The wooden steps creaked eerily as Mezonas rushed up the stairs with Elera close at his heels. They had to sound the warning bell before the whole town was caught unawares at the sudden attack. Are we close to the top yet? Elera shouted via the mental link that whisked across their thoughts. The link came as a result of being partners in Arína. I think so... Maybe a bit further...I’ll need your help once we’re at the top to ring the bell. It’s too heavy for me to ring on my own you know? Mezonas smiled. He knew that wherever he was, he’d always be able to count on Elera. When everyone else would desert him, she would always be there to comfort him and help him. That was what made their bond special. The blowing wind crashed against Mezonas’ face as he bounded up the last few steps of the large castle’s central keep and out onto the paved balcony that commanded a view across the entire area and housed the town’s alarm bell. He had only been up here on one past occasion, and that was to ring the bell himself for a ceremony to commend the newest members of the Arína on their transition to becoming fully fledged Arína warriors. That had been a long time ago, and now they were here to warn the town of the imminent approach of a large force of who knew what that was approaching the town gate at a steady march. At the sound of panting behind him, he whirled around, only to come face to face with Elera, who had just reached the top of the long, twisting staircase. Are you ok? He asked her. Yeah, I’m fine. Let’s get this bell ringing already! She raced forward towards the large brass bell, which hung from a thick beam held up by two solid, wooden pillars. Picking up one of the hammers which lay below the bell; she paused, and then with all her force, started hammering the bell at a steady beat. Mezonas joined her, and soon the bell was working at full force, sending a deafening ring reverberating off of all the town’s buildings below. Soon, the whole town would become a hive of anxious activity as everyone tried to discover the source of the commotion. From his perch high up above the town, Mezonas could see the heavy, iron-clad gates being closed tightly shut in anticipation for the inevitable attack.
Satisfied that they had done their work properly, they both stopped ringing the bell and proceeded to run back down the staircase as fast as the narrow steps would allow them to. Once at the bottom, they ran with speed to the heavily fortified battlements of the castle, where they knew Lord Oracle, the leader of their order, would be surveying the approaching force with intense scrutiny. As they stepped onto the ramparts, Mezonas spotted Lord Oracle standing stiffly with his pale green half spear, half hammer weapon commonly known about the Arína as the ‘Probehammer,' in his right hand. He turned to face them at the sound of their rapid approach. His black hair curled in tight locks over his head, and his dark green eyes showed signs of his great age. Since he had been chosen as their leader 200 years ago, long before Mezonas had been born, he had led their order with an extraordinary efficiency that not many could have hoped to match. “In all the years of my life, this is the first time I have ever had to defend our town from an invading force.” He stated calmly as the duo stopped in front of him. “Who are they Master?” Elera asked questioningly. Lord Oracle sighed. “I cannot tell Elera. They look as human as anyone else in this town as far as I can tell. Rather, where they come from is what intrigues me.” Mezonas looked out toward the still-distant force. They all seemed to be wearing the same dull-coloured armour, apart from the person at the head of the army, who from what Mezonas could tell, was wearing a full suit of armour and a helmet clad with a tunic of bright orange hanging loosely from his shoulders. Who could he be I wonder? He knew that Elera was thinking exactly the same thing as him at that moment. “I think I know who that could be.” Lord Oracle stated simply, guessing what they were both thinking. “Who Master?” Mezonas asked, fear itching into his voice without his consent. He had never fought in a proper battle before in all his life. For all his years of constant training, he had never faced a true foe that was out to destroy him. “I believe it to be Yeltzoa. You know the name do you not Mezonas?” Memories rushed into Mezonas’ mind as he remembered the olive-skinned youth with whom he had been so familiar. Yeltzoa had always been displeased with the way the order was run, and that had led to his eventual flight from the town, before he had come of age to gain a mind partner. He hadn’t escaped without a struggle though. Before he had managed to escape, he had been forced to fight Lord Oracle in the main square of the town. Lord Oracle had managed to injure him that day, his Probehammer coming crashing down on Yeltzoa’s left arm, rendering it useless. That had been too much for Yeltzoa, so he had summoned the remainder of his strength and using his power over dust, had turned the entire town into a dust storm, allowing him to escape without further injury. ‘I always wondered if he would return someday...’ Elera said across their mental link. ‘He must be extremely confident in his abilities to have the courage to return...and bringing an army with him too.’ ‘Of course he must.’ “You and Elera will stay here to defend the keep should they manage to defeat our main force at the gate.” Lord Oracle said. “What of you Master?” Elera asked her concern for her leader obvious in her voice. “I will also stay at the castle. I will send the majority of the Arína out to fight the invading army along with the rest of the common town army, but I will keep a small force of two Arína pairs here, along with myself and Sabrina. We will be the last defensive resort. Ramaculdi will lead the force at the gate.” Mezonas sighed. This would all be over soon enough. He gave Elera a quick smile, trying to show that he wasn’t at all scared, though the reality was quite the opposite. ‘I trust in you Mezonas. Together, we will never fail.’ ‘You know how I feel Elera’ Mezonas smiled back at her. Lord Oracle seemed to sense that the two of them were getting rather intimate, so he took the opportunity to announce. “I will go to organise the Arína into battle now. Another pair will join you up here soon enough. Remember the most important Arína lesson: It is through the union of your partner and yourself that your greatest strength lies.“ “Thank you Master. We will await your return eagerly.” Mezonas said. Lord Oracle walked back down the rampart stairs towards the keep, leaving Mezonas and Elera alone together. Mezonas stepped forward and cupped her face with his hands, kissing her gently. ‘Stop that. Anyone can see us up here!’ Elera pulled away, gazing cheekily at him. ‘Now all we can do is wait...’
3 Hours Later
A ripping sound shattered the air, followed by the noise of crashing boulders. Mezonas jerked upright from his sitting position. He quickly switched his gaze to where the invading force had converged on the town gate. Mezonas stood there dumbfounded by what he was seeing. Where there had been a gate but two hours before was now a massive gaping hole in the wall. The invading army looked as if it was brushing aside the remainder of the forces at the gate that hadn’t been crushed in the initial force of the blast. They were falling like flies. Elera had a similarly shocked expression on her face to Mezonas’ left. Lord Oracle approached them with Sabrina, his partner, at his side, and the other Arína pair trailing them. “I fear that the town is lost my friends, but we will fight to defend our keep nevertheless. I have dispatched a messenger to tell the rest of the town folk to flee towards The Dark Forest. We will NOT leave our keep for those fiends to just walk in! We will give them a fight to remember. Let us vanquish as many of them as is within our power!” Lord Oracle held his head high, no fear showing in his ancient eyes. Mezonas admired the man for his unwavering courage, even in this hopeless hour.
The six of them made their way down into the castle courtyard and positioned themselves a way behind the gate; so as to avoid being crushed by the boulders which would inevitably crash everywhere should Yeltzoa decide to use his dark powers again.
They waited in the courtyard for what seemed like hours, when the gravity of their situation suddenly dawned on him. “Master...” He addressed Lord Oracle. “If all should fail and only one of us remain, then what should they do?” Lord Oracle hesitated, and then answered. “If future generations of Arína are to rise up, then they will need a teacher. You are all wise and capable enough to teach new Arína members what is needed become a true Arínaleca. If there is only one of us left, then he or she MUST flee. Do you all understand?” “Yes, Master.” They all responded. ‘Elera’ Mezonas said; the word balanced with the weight of a thousand rocks on it. ‘Yes, my partner of heart?’ ‘Whatever happens, I will always love you.’ ‘I know; and I likewise.’ They embraced, oblivious to the fact that that would be the last time they would ever embrace each other. After a few moments, they separated. Mezonas looked at Elera with a hard look in his eyes. ‘Now is the time.’
Another blast shattered the air, thought this time, it was much nearer. The invading force did not appear through the gaping hole left in the outer wall of the castle, rather only Yeltzoa and 10 of his fiends stepped inside. “Ah, how I have longed to take possession of this keep.“ He said, his voice tainted with the signs of madness. From his position at the back of the courtyard, Mezonas clasped Elera’s hand tightly, as Lord Oracle and Sabrina stepped forward to face Yeltzoa. Lord Oracle held his hand out and summoned forth his Probehammer, pointing it at Yeltzoa. A look a fear suddenly shined in Yeltzoa’s eyes, as he remembered the weapon which had rendered his left arm useless, but it quickly disappeared, leaving cockiness in its stead. “Oracle, we meet again.” He said, ignoring the 5 others in the courtyard. “I will defeat you, and destroy the rest of your puny group afterwards. I will face you alone first, and then we will...DEAL with the rest.” Yeltozoa’s fiends quickly formed a semicircle around the two Arína, leaving the rest of the circle to be completed by the two other pairs, and Sabrina. They circled each other for a moment, and then Yeltzoa attacked, wielding his long, narrow sabre-like weapon that glowed orange every time he moved it. Yeltzoa feigned towards Oracle’s left side, before changing at the last moment towards the right and making a cutting motion towards Oracle’s left flank. Anticipating the move, Oracle jumped backwards with lightening speed before hurling his Probehammer at Yeltzoa, causing Yeltzoa to shield himself with his weapon. “You always were fast.” Yeltzoa muttered, as Oracle’s weapon re-appeared in his hand. Then they engaged again. For hours, they battled on, before Yeltzoa finally started to grow angry. Summoning a dust whirlwind, he sent it flying towards Oracle, in an attempt to distract him. This achieved the desired effect. Oracle tried to evade the whirlwind, but before he could do so, he felt a pain in his left side, Yeltzoa stood over him, a look of intense glee on his face. The blow caused Lord Oracle to slump to the floor, exhausted from his efforts. “Remember my orders!” Oracle shouted to the spectators behind him, before fading away into oblivion. Sabrina then tried to engage Yeltzoa, but was quickly dispatched by the traitor.
‘We can’t fight him here Elera! He’ll smother us! We’ve got to get into a confined space. That’s where our water-ice combination will work best.’ ‘Agreed.’The two of them took flight into the keep, leaving the remaining pair to decide their own fate. Yeltzoa shouted after them. “Come back here you cowards!” Mezonas and Elera bounded up the steps to the keep’s upper room three steps at a time. Once at the top, they found themselves in the upper room of the Keep. Now they were trapped. They would either have to defeat whoever would burst into the room, or die. ‘Now is the time to combine our forces Mezonas. Together, we can vanquish an entire army.’ Suddenly, five fiends burst into the room, arranging themselves in a line before Mezonas and Elera. “Give up now. Bow down to Yeltzoa, and we will spare your lives.” The leader of the group hissed. “We will never bow down to your evil leader!” Mezonas shouted. ‘Now, meld your mind with mine and let us end this Elera.’ Holding his hand outstretched, Mezonas summoned forth his iridescent blue, curved, long sword. Elera also summoned her weapon, and together they engaged the group. They quickly gained mastery over the fiends, using their combined strength to freeze and drown them with their respective elements. Suddenly, they heard a deep booming voice rip through the air. “Your path ends here Mezonas.” Yeltzoa materialised in front of them, weapon in hand. ‘How did he do that?’ Mezonas asked. ‘I have no idea... Oh well, lets see how this goes... We do have the advantage of two.’ Mezonas attacked, dodging a small cloud of dust as he struck at Yeltzoa’s right side, while Elera attacked his left side. With a flurry of blows, Yeltzoa had disarmed Mezonas, leaving him with no weapon, but his elemental power, which he couldn’t use with Elera still attacking. ‘Quick, get back! We can meld our elements together!’ Elera stumbled backwards in obedience, losing her footing as she went. That was the mistake that cost her. Yeltzoa seized the opportunity, and slammed his orange blade down on Elera’s head, causing her to fall to the ground. ‘NO! Elera, stay there! I’ll be there in a second!’ Mezonas glared at Yeltzoa, his fury at boiling point. Summoning his whole strength, he paused for a second, and then caused himself to resonate raging water in all directions, drowning the entire room like an ocean. Using the temporary sea to his advantage, he then fired a bolt of water from his palm towards Yeltoza’s chest, knocking him over sprawling. Seeing that he was helpless, Yeltzoa turned and fled down the stairs back to the bottom of the keep. Elera was struggling to keep herself from fading away, so Mezonas released his control over the water, allowing it to empty itself out via the staircase. He ran over to her, seating himself beside her, and gently placing her head on his lap. He stroked her hair, not knowing what to do nor say. He only wished to treasure that last special moment with her. ‘I know this will be hard for you Mezonas...But...you have to go on without me. You are the last one. You have to train up the next generation of Arína, even...without me. I’m sorry for letting you down like this... I...’ ‘You never let me down Elera. I won’t leave you!’ ‘It’s too late Mezo. I am fading. Know this. I treasured every moment we spent together. I always, always...loved you...’ At that last moment, Elera froze in her element form and faded away into icy crystals.
Mezonas groaned as he looked back towards his lost home... Surrounding him were small clumps of bare trees which grew denser and denser the further in you went, eventually transforming into an endless stretch of dark forest. He was the last one...The town folk were already fleeing into the forest, beaten and broken. Cecia Town, once the pride and joy of the people ofLetramenia, had been overrun at long last, after a long struggle. They had fought to the limits of their abilities, but no one could possibly have stopped Yeltzoa and his fiends from achieving their goal. Now he had but one choice, to cast away all hope of returning and flee like a coward into the forest with the rest of the town’s inhabitants... A tear raced down his cheek, as he considered what had happened to him in the past few hours. The one closest to him, the one he loved...had been slain in front of his eyes. That had broken his heart. Holding her dying form in his arms had been the most horrible experience in the entirety of the universe. Never again would he be able to run outside to the fountain and embrace her in the morning before they ate their breakfast... Never again would he be able to hold her hands in his and tell her about his day... Never again would they embrace each other so closely...The love that had sprouted from their partnership had been the greatest thing he had ever, ever experienced! Despair gripped him as he realised that all was lost to him. How short the time had been! 143 years of happiness and peace he had experienced with Elera by his side. Now it had been torn from him so cruelly! What was left but to run away? Never would they be able to remake what once was into ‘something,’ and even if they managed that formidable task, what hope did they have against the never-ageing Yeltzoa?!? All hope had been lost. Cecia Town would never again be the place it had been. With that last thought, Mezonas turned on his heels and ran into the forest after the town folk, tears rolling from his eyes like shattered dreams...