Cheers greeted Lisbeth, Eva, Sparrow, Ren, and their army as they rode into the city of Bear's Keep. Lisbeth smiled. It had been a long, hard road uphill to get to where they were now. Demon strongholds across the map were scouted out and overtaken, and her new power gotten under control. Now she could get in and out of whichever mind she pleased without any flashbacks or fear. Best of all, now that she was a battle-hardened general, the demons were weak. She would destroy Xera once she located the miserable creature.
The road had taken its toll on her friends, though. Most noticeably Sparrow, who grew increasingly more tired. Angeline was doing her best to aid him in battle, but even she couldn't ( )ing him back to normal.
Now they were on the eve of the final battle. Xera's stronghold sat inside the mountain of Dhel Karul, which was only a short ways away from Bear's Keep. So Lisbeth had decided that the city was the perfect location for setting up camp.
"Where do you want us to pitch our tent?" Ren asked, jumping off of his horse, Valiant.
"Over on the west side of town, farthest from Dhel Karul. We don't want the demons to have an oppurtunity for an easy ambush." Lisbeth handed Hyacinth's reins to a stableboy. "After you do that, tell the troops to do the same. Then meet all of us at the Bear Lodge for a meal. You rode hard today, you deserve it."
"What of the troops? Will they eat as well?"
"I'll have the townsfolk sent them something."
"Sparrow, here...go on ahead. I'll put your tent up." Eva helped Sparrow off of Saiph and nudged him in Lisbeth's direction.
"No..." A wave of pity washed over the young general. "I'll buy him a room in the Lodge. I don't think a tent would be a good resting place for him in his current state."
"Thank you." Sparrow gave a weak nod. "Eva...can you help me there?"
Eva looked at him, her eyes full of worry. "Yeah, I can."
Ren moved around a bit, uncomfortable. "We'll go pitch our tent now."
And so Lisbeth was left alone. She sighed, looking at the fuschia pouch hanging off of Hyacinth's saddle horn. Sylvan had not contacted her since the battle of Greyglen, and she was a bit scared that he had abandoned her. She longed to see the familiar pink glow of the ( )onze flower, signaling the arrival of a new letter. But her wishing wasn't fulfilled.
"Well, I guess I'll go check out the market." She said to herself. Sadness filled her body, and she felt cold and alone. The stronger she got, the more distance seemed to come in between her and her friends. Eva rarely paid attention to her anymore, and Ren looked like he felt awkward around her.
All she could do now was sit and wait for tomorrow's battle, preparing herself for whatever was to come.
"STAND AT THE READY!" The command was echoed throughout the camp after the army had had enough time to properly digest their ( )eakfast. Soldiers got into the formation they had been taught to adopt since the beginning of the crusade against the demons. It had been lifesaving on multiple occasions.
Lisbeth mounted Hyacinth and looked over at the three riding beside her. They paid her no heed, instead looking at the people of Bear's Keep, who were waving the ( )anches of different types of plants in their direction, a custom of the northern part of Arianoch.
She had expected to feel different, more excited, more nervous. But no, she felt exactly the same as always. Snow was on the ground, like it normally was. The horses stamped impatiantly, per usual. The mountain loomed over the army, just like a normal demon stronghold. It was kind of comforting, but unsettling at the same time.
"READY THE BATTERING RAM!" Lisbeth shouted to her army. A group of troops in the back dragged the heavy machine into place.
"FORWARD!" Eva commanded. The thundering hooves of horses filled the air as the army galloped to Dhel Karul. The towering metal gates of the stronghold came into view, decorated with sinister runes of black magic. Skulls dangled from the chains draping across the doors, and Lisbeth smirked. Demons. So bad at subtlety.
"POSITIONS!" Ren yelled. The soldiers pushing and pulling the ram were ( )ought to the front lines so they could do their work.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
The rhythmic pounding began. Lisbeth heard a roar of "Shiktha!" come from inside, shouted by a deep, rich voice. Wait. She translated in her mind. They were ready and waiting.
The ram had done its work. The doors opened, and the two armies rushed at each other like two packs of snarling wolves, ready to tear each other to pieces.
"CRESCENT MOON!" Lisbeth ordered. The formation, named for its shape, had proven useful in many other battles. She hoped that it would be the same in this one. Turning Hyacinth, she spotted a figure that seemed familiar. The pale mortal man sat tall in his saddle, riding a ghostly-looking horse. His platinum blond hair was drawn back into a ( )aid, which encircled a dark purple ponytail.
Lisbeth fixed her sight upon him and began maneuvering towards him. She wanted revenge for the awful way he made her feel at Greyglen. It would be his thanks for helping her discover her abilities in the most painful, frightening way possible.
His shadow-filled eyes flickered as he caught her gaze. His lips parted, revealing alabaster teeth that almost glowed in the darkness of the stronghold.
"Sha shute akshete." She heard him shout over the roar of demons's and soldiers's agonized screams of pain and begs for mercy.
We meet again.
Lisbeth smirked. She knew what she must say. After studying the demon tongue, Shadowspeak, for some time, she had used it to confuse those around her. This time, she would use it to deliver a threat.
"Bathka daith mish thi krath!" Telling him that she would take his life was invigorating. He glared at her, no doubt wondering why she would make such a pointless statement.
Lisbeth focused, ( )eathing in rhythm. She ascended into the air, arms spread wide and eyes glowing. She let herself be taken into the man's mind so that she could destroy him from the inside out.
Well, well, well...trying to use your little trick on me, eh? She heard his thoughts say in the common tongue. I think you'll find that my thoughts are quite formidable.
She laughed. That statement had been used many a time, and not once had it been proven true. Concentrating again, she conjured up the most annoying, high pitched ringing noise possible.
"Rrragh!" He nearly fell off of his horse. "GET OUT OF MY HEAD!"
Nearby, Eva fought her way through slews of demons to get closer to him. Once Lisbeth caused him enough annoyance, she would off him.
Next, Lisbeth created an irritating folk song that repeated its one verse for eternity. Coupled with the ringing, it was enough to make him fall.
"MAKE IT STOP!"
"Gladly." Eva rolled her eyes, raised her sword, and plunged it into his chest. He gave one last cry and shuddered, the life draining rapidly from his body. Lisbeth guided her mind back into her body and launched herself back into the fray.
The battle raged on for at least two hours, with the demons frequently on the losing side. The stench of death pervaded the air, and the cries of wounded men echoed throughout the room. They all fought ( )avely, but the end of the clash was nowhere in sight...that is, not until she appeared.
A mighty demon, standing tall above the rest, rose from the center of the stronghold. Her skin was like that of a human's, but so pale that it was cadaverous. Her warm ( )own eyes had snakelike pupils, and her mouth was situated where her collarbones should've been, instead of below the nose. She had no hair, only a matted mound of spider's webs sitting atop her skull.
"Xera..." The whispers echoed throughout the army, which was quickly filling with fear.
"Where is the one called Lisbeth?" Her voice was powerful and cold, filling the room with an icy chill.
The wave of nervousness that the young heroine had expected to feel at the beginning of the battle finally hit. She dismounted, afraid that she would fall off of Hyacinth.
"So..." Xera turned her fiery gaze to her. "This is the young one who has been destroying my people. You have caused me much pain, child."
The hair on the back of Lisbeth's neck ( )istled. "Don't call me that!" She wanted to cry.
"Your kind deserves worse than destruction." She said instead.
Xera growled. "Did you know that we were created by the Master to test humanity?"
"There is a clear line between testing and decimating!"
"And how have we crossed that line?"
"By running rampant and razing everything in your path! If that isn't crossing it, I don't know what is!" Lisbeth raised her hands, letting the deep pink magic flow between them.
Xera let out a shrill shriek. "You cannot kill the queen of demons!"
"No, but I can make you pay for your mistakes! Demons may be essential, but they should hide in the shadows where they belong!"
With that, Sparrow, Ren, and Eva each let out a battle cry and put one arm up, moving closer to their friend. Different colors of magic snaked up their arms and flowed to Lisbeth's glowing pink orb. They combined and made a large, pointed ball of light that Lisbeth then flung in Xera's direction. The Demon Queen screamed in agony as it hit her, her eyes rolling back in her head and the cobwebs melting into a sticky shroud that covered her face.
The demon army shrunk back, terrified of the power wielded by the four that now stood together.
"Sha rantha! Frak shi rantha!" Xera screeched, crawling backwards into the dark tunnels of the stronghold. The demons followed her, shouting threats at the army that was now rejoicing, hugging, and thanking the Master and their Guardians.
We depart...let us depart. As the translation flitted across her mind, Lisbeth smiled.
The light faded away, and all was quiet.
"It worked? It actually worked!" Eva let out a whoop.
"Lisbeth, that spell you taught us was a stroke of genius." Ren said, dusting off his golden armor.
"Yeah. Let's go now. This place is even scarier when I can't see." Sparrow lowered his head.
"Alright." Lisbeth said. "Let's get back to Bear's Keep. There'll be much to do when we return."
It took a while to get out of the stronghold. They had underestimated how long and winding it was, and it was surprising how far into the tunnels they had gone.
"Mother will be so excited to hear about all of this!" Ren exclaimed.
"I think your glasses got lost in the stronghold." Eva said. "You're talking to the horses."
"Oh, right. We didn't realize they had fallen off. We're not lucky like Sparrow is."
"Hey..." Lisbeth stopped. "Where is Sparrow?"
Eva gasped. "Did he get lost? He was blind again after we performed the spell!"
"We'll go and look for him, we're the fastest." Ren quickly shifted into Corin and ran back into the caverns.
The wait for him to return was long and worry-filled. Finally, they heard Corin's footsteps in the distance and eagerly went to meet him.
"Well?" Eva was pale with anxiety. Out of breath, Colin shifted back into his original form and shook his head "no".
Lisbeth withdrew herself from the conversation, tears forming in her eyes. Eva's face turned red, and she whirled around.
"It's your fault! It's all your fault!" She roared. "If you hadn't gotten us all mixed up in this, none of this would've happened!"
Lisbeth's tears fell, pouring down her cheeks in a waterfall of emotions. "Well, Xera would've destroyed everything we loved!"
"You guys, let's be reasonable about this." Ren tried to calm the two, but to no avail. They continued to snap at each other, defending themselves with words sharper and more dangerous than any weapon.
"You know what? I'm done! This is over! I knew you were trouble when you rejected my apple pie!"
"I hate apple pie! I wish we had never met one another!"
"Fine!" Eva stalked over to Saiph and swung into the saddle. "Come on, Ren. We're going to look for Sparrow."
"But..." Ren cast a sorrowful glance over his shoulder at Lisbeth.
"No buts. We're leaving."
As the two rode off, Lisbeth cried even harder. Sylvan was gone. Sparrow, Eva, and Ren were gone. Lalune was far, far away.
She was alone. Truly alone.
"Maybe this is all my fault, after all."