Chris slowly became aware of the fact that he was walking. His conscious mind must have shut down after teleporting every one such a great distance. It also occurred to him that something was wrong, Nathan would never allowed for him to be walking so soon. Chris watched as he put one foot in front of the other, the ground was course, scrubby grass. His hands were tied, he was a prisoner. Raising his eyes but not his head, he saw someone walking in front of him carrying something, Leagan. There was forest on both sides of the road. Road. They must be an hour or so from the entrance to the mines of Gornthain. His head hurt quite a bit and he was having difficulty figuring out stuff. His eyes fell to the ground again..
Buck, who was walking behind Chris, thought he saw Chris show some sign of returning to normal but it seemed to pass.
Of all the luck, thought Buck, Chris had set them down right into the enemy camp. Buck thought back, there were a tense few minutes. There had been a few seconds of utter confusion when they appeared right in the middle of the waking camp. The enemy had attacked without question. Chris had just stood there staring at the ground, Vin and himself had had to fight in front of him or else he would have been cut down. It had looked like the seven were winning, especially with Leagan shooting about half of them before they could draw their swords. One of them must have got lucky and hit Leagan on the back of the head, Buck had not seen it but he saw Leagan fall. With both Chris and Leagan out of the fight, it had gone down hill pretty quite. The leader had not taken it lightly that more than half his men had been killed in the sudden attack on his camp, as he saw it. Ezra had tried to talk to the guy, it had resulted in a punch into the stomach. It had caused a chain reaction as the others fought against their captors but being unarmed, worn out and not having the use of their magic yet, they had been quickly subdued. One thing Buck found really odd was that he had ordered that they were not to be killed, even when he attacked them he kept repeating that they were not to be killed.
Which is why we are in this current state. thought Buck Marching towards Gornthain with our hands tied behind our backs. What would happen if the dwarves, for some reason, attacked? We would be defenseless..
Buck looked past Chris to where the leader of this whole troop was walking. He noticed Leagan was moving around,.
"Hay, boss, the elfs waking up," yelled the man carrying Leagan.
"Well then put him down, John," answered the man in front. The troop stopped as John put Leagan on his feet. Leagan swayed slightly but stayed on his feet.
Buck could feel a tingling throughout his body, his magic was returning. Looking around he saw the others were feeling the same thing.
Without thinking Buck yelled.
"Oi! You in front, boss man."
Everyone turned to look at Buck including the seven.
"What is your name? I think we should know the name of the man who is going to destroy the world. Dont you think so Vin?" yelled Buck.
"Hell, yes," Vin yelled back, not knowing what Buck was doing but hoping that it would work.
"What the hell are you going on about?" asked the man.
"Your name," yelled Buck.
"If its so important to you, its Steward," he said.
Chris slowly raised his head, he carefully surveyed the scene. Shouting, he had heard shouting Buck. Leagan was standing next to him with his eyes closed. Vin was looking anxiously at Buck, so was JD and Nathan. Josiah was frowning at something Ezra was saying but Chris could not hear what it was. They both then looked to the forest on the left hand side.
"Stewart?" said Buck, "Stewart."
Chris turned his attention back to Buck. He could not figure out what Buck was doing. It looked like Buck had no idea either, making it up as he went along.
Ezra had not liked the mission from the very beginning, having to leave Four Towers so quickly, being chased by orcs, being attacked and chased by the undead, which lead to being teleported right into another attack. He was hungry, his stomach hurt, and he was a prisoner walking toward certain doom. Chris had landed them on the only road leading to Gornthain. Ezra had to admit that the sight of the mountain rising out of the forest of trees was extremely beautiful, he was sure Vin would want to come back after the mission and have a look round and probably spend a few days here. Yelling interrupted his thoughts, he could not hear the answer but from where he was he saw Leagan being put down. He could not help but smile the elf was awake and his hands were free. Ezra turned to tell Josiah, who was behind him, when he saw a flash in the forest on his left. He couldnt see what it was through the trees, he almost jumped in fight when Buck suddenly yelled to the leader in front. At Vins answer Josiah leaned forward and asked Ezra if he knew what Buck was doing.
"I dont have the slightest idea but it has come to my attention that something is in the woods to our left," said Ezra.
"Where?" asked Josiah looking into the trees.
"Directly opposite me," answered Ezra.
Turning to look towards the front of the line, Ezra saw Leagan was looking intently at the trees. Suddenly Leagan yelled, "ORCS!".
Leagan jumped forward and grabbed a dagger from one of his guards belt, killed him and began freeing the seven just as the orcs burst out of the forest.
Stewarts men left the seven to fend for themselves and went to meet the orcs. Once the seven were free Leagan headed off to join the battle, killing man and orc. Buck managed to pick up a sword as he made his way over to JD and Nathan he could not see the others. Ezra had pulled out some of his many hidden knives and tossed them to Chris, Vin and Josiah.
"I do not with to become a captive of the orcs, vile creatures," Ezra yelled as he also went to fight. Chris, Vin and Josiah followed him.
Buck stood in front of JD as if he could hold off the whole horde. He saw Nathan looking around,.
"Dont even think of joining them, theyll need your skills when they come out," said Buck, "By the way, what the hell is going on? Where did the orcs come from?".
"I dont know they were in the forest. What were you trying to do?" asked Nathan.
"When?" asked Buck.
"Can you hear that?" muttered JD to himself.
"Earlier with all that yelling," said Nathan not hearing JD.
"What are you talking about?" asked Buck confused.
"Buck, this is not a time for joking," snapped JD irritated.
"I am not joking. I have no idea what you are talking about," said Buck.
"He is telling the truth," said someone behind them.
The three of them turned to see Sarahana.
"I killed you!" said Buck disbelievingly.
"Oh, you think you can kill me with a mere sword? Tsk tsk," scolded Sarahana, "But seeing as you did try, it did give me a link to you. I just took control of your mind for a few minutes. It only works if you really wanted the person you killed dead. I am quite flattered you want me dead so much, shows Im doing something right."
"Hold your fighting," she screamed suddenly.
Everyone stopped fighting and turned to face her, she smiled.
"Hello again," she said.
"Buck killed you, I saw him," said Leagan.
"Apparently not," said Sarahana, "Stewart, why are you killing my orcs? Your brothers in arms."
"Your orcs?" asked Stewart, "Brothers, what are you talking about?".
"You dont know? Yes, I did not tell and seeing as the mages dont know ether, I tell you both. You and the orcs work for me. I also happen to have a great deal, I pay you gold ".
"Which you have not done," interrupted Stewart.
"And I pay the orcs," Sarahana continued, "by letting them kill you, your men and the seven mages."
The orcs howled and surged forward.
"Wait," yelled Sarahana, "I have not finished. Where is my book and dagger?" she asked Stewart.
"Dunno, got lost in the fight," snarled Stewart.
"Give me my stuff!" screamed Sarahana.
"Technically, they are not yours. They belong to the people of this land. You stole them from their guardians," said Leagan.
Sarahana turned her attention to him,.
"Are you still alive?".
"Yes, and I want to know how you know who I am," said Leagan.
"I knew the elves would sent someone to find the seven, so had my men hang around Four Towers till you showed. Why am I explaining myself to you? Too any of you?" Sarahana asked herself out loud, "The Book of Spells, Stewart," she demanded. Stewart looked her in the eye and crossed his hands over his chest, saying nothing.
Chris glanced round, they were surrounded by orcs, and they would not be able to fight their way out. Chris had to admit that Sarahana had to be very powerful to move such a large troop of orcs, unless she had help. They had to do something soon otherwise they would be killed. Suddenly Leagan was next to him. Chris looked at him questioningly. Leagan looked pointedly at the mountain. Chris frowned, he mouthed dwarves. Leagan nodded. Chris thought quickly they needed a delay, stepping forward he asked.
"Sarahana, how is JD going to destroy the land?".
Sarahanas eye didnt leave Stewarts.
"The land is dying," she said.
"What land?" asked Chris.
"My land, my master. If JD is allowed to live, he will be able to control the Spell. And that is bad," answered Sarahana.
Chris was confused. "How is that bad?" he asked.
"I will die with it," she said as if it was obvious.
"Die with what?" asked Chris.
"You dont see do you? The Black Forest is my land."
"Its not dying, its growing," said Vin.
"Growing, yes you would all see it like that. Growing, pah," she laughed, "When JD has been killed and the spell is said, the world shall be a Black Forest and we shall be free."
Realisation dawned on Chris. "You are the forest," he said.
"Yes. My Master."
"So everything was a lie? Being abandoned and trying to kill JDs line?" asked Nathan.
"No, its all true. It all happened long ago, Ive been living in the forest for years," said Sarahana, "I am the Forest now."
"That is what Helena was going on about," said Buck suddenly.
"Ah, yes Helena and Vangelis. I was so unprepared for that whole thing and they also caught me," said Sarahana.
"Why are you telling us all this?" asked Chris suspiciously.
"Might as well die knowing the truth." Sarahana smiled.
"So total destruction was the whole idea," said Leagan.
"Which is why the book was never stolen," said Stewart suddenly stepping forward.
"What!" yelled Sarahana.
"What is going on here?" demanded Chris, he had known the seven were being played.
"Helena and Vangelis caught you. As you have been watching us we have been watching you," said Stewart.
"When were you going to inform me?" asked Chris.
"You had no need to know," said Stewart.
"When do we get our pay?" growled one of the orcs.
"Now!" yelled Sarahana, "Kill them all."
"Leagan?" yelled Chris, calling a sword to his hand.
"I do not know where they are," said Leagan, picking up a fallen sword to fight with as the orcs surged forward and surrounded all of them.
"Where who are?" asked Vin.
"The dwarves," answered Leagan, watching the orcs as they growled and taunted their captives.
"Where are they? Can you see them?" asked Vin.
"I can only see orcs," said Leagan.
One of the orcs snarled, "We can see you, elf."
Suddenly there was a scream. It was Sarahana, she was burning but the flames werent golden yellow they were bright blue. While everyones attention was on Sarahana, the orcs attacked. As Chris fought, he kept looking at how his friends were doing. So far, considering they were tired and hungry, they were doing well. They were holding a line with Stewarts men keeping the orcs at bay. Someone fell and with a roar the orcs pressed forward, the line broke.
At the same time Chris heard horns blowing, the dwarves were attacking from the right side, coming out of the forest. Chris had no idea how long the battle lasted, it seemed to him to last for hours. His whole body hurt, he had hardly recovered from teleporting them to the mines and now he was fighting. At least it was his first, for the others it was their second battle of the day and they had been prisoners in between them. Chris took a step backwards, his foot hooked on something and he landed with a thud on his butt. Before he could get up a dwarf came into view, he smiled grimly.
"You may remain seated the battle is over."
"My thanks for coming to our aid, Mr " said Chris.
"Ironton. Its always a good idea to fight orcs," said Ironton.
"Well, you have our thanks. My names Chris Larabee. How did you know to come out?".
"A guard saw you coming up the road and as we waited for you we saw the orcs in the forest," explained Ironton.
Just then Vin came limping over holding his arm.
"Hurt your arm again?" asked Chris.
"Well, it was never really healed nd all that fighting now," Vin shrugged.
"And the limp?" asked Chris.
"Fell over an orc," said Vin looking at the ground.
"Then he collided into me, which resulted in my attempt to stay on my feet and in that attempt I may have hit someone," said Ezra as he too came over to where Chris and Vin were sitting.
"Who?" asked Chris.
"Mr Wilmington. He is currently very unhappy with me, keeps going on about his handsome face," said Ezra.
At that moment a dwarf came up to Ironton, "The remaining orcs have run," he said.
"Ah, let them go, I do not wish to follow them now," said Ironton, "We should be heading back, I would invite you into our halls but you wouldnt leave the elf out here on his own. If you or your men are ever in the area again you will be most welcome in my halls," said Ironton, "I will however sent out some supplies for your journey back. You neednt worry about the orc corpses either."
Chris thanked Ironton again and shock hands with him. Ironton turned to leave calling his dwarves together.
Chris, Vin and Ezra sat in quite for a few minutes after Ironton and his dwarves had left. JD and Buck, who had a black eye, joined them. Nathan was tending the injured; Leagan and Josiah were helping him. Chris looked for Stewart, he saw him sitting next to Sarahana talking to her softly.
"I think we need answers," said Buck suddenly.
"Yip," agreed Vin.
"Yeah, like why Sarahana is still alive," said JD.
As if on cue Stewart came over to where they were sitting, Sarahana remained where she was.
"Before you say anything, let me tell you this. Sarahana was not in control of her actions, I have just freed her from an enchantment. You have to understand ".
"All I understand is that something has happened and I what to know what it is. From the beginning," interrupted Chris.
Stewart stiffened at the interruption. Nathan and Josiah joined them, Leagan followed after a bit. Nathan and Josiah seated themselves with the others Leagan remained standing.
"Ill tell you what you need to know," said Stewart.
Before Chris could say anything Leagan spoke.
"You will tell all. For I have to explain this to my people and we do not deal with half truths," he said.
"Fine." Stewart took a deep breath, "Sarahana is one of the mages that was doing research in the Black Forest. One morning they woke up and she was gone. They though she was dead ".
"Why were they doing research in the Black Forest?" interrupted Chris.
"They were documenting how well the forest was healing," said Stewart irritably.
"Or dying?" said Leagan with a false grin on his face, Stewart glared at him.
"As I was saying, they thought she was dead. Research carried on until about a hundred years later, Sarahana came out. The Forest had enchanted her giving her abilities no one has, such as not being able to die," said Stewart.
"So her goal the whole time was to kill JD?" asked Buck.
"Well, she set out to kill his father, which I believe she did," said Stewart giving JD an apologetic look.
"And when that failed she went off after JD. How did you know she was after the Book of Spells?" asked Chris.
"We didnt until she hired me to steal the armband from the elves," explained Stewart.
"How did she ask you?" asked Vin curiously.
"I was trying to uncover an illegal slave trade. I had been told to keep a look out for anything connected to the book and it just so happen that Sarahana came to me. Once I knew for sure that it was the armband, I sent word to Four Towers. It was easy enough to get together a band of men to come with me. The lure of elven treasure. That was two months ago, the real Book has been in hiding."
"Did Orrin know about all this?" asked Chris.
"No," said Stewart shaking his head.
"So you really poisoned him?" asked Vin in disbelief.
"We had to give the pretence of reality, you all needed to be to busy with Orrin to figure out what was going on. Orrin knows now and the book is most likely already in its rightful place," said Stewart.
"What about the illegal slave trade?" asked Nathan.
"We had to put that on hold for a while," said Stewart.
Seeing that Nathan was going to argue with Stewart, Leagan asked.
"You stole the armband. Who of the elves knew about this and where is the armband now?".
"Firstly, only the Keepers of the Dagger knew and they only entrusted it to me with proof in the form of a letter from the Mage Council. Secondly, the armband is with me," said Stewart reaching side his jacket and pulling out the armband. Stewart handed it to Leagan, who held it up for the seven to see. It was quite narrow and had almost no markings on except of some engraved patterns.
"How is that tiny thing supposed to become a dagger?" asked Buck.
"The dagger is for cutting the spine of a book not of a man. It melts big enough," said Leagan slipping the armband into his pocket.
"What now happens with Sarahana?" Chris asked Stewart.
"Sarahana will come with me back to the Mage council were her case will be heard. She is well aware of what happened to her, she just had no control over it," said Stewart.
"So she will go free?" asked JD lightly shocked.
"No. The forest is very powerful, it will always have a hold on her. She will not be free ever," explained Stewart.
"How are you going to get her to the Mage Council?" asked Chris.
"I am going to open a gateway and take her directly to the Council when we are done here," said Stewart.
"What were those voices I heard?" asked JD.
"What voices?" asked Stewart.
"Well, I heard voices when ever Sarahana was going to appear," said JD.
"How did you know that?" asked Buck.
"I figured it out. Every time I heard the voices, she would appear," explained JD.
"Ha, you appear to have more than one talent, you can heard the magic moments before it is worked upon you," said Stewart, "Very handy, means no one can surprise you with an attack."
"What is the other talent?" asked JD confused..
"Controlling a very powerful spell. Ring a bell?" teased Leagan.
"Oh, yeah. I forgot about that," said JD sheepishly.
"I happen to have one particular question that I believe is quite important," said Ezra. The rest of the seven smiled at Stewarts face.
"What?" asked Stewart suspiciously.
"How are you involved in all this?" asked Ezra plainly.
Everyone turned to look at Stewart.
"I am one of the Head Mages in the Mage Council," said Stewart.
"A Head Mage. So why were you undercover in the illegal slave trade?" asked Nathan.
"There are not enough people to fight the slave trade also some of them are drug smugglers," said Stewart.
"How did you know Sarahana was the one you were after?" asked Chris.
"I didnt. Only when she asked me to steal the armband did I know it was her," explained Stewart.
"So now what?" asked Vin.
"Now I am going back to the Council with Sarahana and you are going back to Four Towers," said Stewart.
"Some dwarves are coming," said Leagan looking towards Gornthain.
"So all of this was just to catch Sarahana?" asked Vin trying to figure everything out.
"Yes," answered Stewart.
"Did no one hear me? I said there are some dwarves coming, they look armed," pointed out Leagan.
"Yes, we heard you. Ironton is sending us some supplies for our way home," said Chris.
"So why are they armed?" asked JD nervously.
"We are all just attacked by orcs, it would be stupid to not be prepared for anything," said Buck, "Besides dwarves are always armed."
"Well if thats every thing, I will be going now," said Stewart.
The seven watched as Stewart made his way over to where Sarahana stood. They seemed to be arguing about something, suddenly Stewart shrugged and stepped back. Sarahana looked at him for a second then made her way over to the seven, who hastily came to their feet.
"I do not ask for forgiveness what I did was wrong but I do apologise for my actions," she said. When she looked at Josiah he said, "It is not us you should ask forgiveness from."
Nodding she looked at JD, he looked away. Sarahana smiled sadly.
"You are all truly heroes to risk your life for people who will never know what you did to protect them. I am glad of one thing, I met all of you," said Sarahana, bowing her head she turned back to where Stewart was standing.
The dwarves had made their way over to them. Some of them had stay back to clear the road of the dead orcs. While the other went to meet them, JD, Buck and Leagan stood watching Stewart opening a gateway. Suddenly JD ran forward, Buck started after him but Leagan put a hand out to stop him.
"What do you think you are doing?" demanded Buck shoving Leagan hand out of the way.
"Look," said Leagan unfazed by Bucks behaviour.
Buck turned to see JD was giving Sarahana a hug.
"He forgave her," said Leagan.
"You heard him?" asked Buck.
"Yes," answered Leagan.
Buck and Leagan watch JD watch Stewart and Sarahana step through the gateway. Only when it had closed did he make his way back to the others. When JD was close to them Buck said, "You did good, kid."
"You need never worry about the fate of the world as you humans tend to do, she can protect herself and provide help and comfort when it is required," said Leagan.
"You know what I would like?" asked JD.
"What?" said Buck.
"I would like to go home," he said with a smile.
After the dwarves had dropped off the supplies and cleared the road of orcs, the seven and the elf set up camp. The dwarves also gave them a donkey a traveller had left behind a year ago. The dwarves offered to keep watch from their mine as the seven camped as extra protection in case the remaining orcs came back, Chris thanked them for every thing they had done for them and told them they would be leaving in the morning. "Not too early," he said looking at Ezra.
"Do you think the orcs will come back?" asked JD.
"Nay," said Buck.
"If they did, were always ready. Enemies of orcs are friends of ours," said the dwarf.
"Really?" asked Leagan.
The dwarf ignored him, shook hands with each of the seven and left.
"You know if you had not said that, I think he might have shaken your hand," said Josiah.
"That is assuming I would want to shake his," answered Leagan.
"Lets eat," yelled Buck from the campfire where Nathan was cooking up a thick chicken and herb soup. After a filling supper, for the fun of it everyone played one game of cards with Ezra, on the condition he used no magic. The seven retired early with Leagan standing first watch.
After a hearty breakfast, they set off on foot towards the forest and home. They walked at a leisurely pace, the donkey carrying the food and weapons. They had travelled for a week when upon waking the one morning they found their horses grazing a little way down stream.
"They were not here last night," said Buck disbelievingly.
"No, they were further down stream," said Leagan.
"And you did not say anything," demanded Chris.
"No need, I knew they would come to us," explained Leagan logically.
"Okay," was all Chris said.
With having the horses back, everyone was keen to get back to Four Towers.
"I shall part company with you now that you have your horses and I have mine," said Leagan as they packed up camp. All activity stopped.
"Oh, yeah, youre are not coming with us," said JD disappointed.
"No, I too want to go home," said Leagan, "And I have an armband to return."
"It was a pleasure riding with you," said Chris as he shook Leagans hand, much to the surprise of the others. Leagan bowed his head in thanks.
"I shall think of you all," said Leagan mounting his horse, "Good bye."
Turning his horse round Leagan headed off into the forest and was soon gone from sight. After a moment the seven also mounted and headed home.
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