Goddar and Destin stood in the room for a moment almost seeming to collect themselves from the prior events of the day. The fact that they were both still standing there was realized by both parties as a miracle in and of itself. "As much as I would love to catch up, lets get on the other side of the wall first." Goddar proposed as he motioned for them to move down the hallway. They both began to run down the hallway being sure to pace themselves and check their corners for enemies.
The maze of hallways in the great fortress caught Destin and Goddar off guard as they continued to warily maneuver through. They had spotted men rushing in the fortress, attacked in an attempt to make it to the front gate. They both knew of the gate, it was fresh in Destin's memory from when he first entered this prison, with it closing behind him was when he first vowed to escape.
Goddar moved to the corner of the hallway peering down the adjacent alley. "So how did you manage to kill the goblin?" He questioned.
"Oh, you know... stuck him with the pointy end..." Destin crossed the hallway seeing it was clear, Goddar quickly followed. "Luckily it didn't attract too much attention, seeing it was a floating blade, but you handled the rest."
Goddar looked back at Destin and smiled, "Ah, yes well the fireworks managed to work out well though not going to lie, it wasn't easy for me." Destin followed Goddar as he turned the corner continuing to move their way towards the exit. "The Gods blessed that I worked in these halls for a number of years. No chance of a single dwarf being able to even open the gate."
The dwarf brought up a valid point with Destin reflecting on the three levers he saw when entering the keep for the first time. "Yeah... what are we going to do about the gate? Kinda impossible to open with three levers and two people."
"Ah, yes well..." he paused briefly thinking. "Slight problem, they were made to be opened with the strength of dwarfs. So orcs will have no problem with dat... humans will."
Turning to the right they dashed down the hallway avoiding the occasional stairs and passageways. They both suddenly stopped in their tracks scathing along the wall listening carefully whispering, "So what, we are just going to hope the orcs will raise the gate saying, 'thanks for visiting, come again?'" Destin wondered.
"I mean, it would be nice." He gestured, but shook the thought from his mind. "Look, even before that you need to get past the great hall remember?! Their main stronghold will be there lad. Make it past that, then we will worry about three levers."
Goddar perked up in trepidation listening carefully down the hall, "I hear movement in the distance around the corner." They listened intently as the rush of multiple footsteps grew louder. He motioned Destin with his hand to be at the ready for an attack each with their daggers at the ready.
The sound grew louder as Destin meditated the next moves carefully, the element of surprise on their side, both their hearts started racing. Almost among them Goddar signaled to stiff up against the wall as they waited. Knowing the numerous steps they heard, it was safe to guess a higher number of men and their survival greatly increased if they just hid hoping the squad to pass unnoticed in the shadows.
Feeling the build up of power within him Destin looked down to see a mist of magic lightly illuminating from his hand. The fear and anticipation welled up his ability within him, while he closed his hand and focused on subduing the magic back in his core. It dissipated, and Destin hugged the wall again the footsteps seconds away.
The clamor passed them in a barrage of anonymous humans running like lost kids in the town square. Goddar's face of reluctance and astonishment showed uncontrollably as he staggered into the hallway behind the men rushing down the corridor. "Aye you bluggards what in the deities names are you doing causing such a clamor?" He confusingly shouted as his shoulders shrugged his hand rubbing his eyes in dismay. He looked over to Destin, "They are before almost a lost hope boy... that is back to the entrance of the camp... from which they came..."
The men halted and turned around to see Goddar waving his hand in their direction as him and Destin walked in the opposite direction. "What did he say again?" One mumbled to the group of ten other men.
The rest kinda shrugged confusingly to anything that was spouted from the old dwarf. The same man spoke up again helping to clarify, "Well, he is walking in the opposite direction... Do we follow?"
"The dwarf?" a raggedy man interjected, "What does he know! I say we keep on going!" he finished nodding in approval of his own words as he turned around to continue walking in their direction though his path was cut off when a squad of orcs turned the corner, swords drawn. His breath immediately escaped his lungs in terror. "Orcs!"
The men looked over to see the squad of four orcs turning the corner, spotting the flurry of men standing petrified in the hallway. Thirsty for blood and every single man in the group saw their fate flash.. The men began to flee away as nimble as their legs would take them.
Screams broke out only to be overturned by the roars of the orcs as both parties broke into sprints like a cat and mouse hunt. Goddar and Destin needed no cue to what had transpired behind them already knowing, their sprinting began promptly at the roars of the orcs as the race for their lives were set in motion anew.
"Follow me, if we are able to make it to the armory we might be able to stand a chance!" Goddar exclaimed bolting down the hall, he opened his pouch checking for what few supplies he had left, though his face showed a rather dismayed expression. "Otherwise we may be in over our heads boy!"
"I fear we already are." He promptly responded. The magic bellowed, rising from his core again. Wiping the sweat forming on his brow Destin promptly responded, "This is ridiculous!" the anger swelled inside him to harness the magic within. Reading his body, the strain it had already taken was showing, though now was no time to stop. Stopping in his tracks, his eyes glowed white emanating the hall around him as he lifted his hands preparing for his attack.
Goddar halted his footsteps in time to turn around and catch the show. Still in awe by the ability to witness magic, he was sure to step back knowing what was to come as a breath of wind began to flow through the hall, "Bad draft... or bad news for orcs?"
Destin still deadlocked on the orcs, one slashed his blade across one of the slaves backs as he let out a final wail. Destin solemnly whispered, "Both." Thrusting his arms forward a beam of light dashed transversely the hallway above the slaves as it sliced into the orcs like a hot knife through wax as each of the orcs collapsed to the ground with no signs of life. Destin's eyes faded to their normal blue hues collapsing to the ground in exhaustion.
The slaves stood there comprehending the ability they had witness before their eyes. "So... uh, how are they suddenly gone?" One questioned in shock.
Goddar rushing to Destin's rescue helping him rise to his feet, "You live and I'll tell you! Grab the weaponry and move on! We have a long fight ahead of us!" Goddar allowed for Destin to rest on his shoulders, which almost helped due to the fact that he was a dwarf and barely at Destin's gut. "Lad, you good?"
He broke out of the darkness inside his head watching the light of the real world slowly return. "I'll be fine. Shock to my system was something I've never gotten use to. Never had this kind of constant use."
"Well, don't push it too hard, we are this close to escaping and if you die that would be plain embarrassing." He joked as they continued down the hallway picking up the pace. Goddar studied the body movements of Destin ensuring he wasn't exhausting himself. All this was brand new to them, at the same time they had little to no knowledge on the rules of magic, or the cost.
Surveying his body from the strain the magic had put on it, he recognized his heart struggling to beat while he was almost gasping for each breath, like his body could never received enough air. He was in a weakened state, and never conditioned. Could magic really be used in a way to kill oneself?
Destin relievingly showed signs of recovery when they climbed down the final flight of stairs ahead of the hallway bringing them to the entrance. His breathing slowed back to a normal pace when his heart calmed down. Relief swept over him. It surprised even Destin the exhaustion he felt, even with communicating with his father he never felt such a drain.
"We are almost there. This hallway will take us into the grand hall and into the entrance. It is safe to assume we will experience some resistance especially at the gate itself." Goddar cautioned to the group.
They stealthily moved towards the wooden double doors to the great hall but to the surprise of everyone they heard the clashing of metal echoing throughout. Goddar stood alarmed yet confused turning to the eleven men, "Well from the sounds of it people beat us to it!" he shrugged his shoulders to Destin shaking his head feeling as though he may be crazy. "We may be walking into a losing battle but here goes nothing."
"To the end Goddar." Destin vowed giving a smile and reassuring nod to Goddar.
A sudden flurry of courage swelled inside Goddar, "No. To the Beginning." Nodding to Destin as a smile broke through. He stepped over to the doors grabbing the iron handle as it creaked open. The other men followed, three of them grasped the adjacent handle, yet struggled to open the door a crack. The sound reverberated through the hallway where they were standing.
Destin and two others stood at the doorway wielding their swords ready to defend any opposition. His first gaze onto the other side of the doors instantly sunk his heart. It was the final stand of these humans fighting for their lives in attempt to hold their ground with such brute opposition. He had witnessed battles when traveling with his father but never had it felt so personal. The roars of the orc's battle cries sent shivers through Destin instantaneously as he watched one orc slash his sword across three men. Carnage.
The orcs all had blood thirst in their eyes, proving their festering hatred for the humans. The slaves did anything to protect themselves, attacking back, but for one orc that was slain nearly five humans would be dead. The great hall was anything but. The blood painted the scenery around in a crimson spray, the tables and chairs scattered mercilessly. The reek of bloodshed permeated the entire great hall.
An orc climbed atop a tilted table throwing his hatchet across the room impacting a slave square in his back, unable to scream with the loss of his breath. The orc roared in victory being cut short with a dagger stabbing into his leg, swiftly falling to the ground. Another slave stabbed beneath his neck, barely above the beginning of the armor, until the orc finally fell to the ground, his final breath released.
The permanent images ingrained into Destin's memory would haunt him the rest of his days. The evil these orcs committed for nearly a generation was going to be silenced today. Unforgiving rage swelled through Destin's body as his eyes began to glow white. Without warning he charged into the great hall weapon drawn.
Goddar watched almost in complete shock at the boy rushing in steadfastly. "What are we waiting for!" he commanded pounding his chest with his right arm letting out a charge of his own stomping towards the enemies. In his pathway a double headed ax was lodged into a human's chest as he grasped and ran up the tiled table leaping towards a crowd of orcs. Thrusting down with all his vigor the orc was only able to see the dwarf above him in the air, by the time his eyes grew wide enough in fear his head was dislodged rolling on the stone tiled ground.
The dwarf couldn't believe what he was witnessing. The boy steadfastly rushing into open battle facing certain death. "What are we waiting for!" he commanded pounding his chest with his right arm letting out a charge of his own stomping towards the enemies. Spotting a double headed ax lodged into a fallen body he darted for it.
Reaching for the ax, a human grabbed the hilt trying to dislodge it from the body. Goddar intervened, "Aye! That be a dwarfs weapon of choice!" He angrily cried out. His argument swiftly ended when the orc charged in swinging his sword downward. Instinctively, Goddar pushed the slave away, narrowly missing the blade as Goddar lifted the ax into the orcs crotch.
The orc slumped over, dropping his weapon. Goddar swung the ax across slicing the orcs neck, falling short of the decapitation. "I do feel bad about that cheap shot, but I mean where else would the ax go in such a quick motion." He shrugged his shoulder and looked over at the man still on the ground from his push. The dwarf picked up the sword and tossed it over to the human, "That's your weapon. Remember that." He ran off into the fight, the man's expression confused beyond all belief.
Destin knew he was never much of a fighter choosing to go more with stealth, maneuvering carefully through the calamity befalling him. He went carefully from table to table for cover. He wasn't going for victory, he was finding a way to the outside world. This was the closest he had been in a year and on the other side of the double doors lied the room where the great gate resided.
He continued to move towards the great doors hoping to open them to get to the gate on the other side, when a hand grabbed his ankle toppling Destin to the ground. He turned seeing the orc reaching out with a dagger stabbing, when he split his legs apart, the orc slicing the ground. An ax penetrated the head of the orc with a splatter of black blood, "Need some help?" a familiar voice said.
Goddar stood over Destin with an outstretched hand. Destin graciously accepted the help up to his feet. "For a General's son, you surely don't have a natural talent for this." Goddar laughed reaching into his tattered pocket to pull out a surprisingly clean cloth offering it to Destin's blood covered body.
He rose to his feet brushing the dust off his clothing, he accepted the cloth cleaning the blood splat on his face. "Wasn't ever my thing, you know, all this." Destin informed. "We need to get to the exit!"
Goddar agreed as they ran across the room. They did their best to move through the ongoing battle as orcs and humans continued to enter and fight against one another. Goddar made sure to watch Destin's back, protecting him like a father to his young son. Destin's eyes continued to glow preparing for the oncoming attacks.
An orc charged at them brutally swinging his sword. Destin held out his hand with two fingers pointed out when the blade showed a white aura. It didn't stop the swing, only slowing it down a great deal though that was enough for Goddar as he swung the ax sinking it into the orcs arm. He swung again slicing the same spot as the bone split, the arm flung cleanly off.
Destin focused his rage for the moment and punched his hand forward into the orc forcing the orc back tremendously into a wall knocking it unconscious. Destin's eyes returned to normal after the blow.
With all their might they rushed to the doorway stepping up a number of stone stairs in front of the double doors. Destin and Goddar each grabbed one iron handle and pulled the doors open to reveal the final gate in the empty chamber. The black gate alluded to a more challenging obstacle to overcome. Three handles before the great gate stood waiting to be lifted.
Goddar checked the room meticulously from where he stood, "Why is it completely unguarded? This doesn't sit well in the slightest." He pointed out, his iron grip tightening on his ax.
"Why would they not guard the one way out?" Destin questioned checking behind him for a second ensuring no orcs were following.
"The levers... They knew no human would be strong enough to lift these, let alone malnourished slaves..." He dishearteningly revealed. "Only orcs at this point would be strong enough to lift each lever." He fell to his knees completely lost for hope.
Destin refused to give up, running into the center of the room. He looked around for some resources, maybe leverage, anything that would be enough to amplify his strength, though it was a lost cause. Nothing a room encased in stone. "Goddar at least try!" he insisted attempting to push the lever up with all his force. The lever barely shook, failing to lift. Not even a dent was made in raising that gate.
"I lead you into a dead end."Goddar admitted. "In no way will that door open by our own accord."
The unhinged frustration built inside Destin towards Goddar, "Look at yourself, leading us all this way through impossible odds to give up at the last step. Pathetic, truly pathetic" He boldly claimed, "This is impossible, you're absolutely right, but after everything you've seen today, you are an absolute fool if you believe that mean we can't do it. We're here, Right now!" He pointed over to the gate, "Of all the things we both have accomplished, we dare stop now?!"
Goddar stared at the ground blank faced, Destin had no idea if what he had said made an impact. Destin was right. They had defied all odds, through thick and thin they made it to where they are now. Miracle after miracle until they stood ten feet from the outside world. They were soon going to conquer Vertrock.
He broke his silence, "Gods be good Destin. Who are we to sell our own fates short." He said, lifting himself to his feet with a reassured smile. He walked over to a lever to begin lifting with all his body letting out a grunt. Moments into trying he stopped for a moment to catch his breath, wiping the sweat from his brow. "Though, I will admit... this will be no easy task."
Destin pondered on the situation, hoping some revelation would enter his mind. While pondering a singular idea did. He looked over to Goddar with a worried look in his eyes, "Stand back." he insisted. Goddar immediately obeyed.
He closed his eyes, bowing his head, grasping his fist with his left hand while controlling his breathing. A slight breeze entered the room around them, his blonde hair fluctuating. He clenched his jaw tight harnessing the magic he felt inside himself. Orbs of white light began to form around each handle. He opened his eyes as they glowed more brightly than ever. The his father's ring began to float in front of him, only hanging on by the chain around his neck.
He moved his fists to the side, the orbs appeared around his hands. He attempted to lifts his hands higher with all the might he possessed. He struggled to lift all three handles at once, his arms not lifting aside from the strain. "Is this even possible?" he questioned silently, "Even if it's not... Who's to tell me otherwise?" His armed fluctuated slightly, the handles lifted their way up and held when Destin screamed out in pain.
He took a bewildered step back "The lad can do it!" Goddar said practically in disbelief at what his eyes were witnessing. "The Highborn will do it!"
Destin pushed with greater force, his nose beginning to drip with blood. He refused to give up the slightest point of will power. The handles lifted a few inches more as the gate shook beginning to slowly open. He fell to his knees in pain, a drop of blood dripped down his head like sweat. Refusing to give up, he shifted his stance attempting to gain his footing as the lever lifted another few inches lifting the gate higher, yet barely enough for a child to sneak under.
"You're doing it lad! Keep going!" Goddar encouraged. "Keep fighting!"
Destin raised himself to his feet, without warning his breath left him. His eyes instantly returned to their crystal blue iris stumbling back, caught by the mid lever stopping his fall as the piercing sensation intruded on his left shoulder. An arrow fired from across the great hall. Destin couldn't even let out a cry, his lungs simply wouldn't allow it though his eyes rapidly made contact with who fired the arrow. "Druvairuk."
A maniacal smirk from Druvairuk crept out while he lowered his bow. His squad of orcs entered in behind him as the surrounding doors were closed and locked from the outside. The surviving men ceased battling and watched as the four exits were stacked with a multitude of orcs, their numbers out matching what men were left. The orcs were waiting to kill, making their statement about everyone's fate in their hands.
Druvairuk stepped forward, "Have the croul suffer. Leave that one for me." he commanded lowering his arm as a flood of arrows flew across the room hitting the men on the front line. The slaves fled in an instant panic attempting to save their own lives. They rushed into the black gates room, another flurry of arrows shooting down a number of men.
The remaining men struggled to closed the doors, the others scurried to barricade the door anyway they could. The orcs moved forward stepping over the dead bodies in the great hall, a few orcs began slicing into the door with their battle axes. Druvairuk paced across the floor while his squad of orcs stood back from the rest their bows waiting for an opening to fire.
The doors were ravenously being torn down. Around twenty men held the doors closed to the best of their ability with each blow. Goddar stood next to Destin who was resting against the lever on the ground resting. He grabbed the arrow in Destin's shoulder and broke the stick tossing it to the side.
"I'd pull the arrow out, but i'd rather not having you bleed everywhere just yet." Goddar joked. He looked over at the door which was beginning to splinter through slightly.
Destin smiled before squinting in pain, "Hey, it's a battle scar now, a good story to tell." he wiped the streak of blood from his forehead with his good arm.
"That is is lad. That it is..." his voice trailed off worrisome at their predicament. "You almost did it by yourself."
Destin agreed, "I'm glad he shot me honestly. Didn't want to take all the credit you know."
They both had a quiet laugh amongst themselves which surprised the both of them. Even in their last moments, they could still find a moment to smile. Destin felt that was a rare thing in this world, especially through the hell he had been through the past year.
Almost silently he repeated, "Taking all the credit..." he paused thinking on that one phrase. "All the credit. Wait." Destin struggled but rose to his feet, "Goddar, what would you say the strength of an orc is to men?"
"Aye, I'd say four to one is a good guess, why?"
"Because now the gate can be opened!" Destin answered recognizing the amount of men they had.
Goddar caught on grabbing the attention of the men around him, "Oye! I need your attention, I need the lot of ya to stop what you are doing and help me lift these levers to open the gate out!"
A man turned his head looking at the dwarf, "You crazy? The orcs would..."
"Oh quiet!" Cutting him off Goddar insulted mercilessly due to the dire circumstance. "Do you want to live or not? They will break through those doors in a minute, that gate is the only way out." He pointed across the array of men, "You ten, here at the levers, the rest hold the doors!"
The men obeyed the command rushing over having roughly three each at a lever grabbing hold of the handle. Goddar grabbed the main one, "Now men, push!" With all their might they pushed the handles shaking but not moving in the slightest otherwise.
"Get yer backs into it you worthless swine!"
The handles budged slightly but remained in place. Destin felt almost helpless as the door had a crack break through as an arrow fired through hitting one slave guarding the door. Time was running out quickly. Even with his bad arm he wouldn't sit around helplessly. He again positioned himself center in the room repeating what he had done previously.
"Don't give up now, fight!" Goddar yelled hoping for it to be enough to keep on going.
Another two cracks broke through from the orc's axes, a sword stabbed through at the men guarding the door. The doors began to show cracks, arrows flying through narrowly missing the men.
Destin opened his eyes glowing their white hue the orbs around his hands and handles. His arms at his side as he began to lift. The gate began to shake, beginning to opening. The levers were all being lifted higher. With only being able to use his right arm, he lifted with all his force, pushing with the men lifting the levers more as the gate opened at a gradual rate.
"We've done it men!" Goddar rejoiced.
Another two men fell, arrows killing them both, leaving five left to hold the main doors closed. The men were barely holding their ground, the doors about to give way. Arrows shot through hitting two at the levers, one in the leg and one in the chest. The levers dropped, Destin tried with all his will to catch the gate with his ability but falling short. The gate began to shut.
The door gave way shattering into splinters, the men thrown back to the ground. The orcs waited for their commander to order the charge in. Druvairuk stood on a table his black steel longbow at the ready, sight straight at Destin. He released his breath slowly preparing to fire the kill shot.
Seeing the doorway opened and the slaughter that awaited them, Destin without hesitation felt a swell of power emanate from within allowing him to hold the levers steady with a sudden burst of energy. Instinctively he knew what to do.
The orcs fired their arrows, and Druvairuk did the same, it aimed perfectly for Destin's skull. The orcs charged up the stairs to begin running through those who broke through the doors. A single beam of light emitted from the gate room towards the great hall. Forcefully impacting the doorway, the blast stopped the orcs in their tracks catching every arrow along with it. With his left arm he thrusted forward allowing a beam to gain strength, lunging the orcs across the room. Arrows impacted a number of orcs while they recovered from the blast.
A shield formed around the doorway protecting the slaves from any danger. They all watched in amazement at the spectacle of the existence of magic. The orbs held fast to the handles with his right arm beginning to lift slowly the black gate opening at its regular pace.
Goddar and his men continued to lift. Destin shouted in pain, but refused to give up the strain on his body causing blood to drip from his forehead and nose holding both the doors and the levers themselves. He jabbed into the air, the gate stood open revealing the shrubby gray wasteland on the other side. Freedom.
"You did it..." in complete astonishment Goddar mumbled. "Two decades... yet here we are..."
The fresh air blew into the room brushing against Destin's face as a tear fell down his face. They had done it. The life of the forest was unimaginable, his spirit lifted beyond measure seeing a world waiting for him. A chance to start anew.
The room spun around him, until he was surrounded in darkness. Strength left instantaneously from Destin's body, he collapsed to the ground being caught by Goddar. "I gotcha lad!" He sighed in relief, narrowly missed the catch.
The hold his magic had on the door being lifted. Grumbling intangible sentences Destin slumped over nearly unconscious fighting for his life to come to. The shock to his body shut it down in order to recover yet this was no time for that. His mind still had full activity as though he was awake, tangible of the world around him but completely paralyzed otherwise. "R... un..." Destin managed to whisper.
"Come on men, help me carry Destin out!" Goddar yelled, but it was too late, the gateway was open. Every last surviving slave rushed into the pass attempting to flee for their lives. "You bloody baggards! He saves their lives yet they only save themselves." Shaking his head in complete disbelief he hurried over to help Destin up. "It's a good thing you've lost weight this year or we may be in more trouble."
Goddar had no time to grab his weapon nor could he manage to carry the extra weight. Regardless, he lifted the boy onto his back. "I hope you recover sooner rather than later." He said to himself. Checking the shield, he booked it towards the outside world as quickly as his feet could carry them. Still, the shield held out for a little longer, allowing them a little extra head start into the wilderness.
A few moments later Goddar recognized his feet moving from stony ground to the softness of the lush soil. Sure, they were still in Perdition, but the fact that they had done the impossible and made it to the outside world overwhelmed the dwarf with an unspeakable happiness. He continued to run away from Vertrock and instead of his feet growing tired they felt as if he was walking on air. "Boy, I'm glad you're out cold." He mumbled to himself, "Otherwise you may see a tear or two.... We did it..."
Support "Highborn (The Stormforth Chronicles)"
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Storytelling is my passion. From when I was little I always found myself telling stories in any way that I could. I continuously entered writing contests, would create little animation booklets (Which for a six year old was horrendous looking.) and would draw to the best of my ability stick man comics. However I could write, I would.
I will forever be grateful to my father who helped develop this passion of mine. He from the very beginning helped me learn and grow while always encouraging me to story tell any way I could imagine.
From Utah to Louisiana, Arizona, Nebraska and Iowa, I found myself in vastly different areas meeting countless types of people who I have grown and love. I cannot wait to see what stories unfold as I sit here and write late into the night.
The audience I reach is what gets me excited, especially seeing something I created take them on an emotional journey with my main characters as they learn and grow together, and in the end become better because of it. They are why I write. Its one grand adventure that the world can share in!