Above the realms of men, dance the Light Elves of Alfheim. Wise, immortal and captivating... These creatures are blessed by the Aesir and have harnessed the power of flight. But when war strikes down upon them with fire and doom; nothing can be saved except from the anger for those whom had committed such despicable acts. Text and illustrations copyright © A_Books_Magic_Moment 2014 The right of A_Books_Magic_Moment to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored as a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.


11. Ragnar

The Entry Hall of Angabar, Alfheim

Swipe, parry, block. Swipe, parry, block. Swipe, parry, block. The dance repeated itself, over and over. Many were fighting, more lay dead. Ragnar had killed, at the least, two hundred of those blasted fire demons. However, they kept coming down from the spiral stairs, having climbed into the fortress from crawling up the walls and leaping through windows. Still believing that this were some dream, Ragnar hesitated for one moment. His last opponent lay before him, dead. He studied the grotesque features of its face. The red and black skin looked as if it were dripping down and hung loosely from the demon's bones. The eyes were full of dark terrors that could kill a man with one look. The teeth were sharp and pointed, like the ears that reached up so high. "AHH!" he cried as a spear pierced his side. A demon had struck him whilst his guard was down - this was no dream.

It was a nightmare made flesh.

His Fireshields rushed to shove the demon off - but it was no good. The spear was deep into his flesh, the black sulphur from its metal tip cursing his body with pain and turmoil. Crying again as one of his men killed the demon and another removing the spear, Ragnar slumped to the ground. He panted for a while, before gathering his strength and rising to meet his foe.

Renewed energy flowed through his veins, pulsating with every beat of his heart. The Captain gave a war cry as he charged for the group that were now coming down the stairs. Killing the first demon by pouring its guts out onto the marble floor, he moved to the second. Twirling round its long spear, Ragnar decapitated the beast. Its head rolled and bounced on the ground, leaving dots of grit and some sort of unearthly powder on the floor. Disgusted with his enemy, the Captain only found it easier to kill them.

Converging together as a unit, five Fireshields pinned twenty of the demons to the staircase's spine with their own spears. The demons hissed and called out with curses and spells with their barbarous tongue. They had no power here. The words were merely water, rushing and flowing around the Elves with no harm. Running up the stairs, Ragnar was left alone as that group of five cleared the staircase. "If only we were up there, and they down here. Then we could simply knock away the staircase." a man thought aloud half-way up the marble steps.

The group travelled back down to their Captain. "You should get that looked at, sir." one pointed to his deep wound with a gore-slick dagger. Ragnar smiled at the boy's worry, but worry did no good. "It doesn't look all that pretty."

"This is war," Ragnar turned to the broken Phoenix doors where he had emerged with the lordling and... and Alva. He hadn't realised until they were in those tunnels who she was. How could he have been such a fool? Ragnar had been angry at her for so long; but when he saw her with Lord Steinar, he knew that he was but a distant memory. A distant painful memory of that night. "Nothing in war is pretty."

Demons charged once more down the stairs. The six of them were ready. Three of them had shields, they stood at the front. Locking their feet into the ground, the demons slammed into the trio and fell straight away. Moving over them, as if they were grass, the Fireshields advanced for one last time. They cut the demon's throats, tore through their stomachs, snitched at their thigh and stabbed at their hearts. The blood pooled around them. A lake of gore - this was befitting for the Bloody Fortress. What other type of lake would their be?

The one who had worried about Ragnar's wound fell, his eyes wide - pleading for mercy. But you do not get mercy from demons. The Captain of the Fireshields roared with anger. He charged into the centre of the demon's party. Slashing and throwing his sword about, he killed many of them. Using his left forearm as a shield, Ragnar received many cuts from his foe. The others could not help him.

They were all surrounded by fire and shadow.

Ragnar took a blow willingly. His legs gave way at the jab to his knee. Then the Captain lay there - waiting for his eternal sleep. "Captain!" another of his men screamed as he noticed Ragnar's position on the floor. Try as he might, the soldier could do nothing, he had been intercepted by another group of demons. So much for dying on my feet, Ragnar though as the sword came in relation to his heart.

To his death.

A silver arrow whizzed through the air. Knocking the sword out from the demon's grasp, Ragnar stayed alive for that much longer. No, he thought, remembering Steinar's words, I will die on my feet, with freedom in my heart. Taking out the demon's gnarled legs from under him, Ragnar stabbed the creature in what he presumed was his neck. Blood the colour of rust, sprayed onto his chest, his face. Closing his mouth just in time, he prevented the sickening substance from getting into his body.

Moving onto the next demon, Ragnar ignored the searing pain that spread through his right side. Black goo ran from the back of his knee. He did not care. What mattered was the demon in front of him. The one that he would kill next. Parrying a blow, Ragnar grabbed the demon from the back of its head and kneed it in the face. Sulphur ran down his pants and onto his boots. It stuck to the floor, along with his boots. Yanking it off, the sole was left partially behind.

Blood loss made Ragnar dizzy, the world spinning around him. His strength would not last for much longer - not like this. Slumping to he ground, he left himself completely vulnerable to an attack. Behind him, a demon raced to decapitate the man who had killed so many of his brethren. Waiting for the blow, for Ragnar knew he would not escape this time, the Captain welcomed his death.

Clink, snap, a female Elf jumped in front of the oncoming demon. Ragnar turned slightly, to see a silver-haired woman fending of his attacker. Fluid movements found the demon dead, along with a few others. She turned to him. Her eyes were deep blue, like Steinar's. High Lady Eerika, Ragnar knew it was her from the same calm yet frightening demeanour.

Realising that a demon was coming at her from behind, Ragnar pushed her down with what little strength remained with him. No weapons were with him, so he had to make do with just his hands and feet. Elongating his hand into a flat palm, the Captain drove it upwards into the demon's belly. Grabbing the spine, once he found it, Ragnar pulled it out from the disgusting creature. Literally stealing the beast's life with his hands.

The demon had an accomplice, however, where Ragnar was alone. Shoving his foot into its face, the Captain slammed his knee down onto his enemy's neck as it writhed pitifully on the floor. All the bones in the demon's jugular were broken into tiny pieces. Its windpipe was crushed. Only a few moments remained with the beast as it gasped longingly for air. Ragnar could not help but feel sorry for it, as life was taken from the demon.

Massing against the remaining four Firesheilds, their captain and however many had come to save them - including the Lady - was the biggest group the Elves were yet to face. All the demons carried a sword and shield. Three at the back carried bows, with two full quivers per bowman. Surely, this was going to be along day.

"Fireshields," Ragnar growled. They rallied behind him, one handed the Captain his sword that he had lost when being attacked by at least ten of those wretched demons. Grasping the hilt one last time, Ragnar felt its rough edge against his calloused skin. The metal had seen many battles, and this would be its last time with him. "Attack," the word came out as a whisper. He had wanted it to be a full scale roar, but a whisper was just as powerful. Much could be done with a whisper. And give an order was one of those things.

Once more, they converged onto the enemy. The two to Ragnar's right switched with those on the left, crossing each other's past as they charged into the group. Ragnar went head-on. Jumping and kicking the leader right in the chest, he landed on his back and rolled to regain his footing. The blood and sulphur of his wounds mixed together on the ground, giving the air a very vile scent. The Captain only smiled.

This was his game. This was his art. This was the vey air he breathes.

Slicing at the leader's throat, the group came to a halt for just a few seconds before starting to curse the five soldiers. Ragnar drove his sword into the ribcage of a demon that raced towards him. The fiery light, so much like coals, went out with smoke escaping the orbs of his eyes. Ragnar killed the next creature that came at him, and the next and the next. He did not remember what blow he used to kill each one, but knew that is was something sinister and deadly.

Connecting with the ground was his sword point, as the Captain kneeled in the middle of all the demon carcasses. The Fireshields killed off the scavenging few that remained while Ragnar breathed heavily over the events of the past two days. Why had the Guardsmen taken so long to get down here? Honestly, was it that hard to breach an already broken fortress? "Captain Ragnar," a hand went down onto his shoulder as the male voice sounded. Grabbing the hand, twisting the arm and bringing down the Elf was no easy task - nor was it a hard one.

"I suggest you don't touch me for a while," Ragnar breathed as the male Elf looked up at him questioningly. Knowing his men would feel the same, Ragnar jerked his head in their direction, "Or them either." Rising, the Captain of the Fireshields left the soldier to his own devices. Lady Eerika travelled over, her white armour glinting without any light. She helped the soldier to his feet.

"I do not like the fact you threw Sir Mikken to the ground." her voice was sunlight in the darkness, beckoning for the lost souls to come out from where they hid. Her golden hair was braided back, yet still cascaded to the small of her back. "I have heard of you Ragnar, Captain of the Fireshields. I assume you have seen my son and his protector, Captain Alva?" He curtly nodded, not wanting to talk to her at all, "Well then, I don't suppose you could point us I the right direction?"

Ragnar laughed.

"Do I amuse you, sir?" Eerika cocked her head to the side as Ragnar bellowed out mad mirth. Soon enough, his soldiers were joining in from where they rested. One travelled over to where the Lady and her guard, Mikken, stood - along with his own captain. The laugh faded from his lips and the light grew in his eyes.

"If you think that we keep the track of every person who wanders through this hall, you are most assuredly mistaken, my lady." the soldier laughed once more, much to Mikken's annoyance, "Your young lord and his protector went to the front gates. Seems I can keep track of where two Elves go in the midst of all this chaos." Eerika blinked, a blank look plastered to her face. She was not in the slightest amused. Mikken bowed to them and carried on, Lady Eerika just behind.

"What are we going to do, Captain?" another soldier asked. He was slumped against the wall and glared at the Guardsmen while they strode arrogantly past - as if they could do any better than the Fireshields at protecting this fortress. "We can't let them have all the fun. Especially with those pious smirks on their pretty, clean faces!" they laughed once more. It echoed so thinly across the hall. Oh, how the Guardsmen must think they are such rabble.

"We certainly can't let them have all the fun. Besides, we've been protecting this fortress for far longer than they even considered it of any use." Ragnar tore the cloak off his back. It was a mere decoration now, it had no use. Ragnar remembered that soldier who had been worried about him, how he now lay dead and cold with his throat spilled into the ever enlarging pool of blood. Tossing the cloak over him, Ragnar bowed his head before moving on. "Let's go show those pompous prats what real soldiers are all about." He grinned maliciously, trailing after the white entourage ahead of them. They may have been in this war for as long as Ragnar had, but they had never fought against wraiths.

The Guardsmen were going to need a bit of fire. Or a Firefly.

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