Chapter 17:  Dark City

 

 

 

Riven

 

Mathiu Racnarth let out a curse in surprise at the incredible din, a level of noise that could only have been rivaled in the days before the fall of Avalon… before the fall of this dark city into madness.

Beside the young native of Riven stood Kayla Narube. Both of them were holed up in a tiny and broken-down apartment building in the downtown area of the huge city; had been for several days. Mathiu’s thin mouth drew up in a smirk as he thought of the close the fact that they’d been sharing very close quarters quite a while now. Surely soon she’d open up to him, would be drawn to his inherent studliness…

Mathiu thought he was quite good looking, and didn’t mind telling what few friends he had left just that. He was about 5’11”, with blonde hair that stretched down his back in a simple ponytail, hair complemented by the lemony yellow of his eyes. He was rather slender in build, but what muscle mass he had was extremely well-toned; he’d had an entire lifetime to work out, after all.

And so, of course, he was in love with Kayla, who he’d been partnered with all his life… ever since the Fall. She was about 5’9”, with truly enticing indigo eyes and a mane of fine red hair that fell down her back. Also, as Mathiu made sure to tell his friends whenever he saw them - which wasn’t often, these days - she had a very nice figure, as well.

Mathiu and Kayla were two of the Hunters that had never been off-planet before… the final generation of the clan, as some pessimistic people were beginning to say. Of course, every day that passed since the Fall of 18 years ago made their views less and less deluded fantasy, and more realistic.

Mathiu himself was only 17, born in the catastrophic years right after the fall… and he had to try to keep an optimistic point of view. Certainly, the world was hellish right now… but it couldn’t remain that way forever, could it?

“What was that, Matt?” Kayla asked, her hand unconsciously moving towards her weapon, a long sonicpike. Basically, when the power supply was turned on, it generated a small blanket of sound around the bladed area so high-pitched that it ripped apart whatever it came in contact with.

“I’m not really sure.” Mathiu’s own hand felt the need for the reassuring weight of his weapon of choice, a heavy mace made with an incredibly strong metal alloy tipped with magically-enhanced spikes. “But it didn’t sound good… the Farilii could be acting up again, looking for Hunters.”

Eighteen years ago, just before either of the two had been born, what the elders of the Rivenites referred to as the Great Fall occurred. According to what they’d been taught their entire lives, the Hunters were dedicated to the destruction of the lavoid race - to the destruction of that race of biological weaponry - and as one could expect, one did not make many friends in such a quest.

The reports were somewhat sketchy among survivors, but apparently a great enemy descended upon Riven all those years ago, and in great numbers. They had killed many upon their arrival, with weapons of Chaos and… Lavoid Energy.

This great army had been called the Shi Kari, an army of Farilii.

Farilii. The word made Mathiu want to curse, made his hands ache to kill. Put quite basically, farilii were the traitors of humanity… traitors to the entire Multiverse, really. Once in a great while, the lavoid race would meet resistance on a planet, or attempt to land upon one with the technology to stop it. When such a situation came up, it was the Farilii that won the day for the lavoids.

The Farilii were, in short, beings that had once been human. They had begun their lives just like any other human, had begun with the same advantages and disadvantages of any other member of their race. However, at some point, these humans had fallen in the way of a member of the lavoid race. Rather than running in terror, rather than simply dying, these people had fallen down and worshipped the dark, fiery beings as gods. They had forgotten their planets, had lost concern for the fates of billions, all in the pursuit of this religion. Of course, Mathiu had heard the elders whisper words that perhaps not all of the farilii had come willingly to the slaughter, that perhaps some had resisted in the beginning. Mathiu couldn’t care less about such an opinion. The end result remained the same, due to one simple fact.

The lavoids had early on decided that these mad worshippers needed some sort of reward - or perhaps merely something to ensure their loyalty - if they were to truly serve the lavoid race. They were granted a small amount of lavoid energy, of the chaotic energy that ran through every member of the race. This changed their appearance, and their abilities greatly. They came to resemble the lavoids themselves, their skin changing in hue to a pale blue. Every bit of their hair would fall out, only to be replaced by stubbed, dull spikes that sprouted from their head, and all down their back.

And they traveled the Multiverse in huge fleets, seeking only to bolster the lavoid cause wherever they went. The greatest of these fleets was known as the Shi Kari… it was rumored that they came from the Earth itself, from the origin point of the sick race, and that some members had even been among the creators of the lavoids, so many thousands of years ago.

And they had come to Riven, on a night eighteen years ago, a night that would be remembered forever by those that had lived through it as a night of fire, despair, and death.

Mostly death. Over half the world’s population lay dead now, half the population of a world made up of the descendants of lavoid killers dead.

The Hunters had been forced to take on a new goal after that night, those that remained. They could no longer afford to explore the galaxy, seeking to destroy the avatars of the lavoid race. They had to deal with the home threat, with the Shi Kari army.

That was the only life that Mathiu and Kayla had ever known, and one they wished would end soon. But there was no end in sight, only a hopeless road that led ultimately to death. It had long since become obvious that the farilii would settle for no less, that they would never leave the planet until every man, woman and child upon it lay dead.

They were succeeding in their task. Even with the only marginal bit of lavoid energy bound up within their bodies, the farilii were next-to-impossible to kill, and quick to heal, should they have ever been left alive. It took an experienced Hunter and impressive mage to even be able to hurt them, and someone who could tap the vast energy of Chaos to truly kill more than one or two of them.

Mathiu and Kayla were two such people, and though they were young, their mastery of spellcraft was impressive. Both were ranked A+ in what was left of the Hunter hierarchy, and would have probably been high-ranking military officials had the situation been anything but what it was.

“Whatever that noise was, it’s something big. We’ve definitely got to check it out.” Kayla said, rising to peek around a heavy curtain out of the window of their small room. She was amazed at what she saw, even as obscured as it was from their height; they were probably on somewhere around the fifteenth floor of the building, which was a bit too close to the Black Tower for her comfort.

Mathiu noticed her reaction. “What’s out there? Farilii again?” Though the dark beings of the Shi Kari Fleet were all over Avalon, they typically kept to their underground bases, and the Black Tower located near the center of town, unless drawn out for an attack.

“No… it’s really strange. It looks like a ship crashed out there… and its actually mostly intact.”

That comment drew a widening of Mathiu’s eyes. That a ship had made it down here was nothing short of incredible, given the Black Tower. They’d actually tried to call in for assistance years before, on their rapidly failing equipment, but all attempts on the parts of others to respond to those calls were met with death in the form of the Energy Star of the Black Tower.

Early in the Farilii genocide campaign, it had been set up in the center of town, as an apparent base of operations. This had made it quite the target, as various ways were though up to attack. It wasn’t like the Tower was well-defended: far from it. In fact, Mathiu had never actually seen a guard posted outside of the huge building.

Thing was, it didn’t need guards. There was some sort of matter displacement shield that completely encircled the building, so that whenever anything came within a certain distance of it, it was simply teleported through to the other side as if the bit of space the Tower occupied didn’t exist at all.

At first, some had even gone so far as to say that the Tower must have been illusionary, for such technology had never been seen before. But when the first ships had attempted to leave Riven to gain some form of help, the tangibility of the building became quite apparent. It was apparently not just an impenetrable headquarters to the Shi Kari leaders, but a massive energy cannon, that spit out a ball of laser energy that could track a target’s location, and was apparently completely controllable to the Farilii themselves.

“What does the ship look like? Biological in make?” Mathiu was cautious, worried that perhaps this ship was part of the farilii fleet.

Kayla shook her head. “No way. It’s obviously human in make… and besides which, it’s pretty beat up. I doubt any Farilii ship would have been allowed to crash like this.”

Mathiu never ceased to be astounded at how easily Kayla could read his thoughts. Of course, given her skill in psionics, he wasn’t all that surprised. She had no small amount of ability as a telepath, though she -thankfully, given the young Hunter’s thoughts about her - had the decency and courtesy not to probe past one’s surface thoughts, which seemed almost to push themselves into her mind.

“Geez… if someone got past the Energy Star, I’d guess it’s someone we need to know… but the farilii are bound to come out soon, from the amount of racket they made getting here.” Indeed, it seemed likely that the noise of but a few minutes ago had been heard over the entire downtown area of the city, which stretched out over a sixty mile radius.

“All the more reason for us to hurry up. If there’s anyone alive down there, we’ve definitely got to help them out. After all, they must’ve come to help us.”

Mathiu smirked a bit, allowing himself a small bit of amusement at Kayla’s tendency to assume things. “Optimist to the core, eh, Kayla? It’s possible they were just passing through here, and got caught by the Energy Star.”

Kayla crossed her arms, shouldering her Sonicpike with one hand as she did. “Even if they were ‘just passing through’ like you say, anyone who could evade the thing is powerful, or at least the best pilot I’ve ever heard of. We owe it to Riven to help preserve such power, and turn it against the Farilii.”

“Hey, you don’t have to convince me.” Mathiu said, smoothing out his black combat uniform with one hand as he picked up his mace. “I’m just trying to be realistic, here. Shall we be off?”

.

Darrell awoke to the thrumming of an incredibly painful headache, and the feel of something sticky on his forehead. He forced his eyes open, confused at the feelings, and tried to force himself to sit up. He managed it, though he was incredibly stiff, and his eyes told him all that he had forgotten in his dazed state.

The ship had crashed. There was no question of that. He sat still within the wreckage of it. That was a thankful truth, for the very metal plating that covered the ship had been ripped open in places by the force of their fall. His head, covered in blood from a glancing blow that had apparently been dealt to it upon impact, had hit the wall just near such a tear. He looked at it, eyes wide. It was just big enough to have let his head through… just barely. He probably would have been decapitated if he had gone through that.

A sudden thought occurring to him, the young man turned his eyes frantically back inward to the rest of the ship, where he was relieved to see his other friends, though unconscious, relatively unharmed.

Pulling himself up in the rubble-covered area proved to be no easy task, as his vision blurred before him, but he forced a few steps over to Cynewulf, and shook him a few times.

“Cyne… man, Cyne, wake up.” His words, spoken in a harsh whisper - Darrell wasn’t sure why, but this city they were now trapped in seemed to demand quiet - roused the large Seeker quickly, a fact apparent as the red optic sensor flared to life.

“Geez… what happened?” Cynewulf asked, pulling himself up with his cybernetic arm.

“We crashed into the city, somehow…. I’m not certain how in the Hell we’re still alive, though.”

Wanting to make sure of the truth of those words, Darrell quickly - as quickly as his light head allowed him - proceeded over to Terra, and shook her awake. She seemed completely unscathed as well, though a bit confused.

Cynewulf woke up Meryl with a similar amount of ease, and forced open the back door of the cabin, saying he wanted to scout around outside and see how bad the damage was. As he did, Darrell began picking through the rubble of metal and glass that covered the floor of the ship, looking desperately for something very important.

“What is it, Dar?” Terra asked, raising an eyebrow even as she glanced out into the Riven twilight. It would be dark soon, very soon.

“My book… the one Lucia gave me. I need to find that, and quick.”

Terra nodded, and considered helping the young man look, but a shout from Cyne drew her attention and Meryl’s to the back of the ship.

“Hey, guys! You’d better get out here, and quick!! There’s something strange headin’ this way!”

Terra grimaced and, after pulling secure her Kaiser Knuckles, looked down at Darrell pleadingly. “C’mon, Darrell. We can find your book in a minute. We need to see what’s going on outside.”

The young man shook his head resolutely. “I’ve got to find it now, Terra. I’ll be out in just a second, trust me.”

The young woman looked over at Meryl and shrugged - after giving Darrell a rather exasperated glance - and pulled herself through what was left of the cabin doorway. Meryl followed close behind.

Cynewulf, meanwhile, had already drawn out his TAG, though he deemed it wise to leave it unlit, at least for the moment. Just on the horizon, a lone being clad all in black was sprinting toward the ruins of the ship. The human eye would have been hard-pressed to have told much about it, but Cyne’s optic sensor showed him that the being was almost entirely blue, and had large spikes of skin on top of his head in place of hair.

All in all, the thing looked a bit like… a lavoid, but that had to be impossible. Lavoids had more of a presence, and almost radiated the Chaos energy that powered them. This thing was something different, almost certainly, and surely not as powerful.

But his TAG was held in a tightly clenched fist regardless.

As Meryl and Terra came out into the dim sunlight, the being reached them, stopping from its incredibly fast run so quickly that it almost seemed that inertia had no hold over it.

“Who… are you?” Cynewulf asked, hesitant over the use of the word ‘who’ to describe such a being.

The thing looked the large Seeker straight in the eye - it, too, was well over six feet tall - without the slightest amount of expression in its face.

“The same could be asked of you, human. I… we… are Shi Kari.”

“We?” Meryl said in a tone that was half question, half fear, and slowly began to pull her own TAG from its holster.

The being turned to regard her, its eyes a pure, un-pupilled white. “Yes. We are Shi Kari, and you are…” it hesitated for a moment, as if unsure of the word, “trespassers.”

“Woah… just a second, there. We’re here with Darrell Shanning… he’s a Hunter, like the rest of the Rivenites!” Cynewulf protested, holding up one hand.

The words, intended to pacify the strange being before them, had exactly the opposite effect. It flew into a rage, white eyes flashing with red energy and strange blue-colored hands clenching into fists that appeared as hard as steel.

“Hunters…. Blasphemers. The Hive Mind was correct. Your trespass is doubled. Death awaits on dark wings.” The being immediately flipped backwards, and threw his arms out before him before any of the three had time to react. “Fireball!”

There was no time to react as the huge globe of flame materialized from nothing and flew forward. It struck Cynewulf square in the chest, knocking him backwards and to the ground.

Meryl flipped her TAG to life before Cyne even hit, its blue glow shining dimly over the increasingly dark landscape. Cynewulf leapt back to his feet and did likewise with his finori-enhanced weapon, eyeing the lavoid look-alike warily.

Terra risked a quick glance back to the ship just behind them, wishing with all her might that Darrell would manage to find his stupid book.

“Magic, eh?” Cynewulf said, narrowing his one eyebrow. “Two can play at that game, you know. Firaga!!” the Seeker was thankful for the spell’s quick casting time, for the blue-skinned creature before them almost had time to dodge as the raging inferno spread out from the fingertips of his left hand. Cyne grinned widely as the flames raged over the spot where the being had stood.

A moment later his smile faded entirely; the creature walked out of the flames as if they were as incorporeal as air. He looked at the Seeker quizzically, as if he’d expected better, then lifted himself into the air without a bit of effort.

“The flames… most invigorating, human. I thank you.” His eyes flashed red, with that mysterious power again, and Cynewulf found himself backing up to the ship. “Source of all power, crimson fire burning bright.” The thing smirked, as if to say ‘this is how a fire spell works, Seeker.’. “Flare Arrow.” As he spoke, 8 thin arrows composed of flame appeared before him and were thrown down on the battlefield, most striking Cynewulf, but a few ramming into Meryl and Terra as well. The arrows burned and charred bits of their clothing, but didn’t do too much in the way of actual damage beyond a bit of soreness. This seemed to actually surprise the being, but the effect wore off within a moment. “Still standing? We’ll take this battle to a new level, then.”

With those words, the being spread his arms out parallel to his chest, and closed his eyes in concentration. Almost immediately, twin beams of fiery energy extended themselves from his wrists, completely covering his hands and coming to a point several feet down, like incorporeal swords.

The blue-skinned man then opened his eyes again, and flew forward at an incredible rate of speed towards Cynewulf, thrusting with his flaming sabers as he did. The huge Seeker managed to bring up his golden TAG to block, but the force behind the attack was staggering. Despite the enhanced strength his prosthesis offered, he was forced back several steps on impact.

Cursing slightly as he found his back nearing the ruined spaceship, Cyne broke off his defense of the initial attack and pulled himself sideways to avoid the follow-up of the fiery blade. He then lunged at the blue-skinned creature with his own blade, fully expecting the attack to be blocked.

It wasn’t. The golden beam went straight through the being’s chest, and out the other side. Black blood curled itself around the wound, instantly cauterized by the energy of Cyne’s sword.

After it seemed certain the thing was dead, Cyne pulled his TAG from its body, and watched it cautiously as it fell to the ground in a heap. After a few moments passed, the body lying deadly still, he bent down to examine it.

…And was immediately sent hurtling through the air for at least twenty feet when the creature brought one fist straight up to Cyne’s jaw. As Meryl and Terra tried to react, to do something besides stand there in shock, the being stood back up, as effortlessly as if it had never been struck. The gaping wound in its chest began to pull back together, black, slushy blood oozing all over the sore as though it were alive. Its eyes were lit with a red energy that gave the being’s entire body a bloody sheen.

“You fools. I am a Farilii! I cannot… will not be defeated so easily, not by you humans!! Burn and perish!” He drew back his fists, no longer covered in fire, and arose back into the air. “Flare lance!!!”

Meryl and Terra barely had time to blink before the huge line of fire formed over the farilii’s head, and certainly didn’t have the time to jump aside before it was cast downward between them, exploding into an inferno of destruction as it hit the hard pavement street.

The two were knocked to the ground by the resulting shockwave of energy, their clothes singed and their lungs filled with smoke. Cynewulf was trying to pull himself back up, but the fact that he’d hit his head when he’d landed made that task rather difficult.

The farilii smirked darkly, and prepared another spell, something to kill the humans that had so foolishly challenged his might.

“Ly briem!!!” another voice came in suddenly, from the door of the ruined ship. The blue-skinned being had but a moment to look to that spot, just in time to see a human with a book under one arm, a human whose other hand was spewing a wave of frozen air.

It struck him full on, and he found his body become stiff as ice surrounded it. He tried desperately to begin the words to a fire spell, to melt it, but by then the frost had covered his lips.

Darrell sighed deeply, and put his book in a pocket of a pouch he’d scavenged from the ship, trading it for his daggers. “Geez… are you guys okay?” he looked with concern at Meryl and Terra, who were just managing to pull themselves to their feet, portions of their clothing burned off by fire.

“Looks like we are now… nice save.” Cynewulf said, staggering over to Darrell with his hand holding the ship for support.

“What took you so long, anyway? That stupid book?” Terra brushed the bits of ash off of her pilot’s suit and looked at Darrell quizzically.

“Nah… I found that fairly quickly. I had to dress this, though.” The young man pointed at his forehead, which was wrapped in a bit of black cloth. “Hit it pretty bad when we crashed… and I’m still a little bit light-headed.”

Meryl turned back to regard the frozen form of the Farilii. “You know… it occurs to me that maybe we shouldn’t be having a chat right here. I would guess that the spell you cast a minute ago wasn’t lethal, Darrell.”

“Oh… crap.” Darrell looked over at the encased being with concern. “No, that spell wasn’t really meant to last very long, and…”

A million ice shards exploding outward cut off his next words, as the Farilii finally broke free of his bonds. Bits of frost covered his body, and his clothing was stiff and brittle. No one really noticed that, though; his eyes and hands were glowing with fire, and his face was twisted in a mask of pure rage and hatred.

“You… accursed… humans.” The thing breathed, clenching its fists ever tighter as it spoke. “I… will kill every one of you, right now.”

The blue-skinned being didn’t even bother to lift off again, just stood his ground with arms spread wide. “Source of all power, crimson fire burning bright! Gather together in my hand and become an inferno… BURST FLARE!!!!”

A small point of pure white light appeared in the midst of the group, and began to spread quickly outward, increasing very quickly in heat as it did. Darrell’s mouth fell open in disbelief as he realized that this would be more than enough to kill every one of them where they stood. ‘Grendel…’ he thought, closing his eyes. ‘Why now, just as I was beginning to get close to vengeance?’

Just as he prepared himself for oblivion - and the other three just began to notice the spell’s existence, which had began to spread out in a time span of about two seconds - an unfamiliar voice cut in. “Raywing!”

With the words, the young man’s eyes fluttered back open, and he found himself, along with the others, being rapidly pulled away from the inferno that was exploding below them. It took them up several hundred feet within a few seconds, until they could see the rooftops of the many empty towers that surrounded them. Just as Darrell found his mind beginning to adjust to the shock, found it beginning to wonder what on Earth had just happened, they were pulled towards one of those rooftops, and set down gently on its metallic top.

“What in the….” Cynewulf muttered, turning his TAG on in wariness. There was no one in sight, although they felt certain that the Farilii would change that soon enough.

They were wrong, at least to who would come to the rooftop first. A man and a woman in black fatigues of some sort floated into view from the opposite direction that Darrell and the others had come from. One held a heavy black mace with silver spikes, and the other was wielding some sort of strange spear.

Darrell fingered his daggers nervously as the two approached them, although they didn’t seem to be threatening… they certainly weren’t Farilii, at least.

“Might I say, bravo on the fight down there. Haven’t seen anyone put up that good a fight against the Shi Kari in a long while.” The young man - who was little more than a teenager, to Darrell’s eyes - said, nodding in respect.

“Who… are you?” Meryl asked immediately, ignoring the compliment.

The young blonde-haired man bowed his head in thought for a moment. “I’m Mathiu… Mathiu Racnarth.”

The young woman next to him spoke up at that point. “And I’m Kayla Narube… but we really shouldn’t speak here. The Farilii is coming closer… and I don’t think he’s alone.”

Mathiu cursed a bit at the comment. “Getting any sort of read on which one it is, Kayla?”

The young woman closed her eyes for a moment in concentration; the visitors to Riven wondered what in the world she was doing.

“I’m not certain, Matt… but the ones coming this way are at least Rank B, by their energy signatures.”

The teenage Hunter shook his head in frustration. “In other words, more than enough to take care of us… even with our newfound friends.” He turned to regard Darrell. “Look, we’ve got to get out of here, and fast. You know any sort of levitation spell?”

Darrell sighed. “I could probably figure something out, but my friends here probably don’t have much access to anything like that.”

“Crap… alright, new plan, then.” Mathiu turned his head over to the eastern area of the building, which was partially crumbled by the remains of another building that had fallen onto it. “I assume your friends have access to the ability of jumping, right?”

Terra cocked an eyebrow, worried and more than a bit angry. “You don’t have to be a smart-aleck about it. Oh, and we’re right here. You can feel free to ask us.”

The young Hunter completely ignored that comment, and thought over the layout of the city in his mind. “Okay, then… if we move over to that fallen skyscraper there, and move down it, we should be able to get to one of the vehicle storehouses.”

Kayla gave Mathiu a meaningful gaze. Words seemed to pass between the two, though Darrell and the others couldn’t hear anything. After a few moments, Matt sighed and shook his head.

“There’s nothing for it, Kayla. They would have found it eventually anyway. We’ll just blow it up on our way out.”

Just as Darrell opened his mouth to ask just why they should go along with a plan they knew nothing about, several rather large fireballs whizzed by, each just barely missing hitting someone.

As they whirled about, weapons grasped firmly before them, they saw no less than six Farilii float into view.

“Well, that’s enough conversation, I think.” Meryl said, and, without another word, took off running for the eastern wall. She was followed closely by Cynewulf, Terra, then Darrell and the two Rivenites.

The six managed to jump onto the ruined building with relative ease, though staying on it was another matter entirely. It was sloped at something like a fifty degree angle, so that the moment the feet hit the ground, they started sliding down the makeshift causeway, which spread out for nearly four hundred feet before reaching a rather painful-looking ground.

Kayla and Mathiu had few problems, due to a quickly cast and easily maintained spell to lighten their bodies - a spell that Cynewulf and Darrell quickly mimicked - but Terra and Meryl were forced to all but crawl from window to window, using them as impromptu foot holds as they slid downwards.

Behind them, the Farilii cackled in glee and cast various spells, most whizzing by without effect. This fact seemed rather strange to Darrell, and he asked Mathiu about it; as well as anyone can ask a question while half-sliding, half-running down the side of a building.

“They’re toying with us, it seems. It’s been a while since they saw more than two of us traveling together at once, and even longer since someone actually had a full-out magic duel with one. They’re trying to scare the crap out of us right now… and then they’ll knock us off the building.”

“Perhaps we should do something before that happens…” Darrell said between wheezing breaths, due to his subjection to such unexpected exertion. “Shell!” he threw his hands out behind him, and a faint green, hexagonal barrier could just be made out following his and his friends’ bodies.

Mathiu cocked an eyebrow as soon as he was able to look at Darrell again, jumping from one window ledge to another fully fifteen feet below it. “You think that’ll hold up once they really get serious? Waste of magic, if you ask me.”

“Then run faster.” Darrell returned, gritting his teeth as he scraped his shins for the hundredth time, sliding far too fast.

“How much farther do we have to go?” Terra asked once, when an uncomfortably powerful spell ripped out a chunk of building right next to her.

Kayla was the first to respond. “thirty… maybe forty yards.”

The young Zionite nodded in return, and set back to moving again, when a huge explosion ripped the ground out from under her feet. She screamed as she was knocked off of the building entirely, and began to fall to the ground, still over a hundred feet below.

“TERRA!!!!!!” Darrell screamed as she began to fall, trying to call upon some spell… any spell to save her.

And, for the first time since he’d learned he had it, the magic failed him.

No one else would have had time to react. Cynewulf couldn’t have made up some sort of spell in the scant heartbeat he’d been given to do so. Mathiu and Kayla were too far away to have immediately seen what had happened.

It had all been on Darrell; he’d been the closest, and should have known something, anything that could have saved her. But he hadn’t… he hadn’t… and it was the fault of these lavoid dogs. Always the fault of the lavoid race.

As she fell from view in the now dark city, Darrell turned to face the Farilii. Tears flowed from his eyes, but his face did not show the agony he had to be feeling. Rather, it was a mask of stone, cold… and cruel.

“Hurry up, all of you.” He said back to the others. “I’ll hold them off.”

Mathiu did a double-take. “Are you completely insane, man?! They’ll kill you in a heartbeat!”

Cynewulf tried to pull his way back up to Darrell, to force him to come with them, but he was too far up. “Dar, man… you can’t do this!! Terra… this won’t help her! She wouldn’t want this!!”

Darrell’s eyes narrowed to slits, and he bowed his head. “You couldn’t know that, Cynewulf. Go, now. I won’t ask again.”

Meryl cursed, and tried to pull her way up to the foolish young man, but was restrained by Kayla. “We have to go… or we’ll be dead, too.”

Still the Seeker and merchant tried to resist, only to be pulled back by Cynewulf. “I hate it, Meryl… but there’s no other choice. We’ve got to get out of here, or those Farilii will kill all of us.”

“I…I…” Meryl looked down at the ground, tears falling unchecked. “This isn’t right.”

“Hurry up, unless you have a death wish!!” Mathiu yelled loudly, running onward down the building at a magically-enhanced pace. Kayla, Meryl, and Cyne followed close behind, Cyne pausing to take one last glance back at Darrell as they went.

The young man stood there, obviously torn apart by what had just happened, his eyes glistening with tears and fire. Cynewulf sighed and shook his head, then turned back and followed after the others.

‘We’re all going to die here… in this dark, lavoid twisted city.’ His eyes glanced skyward, into a moonless night sky. ‘We’re all going to die.’

.

“ ‘Every man dies. Not every man truly lives.’

‘Not every man truly dies, either.’”- Gasper and Nanaki, The Death of Gasper.

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