The sound of war echoed through the night. Blades shocked upon shields as the raid progressed. The citizens of Hadaspin fought back with everything they had, but they were overwhelmed by soldiers sent from the Order of the Red Moon.
The Order of the Red Moon was a shadow organization, growing in plain sight, yet still under the cover of man's ignorance. Slowly but surely their ranks sprung up, constantly gaining more and more men every day. The intentions of the group were kept secret, as were the means by which they would obtain them. Very little was known about them, aside from their name and leader. The man who formed this band of elite warriors was a man by the name of Viron, a well known Elemental.
An Elemental, as it should be explained, is quite simply one who can command the Elements, such as fire, water, or earth. Each is granted power over a single element, and is unable to wield any others. Six elements; earth, water, fire, wind, lightning, ice, and the mind, thus six Elementals walked the earth. They posses incredible power, but they're still human, and because of that, they themselves choose how they put their strength to use.
Viron was one who chose to use his control for his own benefit. He ruled the Order with a tightly grasped iron fist, tolerating not even the slightest hint of disloyalty. All who opposed him now rested in peace beneath a two foot layer of soil. Beneath his rule, the Order sprang up, rapidly increasing their numbers and training.
Without warning, the Order of the Red Moon shifted from a political organization to a militant stronghold, using the thousands of members at its disposal as mercenary soldiers, each of them armed with steel and the skill to wield it. The small armies the divided city-states in the world of Kyat possessed were powerless to stop them as they swept the area clean of opposition. Every city had been plundered, its inhabitants slain, and its structures razed. Hadaspin, the smallest of these nations, was one of three remaining.
Hadaspin was a small, but well fortified state, with a thick wall surrounding the core of the population. The majority of the citizens lived in a single complex of buildings, each of which was connected to one another. On the outskirts of town, a row of tribal huts lined the area, generally reserved for the outcasts of society.
But tonight, all differences were put aside. The gate had been breached, and the Order of the Red Moon had begun to close in on the city with its incredible numerical superiority. Each of their "Guardians of the Order" was clad in black leather armor with the symbol of a blood red crescent moon engraved into the chest piece.
But the warriors of Hadaspin had no fear. They too, had an Elemental on their side. Michael, the lightning Elemental, though he was no older than fifteen, held the key to their security. Everyone felt confident in his abilities. Everyone that is, except Michael.
He had little confidence in his powers, knowing inside that he could not use them the way Viron could. He barely knew about his element, and even less about how to apply it in combat, but nevertheless he charged off into the fray alongside his comrades to make their last stand.
The battle raged on, with Michel taking the rear of the forces, trying desperately to work his element in their favor. On the front line, Hadaspin's warriors held firm, pressing their shields and spears onward in an attempt to withstand the tempest of soldiers who rushed over them. They valiantly fought on, slaying numerous opponents with their spiked staffs, but every time a guardian of the Order fell, there was another to take his position. When the same happened to one of their own, a space in their ranks was left empty.
Michael extended his hand, as a familiar flow of energy traveled from his heart, to his shoulder, and down his forearm. The charge grew in power, and he drew in a deep breath as electricity sparked from his fingertips. With a sudden force, a bolt of lightning sprung from his palm like an arrow from a bow, and hurtled down range with amazing speed.
The strike descended on a hapless group of soldiers, scattering them with an explosive shock. He exhaled; allowing his energy to regroup within him, then summoned a second bolt and sent it on its course.
Another soldier was struck in the chest with the electric arrow, convulsed violently, and fell to the dirt in pain. Michael swept his hands in a circular motion, as streaks of blue, crackling lightning floated in the space his fingertips passed through.
He gave the hovering circle of energy a shove, and it sped through the darkness, slowly contracting into a tight ball as it sailed. As if guided by some unseen force, it slammed into the soil in a burst of fire and smoke, launching several guardians into the air.
As the lad picked off his targets with Elemental force, the hardened battle line at the forefront of Hadaspin's gate was beginning to fall back upon itself. Ari, the leader of the small brigade of soldiers, beat off another warrior with the circular bronze shield in his hand, and ordered his men to break formation. They immediately obeyed, shifting from a line of men into a frenzied mix of combatants, and for a moment, halted the advance of the Order.
Ari plunged his spear through the armor of a guardian, and then withdrew his weapon as his opponent fell. He made a quick turn, just as a sword was slashed in his direction. In an instant, his shield was up, and the blow deflected. Using the sharpened bronze edge of the buckler, he cut down his latest foe. From behind, he heard the hissing sound of an arrow released from its bow.
His muscles tensed, his heart stopped, and his body froze, all preparing for the imminent strike of the projectile. There was a sudden flash as a torrent of lightning cascaded by, frying not only the arrow, but the archer who fired it.
Michael launched countless strikes of electric force into the rapidly approaching army, working his hands back and forth while trying to maintain his internal energy. Each shot removed a soldier from combat, but it didn't seem to be pushing them back. There was simply too many of them for the teen to handle. Inside, he could feel himself growing weaker and weaker, as the current of power from his heart to his hands was being interrupted.
The Order's men regrouped, retreating slightly as the massive troop count tried to organize itself back into a battle line. With a bit of difficulty, they managed to form a curved, concave formation, cutting off their opponent's only escape route.
The warriors of Hadaspin were faced with the classic dilemma of all human survival. Fight or Flight?
Ari planted himself at the forefront of his platoon, surveying the wall of sharpened iron tips that stared back at him. He turned his shield to the side, so that the rounded metal plate covered his chest and stomach, then defiantly raised his spear above his head and let out a fierce battle cry. The rest of his men did the same, determined to die with honor, and not trapped like animals inside their own walls.
They surged forward, with shouts and blades uplifted as they charged headlong into their last battle. There was no care for formations or battle patterns any longer. This was Hadaspin's time to shine. This was what would be writ in the history books about them. This was the cities finest (and final) hour
The Order was taken back by this bold maneuver, but refused to let their ranks crumble and cave in. The brigade of men held fast as the first wave of infantry rammed its force into their front most battalion. The heavy, rectangular shields the men of this line possessed were lifted, but that did little to discourage the Hadaspins. They clamored atop the shields, some successful in slaying their target, others not so. Those warriors who successfully defeated their first opponent fought furiously to hold the ground they had taken, fighting with swords, spears, shields, and even their bare hands.
Ari, now wounded by a guardian's blade, fought on like a maddened animal, snarling with insanity as one after another was impaled upon his spear. The warrior rushed headlong into the fray, screaming wildly as he cut a swath through the center of the Order's formation like a cancer through the cells of its host. He was no longer wielding a weapon. Ari had become the weapon. Every strike, dodge, duck, and dive flowed together as if his body were no more than a sack of fluids, sloshing about in a series of concise strokes.
The Elemental in back of the two fronts attempted to muster up some final power to unleash and back up his comrades in the field. The energy within him was failing fast, and he was beginning to fade with it. His eyes fluttered, and he began to sway back and forth. In an instant, his limbs fell limp as wet clay, and his body slumped down to the earthen carpet beneath him.
Slowly, the Order began to cut down the last remnants of the Hadaspin populace man by man. Within hours, there was only one left standing. Ari, now fighting with a broken, blunted sword, stood in the center of the advancing troops, striking as hard as ever against every single warrior they sent out. Without orders, they all froze, standing stock still as the warrior panted and gasped for oxygen, eying them all cautiously.
There was the sound of dirt shifting under one's feet, as a single dark figure approached. It was a male, clad in a flowing black cloak that billowed in the breeze, much like his pony-tailed hair, which he had taken careful care to comb back. He carried no weapon, but bore upon his breast the insignia of the Red Crescent. His frame was long and lank, ending with a face that radiated his pride.
"So," His bright blue eyes took in the general's appearance as he spoke, "this is all the great Hadaspins could muster? This is what they brought to bear against the army that has displaced empires? This is how you expect to defend your borders?"
He snickered lightly, stretching a hand forth to the bleeding general. He grabbed him by the throat in one swift motion, hurling him back to the dirt with a second. Ari ceased to move. His body lay lifeless and limp, as his soul departed the body and into the timeless streams of eternity.
"If this is all the power your city possessed, I am doing the entire world a great service by destroying it. The weak must be eliminated if the human race ever hopes to advance." He spat with a tinge of spite to his words.
His body glowed with a pale orange aura, as he threw a punch at the space between him and the city complex. A spiraling burst of flames shot from his fist, and twisted its way through the air ahead. The fiery vortex cascaded over the town like a wave over the ocean sand, igniting each structure its cursed fingers managed to grasp. The cloaked man waved his hands, turning them now to the outer ring of straw hutches that surrounded the village, and the fire followed them. Against the grass buildings the flames descended, sparing nothing that stood in its path.
The warrior seemed content with his act of destruction, and allowed a slight smile to grace his lips. He gazed out over the once great city, as it was slowly consumed by the all powerful will of the flames.
"This is what must be done, if the earth is to achieve anything. For the sake off all, blood must be shed." His words echoed through the empty ruin, with no living souls to return them, "We've done what we came to do, let's move out."
He gave a motion with his hand, and the guardians of the Order fell into line and marched to an unheard beat away from the burning hulk that was once Hadaspin…
Pain flowed through every vein in Michael's body, as if his blood were somehow carrying the sensation as it throbbed ever harder. He attempted to open his eyes, but they felt as though they carried the weight of the world upon them. With an effort, he tried again, this time prying his eyelids apart and allowing the sunlight to drip down into his pupils. Feeling slightly stronger, Michael made an attempt to sit up. This was followed shortly by him crashing back down upon the stones he lay among.
The sound of gravel shifting under one's boots reached his ears, and Michael's body froze with fear. He tried again to raise his badly worn frame from the earth, and once again crashed back to the floor. The scraping sound of stones against stones came once again, faster this time.
He rolled to the side, trying desperately to get a glimpse of his stalker. Now lying on his belly, Michael heard a new sound, the sound of polished metal gliding smoothly against some other metallic object. The footsteps stopped. He could practically feel his enemies' presence as he listened to the breaths his foe took in.
With a flash of metal and a cloud of dust, a blade buried itself in the dirt just above his left shoulder. It was long, and curved. Like the downward pointing bill of an ibis stretched out on a long neck, the blade sprang from a metal staff, most likely held by a member of the Order.
The bent iron caught against his arm, and turned him over as its owner dragged it to the side with a clean, swift stroke. For the first time, Michael looked his opponent in the eyes. He looked older than he was, with long black hair that stuck out at odd angles, yet fell to the back of his neck in an oddly neat fashion. His body was well built for his age, though there were no bulging biceps to be seen on his form, which was clothed in a plain, earthy brown tunic. In his hands he firmly clasped a scythe, angled sharply downward as if the tool were suitable to prod Michael with.
"You." He growled through clenched teeth, as he yanked him to his feet with the end of his scythe.
Michael didn't respond, but instead stared around him at the world he had awakened in. It was no longer a city, but a jumbled mass of smoldering rubble. The central town complex had collapsed in on itself, leaving nothing but a pile of stones to remember it by. A fraction of the supporting timber beams still stood charred as they were, jabbing towards the clouds like a row of porcupine quills. The outer rim of grass huts had been absolutely vaporized, leaving nothing but their memory behind.
He was snapped back into reality as a sudden tug jarred him from his silence. He gave a painful grunt as the blade pulled on his arm.
"You were supposed to be our defender." The boy with the scythe yelled as he dragged the elemental to the ground.
He flipped the weapon over his shoulder, bringing it around with a vicious slash. Michael rolled to the side, just barely dodging the blow. His foe turned the staff through the air, cutting at him with the sharpened iron.
"You were supposed to annihilate the Order, and save us from the destruction they brought." The blade dug into the earth as he sprang out of harms way once more.
"You were supposed to be our savior…" He shouted as he lashed out again and again with the scythe, repeatedly spinning it as he came.
As Michael moved to dodge again, the hooked weapon caught him around the waist, and with a mere flick of his enemies wrist, he was sent hurtling through the air. He landed painfully against a collapsed portion of the old stone wall, slumping against it as his mind caught up with his body.
The boy barreled towards him, his eyes wild and his scythe pulled back for a two-handed blow.
The elemental ducked as the blade's arc slit into the brick he rested against. From within the rubble, he could've sworn he heard a scream. Apparently, his opponent heard it too, as he paused, fist cocked back and about to strike.
The sound came again, this time more of a voice than a scream, though neither of them could understand the muffled tones.
The warrior with the scythe pressed his ear against the wall as the voice came again, making sure that he wasn't imagining things. Sure enough, it was real. Someone was within the ruined building, calling out to them.
The boy attacked the stones with his blade, striking again and again, whirling the scythe like a hurricane. Still, for all his effort, he made almost no progress in reaching the trapped victim.
"Perhaps you can be of some use after all." He turned to Michael, who was already cutting into the brick with an electric charge.
Within a few seconds, he had sliced his way through the rock and rubble, which the boy with the scythe carefully removed in order to avoid a cave in. From inside the darkness, a figure instantly darted past them into the warmth of the sunlight.
It was a girl, older than Michael, whose eyes were an emerald green, complimenting the waterfall of chocolate colored hair that ran down to her shoulders. It was most likely longer, as she wore her hair pulled back with a sky blue ribbon, tied neatly into a bow. Her figure was trim and thin, as through she had been designed with no room for fat or muscle. She had white skin, pale from being trapped inside the wall, covered with a faded blue dress, still beautiful although it was scorched and frayed in several places.
She collapsed backwards on the earth, lying on her back with her eyes closed and a smile stretching across her face. The girl took in deep breaths of the fresh air, as if she had been without it her whole life, then put her hands at her hips and sat up, taking in the devastation that surrounded her.
Instantly, the smile was gone, and her eyes widened with shock. Everything she knew, everyone she had loved, all her friends and family, gone. Michael and his scythe-wielding companion watched as her heart shattered. Her eyes misted over, and soon tears were rolling down her cheeks as she sobbed.
The boy with the scythe underwent a sudden change. He seemed to soften, his eyes dropping the look of spite that seemed to be tied to them. Even his face, which was engraved with a near permanent scowl, relinquished its baggage as he stooped down and embraced her tenderly.
Her small body shook and trembled with a mixture of fear and sorrow. She cried, though she never once made a sound. Her lips were sealed at the moment, as she allowed herself to be cradled in this newcomer's arms like a little child.
Michael just stood there, looking on and feeling useless. He took a seat on a stack of displaced bricks and sighed.
The girl's sobs had begun to give out, and she leaned back, away from the embrace. She wiped at her eyes with the back of her wrist and turned to her newfound companion with a slightly weakened smile.
"Thanks." Her voice was soft, and sounded fragile, yet peaceful, "I needed that."
"No problem," He extended his work worn palm to her, and she placed her own hand in his, clasping it in a handshake, "Names Corah."
"Anne Marie. But I'd rather you just call me Anne." She replied, beginning to feel like herself again.
Corah picked up his scythe from the dirt beside him and took hold of the blade. He gave it a downward crank, and it slid back into the metal of his staff. Then, he twisted the pole at three select points, and they disconnected from one another, held together by a small, yet still steadfast, chain of three links. He folded the now divided stave into a bundle of the three rods, and removed an iron ring from the inner pocket of his tunic. The ring slipped snugly over the collapsed staff, holding them together as he placed his weapon into a satchel he carried over one shoulder.
"They'll be back." He spoke in a hushed tone, "The Order always returns to search for survivors."
Michael rose from his seat, cranking out a high voltage charge that vibrated throughout his body. "And this time, I'll be ready."
"No," Corah gave him a shove backwards, cutting off the flow of electricity in an instant, "We survived the first wave, let's not push our luck."
"Then what're we going to do? Just let them slaughter our people?"
"We bide our time, and we get you more training."
"So what do we do in the mean time?"
"Well, if we head north, we drive ourselves out to the sea." He said, pointing ahead as if a map hovered there.
"But the Order controls all the shipping lanes and docks." Anne replied, bursting his bubble.
"So let's head south." Michael suggested.
Corah checked over his mental map of the area. "Heading south will take us to Aspania, and they haven't been conquered yet."
"Then south it is." Michael rose and strode towards the woods they now faced.
"Before we go, I'd like to do one thing…" Anne paused, her mood changing again.
After a few moments of scouring the ruins, the three had constructed a makeshift memorial for their fallen comrades. Two wooden beams intersected to form a cross at the pinnacle of an altar of stones which were stacked in a pyramid form. Beside the cross, Ari's spear was plunged into the earth, in honor of the great leader who had given his all for his city. On either side, jutting out from the altar, were two torches, lit by Michael's lightning. They illuminated the crude, yet sentimental, piece that held within it the eternal memory of Hadaspin.