Chapter Three: Nightmares
Please don't let it reach home! Dael pleaded in his head, running as fast as he could back to Alsor. The flames were clear to see against the dark clouds that hung in the sky. Dear Pelor! Don't let it reach home!
The pair reached the edge of town a few moments later. Various buildings were on fire, and most people were running around in a panic. About half of town was engulfed in flames, crackling down and down, building by building. Dael could hear the voice of the mayor ordering an evacuation and to put the fires out. These fires were not accidents either; full-blooded orcs were running around, some carrying torches and others carrying weapons, slashing at any of the villagers that happened across their path. It was fairly common for Alsor to suffer from orc attacks, to the point where young adventurers who wished for some simple practice at defeating enemies would go out and either scout for or fight against orcs they could find. The direct attacks on Alsor were never to this scale though. Normally invasions were of a couple dozen orcs; this time, however, Dael estimated a couple hundred had come. These orcs apparently had enough with the "practice runs."
"Dael!" Cyrus called behind him. Dael spun around. "I have to find my dad."
"Go," Dael responded simply. "I'll meet you in town!"
"Stay alive!" And with that Cyrus was off.
Dael's biggest problem was that his family's farm was on the other end of town. Because it was somewhat on the outskirts to make more space for growing crops and raising livestock, he hoped that it was left alone while the orcs went after the more populated parts of town. That was a horrible thing to think, but his main concerns were focused on his family and friends.
The fastest way home is through town anyway, he thought out. I can check on Milo and Haine on the way.
Dael's first stop was the temple. He had encountered four orcs and three small goblins on his way there. At least, those were the foes he fought; there were plenty that he saw, terrorizing the Alsor inhabitants. There were other warriors and guards fighting the many enemies, but they were easily overrun.
The temple to Pelor was no exception. The clerics had been split into two groups. One group was rushing around and treating as many injured people as they could. The other group stayed at the temple to protect it and to provide sanctuary for those the villagers that took refuge there. The chief problem was that there were so many orcs and goblins that the clerics could not keep up. Even the other fighters that took up the cause of defending the temple were not enough to keep the invaders at bay. The west side of the temple was on fire, its stained glass windows shattered and glistening on the ground, and the north side was the focus of the attackers. The once proud sun symbol at the top had fallen from the roof and was crumbled on the ground. It no longer shimmered in the sunlight, but rather its color was dulled by the blackness in the clouds above the city.
I think the hospital rooms are on the other side, thought Dael as he reached the north part of the temple. Cutting down a few goblins, Dael called out to Milo, hoping the soon to be cleric-in-training would hear him.
"Milo! Milo!" he yelled. Where was he? "Are you here?! Where are you?!"
There was no sign of Milo at the northern end of the Pelor temple. Thinking that his best bet was inside, in the hospital wing, Dael jumped his way through flames and falling wooden doors and made his way to the southern halls. Milo had always had an interest in healing (which explained why he worshipped Pelor over any of the other deities in Alsor) so that was the most likely place he was.
The hospital wing had already been hit by the orc invasion. Beds were left in splinters, thrown across the rooms, broken and turned over. The hospital equipment had been destroyed, with various surgical instruments embedded into the wall, clearly having been used as projectile weapons with a range of success. There was evidence that a few patients had been brought there at the start, because a few bodies in the rooms belonged to people who clearly were not clerics. The temple must have been attacked soon afterwards.
Among the bodies, Dael searched for Milo, all the while calling out his name. There was no response, and Dael assumed that his friend must be somewhere else. That is, until a very weak voice called out.
Somehow hearing this tiny voice in the chaos of noise from outside, the blonde spun around and searched the room again. Calling for him again, Dael found him on the other side of an upturned bed. Battered, bruised and bleeding profusely, Milo was in horrible shape. If he hadn't been so familiar with the young man's tall form and facial features, Dael might not have recognized him. Both of his legs were broken and form in odd directions, his blood pooling around his legs from the lacerations. His long, dark hair had been chopped, partially scalping him. Dael saw his mace sitting a few feet from him, and he knew immediately that Milo had been defending his temple with all his might.
Dael remained kneeled at his friend's side for only a split second before standing again.
"Hold on, Milo," he said, his voice slightly panicked. "I'll find a cleric."
"Dael," Milo's deep, quiet voice called out again, stopping the other man in his tracks. "I don't need a cleric now. Could you find me a holy symbol?"
One of the symbols of Pelor, a sun with a face, was sitting on the floor on the other side of the room. Dael rushed to pick it up and pressed it into Milo's hands, which were also bloody and broken. Milo muttered a short prayer before looking back up to Dael.
"You need to find Haine," he ordered. "I heard the orcs earlier. They're after any half-orcs. Find Haine."
"I'm going to find a cleric for you first," argued Dael, though he knew that even if he could find one it wouldn't matter.
"Sorry, Dael," the injured one insisted. "So s-sorry."
"Milo, don't even think about it!" Dael screamed, taking his head into his hands. "Milo!"
But his body had gone cold. Dael held onto him for a few more moments before placing the Pelor's holy symbol on Milo's chest and standing again. Knowing that there was nothing he could do, he rushed out of the temple and headed for Haine's smithy.
Dael reached the town's central square, where the decorative fountain had been smashed, leaving water spouting into the air and falling down almost like heavy rain. There were orcs and goblins here too; in particular, six goblins had thrown grappling hooks at a building roof and were attempting to tear it down. He rushed over to help the three other fighters that were trying to take out the goblins and prevent the building from falling. With the four warriors working together the goblins (and two orcs that had decided to show up) were swiftly taken care of. It wasn't until after that battle that he realized that one of the fighters was Cyrus's father, Xine.
"Where has your skinny butt and my no-good son been?! You and your 'adventures'!" the older man yelled, clearly upset that his son had taken off. He swung his double-bladed sword at a goblin behind him, not even looking as the small humanoid was sliced in half. "I have every right mind to locking Cyrus in his room for the next ten years!"
"Forget the moving in together to your own place!" Xine continued to rant. "He's grounded! Starting today!"
"Where is Cyrus?!"
"I've been trying to tell you!" Dael yelled back. "He's looking for you! Not sure if he' still at your place, but that's where he was headed last time I saw him."
Xine was still yelling obscenities as he rushed back in the direction of his home. Dael, on the other hand, had a bigger issue at hand. As he rushed down the street that led to Haine's smithy, he encountered a few more goblins on the way as well as some dead and dying bodies, especially half-orcs and half-elves. The sight of a decapitated half-orc compelled him to run faster.
His chest was heaving by the time he reached the half-open building that led into the furnace at the forge. The doors were all open, smashed off their hinges. The coals from the fire itself had been scattered all over the floor, some still hit while others had cooled enough to step on without concern. The anvil had been overturned, and tongs, chisel, hardy, and various other tools were piled around. The orcs or goblins must have thrown them around while looking for something valuable. Water for cooling metal spilled all over, and once hot metal horseshoes had cooled unfinished.
Haine's body was not hard to find. He was lying on his back in the corner of the room, ripped open and disemboweled. His sword was at his side, the blood on it indicating that (like Milo) at the very least he didn't go out without a fight. Dael could not look at him for long though. He hated the sight of his friend in that state; it was even worse than Milo had been.
Cyrus was already there when Dael arrived. He stood in the middle of the room, staring into open space. He still held his own longsword, and it also showed signs of having been used in battle recently. Dael couldn't help but look at him for a minute. He must have been just as shocked at all of this as Dael was.
"…Half-breeds?" Cyrus said with a low hiss that shocked Dael quite a bit.
It was at that point that Dael realized that Cyrus was in fact not staring into space. He was staring at the bare wall in front of him, which had nothing on it but a message written in Orc. "All half-breeds will die." Short and simple, just as to be expected from orcs. Orc was rarely put in written form as it was, and what was written were minor notes and threats, just like this one. What Cyrus said was now in context: half-breeds. Milo had mentioned that the intruders were after half-orcs. This must have been a raid to destroy what they considered inferior offshoots of their race.
The worst thing about this message, though, was the fact that it was written in blood. Dael knew exactly where it came from too.
"Cyrus?" he called out to the red-head.
"Yeah?" Cyrus did not take his eyes off the wall.
"Milo is dead," Dael reported. The other just growled in response. "I ran into your father earlier."
"Yeah, he wasn't home," answered Cyrus. "Came here next."
"I told him you were heading to your place to look for him," Dael continued. "And he took off that way again."
"It's like playing hide-and-seek," Cyrus muttered as he ran out of the smithy.
Dael took one last split second glance at Haine's body before running out as well, his thoughts turning to his own family.
He arrived at his family farm not long after leaving Haine's smithy. Out of the four friends, he lived the farthest from the center of town. By the time he arrived it was turning even darker than before, with nighttime now combined with the already dark rainclouds in the sky. Even from the center of town Dael could tell that the crops his father worked so hard to plow and plant had been set on fire. He could hear the sounds of the horses, cattle and goats trying to escape from their stables to flee the fire. Part of the barn where the sheep were kept had collapsed, and the foolish animals were running round trying to get away from the flames. Dael headed for the main house on the other side of the pastures, which, although not on fire, had clearly been broken into. Furniture was smashed, dishes broken and thrown, the dining and living rooms tables crushed to the point of being unrecognizable…the damage went on.
Dael completely ignored all this as he jumped over the bashed door into the house.
"Dad! Mom! Anallsa! Are you here?!" he cried out, tearing through the house, checking each room as he went. "DAD! MOM! ANALLSA!"
In was in the back room that he found them. He should have expected this at this point, having not found them in town or getting an answer from his previous yells. Dael was frozen in place, looking on at the bodies of his parents and younger sister. Only one thought surged through his mind:
I'm dreaming! Please let this be a dream!