Autumn Fall: All Hallows World

By: Crazyeight

Chapter: 1/ Beneath Crimson Sky

A thin band of white clouds floated across a crimson sky that lit by a dull-red, yet bright sun. Beneath it was a long, rolling plain of tall black grass that led into an equally dark-of-color forest. Were it not for the light of the sun, the shapes of the trees and underlying brush would have been difficult to discern…impossible even. But the light gave it texture and substance that set the trees apart, giving them the appearance of individuality that they were supposed to have.

For Evan Walter, this was comforting enough to warrant him racing towards it. Once, not too long ago, the sight of a black forest, or any forest that didn't allow so much as a single ounce of light between its branches, he would have hesitated and taken off in the opposite direction. Today however, he was more than willing to make an exception.

The sound of a wolf howling behind him caused him to break out with cold sweat, and he stumbled on the grass, but he was quick to pick his feet back up and resume running. His legs churned across the ground, urging every ounce of speed out of their muscles. They quivered and trembled, but not from the effort, no. They, like the rest of him, were in the middle of a mass panic, and it was only the faintest glimmer of hope offered to him by the darkness of the forest before him that kept him from dissolving into a shaking pile of screaming madness. He had to keep moving.

Another howl and this time a number of sharp barks cut upon the air. Risking a glance over his shoulder, Evan nearly froze in panic as he saw a number of gray-furred timber wolves rise over the crest of the hill and upon spying him immediately charge down the slope in his direction. Evan gave a loud shout draped with fear and tore onward, nearly falling again as he did so.

Ah! Pain stitched along his side, and he clamped one hand against his ribs. Shit! Cramp! Of all the times it has to be now? Come on! What the hell?

Forcing the pain out of his mind as best as he could, he continued his race, all the while hearing the wolves' barks growing ever closer.

Ohnoohnoohnoohno…I'm not going to make it. I'm not going to make it. Shit. Shitshitshit. C'mon you stupid sonova…

Another cry wrenched itself free from his mouth as his mental urgings were cut short courtesy of a jutting rock sticking rather high from out of the ground. The world of dark and red lurched across his vision and he struck the hard dirt below. The wolves gave a triumphant howl, knowing full well that victory was now assured. Evan's breath came out in harsh, panicked gasps as he crawled forward with his hands while his feet tried to right themselves behind him. For an instant, he didn't seem to be getting anywhere, but soon enough his hands and feet finally synced with each other and he rose back up, charging full tilt towards the forest anew.

Unfortunately for him, he didn't get very far.

A growling mouth containing strong yellow fangs clamped painfully down around his ankle and twisted sharply. Screaming now, partly from pain but mostly from fear, Evan plowed back to the ground. His instincts, already in a frenzy, caused him to lash out, and his sneakered foot struck the snout of the wolf that had grabbed hold of his ankle, causing it to yip and jump back, giving its prey enough time to roll onto his back. It quickly scrambled back towards him, but this time, Evan was ready, and he lashed out, aiming hard and sure at its face. His sneaker struck it with far greater precision than his chaotic thrashing could, and the wolf howled painfully as it rolled away. With pained tears streaming down his face, he rose to his feet, sniffing as he tried once more to get to the forest. He grunted as his injured ankle buckled, nearly causing him to sink back to the ground. Looking down, he drew a sharp breath between his teeth as he saw small rivulets of blood slinking down his sock and into his once proudly clean sneakers, bought for him by his mother just last week.

Mom is going to kill me, his mind thought ludicrously as he looked back up at the entrance to the forest. No sooner than he did so, he let out a loud, defeated groan. A number of wolves had circled around him, blocking the entrance to the forest, and were now stalking towards him in a low, coiled crouch.

It's over… he moaned, taking a shaky step back. More tears, angry ones now, spilled out of his eyes, blurring his vision. They're going to kill me. He hastily wiped away his tears, smearing them across his face and shook himself. No. He couldn't give up, not when safety was so close! It wasn't fair.

There's got to be a way out of this. This can't be happening! A shaky laugh emerged from his mouth just then, and he wondered how many times he had repeated that thought since the day he woke up in…wherever this place was. Even so, he turned to the thought as readily as he turned to his comfort blanket when he had still been single digits and believed in monsters on his bed. Right now it was the only thing keeping him from going insane.

It's all just a dream. That's right…it's all…just a dream. It's not real.

His bloody ankle protested heatedly as he and the ground put pressure on it. Clearly, wherever he was, it was as real as the cracked sidewalk in front of his house on Farm Acre Road.

Just as he spun around in the hopes to finding a backdoor to his plight—and finding nothing but more wolves for his troubles—a loud whistle rang out, causing the wolves to rise up and their ears to do much the same, as though in salute. All of their eyes turned as one towards the horizon. Confused as to why they weren't continuing attacking, Evan followed their gaze to a number of armored figures sitting atop horses on the same hill that the wolves had come from, all of whom were racing in his direction. Evan did a quick count of six riders before he, as carefully as possible with his injured ankle, began to inch backwards.

A loud snarl quickly crushed that attempt.

"Don't even think of it," growled a cold voice from the slathering jaws of the canine. Evan's eyes bulged in shock.

"You can talk?"

"You would do well to head the Dire Wolf's words," said one of the armored figures as he and his companions pulled up in front of him. Evan shrank back, almost forgetting the wolf's warning, as his eyes drank in the full measure of the dark warriors. Their armor was dark and menacing plates with small spikes along the shoulder pads. Great, arched horns sprouted out of their helms, and their faces were hidden behind deep shadows—save for the one who spoke. As he eased his horse closer to Evan, the shadows parted, revealing a handsome-looking man with a strong, angular face that looked to have been stolen off a statue. His eyes, an icy blue, were as hard looking as his face and he seemed to regard Evan as nothing more than an annoyance.

"Who…" Evan licked his lips nervously as his voice cracked, hitting upon a proverbial roadblock. He hastily cleared his throat—a nervous, unpleasant, rattling cough that sounded too much like he was dying—and began again. "Who are you?"

The warrior raised an eyebrow, as though somewhat surprised by this, but the eyebrow lowered almost as soon as it went up.

"I am someone who holds your life in his hands," the warrior replied, raising one hand. Closing his fingers into a single fist, he slashed it down, and all of a sudden Evan found himself knocked onto his stomach as one of the wolves tackled him from behind. He felt hot, slavering breath beating heavily on the nape of his neck as he heard a low, hungry growl. Evan cried out in fear and immediately began struggling, but wolf fangs found themselves on the back of his neck and put on some pressure—not enough to pierce skin, but just enough to let the boy know that it meant business. Evan froze, panting again as his heart hammered away in his chest.

"Why are you after me?" he cried out into the grass, tears bursting from his eyes and smearing his face as he tried to get some wiggle room in the wolf's mouth. Why was this happening? His mind blurred, trying to comprehend what was going on. Nothing was making sense! Wolves talking, a blood-red sky, and nightmarish knights in dark armor… It was as if he had stepped into some insane fantasy world. It had to be a dream. It had to be!

The mounted warrior observed the boy impassively for a moment before turning to his fellow comrades.

"Take him," he said simply, and with a dull grunt, two of the warriors dismounted their horses and made their way over to where Evan lay. In one moment, the wolf's jaws tightened momentarily around his neck, and then were gone, replaced by cold, unyielding hands of steel as they grabbed hold of him and hauled him off the ground.

"Let me go!" Evan shouted as his arms were bent cruelly behind his back. He was afraid…so very afraid. He started to kick and squirm against the warriors, but they tightened their grip and pulled more sharply, causing the boy to grind his teeth together to keep from crying out. His leg lashed out and smashed against an armored shin, but the warrior did not so much as budge against the blow or loosen his grasp. Quite the opposite, he tightened it even further, digging his gauntlet's fingers painfully into Evan's wrist.

"Hold still," one of the warrior grunted in exasperation, tugging sharply on an arm. There was a loud crack and white exploded across the boy's vision and for a moment his mouth gaped in a lungless cry, unable to express what had just happened to him. The moment ended swiftly, and a tidal wave of pain crashed onto him. His voice found him again and found the only expression that could tell in full detail the mind numbing, all encompassing fire that swelled and flashed along his bones.

He screamed.

Lock sighed heavily in annoyance as he looked down at the dirt ground, resting on a large rock. A number of trees surrounded him on all sides, and next to him sat a wooden bucket full of water, reflecting red and black at him. Turning his dark eyes towards it, he twisted his green lips at it, and his large, bat-like ears fidgeted.

I really need to know when to keep my big mouth shut, he thought to himself with a sense of bemusement that he really did not feel.

"But that's what I get for trying to be a nice goblin," he grumbled aloud, bringing his head down to rest on one, thin, spindly, green-skinned hand. ""I can take care of it," I says. "You've got enough on your plate," I says." He brought his remaining free hand up to his chin to help in supporting it. "Sheesh. The guy only has all the time in the world. Why'd I volunteer for this gig again?" He huffed, answering his own question. "Right. Because I'm a nice guy. My barrow mother always said that stuff like this would happen."

Shifting again, he glanced at the shadows, measuring their span across the ground.

"I've gotta get moving soon," he grumbled. "I promised I'd get this stuff back by nightfall."

Reluctantly, he got to his feet, one hand drifting up to his right arm and massaging his thin muscles. He winced, not liking what he knew was coming. He hated carrying things.

Should have just let the guy carry his own damn pail…

A loud scream cut across his thoughts, causing his bat-ears to twitch. Narrowing his eyes, he turned in the direction of the scream, his irises darkening.

That didn't sound good.

His better sense told him that he shouldn't bother investigating; that he had a job to do and he should just take his pail and hightail it out of the forest. Forget that he had ever heard anything at all. In this world, especially this far on the edge of Hadeus' borders, that's what it took to survive. Anything else was tantamount to suicide. As his barrow mother often said, "If you stick your neck out, expect it to get lopped off."

Of course, he never listened to his mother anyway. Marching towards the source of the scream on his large, two-toed feet, he reached into his leather jacket with one hand and withdrew a slingshot from a hidden holster. The other drifted to a pouch sewn to his belt behind him.

Collapsing to his knees, Evan's howling cut across the air as his arm, now twisted at an uncomfortably odd angle, flopped down uselessly at his side. The two warriors that had been holding him up, backed away, somewhat startled. They quickly remembered themselves and took hold of the boy once again, one of them quickly going to the broken arm and taking hold of it. Evan struggled anew, but a quick tug on the injured limb brought a new flash of pain that made him think otherwise.

"You were not supposed to hurt him," the hard-faced warrior said in a cool, measured voice that, to anyone else, lacked in reproach and anger for his subordinates. To the two of soldiers who served under him, they shuddered under their armor as they held the boy down.

"I offer my life as an apology my lord, Captain Dusk," one of the soldiers said, bowing his helmeted head. "He was resisting and I forgot…"

"You two will be put on report," Captain Dusk interrupted. "You will meet with the task master upon our return to the castle. This isn't irreparable. Keep your lives." He turned to the Dire Wolves, who watched the scene unfold, impatience and amusement gleaming in their golden eyes. Captain Dusk nudged his horse towards them. "Heal him."

The lead wolf, a large, gray and brown-colored beast with a long, jagged scar running the length down one eye, chuckled harshly. It was a low, guttural sound, little more than a growl, but the meaning was plain all the same.

"He is human. Our magic won't work as easily on him as they do us."

"Heal him," Captain Dusk repeated, bringing one hand to rest on the pummel of the sword strapped to his waist. The wolf's one golden eye met Captain Dusk's blue ones, and after a moment, the wolf looked away. Growling, the grey beast padded over to Evan, who sat rigid on his knees in the clutches of his captors, breathing heavily and trying not to disturb his mangled arm. His eyes, glazed and tear sodden, saw the wolf approaching, and he stiffened, as though he were about to flee, but quickly thought better of it, wincing from the pressure still being borne down upon his broken arm. The wolf's one eye met Evan's for but a moment, and all at once the boy felt a strange sense of calm fall over him. The pain became distant and unimportant. He felt something moving beneath the skin of his arm...slithering into place as it were. He supposed that he should have been disgusted by that, but it was so far away it might as well have not been there. The wolf's shining golden eye were the only thing that mattered right now. They dominated his every thought…

"Uh!"

The light winked out of existence from around the wolf, and consciousness returned to Evan. A heavy exhaustion fell over him, and he slumped forward, only to be caught by his captors. He recoiled, trying to push himself back up in expectation of the pain that was sure to follow…only for nothing to happen.

Huh? Turning towards his arm, he looked at it quizzically, blinking in surprise when he found it resting in his captor's gauntlet, back to normal and looking as though it had never been anything else. Didn't I get my arm broken?

"It is done," the wolf growled to Captain Dusk, moving away.

"Thank you," Captain Dusk replied, turning to his more humanoid companions. "Make sure he is secured. The Queen will not permit another escape."

The two warriors nodded in acknowledgement and once again lifted Evan off the ground, carrying him towards the horses.

"Wha…?"Evan swung his head around, broken out of his thoughts now. "No! Let me go! I don't want to go with you guys! Let me… Nnngh!" Evan threw himself against his captor's grasp, but his struggles were fruitless. He felt so weak from…whatever it was that the wolf did to him. He might as well have been a wet piece of tissue paper for all the good he did.

"One of you, gag him," Captain Dusk ordered coolly and two more of his warriors dismounted to obey. His eyes narrowed and he glanced towards the line of trees cautiously. We're on the borders of the kingdom. With the wind blowing at our backs, we won't get a warning from the wolves if someone happens to take notice of this and intervenes.

"Let me go!" howled Evan, kicking out again. The warriors were having none of it though, as one of them broke out a rope and quickly tied it around his wrists. The other pulled another one out and swung it around Evan's mouth. The young boy pulled back, baring his teeth angrily at him, twisting his wrists left and right wildly, but against the armored warriors, he was helpless against their superior strength. Before he knew it, he was being forced onto the saddle of one of the horses.

"Be careful with him," Captain Dusk snapped as Evan was being strapped into place. One of the warriors turned to reply, but Evan, taking advantage of the distraction, ripped his foot free of his grasp and slammed it fiercely into his helm. The warrior toppled to the ground in surprise as Evan leaned forward and took hold of the reins with his bound hands. The other soldiers were on him before he could even snap the reins, grabbing hold of the horse. The warrior that had already bound one of Evan's feet quickly took him by the back of his hands and crushed them brutally between his gauntlets, grinding the bones within against each other—not enough to damage anything, but harshly enough to get the point across. Further resistance would not be tolerated.

Evan screamed as he continued to resist anyway, trying desperately to pull his hands away from their tormenter, but the warrior held fast, keeping the pressure on and pulling the boy's hands back. The warriors swarmed about him, securing and tying him down until, finally, he couldn't move. The warrior's stepped back as Captain Dusk surveyed their handiwork.

"Mount up," he nodded after a moment's inspection. "The Queen is expecting us."

It was just then that the wind blew in the opposite direction now, in their faces, and the wolves suddenly began to snarl and bark angrily.

"Ware!" Dusk howled, his free hand going straight for the blade buckled at his side. "Draw your swords, maggots! We have an interloper!" His blue eyes swung up towards the edge of the forest that had worried him for a fraction of a second before moving to track the wolves as they now raced across the field, yipping and yapping with heated excitement upon finding prey. A shadow with bat-like ears rose up from the grass, and Dusk's eyes furrowed in momentary confusion.

A goblin?

Suddenly there was a flash of light as the creature threw something down where he stood. There was a loud bang and black smoke rose into the air. The wolves disappeared into it a second later, and there followed a flash of light, quickly accompanied by howls…only instead of howls of triumph they were ones of pain.

For as long as he could remember, from even before he became the Alpha of his pack, Moon-eye prided himself on his speed and ferocity in battle. First into a hunt and the last to leave. It had cost him an eye, and his first name—Two-sun—but it cemented his reputation and as a result, after he became the new Alpha, few dared to challenge him. He aged during his leadership, and became wiser, but the urge to get into a hunt first—to be the first before any others, beat hotly within his breast, particularly when his blood got boiling.

The scent of prey that had slipped by him and his fellow hunt-brothers set his battle-fever to blazing hot, and he tore towards the intruder before any of the pack could start forward. His golden eye zeroed in on the goblin as it rose up from the tall grass. There was something in its hand, but that was inconsequential. Whatever it was, weapon or something else entirely, it would be dead before it even had a chance to use it. Nothing that Moon-eye spied lived under his fangs without his say-so. This would be no different.

Then, suddenly, there was a flash and a loud bang, a quick crack of thunder, and black smoke suddenly flooded his vision and invaded his nostrils. Moon-eye snorted as he inhaled the smoke and his eyes bulged in surprise, only to start burning and stinging. With a loud howl, he threw himself forward, trying desperately to ignore the pain. Killing the intruder came first. Making the hunt came first. All other concerns were secondary. That was his oath to the kingdom, and his hunt brethren. Nothing else mattered.

His claws found ground, surprising the Dire Wolf. Before he could begin to reorient himself and take stock of the situation, there was another loud bang and white light slashed across his vision. His back struck the ground and pain erupted inside his skull. Howls—his brothers—clamored upon the air in surprise and pain. They scored his ears painfully and he rolled back onto his feet…only to collapse as his balance unexpectedly failed him. His mind swam as he struggled to get back to his feet.

What is going on?

Hadeus Knights.

Recognition echoed quietly in Lock's mind as he took in the situation. He wasn't surprised by their presence, not this close to the border, but their interest in capturing a human child, his back to him and mostly hidden by the knights as they fought to keep him still, caught his curiosity. Scowling, he picked at his fangs, and glanced at the Dire Wolves that guarded the knights.

The kid's dressed pretty weird, he mused, his ears twitching as he listened to the commotion the child was making. But that ain't surprising. We're always getting immigrants like him. He must be one of those lost ones. I don't remember seeing him on the road when camp was broken.

He ran a hand over his green chin contemplatively. The wind was blowing against his face, meaning that he wasn't likely to be detected by the Dire Wolves…unless it changed course, at which point things would quickly go south for the winter. He was going to have to make a decision quickly here.

That kid's in for a bad time. Raising his slingshot he took aim at Evan. The boy's head fell between the Y of his weapon perfectly, and for an instant, he turned in Lock's direction. The goblin froze as his dark eyes caught a glimpse of his face. Jack! his mind shouted in utter shock. He recoiled mentally at the name. That' can't be! Jack's… Lock clenched his eyes shut and shook his head fiercely to clear it. Reopening his eyes he looked again, but the boy's head was turned around once more. Lock swore beneath his breath.

Can't be him. He's just a brat, and Jack was anything but when I last saw him. This is like his midget version. Besides, all humans look alike. So what if this kid looks like mine a little bit more than most. He gritted his teeth in certainty, but the elastic band's trembling told a completely different story. He was badly took a deep breath and steadied his aim.

In and out. In and out. Just fire the damn shot and take off. Best to put him out of his misery before those Hadeus freaks take him back to their castle. Sure, the knights'll be mad, but I've gotten out of worse. I've…

The boy's head swung around again, angry-looking and defiant even through the tears that Lock's excellent goblin vision saw in spite of the distance. Just a mere boy, yes. He was nothing like Jack, whom he had lost long ago. The shape of his head was too round…too young. But the look in his dark eyes, the look of his face… There were ghosts of his friend in there, he was sure of it.

Lock became all too aware of the tension on the band and, regretfully, relaxed his draw. All sorts of emotions were swimming around inside his head, and he felt his skin prickling with sweat. After another moment of thought, he reached back into his pouch and dug around in it until he withdrew to items for it. Checking on the direction of the wind and the position of the sun—setting to his back—he began to creep out of the safety of the forest.

The grass is pretty tall, he thought, crouching down. So long as I'm careful, and the wind don't change the wolves won't even know I'm here.

There was a pause in his mind, and he resisted the urge to spit in disgust at himself.

I am so going to die because of this…

He may not have made it a habit to listen to his barrow mother, but if there was one thing she drilled into him, it was to never ignore the yearnings of his heart.

He crept along as quickly and quietly as possible, all the while listening to the knights as they struggled with their captive. There was a loud thump at one point, followed by an increase in activity, but Lock didn't dare lift his head above the grass line for fear that the wolves would spot him. Goblins were good at being unseen, but as always, in a wide, open area, there were limits to what a monster could do.

Closer. Closer. The black grass swayed in the wind, still in Lock's direction, the gods apparently desiring to aid the goblin in his quest…or toy with him. It was difficult to tell for certain. If broached on the subject, Lock would maintain a cautious attitude towards the deities of his world. They may aid from time to time, but they were a fickle pantheon, and were liable to turn on their worshippers if it suited their amusement.

Just make sure you jump when they collapse the ground beneath you, Lock thought, remembering some advice that the shaman of his tribe told him once upon a lifetime ago. For that matter, jump when they make the sky come crashing on top of you. In fact, just be ready to jump.

The advice had served him well throughout his life, but it was always a gamble, with life itself the prize.

He paused now. The voices were close by. Very close.

How close am I? His ears twitched as he calculated the distance. He had minutes, perhaps even seconds to spare to act. Sounds like they're getting ready to leave. His ears twitched again. All I need is a second over the grass, but if I get caught… Lock shuddered. He might be seen, but then again, he might not. But he knew one thing was certain. If he was seen, it was over for him. Unlike monsters and humans, the gods did not bluff when they played their games.

He heard some movement off to his left, and Lock froze and waited. A sneeze and an agitated whine.

Dire Wolf. Off to my left. The entire pack is probably over there. He shifted the grip on the items in he held. Time to make my wager. Raising his right hand he whispered an incantation into it and slowly, carefully, he began to rise, peeking over the ashen blades of grass. He saw the Hadeus Knights where they stood. He did a quick head count.

Six knights. Six horses. This might be easier than I thought. He allowed a small, confident grin to cross his face. And the wolves…

The wind stilled just then, a fraction of a second before it shifted direction.

Lock's eyes widened.

Looks like the gods are laying down their hand…

He rose up suddenly as a wolf howl split across the air. Spinning, he saw the Dire pack racing towards him, a one-eyed beast leading the attack, fangs gleaming in the red light. Chopping his arm down, Lock hurled a thin, dark tube to the ground and jumped backward. The tube exploded with a loud bang, belching a thick black cloud into the air. He wasn't done yet though, as he tossed another one in front of him, just as the smoke billowed outward in the shape of a wolf. There was a flash of light and a yelp of surprise.

One card turned over, Lock nodded to himself, his grin returning, and this time widening. Next!

Lock turned and rushed forward, his feet making no noise as he sped through the tall grass. He burst free from the smoke cloud, already taking aim with his slingshot, pulling back on its elastic band and releasing a shining sphere from its cup. It blitzed through the air and smashed into its target, one of the knights, full in the face as he was turning. Blood sprayed out through the gap of his helm and he toppled backward, striking the horse's flanks. The horse, already badly startled by the explosions, made a loud, panicked whinny and attempted to dash forward. The knight that held onto its straps though pulled taught and dug in, trying to keep it from bolting.

So far so good…

Lock loosed another metal sphere. It flew straight and true, smashing into another knight, this time into his armored helm. The helmet bent inwards from the impact, and the knight crumpled to the ground. With lightning speed, another ball found itself in the cup of the slingshot and charged towards the knight holding onto the horse's reins. Picking up his pace, Lock leapt onto the unmoving body of a fallen knight and landing on the saddle, strap already loaded and drawn. His dark eyes stabbed into the face of the knight as he stood there, stupefied at what was going on and still caught in trying to control the horse before a metal ball was unloaded into his face. There was a loud, wet, glurch sound that made Lock think of throwing up.

That did it. The chaos was too much for the horse, and it bolted forward with a loud cry, nearly tossing Lock to the ground with its horsequake beneath his feet. The goblin grabbed hold of Evan, the only source of stability around—the knights had tied him down well—and quickly started grabbing around for the reins. The straps bounced and danced against the horse's neck as it pounded across the field, dodging his finger's. Lock swore under his breath, missing another grab as his feet rose up into the air from the constant up and down motion. Coming back down, he slipped on the saddle and nearly fell off, being only saved from a trampling by his hold on the human. Grunting with effort, he pulled himself back up and swung himself into a sitting position. Finally, stabilized, he took hold of the reins.

"Hya!" he shouted, slapping them up and down in imitation of a human's technique. Lock had no idea how to ride a horse. He was more used to pony's, but horses were far too large for him, and he had no idea how to properly ride one. Either way, getting away in the fastest manner possible was important. If he was doing anything wrong… Like my barrow mother used to say, "learn by doing".

"After them!" shouted Captain Dusk to the wolves as the smoke started to thin out. The pack whined and sniffed, black snot flying from their nostrils and a disturbing, dark liquid falling from their jowls. Moon-eye pushed himself up, his solitary eye rolling in its socket, only to collapse back to the ground. His tongue sagged to one side as his sides heaved. With a powerful, painful hack, an oily substance exploded from his mouth, disappearing into the black grass beneath him. Captain Dusk cursed under his breath and turned towards the fleeing horse. Half the troops assigned to him…entrusted to him for this mission were dead, and the wolves…

Anger flashed behind his blue eyes and he raised his sword high above his head. Giving an animalistic howl of rage, he kicked his heels into his mount's sides and charged after the escaping Goblin. The remainder of his troops, two now, broke out of their chaotic confusion, quickly rushed to their horses to pursue.

Evan jerked around, or tried to, as all of a sudden the horse he was on suddenly jolted from something striking it from behind.

"Mmmph!" he muffled, struggling against his binds. Something's going on…

As though to prove him right, another knight crumpled right next to him, his helmet bending inward as something struck it hard. Evan's eyes went wide as the horse's struggling increased despite the best efforts of the remaining knight holding onto its reins.

Then…something small and green colored landed in the saddle in front of him. There followed a loud, meaty sound of something being struck. Evan's view was wrenched up towards the sky as the horse, no longer being held, took off like a bolt of lightning. His stomach heaved as he bounced up and down, trying to regain some sense of control so that he could at least get an idea as to what was going on. A flicker of green passed across his vision and he seized on it like a drowning man lost at sea. The green took shape, becoming first pointed, and then it ran into a small, knobby, spherical object attached to what looked roughly to be a human body.

A human body that had green arms and legs, the latter of which ended in a pair of two, clawed toes.

His rescuer's face turned around suddenly, black-eyed and baring vicious, sharp-looking fangs. Evan's mouth went dry as, for a moment, he forgot how to breathe.

Not for the first time did Lock curse the short stature of his goblin race. Bouncing in the saddle, he did his best to control the beast that he and the human rode, but it was not going very well. He kicked uselessly for the stirrups again, having seen many of his kind use them on their more conveniently smaller cousins, and swore at himself for the habit.

Horse! Horse damn it! It's not a pony! He growled loudly, and the horse whinnied fearfully in response. Its back bucked slightly, nearly upsetting his balance once again.

Goblins and horses never did get along…

"Come on… Come on…" Lock threw a look over his shoulder, having to raise himself up and bend a bit to look around the human to see the oncoming charge of Hadeus Knights. They were gaining quickly in spite of his mount's rapid pace.

Can't take a chance at shooting at them, not with this ride, he thought as another bump lifted him uncomfortably far off the saddle. I think I still have another Black Bang in my pouch. Adjusting the reigns in his hands, he twisted around and popped open the bag at his waist…

"Oof!" Once again, Lock was jerked up into the air, only this time the impact nearly dislodged him completely from his seat. His heart leapt into his throat as he slid down to the side, one hand grabbing wildly for the pommel of the saddle, leaving him dangling precariously over speeding ground and hooves. His pouch sagged around his waist and, as if to add insult to injury, began to vomit its contents onto the ground. "Ah…spark!" His eyes widened in enraged horror as small metal bearings and the tubular Black Bangs he had used on the Dire Wolves earlier fell out in one mad rush. One of the bearings flashed as it bounced off a rock hidden in the grass and disappeared.

With a cry of rage, Lock swung himself back up into his seat and immediately began to double check his pouch.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit! I don't believe this! Of all the… Lock ground his fangs together. This was, without a doubt, completely unfair. He…

Another jolt, and this time he was nearly upended into the horse's neck. Catching himself just in time, he settled down and dug his fingers into his pouch. There's got to be something left in here. Anything! He chanced a look over his shoulder again. Half-hidden behind the boy he was attempting to rescue, he saw the lead Hadeus Knight storming towards him, his face twisted into a stone fixture of fiery rage, sword gleaming in the crimson sunlight. At the sight, Lock's heart tried to punch its way out of his ribcage and in his panic he nearly missed the remaining Black Bang that he had in his pouch.

"By the sovereign order of the Witch Queen," shouted the Hadeus Knight, Captain Dusk, as he drew ever closer to them, "I order you to stop!"

Lock snorted disdainfully as he pulled out his Black Bang, a triumphant grin crossing his features.

"Order this," he said simply before mouthing something under his breath to the Black Bang and lobbing it at Captain Dusk. The captain's eyes went wide, his mouth transformed into one, tiny 'O' as the Black Bang sailed through the air, over the horse's head and bouncing onto his saddle. The goblin's aim, his timing, were true, and the tubular explosive detonated with a bright flash. A thick, acrid, black smoke swirled out, surrounding the captain. The noise frightened Lock's mount even more and it began to pick up its pace. Lock held on tightly, watching the scene behind him unfold as the Hadeus captain fell out of the smoke, coughing and hacking before his horse plowed into the ground. His remaining two knights, moving too fast to slow down or change course, disappeared into the black smoke. Screams erupted from the smoke and Lock turned around, a wicked grin of confidence growing and growing.

They're not getting up from that, Lock thought, starting to relax. From here on out, we're in the clear. The boss is going to be happy to hear about this.

Another jolt from the horse once more almost sent him toppling to the ground. Throwing himself against the horse's neck, Lock hugged tightly for dear life. The gesture caused the horse to increase its pace, but for the moment it showed no sign of trying to kick him off. Lock, for his part, merely thanked the gods for that luck and continued to hold on as tight as he dared.

"Mmnn!"

Carefully, Lock looked over his shoulder again at the sound of the noise. The human child he had rescued was struggling, trying to scream through his mouth gag. Lock winced, but was not surprised by this reaction.

Poor little blighter, he thought, feeling pity for him. The human's face was becoming red and Lock tilted his head to the side, a bit fascinated by this. He shook himself mentally. Reminding himself of the situation, he put a many-fanged smile on his face, doing his best to look comforting.

"Easy there, kid. We got away from them, but we still need to reach the border, so we may still be in danger until then. When we get there, I'll let you free. So quit your worrying."

The human simply stared at him with wide, dark eyes that looked to be absolutely swimming with terror. Lock's smile slipped, becoming uncertain, and he turned away.

Still got to get to the border…

...

A/N: This story came to me around Halloween, a bit late to make a holiday project of it, but I decided to work with it and see where it goes, as I managed to draw up a whole world and about half the plot. This chapter took a while for me to work out, as I don't enjoy writing battle scenes all that much as opposed to character interaction and development, but it got the ball rolling. I made a minor edit since this story's publishing concerning Lock the goblin's riding of a horse. Originally he had never ridden a pony before, but given how 'well' he rode the horse in this chapter and in part of the next, I decided that it would make more sense for him to have at least some riding experience. I'll most likely be making some more modifications in chapter two as well. Until next time.

-Crazyeight

A/N: Edit two. I've replaced the name of Roland with Jack.

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