Chapter 23 of Ancestor
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It was almost midday already. The company had already been traveling the whole morning and should have been close to their destination. Nobody had yet spotted a scout yet and Xaine was both worried and glad.
Xaine felt nervous about the coming battle. He seemed to be aware of every passing minute and yet every minute seemed to pass as quickly as a second. No matter how much more time he wanted, he knew he couldn’t have it. The battle would come soon and hopefully, everything would be over.
Xaine heard one of the men shout. It was a tracker and he was now pointing in a specific direction. A few moments passed and Xaine could see a man and a woman emerging far off in the distance. The scouts were alive after all.
“We’re close to them. We should be careful from here on out,” Nab said.
“All trackers be on alert, the darkgons are close!” Torin commanded.
It took a few moments for the scouts to reach them and many waited in anticipation. The scouts didn’t rush towards them so it didn’t seem like much of an emergency, but as they got closer the looks on their faces told them the news wouldn’t be good.
“You’re not gonna like this,” The man said reaching them first. “There’s a lot of them.”
“The queen has been a very unstable position to keep since we got here,” the woman added. “They’ve killed the queen several times since we started tracking them.”
The scouts dismounted and led them to a safe place to set camp. Everyone else dismounted and set up their tents. The male scout went back with another tracker to keep watch on the darkgons while the woman reported on their findings.
Xaine, Torin, and the rest of the leadership spent the rest of the day planning with the scout. Torin and the other trackers then set up watches so they wouldn’t lose track of the darkgons during the night.
Everything about the night seemed to remind Xaine of what was coming. No training was allowed that night to lower the noise level. And no fires would be lit. They wanted to make sure and get the jump on the darkgons. Though Nab had already informed them the darkgons most likely already know of their presence, Torin took the precautions if for nothing else than peace of mind.
Finally, Torin was addressing the leadership and all of the secondary leadership.
“Before we retire for the night I want all those with fire abilities on one of the fires.” He motioned to one of the large circles of stones where dry wood and kindling sat unlit. “If we are caught at night we want to be able to see. If something happens those men will light the fires. Tell your warriors good luck. We proceed with the attack immediately in the morning.”
Some of the warriors repositioned their tents to be close to the fires and the rest that couldn’t help went straight to bed. After talking with Ailee, who seemed much too glad to be going to battle the next day, Xaine wished her good luck and retired for the night. He lay on his bedroll and closed his eyes.
Xaine bolted upright. He didn’t remember drifting off, it had certainly been hours since he lay himself down. Did he actually hear it? Or was it a nightmare? His heart was pounding as he listened for any sound. The night was quiet. He almost dismissed it and then he heard it again.
The horrible scream pierced the air. This time, it seemed much louder than before like many more had joined in. Xaine quickly dressed and exited his tent. Others had been woken as well. Torin was standing outside his tent. When he saw Xaine, he came to talk to him.
“What do you think is going on?” Nab said joining them.
“The queen just died. Once the swarm stops fighting for the orb. They will most likely be on the move,” Nab said, confirming Xaine’s fears.
“Let’s just hope they don’t move in this…” Torin Trailed off looking out into the distance. Daniel came running up to them.
“It’s the trackers on darkgon watch, they are coming back,” he said.“ And quickly.”
“Wake the warriors, start with fire lighters and the leadership, wait to light the fires until I give the command,” Torin commanded.
“Torin, this isn’t good he’s being followed… It looks like six of them. Should we light the fires?” Daniel asked.
“Those ones are most likely trying to escape before the new queen is chosen. They may still attack us though if we are in the way,” Nab told Torin.
“If we light the fires too soon it might give the others a target,” Torin said.
“But if we don’t and they attack only the trackers will know where they are!” Said Daniel.
“Light the fires! And Galvin, the men aren’t waking up fast enough. We want everyone on these six so we survive. Wake them up.”
“If they don’t notice the fires we may be ok but there’s no way they won’t notice that! Are you sure?” Galvin replied.
“Maybe it’ll scare them off so we can chase them.”
“I guess it’s worth a shot.”
Galvin held his sword in the air and Xaine could hear a hum. He felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up and moved away from Galvin averting his eyes and covering his ears. Lightning stuck Galvin’s blade and the whole valley was briefly illuminated. Xaine could see the six darkgons chasing the warrior on horseback. The creatures were gaining on him.
The light vanished and the now lit fires seemed so dim. It only took a moment, however, for Xaines eyes to readjust. He could see the warrior and his horse now, and six large shadows behind him. The six darkgons were still coming, none of them veered off.
“Get ready!” Torin shouted.
Men and women began to form up everywhere all summoning their weapons. Xaine summoned his own.
“Xaine how long can you make your shockwaves?” Torin Asked,
“I’m not sure, pretty long sometimes,” Xaine replied.
“Do you think you can trip the darkgons?”
“I can definitely try.
Torin nodded the affirmative and Xaine moved up to the edge of the firelight. The tracker was getting closer and closer and the darkgons right behind him. Xaine raised his sword waiting for the right moment. Xaine could hear Torin giving another command behind him. And then the tracker passed Xaine and into the camp.
Just as Xaine was bringing his sword down again the valley lit again and the deafening crack of thunder sounded behind him. Not missing his chance Xaine continued the swing pushing as much power as he could into the shockwave. It hit the front legs of the darkgons then hit the ground just behind them, kicking up dirt and dust everywhere.
Immediately, a large group of warriors rushed forward to take advantage of the prone darkgons. Xaine rushed to attack as well. Using his vantage point in the front, he shot another shockwave to keep the darkgons down and clear the dust. The group reached the darkgons just after the shockwave hit and most of the dust billowed away.
Dread filled Xaine as the newly cleared area revealed only three darkgons. His eyes scanned the area looking for any movement as others wounded the three that remained.
“Trackers on guard! ” Torin yelled.
Xaine saw what looked like the end of a tail disappear into the darkness. “Over there! ” he shouted pointing in the direction where he saw it. Immediately Xaine heard a loud rushing of wind as the end of a nunchaku swung passed him and thudded into its target.
“Watch yourself, kid!” Po shouted.
Xaine turned to find a darkgon very near him, lashing back out at Po. He quickly joined in the fight with the three as several men rushed off in the direction Xaine had indicated. Xaine shot another shockwave at its legs as Po made a downward swing with his weapon. To Xaine’s surprise, the creature jumped, apparently trying to dodge Xaine’s attack. The darkgon was almost successful, but its feet were still knocked backward under its body.
The creature shot its feet down quickly and batted its leathery, torn, wings- giving it more time to correct itself. But its focus on its feet distracted it from Po’s attack. Po’s overlong nunchaku slammed into it with force it should not have had. The darkgon hit the ground, barely missing its footing and crumbling from the weight of Po’s nunchaku.
Another warrior ran up to provide the killing blow but its long tail swung around and knocked him to the ground. The darkgon struggled to free itself from under the weight of Po’s weapon for a moment then stood only its hind legs, allowing the nunchaku to roll off its body to the front and thud on the ground.
It lunged at Xaine and he sidestepped and swiped at it with his blade. The sword glanced off its scaly body as it swung its tail at him this time. Xaine dropped to the ground to avoid the attack and the beast turned its body to bite at him. Po stepped back as the creature's tail now swung in his direction.
The darkgon bent down with its jaws open wide and Xaine rolled away from it. Seemingly out of nowhere, another warrior slashed at the darkgons outstretched neck with her sword. Xaine got to his feet, not taking his eyes off the darkgon. The warrior’s sword struck it and actually cut, though the cut wasn’t deep.
The darkgon opened its mouth wide and a hissing sound followed by a cloud of poison issued out. Xaine and the other warrior moved out of the way and the darkgon ran through the cloud and into the darkness.
“Too bad it wasn’t a fatal wound,” Xaine said as he lost sight of it through the poison fog.
“It is with my sword,” she replied, and Xaine realized he knew who it was.
“Whatever I cut doesn’t stop bleeding unless I want it to,” Kara said. “That thing will eventually die.”
Without time to thank her the three switched focus to find the remaining two darkgons. They were enthralled in a battle with most of the warriors in the group that charged. He could see that everyone seemed to be keeping their distance, however, and Xaine noticed that they also were using the poison as a barrier to keep the warriors back.
Ailee’s wind and fire arrows would make holes in the poison but one of the darkgons would quickly fill the space before they could get close enough. Xaine moved up and shot a shockwave vertically through the mist attempting to hit one of the darkgons as well. The hole was quickly filled by the darkgon left standing.
A bright object soared through the air, illuminating the entire group and fell with a thud in the center of the circle. One of the creatures let out a horrible scream and lay still. The others began to clear the mist again to charge when the circle of warriors was broken.
This time, a human scream tore through the air. A man at the other end of the circle was pulled out into the darkness. Half the circle turned to aid him as the other half tried to attack the darkgon that remained. Another darkgon let out their terrible scream from somewhere near the camp.
Xaine hoped that it meant more darkgons were dying. Xaine shot another shockwave to clear the mist and could see the darkgon clearly now. He rushed forward and saw another warrior approaching from the side about to strike. A very distant scream cut the air, sending chills down Xaine’s spine as it was immediately answered by numerous others.
The darkgon in front of Xaine was struck immediately after. The warrior’s battle ax cut deeply into it and it similarly screamed like the others. The creature was put out of its misery by another warrior and they returned to assist the camp. Many men and women were standing in large circles with their backs to the fires, taking advantage of their light.
Xaine could see trackers calling out locations to strike for long ranged warriors and watch for close ranged warriors. As they approached a tracker frantically called out a location and a warrior on the edge of the firelight was pulled away into the darkness.
Several warriors who’s powers emitted light in one way or another began using them to extend their range of view. Many of them, like Ailee’s fire arrows, gave bursts of life- giving light for only a brief moment before fading. This made seeing what was happening like flipping the pages of a picture book. Each time anyone saw anything move beyond the firelight, it was in quick, still images.
The darkgon and the man it had dragged off were being chased by others, attempting to rescue the man. They seemed to jump from one position to the next as the light came and went. Another loud distant screamed sounded and Xaine feared the worst. He then heard a familiar voice shout his fears into the night.
“They’re coming! Get ready to fight the swarm!”
The light illuminated the man's face as he finished the last words. But Xaine knew from his voice that it was Nab. This meant Xaine also knew that it was not a guess, Evala had told Nab it was happening. Torin yelled another command and others averted their gaze from Galvin once again.
The bolt of lightning illuminated the far distance like before, but this time, the group of darkgons charging them was much larger. More warriors screamed as they were caught off guard and pulled from the firelight. The darkgons didn’t miss their opportunity to attack while others were distracted.
Barely standing their ground with six, Xaine couldn’t help but feel their odds were not good. Without proper light, there was not much they could do. Xaine could hear others sharing his fears. Xaine could hear Torin somewhere in the distance shouting.
“Felix get to the center and mount your horse, get it as high as you can!”
Xaine could see the spear raise into the air and an immensely, brilliant light shone from the spear, greatly extending their range of vision.
“I want the others dead before the swarm reaches us!” Torin shouted at the company.
The warriors shouted back and began to advance on the darkgons they could see. Most of them were already too late to save the warriors that were taken. Nevertheless, the extra light helped tremendously.
Xaine barely heard the fifth darkgon scream out in pain when the charge was called to the other approaching group. Xaine had tried to hit this new group with his shockwave as he had done the last, but couldn’t catch all of them in it. The ones in the back simply jumped over those that stumbled and flung themselves at the fighting warriors.
The whole battleground had erupted with mayhem. Screaming men and explosions issuing from every direction. The clanging of metal on the rough armored skin of the darkgons rang through Xaines ears. He could see Ailee showering the darkgons with shot after shot.
Xaine quickly found himself feeling outnumbered even though his company greatly outnumbered the darkgons. He would attack one darkgon and almost immediately have to dodge or otherwise escape another. More men and women were screaming from camp and Xaine realized what was going on.
The main group they had charged was not the full swarm. The darkgons had split into multiple groups in order to surround the warriors. At the same moment Xaine had realized it, he saw from the flashes of light still issuing to extend their vision a darkgon behind a warrior near him.
Without thinking, Xaine shouted a caution to him and raced toward the warrior. The warrior turned just as the darkgons mouth closed on his arm. He was pulled off his feet and Xaine pushed himself harder than ever. The darkgon started to turn and yank the man away when Xaine leaped in the air at it.
He gripped his sword with both hands and thrust it downward as hard as he could. He landed impaling the creature with surprising ease and it released its prey. The man used his other arm and delivered the killing blow.
“Than-,” the man’s voice was drowned out by the sudden impact to Xaines side. He was knocked off his feet and slid across the ground under an immense weight. He tried to fight the darkgon on top of him but his sword only swung at awkward angles.
The man he had just freed managed to land a hit on the darkgons side, distracting it and making it change its footing. A wave of pain hit Xaine as the weight lifted off of him. He barely managed to roll out from under it when it turned back around.
Xaine got to his feet and sidestepped another attack. He swung down at the darkgon’s side, not expecting to do much damage. His sword cut through the creature's skin as if it almost were not even armored at all. Xaine realized that like in his previous encounter his sword was vibrating very quickly. This seemed to make Xaine’s sword effectively much sharper.
Xaine and the other warrior were joined by more and they were able to regain the advantage. Even still the battle seemed almost against them. The darkgon had managed to take two warriors down with it by the time it was finally killed.
The battle seemed to last beyond bearability. With adrenaline pumping through him, Xaine somehow kept fighting no matter how many times he felt he could not fight any longer. Slowly, it seemed as though the night was becoming less and less impenetrable and Xaine realized the sun was beginning to rise.
Xaine seemed to find more and more warriors laying on the ground as he struggled to keep fighting the darkgons. Even though they outnumbered the darkgons by nearly three to one it seemed almost impossible to win.
Xaine was headed to attack another darkgon when a man ran past him hitting him in the shoulder.
“That’s her! That one is the queen!,” Nab yelled and pointed.
The darkgon was near the edge of the battlefield where the warriors were spread thinnest. Xaine and many others charged at the same time and many of the remaining darkgon’s jumped to her aid.
“Fight to the queen! ” yelled Torin.
Xaine passed by others, shooting shockwaves trying to clear a path but it was no use. He couldn’t keep so many darkgons at bay. Xaine could saw glimpses of the one he thought was the queen through the spaces made when those fighting moved. She was retreating farther back.
Xaine knew they would never make it to her before she was able to get out in time. It was then he saw a glint of light in the air and saw a double sword soaring over the other darkgons at her. It seemed to spin wildly as if thrown by an untrained hand. The flat of the blade hit her on her side and the weapon fell to the ground before disappearing.
The queen was not injured by it in the slightest but she stopped moving. She seemed to be struggling to make her limbs work properly when Xaine realized what had happened. Felix must have hit her with his double sword and changed her weight. She was becoming too heavy to move herself.
If Xaine thought the battle was mayhem before he was wrong. She wasn’t mortally wounded but she was trapped. The other darkgons completely ignored the warriors and ran to the queen. Some of them seemed to be affected by Felix’s weight change without even being hit by his sword.
Xaine then understood that it was not his ability at all. But the queen's influence on them. The other darkgons knew she was immobilized and were attempting to kill her to seize power. Warriors tried to get through to her but the darkgons were behaving erratically. One moment they would snap their jaws at her and the next they’d turn and attack the closer warriors.
Finally a flame shot through the air between them all and exploded in the queen’s face. It was as if a dam broke as she seemed to have lost control. The darkgons and warriors rushed her and the scream that tore the air told that she was finished.
Xaine could hear the bones crack and the wet sound of the other darkgons ripping into her for the orb. A fight broke out between the darkgons in the middle that told Xaine the orb was out. Three of them raised their heads pulling it back and forth between them. They swung their tails and batted their wings wildly trying to keep the others from getting in.
It didn’t last long before one of the three was tackled out of the way by another, and yet another took its place. Xaine shot a shockwave at the orb and the three darkgons rotated at the same time. His shockwave struck one of them in the back instead, pushing it forward and causing it to stumble.
Ailee and the others with ranged abilities seemed to have the same idea but none of them could get a clear enough shot due to the rest of the swarm fighting for control. Xaine searched for Ailee and found her not far from his location.
“Ailee I need you to cover me!,” Xaine shouted over the noise, hoping she could hear.
He thought he saw her nod and he charged into the darkgons. Other warriors seemed to have heard him as well and tried to help. As Xaine ran, other warriors tried to knock any darkgons out of his way that Ailee didn’t already.
Once Xaine was close enough to the darkgons fighting for the orb, he leaped into the air and once again grabbed his sword with both hands to thrust it downward. He closed his eyes and asked his grandfather for help and his feet hit the ground. He let his knees buckle and thrust his sword into the ground like he had once before.
The ground beneath him shook and violently and cracked open in some areas. The ground broke apart all around him as the shockwave shot out in all directions. The darkgons holding the orb were pulled apart from each other and the orb fell to the ground.
Xaine ran to the orb, feeling the small, quick vibrations in his sword. He raised it above his head and swung down, but was once again knocked off his feet as one of the many darkgons had regained its footing and tackled him. Several warriors had rushed to try to free him and destroy the orb.
He threw a shockwave from his blade at the darkgon on top of him and thrust it off and the other warriors immediately engaged it. Nab had shown up at his side. He quickly helped Xaine to his feet.
“We have to destroy the orb!,” Nab said and looked in the direction the orb was.
For the first time, Xaine saw real fear on Nab’s face. And turned to see why. He thought that perhaps they had failed but the fast streak of pure white told him differently. Evala had come out of the edge of the trees and was heading for the orb.
Nab ran for the orb as well and Xaine followed as fast as he could.
“No!, Get away from it! You don’t have to do this!,” Nab screamed, still running.
Another darkgon leaped at Nab who was now the closest one to the orb and Xaine shot a shockwave at it knocking it off course. The darkgon turned to fight him and Xaine could no longer follow Nab. The creature snapped at him and spit poison, forcing Xaine to dodge to the side. He could just see passed it when he saw Nab draw his dagger and jump forward.
The battle seemed to immediately stop. The darkgon Xaine was fighting stood still, its eyes widened and it took a deep breath. Expecting more poison Xaine took a step back. Instead of poison the darkgon, and seemingly every other darkgon, let out an earsplitting scream. Xaine uncharacteristically felt elated. He could not explain the feeling but as the battle had not commenced it seemed everyone was feeling the same thing.
Xaine looked up to see Evala standing only feet away from Nab. Then she and every other darkgon in the area scattered, without a fight. It wasn’t until the darkgons were at the treeline that anyone remotely realized that they were all escaping.
Many of the warriors began to follow one of the directions they saw a darkgon escape to when Torin told them to stand down. Xaine knew as well that it was too late. They would not catch the darkgons now. But it was when Nab held it up that he realized they didn’t have to.
The orb the darkgons had fought over had a large, deep, gash in it and had oozed some sort of liquid and shriveled. The cheer that erupted from the warriors was deafening. The orb was destroyed.