Daniel and I ran through the darkened halls, he held on to my hand and led the way. We had dispatched the two who were guarding the cells, but it was only a matter of time before their bodies were discovered.
“So where are we?” I asked.
“Dry Top,” said Daniel. “Mostly a temporary base that Salus set up, but this is where they receive orders from the main headquarters. The actual headquarters is deep in the Crystal Desert.”
“So you know where they are?” I asked. “Where they run everything? Their leader?”
“Of course,” said Daniel. He stopped for a moment, there was an air of hesitation. “I grew up there, like I said, until recently you could only be born into the fringe.” I still had more questions, but they could wait until we were free. We ran through stone halls, lighted by dim torches, I felt something pulling at my anxiety. Yet there was something new about me. Something that wasn’t there before.
“Daniel… when you left—”
“I know, big guy. I didn’t want to hurt you, but it was the only way I could buy you some time.”
“I-It’s not that,” I said. “Back when I was alone, and when I was captured. I remembered everything.” I paused. “I don’t think I’m the same any more, I feel as if a part of me has been… put to rest.”
“Of course a necromancer would put it that way,” said Daniel with a chuckle. “Well you’re not manic. That’s a good sign right?”
“But, am I the same person I was before?”
“You’re who you were meant to be,” said Daniel. “And for the better it seems, your eyes have never looked so calm. Maybe a bit somber, but at least not as much as they were before.” Daniel stopped and placed a quick kiss on my lips. He continued running and I followed after him.
Light began to shine brighter in the higher floors, I could see now that we were in some sort of underground complex. It looked like ruins; then we heard the noise. It was a loud blaring horn that sounded throughout the tunnels and halls.
“Alarms!” Said Daniel. “They found the—” The ground began to shake, the sound of loud explosions could be heard beyond.
“I knew I loved you for a reason,” a grin spread across Daniel before another explosion rattled the entire ruins.
“I do believe that is a trebuchet,” I said. “We should hurry.” We stopped by a room filled with equipment, narrowly avoiding squads of fringe that were rushing out to see who were attacking them. Daniel scrambled over to a chest by the corner and sifted through its contents.
“Damn!” The human kicked the chest aside and walked over to a rack to grab a sword. “Your arm isn’t there, you think you can handle being one handed for a while longer.” The human took several throwing daggers and slipped them into his armor.
“I’ll manage,” I said as I took a sword for myself. Daniel took a belt that held two pistols, albeit hesitantly. He fastened it around his waist and took out the guns. Revolvers. He scanned the room for ammo and filled his pockets with as much as he could carry.
“Looks like you’re more than experienced with those,” I said.
“Sharpest eyes in the entire desert,” said Daniel with a wink. “I thought I abandoned it, but it looks like we’ll need every advantage we can get.” I nodded, and with a deep breath we ran back into the fray.
Everyone was mostly outside, fighting with the force that Serenity had brought. That was a part of the plan that I wasn’t filled in on the details with. The original plan was just to have a raven follow and check where I was taken. I didn’t expect them to attack with any artillery. Once again you could always rely on her to go overboard if she could.
We reached a wide courtyard, its surrounding walls were turned into rubble. In the distance we could see a small scale skirmish.
“Doesn’t look like there’s that many fringe,” I said.
“They came with a small force,” said Daniel. “Highly trained though. We’re looking at about two hundred maybe?”
“Not including Salus,” I said. “Do you know where he is?”
“Salus is impulsive when angered,” said Daniel. “Probably in the front lines.”
“We have to help then,” I said. “Any defenses we can use against them?”
“They never planned on getting found so it’s not much,” Daniel pointed at a tower that seemed abandoned. A large boulder flew out over it and towards the battle. “Catapults. One in each tower.”
“That can work.” We both ran towards the tower, up a flight of stairs and to a room with an unsuspecting fringe soldier. Daniel put him down with a bullet. We tossed the body over the edge just to make sure. From the vantage point we were able to see the other two towers on the building. As expected we could see the catapults and one ones manning them. Daniel and I rotated the catapult to point towards them.
“Do you know how to aim this thing?” I asked.
“I’ve had some training,” said Daniel. “Go ahead and grab those stones.” I moved to the pile of rocks that were being used for ammo and took fist sized stone and placed them next to Daniel as he cranked down a rope and adjusted it every so often. He changed the direction slightly after testing the direction of the wind. “It’s ready, start loading it!” We placed the stones inside, once ready Daniel pulled a lever and the payload was released. The stones flew to their target, raining down on the enemy artillery. We could see it crumble under the impact, and the one manning them struck almost instantly. Dead or unconscious, they would be out of the fight for a while. Daniel and I started moving the catapult to the next target, one located in a much taller tower.
“We’ll load a big one for this.” Said Daniel. “Let’s hope we get him the first time.”
“I have an Idea,” I said. “Start setting it up, I need to work on a spell.” I walked over to one of the larger rocks, one that I could still move around with ease. I began to channel energy into my arm, weaving the threads of magic into something I that I had not done since Fireheart. The emerald embers appeared at my fingertips, the sensation so familiar, nostalgic even. My hands traced over the stone surface and they left behind small streaks of a grainy substance. It looked like sand. They etched into the stone, and glowed with power. I took the stone to Daniel. “This should work.” I said. Daniel took the stone and examined the markings on it.
“Never seen you done anything like this before,” he said.
“I remembered a few spells,” I said. The human loaded the catapult and released the payload without hesitation. I kept my eyes fixed on the stone and waited for it to make impact with the side of the tower. As soon as it did I triggered the mark I had left on it. A blaze of flame erupted from it, engulfing the catapult and the fringe soldier. Daniel whistled under the green light of the fire.
“Wow, guess you hit the books hard at some point huh?”
“You could say that,” I glanced at the army in the distance. “Lets help our family.” I took another stone, and placed another set of markings on it. Daniel aimed, fired, and I waited for the stone to land. The explosion of flame lashed out, behaving more like a sentient beast rather than a force of nature. Tendrils of burning magic clawed at the surrounding targets, I could feel my will tugging at the threads of magic. It felt ravenous, monstrous even. A single wave of my arm took out two, then another three. Months of frustration, fear, and anger was being released. I felt the need to restrain myself, the desire to release my fury was there, but something new had control over it. Perhaps even mastery over it. I released my hold on the flame, finding them too rampant, too chaotic. It died down moments later.
“That was a good shot,” said Daniel. “Lets load up another one and…oh…”
“What?” I asked. Daniel pointed at something in the distance. A figure, striding towards us. The wind began to grow colder, it began to snow, no, it was more than that. There was a frigid wind that began to build up more and more.
“Never seen an elementalist be able to do something like this before,” said Daniel.
“Must be grabbing energy from somewhere,” I said. Suddenly I saw a small glimmer of red, and something heading towards us. “Look out!” I took Daniel into my arm dived towards the stairs. A large fragment of ice speared the room, small crackling sparks of red energy traveled through it, glowing more intense by the second. Daniela and I ran down the stairs, and were nearly thrown off when the shard of ice exploded.
“Bloodstone energy!” I said, steps behind Daniel. “Where did he get his hands on bloodstone?”
“I don’t know,” I could see a myriad of thoughts swimming through Daniel, something was connecting in him, a realization. “Doesn’t matter where he got it, now. We’ll have to put him down somehow before he loses control.” I nodded.
“He could single handedly wipe out Serenity’s force if we don’t.” I said. We made our way out of the tower towards the courtyard. We knew Salus was coming, we could both sense him. The harsh vibrations of the bloodstone influencing him.
“We’ll need a plan,” I said. Daniel quickly scanned the area, the torn down walls, nearly collapsed towers. He rounded towards the mountain that the ruins were built into. His face darkened.
“It’s risky,” said Daniel. “Someone needs to distract him, and maybe we collapse some rubble over him.” My eyes traveled towards Serenity’s trebuchet.
“Trust me, Daniel,” I said. “I’ll be fine.” Reluctantly, Daniel ran towards the fight, becoming a blur of shadow every few steps. I waited, only for a moment. The wind began to bite at my face, shards of ice spiraled in the wind with his advent. Then I saw him, fumes of scarlet escaped his mouth and eyes.
“You heartless,” he spoke, words distorted by the amount of magic flowing through him. “Always so steadfast aren’t you? Always so stubborn, and hard to kill. Iresh truly did betray us then…”
“Some see through the madness of your guild,” I said.
“Like your kind is any different,” said Salus. “Cut from the same cloth the heartless and fringe were. We’re just trying to clean up our mess.
“By making a bigger one,” I said. “It ends here Salus, you and me.”
“You know I can’t kill you Anavari,” the wind began to build up, fragments of ice formed around Salus’ body. “But I can cut off your arms and legs to make sure you won’t escape again. My body ignited into flame, a skeletal form underneath the intense light.
“I’d like to see you try.”