“Be careful,” Lais whispered. “Remember, we don’t want them to see us.” She gave a little wink.
“Tree dwellers!” The cry came from across the forest.
“They found Lyon’s group,” Lais said. “I guess we’d better help them.”
“Look to the opposite tree line as well,” Joseph said. “They seem to be trying the same trick as last time.”
“Odd,” Selene muttered. She fired several arrows in quick succession. Three elves went down. “Normally one wouldn’t try the same gambit that failed not even a fortnight past.”
“Agreed!” Joseph said. “They must be planning something new. We will have to be on guard. Cover me.” He grabbed his spear and leapt into the fray.
Thorn flew low to the ground. She hurriedly etched a magic circle into one of the trees. “Three down,” she muttered. She looked around. The next one had to go… there. She swiftly flew to the location, looking carefully around as she went. No one was looking her way. They were too busy focusing on the battle and she was pretty easy to overlook. She reached the target spot. “And one more to go!”
She hurriedly flew towards the last site when an arrow barely missed her.
“Damn,” Selene muttered, notching another arrow.
Thorn flew swiftly between Lang’s legs. “Help!” She cried.
Lang brought his shield up to block Selene’s next arrow. The arrow pierced partially through the shield, cutting his hand.
“I’ll be your opponent,” Lang said. “Or are you too cowardly to fight someone your own size?”
“Damn,” Selene muttered, unsheathing a short sword. “Someone stop that pixie!”
Thorn dodged her way easily through the surrounding trolls, who were too preoccupied with larger opponents to search the area for such a minuscule one. She made her way to the final point and etched the magic circle.
“Do it!” Luc cried. Spells poured into her from all directions.
The ground glowed brightly. Trolls and elves alike dropped their weapons to shield their eyes. Magic spewed forth from the ground, blasting past elves and directly into the trolls.
“Retreat!” Selene ordered. “Everyone retreat!”
The trolls fled. Those who had dropped their weapons didn’t stop to retrieve them. Magic and elven soldiers chased them. Joseph kept to the back, trying his best to shield his comrades. Still, many fell around him in spite of his efforts. A blast singed his chest plate, but he was able to keep moving with the retreat. The elves chased after them until they were well out of the forest.
“What do we do now?” Joseph wondered.
“We return home and get reinforcements,” Selene answered. “Nothing else we can do.”
“But…” Joseph began.
“They won’t chase us further,” Selene said. “They’ll try to fortify their defences. We should have time to get back on the offensive.”
Joseph nodded. “You’re right. Let’s get out of here.”
I watched the sun rise. I could see my kingdom, just in front of it on the horizon. One thing was bothering me, we hadn’t seen a single patrol on our way here and all of the guard posts had remained quiet. Had the trolls taken everything? Was I… I rapidly shook my head. I couldn’t let myself think like that. I wasn’t too late. I couldn’t be. I felt Callie’s slender but strong hands on my shoulders.
“Relax,” she whispered. “Everything will be okay. Trust me.”
I took a deep breath and hurriedly calmed myself. They had just fallen back to the main city. That had to be it. There was nothing to worry about.
“So much tension,” Callie said, massaging my shoulders. “It’s not good for you to be too stressed.
“C… cut it out,” I said.
“You don’t like it?” Callie asked.
“Well, I do,” I admitted. “But this isn’t the time for a massage or any…” I looked away, trying to hide my flush. “Any… other sort of touchy thing.”
“It’s not funny,” I said.
“Sorry,” Callie said. “You know, you’re really adorable when you’re embarrassed.”
“Why must you be such a flirt?” I asked.
“That hurts,” Callie said. “I may be forward, but I’m not a flirt. Fact is, I love you. Only you. I’m not going to be shy or ashamed about it. Look at me.” Her hand reached under my chin and guided my eyes to hers. Her blue eyes were fierce… No, that wasn’t the right term. Passionate was more precise. “These aren’t idle words. If you want me to back off, I’ll try to keep my distance. But, I won’t leave your side until this war is over. You’re too precious to me. I can not… will not risk you being harmed.”
“You don’t even know me that well,” I argued, knowing full well what she was going to say.
“I know everything about you I need to,” she said. “I’ve seen it in your eyes.”
We quickly reached the main gates. Sentries eyed us from the walls. Their fingers held their bow strings taut with arrows at the ready. There was no sign of the troll army. I stepped out of the carriage. The first thing I noticed were the bloodstains feeding the forest. A battle had taken place, a costly one. The sentries loosened their grips, but kept their weapons drawn.
I cleared my throat and tried to keep my voice steady as I announced myself. “The sole daughter of the Royal Family, Lynai Elfblood has returned. Please, escort me to Heltsger.”
There was some hushed whispering that I couldn’t quite make out. Then the gate opened and the guards gestured for me to enter. I got back inside the carriage and we went inside.