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|Sypher's journey cont||
Chapter Six: Journey to the Emerald City
It was shortly after dawn when the camp was packed. The soldiers moved with efficient motions to take down the tents. Some of them began moving the Troll bodies, but Samuel stopped them. On the trail again, everyone seemed to be more alert than yesterday.
We stopped at noon for food. Samuel was talking with Jackson and Chobyz, all guarding the horses and equipment. The rest of the soldiers were scattered, some sitting by the fire, others talking in small groups. Clover and I were by our horse, away from everyone but still in sight.
“This place smells,” Clover said, wrinkling her nose.
“Yep, we all need a bath,” I agreed. “Not much we can do about that until we reach the capital.”
“Where is the capital?” she asked.
“Good question,” I said. Inwardly, I sighed. So many questions needed to be answered, and not many people could answer them. “We’re going south, that’s all I know.”
“Let me guess, we can’t ask Samuel right now,” Clover said. I nodded.
We traveled again for a few hours, and it began to get quiet warm. Several soldiers had taken off their helmets, and sheathed their swords. The snow was soon completely gone, replaced by spring. Our horse was beginning to get tired, although it had been fed oats in the morning. I jumped off and walked along side Clover. My battle sword was still out, and I made sure it did not reflect any sunlight. It was perhaps a pointless effort, but if the caravan were attacked I would not be a target. I was starting to think the Trolls were scared by Samuel’s rune sword and my presence. Unfortunately, a peaceful journey was not on the agenda.
Instead of the battle roar of the beasts, the soldiers were given only my warning. Most of them looked at me quizzically as I yelled, “Trolls!” From the trees, I saw the glint of a metal arrowhead moving slightly back.
Arrow after arrow whizzed through the air. This time I was unable to do anything other than pull Clover off the horse and crouch, covering her. Yells of confusion and pain came from the troops as the hail of arrows pelted them. Our horse was struck several times, and collapsed. I skimmed the ground with Clover in my arms and sat her down next to the horse. Calculating, I grabbed a shield of a falling soldier and shoved it into Clover’s hands, which she hid behind. Now I could fight.
Familiar Troll archers were stationed all around, in a camouflaged ambush. My combat mind took over again. Breaking through the treeline to my right, I killed an archer and turned right once more, leaving a wake of headless Trolls.
“Helmets!” Jackson yelled as the man in front suddenly had an arrow in his neck. Jackson slipped on his helmet, yelling formation orders. An arrow ricocheted off his helmet, making his ears ring from the impact.
“Try to keep them together,” Samuel said. He ran into the trees.
“If I can!” Jackson responded, turning back to look at his troops. Most of them were staggering around, arrows having pierced their armor. Some of the troops were back-to-back, with shields up to block arrows. Jackson ran over to the soldiers that were defending themselves properly. “How many?” he yelled.
“Lots,” one of the soldiers yelled back. “Can’t say, but we sure are in trouble!”
“Save your worries for later! We just need to find some way to alert Emerald City!” Jackson hollered. He had an idea. The Byzu! Looking around, he could not see him, but saw the girl leaning against a horse, with a shield in her hands. Deciding to ask her, he ran through the hail of arrows.
Clover flinched, nearly whimpering at every impact. She could feel the arrows hammering against her shield, threatening to wrench the piece of metal from her hands. The horse was long dead, and she grew more disgusted as each arrow embedded itself in the dead animal. Sypher was nowhere near. Something pounded to the ground beside her, and she feared it was a soldier. Or worse, a Troll.
“Hey! Where did the Byzu go?” Jackson asked. An arrow bounced off his helmet and he fell against the horse, cursing. As he pushed off the horse, he saw a blur flash by. The arrows stopped coming, but only for a moment as more were launched from the trees. “Byzu!” Jackson hollered.
“Yes?” a voice asked. Jackson spun around, but no one was there. Another arrow glanced off his helmet. It nearly knocked off his helmet. Quickly he crouched beside the girl, who had several arrows stuck in her shield. “Where’s the Byzu?” he yelled again. The girl only shook her head.
As the Byzu yelled a warning, Chobyz guided his horse into the trees, and blended into the forest. There were many, many Troll archers on both sides of the trail. Behind the archers waited many Troll warriors and enormous beasts. The night before, he and Samuel had talked of this possibility. And they both hoped it wouldn’t happen. Now, he needed to use the power of Samuel’s rune sword. Moving wraith-like, invisible and silent, Chobyz darted from tree to tree looking for Samuel. He saw Jackson run from a group of soldiers to a horse, and continued moving along the trail.
Samuel dived behind a rock, scratching his armor. Now all he could do was hope his troops would survive and wait for Chobyz.
They kept coming. On my blade was the blood of many Trolls, but more and more were firing. I stopped in a small clearing to catch my breath, and I regretted it. Waiting before me were dozens of Trolls beasts and warriors, armed and brimming with vengeance. Too many to fight. As retreating was my only option, I decided to lure the Trolls into a frenzy. I had explosive packets, hidden among my upper body and sealed in a special cloth. The cloth was heat-resistant, so I didn’t have to worry about the packets exploding during battle.
Picking the largest Trolls, I fired four packets with a flick of my wrist. They exploded, causing the whole pack to recoil. Nearly all the Troll beasts bellowed at the same time, bombarding me with powerful sound waves. The Trolls charged.
A Troll archer quickly released the arrow aimed at a group of shiny humans. It knew many arrows were required to pierce the silver skin, but it was adding to the barrage. With glee, it reached for another arrow. A fiendish grin appeared on its face as one of the arrows fired by another archer pierced the skin of a human. The human fell, screaming in pain as more arrows penetrated its skin. Something flew by the Troll archer, knocking it off balance. Swearing and cursing, it looked up to see its comrades charging through the forest in a killing frenzy, crushing everything that was in their way. And the archer was in their path.
I led the crazed Trolls just off the trail, dashing past several archers. I broke any bows I could, but I knew my efforts would ultimately be in vain. Another soldier fell. Only a dozen were left, and I couldn’t see where Clover was.
“There you are,” Chobyz said, reforming out of the stone.
“Hurry up!” Samuel snapped. Chobyz nodded grimly and touched the etchings on Samuel’s rune sword, and traced them with his fingers. The blade began to glow, and so did Chobyz as he gripped the blade. Blood dripped from his fingers. Suddenly his right arm regenerated in a burst of scarred tissue. Chobyz struck the ground with his new arm, using his body as a channel for the sword’s power.
The ground began to shake. Within a moment the shaking became violent, and a moment later it was impossible to stand. Human yells joined the fearful Troll screams.
“Sound the alarm!” a man screamed into the horn. A moment later, a blaring blast of sound struck the tower walls. He ran down the hall, and burst into a room yelling orders. Servants scrambled, running to waypoints. Waypoints were magical etchings forced upon polished stone, and would transport large loads to another waypoint. The siren blared again, and again. In the now empty room, the man chucked off his wool shirt and pants, and slipped on a silver robe. The robe reflected all light in the room, creating a shimmering, silky look. Streaks of light formed between the man’s curled hands, and he opened a decorated box containing a powerful gem. Carefully and reverently, he picked up the multicoloured crystal with both hands, and tucked it into a pouch at his hip. With a flicker of light, he sealed the pouch shut. An open chamber adjacent to his room contained a guarded waypoint. He darted through the magical field and past the motionless guards.
In a flash of white light, several figures appeared in a well-lit chamber. Each of the figures wore the same silver, shimmering robe, but each figure was unique. Several were human, the rest were not. Eighteen figures stepped up to a large pillar with multiple holes. Carefully, they each placed a multicoloured gem into the pillar.
“We only have enough power for one try,” the man said.
“Confirmed,” another agreed. “But we must.” Nodding grimly, the man extended both arms toward the gem.
“Go,” the man commanded. All figures touched their gems at the same time, and began casting.
The tower began to glow green. A few miles away, another tower, identical to the first also began to glow. Soon, all eighteen towers of Emerald City were glowing green.
“Release!” the man commanded. The magic power stored inside the gems surged through the pillar, through the towers, and up into the air.
Broaum! The unnatural earthquake began to uproot trees. The ground split open in several places, giving way to the one that was commanding it. Several Trolls were swallowed into the living earth, and the earth slammed shut after claiming its prey. Howling, the Trolls dropped their weapons and ran away, scrambling in fear.
I dropped my sword and hoped for the best. Not knowing how the Trolls were doing, I did my best to keep my balance. Suddenly a large green beam shot by, and touched down along the trail. A small portion of it dived away from the main stream, and touched down just ahead of me. It landed behind some rocks, and then shot back upwards.
“Take my hand!” Samuel yelled, realizing the rescue light had not come for Chobyz. Chobyz did not move. He looked up, his eyes an intense red. “I must keep this up so the rest of them will survive.” Samuel nodded, accepting the Druid’s choice. “Good luck, friend,” he said as he was pulled away by the light.
Jackson cursed as he lost his balance again. Looking up, he was shocked to see a beam of light darting his way. He covered his head as it touched him, lifting him from the ground. As he was elevated, he could see Troll warriors and beasts scrambling away. Cursing at them once last time, he looked around in awe as he was brought to safety.
The earthquake stopped abruptly as the beam of light left, holding several figures in its grasp. One of the figures was definitely Clover, her brown hair trailing behind her. My sword had fallen into a crack, so I slipped on my claws. Many trees were uprooted and laying on their sides, and I could see the result of the ambush. Most of Samuel’s troop was laying face down, with many arrows stuck in their armor. All the horses were dead, including the unarmored black war horses. I heard a Troll beast bellow far away, and then a few moments later, another one. They were coming back.
Chobyz stepped out of the cover of the rocks, staring up at the sky. He heard a voice call from behind, and prepared for combat. Turning around, he was startled to see the Byzu walking calmly towards him. Spotting something usual attached to the Byzu’s hands, he was again startled to see claws.
“I didn’t know you had claws,” Chobyz said.
“I lost my sword,” the Byzu admitted. “So do you have any ideas? The Trolls are coming back.”
“Get to Emerald City,” Chobyz said, nodding in agreement. “Or we could fight.” Sypher smiled. He glanced behind him, indicating the direction at which the Trolls were approaching. “We don’t have a choice. We must try to get to Emerald City. They’re close, anyway.”
The two of them broke into a run.
“Move right,” I said to Chobyz. He altered his path, and looked up in surprise as an arrow whizzed by. He nodded in thanks. “Do you have anything that can help us right now?” I asked.
“Sorry. The earthquake took all of my energy,” he responded.
“You did that? By yourself?” I asked in awe. A wicked smile formed on his face.
“I wish I could say yes. But I tapped into the rune sword,” he admitted. I nodded and concentrated on getting to Emerald City. Behind us, several Troll beasts bellowed in rage.
“Why was the Druid not taken also?” Samuel demanded. A man in a silver robe scowled. They stood inside the castle walls, safe from the Trolls.
“The stones did not have enough energy,” he responded. “Our Royal Archmasters had to tax themselves.”
Samuel scowled with greater frevor. With his voice he commanded the full authority of a Prince. “Rescue the Druid, at once!” The man bowed, and scurried off. Samuel turned to see Clover, a worried expression on her face.
“Sypher’s gone,” she said. “Gone!”
“Do not worry. He is capable of survival,” he said darkly. “We will rescue him if he is still alive.”
“That’s not good,” I stated blandly. In front of us, a deep chasm awaited. There was no away across. Chobyz cursed in another language. He snarled as he looked back.
“We look for a way across, as well as fight,” he spat. I nodded grimly.
“Try left. We should not split up,” I decided. Chobyz grunted.
“Don’t come too close to me. I have a Fury ready,” he warned. I was intrigued, although it seemed quite stupid to be. Survival first, gawking later. We darted through the forest, skirting the chasm edge. Trolls crashed through the trees close by, and a loud bellow echoed through the forest as we were spotted. I could not move at my combat speed, as I was tired and needed a rest.
“Keep going,” I said as I heard an arrow take flight. I stopped and spun around, bringing up my claws. I deflected an arrow with superior timing, and ran after Chobyz.
“Very nice,” Chobyz commented. I gave him a half-smile as I caught up. “Up ahead!” he called. Indeed, the chasm ended a few hundred metres ahead. We burst through the trees onto another trail, only to find a wall of Trolls waiting for us.
“That’s not good either,” I said.
“Take care of what you can, and don’t worry about me,” Chobyz said. A dangerous gleam shimmered in his red eyes.
The human and Druid stumbled out of the forest, several metres before the Trolls. Roaring, the Trolls charged. Several warriors boasted a sword and a shield, and emulated infantry attack formations. They charged in a line, some whimpering in glee of a sure victory.
They never saw it coming.
As soon as the first sword was within reach of the Druid, he became a whirlwind of death, striking at every single thing that came within reach. Although the swords and shields were metal, they collapsed to the Fury of the Druid. The ones that stumbled closer to the whirlwind were ripped apart and tossed into the air.
I saw Chobyz lashing out at everything he could reach, his feet and arms flying. The metal swords crumpled, the shields snapped in two. I wished I could watch, but several eager Trolls wanted to swing axes at me. Dancing around, I slashed the wrists of the Trolls open, causing them to howl and drop their weapons. They were easy prey. The beasts presented me with a bit of a puzzle, as three pairs of arms reached for my body. I rolled under them, picking up a large battle axe. One mighty swing and three large arms dropped to the ground. I released the axe and it went flying into the air, as I had to dodge the kicks of the beasts. One large foot caught my side and I went flying. Gritting my teeth, I did my best to control the pain and concentrate on fighting. One Troll warrior holding a sword and shield slashed at me viciously, and I bent one knee to deflect the attack. The sword sliced into my shoulder, but it left the warrior open. It paid for its mistake.
A Troll beast pulled a large tree from the ground, and lunged towards the Druid. The tree whistled through the air for a fraction of a second, with incredible power. The Druid struck the tree, sending splinters everywhere. The whirlwind stopped for a moment as he leapt up into the air. And it resumed, as the Druid landed in the midst of several Troll beasts.
“Hee-YA!” the knight yelled, kicking his beast into action. Thirty knights sitting on lion-like creatures bounded away from the castle walls. The creatures looked like lions except they had more than four times the muscle, and were much bigger. All of the beasts had armor plating, and the head was covered in a terrifying, detailed metal helmet. These were the Leo Knights. The beasts did most of the fighting, but the knights directed them and also bore weapons. Leo Knights trained with their animal under extreme circumstances to achieve absolute teamwork. The Knights could strike at enemies while their beast was furiously ripping apart foes. Such was the level of skill the Leo Knights possessed.
I finally broke through the group of Trolls and stumbled towards the trail leading around the chasm. My claws were long broken, and I held a sword I snatched from a falling Troll. I saw Chobyz break through also, and we ran using the last of our energy. We had fought for more than twenty minutes, slaying a great horde of Trolls. The beasts provided the trouble, and the warriors the weapons. I was busy with a Troll when Chobyz yelled, “Run, now!” Many more Troll beasts and archers stepped out onto the trail, ready to kill.
Quickly I slew it, and turned to run. My vision was beginning to swim from fatigue. Chobyz grabbed my arm and dragged me, both stumbling, along the trail. Suddenly I heard something pounding on the ground. It was becoming louder. Looking ahead to where the trail curved, I was awed to see great metallic beasts with riders bearing down on us. “Leo Knights,” Chobyz said. I could not tell if they were friend or foe, but if they were foe we would be dead. I turned around to look back at the Trolls, hearing bellows. They were still a safe distance away. As I turned back towards the oncoming Knights, I nearly fell as they bounded past me in a blur, blasting my ears with wind. They took nearly three seconds to pass by, making me wonder if I was dead yet. The Leo Knights were all moving in sync, which amazed me to no end.
“Let’s go!” Chobyz said, and motioned up the trail. I nodded, and we began running. Far behind us, the pack of Leo Knights delivered fierce slaughter to the Troll army.
|Path to December (Chp 5)||The Path to December (Chp 3)|
|The Path to December (Chp 4)||The Path to December|