Elian woke before everyone else. He rubbed his eyes to clear the sleep from them. The dream had been bad. A village burning, him running drawing his rapier, hordes of demons pouring in. Someone who might have been his sister falling beneath their feet, her screams echoing in Elian’s ears still.

He shook himself, clearing the horrifying images from his mind. Something from his past no doubt, one of his unexplainable and incomprehensible flashbacks. He  glanced at the sleeping forms around him. The rise and fall of their chests told him they were all still breathing. Elian reflected on his decision to join them.

He could sense the hostility still from the other members of the group; they only seemed to accept him because Aria did. He was used to it though. Other people almost never accepted him at first, if ever. That was part of the reason he preferred a solitary lifestyle.

And yet, he had forsaken his isolation to join them. He had felt drawn to them the moment he saw them in danger at the river. He felt as if he might have a part to play in determining their fortune.

Glancing about again, Elian realised that one of the group was missing. His elf eyes allowed him to pick out the faces in the darkness. Aria’s was not there. She was gone. Elian leapt to his feet, slung his quiver onto his shoulder, strapped on his sword and picked up his bow.

Tsir stirred at his sudden movements. He fixed Elian with an unreadable stare.

“Aria is gone. I’m going to go look for her, make sure she’s alright”. Tsir jumped to his feet at Elian’s words and disappeared into the trees overhead. Elian lost sight of him almost straight away, then turned his attention to finding a trail.

After a few moments searching, he found footsteps in the dirt, at least six hours old. They led away from the camp, with no returning trail. Elian ran quickly, tracking the steps until they met a large group of other footprints.

The Mercenaries! She had been taken by the Mercenaries! Tsir landed beside him, seeming to appear out of nowhere. He crouched down and studied the prints, then rose, face contorted into a snarl.

They stared at each other for a long moment, until they heard a rustling in the bushes. Four of the mercenaries stepped from the trees, swords drawn. It was an ambush. Elian had his rapier out in a flash, Tsir had his khopesh out even quicker. They moved as one, slashing and slicing, moving among the Mercenaries at lightning speed. Each man fell without getting so much as a chance to raise his sword to block. Standing over the bodies, they looked at each other.

An arrow brushed past Elian’s ear, narrowly missing him. He dropped into a crouch and leaving his rapier on the ground, drew his bow. He knocked an arrow and loosed it at one of the mercenaries on the opposite riverbank. It pierced the man’s skull, hitting right between his eyes. Elian quickly knocked another arrow and loosed it at the one remaining archer. It caught the man in the shoulder and he fell with a screech.

Elian looked at Tsir. They shifted the bodies on their side into the river, where the current dragged them away.

“We must follow her. I’ll go and wake the others. You go and see if you can make that one across the river tell you where they have taken her” Elian said. Tsir merely nodded in reply and vanished into the trees again. Elian turned and started back for the camp.

When he arrived there, the others were stirring. The Sprite wrinkled her nose at him.

“You have been fighting” she stated.

“Aria was taken by mercenaries. We found her trail and were then ambushed by mercenaries that were left behind”.

“We?” the Ani-Vamp asked.

“Tsir and myself. He has gone to interrogate one of the mercenaries. We left one alive”.

“Are you sure it was wise to send him? He never speaks, what good can he do as an interrogator?”

“There’s more to him than what is evident in plain sight”.

Elian turned away then and began to saddle Mera. When the others had all prepared, he led them from the camp and began to follow Aria’s trail.

The End

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