Story — Change in the Winds Pt. 4

(Listen to an audio reading of this story on YouTube here!)

 

With the wyvern’s approach, the power of the war song wavered. It wasn’t fear that struck the heart of the clansmen, but anticipation. Many warriors retired their instruments in front of them, backing up as they readied their weapons. Bows, glaives, and swords of all types were prepared, and “The Fall of Er’Alanya” slowly succumbed to the winds around them. Soon the entire clan had lowered the instruments in favor of weapons as they retreated towards the cave’s entrance.

Jadis watched the two Timberhorn jarls as he pulled out his greatsword. Cadock watched the skies, arrow nocked. The head of the arrow sparked into life, engulfing itself in an impatient flame from Cadock’s willpower. The Flame Song was ready for battle. Walen secured his mallet, putting it on his belt once again as he turned to the skies alongside his shield brother.

Movement flashed in the distance. Not the constant sheet of snowfall. A white promise of death. Another roar: much closer this time. I hope you’re prepared, that call said. I want a real challenge. By now every warrior had his weapons ready. Jadis felt his hands tense against the grip of his sword.

Then, they saw it. A huge mass of white feathers, perched upon a rock outcropping some sixty feet away. The beast’s horn rested upon its snout, proof of its sovereignty in this blizzard. It watched them, studying its adversaries.

“Archers!” Walen yelled. “Fire!”

Cadock’s was the first arrow to loose, the Flame Song humming it’s famous note of death as the arrow flew towards its target, leading the charge of twenty others.

The dragon roared, and the winds suddenly reversed directions, throwing every arrow off target. It wasn’t a normal blast of wind.

The wyvern had used magic. It didn’t give the clan time to prepare. Swooping down towards them, it threw its wings out and stared directly at Jadis.

Jadis channeled power into the blade, then swung it upwards in an arc that threw a wave of fire directly into the wyvern’s path. It dove low and under the blast, holding its back claws out to attack.

“Jadis, move!” Walen yelled. Jadis glanced to his right where the man stood. He held his shield up, and pushed it forwards, towards Jadis.

In a matter of moments, an arcane blast threw him off his feet, tossing him out of the path of the dragon.

It bellowed its rage as it ascended, the beat of its wings oppressive as their force pushed them back. Clansmen yelled their battle cries as they fought back, the sound of metal slamming against metal and arrows flying through the wind.

As Jadis stood, the wyvern circled around, dodging all manner of arrows and elemental blasts. It roared again as a few arrows and blasts clipped its feathered wings, landing on the opposite side of the formation.

It slammed its claws down into the nearest clansmen, crushing him. Then, it bellowed a blast of its own into the clan: an icy wave throwing dozens of men into the air. Orders were yelled somewhere to hold ground. The most important thing in a battle like this was to never lose sight of the dragon.

Jadis charged. His feet pushed through the snow with a sudden exertion, closing the gap between him and the dragon. Wyverns are arrogant, he thought. They don’t consider any one man worth more effort than a single blow. Just dodge that blow and you’ll be fine.

As he was the only one attacking head on, the wyvern raised a claw to fend him off. As he swung, Jadis thrust his sword up and summoned an earthen shield.

It’s wing slammed against the unexpected barrier, and Jadis followed up with a downwards swing across its face. He channeled power through the blade again, and the fire augmented sword slammed into the dragon’s scales.

It bit hard into its snout, and the beast thundered a call of anger.

The wyvern leaped forward, sending Jadis into the ground below as it fell upon the crowd of staggered men. It slammed its jaws into a warrior scrambling to nock an arrow, and flexed its wings outwards.

Suddenly, the snow turned into shards of ice, and began raining down on them. Jadis threw his sword above himself and formed a flimsy arcane ward. He was exerting himself too much. This was probably the last spell he dared cast.

Around him, clansmen were dying, shouts of anger and defiance turning into screams of pain and terror. Some had managed their own wards to shield themselves from the ice, but many had already been impaled. The snow was once again stained with red.

He had never seen a wyvern do that before. Outward blasts of force were common, but pelting the surrounding area in ice? Perhaps their understanding of wyverns was entirely wrong. Or perhaps there was more going on.

Either way, this battle wasn’t one they could win. The wyvern was wounded with a few arrows and burns, but this was an opponent that knew where to strike.

They had to retreat.

“Walen! Cadock!” Jadis scanned around for any sign of the Timberhorn jarls.

He spotted Walen, holding his shield above his head. He held a sheet of snow aloft: a huge ward that already protected over a dozen clansmen from the shards. Cadock stood beside him, covered in blood, launching another flaming arrow at the dragon.

“Walen!” Jadis repeated, rushing over to him and dropping his own ward once he was under the jarl’s shelter. “We need to leave. We’ve suffered enough losses.”

His face was grim, staring at the limping clansmen that made their way to the protection of his ward. “Agreed. This one is different.”

“Damn it all,” Jadis muttered, fist clenched against the sword he still held. “Hundreds of years of tradition and now they can use magic, too?”

Walen nodded. “This doesn’t bode well. Get my brother to safety. I’ll save as many as I can.”

Cadock scoffed at that. “If you’re going to die, then I will, too.” He paid no attention to Jadis. “I won’t end up like him.”

A stab of guilt. Pain. Serandis’ smile grinning back amidst a lake of blood.

He looked back to the dragon. Under the rain of ice, it was crushing and eating leisurely. This was no battle anymore.

At least by now several dozen men were under Walen’s shield, but it stood between them and the cave entrance.

“Walen, we have to run. I’ll distract the dragon, you charge around it to the cave.”

“You can’t be serious. You can’t fight it all by yourself.”

“I know. But nobody will care if I die.”

There was no point in arguing, and they both knew it. Walen simply nodded again.

Jadis charged back out of the cover of his snow.

Extensive use of magic takes its toll on the body. It’s why Cadock was so harsh to Jadis. He was surprised Walen hadn’t seemed to have hit that point already.

Earth magic atrophies the physical self. But he had already lost everything else.

Jadis held his sword with both hands, blade down. He could only hope a shard didn’t kill him before he was finished.

Summoning all the power he could muster, and even some he couldn’t, he thrust the blade forwards at the wyvern.

Earthen spikes lunged out of the ground at the dragon’s feet, impaling three of them and immobilizing it. It bellowed in fury, staring hard at Jadis but being unable to move.

“Walen! Now!”

Then he felt his body give out under his own weight. An overload of magic. His muscles withered and shrunk, and he barely felt himself collapse into the snow before he lost consciousness.

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