Chapter 2: Collision

Racieus had never used to be a light sleeper. But with training approaching, the halfling had willed that to change. It didn’t really, but the halfling hoped he would see some difference, and soon. It’d have to change if he wanted to be truly exceptional. Heavy sleeping would only hurt him in the long run. All it took was sleeping one day, and he’d run the risk of being thrown out of the academy. The army had no use for a sleeping soldier. That was why when Racieus sat up in the middle of the night, his initial reaction was one of delight.

Then, as the lingering fatigue started to slip away and Racieus’ senses became a little more attuned he realized what it was that had woken him up. The sound of screams, ringing steel, collapsing buildings was evident, even though the dorms were relatively entrenched deep within the barracks.

Faerdham Fortress was being attacked.

Racieus threw off his blankets with a start and looked around the dorm. Everyone else was already gone.

The new recruits hadn’t received any equipment that first day, so Racieus had nothing to put on besides the clothes he was already wearing. He leapt up, trying to rub the last remnants of sleep from his eyes. After pulling on his worn boots, Racieus ran out the door. He had no trouble navigating the building earlier that day, but whether it was his mentally agitated state, or simply because it was dark, Racieus was instantly turned around. Taking a deep breath he slowed down and decided to start paying attention to the signs that he obviously still needed. Following those sent him on his way, and within minutes he was outside, the cool night air making him shiver.

And all he could do was stare. Mentally shouting at himself, Racieus tried in vain to start moving, but his body seemed to be ignoring his commands. He began to wonder if Pherson’s prediction was true, and it was finally that thought that broke him from his stupor. He refused to let anything stop him from fulfilling his dream. Yelling, the young dolmen rushed at the exposed back of one of the invaders. He tackled the intruder to the ground, and after a split second wondered what he was supposed to next. He had no weapon, and the creature underneath him, whatever it was, was thrashing around, trying to throw Racieus off, and grab for its weapon at the same time. On instinct Racieus threw a punch, and another, and another, hammering away until the cloaked stranger stopped struggling. It wasn’t dead Racieus knew, but it was out of the fight, for now at least.

Pushing the cloak aside, Racieus took the intruder’s sword and gave it a few test swings. It was heavier than the “swords" he and his friends had played with as younger halflings, but it felt comfortable in Racieus’ hand. He heard movement to his left and turned to see another cloaked figure charging towards him, its own weapon drawn. Racieus crouched, brandishing his weapon as he did so, and lashed out when the attacker was close enough.

His opponent turned the blade aside, easily, and stabbed out at Racieus’ exposed midsection. The new recruit twisted to the side, evading the fatal blow but receiving a shallow cut on his arm. Racieus wasn’t an experience fighter, but even he could see that the blow, which would have killed him had it struck home, hadn’t been particularly forceful, almost as if the attacker was hoping it would miss.

Racieus didn’t dwell on that too long though, and had no intention of giving any quarter of his own. He kicked out at his mysterious attacker, catching him, if it was a him, in the leg, and watched as it buckled and it’s owner collapsed. He started to go for the kill, but hesitated. Even though whatever it was had tried to kill him, something was preventing him from returning the favor. But he couldn’t freeze up, he told himself, and instead he brought the hilt of his blade down to the aggressor’s temple, and dull thud was all that he needed to know that whatever it was had been knocked unconscious. Then a familiar voice tore through the air and Racieus stiffened.

Finnin. Looking around, eyes searching spastically, Racieus finally spotted his friend in the middle of a large group of battles. Racieus broke out running towards his friend, face tightened into a determined glare. Then a huge weight crashed into his side, and Racieus was on the ground, gasping for breath. His weapon had flown from his hand, and as Racieus came to his, he was defenseless.

His attacker was already charging, and Racieus thought the end was near.

“Stop!” Came a voice from behind the frightened halfling, and to his surprise, the attacker came to a halt. Racieus didn’t even take a moment to look at his savior, he simply started running. He heard the order to retreat being issued around the compound, and the already confusing scene transformed into one of mass chaos. Soldiers all around were running for the path through the mountains, the only “easy” entrance into the dolmen city. Racieus could barely tell friend from foe as the mass exodus began. All around, halflings in twos and threes were bending down to pick up and carry fallen comrades, ensuring to the best of their ability, that no halfling was left behind.

The path through the mountains was more hill than mountain, but certain parts were quite steep, and as Racieus ran with a group of dark forms, though in all honesty he didn’t know if they were dolmen or not, he was constantly having skip forward or pull back to avoid being pushed off the path by another of scrambling humanoids around him. He looked around in search of Finnin, but saw now sign of his friend. Turning his head to look behind him, was Racieus’ first mistake of the night. His left foot touched upon nothing but air, and he tripped, arms grasping for something, anything that might arrest his fall. His hands closed on a nearby halfling who proceeded to shake furiously, and succeeded in throwing the off-balance Racieus away from his body.

And the edge of the path.

The End

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