Lilah stirred from a restless sleep. Her back already ached from how she’d slept. Had that woken her? The hairs on the back of her neck
“Gremlocks! We’re under attack!” A crisp voice cut through the night air. Regis, one of the other hired caravan guards.
Damn. She knew the route through Kendak Pass had been a bad idea. She shoved Havel’s hairy arm off her chest and surged from her bedroll.
The cool mountain air sent chills through her naked body. She was in no condition to battle. She threw her green tunic over her shoulders
and shimmied into it before belting on her sword. The wagon train, strung out in a jagged line, snaked through the rough terrain of the
pass. Several fires had guttered out in the dead of night, and only a few torches and bonfires remained lit.
She kicked at the man still asleep in her bedroll—despite the screams and sounds of battle.
“What?” His lips smacked together. With blocky features and prominent brow, Havel wasn’t exactly the most handsome man she’d shared a
bedroll with, but she’d needed some kind of release on this excursion.
“Get up!” She kicked again. “Gremlock attack.”
The clash of steel already sounded from nearby. How the battle hadn’t yet reached them, she couldn’t guess.
While the bumbling wagon driver struggled to dress, Lilah slipped on her boots and raced off into the night. She had her sword, and she had
her two mage crystals: the blue one set into her sword hilt, and the amber one hanging from her wrist. They each only held a few magic
charges, but that would have to be enough. Thank you, Havel. She crashed through the nearest brush toward one of the glowing fires.
Another scream tore into the night. Gremlocks charged across the crag-filled expanse from the west, cutting down fleeing sentries. The night
sky was thick with clouds, and the moon was completely hidden from sight. The world was pitch black, minus the glow around the scattered
fires. Not enough to see by.
She knelt down, still hidden by the brush, and traced her finger against the dirt. Her heart raced in her chest, and her finger shook. She
struggled to concentrate on the rune. Damnit. She wiped the lines away and started again, willing her shaking finger to still. She’d never
been very good at this. Skilled mages could carve their runes in the air with ease. She struggled even on a flat surface. She held her
breath, stilling her pounding pulse, and completed the final line.
The fire rune flashed in the dirt. Magic poured from the amber crystal at her wrist, dimming its glow, and raw heat rushed through her.
Dripping flames arced from her fingers and into the rune. The magic raced off across the craggy terrain, carving a path across the dirt and
darkness toward the enemy. In that jagged line’s wake, hungry flames leapt into the cool mountain air.
Some gremlocks balked at the sudden inferno. Others stumbled and fell in their panic. Many still charged headlong into the wall of fire,
unable to halt their frenzied advance. They emerged from the other side screaming, engulfed in biting flames. The wall of fire continued to
cut across the darkness. It was a setback—a temporary barrier—nothing more. Already they gathered, waiting for the flames to fade. It would
buy the caravan some time. That was all.