Chapter 3: Ambush in the Night
I drew my recently scavenged weapon from its scabbard—the scabbard that the brothers had provided me during my recovery—and mentally prepared myself for what awaited me outside the tent. Members of the Dark Axe Brigade had definitely breached the invisible, magic barrier. The magic effects of the wall must have been compromised; the humans weren't supposed to see the elves, but the fact there was now a skirmish proved that somehow they had bypassed Dallo's security.
I carefully stepped over the slain man lying in the tent's entrance. What I saw beyond the opening made my heart sink. It appeared that literally dozens if not hundreds of torches lined the ranks of soldiers in the distance. I couldn't fathom how they had set upon us so fast nor how they had breached the magic barrier—I had thought its magical properties had been specifically engineered to prevent an event such as this.
My attention turned to the sound of swords clashing nearby, and I looked to see that Dallo was engaged with five men at once, concentration set hard upon his face. I was about to rush to his aid when three consecutive arrows found their ways into the backs of three of the soldiers. It was then that I saw Rallo sitting in a tree nearby, already nocking another arrow to his bow and aiming it at the next group of approaching individuals. I marveled at the ingenuity of the young elf, scaling the small tree and, from his perch, taking out the soldiers one by one as they approached.
I turned my gaze back to Dallo and watched in awe as he skillfully dispatched the two remaining foes, his sword a blur in the moonlight. His blade removed the right arm of the first man and actually decapitated the second. He wasted no time following that to run off to another group of soldiers while Rallo provided cover fire from the tree.
I searched the grounds of the camp for anything I might have missed, which is when I caught sight of a group of six men making their way for Lenoa's tent, spears at the ready. Without a second's thought for my own safety, I sprang into action.
They didn't seem to notice that I had come out of the darkened command tent, this fact affording me the element of surprise. I barreled through the lot of them, sword swinging, just before they could reach the tent's opening. The surprised looks on their faces from my sudden appearance were well-earned.
I knocked two of them down with my momentum, charging the first and he, in turn, falling upon the second. I whirled around at the other four, who were just not getting wind of what was happening to them. All of this had happened so quickly, that they still had looks of surprise on their faces—these soon turned to looks of anger. I had the sudden urge to chide myself for rushing into this mess, but, before my thoughts could process the proper mental scolding, the soldiers came at me.
I prepared to engage the closest one, when he suddenly shrieked in pain, clutching at this throat and staggering to the ground. An arrowhead had inexplicably sprouted from his Adam's apple. Another man to his right fell as well, grunting from the sudden pain afforded him by an arrow in his back. Up in Rallo's tree, the elf threw me a quick salute, and was afterward forced to turn his attention elsewhere as more men approached the camp from another direction.
I took the moment of confusion that Rallo had afforded me with his arrows to strike at the men still before me. The two on the ground were helping each other up, which I disapproved of. They were promptly forced back down as I leapt atop the both of them.
"Get 'im off 'a mah!" one of them shouted from beneath me, a little strained due to the weight of my right foot on his back. I dug my heels in harder, keeping them grounded and silent.
One of the two soldiers that was still standing gathered his wits about him and quickly jabbed at me with his spear. I didn't even have to think; I reacted on instinct. My shield was brought to the fore, and the pointed end of his weapon glanced uselessly off its curved surface, sliding past my right side. I immediately saw the opening in his defenses and I leaped from atop the prone soldiers and planted a speeding boot firmly in the man's face, which caused him to drop his spear and spin about with the momentum of my kick.
The other standing man thought to skewer me from the left side as I flew through the air, but my sword deflected his blow with ease. The man I had kicked in the face fell to the ground heavily, and his companion was getting ready to jab at me again. I ducked one jab, then sidestepped another. When he tried again, I hopped to one side, avoiding the point, then moved back in quickly, closer to the man than I had previously been. His spear would not work so well at such a close range to me. He only got one good, scared glance at the fighter's gleam in my eyes before my sword's hilt connected hard with his sternum, accompanied by a resounding crack. He fell in a heap at my feet, dropping his weapon and clutching his middle.
The others were beginning to rise again, and I saw them reach for their sheathed swords, knowing their spears would not do any good at such a close range to me.
Swordplay...this was a dance I knew only too well. My blade would be made to sing the song of death for those foolish enough to face me.
I took a moment to blink my eyes in wonder. Did I think like this every time I fought against someone or something? What kind of Knight was I?
My thoughts were interrupted the moment the soldiers rushed me, and I stepped forward to meet them with an almost-smile, realizing that this was the sort of thing that defined who I was...details of my past aside, I simply knew I was a fighter.
Eventually, the man that had been kicked in the face, bloody nosed and angry, joined the fight with his own blade. None of the men attacking me wore shields or bucklers of any kind, leaving them open to well-placed thrusts from my sword if they did not parry in time. My shield was a blur of motion along with my blade. Though my weapon's weight was a bit off from what I was used to, I still handled it just fine, and I was simply glad to have any old sword with me at the moment.
I was also glad to have my energy back. My injuries were healed, allowing me to move with efficiency and skill as I fought, much different from the frantic fight for my life against Brunor and his men not too long ago. I felt unstoppable as I slew two of the three attacking me, gritting my teeth at the sounds of their deaths, but enjoying the fight at the same time. I knew this was what I had been bred for, my knighthood having been granted me for good reason.
There now remained just one man, and though fearful from the death of his comrades, he wasn't giving up. I recognized him from his nose's blood smeared on his face as the man I had jump-kicked.
"A bit tenacious, aren't we?" I jested with a smirk.
He replied by attacking me, growling. He slashed at my ribcage with his longsword, but I knocked his arm hard with the edge of my shield before he could touch me, causing him to drop his weapon with a cry of pain. He backed off quickly then defiantly pulled out knives into both hands, but the look on his face was one of desperation, for there wasn't anything about my calculated, killing efficiency that could inspire confidence in him. He threw both blades simultaneously in my direction, but I easily dodged one while I shielded myself from the other. The man then took off at a run, done trying to best me one-on-one, but he only made it a few feet before another of Rallo's arrows found its place right between his shoulder blades. He shrieked, fell to the ground and then was still.
I had no idea how this could be the same Dark Axe Brigade that had fought the Elven Legion only a day before. All the elves had met such horrible fates, and, yet, the three of us were felling these men as if they were simple pawns in a game of chess: front line fodder. Where was the power that had decimated an entire army only a couple dozen hours before?
I looked back and saw that Lenoa had appeared at the entrance to her tent, eyes wide in shock at the unexpected skirmish. Her hair was still tied back as I had seen it earlier, revealing the entirety of her lovely features, which were pale but pleasant in the light of the moon. She was also wearing armor much like what the brothers had, but it was not as pronounced on her frame as their own. Strapped around her torso was a quiver of arrows and a bow, and on her belt was sheathed a short, curving blade.
"Impossible!" she exclaimed with a husky voice. "How did the humans breach Dallo's barrier?" One of the men I had fought caught her eye as he crawled away, this being the one whose sternum I had cracked. She gave the man a contemptuous look before stringing an arrow to her bow and ending his life with it. It somehow struck me as odd that one who had gone to great lengths to pull a person from the brink of death—me—could turn around and snuff out another's life just as easily.
I shuddered briefly at the thought, then said to her, "I'm at as much a loss as yourself right now; either the barrier did not work as advertised, or the Dark Axe Brigade has compromised it."
"The Dark Axe Brigade?" she queried, as if hearing the name for the first time. I managed to only blink at her, unsure how to explain to her that I didn't quite know myself how I knew that this was what the humans attacking us called themselves. When I didn't verify, she huffed, "Don't waste my time with useless information."
Well, excuse me, I thought bitterly to myself at her sudden scolding. The name didn't just come to me from nowhere. Ah, who was I playing for the fool? Of course, the name had essentially come from nowhere; how reliable was my memory at this time, truly? No, Lenoa just didn't know they were called that...odd that I did though.
Done with silently second guessing myself, I was again appraised of the skirmish when Lenoa was alerted to Dallo's situation. Though the tall elf had taken a few, serious hits, he was still going, now fending off three men that were armed with spears and short-swords. Above the clash of his sword against their own weapons, he yelled back at her, "Lenoa! Take the Hylian and flee!"
Lenoa looked at me again, standing in the moonlight, my blade soaked with the blood of the human soldiers I had slain. Evaluating my usefulness after giving her so-called "useless information", I thought bitingly, realizing now how patronizingly judgmental she could seem with just her looks alone, beautiful as she may be. I had slain men with relative ease, and their blood on the blade of my sword was testimony to this fact; of course I was useful!
"Stay here and help however you can," she commanded me at last. "I have to prep the horses; we are all getting out of here!" She yelled this last part pointedly to her wounded elf companion, though he was too busy running his large sword through a soldier to acknowledge her words.
As for myself, I could only nod as I watched her take off around the back of the command tent where the horses were apparently being kept. I had to break my gaze away from her retreating form. Her gracefulness and beauty tempted to captivate me for the moment, but our lives were at stake and our survival was more pressing than my striking fancies with this decidedly authoritative woman.
Rallo was still occupied with shooting as many approaching humans as possible, though I noticed the torch light surrounding the camp was coming closer, which meant no amount of arrows would hold them back forever. A feeling of urgency swept through me; I knew that we would soon be overrun by more men than we three could handle. Again, I thought back on the battle from before; it had been this Dark Axe Brigade that had brought an end to the Elven Legion earlier, and if an entire army could not stand against these men then what chance did we have? I, for one, didn't want to wait around long enough for the human commander, wherever he may be in all this, to utilize the same power he had won with earlier.
I ran to Dallo's aid, for two of the humans he fought were still standing and were proving difficult for him to best. One caught his back with a vicious slash that elicited a cry of pain from the elf. I arrived just in time to engage this same human, coming down on his wrist with my blade to disarm him, and then slamming the edge of my shield into his face, dropping him with bloodied face instantly to the ground.
Dallo rounded on the remaining human, howling with fury and shot what a appeared to be a glowing missile of energy from the empty palm of his left hand. My eyes grew wide at the sight; the human flew back from the blast, landing ten feet away from our location. The large, burn mark on his chest meant he was not about to get back up.
Done with trying to process what I just saw, I turned back to Dallo. "Are you okay?" I asked the injured elf.
He looked to me with a feral glow in his eyes but did not respond. Another group of humans, maybe ten in all, were advancing from our left side, while another large group appeared to our front. Dallo cried out menacingly at them, raising his sword into the air in challenge to those that neared us.
"We need to fall back," I urged him, taking a step to my rear, towards the direction Lenoa had taken, hoping he would follow. He would not. I then looked to Rallo not too far away. To my shock he was scrambling to get out of his tree, regardless of the number of foes that had suddenly gathered below him. A second later I saw the reason: the ranks of men in the distance had sent forth some archers who were lighting the tips of their arrows with flames from the torches held by their comrades and were about to fire at Rallo's tree.
There wasn't a thing Dallo nor I could do to save his brother from what happened next. Around fifty flaming projectiles lit up the night sky as they soared through the air, and I felt as if time were slowing down as I watched the fearful Rallo jump from the tree into the arms of waiting enemies. Dallo's expression (if it were possible) grew even more wrathful, and as the groups approached, I continued to back away while the enraged elf, to my utter disbelief, engaged them all. A magical aura seemed to form around his frame, and his attacks became more powerful, more desperate. His enemies were falling two by two, sometimes three at a time. He rushed blindly through the throng of them, wildly smashing into the crowd with an incredible magical force that rattled my bones with each blow. Soon he was lost to sight amongst all the humans crowding beneath the tree, the same that had taken his brother.
I looked helplessly on at what inevitably happened next, dozens of swords rushing to meet the tall elf.
I was left alone for the moment, which gave me a little time to survey the ranks of those assaulting us. Near the group of archers was a man clad in a full, black suit of armor, and he bore a large, fierce-looking battle-axe. This man was much larger than I by a couple feet, and as I stared at him the horned helmet covering the entirety of his head seemed to turn its attention on me, piercing me with a veiled gaze.
Nearest to him were robed individuals, and upon their heads were what appeared to be some kind of glass eye protection, whatever purpose they truly served I could not divine. They noticed me as well, pointing me out to their leader, but he had already noticed my presence by then.
Within the jumble that was my mind, a thought stood out like a strike of lightning—I knew this individual. My blood began to boil upon seeing him, and I found myself stalking towards the man, slowly and determinedly. Memories came to me in staggered waves, each reminding me of my past and that he played an important part in it. A part that I was not overly fond of.
The individual was the Toriellan human commander himself surrounded by his Dark Axe Brigade, though I could not recall who exactly the men in robes were. At any rate, he was the one that had what I was searching for. My left hand began to tingle almost expectantly, the mark upon it beginning to glow due to my proximity to this individual. I felt drawn to him because of this; I knew that which he had was like a beacon to my own mysterious mark...like they belonged together.
We stared at each other across the open space of the camp, his soldiers standing by to await his orders, the men in robes looking baffled but enraged at my presence. The large man began to walk towards me, slowly, and even cautiously, I would say. He removed the enormous axe from its resting place on his back and brandished it, the flames of his allies' torches reflected on it and caused the whetted metal to flicker forth like the dark fires of hell.
And then Lenoa's voice suddenly cut the tension of the air like a razor, and I was forced to turn hesitantly from my quarry.
"Quick, this way!" she called out to me. I turned my gaze back to the Dark Axe Brigade and their leader, taking one unsure step back. "Hurry!" she urged.
It was too late to decide anything else; I turned and ran to Lenoa. The large, dark-armored man signaled to his soldiers, and they, in turn, gave chase.
My legs carried me quickly to the small corral of horses where Lenoa waited upon one of them. "We must hurry if we are to escape! Here!" She handed me a bow and a leather quiver of arrows. "Use these to keep them at bay as we ride." I took the new weapon and its ammo and strapped them around me, cinching down the leather strap of the quiver so that it would not move from my backside. I sheathed my blade, thinking to clean it later when I got the chance, and held on to the bow instead.
Lenoa then gestured to the horses. Among them was a brown mare with a white mane that trotted right up to me.
"This...this is my horse!" I exclaimed. "Epona!" I cried out as I patted her side, remembering her from the flashback of my dream. I was relieved to be reunited with something else from my past.
"Quickly then!" shouted Lenoa, near exasperation. "Mount your steed!" I easily put one foot in the stirrup and swung myself over to rest on the saddle. "Where are my companions?" she asked once we were ready to leave.
An arrow whizzed past my ear, my heart raced faster. "The enemy overtook them; there's nothing more we can do than flee," I quickly explained.
The expression on her face was a hard one. "If it's as you say, then we have no choice." More arrows flew past us, and the shouts of the men that had chased me from the commander's side were getting close.
"Time to move!" I shouted. "Hyah!" I planted my feet firmly against Epona's flanks, promptly causing her to take off at a swift gallop out of the open gate of the corral. Lenoa trailed close behind. We soon cleared the tents of the elf camp and were riding out into the open field of the Ichron plains. She pulled up to my side, and I shouted to her, "I am truly sorry for your companions!" She was silent, eyes staying to the front. I decided I would talk to her more later once we had outrun the humans—no—if we outran them
We rode away swiftly from the human soldiers, and I turned to get one last look at the large, dark silhouette of a man standing amongst the forty or so men that remained under his watch at the very edge of the camp. I could feel him looking at me as well, his eyes unseen, and I knew he had to be surprised to see me...alive. A memory of him surfaced in my mind. He was the last person that I had fought before...
More arrows took flight and sailed past us, the shooters swiftly bearing down on the two of us atop their own horses. I nocked an arrow to my bow and aimed it behind me, all the while staying steady on my horse. I briefly saw beside me that Lenoa had a smile on her pretty face, apparently satisfied that I could not only use a sword but that I knew my way around a bow too.
I glanced over my left shoulder, catching a glimpse of a man on horseback shooting an arrow towards me. It clipped my horse's brown hide but left nothing more than a slight scratch. I was glad that my steed didn't rear up at the sudden stinging pain; Epona was no ordinary horse.
I pulled back my own arrow, aimed, and released. The same man flew from his mount forcefully and with a shriek of pain. I saw another arrow fly and strike a second rider in the shoulder, this one almost getting off a shot with his crossbow at us. Lenoa was already readying another arrow by the time that one had hit its mark. I grinned appreciatively at her marksmanship; her skill with the bow reminded me of another beautiful woman that I knew...
"Look out!" yelled Lenoa. I barely had enough time to pull my horse to one side as a man came up beside me, swinging a long blade, and I barely dodged its sharp edge. There was also no time to nock another arrow to shoot this man, as I was being forced instead to avoid his sword, ducking it as he swung it my way. In retaliation, I actually swung my bow quickly and forcefully into the man's head, knocking him from his steed and causing him to be trodden on by the one following directly behind him. That one steadied his crossbow and shot a small bolt that, luckily, bounced off the hard leather of my horse's saddle. While he attempted to reload his weapon, I fitted a new arrow and shot him in the arm, making him falter and fall behind.
There were still many more men pursuing, and my arrow supply was limited. Noticing the dark treeline of a forest not too far ahead of us, I yelled out at Lenoa as she fitted a new arrow to her bow. I pointed towards the approaching trees with my free hand. "We can lose them in there!" I yelled to her. She nodded knowingly as she took out another pursuer with a well-placed arrow to his chest.
"That was my plan all along," she replied coolly, already fitting a new arrow to her bow.
We stayed well ahead of the pursuing party and strove towards the forest as fast as our horses would carry us. I heard Lenoa let out a short yell of anger when an arrow pierced her horse's tender left thigh. The wounded animal reared up and flung her off backwards just before we had reached the forest's edge.
"Hylian!" she yelled. I pulled back on Epona's reins, grinding her to a halt.
"Damn!" I cursed. "Hang on, Lenoa!" My words didn't sound too hopeful even to me. The riders quickly approached; there would be little time to act, if any.
Author's Note: Mwahaha! Cliffhanger! And I know you readers love these.
Quick thanks to Wavebreeze for the good notes I got from her for this particular chapter. Also, Davin, I'm glad you like this story so much. I'll try to make it as epic as I can just because you're expecting it so badly. ;)