By Alicia Steen, Nathan Steen, and Lynae Steen
Erianna. Fortress Dark Courage: Dark Moon, Jeshrun.
“Do these things ever hold together?” I complain at the wooden fragments fluttering to the ground. Seriously, this is the thickest fog I have ever seen, the greatest numbers I’ve ever fought, and my duel wooden swords had to shatter. Right now. In the middle of a fight. Yeah, wonderful.
“Wood is more fragile than metal,” Mykai reminds me. She fires ten arrows in succession, striking through ten lines of shadows at once.
I swing my hands as if I were drawing my swords. Magic knits the fragments back together. “Apparently, for me it doesn’t make a difference,” I shrug. I slice the air in a circular motion to channel sound waves that penetrate every shadow in the surrounding area. “Wood is easier to fix.”
Mykai quickly absorbs and magnifies my sound waves with her music. “We should be almost to Fortress Dark Courage,” she says.
I spin around and double-slice a shadow behind me. Sound waves radiate from my strike and clear a path in front of me. “You can tell in this thick fog?” I ask.
Mykai stirs her magic and forms a song barricade behind us. A rnbar uses its foot length claws to shred shadows near her. “No,” she speaks as I channel my sonic waves into the barricade, “but the lights over there show the wall of an ancient fortress.” The barricade fluctuates and strengthens. Foxes bound like jumping fountains in closing circles around the barricade, herding shadow towards it.
I wish Ecalai were here.
Ecalai. Phoenix Tower: Dark Moon, Jeshrun. Day Previous.
“Are you sure about this, Ecalai?” Mykai asks. We stand at a crossroad surrounding the Phoenix Tower. One road leads to Fortress Dark Courage, the other to a village on Dark Moon’s forested northern border. Tetze the General expressed concern over the fortress’s defenses, but he had also mentioned an abnormality in various reports about the forest beyond the northern border.
“I can’t just sit around and wait for shadow to come. There is still a chance I can find the source of shadow and end all of this. As long as that chance remains, I have to try.” Staring at the dividing roads, Ecalai is sure now of his destination. “We already know Nightbringers are involved. According to Tetze, it highly possible I will find them in the forest. Where Nightbringers are, shadow’s source cannot be far behind. This chance may not come again.”
Erianna is unconvinced. “From what Tetze said, the defenses at Fortress Dark Courage will need help if shadow does indeed launch the massive attack Tetze expects.”
“I will go to the forest alone. You two will travel to Dark Courage. I will rejoin you there if all goes well.”
The guide, who had remained silent, speaks up. “There is no reason for you to go completely alone. You will need my help to find your way if you plan to go that deep into the forest.”
“Be quick, Ecalai. Shadow is not a place to linger, especially now,” Mykai cautions. She and Erianna head down their road.
Ecalai looks to the north, where the forest stretches on the horizon. There is one more reason he chose this path; one he hadn’t told the others. The situation in Dark Moon is beginning to feel eerily similar to the events on his home world, Nagaster. He has to stop the shadow in the forest before Dark Moon shares a similar fate. He won’t let it happen again.
The chilling wind blowing over the hills of Dark Moon picks up speed.
Erianna. Fortress Dark Courage: Dark Moon, Jeshrun. Day Next.
Something has caught Mykai’s attention.
I turn around to where Mykai is looking. Various colors of warm light shone ahead, surrounding a string of violet light. The thick fog is retreating from wherever the lights shone. Mykai and I make our way towards what must be a light wizard.
The violet light stretches and twirls in a graceful dance, slicing all fog and shadow in its path. The other lights—serids from what I see—zip every which direction, consuming all shadow in their path.
One of the shadows attempts a cross-slice near my left shoulder. I pivot out of the way and position my swords to block, but my magic shatters them and a group of shadows to the left. Fortunately, the shadow creature stumbles off balance, giving me time to repair my swords and slice it with a focused sonic blast.
A bright yellow serid sprints toward that shadow a heartbeat before I can retract my waves.
Slash! The surrounding shadows crumble in an instant as my sonic waves bounce off the serid’s scales. I stab the shadow closest to me as Mykai immediately releases music to improve my sonic waves’ range—and make sure they don’t hit her.
“It’s amazing how indestructible serids are,” the red-headed light wizard comments.
I’ll remember that.
“Princess EreLynn, Serid Lord I presume?” Mykai asks. EreLynn smiles as her violet light slashes a shadow attacking her from behind.
“One and the same,” EreLynn glances at the fox stalking shadows near my feet and the rnbar posing for a spring attack near Mykai. “I take it you are lords as well?”
My fox growls and springs at nearby shadow. “Erianna, Fox Lord,” I introduce myself.
Mykai shoots a dozen more arrows opposite her rnbar. “Mykai, Rnbar Lord.” Before she can say anything else, another voice finds the three of us.
“Lords of magic! The Ancient of Days has sent aid!” A Dark Moon Captain, by the look of him. He rushes toward us.
“General Tetze said you would need help,” I inform him.
“And indeed we do,” the Captain says. “I am glad to have General Tetze in charge. Come on, I can lead you inside the fortress. Our wizards at the three towers are in great need of rest.”
We all proceed to follow the Captain along the pale white path to the Dark Courage entrance. I gaze at the pale white top of the stone fortress that slowly darkened into black as the wall goes down. I wonder, what could have caused such a thing?
Mykai wonders the same thing. “Why does Dark Courage have such a color?”
“No one knows for certain,” the Captain replies. “But I imagine it happened at about the time the shadow dragons attacked long ago. It might have something to do with the reason Dark Courage is the only ancient fortress still standing in Dark Moon’s lands.” The Captain stops at the wall and shouts for the guards to open the huge metal gate. In a few moments the gates swing open silently, with not even a creak to announce their age.
It is not just the outside that has the outstanding color variation, the entire inside does as well. I let my gaze wander here and there. Warriors wearing the purple and red of Dark Moon rush about, shouting orders and information.
“These warriors do not seem as depressed as others have been in the same situation,” Mykai remarks. The Captain nods with pride.
“‘A dark moon shines over this battlefield, yet never will shadow claim it,’” he quotes. “That is our vow, and by the strength of the Ancient of Days the clan Dark Moon will stand even against the darkest of shadow as we have done for an age.”
Such a different remark than the guide would have offered. I stare into the eyes of the Captain. He is very determined, but without despair or ignorance like my own people back in Nagaster. His eyes also have a particular shine in them that was not there in the guide’s eyes.
“This fortress is well built in more ways than one, it seems,” I agree.
“That’s true,” EreLynn agrees as well.
“Captain!” a Dark Moon warrior breathlessly stops in front of us. “We have a slight problem.”
“What is it?” the Captain asks. All of us turn our attention to the warrior.
He tries to find the right words. “It may be best if you see for yourselves.” After a silent moment the Captain nods, and we follow the warrior up a flight of narrow stairs, down a hall, and onto the northern wall of Dark Courage.
We all see what the warrior was speaking of. A densely thick black cloud spanning what seems like the entire northern horizon closes the distance as if it were a normal storm cloud driven by strong winds. Inside, powerful shadows and several Nightbringers march in rank towards Dark Courage. It is the most powerful invasion I have ever seen. This is going to be a long night.
Ancient of Days aid us. No way are we going to be able to counter that alone. At least Dark Moon isn’t as ignorant as my people were. That in itself is comforting.
I hope Ecalai gets here soon.