Chapter Eight: A Question of Character Final Draft

“Hate me.

I love when things are complicated.”

Koraki to Anika

Arajuan did not have the luxury to stop. A tight schedule meant he had to push on. He could still smell her blood on him, feel her heartbeat against him. His own heart pounded against his ribcage. He knew this feeling, a roar in his chest from a time before he was Arajuan. She was the lady of shadows; how could he do this to her?

Arajuan had to shake this off, aloof, wicked, heartless. This is war, the price of war is death. He would laugh but it was not funny. The men followed him, orcs were the core group, from the same tribe Tsuke and Tuk hailed. The others were victims of towns he decimated. He relished in their fear when new towns he conquered saw his necromantic arts. It was a delight when they knew they bound their fate to him.

The war drums played as they marched. Socrates landed on his shoulder. He knew his master better than anyone; they were bonded as brothers. Socrates sensed Arajuan’s troubled heart.

“The girl, was she the wyrmling?” Socrates asked

“Yes, and I left her to die. I had no choice. My orders were to slay her. If she had just kept her mouth shut, she’d stay with me forever.” Arajuan sighed. “Hear that Socrates, my friend? It is the call of the war drum. Thump, thump, a heartbeat and it summons me to war.”

“You will forget her then? Let her die?” Socrates asked, “Won’t that jeopardize?”

Arajuan rose his left hand to interrupt Socrates and halted his men. At the front of the line a man who wore a well-made Greek style armor approached. His hair was dark brown, his face a skull held together by jaw muscle and tendons. His eye sockets had brown eyes seated there.

“Sire, why are we stopped now?” He spoke.

“Typhos, lead the men forward and conquer Stockholm. I will be with you shortly.”

“As you wish, my lord.”

Typhos gathered the men and pressed on. Arajuan meanwhile raised his hands to the heavens, his mouth gaped open as a growl rang through the valley. It filled the air with fear and despair as blood and fire rained down.
“Arah Hwan!” the roar sounded like his name and it echoed off the mountains. He repeated the sound for 3 minutes. A storm of fire, blood and lightening ravaged the area. A storm of his grief, he could not lose her. This would distract Gori. Gori couldn’t see him now.

Socrates did not have to be told what to do. As soon as the army had moved ahead the bird became a child. He stood beside Arajuan, holding the elder’s hand.

“Sir? My orders?” the boy requested.

Arajuan bent to the child’s height and held the arrow tip he broke from Anika in front of him.

“Wait for the lady of shadows, the girl, and give her back this arrowhead. Give her this potion to undo the spell on her stomach. Without it she dies. Without it the resistance is lost.” Arajuan commanded, “Without it, Elewyn’s dream is lost. My freedom is lost. Do not fail me.”

“What if she doesn’t trust me? Sir, what do I say.”

“She has no choice, she will die.” Arajuan sighed, “She will trust you when she sees the arrowhead, her heart knows the truth. She knows I was the one watching her all along. Go to Stockholm, quick and wait there for her. They will seek Jarrett there.”

“Yes, sir.”

The child transformed and flew away in haste. Arajuan also had to move swift. Through the shadows he ran and caught up with the war party. Stockholm was on fire. Jarrett, stood, silver-haired, in royal purple cloak, hands outstretched magic flying fast from his fingers. Arajuan was a mist, and he materialized. He took hold the half-elf’s wrists a burn from his venom scorched the flesh.
“Arajuan! Traitor!”

“I will spare your life but run fast Jarrett, we have orders and Raset follows me.”

The half-elf’s eyes widened. Arajuan hated this, he hated to attack his own friends. He despised that he had to do this to them. The town melted away around them as Arajuan fixed his dead eyes on Jarrett.

“Traitor,” Jarrett accused, “What happened to her dream!”

“They are coming, and I can’t save them. You can if you hide. Fight me and I will be forced to kill you.”

Arajuan let go of Jarret’s arm. The drums beat again, and the familiar voice of his captain called to him.

“Sir, Sir we been given orders to let Raset finish.” Typhos called

“Hear that, that’s my cue Jarrett, old friend, trust me. For Elewyn.”

“For Elewyn then,” Jarrett replied.

Jarrett’s royal colored cloak transformed to a dull brown. He placed his hood over his

head and blended into the area. Arajuan turned to Typhos, the scent of Jarrett, ale soaked, and magic burned, drifted away toward the gate. He took in the destruction; a dead horse lay in the road. A woman wailed over an injured child. Socrates waited in a nearby tree giving him a true bird’s-eye view of Stockholm.

“What a mess! Walk with me Typhos.” He ordered.

“Sir,” Typhos replied, “Gori, sir, saw what transpired with the dragon girl. He orders you to return to Eldurfell.”

The child in the woman’s arms screeched in pain. Arajuan growled, Gori would be in Eldurfell to greet the new recruits. He must not of bought his ruse. This was bad news for Arajuan, his mood soured. He turned to the woman.

“Shut your child up or I will. Permanently.” Arajuan barked.

“Sir,” Typhos gasped.

The woman grabbed the toddler toward her. The toddler was covered in burns. Arajuan leaned down to assess, he could smell the burned flesh. Her lungs sounded like they were slowing as did her heart. He sighed, the price of war, he couldn’t save this one even if he had the skill.

“Listen, commit her to fire woman, she won’t survive.”

The woman wailed louder. Exasperated Arajuan snatched the infant and threw her into a nearby fire pit. The child’s screech pierced the town. He held a hand out flames rained down and incinerated her. All that was left were bones. The mother shrieked prostrated at his feet.

“Why, why my little girl.”

“Get off me or you will join her.” Arajuan kicked her.

Arajuan’s shoulders heaved as he turned away. This was what war is. Eldurfell, he would be punished there. The woman’s cries grew dull in his ears as he walked. Typhos beside him, the soldiers behind him. The ever-growing army of undead.

“It is hard to justify our side as the good guys when you murder children my lord.” Typhos scorned.

“Typhos you know the price of war, we could not save her.” Arajuan retorted. “I go to Eldurfell alone. Take the troop and join Raset’s men, inform them that I reassigned you.”

“Yes sir! Odcięte lowry żadne ogoni!” Typhos pounded.
“Odcięte lowry żadne ogoni!” Arajuan replied.

The scent of Arajuan’s captain soon trailed off behind him. He was alone now, not even Socrates to guide his sight. He needed to get out of sight so he could give Socrates the signal to re-join him. With a jump he sat in a nearby tree to wait for morning. His eyes closed he searched for her mind. Arajuan would dream of her tonight.

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