“Rastain!!” Saleena cheered and quickly blushed as she realized that she must have sounded like an enamored school girl. She grabbed Kiera and pulled her toward the other side of the village center.
“Come on, follow me.” Saleena yelled as she raced through the village center. Kiera shrugged and followed, it didn’t matter to her which side of the center she died on.
Saleena was overjoyed to see Rastain, more so then she would have liked to admit. She felt as if suddenly everything was ok, his presence alone ensuring their survival. She scolded herself mentally though, she needed to remain focused.
“Quickly. Head up the hill toward the portal and get everyone through it…” Rastain turned to Saleena as she stood at his side fighting off the Uttar. He needed everyone in the portal no exceptions.
“That means you too.”
Saleena heard the commanding tone in his voice and instantly her anger rose, she was not a farm girl to be ordered about.
“I’m staying here. You need my help.” She answered in between slashes of her sword and bashing of her shield against any Uttar that managed to get past Rastain’s barrage of steel and Sid’s fury of fangs.
“In the portal… Azzorrian can only maintain it for so long.” Rastain looked over his shoulder noticing that Nadja was ushering the villagers through the portal as they fought off the Uttar.
“I’ll go through when you do.” She grunted as another Uttar slammed her to the ground. Kiera responded faster then Rastain could by kicking the Uttar off of Saleena. The Uttar sprang to his feet and leapt towards Kiera. She expertly sidestepped and parried off the creatures attack.
Rastain was getting annoyed now he couldn’t concentrate on protecting them and fending off the Uttar at the same time. He picked Saleena up and pushed her toward the portal.
“Go!!” He fended off another attack while ducking to avoid forge’s wide arched swing of his axe.
“Forge?” Rastain looked at the dwarf exasperated. Forge merely laughed and charged forward into the nearest group of Uttar.
“Yer quick on yer feet lad… What you whining about?” The dwarf shouted in response as he severed limbs off of several Uttar at once.
“I told you I’m staying.” Saleena’s voice was edged with steel. She couldn’t understand his over protectiveness, she was a trained warrior and able to handle herself in battle. Why could he not see that? She turned to see her mother standing next to her struggling to fend off one of the creatures. The creature had flesh and blood dripping off its fangs and face. It had just recently finished devouring the remains of one of its fallen comrades. Driven by a crazed bloodlust the creature was relentlessly gaining an advantage on the older woman. Saleena intercepted the creatures lunge with a shield bash to its face. The stunned creature slumped to the ground shaking its head. Saleena pounced upon the stunned creature like a cat would a mouse, severing its head open with one swift blow.
She then turned to help her mother.
“Mother, get through the portal.” She turned to see Rastain looking at her. He said nothing but the look in his eyes said it all. He wanted her to take her own advice and go through the portal as well.
Nadja noticed the unspoken battle of wills between the two and decided it was time to intervene. Her daughter could be stubborn at times and if she felt she needed to make a point she was even more so. Nadja let her left leg start to drag and grunted in mock pain. Saleena instantly noticed.
“Are you ok?” Her voice softened with worry. She looked around frantically for help.
“Kiera! Help my mother to the portal.” Saleena shouted. Kiera turned and was instantly hard pressed as two Uttar attacked her. She slipped upon the blood drenched ground, letting out a yelp of pain as one of Uttar sliced open her side. Rastain was at her side in an instant fending of the attacking Uttar. He whistled attempting to call Sid to his side. The large black wolf responding instantly raced to his master side. Sid stood protectively over Kiera defending her as she pulled her self up. She was bleeding profusely barely able to stand. Rastain lifted her up in his arms and ran toward the portal. He glanced at Saleena and Nadja, hoping the stubborn female warrior would listen to him this time.
Forge noticed Rastain running toward the portal carrying the wounded woman. Most of the villagers were safely through the portal, with the exception of themselves and a few others. Forge ran over to Nadja and Saleena. The dwarf grabbed them both and started pulling them toward the portal.
“Hey… I’m not leaving till Rastain does.” Saleena pulled away from him.
“Yes you are.” Forge grabbed her and dragged her toward the portal. He wasn’t about to argue with the crazy woman.
“Listen… I don’t know who you think you are.” Saleena was interrupted as Forge pushed her through the portal.
“Shut up.” He turned to see Nadja standing behind him. She bent down and gave the dwarf a kiss on the cheek.
“Thank you, my daughter can be stubborn at times.” She smiled and walked through the portal. Forge stood there for a moment blushing and looking at his feet before he realized the Uttar were still advancing up the hill.
Rastain had given the wounded Kiera over to the priest who was struggling to get her to the portal. Forge charged forward smashing into the front lines of the Uttar that Rastain had been fending off, knocking them back. A loud piercing howl echoed across the valley followed by a series of shrieks and guttural sounding grunts. The Uttar stopped attacking and backed off a bit surrounding them and the portal completely.
“Now what?” Forge panted as he stood next to Rastain.
“I don’t know but go through the portal with those two now. The priest is past exhaustion and needs your help.” The steel in Rastain’s voice told Forge that he was expecting the worse. Forge nodded and ran over to the priest and the wounded Kiera.
“Come on lad, let’s go.” Forge grunted as he lifted the unconscious Kiera, the battle fatigue was setting in faster then he had anticipated. Icardan nodded and stepped through the portal followed by Forge.
Sid stood at Rastain’s side his fur bristling and fangs dripping with saliva. The large wolf was filled with rage and fury that needed to be unleashed. Rastain looked down at his life long companion.
“Go and protect them.” He stood with his swords drawn watching the Uttar that surrounded them. Sid looked up whining, the wolf wasn’t about to abandon his master.
“Go now!” The emotional strain was evident in Rastain’s voice, he didn’t want Sid to leave but he had no choice. Sid dropped his ears and tucked his tail in as he whined and stepped through the portal.
Azzorrian stood entranced, sweat pouring down his face as he strained to keep the portal open. He had pushed beyond his limits and abilities to maintain the portal. The sheer power of his will alone was sustaining him. Paligar and the rest stood at his side looking through the portal. They saw Rastain standing there waiting encircled by the Uttar with his back to the portal.
“What’s he doing? Why doesn’t he just run through the portal?” Saleena asked. She wanted to dash through the portal and physically drag him back through.
“I’m going back.” She grabbed her sword and shield and headed to the portal. Icardan stopped her. The priest’s complexion was pale and ashen. He was exhausted and barley able to stand.
“You can’t, the strain on the mage is great, if you go through he won’t be able to maintain the portal. I have already cast a power tab between him and myself, but I’m afraid that I am weak and have little power to help him. He’s holding it open by sheer will right now.” His voice weakened as he collapsed to the floor. Nadja ran over and helped him to stand. She looked at her daughter the steel in her eyes burned like a raging fire.
“Stop it Saleena. You will make his sacrifice mean nothing.” She turned and headed into the kitchen toward the tunnels. Forge sighed and gently turned Saleena away from the portal.
“Come on Lass, at least get to safety. Do that much for him.”
Azzorrian screamed as the last of his power faded. He slumped to the floor his vision fading as the last bit of strength left him, his will giving out under the immense strain.
“I’m… sorry….” The words slipped out as he faded into the black numbness of unconsciousness
Tears rolled down her face as she slumped to the floor. She saw Rastain look over his shoulder one last time as the portal began to close. He turned and dashed toward the portal as it shimmered out and closed. The room went dark and cold as Saleena felt her heart shatter open. The portal had closed and its light faded, leaving her in complete darkness.
“RASTAIN!!!!!” she screamed as she slumped forward sobbing.
Excerpt from “Ancient Darkness” – Available anywhere books are sold.