A Woodland Ambush
The final details of the treaty took two days to iron out. The Blood Elves wound prepare for the coming war and send envoys to the other Elven races telling them to expect the Prince’s arrival and to rally their own armies. At last the day to leave Silvermoon City arrived. Hawkeye wanted to leave as soon after sun up as she could but in the end it was almost midmorning before we were off. The main reason for the delay was the fact that Luka and Catarina had decided to stay behindto study Blood Elf battle magic. Alex and I could understand Luka’s decision, the Ki’miri only learnt the basics of battle magic and no amount of learning from books could cap real first-hand experience. Catarina’s reasons were similar, she wanted to learn more of the elemental spells and also some basic polymorph spells. The second reason was that Star wanted to join us. Carris suggested it and Star enthusiastically supported the suggestion. Brandon, Hawkeye, Cassius Alex and I were happy with it and even Dameon relented eventually. It was almost noon by the time we set off. Carris had suggested we stay for lunch but Brandon had insisted we press on.
We exited Silvermoon through the northwest gate that pointed us in the general direction of the Thundercat Kingdom of Nightspire. To get there we had to make our way through the Mapleleaf forest to the edge of Blood Elf land, cross the Gnome infested Valley of Karl,dun and then pass through the rest of Gnome land.
Brandon and Hawkeye walked out front, hand in hand. Alex and I came next, teaching Dameon how to move silently with Cassius and Star, mounted on Lightning bringing up the rear.
“Are you okay?” Star asked Cassius after a few moments of silence.
Cassius nodded, “Yeah, I’m fully recovered now.” After another minute Cassius spoke again. “How long have you been here? In this world?”
Star looked down at the ground, “Two years”.
“Your family must be worried about you.” Cassius said gently.
Star shrugged, “My entire tribe probably thinks I’m dead, all except my younger sister”.
Cassius waited a few moments to see if she would elaborate when she didn’t he changed the subject, “I lost my own family eight years ago.”
Ahead of them Dameon was questioning me and Alex on how to play Divide and Conquer.
“It is essentially like chess but up to six people can play.” Alex explained, “The pieces have similar names.”
“The King, Queen and Knights are the same,” I put in taking over. “The Bishops are called Cleric’s, and the castles are known as Fortresses. The Pawns are divided into two different sects, there’s the Sun Pawns and the Moon Pawns and each move differently.”
Dameon shook his head, “How do you remember all the rules and moves?”
Alex and I smiled at him and said at the same time, “Practise.”
“The Knights, Kings, Queens, Clerics and Fortresses can move like in chess.” Alex spoke up again. “The Sun Pawns can only move backwards and forwards and the Moon Pawns can only move sideways. Both sects still attack diagonally though.”
Both conversations were interrupted as Brandon called from the front, “How far to the edge of Mapleleaf forest, Star?”
Star padded forward mounted on Lightning, with Cassius behind her, “about three clicks and then about half a click to the Valley of Karl,dun.”
Brandon glanced upward. The sun had just passed the zenith of its ark and began to descend.“Okay, quick meeting everyone.” We all came in to hear what he wanted to discuss. “Star told me it’s about three clicks to the edge of Mapleleaf forest,” he glanced at Star again, “Is there an outpost near there?
Star nodded, “Sky Hawk watch. It is set on the very edge of Blood Elf land.”
“Is it a large outpost or a small one?” Hawkeye asked.
Star considered the question before replying, “It’s more of small settlement than an outpost.”
“Large enough to have an inn?”
Star nodded, “It has a small one but if we want to be inconspicuous we should probably stay in the old stables at the other end of town because that inn gets some, how do I say this… ‘shady customers’.”
“It’s probably best to stay at the stables” Brandon said before turning to Star, “Could you get into the inn and see want you can find out?”
Star nodded again, “Of course.”
As we continued towards Sky Hawk Watch the sun slowly began to sink towards the western horizon. The settlement of Sky Hawk Watch was set at the very edge of the forest. The inn was in the centre, surrounded by the main three professions found in most towns; Blacksmith, Tailor and Carpenter. Further towards edge set in six roughly concentric circles were alternate lines of houses and protective barriers. The fourth wall running all-around the town was festooned with towers and Catapult platforms.
“This is a ‘small’ settlement?” Brandon asked.
Star nodded “It’s grown by about two walls”.
After a few more moments of silence Star led the way into town. As we passed through the outer wall a voice hailed us from the inner wall “Who goes there?”
Star took it upon herself to answer, “I am Star, Sentinel and Werewolf of the Blood Elves.”
She was cut off as whoever manned the gate replied, “Head straight to the inn and ask for someone named Malen, he’ll be expecting you.”
Star and Brandon exchanged a glance. The gate slowly swung open and we followed Brandon and Star through.
“This could be a trap star, Star”, Brandon cautioned.
“I know,” Star replied, “But what can we do. He said he’s expecting us.”
As we neared the inn Cassius spoke up, “Does anyone else think it’s a little … quiet?”
“The inn’s sound proofed so the guards aren’t distracted from any possible sight or sound of goblin raids.” Star explained.
“It can’t be that sound proofed,” Cassius countered.
“He’s right,” Alex spoke up from behind me, “It’s too quiet here.”
Suddenly the air around was split with hissing arrows.
“Ambush,” Brandon cried as several arrows sped through his clock pinning it to the ground. Hawkeye spun around, arrow drawn, seeking and finding targets on the roof of the inn and the two adjacent buildings. I drew both swords, Alex withdrew his own sword and took up position guarding my back. Star pulled out two double-ended staffs and handed one to Cassius as armed men poured from the Inn and quickly surrounded us. For a moment the tableau was frozen then the square erupted. Hawkeye was in the act of shooting at the men on the rooftops but they dodged out of the way, hiding behind chimney pots. Brandon was slowly spinning in a circle sending out concentric ripples of water lightning. Cassius, Star and Lightning were fighting as a team of three taking out enemies almost as fast as they came. Alex and I leapt in the air and landing on the inn roof proceeded to clean out the attackers. Alex went left while I went right. We moved fast rooting out all of the enemy archers. I ran through the last one and looked up to see Alex pointing to the roof of the Blacksmiths building. I looked in time to see another archer loose an arrow in my direction. With the cat-quick reflexes that had saved my life half a hundred times I ducked and the arrow sped by overhead. I nodded at Alex and leapt over to the Blacksmith’s roof. Alex followed me. The Bowman took one look at us and ran. He jumped from the roof he was on and took off leaping from roof to roof. Alex and I followed. The bowman jumped for the top of the first wall, just managing to grab onto the edge of the wall with one hand. He hung for a minute before pulling himself up with the other hand. Alex and I just transformed the jump into a winged leap. I landed, rolled, came to my feet, propelled myself off the edge of the wall, turned in the air and landed in front of the running bowman,
“Hold it,” I pointed one sword at him.
Alex jumped off the wall and landed behind him. “Who are you working for?”
The bowman looked back and forth between us before saying, ”Marrek knows why I do this.” He grabbed my wrist and plunged my sword into his chest.
Meanwhile back at the inn, Hawkeye, freed from the pressure of dealing with the enemies on the roofs was surrounded by her own blizzard as she fired arrow after arrow with blinding speed. Cassius and Star, who had dismounted were now fighting back to back, Star still using a double-ended staff while Cassius had snapped his in half and was wielding two long-bladed short swords. Brandon had his back to the wall, his sword keeping a group of six men at bay. The flood of men from the inn had stopped and the ground was littered with the still forms of men and a few blackened remains. Hawkeye has exhausted all her arrows and was now using her knife and a sword she’d taken from one of the frozen warriors. Dameon had surrounded himself with a shield of water and was fighting with sword aflame. Brandon still with his back to the wall slammed his blade, point first into the ground. The entire town shook throwing everyone but Star to the ground. A colossal wave of lightning blasted out of the ground and washed over the square, turning all the enemies to ash. Star helped Cassius off the ground while Hawkeye and Dameon picked themselves up. All of them were covered in ash.
On top of the wall I ripped my sword from the man’s grasp but it was two late. He’s driven it straight through his heart. A second later the building underneath us shook nearly throwing us both off out feet. Once we recovered we returned to the square to find out how the fight had ended. Brandon looked up wearily as we landed in the middle of the square.
“Did you manage to capture one of them?” he asked.
Alex shook his head, “No, the one we chased shouted the name Marrek then killed himself.”
“Now we know how this place was overrun.” Star said heavily.
“But what about the voice?” Cassius.
“Either they left someone alive to lead us into trap,“ Dameon suggested “or they spoke to us themselves.”
“Which isn’t Mind-Bender style.” Hawkeye put in.
“But why would leave one person alive to led us into a trap?” Star asked, “Why not kill the whole town and then lie in wait for us?”
“Maybe they thought if we reached the centre of town without being challenged we might sense something was wrong.” Cassius hazarded.
Dameon nodded agreement, “It’s possible I guess.”
While they were talking I had moved among the bodies, searching them. Crouching over one man I caught sight of something silver out of my corner of my eye. I left the man I was searching and walked over. Alex had joined me by this time and saw the thing at the same time I did. It was small metal circle with a hole in the middle. The disc’s outer edge was covered in runes.
“An illusion charm?” Alex asked picking it up.
He tossed it to me. I held it up carefully, examining it.
“What’s that?” Dameon asked coming up beside me. I hadn’t noticed them stop talking.
“Illusion charm,” I said passing it to him.
“An illusion of what?” Dameon asked, “The men? The town?”
“Give it here,” Star ordered holding her hand out for the charm. She gripped it tightly and uttered three harsh words. The charm flashed once and suddenly the entire town vanished.