Chapter Five: Left to Hope

            Wraith’s confusion when he woke up about being in an entirely unfamiliar place was quickly quelled by Taria sharing her memories with him as quickly as she could, all the while repacking some supplies that Fenrar had gave them before Wraith had woken up. The ability was still foreign to him, but everything quickly made sense as she pieced things together for him.

            Taria spoke aloud this time, now that Wraith was as caught up as he could be from his unconscious state“He gave us each a bag with various supplies among other things. We’re heading out soon, we’ve got to try and get to Duridiin to warn the council. Who knows where the acolytes will be going next. Someone has to do something.” Taria went about redistributing things so that Jarek and Wraith would be carrying most of everything, while Wraith roused himself out of the soft, cushioned bed.

            When he brought himself to his feet, Fenrar burst out of one of the back rooms holding a bowl out to him. “One would suggest you eat, child. There is much work for you in your near future.”

            Wraith raised one eyebrow and went about sipping at the bowl. The stew was still piping hot and as far as he could remember- or Taria could rather, it tasted just the same as the one from the night before. It definitely tasted better than its appearance suggested.

            The old man then walked to the door of the shack and opened it, letting in some of the brisk morning air. Outside on the platform was Senya, the same dire wolf that had taken Wraith to Fenrar in the first place. Finishing his stew, and setting the bowl on the table beside his cot, he went to the door and waved at Senya, speaking aloud “Thank you for saving us.”

A strange gruff voice sounded in his head, just as Taria’s did, though it wasn’t hers.

            You are welcome, Bone Bearer. You slew many of the dark ones as I am sure you shall slay many more.

            Wraith jumped, as did Taria who seemed to hear the voice as well through her connection with Wraith. Neither of them expected a response, let alone speaking directly to her. “You can talk?”

            I am many things, Bone Bearer, Senya responded incapable is not one of them. Your bond with the Swift Foot is not the only that may speak at such a personal level.

            Fenrar took no notice of the exchange and instead reached once again into the walls of his home, and pulled from it two wooden staves, one longer than the other. He went to the cots where Jarek and Orias were still asleep, and placed them both on top of them, rousing them from their sleep.

            “One has noticed you two have been unarmed.” He said, grabbing them by their tunics and pulling them up into sitting positions. “This you are no longer. These are strong as any steel, and will keep you safe when one no longer can.”

            Orias looked at his staff, and back up at Fenrar who towered over them. Still groggy from being woken so early in the morning, he managed a gruff “Thank you” while trying to get himself up and ready to make for the city. Jarek sat up in his cot and attempted to dress himself as he had laid out all of his things the night before. None of them realized how badly they really needed the sleep.

            Wraith took up the pack Taria had designated for him, and tightened the straps on his now battered armor, preparing for the apparently long trek to the desert city. It’d been years since he’d been in among the stench of the city. The bustle, the people, the taverns, all the races mingling together seamlessly. It was a far cry from the predominantly human, bland population of the monastery. If it weren’t under such grim circumstances that they were leaving, he would be celebrating the change in scenery.

            When they had gathered themselves together, the brothers newly armed, and Wraith and Taria with the Drakon-Forged in hand, they gathered in the center of the main room and waited for Fenrar who indicated he had one last parting gift for them.

            Once again he emerged from a different hidden room in the back of his abode, baring a locked wooden trunk with various markings that glowed a faint light, the same color as his tattered robes. He set it in front of the three of them, and unhinged it, revealing an old, rolled up piece of parchment, a vial of bright blue liquid, and a strange silver key in the shape of a rotund leaf, it was so extraordinarily detailed that the base of the key looked as if it was made from a silver plated leaf. The key prongs elegantly rose out of the stem of the leaf, coming to a fine point with two plainly adorned downward facing hooks that looked like it couldn’t possibly match any practical lock.

            Kneeling beside the trunk, he first pulled out the parchment and unfurled it, revealing a map of the entirety of the Elven, Dwarven, Worven, and human lands. Orias stepped forward and took hold of the map gently, taking note of the crudely drawn mountains and city markers. “The map itself is almost indestructible. As best as you could, it could not be torn asunder short of the fire from a dragon’s snout. It also exactly details all features of the land, and will show its position if you let a drop of blood onto it.”

            He next pulled out the small glass vial and held it out to Taria, who brought it close to her eye, examining the corked top and strange liquid that emitted a faint glow similar  to the trunk. “That is the last draught of mana that One prepared before one no longer could. The substance has unmatched magical potency, one sip can sustain someone for over a day. Just the same it can be used to prepare various spells far beyond your physical strength.”

            Lastly, he held out the key towards Wraith, who took it and placed it in the palm of his hand, feeling the strange silky cool texture against his rough hands. “That key will bare you to safety in your most vulnerable hour. It will only work once, and never again.” He rose to his full height again and plucked the key from Wraith’s hand.

            “However, one would not wish to see this lost and put to the wrong hands.” Fenrar said, grabbing hold of Wraith’s tunic collar, pulling it down just past his collarbone. Then he pressed the leaf against his skin close to his right shoulder. Wraith experienced a strange skin crawling sensation with an icy prickling feeling that made him bite his tongue. The hairs on his neck stood on end in anticipation of some impending pain.

            After a moment, the feeling simply subsided so that when Fenrar lifted his massive, gnarled hand from Wraith’s skin, the leaf was imprinted onto his skin like the most detailed, lifelike tattoo. Letting go of him, Fenrar stepped back and examined them all for a moment. “One would find it hard to lose that now.” He said to Wraith.

“How do I even use it if it’s stuck…” Wraith gestured to his new tattoo, “There?” The key shimmered as if delighted at its mention.

            “It will present itself to you at your moment of greatest need.” Fenrar then ushered them to the door of his shack, where Senya waited patiently perched upon her haunches. “One has many things to attend to. The forest is greatly hurt by the dark march northward and One has much to prepare. Senya will take you to the edge of the forest where you will find the pass through the mountains and into the desert. One would suggest finding passage into the city in disguise. One does not know where the dark agents may lie in wait to strike at those poised against them.”

            Taria gave one last glance towards Wraith, who nodded an affirmation aware of what she wanted to say. “Fenrar,” she started “Thank you for everything you’ve done. You’ve given us far more than we could’ve hoped when our home was destroyed.”

            Fenrar knelt to bring his eyes level to hers, as he towered so far above her she had to crank her head all the way up to look at him. “One knows that you all bear a great responsibility. This threat spreads much farther than even the forest can see. The first blow against the darkness is your very survival. The next is to seek aid against it. Go now, children. One will keep watch upon you until one’s sight is spent.”

            They all bowed their thanks, and took after Senya who had already began down the long spiral stairs that lead to the base of the tree. For a while they said nothing, though as far as Wraith could see, Jarek and Orias were conversing between each other wordlessly, as both of them occasionally smiled without reason, or chuckled as they made their way to the forest floor.

            Taria’s thoughts began to creep into his own without either of them being entirely aware, until it became clear to Wraith that not all of his thoughts and worries were entirely his own. Though she took no notice, Wraith knew that she had felt far lonelier now than ever before. Even though she had lost her parents, as she told Wraith, losing her home was a far greater blow to her than Wraith. He was so used to being alone in the streets of Zeldima for most of his life that the monastery seemed to be just another impermanent place made impermanent. She was stripped of her home, where she grew up her whole life. Wraith finally understood why so many people were so opposed to leaving their childhood homes: It was the only thing she knew.

They had finally reached the bottom of the tree, and began to set off on their course through the forest.

            Senya reached out to them again, this time including the brothers who seemed startled at the sudden intrusion of another into their thoughts. I will abate my pace in light of your unfortunate disability.

            While Orias and Jarek were still bewildered as their previously private conversation become not so, Wraith inquired back to her what she meant. What disability?

            Your lack of a full set of legs of course. Senya made a series of odd hurks aloud that Wraith assumed was her form of laughter. Another voice chimed into the mix, this time taking both Wraith and Taria by surprise.

            I can hear you! The voice was unmistakably Jarek’s, Orias let out an audible surprised sound somewhere between a laugh and a hiccup and the four of them stopped, dumbstruck that someone else could hear them. Senya stopped in her tracks as well and swung her head back, peering with one piercing blue eye at the four Dulaaren.

            I am connecting the four of you together. There are others with this ability but do not count on it to be readily available. Nor should you count on those with this ability to allow you to use it. It is not easy, nor is it enjoyable. You humans think like new born cubs and your thoughts bounce about my head without rest.

            They were all surprised by Senya’s sudden apparent annoyance with them, so they withdrew back to their own thoughts and continued onward in relative inward and outward silence.

            The path north was rough, but even as though the forest grew thicker and thicker, the trees and plants along the forest floor seemed to part in their presence, making their trek northward far easier than it had any reason to be. Wraith figured Fenrar was doing far more than watching over them.

            After some silence, Wraith decided to try and console Taria. The mixture of the fear and sadness of leaving her old life behind was only slightly masked by the excitement she had for whatever they was ahead for them. Wraith found it strange that he could so readily access her feelings, even without her explicit intention of sharing them with him, since he barely could read most women’s reactions in the first place. Knowing how someone felt without readily studying their behavior was a little unsettling since prior to that he found it hard to get close to anyone, let alone someone he barely knew; and yet, here he was wanting to try and say something just to make her feel better.

            I’m sorry about the monastery. I know this is a lot harder for you, growing up there and all. Wraith was already mentally hitting himself for his lack of eloquence in talking to her. He wanted to sound sincere, not indifferent.

            Taria didn’t take notice of his apparent self-loathing, caught off guard by his insight into her conflicted emotions. Thanks. Honestly it was hard enough after my parents were gone. Seems like leaving was a long time coming, even if it’s because of something so…

Awful?

            Yeah. Not really a better word for it. Just everyone else that stayed behind… The Abbot, Dina and Adara. They’re all probably dead and they were just trying to give the rest of us a chance to get away. We barely got out, let alone everyone else that was with us before we got attacked too.

            You never know, they could’ve gotten out. Priol is one hell of a man, and Dina and Adara seem tough. We won’t know what happened until we know more about the ones who attacked, or if we ever returned to the monastery.

I suppose. Thanks. We can hope.

We don’t have much else.

 

 

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            It was the sixteenth time that the warped creature had submerged Dina’s head into the vat of foul smelling vinegar, and yelled the same empty words at her. Her eyes smarted, and her mouth tasted foul and sour but she was unsure as to what exactly they hoped to accomplish by torturing her, especially since the smell and taste seemed to lessen every time her head was submerged. After the army had essentially crushed the small resistance that the monastery had put up, they captured anyone who wasn’t dead and began torturing them in various tents across their makeshift camp among what was left of their home.

            Adara had been unconscious for a while since they’d cut into her wrists and bled her until she passed out. Now the wounds were bound and she was strapped to a pole, in a mock standing position in front of Dina’s vat of vinegar so that every time her head was tore from the vat she had to stare at her pale sister, slumped back held only by the straps that bound her wrists, waist and ankles to the pole, completely restricting her movement if she were to somehow wake up of her own accord.

            As soon as she got free, Dina planned to skin the thing that did that to her sister, and then raise hell across the entire camp for what they did to the others. The screams she heard from all corners of their camp made it clear that she wasn’t the only one being tortured for “information”.

            Once again her captor grabbed hold of her hair, and forced her head face first into the vat of vinegar. Dina prepared herself this time and simply held her breath as long as possible, careful to keep her eyes shut so that she wouldn’t be blinded by the vinegar soaking her eyes. The next few seconds felt like hours, but she waited and blew one steady stream of air from her mouth and moved just enough to appear as if she were struggling so that she was brought back up. Her captor severely underestimated her resilience and so when that same hoarse voice rang and the same hoarse voice that she’d heard seventeen times before, repeated the same question she refused to answer.

“WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE LARGE ONE WITH THE DARK HAIR AND THE SMALL ONE HE WAS WITH?”

            It didn’t really take long that long for her to figure out that he was probably talking about Taria and her dular, but she wasn’t about to give up any information about either of them, especially since she had gotten so far without giving anything up.

            “How about-” before she could complete her smart comment, her head was thrust directly back into the vinegar, mouth still agape. Caught off guard she struggled against the hand pressing her head into the vile substance. Though she was strong, whoever, or whatever was holding her there was far stronger than any normal human. She had no chance to shut her mouth in time as she hit the vinegar with such force her open mouth filled with the noxious fluid and she struggled not to inhale in an attempt to catch her breath.

            She spent every single moment fighting her own body not to inhale knowing that it could very well ruin her chance of being able to exact the kind of revenge she was hoping to upon every monster that had wronged her. At the moment she didn’t believe she could hold on any longer, she was pulled out of the vat, and the grip around her hair was loosened. She spat out the remainder of the vinegar and hung her head above the vat, coughing violently whilst preparing for another plunge into the yellowed liquid.

            The room grew colder, and the question she expected to hear was instead replaced by a smooth, deceptively warm voice that seemed to make the air vibrate at the sound of it. “Leave us.”

            Though she was unsure what his intentions were, but she was quite sure that nothing good could come of a change in watch, because she knew what she was in for. She took the respite to peer at her sister in front of her, still limp and pale as ever. Only the tiniest wisp of thought could be deciphered from her otherwise unconscious state in their connection as Dulaaren.

            “You didn’t come to replace my vinegar with wine did you? My trough is getting awfully stale.” Though she struggled to spit out the words past the burning sensation of her mouth being full of vinegar, she made sure to fill every word with as much disdain as possible. They could torture her all they wanted, but they wouldn’t be getting anything from her anytime soon.

            “No.” the response felt like it crawled into her ear like an oozing worm. “I’ve come because I know that you at least knew the one known as Taria. What we did not expect is for her to have a companion so… Capable. He too has captured our interest.”

            “I don’t even know his name. I’d only ever seen him around the monastery once or twice. I don’t even know where he came from.” She was careful to pick the most generic truth she could, as she wasn’t sure whether he had some way of knowing whether she was lying or not.

            “It’s interesting,” two cold hands pressed against her exposed back. With both her hands and feet tied together and down to the bench that suspended her above the vinegar vat, there was little she could do in her position except shirk away from the foreign touch. “It’s important to know where people come from, it makes it far easier to figure out how to get to them.” The cold hands slid up to her shoulders, and the man brought his face close to her ear. “Maybe that will make it easier to get you to talk as well.”

            Dina squirmed about, nothing made her feel more powerless than being tied down and unable to fight back against the invasion of her personal space. By that point if she were upright she would’ve already knocked the man clean out. Just before things seemed they were to get far worse, the tent opened up behind her sister, and two armored boots stepped into her view, right behind her sister.

            “Sir.” The deep voice emitted from the armored one. “They’re on the move again, it appears they’re still alive. And there’s two more than we thought.”

            Dina sighed internal relief for whoever escaped with Taria and her Dular, and for the fact that the two cold hands lifted from her back. Into her view stepped a mass of black shimmering robes that seemingly sucked away all the already limited light in the room. The same dark voice that invoked an impending dread the likes of which she had never experienced spoke back to the soldier. “I will personally see to their destination. See to it that these two are watched. I’m not done with either of them.”

            “Yes sir.” Both pairs of feet clattered away and left the tent flaps agape just enough that Dina could see a sliver of the camp, which now appeared to be quite active since night had fallen. No one seemed to take notice of the unattended tent, so Dina took the chance and tried to struggle out of her restraints.

            She pushed, pulled, jostled and rocked about to no avail as the ropes securing her arms and legs left her with almost no range of motion. She knew it wouldn’t be long before someone was back, presumably to continue torturing her, or worse yet, killing her sister like they kept saying they would.

            She unintentionally grimaced at the sound of the tent opening again, and sat still as to not draw attention to herself. The pitter patter of feet was different, and a pair of legs dressed in tattered trousers and a single battered greave on the left leg appeared in her view. Wordless and unsure, she chose to say nothing and instead stared into the vat of vinegar motionless. A silver knife blade thrust into view under her restraints and she tensed her muscles thinking it must be another trick, until the blade flicked up and cut loose the ropes that bound her hands to the bench. She sat up to look at the one who freed her to find it was Abbot Priol, bloodied and barely recognizable as his face was swollen and various cuts and bruises lined his features. He said nothing and instead placed one finger over his mouth to signal her to be quiet, to which she nodded in response as he moved to cut her legs free.

            When he turned to walk to the opposite side of the bench, it revealed a ghastly bloody hole where his right ear had been. Dina fought back a gasp just before having her restraints fully cut. Not wasting another moment, she stumbled to her sister’s side, checking to see if she was still alive. Her faint breaths gave her hope, and Abbot Priol began to cut her loose as well. Once they had cut Adara free, they laid her onto the bench Dina was previously confined to before Priol rushed to close the tent flaps and drew a symbol into the ground at both entrances to the tent. Upon completion, both symbols glowed a faint blue light, and the bustle of the camp outside quieted a faint whisper.

            “We don’t have much time.” The old Abbot said “We have to free everyone we can and flee towards the western monastery and warn them, I have no doubt that is their next target.”

“Abbot, sir-“

            “That’s not my title to hold anymore Dina, I lost that when they destroyed the monastery. I’m just Solus Priol now. Head west out of camp with your sister and get her somewhere safe, I’ll send someone to you to watch over her. I’ll need your help as soon as you can.”

            “Right.” She picked up her sister, seemingly lighter than before, and went over to the other side of the tent, away from the pole her sister was strapped to. Now that she was able to get a good look at her surroundings she noticed the small rectangular tent was made of some sort of leather, illuminated in the center just behind the torture bench by two oil lanterns hanging from the center pole supporting the makeshift pavilion.

            Solus walked to the tent flaps just behind the standing pole and peered out into the darkness. “We’re lucky we’re on the edge of the camp. Head straight for the forest, I’ll create a distraction.” Before she made the move to leave the tent, he grabbed both of the oil lanterns from above and ran out the opposite side from her, the tent flapped about followed shortly by a loud explosion, shortly followed by another. Dina took off with her sister in her arms, away from the camp, and towards the relative safety of the forest.

He was never one for subtlety.

 

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            Dina waited in silence with her heart pounding all the while until a pair of Dulaaren she vaguely recognized crept into the bushes where she hid. The camp was in apparent chaos from the fires that were now roaring up from the grounds. The two men, who were far older than she, took up positions next to Adara and beckoned Dina to help Solus. “He said he needs your help for his plan.” She nodded and sprinted back towards the camp without question. This time she wouldn’t be helpless.

            The various soldiers took little notice of her and instead attempted to fight the fire that was burning a path through the tents. Even one of the trebuchets had been set alight and illuminated the camp with a bright burn that captivated the attention of those few around it. Dina did her best to avoid the camps inhabitants and went about from tent to tent looking for Solus or anyone of the survivors from the battle.

            The first few tents she examined were empty save another bench identical to hers or the odd cot for sleeping on. The next one she approached yielded an image far more disturbing than any of the bloodied benches she came across previously. Upon opening the entrance to the tent, her nose was assaulted by a noxious odor that rivaled anything she’d ever smelled, a phosphoric crass odor the permeated the air and clung to the skin. Inside there was a pit dug into the ground with a bubbling pool of black goo, and all around slimy creatures were lain slathered in black muck from the pit covering most of their otherwise pale skin. The top of the tent on the inside was clouded with black fumes and the only light in the room was a single oil lamp next to one of the creatures’ heads, nearly indiscernible from the creature itself. Most didn’t look human, some had extra or few limbs and all of them were covered in horrible pustules and growths that seemed to throb in the dim light of the lantern.

            Before she could fully understand what exactly she was witnessing, she was torn away from the tent entrance by Solus who stared at her for a brief moment with a scorning gaze, and gestured her to follow him.

            She struggled for a moment to catch up to the former abbot’s pace as she was sickened by the stench that still clouded her sense of smell. As Solus turned a corner round a stack of unassuming boxes, he was abruptly thrown back several feet when struck in the stomach by a soldier, standing talking in hulking dark armor adorned with so many spikes it was nigh on impractical. He skittered to a stop unable to catch his breath and struggling to regain his composure as his knife that he previously was gripping tumbled mere inches in front of Dina. The soldier charged at Solus stamping his foot down at his head missing by near inches while Dina made for the knife.

            Just as he was about to make another attempt at smashing the former Abbot’s head in, Dina got a hold of the knife and rushed towards the attacker, jamming it directly into the space between his helmet and shoulder piece. Thick black blood gushed from the wound, but the soldier, seemingly undaunted by the mortal wound, turned his head towards Dina and grabbed her arm, tearing her grip away from the knife. His grip was so strong it felt as though her bones in her arm were going to snap to pieces. He lifted her up into the air, and before casting her away with a flick of his wrist as if she loaf of molded bread. Solus jumped to his feet, gripping the knife sticking from the beast’s neck, and dragged it from one side of his neck to the other, rending his throat open and spraying Solus head to toe in blood.

            His last attempt at survival was to grip at his throat to staunch the bleeding. His armored gauntlets prevented him from properly gripping at his neck, so that he then stumbled about before falling to his knees and removing his gauntlets revealing his deformed blackened hands. By the time he managed to remove the right gauntlet he simply slumped to the ground, head planted in the pool of muddy blood he’d created in his struggle to live.

            Dina recovered from being tossed aside and struggled not to vomit at the metallic smell of blood that drenched the ground and created a sticky, black mud that clung to their boots. After wiping his face of most of the blood and retrieving his knife from the lifeless corpse of the soldier, Solus grabbed ahold of her shoulders and shook her so that she was staring him directly in the eye. “We don’t have much time. There are others and there is work yet to be done.”

            She nodded, feeling sick to her stomach at what she just witnessed, and quickly began following him deeper into the camp where there was yet another cluster of tents that had been set ablaze. They rushed onwards, hoping that in the commotion of the fires they would be able to extract anyone that may have been captured and tortured, as they had been.

            Dina’s dress was becoming stifling in the heat that emanated from the fires around the camps. She tried to ignore the heat and went about going from tent to tent looking for more survivors from the monastery. Both she and Solus were met with disappointment as they moved from one tent to the next and found no trapped survivors. A few had collapsed entirely but the lack of sound coming from within indicated that even if someone had survived, they were most likely killed by the fire or otherwise dragged away into the night. A few dark silhouettes darted between the tents that were left standing, pitching shadowy buckets onto the bright flames that erupted from the tents and storages. They took no notice of the escaped captives who journeyed onward deeper into the camp, even as they neared close enough to easily make out the two with the bright, consuming fires that illuminated the camp.

            When she saw two soldiers clad in the same spiked armor as all the others approaching them, she pulled Solus behind a large open box with some sort of powdered substance. She clapped her hand over his mouth, knowing that he couldn’t have seen the soldiers so far off without being a Dular.

They waited.

And waited.

            After what felt like hours in the scorching heat of the flames the soldiers got so close that the dull thud of their greaves came within earshot. They waited, frozen in place and pressed so close to the box that the only way they would be seen is if someone physically went all the way up to the box and peered over, as it was tucked neatly between two relatively undamaged tents that they were only able to slip between because they were unarmored save Solus’ one greave.

            The thuds were getting louder and louder until they both came to an abrupt halt. The silence made Dina bite her lip, if they so much as suspected anything their only choice was to run as quickly as possible away from them, especially considering they were no ordinary soldiers or barbarians. These were unnatural monsters unlike anything she’d seen or even read about before.

Thud

Thud

Thud

            The steps stopped for a moment and resumed again, as one pair of boots now advanced towards their hiding place. Dina took Solus’ knife and gripped it tightly, ready to spring forward and drive it into the head of the soldier with all her considerable strength. She felt her heartbeat quicken, and her face grew hotter than the fires that burned through the tents. With everyone that had died in this baseless, reasonless assault, she was fully prepared to kill both of the soldiers if not only for her own personal safety, but also as revenge for all those lost in the battles prior.

            It was apparent that the second soldier had started to follow the first and now pairs of thuds could be heard clattering towards them in rapid succession. They both stopped again right in front of the box, and the soldier in front grunted something incomprehensible and dipped his hand into the powder exposed at the top of the box, taking no notice of a Dina’s mess of curled hair that was obscured only by his own shadow.

            The soldier removed his hand and grunted again, turning away from the box and starting away. Solus sighed relief, as Dina stewed in her anger. Their stroke of luck seemed to be no victory in her state but instead a missed opportunity. Her anger welled up in her so much so that, without a single word, she stood to her feet and sized them both up. The soldier with his back turned took no notice, but the other peered over his shoulder to see Dina standing defiantly, gripping the dagger in her hand with white knuckles.

            He pointed at her with an alerted grunt, but before the soldier in the alleyway betwixt the tents could respond, Dina took a handful of the dark powder and leapt up and out of their hiding place. The jump landed her directly behind the first soldier, who tried to whip around and knock her away. Anger and the magic that ran through her bones fueled her assault as she ducked out of the way of the off-handed strike. She then stabbed the knife directly into the soldier’s helmet at his forehead. The force was so great that it pierced his helm and went straight into his skull. He began to slump backwards, held up only by the knife jutting from his helmet. Instead of just pulling the knife back out she kicked him straight in the breastplate with an unparalleled rage that sent him flying back with such force that the now limp body pinned the second soldier to the ground.

            The now pinned soldier struggled beneath the immense weigh of his dead ally. Without missing a step, Dina leapt atop them both and stuffed the powder into the viewport of the soldier’s helmet. The action ignited a fit of sputtering deep coughs, at which point Dina began wildly stabbing at the soldier’s face. The first couple of strikes glanced off sending orange sparks flying in opposite directions which sent the blade careening, however the third found its mark and went straight through one of the eye slits in the helm. She made a deliberate effort to stab at the other eyehole as to blind him. At the second successful stab he started screaming in a guttural and foreign tongue between the fit of coughs, as he was blinded from her assault and flailing about under the combined weight of the two.

            It didn’t stop her. She kept stabbing at his face. And stabbing. And stabbing. A few strikes punctured through the armor into where his nose would be, as well as one that went into the side of the helmet into a bone, snapping off the tip of the blade. Two more strikes punctured the same hole in the left eye socket and another straight through the mouth crackling as it pushed past gritting teeth. The final strike that ended the screaming and flailing went at an angle into the soldier’s forehead. Though the soldier went limp, not even that stopped her since she kept stabbing at the lifeless corpse. Her flurry of strikes was only halted when the blade finally snapped off as it struck another bone. She was left holding only the handle, which she punched the ground with and slid off two dead bodies, rolling to her side crying.

            She had no idea why she was crying. She was so angry, so depraved. She’d been tortured and beaten until she could barely stay conscious, but even through all of that the idea that they had hurt her sister and so many others angered her to the point that she felt helpless. For a brief moment she became one of them, as savage and ruthless as they were to her. Everything she had known was lost, and she finally lost it at the sound of the two soldiers advancing towards them. She was done hiding, and wanted to kill every last one of them, though she knew she couldn’t.

            Solus came to her side and pulled her into his arms, as she sobbed splattered in gore and mud, her comforted her. Dina knew that he felt her loss probably even greater than she did, as he had spent his entire life dedicated to the rubble that was now the monastery. She noticed he did not cry, as she caught a glimpse of his face. In place of tears was a somber expression, accompanied by an unmistakable burning rage behind his eyes.
            He held her in quiet reverence in his attempt to calm her. “Quiet now child.” he patted her head as she buried her face into his bloodied cotton overcoat “There is nothing left here for us. If we’re lucky the others escaped as we did. Let’s get you back to your sister.”

            Solus helped her to her feet and they walked back to the forest, unhindered by anymore guards or soldiers, yet still defeated. The increasing intensity of the flames engulfed the entirety of the camp. It was the best they could do to cripple the army. Whoever they were, it had at least bought the others time to get away from the bulk of the army.

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