I whipped two arrows out of my quiver, behind the fletching, one on either side of my middle finger. In the same motion they were on the bow and flying. The credaril wizard heard one bow twang and burned one arrow to ash. The second took him in the chest.
As blades came out of scabbards in the dark, two more arrows left my bow and I dove to my left. Short crossbow bolts screamed past my ear, but two bodies made a thudding sound in the dark. I knew they could see me, at least the heat shape of me. The children with me had slid into the tunnel Josha had disappeared down, silhouettes in the light of her bobbing torch as she returned.
I could sense them, like the ripples in the air or the vibrations of their step told me their location. Only four left in front of me, but dozens of neftir to my right. “Run to Josha,” I shouted, then dove towards the tunnel, bow in my left hand, my next arrow in my right. The children reacted out of fear, fortunately not freezing. They sprinted away from me.
Leaving the bow and arrow where my hands landed, I stood up and drew my blade. I placed my back flat against the wall of the tunnel where the credarils couldn’t see me until the turned the corner and looked left. Men who would not stand as high as my shoulder leaped over the running wall of kids. In the brief light I saw thick brown and black beards, scaled metal armor flapping as they jumped. Dangerous looking axes glinted in the torchlight.
The first credaril turned the corner and my sword cut him in half with my swift stroke. An axe flew close enough to my face to feel its breeze and the second credaril fell. The neftir could see heat too, but now the credarils knew they faced more than children and one human. By the time the short, powerful warriors reached me, I could hear the feet of the remaining credarils fading away back up the other tunnel.
I used the cloak of the credaril I nearly cut in half to clean my sword. “Just in time, though you proved some credarils are more honorable than others.”
Reichet looked at me in the light of the torch, Josha now standing behind the dozen neftir. “They have no honor, Ofeldar, don’t be daft.” The neftir pulled his axe out of the dead soldier.
“A credaril got us to this tunnel. Yes, he did it knowing he was going to die, but he did exactly what he promised. Knowing he was going to die he could have led us into a trap, and let me finish him.”
“If it was any other human telling me this, or even a neftir, I would think it a lie,” said Reichet. “Did you find out anything? Why are they doing this?”
“Rangdor wants anybody who could command troops out of the way, according to my torturers. They underestimated me while Rangdor does not,” I said.
“You? No offense, but you’ve never wanted any command,” said the neftir commander.
“If Rangdor is trying to kill those he thinks would do a good job commanding, then the one prophesied to end him is getting ready to do so. And I would gladly serve under him. I hunt xadineft better on my own than answering to some prince or lord, but the one to end Rangdor would be worth serving under,” I said.
“He already pulls on the credarils to return to the light then, at least some of them. Come, let’s get you to the surface. We’ll help these children get someplace safe.”
The other neftir lit torches. I followed lost in thought. What should I do now? Is he ready for me to come to him? I barely remember the rest of the trip to the surface. As the neftir grew in number and then led us to a town near the tunnel we exited on the surface, I still struggled in my mind.
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