A New Companion.
The aftermath of a battle is always a sobering sight, Lara thought as she surveyed the clearing in front the fortress. Dark Elf corpses littered the ground. Along with arrows, shattered shield’s and broken swords. Only a small handful of Dark Elves had made their way inside and of those only three had made it to upper levels. A non-stop rain of arrows had cut the others down.
The next day the Queen apologized and for the interruption and she and Dameon meet to finalize the Alliance between the Men loyal to Dameon, the Blood Elves and the High Elves. The rest of us spent time with one another. Since Briseis was also in the meeting Alex and I undertook the task of teaching Lara how to play Divide and Conquer. She was surprisingly good and after three straight wins we moved to Divide and Conquer 2 that, despite its name was an entirely different game. It started out the same with each player in their own part of the board. The rules changed depending on how many people were playing; with two players it was a deathmatch where each person tried to eliminate their opponents forces and capture their leader. With three players it was a capture the flag style of play where each player set up their standard with a small group of their forces guarding it, meanwhile your other forces tried to breakthrough and steal the other players flag and then try to get out again. With four players it was often a combination of deathmatch and Capture the Flag. With four players you can also do an Alliance-Capture the Flag-deathmatch. Where one person on your team attacks the other team with the combined power of both your forces while the other person leads a smaller team behind enemy lines to take the flag and bring it back. In deathmatch you either had to capture the opposing leader or have enough units left to effectively contain your enemy and in Capture the Flag you have to retain possession of your own flag and also take your opponents flag.
Lara picked up the rules really quickly and we started a Capture the Flag match. Lara won by distracting our main forces and then sending small strike teams to take our flags. Alex won the second game by waiting till I stole Lara flag’s then overran both my strike team and my main defences meanwhile resisting Lara’s efforts to retake her own flag. The day wore on with game after game. Alex and I kept raising our playstyle but Lara was able to work Elven war strategies into her games that kept her on our level.
Star and Cassius obtaining directions separately bumped into each other at the training grounds. After two hours of separate practice the Cassius suggested they spar together. The Wood Elves had a wide range of weapons and so they practiced with all of them. Cassius won with sword, knife and spear but Star was able to beat him with axe, chain blade, mace and staff. They were matched in skill with fist weapons such as Wrist blades and Purgilist Hand Claws. After returning to their rooms to shower they meet up on the fourth level where another portal led to extensive gardens a few hundred miles away.
The gardens were protected by magic but still, invisible Elven Hunters patrolled the boundaries. The sun was high a cloudless sky and the air was full of insect sounds and bird song. Star and Cassius strolled through the gardens side by side talking about their history.
“…that day was fun.” Cassius finished.
Star laughed, “It almost seems like you miss your life as a wolf?”
“They were the first family I knew,” Cassius said, “I guess I do miss it a bit. Mainly the freedom of running though the woods and the feeling of the wind in my fur.”
Star eyebrows shot up at the word ‘fur’. Cassius didn’t notice and continued talking. “Two weeks later we found a rogue wolf in our territory. Mother told us to stay back while she drove him off. He was stronger than she thought and we had to help. I don’t remember much of the fight I think we were running on instinct. That night Mother taught us the main combat moves and told us to practice amongst ourselves.”
“If you cloud relive your life would change a thing?” Star asked.
Cassius’s face became thoughtful before answering, “No, I wouldn’t change a thing,” he paused for a moment and sighed, “except the hunting party.”
Star comfortingly laid a hand on his shoulder. “I guess I can’t say I know what it’s like to lose my family,” her hand dropped from his shoulder. Cassius looked over to see her eyes were far away. “I know what its like to believe I’ll never see them again but I doubt that’s the same.”
This time it was Cassius who placed a hand on her shoulder. “You’ll see them again. He promised, “When this is over we’ll find a way to get you home. I promise.” Star, fighting to hold back tears looked up “Promise?” Cassius nodded and she suddenly threw her arms around his neck and broke down. Cassius was stunned for a moment then returned the embrace. “I promise,” he whispered just loud enough for Star to hear.
On the morning of the second day after the battle the Queen sent for us. We dressed and filed in to the small meeting room to find the Queen, Dameon, Briseis, Brandon and Hawkeye waiting for us.
“The Wood Elves are ready to march on your command,” The Queen said to Dameon as we sat down. “Now onto the matter at hand, where are you headed next?”
“Nagrasand,” Dameon replied with out hesitation.
The Queen raised an eyebrow, “Nagrasand, you plan to help the Tauren’s retake their army?”
“Do you have a plan?”
“Serah does,” Dameon said looking at me hopefully.
I nodded and stood up, “I briefly talked with Bane before he left and he assured me that the majority of Army is still loyal to him. If he could take Marga Darkrune alive and kill her commanders the rest of the Tauren army will rally behind him?”
“How do you plan to get Bane inside the camp defences?”
“Bane plans to capture some of the outer sentries and dress his own men in their armour and have them march him inside like a prisoner. Marga knows he is the leader of Sunwalkers rebels and we are gambling on the fact she will want to see him immediately.”
“But if she doesn’t you’re screwed?” Briseis asked.
I glared at her, “Not quite, if she doesn’t she’ll put Bane in the stocks and we will ask to join her. She will want to see him soon so we shouldn’t have to wait to long.”
“It won’t work my friends,” The Queen informed us, “You will need a gift or something to convince Marga that you truly wish to join her.”
Will this work?” Cassius asked, passing something to Lara who passed it to her mother. As the Queen read it one eyebrow rose slowly.
“A declaration of allegiance?” she asked, passing it to Dameon.
Cassius nodded, “I drafted it up last night.”
Dameon read it twice before asking the room at large, “Will it work?”
Lara shrugged, “It might.”
Briseis snorted and rolled her eyes, “It will work. I remember the Kelpsy doing something similar so they could trade with the Mind-Benders.”
The Queen nodded, “I remember that too.”
The rest of us stayed silent.
“One minute,” Dameon said, pointing at the document, “You’ve listed the Wood Elves here. We don’t have a representative.”
Briseis stood, “For that reason I’m coming with you.” She threw me a defiant look and I responded with a scathing death stare.
The Queen sighed and we all looked at her, “I have fought long and hard with my daughter about this,” she explained, “but she is determined to join you an your journey.”
Cassius muttered something inaudible, Alex and Dameon exchanged a glance, Star raised an eyebrow, Brandon and Hawkeye just nodded.
“I suppose that means Lynx is going too?” Lara asked.
“Is there nothing I cay say to change your mind?” the Queen asked.
Briseis shook her head, “No.”
The Queen sighed, “Very well. When are you planning to leave?”
“An hour after dawn tomorrow,” Dameon replied.
The Queen nodded and stood, “Then I suggest you use the rest of today to relax and resupply.” She turned away before remembering something and turned back, “Oh, by the way Serah, a message came for you, from the Sunwalker camp.”
“The Sunwalker Camp?” I asked, surprised.
She nodded and passed me a sealed roll of parchment before leaving the room followed by Lara and Briseis.
We all retired to our rooms. I tossed both swords onto my bed and perched my self on the edge of the table. “What do you suppose is in here?” I asked.
Alex shrugged “We won’t know until you open it.”
There was a knock at the door and it opened to admit Dameon, Cassius and Star. Dameon sat down beside Alex, Cassius leaned against the wall and Star joined me on the table.
“What’s it say?” Dameon asked.
I didn’t reply beyond rolling my eyes, extending the middle claw on my hand I carefully slit the wax seal and unrolled the letter. I scanned it quickly, Star reading over my shoulder. I passed it to Alex who skimmed though and passed it to Dameon.
‘“Greeting’s to my young Friends.”’ Dameon read out loud. ‘“Phase one of the plan is complete. I have replaced several guards with my own men and while they are on sentry duty they slip away to bring me important information. I know where Marga will be at certain times and at what times her general’s will be with her. We need them together if we are to take the army with minimal bloodshed.’” He looked up, “Well that’s good.”
I nodded, “They have acted earlier than I thought.”
The door open again and Hawkeye poked her head in. “You might want to rest, we leave at sun up tomorrow.”
“We have to get supplies,” Alex said, standing up but Hawkeye waved him back down, “Brandon and I will deal with that.”
We nodded and retired to our separate rooms to relax and recharge.