Our most powerful Cleric had been killed; so many warriors wounded beyond our remaining clerics ability to help. We can’t hold out for too much longer. It had been 90 days since the first attack, then 16 since the second, and the third had yet to happen, we were still waiting; tensely. Rebuilding, repairing; we had started to relax, with hope that no more attacks would come. Our main focus was on home, to prepare for the coming winter. I had been running back and forth from the Blacksmith who was making nails, to those who were doing repairs as fast as they could. Any able bodies were helping; we all had to pitch in. Once we were done and finished with our chores, the children knew we could play games with the rest of our day. Today we planned to play a game of tag; we hadn’t played it since the last attack.
“Echo, Senal needs nails,” as Lilia, the healer’s daughter passed me up. I nodded and ran to the West side of the village. Senal was known as our village Seer; he had been accurate with everything so far, which was frightening at times. He had recently predicted a move of some kind, but this was our home; and nobody would accept that we were going to move. We fight for our home, we protect it, all Ulven knew that. Wandering over to the skeleton of Senals home, I raised a small fist full of nails. “Thank you child,” with a pat on the head and a few brisk words, we parted ways. I ran to find Tiresia, my mother, at the healing house. When I pushed past the makeshift fur walls, I slipped past Anani, and Alali, the last two Clerics of our village. I found them to look tired and worn. This was probably their third time meditating this morning, they were drained, but we all had to do what we must to keep our people healing and fighting. “Make sure not to bug them little Echo,” looking at mother I nodded, she put a finger to my lips before motioning her to come close. “Senal says rain soon and a runner arrived with a hawk- They told Senal that help would be scarce, for there was also a large attack of Mordok up North and the warriors were sent that way first.” Beaming to myself I felt proud, I liked delivering messages and learning about what was going on in our lands. It made what was happening at home seem tiny. “Go out and tell everyone Senal said rain, I’ll finish up patching some of the wounds and come out to help with the roofs. If Senal is right, with he usually is then they’ll be needed most tonight.” She kept so composed, though I knew she was worried. I guess it had always been that way. As the Leader of our village in Nightriver, she had to make sure everything was going smoothly for everyone. These past months, with all the attacks and deaths, it had left her so tired. I ran along, passing on the message of rain. I made the last of my deliveries with the now empty nail bucket swinging at my side, letting out a resounding thump. I had to stop and hold the bucket aloft, stopping the thumping on my side to recognize the sound of a horn: two short blasts. The others around me let out a holler of joy. Laughter spread slowly, putting down their tools. Helping friends down from beams, we all made our way to the Central area of the village. The Hunting party had returned.
As I jumped, getting a little taller each time to see what was going on; strong hands wrapped around under my arms and lifted me atop lean shoulders. Calliope, the best archer of our village beamed up at me and walked to the center to rejoin her hunt-mates. “We got a lot this time, two elk, a boar, we even found a lot of healing regents; so our healer should be well supplied again.” As I listened to her I looked around, everyone did seem excited, almost relaxed. The cooking fire was slowly being kindled into life; the midday meal would soon be on its way. “How long are you staying this time?” messing with her hair. I’ve became oblivious to what was lurking outside the village as the small festivities started in celebration for the good fortune of our hunters. We relaxed further. “I’m not sure, but I plan to stay long enough to rebuild my hut. I miss having a small space of my own plus; the ground is getting a little too cold now.” Lifting me from her shoulders, she pulled me over to the carcass of the bigger Elk. “There,” pointing at the puncture wound of an arrow, I knew instantly what she wanted me to say. “You got into the windpipe, a quicker death… but kinda painful too,” I frowned, a little sad for the poor creature I patted its soft nose, “Rest well friend.” I turned away as the gutting and skinning commenced. We headed for the fire, the fall chill had slowly started setting in with the sun beginning its descent. The cold seemed to seep into your bones.
It seemed our whole village was now in the center. Looking at some of the buildings I could see a few of the people still helping on the roofs, it was peaceful. Sitting by the fireside as the meat and stew started cooking, the people around me were made merry as things had started looking up. I even saw some of the injured warriors clapping their hands as others danced in groups, spinning and laughing.
Everyone instantly froze as we heard the blast of a horn, long and loud bellowed over the area. The fighters jumped up and began racing to pull their weapons from their sheaths to defend the town from the coming threat. Calliope raced away from me, her bow drawn up instantly as she nocked an arrow. A scream let out from the eastern side of the village and smoke slowly began to rise from the edges of town. People started running, abandoning what they had been doing not only seconds ago to grab what they could for fighting. The other children had started running. I got swept away in it as we ran for cover, seeking it in the piles of fire wood. Slipping into the gaps between the piles. Outside of our cover it seemed a war was being waged, as our tiny hands grasped onto each other for security and comfort. A warrior fell in front of us with an axe in his torso. We held hands over our mouths to stop from screaming. Above the now deceased warrior, the black face of a Mordok stared at us. A growling sneer spreading over its face as it bellowed a cry of victory. It charged, the children tried climbing up and over the piles of tumbling fire wood, trying to scurrying away. I couldn’t move. The axe came down fast; It hardly missed me as I jerked farther back into the pile. I hit the back of the pile, there was no more room to push back into. His axe raised again, his muscles tensed as he started to swing forward and an arrow whizzed by. A gurgle escaped its mouth, as it dropped his weapon, clattering down at my feet. The arrow stuck out from its neck, bleeding red over its body. Hands wrapped around my arm, tugging hard. I screeched, long and loud against the sounds of clashing metal and grinding of footsteps on dirt. “Hush Echo, it’s only me,” as I buried my face into Calliopes shoulder I started to cry. I wept in terror, I wept for those around us and the fate of our village. Everyone around us was fighting, bruised and wounded but still surging forward for our home, our only hope. But we knew it would hopeless, with so many injured. We had let ourselves relax and for that were caught so off guard. We didn’t have the strength to push back anymore.
Sword in hand, my mother approached us; her face splattered with blood and the bottom of her pants was torn to the knee. She turned to a warrior who was running by and stopped him. “How many are there?”
“I’m not sure; they swarmed in too large of a group.”
“Do we have the strength to fight them?” as her arms came up in a defensive position she watched all around us, worry flashed openly over her face.
“No Ma’am, too many are wounded from the last attack, and we don’t have the advantage. They attacked us completely off guard. The entire east side of the village is in flame and the main hall has been toppled and overrun. We won’t be able to hold for much longer.” With a fist over his heart and a short nod, the warrior turned to help his brethren in the battle. A silence fell as he left, Tiresia contemplated; this would be the largest decision of our village.
“NOOO!!” the word and all its anguish cut through the silence. Turning, I watched Anani cradling her sister; a mirror image of herself. A rage seemed to fill her as her arms shook around Alali. She screamed again and stood. Looking serene now, she focused on drawing on her powers she primed 2 spells for instant death, and calmly walked into the ensuing battle. Nobody stopped her. Peaceful, calm, dainty Anani, walked right to her death. The battle consumed her, we saw the blast of the magic she had with her and we could see her no more.
“Give me that conch,” ripping the horn from the hand of a nearby fighter she brought it to her lips, Long, Short, Long. People started backing away form the fight, towards us… we were fleeing. Those who still had the strength, protected our backs as we retreated. I was thrust upon my mothers back as she ran. Helping to pull any who had slowed; telling them to speed up. Looking back, I saw Anani once again, lying by her sister’s side as her chest was seeped with red. The east side was covered in smoke, the columns rising high into the sky. I was sure the Watch Wolves in the north could see. We ran away, as fast as we could. Our fellow Ulven around us surging through the woods on trails we knew well. This was our home and the land had been our friend. Behind us, I heard the guttural cry of victory. The Mordok knew they had won and that our village would be no more. It crossed my mind that Senal had been right. Maybe if we had listened, and been willing to change; this might not have happened to us. A droplet fell onto my cheek; with small grimy hands I wiped it away, to find that it was covered all over in red.
~Two Days Later~
“We simply need shelter, temporary of course. I can explain further about the movements of the Mordok once my people are safe.” My mother walked away with the leader of this village. I clung in earnest to the children around me. We were drained, exhausted of all strength. We had been walking for two days and one full night. Half of our people were nodding off where they stood- others were too paranoid to sleep, thinking only of the danger and horror if they did. In front of us Calliope stood, with two other women. They stood like stone, guarding us from the possible danger of the world. To my left, Senal was being tended to, the gash down his arm was angry and red. He spoke to some of the local villagers who had come with questions, telling them what had happened. It seemed though from their reactions, that none of them had heard of the attack on our village in the two days it had taken us to arrive here. Children peeked out from behind elders, staring at us with large eyes. I could not blame them, we must have been a sight; bloodstained, bruised, some with open wounds still needed tending to.
With slow determined steps, Tiresia returned; a small smile over her face. The leader of the Village stood by her side, an arm around her shoulder comforting. “We have been granted stay, for as long as we need to heal and pick up our feet. They have put aside the smaller tavern for us and some of the homes of the people around here have been opened for us as well. Rest easy my friends, for when we can, we are moving towards the center of Nightriver territory and then we will rebuild our village.” Drifting out of this world, I fell asleep curled with the other children nodding off one by one. We did not need to worry longer, as our new found shelter will now keep us all safe.