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The night was going well so far. Warm food, music, and a warm tavern tended to help with that. Tanaya was currently dancing with an elf boy she was sweet on, a member of the town guard and a friend of Kahari’s. She seemed to be having fun, so Kahari let her be even as it was getting late. Ayoko meanwhile was just clapping along in her seat even as Kahari cleaned up their plates to take to the counter. The normal barmaid was sick, so they were a little short staffed. Kahari returned to his seat and as he was sitting down, a figure moving through the crowds with a strange determination. Before he could say something, a flash of blinding light filled his vision, and sent him flying. The last thing he heard before darkness took him, was screaming.

Kahari’s eyes fluttered open, staring at a sky glowing orange. Not from sunset, but from the fires around him. Kahari sat up quickly, a sharp pain in his side and head reminding him that he was injured. He looked around, there was a smoking crater in front of him, probably what had sent him flying, but there was no sign of his sisters. Standing, rubble from the building fell around him. He could hear distant explosions, see flashes of light, and hear screams of fear. His left leg ached, blood kept his right eye shut, and every breath sent pain through his chest. He was alive, but hurt, it didn't matter right now. Right now, he needed to find his family. Stumbling out of the building he’d been thrown into, fighting to keep himself from throwing up. Burnt corpses lay in the street, wearing the armor of the town watch. He reached down and grabbed a spear, the unfamiliar weight resting in his hands. He knew the names of belonging to each body he could see, he was thankful none were his sisters, though he had friends among the dead. He grabbed a shield, and strapped it to his arm, before limping towards the sound of fighting, down the road towards home.

Rounding the corner out of the side street he’d been on, he froze. Dozens of figures in midnight purple robes, some wielding magic, others weapons, were fighting with what remained of the town's defenses. Most of the town watch was down, though some bodies were still breathing. It was mostly the handful of Adventurers and the Ogress that held their ground at this point. Some of the purple robes were dragging people, civilians, from their homes in chains that had some arcane symbol on the neck. There were children, both bound in chains and on the ground. Kahari felt his hands clench in savage anger. The Knights were the strongest in town, and most of those still fighting had rallied behind or against them.

The Ogress held a warhammer in each hand, an ancient breastplate with burns, scratches, and dents strapped to her chest, but no other armor. She was bleeding from multiple wounds, and part of her face was scorched, but behind her huddled five children, pressed tightly against the wall, unable to turn wide eyes away from the carnage in front of them. Around her were a dozen purple clothed bodies, and six still stood in front of her, all with various cruel weapons, chipped, blackened, and broken on purpose to look all the scarier. All six of them were keeping a wary distance. Kahari couldn’t see his sisters, and the only way home was through this street. His eyes darted from the two different groups, before he charged, desperate to find his family.

His grip on the spear was tight, spurned by anger, as he charged the first of the six engaged with the Ogress. The man was caught by surprise, the spear finding a gap in his armor, and emerging from his front. The Ogress, knowing Kahari was doomed if she didn't help, leapt forward, and brought a hammer down on two figures with shields. They blocked the attack, but were driven to their knees by the force of the blow. The Ogress kicked the one on her right in the face, and he dropped, no longer breathing as the massive Monster kept the attention of three of the four remaining fighters.

The last, a woman with a pair of daggers and a row of vials strapped to her chest, turned to Kahari, laughing.

“A puppy like you thinks he can fight us? Look around you boy, this town is dead. Run away before I cut you into tiny little pieces, and I won’t make it quick.”

There was an evil glint in her eye, a smile that said to Kahari she wanted him to fight, but he had no other choice. If he didn’t fight, he’d just be killed or captured anyway. So he raised the shield, and the spear after wrenching it free from the corpse he had created, he could taste bile on his tongue, but he had more pressing matters at the moment. The woman smiled and laughed.

“You have guts boy, I’ll give you that. I imagine they taste delicious.”

She jumped, daggers extended, easily cutting the inexperienced smith, going for arms, face, legs, and anything else. No wound was deep, she was toying with him, making him hurt. He jabbed with the spear, once, twice, thrice, but nothing connected. The woman avoided them with ease, as if Kahari was moving in slow motion compared to her. She slashed him again, and again, pain flooding through him even as he could hear another fighter drop to the angry Ogress. He roared as she stabbed him in the shoulder, and lashed out with his shield. He clipped her, it didn’t do much, but it sent the girl stumbling back for a second, only for an arrow to sprout from her back. She grunted, and backed off, but her injuries seemed minor. She was obviously a higher level than the people she’d been fighting with, most level ones and twos would drop from the blows she’d taken. Kahari felt woozy, he was bleeding from a dozen cuts, and had a large lump on his head. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could do this.

The woman advanced again, dodging another arrow from an unknown source, seemingly more interested in toying with Kahari then she was whoever was shooting at her. She slashed again, but this time Kahari managed to block it with his shield. She backed away, laughing as she enjoyed the fight. Then her amber eyes widened as someone bellowed behind Kahari. A vial with thick black liquid appeared in her hand, extracted from the collection strapped to the girl, and she slammed it into the ground. Thick black smoke filled the air, and Kahari was coughing when the strong hand of the Ogress grabbed him, and pulled him out.

“Poison, don’t breathe.”

She put him behind her before slamming her hammers together, a flash of green light, and a gust of wind followed. Some kind of skill, though to be nonverbal it had to be a good one. Kahari forced himself back to his feet, before he heard his father yell.

“Down!”

There was another blinding flash of light, and once more the world faded into darkness. Kahari doubted he would wake up again. Of course he was wrong, his eyes fluttered open many hours later, he couldn’t be sure of how many. His ribs were bound, his leg in a splint, and he could feel stitches in his cuts and salve on his burns. He was staring at an unfamiliar wooden ceiling. A startled gasp came from his side and soft but firm hands kept him from sitting up.

“Don’t move, I haven’t used any magic on you, didn’t know if you’d wake up at all, it’s been three days.”

“Three-”

His voice was weak and raspy, his throat burned. He was dehydrated, his stomach growled, and his body ached more and more as he grew more conscious.

“Don’t move, Bedora is getting some food and water. After you’ve eaten we’ll see what you know, and...let you know what we know.”

“B-”

“Don’t talk either, that last explosion did a number on you, you’ll want to save your energy till I can heal you.”

Kahari forced himself to hold his tongue, but turned his head to finally get a look at who was talking to him. It was a young looking fairy girl, barely 5’4” (162cm) with dark green hair and soft golden eyes. If he had to take a guess, she’d be sixteen or seventeen, but given fairy lifespans, that meant she was closer to forty. He could be off, he’d never actually met a fairy. She was wearing a silver Association badge, so she had to be an adult by fairy standards, so at least forty-two.

She had a strange vine tattoo trailing up her right arm, though given how pale her arm was compared to her face, he supposed it was probably normally covered. She raised a hand, and a green magic circle formed, she chanted some words he couldn’t quite understand, before releasing the spell, saying.

“Minor Regeneration!”

The pain started to fade from his body, though it was slow, the most noticeable thing was that his right eye was slowly getting more vision as the swelling faded. Kahari had never seen much magic before, but he knew that red was fire and white was ice, he wasn’t sure what class of magic this was, but it was healing him. The girl raised a cup to his lips, a bitter tasting concoction flooded his mouth, but he gulped it down anyway.

He could feel his throat quickly becoming less dry, some sort of medicine to counter his dehydration, though it did nothing to settle his stomach. After a few minutes the girl turned her head, hearing something Kahari couldn’t, she smiled.

“Sounds like Bedora is on her way back, you can sit up now.”

Kahari was a little skeptical, not sure how quickly the magic worked, but after a little test, he found he was stronger now and didn’t collapse. He sat up and got a closer look at his surroundings, it was the healers hut that sat on the edge of his town. He’d been in here before, but never for long, dropping off supplies on the way home.

“Nice to see you up and about mister townsman, my name’s Nissa.”

“I’m….Kahari, Miraki Kahari.”

“Nice to meet you Kahari, I just wish the circumstances were better.”

Her smile was warm and reassuring, but her tone was darker. Something was wrong, but Kahari still wasn’t strong enough to stand. He was opening his mouth to say something else when the door to the hut opened, and a truly enormous woman, standing easily 7’0” (214cm), bent to get through the door, barely fitting inside the room. Slung over one shoulder was a slab of meat, freshly butchered from a deer, which she moved over to a counter where she could start cutting it up for the three to eat.

“So the boys awake, brave little bastard, not many townsfolk would fight the Night Talons during a slave raid.”

The Amazon, with her tanned skin and red eyes, was clearly some sort of warrior. She had ample muscles, and obvious scarring, but Kahari would swear she’s no older than him. Her eyes were soft, voice were softer than Kahari had ever expected from a member of the Amazon race. She also had a silver Association badge.

“Night Talons?”

“Ah. Right, they aren’t common in Altesia. Slavers, assassins, smugglers, and other such twisted folk. Make their money kidnapping civilians to be sold, used as ritual fodder, or broken and recruited into their little guild.”

“Yeah...they usually avoid towns this big, but this is the third they’ve hit this month, something big is going on. They even brought enough soldiers to go toe to toe with Gold rank Knights and a C3 Ogress-”

“Her name is Marge…”

Bedora explained to Kahari what the Night Talons were, while Nissa commented on them being up to something. Kahari clenched his hands, his town had stood no chance. His eyes filled with tears, and the Amazon said nothing, seeming to understand that sometimes everyone needs to cry. Nissa put a hand on Kahari’s shoulder and waited for him to stop crying.

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Durmatagno

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