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Thatch flew up the spiral staircase, feet pounding against the aged wooden steps, his bow and quiver thumping against his back. His hand traced along the rough stone of the wall next to him, heart pounding as he raced. His mind went over the plan for the umpteenth time, the plan that would be the final blow against the corrupt House Feren. Even as he approached the tower’s tall top his companions would be marching against the House’s manor. All he had to do was reach the vantage point and provide arcanal support for the aether catapult and their reign on Tarrin would end.
His heart sang as he threw open the door, filled with eagerness. By this time tomorrow the town would be a better place for everyone. He stepped out, squinting at the sudden change of lighting and gazing at the-
Rice fields just outside of town.
Thatch stopped, dismay piercing through him. His breath came in sharp gasps as he stared disbelievingly at the out-stretching marshes before darting around the stairwell. In that direction, on the other side of Tarrin, the red brick Feren manor sat, the assaulting fighters tiny specks of blue and black, the catapult rolling slowly towards it. He could see the tower he was supposed to be on from here.
“Oh, heavens” he cursed, scouring the surrounding buildings. It’d be hard to get there in time, but not impossible. He crouched down, checking to make sure the straps of his bow and quiver were properly tightened. He took a deep breath before leaping toward the roof directly in front of him. Air rushed around him as the first of his two flukes activated. Everyone had at least one, a boon of unknown origin that granted them some sort of ability. His first was being able to jump great distances and heights.
Thatch landed in a roll on the roof, coming up in a dash and repeating the process again and again. With any amount of luck he’d get there before months of planning went up in some very violent smoke.
He cursed himself in his mind as he flew between the gaps and over streets, people milling about below him. How in the six heavens did he manage to slip up this badly? Chera would have his head when they saw him next. If. That was the most concerning part of this. If he didn’t get there in time… the entire group could be decimated.
He leapt again, screams from around him snapping him from his personal berating. He looked down, spotting a crowd of green-clad bowmen just as they loosed a volley aimed at him. An arrow nicked him in the cheek, pain flashing and blood starting to drip down his face. He rolled his landing again, pulling his bow from his back and ducking behind the railing. Another volley clattered against the stone of the building as he nocked an arrow, peeking over the rail and taking aim. He stilled his breath before firing. The moment he let go the arrowhead flashed with blue light, and the arrow streaked toward his target. The second of his flukes.
The green cloaked figure fell to his shot, their companions seeming shocked. The arrow would have been too fast for most people to track. Thatch grinned despite the tense situation, scrambling to his feet and jumping to the next roof. Another squad awaited him, to his shock, armed with swords and standing in front of his landing zone. He narrowed his eyes, thinking through the situation. It was too late to change his trajectory. He couldn’t roll away from them, since they blocked his way, and those swords didn’t look too friendly.
He prepared for landing, catching the stone outcropping with his free hand and landing feet first. The sudden stop hurt, but not as badly as it would most people. A side-effect of his fluke. He steadied himself as the swordsmen approached in a rush, waiting a scarce moment before jumping straight up. He easily cleared their heads and reach, pulling out arrows and favoring speed rather than accuracy as he loosed five toward the ones in the middle. Three went down to fatal shots that went clear through them, the two others taking wounds to the arm and leg. Thatch landed, placing a foot against the stone outcrop and pushing off at an angle just as the others swung their weapons at him. He launched through the gap he had created, the swordsmen shouting and clamoring as his arc ended at the edge of the roof. He didn’t spare a glance behind him, leaping as soon as he landed and clearing the gap between buildings.
This is bad, he thought, redoubling his already frantic efforts to make it to the battle in time and leaving the two groups far behind. Jump, land, roll, run. Jump, land, roll, run. There’s more men than we anticipated. The assault should have drawn them all away. And they shouldn’t have known that I would be here. Something is definitely wrong.
He could hear the sounds of the battle as the looming manor drew closer. The sounds of aether bolts firing, the clang of swords and the crying out of fighters as the inevitable casualties took place. The manor had a sizable hole through the wall that smoldered blue and black, meaning that the aether catapult had shot at least one charge. With any luck it hadn’t been destroyed. They didn’t pose much of a threat without it.
Thatch stumbled when he came out of his next roll, a missed step causing him to fall onto his back. He lay there for a moment, his breathing ragged. His cheek ached. He was exhausted. He’d used a lot of energy to fire those arrows and to make it this far. It would start to take a toll now.
He got to his feet despite it. He had to get there and help, or everyone he knew would be imprisoned or killed and nothing in this town would change. The feeling of resolve made everything a bit easier as he ran once again to the ledge of the roof and jumped to the next. He kept to low arcs this time. He couldn’t afford to run out of power just as he got to the battle.
A large twang, followed by a shriek. He paused for a moment, watching a ball of crackling energy streak through the sky toward the manor. It crashed into the lower floors with a great rumble, sparks flying. An aether blast from their catapult. He grinned. They weren’t beaten yet.
He approached the fray of battle, a few final roof jumps taking him to the area around the catapult. It had arrows embedded in it’s rough wood, and looked a bit worse for wear. Besides the manor doors, this was the place that was most contested.
Thatch unslung his bow, taking aim at the green-cloaked figures who were closest to the contraption. Repetitive shots felled them all, though the arrows were noticeably slower than before. The group of his allies who had been pursuing them paused, turning and looking up at him. They whooped and he saluted with a grin before turning his attention to another group.
He frowned, disturbed by what he saw. Many of them were running down the streets, abandoning skirmishes that they would have won. They couldn’t be retreating. There was no way they had defeated them yet.
He looked to the manor, with its two smoking holes, and despite that a pristineness that the rest of the town lacked. Its own troops were falling back from it, his forces surging forward.
Something felt deeply wrong about this.
The catapult fired again. People started to cheer. A wall came crashing down. His heartbeat thundered in his ears. And amidst all this sound he heard a steadily growing whine, a noise like a gigantic aether device charging up.
Thatch focused on the manor, tension gripping his chest like a vice. Cobalt light shined out from the holes in the red brick, growing brighter with every second that passed. The shrill cry pierced his ears. He’d seen devices like this, but never on this scale.
Sic heavens. It’s a bomb. A bomb large enough to blow up this entire area.
The triumphant cheers turned to screams as his allies and friends started to flee, the light growing blinding. Thatch scrambled to his feet, even though he knew it was pointless. There was no way he could get far enough in time. The noise stopped for a bare moment leaving nothing but deathly silence.
Thatch’s heart skipped a beat.
The sound returned, impossibly loud.
A final scream.