His lungs were about to explode. He could taste blood, and yet still he forced his legs and arms to keep moving, sprinting furiously onward. How much further was it? Surely his lungs would burst, he just could not make it.
“Don’t stop now!” someone shouted, as if they could read his mind.
He kept running, eyes focused on the others around him, all panting loudly keeping up this arduous pace. Their footsteps echoed loudly against the marble floors, and he barely had time to notice the ornate paintings hanging on the walls of the expansive hallway. He had never been to this part of the citadel before.
The ground shook violently causing them to all stumble. He nearly tripped but kept his stride and glanced back to see the roof behind them collapsing. Huge chunks of cracked stone and wood beams were crumbling to the floor wrecking the ornately designed interior.
“Keep going!” the same voice screamed, voice strained from also running.
They tumbled around a corner trying not to slow down. He slid on the turn and fell down, smashing his knee into the marble floor.
“Aaargh!” he yelled without meaning to.
“Revyn!” his mother screamed at him turning around.
He clambered back up to his feet, wincing at his knee, but it wasn’t anything serious.
“Elquay go with the others, I have him.” said the same voice as a hand grabbed Revyn and pulled him forward.
The tumble gave a slight respite to his lungs but they were soon complaining yet again as he ran down this new hallway with the others. He looked ahead and saw huge bronze doors shut before them which Revyn did not recognize. What else of the citadel had he not seen before? He supposed it didn’t matter now; the whole thing would surely be destroyed in hours.
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They slid to a stop near the gigantic doors and while everyone was gasping for air one voice was barking orders, “quick open the doors.” Two members of the group began to chant some language or spell Revyn did not understand.
He was still breathing heavily, hands on his knees, when suddenly there was a low rumble above them. He instinctively craned his neck up toward the noise as did the others. The lofty ceiling high above them was ornately painted and had sections of rich cedar support beams exposed. The effect was natural, sturdy, and yet elegant; at least Revyn thought so. There was an expansive skylight, protected by some blue glowing haze, above the hallway they had just ran. Flashes of light from the glass and changing shadows lit up the hallway like an eery lightning storm. Revyn knew this was from the battle which raged outside both on the ground and in the air. A shadow suddenly covered the whole skylight darkening the entire hallway they were standing in. His stomach tightened, he strained his eyes gazing upward, what could it be- BANG!
A flash of white blinded him, the ground shook beneath his feet and the ceiling he was just looking at blasted apart sending splintered wood and stone everywhere. He was knocked to the ground along with most of the others from the force of the explosion. He hit the ground hard, head ringing from the noise, and found his face on the floor. He sat up still disoriented from the blast, and saw chucks of stone and wood scattered around, cracking the floor in various spots. Some of the others were standing, others also knocked to the ground. Some of the men in robes, Magi, were standing with arms outstretched upward, casting out a blue field of sorts. No doubt this protected debris from crushing them. Much of the ceiling and roof were gone and Revyn could see the bare sky. As he scrambled up he noticed strange creatures sliding down ropes through the hole in the ceiling where the skylight had been.
The creatures, about seven or so already on the ground, had gathered themselves in a group facing Revyn and the others. They were smaller than a full grown man, about Revyn’s own height, and yet rather stocky. Their leathery green skin and yellow eyes were not pleasing. The same man who had been talking earlier yelled, “Orcs!”
The orcs were taking long cylinder objects out and lighting them on fire. Revyn thought they looked like sticks or torches but he turned to look at the others and they were preparing for something more serious. The Guards had drawn swords, his mother her bow, and the one who had been issuing commands a gun and a sword in each hand. Revyn drew out his own gun, a pistol with a small blade attached, and held it pointed toward the creatures destroying his home. He hated them.
The men in cloaks stopped their chant and the door began to creak open behind them. There was a moment of silence Revyn found unnerving.
The orcs let out a terrible cry and threw their flaming torches at Revyn and the others. He ducked in instinct while his mother yelled something. Suddenly a blue field expanded from his mother and encircled all of them.
He looked up to see the torches flying through the air and hit the barrier. They exploded on contact sending sending more fire everywhere outside their barrier.
As suddenly as the barrier appeared it disappeared and his mother let loose an arrow. The head of an orc rocked back as the arrow impaled it’s skull; the orc crumpled to the floor. Then both sides let loose.
Gunshots echoed through the halls as arrows and bullets found their marks and orcs dropped dead. Green blood splattered across the luscious carpet and ornate decorations. The orcs returned fire with crossbows and throwing axes.
An orc’s crossbow released an arrow headed straight toward Revyn. In a split second he watched it come near him but then suddenly the arrow was pushed by some invisible force and clattered harmlessly into the wall behind him to his left.
More arrows clattered off shields held by Guards standing around him while others hit a barrier that might suddenly appear around one of the cloaked men. The gunshots caused Revyn’s ears to ring. The men in cloaks hurled glowing balls of white hot something they had conjured out of nothing at the creatures, exploding on contact. The orcs shrieked and were blasted apart, white flames consumed their bodies. Yet, for as many orcs that dropped to the floor, many more were pouring in from the blasted hole in the ceiling above them.
“Tailem!” Revyn’s mother shouted, “take care of these, I am getting my son out of here.”
“Of course!” The man who had been giving orders replied.
More orcs were coming through the hole and now from around the corner where they had just come from. Other rumblings indicated more explosions in the vicinity. They needed to get out.
As his mother made to pull him through the huge open doors behind him, he resisted. Instead he reached out with his gun toward an orc and pulled the trigger. Energy left him as he felt the mana in his blood conduct through the handle of the gun. He knew this energy would create a ball of metal inside the barrel. Moments later the energy released.
His arm rocked back, he saw a flash of light from the barrel, and then heard a THUD as his bullet hit his target. It struck the orc in the neck, causing the creature to scream and curse. Grabbing its neck, the creature twisted around and fell down in its own blood.
Revyn had never killed a living creature before. Even so, he barely had a moment to consider the writhing creature on the ground, for he felt sudden pressure on his arm.
“Now!” Revyn’s mother implored him, and he obeyed.
They rushed through the open doorway and Revyn found himself in a large circular room with a high domed ceiling.
“Hurry! We must escape,” She implored again and they rushed up some steps to a platform in the center of the room.
On this platform, was a large archway, which looked very old to Revyn because the stone was so weathered. It stood out against the clean marble, gold, and wood of the surrounding room.
“Is this a… “ Revyn wasn’t sure what to call it, but he thought he had heard of a kind of doorway made with magic that can take you anywhere in the world.
“A Gateway, yes.” His mother completed.
As she muttered something quickly and waved her hand a lightning bolt flashed from her hand and struck the center of the empty archway. Slowly a blue swirling something began to grow inside it. Comprehension slowly came to Revyn; this is how they were getting out.
“But what about dad!?” Revyn asked. “You said we were meeting him?”
“I know what I said.” His mother replied, but she was not looking at him.
Before Revyn could press the issue the others in their group came bursting through the doors.
“Warlocks!” Tailem yelled as he and the Guards and Magi came through the doors, some walking backwards blocking axes and arrows.
Revyn glanced toward his mother and saw fear in her eyes. His heart skipped, he had never seen his mother afraid. Orcs were one thing, but Warlocks... this was different. Escape was not a sure thing.
The Guards and Tailem took position a few yards back from the door, while the Magi tried to push the doors back to close them with some kind of blue wave which emanated from their hands.
Sensing a pause from the enemy, Revyn turned again toward his mother. “Where is dad? We’ve got to find him!”
She looked back at him, her face looked looked like stone, and she said, “He- “ her voice stumbled, “he’s nowhere to be found.”
“You mean...” his voice trailed off.
She closed her eyes, and just shook her head abruptly.
Revyn merely gaped back at his mother. He could not believe it, he would not believe it. His father could not be dead. Their kingdom could crumble, his home destroyed, his friends lost, he and his family might become slaves, but his father couldn’t die.
He turned and ran towards towards Tailem, who was sworn to serve the royal family. “Tailem! We’ve got to get my dad.”
Tailem stared back at Revyn, unblinking, and said, “We can’t do that.”
“I, I-“ Revyn felt himself choking, his eyes beginning to tear up, “I am the prince!” His voiced cracked as he almost screamed this. “I order you to assist me to find him!”
“I already have my orders. This was his plan, son. The only way.”
“I don’t care, I’m going to get him.”
Revyn attempted to march past Tailem but Tailem held him back.
“Get out of my way Tailem.” He wrestled with the general’s arms. “I am not a boy!” He heard himself shout.
His mother came running after him, “Revyn, stop!”
Tailem held him securely despite Revyn’s wrestling and cursing. Finally, Tailem shook him somewhat violently to get his attention. Then he brought them both to eye level and said, “But you are not yet a man.”
Revyn wasn’t sure what was happening. He was crying. He was yelling. He was fighting only half-heartedly now to get past Tailem, not thinking of anything other than finding his dad.
He thought all along they were going to meet him and escape together. That was supposed to be the plan. How could it end like this?
Elquay arrived and pulled him back from Tailem, she was crying and she now looked Revyn straight in the eyes. They stared at each other, both tears running down their faces.
She opened her mouth to speak but no words came out. She paused, tried again, and simply said, “We must leave.”
“But you said you had just seen him! And we were going to find him- we were going to escape together! He must be still alive...” Revyn trailed off, his protest more to himself than toward his mother.
“We must leave,” she repeated, “he did this for us.”
She brought him close for an embrace and held him tight. He didn't hug her back, not because he didn't want to but because he couldn't. He couldn't feel anything right then.
His father had sacrificed himself so they could escape, and there was nothing he could do to change that. Why would his dad do this? Why not run together? Why not fight together? The first feelings that came to him were not remorse, only emptiness and betrayal; surely there must have been another way?
The bronze doors were nearly closed when they suddenly stopped. They just wouldn’t budge any further. Then they slowly began to open.
“Get ready!” Tailem shouted.
Revyn and his mother stood up and faced the door. They walked backwards up onto the platform just in front of the gateway, their weapons drawn. The blue something inside the ring of the gateway was bigger and glowing brighter, but still the portal was not ready for them to leave. The bronze doors started opening faster, and Revyn could see a reddish orange glow coming from behind the doors on the other side. He thought he could see silhouettes when -
A bright flash of light burst through the room and doors opened wide slamming against the walls echoing loudly through the chamber. Revyn covered his ears, it was worse than the gunshots.
Men in black armor began to clamber through the now open doorway. Flashes of blue and red zipped through the room and bullets pinged off armor and swords clashed. Revyn took aim and fired into the mass of black armor entering the room and Elquay cast another protective barrier around them.
Revyn glanced at his mother who loosed another arrow, and a man in black armor fell. There was no more fear in her eyes, it had been replaced by fury. She was pissed, and so was he. These Warlocks were the men who had invaded their home, destroyed their family, and live or die, he and his mother would make them pay. He took another shot at an enemy soldier but the bullet glanced off the armor merely disorienting the foe. The portal behind Revyn was still growing, ever so slowly it seemed.
Those who were with them, Guards and Magi sworn to protect the royal family, were in combat each having to fend off several foes at once. The Magi were hurling great balls of what looked like white flame at the enemies. While these were effective against the orcs, they were snuffed out as soon as they hit the black armor. Revyn saw one Warlock get close to a Mage and was about to deliver a killing blow when the Mage vanished on the spot.
Revyn scanned the room, then suddenly with a loud POP the same Mage reappeared on the other side. Still his escape was temporary as other soldiers in black closed in. Revyn took aim and fired several shots hitting the Warlocks. They stumbled and turned, giving time for other Guards to engage the Warlocks and help the Mage; he gave a quick thumbs up at Revyn in appreciation for the distraction.
Elsewhere a Guard and a Warlock were in fierce sword combat, sword blows glancing off shields or parried away. Revyn noticed the same Mage stretch out his hand, which glowed, toward this Guard and the Guard’s sword suddenly burned blue and shimmered brightly.
The Warlock flinched and put his shield up to block the coming blow. It didn’t matter, with a loud THRACK and crunching noise the blue sword severed armor, bone, and tendon. It ripped right through the shield and his black armor as if it were nothing. The blade sank deep into the man from the shoulder down to his waist, nearly severing him in two. He yelled out as blood gushed from the cracks in his armor. The Warlock sank to the ground and the Guard pulled out his sword in victory.
No sooner had the Guard done this a red blast hit him in the back. The flame blasted his shield apart and lit the man’s arm on fire. Stunned and yelling in pain as his arm burned, this Guard looked up just when a Warlock swung a sword and took his head clean off. The blue sword tumbled from his hands and his body just stood there as blood splattered across the walls and floor where his head rolled along. Moments later his body collapsed; the battle continued without noticing.
Despite taking many Warlocks with them, the Guards and Magi were soon dead on the ground. Revyn, his mother Elquay, and his father’s general Tailem were the only ones still alive.
The Warlocks rushed towards them. The portal behind them flashed white causing everyone in the room to pause as they were blinded by the light. All Revyn could see was white and his eyes burned. He blinked furiously and looked again to see a blurry Tailem hurrying toward he and his mother clutching his bleeding side.
“Now!” Tailem yelled.
“Revyn!” his mother screamed at him as she grabbed his hand.
“Ok!” was all he could think to say and all three of them jumped through the Gateway.
The moment they crossed the edge of the portal it felt as though he was suddenly yanked off his feet and then felt like he was falling. His mother’s hand was pulled from his and he caught her face briefly before she and the shadow of Tailem disappeared in a fog that surrounded him. He kept falling downward or upward, or moving somehow, he wasn’t sure. Swirling lights and blue mist was all around him and he could hear his own yells echo and merge with theirs.
A week ago Revyn was pulling pranks on his little sister. His biggest concern was which university he should study magic. Now his father was dead, his family scattered, and his home destroyed. The kingdom he was supposed to inherit some day had just been conquered. How did this happen?