No amount of training can ever prepare you for a battle. In fact, training for a battle is quite paradoxical. Training promotes order, structure, rhythm, and routine.
Battle is utter confusion.
You can learn how to fight, how to defend yourself, and how to increase your chances of survival but all of that sort of flies out the window when battle begins.
In mere moments several things happened, Kate's group finally arrived, Griever charged off to engage a rather large fae, and battle exploded around us.
Fighting the fae on equal terms would devastate us. As I looked around, I saw small skirmishes happening everywhere, and while the Hawks and my soldiers were managing, eventually we would be overwhelmed.
Not a good incentive to fight fair now was it?
I leapt into action, stabbing at the back of turned fae who was engaging one of my men. The fae shuddered and collapsed, it's weight pulling it off my sword. My soldier saluted and turned to emulate my actions, taking advantage of fae that were distracted by our other warriors.
My attention was grabbed by an unearthly roar, and I turned to see Griever fall back under the press of an even larger fae than before! I grabbed the nearest human body I could find and turned it to face Griever.
Then I charged.
"Not yet!" I said defiantly.
The man I had brought with me, Rowan I think his name was, engaged the monster, allowing me to toss Griever a sword.
"Can you stand?"
"Of course I can!"
There was a roar, and Rowan sailed past us, landing hard on the ground, but still alive. The lion charged Griever, who welcomed it with a smile on his face. Rowan joined Griever moments later and the two began to coordinate their efforts, and for the moment it looked like they had the beast on its heels.
The thought came from nowhere, and I realized that I hadn't seen her since her group made its entrance. Where was she...?
I spotted her a few feet away, but it might as well have been a hundred. As she threw a glance in Griever's direction, another fae was coming up behind her.
"Kate!" I yelled, and she turned, barely managing to block a swing from the creature. Snapping myself out of whatever reverie I had been in, I made for Kate, urging myself on as I saw her swing, then drop her sword as the fae screeched. I lunged, covering the last few feet in a second, and slashing my sword down from the creature's "shoulder," through it's body, and out at its hip.
The monster turned and looked at me, as if I hadn't just hit it with a blow that would have killed any other creature in this world. It charged, and I swung futilely. Next thing I knew, I was falling under the force of its blow. I grappled with it, doing my best to avoid its huge teeth, when it lit up in a burst of flame and was just... gone.
I looked at Kate, trying to work out what to say, but she just threw me a wink and turned to continue fighting.
Looking around I saw Kiara tying off the end of a bandage, and off to her left was Dreda and Norida, both fighting with the spirit of twenty me-... twenty warriors.
I saw Griever and Rowan still fighting that huge fae, only now they were on the defensive. A huge swipe knocked Griever back, and while he had somehow kept his feet, the lion was charging him, and there was no way he'd be able to jump out of the way.
And then, inexplicably, the lion jerked and stumbled, crashing to a halt. There was an arrow lodged in one of its paws. And then there was Jem, helping Griever to his feet before the lion could regain its balance.
I started to join them, but Kate's actions sparked an idea in me, and before I could stop to think about what a terrible idea it actually was, my feet were moving and I was by Kiara's side.
"Kiara!" I panted.
"Marshall? What is it?"
"I... I need your help."
I realized she couldn't read my thoughts, and needed to hear more.
"I have an idea. Do you have herbs or powders on you?"
"Anything that could explode?"
She brushed some hair from her face, and thought quickly, a smile slowly coming to her face.
"You know... I think I could come up with something. What did you have in mind?"
In rushed words I explained my plan, and at this point Kiara seemed about ready to try anything.
"Just... I have one condition Marshall" she said, as I turned to get back to the fighting.
"I... I need one of them intact."
"One of... the fae?"
"Marhsall please. Just... trust me like I'm trusting you ok?"
I hesitated, but only for the briefest of moments.
"Fine. Hurry with your part though."
She rolled her eyes and turned away.
Turning my attention to the fray once again, I noticed a few things. Griever and Rowan, along with Jem's help, had defeated the huge fae which was now lying unmoving on the ground.
But Griever and Jem were gone.
I slipped through the mob of combatants, lashing out with my sword whenever I could, until I was fighting side by side with Rowan.
"Where's Griever?" I yelled.
"I don't know! He took off into the portal after we killed the fae! I think Jem went after him!"
My heart began to sink. There was no way we could execute my plan with not one, but two, Hawks inside that god-forsaken portal.
We had to wait, but how long could we hold out?
The fighting continued, and what edge we had, if we ever had one, was starting to slip. The Hawks and soldiers were tiring, but the fae, magical beasts that they were, seemed to have an endless supply of energy, and continued to press our forces. I circled the mob, finally spotting a lone fae lurking around the outskirts. I snuck up behind it, and tripped it, helping it towards the ground with a shove, then clubbing it with the hilt of my sword until I was sure it wasn't going to move.
I dragged it away from the battle, and hid it behind a misshapen tree, then resumed my fight.
I joined back up with Kate and we fought together, almost as if we were controlled by the same mind. Continually turning and moving, I struck out at the fae, not aiming to kill, but to wound, and then I was gone, already engaging another, as Kate swung around to catch the creature off-balance and finish it off. Two more came at me, and I worked hard to parry their strikes, but could find no opening to make any marks of my own.
But I didn't have to.
As I turned one fae aside, Kate edged in, slashing up on one fae, and knocking the other off balance, allowing me to plunge my blade into its chest.
Had my body allowed it, I could have fought like that forever, next to Kate. But the two of us were starting to slow as well, and every few swings I glanced at the cave opening, willing Griever and Jem to come out.
Kiara joined us, coming up behind one fae and sliding a blade through its back, to come out between its ribs.
"Everything is in place. It's in a small pouch, fixed to the top of the cave. I painted it with fae bl-... I painted it red so it'd be easier to see."
I ducked a swing, and returned with one of my own before nodding, and gesturing towards the tree with the unconscious fae.
"Be careful. I don't think it's dead. I wasn't sure what you needed."
Kiara nodded her thanks, then melted back into the fighting.
"What was she talking about?"
"Ah... nothing. Listen-" I swung a fist and connected with the snarling face of a fae, "I'm going to need your help."
"With?" she asked, as she kicked a fae back, drew her bow, and launched an arrow before I could blink.
I outlined my plan again, and Kate received it with a raised eyebrow.
"Really? You think that will work?"
"Well I'm out of other ideas, so I hope so."
"Well I suppose I can help, it's not like I'm otherwise occupied" she remarked, lopping off a head.
"There's just one problem... Jem and Griever and are in there."
"They're what?!" shouted Kate, who channeled her fury into the nearest fae, amputating an arm, nicking a leg, and then headbutting it.
"I don't know why... but they are."
"Then we have to wait."
"Obviously" I said, flinging a rock at a fae that was about to stab Kate in the back.
And wait we did, the minutes seeming like hours, as we fought for our lives, and our forest.
I pulled up short at that thought.
Our forest... how-
I turned, snapping back to the present, as three fae came leapt from a tree.
Straight at me.
And then suddenly there were two, one of them driven back by some unseen force, hanging for a brief moment, and then continuing towards the ground to land in a heap.
The other two came down feet first, but before they could attack, a huge shaggy form, literally plowed them over.
A form I recognized.
"Griever! Where the he-"
"I was getting my sword!" He said gleefully, swinging the broadsword effortlessly through air and fae alike.
"Eh... she helped. A little."
"A little?!" shouted Jem, as she ran up, arrow knocked and ready to fire.
"Or a lot-"
"Try, I saved your life you ungratef-"
"Kate!" I shouted, cutting Jem off. "Do it!"
Griever and Jem looked from me to Kate, clueless as to what was going on. Kate stabbed a fae, and grabbed her bow, and an arrow, making sure to light it in a nearby torch.
"Corin you mind explaining what is going on?"
I started to answer Griever's question, but caught movement out of the corner of my eye. A fae, up on a branch, was drawing and pointing an arrow.
Right at Kate.
Without giving it a second thought, I stepped around Kate, who was lining up her shot, and made my first completely selfless act since I had joined the Hawks against the fae.
There was no heroic leap, no defiant shout, just a thud, a sting, and a jerk.
Kate released her shot, momentarily oblivious to what had happened, then did a double-take as I fell to the ground.
She was the first to kneel beside me, shouting my name, then Griever was there, and even Jem, but I didn't give them a second glance.
I just looked at Kate and smiled, and for a moment she seemed to glow, lighting up the rest of the world around her.
Or maybe that was just the cave exploding and crumbling around the portal.
I didn't know... I didn't care... I just stared at Kate...
And then it all went black.