Rayn advanced quickly and silently. It was dark; there was no moon to be seen on this night. The sky was unnaturally bright, however, with thousands of glittering stars acting as lanterns hung upon
the heavens. He felt very tense, his body very stiff; cold sweat was visible on his face. The stranglehold over Nareth was growing tighter every moment he delayed. The Elves had struggled greatly
to muster up even the slightest resistance. The future lay upon his shoulders.
Within the besieged castle was Arendel, and he was even more fatigued than when the journey began. It was dire that they avoid the fight at all costs. Arendel could not simply escape the fort
either, for the Hunter was always alert. His ability to track the Divine was impeccable. It would not escape his attention that the Divine had left Castle Nareth. There was only one option left.
Rayn needed to find the Hunter-alone-and kill him.
Rayn drew his sword. The Sword of Syra and the Sword of Adain had been shattered by Segvault. Rayn found aid in from the Moon Elves, who forged a new blade from the remnants. Like a phoenix rising
from the ashes, Rayn felt a new power surging in his sword. The Moon Elves called it the Sword of Aegis because of the startling similarities between his and the original. Upon the hilt, they
embedded the Jewel of the Elves, a gem with an appearance similar to the Divinity Crystal, thus creating the perfect balance of beauty and power.
Damien had conversed with the Hunter privately, in an attempt to coax the Hunter out of an attack. The attempt failed, but Damien learned that the Hunter would be on top of a hill nearby. The
Hunter had been tracking the Divine well throughout Arcia. Fleeing from him was no mean feat, and it was only due to Damien’s wisdom that they had made it this far alive. There was no purpose in
doubting him now.
Among the Guardians that remained, there were only three: Rayn, Damien, and Gale. Damien was in constant pain; illness had seized him. He was not up to his full fighting potential. Gale had been
eternally transformed. He abandoned his earthly mount for a loyal wyvern; his countenance had changed dramatically. His eyes, which before the journey began were like stars, were now merely shadows
of their former being. He had lost his sanity for a brief period of time, and he returned a different person. Arendel was very weak now, often not staying conscious for more than an hour. Rayn had
lost his closest companions, Addler and Scion. He was desperately trying to maintain control. He would weep for them in the end.
Rayn climbed the nearest hill with incredible agility and speed. The Hunter stood still, not moving the slightest bit. Rayn advanced stealthily from behind. Rayn treaded carefully, but it was not
enough. He stepped on a small twig which snapped ever so quietly. But that was sufficient; the Hunter stirred to life. Without a moment to waste, Rayn charged.
The Hunter turned and raised his hand. Suddenly Rayn felt as if someone ran into him, he jumped back and planted his feet on the ground. The Hunter summoned his bow and instantly shot his two ivory
arrows at Rayn. But the Wielder of Aegis had now become very proficient in the arts of magic. Rayn lifted his free hand and abruptly the arrow, in mid-flight, snapped. The Sword of Aegis did not
waste and time and he quickly charged.
The Hunter was silent; his inhuman eyes glowed with a burning ferocity. He dropped his bow and drew a long, sharp battle dagger from his waist. Rayn attacked relentlessly, attacking opening after
opening. But the Hunter was always on guard, closing every breach just as fast as it manifested. He managed to beat back Rayn’s offensive, and was prepared to imitate his own attack when Rayn again
surprised him. The wielder of Aegis slammed his fist into the Hunter’s bare chest. It was through the fist that he channeled his magic through, and summoned a gust of wind that sent the Hunter
reeling back. Rayn charged again sending the Hunter back on the defensive.
The Hunter’s face changed from apathy to anger. His eyes flared as he tapped into his hidden power. The Hunter broke Rayn’s offensive instantly in one powerful attack. Rayn was vulnerable. The
Hunter moved in for the kill, but it was not as easy as he thought. Rayn had become very adept in Wind Magic. He was advancing much further than the other Guardians, and was able to channel wind
through his body or his weapons. Rayn jumped away from the Hunter’s blade and used the wind to fuel his jump. He landed several meters away from the Hunter. In stead of using his bow, the Hunter
charged. It was to be a contest of blades.
The Sword of Aegis’ mind raced, there was no way he could match the Hunter’s speed, the very impetus of the attack would be jarring. And yet there was no other way. Rayn pointed his hand towards
the Hunter, just meters away. Rayn concentrated with all his will. If he could not do this, then the contest would eternally be decided in the Hunter’s favor.
Suddenly, the Hunter was confronted by a wall of flames. The Hunter halted in his tracks as the flames surrounded him. The conflagration was wildly thrashing in the air, struggling to release
itself from the magic that bound it. They burnt the ground instantly, and the heat they emitted was utterly agonizing
Dark Fire. Rayn was sapping his own strength by the second. Almost immediately, Rayn felt his legs weaken, but he held onto the spell. The flames grew stronger and roared into the sky. Minutes
passed, and the flame wall grew taller. The Hunter’s face could barely be seen. The wielder of Aegis looked up to see true fear etched on the face of the Hunter. Rayn smiled, and released his grip
on the flames. Freed from their magical shackles, the blaze surged towards the Hunter. His end was imminent.
“Hunter! You cannot die today!” Someone cried. Rayn looked around frantically. No one was near them. With a sense of foreboding, Rayn looked into the sky. It was him.
“Segvault!” Rayn shouted. Segvault was atop a wyvern that blended into the black night’s sky. However, the Hero’s silver armor was clearly visible. He held a diamond studded lance that even kings
would envy. Without a moment to spare, he summoned a blue orb into his free hand. The Hero flung it at incredible speeds towards the enormous fire that Rayn had summoned. He barely saw it in
flight; the blue orb shattered directly above the flames. Blinding white light erupted from the shards; streams of light arced towards the flames, extinguishing the blazing inferno.
As the fire extinguished, Rayn was flung backward as though he was lifted and tossed by some unseen juggernaut. Pain coursed through his body, at the same time, what little was left of his strength
abandoned him. He barely found the strength to sit upright.
“Hunter!” Segvualt cried again. The Hunter dropped to his knees, sweating profusely and breathing harshly. He too was extremely weak now. “The Master has demanded your presence. Get back to him at
once. Your business here is done, I will complete the siege. Now, begone!” The Hunter looked at the Segvault furiously, and then slammed his fist into the earth. A storm of dust rose from the
ground, cloaking him. As the dust vanished, the Hunter was nowhere to be seen.
Segvault descended closer to the earth, but did not land. Rayn was exhausted, he had gotten carried away. He used too much magic, magic that required massive amounts of energy to tame. Rayn also
felt the effects of Arcane Resistance, as Lysander called it. When magic was broken by another magician, more energy is sapped from the caster.
The wyvern rider watched the enervated warrior intently. Segvault the Hero was an enemy completely beyond Rayn. It was he who shattered his previous swords in a single blow.
“How foolish, Wielder of Aegis.” The Hero muttered. “You nearly killed yourself.”
“What brings you here, craven, if not to fight?” Rayn said through gasps of breath, angered by his own inability.
“It is not me who is at the point of a blade; it would be prudent to mind what you say. Such pride before death is nothing honorable.”
“Can murderers speak of honor so boldly?” Rayn said through his gritted teeth. He struggled to get up, staggering violently.
“Hah. Your words are as strong as your blade, and your words are weak. Insults are only borne of failure. But be silent. I did not come here to cross blades with you or exchange any discourse.
Return to your camp. Today I grant you a moment’s reprieve.” His face was unreadable, however. This mercy was uncharacteristic of Barkai. “On your return beware of the path you may take. There is a
gathering of life and death upon that road.” Segvault added with what was the beginning of a smile.
“Another riddle!” Rayn shouted furiously. “If you wish to aid me, speak it terms that I can understand!” Segvault ignored it.
“Hearken to me, Wielder of Aegis! I will lead the attack upon Castle Nareth. At dawn tomorrow, those legions will surge forth. If you wish to complete your journey, leave tonight and do not stop
for all that you hold dear!” With that Segvault ordered the wyvern to ascend. They flew off into the night sky, and towards the besieging army’s camp.
He rested and recuperated for quiet a while. When he could finally feel legs again, he felt ready to collapse. Rayn could hardly move. Despite his efforts, his mission had ended in failure. He
would have to return to the camp with the terrible news. If the Hunter had died, it would have greatly upset the Relic offensive.
But now, Segvault the Hero was to take his place, an enemy even Damien feared. Rayn began their miserable march back to castle. He took fastest route, Rayn knew that he had failed, but he was not
the kind of person to avoid his fate.
Rayn rested by a tree, half way through his journey. There was a trench nearby, but Rayn did not have the energy to pay it any attention. As he sat he gazed about him. The forest of Nareth had been
scarred by chaos and war. It would have been beautiful should the Relics never have existed. Rayn saw a white piece of cloth by the side of the trench.
Rayn walked to the side and looked into the trench. Within were corpses of two knights. They were both shot with ivory arrows, the emblem of the Hunter. It was clear that they were both dead, and
that they bled quite a bit. Rayn looked away, hoping for something else to steal his attention. Could his day possibly get worse?
But as duty had it, Rayn slid slowly into the trench to confirm the obvious. They were dead; they had no pulse. Rayn disgustedly looked aside and saw something strange.
There was another body amongst them. Rayn approached the corpse. It seemed to be a young woman. She was wearing a brown travelers cloak smeared by mud and soaked with blood. Rayn checked its pulse
gloomily. To his shock, she was still alive. The tired warrior bent down to move her from the puddle of blood which she laid. But he suddenly recognized her. Rayn felt, strange and sickly. He
finally knew who she was. Syra.
As soon as the word entered his mind, pain erupted throughout his body. There was nothing he could do to stem the tide, the force was too strong. The flood gates were opened; Rayn fell onto the
ground and waited death to come and grant him peace. But death did not come, the torture continued long after he lost consciousness. His dreams were tormented by perpetual torment. Suddenly, Rayn’s
mind cleared. Everything went dark.
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