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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3. Fight

Lukas threw himself aside, already bringing out a short sword to defend himself. Almost instantaneously, Ryuu leapt forwards and swung a punch at Lukas' face. Somehow he managed to duck beneath the strike, but was defenceless to Avalon's knife, coming straight towards his chest once more.

There was no pain.

Glancing down at his chest, Lukas was surprised to see that no blood was seeping through his clothing, no crimson stain to show his demise. Instead, the knife hovered inches away from his body, only to be pulled back slowly and sheathed in a clean, fluid movement.

"You have good reactions, Louki," Avalon grinned. Lukas slumped to the floor, as Ryuu regained his calm composure again.

"You almost killed me to test my reactions?"

It sounded somewhat like a question, a threat and an accusation rolled into one. Lukas himself couldn't say which he meant it as.

"No," Avalon replied. "We know what we're doing. So no, we didn't almost kill you."

He glared up at her, but the girl seemed unfazed; amused, if anything. "Get some rest," she advised, laughing. "You'll need it."

 

Night had crept up quickly for some and slowly for others. For Lukas, it was a slow, dragging time, spent leaning against a tree for rest, the very tree Avalon had climbed into for her own respite, sleeping on a branch she claimed was actually fairly comfortable. Ryuu had done the slightly more normal thing - the same as Lukas.

But he couldn't sleep. No matter how hard he tried, Lukas could not allow sleep to claim him, despite the exhaustion covering him from a day of travelling to reach the village.

When the night finally did come, they remounted the horses, guiding them slowly through the trees in their groups.

Avalon and Ryuu lead, meaning Lukas was in front with them - a position of attention that he did not greatly enjoy. The other elves were observing him. Not directly, of course, but still... The more these people knew, the greater the danger. A simple fact.

They left the horses tied to trees where they could easily find them upon retreating, then moved into their attack positions, coordinated by Captain Shou.

Lukas could feel the anticipation building inside him. But not, strangely, so much fear as determination.

He'd seen too many things to be scared of this. Maybe that was why he was determined - his own losses had made him realise that it was only right to stop it happening again.

Beside him, Ryuu gave him a sidelong glance of reassurance, and Lukas wondered how many times Ryuu and Avalon had fought before. Avalon seemed knowledgeable in the art of war. How many times had they gone into battle against the humans, dwarves, and those from the elven realm who supported their army? How many times had they fought to defend the race of angels, fighting alongside barely a third of the elven race?

The call of an owl rang through the night air - indistinguishable to a dwarf. But to an elf? The call was evidently too long, the pitch too high, if only by the slightest.

The signal.

Ryuu and Lukas dashed forwards, their feet making no sound as they skimmed the forest floor. Arriving on the outskirts of the camp, they waited for the next signal. Shooting arrows wouldn't work here - their targets were inside tents, and hidden from view. This required melee skills.

Another 'owl' called out, the sound echoing through the night.

Go.

Lukas surged forwards, slicing open the tent with Ryuu beside him. Before the dwarves inside could even react, Ryuu had killed two and Lukas the other. Above, Avalon would be shooting any that escaped from the tents, ready to swoop down and help any of the elves who didn't manage a successful ambush.

Screams rang out through the cold air, the sign that at least some of the ambushes had failed. Quickly, the screams were cut by attacking elves, but it was too late.

"One more tent," Ryuu muttered, and Lukas found himself agreeing. It was a waste if they left with only three kills.

They flicked to the next tent, mere shadows darting in the dark of the night. This time, Ryuu sliced through the material and Lukas took out two of the three dwarves.

Blood no longer bothered him. It had, once, when he'd been younger. But then he'd seen the blood of his own: so much blood he should be mortified of it. It had been the sight of his own that had forced him to accept it. The deaths of those around him had made him realise that death is just a part of life.

Now, to kill was nothing special. No stab of guilt or pain or horror. Just a job that needed to be done - so long as it didn't concern the innocent. And now, the world was freed of three more heartless raiders who were happy to kill the ones Lukas wasn't.

The retreat signal was sounded, the one that told elves to flee to the trees and fire their ragesap arrows. Then run. Run for their lives.

Around them, dwarves scrambled from tents in raging fits of anger and fear, grasping weapons and charging at anything of the elven figure.

"Ryuu!" the scream resounded through the air, and Ryuu's head snapped upwards. Avalon was darting through the sky, clearly to aid a group of elves who needed help. Evidently, the call to her friend meant that she'd need help to save them, because Ryuu sprinted after her.

He hardly knew them. And yet they were so brave, so strong... And then there was the fact that Ryuu reminded him of somebody, somebody who Lukas had failed to save.

Lukas wondered briefly if he was crazy.

And charged right after them.

 

 

Running straight through the camp of dwarves could only be described as terrifying. Around him, they were running from tents, charging at him with weapons in hand. Somehow he managed to fend them off with the short sword, slaying one and ignoring the droplets of crimson blood flying about him. Up ahead, Avalon was diving in to save the elves, but Ryuu was lost from sight.

Lukas could only duck and run, evading them as best as he could, slaying any that he could not avoid. There was a silver flash from the corner of his eye: the cold, heartless glint of a metal blade.

His sword arm came up to defend himself, and he leapt nimbly backwards. Apparently, the onslaught wasn't going to stop; another two joined in with the first to attack. Lukas twisted around a sword strike, bringing his sword down to meet the dwarf's head. The hilt smashed into the helmet, and the dwarf crumpled to the floor.

A rush of fear spread through him as a she-dwarf's spear narrowly skimmed his shoulder, cutting only a slight gash into the flesh. This warrior was not so lucky; Lukas sent his sword slashing through her throat, then raised the bloodied blade across his chest to defend another blow.

Avalon's voice echoed through the camp from up ahead, and Lukas surged forwards, slicing through the wrist of one warrior to protect himself.

The hand was still clenched around the sword as it dropped to the ground.

A heavy weight collided with him as one of the dwarves tackled him to the ground, landing heavily on top of him. Around him, some of their enemies were turning on each other, all of them those with arrows protruding from arms.

Well, the ragesap was working.

His attacker raised a fist above his head, eyes wild with hatred. Ragesap. Brilliant - the dwarf had lost all sense of sanity. Only the desire to kill remained.

A powerful fist collided with his face, sending a painful agony through his left cheekbone as the dwarf punched again.

Lukas screamed. The pain was almost overwhelming as the dwarf slammed his fist into his face over and over again, keeping him pinned down with his weight. Fear rushed through him, a helpless terror as the dwarf bloodied his nose. Vision blurring, Lukas could only wish that he'd pass out soon. The quicker this was over, the better.

Cries of defiance rang through the camp, and his oppressor was torn away from him. Lukas could make out the blurred outline of the dwarf as it fell to the ground before a taller figure. Relief rushed through him. Ryuu must have come back for him.

A shadow passed over him, a brief moment of darkness before the shadow was before him, their blurred silhouette too fast to see as they charged straight into the smaller, stouter figures.

A whimper of pain escaped his lips as he tried to sit up, his head spinning and his senses dulled. The second of his saviours was Avalon, judging by the blurred shapes protruding from the figure's back that could only be wings. The first, wingless figure moved before him to protect him, as the winged silhouette kept the others away.

"Hang on, Louki."

Louki... Who was Louki? Lukas couldn't remember. The world was spinning; all thoughts of 'Louki' left his mind almost instantly. 

The one with the wings gathered him up in their arms, and suddenly the world felt even worse; gravity seemed completely ignored as the air around him grew colder.

Darkness ensued.

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