When the World Falls to Darkness

A kingdom at war, a web of truth and lies, a vicious game of friendship and betrayal, and a world that will kill you, whatever path you take.
When the World Falls to Darkness, nobody is safe.
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Beautiful cover by River_Summers.

(I also promise much more frequent updates starting July, when exams are over. :D)

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5. Battle

"You want me to take out their leaders?"

Captain Shou bowed his head, eyes grave and yet desperately imploring. Lukas looked from Avalon to Shou.

"It's simply for your supreme combat skills, and your ability of flight. You could swoop down and take out any leaders, could you not?"

There was a nervous edge to his voice, Lukas noticed. Cleverly disguised by the pretense of fearlessness, but present nevertheless.

"Of course! But I'll need a job for afterwards, won't I?" Avalon grinned. How she could be so confident when battle was imminent, Lukas had no idea. Everything about her was so unnaturally fearless: her sparkling eyes; her eternal grin and constant laughter; her determined posture. Just the way she spoke was enough to make Lukas feel her inner strength.

"Afterwards?" Shou managed a slight smile. "Afterwards, you can help your team."

"Thanks!" Avalon beamed as though he'd given her a gift, and turned to leave. Lukas followed both Avalon and Ryuu from the room. Ever since they'd saved him, there was an even thicker barrier between them. They had charged in to protect him, and still, he hadn't managed to thank them, and yet the angel had shown gratitude to him: the one who had simply caused another problem for them. Lukas wondered whether to think her strange for thanking him, or guilty because he should have done the same. Certainly not the other way around.

Then there was the matter of his face. His nose, he knew, had been broken, most of his face bleeding. And yet when he looked into a pool of water, there were no fatal gashes, no broken nose. It should hurt more, and that was the strange thing. Ointment, Lukas had ruled out a while ago. But magic? It was possible. Unlikely, but it could happen.

Avalon called for him to hurry up and join them as they took their positions, and the suspicion was forced back down.

He had a job to do.

 

 

Screams echoed through the forest as the traps were sprung, killing some and wounding others. Listening with intent focus, Lukas tried to judge their numbers. Ryuu was beside him, arrow already notched to the bowstring as he scanned the forest in front of him.

Avalon was already picking people off, using her wings to gain a height advantage, not to mention her ability to dive down and slit somebody's throat.

He remembered when a raid like this had happened before. Only that time, there had been nobody to protect them. Just them and the merciless blades of the cruel and spiteful. After that... Torture.

Shuddering, he caught a glimpse of the first few dwarves, who were charging along the pathway, some caught in hidden traps as they advanced on the village. Instantly, arrows found their mark, striking the dwarves as they attacked.

Before, the arrows had been shot by the attackers. Lukas wished somebody had come to save them... Saved his family. Saved those he had failed so very much to help.

"Calm down," Ryuu muttered, releasing another arrow. "You're breathing heavily."

Lukas snapped himself from the thoughts and shot again. All ragesap had been used up in the original attack. None was left for the fight, and besides, it would make the battlefield an even greater danger for the elves. Ragesap spared none.

"Sorry," he murmured in reply. "Memories, I guess."

Ryuu inquired over nothing, for which Lukas could only feel relief. His past could come back to haunt him. It could, if discovered, quite easily kill him.

Maybe that was why he'd been able to answer only with 'perhaps' when Avalon had asked of their friendship. Friends turned on you within seconds, no matter how lonely Lukas was, spending his life wandering by himself, locked within solitude. Loneliness was the closest thing to hell Lukas had ever experienced. Avalon would find out his secret, and she would turn on him in a second.

Nobody would care about him - not after they knew.

The dwarves burst free of the trap zone, and Lukas ran forwards with Ryuu beside him, the exhilaration shooting through him as he sliced at the first dwarf. Every single person in this village would die if they failed.

And Lukas couldn't go through that again.

His blade became a part of him, an extension of his arm as it sliced into flesh, slaying any enemies within its reach. They couldn't do to these elves what they'd done to him. They simply couldn't.

Blades clashed around him, but Lukas had only one thought in his mind: kill any dwarf in the army. Metallic rings of colliding weapons weren't going to distract him.

He cried out in defiance, his blade blocking, striking, slashing, stabbing. Each movement was a strike of death, the power to take a life used with such ease and practice it was almost terrifying for those around him - his own allies included.

Dwarves fell around him, crumpling to the floor as Lukas quickly evaded attacks, his reactions too fast to be overcome by any dwarf. This time, he would not be a burden to those around him. Strength flowed through his veins like liquid fire, fuelling him with the energy to fight. Avalon and Ryuu wouldn't have to save him, this time.

Lukas dodged a blow, easily twisting his arm to slice through the dwarf's arm with his blade, kicking the bleeding opponent aside as he sliced through the chest of the next. Today, the innocent would not die. They would not be slaughtered by the cruel and the heartless.

A woman's cry, shrill and anguished, rang out through the air.

"They're round the back!" she screamed. "It's an ambush!"

He turned, his attention torn from the battle for only a split second, to see one of the watch guards - an elven woman - running toward them.

Before he could even turn back to the fight, he was swept from his feet, air rushing past him as he found himself flying through the air. It took him a few seconds to realise that it was Avalon above him, her fingers clenched around his hood. Ryuu gripped her other wrist as she flew clumsily towards the other side of her village.

The angel ground her teeth together as she tried to support their weight, somehow managing to stay in the air as she cleared the village.

"It was a distraction," she growled, swerving dangerously around a tree. "They must have destroyed the alarm bell in the watch tower before the guard could ring it."

Lukas gasped in shock as they narrowly avoided a branch, clasping shut his eyes as she managed to dodge it. This feeling of uncontrolled flying was terrifying - the girl could very easily drop him, and his neck would snap without a doubt.

Ahead, a party of fifty or so dwarves stormed through the village as their brethren distracted and held off the fighting elves. They were heading straight for the village centre, where the cries of terrified children attracted the raiding party.

The flashbacks came flooding in.

The screams. The cries of battle. Anguish, terror, the bloodlust of the advancing enemy.

Everything was burning.

"Louki!" Ryuu screamed, snapping him free. His breathing had quickened, his chest rising and falling in terror as the flashback swallowed him. Avalon was struggling to keep them in the air, her wings beating frantically as she tried to stay airborne.

They were getting closer to the army, and Avalon was loosing height.

Avalon cried out in warning as they got closer to the ground.

"I'm dropping you!" she yelled, releasing them both. Lukas dropped to the floor, still breathing heavily from the flashbacks, stumbling as Ryuu steadied his arm.

The battle raged to the west. The ambush from the east was spotted, the Alpha races charging forwards with their ugly weapons drawn.

Lukas screamed.

"Louki, snap out of it!" Ryuu was saying, gripping his shoulder as Lukas gasped. Why? Why did the memories have to come back now?

"We have to fight!" 

Lukas stood beside Ryuu, trembling. The elf had his katana drawn, ready to fight. Somehow, Lukas stood himself ready as the dwarves came in. Behind him, the screams of the innocents rung through the air, piercing cries of terror as the dwarves rushed forwards.

Nobody to protect them. Nothing but the screams and the fear and the terror. The fighters were dealing with the distraction in the west.

He could do nothing.

"Louki!"

Ryuu snapped him free again, and Lukas gritted his teeth in determination. Not again. He couldn't be a burden again.

The dwarves charged, and Lukas engaged in battle, his blade slicing through them as he held them back. He couldn't let it happen again.

One slipped past him, charging towards the elves who couldn't fight. Instantly, Avalon was diving towards them, killing them right before the eyes of the innocents. 

The soldiers rushed in, bloodlust in their eyes. Their intent: to capture or to kill. Lukas and his twin clung to each other as the Alpha race flooded into the cave.

Cruelty was never far in this world.

Everything passed in a blur. The dwarves falling around him, their bodies dropping to the floor as they tried to get to the elves. Avalon destroyed any who got past Ryuu and Lukas, but they were coming faster, now, and even Avalon couldn't do it.

One slipped past her, and slayed two children before the angel managed to lodge a knife between his eyes.

Defenceless, weaponless, helpless. The mothers and children could do nothing as the warriors fought the distraction to the west, oblivious to the onslaught.

He didn't want to die.

All around him, death. More of them were reaching the weaponless villagers, slaughtering at least one before Avalon managed to kill them. Lukas couldn't stand it. He hated the thoughtless murder of those who could not fight back, he despised those who could take the life of a defenceless child.

Just like they'd taken his brother.

They ripped his twin from his arms, trapping him beneath a net as they did the same to his sibling. Around him, his friends were slaughtered, their crimson blood splattering the cave floor with a violent array of scarlet.

Everybody around him, trapped or dying.

He was loosing his control, the anger swallowing him as his dark, formidable secret threatened to show. Dying screams rung through his ears as he fought against the attackers, but there was simply nothing he could do to stop it. Nothing but to succumb to the rage, to the secret that could kill him. It was his death, or theirs.

Ryuu screamed out in agony, swallowed beneath the army of dwarves as he went down. Ryuu, who reminded him of his twin. His twin, who he had failed to save.

Lukas let the secret swallow him completely.

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