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Saturday, May 28, 2011

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May 2011 - Hey Strange Landers, check out The Warlock trailer and enter to win a trip to
San Francisco for you and a guest! For more info, click HERE.

Readers are raving about The Warlock!

"It is my birthday present to me...I can't wait to start reading" - Kristina

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The Warlock
by Michael Scott

From Michael Scott comes the fifth installment in the bestselling series, The Secrets of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel.

The twins of prophesy have been divided, and the end is finally beginning. With Scatty, Joan of Arc, Saint Germain, Palamedes, and Shakespeare all in Danu Talis, Sophie is on her own with the ever-weakening Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel. Can she find a mortal to teach her Earth Magic?

Visit the author's official website: DillonScott.com.

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Welcome To Bordertown
Edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner

Holly Black and Ellen Kushner reboot Terri Windling?s groundbreaking Bordertown series.

Bordertown: a city on the border between our human world and the elfin realm. Runaway teens come from both sides of the border to find adventure, to find themselves. In this volume of all-new work, original writers are joined by the generation that grew up dreaming of Bordertown, including acclaimed authors Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Catherynne M. Valente, and many more.

Watch the trailer.

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Blood Magic
by Tessa Gratton

Everywhere Silla Kennicott turns she sees blood. She can't stop thinking about her parents' alleged murder-suicide. She is consumed by a book filled with spells that arrives mysteriously in the mail?spells that share one common ingredient: blood. And then there's Nick?the new guy at school who has a few secrets of his own and is all too familiar with the lure of blood magic. But someone else in Silla?s small Missouri town knows her secret and will do anything to take the book and magic from Silla.

Learn more about Blood Magic.

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Kiss of Death
by Lauren Henderson

Someone's out to get Scarlett.

Scarlett thought Dan McAndrew's murder was long behind her, but cold treatment from Dan?s surviving twin, Callum, leaves Scarlett wondering what's changed, and a series of attacks makes her believe that someone's out to get her for her past mistakes. Would Callum ever hurt her? And what's Scarlett to make of her conflicting feelings for Callum? Even more upsetting, why is her most trusted confidante, Taylor, acting distant and dismissive?

Visit the Kisses and Lies Website.

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Welcome to Bordertown

Calling All Future Bordertown Writers!

From now until June
24th, submit your song, poem or short story answering the question
"What Draws You to Bordertown?" on
RandomBuzzers.com.

The Grand Prize winner will receive personal edits from an editor of WELCOME TO BORDERTOWN!

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sneak Peek of INHERITANCE!

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Kvetha Fricäya!
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Greetings, Friends!

I'm excited to share this sneak peek of INHERITANCE! Stay tuned for more updates.

The sound was stabbing, slicing, shivering, like metal scraping against stone. Eragon's teeth vibrated in sympathy, and he covered his ears with his hands, grimacing as he twisted around, trying to locate the source of the noise. Saphira tossed her head, and even through the din, he heard her whine in distress.

Eragon swept his gaze over the courtyard twice before he noticed a faint puff of dust rising up the wall of the keep from a foot-wide crack that had appeared beneath the blackened, partially destroyed window where Blödhgarm had killed the magician. As the squeal increased in intensity, Eragon risked lifting a hand off one ear to point at the crack.

“Look!” he shouted to Arya, who nodded in acknowledgment. He replaced his hand over his ear.

Without warning or preamble, the sound stopped.

Eragon waited for a moment, then slowly lowered his hands, for once wishing that his hearing was not quite so sensitive.

Just as he did, the crack jerked open wider—spreading until it was several feet across—and raced down the wall of the keep. Like a bolt of lightning, the crack struck and shattered the keystone above the door to the building, showering the floor below with pebble-sized rocks. The whole castle groaned, and from the damaged window to the broken keystone, the front of the keep began to lean outward.

“Run!” Eragon shouted at the Varden, though the men were already scattering to either side of the courtyard, desperate to get out from under the precarious wall. Eragon took a single step forward, every muscle in his body tense as he searched for a glimpse of Roran somewhere in the throng of warriors.

At last Eragon spotted him, trapped behind the last group of men by the doorway, bellowing madly at them, his words lost in the commotion. Then the wall shifted and dropped several inches, leaning even farther away from the rest of the building, pelting Roran with rocks, knocking him off balance and forcing him to stumble backward under the overhang of the doorway.

As Roran straightened from a crouch, his eyes met Eragon's, and in his gaze, Eragon saw a flash of fear and helplessness, quickly followed by resignation, as if Roran knew that, no matter how fast he ran, he could not possibly reach safety in time.

A wry smile touched Roran's lips.

And the wall fell.

Text © 2011 by Christopher Paolini.

Visit the official fan site for the Inheritance cycle: Shurtugal.com

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Upcoming Christopher Paolini Event!

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Kvetha Fricäya!
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Greetings, Friends!

I'm really excited to be putting the final touches on the Inheritance manuscript. I've put a tremendous amount of work into this project, and I'm thrilled to see all the pieces settling into place. Many surprises await within, and I'm looking forward to hearing what you think when you read the book this November.

Next week, BookExpo America (BEA) is happening in New York City. I'm taking a few days to fly out and meet those of you who can attend. On Wednesday, May 25th at 5:00 p.m., I'll be appearing at the Apple store in Soho, where I'll be reading a never-before-released section of Inheritance!

I hope to see many of you in New York this month or during my book tour this fall. Alagaesia.com and Shurtugal.com will post my schedule when it's available.

May your swords stay sharp!

Christopher Paolini

Address for the Apple Store event:
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New York, New York

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

3.3.17.4. Hail'varan - Part 3


To depict an Archangel, we chose "Archangel Michael" artwork
Source: sinclairnegretes.blogspot.com

The supernatural bird from the world of spirits apparates, knows its target at once and attacks straight at the devil, continuing their delayed clash. The two wrestle in the air, mustering all their strength in a fierce close combat.

Meanwhile, a double surprise takes place. The Allied Forces Cavalry launches a surprise attack on the Dark Forces’ rear infantry consisting of mostly Sylvanian human soldiers back in the woods. Alas, just when the Alliance is winning, another surprise attack comes from the Gremion Warg (Dire Wolf) Riders. Despite the surprise, the cavalry still put up a splendid fight. Even Galvanir and his fellow elves are like dancing with their horses, moving gracefully as if there’s no gravity.

As time flies, the term ‘size does matter’ finally takes into effect. No matter how skillful, how agile, how superiorly intelligent the Allied Forces are than the opponents, the Dark Forces still have the advantage on more important traits in battle: strength and quantity. With odds of three-to-one, the Allied Forces are soon surrounded with nowhere to escape. Carolyn knows it: This might be her last stand, but they must remain here until reinforcements arrive. She keeps on maintaining contact with her Guardian Spirit while Ney acts as her bodyguard, drowning a group of undead with her famous Tidal Blast spell.

Carol looks desperate now. Here and there, she sees her fellow soldiers kill lots of enemies, then come lots more and kill the soldiers. Some of them scream Vadis’ or Enia’s name with their last breath. Some of them even stare at the young Commander with their deathly, bloody faces and pleading eyes, as though saying, ‘I hope you’re right, Paladin. You said help will come. You said Hail’varan will be our turning point. Now, we’ve given up our lives. Please, don’t let us die in vain.’

This puts Carolyn in the stress of her life. She dragged the army to stand in this place instead of going farther to Myrcalia. If reinforcements don’t come, all her promises will be a lie, and she’ll die carrying all the weight of guilt and souls of the entire army, being a laughing stock in hell. She gets more desperate when she sees Aegis can’t finish Arachus off with its summoning time running to an end. Moreover, Ney is now fighting hand-to-hand with two orcs and two goblins and gets hurt in the process.

Suddenly, another goblin comes from the other side with his javelin thrusting straight towards Carol’s throat. The sorceress parries and runs her trident into her attacker’s torso. Just then a skeleton warrior and two werewolves attack her! She kicks the dead goblin to take her trident off, evades a werewolf’s claw and chops the skeleton’s head off.

More enemies come to her and Carol is now overwhelmed. Just then, in the midst of fight she hears footsteps marching from the west. The ground is shaking, the gallops rumbles, befitting a great army. And then, the rumbles come into a halt.

Carol finishes her attackers off and takes a good look to the west. There are armies wearing red, green and blue uniforms, waving red, green and blue banners. Their cavalry is in front.

Overly excited, Carol shouts to her troops, ‘Look, my friends! Help has arrived at last!’

The next moment, the incoming army shouts, banging weapons and wave banners. The dark forces are shocked, and the Alliance is energized. A man comes forward wearing shiny, full plate armor, riding a blazing red griffin. Seeing through his open visor, we know at once that he’s the Heir of Vadis, Cristophe Deveraux, Emperor Sage the Fifth of Arcadia. He raises the Sword of Justice high, pulling the reins so Acavela the griffin stands on two hind feet and charges forward!

Full of energy, still shouting, the cavalry gallops behind him. Carol moves aside, taking advantage from the undead’s surprise, finds a safer place and takes a better look at the reinforcements, looking for someone.

The Paladins have arrived! Here they are: Kyflynn, Agustina, Desmond, Adler, Hernan, Eidos, Dejan, Chris and... Thank goodness! Rob is here too! Thank you, Vadis! Thank you, Enia! Thank you... Chiel, wherever you are now...

Five minutes later, Carol sees Robert coming for her, finishing off the zombies she is fighing, and her joy is complete. Overcame with fatigue, Carol staggers and falls. Robert catches her on his lap, saying, ‘Carol! Are you okay?’

The pink-haired sorceress forces a smile and says, ‘I’m a-okay, thanks to this pendant I have. I’m just glad you came. Thank you.’

‘And thank you for holding on until we arrived. You are the true hero in this battle.’

‘Ha-ha, just when I was about to become the culprit who wasted a whole army with a wrong strategy.’ The sorceress gets up from Rob’s lap, readies her trident and points to the front with her chin. ‘Well, we can save the chit-chats for later, now we have plenty of enemies to kill.’

Seeing Carolyn full of fighting spirit and her cute, energetic face, Rob curls up his rare smile.

==oOo==

Meanwhile, Aegis’ summoning time is up and it dissolves before it can finish the opponent off. The opponent, Arachus floats straight with a pose mocking his opponent’s inferiority as a spirit.

Now where’s that little sorceress... The Archdevil looks everywhere and finds the tides of battle changing. Reinforcements from Arcadia, Lore and Escudia, about eighty thousand men strong charge on the Dark Forces like a storm. Plus the Paladins, who are said to be as strong as a thousand men each, now Arachus’ army is in major disadvantage.

Here and there the Dark gets beaten. Here and there they fell.

Arachus knows it at once: all his plans are foiled and he’s going to pay the price. And now the Heir of Vadis is right in front of him now, challenging him to a duel.

‘I didn’t expect to see you here now,’ says the devil. ‘Shouldn’t you be somewhere else, fighting to avenge your brother?’

‘The fighting and the grudge have been settled, and I still have enough time to get here and ruin all your plans,’ Chris answers. ‘This time I’m bringing along an old friend who wants to settle an old score with you. An Avariel Aschi!’

Lifting his sword, Chris summons Avariel. The six-winged Archangel now apparates. He looks a bit wounded and war-torn, but otherwise still strong enough to fight. At the sight of his sworn enemy, Avariel points his sword Aschinova and says, ‘Arachus.’

Wasting no word upon their extreme differences, the Archdevil shouts, ‘Avarieelll!’ and attacks with his scythe, the Crow! The Archangel also takes off, and both weapons clash! The impact of the extreme light and dark energy pushes both duelists a few meters away from each other, showing that they are equally matched. Avariel fights and sings his sword’s name at the same time, making a song of it. The Aurelian Common Language translation of this song is as follows:

Aschinova, Aschinova

Brighter than the North Star,

Bringing light that the dark fear

Aschinova, Aschinova

Together, gracefully we dance

Like sweethearts deep in romance

Aschinova, Aschinova

So divine, pure like Aurora

Banishing evil like Supernova

And so on. The two supernatural creatures clash again, continuing their fight which, as legends stated, has been going on for centuries, even before the time of Fireheart.

Seeing that, Chris just doesn’t feel right to interrupt that fight. He just sends a flare signal upwards. Just then comes a new wave of reinforcements: the Arcadian Griffin Riders.

‘Come, my comrades!’ Chris shouts. ‘We’ll help the Aurora and the air units! Follow me!’

He flies to the east, and the griffin riders, about two hundred strong follow their leader.

==oOo==

The fresh troops, reinforcements for the Alliance really turn the tide of battle around. The Orc Khan Hagnorj sounds the retreat and the orcs and goblins withdraw, leaving their so-called allies, the undead behind.

The beastly monsters and the undead know no retreat, no fear. They just press on with their wild attacks, as fierce as ever before they are all slain to the last creature.

The Alliance cavalry charges into the woods. The swiftness and ferocity of their attack surprises the Sylvanian troops and wolf riders. Never did they expect to engage fresh troops, now they are winning against the weary ones. No matter how ready they are, no one can stop the Paladins in full numbers and strength.

Dashing with his faithful steed Paeldagrin, Robert is like a soul reaper, sweeping through lots of enemies with his shadowy move, Black Dragon Soulstealer. The quick-on-foot Kyflynn does some Backstabs, rivaling Robert in the number of kills. Dejan in wolf form kills several wolves which mistake him for their own kind, and Hernan goes straight, attacking the Rear Commander, the masked lich.

The lich unleashes her magic to meddle with Hernan’s brain, but the Escudian fencer comes prepared. He closes his eyes, shielding himself from hypnotism with thick water aura around his head and lets his well-honed instinct guide his seasoned limbs. His mind pinpoints his target’s position with aura detection, and moves in hyper-speed with his sword – a combination of slashes and thrusts circling all directions so the target can’t escape: Maelstrom Serenade.

Desperate, the lich moves back to evade the attack, but the rain of swords still comes. She parries some of the blows with the Viper Cane and absorbs some more with her body, taking damage. A blow goes straight to her face. She ducks to evade it and the blow goes right above her face. The lich moves farther back and suddenly, her mask splits in two pieces and falls off her face. She realizes it at once and, covering her face, she turns away and flees, shouting curses with her snake-ish voice.

‘Damn you, Paladins, I’ll get you for thissss!!!’

The Paladins pursue her, and just as Kyflynn is about to catch up with the lich, suddenly something swoops down from the sky, breaking trees on its path. It’s the black dragon, Omegron! The lich leaps onto the dragon’s head, and both lich and dragon fly away until they’re out of sight.

With all their leaders fleeing, the wolf riders, orcs and Sylvanians are driven into a hasty retreat. The Paladins keep on pursuing the enemies all the way into the woods. They do a thorough sweeping in the area, exterminating any enemy they meet and the enemies who surrender are taken prisoner – humans, orcs and goblins alike. The Light Side claims a decisive victory on the ground battle.


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3.3.17.4. Hail'varan - Part 2

Two Medieval Armies Clashing


Two hours later, Carolyn and her troops are still battling the enemies while withdrawing. Their hit-and-run tactic keeps the casualties to a minimum, but trouble comes from another way, hindering their advance. A band of cyclopes, about seventy-six strong is rampaging, attacking anyone who trespasses their territory: men, orcs, monsters and undead alike no matter which side they’re on. This three-way battle really slows them all down. With their clubs, the one-eyed giants whack everything in their path.
Carolyn just burned a ghoul when suddenly a cyclops comes rushing towards her, swinging his heavy club sideways. The sorceress doesn’t have time to cast another spell, so she pokes the cyclops’ belly with her magic trident Esthagar. But, no blood comes out from it. Like trolls, cyclopes’ skin is tougher than leather armor and is almost as good as iron in repelling sharp weapons. Of course Carol knows that, so she channels electricity through her trident, jolting the cyclops. Still, the giant lifts his two hundred pound giant club to finish Carol off, and suddenly blood comes like tears, flooding from his eye. And the big bloke just tumbles down, with the club falls, crushing into his own head, ensuring his demise.
Carolyn doesn’t look too surprised to see that with so many comrades to protect her. However, when she looks closer at the arrow on the cyclops’ eye, she looks thrilled as it is an elf-designed arrow from Thyrine, just like some of Iris’.
‘Long time no see, Carolyn,’ says a manly voice behind her. She looks back and finds an elf familiar to her: Long, purple hair, with his sapphire eyes that makes him look radiant.
‘Galvanir?’
Galvanir answers, ‘Ah, you still recognize your uncle. That’s good. Anyway, I’m here with help.’
‘Help? An army from Thyrine?’
‘Yes, about five thousand archers and twelve thousand foot soldiers and cavalry led by Ney’varíth and me.’
Carol is not too happy to hear that, and responds, ‘What took you so long to come to us? What kept you? The Thyrinian High Council?’
‘No,’ Galvanir answers, ‘the Dark Forces laid siege on Evanesta. We fought for three days and three nights before we found out that the Dark only sent a small force, a diversion to keep us from coming to Freidle. We fought back and defeated them, thus sending one-thirds of our entire army here.’
‘Oh, I see. Thank Vadis and Enia that Grandma sent help at last. Now, where is Ney?’
‘I’m here, Carol,’ says the elf in question. ‘Sorry we came late. So, what’s the master plan now?’
‘We are trying to reach Hail’varan Plains, and hopefully meet up with reinforcements so we can regroup and strike the enemy back. Think you can help us to get there?’
‘Sure we can,’ says Ney. ‘But the success depends on your troops’ cooperation. They must do whatever we tell them to.’
‘That can be arranged. By the way, are you two in love with each other? You seem so... close,’ says Carol.
Galvanir says, ‘We’ll tell you the whole thing after this battle is over.’
==oOo==
With help from the elves, Carolyn’s contingent finally breaks free from the enemy and moves with extra speed to Hail’varan. The group moves on all night, and the next day, when the sun rises...
‘Look, Carol! An open plains!’ says Galvanir, pointing at a streak of bright light in a distance.
Carol responds, ‘We made it at last. Hail’varan Plains! This is where we’ll make our stand. Hopefully, this won’t be our last stand because our allies will come.’
And then she turns to the troops and shouts, ‘Hail’varan is ahead! Hurry! Let’s go and meet our helpers!’
The entire army moves in full speed. Even the fatigued Borgians make a run for it with eyes gleaming with hope. The dwarves, however, keep looking back, hoping that their beardless Commander is here to join them.
Carol reaches the plains and her face turns pale. Help is not coming – again. Oh, darn! What’s keeping them so long? Or maybe none of them received my message? Or they just ignored it on grounds of doubting my integrity? No way! They can’t do that to a fellow Paladin!
No, I can’t let this happen. I’ll send more runners to them, until they get the message right. In the mean time, we will make our stand here anyway. This undeveloped grassland, suitable for farmlands and villages has no significant natural barrier – only resources. Yet, it fills all the necessities for a battlefield. There is not enough wood to build parapets and not enough time to dig trenches, yet we’ll stand. Yes. We’ll stand.
Carolyn, Ney’varíth and Galvanir then arrange the troops into formations: Infantry with shields in front, archers in rear, and the cavalry led by Galvanir move back into the woods and hide there. The dwarven bombers and the wizards stand between the infantry and archers in loose formations, considering their shorter shoot ranges and wider impact areas than archers.
All are prepared. Carol inspects the soldiers one more time, looking into their weary faces and worry in their eyes. They should’ve marched on to the battered city of Myrcalia, but they have reached their limits. With the enemy pursuing them, reinforcements are what they really need.
The twenty-eight thousand men and elves don’t want to die in vain against eighty thousand enemies, so Carolyn tries to raise their fighting spirit by saying,
‘As you can see, there has been a slight delay to our reinforcements. Still, we have the help from our Thyrinian friends, and this battle tactic we can win! This is our chance, my friends. This grassland will be our turning point, and we will strike the Dark Forces so hard they won’t dare to step into these grounds again – ever! No more running away! For honor, justice and everything we hold dear, let us fight – fight to the death!’
The crowd cheers back, ‘Death! Death! To Death!’
The troops look more spirited now, lifting their weapons up or banging them on their shields. Their faces are full of life, spirit and determination.
They seek to protect, and now come the ones who seek to destroy.
The ground is shaking like tremor. Carol hears footsteps and gallops, rumbling thunderously in irregular rhythm – the way savage armies march. Carol is too tensed to speak, even as the enemies come into view from the woods.
The undead, the orcs and various monsters run and come into a halt well outside arrow range. Yet, many monsters keep charging like savage beasts they are, and are soon showered to death by the Alliance Archers. The others stay in battle formations, using the monsters’ sacrifice to assess the situation.
Three distinguished figures stand in front of the Dark Army: The Orc Khan Hagnorj, the masked lich and the Commander, Arachus the Archdevil.
Seeing the opponents, Hagnorj laughs out loud.
‘Hahaha!! This pathetic army of little critters dares to intercept us here? Oh, well. Our troops can use a little sport. They hungered for blood, even after conquering Freidle.’
‘Just take it easy, Hagnorj,’ says Arachus. ‘Just save some for the undead and make sure their corpses are intact. Don’t make any more mistakes like that fool, Nöac did. He has won a city, right, but his incompetence has lost us half of our troops and no chance to breed new undead.’
Hagnorj replies, ‘In that case, we shall attack together in formation. I don’t feel like underestimating anybody now. Grrahr!’
‘So be it,’ Arachus shouts. ‘BATTLE FORMATIONS!’
The entire army soon gets into rows. Although they don’t look as neat, disciplined and impressive as the human-elf-dwarf army, their superior numbers is a different statement – a definite ultimatum.
None of the Light Side moves a muscle. None of them wants to make a wrong move that will ruin the entire strategy and cost them victory. The elf phalanxes stand ready with their high-broad shields, alongside the swordsmen and pikemen. It’s obvious that they are going for defensive stance. The enemy roars, taunts and war cries are nothing for them. Their expressions stay tense and unchanged, their morale intact.
So comes Arachus’ shout, ‘ALL TROOPS, ATTACK!’
The enemy charges, running with their weapons pointed and their eyes hunger for blood. Carolyn instructs the army, ‘Archers, bombers, mages! Ready and take aim but hold your fire! Fire on my mark only!’
The enemy marches quicker. The ground shakes and rumbles.
‘HOLD IT!’ shouts Carol.
The enemy infantry gets into range of fire.
‘HOLD IT!’
More and more come close, a swarm of terrors.
And when the Dark Forces’ archers come into range, Carol shouts,
‘FIRE!’
‘SHOOT ‘EM!’ Arachus also instructs his archers.
Soon, the sky goes dark. The sun is shaded with volleys of arrows from both directions, showering like rain. Bombs, spells, alchemy bolts, javelins and various kinds of projectiles take as many casualties as they can, exploding in several spots. Burning, freezing, piercing, electrocuting, cutting... all to protect and destroy.
The enemy foot soldiers are now in contact, and greeted with phalanx tackles. The armies clash and the battle commences! The foot soldiers’ skill versus the undead’s ferocity, the elves’ agility versus the orcs’ strength. All unleash the best of their skills, to kill or get killed.
The battle goes even and fierce until suddenly, Arachus the Archdevil plunges in to disrupt the balance. He shots a Dark Disintegration blast, wiping out a column of archers. Soon, a shower of arrows comes towards him. Arachus flies upwards to avoid it, rotating the Scythe of the Crow like a propeller do deflect the rest.
‘Humph, puny creatures, just like fireflies to fire. Now THIS is what I call a shot!’
Saying so, he clasps his two hands again and shots another blast to the archers. This time, another blast hits it midway: a Lightning Blast of lesser power, yet it neutralizes 70% of the hollow blast. The rest 30% disperses like a fountain, showering the ground, taking the minimum amount of casualties.
Arachus looks down, finds the caster, Carolyn Deveraux and shouts a mockery, ‘Oh, you again, little girl? A Paladin, alone? The Twelve couldn’t win against me last time, so you must be seeking death. Don’t be a fool, girl. Nothing, I say nothing in this world can possibly defeat me!’
Carolyn shouts back, ‘Nothing in this world? How about ‘out of this world’? An Aegis Aschi!’



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3.3.17.4. Hail'varan - Part 1


Freidle is lost.

The Dark has conquered the East and Central Aurelia.

Yet, not all hope is lost. More than sixty percent of the defending army survived, and is now pulling back to Arcadia with full speed. Sir Heinrich Ratzinger and the Borgians’ sacrifice are not in vain after all. Foot soldiers, cavalry, dwarves and gyropters all move as one, plus the Airship Aurora and the Borgian Dragon Riders.

‘The reinforcements didn’t come on time. The elves didn’t come at all, but thanks to you, fellow dwarves and dragon riders, we are saved,’ says Iris as she and the officers sit in the meeting cabin, discussing strategy.

‘That’s because we sent our army right away when Merida was conquered. A threat to Borgia is a threat to Grad as well,’ says Ivor the Beardless, Commander of the Grad Army.

‘I just feel sad about Sir Heinrich and our fallen comrades,’ says Carolyn. ‘I swear, as soon as we reach Hail’varan Plains, we will regroup and take back Freidle by storm. I have sent flyers, runners and my pet Chiel to inform them about our new rendezvous point.’

Iris responds, ‘But now we have to worry. The Enemy is tailing behind us and it’s just a matter of time before they close in…’

Suddenly there’s a knock on the door. A Borgian Knight opens it and a soldier comes in. He salutes and speaks, ‘Aurora far-seers reporting, the enemy is chasing a great, white dragon and both are closing in on us!’

‘Hazmat?’ says Dagmar, leader of the dragon riders. ‘He’s still fighting with Omegron! If he comes here, that means…’

‘Either he has won against Omegron or Omegron is chasing him also,’ says Carolyn. ‘So, what are we waiting for? Let’s go!’

==oOo==

A minute later, Carolyn and the officers arrive on the rear deck near the stern, and a sight turns their faces pale and tensed. Looks like Carolyn’s worst fear has come true.

There, in a distance comes Hazmat the White, closely followed by Omegron the Black and many, many flying dark creatures. Hazmat looks exhausted and injured, overwhelmed upon an unfair fight. Unfair? All is fair in love and war. So, it’s also fair that Hazmat chose to be wise and seek his friends for help.

So, without further ado, the dragon riders, the gyropters and the Aurora turn around to intercept the enemies. On the other hand, Carol gets off-board and leads the ground units to continue the run along the main road to Arcadia.

‘Follow me, quick!’ Carolyn gives out instructions as she speaks, ‘We’ll go through this road straight to Hail’varan Plains. That’s the best rendezvous point to launch a counterattack! Full speed ahead! Don’t let the enemy catch up with you!’

‘Lead the way, then,’ a Borgian Knight responds.

Carolyn looks back. Flickers of fire and dark blasts are like fireworks in the evening sky. Soon, the sounds of battle and flickers get farther and farther. She sighs and doesn’t look back again.

The army walks on during the night with a slower pace, due to fatigue and caution. The crescent moon hides away from sight, behind the cloudy night. As no enemy is chasing, they decide to stop and rest so they will be better prepared if the enemy catches up with them.

Despite being a half-elf, Carolyn is finally overcame by fatigue and sleeps by a tree near the road. She dreams about the man she loves who comes to her rescue – only to remind her again that his heart lies within another woman – Her life is saved but her heart is broken. An enemy horde comes and she turns to fight them alone. She fights with an orc when the orc abruptly says, ‘Lady Carolyn, wake up!’ Lo, it’s a human’s voice! Is this a human disguised as an orc? Before Carolyn can find an answer to that, her eyes go blurry and sees a different view. The orc vanishes, instead a whole lot of them are battling the troops in the woods.

Three orcs charge on Carol, thinking of her as an easy target. Before they realize their mistake, ‘Clustrvoltari!’ Carol’s Chain Lightning spell already electrocutes and burns them into crisp. More and more orcs come, and the undead also fights alongside them. Soon enough, more and more Sylvanians come and the battle intensifies.

An abominable fat zombie (or abomy) hammers his fist on Ivor who avoids it – barely. The dwarf swears a lot as he swings his hammer with all his might, leaps and drops it right onto the monster’s cranium, making a mashed potato out of the abomy’s brain.

‘Friends! Do hit-and-runs! Go to Hail’varan Plains to the west, follow me!’

Carol keeps on relaying that instruction to everyone she sees, to which the army complies. ‘Don’t let them call you cowards! Don’t listen to them! When we regroup, we’ll make them eat those words!’ The soldiers say, encouraging their comrades.

Hail’varan Plains is about two days’ walk from where Carol’s standing now, at this speed. She thinks of nothing else. She moves swiftly here and there, zaps a few enemies with Lightning Bolt, realizing full well that her comrades are protecting her, dying for her, more than her efforts to protect them.

Yet, the troop keep moving on. Screams of their fallen comrades don’t discourage them. The enemies keep on coming, wave after wave, yet they still stick to the plan. Hail’varan, Hail’varan, keep on ringing in their heads. The weapon blows are like music, and with the word, making a perfect harmony.

Hail’varan – the place of hope.


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