Chapter 491: Children of Noir Part 3
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Chapter 491: Children of Noir Part 3

 

  …Hollow Shade…Western Wall…

 

  In the dark hours of the evening, plumes of blue flames flickered across the wall. Elzri and Una channeled Yellow and Orange. Currents of wind swirled underneath them as they flew around Oshnyr, blasting the dragonbane with azure flames. The beast swung his spiked tail through the air, trying to strike at them to no avail. He was slowing down, little by little.

  Despite the dragonbane’s natural magical resistance and mana absorption, the open wounds given by Holo seemed to leave it vulnerable to magical attacks. The sibling archmages did not hold back and focused their firepower on the exposed flesh. Oshnyr’s painful groans were evidence of that. And yet the anger in his black eyes was almost palpable. His hide was mostly melted, the exposed muscles charred, and still, he fought with an almost rabid fury.

  Una glanced at her daughter’s battle, a few dozen meters away. She tried to fly over, but Oshnyr jumped in her way, refusing to let her pass. As soon as he drew too close, her wind spell crumbled apart and she fell back onto the battlements.

  She cursed under her breath and dashed back towards her brother with an agility spell. Even now, both of them could feel their mana seeping away into the dragonbane, strengthening him. Oshnyr’s shoulders heaved up and down, his ribs opening rapidly as he gulped breaths of air. There was no doubt, he was exhausted, on the brink of collapse, but their mana and his rage kept him standing.

  Elzri and Una shared a glance. They needed to finish this fast.

  Not far away, Loh held her hands up in strain as if puppeteering several puppets at once. Shadow tendrils stretched out from her fingers and dangled over the inner side of the wall. Unalla, Votum in hand, ran across the wall, battling Eldrak in a dance of steel and fangs. One of Loh’s shadows wrapped around her waist, holding her from falling. 

  For each strike Unalla gave, Eldrak attacked five more. His spiked wings and barbed tail lashed out in a flurry of deadly strikes, all the while his claws dug into the magestone, slowly scaling the wall. His wounds slowed him, but the sheer onslaught of attacks was overwhelming.

  At first, Unalla held the advantage. Her strikes were precise, the strength behind her swings powerful. But as the battle progressed, Votum’s power weighed on her body;  her movements grew sluggish.

  Unalla slipped and stumbled forward into Eldrak’s stinger. Loh yanked the shadow around Unalla’s waist back, sending her careening backwards. Eldrak thrust his neck and snapped the black tendril in half. Unalla tumbled down with a gasp. Loh commanded the rest of her waiting tendrils with a snap of her wrist and snatched Unalla up.

  Instead of trying to reach out and attack Unalla, Eldrak scrambled up the wall. Maximus and the soldiers fired their arrows and javelins at the dragonbane. The metal projectiles broke and bounced off his translucent flesh. The grey muscles underneath tightened with exertion and with a leap, Eldrak landed heavily on the battlements.

  “Retreat!” Loh exclaimed.

  The soldiers fell back on each other panickedly as they ran away. Eldrak’s tail lashed out in a flash, leaving behind only a scattering of bloodstains. Loh froze at the sight. The soldiers were silenced before they had a chance to scream. One moment they had been running, the next they were gone.

  “Loh!” Maximus picked her up and threw her onto his back.

  “Get her out of here!” Unalla shouted and got between them and Eldrak. She felt exhausted. Pain emanated from her hands and only grew the longer she held the orichalcum sword. Her breath was ragged and her vision was beginning to blur. She could taste the blood on her lips. 

  Eldrak pulled his lips back in a vicious smile and growled.

  Unalla narrowed her eyes. With trembling fingers, she raised Votum and faced the beast. “I won’t let you… take one step closer…” Her vision suddenly darkened and her eyes rolled up. Votum slipped out of her hands in a clatter and she collapsed on the ground.

  Eldrak swiped his claw down at her without hesitation. 

  “No!” Loh screamed.

  Maximus leaped forward, shield raised. Loh weaved her shadow tendrils into a dome above the three of them. Eldrak’s claws ripped through the dome and his paw-like hand bashed Maximus and Loh. Their bodies slammed into the battlements with a sharp crack.

  Loh groaned. She was pinned underneath the centaur. “Get up, Maximus…” she mumbled.

  There was no response. He lay limp atop her. Blood flowed down his head and dyed his grey locks red.

  Eldrak roared in triumph and moved towards the unconscious Unalla.

  Una caught sight of her daughter from across the battlements. Her heart stopped in her chest and her heartbeat thrummed in her ears. “UNALLA!!” a terror-stricken scream escaped her lips.

  The scream pulled Elzri’s mind back in time. 

  He was a young man once more, standing alone in the city’s coliseum. Melted sand burned red-hot at his feet and the surrounding area. Black smoke rose from the scorched ground. The crowd of onlookers were silently staring in shock. 

  A guttural scream that ripped at his very soul, pulled his attention to the noble boxes above the commoner seats. His little sister, Una, was standing there. Staring down at him in horror at the sight. Elzri felt a painful lump swell in his throat. 

  He hadn’t meant to. It had all happened so fast. Aiden. Esletha. His siblings. He had taken their lives in an explosion of flame and anger. And there was Una, watching her brother whom she trusted most, with the blood of his family on their hands.

  It was the scream, not a word, not a voice, but a hoarse screeching noise born out of sheer horror and pain; it was the scream that had haunted Elzri all these years.

  The same scream echoed across the battlements as the dragonbane reached out for Unalla.

  Not again… not ever again! Elzri gritted his teeth and threw his arms out. An explosion of black mana surged through his body, burning his veins irreparably from the sheer volume he demanded all at once. Shadowy tendrils, thick as his waist, shot out from his silhouette in a crashing wave of darkness. Dozens of tendrils wrapped around the two dragonbanes. 

  The shadows frayed at the edges. Eldrak roared angrily and tried to pull away and reach Unalla, but the tendrils held tight. 

  Una turned to him, surprised. “Riri!?”

  He channeled Yellow. Protective scales formed across his body and a powerful gust coalesced around him. He jumped into the night sky, pulling the dragonbanes up with a long trailing cloak of shadows.

  Eldrak and Oshnyr dug their claws into the wall, trying to hold on, but the shadows dragged them into the sky, a hundred paces above the battlements. They raged against their chains, tearing at the tendrils with their claws, fangs, and winged spikes. But for each tendril they ripped apart, Elzri summoned two more.

  Una stared in shock at the impossible sight of magical might. 

   “Now!” Elzri screamed with exertion and channeled Orange. Sapphire flames burst from his hands a seed of blinding light.

  “Riri…!” Una bit her lip and channeled Orange. She threw the power she could muster into a similar seed of sapphire flames and shot the spell upwards.

  The two seeds of flames crashed into the dragonbanes from above and below and bloomed into infernal petals of azure fire. The dragonbanes shrieked in agony as the flames grew in intensity. They thrashed in the sky, trying to escape their shadowy restraints. They stabbed their winged spikes and barbed tails at Elzri’s small form hanging above them. The razor-sharp bones and stingers scraped across his protective scales, puncturing through several, and ripped through his flesh. Still, Elzri held on, his jaw clenched tight and his grey eyes filled with determination.

  The Azure Flowers blossomed into their full might, trapping the void monsters in their center. The infernal heat seared their hide and made their way into their wounds, scorching the underlying flesh and organs. Even from the battlements, the sweltering heat was suffocating. 

  The blue flames burned brightly above the western wall, like a beacon in the night, a symbol of defiance against the enemy at their doorstep. Eldrak and Oshnyr shrieked one last horrifying noise before the flames consumed them.

  As the Azure Flowers wilted and smoke filled the air, two charred bodies fell from the sky and crashed on the grass outside the city. The dragonbanes’ bodies were little more than bone and bits of charred sinew.

  Elzri descended slowly onto the battlements. He collapsed as his feet touched the ground. His white robes had been torn to shreds and were soaked red.

  “Riri!” Una screamed and rushed to his side.

  He glanced up at her feebly, his vision swimming in and out. 

  “No, no, no!” she cried and gently helped him to sit up, but he couldn’t hold up his own weight and tottered to the side. Carefully, she propped him up on the merlons. His shoulders sagged down and his neck sunk into his chest.

  “Riri, stay with me!” she cried.

  He slowly glanced up at her and his bloody lips formed a faint smile. “...Y-Your daughter… is safe…?”

  Una sniffed and smiled weakly. “She is.”

  “...Good.”

  “Don’t speak, we need to find you a healer.” Una glanced around desperately, searching for someone in sight, anyone, but the battlements were filled with corpses, ruin, and little else.

  “Grandfather!” Loh cried out. She had managed to pull herself out from underneath Maximus. Her injured leg seemed worse than before. Refusing to give up, she dragged herself across the battlements. Her face was flushed and her eyes were filled with tears. “Grandfather!” she cried out again, straining to pull herself forward.

  “...Elohnoir…” Elzri mumbled, blood dripping from his lips.

  Una gripped his hand, “I’ll go bring her.”

  But he squeezed her hand softly. She turned back and looked at him, confused.

  He swallowed the blood in his mouth and whispered, “...Prot-tect…”

  Una placed both her hands on top of his own. “I’ll guard Elohnoir with my life, I swear it, I will not leave her,” she said sternly.

  “...Mm.” He nodded faintly.

  Una glanced down, blood was pooling underneath him. “I’m sorry!” she burst into tears. “I should have never left you alone all this time. I shouldn’t have left you with all the guilt and responsibility.” 

  He smiled, “...But… you came back…”

  Una bit her trembling lip. “Hold— hold on, let me bring Elohnoir. Just hold on!” She jumped to her feet, sprinted over to Loh, and helped her up.

  Elzri stared at them making their way over. Loh was shouting something, but their voices had faded away into silence. She was screaming, her eyes glistening. It reminded him of the day she was born; she was covered in blood, crying as he held her tiny body in his hands.

  My little Elohnoir…

  He wished he had more time. He wished he hadn’t driven her away all those years ago. He wished… she was happy.

  I’m sorry.

  Elzri smiled softly and closed his eyes one last time.

 

~~~

 

  Ismene rode atop a small wave as the water flowed through the battlements. She reached the western wall and found only broken bodies and shattered magestone. Worry grew in her chest like a poison burning through her heart.

  She caught sight of the largest centaur she had ever met, Maximus, sitting at the edge of the wall in grim silence. A small sat across from him, sitting next to a giant sword with a blade like black glass. 

  “Unalla!” Ismene shouted, relieved. The wave crumbled underneath her. She grabbed her cane and hobbled towards the young drow. “I saw the azure flames in the sky. I came as fast as I could. Are you two alright? Are you unharmed?”

  Unalla sat with her knees to her chest, her head buried between them. 

  “Unalla…?” Ismene said anxiously and touched her shoulder.

  She glanced up at the old woman, her eyes were red from crying.

  Ismene stepped back, startled. “Where is—?” She glanced past Maximus and her voice caught in her throat.

  Elzri sat slumped over, his back resting against the merlons. Una knelt next to him, her head bowed. Loh was atop him, her arms wrapped around him tightly. She wailed quietly, her body shaking with each breath.

  The cane slipped out of Ismene’s numb fingers. “Elz…ri…?” she mumbled, eyes wide.

  A flicker of torchlight caught Ismene’s attention. In the distance, the valley armies were marching to the western gate, they’d arrive in a matter of minutes. Even from here, Ismene could see there were no soldiers left at the gate; slain by the monsters that had breached the wall.

  Rage burned in her chest and blue mana surged to life within. Droplets of water spun into existence around the old woman and swirled around her, carrying her into the air in a storm of magic. Lightning crackled through her body as the current swirled faster and faster.

  The Tempest Archmage flew over the battlements and headed to the western gate alone.

 

 

 

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