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Fantasy

Ambush

The massive hand-hewn spear whistled through the forest in search of its target. With a sickening thud, the jagged steel tip tore through the chain-mail armor, gouging and ripping as it pinned its victim to a damp cedar tree trunk. Embúr, the wood elf, let out a cry of pain as he grabbed the violently vibrating shaft and tried to stop it from moving. His face was a mask of distressing agony as he bit his lip to muffle the sound, not wanting his attackers to find his exact location. He focused and centered his mind, ignoring the gushing rent in his mid-section–his task was not yet complete. Searching, his eyes spotted Wick, a few feet away, sitting, back up against a moss-covered boulder, hyperventilating, rocking back and forth, and whimpering.

“Wick,” croaked the mortally wounded elf. “Wick, open your eyes and answer me. Are you okay?”

The young wood elf blinked his eyes open and slowly turned his head toward the older elves’ voice, then threw his hand to his mouth, eyes wide with terror.

“It is okay. You will need to finish this task. I have faith in you,” said the older elf surprisingly calmly.

The wooden missiles continued to sail through the air, indiscriminately hitting trees or landing in the undergrowth. Wick cringed, hearing the bushes battered by the searching Grizloids with their foul guttural voices. “They’re going to find us!” cried the young elf. “Embúr, I don’t want to die,” the young elf closed his glistening eyes and wrapped his arms around his knees.

In his free leather-gloved hand, Embúr unsteadily held up a hand-sized crystal orb that glowed a bluish-green. Speaking shakily, he voiced, “Galad beri-ammen.” The pulsing teal light from inside the orb grew brighter, moving out in every direction, creating a radiant bubble thirty yards in all directions, cutting through the darkness of the surrounding dense forest.

“Listen to me. I can’t hold this shield for very long. You must collect yourself, take the Geostar, and complete our mission. I won’t be going any further,” panted Embúr. “Gather the life source like I taught you.”

Wick opened his eyes and looked at his pleading older compatriot, who was fighting for every breath, then shook his head in acknowledgment. Closing his eyes, he tried to ignore the angry shouts and the pulses of light flickering around him as the attackers beat at the shield, only to be thrown back by its magic. Wick took a deep breath, remembering his training, then voiced the words, barely audible, “Beri-nin naneth terra.” Tendrils of steam rose from the moss-covered forest floor and swirled together, coalescing into a glowing blue rope. The ethereal cord moved towards Wick, like a snake floating in the air, then wrapped itself around the tiny chanting elf several times, causing his back and shoulders to straighten erect and stout. Wick hopped up with new vigor and ran to his proudly smiling mentor. He reached Embúr and tried to help support him but knew there was nothing he could do to help his friend–his insides viewable–the wound was too massive.

“Very good, Wick. *cough* You did that on your first try. You are ready,” praised the fading elf. “Once I hand the Geostar to you, the Gúl Than will dissipate, *cough*, and the Grizloids will rush us. You need to run as fast as you can. You must use the Dolen Aglon to get to the top of Drago Ul balkalesh-ra.”

Wick protested, “But you said the Dolen Aglon was too dangerous.”

“Wick, it is your only option now *cough*,” said Embúr. “The Grizloids have blocked every ascent of the pyramid, but they won’t follow you into the Dolen Aglon. You have to get to the entrance before they find you. Can you do that?”

Wick shook his head, “I can do that. They won’t catch me.”

“Good, I have faith in you. Use the power of the Geostar to keep yourself safe through the Dolen Aglon, as we trained. When you get to the top, you know what to do.” Wick helplessly watched as Embúr let out a gurgled breath and slumped to the ground, his shaking legs unable to support him anymore. “You’ve…got…this…” Embúr’s face took on a peaceful gaze as his last breath silently expired, at the same time, his hand holding the orb opened, allowing the glowing object to roll to the ground. Like nails on a chalkboard, an ear-splitting screech ripped through the air as the shield phased out, bursting like a bubble, causing all hell to break loose.


Fight or Flight

Wick was in shock as he looked at his crumpled mentor lying lifeless against the tree. He snapped out of it quickly as multiple ravenous screams approached, putting him in fight or flight mode. He was not in the mood to fight, so he ran, holding the Geostar tight against his chest. His sight was crisp and clear even though it was almost entirely dark, the forest foliage blocking the moonlight. This clarity of vision was a by-product of the life source he had imbibed earlier. It also gave him focus, allowing him to ignore the swatting Thistle Palms that smacked him in the face as he ran. It gave him an extra boost of energy as well, powering him through the leg-grabbing Slither Vines that grabbed at his ankles. He picked his way through the bushes, over downed logs, and dodged tree trunks like a fawn escaping a hungry shadow cat. He felt almost invincible until a sharp pain cracked him in the skull, causing him to fall and skid face-first into the forest floor.

He rolled over and felt a trickle of blood flow just above his ear. Spitting out a mouth full of dirt, he jumped back to his feet, shook off the injury, and kept going–his life depended on his determination. The knuckles and feet of his pursuers galloped through the undergrowth, getting ever closer. There must have been a dozen individual voices yelling in a language unrecognizable to most elves. Though Wick didn’t understand the words spoken from either side of his current location, he knew their meaning–get him.

He came to the edge of the Cedar grove and saw his destination just ahead—a small stone door in the side of Drago Ul balkalesh-ra, the Pyramid of the Dragon. Several stones and spears sailed past him harmlessly as he ducked into the entrance, continuing as far in as he could until he could no longer see. He turned around, looked down the corridor, and saw several giant bear-gorilla beasts beating their chests in outrage outside the structure but not daring to follow inside. Wick let out a sigh of relief and then turned to continue. Uttering an incantation, “Galad nin té” into the Geostar, it began to glow a bright white-ish green.

The cautious elf came to a stone stairway and ran up it, two steps at a time. It emptied into a tremendous cathedral-like room with tilted walls that mirrored the pyramid's shape. He could see across the massive hall a stairway that continued upward. His goal was to get to the top of the pyramid, taking the Geostar with him and completing his mentor’s task. Tentatively, he entered the room to cross when a fountain of sparks exploded skyward out of the floor in a funnel of burning, crackling energy. The conflagration turned into a tornado, spinning, sizzling, and reaching the top of the cavernous room. As it hit the ceiling, it arched downward, twisting, changing shape at will, like a murmuration of Fury Darts, until coalescing into a massive Dragon-shaped beast. Wick knew the monstrous shape before him was Naur Radag, the fire beast.

Standing eight stories tall, head reaching up, opening its giant mouth, it let out an ear-rending roar. Wick crouched against the wall, paralyzed with fear. Use the power of the Geostar to protect yourself, echoed in his head–the words of his mentor. Gathering his courage, he raised the Geostar above his head and muttered, “Galad Magol.” Immediately, the Geostar transformed into a large double-handed sword gleaming greenish blue. Wick stepped forward, pointing the magical blade at the beast, moving slowly, working his way to the door on the opposite side of the room. The beast had other ideas and lunged like a snake for the tiny elf. Wick reacted without thought, tucked and rolled, swinging upward as fast as a bullwhip. The sword expanded to an enormous length and sliced the ethereal beast’s neck clean through, causing a shower of sparks and a gurgled outcry. The vanquished foe evaporated with the same sizzling theatrics of its arrival, leaving only the fading echo of the beast’s mighty roar.

Wick stood astonished, panting, alone in the dark room with only the green glow of his sword. Convincing his feet to move, he hurried across the space to the stairs, fully focused on completing his task.


Master’s Control

Wick reached the top of the stairs and stepped out of the door. He stood on the flat-topped pyramid and looked over the dark forest below him. Several torches magically lit as he approached a ring of tall-pointy metallic spires that surrounded a circular waist-high stone platform at the center of the ceremonial pinnacle. His mentor was supposed to take the Geostar to the platform and stand on it. That task now fell on his shoulders, and he, without hesitation, entered the circle. Standing on the platform, he broadcast the magic spell as he had been taught, “Jiak auf ul Geostar shal anwher tor powr!”

Wick’s entire body was subsumed in a raging green flame that swirled to a point and shot out into space, making him look like a wick on a pyramidal candle. He convulsed with the energy that surged unchecked through his body and let out a primordial scream that filtered down to the forest below. The Grizloids, at the base of the structure, cowered as they heard the sound and saw the emerald beam in awe and fear. As quickly as the light had appeared, it switched off. The Geostar, in the elf's hands, had disappeared into dust as the final incantation was spoken. The effort left Wick bent over, hands on his knees, panting. He had done it.

“Very good,” came a voice just behind the exhausted elf. “You have performed your task exceptionally well.”

“Master, how did you get here?” asked the exhausted elf.

“In time, you will be able to travel wherever you want, with just a thought,” said the tall, black-cloaked elf. He stood head and shoulders taller than Wick, with slicked-back long black hair and pointy, gold-tipped ears that glimmered in the moonlight. His glinting stare was piercing.

“Master, why did I have to kill Embúr?” asked Wick. “It felt wrong. He was my friend.”

“His true task was to prepare you. I sensed greatness in you. He was only a means to an end. Once he had fulfilled his task, he was no longer useful,” concluded the Dark Elf.

“Master, what is my purpose then?” Wick asked with trepidation. He feared he may be expendable as well.

“You will find out in due time. Grab my cloak,” commanded the Dark Elf, offering his arm.

“I hear and obey,” said Wick as the two elves whisked out in a blur of sparks and disappeared into darkness.

The End

January 12, 2024 19:48

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