Throughout history there have been tales of a warrior’s bond. A deep relationship that ties the fates of fighters together. Some times the bond is a lifelong friendship between warriors. Other times it is the bond between two mortal enemies destined to meet on the battlefield. This bond is also sometimes present between brother and sister or father and son. No matter how this link manifests, it is a powerful, magical bond that ties the fates of two individuals together. Sometimes in battle. Sometimes in love. But always together.
Samantha sat at a large table in the center of the library. Huge bookshelves encircled the room and spare books laid on several tables throughout the room. Samantha’s table had over a dozen books on them. Many of these were stacked on top of one another, but a few were laid out with their pages open.
Samantha glanced between several open books. One about snowy-terrain foliage, one about the history of the Elvish culture, and a third about the Underdark.
Normally people couldn’t read one book as fast as Samantha was reading, but she was having no trouble jumping between the three books with ease. She was always a fast learner and a quick reader. She was always curious and always soaking up as much information as she possibly could.
Others would mock Samantha when she was in school for not being very athletic or not having many friends, but this did not bother her. She knew that books were always there for her when things got tough. Whenever she was having a bad day, she would just sneak away and come to the library to read one of her favorite books or do some studying. Plus it wasn’t like she had no friends, she had…
A loud knocking sound on the library doors interrupted Samantha’s thought. She looked up from her books towards the sound.
The two tall doors of the library open and a familiar, human man stepped into the room.
“There you are, Samantha. I stopped by your home, but when you weren’t there, I knew you would be here,” The man smiled.
“Cameron!” Samantha cheered. “Just in time! I was doing some research about the tainted water.”
“Samantha,” Cameron groaned. “Not this again. I thought I told you to drop that. People get sick. It happens.”
“No Cameron,” Samantha said. “Not like that. That’s unnatural.”
Samantha strolled over to Cameron picking up the Elvish book.
“See, look here,” Samantha said.
“I don’t have time for this, Samantha,” Cameron said holding up his hand.
Cameron was Samantha’s best friend and former classmate. They had studied together as children in the city until the age of fourteen when they got there specialties. Cameron went to the Knight’s Hall to learn skills with a blade and hand-to-hand combat. Samantha went on to The Mage’s Academy to learn spell casting. Cameron specialized in using a two-handed great sword and heavy armor while Samantha specialized in elemental magics and Alchemy.
Both were young adults now freshly graduated from their studies. Cameron was a knight in the king’s army tasked with guarding the inner wall of the kingdom. He focused on day-to-day complaints. Pretty mundane stuff. Solving the occasional theft or breaking up children when they got into fights. Samantha was a young prodigy of The Mage’s Academy. She worked as an apprentice for Master Yoggin, the Royal Alchemist. Mostly Samantha’s job was to make healing potions and other elixirs for the King’s Army, but sometimes she could to experiment with ingredients. She was close on a breakthrough to create a nerve toxin that could paralyze enemies out of frog eggs. With a small enough dose, it could even be used as a pain reliever.
“Come on Cameron, just look,” Samantha held up the book.
“Ok, I see it’s a book,” Cameron said.
Samantha let out a sigh.
She snapped her fingers. A small spark of purple energy burst from her fingers. The spark began to spin into two lumpy humanoids that stood at waist height. They looked like they were formed from mist or clouds.
“Other books please,” Samantha said looking down at the cloud spirits.
They rushed to the table quickly each one picking up a book off the table.
“See Cameron, this one is about Elvish culture. Mostly from the Eastern side of the continent,” Samantha explained.
“This one,” She continued exchanging the book with the lumpy, cloud spirit,” This is about the Underdark and the Dark Elves called Drow. And this final one is about snowy flora.”
“All interesting,” Cameron said trying to speed things along. “But what does this have to do with people getting sick.”
“Glad you asked,” Samantha said with a smile,”Well I think that someone has been poisoning the water supplies of local villages around the city.”
“And this is based on?”
“Based on the fact that there’s this plant that grows in snowy climates called Snowpine Slumber. Normally eating the plant will make you nauseous but only for a short time. However, in large doses, the plant can make you very sick or can even kill you.”
Samantha continued, “Now there is an entrance to the Underdark discovered not too long ago at the northern edge of the mountain range. If someone wanted to manufacture this poison, they could grow it near the entrance of the Underdark, harvest it and then use the underground networks to sell and disperse the toxin to agents of chaos and evil.”
Cameron let out a sigh.
“All of this from some books?”
Samantha crossed her arms.
“Cameron, I might be on to something.”
“Yeah you might, or this could all be nonsense. What did Master Yoggin think about your theory?”
“I haven’t been able to tell him about it yet,” Samantha admitted. “He’s been in the castle all day. Some kind of meeting I guess. I don’t know. But I thought I’d sure up my hypothesis before taking it to him.”
“That’s why you’re here,” Cameron glanced around the library.
“Yeah,” Samantha said lowering her voice. “That and Father and Mother were fighting again today.”
“Want to talk about it?” Cameron’s expression softened.
Samantha clutched the book to her chest.
“Just the normal stuff. Not enough work. Plus these people getting sick are making people on edge.”
“Yeah I get that. One of my captains and his men haven’t come back from their last expedition. They were supposed to arrive two days ago,” Cameron said.
“Two days late, that’s not unheard of, right?” Samantha asked.
“No, but usually we get some kind of messenger falcon or something. This time there has been no communication.”
“That’s not good,” Samantha said.
Both Samantha and Cameron turned towards the entrance of the library.
“Is that the sound of the warning horns?” Samantha asked.
“Yeah, something must be wrong,” Cameron said. “Stay here, I’ll go check it out.”
“I’m not staying here, are you crazy? I’m coming with you,” Samantha said.
“Samantha – ”
It was too late, Samantha had handed the book away to the cloud servants and started marching to the door. Cameron followed her.
They left the library and out onto the stone road of the inner city.
The kingdom was split up into four regions. In the very center stood the castle. It was highest point and also the most fortified. Only the King and his family alongside important military generals and servants lived there. Then there was the next layer which was called the inner circle. This was the area between the castle and the inner wall. This area was home to important merchants, guard captains, and other rich people lived. This was also elevated over the rest of the city. Then there was the next layer which was called the outer circle. This was ground level and was the entire area between the inner wall and the outer wall. Here the common people lived like blacksmiths, tanners, masons, and other working people. Outside the walls of the city were rolling hills many many smaller villages and farmlands as well forests where lumber mills flourished.
From where Cameron and Samantha were standing, they could look out to the inner wall and the outer wall. There seemed to be some kind of commotion happening at the outer wall.
“Are we under attack?” Cameron asked.
For all the years Cameron had been alive, there had never been a full out assault on the kingdom. Every now and then there were killings or violence within the city’s walls, but never a battle with an invading army. The last time an army attacked was well before Cameron’s parents were even alive.
“Look up there!” Samantha pointed into the sky.
Large creatures were up in the sky circling the city. Some even looked like they had humanoids on the backs of them. Maybe riders.
“What are they?” Cameron asked.
“No idea. I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
Cameron unsheathed his great sword from his back.
“I better go figure out what is going on,” Cameron said.
“Wait, I’m coming with you,” Samantha said.
“Samantha, it could be dangerous,” Cameron said.
“I am a powerful magician. I can handle myself. Besides, you’re going to need some quick transportation to get to the outer wall now that the alarms are going off.”
Cameron had noticed that the streets were filling up with people all wondering what was going on.
“Well what did you have in mind?” Cameron asked.
She stuck both of her pinkie fingers in her mouth and whistled.
From the back of the library, Cameron heard the sound of stacks of books toppling over and then he saw this shape emerge. It smacked into a few bookcases before flying over to Samantha and it hovered at her feet. It was a large rug covered in all types of different symbols Cameron didn’t understand.
“A flying carpet?” Cameron asked. “Will it even carry the two of us?”
“Don’t worry, it’s strong. Get on!”
Cameron sighed but reluctantly stepped a foot onto the carpet. It felt quite sturdy underneath his foot.
“Well come on,” Samantha said. “We don’t have all day.”
Cameron stepped onto the carpet. He wobbled a little bit before sitting down the carpet. It was a little hard to balance with his heavy, plate armor and his large, great sword, but he managed.
Samantha sat down behind him. The carpet dipped a little but was able to carry both of their weights. The carpet rose in the air and then started moving towards the inner wall.
It soared through the air carrying the two of them hundreds of feet in the air. Samantha found the experience thrilling, but Cameron was nervous. The carpet moved faster than any horse he had ever ridden and they were higher in the air then he’s even been. All that separated him from being a blood puddle on the stone streets below was a thin piece of fabric.
Up above them, it seemed that the flying beasts took notice of Samantha and Cameron flying through the sky.
“Watch out,” Cameron pointed to one of the creatures.
As it got closer, Cameron could tell that it was a reptilian creature with large, bat-like wings. Wyverns. The much smaller cousin to the Dragon, but had poison barbs on its tail. On the back of the Wyvern was a human-sized lizard man in basic leather armor holding a long spear.
“I got it,” Samantha said getting to her feet.
The carpet shook a bit, but Samantha steadied herself. She began to speak words Cameron didn’t understand but knew were arcane words used to cast a spell.
Samantha’s hands lit up with sparks of purple arcane energy and then transitioned to white, hot bolts of electricity. She shot out both of her hands and the hairs stood up across Cameron’s body as lightning discharged from Samantha’s palms.
There was a brief moment of total silence before Cameron heard the thunderclap and saw the lightning strike the beast and its rider. Electricity surged through both bodies and pieces of scale and flesh were ripped from the body.
The lizard folk screamed and fell off the Wyvern. It tried desperately to grab on to something, but failed and plummeted to the ground below. The Wyvern looked shook up, but managed to stay airborne. It flapped its large, leathery wings which now was speckled with small holes and tears. It looked badly injured, but not dead.
The Wyvern then took this moment to take off away from Samantha and Cameron. Apparently it didn’t care for lightning bolts.
“Way to go, Samantha!” Cameron cheered.
“Thanks,” Samantha smiled.
Samantha directed the flying carpet to go lower as they neared the inner wall. They could see that the inner circle was not in danger at the moment. Just a lot of confusion about the situation. On the other side of the inner wall, in the outer circle, things were a very different story. It looked like a whole army of lizard people, like the one Samantha just fought off, had breached the outer wall and were now spreading throughout the outer circle. Civilians and military personnel were running about with whatever weapons they could find. Some Civilians had nothing but simple tools or farming equipment to fight off the invaders while others had picked up weapons from fallen soldiers and were now fighting for their lives with weapons they had no experience handling. The King’s army had engaged with the lizard army, but was not able to contain the entire force. They were leaking onto non protected streets where citizens were most in danger.
“Land there!” Cameron said pointing to an empty patch not too far from the battle.
Samantha did what Cameron said and landed them both safely in some sort of open bazaar area. The area was completely deserted. Samantha guessed most shoppers and merchants had made a break for it. Or had already been killed.
Cameron hopped off the flying carpet followed by Samantha. The carpet then rolled itself up and Samantha tied it to her back. It was pretty heavy, but Samantha could handle the additional weight.
Up ahead of them was a cluster of lizard folk, probably about eight or nine of them, that had seem the two touch down and were now heading their way with weapons at the ready.
“Stay behind me,” Cameron said steadying his weapon. “Don’t engage them up close.”
“Right,” Samantha said.
She knew she was a ranged fighter and that Cameron was better up close.
Samantha waved her hands in front of her muttering arcane words. The purple energy on her fingertips changed form to a translucent, blue sphere around her body. This would add to her defenses.
Once the lizard folk were within twenty of so feet with Cameron, he charged forward swinging his great sword. Before contact the sword flared with bright, white light as the sword swung across the lizard’s chest splitting the leather armor and slicing a wound across the lizard’s chest. It stumbled back as Cameron prepared another attack. He swung the sword again and this time slashed through the creature’s neck sending the head flying into the air with a stream of dark crimson liquid splashing onto the street.
The heard stopped momentarily. Samantha didn’t know if it was respect for a fallen brethren or fear of Cameron, but they stopped for just a moment.
Then one ran forward holding a metal javelin. The tip struck Cameron’s plate armor and glanced off leaving a small scratch but doing no damage to him.
Cameron then retaliated by swinging the sword downwards. It sliced through the lizardfolk from left collarbone to right hipbone without much resistance.
The creature screamed out and was quickly silenced as both halves of the body slumped to the ground.
Cameron was doing well fighting off these lizardfolk, but more and more approached. For every one he struck down, two more jumped into the fray. Most of their weapons bounced off of Cameron’s armor, but a fear javelins stuck soft spots between the plates and one lucky lizard folk got a clean sword slash across the back of Cameron’s leg.
Of course Cameron was using his great sword to slash these lizard folk to bits. More and more blood sprayed from their bodies and painted the ground in crimson. Cameron’s once white armor was stained in lizard blood.
Now it was Samantha’s turn to do some damage. As more and more lizardfolk approached Cameron, Samantha would back him up with a variety of magic attacks. Her hands sparkled with electricity as she unleashed another powerful lightning bolt. It struck several lizardfolk exploding them from inside while others just suffered major burns or nasty cuts across their body.
Some tried to approach her, but were met with quick flashes of electricity as their flesh was torn from their bones. They were completely dismantled by Samantha’s magical electricity.
Cameron swung his sword cutting through the lizard’s femurs and then plunged the sword down into the lizardfolk’s head killing it. He then swung the sword another time cutting off the right arm of another lizardfolk. It screamed and topped into the lizardfolk behind it. Cameron then slammed down his sword into the earth causing this flash of blinding, divine energy. The energy blast killed the closest lizardfolk and sent a dozen or so flying ten feet in the air before they fell back down on the corpses of their lizard brethren.
Between Samantha’s arcane talents and Cameron’s skill with the great sword, they were doing a great job at keeping the lizards at bay, but their skirmish was drawing attention from other surveyors. Up in the sky, Samantha could tell that several Wyverns were circling them and coming in close.
One Wyvern landed on the nearby roof caving in part of the roof. It screeched at both Cameron and Samantha. It was a bit larger than the other Wyverns flying about in the sky and on its back sat a humanoid individual dressed in all black. Black leather armor and a black mask cover its face. On its back was a quiver and it had a bow and arrow at the ready.
“Cameron watch out,” Samantha yelled out while other smaller Wyverns touched down on nearby rooftops.
Cameron noticed the commotion and took a few steps closer to Samantha so that they were back to back. Cameron had his sword at the ready and Samantha readied another lightning bolt.
“So what’s the plan here?” Cameron asked Samantha.
Several of the lizardfolk drew closer barking at each other in some kind of foreign tongue.
“Me? You’re the stronger warrior here,” Samatha said narrowing her eyes on the rider in black.
“We both know that’s not true,” Cameron said.
Those words struck Samantha. She didn’t really understand fully what Cameron said as he was saying it. He saw her as the skilled warrior in this situation. And he said them so plainly. Like of course Samantha was the warrior in the situation. Cameron didn’t have a doubt in his mind.
All this time Samantha always saw Cameron as this strong, macho type with muscles and physical might. I mean, he was slicing through lizardfolk with ease. He made it look like it was as easy as slicing butter for morning toast.
But Cameron saw Samantha as the powerful warrior. The super smart, strategist with more magical power in her pinkie finger than all the power than Cameron had in his entire body. She was the student with the high marks. The one who studied and studied learning as much as she could. She was the skilled on. Not him.
Samantha took in a deep breath.
“It’s now or never. Time to fight like hell,” She said.
Header Photo Credit to Mason Roy and Art Station