We all began to run, but the stormhorses were much quicker than us and, though they were still pretty high up in the air, they easily began to close the vast distance. “You have to stop them!” G’fon yelled.
“You don’t mean ‘stop them’,” Lu huffed back. “You mean ‘kill them’ and I will not do that. I cannot!”
“‘Cannot’? Like literally ‘cannot’?”
“All you need to know is that I won’t. Not while there’s still another way.”
“Another way, like what?” Kink asked. “Like running? If you hadn’t noticed, they’re catching up to us. Running might not be an option for very long.” Her wings flexed behind her. It became clear that she was preparing to take off. I began to wonder if she would take any of us with her. I couldn’t help but think the only reason she hadn’t taken off already was that Tam was still unconscious in her arms. If she hadn’t had the extra weight, she might have been gone already. I had to wonder how long Kink was going to let that slow her down.
“We run until its no longer an option.” It was obvious Lu was struggling with this decision. He, like the rest of us, knew that running wasn’t going to save us from stormhorses. “When we reach the point where we can no longer…” Lu interrupted himself with a scream as four cloaked figures popped out of the ground. We tried to stop ourselves and wound up falling to the ground in the process.
I glanced up behind us. The stormhorses were still closing in on us. These new figures hadn’t deterred them in the slightest. I could see the lightning flashes in their eyes, hear their thunderous hoof steps. They had every intention of trampling us.
I turned back to the cloaked figures in front of us. Maybe it was because I couldn’t see their faces, but they didn’t seem frightened in the least. They stepped forward, moving toward us, and reached out with their hands. Their hands began to start to to glow ominously, as the stormhorses drew ever nearer. We were caught between them. We couldn’t escape. I tried to get up, so maybe I could do something, so maybe I could help us escape, but I knew I was going to be too slow.
The stormhorses were nearly upon us. Behind us all I saw was their approaching darkness. We were only seconds away from being trampled. “Disperse,” the cloaked figures said, then suddenly the horses began to fade. The stormhorses hit us, but instead of stomping on our bones, they floated past us like ghosts. Their forms quickly because unstable and soon they were just like fog scattering amongst the wind.
We were safe from the stormhorses. They had been defeated. I almost breathed a sigh of relief, but we weren’t out of danger yet. We still had to deal with the four mysterious cloaked figures standing over us.
“Thank you for helping us,” Lu said, though I could see he was still conflicted about the need to destroy the stormhorses. That these cloaked figures had eliminated them so easily on their account did not sit well with him. And I imagine he was also uneasy about the true intent of these new figures because I certainly was. “My name is Lu Wu, guardian of the realms. I don’t believe I’m familiar with you.”
“No guardian,” one of them said. “I don’t believe you are. But we are familiar with you.” The figures raised their glowing hands and the ground erupted sending dirt and dust everywhere! I couldn’t see anything. I had to cover my eyes to keep from getting gunk in them.
When I uncovered my eyes, there was still muck in the air. I had to wait for the dirt to settle. When it finally did, I realized there had been more to the figures’ actions than mere distraction. I didn’t know if it had been an attack or not, but I could see that all my friends were gone. Or, based on the fact that I was no longer on that desolate hillside, maybe it was me who wasn’t there any more. There were a lot of question marks racing around in my head, but the one thing I knew for certain was that I had been teleported away.
Now that I could see again, I looked around. I appeared to be in the middle of a bar. Or maybe ‘tavern’ was a more accurate term for it since this place was giving off more of a ‘middle ages’ quality to it, though it’s patrons were most decidedly not human. A group of what could only be described as ‘trolls’ rose from their seats and approached me. They looked down at me with angry grimaces. “We don’t like your kind around here.”
“Oh,” I said, not sure exactly how to take that. It was hard to be optimistic, however, given the circumstances. “And what kind is that?”
That was a little bit of relief. Had they said ‘humans’ I knew I’d be dead. “Well, then we’re in luck because I am most certainly not a magician.”
The trolls weren’t buying that. “You just magically teleported into the middle of the room.”
They had me there. “That’s a good point, but I didn’t teleport out of my own free will so…”
“So what?” the lead troll said. “What are you trying to say? You telling me you ain’t no magician?”
“Yes. That is exactly what I’m saying.”
“I don’t believe him,” said a blue troll with dark green hair. “Throw him in the magician tank!”
“Magician tank?” But before I could wrap my head around that idea, a red troll with multiple piercings grabbed me and lifted me off the ground. “Hey!” I yelped. “You don’t need to do this. Trust me, I’m not a magician. I have no…”
“Shut it!” the troll snarled into my ear.
He carried me toward a door in the back. The door swung open and a pair of trolls came out tugging on ropes, pulling a large barrel nearly the size of a small swimming pool. Liquid sloshed over the sides. I hoped it was water.
to be continued…