I ran, trying to avoid stepping on the dead bodies whenever possible. The stench of blood clung to my nostrils as I made my way across the massive battlefield. A hundred feet away in the direction I was running the battle was in full swing. Thousands of figures in metal armour crashed together, hacking at each other until either they or their adversaries fell.

I kept my wards up as I sprinted towards the bloody conflict. Arrows and the occasional arcane bolt slammed off the protection. I had to warn my commander of what I’d seen. I was using spells at a reckless rate, like there was no tomorrow. I might not have a tomorrow regardless of how I used my spells. I still had plenty of juice left, but my tank was definitely more than half empty.

Up ahead amongst the combatants I saw Lord Havard. I ran towards him using my magic to quicken my feet. The man was locked in combat with some otherworldly abomination. The monster stood ten feet tall with bat wings and burning red eyes. It held a bloody mace the size of my head with one muscular hand.

The monster batted away Havard’s honour guard with ease, sending them sailing through the air to crash with sickening thuds upon the slick ground. I saw Havard’s eyes widen as he took a step backward away from the beast. His magical sword glowed faintly in the crimson rays of dusk, but against a monster like that it might as well have been a toothpick. I thought the man was wise for retreating, I’d reach him in a few seconds.

The aberration grabbed a nearby foot soldier by the struggling woman’s head. The beast crushed her skull like a grapefruit before flinging her corpse at Lord Havard. He wasn’t prepared for the tactic, the lord was knocked to the ground, pinned underneath the weight of the dead woman’s armour. As he tried to push her off himself, the aberration laid it’s taloned feet down upon the woman’s chest, holding her in place. With one mighty arm it raised its mace to put an end to the noble lord of the fey.

Before the beast could land its death blow, I raised my own hand. A green bolt of energy shot from my outstretched palm and struck the monster in its scaled chest. The blast traveled straight through the creature, leaving a hole the size of a horse’s head in its body. The creature seemed puzzled for a second before it fell over and died.

I ran to Lord Havard’s side and pulled the corpse off of him. He wrenched himself to his feet, using his sword to help prop himself up.

“While your rescue might have been timely, your presence doesn’t bode well.” Said Lord Havard in the flowing elvish tongue, “What brings you here, Daniel?”

I licked my lips before replying, “The east flank is folding. There are just too many Outlanders to fight all at once. We’re being overrun.”

The elvish lord clasped his hands together as he considered my words. We both knew what it meant. The Outlanders were vicious demon worshiping marauders from the far edges of the world. We’d come here to put an end to their bloody incursion. Instead it looked like we were going to become another victim of it.

“Go to Palma.” Instructed Havard, “I have to hold this point, but perhaps you mages can do something about this.”

I nodded before taking off again. That was what I had expected the order would be. I just hoped that by the time I got to the mages it wouldn’t be too late to help those still fighting on the eastern flank. The position had already looked dire when I had left and that was some time ago. I’d just have to trust in the wisdom of our commander.

I found the main contingent of the battle mages fighting a few hundred yards from the elves. Arcane storms ripped through companies of Outlanders, but the bastards just kept on coming. I stopped before the head mage and called out to her in her own language. That usually drew the dwarf’s attention away from whatever she was doing.

“Palma! We need more mages on the eastern flank, it’s starting to collapse!” I cried out to my direct superior.

She glanced at me out of the corner of her eye and bellowed above the clamour of the battle, “Very well! Take Rupert and Magadane’s squads!”

I bolted away with the ten mages following me. We sprinted back towards the source of my concerns. Once we arrived I saw-to my relief-that the eastern front was just barely holding on. I observed Günter’s spellswords locked in combat with a titan, while scattered companies fought surrounded by their foes. We rushed into the fray to lend aid to our overwhelmed allies. The arrows pounding upon our shields picked up to a furious intensity as we closed in upon the enemy.

A section of Outlanders broke away from the main force to confront us. I would estimate eight hundred soldiers came charging towards us over the shredded ground. That may seem like a lot for just eleven mages, but we were ready for them.

Several of the mages hurled arcing bolts of fire through the air to crash amongst the Outlanders, burning flesh and turning steel armour into molten deathtraps. Magadane opened a rift in the ground, while his wife Aminidous cast an illusion of rock over the chasm. Outlanders charging over the illusion found themselves falling hundreds of feet downwards as the ground they thought was solid disappeared once they set foot on it. Rupert didn’t bother with such subtlety; he picked up a massive bolder with a telekinesis spell and rolled it towards the enemy. The boulder crushed those Outlanders who failed to flee from its destructive path.

I held in my energy until the Outlanders closed within fifty feet of us. Once they were within range I unleashed a web of electrical energy. The strands of energy clung to soldiers, frying them through their conductive armour before spreading to those around them. The entire front row collapsed under my assault.

We devastated the enemy fighters, they should have known better than to send simple foot soldiers against the kingdom’s battle mages. Before the last soldier fell a bolt of arcane fire was sent soaring towards us. Rupert caught the blast easily on his shield. The enemy mage stood out like a sore thumb amongst the few remaining troops. The eleven of us all send spirals of arcane energy towards the foolish man. He held them off for ten seconds-which was actually pretty impressive-until he screamed and exploded in a shower of flames.

There were still thousands of Outlanders engaging a few hundred of our kingdom’s warriors on the flank. But, I was confident that we would be able to drive them back and hold the line. As long as my magic didn’t run out, that was.

A heard the rustle of wings an instant before disaster began to strike. I looked up to see the form of an immense winged dragon streaking towards us. I called out a warning and raised my shields in preparation. The fiery red dragon breathed out a spiraling vortex of burning flame from its open maw. Most of the mages managed to raise their wards in time, but Aminidous was a second too late.

The flames engulfed her, turning her once beautiful white robe to ash and cinders. She flailed for less than a second before collapsing to the ground. Magadane watched his beloved wife fall while he could do nothing.

“No!” he cried out as the dragon’s fire abated. He rushed to the fallen elf’s side and cradled her burnt flesh in his arms.

“There’s nothing you can do for her now!” I cried, “We have to hold the Outlanders off or a lot more people are going to die!”

He looked at me and I saw the dark glint of hatred in his evergreen eyes, “How can you say that to me!?” he demanded in fury, “I loved her more than anyone in this whole damned kingdom!” His anger turned to bitter sadness as he caressed her fallen form. He whispered to her so silently that I’m not sure I was supposed to hear him, “I won’t let you die unavenged, my sweet.”

Magadane turned and took off in the direction that the dragon had flown. I would have cried out to him, but it was at that moment that the ground burst open as aberrations thrust themselves up out of the earth. I realized too late that this had been a trap, they’d wanted to isolate a group of mages so they could eliminate us. We were all that was keeping the army together at this point. Without us the battle was lost.

A horrid monster with snaking tentacles instead of legs grabbed one of the mages and twisted his neck around until his head snapped off. I saw a second mage fall with a rusty great sword thrust through her heart.

I turned tentacle legs to goop with a surge of lightning as the remaining mages fell back. Octus-one of the newest mages-disappeared as a gnarled hand shot from the ground to grab his ankle and pull him under. Yet another mage was merely flattened beneath the fist of a towering behemoth. Rupert used arcane force to crush the massive aberration’s skulls, but the rest of the beasts kept on coming. We fell back, losing two more members before we finally managed to hold our ground.

I tilted my head and with my enhanced senses I saw a similar attacks occurring all across the battlefield. The Outlanders had been holding back the bulk of their monsters, now they were releasing them in full force upon us.

The four remaining battle mages stood back to back holding off the approaching aberrations. Rupert and I, as well as too other veteran mages, Natalia and Sventeth, fought off monster after monster. I hurled blasts of arcane energy, frying twisted creatures or sending them flying backwards away from us, but I couldn’t hold them at bay forever.

The rest of the eastern flank was falling. I saw the titan crush Günter in his hand as the spellsword thrust his blade through the giant’s face. The two combatants fell to the ground together, landing with the bodies of the rest of his company. Sventeth and Natalia soon fell to the onrushing foes when they failed to handle the overwhelming odds.

I could feel my energy fading with each spell I cast. I knew I had only a few incantations left in the tank. I was preparing to sacrifice myself to help my companion escape when Rupert beat me to the punch. I took a step forward before the hulking half-orc held me back with one of his beefy arms. He smiled at me before plunging into the depths of our foes.

“Throw up your shield!” he commanded as he cast some strange incantation around himself, “Use all the power you have left!”

Lines of arcane energy rippled over the half-orc’s flesh as he pushed his way into the enemy. He roared in rage as light began to pour out of every orifice on his body. I realized what he was doing and raised all my wards using every scrap of energy I had left.

“Take this you Outlander bastards!” were the last words that Rupert bellowed before he released the contained power of his spell.

Arcane energy consumed Rupert; turning his body into the channel for the surge of energy that burst out in every direction from him. The half-orc was vaporised along with the monsters near him. The blinding light spread; filling my vision to batter against the power of my wards. I was thrown backwards as the unstoppable force sought any way through the protections I had wrapped around myself. As quickly as it had begun the energy faded, leaving me lying on my back on the bloody ground of the battlefield.

I stumbled shakily to my feet and witnessed the carnage around me. A circle a hundred feet in diameter around Rupert had been scorched from existence. However, bodies lay scattered on the ground far beyond this devastated circle. I was the only living thing in the circle of death and destruction that surrounded me. Yet in the distance I saw a column of Outlanders advancing upon me.

I had almost no energy, with all my willpower I was able to draw together the reserves for one last spell. It wouldn’t be as spectacular as Rupert’s finale, but it would kill some of the bastards and that was all that really mattered now. I held onto the fireball spell as I prepared to meet my end at the hands of the Outlanders.

The hair on the back of my neck prickled as something came into being behind me. I spun around, preparing to blast whatever had snuck up on me with the last of my power. I stopped in surprise once I saw who it was.

Many would have unleashed their power as soon as they saw a member of the race that stood before me. The octopus like head and purple tentacles dangling around its maw would have been all the proof they needed before they struck against what they would have believed was a servant of evil. However, I knew this particular Illithid.

“Headmaster Aandrar?” I asked in confusion, he was the last person I would have expected to see in my final moments, “What the hell are you doing here?”

“Now, there’s absolutely no reason to be so vulgar, Daniel.” Scolded the headmaster. He shook one gnarled finger in displeasure as he regarded me, “You’re one of the best students to ever come out of my university. Is it not obvious that I wouldn’t want to lose you?”

I raised my eyebrow skeptically. I had always like the mindflayer, but he had never been one for sentimentality. I highly doubted he would come all the way to my native plane just to save me. I had blown off a lot of opportunities to come back to where I was raised in order to fight for my people. Many at the university would say I had wasted my talent. I would say that whether or not I was wasting my talent was my own damn decision

“You’re trying to tell me that you came all the way out here just to save me?’ I asked the Illithid, “Forgive me if I’m not entirely convinced.”

Aandrar opened his two spindly arms, “Well, I’m here aren’t I?” He stated, “It’s been five years since we’ve set eyes on each other. Can we not be at least a little cordial?”

I just crossed my arms and stared at the archmage until he caved in. It was a tactic I had employed to great success over my career. People hate silence, they seem to want to fill it with whatever they can, even if that means conceding their argument. It doesn’t always work, but so far I’ve had pretty good results.

Aandrar grasped his tentacles in his hand as he admitted, “Fine, I may not be acting entirely out of my own good nature.” He shook his head sadly, “You know professor Donovan-the evocation instructor?” I nodded, I’d spent many a day with the man during my schooling, “Well...there’s been a bit of an accident...The late Dr. Donovan is no longer with us.”

“So what you’re saying is...” I began.

“You want out of here and I want to offer you a job.” Said Aandrar. “This is a once in a life time offer-a very short lifetime for you if you refuse.” He held out one of his wiry hands to me.

I turned around to observe my current surroundings. I watched as the main force of the army collapsed underneath the pressure of the aberrations at the Outlanders disposal. I gauged the amount of time it would take for the Outlanders to reach my position. I’d sworn to protect this land to the death, there were people I cared about living in the cities of this small world. I had a duty and obligation to stay right where I was and fight.

I took Aandrar’s hand.

Next Chapter: Chapter 1