of course. She eyed the scene around them with keen, clinical eyes, not giving any hint of fear, disgust, or pleasure.
“We need to find the others,” Jistan said, putting a hand to the side of his head. “We need to…” What? What could they possibly do at this point? Lanae turned and met his eyes, hers glinting faintly in the soft lantern light of the tunnels.
Jistan made a decision. They could wander down here for ages and not find their group. They were almost certain to run afoul of more Kriton soldiers, though.
“Can you get us out?” he asked softly. She looked over her soldier, then gave a curt nod. Her grasp of the language really was amazing for her having learned it only by listening to others speak it for several months.
Jistan followed her, a sick feeling twisting around in his gut as he abandoned his friends to the dark tunnels.
They would have to find their own way out.
Aniah reached her mother’s side, knowing that with each passing second her enemies drew further away. The flames were spreading slowly, deliberately, as if they were savoring their dark work. The smell of burning clothing gave way to singed skin, and Aniah tried not to gag. She reached to the patch of slightly discolored cloth at her mother’s side. She was going based on feel more than sight, since the whole dress was stained and filthy. She gripped the fabric and tore, ripping a section free and revealing the hidden dagger nestled against her waist. With Arellia’s skill in Will, no one ever expected her to carry a weapon. But the Highness was nothing if not prepared to do whatever brutal work was necessary, by any means. Aniah pulled the dagger free. A flame reached up and licked at her elbow. She screamed. The heat was incredible-much more intense than any regular fire should be. In fact, the flames were changing color, slowly growing from reddish orange to an ethereal blue, then morphing into a blinding white. She stumbled away from the heat, unable to even look at the flames without her eyes stinging.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. She wanted to say more, but there was nothing she could say that would be adequate. So she turned and fled. The wetness in her eyes wasn’t just from the heat of the fire. But she bit down her sobs and ran for all she was worth.
She turned a corner and nearly skidded into the retreated forms of Dennison and Vris. Vris dragged a limp Joree behind him, pulling him by one arm. The tunnels were relatively smooth, but Joree occasionally hit a bump or rock and flopped lifelessly. She thought she could make out blood running down the side of his face, but it was hard to tell in the dim lighting.
She had mere seconds now. Her hasty approach had been far from silent. Without further hesitation, she dove forward. Vris and Dennison were already turning. She had one shot.
She had already noticed the bulk of both men’s clothing. They were wearing some sort of protective armor beneath their shirts. Nothing fancy, but enough to stop a simple dagger. They were both too tall for her to effectively stab them in the head-not with the way she was lunging forward. And her knife throwing skills had never been particularly impressive. Actually, she’d never tried, refusing Furl’s offered lessons in most weapon and combat training over the years.
She dove straight forward, knife poised. Neither figure was prepared to meet her yet.
She sliced down.
A thin line of red appeared on Vris’s wrist. A painful, if minor, injury. But she hadn’t been trying to hurt him. She didn’t even know if Delani had an artery in the wrist, like humans.
At first, Vris just stared at her, blinking. It was the closest thing to confusion she had ever seen on his face.
A small clink indicated something hitting the tunnel floor. Vris instinctively looked down, seeing what Aniah had done.
A bracelet adorned with a small, silver jewel glinted on the ground.
Aniah struck with all the mental force she could muster. Vris stumbled, teeth clenching and unclenching. She pushed harder, vaguely aware of Dennison off to the side, drawing a sword.
Time seemed to slow. Vris released Joree’s arm and took a step back, then dropped to one knee. Steel flashed to the side and Aniah rolled away, feeling the air whip by her face as the sword passed inches from her nose. She kept pushing until Vris toppled onto his side, twitching, and fell still.
Time snapped back into focus. Aniah scrambled to her feet and took a few steps backward in retreat. Dennison was on her, moving forward, his face shadowed ominously as lanterns lit him from behind.
There was movement behind him, but Aniah couldn’t make it out. Vris must’ve risen again.
Her eyes were stinging, her brain was fuzzy, and she felt weak. Even without Dennison’s bracelet, she probably wouldn’t have had the Will power left to fight one of them, let alone both.
“You made the wrong decision,” he hissed.
Someone reached and grabbed him by the shoulder. He stiffened, the blade going rigid in his hands. Then his eyes rolled up in his head and he collapsed to the ground with a thump. The newcomer slowly came into focus. Not Vris.
“You would know all about wrong decisions,” Horick said darkly. Aniah watched dumbly, unable to even lift the dagger in her hand.
Horick looked at her, and his expression softened. “Are you alright?”
She nodded once, then fell to her knees. Horick placed a hand on her shoulder. “Just rest for a bit. I’ll make sure these two are incapacitated before we move out.”
Joree sat up slowly, dazed. What had happened? His head throbbed like someone was using it for a drum from the inside.
His eyes focused and he made out the form of Horick, tying up two unconscious forms. Memory slowly returned, and his eyes widened. He stumbled to his hands and knees. He had to get back to Aniah, to help her with Arellia-
His thoughts were cut off abruptly as he turned. Aniah knelt nearby, head bowed. He winced in pain from multiple cuts and bruises as he crawled slowly over to her. She looked up and met his eyes, her eyes haunted and bottom lip trembling.
“Aniah?” he asked tentatively.
At that single word, she burst into tears. Joree pulled her close and held her while she cried.
Jistan emerged into the brightly lit palace room, blinking as his eyes adjusted. The four soldiers relaxed once they saw it was him.
“Has anyone else come out yet?” he asked quickly, hoping.
“No,” a man replied gruffly, speaking around a thick, unkempt beard. “You’re the only one, enemy or friend, who’s come up.”
Jistan’s heart sank. Lanae stepped up beside him, earning a few wary glances from the other soldiers. Jistan felt a spike of annoyance at that. Why couldn’t anyone just leave her alone? She’d never done anything to deserve their suspicion.
Jistan stood awkwardly with the rest of the guards, shifting from foot to foot and watching that gaping hole. His mind started to play tricks on him, imagining shadows shifting inside, people just out of sight. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore.
“I’m going to check on the progress of the other Mind Scythe,” he announced. “They should be well into their sweep of the city by now.”
“I would highly advise against that,” beard man said.
Jistan ignored him, striding from the room with Lanae on his heels. No one tried to stop or follow him.
The streets outside were deserted. He moved with a growing sense of trepidation from empty walkway to empty walkway. Not even the few servants and citizens that had been moving around before were out, although he saw a few tentative faces peeking out from windows.
It didn’t take long before noise reached his ears. Clamorous, the hubbub of shouted orders, marching feet, and clanging steel. He knew those sounds well.
He broke into a sprint, heedless of running afoul of any enemies hidden within the city. He soon reached the source of the commotion. Most of the Mind Scythe had regrouped and were gathering into Units, forming a common battle formation that Jistan had practiced and performed hundreds of times.
“What’s going on?” he demanded of a soldier nearby. The man’s face was grim and pale.
“Army spotted nearby. Kriton colors.”
Jistan wanted to throw-up. They just couldn’t catch a break.
“You,” he said, pointing to a young soldier. The patch on his soldier indicated that he was a Ranteel Mind Scythe, stationed in the city. “You know the layout of the palace?”
The soldier nodded warily.
“Good,” Jistan said. “Get there as quickly as possible. Take the southern corridors on the main floor and follow them to the end. Before you reach the adjunct corridor leading to the outer buildings, go into the final room on the left. Warn the guards there of the danger.”
It was the best he could do. If his friends were alive, hopefully his message would get to them.
Between the three of them, Joree, Aniah, and Horick managed to drag the two limp bodies back through the dark corridors. The task was made easier by the fact that no one tried to be gentle.
They reached the bottom of the stairs, panting and sweaty. Joree groaned softly.
“I say we drag them feet first,” Aniah muttered darkly, her first words since Joree had woken.
“That could cause serious brain damage,” Horick grunted. “They won’t be of much use in an interrogation if you turn their minds to mush.”
They spun at the voice, growing tense.
“Oh, thank Arkadia!” A breathless Karrin rushed towards them, her face flushed. “I thought you were all dead.” She paused. “Jistan?”
Horick shook his head. “Haven’t seen him.” Her face fell.
“We need to move,” Horick continued. “Let’s get these bodies up the stairs.”
By the time they reached the top, everyone was cross with the stairs, the darkness, the limp bodies, and each other.
“Get off my foot!” “You’re stepping on your own foot, you dimwit.” “Shut up both of you.” “Ew, he just drooled on me!” “I did not!” “I was talking about the stupid Delani, you-”
All the arguing broke off as soon as they emerged into the brightly lit room, which momentarily blinded them.
Before anyone could act, someone new rushed into the room.
“We’re in trouble,” the youth panted.
“What else is new?” Joree muttered bitterly.
“What is it, son?” Horick prodded.
“Kriton army approaching, sir.” The boy hesitated when he realized Horick wore no uniform, but then continued. “The second in command has ordered all the Mind Scythe back together to meet the assault.”
“What about Ordel?” Karrin asked, stepping forward. “Has he come up yet?”
The four guards shook their heads grimly. “Just a young fellow and a female Delani,” a woman with hair cropped straight at her chin replied.
Karrin let out a small breath of relief. “Jistan,” she whispered.
“Let’s go,” Aniah said sharply. Everyone glanced at her, a little surprised. “The Highness is dead,” she said flatly, eliciting gasps and moans. Joree felt his heart sink. She hadn’t explained what had happened, and he had hoped…
“There’s no point in us being here anymore,” she continued in that same monotone. “We need to defend the city. What’s left of it.”
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!
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