As the six guildmates sparkled into the new space of the dock of the Commonlands by the magic globe, Rakhanar looked down at his armor and pulled his Claymore from his back sheath, trying to test its balance without appearing to be too obviously novice with every move he made. The glint of the blade, his first real sword, reflected back into his eyes and he couldn’t help but grin and look around at his five companions.
His excitement must have been apparent. Lord Toran glanced over to smirk in his direction as the group moved off the dock, then turned back to continue his conversation in low murmurs with the hooded Traveler.
The fae, Priestess Evaine, seemed to sense that her presence beside him was needed. He looked down at her and barked a short laugh. She just smiled sweetly up at him and turned her gaze to each of the others. It seemed she was assessing them from the inside, Lord Toran, the Traveler, Shialli and Lilithna, and then once again back to him, looking him over as she waved her hands in graceful mystical movements, her wings fluttering. He felt the touch of her power, lending him strength and protection, and saw the shine of it surround the others as well.
“Mount up!” Lord Toran called as they reached the end of the dock. It seemed like a mass of confusion to the young adventurer as the others summoned their mounts at the bottom of the seaside cliff, facing a path winding up off to the right.
Rakhanar pulled his whistle from the pouch at his side and put it to his lips. As the tone faded, Wildstreak appeared before him, sparkling through the ether. The golden unicorn whickered softly in greeting, ears up, and looked around before kneeling to allow Rakhanar to mount.
Although it sounded like a neigh to the others, what Rakh heard in his head was not. You made some friends! Good! A couple of mar… females, even…
Then Wildstreak focused on the black-robed Lilithna, who had at that moment deigned to glance in Rakhanar’s direction, one brow flicking up at his unusual mount. Oh, wait …
“Move out!” Lord Toran ordered, and the group started up the wide dirt path, curving back up to the left as they approached the top of the cliff. There, the view opened out onto a wide rolling savannah, prowling with exotic creatures of all kinds. They crossed the rolling hills swiftly, Shialli leading the way in her dark armor, blades crackling with purple lightning at her hips, her beloved Lilithna riding at her side and slightly behind her, layered black robes flowing around her like the wings of a raven. Lord Toran rode next, his blue-black bald pate shining in the sun, and the Traveler, surprisingly, ran beside him on foot. Beside Rakhanar, Priestess Evaine rode a fae pony, darting along with her wings vibrating in the wind.
Rakhanar could hear Wildstreak’s voice in his head over the sound of pounding hooves as the group galloped across the savannah toward a ridge of towering mountains in the distance. Rakh… That one, the female in the black, with the white hair. Be careful. Who are these people?
He focused his gaze on a spot between Wild’s soft tufted ears and sent his thoughts to his friend as he’d been taught.
I was hoping you could tell me. At least, what two of them are. The bald one… His name is Lord Banedon Toran. That female that makes you nervous? Lady Lilithna. Believe me, she puts me on edge too. The blond female is Shialli. I know she’s elven at least by half. The hooded man appears to be human and is called the Traveler. I’ve got him covered. The fae is our healer, the Priestess Evaine. She doesn’t worry me, she’s a good soul.
Rakhanar paused to get his bearings and look up at the wide expanse of sky, streaked with clouds that gleamed golden in the late afternoon sunlight. Unused to the gauntlets, he twisted a hank of Wild’s mane to strengthen his grip and focused again. Tell me about Lilithna. Red eyes? What in the world is she?
Wildstreak’s voice came to him as an urgent whisper, even though they both knew no one else could hear them. She’s a Freeblood, Rakh. They feed on the blood of others. Don’t let her corner you or get you alone.
Rakhanar couldn’t keep from grimacing, hearing this. And Lord Toran?
He’s an Erudite. They can go either way, to the dark or the Light, but they tend to have a certain obsession with magical power. How did you come to be with these people?
Rakhanar answered, focusing his thoughts, trying not to move his lips. Lord Toran invited me to join his guild, the Elements. They’re adventurers and crafters, and yes, they report to Lord Toran with whatever objects of power they find for his research.
At this point, the group came to the opening of a hidden ravine at the edge of the mountain range. Lord Toran raised a hand, calling for stealth, and the others dismounted and dismissed their mounts.
Wild, I have to go on alone from here… Thank you. Rakhanar bit his lip and gave the unicorn a pat.
Glad to help, Rakh! The unicorn fell silent as Rakhanar slid to the ground beside him, then added in a very serious tone, Be careful. Very.
Fae sparkles enveloped the unicorn and he disappeared into the ether, off to green pastures in the bright lands of Faydwer.
Rakhanar’s heart was still pounding and now the red began to creep into his vision. He was wearing a helm imbued with an invisibility spell so that it would offer protection but not impede his sight. It was a strange sensation – he could feel it, the sense of being contained, and he could hear his own breath loud in his ears, yet it looked like he wasn’t wearing one at all.
When he pulled his sword from his back, a shiver of ice went down his back with the metallic slicing sound. He followed as Shialli led the group in staggered twos along the path which was shadowed by cliffs that blocked the afternoon sun. It was not long before the path opened up into a valley where the orcs’ camp could be seen. Vague human shapes moved around the gathering of tents and the smell of smoke from cooking fires drifted toward them.
Suddenly it hit him. He was here to kill. Although he had spent his sixteen years fighting his rage, he had never actually hurt anyone. He had never killed anything before, much less a humanoid. Although he knew these beings were created for war, incapable of empathy and love, and that they needed to be destroyed, he felt a strange twist in his heart. There was a line here that he was going to cross that would change him forever.
There was no time to think further. Shialli charged across the open space, whipping her purple-gleaming blades out and screaming in blood lust, a war cry that ripped through him, driving any thought of mercy from his mind. He broke into a run, suddenly eager, watching her as she dove into the middle of a converging group of orcs, spinning and slicing, white blond hair flashing in the last rays of sunlight. They grunted and roared and died on her blades in a heartbeat.
Bolts of fire blazed across his sight as Lord Toran jumped into the fray. His black hands flickered in arcane summonings as he murmured in the tongue of the elementals who served him. The orcs went down in waves, fire crackling around them, their armor melted.
Red pulsed in his vision like a heartbeat and Rakhanar nearly forgot his charge, the fae priestess he had committed to protect. He heard her singsong chant of healing behind him, light tones piercing through the grunts and groans and cries of pain of the battle, and resisted the urge to charge forward, forcing himself to stay by her side.
And then it happened. One big orc, very big, broke through and charged, howling, his mace held over his head for a devastating downstroke, toward the tiny fae whose healing power made this group of six nearly invulnerable. Rakhanar intercepted, swinging his sword with all his might, grunting through clenched teeth.
The orc turned his head toward him, red piggish eyes gleaming over yellowed tusks in mindless rage, but it was too late. Rakhanar’s wild swing sliced up under his arm into his shoulder and up, cleaving him nearly in half. Time seemed to slow and Rakhanar caught the look of surprise on his face, disbelief in its hateful gaze. The orc gurgled strangely but didn’t even have time to scream before the life left his eyes.
Suddenly Rakhanar was drenched in blood. It splashed over his arms, his chest; the metallic smell was in his nostrils, suffocating. He kicked up to the orc’s middle and yanked his sword from its chest, dropping the lifeless corpse. His stomach twisted in disgust as he stared, panting, down at the wrecked mess that had once been a living being, but at the same time he was filled with elation.
Victory. He had made his first kill.
And he was alive.
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Wizard of Wildfire & Shadow Walker Wordsmith ((a/k/a The Real Me ))