The castle’s south wing was chaos. Grimulin flew through the rooms attacking everyone in sight. Soldiers were hacking away at them, but it took five or six men to kill one. When the grimulin weren’t focused on getting the Hashna Stone, they were much better at dodging blows.
I stayed at King Radon’s side, killing any grimulin that came at us. Luckily, we’d stopped at the armory before coming here so I had my grimulin-killing sword the dwarves had given me back.
“They’re all flying that way,” Ethan said behind us. Faiza and he each had their bows, but it was difficult for them to get a good shot with all the grimulin and men mingled together.
“That must be where Ryker is,” I said, going in the direction Ethan pointed.
We rounded a corner and came to a place where fifty or sixty solders were crammed into a tight space. Grimulin were rushing at them, they were so packed together, they could hardly move to swing at them. Beyond them were a set of closed doors where Ryker and Bayvlad must be—that’s where the grimulin were headed—but there was no way we could get in with so many people in the way.
“First, we get rid of these grimulin,” Radon said as he hacked one’s leg. It made a cut, but didn’t go as deep as my sword would have. I jabbed my sword into the thing’s belly, then pulled it out fast and dodged the falling body.
“Looks like it’s mostly up to you,” Radon said, turning to fend off another grimulin.
For the next few minutes, I concentrated on stabbing as many grimulin as I could. It was different now, without the stone’s protection. I could feel their talons. Luckily, the leather armor that I put on when we went to the armory protected my torso and forearms. If the soldiers around me recognized me as a prison escapee, they didn’t do anything about it. Maybe they thought I was a recruit. Maybe they didn’t care who I was as long as I was killing grimulin. I was just glad they left me alone.
I was moving toward a grimulin when I heard Faiza yell my name. I jerked around to see Bayvlad moving toward me. Soldiers ran forward and swung their swords at him, but their blades bounced back inches before it even hit him. The swords jerked back so violently that the soldiers almost lost their grip. A few tried again only to receive the same result. Most backed away slowly holding their swords out in defense.
I hoped that it was some magical spell he’d put on himself that protected him, and not the Hashna Stone. I’d learned from Rachael that a spell would eventually wear out; The Hashna Stone’s protection would not.
He walked steadily toward me and when he stood only a foot away, pointed his sword at me. “You’ve killed enough grimulin for today. Drop it,” he said gesturing to my sword.
Anger flared in me as I thought of Bayvlad blasting my father for trying to release King Radon. I swung at his outstretched sword hoping he’d drop it from surprise. He fought with magic, not steel. The two swords made contact, but he didn’t drop it as I’d hoped. He took a step back, clearly not expecting me to attack him, then he laughed. “You can’t hit me, boy. Didn’t you see the other’s attempts?”
I didn’t see a gold chain peeking from beneath his collar, but that didn’t mean that he didn’t have the Hashna Stone. I started to lower my sword, then I realized that it didn’t make sense for Bayvlad to be fighting me with a weapon. If he wanted me dead, he should have zapped me with magic white light like Rachael had the guards. Unless, he couldn’t. He was using his energy to keep some sort of magical wards in place to protect him. And his protection could only withstand so many strikes and, like armor beaten time after time, it would break. There were plenty of soldiers in the room. If we all hacked at his magical protection, eventually it would break.
“Attack him!” I shouted. No one moved. Faiza and Ethan would have understood if I told them to attack, but I didn’t see them. They must still be around the corner still.
Maybe if I did first, the others would follow. I went for his side. He stepped back, dodging the blow. Still, I’d swung close enough that my sword should have bounced back. It didn’t.
“Don’t test my powers, boy.” Bayvlad’s voice may have sounded lofty, but his defensive stance gave away his insecurity. He was afraid of this sword. Maybe whatever magic the dwarves put over it made it immune to Bayvlads wards.
I took another swipe at Bayvlad and he blocked it.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. “I thought your magic did the blocking for you?”
Bayvlad answered with a jab to my side. The blade slashed the leather armor, leaving a gash that would have been opened skin. I should keep my mind on fighting, not talking.
We exchanged blows while the men not fighting grimulin gathered around to watch. They cheered every time I made a good move. I landed a blow on Bayvlad’s shoulder. Not what I was aiming for, but just knowing that I could get past his wards gave me new strength. It was clear he’d had some training with the sword, but it was also clear that it wasn’t enough to best me.
I darted faster and faster while Bayvlad’s blocks grew slower and more clumsy.
There was yelling from the soldiers behind me and the men gathered around watching began running to the doors. It took me a moment to realize what they were shouting—“The doors are open! The grimulin are getting through.”
A smile appeared on Baylvad’s sweaty face. He looked confused when I smiled back. Radon must have pushed through the soldiers and opened the door.
I took advantage of his confusion to knock the sword out of his hand. He froze, then his hands slowly went up. “Looks like you win,” he said flatly.
I pointed my sword at his chest. Now that I had him I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I kill him like he killed my father? I’d never killed a man before and now that he stood calmly before me, I wasn’t sure if I could run him through.
Then I realized he was too calm. He didn’t look like a man that had just been defeated.
A blast of light came from both hands and for a moment my insides burned. Everything was white, then black. I didn’t realize that my hearing was gone until it slowly came back. Distant sounds of steel hitting steel and a man’s gurgled scream.
I was disoriented when I opened my eyes. My body didn’t feel a thing and I thought that I was still standing, when I was actually flat on my back.
I sat up and blinked to clear the dizziness. Movement caught my eye to my left and I twisted to see Nakin pulling a sword from a figure on the floor. The man’s face was pressed against the floor. All I saw was the back of his head, but I recognized that shoulder-length blonde hair and midnight blue cape. Bayvlad. How did he get over there?
Nakin wiped the blood on Bayvlad’s cape and strode toward me, sword still in her hand. To avoid being her next kill, I grabbed for my sword.
It wasn’t there. Then I realized it was there, but it didn’t look like my sword. It was nothing but a black piece of metal, bent at an awkward angle. Bayvlad’s magic must have scorched it.
“You’d be dead if it weren’t for that thing.” Nakin was standing over me. “It absorbed most of Bayvlad’s magic. You wouldn’t have survived it if all of it had hit you.”
I tried to stand, then sank back down as another wave of dizziness came over me. Nakin stuck out her hand. I looked at it like it was a snake poised to strike.
“I don’t know who you are,” Nakin said, “or just what you’re plan is, but I don’t like owing people.”
I took her hand and she helped me up. “Why do you owe me?”
She jerked her head at Bayvlad’s body. “You made it possible for me to kill that bloody sorcerer. And I don’t owe you anymore. I’m not going to run you through. That’s payment enough.”
I looked to her sword, still carrying a smudge of blood and wished mine hadn’t been burnt to a useless piece of charcoal. It was too bad Tallis wasn’t able to get my father’s sword for me.
“How did you kill him with that?” I asked. Her sword wasn’t magical.
“He used all of his magic to blast you. He didn’t have enough strength to keep his invisible shield around him.”
For a soldier, she knew something about magic.
“You might want to find a weapon,” she said. “I wouldn’t stand around here without one for too long.” She turned and walked toward the doors that were now flung open. It was eerily quiet in there. All the soldiers had cleared from the hall, so they must be in the room. Had they all been killed?
I scanned the floor and the first weapon I saw was Bayvlad’s sword. He must have picked it up after I’d blacked out because it was laying beside him.
I took it and went to the doors.
Great decision in the last chapter everyone. I knew I could count on you. 🙂
Only three more chapters left!
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