Time seemed to slow down around the adventuring party as they took in this new, developing situation. When Romair touched his medallion, and spoke those words, the world around them seemed to change. The conversation between the group and Romair quickly broke out into an all out fight.
Grace had already readied herself to attack, pulling her daggers from their sheaths. She leapt at Romari, aiming for the chest. However, Romair moved swiftly and stepped back out of range of the daggers. The very tip narrowly missed Romair’s leather armor.
“Keep your hands off Piakol,” She said.
“I didn’t want to do this, but you made me,” Romair replied.
“Behind you,” Another voice said, coming from the tree line.
An older woman with a large afro of grayish-black hair stepped out from behind a tree. She held a bow and arrow with the string pulled back. The woman steadied herself and let go of the string. The arrow shot forward, missing Romair and struck Grace in the arm.
“Argh,” Grace staggered a bit and stepped back, the arrow deep in her right arm.
“Grace!” Riffen yelled.
“More incoming,” Sigthyme said while pointing toward the edge of the woods.
Another man holding a bow and arrow emerged from the tree line. This individual was a bit younger, but shared a strong resemblance to the archer who had shot Grace. This archer also readied an arrow, this time pointing toward Tak.
“Watch out!” Juniper yelled, noticing the second archer.
The arrow struck Tak in the chest and he laughed it off.
“Fight!” Tak roared.
Grace fell backwards and landed on her back. Her whole body was stiff and she was unable to move or speak.
Juniper looked over and saw that Grace was in some major trouble.
“I think they are using some sort of poison. Watch out everyone,” Juniper called out.
“Juniper. Just join us. Or give up the dragon,” Romair said as he wrestled with Juniper over the bag which held Piakol.
“You’ll never have Piakol. You can’t just take him,” Juniper said. “And I’ve already told you I have no interest in joining your army.”
“You could lead our people. You could save your family,” Romair said. “You could be a hero.”
“I’m not going to let you use Piakol as some weapon of war,” Juniper said.
Romair was so focused on Juniper, that he didn’t notice Tak charging at him. Tak slammed the warhammer into Romari’s chest and he was knocked into the air. Romair hit the ground with a large thud.
“Nice hit!” Juniper said.
“Smash!” Tak yelled again.
He raised his warhammer high and smiled a wide smile right before an array of arrows struck his chest.
“Arrow lady!” Tak yelled, pointing toward the archer.
“Two archers in the woods. Could be more of them,” Riffen called out, standing back, away from the fight.
Romair let out a heavy cough and staggered to his feet. He spat out some blood and pulled his sword from the scabbard on his belt.
“You are on the wrong side of this. You are betraying your people,” Romair said.
“Wow. Your skull must be pretty thick. Nothing seems to get in there,” Sigthyme called out. “Run back to the woods.”
“Not without the dragon,” Romair sneered.
A couple more arrows soared toward the group, hitting Tak. But Tak just laughed it off.
“More!” He screamed.
The paralysis affecting Grace’s body slowly subdued and she was able to move her arms and legs again. She sat up, pulled the arrow from her arm and tossed it aside.
“I’m going to make them pay for that,” Grace said, her words a bit mumbled.
“Juniper, what’s the plan? Are we running? Fighting?” Sigthyme asked. “Tak’s taking most of the arrow fire for now, but it’s only a matter of time before one of us gets hit.”
“We can’t just run. They’ll just chase after us,” Juniper said. “But I don’t want to kill them. I just want them to leave us alone.”
“I guess we can just try to knock them out,” Sigthyme said.
Both Sigthyme and Juniper looked over at Tak, who was standing there, a dozen or so arrows in his chest and arms.
“Feel stiff,” Tak said.
He leaned over, his whole body stiff, and fell with a loud thud. He was on his back with the arrows sticking up. His body had finally succumbed to the poison on the arrows, causing him to be totally paralyzed.
“That’s really bad,” Sigthyme said.
“Enough of this. This has gone on for too long,” Romair said, his eyes narrowing on Juniper.
He then reached for his medallion again.
“Any time now, Ven,” Romair said.
“Got it,” A voice spoke back.
In a flash there was another Elvish man among the group. He knelt down next to Grace and had a long, thin dagger pressed against her neck.
“Grace!” Riffen yelled, but he was too far away to do anything.
Shadow, the black blink dog stayed by Riffen’s side and barked wildly.
“Invisible prick,” Grace said, her words back to normal.
“Grace!” Juniper turned and saw her friend being held hostage.
“Now. Enough games. You’ve really forced my hand, Juniper,” Romair said. “I tried to be nice. I really did. But I need that dragon. You just tell me how many of your friends I have to kill before I get it.”
Romair starred her down, his voice a bit uneven. He was breathing heavily and bleeding from his temple. He had the look of a caged, ferocious animal.
“Don’t hurt her,” Juniper pleaded with this new man.
“Don’t give them Piakol,” Grace said.
“Shut up,” The man stuck the blade into her neck a little bit, drawing a few drops of blood.
“The dragon, Juniper. Now!” Romair said.
There was a slight bit of uncertainty where Juniper didn’t know what to do. She tried to think, but all she could hear was her own heartbeat in her ears coupled with Shadow barking from a distance. Sigthyme stood nearby, paralyzed by choice as well. He wanted to help but he waited for some kind from Juniper. Riffen stood back, watching from about 20 feet away. He feared that if he got any closer, the Elvish man would slice Grace’s throat. Two archers still stood in the tree line with arrows knocked, but for now they waited to see what happened next. Juniper was sure that the arrows were probably trained on her friends, just waiting to see if the battle would go on. What Juniper could not anticipate was Tak.
The last she knew, he was laying in the grass recovering from the poison arrows which caused Tak to become paralyzed. However when she looked over at where he laid, she noticed that there was dark purple energy pouring from his body.
“Look -” Juniper began to point toward Tak but it was interrupted by an explosion.
The dark purple energy that was surrounding Tak erupted causing a blast that sent everyone near him flying. Instandly Juniper was surrounded by darkness and she heard some sort of scuffle happening.
“Grace!” She shouted but her words were drowned out by a cacophony of screams of terror. It sounded like people were being killed or tortured.
“Grace!” She shouted again.
Juniper stumbled forward and ran into someone much shorter than her.
“It’s Tak. Something is happening,” Sigthyme managed to yell over the screams.
As quickly as the burst of magic happened, it had ended. The darkness around them had vanished and the whispers ceased.
Juniper quickly looked around to take in her surroundings. Around Tak in almost a perfect circle, the tall grass they were once standing in had become blacked and died. It was covered in a thin layer of frost. Next to her were two bodies. One was Romair’s. His whole body was covered in frost. He laid motionless and his body looked like it had been torn to pieces. His leather armor had melted in places like it had been dipped in some sort of acid. He bled from his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. It was obvious whatever Tak had done, had killed him.
The other body was that of the Elvish man who had snuck up on the group and was also laying in the grass, not moving. His body was marked with acid and cold in a similar way to Romair’s but he also had deep slash marks across his face and throat. Grace had finished the job.
However, Grace was not next to the bodies.
Grace shouted down at Sigthyme and Juniper.
“Get back!” Riffen yelled as well.
They both turned just in time to see Tak standing there, a dark shadowy presence surrounding him. His expression was that of anger, but his eyes did not meet theirs. It was like he was looking through them. He raised his warhammer.
Sigthyme pushed Juniper back and she almost fell on top of Romair’s dead body. Juniper rolled over and quickly got to her feet.
Tak brought down the hammer and narrowly missed the two of them.
“Buddy! Stop!” Sigthyme yelled. “Whatever this is, it’s not you.”
“Tak! Stop!” From up in the air, Grace yelled out. “Don’t make me hurt you!”
Tak looked up at Grace.
“Tear off wings!” He yelled, but he seemed to speak with two voices. One was even deeper and seemed to originate from the space around him.
“Wings? You have wings?” Sigthme seemed to finally realize.
“Not now. I’ll explain in a minute,” Grace said.
“Right,” Sigthyme said.
“Kill! Now!” Tak yelled out as he planted his feet and leapt into the air at Grace.
“Woah!” Grace managed to flap her wings and get out of Tak’s path.
He swung with both his warhammer and his fist, but he caught nothing but a few black feathers.
“Not cool, Tak!” Grace shouted as Tak landed with a loud thump.
“Tak. You have to snap out of it. Fight it! This isn’t you!” Sigthyme shouted.
“Sigthyme, it’s no use. We have to run,” Juniper said. “He’ll kill both of us.”
“I can’t just abandon him. He’s my friend,” Sigthyme said.
“Well right now he’s coming at us,” Juniper replied.
Tak turned back around and began charging at Sigthyme and Juniper. Juniper raised her bow.
“Don’t hurt him,” Sigthyme said.
“I don’t think this will hurt,” She said, readying her shot.
The arrow glowed with a faint green, magical energy. Then she unleashed the arrow which flew true and struck Tak in the chest. He didn’t seem to notice the arrow hit him or the fact that vines began growing from the arrow. In a burst of magic the vines quickly spread and wrapped around Tak’s body, arms, and legs. He fell forward and fell on his face, wrapped tightly in the vines.
“Well that slowed him down,” Juniper said.
Tak growled and yelled. He tensened his body and ripped the vines from his body.
“Or it did for a little bit,” Juniper said. “We really need to run.”
“One last thing to try,” Sigthyme said. “I have to get through to him.”
Tak stood up once again. The dark aura surrounding his body remained unchanged. He just looked angier which was something that Juniper didn’t know was possible.
Tak began charging at the two of them once again and Sigthyme started playing a tune on his lute. Each note seemed to echo much louder than a normal instrument could project. It was a melody dripping in magical energy.
“I suggest you listen, Tak. Put down the weapon. We are your friends,” Sigthyme said in a very sing-songy voice.
His words echoed in the same way and Juniper could recognize that Sigthyme was casting a spell.
“Put down the weapon. Calm yourself. Recognize that we are not your enemies,” Sightyme said again.
He kept repeating the phrases as Tak charged forward but just as Juniper was ready to grab Sigthyme and run, Tak’s running came to a halt.
“Drop your weapon, Tak,” Sigthyme said.
Tak opened his fist and the warhammer fell helplessly to his side.
“Calm down. We are your friends. We are not your enemies,” Tak repeated.
Tak’s breathing slowed down and his face seemed to relax.
“Friends,” Tak said, his voice almost drowsy.
The dark aura around Tak seemed to grow lighter and lighter until it eventually vanished entirely. Then Sigthyme stopped playing and Tak fell to his knees.
“Friends,” Tak said again before he collapsed to the ground.
Sigthyme took a deep breath and then sat down in the dead grass.
“Glad that worked,” He let out a small laugh as he wiped sweat from his brow.
Header Photo Credit to Daleicious on DeviantArt