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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21. Healing

"Lukas!" Ryuu's voice tore through the raging ocean of noise. He found the elf quickly - charging towards the body of the dragon Guardian, not waiting to see if he'd heard him.

And then he realised that Ryuu was running not towards the dragon, but towards the angel beside it. At first, it seemed as though the angel was one of their enemies. Lukas darted closer, his flames licking at Ryuu's attacker as he plunged into the fray. Then the horror came, because as he neared the black dragon and the bloodied angel, he realised that it was not one of the enemy, but the one who had saved him.

"Clear me a path!" Ryuu yelled skywards, lifting the angel over his shoulder. Lukas bowed his head in understanding, beating the powerful wings of his dragon form and diving towards the approaching Guardian. Why could he never save the people who saved him? Why was he so helpless - so useless to them?

The opposing Guardian screeched and snapped its beak, but a griffin could never match a dragon. Lukas ripped it from the sky, knowing that he had to protect the angel. That he could not repay his saviour with uselessness again. The griffin's blood sickened him, and had he not been so desperate to save the angel, he would have dropped beside it in disbelief and horror.

He landed as Ryuu reached the trees.

"He's breathing," Ryuu muttered. "Get Avalon." When Lukas didn't move, too shocked to react, Ryuu repeated himself again. "Get Avalon! Now!"

He snapped back to reality, beating his wings and taking off once more. Easily, he found the flashes of golden light as her storm magic raged around her - her own miniature army. But even with the magic, Avalon was struggling against a dragon Guardian and its rider. The red monster was smaller than the black dragon's corpse, but it was fast, and Avalon tiring.

Lukas found a roar escaping his jaws as he shot towards her, flames already filling his throat with the unfamiliar burning of power. Diving over her, he exhaled the flames, hovering protectively before going for the finishing blow. His fangs sank into the other's throat, talons locking, tails writhing as they struggled for power. The red's eyes were feral with insanity - the mark of a Guardian too far plunged into slavery. He could not simply scare this one away, he realised with horror. He would have to take it down, else it could kill him - or worse, Avalon.

In a frantic final grasp for power, it tried to slam his body into the ground, but Lukas's dragon form was stronger, and he gained control, finally getting a solid grip on the Guardian's neck and plunging his fangs in deep.

He watched as it fell to the ground, dying scream on its jaws as its body crashed into the trees. No sense of victory, only a revolted horror. The dragon was simply a victim, but it had been it or Avalon, and he wouldn't stand by and watch her wounded.

Another scream of agony burst through the air, and he spun around, ready to protect Avalon.

No need.

Her opponent's wing was torn: enough that he could no longer fly; too little to force him into a fatal fall.

Lukas wondered briefly if she had missed a blow or been merciful, but didn't ponder on it. He needed to get her to the angel. With a growl, he captured her attention, tossing his head frantically.

"Lead on," she called to him, and Lukas spun around, grateful of her understanding. There was only one Guardian left, and two of the angels. The grey dragon was fighting them, and as Lukas shot overhead, he snarled, praying the angels fled before he had to kill so much as one more being. The remaining angels shot one look at Lukas before spinning and fleeing, the Guardian following instantly.

Raising her head, the grey dragon studied him and snorted in what might have been gratitude, but Lukas did not pause to think of it. He beat his wings, propelling himself towards the angel with Avalon following closely. Ryuu was desperately trying to stop the bleeding, trying to tie bandages around the wounds with strips of material torn from his sleeves. It was a futile effort, Lukas realised as he landed heavily beside them, but trying was better than standing helplessly by.

Avalon dropped to the ground beside the angel, and Ryuu looked up in despair.

"Can you save him?"

"I can try."

She lifted her hands above the worst wound - the deep gash that ran along the back of his shoulder to his wing - and a light spilled from them, faint at first. As Avalon worked, the light grew stronger, until it was a glowing sphere of silvery green energy.

The grey dragon landed beside him, her limbs already snapping and folding inwards in transformation as she hit the ground, half-flying, half-running as she dashed to the angel's side.

"What the hell happened?" she demanded. Her voice was sharper than knives.

"He was hurt by a dragon," Ryuu muttered, eyeing her warily. "Stand back. She's trying to help."

The Guardian grit her teeth, but did not step forwards. He could see the concentration in Avalon's face so clearly it looked almost as though it was hurting her, as though the use of so much healing magic was stabbing at her.

And maybe it was - but there was no other choice. As much as he hated it, the pain on Avalon's part was less severe than the pain the angel must be going through.

But he could see the light from the magic fading. Avalon was struggling, fighting desperately to keep the healing energy strong. It was a battle she was losing.

"I... I can only keep him alive," she managed. "I can't keep it up."

The Guardian girl whirled around, her eyes piercing into him and shattering what little resolve had not been eaten away by guilt.

"Save him!" she hissed. "It was you he came to save, so repay him! You can turn into stuff, can't you? Turn into a healer!"

For a moment, her words did not make sense. A healer? Whatever he turned into, his powers were never as strong, and he needed to picture the being he was to transform into.

"Hurry up!" the other Guardian hissed, jolting him back into action. He racked his mind for memory of a skilled healer, and found one in the abyss of memories he'd promised never to revisit. She'd been a Dawnbringer elf. She'd healed the soldiers who'd attacked his family. She'd looked at him, and turned her nose up in disgust, and she'd walked away in disdain, leaving him to scream behind the bars.

With the new form in his mind, he urged his magic to flow through his veins, taking control of his form and weaving its way through his body until he felt the familiar feeling of his figure compacting, every powerful limb of the dragon form shrinking back into the body of an elf.

Transformation complete, he ran to Avalon's side.

"I'll take over. Tell me how to heal him."

She took his hands in a fluid motion, holding them above the angel's wound. Avalon's magic had done little but reduced the flow of blood.

"Hold them there. Don't touch him, but imagine a light coming from your palms and seeping into him. Imagine it knitting the wounds back together. But don't do it too fast, or you'll hurt him even more. Concentrate - don't let too much magic out, but don't restrain it too much. I'll guide you."

Lukas took a shaky breath, and nodded, releasing a trickle of magic from his fingertips. He could barely see the light of its energy.

"More," Avalon told him, and he doubled the amount of magic flowing from his skin. "More," she repeated, and Lukas kept going, allowing yet more of the power to seep through him and into the angel's broken body.

"Concentrate on the wound, not the light," Avalon said. Her voice echoed through his ears, a beacon of reassurance and hope as he tried to picture the magic weaving the angel's skin back together with slow and careful vigilance.

"Good," Avalon murmured. "Keep going."

Never had he used a form so difficult to master, but somehow, her voice managed to drag him through, as though it was controlling his body and he was merely the means of performance. Every second of it forced his head to throb with the sheer concentration of magic control, and fear lanced through him. Too quickly, and he could kill the angel. Too slowly, and he would fail to save him.

"You can stop, now," Avalon said gently, and Lukas finally cut the supply of magic. It was only as it faded that he realised how exhausted it had rendered him.

"He's going to be okay?" the Guardian demanded, and beneath the cutting anger Lukas could detect the worry.

"He'll recover," Avalon said. Without the blinding light from the magic, the wounds were easier to see. The gash had been reduced to a cut - still red and swollen and painful - but not bleeding.

"His wings are still broken," Lukas said doubtfully. "And the other one's bleeding too much."

Lukas nodded. "I'll heal them now. Avalon, how do you heal broken bones?"

"Cut first," she said, and he nodded again, shifting a little and holding his hands above the gash. Again, he allowed a little of the magic to flow from his skin, increasing the amount until Avalon told him to stop, trying to keep the release of magic steady as he healed the wound. Taking a deep breath, he almost allowed his concentration to slip, nearly losing his control on the magic.

"That'll have to do," Avalon said, and he stopped in relief. A few drops of blood managed to escape the cut, but it wasn't life-threatening. "Broken bones," Avalon prompted. "Do the same thing, but imagine the bones moulding back together into the right shape. You think you can do that?" He nodded. "Good. I'm going to help. This is more difficult. Ryuu, where are the bones broken?"

The elf knelt beside them, studying the wings. "The main break's there," he pointed. "If you get that back to normal, it should stabilise his condition. The other injuries can be healed later, but that one's too bad to be left."

Lukas lifted his hands again, trying to quell the trembling of fatigue. He just needed to help the angel with one last injury. One last wound, and then he could finally rest.

Once again, he willed the magic from his hands, and returned to healing. Avalon had been right - bones were even more difficult to heal. He could almost feel it resisting, refusing to fit back into its natural shape.

"Ryuu, try to hold the wing up," Avalon said. "Try to snap it back into position, and Lukas will do the rest."

Ryuu softly slid his hand under the angel's wing, taking it with a firm but gentle grip. And then he wrenched.

The angel jerked in his unconscious state, but the wing looked natural once more.

"Heal!" Avalon urged him, and Lukas raised his hands once more as Ryuu held the wing steady. In the grip of the magic, he could sense the bone as he managed to bind both fragments together once more. He grit his teeth, trying to fight through the light-headedness that threatened to swallow him.

"That's fine," Avalon announced. Lukas's hands fell down to his sides, useless and weak.

"He'll be okay, now," Ryuu muttered.

Lukas slumped to the ground, but somewhere inside him, there was the redeeming sense of relief.

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