Carlack hastened down to his brother’s stable as soon as he heard the news, pulling the leather flap open to enter. “Is it true, Dayul?” He asked hastily, much to the surprise of the pink-haired centaur residing within. “You have truly found an end to our plight?”
Dayul seemed to hesitate for a few moments before nodding his head. “I have, but I’ll need some people to help me, first.” He spoke, seeming a bit reluctant to actually use whatever method he had thought up. However, Carlack barely noticed that, only focusing on the fact that there was a way out.
“Of course. Tell me, what do you need? I’ll put the guards at your disposal if you can get us out of this.” Carlack had already tried any tactic he could think of, whether it was to drop stones on the kathar from above, or to disturb the ground beneath their feet. But everything only resulted in further loss of life, so the idea that his brother had a way to get through this was like a sign from Tryval himself.
“I need as many mages and druids as you can spare.” Dayul spoke, seeming deep in thought. This was originally the city of variants, so it was only natural that there were an abundance of unicorns proficient in magic. Even if some had already been lost in the previous attempts, there was still more in reserve.
“Alright. I’ll go gather as many as I can.” Carlack said with a nod, turning and rushing out of the stable. It was only a few hours later when a message arrived for Dayul, saying that his volunteers had been gathered in the guard stable.
When he arrived, the originally noisy room immediately quieted down. There were many who were against the idea of putting the lives of the entire city in the hands of someone sometimes seen as an outcast. However, the general consensus was that they would listen to his idea, and see how it sounded.
Dayul looked nervously around the stable, though that was not unexpected. The guard stable was a stone structure built along the base of the wall, and was currently packed with over a hundred unicorn centaurs, as well as the only qilin born in this generation. Dayul seemed slight relieved when he saw the qilin’s presence, but soon controlled himself and began to explain his plan.
In order to prepare, he had all of the mages memorize a single spell, while all of the druids would practice a particular ability of their own. Like this, they prepared for three full days before acting. On the third day, the sky was clear, with not a cloud to be seen. According to Dayul, this weather was required for his plan to work, and also why it had taken so long for him to tell everyone about it.
When the gate of the wall opened, there was movement from the enemy camp. Several dozen kathar emerged from their tents, gathering their weapons and bestial companions. It was clear that they were ready for another fight, but this time would be different.
As the distance between the two parties lessened, the kathar remained patiently in their camps. Time had proven that the centaurs posed no real threat to an army of their size, so they were in no rush to greet such a small group, and allowed them to approach. Even when the front line of the centaurs began conjuring shields to protect those around them, there was no hostile action taken, aside from the beasts and monsters to prepare for the fight.
However, even when the centaurs were less than a fifty lengths away from the kathar, all they did was draw their bows and prepare to battle. It was at that point that they seemed to consider taking things seriously, but at that point it was already too late. Although most centaurs wouldn’t notice it, but the kathar who were sensitive to their surroundings noticed a strange shift in the wind.
At the same time as the wind shifted, over fifty centaurs simultaneously fired their magic, sending orbs of fire into the kathar camp. The target was not the kathar themselves, but the dry grass at their feet, which slowly spread out to their surroundings. Among the kathar, several panicked shouts were let out as they moved away from the burning patches of grass, sending their beasts and monsters to attacked while their bows fired their arrows.
The arrows harmlessly struck the magical barriers, while the monsters and beasts were unable to react in time before something happened, which would be remembered for generations to come. The fire did not only spread outwards, but seemed to be carried upon the wind, spiraling into the sky to form a thin column of flame.
This alone might not have been too bad, but it was more than just the fire. The winds that had caught the flame also picked up many kathar, throwing them into the growing inferno. Back with the centaurs, almost forty druids were deep in focus, urging the tornado of fire to grow. Smoke rose into the air like a black cloud, yet this was still not the end.
Several kathar sought to charge the centaurs, ending this attack from the source. Yet, every time they did, the lone qilin would wave his arms, causing a stream of fire to separate from the tornado, striking out like a whip at the attacker. This gave the tornado the appearance of having arms of flame as it washed over the kathar camp.
At that point, the gathered kathar realised that they had little choice but to retreat. While they could kill centaurs, there was nothing that they could do to kill wind and fire. But how could escape be so easy? The further the centaurs advanced with their menacing weapon, the larger it grew. The screams of the kathar filled the plains, the smell of smoldering flesh carried upon the winds. Blood and bone scattered among the burning grass, while figures could be seen in agony flying within the towering inferno.
It was only when there were no more kathar to be seen did the druids finally have their respite. While the mages offered the spark to ignite the field, it was the druids who had to maintain and control the tornado. Even with so many of them, holding it for so long had drained them. Enough that, had the kathar noticed, they could have returned and fought without fear.
Terrak ran through the plains, an unusually calm expression on her childlike face. With the rest of her halfling family dead, she imagined that she should be feeling some emotional turmoil, however none of that came. And if it did, she quickly suppressed it. She knew that these were not her true family, and she had been given a job to do. So, she ran, as fast and as far as her legs would carry her.
It was over a week later when Terrak arrived at the halfling camp outside of King’s Hope, stopping and panting for breath. While she had appeared calm before, now her face seemed to hold unprecedented terror. “Please, I need to speak with the elder!” She shouted at the camp, her voice shaking.
Parts of Terrak’s clothes had been charred black, the result of being too close to the initial burn. However, she had ran away and swiftly treated her injuries, leaving naught but dirt and soot to show the ordeal she had previously been through. Still, her appearance was quite shocking to behold for the halflings gathered around.
Soon, a small man with wrinkled features walked out of one of the tents, before moving to approach Terrak. “What is it, child?” He asked in a tender voice, looking at the damage done to Terrak’s clothing. Although he couldn’t recognize this particular halfling, it was clearly not someone from his own camp.
“The camp at the second city was destroyed.” Terrak spoke in a shaking voice, pulling her arms up to hold herself. Anyone who looked would see her eyes beginning to water. Without knowing the names of the cities themselves, they had only labeled them the first, second, and third cities based on how far away from the forest they were.
“What?!” The elder asked in shock, reeling back as the news hit him. “How could that be?” From the reports their scouts had found, the third city where they were camped was supposedly the strongest. For the second city to have wiped out the camp outside their walls while the third city still hid inside was unthinkable.
“It’s true… the charun emerged from their walls as they had many times before… but this time, they summoned fire that rose to the sky.” Terrak began to explain in a broken voice. “The screaming… there was nothing we could do to stop them. I don’t know how many people managed to escape…”
The halfling elder nodded his head, a grim expression on his face. “Why did you come here to warn us? You could have made it back to the forest, back to safety.” He asked, trying to comfort her. His tone was not one of accusation, but concern.
“I couldn’t… I had to come and warn you.” Terrak confessed softly, tears starting to streak down her cheeks. “I didn’t want to be alone… My family was at that camp.”
The elder flinched when he heard that, feeling a pain in his heart. He nodded his head faintly, his voice turning soft. “You can rest here, child. We won’t let any harm come to you. When we return to the forest, you can come with us.” Terrak nodded her head gently as she heard that, following him back to the camp.
It was in this camp where Terrak lived out her next few weeks. Every now and then, people could find her gazing longingly at the sky. Most assumed that she was remembering those that she had lost in the camp, though none brought the subject up with her again after the first day. As far as they were concerned after that, she was one of their own.
Even though they heard the report from Terrak, they did not pack up and leave. Rather, they began considering every appearance of the charun to be serious, not making the same mistake as her camp did. They even doubled the night watch, ensuring that there was no chance that the charun would be capable of approaching them in the cover of darkness.
However, their worries only lasted for those two weeks, before a group of charun could be seen along the horizon, slowly marching towards them. Their numbers were almost as big as the entire halfling camp, each one armed with some type of weapon. When the charun were just barely able to see the walls of the third city, ivory horns were lifted into the air and blown into, a loud sound echoing through the plains.
Looking back at the city, they could almost see the confusion in the actions of the charun, yet at the same time there was hope. As one group approached from the horizon, the gates of the city gradually opened, a second group approaching from the city. “Not good…” The elder cursed under his breath.
If it was just one group of even numbers, the halflings were confident in being able to achieve victory on the open plains. But when they were outnumbered as they were, being approached from both sides, he began to feel an invisible pressure. This only increased even more when he noticed Terrak not far away, looking at the charun that had approached from the horizon. Her face was white, her entire body shaking as she muttered under her breath. “It’s them… they’re here…”
Her words immediately alerted the elder, causing him to look out to that group. She had told him before of the pink charun that led the charge that destroyed their camp. And now, that same unmistakably pink figure was leading the very group that now approached them. This gave him no choice but to admit that things were bad. The tale of fires reaching up to the sky, of entire families burning as they tumbled through the air, he did not wish for that to happen here.
And so, he gave the order to retreat.