The fleet footed ranger ran at a pace that only Revan could keep up with. They had left the forest, moving southward, following the trail of two orcs, running for their lives. The brutes had surprising stamina for orcs, but Eliwood knew they were gaining. The sun was already dropping into the horizon. He managed a look back and saw Averros running behind him some twenty yards back and behind him a little ways were Rowina and the injured Darralon. He smiled at the youths determination. He motioned slowed the pace greatly and motioned for Revan to do the same. He kept the other three together while he and Revan scouted ahead.
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Soon the terrain became rocky and he could see ahead that there was a drop off. The ranger veered to the left where there was a little used path, the ground slowly changed in elevation and he knew he made the right choice when he saw boot prints leading the way. They slowed down and Eliwood drew his elven cloak about him, blending into the rocky wall. The ranger looked behind him and saw Revan almost vanish into the shadows with an ease that scared him.
He took a deep breath and followed the cliff face left, soon a decrepit looking mansion came into view. Once it had been a home of luxury, a secret getaway for some noble far away from any city or town. Now it was run down, the paint was all but gone and the wood rotten. Strangely the doors and windows were in fine shape the ranger noticed. It seemed a fitting place for scum to gather.
The ranger mage looked to Revan, or where he thought Revan was. There was nothing but shadows and silence. His heart began to beat faster as the thought of being alone with a drow he couldn’t quite fully trust crept into his mind. How easily would it be for the dark elf to stab him in the back with one of those wicked curved daggers?
He breathed easier as the drow stepped out of the shadows briefly. The ranger shook his cloak off a little bit and motioned for the drow to go back the way they came with the others. The drow shrugged and disappeared again as easily as he stepped out from the shadows the first time. An unintentional shiver went down his spine.
Corellon, what was so dangerous about him? His skill with those daggers? His deadly speed? No, it was his apathy the ranger mage decided. It was as if he were merely playing a game, one that he had already won and was just going through the motions before his inevitable victory. His calculating nature was unnerving.
He heard his friends coming way before he saw them. Of course the two drow made no noise, but Darralon and Averros were bumbling fools to his trained ears. Though to a human, he reckoned their footfalls would sound like the whispering wind. Soon they came into view, Revan leading the way with Rowina and Darralon behind him and Averros in the rear.
Knowing being quiet was most likely not going to work with so many, especially because they didn’t want to split up, they had to come in fast and bold. It was going to get loud.
They snuck around to the front of the house. Revan checked the door for any traps, and picked the lock before anyone said anything. Once he was satisfied with everyone’s position and the order in which they would run in, he nodded to Averros who moved up and kicked the door in with a resounding smash.
Eliwood and Revan led the way, the ranger mage going left, his bow knocked and scanning fast. Revan moved equally quick, rolling to the right with his kukri fanned out before him, eyes everywhere at once. In next came Averros, Darralon, and Rowina, all back to back in a spinning triangle of blades and spell power.
The house was silent and dark, but that bothered none of the elves; who could all see in the dark equally well. Revan almost craved it, and became a shadow himself. No one heard anything but their own breathing, nothing attacked them and no monsters jumped out. In front of Revan were two double doors, one broken off its rotting hinges and revealing a dusty hardly used kitchen.
Eliwood scanned a sparsely furnished living room, scanning for hiding places. His bow followed his trained eyes wherever they went, up the staircase in the middle of the room and to the balcony. His eyes didn’t see anything, but his instincts told him they weren’t alone. A look back at his friends told them they felt it too, and they were wary indeed.
A hushed voice broke the silence, “Suppose this really is just an abandoned-“
A cascade of noise interrupted the young Darralon as a shadowy figure jumped up from the balcony and landed on the rail, sliding down at incredible speed. Just as fast, the ranger let fly an arrow, but the sneak thief had already made his move and the arrow whizzed by him.
Two familiar muscular orcs crashed through the kitchen towards Revan and a devilishly handsome human stepped forth from the shadows, underneath the stairs in a secret cubby hole. He wore black chainmail and held a wicked long sword in one hand and a dirk in the other. But the groan that escaped Eliwood’s lips was caused as he heard another noise, chanting coming from behind one of the couches. He hated having to fight his way to an enemy spell caster. It was clear that was exactly what he would have to do.
With a burst of psionic energy, Revan felt the familiar power of adrenaline coursing through him, granting him incredible strength and speed. A red cutlass came towards him with a brutal but simple stab. Simple would not kill a trained drow; Revan ducked and rolled, coming towards the other orc who held a dull and heavy sword.
One kukri parried the sword and the other dug deep into Clarg’s armpit. The drow warrior spun to his left, keeping the this orc between himself and the one with the red cutlass. He heard a whoosh of air behind him as Narl swung and missed.
Clarg cried out in pain and tried to backhand the drow with his free hand, spinning to face the quick dark elf. Revan ducked and continued his spin but stopped abruptly and changed directions. The slower and injured orc tried to keep up but couldn’t, Revan’s kukri found two places in the orcs stomach. He kicked the dying opponent away and Narl shoved the useless orc away, his rage mounting.
Eliwood launched himself backwards and rolled away, regrouping with the three elves who were back to back to back. He came up and fired an arrow at the pursuing human, blood in his eyes. The ranger mage blinked in surprise as the man jerked to the left and his blade deflected the arrow to the side.
Cursing his luck he drew another spell imbued arrow and fired it behind the man at the couch he guessed the mage to be. It disintegrated in midair and became a pea sized ball of flame, expanding exponentially. And then, nothing, Darien smiled and rushed towards him in response. Before he could get very close, Darralon and Averros intercepted him, both leading with a spell. A blast of flame erupted from Averros’s free hand causing the evil cavalier to screech and fall back. Darralon blew a puff of air that quickly turned into a missile. Darien managed to dodge aside at the last instant surprisingly. The two Bladesingers stood together and Eliwood silently thanked them.
Just as the ranger looked at the back of the room the mage popped up and slung blue unerring missiles at him. Eliwood grunted in pain and fired an arrow in the general direction, making the hawk nosed caster duck back down again.
Gritting his teeth he quickly took a look to his right and saw Rowina spinning and weaving with two short elven blades holding her own against the one who had been hiding on the balcony. He risked firing a shot and returned his gaze to the mage.
Jul-rinn gasped as an arrow streaked by and cut across his shoulder. The female leaped at the distraction and went into a dizzying attack routine. Using his uninjured arm he weaved his large knife, parrying twice and ducking two other attacks that came much too close to his liking. He was bleeding in half a dozen spots, small wounds but it would soon take a toll. He had given his fair share but the damned bitch was a priestess, and was singing a prayer of healing even now.
A bolt of lightning coming from behind him to his right made everyone in the room freeze for a moment, the flash ruining everyone’s vision. He took the chance to kick the slut in the chest and reached into his pocket for a small pearl. The action stung profoundly but he kept his blade at the ready just in case.
As everyone regained their posture Jul-rinn grinned and threw it on the floor, causing a tremendously bright light to flare into existence. Everyone cried out and he crashed his way back up the stairs. Valmont could take care of this himself if he wanted, but it was not worth what he was getting paid to be killed.
Darien laughed manically as he twirled his blades, crisscrossing them back and forth, up and down. He spun counter clockwise ignoring a feint and dodging the real attack while his long blade parried an attack from Darralon, bringing the strike out wide. A kick sent the half elf flying, his gleaming sword lost from his grip.
Averros raised his hand and a sprout of flame shot at the evil man who stumbled back in surprise with a curse. The Bladesinger jumped forward and seized the opportunity, slashing and slicing viciously. He scored two hits, one across his foe’s chest drawing sparks and another across his lower abdomen.
Crying out in righteous fury, the man stabbed with his long blade. Averros came from above and brought his foe’s blade down, even as the human stepped in close. His instincts cried out to get away as the devious man brought his dirk low. With his free hand the elf grabbed the cavaliers bicep to keep his from finishing the stroke but it was too late.
The world seemed to freeze for the Bladesinger as the dirk sunk into his side, piercing his lung. He saw Darralon rush towards him unarmed, but he was so slow. He was barely even moving. The human twisted his knife before he wrenched it free and Averros fell to the ground. His last thought was only of Darralon, frozen in time rushing at him but never to reach him.
Eliwood could only hear the scream of denial but couldn’t let it distract him. A third lightning bolt raced towards him and he held his hands out before him, fingers rapidly moving through the motions of a counter spell. He hooked his foot underneath his bow which lay discarded on the floor, waiting for the right moment.
He heard the mage, who had stopped hiding curse and start another spell. Eliwood didn’t pause, renewing his spell shield and was rewarded as a bolt of ice streaked towards him and shattered.
Knowing his opponent would try a stronger spell that his shield wouldn’t hold up against, Eliwood listened carefully, tuning out all other sounds of combat and clashing steel. He heard the mage renew his own spell shield but not his invisible shield that prevented physical attacks. The mage went straight into a powerful offensive spell, one the ranger mage recognized would tear through his feeble defenses.
Hoping his foe would be too slow to react, he kicked his boot up sending his bow into the air. His left hand was already waiting to catch it even as his right reached for an arrow. He saw the hawk nosed mage’s eyes widen even as he continued casting his spell, unable to stop. Time seemed to slow down for Eliwood as he brought his hand back with an arrow. His hands ever so slowly came closer and closer. As soon as his arrow hit the bow things sped back up impossibly fast. The ranger pulled back and let it fly.
His aim was true and it soared straight at the mage, hitting his square in the chest and the arcane power died on his lips. He brought his hands to his chest, disbelieving it even as he fell over.